Get to know Chip, who is a "Designer" with a head full of wires.
See his story through a series of vignettes, key points in his life.
Chip is completely unlike any person you have ever met. He is also exactly like every person you have ever met.
Chip jerked his awareness out of sleep, realizing that his father had just spoken to him. He quickly played back the record of what was just said.
"You really must pay attention to this," his father had just lectured, "It is important."
Chip scanned back further to see that the priest was reciting from the book of Exodus, New Era Revision.
The priest continued his recitation, "He who takes life, he forsakes his own soul, therefore losing his own right to life. He who takes the property of another, he must repay twice or be judged to be in obsolescence. ..."
Oh, I hate church! Chip thought to himself. All we ever do is go over the same material repeatedly.
A small picture of a delivery drone appeared in the corner of his vision. It was the icon he had chosen to let him know a message had arrived. He decided to read it. It was from some organization called Informatron. Junk. He revised his filter to delete all similar messages.
He tuned back in to the priest, who had begun his interpretation of the passage. "... cannot discard these values like so many obsolete tools. They are not just tools, but sustenance. ..."
Tools! I've been wanting to try out my new gadget. He switched his vision enhancer over to rangefinder mode. He checked the distance to each corner of the room. Very impressive precision. All of the walls were placed within 0.3 millimeters of accuracy. But one of the skylights was out of place. 4 millimeters off!
The priest had inexplicably changed topics. "... since the gods created our immortal souls. Refer with me, Genesis chapter zero, sentence thirty-three. 'The gods did then bring the bolt of life from the heavens. And they saw that it was good and eternal.'"
Save me from the one who would save my "soul."
The instructor displayed the vivisected dog for all the class to see. Every sensory input was simulated for the scene, including olfactory. "... And the esophagus terminates at this sphincter, here. If you have done some advance research, you may know the name of this ..."
Animals! So disgusting. What are the chances that one of us in this class will ever need to know this kind of thing? Chip wasn't sure what emotional reaction he should display. He silently composed a quick audio message to Katrina, "Hey, Circuitrina," Chip began the message using her nickname, "Glad to be in a stratum of society where this is all academic instead of practical."
Katrina shot back a curt text reply. Later.
Bad move, Chip berated himself, I should have known she would be interested in this. She is after all on the builder track. After brief reflection he realized she would probably be a good builder too. Maybe that's what makes her attractive. Why did my father have to give me these ridiculous family values?
As the instructor directed next, Chip plugged in to the surgery console. As the simulator feed began, the heavy stench struck him. It was familiar, yet foreign. He had been educated to recognize the smells, but could not relate them to his own life.
"Make your incision just at the middle of the descending colon," the instructor launched straight into the procedure, "continuing to the top of the anus. If you need help finding these locations, the incision overlay is accessible on the help menu."
Chip began the cut, but could not bear the result. He switched off his olfactory input.
Commander Shira Hilge, as the ship captain, must address a “Proximity Alert” by herself. But apparently it’s nothing of consequence.
Engineer Kenn Talbok likewise has his own small problem to deal with. And so do security officer J’Kobe Maniib, life scientist Dr. Bashon Braxst, and medic Ger Kaal.
These are all just small problems; but together they add up to something much larger.
Proximity alert, the synthetic voice sounded in a smooth but insistent tone.
Commander Hilge could hear before she could see. She drew a slow, long breath into her aching chest. Her muscles began to report their fatigue.
Proximity alert, the flight operations computer repeated.
Hilge knew the voice well. It was the one she had selected for the mission. It reminded her of her deceased husband: firm, authoritative, caring. She could see his face now in the absence of real vision, his icy gray eyes, his bland expression hiding his passion.
At once, the present reality rushed in on her. She inhaled sharply and commanded, “Flight Op, cabin lights on!”
Cabin illumination is already at fifty percent. Should I raise the level?
She cursed, and commanded herself, Shira Hilge, eyes open! She could feel her heart pounding, pulsing through her skull. Finally she located control of her eyelids and willed them open. The cabin lights burned the back of her eyes, forcing them shut.
“Flight Op, cabin lights at fifty percent!” she barked.
Cabin illumination is already at fifty percent. Should I lower the level?
She forced herself to take another glance at the cabin, ceiling tiles still burned into her vision from the prior attempt. Again, the light forced her eyes shut. I’m wasting time! “Cabin lights dim!”
Cabin lights now at twenty-five percent. Proximity alert.
She tried again, this time easily able to keep her eyes open. She tensed her muscles and sat up. At first she was surprised how strong she was, as her body snapped sharply upright. Then she remembered, Right, zero gravity. She unstrapped her legs and floated off the bed, nearly forgetting to remove her biomonitor cables. As she reached the ceiling she caught a handhold and launched herself toward the nearest op station.
She grabbed the handholds at the station and oriented herself upright in front of it. “Flight Op, cancel alert message, show alert data here.” The trajectory of a single contact was displayed in front of her. It was just close enough to trigger the alert, but not showing an intercept trajectory. Soon it would be close enough to get qualitative readings.
Wait, something’s wrong. These aren’t ... “Flight Op, show me the current data. This is four minutes old.”
This is the most current trajectory data. The contact is no longer within range.