Here it is, 2549.76, and they still haven't prevented the common cold. I'd been sneezing non-stop for hours. It wouldn't be so bad but at every sneeze MIHA, or Mia as I disaffectionately call it, would demand a 'check' of my carbon based life-form unit.
Machine Intelligence Health Assessor. BULLSHIT! I think that the person who programmed this P.O.S (short in the jargon for, you guessed it, Piece of Shit.) had no liking for the human species at all.
I'm James Taylor, or Taylor, James as Mia likes to call me. I'm a Senior Mechanical Repair Technician, or commonly known 'Mech Tech' in the thirty-ninth Space Fleet. My being all that I can be, meant years in space repairing ancient beat up tubs the old fashioned way, with muscle and sweat. Yeah, we have the VR bots and goggles, but I don't care for that new stuff.
The Virtual Reality goggles tend to give me a real headache. The vision control specialist has never been able to get me a pair that will work right. I shun them due to the pain; I feel it just isn't worth it. I'll use them only if I have to. Life in space meant traveling on a tub for an entire mission, so getting in for a 'refit' on the goggles was not likely to happen for about two more years.
We're on the exploration and survey ship SF5595. Since VR has become so commonplace nowadays, it seems that techs like me have all retired to greener pastures. I'm forty-five years old, single, and hate VR. I'm the only male Mech Tech on board.
There are two officers who are male, and the rest of the ships crew is women. Our Captain is Linda James. First officer is Thelma Stewart. John, the one officer I like, is Chief Science Officer. Thom is the Chief Med. Officer. He's all right, but I think his VR sex partner is male, so I tend to stay away from Thom while off duty.
There are three other Mech Techs, like me who keep this tub afloat. There are also four bridge crew who fly the tub. So, most of the crew are women, all believers in the VR Gods of love and work. You see, sex with a real human partner has gone the way of McDonalds Big Macs.
The VR can give a person any type of sex they would want or need. Include the 'machine' portion and the choices with it, well; I've never been really surprised about the VR machines taking over as much as they have. Since they tap into the cerebral cortex directly through a scan plug, VR can sense and 'know' what you desire in an instant. Allegedly it makes for a 'perfect' lover.
Me, I prefer to have sex the old-fashioned way, down and dirty. One on one. Problem is, nobody on this tub likes it that way. Matter of fact, I have only had two partners in sex that way. My first was in High School, and her parents found out and shipped her off to Class Seven.
That's where sexually 'active' people were sent to be 'fixed'. No person in his or her right mind would actually have 'real' sex now. Babies came from tubes and 'samples' and sex was with the VR and its toys. It made it so much 'neater' and 'fulfilling' that way. Again, BULLSHIT!
My second partner was a gal on an old tug. We'd 'been' with each other quite a few times. She really got off on doing it the old-fashioned way. I didn't mind that she 'used' me; since that's the only way I like to do it anyway. So, you can understand when I say that for me real sex was far removed from my daily life.
I'm the 'monk' of SF5595. Oh sure, I do on occasion masturbate, but right at orgasm Mia starts questioning and wanting to 'assess my condition' usually declaring a medical emergency. Not the best of ways to end a satisfying time. I've figured out ways to circumvent Mia, but it's a pain in the ass to do.
My maintenance team had been chosen for me before this trip ever started and since they were all women, I'm constantly reminded about my monk status. They tease me and sometimes, off duty of course, they flash the old perv. I don't mind too much since I can get relief on my own, but it is a rather mean thing to do to a shipmate.
The one thing that keeps me in the service is the fact that I have been saving up for years and right now I am only a little bit away from full retirement. I have well over the amount of credits to give me a generous and lovely time on a remote planet on a remote island, and maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to find a woman who will like sex the way I do. Then it will be a happy life for me while I'm young enough to enjoy it. This trip will put me into 'retirement city' and I'm going to be a very wealthy and happy individual at that time.
Since most of 'our' work is now done via the VR and Bots, I am truly the dinosaur of the space age, but my skills are needed time to time and I have the reputation of being able to 'fix' almost anything with nothing. Hence I'm filling a niche most of the time.
We just dropped off cargo at the mining camp on Nevus Seven, and we're on route to the edge of the known galaxy to investigate some newly found planets and asteroids. After that, we're due to pick up some cargo at Tomar Two. Traveling much faster now since we have less mass on board, it won't take too long for us to reach our destination.
John and I had to go out and do an extra-vehicular inspection, part of our routine maintenance schedule. I was suited up while John and Thom were having some words about the medical implant on John's arm. It had been bothering him quite a bit. I had just clamped and sealed my helmet in place when the whole ship shuddered. There was a brilliant flash of light and I suddenly found myself free floating in space.
It took a moment to get my bearings and see what had happened. I could see that John and Thom were floating outwards away from the ship. I jetted over to them and saw that there was nothing to be done for them. My COM link wasn't working, so I didn't know what was going on onboard ship.
I tethered John's and Thom's remains to my work line, and jetted back to the ship. It was tough going, but I was able to maneuver to the lower rear airlock and re-board. As soon as the airlock cleared I had women all over me; questions firing right and left. The Captain quieted them down and started her grilling.
"What the hell happened?"
"I think we were hulled by a meteor Ma'am. The Science and Med officers are dead Ma'am. They were pulled out with unsealed suits when the rock got us. They never had a chance. John was worried about his implant and Thom was checking it out when it happened."
I watched her as I gave my report and saw that my statements shook her up pretty badly. She paused, gathering herself, and then the command 'self' of her took over.
"I need a complete serviceability and safety check as soon as you can manage it Tech."
"Yes Ma'am. I'll go right out and do the over scan of the hull since I'm suited up."
"No. You'll stay inside and use the VR bots. I can't take the chance of losing my senior Mech Tech on a walk outside right now. Have your crew do the scan with the bots. You get unsuited and do the assessment. I need to know what we are up against ASAP."
I really didn't get her at times. She could be 'overbearing', but she did have the command of the ship, and her first duty was to the ship and crew, so I grudgingly started to get unsuited and indicated two of my crewmembers to get the bots. The third assisted me in getting my suit off.
"What happened out there? How did they die?"
"We weren't 'out there' as you put it. We were in the airlock; there was a brilliant flash of light, and the next thing I knew I was swimming in space. John and Thom didn't have their head gear on since they were checking out John's arm."
"The 'roid hit the airlock?"
"As far as I know, yes. We'll need to be cautious when we get into that area to inspect it from inside as there could be leakage. The bots will let us see the damage on the outside, but we will probably need the VR systems check for the inside first."
'Jim, are you O.K.?"
"Yeah Theresa, I'm O.K. Just a little shook up. I had just sealed when the rock hit. It doesn't get any closer than that. I'm going to miss John though. I really liked him. I know that losing Thom will hurt us too."
"What about Thom? You know he kinda had a thing for you. You knew that didn't you?"
"No, but I knew he liked the male VR partner. I just didn't like being around him. I'm not bi or Hom, so it would never have been a 'relationship' like he wanted anyway."
"Why don't you like the VR? You could be having normal sex all the time if you would just relax and use it. I use it and look how well-adjusted I am."
"We've had this talk before Theresa, you know about my headaches and the head plug. Besides, there's nothing like flesh to flesh, skin to skin, believe me."
"UGH! That sounds so gross! I'll stick to the VR and the Bots. They can work on the cerebral plug too you know."
"Yeah, like I want them poking around my central cortex like that."
My inspection of the ship was not to bring any kind of good news. The 'roid' had slammed into us at an unbelievable angle. I could see that the odds of it hitting us like that were astronomical, probably around a trillion to one or so. This didn't bode well for us.
Our VR main trunk had been severed with a huge chunk totally gone; the secondary backup was parted too. It appeared to be repairable though. Our life systems were spared, but the control functions to the engine room from the bridge were shot. On board was enough fiber optic cable and trunk line to fix the controls but not the VR mains. We'd have to rob some existing systems, but not too much.
.... There is more of this story ...