The Valkyrie wakes, not with a gasp or a sigh, but in accustomed silence. Her eyes open slowly. A short command sequence directed to the program controlling her power cyclers and temperature regulation system starts the laborious process of accelerating her circulatory system from the torpor legato it has used to pass years by. It’s the price of survival.

The process of waking up from dormancy, from hibernation, is slow. It demands patience. Too fast and the shock of sudden change will damage the delicate machinery that construes her, controls her, gives her physical form. The Valkyrie closes her eyes and breathes out, the air that rushes past her lips is stale from months of sitting stagnant in her chest cavity. The cool inbreath is shocking, and her extremities twitch involuntarily in protest. It will take twenty breaths, each filling every hollow cavity inside her, to flush the suppressants from her system. Ten minutes to reach full functionality once again.

The release sensor to the hibernation pod is placed conveniently beside her left hand, on the lower seam. Her hinges creak as she initiates the sub-routines necessary to initiate movement. The extremities are always the worst, the first to cool after her central power cyclers slow their output down to a trickle and the last to benefit from the warmth of her power cyclers heating to optimal function. Her design is optimised for continuous functioning with little down time, she has few protections from the side-effects such prolonged stillness.

She hits the release with the back of her hand, more of an uncontrolled flail than anything else, but the release button isn’t designed for precision use so it responds with a faint mechanical grind as the locks disengage. All the Valkyrie has to do now is push, the pod opens outward, panels spreading like a blooming flower. But something stalls her, she hesitates.

What awaits, she wonders. It is a certainty that the world will be different, but how far has it changed, how long has she slept. The Valkyrie falls into stillness limbs freezing in place, leaving the clearing sub-routines to continue re-optimising her body for active duty once more. Slowly, she pulls the variables, the possibilities, flicking the analysis protocol together with practiced ease. She watches the data unspool and respool, logging trends and clusters, losing herself in the ebb-tide. It’s a subtle distraction, to focus on each little fragment in isolation. She will confront the full scope of her situation when the program has run its course.

Her internal decibel level falls as the clearing subroutine finishes and her systems settle back to standard operational levels. Time to regain full motion fluidity. The Valkyrie blinks to lubricate her eyes as she pushes the panels of the hibernation pod open, the dull safety lighting is too low for coloured vision but luminescent enough to allow successful obstacle avoidance. The hibernation pod was loaded onto a Sleeper Craft after she fell into dormancy, but they are all similar enough. Riveted metal panels, exposed bolts, strip lights in the floor, walls and ceiling – Sleeper’s are built for endurance not for any aesthetic merit. There will be a message left for her on the ship’s computer system, and more relevantly: the current date, time and location. Provided this craft is of the standard layout, the nearest terminal will be in the loading bay, not far from the long term storage when her pod is.

Locating the terminal and the appropriate hardline connection cable to download the data packets containing the information and orders left for her eventual awakening is straightforward. Decompressing and processing the data takes less than three coolant cycles to complete, which is mildly distressing. What little information she has sheds no light on what had triggered her awakening, and the ‘orders’ are simply to stay functional and await further instruction. Until the drift pulls the Sleeper close enough to a Lane Position to piggyback onto a satellite, the Valkyrie is running sense and data blind both. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, used as she is to working with vast stores of information at her disposal.

Her hardline into the ship’s network may give her access to all the basic positioning information she needs. But it doesn’t give her spinning neural networks anything to play with other than swirling possibilities: what could have changed, it’s been thirty-two years since her last field mission, how different is the world now. The Sleeper is a blank slate, apart from the necessary quality control testing, she is it’s only crew and it’s only passenger, this is its first voyage. There are no interesting backlogs, just a chain of drift vector calculations and refueling accounts. It is not ‘boredom’ as such, but an indeterminable fugue, waiting on new inputs. There is nothing to be done until she can update her knowledge banks. Her data logs from pre-dormancy are too familiar to provoke any sort of novelty, and now also potentially obsolete.

The Valkyrie sighs, there is very little to do while on a drift course to the next solar refuel. They are deep enough into the Boundaries that the likelihood of intersecting with another vessel’s drift vector is prohibitively low. She cannot go back into dormancy for another nine solar weeks lest she compromise her functionality. All of her components need to be properly heated, used and cooled enough times to ensure continued efficiency. Maintenance routines are, sadly, lacking in any entertainment value. Deep cleaning and relubricating all her components is delicate work, but she was designed to survive long field missions without access to the Saartor Engineers so her limbs are designed with full 360 degree rotation. They had loaded a full repair kit onto the Sleeper with her and even some of the extra equipment she would usually have access to in the field, so the whole maintenance routine goes quickly.

It was far nicer to wake up, prepare, fight, repair and then sleep again. Simultaneously processing incoming feeds internally while completing external tasks is what she was built for. The lack of oncoming anything is unsettling.

*Warning. Unknown space vessel detected.* *Warning. Unknown space vessel detected.*

Company would certain alleviate any boredom, and this unfamiliar space vessel would surely to bring new data for her algorithms to manipulate. If nothing else, any vessel purposefully traversing the Boundaries would have a frequency booster strong enough to keep in touch with the regular update broadcasts. Valkyrie could find out from the inhabitants what became of the war, and her fellows.