The blinking red light pierces my unconsciousness, dragging me to a wakeful state. Sort of. It’s pitch black except for the crimson glow of a tiny point of light. My head is packed with cotton and pain. The thought comes unbidden that I’ve been sober for a decade; why am I having a hangover now?
I try to think back to my last memory but it’s a blur. I took a sleeping aid, I remember that much. But I don’t take sleeping pills. And where’s my wife?
My wife? Two streams of thought compete for my attention. While he looks for his wife, my thoughts are telling me that I’m female. I was supposed to be travelling in a sleeper car; the drug and the unconsciousness were so I wouldn’t get motion sickness.
There are a number of groans around me. I sit up, instinctively ducking so my head won’t strike the upper bunk. It’s still pitch black, but there are about a dozen red lights blinking. A bare wisp of smoke drifts through the air and I can hear the engine winding down.
Luckily I’m aware enough to know that there’s an intercom at the end of the row of bunks. I stumble a bit, unused to walking in a man’s body. And I’m definitely a man; a quick hand-check confirmed that. Women don’t have those. The floor is cold underfoot and I can hear the others stirring.
The intercom was designed for use by someone with thinner fingers than me, but it’s generic enough for me to use it. I push the signal button and start talking.
“Hello, is someone there?”
The machine emits an ear-piercing screech, then a burst of static and a voice. A female voice.
“Go ahead Unit 23.”
“Unit 23? My name is… Robert. My name is Robert.”
“Robert? Robert Downey Junior?”
That sounds right. “I think so. Yes, I’m Robert Downey Junior. Robert Downey Senior couldn’t be here today.”
“What’s your number, Robert?”
“My number? I don’t have a number. No, wait, it’s on the tip of my tongue. It’s… something. It’s seventeen. Twenty-three seventeen.”
My voice interrupts me. “What’s going on, Robert?”
“I don’t know. I’m trying to find out.”
“Let me know when you know.”
Another voice, also mine, speaks up. “Me too.”
“Okay! Will you all stop interrupting now? I need to get an answer.” I turn back to the intercom, “So, sweetness, can you fill me in on what’s going on here because all of me are confused.”
“You woke up early; there was an electrical fire in Unit 22. We won’t reach Earthspace for about three more hours, but it’s not worthwhile to put you all back in hibernation. You should find your inner garments and put them on. I understand humans don’t generally socialize unclothed.”
Things are finally becoming clear. Now I remember the armoury – over three thousand suits of red and gold armour, specifically sized for this human form. The invasion will be glorious.