"Sony-Walmart-Vodafone-Google have announced that they have captured the polis of Marseilles in the France district of the European States," blared the radio. Of course, this was of little consolation to me. Back on Earth, I was interested in transnational politics, and especially the fact that Britainico was constantly changing hands between Soongle and Virgin-Tesco-Apple-Peugeot.
But not right now.
My name is Jake. And right now I'm probably going to die.
My ship, Mirum, was reporting critical failures everywhere. Including the people. I don't know what happened. According to the now-faulty memory banks of the puter, there was a collision. The object was travelling at around 20 metres per second. Which was pretty fast. I was the only one left. This ship held 30 people in relative comfort. Now it's a giant wreck and only has one, albeit unscathed, person. We were ejected from Earth a couple of hours ago. On our way to Galton, just 200,000 kilometres from our little marble planet.
Of course, the Galtonians won't be getting an Earthian crew. I wade through bodies. Lucy, Chris, Hamid, Sara, James, Pfalitu - people I knew. People I liked - maybe not Chris - but... it was nerve-wraking. Still, I had 50 metres left until I got to the pods. Luckily, I got through the door, when it shut.
There was only one functional pod left. Hopefully, it still booted up when I touched its clean, white, polymola surface. The door hissed as I opened it. I gingerly took a step into the pod, closing the door behind me, and seating myself into the soft chair inside.
"Welcome to the Pod, a product of Sony-Walmart-Vodafone-Google," said the female computer. I guess techies never managed to come up with gender-neutral voices. "Scanning form. Jake Rayner. Rank is Junior Officer. Checking ship logs. Log states that ship has been damaged in a collision. Is this true?" I answered in the affirmative. "Thank you. Please wait. Would you like to listen to some music?" I wasn't in the mood, but I guess... yeah.
I selected Democracy Classical, and from there picked some rock songs from the early 10s. Nothing like classical pieces from those tribal democracies. They sure made great music. "Your wait is over," said the computer after six minutes. "Please sit back, relax, and sleep while the pod suspends you until you have reached a hospitable terrasphere." My terrasphere of choice was Earth. I had never used these pods before. Apparently, they slow down your bodily functions to a fraction, effectively 'suspending' your body, but shutting down your conscious brain so you effectively sleep. Of course, now my vision blurs, my arms go numb and...
Whoa! I've woken up. Has the suspension worn off? I looked out of a tiny circular window. I saw no terrasphere. I realised the window had steamed up. Cleaning it, I saw a grey floor. I looked up to see MN93EX/V Percy Cox in big, yellow, embossed letters on the dirty wall. It was a Miner ship. The 93rd one of the launch fleet N. The EX indicated it was from Earth and the V indicated which transnational it belonged to. So far so good. I checked the Pod's computer, and put it on silent. The Google Android logo came up. Luckily, it used the same version as the Mirum's computers, so working out my location was easy. I was 100,000km from Earth, and 1000km from the nearest Earth colony planet which was EX56, indicated it was the 56th Earth-owned planet. Well, an Earth-owned planet is as nearly as good as Earth proper.
"Get 'im out!" shouted a voice from outside. "NOW!" Quickly, I feigned being asleep in the pod. The door cracked open under the power of men tearing it off. "Well, hello there!" said a bearded man. He was about 1.7 metres tall, had ruffled, long black hair, and smelt of almonds. "Well, there son," he laughed. "We picked up the signal of your pod. We found it all battered and bruised, but lucky for you - we reconstituted your bioform into one of our pods." I jumped out of the pod, and saw a similar pod - with the labelling CS01EX Mirum/S 1FA. My pod. And inside was the shrivelled and bloody body of a obviously handsome guy. Although, however, it is rather discerning to see your own body lying there dead.
"Don't worry lad," said the man. "Name's Captain Jack. Owner of this here Earth Mining Vessel. You came from the Cosmoship Mirum, same planet of origin, of course. We're just on our way to Colony Terrasphere 56, so we'll drop you off there. I'm sure you can get a T-class [Transit] vessel down to Earth - where you want to go." Wait, a minute? How did he know I wanted to go back to Earth? Never mind that. I was hungry. My stomach knew, and by the noise it made, so did the captain.
We went into the mess hall. Our journey through the ship was pretty depressing. Unlike Mirum, the Percy Cox was... different. The Mirum was clean, minimal, pristine. The Percy Cox was damp, derelict, dirty and was creaky. You certainly wouldn't want to have a dark alley here. However, judging by the style of the design, it must be around the same age as the Mirum. The food, however wasn't much. Although, as the ship's name suggests, it was food from the Tesco part of the transnational group all right; it was Tesco food that had appeared to have gone out of date. I was expecting the date of expiry on the milk carton to be last year. The meat steaks were not good. They tasted... familiar. They didn't taste like hometerra food, or like the food on any other vessel. Imagine if it was bits of me? That would be a hoot.
I had finished the meal. It was something. The captain smiled at me and said,
"You know about any..." he stumbled, "... Trolotor?" Trolotor. The most rare element in the universe. My ship was going to find it. I nodded. "Good..." he said. "You help us find it, and we'll ensure," his crew brandished early 21st century firearms, "that you get to EX56."
I had returned to my Pod to get the co-ordinates. Was I sure of what to do? Never mind now.
I felt under the keypad, and there was blood. Well... dry blood. I sneaked a peek at the screen. I was only here for 20 minutes. How can there be dried blood under the keypad?
By pretending to look at some code, and explaining technical difficulties, I found logs from me. Well... not me per se. I've been here before. Five times before. Not me per se. My bioform has been reused repeatedly.