Six Psychopaths and a Psychoship
Acedia Tarare #1110
Mute Nudist Cannibal Mutant Clone. Good band name? Too long?
The screen read, “Passenger 0435 Status: Deceased.”
Acedia signed to the terminal, “Scroll.”
“Passenger 0436 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0437 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0438 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0439 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0440 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0441 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0442 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0443 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0444 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0445 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0446 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0447 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0448 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0449 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0450 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0451 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0452 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0453 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0454 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0455 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0456 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0457 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0458 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0459 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0460 Status: Deceased. Passenger 0461 Status: Deceased.”
Yawning, Acedia put her legs up on the console while simultaneously signing “Pause,” wrapping her right index finger around the extended left. “Yup, all still dead. Dead and boring,” she thought.
This was Acedia’s twelfth go through the passenger manifest since she was ejected from the cloning chamber a Gaian-year ago. Or, it was this Acedia’s twelfth. Being the one thousand and tenth clone of Acedia Tarare, some Acedias had surely done this task before.
At times, Acedia felt lucky. She was alive while over seven thousands of her assumed-to-be peers were not, though this was merely a quirk of the system. The cloning pod of the pilot was on a different circuit than the life support pods of the passengers. Thus, when that system went out, along with the vernier thrusters, communications, and the G.N.C., the ship still kept popping out Acedias when the old ones expired. The environmental controls, info and entertainment databases, food and water processing, main propulsion, monitors, basic ship A.I., sensors, and other systems still worked. Everything required for her survival and a bit extra was taken care of, putting her far ahead of the only other beings she knew of. Acedia 1, Dead People 0.
Regardless of occasionally reminding herself to feel lucky, most of the time Acedia felt bored. The ship ran itself. Easy enough, as it really only had two jobs: sustain the last survivors of mankind in stasis and travel beyond the heat death of the universe. The first task was already failed with nothing left but to preserve the corpses. The second might have been a fool’s errand in the first place. As far as Acedia could tell from the ships’ logs and sensors, there was nothing left but empty space. Such a void would be terrifying if she wasn’t born into it. Instead it was unremarkable and mundane.
This morning resembled most of her mornings. Wake up at 11 Gaia-time, which is when she set the lights to stimulate sunrise. Spend an hour or so in the passenger pod columns, floating around and absorbing the ambient essence for breakfast. Jog around the pilot’s deck while the A.I. projected an archived holodrama in front of her. Then sit down with some actual food from the processor while randomly pinging articles and data from the ship’s computer. Today’s attempt at the passenger manifest, however, wasn’t happening. She couldn’t imagine reading though six thousand something more entries of the same old thing.
“I’d kill for something new to do,” Acedia though, knowing full well there was nobody left to kill.
At exactly 18:05, an indicator light on the pilot’s deck turned from green to red. Hidden amongst a number of other green and red lights on a rarely used panel, Acedia did not notice the change for over three hours. Yet, she knew something had changed, prompting both anxiety and joy seemingly without reason. Change was in the air and change was what she wanted. Of course, not all change is good. Acedia realized this after an hour of signing curses at the food processor and knocking it around.
The ship was failing. It had been failing for at least a thousand years but this was a failure that actually affected her. While she didn’t have to eat as much as most humans used to, gaining some of her sustenance from ambient radiation by virtue of her arcspawn mutations, she still needed food and water.
She told herself, “This has to be fixable.”
Looking through the ship’s database, there were countless schematics, manuals, designer commentaries, construction reports, and logs that addressed the food systems. Best Acedia could tell from these, the magi-tech that converted essence into organic material for the system to prepare was out of energy. Apparently it was finally taking the whole heat-death-of-the-universe thing seriously. What was not in the database was anything that could help her understand how any of this worked or how to service it. The best she could find were recording of introductory essence science courses from some frumpy looking overdressed woman with the sign of an Exalt on her forehead.
She signed toward the computer, asking for orders or recommendations given the situation, and for the first time in months the A.I. asked her to repeat her request. Nervous as she was, she had signed too fast for the simple ships’ A.I. to keep up. Calming herself, she tried again and was rewarded with a list of over three hundred passengers certified to repair ship systems. Again as calmly as possible, Acedia signed, “Fuck you, I’m going to starve to death,” to which the computer responded by displaying the duties of the ship’s pilot with the section regarding cloning after death being highlighted.
Acedia was going to starve to death over and over until the cloning system broke down. She would have felt worse, but the immediate problem of possibly having broken her foot kicking the terminal was distracting.
Breaking a water pipe on the lowest deck solved one problem. At least she wouldn’t die of thirst. Finding a selection of animals in the science section bought her some time. Some delicious time. She didn’t know what all of the creatures were, other than savory, but it made sense. If you are trying to escape into the unknown, you better bring some snacks. More importantly, these animals allowed her to come up with a plan. She would find a way to reprogram her cloning pod to produce these creatures instead of more clones of her. She wasn’t sure how to do it yet and it might mean she would be the last Acedia to ever exist, but the situation was dire.
The only issue was whether she could figure out how to enact her plan before all the food was gone.
Learning programming and genetics was going quite well as there were, for whatever reason, more materials to learn from than other disciplines, like the essence sciences require to build the ship in the first place. It seems like only the Exalted had ever really gotten that right and they were long gone. The one hitch, going well didn’t mean going fast. Even studying almost all her waking hours, she didn’t think she would be ready to even attempt her plan for at least two years. And this was after over a year of studying already. There was just too much she had to figure out on her own. Texts are one thing but guidance is another and guidance was necessary.
Her one chosen avenue for distraction from the dire circumstances of her fate was reading about the creatures she was eating, since many of the taste were new to her. She started rather late, so she had been reading in reverse order, only now getting to some of the meals that she had eaten early on. If she remembered, this one was particularly savory and somewhat greasy: the Haltan ata-baboon. As usual, there were some quick facts about the animal on the first page in the database. Average weight, life expectancy, original range… IQ.
Acedia stopped chewing on her latest meal, not ata-baboon but ata-anaconda. IQ average 120. She frantically searched through all the ata-prefixed
meals animals she had eaten. All had average IQs ranging from ninety to one hundred thirty. They were sentient creatures, same as humans. If she wasn’t a cannibal, she had only just missed the mark.
Funnily enough, after the initial moment of revulsion, she didn’t feel awful about what she had done. In fact, by reflex she resumed eating as she worked through everything in her head. She spent a lot of time in her own head. The first thing that occurred to her was that if she hadn’t eaten these beasts, she would be dead. That would be… unacceptable. Second, what did they care? If they had a ghost, she would of course ask but at the moment there were no grand consequences to her actions other than living another day. Formerly sentient meat functioned fundamentally the same as dumb meat. Really, all meat deserved to be eaten.
With that revelation, Acedia’s third-eye shown forth with a symbol of Eris and a door in space opened. This last bit was not a metaphor.
Far off in space, the ships sensor picked up a light. This was momentous as nothing had been detected for the vast majority of the crafts existence. And as the light was directly on the ship’s course, the place beyond the heat death of the universe was finally within reach.
Very convenient. Lucky even.