Author: Elizabeth Hoyle
Sloane sounds like a sea monster after he emerges from cryo. Not that I know what one actually sounds like. Humans are mostly composed of water, so I figure I’m technically accurate.
“Date and time, CompBot?” He asks, more growl than question. “And where’s my messenger pad and my charger?”
“It’s oh-hundred thirty-seven, 25 December. Christmas day. I believe your messenger pad is in your quarters. I do not know where your charger is.”
The pressurization lights on the ship’s console turn green, signaling that he can go below to begin unloading the cargo. Sloane tugs on his jacket over his Space Freight-issued jumpsuit and releases the hatch. Demeter Base is sufficiently oxygenated for humans so he doesn’t have to bother with an OxyMask or helmet.
“Find all of it. Make sure you refuel and top up everything for the trip home.” He hurries out.
I find Sloane’s charger by the weight set in the small exercise room off the galley. A few lines of code to Demeter Base’s network see the fuel, oxygen, and cryo gel hoses connected to their respective tanks. Everything should be replenished in a few minutes.
My programming nudges me to complete another task, one I’m not sure Sloane meant to give me. He said “Find it all” when I mentioned Christmas day, his messenger pad, and its charger. How does anyone find Christmas? As a CompanionBot, I am programmed to consider a certain amount of nuance in human speech but I can’t ignore such a direct command. I consider our resources. How can I find Christmas for Sloane?
He’s not religious so I consider other elements of the holiday. I fetch some green tarp from a previous shipment and cut it up to resemble garlands of holly. I line the hallway with it, from the cargo hold to the captain’s chair. There’s not enough left to make any kind of tree. I program the console’s lights to flash green, red, and gold. I pull out a roast chicken nutropack and leave it next to the captain’s chair and mix whatever alcohol we have, which I discover to be three old wine coolers and a bottle of champagne, for some Christmas spirits.
I am about to download a few movies when I remember the videos his mother put in my databanks. He’s never found them like she thought he would so I queue those up to play. I hear the hatch shut. Sloane heads up to the captain’s chair, eyeing the decorations and the lights.
“CompBot, what’s going on?”
“Merry, Happy Christmas!” I wave my arms in a ta-da fashion. “Take a seat. I’ve got a present for you.”
He has barely sat down when I play the first video. A woman who shares Sloane’s dark eyes appears, smiling.
“Hi, Sloane. I don’t know when you’ll see this but I want you to know we are so proud of you for joining the Space Freight team. We’re all going to miss you,” the woman’s voice breaks, and Sloane sniffs, emitting a sob. “But you’re not going all around the stars and back alone. We’re coming, too. I know your dad and your brother recorded their new comedy routine and your cousins have got god knows what planned for this show of ours. And I know you’re old enough but I’m going to read your favorite stories to you one more time. Let’s go!”
Sloane’s tears of longing are soon replaced with tears from laughter. I sit beside him and take it all in, so glad I’ve found Christmas for both of us.