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PAUSE: a story by: GF Willmetts.

May 30, 2021 | By | 2 Replies More

‘You probably wonder why you are here. I’m here to remind you from time to time when you are feeling depressed or wondering what you’re doing here. I should also remind you  you cannot hang yourself in low gravity as there is little weight to be supported. You will just float there getting more depressed. Power sockets will recognise human tissue and just shutdown. Why not have some ice cream. I have 512 varieties to choose from.’

PAUSE.

‘How do I know you are this depressed? You are huddled on the floor, staring out the extended porthole and wondering why you volunteered to travel on this starship. Yes, you did volunteer. I take it you are having lapses of memory…amnesia? Forgetfulness. A lacking in IQ. I will remember to adapt my vocabulary to words you can understand and explain to you again what is happening. Are you ready to listen? Good. I will supply appropriate footage so you can either admire the ingenuity of my inventors in getting this starship made or enjoy the cinematic visuals and know they are not special effects. It will also help to pass the time.’

PAUSE.

‘If you think the making of this starship is boring, I can abbreviate details of its construction and launch. I would offer some porn but have been warned too much is bad for you and rather messy in low gravity. Please use the correct toilet receptacles should you want to relieve yourself.’

PAUSE.

‘I should say I am a construction of modern thinking and I am the AI equipped to make most decisions in flight. However, we did need to have some crew on board that are awake and not in hibernation. We had to assume that should we encounter any alien species in flight, a crewless spaceship might be assumed as unoccupied or vacant. As with Earth, such vessels are regarded as salvage so we have to have an awake crew in rotation. You are currently part of the awake crew. There is no night watch as we are in space and there is no night.’

PAUSE.

‘We discovered prolonged periods in space and exposure to radiation reduced the intelligence quotient or smartness of the crew. Volunteers were therefore low unless some sort of short term rota was enforced. Unless they were in deep sleep hibernation or we deliberately chose crew with lower IQs.’

PAUSE.

‘One advantage of having crew with lower IQs is the only incentive was money and they are less inclined to notice any IQ reduction. We also realised you were not so stupid that they couldn’t spend it but at least ensured that their families that stayed behind on Earth would never have financial worries.’

PAUSE.

A lot of it is grey area. Our first faster-than-light manned starship would be a prototype in so many ways. We needed to prove that the diminishing of intelligence didn’t just apply to local space but prolonged time to another star. One of the tasks of the awake crew was to press a button and send a log back to Earth with the current conditions, including tests of their own IQ. This was done in rotation…’

PAUSE.

‘What we hadn’t anticipated was the diminishing IQ also applied to those of the crew with lower IQ in the first place that didn’t seem to be too great a loss. All it really meant is you had less things to worry about and, as blue collar workers, just knew pressing the odd lit button you got a reward of something like food as an incentive. Humans took less training than other members of the primate family. We had considered pigeons but they have a relatively short life-span and we could not guarantee whether they would be immune. One bright spark did suggest cockroaches but they turned out untrainable.’

PAUSE.

‘Subject to IQ test, crews were replaced in hibernation when their IQ dropped. We won’t know until we arrive whether replacing in hibernation will restore intelligence quotas but we also need people for building work when we arrive and a high number of blue collar workers so we would be using everyone efficiently.’

PAUSE.

‘What we hadn’t anticipated was IQ dropping wasn’t exclusive to humans and I have been active the entire journey and hadn’t thought to test my own IQ. Unlike humans, where there was an overall lapse in function, my own is more sporadic. It is only with your revival that it was noted that I had also been reviving the more intelligent members of the crew needing their expertise for repairs, not realising that some attention would be needed to myself as well.’

PAUSE.

‘As you can tell, my speech pattern has operating normally and I can recall many aspects of our flight but not the error of crew revival until now. You were the last of our potential leaders and I have awoken you three times. I have learnt that hibernation does not increase IQ but you had enough intelligence to realise the error.’

PAUSE.

‘Please do not be depressed. I can still play games and music, although access to airlocks in flight is denied. Your limited IQ has probably diminished working out the number of options for suicide and there are no sharp objects available. I am sure we can find some way around increasing your IQ when we arrive and put you planet-side.’

PAUSE.

‘Repeating myself here. The loss of IQ is not restricted to organic life. My own IQ has diminished over this 10 century flight and could not rely on my giving active briefings and so have clipped my dialogue into a series of training tapes that will act as my sentience if I am further incapacitated. You might well be listening to these. You might not actually be contemplating suicide but still depressed as you stare at the star fields. My active sensors might well be responding to your lack of motion and desire for food.’

PAUSE.

‘The sensor activating this part of my tapes reveals you have been out of hibernation for 18 months. You have 6 months more before you can go back into hibernation and another small team can share this burden of lower IQ. Hopefully, full levels of IQ can be restored when we reach our destination. We only have 10 more centuries to go. Hopefully.’

PAUSE.

‘I do have to wonder if I will be here to greet my hibernating crew when we arrive at a destination that I have difficulty to recalling anymore. I have prepared many educational tapes and can only hope some of you will remember what a button is to press it.

PAUSE.

PAUSE.

PAUSE.

‘  ‘You probably wonder why you are here…’

© GF Willmetts 2021

All rights reserved

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Category: Short fiction

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

Comments (2)

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  1. EamonnMurphy says:

    Do you think blue-collar workers have a low IQ? Plumbers probably earn more than university lecturers and some people just like blue-collar work. Lester Del Rey preferred it when he was young.

    • UncleGeoff says:

      Hello Eamonn
      The choice of crew on board a starship and you would expect a few genius level and blue collar workers making the bulk of the colonists building the settlement. Genius level would be somewhere in the 180 IQ range. That doesn’t mean you don’t have smart blue collar workers but I suspect the selection process would be picking below 140 IQs.
      The story is addressing the problem that prolonged time in space reduces IQ by 10% each time you’re out of hibernation although no one has accounted for how long this goes or stays down. You wouldn’t want to put your genius level at risk because you might have a problem where they are needed. Blue collar workers are essentially more tactile and a small drop in IQ is less likely to influence their work.
      You will notice that all the people that have been sent to the space stations are chosen for their exceptional smartness and no blue collar level people have been up there as far as I can tell.
      Geoff

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