Chapter 6 The library

Ben's studies were interrupted by Celeste announcing that they would be landing at Alexandria in one hour. The last two days had been spent reviewing the history of the Great Collapse and information on the over 7400 planets, or at least the ones in some cases that were suspected to be still inhabited. More successful ones like Bliss on occasion got visitors, but for most, it was a rare event because so few ships were still operating.

Rachel sat next to Ben “I wanted to let you know what will happen over the next couple of days. After we land, I will give you a quick tour, and show you your unit. Then we go to medical to get your implants.” “Whoa Rachel, what kind of implants? Am I going to become a cyborg?” “Not hardly Ben. These are tiny implants that will let you talk, and listen to Celeste privately, as long as you are within range. You will also get tiny cameras built into special contact lenses, so she can see what you see and some medical monitoring sensors. We all have them. You didn't notice that we don't talk out loud to her. After that, we'll all have dinner in the cafeteria. You'll get a more detailed overview after you have the implants. Now is also a good time to pack your stuff, and rejoin us in the lounge for landing.” 

“Restraints please,” announced Celeste and a minute or so later Ben felt the gut-twisting of transition, and the vid went from gray to a view of a white and green rocky planet. As the ship arced down toward the surface, a valley with a large cluster of low buildings nestled into the side of it came into view. They landed on a rather small pad with room for maybe at best three ships. With a small shudder, the ship descended into a cavernous bay that had dozens of ships lined up inside of it. With a jolt, the ship was hauled forward and then stopped. “Welcome to Alexandria Ben,” said Celeste.

Gear in hand, Ben followed the group off the ship and climbed into a waiting cart. An awestruck Ben stared out at all the ships. He had only seen three in his life. Waving his arm towards them, Jacob said with pride, “We have 42 of these vessels. We think at last count there are at most about two dozen others still operating. We have enough singularities in storage to last for at least five or six more decades. It's our hope by then the technology can be rebuilt to start making them again. We have substantial manufacturing capabilities, but not nearly enough to build worm drives.”

The cart hummed its way down a long corridor and broke out into a cavernous multi-floored atrium lit by a massive skylight. Jacob glanced at Rachel, “Would you please get Ben settled, and then over to medical for his implants.” “Grab your suitcase and let's go, Ben,” said Rachel. A dazed Ben clutching his suitcase scrambled to follow her over to a bank of lifts. “Ben, don't bother to try to learn the layout yet. When you have your implants, Celeste will give you a hand.” 

One of the lift doors whooshed open, and Ben followed Rachel in. The door closed, and the lift rose. Ben noticed the buttons weren't touched, and Rachel smiled. “I told Jeeves, where we needed to go. The many Artificial Intelligence's here help us.” lectured Rachel. “You'll get used to this in short order.” “Home sweet home Ben,” said Rachel as she slid the door open with a flourish. Ben followed her into a comfortable looking suite. A large vid hung on the wall showing a view of the valley outside. A small work area was in the corner. Through another door, Ben could see a small bedroom. Rachel pointed to another door and mouthed bathroom. Ben nodded, set his bag down and started to try out a couch, when Rachel quipped, “Nope not yet Ben, we're off to medical.”

The lift sank like a stone downward. “Medical is in the basement so to speak,” said Rachel in a matter of fact tone. The doors opened onto a brightly light reception area. Ben sniffed the antiseptic air, and thought “This is a hospital alright,” The receptionist looked up and smiled “You must be Ben, I'm Susan, you can follow me.” Rachel waving goodbye said, “I will see you at dinner Ben, You won't need me to find it.” 

Susan led him to a small room with a high tech bed. “The Doc will be with you in a minute,” as she spun around and left. Ben stared around at the gear in the room. Mostly looking at the spindly robotic arm next to the bed surrounded by racks of ominous looking instruments most of which were sharp and pointy. The door opened, and a man in a white coat walked in. “I'm Doc Greene Ben, “Don't worry, this isn't a big deal.” Just lay down on the bed, and we'll get started.” Doc Green fitted a small breathing mask over his face and pushed some buttons. Ben faded away.

“Ben... Ben can you hear me?” said a disembodied voice. A foggy Ben mumbled, “Yes, I can hear you.” “That's good Ben, now try moving your new third arm,” said the voice, a little clearer this time. Ben's eyes shot open. “A third arm?” he blurted in a panic as his head snapped down to look. “Just kidding,”  said Celeste. “Do you feel okay?” “Yes, mostly I think, and that wasn't funny Celeste,” snapped Ben. “Sorry Ben,” said Celeste, “But if you could have seen the look on your face.” “Yeah Yeah,” he grumped, “When are they going to do this implant thing?” “We're finished Ben, and I did my usual great work. That little red line on your forearm is where your medical monitoring implant is. It will fade away in a couple of days. Now try to talk to me by subvocalizing. Just talk without moving your mouth.” “Like this Celeste?” “Good Ben you got it, and with a little practice, it will become second nature. I can hear you clearly, and the permanent contact lens cameras are working well. I see what you see.” “All the time Celeste?” asked Ben with some concern. “Yes Ben, all the time. But I will give you privacy anytime you ask, I promise. The only exception is unless it's for your own good.” added Celeste. “It's getting close to dinner Ben, and we have another job we have to finish. I'll guide you.”