Chapter 3

"This ship puts on the nosebag eight times a day (again I counted): early morning coffee (café‚ complete - that is, with pastry), breakfast, mid-morning refreshment, tiffin, afternoon tea with sandwiches and more pastry, cocktail-hour hors d’oeuvres (those thirty-one sinful traps), dinner (seven courses if you can stay the route), midnight buffet supper. But if you feel peckish at any hour, you can always order sandwiches and snacks from the pantry." - Description of the meals on the HyperSpaceShip Forward, Friday by Robert A. Heinlein

As promised, the scene in the digital port showed us raising up from the harbor into the sky, unlike regular flying this was almost like we were in an elevator, straight up past the dome rather than across the sky. The port started to grow brighter, then I could see the curve of the world as we passed out of the atmosphere. Even though I have seen this view on the holo all my life, this time I was actually leaving the atmosphere, and that somehow made it different.

Calling back up the information menu I spent some time getting used to the layout of the ship and how to get from my suite to the important places (dining room, library, and closest escape craft). This side tracked me into some of the technology used throughout the ship. Reviewing how the ship was connected into the intra-planetary Ansible network was fascinating.

Brain surprised me by announcing “if you want to make it to dinner you should leave in 15 minutes.” I had spent almost 2 hours in learning about my home for the next 4 weeks.

Calling up the wardrobe function I asked it what would be the appropriate attire for the first night meal. It displayed classic evening wear in the styles of the late 1920s, and recommended was something called a tuxedo. This was a long single breasted coat with wide lapels and a pair of straight slacks with a high waist. Both in black. With a white silk shirt with or without ruffles and black “studs” (seemed to be from a time before buttons were invented). The tuxedo was finished with something called a bow tie in white and shiny black shoes, with an optional “top hat”. So I decided to go with the AI’s recommendation allowing it to modify for my wristpad. “This will take 5 minutes to fabricate.”

So while I waiting I went in to the refresher where I took a quick shower let it air dry me with a light scent labeled “Old Spice” – time 3 minutes. Another minute for the auto calipers to depilate my face and I was ready to get dressed. Most of the outfit was new to me, but by using the hologram demo program I was able to get dressed without needing assistance, which was offered as available from a member of the ship’s crew. It seems that First Class accommodations had a human assigned to just assist us in dressing, but that seemed a bit too decadent for my taste. The only thing that I could not workout was that strip of white silk it called a “bow tie.” Much to my dismay I needed to call for help after I almost strangled myself trying to tie it.

She arrived only minutes after the AI relayed my call. And within another minute she understood the problem and worked the complicated macramé needed to secure it properly. Thanking her for her quick arrival.

Chatting as she stepped in front of me and took the ends. In the 2 minutes it took her I learned that name was Jackie Silver, she was from Luna, just finished an advanced degree in hospitality management, her fiancée is part of the bridge crew and he says that after this trip they between pay and bonus they will have enough to get married and open that B&B on Luna. They had already registered for a nice bit of cubit in the Shackleton crater rim where they could put in an Earth view bubble. Stepping back to survey her work she promised that she would be available to untie it if I could not figure it out on my own.

Brain announced “it is time for you to leave for the dining room.”

Jackie almost jumped at hearing Brain so noticing it for the first time she said, “Wow, your pad talks?”

I pull back the jacket sleeve and explain “in my work I seldom have a hand free to touch or look at the screen, so I have it set to use the accessibility mode, this means it voice activated and speaks as it would to a blind person.”

“Let me show the quickest way to the dining room, you don’t want to be late on the first night, it is when tables are assigned.” And looking at my wrist again she asks “why is it so big, usually pads are much smaller? Is that related to your work as well?”

“In a way, I need a unit that can be bumped and banged a bit more than most so it needs to be more rugged. In this case I had it designed after the Vortex Manipulator from an old TV program,”

She looks over “if you don’t mind my asking what is it that you do that that would require you to protect your wristpad while working? Most people in first class don’t seem to work with their hands.” Realizing what she is saying she covers her mouth, “no offense meant, obviously some do.”

“That’s ok Jackie, actually I get called in to repair things, did you hear about the mayor’s toilet randomly shooting geysers? I was called in to fix that, they were so grateful I was given a raffle ticket as a bonus. It won. So I guess I am a little different from the rest of your charges.”

“I’ll say, you are the only one that talks with me, not at me. And you are the only one, so far, who remembered my name. Thank you.” On that high note, we arrived at a door. “And here we are the main dining room, you can get your seating assignment from the Concierge.” And with that she headed back to her normal duties.

Walking over to the entrance I was asked by the Concierge AI how many in your party? And in response to my one, I was assigned to the last seat at table number eleven, and a waiter escorted me to my seat while informing me that in keeping with the old tradition, this was to be my table for the duration of the trip. He pointed out the buffet line and wished me a good meal.

Sitting down I looked around the room, and even though the table was not yet filled I decided to go get my food. While walking to the buffet I was bumped into by a busboy who was about to trip an officer. Instead they only bumped, causing the officer to bump into a support column. Catching him before he fell I realized it was the Captain who had been bumped into. As he was straightening his uniform, I noticed that someone had left a few cups with silverware next to the column about where the Captain would have landed if I had not been bumped instead of him being tripped. Glancing down to where I was looking he commented “good thing I missed those, it might have been embarrassing to get forked in the dinning room.”

To this I replied, “much more than forked. Since when do they store steak knives with the points up?”

Looking down, he sees what I am talking about, and blanches. “You, you are right that does not look regulation.” While this has been going on, the human Maître d’ rushes over.

“Mr. Armstrong, I am sorry there has been a little mistake. You not supposed to be at table eleven, as the Grand Prize winner you are supposed to be table 1, the Captain’s table.” And then he notices the Captain still standing there and looking down at the knives. “Is everything all right Captain?”

“Who put out the containers of silverware?” Pointing down, “I almost landed on those.”

Looking down, the Maître d’ sees the knives.

“Who was that busboy that bumped into me?” The Captain and Maître d’ look around and realize that there is no busboy in sight. Not a single one.

Looking perplexed, the Maître d’ turned to the captain, “Sir, am sorry for this, I don’t’ know who put them there but I will find out.” Bending down he picks up the cup of knives with a napkin. “But, I came over because we cannot begin until you are seated.” And he leads us to table one. Reaching the table I could see only two empty seats facing each other. The captain continues to the head of the table. As the Captain reaches his seat a spot light seems to focus on him, and I hear the amplified voice of the Maître d’. “On behalf of Captain Englehorn, Captain of the L.S.S Venture and the hero of Ceres blowout of 2130, we welcome you to the maiden voyage of the L.S.S. Venture. I ask you all to rise, and to raise your glass for a toast to a safe and happy journey.” The room echoes with people repeating “a safe and happy journey” followed by the clinking of hundreds of glasses.

Sitting next to the Captain was a stunning red head, with whom he was deeply conversing. On his other side was a beautiful Asian woman whose exact ethnicity I could not place. But she was easy to place by the Miss. Universe sash that she was wearing. Even I knew that she was Madame Sul-Te-Wan, the reigning Pageant Winner and former Miss. Titania. Which explained her mixed ethnicity. She was lecturing the woman sitting next to her, quite loudly, about the horrors of child labor on some of the mining asteroids. Seems that they used less oxygen and could get into smaller spaces to mine out the precious metals. But if they accidently broke through they all died and were quickly replaced as soon as the hole was patched in order to prevent lost revenue. She was complaining that no one was doing anything to protect these children and that the federation was claiming to be powerless to stop it. After this I stopped listening, I had heard most of it before as this was a cause she was known to lecture about it at every opportunity, complete with detailed economic statistics and mining facts, showing how this slavery was not only cruel but financially not viable.

I recall that this was a cause that was very personal to her. When she was little she was forced to work in one of the teams enclosing Messina Chasmata. During a blasting accident she lost her left hand and they had to 3d print her a replacement. On the talks shows she was always showing the scar as something between a talisman and a badge of honor. But now she fights to prevent it happening to any other children. I had heard most of her lecture before, so I tried to pay attention to the others at the table.

To my right was a very tall young black woman who said to call her Dodge. It seems that Dodge (I later found out her full name was C. Dodge Dunning) was an Astro Engineer from Mars, who was accompanying her mother Carroll, the Astro Engineer Co-Lead of the symposium.

For the rest of the meal Dodge and I discussed the possibility of “throwing” chunks of ice from Saturn’s rings at Mars to help boost the terraforming efforts and to bring in more water. Seems she had read an old science fiction story called “The Martian Way” by someone named Professor Asimov, and now wanted to realize his vision. She was also able to identify Madame Sul-Te-Wan’s victim as being Bobbie Williams, the wife of Professor Frank D. Williams, the Scientist Co-Lead. But she could not identify the red head sitting next to the Captain.

A while later the Captain and the red-head stood. Wishing everyone a pleasant trip they left the table and the room. With that, the discussions at the table started to break up as other people started to leave. Dodge thanked me for the chat, and said she was looking forward to more over the rest of the trip. She then followed her mother from the room.

Tired from the hard day at work and the following excitement I decided to head back to my room for the night.

- - - - - - - - -

Saturday, September 2, 2152

After breaking my morning fast I had plenty of free time on my hands, this seemed a good opportunity to check out the ship and the entertainments it offered me for the next month.

Leaving the almost empty dining room I head out to the main lobby. To my left is the entrance to the Casino. In front of me is the main port and next to that is a small shop with a sign advertising excursions for our first stop – the Moon. I walk over and see that they have a guided tour of Luna City complete with the garden and central park and the “bat caves”. As it is closed I will have time to consider how I would like to spend my first day on another planet. ;

To my right is the stairs I saw when I came aboard and a set of elevators. But beyond the elevators is a corridor I had not noticed yesterday. Following it I see the dance hall, currently in use by a number of people doing some form of yoga. Down the hall is some sort of bar called a cantina.

Heading downstairs I see a café alongside the clear window of the ZeroG Pool. It looks like a large room mostly filled with water and some sort of airlock in all of the walls except the one facing the café. Almost all swimmers are wearing rebreathers, so there are no air bubbles to cloud the water.

Beyond the café is the Gym with the latest models for people to keep in shape (or prevent getting one) while on the cruise. And tucked in a corner beyond the gym is the Library. I guess that it is not surprising that it basically has 3 sections: Colonization sciences, Science Fiction, and Romance with a selection of comfy chairs or padded nooks to read in.

The Science Fiction section is filled with chips for all of the related classics: Asimov, Isaac; Baxter, Stephen; Butler, Octavia Estelle; Card, Orson Scott; Clarke, Arthur Charles; Gilman, Carolyn Ives; Heinlein, Robert Anson; Le Guin, Ursula; Liu, Cixin; Maas, Jonathan; Monticelli, Rita Carla Francesca; Niven, Larry; Pratchett, Terry; Robinson, Kim Stanley, Janet, and Spider; Smith, Edward Elmer “Doc”; Stephenson, Neal; Verne, Jules; Weir, Andy; and of course Wells, Herbert George to name a few.

Realizing I had spent the entire afternoon alone in the library and missed dinner I stopped in the café. I order a quick ham and cheese croissant and head back to my room to change into evening wear before going to see what is going on.

Next Chapter: Chapter 4