Where the capsule looked bullet-sleek and sturdy, the space ship looked flimsy and ungainly. Imagine a garbage truck blown up to twenty times its normal size and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the ship looked like. Used only for transporting people to Mars and transporting materials back to the transfer station, aesthetics weren’t a consideration when designing the vessel.
There was no artificial gravity on the ship — it couldn’t have been implemented economically. It was expected to pull double duty as a personnel transport and cargo carrier. There was no need to provide either type of passenger with gravity, the trip wasn’t long enough for people to be affected and cargo wouldn’t be damaged by zero g.
Scott was again bunked directly above me. To this day I wonder how he managed to reserve a bunk so close to me — it’s not like SPACE X had a ‘reserve seat’ function on its website. Maybe SPACE X figured, because we were the only non-security personnel on the ship, we would end up spending a lot of time together.
The interior of the ship was very cramped. The bunk section was almost claustrophobic in its efficiency; Five rings, each holding fifteen individual bunks, filled our cylindrical bunk section. Two more identical bunk sections were lined side-by-side through the middle of the ship’s structure. Engineering filled the front part — or cab section — of the ship; the engines and storage bays filled out the back. The bunk parts could be easily converted into storage for the return trip — the ozone smell leftover from whatever had been transported on the last trip was overpowering.
Our ship was hauling a full detail of transfers, 225 people. With almost no room for communal activities, most of the people onboard spent all their time in their bunks. Each bunk was closed off from the main corridor by a hatch, inside was a small, comfortable bed. Further into each bunk and separated from the bed by a curtain was a little room containing a terminal and dry washing station. The terminal was tiny, the screen a bare 27’’, the dry washing station was little more than a sonic nozzle and privacy screen. Scott would usually spend his days laying on my bed while I surfed the net — I had surrendered to his attempts at friendship; deciding it was easier to tolerate him than constantly push him away.
Being friends with Scott was easy. He didn’t require anything from me. He was completely content with my silence — I sat at my terminal and he talked about the intricacies of rocketry. I sometimes wonder if he knew that most times I was hardly paying any attention to him at all.
“Scott,” I asked as I continued my net search for anything related to complete AI’s. “Do you know where they would keep the Android? The manifest said he’d be on our flight.”
“I have no idea, Ryan.” Scott smiled, “you’ve really caught the android bug, haven’t you?”
“I guess. I’ve spent most of my life working on AI’s for my game. It would be nice to get my hands on a completed design, it might help me improve my own programs.”
“Let me see if I can find anything for you.” Scott sat up to leave my bunk. “Why can’t you wait until Mars? They say there are lots of androids working in the mines.”
“I know,” I replied, the urgency of my need to see an android was inexplicable. I couldn’t get my hands on one soon enough. “I can’t stop thinking about him Scott. I need to see him again.”
Scott chuckled. “It’s funny that you call it a ‘he.’ Androids are genderless Ryan, they aren’t he’s or she’s.”
“It just easier to call him he.”
Scott opened the hatch to my bunk and pulled himself out. “C’ya later Ryan.”
I reached over my bed and closed the hatch. The android was all I could think about since seeing him for the first time on the transfer capsule. I had searched the parts of the ship we were allowed access to for any sign of him, even spoken with some of the crew on the vessel, all to no avail. Either no one knew anything about where the android was or, more likely, no one was talking about him. Why were the androids such a big secret? What was the significance of Project Chattel? These questions filled my waking hours though I was afraid to dig too deep. What if my interest was discovered? I didn’t want to attract any unwanted attention but, at the same time, I couldn’t resist the urge to research the android; I needed to understand how he worked.
“If I were SPACE X where would I hide an android?” I asked aloud to my empty room. “The ship isn’t so big that I couldn’t search the whole place.” I was starting to get a headache from staring at my terminal screen for so long. It was time to go out and search the ship again. “But where should I start? SPACE X wouldn’t hide something so expensive, they would put it to work. Only where? Where could an android work that a human couldn’t?”
I had just answered my own question, where could an android work that a human couldn’t? Outside the ship, of course. That’s why I hadn’t seen the android inside, he wasn’t inside the ship to be seen. It’s not like there was enough room in the ship to hide something man-sized — the only logical explanation for his absence was that he was outside the ship, working on the hull.
Now that I had figured out that I probably wouldn’t see the android during our trip I managed to satisfy my curiosity with research. Scott and I played a lot of cards, 3D chess, and various other games to pass the time. I let down my guard and allowed Scott into my life, his dogged persistence made becoming his friend easy.
The two hundred sixty day trip to Mars passed me by in no time at all. Before I knew it Scott was waking me with an excited: “Come look! We’re in orbit around the red planet! It’s nearly over, hooray!”