Cleanup on the Aisle 5

Episode 3: Cleanup on the Aisle 5

Hello everyone!

Holidays are closing in, and I keep wondering what madness has caught up with everyone as they are running around fulfilling things that won’t matter in the long run but seem so necessary now. Let’s forget all the gift-giving and enjoy good food and being close with each other and take a break from the usual running around. That said, I have bought presents as well, joining in and wondering why? For the kiddies? Yes? No?

I do get the gift idea. It is so lovely to get a present from someone who has gone the trouble to think about what you need and gets it. But now, as I get older, I start to appreciate more about taking a break; the idea of just stopping for a second and being still. And that is hard as a self-publisher or anyone who tries to make a living with things like streaming and posting. I think I will take a week hiatus from blogging on the holiday week and breathe. Or at least my husband insist I should.

Let’s move on the episode 3 I wrote. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Episode 3: Cleanup on the Aisle 5

It had been five days now. He had been cooped inside the shuttle. One jump at the time, closing in the tear, searching for clues that the distortion was more significant than the initial assessment. He leaned against the console, feeling the fatigue in his eyes for staring chards, images, and readings without doing much else. His brain was starting to feel mushy too. Hugo took all the precautions for a good reason. No one who had been swallowed by the space, time, and mass confusion had come back to tell what they had seen. He didn’t want to be added on the list of the lost. Not at least with his first assignment. After twenty years in the job, he might find himself curious enough to sacrifice life as he knew to get a peek what the crit was going on.
“Hugo, there is a call waiting for you,” Jules said. The AI sounded concerned.
“Crit, crit, crit,” he chanted and jumped off the seat. At some point, he’d stopped putting on pants and tidying up the console desk. The shuttle’s control room and he himself with his unshaven beard looked like a never-ending gaming session where the food and drinks kept reappearing.

Hugo scratched his beard. “Who is it?” he asked.

“Jen Rowe,” the AI answered.

“That’s bad,” Hugo sighed.

“How come?”

“I can’t exactly receive a call looking like this from my boss,” Hugo said.

“Yes, I can perceive why that might confuse you. If you like, I can render an image when you first entered the shuttle and use that as an avatar for your interaction with Madam Rowe,” Jules suggested.

“You can do that?”

“Of course, I have an image replacement program installed in my systems. Shall I use it for you and the control room?”

Hugo wasn’t sure if he detected a hint of sarcasm in the AI’s voice. Where they even capable of that? He had always thought it was a human specialty demanding complex mental tasks. Not that it seemed to be that difficult to humans even for those who were terrible at it. At least they were on the right track, unlike the past mockup programs, trying to convey the subtle social interactions humans possessed.

“Do that,” Hugo replied and sat down. He dragged the bench closer to the panel, hiding his bare legs just in case.

“Shall I answer the call now?” Jules asked.

“Sure,” Hugo said, hesitating a little.

“Hugo Marek?” Jen Rowe asked. The middle-aged woman’s image flashed on the screen. Her long brown hair was tied behind her head, and she was wearing a suit.

Hugo was sure that she was squinting at him. That she saw, he was half-naked and messy. Right about now, he wished that they had never found a way to send images and instant messaging in space or at least that one of those tears had swallowed a beacon post and this conversation wasn’t happening.

“Yes, it is Hugo Marek here,” he replied. He could be offended by the woman’s need to ask his name. They had met a couple of times at the academy and then when she hired her part of her unit, and in his first day in. But he was too disinterested to care. All he wanted was to be left alone to do his job.

“Good, I’m sorry that I contact you this late into your first assignment. It has been hectic here, new tears popping up all the time. You know what it is like. One big one opened up yesterday to the main trading route. You can imagine what a political show that turned up to be. Anyway, welcome to the Central Bureau of Quantum Repair. I’m happy to have you in my sector. I trust you have gotten acquainted with your shuttle and your personal intelligence system,” Jen said.

“Everything is very personal here,” Hugo said and regretted it instantly as he said it aloud.

“Hmm,” Jen said.

“I mean, I have gotten acquainted with the shuttle and the AI. What I have been doing past five days have been mapping the tear you send me to repair,” Hugo said, correcting his posture, and dragging the chair even closer to the panel. So close that it cut the circulation of blood to his feet. He was willing to sacrifice them for the greater good.

“Good, and I’m sure we have meat and have one of my chats, but let me remind you again that my line is always open for you. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call me. We make fewer mistakes when we have clear open communication,” Jen said.

“Yeah, sure,” Hugo replied.

“Is everything fine with your first assignment? Do you need me to close the space travel through the area? And tell me, if any captain of the cruising ships have contacted you and complained about anything. If that happens, you put them straight through to me,” she rambled on.

Was she nervous? Oh well, it was not his job to make his boss feel more at ease with him. They, she, had chosen to be a pen pusher for her own regard and alienated what this job was all about. Politics could go to hell as far as he was concerned. He was doing this to save lives. “Everything is fine. I’m taking readings of the cosmic radiation as I get close to the tear, and everything has thus far been like the initial report said. There is a class-3 tear, which is a mild one, and I think I can fix it in a day.”

“Great. You have everything under control. I leave you to it,” Jen said.

“Yes, and I’m sure to contact you if there is anything amiss,” Hugo said before his boss could cut off the connection, hating how eager he sounded.

“Excellent. Have a great day, Cadet Marek,” Jen said.

“You too,” he replied, and the call was cut off.
Hugo collapsed into the bench and pushed it farther away from the panel with his bare feet.

“Is everything alright, Hugo?” the AI asked.

“Yes. Let’s hang here an hour before we take the next jump. I’ll go and have a wash and eat something.”

“That sounds good.”

Again with the sarcasm.

 

Thank you for reading! Have a great day ❤

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