I woke up with the Ship talking to me. I’d only heard its voice a handful of times before, finding my way into the Bridge and sitting down in the various chairs, wondering what they were for, what the blank screens had done, the immobile buttons and sliders. Then there’d been a blue sparkle in the air, a sparkle that somehow spoke.
The Ship has a deep voice, but I’ve never felt it like this, running through my body like I imagine it feels when a power surge flows through the coils. I couldn’t have not listened if I’d wanted to.
The system is breaking down.
What do you mean? I tried to speak, but couldn’t hear any sound. The Ship responded anyway, or I think it did, maybe it was just continuing what it had been saying.
Too many components have been removed. Too many constructions serve no functional purpose. Too much power is being drained, and the demands are increasing.
But everything’s fine, isn’t it? You talked me through your status report, and…
That status report is no longer valid. You will not understand unless you see for yourself.
See what? I wasn’t sure I wanted to know, but I had to ask. What could have happened to the Ship? We were always careful not to take more than it could give us, never to exceed any of the safety limits on the devices, even if we didn’t know what they actually meant.
As it turned out, I was right. I didn’t want to know.
Somehow, the Ship showed me – showed me everything. The Habitat Dome I lived in, barely looking like anyone could live there any more, even though there were people walking around in it. A lot of them wore biosuits, smooth and slick and dark blue, somehow a lot better-looking than the ones I remember. Lots more people wearing them than I remember, too. And the ones who weren’t mostly looked grubby. Given the way the rest of the habitat looked, it didn’t surprise me, really: the water can’t have been great. Nothing really looked to be in good shape.
It wasn’t just my Habitat, but that was what hit me hardest. How could that have happened – my home, my life – what had happened to my family? My friends? How…?
What happened, Ship?
It has become necessary for me to seek human aid.
I can see that, but what happened?
The Ship didn’t answer me, just kept right on talking.
Ship projection programs have become corrupted due to the passage of time. Of the remaining projections, yours is the most viable in this situation. Various factors have influenced this choice, most notably your degree of knowledge of this environment. Understand that maintaining your projection will consume all remaining non-essential power, draining resources from this AI. You will not be able to contact me. The Ship paused for a moment there, but I was too busy trying to figure out what it’d just said to interrupt. Your projection will initialise in Sector 5 of Habitat Dome B. There is someone there capable of responding to you. Find this being, and bring him or her to the Medical Bay.
I felt something about myself starting to fade away, felt the Ship begin to send me elsewhere, that calm, powerful voice fading. I shouted, as much as I could, in desperation.
Ship, I don’t know what you want! I don’t know what to do! I don’t even know what’s happened! Please, tell me – tell me what happened!
Time has passed.
That was all the Ship said. No matter what I said, no matter how much I tried to fight it, I faded out… and faded back in somewhere else.
Even though the Ship had said I’d be in my Habitat Dome, I had no idea where I was. Nothing looked at all familiar. People walked past me without even glancing at me, even though I must have looked as confused and alone as I felt.
Nobody seemed to listen to me, and I still couldn’t hear myself, either. I felt a shiver run through me. What was happening? Why? How?
Nobody answered me. Nobody even looked my way. I ran over and stood in front of someone, arms out to stop him, but he just kept walking – and then, with a tingle and a blur, he’d walked right through me. I froze, but nobody else did, and another three people just walked through me as if I wasn’t even there before I could collect my wits enough to run back to the side of the street. I was shaking uncontrollably, staring at my hands. They looked real enough to me, but…
That was when the last thing the Ship said to me fell into place. Time has passed, it had said. Time had passed, and I – I was dead.
I sank to the floor, locked my arms around my knees, and cried.
I don’t know how long I stayed like that, long enough for the dingy light to fade into night-time’s darkness. When I got up again, I was alone in the starlight.
I couldn’t go home. Home was gone, my friends and family were gone, my entire life was gone, all, somehow, turned into this grimy place in my Habitat Dome. Everything was wrong, the buildings, the dirt, the dying systems I knew had to be struggling to keep this place alive. With nothing else to do and nowhere to turn, I had to do what the Ship had asked me. I had to set this right. But how could I, if I couldn’t even touch anything, if no-one could even hear me?
The Ship had told me to find someone who could respond to me. So somewhere, someone must be able to. I set my heart on finding them, made that my only goal. That way, I wouldn’t have to think. I wouldn’t have to think about everything I’d left behind, wouldn’t have to think about my death. I wouldn’t have to think about anything.
The Fused by V. L. Bending is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.