December 2nd, 2345
Believe it or not, things have settled down somewhat around here. Two months after The Incident, with no real indication that anything’s happened to us, and I guess we’ve all fallen back into our normal routines. Well, as normal as possible with one of our crewmembers incapacitated and an android taking their place.
I even got to see Theresa last night! After months of pure, unadulterated Jean-Marie, it was nice to see her face again. Of course, it was really late at night, which is pretty much the only time Jean-Marie isn’t on duty, but hey, at this point, I’ll take anything. Anything that doesn’t painfully remind me of you.
At that point, it had probably been months since I saw her last. Of course, I talk to her every day in the computer, but it’s just not the same. Text-based and voice-only communication gets old after a while and one starts yearning for real, person-to-person contact. Or, at least, person-to-android contact.
She showed up at my cabin around 22 bearing a late supper of yeast, soy and other assorted proteins, plus a plate of various roasted squashes from the garden. And a big, fat turnip-leaf cigarette. I raised my eyebrows in surprise. As far as I knew, Theresa never touched mind-altering chemicals. And why would she? She always has Sarah or Jean-Marie’s memories to draw on.
“Don’t look at me like that,” she said when she saw the expression on my face, “It’s for you.” She extended her hand with the joint between two fingers.
“Hm, thanks,” I said, “Can you light it for me?”
Rolling her eyes, she reached out with her index finger and touched it to the end of the cigarette. Immediately, it started smoking. She pulled back her finger and shook it as if she were extinguishing a match, grimacing at the pain.
“That was fast,” I said, “It normally takes ten seconds or so when Sarah or Jean-Marie does it.”
“They’re both much younger than me and haven’t learned the molecular control that I’ve developed over a decade. Also,” she said, “neither of them have the mental discipline I do.”
“’Mental discipline’ makes it sound like you’re some sort of kung fu master,” I said, stoking the cigarette to life.
“I am a Sifu in Wing Chun, you know,” she said with a sly smile.
I choked on my inhale and, coughing it out, I said, “You are a kung fu master?”
“There are, apparently, many things about me you don’t know,” Theresa said, “I’d like to fix that.”
“I know. It’s hard though, with Jean-Marie up all the time, and Mike demanding Sarah at every opportunity,” I said.
“How long do you think you can keep sleeping in the airlock?” Theresa asked. Shift.
Of course she knows, she’s the ship’s brain, I thought to myself. “I don’t know, actually. It seems to be working OK, since the window’s in the shadow of the habitat lens, but it kind of scares the shit out of me that I could accidently blow myself out into space in my sleep,” I said.
Theresa smiled and said, “You’re not going to blow yourself out into space. I seal the outer door when you’re in there.”
“Well, that's a little comforting,” I said, smiling back at her, “but something tells me I’m still going to wake up every hour to make sure I haven’t exploded.”
“You should move into the lander,” she said.
“The lander?” I said. I hadn’t thought of actually sleeping in the lander, but it made sense. It’s quiet, no one’s using it at the moment, and the only windows face out into the Docking Bay. “That’s a good idea.”
“Well, of course it’s a good idea,” she said sardonically, “I try not to share bad ideas.”
“The problem is only Mike’s hand opens the door to the Colt,” I said, ignoring her jab.
Theresa paused for a moment, her eyes losing focus, before saying, “I’ve just given you clearance to the lander. It was a stupid policy anyway. What if you and Jean-Marie need to evacuate and Mike’s dead or incapacitated? Did the people at home really expect you two to suit up and go out the airlock with a perfectly functional space vehicle in the Docking Bay? Totally absurd, if you ask me. Just don’t tell Misha.”
“Of that, you can be assured,” I said, “Thanks, T.”
“You’re very welcome,” she replied, “Maybe we can talk at night before you go to sleep. You know there’s a spin-off of me in the Colt.” She did not phrase it as a question.
“Well, yeah, but I guess I always thought that was you,” I said, before quickly adding, “You know what I mean,” when I saw her look.
“No, it’s actually a version of me, like Sarah and Jean-Marie, only the Colt is that Theresa’s body instead of one like this,” she said, gesturing down her torso with her right hand.
“There are, apparently, many things I don’t know about you,” I said, a little embarrassed.
“That’s OK, Aric,” she said, “We’ve plenty of time still.”
“That’s true,” I said, nodding my head. I felt ashamed for having spent so much time thinking of you, and not thinking of my own daughter, right here in front of me the whole time.
I spent one more night there in the airlock, and, as predicted, I woke up about five times throughout the night, to assure myself that the outer door was secure. It was, but I sure wasn’t.
When I awoke again around 4 this morning, I finally decided I’d had enough. The Colt it was. I gathered my pad and bedding and cleaned out the airlock. It was probably stupid for my bed to be clogging it anyway. If there really were a crisis on board, my bed obstructing an emergency exit would be the last thing we need.
I remember walking through the Tunnel and thinking Hi, old spot as I walked down the corridor to the lander. As promised, my hand opened the hatch to the Colt, and I hauled my bedding in. All these damned ladders, they’re even in the lander! Seriously, I’d like to smack the guy who thought of that. And then kick everyone on the committee that approved it.
I’ve found a nice spot that’s out of the way in case we have to use the Colt in a hurry. It’s actually quite cozy, I think. I think you’d like it too. OK, I’m going to stop thinking about that now.