Author : Steven Odhner

Gerald Forsythe was still too weak to move, his mind still partially asleep, but he knew the walls didn’t look how they should. Ever so slowly he was able to take in bits of information in an attempt to solve this riddle. The walls were flat. Good. They were a pale green color. Good. Gerald felt a moment of pride at remembering the color ‘green’, and then was immediately embarrassed for thinking of that as an accomplishment. Was waking up from stasis always like this?

The walls… were dirty. No. Not dirty, and that was the problem; they were perfectly clean but looked dirty due to the general wear and tear of use – scratches, dents, corners softened by the casual bumping of hips and hands. The walls had been so crisp and perfect what felt like an hour before, but Gerald was almost fully awake now and could remember that his first shift was set to be twelve years into the journey. Should the walls be this damaged already? If twelve years could do this would the ship even survive for the hundreds of years it would take to reach the new homeworld?

Gerald sat up, and darkness pressed in around the edges of his vision for a moment before receding. He turned his head – slowly – and confirmed that he was alone in the decanting room.

“Computer,” he called out, wincing at his sudden headache, “How many years since departure?” The speaker spewed out crackling noises in reply, but Gerald was fairly sure he had heard “Three hundred Seventy-Five”. That explained his hangover, at least.

“Computer… how many people are currently active?” He knew the massive arkship should be operating on a rotating skeleton crew of forty people, each crew member serving for three years before going back into stasis. The speakers crackled again, the reply slightly more audible. “One Hundred Thirteen.” Life support could provide for roughly three hundred Active humans indefinitely so this wasn’t a safety concern, but it still meant something was wrong… Any further questions Gerald had were forgotten as a strange figure appeared in the doorway.

The man had a thick, bushy grey beard and long hair, and his jumpsuit had been cut and dyed so that it was barely recognizable. He had to be at least fifty, and the cutoff age for colonists was thirty – not everyone on Earth could be saved.

“You are Engineer first class Gerald Forsythe?” The man asked. Gerald nodded.

“I am Ethan, son of Eric, son of Lars. I am sorry to pull you from the Great Sleep, but my daughter Sarah is our current Speaker and she says you are needed.”

The man clearly thought this sentence made perfect sense. “What… what the hell is a Speaker?”

“The Speaker,” the man replied, speaking slowly as if explaining to a child, “is the one charged with interpreting the will of the Computer, that it may guide us all to the Reward where your people can once more awaken from the Great Sleep. Sarah has told us that the computer needs someone to enter one of the Forbidden Halls.”

“Which… uh… Forbidden Hall would that be?”

“The Computer calls it Maintenance Service Corridor 36G. It speaks of something called…” the man closed his eyes in concentration as he spoke the unfamiliar words, “a Fused Control Circuit.”

Gerald had a million questions, but the bottom line was that if a control circuit was fused it was still his responsibility… what the hell. “Take me there, I’ll have it fixed in a jiffy.”

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