By the time her shuttle had docked at the station Octavia was seriously considering the logic of her decision to travel standard class. Her previous journey had been unremarkable and annoyance free and she had been lulled into a false belief that this journey would be too.
She could not have been more wrong, it almost seemed as though the universe had conspired to ensure that she had the journey from hell. If it wasn’t the passengers in the seats in front and behind her, someone save her from small children, it was the near constant whine of the engines and the distinct lack of air conditioning. It seemed she had somehow managed to pick the oldest shuttle in existence.
After escaping the deathtrap she had successfully navigated the mass of humanity in between her and her destination. She had learned from her last visit and went with the flow rather than battle against it. It was rather like quicksand she had thought, the more you fought the deeper you became trapped. Though it was times like this when she missed her old lab the most. Just her, surrounded by her equipment, and the wonderful silence that came with being alone. She was not, by any means, incapable of being social as she would make a very poor doctor otherwise but that didn’t mean she liked too much hustle and bustle. This station was in her her mind so far beyond what she was used to in terms of the sheer amount of people. Honestly, how anyone managed to thrive in this chaos was beyond her.
Customs had thankfully again been a simple matter and she had then begun the search for somewhere to buy a coffee. There were plenty of kiosks and cafe’s to be found but she had one place in particular in mind. She had waited for her shuttle home there and discovered that they did very reasonable coffee. It was tucked into a corner close to the shuttlebay and though relatively small it managed not to appear cramped even when full of customers. Clearly she was not the only person seeking somewhere to wait that was somewhat quietier than the promenade.
Though it was busy she was able to slide into a small table right next to the window with a good view of the space outside. She carefully tucked her bag under the table, you could never be too careful after all, and then ordered a latte heavy on the caramel. She felt that she deserved the extra sugar after the morning she had had. She had at least an hour to wait for the shuttle to the ship, her shuttle had also been delayed on top of everything else and so she had missed the previous one. Her bright red hair had managed to come loose from it’s braid and she did her best to neaten it without a mirror. How she could have forgotten something as simple as a hand mirror was beyond her but it had somehow not made it onto her packing list.
When Marco woke up, he almost missed the calming sound of Sephie in his ears. Keyword is almost. “Sephie, are you finally dead? Maybe I’m dead?” He remarked sarcastically as he rose up from the couch. Sephie seemingly didn’t care to answer. After carefully glancing around, he finally noticed that he wasn’t in his bed. He could only guess why that was, so he decided that his best option was to check out the bedroom and see for himself if there was a reason.
As soon as he stepped inside, it became quite obvious why he didn’t sleep in his bed last night. There was a large collection of beer bottles around the bed, an a pair of woman’s underwear sitting on the ruined sheets. There was a broken chair seemingly thrown into the corner, and the room was in a general state of chaos. “Sephie, fill me in dear. What on earth happened here last night.” *You held a celebratory party last night. I cannot say any further information.* “Wait, what? Why not?” If an AI could laugh, he imagined it would let out the same sound Sephie did. *You specifically forbid me to tell you any details once you wake up. You also forbid me from waking you up. FYI, you still have two hours until the shuttle launches.*
Some of his memories started to return to him as he packed the small amount of clothes he had on him into the luggage. Only god knows why he thought it would be a good idea to get drunk and invite girls to his room the night before he sails out. While it certainly sounds sane on paper, he should’ve known himself better to absolutely waste himself. Despite the hangover induced migraine and the messiness of his room, Marco managed to pack up and clean his apartment in under an hour. Just for good measures he left a large tip as he left his apartment for hopefully the last time, and then headed for the shuttle bay.
One downside of having to clean up your mess in the morning is that you cannot make yourself coffee. And everybody knows that a day started without coffee is going to be a hard fought day. So naturally, he headed towards a small coffee shop that was relatively close to the shuttle bay, one that he had been visiting on a regular basis the last few weeks whenever he found himself in the same predicament as this morning. And though he had gotten used to staying on a space station in this time, he never fully managed to understand one thing: why it takes so goddamn long to brew a coffee when we have the technology to immerse ourselves in a realistic VR or build giant spacefaring ships.
Nevertheless, when he finally received his order of decaf coffee, he began searching for a seat to take. It was a busy day: there were a lot of people around, most of which he assumed were here to board the Apollyon like him. After inspecting the nearby area, he finally found an empty seat to his liking: one next to a window and already half occupied by a good looking woman. He took a quick sip from his coffee only to burn his tongue, and then he grabbed his luggage and made his way to the seat. Upon closer inspection, he noticed something that surprised him: the woman was also bearing the passcard of Apollyon ship staff. He walked up to the empty seat and sat down, placing his luggage by his side. “Ah, what a day to be alive, isn’t it?” He glanced out the window before looking at Octavia. “I think we’re going to the same place. Dr Rodriguez, head of Xenobiology on Apollyon.” He extended his arm for a handshake.
Octavia glanced up at the man who had slid into the seat opposite and raised her eyebrows slightly at his introduction. The man looked as far from what she was used to seeing in a Xenobiologist as it was possible to be. She had in the past worked with several and they had all been thin, pale and bespectacled. In other words men used who rarely saw the outside of a labratory. But this man was dark of skin and big with it, bringing to mind the space adventurers from the trashy novels she so often read. But then hadn’t she been told often enough that she didn’t look like a doctor never mind one with as many PH’ds as her. A mane of red hair and large bust apparantly did not go with a brain in many peoples minds.
“You have clearly had a very different day from mine.” She remarked drily before accepting his hand to shake. Her grip was firm and confident. “Dr Marco Rodriguez? Your theory on extraterrestrial lifeform evolution patterns was exceptional.”
Octavia was impressed, clearly only the best was good enough for the Apollyon if they had secured him. She had a casual interest in Xenobiology and had kept up with his work where she could.
“Dr Haas Head of Medical and Psychology, a pleasure.” Her large grey eyes regarded him steadily, unable to prevent her mind automatically noticing and logging his mannerisms. He seemed a little worse for wear if the tightness around his eyes was any indication and she privately wondered if he was the type to burn the candle at both ends. Not that she could really comment given her tendency to get caught up in her work to the point of forgetting to eat.
“Ah, Dr Haas!” He quickly compared the woman to the mental image he had about a boring and mediocre looking woman and then quickly threw it out in favor of the new one. “You’re lucky! I was expecting to sit beside some uninteresting character whom I’ve never heard of before, but I have actually read your thesis.” He stops to bring up the name of the piece in head. It seemed kind of simple, but Marco liked the straightforwardness of it. “‘The effects of Isolation and Deep space on the Human Condition’ was it? Interesting read.”
He took a sip from his coffee which was now sitting at a drinkable temperature. It was bitter, but it was just the thing he needed to start a day. he reached into his pocket to pull out his trusty flask and unscrewed the top. He glanced over at Octavia as he poured some whisky into his own cup and then extended his hand towards her. “Some Whisky with the latte? Or are you more discreet with your morning beverage?”
Octavia eyed the flask dubiously for a moment before shaking her head and placing a hand over the top of her cup.
“I prefer my whiskey undiluted thank you.” She didn’t comment on his drinking first thing in the morning, she had known many others who did the same, but she preferred straight caffeine first thing. “Besides I don’t think my digestion would thank me later if I mixed this with Whiskey.” She indicated the description on the branded cup, caramel latte heavy on the caramel. “I find sugar and caffeine are just the thing to get my brain going.”
She took several sips from her rapidly cooling drink before she nodded towards the shuttlebay.
“So have you seen our illustrious new home yet? I have heard it is top of the line and rather large even for it’s class. Not that ships are really my area of course, I’m more curious as to it’s medical facilities.” She smiled then, her first real smile and it seemed to light up her whole face. “After all I’m going to be spending a lot of time there. I somehow doubt being the ships shrink is going to make me popular with the crew.”
Marco shrug and took a sip from his flask before putting it away. “If you think you’re not going to be famous, you should see how people react when I take mandatory genetic samples from them. I don’t think many of the men will like the idea of giving up some of their sperm first thing once I’m aboard, but they’ll thank me when I regrow them an arm or an organ from a transplant body.” He smiled and the took a deep sip from the decaf, enjoying the slight alcoholic taste given to it by the whisky.
“But I hope your expectations come true, for both our sakes. If we’re going on a trip as long as I think we are, I’m gonna need a lab that can process all the samples that I collect.” Past the window the dustbowl of Vekta Prime was crawling by, and as he examined the ravines running across its scarred surface, Marco remembered his childhood on the planet. “And believe you me, I’ll make sure those machines won’t be collecting dust.”
He turned his attention back at Octavia, and tried his damned hardest to keep a professional attitude and stop himself from occasionally peeking at her well endowed bust. It was a task much harder than he expected it to be, so he tried to steer his attention by striking up a new conversation theme. Not that the new ship’s capabilities weren’t interesting, but he found it redundant to make guesses when they will be seeing it soon anyways. He checked his clock and noted that they still had some time left.
“So, I am correct when I assume you’re be this ship medic too, right? Seeing how we’ll be working together in the coming years, we should skip the small talk before we end up discussing the weather. Why don’t you tell me something about yourself until we board the shuttle?” Marco smiled at Octavia and then finished the remainder of his coffee with one quick sip. “I’ll return the favor once we board said shuttle.”
Octavia was speechless for a moment, she had expected to have to make an effort and talk about such inane topics as she ships possible characteristics or the journey here or even the view. She despised people’s apparent inability to get to a point without first having to perform a ridiculous amount of time talking about nothing. She smiled again, twice in such a short time must be her new record, she thought drily. This man certainly had his charm chief of which was his directness,
“By all means let’s skip the brainless chatter. You’ll discover early on in our working together that I have little patience for it. I prefer to be direct whenever possible and I’m assuming that won’t be a problem for you?”
She finished her now cold coffee wincing at the last mouthful which was pretty much nothing but sugar, before thinking on what he had asked for.
“Something about me? What would you like to know?”
Marco leaned back and stroke his short and scruffy beard. What *would* he like to know? The question eluded him, since he wished to know a broad range of things. Part of these were really only important to woo Ms Octavia into bed one day, but others were more important when it came to work relation. Since Marco is just as much a biologist or doctor as anyone else with a similar line of work, he’d need to know how much Dr Hass knew about her own field of expertise so they’d avoid weird events.
“For starters, we could talk about what you expect for your department. If we know what we each do, there’ll be less tension between our groups in case we overlap. Common biology and medical examinations can be surprisingly interlocked at times.”
Octavia pursed her lips and nodded thoughtfully. “True, the amount of times Dr Greer complained about my department he might as well as lived in my lab.
“As I see it my department sees to the wellbeing of the crew whereas yours deals with collection and analysis of our surroundings. Of course if the crew becomes infected by something then I am sure we will definitely need to work together to find the cause. But on a day to day basis I don’t see us hindering each others work overmuch. In short, I heal people and you study.fascinating new species.”
Octavia found herself enjoying the conversation and was pleasantly surprised to find she was looking forward to working with him. He was attractive and intelligent a combination she found was surprisingly rare.
Marco kept on smiling during Octavia’s speech. He applied to the job expecting nothing at all, but meeting someone like her first thing on the job was just simply fascinating. “Terrific Dr Hass. You cannot even fathom how little expectations I had regarding the medical department given the nature of my last job. I've always hated when our CEO decided that big pharma could finish our job, only to send back a failed genetic strain months later proclaiming that we were wrong. I've never been a fan of people who proclaim knowledge based on titles instead of experience, but I see that you are not one of those people.” He raised his empty cup as a sign of respect. “I think you’re next latte is going to be on me.”
Thought sound doesn’t travel in space, visual clues are more than enough for most people. And the sight of the incoming shuttle was something that Marco had been expecting for some time. He looked out the window and followed the blocky grey silhouette with his eyes until it disappeared out of sight. He turned back to Octavia and leaned forward, putting on a more serious face. “I have just one more question Ms Octavia.” He knew he was pushing it by calling the doctor Octavia, but it seemed like the woman liked him well enough. And he wasn’t a man to turn down such a perfect chance. he pulled out his communicator from his jacket, and put it on the table between them. “I must ask for your communicator code. Unless you have some implants that I cannot see, in which case that’ll do too.”
Octavia was taken aback at his use of her first name but found that she didn’t mind him using it. She normally preferred to keep things formal but there was something about this man that made her feel more at ease. She would have to be careful, he was all too easy to relax around, and she didn’t want that to interfere with her work. She was, after all, possibly going to be his psychologist as well. Though if that ever came up she would have to admit that she would be tempted to request he see someone else so as not to present a possible conflict of interest.
But for now she saw no harm in furthering a friendship, she took his communicator and entered her code before handing it back.
“This doesn’t mean you can comm me all hours of the night after you have had a drink.” She said with a small smile before picking up her bag.
“I think our shuttle may have just arrived. Shall we?”
“Oh yes, definitely. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had quite enough of this station already. The sooner I can rid myself of these crowded hallways the better.” Marco stood up and grabbed his luggage. There was nothing left on this station for him, and he won’t miss his stay here. The sooner he can delve deep into his new lab and living quarters, the better. *Sephie, mark Dr Haas’s number as important.* The AI didn’t answer, but he received a postive ping as the new number was added to his contact list.
The shuttle that had docked to take them aboard the Apollyon was clearly of military design. There was little sign of any intention to make the ride comfortable, and the polymer walls radiated the decision to make it cheap and useful. There was a crowd of people going onboard, some alone and some chatting with presumably new acquaintances. Marco and Octavia was the latter.
Marco slumped down on one of the crude seats, and put his luggage between his legs. He turned his attention towards Octavia, with a faint smile on his face. “I think I owe you some answers. Or rather, you have the option to ask me questions.” He stopped realizing how that sounded to someone who didn’t know him already. “Rest assured, I usually don’t like questions, but I enjoy your company.”
Octavia eyed the seat with distaste, it was doubtful that a shuttle this cheap was overly concerned with cleanliness. After brushing off imaginary dirt she sat next to him putting her bag underneath her seat. She smiled slightly at the compliment and couldn’t deny a small amount of pleasure knowing he was enjoying her company. The man really was too charming for his own good.
“You wouldn’t like my psych sessions then. Sometimes asking questions is the only way to get someone to tell you what’s wrong.” She grimaced remembering a few of her more difficult patients. “And even then it can still be like pulling teeth. Or at least how I imagined they used to pull teeth before we had nanites.”
She tapped her lips thoughtfully, a habit she had never managed to break, as she pondered what she might ask him.
“Do you make a habit of flirting with all of your female coworkers?” Her tone was light and only half serious but there was a nugget of curiosity too. Octavia was not in the habit of flirting and her relaxed banter with him was not typical behaviour for her. His answer would tell her more about him, perhaps more than he realised.
“Only with the pretty ones.” Marco grinned as he responded in a similarly half serious tone. “Rest assured, I take utmost pride in my work. I wouldn’t dare slow down my research with idle chatting, and you already know that I am not a fan of small talk. But seeing how we aren’t technically employed until we set foot aboard the ship, I don’t have any burning responsibilities that require my attention.” He crossed his arms and leaned his back against the wall of the shuttle. “Do you always probe men that show the slightest interest in talking about things other than the weather?”
Shifting in her seat, why were these things so bloody uncomfortable, she nodded. “Pretty much, downside of being a psychologist I suppose, I’m hardwired to analyse everyone. But I especially do so when the man in question is charming and knows it.”
The whine of the engines filled the silence after her comment as the shuttle took off from the station. Octavia was glad the journey was a short one, as the way this tin can rattled around she wasn’t sure she would survive anything longer.
Marco smirked at the remark. This is going to be a walk in the park if Dr Haas thinks he’s charming. Of course, someone who is experienced in the ways of the human psyche might not be prone to simple tricks, but he was sure that she’d yield soon enough. If this was a sign for the upcoming trip, then it was gonna be one hell of an experience.
“Sephie, how long until we arrive?” Ever since he had gotten out of bed, the AI seemed awfully quiet. He very much enjoyed the silence in his head. With all the chaos going on around him, Sephie was just too much for everyday use. Thank goodness, soon he’ll be able to utilise the ship’s lab facilities where he can escape the hordes of imbecile soldiers that will infest the ship, and have some quiet time. There Sephie will be a godsend assistant. *Few minutes until arrival. Cannot give you complete calculations at present time.*
Thank god this trip will come to an end soon. The rattling of the seats and the hum of the engine formed into a cacophony that made his hangover even worse. His began to spin and he felt like he was about to pass out. He glanced over at Octavia and saw that she was in a similar position. Well, not quite the same since she clearly didn’t have a hangover, but you could see on her face that she wasn’t exactly enjoying herself either.
“What a bucket of bolts. You’d think they’d make shuttles that were less like a rollercoaster with the tech they have, but it seems like they don’t care enough. I hope that won’t be the mentality once we are aboard this ship, or I’ll fasttrack back home.”
Octavia glanced at him in concern he really didn’t look well but then she figured travelling with a hangover was unpleasant. She was tempted to tell him as much but decided against it. No doubt he was already regretting it so didn’t need her adding to that.
“Believe me if the ship was going to be like this I never would have applied.” She said drily. “I think we should be fine though given how much I think the Navy has spent on the Apollyon. I’m hoping they have decent showers, I need one after being stuck in public transport shuttles from Albion.”
Octavia grimaced as she said this, thinking of how how generally grimy and tired she was feeling. A hot shower would be perfect right about now though of course that would depend on whether she was expected to see the Captain for briefing first. She was assuming that her arrival was timed before the rest of her department staff but for all she knew they could all be waiting on her.
“Once we’re both settled and have our respective departments how we want them I would welcome a proper talk over drinks? Though that depends on whether you’re bothered about my habit of probing?” She said wryly.
Marco replied with a glance that could’ve meant anything. Right now it meant that Marco was putting on a show for Octavia to see. She asked him for drinks, but to truly achieve the required results, he would make it seem like he is reluctant to do so. Not much, but enough that she won’t think it was too easy. Not like he saw Dr Haas as someone who would shy away from easy to get man, but Marco had a reputation to uphold.
“We’ll see once we’ve hit the docks. I have to see what assortment of idiots I got for subordinates, make something out of them, and then I’ll have to inspect the labs.” He hummed and then turned towards Octavia. “Once I’m done with that, we’ll see if we can find a decent place on the ship. I’ve a hunch this is going to be the canteen, but maybe they have bars. And just in case-” Marco tapped twice on his flask. “I’ve got backup if they don’t serve the drinks we’re looking for.”
The truth was that a respectable portion of Marco’s luggage was also alcohol that he wanted to keep for special occasions. Well, maybe some won’t make it past the first week, or day, but things like the aged scotch whisky will make it further than any other bottled beverage before.You
could say that Marco was making history in more than one area. Hopefully he’ll be remembered for things other than “bringing bottled alcohol to the farthest point in human history”. He had no doubt that given time he will make some incredible scientific discovery using the samples he collects from xeno worlds, but he wasn’t so sure that he wouldn’t anger the entirety of the military staff before that. Either way, having a drink right around now sounded great.
The shuttle was in flight for several more minutes, during which Marco and Octavia didn’t converse much more. Not necessarily because they didn’t want to, but the discomfort of the travel made both of them anxious to finally get out of the chairs and have stable ground below their feet again. Marco was feeling especially bad, as the rattling and noises made his headache absolutely unbearable.
There was an audible thud when the shuttle touched down and it’s landing gears engaged the magnetic locks. The engines spooled down and the rattling of the seats died down and was replaced by the noise of dozens of people getting up from their seats and reaching for their luggage. Some of these people will be their colleagues in the coming months or years, and some of them they will never meet. But at present time they all shared one thing: an anxious look at the shuttle door as it slowly lowered, awaiting the sight that would greet them beyond the layers of polymer and steel.
The sight that greeted them wasn’t that much different than Vekta Prime Orbital, people moving from the shuttles arriving and departing, forming several organised lines towards different directions. There was something about the entire thing though that was most definitely lacking in the orbital station. Whereas the orbital was chaos, people moving independently through the deluge of the crowd, here it all seemed strangely organised, precise, almost machine-like even.
No sooner had this revelation dawned upon the two visitors, a voice, firm and commanding entered their mind through their implants. Small, robotic drones about the size of a toy quad-copter were hovering with loud speakers uttering the same message that was playing inside the heads of those without implants, the implant filtering the speaker to make the experience just a bit more pleasant and personalised.
“I am the ship intelligence. Follow indicated directions to your destination. Those of you un-augmented will receive an avatar to guide you shortly. Please maintain orderly lines.
Not long after that, a fleet of additional drones appeared, each splitting off to people the AI undoubtedly tagged for them as distinctly lacking an implant-based IFF. A cacophony of robotic voices erupted as they each addressed the person they were meant for. One such drone was hovering about an arm’s length away from Octavia.
“[/b]Dr Octavia Haas - please confirm.[/b]”
Octavia appreciated the precision of the organised masses around her, it was a well oiled machine made up of military personnel and Artificial Intelligence. She was still looking around when one of the drones whizzing around the cavernous space suddenly stopped beside her. She managed not to jump in startlement, maintaining her composure, it wouldn’t do for people to see their chief physician as easily startled.
It was the first time she found herself regretting choosing not to have any augmentations, and she hoped it was the last time as well.
“I am Dr Octavia Haas.” She replied evenly.
Marco wasn’t impressed by the sudden intrusion of a synthetic voice in his head. He had just gotten rid of the irritation that was the shuttle ride, and now he had to bear with another loud voice in his head. He swiftly muted his augment and addressed his AI. “Sephie, take over for me. My head is killing me, I’d rather you tell me the important tidbits. Your voice only makes me slightly nauseous.” He massaged his temple with both his hands and looked around the hangar. The fleet of drones hovering above were more than annoying for him: the chaos of them zooming around the place felt like a busy airport from up close.
Some of the drones flew to some people, asking for their names from a speaker. Surely, they were the people without implants. Sephie interrupted his thoughts with a brief summary. *The ship AI tells you to follow the directions. I advise we do so.*
A light on the drone turned from red to green.
“Dr Haas - Head of Medical: CONFIRMED. I am Nemesis, ATLAS-class ship intelligence of the UNSF Apollyon. Follow this drone to reach your destination. You will be briefed along the way.
” The drone replied, then turned towards the direction of one of the lines snaking along the bay, towards one of the several doorways leading out of it, which were left wide open, bipedal utility bots on either side, motioning people to move along. Despite the impressive degree of coordination, the line was moving along at a leisurely walking pace.
Simultaneously, the AI noticed that a commercial-grade VI was acting as a relay between it and Dr Rodriguez, but didn’t mind it whatsoever. Refraining from using voice communication in favour of much more bandwidth-effective methods, the AI delivered instructions directly to the VI with complex data like highlighting pathways and objects of interest with information displayable if Dr Rodriguez looked at them. The AI directed Rodriguez to a different line which was going in the same direction, but through a different door out of the bay.
Surprisingly, given how much of her work involved sophisticated technology, Octavia had never managed to become completely comfortable with things such as AI. There was just something about them that unnerved her somehow and this was the main reason she had avoided augmentations. She didn’t want to become similar to something she wasn’t comfortable with. As a Psychologist, and a damned good one according to many, she understood that this was a mild phobia of sorts and easily remedied yet she had never felt the need to do anything about it. Human beings were more interesting because of their foilables she had decided a long time ago.
“Thank you Nemesis.” She said somewhat stiltedly.
She glanced at Marco, having noted that he seemed to be headed elsewhere, and nodded in farewell. She had noticed too Marco’s seeming reluctance at her offer of drinks. She assumed he was either playing hard to get or simply wanting to keep his options open either way she would leave it up to him.
“Thanks for the company. Enjoy your new living space.” She said before turning and walking towards the door following the colored line.
“So.” She said to the drone next to her. “What do I need to know?”
“We are approaching one of the ship’s many Mag-Translifts. These are arrayed at key locations throughout the ship. You will step inside the single-person capsule and be carried to your destination in moments. You may experience motion, but it will be dampered to the point where your organic fluids will hardly even move around. However, should you experience nausea, try not to vacate your bowels until after you arrive.
” The flying drone chirped as it led Octavia along the line, through the doors and towards the mentioned translift where the queue of people was disappearing into.
Each time a person neared it, a scanner would quickly highlight them and a pod would appear a few seconds after, the person would climb in, the pod closing around them and away they would go.
“When it’s your turn, Dr Haas
” The drone began as they were getting nearer to the translift “Hold onto the railings within and remember: Up and down is relative. I am informed your monkey brain ought to be better than most.
Octavia listened intently, her mind naturally absorbing the information like a sponge, she was a very intelligent person and appreciated on an intellectual level the precise, clinical way that the AI explained things. That was the one thing she did admire about them, the delivering of information without any wasted communication or emotions to clutter it up.
She eyed the Mag-Translifts dubiously, she didn’t doubt they functioned properly but still would have preferred a more....standard means of travel. But in a ship as large as the Apollyon she supposed this sort of thing was essential.
The scanner highlighted her figure and then a pod appeared open and waiting. She was just about to step in when she caught the AI’s last words. She raised an eyebrow, Monkey Brain?, whilst she supposed it was accurate in comparison to a machine it was still somewhat insulting.
“I should think so.” She said firmly before stepping into the pod without any further hesitation. She would be damned if she was stopped by something as simple as a transport device.
As the doors of the pod closed, the walls around filled like a soft air bag, the material almost seeming to adapt to the user’s shape, alternating between giving in and supporting simultaneously and to varying degrees as the pod likely travelled to its destination. Otherwise, motion was indiscernible aside from slight shifting around in the material. Arrival was signalled simply by it deflating and receding back into the walls and the doors opening at a completely new location.
Another drone, similar to the one from the hangar bay, dutifully hovered a few steps away from the translift.
“Congratulations on completing your first of many rides on the TransLift. You have now arrived at your work station, Medical Bay three of six. MedBay 3 sits at the stern of the Apollyon, starboard side, opposite MedBay 6, both of which are of similar size and capacity, the largest of the comparably diminished facilities of MedBays 1, 2, 4 and 5 which are situated in areas more likely to sustain fire in an engagement. Would you like a tour of the facilities of MedBay 3 before continuing?
Lights were lighting up and dimming in sequence, effectively creating a snaking, lit path towards a hall from where the TransLift terminal had been, in all likelihood leading directly to the medical bay.
Octavia was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the ride had been, she had expected to feel vertigo, nausea and perhaps even a little claustrophobia. Yet the ride had been so smooth and the interior of the pod so comfortable that she had almost forgotten she was moving at all. It was with great relief that Octavia realised getting used to them would not be a chore.
She absorbed the information regarding the medbay’s and nodded at the AI’s question.
“Yes Please.” She said eager to see where she would be spending most of her time.
The drone pivoted forward, almost as if to simulate a nod, then turned towards the path lit up by lights, traversing the hallway at an even enough pace for the doctor to keep up at a comfortable walk. Now there would be the odd person visible here and there, going to their destinations and there was already a small queue forming behind them at the TransLift terminal. Other drones were darting through the air, signalling to one another. A spitting image of the same degree of coordination seen on the bay area earlier, likely a template followed throughout the vessel.
Finally, the drone arrived at a set of double doors, larger than most, with the words ‘Medical Bay 3’ written on the doors themselves as well as above them. The drone neared a door console and pinged its scanner against it in a quick successive strobe pattern, which caused the doors to part and reveal the way to the medbay proper. The drone then dutifully hovered in front of the door, turning back to the doctor.
“Time to calibrate your biometrics to this facility, given that you have no implants for ID. Step in front of the scanner and look directly at the lens. You will see indications on the screen to turn your head in different directions. Follow these prompts. This calibration will need to be repeated every three months.
“I am familiar with such devices.” Octavia said.”I will set the appropriate reminder for three month intervals.”
She then stepped in front of the scanner and looked at the screen ensuring she remained still unless prompted otherwise by instructions on the screen.
The console blinked twice. “And you’re set. Let’s have a review of the facilities.
Octavia stepped back and nodded once firmly. “Indeed. I am curious to see what marvels this ship has in store. Lead on Nemesis.”
The drone swerved into the room, which was quite dimly lit, revealing only the silhouettes of larger shapes within, likely as a means to reserve power. “Immediate left, we have the main bread and butter of the facility: the Full-Spectrum Scanner or FSS.
” just as the drone had introduced the module, it would flicker to life, screens and lights lighting as well as the ambient lights dimming to be replaced by the standard, harder lighting of the room. This revealed a large, horizontal tube that opened to reveal a bed within a semi-tube fit for a single person. “MRI, X-Ray, CAT, whether it be surface or deep, this machine will do it all. Readouts of the scans will appear on any number of connected systems within this facility, data protection rights falling solely under your authority as the resident doctor. You will have assistant staff as well, of course, but none with your level of clearance, especially as department head.
The drone moved on as the next machine lit up. This one had an adjustable recliner, operating table or whatever other shape it needed to be for the job at hand, large lights above capable of any spectrum of light including that outside of human vision and an attached array of machine arms hanging above which would neatly tuck away into cabinets mounted into the ceiling, where a wide range of tools lay to swap and mix and match. “Operating theatre. Seen it before I’m sure, ubiquitous part of the job. Lots of precision machine hands to handle squishy organic bits, ours is fitted with localised miniature suspension fields so organs can be held in that instead of having to work around them the whole time when you’re fixing your organic counterparts. Quite handy and expensive from what I’m told.
The next machine to light up formed a series of transparent tanks that were presently empty, connected to more intricate machines that effectively formed pillars of them from the floor to the ceiling, the tanks themselves easily ample enough to fit a person within.
“The treatment tanks. Here, wards can be placed in suspended animation for more intensive or prolonged treatment while a liquid can allow medical nanites to do their work much more effectively, carry nutrients as well as prevent infection. You have three of these in this bay, but they work on a rota system similar to the TransLift so wards may be passed between the MedBays as well as kept in containment in between checkups.
The drone had gotten to the end of the room, then swerved the light to the right side, which prompted the next set of machines to light up.
“Physiotherapy. Various exercise machines, treadmills, weights and equipment needed to allow organics recovery as well as check-up of their physical condition. Self-explanatory. Oh, and we can rotate the machines and equipment of this module to different configurations of exercise equipment, to conserve space but allow more facilities.
” The drone didn’t take long at this section.
” It began “-your head office.
” It had indeed have Dr Octavia Haas written on the door that opened to a smaller, self-contained section of the medical bay.
“Blast doors, the entire room module is NCB-hardened and is capable of functioning within space as well as making independent atmospheric entry. In short, this is your lifeboat as well as station. It sits currently undecorated, the furnishings will be left to your discretion. Nanites are on standby. Should you require further assistance, say my name. I am always watching, unless you ask me to engage privacy mode.
The drone paused, waiting for any potential questions or clarification.
Octavia studied each piece of equipment as they passed it on their tour and was very impressed and pleased with the facilities. In particular the treatment tanks would be incredibly useful and she wished she had had them on some of her former postings.
The operating theatre was akin to those she had used previously as was the FSS though both were, by the looks of them, top of the line and equipped with all the extras. When they reached her office Octavia listened with growing astonishment as the AI explained the office’s design and capabilities. She was used to having to know where the escape pods were on previous ships and she had never had her own personal lifeboat before. She hoped she would never have need to use it but knowing it was there was reassuring.
“Thank you Nemesis. That was most informative. “Octavia had only two questions that she needed answering now but she was sure she would have more once she began using the equipment etc.
“What is the status of the status of the blood stores, specifically blood from each crew member? And I am assuming the mandatory physical examinations for all new crew have not been performed yet?”We maintain reserves of unperishable concentrate which can create an emulsion that can act as a carrier of nutrients and oxygen. Synthetic blood - a stop-gap measure. However, this is still not a substitute for actual blood, which we will need to monitor supply and demand for. Accurate keeping of records is paramount for your department, because my systems work on information YOU provide me with.
” The drone began “Once we’re fully staffed, your first task will be to run a ship-wide screening of blood tests and preliminary psychological evaluation of the staff to establish our baseline. You will be expected to keep records of staff up to date and notify discrepancies in this baseline.
” The drone left a hanging pause, waiting to see if there were further questions.
“I hope I needn’t press the importance of your tasks on a war ship. Ready to see your quarters?
“I am fully aware of the importance on my role aboard any vessel but especially that of a war ship.” Octavia did not point out that from her understanding they weren’t currently at war since the Apollyon was indeed fitted out like a war ship, regardless of what their mission was.
“I have already prepared a detailed list of priority tasks that need to be performed immediately. You needn’t be concerned Nemesis. This isn’t my first posting aboard a war ship. Now I think seeing my quarters would be appropriate thank you.”
The drone swerved around, pointing the direction to the same Translift that brought them there. “Enter the Translift and I will ensure it arrives near your quarters. Follow the lit paths. The door will open when it reads your biometrics now that you’ve been calibrated. On the bed, you’ll find your personal data assistant or PDA. In lieu of an implant, I’ve already arranged for you to fulfill most day-to-day functions wirelessly from the device, including operation of the Translift. It responds to several inputs, including voice command so in future, you may simply say what your destination is and use any
TransLift to get there.
The voice paused. “The drone remains here. This concludes your induction. You were markedly less terrible than most organics, Dr Haas.
” The drone then flew off into one of the other hallways, where a portion of the wall opened and the drone docked into place and disappeared into the wall.
Octavia nodded her understanding and watched as the drone disappeared into a wall. She began walking back to the translift and wondered as she did so if she would ever get used to Artificial Intelligence. It would be a new challenge adapting to all the sophisticated technology on board. But then from the sounds of it she wasn’t the only one who needed to adapt. Nemesis would have to work on his approach to the organics if things were to run smoothly. Still as long as he was professional and performed as programmed she would accept a few...foilables. She pondered on this as she travelled to her quarters.
It didn’t take long for Marco to realise that his destination was different from that of his colleagues. The shining line hinted across the floor by his implant led him astray from the group leaving the shuttle, towards a door some distance away. As he scanned around the group with his eyes to see if anyone was heading the same direction as him, he saw Octavia nod towards him. He replied with a motion of his hand, somewhere between a wave and flicking something off one’s clothes. Marco followed Octavia with his eyes for some time, gazing at areas he wouldn’t have dared looked at in the company of the doctor. “I wish all psychiatrists looked this good.” He murmured to himself and scratched his scruffy beard. A particularly rebellious piece of hair pricked his finger which abruptly ended his fantasises about Octavia. “Damn, I need a shave.”
He approached the gate in question slowly, his grip firm on the handle of his luggage. He was never treated differently before when docking on a spaceship, and as much as he was a fan of being acknowledged, who knew what was the reason for his separation from the group. Once in front of the door, he took one final glance at the shuttle before turning off silent mode and re-establishing direct comms with the ship AI. He sent a ping via open channel back to the AI, anxiously waiting a response. He wasn’t in a good mood, and extra procedures surely wouldn’t help with that.
“Nice of you to join, Dr Rodriguez. We have much to discuss to prepare you for your new role. I don’t care much for containment breaches, but I am regretfully designed to function at a diminished capacity should my organic crew be wiped out.
” The data-stream of the ship’s network now connecting with the implant, Rodriguez’ sight was augmented with notifications directing towards the nearest TransLift terminal, complete with a speedometer and estimated time of arrival, as well as a simple indicator of how many people were queuing, updated in real-time.
“We’re approaching a TransLift terminal. These are used to get to various parts of the ship quickly and easily. They are also your best chance for survival in the event of unexpected decompression. The entire TransLift grid is one of my most hardened sections.
Marco frowned at the AI’s greeting. Doesn’t care much about a containment breach? Goes to show, the AI tells that to the worst person possible. And what is up with it’s attitude? He’ll have to dwelve deeper into that once he has time. For now, folowing it’s guidance was more than enough.
He passed through the doorway and followed the route to the nearest TransLift according to the interface. It wasn’t a short walk, but it was enough to ask a few questions. And ask he did. You can hardly contain the curiosity of a thinker after all. “So, I believe you know my name already, but do you care to introduce yourself? Or are such formalities above your synthetic mind?”
“Already have. In the shuttle bays when you arrived, same as everyone else. I am Nemesis, ATLAS-class intelligence of the UNSF Apollyon. It isn’t essential information, which is why I haven’t overridden your Sephie-intelligence when you had it filter it, organic.
“I see.” Marco nod and stored the information in his head. If Nemesis wanted to lecture him then it can try for eternity. All that mattered was its name, nothing else. Though he had to admit, an AI named *Nemesis* was quite unsettling. He still remembered the wars against the two rogue AIs, and his innate love of biology only further raised the question of ship security with such an AI on it. Nevertheless, it didn’t seem like it was a problem. Yet.
It wasn’t a long walk from there to the TransLift terminal. Marco was half expecting to see someone, but the ship was still mostly empty and there was no-one in front of the terminal. He guessed that the less essential crew members will be boarding at a later date, but he didn’t bother to ask the AI. The less snarky remarks aimed at his hungover head, the better. As he approached the terminal a lift came by and the capsule opened up for him. He raised an eyebrow as he examined the thick gelatin like material that was covering the inside.
“The pods are designed for comfort over looks. The smart material inflates to negate as much of the motion as possible while you get to your destination. I have taken the liberty of elevating your clearance to the necessary level and plotting this pod to take you to your station, but in future, you may use your implant to fulfill this function.
Nemesis chimed in right as Marco was examining the interior of the pod.
“Right, I’ll keep that in mind.” Marco said as he stepped into the pod. The touch of the material was comforting as it shaped itself to conform to his body. It was a strangely arousing feel, as if his body was floating in fluid. Then the doors closed and the TransLift began its journey towards Marco’s station. His muscles tensed up as his body tried to protect his organs from the G forces. But he felt barely anything. The gel slushed around gently as the lift travelled at mind blowing speeds through the ship. To Marco, it was both heaven and hell. The gel was incredibly comfortable and it made him kinda sleepy. On the other hand, every slight movement he felt made his inner ear scream to his brain, which was too hungover to process the information, resulting in a promop nausea. Then the door opened without any warning as the translift stopped. Marco walked out of the capsule with shaking legs, holding back his nausea by the sheer power of will. Then and there he promised to NEVER drink again before using the TransLift.
A quadcopter drone arrived at the TransLift terminal a short while after Marco stumbled out of it, carrying a bag. “Your vital readout is indicating you’re just about to empty your bowels. Please be considerate of containment procedures and do so in the bag provided, Dr Rodriguez.
The xenobiology complex was just ahead, its entrance unmistakable against the hallways spanning on either end of the TransLift terminal. “When ready, please proceed to the biometrics scanner to be calibrated. Follow the on-screen prompts. This will not take long. As you have an implant already, you needn’t repeat calibration, your implant will update the database automatically when you report for your duties.
The biometrics scanner was highlighted in orange by the augmented reality displays.
Marco forced down his lunch and straightened out his back as he took a few deep breaths. That was awfully close to being a display of his innards on his first work day. Just then he spotted the drone carrying a white plastic bag. He frowned and lashed out, grabbing the bag from the drone. He placed his hand into as if he was searching for a second. Then he pulled it out, flipping a birdie towards the drone’s camera. No AI will mock him for his drinking problems. “Worry about the containment of your attitude and not my breakfast. I’ve had worse rides than this.”
Marco walks up to the authenticator, brushing past the drone. The terminal is lit up in orange, showing that it is awaiting calibration. Marco’s implant reacts and the orange turns into a soothing yellow. After following several instructions, such as facial recognition and voice calibration, the color changes once again, now a fine green. The panel pings his implant to signal that the calibration is complete. “Alright Nemesis, any more authentication I need to do, or can I finally see the facility?”
“Biometric tag: Dr Rodriguez. Containment protocols: Default.
A series of blast doors opened, revealing what was effectively a large-scale airlock mechanism, with one large door for groups and one small door for individuals. Inside the airlock chambers, one could see very visible Focused Anti-Personnel Microwave Emitters forming an array -the final line of defence in the event of a containment breach.
“This is the primary airlock to gain access to level 0. This level is dedicated to administration, data analysis and implementation. The doors are on a timed lock, should an override be necessary, your clearance level alone is sufficient. Otherwise, direct authorisation from me is required. Lethal counter-measures are in place to prevent a breach in the form of focused anti-personnel microwave emitters, designed to contain threats from both within and without. Step inside the airlock please.
An array of scanners ran the length of the room from both above and from the sides.
Marco listened to Nemesis as he approached the airlock. He had suspected that the weird emitters were for security reasons, but he was surprised to hear that they were decontamination too. Such fine machinery. But its name, that was something else. In his head he placed the initals of the machine together, letting go of a small laugh soon after. “The FAPME? Oh boy, who came up with that name.” He crunched a tear under his still working eye, and then stepped into the airlock.
“I never asked, but personally, I consider it quite fitting. The winding crescendo leading to an explosive, messy finish. Neutralises organic threats, but their stench… not so much.
” Nemesis replied in a tone that could almost be described as sarcastic -or at least as sarcastic as a machine intelligence can be. Scanners ran down the length and width of the room, the red beams turning green at the end of their sweep to signal the all-clear. The door behind Marco had closed and several nozzles hissed gas into the chamber that formed droplets on any fabric or surface it contacted. Unlike water or rain though, there was no sensation of wetness, the droplets weren’t absorbed by- or soaking anything. Once sufficiently dispersed, the nozzles stopped and from somewhere underneath the floor, a low, metallic hum could be heard, brief but intense which caused the droplets to be immediately shaken off into rivers that pooled into built-in gutters on the floor, which sealed as soon as the room returned to normal. The entire process took no less than a minute.
“That concludes initial contamination screening. As site head, you’re only expected to pass this check and access the administration level, but subsequent levels have further steps and passes, each level more sterile than the last.
” Nemesis added and the doors to the facility proper, had now opened.
“Welcome to your office, Dr Rodriguez.
The room revealed a handful of monitors, haptic interfaces as well as standard keyboards, multiple redundancies for both controls and storage. This room housed the server banks of the entire facility and its digital file storage. A catwalk above led to a series of meeting rooms and there was a room next to them with a plague reading ‘Dr. M Rodriguez - Site Director’. The catwalk allowed a commanding view of all the work on the main area, opening directly from the doctor’s own office. The upper level even had a dedicated cafeteria, just so staff didn’t have to go back and forth between decontamination airlocks.
Marco whistled as he entered the room, impressed by the size and functionality of the area. “Nice hardware.” He walked past the lines of computers, and headed towards the catwalk. The plaque of his office called for him like magnetic currents guide the whales. Or something along those lines anyways. He stopped in front of the cafeteria for a second, examining the interior: small but comfy. He could already see himself sipping decaf coffee inside early in the morning.
But the main attraction was definitely his own dedicated office. He had offices before, but never ones that said “Site Director”. That was a big step up from the usual group leader status that he enjoyed in previous labs. Of course, this time he would be in control of a lab with many, many more people than in his previous jobs. As he approached the office he became really excited. His expectations were low for the interior design, but the significance of his own private room next to the cafeteria was more than enough. He stopped in front of the door and examined the plaque carefully. A small grin appeared on his face as he read the content letter by letter. “Okay, Nemesis, show me what’s behind the door.”
The doors opened, revealing the sparsely furnished interior - an L-shaped desk with a recliner, a haptic interface and a projector for conversations of a personal nature, no doubt fitted with top-grade hardening against data mining. An array of screens, taking feed from various parts of the facility, set upon an adjoining wall. And finally, one wall with a high-quality display that was built to emulate the glass panes of a terrestrial office, capable of projecting high-definition views of landscapes and realistic sound ambience with a wide selection of biomes - or to be used for displaying whatever else. The entire room had been networked within its own secure server cluster, allowing for any devices to move holographic project representations between themselves seamlessly via implant input or by hand gestures. The desk’s haptic interface could also be used for 3D modelling of prototypes, which its occupant could use to review anything the site was working on.
The first thing that Marco noticed was the size of the room. He expected something much smaller on a military ship, but the office he just entered was huge compared to his expectations. As he walked in, the panels around the room came to life and lit it up in a cool white glow. The very air seemed motionless as the systems of the room booted up and connected to his augments seamlessly. Marco was truly fascinated for the first time since he arrived on the Apollyon. “Wow, I’m impressed.” As he walked to the chair in front of his computer, he examined the haptic systems installed. High quality gear from the looks of things, not easely tapped. Those will come in extremely handy. Marco sat down in the chair and took a 360 degrees turn on it before settling towards the direction of the entrance. “Gotta say Nemesis, I expected less for an accomodation. But now, let me enjoy my home for the unforeseeable future by taking a quick nap. Ping me if you need my genius somehwere.” With that, Marco leaned back in the chair, folded his arms and closed his eyes to fullify his promise.