Chapter 5 The library

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

Rachel sat next to Ben and said, “I want 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 room. After that, we will go to medical, and you will get your implants.” “Whoa Rachel, what kind of implants? Am I going to become a cyborg?” “Hardly Ben.” laughed Rachel, “These are tiny implants that will let you talk, and listen to Celeste directly, as long as you are within about 100 miles of her. You will also get tiny cameras that are built into contact lenses, so she can see what you see and some medical monitoring sensors. We all have them. You just didn't notice that we don't talk out loud to her. After that dinner will in the cafeteria with Jacob, Rachel, and Celeste. They will give you a more detailed overview after you get the implants. This is also a good time to pack up 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 mountainous planet. As the ship arced down toward the surface, a valley with a large cluster of low buildings nestled into it came into view. The ship landed on what appeared to be a rather small pad with room for maybe at best three ships. With a small shudder, the ship started to descend into a cavernous bay that had dozens of ships lined up inside of it. With a lurch, 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 including the one they arrived in. Waving his arm out toward the ships, Jacob said proudly, “We have 42 of these vessels. We think at last count there are only 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 manufacturing them again. We also have substantial manufacturing abilities, but not nearly enough to build worm drives.”

The cart hummed its way down a long corridor and broke out into a large multi-floored atrium lit by a massive skylight with lots of people purposefully heading somewhere. Jacob and Jon carrying Celeste got out, and Jacob glancing at Rachel, said, “Would you please get Ben settled, and then take him over to medical for his implants.” “Grab your suitcase and let's go, Ben,” said Rachel. A dazed Ben clutching his suitcase scrambles 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 started to rise. Ben glanced at the buttons that hadn't been touched, and Rachel just smiled. “I told Jeeves, where we needed to go. The many alive Artificial Intelligence's here help us.” lectured Rachel. “You'll get used to this quickly.” The lift doors opened, and Rachel strode out and headed down a hallway. “Home sweet home Ben,” said Rachel smiling with a flourish, as she opened the door. Ben followed her into a comfortable looking suite. A large vid hung on the wall showing a view of the valley outside. There was a work area in the corner, a set of couches, and 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.”

Ben followed Rachel back to a lift that sank like a rock downward. “Medical is in the basement so to speak,” said Rachel in a matter of fact tone. The lift rapidly decelerated to a stop and the doors opened onto a brightly light reception area. Ben sniffed the antiseptic air, and thought “Yep, this is a hospital alright, and the walls are even those same green colors.” The receptionist looked up from her display, smiled, and in a perky way said, “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,” and chuckled as she left. 

Ben followed Susan down the hall, and she directed him to a small room with a high tech looking bed. “The Doc will be with you in a minute Ben,” she said, as she spun around and left. Ben stared around at the gear in the room. Mostly he was staring at the large and spindly looking robotic arm next to the bed surrounded by ominous looking instruments in racks all of which were very sharp and pointy. The door opened, and a man in a white coat strode in. “I'm Doc Greene Ben, just lay on the bed, and we'll get started.” Ben laid down and 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. “Third arm?” he thought in a panic as his head snapped down to look. “Just kidding,” laughed Celeste. “Do you feel okay?” “Yes, mostly I think so, and that wasn't funny Celeste,” snapped Ben. “Sorry Ben,” said Celeste only a little contritely, “But if you could have seen the look on your face.” “Yeah Yeah,” grumped Ben, “When are they going to do this implant thing?” “You're done 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,” said a satisfied Celeste, “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 so I can see what you see.” “All the time Celeste?” asked Ben pensively. “Yes Ben, all the time, but I will give you privacy if you ask, I promise,” said Celeste seriously “Unless it's for your own good.” murmured Celeste softly. “It's getting close to dinner Ben, and we have another job we have to finish. I'll guide you.”