An encounter with ISS Auerbach.
1. Normally a navigator of your skill would not be assigned to this sort of ship. Why are you here?
Not many people have been to Aleph-Seven. I got to know the sector well back when I served in the Navy—they were running lots of supplies to clandestine bases out here at the time. Since then, no one’s really bothered with the sector—the markets aren’t ripe here. I don’t know why our company is suddenly interested, but my familiarity with the sector was important enough for them to ask me about it when I interviewed.
2. Where did you get that scar?
When I was twelve, my family and I were riding horses in the outback. My horse shied when it saw a snake and tossed me from my saddle. I fell on a sharp rock and gashed my leg to the bone. I was panicked, but my parents didn’t call a medivac. They tore an old shirt into strips and wrapped it tightly, had me smoke some herb that numbed the pain a bit, and we continued with our vacation. I was miserable for the rest of the trip, but my parents wouldn’t bend. One more thing to set me apart, I guess.
3. Why don’t you like being the age you are?
I’m out of step with my peers, whose youth-boost has them looking twenty five well into their fifties. I look old, much older than my peers; it makes socialization hard. I worry that I’m being picked up because I’m a freak, because they’re cruising for an exotic.
4. You are normally very close to your family, but recently have fallen out of touch. Why?
Mom… I love her dearly, but she’s cutting herself off from the universe. She kept the faith, stayed orthodox and skeptical of the modern corrupting world. Recently she’s been sick and needs treatments that her faith doesn’t allow; she’s tired of fighting me over it, but I can’t just let her die for no good reason.
Dad hears me, but says he has to support her one-hundred percent. My sisters Becky, Marie, and Kesha have all turned inward, to their children and families. I love being an uncle, but space is large… it’s hard to keep up when I’m absent for such long stretches.
5. What piece of contraband have you smuggled aboard? Who else knows about it?
I have the embargoed communications of Tau Ceti Prime hidden on a memory crystal. It’s a six month log of the world’s communications—so many people so desperate to get their message out. I couldn’t resist the humanitarian cry, despite the black mark of the Junta in charge.
6. When do you feel most alone?
At 5:45 am, after my alarm has gone off and I need to rise for morning readings… but the chill of the corridor and the unpleasant sonics of the shower encourage me to huddle warm a few minutes longer.
7. Which member of the crew don’t you trust (i.e. the captain, the medic, the technician)? Why?
I don’t trust the doctor; it’s a hangover from my anti-medicine upbringing. I know that I’m a freak, thanks to my parent’s choices—who would voluntarily set their children up for the indignities of age when they are so easily prevented? But I’m old enough, and the treatment is so prevalent, that everyone—even the doctor—treats me like it was my choice.
8. Why are you also in charge of the inventory?
The navigator is a ship’s officer, but works in small groups or alone most of the time. They’re important, but no one wants to pay for the 90% of the trip when they’re not doing much, so they get assigned additional roles. Because they’re not leaders of men, they typically get assigned tracking and spreadsheet tasks and a crew that runs the day to day with little interference. Thus, I’m also the inventory control officer. I’m just happy they also didn’t also make me the trade accountant!
9. What hobby do you have that occasionally comes in handy?
I’m a rock climber and wilderness enthusiast. Most people look at my gray hair and wonder, but I really do enjoy getting back to nature and breathing non-canned air. You’d be amazed at how many navigators are the same way—people think we’re all about ship life, because that’s how they see us professionally, but given a chance, we get together and whitewater raft or hike alien worlds.
10. What disease do you fear most and why?
Alzheimer’s; so much of what I do is tied to remembering places and their connections. I don’t know if I’d still be me if I was unable to do my job, or remember all the fine details that make life, life.
11. What did you do during your last shore leave?
Sherri and I took in the cliffs of Manichego and hiked the eastern rim. The 0.85g made the exercise feel easy, and the atmosphere made the sunsets vibrant. The warm green sunsets were unreal—you couldn’t tell where the local grass analog stopped and the sky began.
12. What is your name?
I’m Deputy Commander Oriel, at your service.