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1 - Skip

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Bi-di-beep.

Bi-di-beep.

Huh?  Noise - what?  Oh, right.  Manual wake-up alarm.  Still in space, headed back to Solon.

Skip stirred, groggy and disoriented from oversleep.

"COMMAND: Cancel the…"  Skip stopped in mid-command as he remembered: My proc blew out a couple days ago – no voice commands.  He swiveled his chair around and touched the panel.

Evidently, the manufacturer had considered the pod's Mind to be a critical system.  There were three slots for standard processor modules.  In the City, no one would have dreamed of running on even two for very long.  Some people even proactively changed out their procs every year.  Where Skip worked, of course, it was commonplace to go uniprocessor.  Redundancy was a luxury few could afford in the Outback. 

Without its Mind, his pod was dumber than a 21st-century ore barge.  He wasn't concerned.  As a Math Engine, he could plot a course solution in his head as well as any pod Mind.  Better.

The lack of working procs was more of an annoyance than anything else.  Skip was horribly bored.  None of the pod's entertainment systems worked without the Mind, and neither did communication.  He dearly wanted to call ahead, maybe set something up with the other interns.  His twenty-first birthday was just days away.

He grinned in anticipation of his reunion with the gang. In just 2 hours and 23 minutes, he would be back.  But without comm, not a soul would know until he actually entered the station.

First, I'll call Jake, he thought to himself.   No, wait - I'm all grungy.  What if I run into someone in the corridor?  Especially, what if Monika sees me before I get cleaned up?  Definitely, shower needs to be top priority. After that, all I need to do is call Charlie.  She's the social hub, and can round up whoever's available. Get a 10x order of noodles (extra burning hot) to go – I’ll buy - games and talk in Charlie's cabin all night long. . .

Skip took a hearty bite of his meat-and-berry foodbar, and washed it down with a generous gulp of water from the recycler.  Yup, the universe was looking pretty darn near perfect from his perspective.

Before he knew it, he was on final approach.  Skip effortlessly guided his pod into a flawless dock-up.  He stepped onto the station, and made a beeline for the showers.

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