Capsuleers! Everyone heard of them but not many actually met them. Capsuleers were like demigods: they lived in the sky, they knew everything, they had superhuman reflexes and they were virtually immortal. To meet one of them in flesh was every teenager’s dream. And mine too. Although my teenage years were long gone, deep in my soul I still kept a romantic spark which could not be extinguished by adult cynicism. And now that spark turned into a raging wildfire. If only I knew who Gerhardt was before he left, I could have asked him hundreds of questions which were now burning inside me: how did he become a capsuleer? Was it true he could live forever? How did it feel to have cables attached to his back?
It took me quite a while to overcome my starry-eyed excitement, but as soon as I regained my composure I was swamped by an opposite emotion – sheer panic: I just realised that I was stranded in an abandoned spaceship and had no idea what would happen next, if anything was going to happen at all before my desiccated corpse would be found by salvagers. While I was choosing between screaming and leaving this ship through a viewport, a ghostly blue image of a bald woman appeared right in front of me.
“Hello,” she said, “I am Aura.”
I made a correction to my assessment of the situation – I was in an abandoned haunted spaceship. Screaming was already not an option, as my throat was constricted by an involuntary spasm. I started running towards the viewport.
“I am Gerhardt’s assistant,” continued the ghost, “and he asked me to look after you while he is away. Hey, careful there!”
The last remark was made after I tripped over a cable, fell on the floor and was sliding head first in the direction of the glass wall. By the time my head reached it I already felt like a complete idiot, so the collision could not decrease my mental capacity any further. Scratching a fresh bump on my head I turned to the blue lady.
“You mean you are a virtual assistant, a hologram?”
“Yeah,” she said cheerfully. “Are you okay?”
“I don’t think so, not yet,” I answered feeling that my head was swimming. “A stiff shot of whisky would help but I assume you don’t have a bar here.”
“Well, not really a bar, but there is an almost full bottle of a 30-year Scotch. Is it good enough?”
Good enough? Real Scotch was a posh drink for big shots. Of course, it was good enough for a poor programmer. I knew I should have savoured that glass for at least half an hour, but I shot it without actually feeling the taste. All I needed at that moment was to calm my nerves and Scotch was as good as Uncle Bob’s moonshine for that purpose. The alcohol hit the brain pretty fast and in a few minutes I was prepared to lead more or less meaningful conversation with Aura.