I had an idea for a story about a man being woken up to realize his colony ship didn’t make the journey, and he was in stasis for a long time. Then silly humor slipped in, and I ended up with this.
Christopher came out of the bunk room, still disoriented and afraid, but in fresh clothes. He looked to the front of the vessel, and saw Aron there, typing away at different keyboards with a fury that made Christopher nervous.
Aron barely seemed older than Christopher, with a svelte form and skin that seemed tanned brown. He didn’t look Christopher’s way, instead he continued his manic typing that Christopher assumed was responsible for keeping their tiny spaceship on course.
Not that Christopher could tell, there wasn’t a single view to the outside. The ship was barely more than two chairs in front of the instruments, a chair behind that, and a bench that sat next to several compartments that looked like lockers. There was the door to the bunk, and another door that lead to an airlock and ramp. It was cramped, especially compared to anything Christopher was used to.
“Come on then, welcome to the future and all that,” Aron said without turning around, “You can sit, we still do that now.”
He almost sounded like someone from the EU, was Christopher’s thought, maybe British.
“Sorry, this is all still so strange,” Chris said as he walked up beside Aron and touched what seemed like a co-pilot chair, “This seat fine?”
“Long as you don’t touch anything.”
Christopher sat down with a huff of breath, and let his surroundings sink in. To him it was all so recent, he still remembered the long ride to the launch center, getting comfortable in his tube, and then Aron was waking him up in a chaotic wreck.
“Two thousand years,” Christopher shook his head, “That is insane. I’m surprised anyone is still speaking English.”
Aron turned to face him. He looked odd, though not inhuman. There was a strange curve to the bridge of his nose where it met his eyes. Plus his eyes almost looked muddy, as if they were a jumble of greenish-reddish colors.
“I speak six languages,” Aron replied, “I just make this look easy. Trust me, it is a knife in the palm.”
Christopher gave a nervous chuckle, but Aron didn’t smile. His eyes went back to his keyboards. Maybe controlling a ship required constant micro-adjustments now? Chris got a glimpse of the cockpit on the Hopeful Voyage, the ship he rode to the stars. It was mostly automated, with a few slick touchscreens, and massive display monitors that simulated what was visible just outside. This was a coffin at a clerk’s desk in comparison.
“Well thanks, again,” Chris said.
“Just doing my job. Wouldn’t believe how many babybusses we find unlock, yours is my oldest so far though.”
Aron was part of a colony ship recovery company, as he told Christopher while they escaped the decaying wreckage of what was supposed to be the seeding population for a colony.
“Babybus?” Christopher said, unsure if Aron’s English was as good as he thought.
Aron shrugged, “That’s what we call’em, the second wave. First were the genships, then the babybusses, and by the time you guys would have popped out your first group of grandkids you would have been greeted by the third wave of colonists.”
He clapped a single hand as he spoke, as if that meant anything to Christopher. His other hand was still typing, and his eyes were darting over displays that were flashing different charts and numbers.
“Oh,” Christopher said. He felt like an idiot. Here was someone just as old as him, and he could pilot a ship, and could rescue lost people like him. Meanwhile, Christopher was only on his ‘babybus’ as a medical tech, and barely a good one.
Then there was a silence. Aron didn’t seem disturbed by the empty void in the conversation, he kept up with readings that Christopher couldn’t even read. Would Christopher cause a problem if he started talking? Was it even dangerous? Aron would tell him right?
“So, what do you do when you’re off?” Chris said, “Watch vids? Chase girls?”
Aron didn’t flinch, “Girls have been extinct for about 400 years.”
Chris’s mouth fell open. He saw flashes of empty beaches, and bikinis with no one to wear them. Something inside of him, in the pit of his loins, shriveled up and died.
“What?” Chris stammered, “No, what?”
Aron shrugged, “Fact of life bud, enjoy the future.”
A million questions ran through Chris’s mind. He could imagine them being able to clone people if they wished, or even creating new beings with a mix of types of DNA. The technology was already on its way there when he launched, it wasn’t out of the question. It was just bizarre.
Still, Aron didn’t seem phased by the news, he grew up in this life. Christopher tried to play it cool.
He chuckled, “I always figured without women, mankind would just give up on life and fall apart.”
Aron stopped typing and gave Christopher a stern glare, “Well doesn’t someone have a poor opinion of humanity?”
Chris sat up, “Well I just mean…”
“Think we couldn’t live on without fighting over other human beings like you neanderthals did?”
“It was a joke,” Christopher said, with his hands up, “I was kidding.”
“Get out, move to back there,” Aron said waving his arms around until Christopher moved to one of the rear seats, “Know what, even further, get.”
Christopher decided to shut up and take his seat. Aron went back to all of his typing, and Christopher was forced to think about the world he was now in.
Two thousand years, he lost two thousand years. He lost everyone on the Hopeful Voyage with him. His parents weren’t healthy enough to go, but he still had friends. The ship was empty, a terrible husk of what it once was. It bustled with life and energy, and when Aron let him out all he could see were nightmares crafted by whatever had caused the ship to fail.
“A universe of debris, and I find you,” Aron grumbled as he went back to typing, “You’re lucky I’m trained to deal with archaic mindsets like yours, or I’d want to snap you on the nose.”
“Sorry,” Chris said.
Aron made a buzzing noise, which Christopher took to mean to be silent. It seemed Aron was more comfortable with the sound of mechanical keys than Christopher.
Then there was a loud click, and a voice filled the ship with a foreign tongue. A feminine voice.
Aron started to respond frantically, matching her language.
Christopher stood and looked over his shoulder. He could be wrong, but that looked like a woman, a living woman. Christopher’s chest puffed out as he vented a long breath through his nose.
“Gone seven hundred years huh?” Christopher said as he walked forward, “Neanderthal huh?”
The woman stopped talking as soon as Christopher came into view. She was paler than Aron, her hair cut in a strange bob, with wild colors streaking through it.
“Who are you?” She asked with a finger pointed, “Aron, who is that? The deal was three-ways.”
“Sort of ruining me here Enise,” Aron said, covering her picture up with his hand.
Christopher reached over and pulled Aron’s hands away, “He rescued me, from a babybus.”
“A babybus?” The woman named Enise said with her face twisted up in confusion.
Aron looked up at Chris, “Enise is going to go now. Enise, text only okay?”
“Aron,” Enise shouted as the two wrestled over the small square space displaying her image, “Why is that icicle wearing a-”
The video cut off, and Aron let out a long sigh of relief.
“Was anything you said true?” Christopher snapped, “Really? Why even lie about that?”
Aron rolled his eyes, “Come on, I was having a laugh. You figured it out quick enough.”
“Are you even part of a rescue team?” Christopher asked.
His ‘rescuer’ fought back laughter, covering his mouth, “What would anyone want with a bunch of frozen corpses?”
Christopher took a step back, and collapsed into the co-pilot seat. His vision was swirling a little, and anytime he concentrated for too long, he got mad.
“Look,” Aron said with a hand out, “You were right, I was wrong, all good right? We are going to rendezvous with the others, you can meet your first alien.”
Chris looked at Aron, “Aliens?”
Aron nodded, and started to smile, and then fought back laughter again.
“Well no, no, sorry I can’t help myself. You’re like a baby learning to read, I’m sorry.”
Chris shook his head, “Is everyone in the future an asshole?”
Aron shrugged and went back to plugging away at the keys of the little ship, “In my experience, kind of.”