The man – at least he was reasonably sure he was a man; surely he couldn’t have forgotten his own gender – had his eyes closed.
He opened them but the light stung his eyes so he closed them immediately. It appeared to him that he hadn’t opened his eyes in some time. He would wait and try again in a while. He tried to move his extremities. His fingers and toes responded. He flexed his neck, arms, legs and buttocks. He seemed to be lying on his back.
“Don’t try to move or open yours eyes just yet. Your body will take a moment to fully wake up.”
The voice was soft and soothing. The man didn’t recognise it, but he understood the words. Perhaps he could speak. He opened his mouth and found it very dry. He tried to speak but no sound came out.
There seemed to be nothing to do but wait and give his body time to recover, so the man did just that. After what felt like a few minutes, he tried opening his eyes again – slowly this time. The light poured in and gave him sight. His eyes no longer hurt, but he wasn’t sure what he was seeing. Everything appeared blurry. He blinked several times and the image before him cleared a little. Over the course of the next minute, his eyes gradually learned to focus. He was looking at the ceiling. It was white, with flat lights flush with the rest of the surface.
The man had no idea where he was, or how he had come to be here. He tried turning his head ever so slowly. He sensed no pain. He was lying in a small room. There were instruments all around. He saw objects that looked like cabinets, and others that seemed to be various medical monitors and drug dispensers. He was definitely lying on a bed of some sort, but this didn’t look like a bedroom – more like a hospital ward. Had he been sick? Perhaps he’d been in an accident.
“Here, I’m going to help you sit up and give you a small drink.” The soothing voice was coming from behind him. The man turned to see the one that was speaking to him. To his surprise, he did not see a person, but a human-shaped device constructed of plastic and metal.
“I am L5.”
“Uh, hello,” the man said, lost for any other words. “You’re an android?”
“That is correct. My purpose is to care for you and assist you to return to your duties.”
“Have I been in an accident?”
“Not an accident. Try to remember.”
The man concentrated.
“Let’s start with your name. Do you remember your name?”
“Um, I should shouldn’t I.” After a moment “It’s Bell. Anderson Bell.”
“Very good. And your rank?”
Another moment of thought. “Captain. I’m the captain of a ship.”
Anderson furrowed his brow in thought. It wasn’t the Destiny, it wasn’t the Wellington, they were both in his past. Suddenly the name of the ship came to him – and then it all started flooding back. “The Endeavour. This is the ESS Endeavour isn’t it?”
“Quite correct Captain.”
“That explains why I’m here. I’ve been in cryonic suspension.” He looked up into L5’s artificial face. “We’ve arrived haven’t we. We’re here.”
“The Endeavour entered orbit of the planet classified as ‘MA 77481 Ab’ one hour ago.”
“I need to get up.” Anderson started to move but the pain which shot up his side, combined with the strong but gentle arm of the android stopped him.
“Eat first Captain. You need to regain your strength. Your body is weak. It hasn’t been used in a very long time.”
L5 disappeared for a moment and returned carrying a tray of food and a glass of water.
Anderson ate slowly. The food was very simple but somehow satisfying.
“Do you remember the mission of this ship Captain?”
“Yes I do. The Endeavour is an Ark ship – the first Ark ship. We were sent with thousands of colonists to make a life on a new world.”
“And why was that important?”
“It was because of the changes. Earth was undergoing slow but catastrophic environmental changes. Scientists predicted that the earth would be inhospitable to humans within seventy years.”
“Seventy years, it must be getting pretty bad after all this time. Tell me L5, how long did our journey here take?”
“Since we left orbit of earth, five hundred and twenty-four years have elapsed.”
Anderson dropped his spoon on the tray.
“Five hundred years?”
“That’s not possible. Our journey was only supposed to take fifty.”
“It has taken considerably longer.”
“How do you explain this L5?”
“I can not Captain.”
“Did we have to travel a different route? Was there anything unexpected on the way?”
“Nothing of consequence occurred on the journey that would have slowed our progress. We followed the planned route.”
“Well then something isn’t adding up. The journey was tracked meticulously. Our astronomers would not have made a mistake like this.”
“I regret that I can not explain this Captain.”
“Then you need to get me ready quickly so I can meet with my crew and sort this out.”
“As you wish.”
After finishing his food, Anderson was helped to his feet by L5. After a little assisted exercise, he was feeling his body returning to normal. He showered and dressed.
“I will now escort you to the senior crew lounge Captain. The other senior officers have been awakened and will join you there shortly.”
They walked together through narrow corridors until they arrived at a comparatively large room. Wide floor to ceiling windows at the far end of the room showed the vista of space, and the glow of their new home world below them. With its mix of whites and blues it look strangely like Earth – and yet very much not.
The door behind them opened, but instead of one of his crew-members, the newcomer was another android. It looked identical to L5.
“Captain, I am L7. I have news to report to you.”
“Well don’t just keep me waiting. What is it?”
“I was charged with the care of First Officer Allan Murphy. His stasis pod malfunctioned during the trip. I regret to inform you that he is dead.”
The Colonists by Adam Collings is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Text Copyright © 2011, Adam Collings