The touch of a leaf falling on his forehead pulled him back from behind the veil of sleep. In a second, the lazy, worryfree comfort of his dreams subsided, giving way to an alert peacefullness fueled by each new breath he took. He was greeted by the sound of birds chirping and bushes rustling, each cycling through their programmed loops with amiable effeciency.
Although the Greenery was meant for meditation and thought, it was not uncommon for him to find it functioning as a second bedroom. It was a strange thing to see on a ship built for war. What good could a patch of fake dirt and foliage do to absorb the shield-piercing blow of a Particle Cannon? Could it store necessary goods or cargo, or hold ones articles of clothing? It couldn't even provide a simple conversation, much less offer an introspection into the probabilities of success in future encounters.
So why was he drawn to it? Now that he thought about it, the bird chirps were really annoying, and the atmosphere seemed almost chilling without the usual background noise of fingers drumming across keyboards. And there were no computers in sight, which, as a Technician, should have disturbed him.
But perhaps these were the reasons why this Greenery, placed at the center of the Battleship Almacy, seemed to find him awaking in the late hours of every day. No hustle, no worries, no thoughts of others, and more importantly, no constant orders.
As this thought ran through his still, relaxed mind, his headpiece resting in the grass next to him whined sharply. With a sigh, he paused for a moment to collect the last essence of his brief time of peace, then wearily clipped the device over his earlobe. The ear piece fit comfortably, but after wearing it for weeks on end, he had begun to despise the little contraption.
"This is Sakusa," he stated, rising to his feet and patting the dirt off his loose brown overalls. He pulled up the sleeves of the long-sleeved blue shirt he wore underneath it and ran a hand through his dense, unkempt blonde hair. Clearing his throat, he continued, saying "Report to the bridge?"
He had already begun walking to the door before the response boomed through his ear. "Nah," It was Lakotl, the fat, overzealous head of Technical Staff. "Just a routine maintenance on the terminals in the residential sector. Who knows what crap those Onlanders left behind, ya know?" After a short chuckle, he stated, "Out."
"Alright, on my way. Out."
Smirking to himself, Sakusa dug his hands into his pockets. Small talk like the ones he had with Lakotl, his supervisor, was reassurance that he had headed to the right field after school. Aside from being what he considered a technical genius he was also shamelessly lazy, and so these two traits, combined with the large educational grant given out by the military, merged seamlessly together to convince him to sign on as Technical Staff on a battleship. The only downside, as far as he could see, was that in the event of a war he could possibly be in danger. But there hadn't been a war in over a hundred years, and with the Tri-Galactic Alliance still seemingly strong, there wouldn't be for a long time. At least, this is what he was told at the recruiting station, and truthfully, it was all he had wanted to be told.
Leaving the Greenery, his eyes quickly readjusted to the dimmer lights of the dreary ship hallways. Compared to the inconsistency of the Greenery, the rest of the ship seemed bland, predictable. Sequined automated doors merged seamlessly with the endless grey tiles of the floor that spread off relentlessly in either direction. The ceiling was lit with paneled lights that seemed to just barely perform their function, or were perhaps dimmed to the level that dust was seemingly invisible. Either way, the arrangements of the ship were definitely of a preset order and produced an expectancy that he had learned to interpret unconsciously, to the point that he could perceive subtle changes in the tirelessly uniform surroundings.
Turning left, he began walking down the left wing of the ship, knowing he would have another few hundred feet or so to go before he arrived in the residential sector, which was located directly in the back of the ship. In the center of the ship were the engine and generator chambers. Running parallel to each other on opposite sides of the engine rooms were the left and right wings of the ship, which housed the meeting rooms, officer's dormitories, the mess hall, bar, library, and other erroneous rooms. The two wings met up in the rear of the ship, pinching the residential sector, and again in the aft of the ship, where they connected into one hallway that splintered off to the cockpit.
He passed the bar, which was usually quiet. Still the sound of soft rock music spilled forward from the open doorway like the pale light of a hooded lantern. It was strangely alien, as it disrupted the monotonous silence of the hallway, but also comforting; in deep space, it was not unusual to grow accustomed to the sound of ones own thoughts. Quite easily, one could become overwhelmed by them, leading to dementia, hysteria, and other mental illnesses. Although he had no experience with anyone inflicted with these illnesses, Sakusa found after just a month in space that he was somehow different than he had been on land. He was not, to the best of his knowledge, psychotic in any way, but he found himself to be perennially more alert in all manners. His conversations with the other crew members were also unusually tense, as it felt as though each were on the verge of saying something, and thus he felt drained from any physical social interaction. Space was indeed lonely, he had realized.
With the sound of the music behind him, he entered again eerie silence. His footsteps resounded with a sharp clarity. If there was someone listening, he thought, they could quite easily discern his location and direction. Indeed, it was not difficult to locate any one member of the ship at any time, as each was inextricably bound by duty to wear at all times their headset. Although this gave everyone on board a real reason to keep their hair short, it was nonetheless an understood, shared annoyance. There were, of course, different channels and frequencies, but still the helplessness endured that at any one moment, you could be listened in on or commanded, or just jarred from your train of thought, without notice.
Sakusa reached by his ear and pushed a button a few times to switch over to the bridge frequency. He enjoyed listening in every once in a while- occasionally he could hear bits of news or gossip, but overall he just delighted at the level-headedness and directness of his commanding officers. They were all serious to a fault and performed their jobs tirelessly and humorlessly- it was a trait that Sakusa respected, if not admired.
"Standard space debris encountered." It was the voice of Flight Lieutenant Marka'Sin Deraille; as he had little field experience, he was placed at position in the cockpit only during long, tiring stretches of deep space flight, like they were in now. At other times he was replaced by the Senior Flight Lieutenant. "Employing usual evasive maneuvers," he continued, clearing his throat- a sign that he was about to address the captain for permission. Sure enough, "…permission granted, Captain?"
A chuckle was heard. Sakusa couldn't help but grin, for the Captain was truly an amiable man, and one that most certainly had his respect. He was as levelheaded and determined, and serious, about his job as the rest of the senior officers in the flight deck, but he was the only one among them who was casual in his exchanges with his crew. No doubt, this stemmed from his thirty-plus years in the service. How someone could spend so much of their life in deep space and still retain an ounce of humanity was a wonder to Sakusa.
His voice was assuring to the extreme, and only slightly rough. "Permission granted, Lieutenant Deraille. Good lookin' out." And with another chuckle the exchange ended, and Sakusa quickly returned to the maintenance crew frequency. If he missed one of Lakotl's commands he would be in deep trouble, as it was strictly forbidden to bear out of frequency at any time.
He sighed to himself. No doubt Lieutenant Deraille was positively beaming at the Captain's compliment. Although he was only a year or so older than himself, he was already a Lieutenant, and as such it was pretty much a definite, then, that he was going to have his own ship within the next ten years. Yet he was still, in his eyes, very much more immature than himself, childish even, and with a short fuse to boot. But that was what happened in the military, he realized; the rich kids became smug little officers while the middle and lower class were bound to services and crewmanship, no matter how many years or how much effort they put into their jobs. Although he didn't plan on becoming an officer, or even want to, at that, it still annoyed him to no end that hardworking, passionate people like himself were bound to be led by, at some point, young, ignorant, and inexperienced kids like Marka'Sin Deraille. He shook his head before the door to the residential sector slid open before him, and with a last moment of thought, he walked forward.