Puts the Fun in Dysfunctional
Addon Developer
GFX Staff
Beta Tester
Aug 9, 2009
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It was not a sound that you heard.

At least, not one you noticed hearing, anyway. It was more the sort of insistent, pervasive sound you quickly accepted, pushed out of your mind, ignored. The throbbing of engine noise, constant dull rumbling through the deckplates. Air conditioning cycling spent air with a reasonably low-pitched thrumm noise. Any of these would have been a suitable candidate. It was the kind of sound you only noticed when it stopped, and then suddenly realised you'd been hearing it all this time and had just forgotten.

The sound had stopped. Jameson looked up, expectantly.

He was disappointed. Everything appeared exactly as it had appeared the last four times he had looked up from his book and scanned the small, sterile-looking white room he was perched uncomfortably in. To say he was cramped was to submit a candidacy for understatement of the millenium - Jameson was a healthy two metres tall, and the room he was currently occupying was at its tallest only two-thirds that. It curved around, forming a cylinder, but had a false floor placed within it, such that one had a flat surface to stand upon. Jameson had quickly discovered that this floor had removed yet more head clearance for him, and the nasty bruise now purpling on his forehead ensured he wouldn't soon forget it. Instead, he'd curled up in a sort of foetal position on the bunk set into one long wall, and found what would to any mere mortal been an excruciatingly dry read, but to Jameson was the height of contemporary literature to study.

He frowned, setting down "The Laws and Regulations of the Unified Star Foundation, Volume 3 (Fourth Edition, twelfth revision)" on the padded foam mattress beside him and tried to stretch his tortured muscles out without causing himself serious injury. This endeavour was mildly successful on both counts. With some effort, Jameson dropped carefully onto the carpeted deck with only a shuddering thud which resonated through his knees. Cursing, he struggled to his feet, taking care to stoop his back to avoid creating a friend for the dark welt running across his forehead. Again, he considered the escape pod, the sounds it usually made - was making still - and wondered what the noise he could no longer hear had been.

Across the capsule, set into the opposite wall from the bunk, was a sheer, smooth glass surface which traced the curve of the hull from the deck up to roughly head-height for the originally intended five-foot crew. It doubled as a window and the primary interface into what Jameson had originally expected to be a fairly advanced computer system, managing all the various systems and energy to afford him hospitable living conditions and maintain his vitality - or what most people would call "life support", because such things don't take anywhere near as long to say. Recent interaction with the computer had, however, educated Jameson somewhat. Compared to what he'd expected, the escape pod might have been controlled by a pocket calculator. He'd resolved to avoid trying to interact with it, if he could. It didn't even have voice control, just manual touch input across the tactile-free surface of the screen. Nevertheless, he needed it now, and the window came to life beneath his commanding fingers, light pulsing information to him as the window tinted accordingly to allow him to read it, rather than simply look through it at the pretty nothingness beyond it.

Space is, as the name suggests, mostly empty. Such it was that Jameson had managed to bob about in this ridiculous little capsule for weeks without anybody even noticing him. Without faster-than-light drive, his capsule had only managed to cover a paltry 2 AU - not even two hundred kilometres per second, and that was as fast as he'd been able to get the thing to go. Relatively speaking, he was still right next to the stricken ship from whence he'd launched, almost a month prior. But he was, after a fashion, alive, if a little cramped, and that alone reinforced the decision he'd made to clambour into this pressurised tube in the first place. And, like most people do when left alone in a solitary place for an extended period of time, he'd begun to talk to himself, almost without realising it. He remarked upon that, when he did first catch himself doing it, that it must be a failsafe, to keep himself sane, because of course with nobody to talk to for weeks at a time he'd just go nuts, and he wasn't nuts yet... was he? No! Ssshh.

A new sound had thus begun, though its origins were much less mysterious, and it contained significantly more profanity than the mechanical background noises surrounding him. Jameson squinted at the readout again, muttering to himself as he ran through the basic systems and ticked them off against his mental checklists - the sure sign of an orderly mind, mental checklists.
"Engines, right, fine, both green. Life support, green, humming still. Fusion reactor, green, plenty of fuel. So what stopped?" He checked the event log. He checked the status output. He checked every readout the primitive console would give him, twice, and still got no answer. He even - just for a laugh - checked the external proximity sensors. Nothing. Less than nothing. Everything was A-OK according to the calculator. Jameson swore. This was beginning to irritate him.

Among the ancient, proud, and mostly self-important race known as humans, there are widely held beliefs in those with extra-sensory capacities; that is, those who, with none of the usual tomfoolery of cybernetic implantation, could detect things using senses which exceeded the basic set afforded to most of the species. Of course, such people had been mostly disproven by biological studies over millenia, but still the tales and the superstition persisted in the minds of a great many of the population. Even as Man traversed the stars, that old sensation that something eldritch was possible never quite went away. Our friend Jameson, however, was of the simple and straightforward mindset that all this was meaningless tosh, and that the only way a person was ever going to be able to sense things like that was to jam a few thousand credits worth of computers in their head (pretending of course to read a digital acre of end-user license agreements and data-harvesting policies), and that was equally something that could Happen To Other People as far as Jameson was concerned.

All this did nothing, however, to prevent his mind racing as the hairs on the back of his neck prickled, and despite the comfortable ambient temperature, to stand on end. Jameson found himself feeling quite uncomfortable. Here he was, a corporal in the USF's pride fleet, hearing strange noises and letting his mind run away with wild notions of what might be causing them. Well, no, it was even worse than that; he wasn't hearing strange noises, and he was still letting his mind ra-

The capsule, which up until now, owing to some reasonably impressive and suitably complicated technology has remained internally as stable as the ground on a geologically "boring" planet, lurched violently to the port side. White lights snapped to red and an alarm began to wail as the calculator protested at this impromptu change of events. The aforementioned complicated system took a moment to catch up with the sudden external movement of the vehicle and was only just able to contain the intertia such that Jameson ended up back on the bunk, clutching at his head and wondering what he'd done with his previous lives to deserve this headache. Again the capsule rocked, violently to the other side, but Jameson was able to hold on to the bunk this time and grimly clung on for the worst of it. Such it was that he was able, finally, to glance back out of the window, which had indeed cleared back up to be a useful viewport.

Outside, the scene looked almost like it always did. There was the void, inky black, all-consuming, ever-present, as it had been all Jameson's life. There was a slight light bleed from the top edge of the window as the emitter strip for the terminal display couldn't quite fully disengage in window mode. But something was very different about the scene outside, and it took Jameson only a moment to realise.

All the stars had vanished.