The cold of space was something that Johnice was still to get used too, that and the constant thudding of the engine. The never ending thud, thud, thud, thud, like someone was banging on a drum. It was dull and in the background, but was just loud enough to be constantly noticed. She sat quietly in the little cabin that she had been allocated by the captain. It was a grey colour with a single bed clad in grey sheets with two rather old and uncomfortable pillows. The only other things in the room were a cupboard built into the bulkhead with a grey folding shutter, a metal desk that had been bolted to the floor, a chair mounted on runners, a bedside table which was also metal, and a reading light mounted above the bed. Fortunately, someone had at least though of the occupant’s sanity before they bolted the bed to the floor, and placed it parallel to the large circular window so that one could sit and watch the stars go by.
Overall she was happy, happy that she had found a captain that was willing to give her a room. She had been told not to expect such kindness. Most of her ilk ended up sleeping in a storage room or cargo bay.
Johnice was what most people called a “Sightseer.” The name had come to mean a person who “did not work or did not wish to work and who floated around the universe have the grand old time the like of which we all wanted to have, but couldn’t cause we had to work.” In essence they lived the life they wanted to live and everyone was jealous. As a result they were all branded as drunks, junkies, hippies and malcontents by society who wanted to believe that they were bad people to make working for a living seem not so bad. In truth there were a lot of those kinds of people these days, but not all of them were like that.
Originally, when there were just a handful of these Sightseers blagging their way across the universe for as little as possible, the term ‘Sightseer’ had had a romantic almost heroic image to it. Back in those early days of intergalactic travel they were people who for some unknown reason kept finding themselves dangerous, exotic worlds. And for reasons people just didn’t understand, these Sightseers ended up fixing these world’s problems, obverting wars and making peace between worlds that had been warring for centuries, whilst generally drinking the planet dry of its alcohol, having lots of sex with the natives and taking lots of pictures of the sights. But now all that had been forgotten and the name “Sightseer” it was an insult used to describe wasters, gypsies and drifters who refused to work just like everyone else.
This is unfair to those who were genuine Sightseers like Johnice. People like her were the Sightseers of old, all of whom, then and now, were part of the guild of wanderers. The guild had come into existence around the birth of intergalactic travel and was a black mark project created by the British government so that they could run the universe from behind the scenes. The whole idea started with two government nerds who were charged with figuring out a way of keeping Britain powerful in the space age, and they just happened to be reading a certain series of books by one Douglas Adams. And so the guild was born. Since then it had trained many agents in all aspects of space diplomacy, espionage, survival and just generally how to have a good time. After all they had to appear to be looking out for their own interests and pleasure and being drunk most of the time gave them that air. This impression of being all out for them self’s and to heck with everyone else was accomplished so well that most people still believed they were doing all along and that everything else just happened around them.
Since those days the guild itself had been unmasked and dragged into the light. They were seen by many as a highly selective group who taught its members to survive and work in space, then sent them on their merry way to take pictures of planets that they then sold to the travel industry for a rather high price. Although its true purpose was still unknown, those who bore its technology were regarded by people in the know as being useful people to have around.
As was previously stated, Johnice was one of these Sightseers and was a member of the highly selective guild of wanderers. Aged just eighteen she had been sent out by them to see the universe on her own, with clear instruction to just have a good time until she was needed. Now that she was sitting in her cabin and the ship had left the main orbital space port of Earth and was ploughing through the stars, she wasn’t sure what to do with herself. From the pocket of her dark blue jeans she pulled out a small hand held computer which called its self “Beagle.”
Being an intelligent computer with a large emotional capacity, it had formed a sense that it was male and given himself a name. So the guild allocated him to Johnice with the view that he would strive to help her in anyway that she need because she was a girl. Since he had not been called upon since leaving the space port to help, he had been happily processing data from the guild’s uninet site until his camera noticed that she was looking at him.
‘Good afternoon Johnice, now may I help you?’ he chirped cheerfully. His screen lit up with his colourful conversation screen which strayed from one colour to the next and bubbled like a lava lamp.
‘Beagle,’ she replied somewhat distantly. ‘I’m bored. I don’t know what to do with myself.’
‘Are you sure your not home sick?’
‘NO! Certainly not!’ Johnice exclaimed as if he had accused her of stealing something.
‘I’m just saying J that you could be. After all this is your first time off world on your own. You’ve got to be missing earth just a little bit, right?’
‘Not yet I’m not! Just cause I’m a girl Beagle doesn’t mean that I’m sentimental. There’s nothing to be sentimental about. I wanted to get off Earth and see the universe, now I’m doing it. I’m certainly not going to sit around missing it and wishing I was there.’
‘I’ll make a note of that. “Wanted to leave Earth, Couldn’t careless about it.” Got it!’
‘That’s not what I said.’ Johnice glared down at him before dropping the look, smiling weakly and looking distant again. ‘But you are right, good riddance to it.... You know what, I’ll unpack. I’ll be on this ship for a while, may as well do something to banish all this grey.’
‘Very well, here’s access to your digitised storage system!’ he chirped with a whirl of the colours on his screen before he brought up the storage system. She taped at the wardrobe button and pressed the ‘re-materialise all’ button. With a fizzling noise and a shimmer of yellow light all her clothes re-materialised on the bed beside her. After putting these away in the cupboard she materialised a stand alone mirror and placed it in the spare corner by the window and then checked herself out. Despite being human she was anything but plain, an accusation that was always levelled at humans for having no markings or crest. She had some rather unique features that made the usually bland human physic rather interesting. Her hair was already white and layered and was shaped around her head in a dome that sat to just bellow her ears and was finished with a fringe comprised of strands of hair rather then anything that sat together over her face. She had bright ice blue eyes and slender pale pink lips all enhanced with makeup that suited her pale and peachy complexion. To top all of this off she dressed in a unique way. Over long sleeved T-shirt she wore a waist coat made of a dust red leather with knee high boots of the same material over her jeans and a belt to break up the grey blue of her shirt and trousers. Everyone who met her always remarked that she looked stunning. This only added to her vanity and inflated confidence that the guild had taught her to have.
After checking herself out and sorting her hair she re-materialised several paperback books and placed them on the bedside table before retrieving her laptop top, camera and video camera from the system and placing them on the desk. At least now the room felt a little more like home.
‘Feeling better?’ asked Beagle from the bed.
‘Much better, be even better if I had picture boards to plaster on the wall of places I had been then it would be perfect.’
‘You haven’t been anywhere yet!’
‘I know.’ Johnice scowled at her palm top before slumping down on the bed and leafing through her pile of books to see what she had remembered to bring. Several classics from earth where amongst the pile of twenty or so books. This included “Pride and Prejudice” and “Journeys to the centre of the earth.” Other books not from earth were ones like “Bind” by Nuga of Darli, a gangster story about a Darli boy forced to work for a mobster by spreading lies, and ‘Sand back’ by Offhis Rocker, a collection of stories about being a beach. Johnice wasn’t sure how that one got in there but she’d read it eventually. The book she settled on was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Graham Smith of Earth back in the twenty first century. She did like her zombie books and this one was rather amusing.
After wrestling the pillows into a comfortable position she laid back to read. A couple of pages into the story she noticed the pages of the book had turned red. She looked up to see the room bathed in red light. This being rather odd she put down her book. The room was silent and the stars outside were no longer passing swiftly by. An eerie feeling took hold of her as she realised the engines were dead. Then the ship wide alert siren blasted through the intercom. Johnice jumped up instinctively, grabbed Beagle and headed out the door to the bridge to find out what was going on.