by Christopher W Gamsby
I was born for space travel, you can just ask anyone who lived near where I grew up, which incidentally is the Homestead outpost on a planet named Perfection. My family lived in a single room hut that sat beside a communications station. The hut wasn't much but had all modern amenities. Small metal boxes anchored into the walls holding raw materials necessary to fabricate supplies. In nature molecules exist in a very wasteful state. Magnetic and atomic forces spread electrons, protons, and neutrons into a space far greater than the size of the parts. The pod's multi-tool technology rearranges molecules to eliminate the empty space and pack the atoms together. The analogy father explained was that if you removed shield shards from their cases and stacked the pieces, many shards would fill the same area as the original cargo case. The multi-tool and metal cases work the same way, but are much more efficient. I'm unsure how exactly that could work, but it does and that's good enough for me.
Recipes for everything from food to spaceship components are accessible in the miniature galactic terminal located on the left wall. Some long forgotten alien race discovered a way to convert basic elements such as iron or carbon into complex compounds which then fabricate anything. The galactic terminal, multi-tool and containment cubes can create everything we'd ever need.
Rest can be achieved chemically, a few subtle injections of a compound can alleviate all biological need for sleep but many studies show that physical sleep every two weeks helps maintain sanity. To that end, we'd sleep in beds that raise from a central compartment in the middle of our pod's floor.
There are only 4 families in the little transmission tower area of Homestead. A couple live in a small hut adjacent to my family's and two individuals have rooms directly in the transmission tower facility. There were no other children while I grew up, so I played games with the workers. A set of glowing floating multicolor cubes held several types of games ranging from single player puzzles to multiperson strategy games. In all my years, I never beat the attendant who was an artificial life form known as a Krovax. Within its computerized brain, it could do a lifetime's worth of calculations in a blink of the eye and was never programed that it should allow a child to win.
My parent's first indication that I would one day head to the stars was my love for the transmission tower. Mother and Father would watch dramas on our hut's holo-screen, but I'd watch ships come and go from Perfection. Their transmissions were usually boring reports detailing inventories, customs, or itineraries, but sometimes I'd read fanciful accounts of distant worlds. Some reports described exotic worlds that held wild beasts waiting in ambush around every turn. Ships were frequently lost in water spouts on storm torn water covered worlds. Sometimes smugglers discussed escaping systems under the cover of space battles.
Since my home was so small, cactus forests and caves became my playground. I'd sneak around the caves pretending to explore a distant world with strange creatures and flora. I'd walk the cactus forests peering to the heavens, thinking about worlds hidden beyond the darkness. Since I knew so few sentient beings, I befriended local animals. I'd chase them in circles or feed them fabricated vegetation until eventually they came to me instead of running.
My exosuit's neural interface makes the suit feel like an extension of my body. My helmet is my real head, the suits outer layer is my skin and the jetpack is my back. Sensors in the suit's external layer constantly measure pressure, temperature, and radiation. I feel the pressure of touch. Extremely low temperatures feel cold and radiation burns my skin. Sometimes I'd be lost outside when night settled and temperatures dropped dangerously low. Pain protected me from freezing to death. I'd feel cold before I was at risk, but my discomfort increased if I ignored the sensation for too long. Agonizing pain would shoot through my body before complete thermal protection failure and I risked dieing. Feeling cold, meant I needed shelter right away.
I feel more alive and more at home in strange foreign places. I feel naked without my exosuit, restless without a world to explore and lonely without new wildlife to discover. In these ways, it's obvious that soon I'll leave to explore the universe.