“Three minutes until Alitma arrives,” Rachel-7 said.
“He’s not even spectrum-folding his ship," Trak said.
Alitma has enough s-f equipment to cloak three cities, Trak thought. The only reason not to use it is to scare Daniel. Or taunt him.
"I think he wants us to see him coming," Trak said angrily.
Daniel nodded and stuck his late father's "World's Best Dad" mug into the nearby food forge to get a refill.
"Soda," Daniel said.
The food forge quickly assembled soda molecules out of waste from the Afterthought’s sewage system.
In the 28th century human culture, most substances were made from recycled material.
By dissembling an object’s component atoms and reassembling them in a different configuration, clouds could turn dangerous or dirty things into harmless, beneficial ones. Nanoswarms changed deadly poison into baby food and transformed spoiled meals into furniture.
It didn’t bother Daniel that his mug held what used to be urine. Repurposed waste was a part of life. In fact, seventeen percent of Daniel’s coat had once been fecal matter.
OK, the coat’s origins bothered Daniel a little, but only when he thought about it.
With three minutes left, Daniel planned to watch Jeska's message again: he wanted to see her face one more time before Alitma showed up.
Watching Jeska's message always left him emotionally wrecked, and he had considered ordering something stronger than soda.
Unfortunately, Rachel-7 had reprogrammed the ship’s food forge to stop giving him booze.
So, still absently singing the children's song “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” Daniel stepped behind a rusty metal column, secretly poured the contents of his father’s old flask into the mug, and took a swig.
The powerful, homemade concoction had him buzzed before he finished swallowing.
“Perfect time for a drink, Daniel?” Rachel-7 said dryly.
“It is,” Daniel said.
“I don’t know if that’s the best idea at the moment …” Trak said.
“It is,” Daniel said and gulped down half the mug.
Daniel had hoped Rachel-7 or Trak wouldn’t see the flask, but he knew it was a false hope.
With Trak’s 360 degree vision and Rachel-7’s myriad sensors, there wasn’t much they missed. They were always telling him to stop drinking on the job, or at least to stop drinking while he slept.
Daniel put the flask back into his long blue coat and ordered his augmented internal memory to pull up Jeska’s message.