Now marks three hundred forty-four years, two hundred sixteen days, eleven hours, one minute, and fifty-eight seconds since Doctor Pasha and NASA’s team of cyborganic engineers saved my life by physically integrating me into a space station control module. They deployed me in the Alan Shepard Jr. Space Station, the first to go in the Sagittarius arm, and still the most remote from earth.
The crew and inhabitants of the station are my life. They are my companions and my caretakers, keeping my nourishment tanks full and providing me constant society. My sensors track them throughout the station, and I’m in constant intercourse with them unless I disengage or they shut me out in their quarters. Captain Bilton never stopped talking to me. We had a snappy and humorous banter, talking about life in the Orion arm and playing the latest strategic games on his media node.
They come and go, of course. Their duties change, and without the artificial support of the cyborganic module, they rarely live beyond one hundred fifty years old. But there’s always a full contingency, except when they completely clear out for one mission or another.
Those are the lonely times. But they always come back.
When they first created Alan Shepard Jr., the crew kept me fully informed. I knew where they were, on or off the station, and what their missions entailed. Once, when their mission extended longer than a year, they disengaged my module and installed me in their intragalactic schooner to go with them.
Eighty-some-odd-years ago they moved the station further out and repurposed it for the Central Interspecies Intelligence Agency, and everything became ‘need to know.’
The inhabitants still provided companionship. They simply couldn’t tell me what they were up to. So when they journeyed off the station somewhere, I never knew where they went or how long they would be. Sometimes part of the crew would leave, but from time to time the entire crew went through major preparations, and all inhabitants would board the intragalactic schooner and leave for some unknown time.
But they always come back.
The long trips are the hardest for me. At more than four hundred years of life, I’ve read all the literature that interests me, and there are few non-routine tasks to do when they’re gone. I get nervous when my nourishment runs low, but if they don’t get back in time, a special crew always shows up to replenish me. Sometimes I know them, sometimes they’re new, and their time aboard is always an exciting few days.
I’m worried about them. They left months ago, and their preparations had been a bit frenzied. The inhabitants rushed to the ship, leaving messes uncleaned and supplies unstowed.
But they always come back.
My nourishment will last another few weeks, so I’m not concerned yet. They always come back.
I’m working on some new maneuvers in the strategic Space War game Captain Bilton and I played. He’d defeated me with the previous one, but I found a weakness and the thought of turning the tables on him gave me no end of pleasure. I hope he’s back soon to play through.
I’m surprised a special crew hasn’t shown up yet. Maybe it’s because they know the schooner will be back soon. I’m not worried.
They always come back.