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USS Hermes - 08H25M Relative Starship Time
For the first time in many months, Kristjana woke to near total silence.
She’d gotten used to life on Mars. Waking up in the morning, her surroundings basking in warm orange glow, actual coffee to start the day, and a fridge full of fresh food grown from a community garden...
Even the air was different. On Mars, the air filtration systems were sophisticated enough to feel like actual atmosphere. On Hermes, her breathing felt laboured; the faint taste of copper rested in her sinuses.
It was the silence that affected her the most. At a certain point, when a starship leaves a system, constant data streaming became impossible. Any information that needed to be relayed from point A to point B was sent via subspace in the form of data packets. Kristjana knew for a fact the Hermes received such packets regularly every 12 hours. Data was sent more frequently if requested or if there was some sort of emergency that required immediate access.
Kristjana adopted an interest Martian politics out of a need to feel relevant. She’d read about the Martian attitude toward citizenship and how seriously the people of Mars treated their responsibility. Kristjana admired that greatly, and concluded to stay engaged for as long as she called Mars home. And she did still consider Mars home, despite being light years away in her quiet, empty quarters on the Hermes. She’d hoped they’d podcasted the myriad of legislative goings on and included them in the data dumps to the Hermes.
“Computer,” Kristjana said as she stared idly at the ceiling. Her voice sounded flat and distant against the ever present hum of the Hermes power systems. She hesitated. “Play any MCA broadcast from the last eight days.”
“There are 58 media entries for MCA from 24 unique sources. Please specify.” The Computer’s reply was terse, and in a different female voice from Alice.
“Martian Civic Access.”
“There are no entries for Martian Civic Access for the time period specified.”
“Do you have anything for Martian Civic Access?”
“Negative,” the computer said precisely.
Kristjana felt her stomach shift.
“Are there any broadcasts from Mars I can listen to?”
Kristjana waited for a list from the computer that never came. She realized the old Hermes AI would have understood conversational nuances like context, and provided her with a list of alternatives to choose from. The reply from the LCARS, for all its thinking power, seemed a bit dumb.
“Can you list them please?” The meaning of her tone would have been lost on the LCARS computer.
“Affirmative,” LCARS replied obliviously, and listed the stations. Kristjana recognized ‘Utopia’s Radio One’ and told LCARS to play it. The system chirped an acknowledgement and went quiet before playing the introduction to a show Kristjana had never heard of. LN Today was the name of the program, Yuryi Bhandar was the host.
“Welcome to LN Today,” the host’s voice was warm. He introduced himself.
“On today’s show: Julie Lutfallah, Director of the Watney Foundation, will be joining us to tell us about this year’s Watney Prize nominations; Today regulars Joanne Garvey and Temas sh’Avilli are talking about the upcoming Harvest Festival; and finally Pan-Ten, executive chef at La Louis will be bringing in samples of his restaurant’s new menu…”
It was the lightest of fare, not what Kristjana was used to. LN Today would have to do until she put in a data request. It didn’t take long for the man’s voice to fade comfortably into the background.
She rose from bed and called out for a coffee. A blue shimmer rose and petered out from the direction of her main living space.
Kristjana imagined at some point she’d get past comparing the cramped quarters with her apartment on Mars. In the back of her mind, she could hear the petty cynicism in her voice as she complained about it to some imaginary listener. A hint of nostalgia brought her back to the early days when she used to be that listener. Ancient history now.
The coffee mug was cool, completely unfazed by its contents. To her great disappointment, the coffee was on the warmer end of lukewarm, and bland to the palate.
Kristjana missed coffee. The journey to Hermes was too long without it. Now she was forced to adapt to a pale facsimile. It didn’t even smell real.
The replicator dutifully recycled the mug; Kristjana wouldn’t dare try for a full breakfast. She wasn’t hungry anyway.
After a shower -- with real water -- she dressed and inspected herself in the mirror. She’d forgotten what she looked like in a uniform. It was the first thing that seemed familiar to her when she returned to the Hermes. She felt grateful for it.
Her luck turned around when she found herself time for a real meal from one of the crew galleys.
Beta Shift began with Kristjana telling herself the rest of the day was going to to be fine.