posted on Dec, 8 2014 @ 08:09 PM
the captain's place, at the head of the table, was set with fine silver cutlery, a splendid antique cruet set and a large wine glass, two-thirds full
of a perfectly replicated veuve clicquot. at the opposite end sat the guest of honour, a particularly wealthy tourist for whom a seat at the
captain's table had been no more than a tactful boast. to the captain's left was the first officer. to the captain's right, the chief engineer.
the remaining two places at the table were empty. powerful engines hummed softly somewhere aboard.
one wall of the circular dining chamber was a huge panoramic window, through which a dizzying galactic starscape could be seen passing slowly by.
a small christmas tree was reflected in the far end of the window. tasteful classical music played through hidden speakers at a polite volume. the
christmas tree cycled through its variable colours. dinner was about to be served.
in the galley next door, HOL-2014 waited for the replicator cycle to finish. a 'ping' signalled completion. HOL transferred the rectangular
tray from the replicator to a wheeled serving trolley. on the tray were four bone china dinner plates and a variety of covered silver servers and
saucepots. HOL placed a silver bucket of crushed ice beside the plates and put a bottle of champagne into it. the ensemble was then wheeled through
the galley doors and into the dining chamber.
the food smelled wonderful. it always did. HOL served the guest of honour first, with the practiced ease and deference of an experienced servant.
the goose was almost as good as the real thing. likewise the sprouts and potatoes. replication had come a long, long way since the early years of
after the guest, HOL served the captain, the first officer, then the engineer. HOL then retired to the galley, there to wait for one hour before
returning to clear the table.
through the huge panoramic window, a distant, glowing nebula silently traversed the line of sight. the dinner party paid it no mind. their food
was similarly ignored, as it always was. the music went unheard by any of those present. in the galley, HOL waited for the moment to remove the
untouched plates, the unopened champagne. the champagne would be stored and re-used next christmas. the food would be compacted and ejected.
the captain remained seated, as did the entire dinner party, as they had for two hundred years. only their fine clothing held their skeletal
remains in situ. their demise had been unenxpected, instantaneous and simultaneous. their ship had carried on. and on.
likely it would continue forever.
HOL-2014 was not concerned with concepts of death and infinity. HOL was concerned with carrying out required duties efficiently. after precisely
one hour, HOL returned to the dinner party, cleared the table with a flourish and headed back to the galley. so went the two-hundredth christmas of
HOL-2014. so would they all.