Prologue

The onslaught of sound was drilling a hole through his head. He couldn’t see much of anything, except for blobs of shape and colour; red being the most prominent, filling his vision, then receding, over and over again.

The alarm!

Once his vision had cleared enough and he had gotten his bearings, he started to make his way to the control panel in the eastern section of the room. His left leg wobbled and almost buckled under his weight. That was par for the course. Even though he lost his leg years before, it still tripped him up from time to time. It had even earned him an ironic and not so clever nickname.

Steadying himself, he limped over to the control panel. Just as his vision completely cleared he noticed a dimming glow fizzle out on the horizon just out the window. The alarm shut off and normal lighting resumed.

“Good morning, Christopher.”

Chris shot a quick look over his right shoulder. Out of a ceiling panel came a round camera eye-ball attached to a metal arm that was painted blue to match the rest of the room’s colour scheme. Chris breathed a sigh of relief.

“Oh, it’s just you Chelsea. Good morning to you as well. How long was I out for?”

A series of red LED’s circled the lens of the camera as “Chelsea” did some quick calculations. C.h.E.L.S.E.A. stood for Computer for Enhanced Electronic Living  and Space Exploration Ally– the letter h added to personalise the unit–copyrighting and branding had long since gotten way out of hand.  “Approximately one hundred and eighteen years, two hundred and sixty five days, thirteen hours, twenty seven minutes and fifty five seconds.”

“Geez! Approximately?” Chris righted the chair that had been long since knocked over in front of the control panel and sat down. His knees were still a little wobbly from being in stasis for that long.

“Give or take a few nanos.”

Chris sighed and began punching the keyboard in front of him. “So why the alarm?”

“Well, that was because someone activated the emergency hatch.”

Chris was puzzled. He was alone when his ship crashed: his crew had deserted him for not sharing in their beliefs. So who could possibly have been in here to activate the hatch?

“Also the jump circuits have been activated. Do you want me to collect the atmospheric particles from the area where the portal just closed?”

Chris pondered on this for a moment, “Yes, please do so. Thanks, Chelsea.”

“It’s already been collected. I didn’t want the particles to dissipate and be lost forever.”

“Chelsea, you know you’re not supposed to go over my head with these things.” Chris half scolded her, while still trying to figure out who could’ve gotten onto his ship. Whoever is was had not only opened the emergency hatch; they had also activated the portal jump. The fact that Chelsea had not followed proper computer protocol was the furthest thing from his mind.

“So how’s your leg feeling post stasis, Christopher.. Leg?” Chelsea let out a cold and sterile electronic laugh that would’ve made anyone else cringe; instead it made Chris smile. Chelsea was a delight to have around, especially after he’d hacked into her program to give her more of a personality. She wasn’t able to let go of all her original programming so she always referred to him as Christopher, but Chris found that to be an endearing quality.

“I’m not even up 5 minutes and you’re already cracking wise with me, Chelsea? Keep it up and we’ll see how you like to hobble about!”

“We’re embedded in dirt and rocks, Christopher. I think we’re half way there.”

Chris laughed wholeheartedly and asked, “Are you able to assess the damage?”

“Yes, the damage is mainly cosmetic. Some dings in the thrusters and exhaust pipes will reduce efficiency, but on the whole we are able to travel. Shall we find some place to make repairs?”

Chris punched some coordinates into the panel in front of him. “Most definitely! And be sure to keep that portal sample safe. We’re going to need that if we’re ever going to figure out who used it.”

“And find out where he’s gone to?”

“And find out where he’s gone to,” answered Chris, knowing full well that the better question to ask was “when.”

Next Chapter

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