Out There

This is a story I wrote in response to a little competition, (no prizes, just creativity) my friend ran on his FB wall.  Although it is set in the Mission universe, it stands alone and isn’t related to any story-lines currently going on.

Out There

Noises like rarely bode well.  I was used to the creaking of the craft by now, but that shearing sound sent a shiver down my spine.  The essential urgency of it striking fear into me.

I was used to noises off by now, some clank as a ship’s system broke down and it halfheartedly attempted to fix it.  Most of its mind was gone, and a lot of the ship’s avatars roamed around aimlessly, corrupted by the sudden death of their Mind.  The few that were more or less fully operational strode purposefully through the ship, repairing and jury-rigging what was left.  Their stated aim; to keep me and the baby alive, the only living beings out of a ship of maybe a million people.  I knew that noise.  The shearers were back.

I’ve made a few stupid decisions in my life; rock climbing without a harness, that lava flow boat trip, Rick.  Now, now I was here listening to the shearer decimating the boat again, I knew that the number one stupidest decision I ever made was to give birth naturally.  No nanobots looking after us, feeding and repairing our bodily systems, no delaying the birth for sometime convenient, no pain relief – oh how I regretted that the first time the shearers came!

That noise.  It’s like listening to paper tearing, or the thin tin of an aluminium can.  It signals that another bit of the ship has been lost, and probably some avatars with it.  I’m hoping that it isn’t the last of the propulsion, looks like I’m giving birth out here any how, but to raise a child!  No.

I don’t know WHY this is happening, so I have no power to stop it.  Any kind of communications technology is like a beacon once activated, if we act a like a piece of debris, we pretty much get left alone.  I had to look out the window to see that we were going anywhere, great chunks of the massive craft floating nearby with a cloud of bodies spreading oh so slowly away.  Rick.  I could have just generated the pregnancy, but oh no I had to have the “whole woman experience”.  Can’t change back now.

Something is happening, I know it when three of the smarter avatars grab me, one hand behind my neck hands in my back, and we’re running a lot faster than I could possibly manage alone, they slam a bulkhead behind us impossibly fast, and we hear the shearing next to us, where I was standing.

That was the last control room, we’re boxed in now, and effectively debris, like it or not.  There’s no propulsion at all, and finally, the gravity cuts out.  I have never experienced null-gee and I am horribly sick. I feel the baby kick me in distress, and for a while I curl up and leave the universe.

___

When I wake up the avatars have cleaned up, but none of them say anything, they just stand and watch.  I ask for some water, and this request in instantly granted, but again silently.  I’m inquire about this and they spread their hands helplessly.  I’m not sure what it means, but they seem to understand without being able to communicate.  They are the most advanced ones, all I can is wonder what has happened to them.

I realise, by look out of the window again that we are drifting away from the rest of the debris.  It takes a long time, but some open space appears between us and the rest, we’re not surrounded by the bloated frozen bodies of the other passengers and crew.  I feel a sense of relief at this, looking at the macabre display day after day was making me crazy, as if having no-one to talk to wasn’t making me crazy enough.

The avatars float around doing things, food isn’t a problem, keeping it down is.  I realise that one of them is spending a great deal of time out of the quarters, and after a while, a matter of a few weeks, the lost bulkhead opens.  There is a song and dance by the avatars, something about the ship, but I don’t understand it.  Baby is close now, and my thoughts are turning inward.  I have spent a lot of time crying, wondering about our future, but this, stepping out into the slight gravity and seeing the stars spin, it is astonishing.

They have built a new environment from the remains of the ship.  It is large, I realise that the rotation is entirely for my benefit.  We get to the edge of the drug down ladders that seem redundant at first, then essential, then precipitous.  We’re at three-quarters of normal and after weeks of null-gee it’s both painful and welcome.  There are living quarters quite as luxurious as the ones on board the main ship, a birthing pool and everything we will need.  It’s all ready.  There are also plenty of strange packages attached the walls, I see what is happening with these the first time there is a breach.  They have some sticky, expanding substance in them that plugs holes.  It saves our lives more than once.

There is a day before my due date and I have already taken the decision than inducing the birth is far better than waiting for some arbitrary time and having the shearers come back in the middle of birthing.  The avatars agree, obviously, because they get the drugs ready.

The birth is terrible and bliss.  I know I tore mightily, but I was drugged hugely and my daughter, she came out of me with a huge head, which the avatars laid upon my breast with a strange tenderness.  She fed immediately, while they did things to me that I couldn’t, thankfully, see, and repaired me with the utmost sensitivity.

She was wonderful, wonderful.  A miracle out here in deep space, with our enemies just a few kilometers away, and the raw cold of space on the other side of a thin skin of fabric and metal.

I thought I was still drugged up pretty well, because after a while they came and tidied her up, weighed her and calculated instantly her mass, checked her fingers and toes, scanned her for the so many things that can go wrong in natural childbirth.  She grew tired of their attentions after a while, I know it.

I know it because she made a noise, an noise unfamiliar now to me from our months of isolation, and she made it from her position just next to me, riding on nothing, supported by nothing, just floating serenely.

She made a noise I knew wouldn’t bode well, for anyone.

“Hello mother, what have you gotten yourself into?”

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