The pilot sits integrated into a chair behind an operating console in a compartment with no windows or any natural view that would prove an outside world actually exists. A massive, concave video monitor dominates the pilot’s view from top to bottom and side to side. The pilot has been driving this vessel now for sixteen years, and has yet to consider itself more than a novice.
To complete its interaction with the “outside world”, the vessel’s compartment includes surround sound, olfactory venting, sensory inputs with conscious connectors, and a “learning” computer capable of decoding emotional triggers and prompting the appropriate responses. The pilot maneuvers the vessel using an omnidirectional joystick operated solely by telepathic energy.
Navigating the vessel through years of unknown terrain, the pilot recorded a journal of its observations complimented by an ever-unraveling array of sensory input. It learned that its vessel is a “he”, and it concluded that, as the pilot, it must also be a “he”. As waves of information continuously wash over him, his computer aggregates the data, while he tries his best to evaluate its source, validity and usefulness.
“Hey.” His background processing is abruptly stopped by a single word that fills his compartment with the intensity of a Beethoven symphony. The dual external camera lenses of another vessel are approaching quickly. He panics slightly, as his video monitor fills with the rising suns of two brown and beautiful eyes luring him to escape from his compartment; the eyes of a “she”.
These two vessels have come to travel together intermittently over the past several months, contributing to each other’s completion of self, a journey they began to realize would never end. But now, on this supposedly sun drenched summer afternoon, her lips move halfway to his, and his to hers, and his learning computer maxes out at 100%.
That night, as he recharges his vessel and replays the experience from earlier, his consciousness once again derails to that dark place; that recurring thought that troubles him so. What if his vessel is the only one? What if all of the sensory, audio, visual, emotional and motion inputs are simply generated by… something else?
But this time, he is not quite alone. A rope is lowered into the dark place. He grabs it, and climbs. Though the cold grip of isolation pulls back at him, he ascends higher and higher, out of the cave and back into the light. And there, holding the other end of the rope, he sees it once again… his first kiss.