There Are No Mondays In Space
In space, nobody cares if you yawn.
Yawning wildly and with some pleasure Observational Specialist Lenny 'DVD' Al-Khalili sat in a room that was apparently empty. An outside observer would merely have seen an average sized man, average in every way, nested in what would appear almost like an oyster shell, but large, large enough for an average sized man. The room was not ostentatious in the least, it had a deliberate, plain functionality about it. The sleek and smooth black oyster shell bed glimmered as it sat in the centre of the bland room. The ceiling, walls and floor were all a slightly unpleasant shade of green, not ugly but also not amusing; numerous mushroom shaped white spots, dotted evenly about the surface seemed to oscillate and shimmer.
The room itself was built into the heart of the Biological Observatory One Hundred and One. The BO 101 was in the orbit of a medium sized planet, what had been termed Earth-Similar, designated E.S. 23-678. It was situated in a galaxy on the fringe of human known space, or HKS as it was known to those kind of people who liked to use such terminology. Observational Specialist Lenny 'DVD' Al-Khalili was naked, his light brown body wrapped neatly into the oyster bed. He appeared to be sucking his thumb in a sulky way, he appeared like this because, he was sucking his thumb, in a manner that could only be described as, sulky.
His eyes were seemingly wide open, yet if a person had been stood immediatley before him, Lenny Al-Khalili would not have noticed them. His eyes were perfectly standard human eyes on the outside. But they contained a fixed retina optical platform, and so occasionally a blurred almost static like flash would twinkle from his iris, he was in a less than congenial communion with the BO 101.
Lenny crossed his legs and put his hands behind his head, he sighed, it felt good to sigh, he uncrossed his legs, he sighed loudly once more, he did his because it alerted the A.C.P to that fact he was emotionally fraught. The A.C.P had a duty of care, it had to respon to his every whim, no matter how petulent or dull that whim was; Lenny had been described often by friends and enemies, but namely friends as petulent and dull. Lenny knew he was considered petulent and dull, he enjoyed the attention. Even if the attention was mandated or seemingly unflattering; all attention, no matter what form it took, was healthy, and good.
'Yes Observational Specialist Lenny Al-Khalili?' came a warm syrup like voice from someplace unseen, it had a hint of femininity about it, the room itself seemed to emit the voice; Lenny smiled to himself thinking, 'all attention is good attention'. The A.C.P had the kind of voice that children awoke to and felt immediately safe, it had a hint of motherly care, but also authority, the day had begun and tasks had to be completed. It was the kind of voice that asked you if you were okay, after you'd fallen from a swing, or grazed your knee. It was a voice both pure in compassion and rich with tender wisdoms; Lenny sighed again thinking as he sighed,'I hate that bastard voice!'.
'What've you been doing?' Enquired Lenny sweetly, his voice a little bored and not entirely enthusiastic, but there was a hint of saccharine charm.
'Diagnostic analysis, Environmental procedure drills, Orbital adjustments, Logistical sto...
'Okay,' interrupted Lenny sharply,' nobody cares what you do!' He challenged, his voice now cold and a little accusatory,' guess what I've been doing?' Lenny asked.
'Guess something other, than that?' Lenny complained, his arms flopping about his body, like semi drunk tentacles, the spasm of distemper lasted only a moment or so,' oh don't bother, how long do I have to be here?' Pleaded Lenny sadly.
'Until our mission is complete!' Replied the A.C.P in a reasonable and factual tone, Lenny's body writhed in frustrated annoyance, he said nothing for some time. The mushroom like orbs that were attached to the green walls seemed to breathe; Lenny frowned.
Slowly Lenny shook his head, he knew full well that the A.C.P would respond thus, he knew it. Yet in his heart, he had hoped for something different, maybe even a kind of banter, something along the lines of 'why are any of us here buddy, am I right, or am I right?' a confidential commerarderie, just two work colleagues chewing the fat; possibly even some lazy vacuous gossip about a colleagues lack of sexual prowess. But Lenny knew this would not occur, and it did not occur. Because there were no 'colleagues' and the A.C.P did not know how to gossip; especially about peope that did not exist.
'Oh, I see your mood!' Accused Lenny.
'Mood?' Queried the A.C.P in a flat non judgemental tone.
'Don't you judge me!' Demanded Lenny,' okay if that is how you want it today, yeah, okay that is how we will be, is it, is this how you want it, is it?' Enquired Lenny argumentatively, his tone accusatory and a little hurt; a spouse rejected, a child chastised, a work colleague lectured, a rodent stomped on, a goat kicked, a horse whipped, a cat splashed with water, namely a tone that could not be described as being in any way, friendly.
'Observational Specialist Lenny Al-Khalili are you requiring a medical and psychological diagnostic?' asked the A.C.P in a flat professional tone that seemed to irritate Lenny even further.
'Oh my,' Lenny slapped his thigh roughly, it produced a dry fish like sound,' aren't we all, honey?'
'Observational Specialist Lenny Al-Khalili are you now requesting, a medical and psychological diagnostic?' continued the A.C.P in the same flat professional tone. Lenny ignored the question and said nothing for a long time, he placed his thumb back in his mouth, he did it with the attitude of a man who did not care, that his thumb was in his mouth. He told himself he was not sulking, in fact the A.C.P was sulking and he was merely enduring another one of its dour moods.
'Honey, can't you just do this, I mean, am I strictly necessary?' Enquired Lenny in a sulky tone, his naked body wriggling moodily. If knees, elbows and toes were capable of sighing, his kness, elbows and toes did sigh, they sighed deeply and not a little childishly.
'I am your artificial companion persona, I am not your 'honey'!' Corrected the A.C.P with a hint of frustration.
'Honey, baby, we've had this conversation a thousand times before,' explained Lenny confidently,' I like to call you 'honey' because it keeps me emotionally robust, now remind me, that is your function here, isn't it...honey?'
'My primary function is BO101 maintenance, my secondary function is life support and data basing, my third function is communications and research acquisition, my fourth...
'I get it,' interrupted Observational Specialist Lenny 'DVD' Al-Khalili his face frowning a little, which was pointless, given there was nobody around to respond to the frown,' but...as an artificial companion persona, you do have a role in keeping my morale...up?' Lenny asked sheepishly, he waited for an answer, as though despite knowing full well the answer would be a yes. He had a dreadful fear that somehow 'Honey' would reply with a definite 'no' and begin destroying the BO 101, cutting of any means of communication Lenny had with Central Processing and Analysis, indeed the A.C.P would begin tormenting Lenny. The Observational Specialist tried to recall what particular relic artefact device he had watched recently, where that idea had been expressed. He grew irritated with himself that he could not recall it, he'd watched it only recently, but his mind was blank, he could not remember, this irritated him; he was sure he had known a mere moment earlier. After a short while, which felt much longer to Lenny, the A.C.P replied.
'Never mind,' Lenny relaxed into his daily routine, in the same fashion a brick relaxes into its assigned position in a wall,' I just don't get the mission, for me,' Lenny paused as though giving himself enough room to be splendidly profound,' the Cosmos is just a big mirror... the more we look, the more we see of ourselves,' Lenny smiled to himself, he liked to smile to himself, he knew the A.C.P could not identify the emotion, but he liked to do it all the same.
'Mankinds essential mission is not to discover itself, but to catalogue...' began the A.C.P.
'Wrong!' Interrupted Lenny,' Guess how I know, don't answer, I tell you how I know, so how many ES worlds have we found...don't answer that,' inserted Lenny, conscious that if he did not, the A.C.P would answer the perceived request for information,' a lot, a bloody lot, but all we find is...sludge, those bastards at Central get all wet and fuzzy, "...hey look, a different kind of sludge, wow..."' mocked Lenny, his tone less than flattering.
'Biological diversity...' began the A.C.P.
'Wrong,' interrupted Lenny,' I mean if there was to be anything out here, anywhere we'd have found it by now, wouldn't we,' Lenny paused but for a moment then continued hurriedly,' don't answer that,' inserted Lenny, before the A.C.P could query it,' all I am saying, is that my being here, doing a job you could do, makes me kind of surperfluous,' Lenny shrugged his shoulders, he had awoken in a thoughtful kind of funk, the day seemed heavy with torment.
He had eaten slowly, ran out of time, hurried along, stubbed his toe, lost his identifier, found it again, in an inexplicable place; he had found it atop a storage cupboard that he never used, this puzzled him, because how could his identifier have gotten there. He had spent some time mumbling to himself, retracing his steps, yet nothing added up. He had puzzled about it for a good while, all in all his day had begun badly and was gradually showing signs of getting miserably worse.
'Biological Diversity is our chief interplanetary objective!' Affirmed the A.C.P in a tone of voice that to Lenny, sounded too admonishing.
'If you were a human, I'd punch you in the fucking stomach!' Promised Lenny, his hand curling into a fist, as he lay naked in the oyster bed.
'If you were a A.C.P I'd reccommend you for deletion or deactivation pending a thorough systems diagnostic!'
'Did you just threaten me?' squealed Lenny his voice hoarse and a little upset,' are you talking to me?'
''Observational Specialist Lenny Al-Khalili I am indeed, talking to you!'
'Oh fuck off!' Snapped Lenny, his body flapping sadly in impotent anger, his arms and legs writhed in a bizarre dance of distemper, then he stopped. Lying perfectly inert, Lenny seemed to slump deeper into his funk. The A.C.P was silent for a long time, much longer than Lenny was comfortable with, he sighed, Lenny sighed again, heavily and again, but much heavier.
'Observational Specialist Lenny Al-Khalili, you are an essential component in Humankinds destiny...'
'Oh bull shit, you're just quoting text, I tell you something,' threatened Lenny in a severe whisper,' we're bored, that's all,' Lenny paused for breath, he had had another illuminating philosophical revelation,' I watch a lot of relic artefact items, they were actually called DVD's but nobody gives a shit anymore,' Lenny paused, hoping the A.P.C would contradict him and tell him that unbeknownst to Lenny, the A.C.P had watched a great many relic artefact items; Lenny waited, it did not say this.
'Okay,' continued Lenny in the severe all knowing tone of a pedagogue,' well, in these films, we always envisaged ourselves either blowing humanity to dust, or discovering stuff on brave deep space missions, boldly going and al that, or we ourselves being discovered by aliens,' Lenny paused his tone excited,' you know, big eyed aliens or ones with concentrated acid for blood, that'd plant babies in us,' Lenny grinned happily.' some admonished us for being aggressive, others came to steal our water, or gold, doesn't matter; but the reality is,' Lenny gave himself a dramatic pause,' we didn't find any of that, nothing of the sort happened, so we just kind of got on with it, like a child left alone in a room; not sure, but after a pause, the child just goes about playing, no reason or rhyme, and now...we're bored, so what do bored people do, don't answer that,' inserted Lenny quickly,' they invent a spurious and inane task, to keep ourselves from looking at ourselves, too deeply!'
'Would Observational Specialist Lenny Al-Khalili like a cessation in our daily data compiling and rudimentary observations?' Enquired the A.C.P, the tone to Lenny, sounded too similar to that of a pyschiatric nurse talking to a man who repeatedly tried to tell all concerned that he came from a far away world and travelled on rays of light, in short...a daft lunatic.
'No, best get it done, then I can fuck off, anyhow, what's that film where the computer tries to kill...' suddenly a klaxon sounded, one of the bio-diversity drones on ES 23-678 had detected something and had sent the data up to BO101. Lenny's heart began to beat faster, his pulse raced, he quivered with excitment.
Yet upon viewing the data, he resumed his standard morbid acceptance of the immediate tedium of everything.
'BDD U-474 has detected...'
'Would you fuckin' believe it,' screamed Lenny aggressively, thrashing his limbs about,' more single celled bacteria and archaea!' Complained Lenny Al-Khalili bitterly,' why do the drones send me this shit, it's the same shit as always, I don't fuckin' care!'
'All bio diversity data is to be streamed immediatley to the BO101 archive, the Observational Specialist present must sign off on any new find; all data is to be collated and flashed to Central Processing and Analysis every three rotations...'
'Honey,' interrupted Lenny impatiently,' I know the protocol, my point is, until a drone actually finds something notable, like an actual singing, dancing, wanking, drinking, farting, laughing alien, an actual alien..."...we come in peace, shoot to kill..." alien, I don't need to know about more bloody bacteria, on the edge of some Ammonia rich lake, I don't need to know this stuff,' Lenny paused and closed his eyes,' why am I here?' whined Lenny weakly, his naked body thrashing in the oyster bed as though he was being attacked by a swarm of aggressive and curious crabs.
'You volunteered!' Offered the A.C.P. Lenny flashed a vicious bitter glimmer of his eyes at nowhere in particular, he bit his lip and breathed deeply.
'I did not volunteer...for here; I mean where is here?' Snapped Lenny.
'Here, is your job, your function, your role in the most remarkable endeavour Humankind has performed, namely...,' the A.C.P seemed to pause, as though introducing a celebrity or reknowned scholar,' the Great Galactic Analysis of Biological Diversity, you are an Observational Specialist!' Informed the A.C.P, the tone one of awe and excitement, Lenny waved the would be compliment away with a drunken swipe of his hand, shaking his head and sighing deeply.
The problem with space, or one of the many problems with space, was that it is uniformly empty. The bits of gas and metal that did pop up, where uniformly dull and barren. Chemists and Astronomical Philosophers were the only people who ever got excited about the void. Only such people marvelled about some rare gas or some sulphuric sludge hidden in some rock orbiting a big ball of burning hydrogen and helium doom; a doom that emitted its own quixotic magnetic field. Some thought Stars a celestial wonderment, designed to entice Mankind away from his domestic slumber and branch out into the celestial awe and infinite gory of the Cosmos. Lenny Al-Khalili, thought stars were dull drab crap.
'Yeah, sure,' dismissed Lenny glumly, reflecting deeply on how he had always thought stars were dull drab crap and wondering why he did volunteer in the first place,' Honey, what day is it?' He asked exhausted and a little fed up, his voice sad and one of defeat, his lean face frowning, a though he had tasted something unspeakably bitter.
'Day One in our Twelth Cycle!' Replied the A.C.P informationally. Lenny placed both hands over his face, he blue a raspberry and chuckled to himself. His naked body seemed to slump deeper into the oyster bed as though it had a vacuum capacity and was indeed sucking him deeper into its innards.
'No!' snapped Observational Specialist Lenny Al-Khalili,' no, no, no, I told you, I like actual days, you know, like Wednesday, or Monday, if it is day one, then it is bloody Monday, isn't it?' Whined Lenny aggressively. For some time the A.C.P did not reply, Lenny glanced at the data being streamed from the planets surface to his visual assessment board, it fluttered across his pupils like a faint blue cloth.
'But Observational Specialist Lenny Al-Khalili, there are no Mondays in space!'
'Then, why do I feel so bastard depressed and pointless?'