A wild blast of a grandiose trumpet fanfare began, but was immediately cut short as the boss hit snooze to silence it. He sat up wearily, wondering yet again whether it was worth fighting Alli to try change his alarm from the official state fanfare to something more light. He didn’t have much time to ponder, as his bed rotated up and slid back into the wall, politely pushing him into a standing up position. Suddenly this this morning’s chart of sleep biometrics popped up in a floating window in front of him. Unconcerned with the trend of his average sleep cycles, the Boss dismissed it immediately, “I never should’ve signed up for that damn thing. Alli?”
“Good morning,” Alli appeared immediately when called. Their camera activating on the panel right next to the bed. Alli scanned the Boss up and down, “How are you my Lord?”
He sighed, he’d never been able to get Alli to call him anything more casual than that. “Can you cancel my subscription to that sleep tracking thing, I never look at it,” he turned to open the wardrobe, to see what today’s outfit was.
“I’m afraid I can’t read your emails my Lord,” Alli paused for a moment, “But that data does seem valuable, you have been sleeping less.”
“Never mind, never mind,” he said dismissively as he took out his royal garb from the otherwise empty closet, “Do you have my morning report ready?”
“This early? Shouldn’t you-”
“Yes, this early,” he replied sternly, pulling on his plush robes. He finished dressing by taking the Neural Crown from its plinth and placing it on his head. He could see the gems light up in the mirror as they turned on. Despite Alli’s best efforts, they’d been unable to explain to him what the Neural Crown was, just that it was very important. “Spit it out Alli, I can already tell it’s bad news.”
“No new planets have appeared that could be studied. Our projections expect that we’ll come across a new galaxy to investigate in 6–8 weeks.”
The Boss stood with arms folded, waiting for the real news. His poor posture and weary eyes gave away how obtusely he slotted into his role. But with no other people around, he found it hard to be concerned about appearances and lordliness.
“All planets under surveillance have been confirmed as nonviable. There’s nothing for us in this section of the galaxy.”
The boss silently went out the door. It was one thing to anticipate the news, but a whole other thing to actually confront it. He walked down the long grand halls of of the Alabaster Palace. It was an impressive sight, to anybody else. He internally grumbled as he continued along the long stretch of hallway he had to navigate. Realistically, he could easily get around much faster with the pneumatic elevator, but why bother? He was never in a rush to go anywhere.
“My Lord,” Alli’s voice projected out of the loudspeakers in the hall. It was all set up to be impressive, and even oppressive. Alli as his right hand, declaring proclamations and communicating his will to the people. Instead, they were a nuisance. A reminder that the boss was unfortunately not quite alone.
“Where are you going?” Alli continued, “This isn’t your schedule.”
He turned a corner, entering one of the great halls. Was this the ballroom? Every room had its prescribed purpose, but really there were all just big rooms. Whatever this one was, it had the huge open view of space. At one side of the room you could look forward to where the ship was currently headed, and the other side let you look back over where you had been before. He could recognise every planet in the big black canvas, he used to love staring out at the one thing that was truly changing each day.
He doesn’t stop to look out, lately it’s been just dragging on him. Before he started on the expedition, he looked up at the stars with bright young eyes, hungry to visit them all. Then he learned how similar all those stars really were.
Leaving the ballroom, he entered the central grand hall and mounted the steps. These were the only stairs in the whole station, everywhere else was reached by elevator instead. He climbed up between the marble columns, engraved with previous lords, and crests that boasted their exploits. They all looked down on the boss as he climbed, staying focused on the tall silver doors at the top of the steps.
They towered over him as he finally arrived, placing a hand on each. Almost imperceptibly, lines of light flashed out from where his hands touched the doors. Spreading like a wave, until they hit all the hinges and slowly swung open to the touch of the Lord of house Luna: Boss of the Bowrain sector.
He retracted his hands as soon as he saw the doors swing away. Whenever he opened them, he felt a swell of pride in his position. It made him nervous. Alli insisted that it was not artificially induced in him, but he knew there was nothing else that could dispel his true feelings.
The lights of the room turned on, humming. All of them were on the floor, angled up and towards the throne at the back of the room. Walking towards it, the Boss was thankful the throne itself did not exert any will over him. The throne was his main seat of power, his central point of control, where he could decide his will to impose upon others.
If there were any others.
He turned and sat in the chair, sitting upright and with his head held high for just a moment for slumping back down. He felt comfortable in the throne, but he couldn’t pretend it was any more than that.
“Sir, I’m not-” Alli began again, their throne room speakers much less imposing than before. But they didn’t get to finish as the boss immediately flipped a switch to revert Alli to standby and started the silver doors slowly closing. Sometimes he almost felt bad about it, when he slipped into thinking of Alli as a person rather than an AI.
The lights cast a large imposing shadow on the wall. Even with the boss slumped over in uncertain thought, his shadow stretched up onto the ceiling over the rest of the room. He brought up a holographic display, accessing his personal account.
He reread the response to his latest annual report. He’d gotten it weeks ago, but still kept returning to read it again and again. He was surprised to get a response at all, given that his previous ones had been received without any ceremony. Now, he realised he preferred that. The response was simply
Good job. Keep going.
The boss read it, looked out to the sides at the much smaller view of the stars he had from this throne, and then read it again. He would sigh, but he didn’t see the point. Instead he closed the display and sat in his throne. He didn’t get up. He just stayed there.
And kept going.