Fiction Fragment Friday

While I have said this before, once again this is not my typical story. Sure the setting is, but much about the story is not. I had an idea and started the story mostly to explore the setting and think through the design ramifications. Some of that was expressed in the story, but some of it just flavored how I thought about it. I hope you enjoy.

                The door opened to room R2L243 with an artificial whooshing noise.  The technology behind the mechanism was virtually silent, but early focus groups provided feedback that it didn’t make the experience special enough.  Guests could get silent doors on Earth and for the premium the rooms cost it was believed that every aspect should be unique to the experience.  The early focus groups would likely barely recognize the experience paying guests received at open, but they were directly responsible for it. 

                Jamie rushed into the room heading straight for the curved viewport that took up most of the outer wall.  “Oh my god Sam I still can’t believe we are actually here.”  Her eyes went wide as she took in the view of Earth through the curved reinforced glass.  She could make out the continents beneath the moving clouds.  The sight was only visible for about fifteen seconds before the station rotation shifted to a view of space.  She found that almost equally breathtaking. 

                “Anything for you dear.  After all you only turn fifty once unlike thirty-nine.”  He laughed and moved to duck as she threw a pillow from the bed at him.  Samual had not gotten used to half Earth gravity yet and found himself moving in a more exaggerated manor than intended.  Despite trying to recover he found himself stumbling and falling onto the carpet.  On Earth a fall like this might have caused an injury, but here it barely hurt.  The pillow continued out the door and hit the luggage robot in the face display. 

                Jamie was by Sam’s side in an instant.  “Are you ok?”

                He just laughed back at her.  “I’m fine.  No, I’m great.”  He jumped up in a way he had not done in decades. 

                The robot did not react to the scene.  It placed the pillow back on the bed and then placed their bags into a cabinet.  With its task complete it turned to the couple.  “Would you like the room orientation?”

                “Yes please.” Sam replied. 

                A small screen lit up on the wall next to the window.  “Please turn your attention to the viewport control.  Some guests may experience a level of disorientation from constant motion.  If for any reason you feel discomfort from the view the window can be turned opaque.”  A square panel then lit up on the wall.  “If this is not sufficient basic medications, including those for motion sickness have been provided.  Your room will be charged for their use.”  The robot continued to roll around the room highlighting features for three minutes before wrapping up its programed presentation with, “Finally all these features can be accessed by voice command.  Simply start your command by addressing the automated systems with the word computer.  Please attempt to lower the lighting by 10% to ensure you have understood the instructions and that the system does not have any difficulty interpreting your requests.”

                Sam gestured his right hand to Jamie indicating that she should do the honor.  “Computer lower lighting by 10%.”

                “Acknowledged. Lighting level lowering by 10%” The robotic voice came over unseen speakers hidden around the room.  Previous iterations had used AI voiced that sounded indistinguishable from a human, but the focus group had found it to be disconcerting.  They had irrationally felt like they were being watched when a more realistic voice replied.  Similarly live employees had carried bags and done orientation, but a very vocal member of the focus group felt it would be “cool” if they used robots that looked similar to ones on a popular tv series.

                “Very good.  If you have questions, you can address them to the computer at any time.  Thank you again for staying with us at Orbital Platform One.  We hope your experience is out of this world.”  The robot turned toward the door and rolled through before it closed behind. 

                “Out of this world?  Really.”  Jamie laughed at the closed door.  She approached her husband and gave him a strong kiss.  “Thank you.  It’s everything I ever dreamed, and, in this gravity, I don’t feel any aches or pains at all.”

                “I’m so glad you like it.  Were you surprised for a change?”

                “Oh, you got me this time.  I had no idea.  I still don’t know how you paid for it.”

                “And you promised you wouldn’t ask.  I’m going to hold you to that.”  He smiled down at her feeling supremely pleased with himself for managing to pull off the gift.  It took three years of planning and careful investing with a private account to make it happen.  Even then he had to cash in multiple favors to get his place on the list and ensure the trip would happen for her birthday.  As her arthritis back pain had gotten worse over the previous year, he was concerned that she would not pass the medical clearance for the trip. 

                “You’ll eventually have to tell me, but for now I’ll just accept it.  This is the best birthday I’ve ever had.”

                “Just wait tonight we’re scheduled for zero-g dancing in the Zero-G Hub Ballroom.”  The central axis pillar of the station did not rotate like the rings to allow for sections that did not have gravity.  He braced himself as she hugged him tightly, but still unadjusted to the lower gravity they ended up falling backwards towards the bed.  When she kissed him, and he saw the look in her eyes, he realized that it might not have been an accident after all. 

                She smiled at him before looking up at the ceiling.  “Computer lights off.”