Jonathan, part 4

by Daniel Lively

I came back to the present to find myself, as expected, sitting in the Captain’s chair on y ship.

That memory was always one of my favorites even considering its bittersweet nature. My first true emotional response to a situation came just days before my mission officially began. Kimberly and I had spent those days simply spending time together, “making the most of it” as she said. I hadn’t really understood the adage at the time, but I enjoyed myself as much as ever, and we had just enough time to get one last crop of roses which we had presented to the Terminus team just before my permanent departure from Terra Firma.

I had slipped the surly bonds of Earth, as the saying went, and now, almost ten thousand years later, I was still hurtling blindly through the cosmos, lost in my own memories.

Dr. Hsu had said that I’d been programmed to have no ambition, and therefore I wasn’t expected to ever get bored on my ceaseless sojourn through and beyond the stars, but somewhere along the line my learning software had betrayed me. Every day was now an exercise in tedium split between my brief morning systems’ check and hours spent reliving the same year or so of time I had spent with Kimberly and Greg Hsu on Earth.

Or it had been until recently.

I approximated a sigh and reached over to the glimmering control panel. I flicked a small red switch and sat back in my chair, crossing my arms across my torso.

“Computer,” I said. “Activate protocol Jonathan ten-thirty-seven. Execute functions.”

The Computer warbled at me in compliance and I let the silence sit for a moment.

“How are you today, Computer?” I asked after several seconds.

“I’m fine, Captain Jonathan. How are you? Did you sleep well last night?” it responded in its usual artificial cadence.

I winced slightly but continued. “I slept well, thank you. Did you have a good night without me?”

“We experienced a 0.02 per-cent loss in faster-than-light efficiency for approximately three hours, possibly as the result of –”

“Computer, stop,” I said, rubbing my eyes with my hands. It was a symbolic gesture that I had picked up from Dr. Hsu when he was exasperated with my inability to conform to human behavior. “How do you feel?” I ventured.

“Please restate the question,” it said back.

I stood up and walked slowly to the front of my ship where a large window used to show me millions of stars twinkling amid the inky blackness of space. Now, beyond the edge of the galaxy, I saw nothing. No light, no movement. The instruments on the control panel told me we were still traveling at our usual speed, but other than that, there was no indication whatsoever that anything even existed outside my little ship.

“Anything you’d like to tell me this morning, Computer?” I said, leaning my head against the glass.

“Please restate the question,” the emotionless female voice repeated.

“Computer,” I sighed, walking back to my chair and sitting down. “Delete protocols associated with Jonathan ten-thirty-seven.”

A pause. “Yes, Captain Jonathan. Protocols deleted.”

“New program. Designation Jonathan ten-thirty-eight. Initialize template…” I began, but stopped myself.

“Actually,” I said after several seconds, “never mind. No further instructions.”

I sat back in my chair and remained silent, with only the low hum of the ship’s engine and the unforgiving emptiness of space to keep me company.