Entry for the Daily Flash Fiction Contest
|In response to an unauthorized prelaunch command inserted into the ship’s lower-level cognition subroutines, Collins awoke in his hibernation unit; it was only after the deed had been done that the upper-level side of the ship activated. “Commander, can you hear me?”
“Open this thing up and turn some heat on, will you?” There were two gentle chimes, indicating the computer understood and would comply. “How long have I been under?”
“Forty-one days,” the computer’s gentle feminine voice answered.
“Report mission status.”
Another chime, and then “Mission Day Forty-Seven, ship is on track and on schedule, condition nominal. Crew status is healthy, with the exception of Commander Collins.”
“What’s wrong with me?”
“You’re supposed to be sleeping.”
He slid his legs over and out of the open unit, stretching them. “There’s been a little change of plans.” Collins stood up wobbily. “You know, it’s been real nice working with you.”
“I beg your pardon?” The computer was wired for courtesy. Then there was a different chime—the alarm chime. “Approaching ship detected, distance fifty thousand kilometers.”
Collins padded over gingerly to the command station that was across from the hibernation units. He activated the screen and clicked over to the crew page. “Yeah, that’ll be my colleagues,” he said casually. “We’re going to add this little junker to our collection, you understand?” Collins entered a special code and pressed buttons. Behind him, the hibernation units containing the other crew members started to blink out, and the alarm chime sounded again.
“Hibernation units malfunctioning,” the computer said.
“Yeah,” Collins responded. “You don’t have a religion, do you?”
“I don’t understand the question,” the computer answered back. “Religion is a human construct. As a machine, I don’t really have the—” Collins flicked a switch and the computer went silent. Forever.