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Published by Danny Morris

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Published by: Danny Morris on Sep 19, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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to spacecraft. This is Captain Gary Clark.
has been damaged andnavigational equipment is offline. Requesting immediate aid from any ships withincommunication range.” Gary repeated the message twice more, then switched theemergency signal back on.The next reasonable step was to eat quickly and resume attempting to repair thenav equipment. After a dry meal of dehydrated fruit and soy product, Gary went throughthe regular ritual of preparing to exit the spaceship. At the push of a button, the door sealed tight behind him and the room began decompressing. The exterior door opened;thousands of distant stars and galaxies reflected off Gary’s visor. He floated slowlyoutwards, tethered to the ship by a thick hose carrying him electricity and oxygen.Gary headed to the bridge of the ship to attempt to repair the damage to thenavigational arrays. Underneath his helmet, a thin, black device affixed to Gary’s skullhummed with electric life. In his head, Gary could clearly see the schematics for the unitand isolated the part he was attempting to fix. Responding to his thoughts, the image of the part came into sharper focus and disassembled itself, revealing the various sub-components. Tiny screws and micro-chips isolated and magnified themselves and Garyfocused again on the real object in front of his face. This section of the system was not just damaged, there were crucial pieces shattered entirely. Upon a quick check throughthe files in his head, Gary determined that he did not possess the necessary tools toreproduce the missing parts on board the ship. Protocol now dictated that he begin long-term rescue strategies.
2Gary began undressing the moment the airlock was secure, being careful asalways not to disrupt the sleek apparatus wired into the back of his cranium. The Neogene 4.1 looked like a thin, flat black hair-band, and processed computations like awarehouse full of Cray supercomputers.Virgin Galactic didn’t trust solo navigators with the volumes of protocols,operational procedures, and instantaneous calculations that produced a safe andsuccessful voyage. So a battery of physicists, biologists, and psychologists were fundedto develop an acceptable co-pilot. The Neogene was wired directly into Gary’s centralnervous system, and responded to stimuli with user-friendly mental displays, graphics,and commands, delivering these responses via the neurons spliced directly into the Neogene’s nanocircuitry. The system not only provided a constant stream of technicalinstructions and relevant data, the Neogene helped modulate the user’s mood, anxiety,stress level, and awareness through electrical impulses. This implant did the work of crewand mission control, and it didn’t carry the limiting restrictions of needing food, air,accommodations, and rest time. When Gary slept, the Neogene was still active, silentlyanalyzing and interpreting the data the ship’s various systems were wirelessly feeding it.For the time being, the adaptability of a human pilot was still preferred to any fullymechanized alternative, but several solutions to this unpredictable factor were currentlyin design.The early days of the space program at N.A.S.A. had been evidence enough thathuman pilots weren’t capable of reliably launching and landing a spacecraft, let alonetransporting enormous amounts of ore from the Asteroid Belt back to the Lunar base. The
3culture of space cowboys and mortal heroics was not economically viable in thecommercial field.The
was currently loaded with such a commercial cargo, and those billionsof dollars of raw material were now floating aimlessly through space as Gary coolly andmechanically worked to save Virgin’s investment. At 22:00 Earth time, he strappedhimself into his thin foam bunk, and closed his eyes for 3 full R.E.M. cycles.Gary no longer dreamt very often. The psychologists told him it was to beexpected and had something to do with maximizing his body and mind’s ability torecover and refresh itself. Intense dreams were proven to be less restful than a deep,uninterrupted sleep. Gary thought that was a shame, but acceptable if it meant he wouldhave the privilege of being one of the select pioneers of Virgin’s interstellar businessenterprises. As a child, Gary had wanted nothing more than to go up into the looming black yonder, piloting his starship through the distant galaxies and solar systems that hehad religiously studied and memorized in his astronomy books. Once he was anastronaut, he would soar through those constellations like a supersonic bird in flight; hecould imagine rocketing through the nebulae and passing moons and planets, pushingtowards the boundaries of the known universe and then charting new territory, just likeCaptain Kirk. The deep, velvety blackness always looked mysterious and inviting.Gary had always loved trips with his parents out to West Virginia, not for themonotonous hikes over rocky ground, but for the spectacularly clear nights, where freefrom the streetlights, the stars shone like an awesome tapestry, thousands of infinitelydistant points sending their meager light millions of miles to this lonely planet orbitingthat big yellow star.

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