Rachel V. Olivier, The G.O.D. Factor
The G.O.D. Factor
Publisher: Sam’s Dot, June 2011
Length: 49 pp.
“Get in touch with Gawd! Turn your radio on!” Monica belted out into the empty room, her petite frame belying the strength of her voice. She shoved her wavy brown hair behind her ears as she remembered Belukas calling her music garbage last time they switched shifts.
* * *
“Why do you play that anachronistic crap?”
“Can’t I simply like it?”
“If liking it explains how ‘simple’ you are-sure!” Belukas signed off his shift on the console with a flourish. “Old technology. Radios!” Belukas taunted as he strode past on his way off the bridge, glaring at her. Monica shivered under his obsidian stare then paused to take a breath. Shake it off! He’s just trying to get under your skin.
“Anyway, it’s not like you can hear it when you’re out. Shut up and go to your stasis chamber.” Monica muttered and stuck her tongue out at the back of Belukas’ bald head.
“I saw that.”
Monica rolled her eyes and glared at one of the ubiquitous cameras up on the wall. They connected everyone to each other through headsets, which was both helpful and annoying, depending on what you were doing.
“How do you know that crap isn’t insidiously infecting us with those old superstitions you blast all over the ship every time you’re on shift.” Belukas voice crackled through Monica’s earphones.
“Maybe it is. Maybe it’s infesting your cog-infested gearhead right now,” Monica intoned ominously through her mic. A picture flickered on her headset; Belukas showing her what he thought of that particular statement. Monica glowered down at her readings at her station.
“Better than that machinist junk you listen to,” she mumbled down at the console, keying in the coordinates for the next section of space they were surveying. Monica heard Belukas continue his grumbling on the other end as he made his way to the crew chambers, but mostly ignore it. Monica tried to shake off her anger at the engineer. She’d worked hard at getting his petty remarks out of her head after they broke up. As Monica stabbed at the controls, she wondered for the nth to the power of nth time what she had ever seen in Belukas. He was nothing like Captain Mark, who laughed as easily as he commanded respect. Monica felt her cheeks grow warm and wiped at them as if trying to wipe away her sudden carnal thoughts. It had been a long trip. The crew was cleared in the health and psych evaluations to live together in tight quarters, but these long trips surveying further outposts of space got to them in all sorts of ways.
* * *
“0800 hours very local time.” Monica double-checked the chronometer in her headset, shaking off her memories as she went back to work. “I guess I’d better check the hydroponics lab.” Talking to herself had become a habit formed half out of the need to document verbally into her log what she did on her twelve-hour shifts and half out of a desire for company on the long days. At first it had felt awkward, and she hadn’t known what to say besides the very specific jobs she was doing. As time went on, however, she began talking through her headset as if she were talking to someone, the computer maybe? Or was it just herself? She wondered if the others did it. Hard to tell since most of one’s shift everyone else was in 30-34 hours of deep sleep, stasis, at a time. The stasis chambers they slept in were supposed to keep them all happier, saner, and healthier longer. Most of what she felt was lonely, and longing.
“Hi, Charlie!” Monica gave her favorite bonsai tree a pat, aware again of how she was anthropomorphizing not just the bonsai, but several of the other plants as well, plus the ship, for the most part. Monica systematically checked the moisture of the plants in the lab. Kim, their bio-specialist, trimmed, fed, and otherwise cultivated the trees, ferns, vegetables, flowers, and other flora in the lab, but the rest of the crew still spent some of each shift checking on what was their only link, besides each other, to Earth. Even Belukas.
“I would give anything right now for some real sunlight and fresh air. I bet you would, too.” Monica brushed her fingers over the leaves as she passed by the little tree, forcing thoughts of her ex-boyfriend to the back of her mind. She wanted to enjoy her time in the lab, not end up grousing some guy she let get under her skin.
After leaving the hydroponics lab, Monica went about the rest of her shift performing the various checks on the safeguards for the stasis chambers, looking over the systems in engineering, as well as life support and navigation. They’d probably all need a diagnostic soon, but she was hoping that would happen during someone else’s shift. Right now, all she wanted to do was zip through her tasks so she could get back to what she’d really like to do, download more music.
While Belukas, Kim, and the captain all had different projects and hobbies they did to pass the time during their shifts, Monica liked to go through the latest music hits that came over the space-cast and program the ship’s speaker system with a playlist long enough to cover the entire twelve hours without repeating. She scheduled her mix so that each song was appropriate to whatever task she was set to perform. Monica looked up from the controls-realized she’d been humming along to the same song repeatedly for the last 10 minutes.
“Must have gotten stuck on a loop feed. How did that happen?” Monica tapped at the play control on her headset, frowning when nothing happened. “That’s going to mess up the timing of my entire shift! Well, I’ll be right back.” Monica spoke at the navigation controls in engineering, patting them affectionately before returning to the bridge’s speaker system see what had happened. As Monica made her way to the bridge, she noticed the music echoing queerly along the empty corridors.
“Get in touch with Gawd! Turn your radio - Turn your radio - Turn your radiooooooo on,” the speakers dwelling a little longer on “radio” each time.
“Hate to admit it, but maybe Belukas was right. It’s time to change the playlist.” Monica located the speaker system on the console and switched through some of the songs, forwarding to atmospheric tunes she’d picked up last planet-fall. Hitting play, she walked back to her checkpoint. This might not have been the best selection either, more for relaxing towards the end of her shift, but her nerves were on edge. One of the ambient bands from Ceres, music mixed with the desolate sounds of wind over ice and rock, filtered through her headset. She relaxed into composition as she made her way back to her previous station.
Monica was turning down the last corridor when she heard it again, layered over the Ceresian music.
“Turn your radio-“
“What the-“ Monica swallowed back a curse and turned around, jogging back to the bridge. Something had to be wrong with the system, or her playlist. Why else would this happen? Monica checked through the selection, making sure it was set to play each song through to the end and not set on random or repeat. She reset the player, starting it again, at the beginning, before the overlay had begun. It was annoying, but she would need to play it all the way through to figure out what was wrong.
Just as she got back to engineering she heard it again, playing over her own recording - “Turn your radio-“.
This time Monica didn’t bother swallowing back the invectives, streaming through a list of galactic curses as she ran back to the bridge.
Viciously jabbing at the player controls once she got back to the console, she punched the music off. “Augh! All right, already!” Monica’s angered bellow crested over the edge. She felt herself spiraling out of control, out of proportion to a mere annoyance like a playlist glitch. She took a deep breath and counted to ten. “ Shake it off, Monica! I just won’t listen to you at all. In fact, I’ll just disconnect you altogether. I’ll just have to keep myself alert some other way until I figure out what’s wrong.” Monica keyed into the log to let the others know the communication systems might be off. On her way back to engineering she detoured to the cafeteria to down a bulb of coffee and a couple of extra caffeine pills.
Monica checked her headset chronometer-four hours left in her shift. She’d need to hurry through engineering so she could make sure she could take the proper time to double check the nav systems and redundant life support controls.
The silence wasn’t so silent, she realized, as she heard the many beeps and creaks on the ship that made their own music, and she momentarily took pleasure in the calm sounds of the ship around her. Monica hurried through her engineering tasks, and was halfway through the check on the nav systems when she heard a familiar hiss and a voice coming over the speakers. “Turn your radio on....”
“Oh. My. God. What the—?”
“Get in touch with Gawd...”
“Oh!” Monica hurried back to the control deck, swearing at her shipmate, Belukas. He must have rigged the system as a prank! One of his specialties was communications. And, as she’d found from traveling with him and the brief shipboard mistake of a romance she’d had with him, he liked nothing better than proving himself superior by playing tricks on people. Sometimes they were funny, but most of the time they were just obnoxious or mean.
“Just frikkin’ stop!” Monica pounded the buttons on the console, taking her anger out on the plastic and metal as she went through a list of names she would call Belukas next time she saw him. Nothing worked to cut the music off, not even turning off the connection to her own music library.
It just kept playing. The tune was still there, over the speakers, gospel quartet voices worming into her brain, no longer the enjoyable respite from space and technology; now just a grinding, harrowing noise that wouldn’t stop.
Earplugs. If she could just find some earplugs. Monica raced to the infirmary. Have someone else deal with this in-she checked the readout on her headset-one hour? Where had the time gone? Monica found some old foam earplugs in one of the drawers and popped them in her ears: low-tech, and astoundingly efficient.
The relief was temporary until she saw it was the end of her shift and Kim, who was supposed to work the shift after her, wasn’t even up and around yet. Why wasn’t she awake, moving around, eating breakfast and doing her exercises in the fitness room? She should be checking in by now.
Monica hurried to the back of the ship where the crew quarters were, checking the controls first on Kim’s door, the captain’s, and finally Belukas’s. They all looked in order; same as they had when she had checked them at the beginning of her shift, except...
Monica’s stomach cramped up at what she saw. The readings shouldn’t be the same as at the beginning of her shift. The sleep cycle readings should be advanced for all of the crew by now, but they weren’t-not for any of them. No one was stirring, or even close to coming out of their sleep cycles. The small hairs at the nape of Monica’s neck stirred, then stood on end. She felt someone staring at her; saw a flickering on the screen of her headset. Whirling around she faced... nothing. The red light of one of the passageway monitors glared unblinking in her direction. Doing what it always did, recording shipboard activities. Monica took a deep breath, trying to force the panic rising in her chest.
Copyright © 2011 by Rachel V. Olivier