The SS Cardinal, Scanning Space

Writing Prompt: You have now spent 10 years lost, drifting in space. Your ship has everything needed for survival, but only you and the captain are left alive. The two of you manage to keep the ship running, but will you ever make it home? Do the stars seem closer tonight, or is that just wishful thinking?

Ten years prior, to the very day, the entirety of the SS Cardinal’s crew perished.

All, that was, apart from Raven.

Raven was the Cardinal’s prime engineering officer. She had at the time of the incident been held up in the Ship’s Core, a simple room designed with an impenetrable seal to prevent leakage from the faster than light reactor. Safe though she may have been she had to listen, to listen to the voices of her comrades as they were stripped of their lives.

To this day those harrowing sounds hold court in her nightmares.

Though Raven might have been the only survivor, that meant in no certain terms that she was alone. The Ship’s Captain, Nutmeg (a Sentient Humanoid Life-form, as were a little over ninety nine percent of the known Universe’s Star Ship Captains on account of their inability to succumb to what was widely referred to as human error) had also survived the incident. That said, Raven had yet to fathom whether this was a blessing or a curse.

The Cardinal was much more than just your average Battle Ship, she was designed too to harbour refugees and prisoners of war. This meant that the Ship itself was miles long and twice as wide, relying on several thousand propulsion jets to perform the most basic of maneuvers. Jets that Raven and Nutmeg alone could not man.

This had left them adrift, caught in the wraps of endless space. No course, no end in sight, just the meager twinkling of distant stars and galaxies.

The Cardinal was equipped with stores enough to maintain a crew of several hundred, and passengers ranging in the thousands, for decades alone without the need to restock or refuel. With that in mind the Cardinal could sustain its Humanoid Captain and a lone survivor indefinitely.

**

“Nutmeg, remind me again why you won’t me let access the Ship’s computer.” Raven was pointlessly hammering away at the computer’s main terminal attempting, without success, to second guess the access codes, “A few minutes, that’s all I’m asking for. Maybe it’ll work this time, maybe we’ll find something.”

Nutmeg was engaged in a game of chess with itself, using the divisional circuits of its mind to prevent itself from cheating, “Because,” Nutmeg began, moving its White Knight to take Black’s Rook, placing Black in Check, “the last recorded search was performed, as scheduled, thirty two days ago. Meaning there are a further twenty eight days remaining until the Ship’s next scheduled scan.”

“Sixty days.” Raven sighed, throwing herself back from the terminal, spinning round in her chair, “Why bother at all?”

“That is a question I often ask myself.” Nutmeg considered the checkered board, “We are in a state of Check ourselves, you know.”

“What’s that you’re on about now?” Raven may have asked, but she was hardly interested. Trying to converse with a machine capable of thought several thousand times the limitations of your own was… difficult, at the best of times.

“The board.” Nutmeg gestured for the pieces, “Imagine we are in Check, just as the player of Black is,”

“You are the player of Black.” Raven muttered, but she was ignored.

“One wrong move and it’s Check Mate. Game Over. Our supplies are limitless, Raven, but out power stores are not.” Nutmeg presented the Ship’s front window, a vast, concave sheet of reinforced glass that watched over the empty skies, “I am to keep this Ship moving for so long as it is possible. That alone is my… our… best chance at survival, at any sort of rescue. If I were to let you drain the Ship’s power pointlessly in aid of scanning the same sectors of space in the hope,” Nutmeg emphasised its disgust at simply speaking the word, “that a wayward Ship might cross our path, then I may as well admit we’re doomed to drift eternal.”

“But Sixty Days, is it really necessary?”

“At our current rate of trajectory,” Nutmeg performed a series of immensely complicated mental calculations, “then in theory we should scan every Seventy Three days for optimal coverage and minimal waste, based on the range of our scanners and the passing of time and distance. I, however, have allowed you some grace in this to help heighten morale.”

“Gee, thanks.” Raven decided she couldn’t stomach a moments more conversation with the Captain, and so she left the deck in search of food.

Only it wasn’t food that she found lurking in the Ship’s Diner…

Copyright © K R Perry 2019

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