Poe drew in a deep breath as she sat up, the sound of silence tickling her ears. She scanned X deck, to which she was one of the assigned residents thanks to her exotic last name of Xanadu. The only problem was that she was the only one awake amongst the dozen or so patrons that had chosen last names beginning with X. New space, new names.
As she tried to stand, her legs gave way, and Poe fell to the hard deck, smarting her tailbone in the process. She wished she had paid better attention to the literature about the process of waking up. There was a step-by-step guide to moving again. As a Scrivener, she should have appreciated the words she had been provided to have a less stressful experience on the ship. Soon, it would be her turn to write the words required for others to survive and remember this journey.
She looked around for any indication of why she was the only one awake in at this time. As she tried to stand again, she felt a whoosh above her head, nearly blowing her chin length ginger curls straight.
Poe called out with a cracking voice, “Who’s there? Or should I say what?”
She looked across the deck to a blinking control panel and a perch with a dark presence. Poe blinked her eyes until wings came into focus.
“What are you? I demand to know what has happened here.” Poe was talking to a bird…a large, black one, with coal eyes now staring in her direction. The bird was not there when Poe boarded the Lunessa for the adventure of deep space travel. She could not afford the ship, so she agreed to be a Scrivener to cover the cost of her passage.
The bird, with an agitated flap of its giant wings, swooped towards Poe, dropping a silver brick in front of her that popped open to produce another perch towering over her seat on the floor.
“Hello, Ms. Xanadu. I am glad to see you are awake. I am your Raven guide.”
Poe looked up, biting her bottom lip for a moment. “My Raven? What are you going to do about my predicament of being awake? I suppose you can call me Poe, too. Ms. Xanadu seems a little formal at this point.” Poe noted the Raven had a male accent, British in origin. She had watched movies based on Jane Austen books from the planet of Earth II.
The Raven cawed, a noise that shattered Poe’s confidence in questioning it. “Absolutely nothing. I woke you. It is time to get to work, pay off that passage you so desperately wanted, my dear. Call me Mr. Darcy. I prefer my formal name when you are addressing me, Ms. Xanadu, since we are merely at the acquaintance stage of our relationship.”
Poe rolled her eyes, studying the Raven’s wings, finally seeing evidence of robotic origins under the realistically plumed bird.
“Mr. Darcy, if you could so kindly tell me about the work required of me, then maybe we can proceed to the less formal friendship stage.”
“I am afraid I cannot do that. It must remain a mystery.”
“That’s ridiculous.” Poe was done sitting. She willed her legs to stand so she could look this daft bird in the eyes. When she stood fully, locking her legs and ignoring the swirl of her head, she was still slightly shorter than the impromptu perch.
“A mystery you say? Is there somebody that can help me solve this mystery then, bird brain?”
“Ms. Xanadu, that is a touch rude, don’t you think? You must not fan the flames of discord upon first meeting with someone, after all.”
“I hate to break it to you, but you are a robotic bird, remarkably realistic, but not to the point where I would worry about causing offense. I just want to know why I am awake and how I can get back to sleep.”
“I will ignore your slight. You have been asleep for two years. Perhaps your manners are still asleep. If you follow me, I will set you on the path to solving this mystery. Please grab your writing instruments of choice for you shall document the solving of this mystery.”
Poe grabbed her mental typewriter from the internal pocket of her still open sleep pod and placed little white discs in her ears and a tiny white patch on each temple. Mr. Darcy yawned causing Poe to smirk. While she didn’t want to obey Mr. Darcy, she needed to play along to understand her current troubles.
The glass doors of X deck opened as Mr. Darcy flew and Poe followed. They stepped out onto the circular walkway that was alphabetically the 24th circle up from the ground level of the ship. Poe stepped to the edge of X and looked down into the vastness of the ship, noting there were others roaming on circles below her. She then looked up and saw a man leaning over Y deck waving down to her.
Poe let out a sigh and looked at Mr. Darcy who was now floating at the center of the circle slightly below her eye level, not even bothering to flap his wings like a real bird.
Poe had to shout slightly over ambient engine and control noise. “Now what?”
“There is no need to shout at me, Ms. Xanadu. It is quite simple. You solve and document the mystery of why you are awake along with these other passengers. If you are successful, as judged by me in two days’ time, then you all can go safely back to sleep. If not, you will all meet eternal sleep, but we will still have your story to read either way.”
“I did not agree to this.”
“Most unfortunate that you did not read the fine print.”
Poe ran and jumped into the circular void, pulling off one of Mr. Darcy’s wings on her way down.