Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pieced Together

"So, you're telling me that I'm not really who, what, I think I am?" Roman's voice was deceptively calm. Inside he was falling, and there was no bottom under him.
"You are all that remains of Roman Smith." Barbara winced. She was not very good at this. Any one of a dozen of her characters could do this with more empathy, more humanity than she was... Sigh. "You have most, not all, of his memories, in a new body. His soul? Ask a priest. I deal in information and data, in knowledge, ideas and ideals." Barbara stopped digging herself into a hole and reached out, cupped his chin in her hand and lifted his face so that he met her eyes.
"There was a man named Roman Smith, and he knew how to live. Had a full life and then, for all intents and purposes, he died. But he made a leap of faith; he bet on the future, he bet on the Human race, besides-"
"But you all could have been some alien scavengers-"
"We aren't and I think that you know that only other humans would have bothered with-"
"Gee, thanks for the pep-talk!"
"I suck at this, don't I? Look, I see before me a man who thought he was Roman Smith; now that he thinks he isn't, he needs to decide who he really is."
"Thinks he isn't?"
"I believe that you're Roman, even if you don't. Who you are is who you've been, plus the new choices which you make. This 'Roman Smith' is the child of that man."
"I can't decide if you're insane, or I am." Roman said slowly.
"To be, or not to be, sane, that is the question, isn't it?"
"Crazy or not, I definitely want to do this," Roman said. He stood up and took her into his arms. They kissed rather awkwardly, but with feeling.
"You know, this just complicates everything," Barbara murmured.
"I've decided that I like complications. They make life so much more interesting..."
In the time in which Roman had lived, Humanity had made First Contact with a mere handful of species, only one of them spacefaring, and aliens were a rare sight. This one was vaguely insect-like, chattering and clicking its noise-making claw-tips like a castanet. Davie, little Davie, snapped his fingers, keeping time to a song which only he and the alien could hear.
"I’ll be damned," Roman exclaimed. "They’re talking to each other!"
"Do you really think so?" Barbara asked.
"They’re communicating, that’s what they’re doing. At the very least they are acknowledging each other…"
"Well, of course they would," Dr. Peterson murmured, and Roman turned to look her way. She had a rather curious expression; happy and yet sad.
"Is there something wrong?"
"Well, just that there are no others of its kind to speak its language. I thought that we’d get developmental problems."
"It’s a child?" Roman stared at the 100 kilo youngster.
"It’s… a Bigbee." Again, she had that happy-sad expression. "You might say that she’s your foster-sister."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Another bit of 'BWT'

"There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays..." Barbara sang.
"And every one of them are right!" her brother Val responded. "Are we writing poetry today?" He flopped in a big old comfortable hammock slung in one corner of her bunkroom and office.
"Kip-pull-ling, at any rate... I'm stuck, I'm bored, and neither the data nor the information make any kind of sense," she complained.
"Alright, so the data and the info aren't quite the same thing, but still, what did they ever do to you?" Diana asked, breaking into the conversation. She stole a kiss from Val, and between them passed, wordlessly, a question. She evidently liked the answer and joined him in the hammock.
"Uh, get a room? Working here-" They stuck their tongues out at her. "Now that's just childish... Uh, the data is corrupted and suspect. The information, in this case, is hearsay, so, not really data or 'info', per se."
"I can understand, as a Historian and an Archivist, why you don't like all that, but, really, it's over seven hundred years old; what did you expect?"
Barbara shrugged. "The corrupted data was recovered from the Bigbees, a Leviathin that the Shadow Fleet took down fifty-some years after Aurora. I blame our people for the corruption; whoever was collecting intel should have been more diligent-"
"There was a war going on," Val pointed out.
Val and Diana looked at each other and laughed. Then they settled back again, spooned in the hammock, gently swinging. Diana closed her eyes and relaxed.
"So what was the hearsay?" Val asked.
"Legend, myth, that's all. Just that the Auroran Sky Guard rescued some insectoid aliens, before Aurora was attacked."
"Why haven't I ever heard of this?" Diana asked, opening her eyes again and half sitting up.
"Things were very chaotic, back then. The first offensive hit one other outworld on the way in from Aurora to Sol, but the Bigbees were all over us before we really even knew what was happening. We didn't take any living prisoners right away because they had all the advantages, and, well, a lot of people were just plain in a killing mood. Probably the reason they're the 'Big Bad', Bigbee, Aliens, and not the Bugs; we didn't know much about the enemy at first. Didn't even know what they looked like, on the 'Nineteenth of Nevermore'."

Monday, June 27, 2011

Roman Smith, 29th Century Time Traveler

Roman Smith was an orphan; he was a lot of things, by turns. A survivor and scavenger, a street-rat that nobody else wanted, not for legitimate purposes. Then a soldier, a construction worker, a teacher, and at various times along the way, a friend, an enemy and a lover. He was no stranger to time-travel; he passed through over a hundred years of it at sixty seconds per minute to get to Aurora.
Without being aware of it, he'd been present, in the same habitat where the star-drive was first conceived and proved out, and later he'd helped to build 'Centauri Dream'. He was there for the beginning of the First Interstellar Age, and he hung around, almost, until the beginning of the end of it, at Aurora.
An anti-terraforming terrorist monkey-wrench killed him 'mostly-dead' three days before the Bigbee attack, and he was 'mostly-dead' for seven and a half centuries.
"You adopted each other?" The med tech sounded so dubious of this that Roth turned away from the sight of his brother, Roman, to the man behind him. This was a twenty-something, perhaps; it was getting hard to be sure of visual cues with respect to age. Case in point, he and Roman were nearly a century older and didn't especially look it.
"We did that sort of thing, back in the Thirties. Just a gang of street-rats that nobody wanted... we were father and mother, sister and brother, to each other; Sarah Jane, Albie, Mechee-" Roth tried to remember each of their bakers' dozen names and could not. Sigh. So long ago... "He and I, and Sarah, are all that are left, now."
From the carefully neutral expression on the Med Tech's face, it was obvious that he didn't understand or really care. Roth felt anger at that; We lived, damn it! We really lived! When it would have been so much easier to just give up, to lay down and die. This kid... they had been his age, once, and thinking back on those days, he remembered that, no, they hadn't really cared what old people had thought or done, either.
"Thank you, son, I'll just sit here with my brother for a bit." Roth looked back to the very still form, willed it to keep on breathing. "It will be the first time in decades that I will be able to say what I want to him..."
"What do you want to say?"
Roth looked up and felt suddenly as if he could fly. The Med Tech frankly stared at the idiotic smile on that old fossil, and the old woman, her red hair peppered with white. He took in the dark jade eyes, the laugh lines, and he blinked. She was old, but she was beautiful. She-
She imperiously swept him out of the room with a gesture, and he obey automatically.
"Sarah Jane." Sarah, from the Hebrew word for princess, and she had been that, their princess. Sarah Jane for a character from a series that Albie, Albert, the oldest of them, had known and loved.
"Somehow, I doubt that's what you want to say," she said, smiling. She came around the bed and kissed him.
"I'd tell him that he's still my brother, and we love him, even if he never could get along with my wife and her people..."
"Roman was stubborn and prone to judging people harshly." Sarah saw that Roth was staring at her. "No, I've talked with his doctors, spoken with the the Terraforming Authority. He signed off on the n-stasis procedure-"
"He's not dead, yet!"
"We can't fix what needs to be fixed," Sarah Jane said as gently as she could. "His brain... nerve tissue is the biggest wild-card, and we still can't regrow it, not in a matrix that is still... 'him'. Do you understand?"
Roth nodded.
"Give them another decade, brother. Give them a little time..."
The process made the organic bits of him inert, which is good. No machine, no thing of Man, survived the attack, nor the long centuries when nothing that was exactly human walked on Aurora. Roman Smith's body lay waiting under rock and tonnes of soil.
Much later-

When Roman woke up, he was in a small room with two other people who were busy with each other. He cleared his throat and the man, scarred, wearing an eye-patch like a pirate, looked over to him and winked. "Well, Doc, I think you've got another customer."
"Later, Val." The two parted reluctantly, hands with fingers entwined. The woman sighed, and visibly put on her game face as she turned to Roman.
"Lady, who the hell are you, and where the hell am I?" Roman demanded. He sounded peevish and weak, in his own ears.
"I'm a doctor. Your doctor. Dr. Diana Peterson."
"Doctors make out with their boyfriends in the ICU? What century is this?"
"The late 29th, Mr. Smith. My medical bay, my rules."
"Twenty-ninth?" Roman lay back, deflated, defeated. "Well, I suppose- you speak with some kind of accent, one I've never heard before."
"No I don't," Dr. Peterson retorted, annoyed. "I speak old Teklish just fine; the Wednesdays use it all the time, learned it off of the 2-D media they like to watch."
Roman blinked. Maybe that was it; all the different accents run together. He heard Aussie and Brit, Middle American, Jive and Surfer Slang, all in passing. And he had to admit, he now defaulted to Auroran English, which was idiosyncratic, to say the least. But what was Teklish?
"Alrightee then, Doctor. Where am I?"
"In Columbia, on Aurora-"
"Columbia is a ship? Why aren't I in a hospital?!" He sat up again. He was having trouble focusing. What had she said, about the century?
"There aren't any, Mr. Smith. There haven't been any for about seven hundred years..." She was watching him and helped him to lay back. "There. It's a lot to take in, and I've been called on my bed-side manner many times, but I prefer to be blunt and honest with my patients. Even use a clue-by-four, on the occasion."
"What- what happened?"
"The Bigbees happened, Mr.-"
"Call me Roman, please. My friends all do..." Roman realized that they must all be dead, every one. Everyone. He felt her hand on his cheek, and looked up.
"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Roman. Welcome to the 29th Century."
A plump and pleasant woman joined them in the medical bay a little while after that. She ran in, a little flushed and out of breath. She visibly made herself slow down and worked on her breathing. She smiled at Roman and called, "Hello, Diana!" to where the Doc was peering at the screens and cylinders of some medical device with which Roman was sharing medbay space.
"I thought you'd be here sooner..."
"Well, you know, I was making headway on that other thing..." she said somewhat mysteriously. It set the hook on Roman's curiosity.
"And eventually you actually read my note?"
"Yeah," the woman said, pinking a little in embarrassment. She was of medium complexion, and of a height with Dr. Peterson, just 30 kilos heavier. Her hair was short, wavy, even a little curly, and she wore what the Doc had described as ship's knits, a sort of green denim coverall with plenty of pockets, tool loops and straps. The same sort of thing as he had changed into when he'd asked for street-clothes. The Doc herself wore open-toed sandals and a blouse with capris cargo pants in a pink camo pattern under her white doctors' coat, like something out of a Hollywood movie, Roman thought.
Dr. Peterson left off with her other charge and made introductions. "Mr. Smith, meet Ms. Barbara Wednesday. Barb, meet Mr. Roman Smith, late of Aurora, born in St. Louis, MO, American Empire, June 29-"
Roman cleared his throat. "Actually, the United States of America, ma'am. I'm an American citizen, first and last; it's a state of mind." He looked at both women, who seemed a little baffled by his words. "Look, I know Uncle Sugar wasn't well-liked, as the worlds' 'last super power', and we came to a bad end, but... could you humor me, please?"
He found that there was a slightly hungry look in Barbara's eyes, as she took his hand and shook it. "Pleased to meet 'cha," she told him, and Roman felt like maybe he'd stepped into that old movie. He took all of this in with an unnatural calmness, as if he really were in a celluloid dream; call it 'The Sleeper Awakes', perhaps. Roman watched Barb and her light brown eyes. She had a wrinkle in her forehead when she concentrated, which she was doing right now, and a warm and ready smile.
Now that he thought about it, it was the same smile as on the man with the eye-patch. They shared a certain look; the complexion, the dark, wavy, curly hair. Diana of the cold, light blue eyes and dirty-blond hair was not part of a matched set.
"Was that your brother I met earlier?" He asked.
Barb looked to Diana, who smiled, a strange mix of embarrassed contentment. "I suppose so; eye-patch, right?"
"He's getting a new eye. He'll be back to two, soon, and have to give up his favorite prop."
"Playing pirate, is he?"
"Who's playing?" Diana retorted, and left them alone.

Found Objects in my Fiction

(an old-fashioned Space-Born journal written in three different hands)

Roman came back to medbay alone, and found that Dr. Peterson was elsewhere. The small bound volume he had seen her reading lay on her desk and he picked it up, thinking it was an old book. It was; an old hand-made, hand-written book of poetry. He put it down immediately and backed away from the thing as if it were a snake, and it was; the serpent from the garden, tempting him to taste of the tree of knowledge.
Curiousity had always been his weakness.
He edged up to the thing and touched the soft, spirilina-cloth cover, green shot with orange, red and yellow, like little flames. He picked it up again and read.
It was a journal full of verse, and was written by at least three different people. One he recognized as the Doc's hand writing. She had a strong hand, feminine yet business-like, stern. A clownish hand had scribbled the first third or half of the poems, some few of them attributed, 'tradititional' and other names he did not recognize. The others. presumably, were original to the journalist. They were all about space and ships, in Teklish, so he did not follow some of it, but it was the tears and dragons' teeth of a people who would not give in. He knew their breed, of old.
There was a fourth hand, stating a date, a death- of 'Uncle Roark', who had 'made the trip home'. It was signed Louis Armstrong Wednesday III.
A child's hand had written poems then, childish verse about heroes, hopes, forlorn feats. It was truly bad, and then got better, line by line, verse by verse.
A few dozen pages on, it had stopped, after a poem called 'Faces, Voices'. The child had become a man and the man had become a killer. Not a murderer; a solver of problems, an ender of threats. The old soldier in him ached at that pain.
The next poem was in the Doc's hand-writing. Roman read the first two lines and closed the volume, ashamed of himself for intruding into this private thing between two lovers. He set the journal down as he'd found it and turned to face Valentine Saint Wednesday. The two men stood there for long seconds before Val reached past to pick up the book.
"Good reading?"
"Varied and, in parts, raw."
"Ships' manners are all about keeping us from killing each other inside a pressure vessel. Sometimes we see the same faces for decades on end."
"I am truly sorry."
"But you would do the same thing again; better yet, not get caught doing it?"
Roman considered his words with care and decided to nod, instead.
"Good answer." Val tossed him the book. "Read it, if you will; all of it. I'll square it with Diana. She's good, at least I think so. And my Great Uncle Roark knew what was important. That'll serve you well, I expect."

Between Worlds (Tradtional)

The song lingers long and long, but this, everlasting, when the notes do fade-
Carbon and steel and hearts' blood, of these starships and space-born are made.
From the hearts of dead stars to the space in between, are they bound.
Where reason and logic desert us in favor of a belief, which we have found.
Our ship, our crew, our passengers; the journey, the mission and the duty.
Everything is in this little world between worlds, and no room for pity.

Old Bamboo Glades (The Man)

The restless shrubs of this world,
Clack together like old bamboo glades.
They grow up strong and limber,
In purple with rich red accents.
The blue-green fronds, when bruised,
Scent the air with cinnamon and honey.

Upon the Sand (Doc)

The Man in Black is at it again;
His blade flashes in the morning sun,
As he and his opponent dance;
A dance of Art and of Science;
A dance of Life and Death, upon the sand.

The sword-point dazzles the watching eye,
And the sharp, sharp, blade parts the air,
Singing of oxygen and carbon and iron;
Singing of the dead hearts of dead suns;
Singing of the red-stuff it spills, upon the sand.

'The 19th of Nevermore'

(I'm calling the event 'The 19th of Nevermore', and there's probably a folk-ballad or three in that)

"There is a message from that time... he was either the last Prime Minister of the Solar Commonwealth or the first President of the Shadow Federation; before the 19th, he was Minister of Energy." Barbara keyed up the audio and Roman heard the words for the first time, the ones all space-born kids knew by heart.
"I have..." Roman remembered how Churchill had flubbed a line in one of his war-time speeches and gone on; 'but it must be remembered' in 'blood, toil, tears and sweat'.
"The homeworld of Mankind has been attacked by the enemy, and has fallen. There is little hope of survivors. The automated defenses in the Moon are still firing, but that rock is taking a terrific beating, and Earth, herself... is broiling under in-falling bollides from heavy impacts. There may be some... few, in deep shelters, but they are beyond our aid. I have therefore... withdrawn our remaining forces and ordered their dispersal." The voice paused again and swallowed nervously. Roman understood that he had just condemned thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, to ensure that some military force survived. By running away. That would haunt a man till the day he died.
"This is a bitter day, and these are bitter words. I call on all who hear this to bear the unbearable, to survive, to persist, even after the end of 'all we have known and loved.' We are all that is left of our planet and of our species. The enemy is afraid of us, is destroying all that they can. There is no victory, for them, if they should fail in that mission. But there is, for us, some bittersweet victory if we should succeed; drop by drop of blood, survivor by survivor of this apocalypse... Let us now therefore save what we can, let us, now, leave talk of loss and of revenge for another day. Survive! Please, because... you must."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

5K of 50,000 Words... Sigh!

Why do I keep doing this to myself? 8-P

The Wednesdays should rest easy, I have no doubt that I'm gonna tell their story, especially after I threw everything in that I love, from old movies to SF, heart and blood, carbon and steel... I had a 'Buck Rogers' character from ACAD that I'm going to retread as a sleeper who awakes in the 29th Century (yeah he's four centuries late for the 25th C, but trust me, he definitely wanted to skip The Hiding).

Just about the most obvious thing is that I've got a romantic plot lined up between the 'Old Man' and the historian, but I can at least try to be subtle... yeah, right! Val and Diana, Susan and Louis, Junior and Sally; maybe I shouldn't. But I expect I will.

I'm trying for different types of characters, the family constellation thing. Daughters-in-law are contrasted with Mom, with Sally being the least like the Captain, and Diana being, uh, more of a free agent, yeah... I'm liking Diana a lot, but I'm little concerned that I'm writing a Cylon-Babe, what my Buddy Pete said about the female Cylons being fantasy women. We'll see. The Doc is in, and she can handle herself in a fight, too.

More troubling is painting Barbara in a corner, or puting her in a Kaylee-shaped box (sparkly, 'Kaylee's Box' 8-). And Val is too much of a Ranger, can't seem to get away from that sort of thing- not a bad thing?

Junior is the least sympathetic and most one-dimensional, so I'm going to make him 'pop' at some point, round, surprising, father/mother authority figure redeemed and reaffirmed. I've been thinking about Birth Order and family Constellations as a suggestion only, not the rule. Especially things like two twins, who attempt to establish their seperate identities. Do twins who try to match, identically, do so because there is some external 'push' to do so, or closeness?

Two babies of the family, Barbara and her nephew Davie, who identify w/ each other strongly, but are different. And of course, families have a personality of their own, as well. Heavily influences BWT; my current Anime 'find' of the year, may be as 'classic' as 'Casablanca' or The Bride! 8-P

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ruminations and Recriminations

They are really going to phase out the shuttle... it has turned out to be a costly sidetrack, forcing us to endlessly circle the Earth instead of trying for the Near Earth Asteroids. I still feel like a childhood pet has died...
The shuttle was never what it was advertised to be. We will have spaceplanes, and 'space trucks', but the shuttle was a magnificent kludge, a billion-dollar a launch flying-brick. Smaller, cheaper and more frequent launches would have brought us so much further than we have come in my lifetime. Scoff, in this age of apps and robots, of smaller, more sustainable dreams. We've thrown away a generation of development, when we could now be so much closer to developing the wealth of the solar system; to moving all the dirty, high-density energy sectors of our global economy off of the planet and out of our lifesystem.
Instead of habitats, cities on the Moon, we have New Trek, Syfy, and, all too briefly, Firefly.
Mom and I went to Jo Ann Fabs for their Firefly sale... yeah, do I even have to say anything? 8-P
We went to dinner at the Chinese Buffet, JAF and a gift card. All more than I can do for Dad, this Dad's Day WE; just mow the grass and take him to brunch on Sunday, if he's feeling up to it. He's doing better, but...
He won't go to the movies with me these past past few years, can't sit still through a movie, and despite the couches by the ramp at Evil People's, but I got 'The Kings' Speech' and he may watch it. 'Fiddler on the Roof' will be brought out and put in the DVD player; we're Scots-Irish, red-neck, NASCAR-types, but the problems of a little-big man who talks to God and loves his wife and family, even though they drive him crazy and vice versa- he likes that one, and so do I!
I told Mom about the baby bunny and he's up as my laptop BG for now- cute beat out sexy Revy in merely one day, all power and glory to the Cuteness... (now it's the yawning tiger cub! 8-)
I had an idea or two while camped out in the sewing machines, looking over the $400 Singers and Joss knows how pricey Husqvarnas- a survivor who misses his Husqie Viking Designer Diamond or Sapphire. Too heavy to lug around in the Z-pocalypse... but certain 'Home-Economics' skills will come back into demand after a bit. Threading a needle, making cloth and paper...
Also, a bit of fanfic about Kaylee's Mama and the teddy bear on her cover-alls. Was that a gift, or did Kaylee use skills learned from her mother (the assumption, for me, has always been that she learned her ships from her Daddy, but what if I'm totally wrong, or we had a role-reversal?).
Daddies' Day- a Firefly fanfic
I'm roughing out 'The Adventure of the Day-Glow Orange Cattle', which belongs in BWT.

I wish I'd known about the 1KyrGD challenge sooner! It's all about the next classic game, like chess or poker, a game that people will still be playing a thousand years from now...
Write about the games they play on starships during 'The Hiding', and the new/old ones they play on the worlds of the Human Expansion- Baseball, Basketball, Soccer/Football.
Disaster, Bad Stars; Dawn-Hunters is an open-ended variation on Diplomacy, in which the two or more players are starfaring species attempting to expand into a wrap-around volume of space one hundred light years across with thirty thousand stars. Strategic resource management God-games, like secret colony.
Hidden Colonies teaches strategy and resource management during The Hiding.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Not Knowing (unfinished!)

            The wreckage of PSV Beatrice was found 783 light-seconds out from the planet where she was supposed to be conducting salvage operations. This log and other data were recovered while elements of Shadow Fleet 13 engaged three Big-Bee Leviathans in-system. Minor casualties and damage to one Leviathan's hyperdrive led to her to being scuttled when the rest of SF13 arrived four hours later. We got one of the other bastards, too. A very good day. -Rear Admiral Vasili Jigoro
Entries from Astrogation Officer Leona Frade's personal log on the private salvage-vessel Beatrice-
            It's hard, the not knowing. I am a starship astrogator and pilot, but my most important job, even more important than seeing us home again, is to someday destroy our data-base of known human settlements. The holomap is like a strand of pearls glowing in the darkness of the bridge, and from time to time, when we come home, one or two have gone dark. Sometimes there are new ones, and I pull up the entries like childhood sweets, to savor how here, there, are three thousand souls making a living at atmospheric mining on this gas-giant, ten thousand hiding their farms and manufacturing inside this icy little moon, or a few dozen on a powersat spreading black wings under a blue-white sun to manufacture antimatter in milligram lots. Not knowing what has happened to the ones that go dark, and dreading the day when we come home to a dead settlement, that is hard.
            There is something out there that does not love us. I wonder if they know our kind too well, or see themselves in us, that they can kill without mercy, wipe us out root and branch. But I'd rather not know, if the knowing invariably means my death, and the deaths of those I love.
            "I'd trade you to know, though, Krieg," I told the mercenary who was hanging onto the wall behind me. Krieg likes to do that. He thinks maybe I'm desperate enough to be interested, perhaps. Ugh. He's a squat toad who grew up in high-G, down in a habitat floating in the clouds of a Venus-like runaway greenhouse planet. They mined something on the surface, transuranics probably, and the place turned into a ghost town when the ore-body played out. The population drifted away to more typical low-G moons and free-fall, and he found his calling when a local boss, both mayor and magistrate, pressed him into a mercenary outfit run by his brother. Not Krieg's brother; I hear that he's an orphan.
            Krieg grunts and doesn't ask what I'm talking about. He wants me for my body, not my mind, which, to my way of thinking, is pretty sad. I am a scarred survivor, and a long-time ago I shaved off the pretty hair my mother loved, because it now comes in clumps around the scar-tissue. There's a soft-spot where a skilled surgeon removed a piece of my skull to go in there after some debris. I think that I fought so hard only because he fought so hard, for me, that I didn't dare disappoint my uncle. My astrogators' implants and such are just so much lemonade... When life hands you a lemon, right? Better to my way of thinking to risk a cripple than to risk a whole human being, which was an attitude Uncle Stan didn't care for at all. But all he said was, "Cynicism and despair won't carry you through, girl."
            The timer beeps. Five minutes and counting. I call the captain, but he's up already. He always is. Krieg clears out, unrequited lust and all. Probably going to go feel up his guns. Pervert.
            100 seconds and counting down. Hyperspace maps with realspace in a more or less congruent fashion, but it's much smaller. Much, much smaller. We basically fly through it, interacting indirectly with hyper-matter and praying that the shields and sails hold. If they fail and we can't get out fast enough, we will die horribly, decaying into hyper-matter and disintegrating.
            I'm told it's like burning alive while exploding. I wish I didn't have such a good imagination.
            That, plus I come as close as any man or woman does to experiencing it, through the ship's sensors. I linked up with my ship, not the captains', mine, and pushed ever so carefully with the force-fields, feeling the drag of hyper-matter like a warm breeze on my skin
            I feel myself being pulled into an old dream about my mother. She's holding my hand at the beach, in the surf under a pale blue sky. We're wearing re-breather masks but otherwise it's skin-safe. The suns hang low but many hours from setting, over a little boat pulled ashore by my father, my brothers and uncle. A picnic, if we're careful, my parents say, like on Earth in their parent's time. Before it turns into nightmare, with malevolent lights streaking across the sky, the ship calls me back, and I drop us carefully out of hyperspace over our destination.
            We salvage. Mostly from our own dead, but sometimes we go where the Tommyknockers, the Jabberwocky or Big Bad Aliens, take your pick, have killed some other poor bastard species. This job was one of those. I appreciated that. Somehow I never feel clean on jobs where we pick the bones of our own kind.
            The place got worked over a long time ago. Some spock worked out that this happened seven hundred years ago, around the time one set of my ancestors was importing another set into North America- and wiping out the natives with Old World diseases to boot. Monsters, monsters, everywhere... We're not the first ones in, and we won't be the last, but we needed to get in and get out. Not just because it's a potential hang-out for the Big-Bees, but also because there are always turf issues to deal with. Sometimes Krieg gets to earn his keep.
            That holomap doesn't show it all. There are other tangled strands of pearls we don't know about, or are kept hidden by mutual agreement. We call it the shadow federation, but what it really is is a bunch of frog-kingdoms, where the biggest frog in each pond is happy enough not to have the competition. That it's safer this way is just gravy.
            The Captain came onto the bridge. I can always tell without looking, or sneaking a peek at the security feed. He drinks caff, the artificial stuff we know as the fabled coffee. He always brings two mugs, one of caff for himself, and another of coca, also artificial but gene-hacked from soy and a better fit, or so the really old-timers say. Of course, after the first hundred years or so, you really can't trust your taste-buds, or memories. The smell brings back certain childhood ones, all good.
            "How are we, Astrogation Officer Frade?" He asks with mock-formality. We have a good relationship; he plays around with my formality, and I let him mock me gently, for he's one of the best captains I've ever had.
            "We are 'fair to middlin', Cap'n,'" I say, and he flashes me a smile. "Low orbit, coming up on our first re-entry burn in fifty. Do you want to take us in?"
            I could land Beatrice, but Captain Jesse Underwood is a much better pilot. Even without implants, he has an intuitive feel for her in realspace, one I envy. But a look passes over his face. Regret?
            "No, Leona, you take Bea in for me this time. There's one or two things I need to see to..."

Later on... 

            The alarms sounded, breaking my reverie. I moved to seal the bridge one damn second too late. Krieg and a Big-Bee, the first I'd ever seen up close, came rolling in as the doors slid shut, snicker-snack, cutting the Big-Bee off at one knee. The thing chittered and crabbed around on it's remaining legs, bringing a weapon up to fire at me. Krieg swung the hooked end of a crowbar up and under the armor of it's neck. Blue-green blood spurted across the bridge at me, hot and vile. The big bad alien fell over, kicking and clutching at it's wound, but life poured out onto the deck. What a mess.
            Without thinking about it, as I'd been drilled to do, I'd pulled my pistol, the one mandated by the Guild. I was aiming at Krieg. "Not that I'm unhappy that you just killed it, but what the hell are you doing here?"
            "I figured you might be lonely," Krieg said as he slid down the wall by the door. His wound from earlier was bleeding again, seeping out where the doc-patch had come loose. "Then I had a dance-partner who I couldn't say 'no' too, y'see..."
            His eyes closed and I thought that maybe he was dead, or at least unconscious. He surprised me by saying, "Don't let Underwood in here." He opened his eyes again and met mine. "He's betrayed us. I'd thank you kindly to put that away, and overwrite the Astrogation database, right now. We aren't going home again."

Explain how this ends and recovery of her personal log

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wednesday's Universe

"Papa, tell me a story."
Barbara Kelly Wednesday is "a... Librarian!" Think Rachel Weis from 'The Mummy', or a little bit Adele Murphy from the RCN-verse- not the despairing Adele, quick with a pistol, but the data witch. Her day-job is IT and Data Security, but her love is stories, writing. She has written three published novels, all semi-historical action adventure pieces that are somewhere between Tom Clancy Techno-porn and Peter O'Donnell capers, plus dozens of stories and novellas, fanfic written centuries after the series that they are based on were long gone (except in her archives!), and non-fiction books on 2-D media, ancient information storage devices and protocols, and a history of the Space-Born.
Valentine Saint Wednesday (Number Two) is the kind of guy who fights the established order out of habit, but supports it, even so. Who fights monsters and saves worlds because he can and it's the only job worth doing.
'Junior',  Louis Armstrong Wednesday IV (Number One) is his older twin brother. Responsible, sensible, with a good job, married, three kids. Each brother is everything that the other one is not.
Louis Armstrong Wednesday III
Susan Kelly-Wednesday
Doctor Diana Peterson

The doubletalk stardrive is from an unfinished story, 'The Not Knowing'; this is set centuries after humanity has won the right to exist!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Barbara Wednesday's Treasure (1st 5K words)

"Papa, tell me a story."
It was late in the dark cycle, when most folk on ship were asleep, or should have been. But Barbara Wednesday's father, Louis Armstrong Wednesday III, was hard at work on some neglected maintenance. The good old girl, 'Columbia', was betwixt, straining through that other space which starships cut short between the stars. This was not a vital system, but it was down; Louis was the ship's mechanic, and so here he was, "Whispering sweet nothings to his other woman," as her Mama, Susan, sometimes said when she and he were quarreling. Which they tried not to do in front of Barb and her twin brothers, Junior and Valentine, but still, it did happen, more and more often these days.
"What are you doing up, my littlest neo-barbarian?"
Louis sat up, bone-tired, but he didn't need to force a smile for his youngest, the brightest star in his sky. Barbara was five, a cheerful, thoughtful, happy child. Junior, twelve, was duty incarnate. Valentine, the slightly younger twin, by all of 213 seconds, was always getting into trouble; whereas Barbara was beyond blame. "Good Twin, Evil Twin and Blameless Barb," was how Val put it when he was complaining about the manifest injustices of the universe. But she was a bit of a peacemaker, too, between her brothers, between her parents, and sometimes between the twins and their parents. She loved her Pappa, and could feel when he was hurting... they were going to lose the ship one day soon, everyone knew it. It would be an open wound, and there was nothing to be done.
"Papa, I want you to tell me a story!" Barbara insisted, and put her small hands on her hips. Louis hid a smile behind his hand and sucked on a bloody knuckle. She looked like her Mama when she did that, and her Grandma Kelly. Or even his Aunt Bethany...
"Well, I suppose I could tell you, just one, but you need to promise to go straight back to your bunk afterwards, you hear?" Barbara nodded emphatically, and set her blanket down on the decking, sat on it and clutched Mr. Wiggles, her stuffed toy hippo with the broken artificial stupid. Once it had spun  her tales which had been told to it by her Grandpa Kelly and his Uncle Roark, but no more. Then it had stared listlessly until Louis had pulled its power source and left it inert; the ghost of the great toy it had once been. That had been painful.
"What kind of story would you like to hear?"
"An adventure, with treasure, a curse to be lifted, and wrongs, righted, all with a whip and a fedora!"
Inwardly, Louis groaned. Her brothers had also loved the world-weary archeologist once. Still did, but they had found other things of interest lately, such as girls, aliens and sports. Or sports, girls and aliens; it was hard to say in which order, but they were obsessed with modern things, not a beloved old family tradition, Middle to Late American Empire 2-D media. Louis had inherited a few dozen movies and TV series, and dozens of non-cannon stories from his father's side of the family; had added on to them. Barbara was the true fan of the family, however. She'd even come up with a decent fanfic on her own, or with only a little patient ghost-writing by Val. That boy was like a different child around her. She brought out the best in him.
"This one isn't about that guy," Barbara's father began. "It's about a little girl and the starship that she and her family lived on, a magical old flying barn of a house, for going from one world to the next, and one adventure to the next... Cattle, cows, were extinct for a hundred and seventy years."
"Really?" Her mouth made a small 'oh', as she tried to wrap her pretty little head around that much time, at all of five years old.
"Really. Nobody had any beef, nor beef cheese, nor tallow, nor beef-leather, in all that time. The biggest mammals were goats, dogs, and people, of course. And the giant rabbits they bred on the Eastern Twilight Continent on Candle. One hundred to one-fifty kilos tops; little cousins of Boots- remember Mr. Boots?" That had been a rabbit pony, in a petting zoo on Flores; the Floresicans had taken ETC rabbits up to three or four hundred kilos, but they weren't really rabbits anymore. The feral cousins of ETC bunnies were called Bunnylopes on dozens of worlds where they didn't belong, but had made a place for themselves anyhow.
Louis went on with his work while he talked and Barbara listened, rapt even when she would hand him a tool. He was proud of the way that it was always the right one; he had never had a better apprentice and helper, and she loved the old girl as much as he did. More, possibly. When he ran down, she asked, "What happened then, Papa?"
"Oh no’s, you little scamp! Our deal was one story and then off to bed," Louis chided her.
"But I want to know what comes after 'The Adventure of the Day-Glow Orange Cattle', and you need me to help you with the ship..." It was bad parenting, perhaps, but she was like bottled charisma, and usually got her way. Thank the stars above that she was such a good little girl...
Hours later Barbara lay curled up in her blanket asleep. The job was finally done and he was admiring his work; taking stock. It was a good life, but hard, hard on the kids, on their marriage and on the extended family; ties both of blood and of heart. 'Uncle' Roark had been the Columbia's pilot for decades and had never married into the Wednesdays, but he made the journey 'home to Old Earth' as one, yes he had. Ship was life, Gandpa Wednesday had always said, and Louis took that as an article of faith. Without Columbia, what was he? What were the Wednesdays?
The Kelly's had had 'Emerald' and had lost her; had beached and stripped her. 'Columbia' and her folk had needed the extra hands and spares, but that was the death of Susan's dad, their boss mechanic on 'Emerald'. He had faded, drinking too much ship's lighting and drifting away. Death had almost been a relief in the form of a broken neck at the bottom of some stairs. Louis shuddered. That lay in his future, not if, but when. It poisoned all hope and set folks nerves on edge.
There were eyes on him, a tower of will that felt like Zeus or his daughter, Athena. Louis looked up into the piercing gaze of his wife. She looked so very determined; he could see the little girl that had grown up into the woman, the mother of his children and the Captain of his ship. "Morning, Honey," he said brightly.
"Don't, Louis. You've been up all night again. Why can't you learn to delegate, why?" She spoke soft, more in sorrow than in anger, and that was so much worse... "She's been up half the night, too?"
Louis nodded. Susan, Captain Kelly-Wednesday, bent over to where he sat on his toolchest for a stool and hugged him tight. "Don't do that to us, Louis. Don't... do what my father did to us."
He had gone away, somewhere beyond the next star, somewhere back past Yesterday. Where ice fairies danced in the cometary halo and Old Earth was the center of the human part of the galaxy.
They were grounded on Jericho for more than ten days, with neither the money for the spare parts they needed, nor a cargo or job which might pay for them. They lived on lifesystem byproducts, which wasn't a hardship for ship-folk, and ran the reactors at just above idle, which was a problem for the mechanic and the lifesystem itself. No. 3 went down and Louis nudged one and two up to ten percent, then fretted over getting three re-lit. An old poker buddy stopped by with some power coupling which she 'needed to clear out of her warehouse'; neither of them could meet each other's eyes during that transaction. In eleven days of desperate, painstaking labor he and his second had rebuilt the shield-sail which protected Columbia from the ravages of that other space and allowed her to surf through it at the same time. It had taken eight of those days to polish the pits out of the projectors to get them back into the demanding tolerances, for Louis was betting nothing less that his entire family on them.
On that eleventh day, the Captain came back from a meeting with the friendly folks at T-Corp with a job, a cargo and a flight-plan, but she wasn't very happy. That night, as they celebrated at dinner with fresh food from the local farms of Jericho, she had held herself apart from her folk, watching them all sadly. She could not bear to tell them, not just yet.
She told her husband, later, but not because he had asked her what it was. He had already guessed, with barely a glance at the manifest and the destination. It lay between them, unspoken, and they made slow, gentle love as if for the last time.
"I love you..." he told her.
"I know you do; love you, right back..."
They lay together, after, in the moon-light through their sky-light. 'The fish leapt for the fly' in the light and dark spaces of that bright and full new-penny moon, high in the middle of local night, which for once synced up with ships' time. The moonlight was bright enough for him to make out the wetness on her cheeks.
"Those tears make you ugly," he teased her, and she laughed. That he stored away like a miser for the years ahead. Then she pinched him and he said, "Ow!"
"You always know what to say, but this is not going to be laughed away, Husband. I took the job they offered."
"Without talking to me, Wife?"
"It kind of fell outside of our marriage, Husband; this I had to do as Captain. The ship is life..."
"But the crew always comes first." There was love and there was marriage, but she would sacrifice that for family, and he could not fault her. He just wasn't sure that he could live with it.
If a faster mode of transport exists, all other things being equal, it will soon be the only mode of transport... Starships lasted thirty years into the Transmatter Era.
The job on Kestral was to ship and install the new matter transmission station. The T-Corp Regional Director who had hired Captain Susan Kelly-Wednesday, her ship and her crew, was looking for a good decisive manager to oversee expansion into that sector. It was both opportunity and betrayal.
"But if you look at it in that way, Captain, you won't be doing yourself or the space-born any favors. I need workers, they need jobs; need to transition from an obsolete technology."
"But we still need ships," the Captain said. It sounded defensive even to her.
"A few. Not even a tenth as many as we still have..." The Regional Director was not an unkind man. He and his had worked Starports for three generations. He understood.
A lot of people understood and forgave. A few never did. Aunt Bethany was the oldest woman on the ship, and set in her ways. She let the whole ship know what she thought of the situation. Susan put up with it for three weeks on Kestral. Then she had the old woman's things packed onto 'Windy City', her Bates cousins' ship, along with No. 3 fusor, unshipped in three hours flat. At that, 'Columbia' got the better end of the deal, her cousins later insisted.
The time flew by after that. Louis learned more than he ever wanted to know about the care and feeding of transmatts, but he learned. Oh how he learned... It was knowledge ground in hatefully, spitefully, which bothered him when he thought about it. His teacher had given him 'The Sons of Martha' to memorize and recite. Neither he nor Kipling would have cared for such thinking.
The principles were as different as night and day. Starships passed through another, hostile, universe on their journey betwixt and between the stars. In Transmatts, matter was transmitted as energy, a lot of it, directly from point A to point B. The first sensational years had involved a rather lot of hysteria; were the persons arriving at the destination merely copies, were they in fact being murdered in the name of progress? Cheap transmission of goods paid for the early infrastructure. A campaign to prove the safety of the technology got a big boost as aging starships, acting on narrower and narrower margins, led to a few ineffably well-timed tragedies... and despite the conspiracy-mongering, the T-Corp had nothing to do with them.
They were playing a long game. The Corporation refused to patent the technology and had a de facto monopoly; soon they effectively owned planetary governments that were agreeable, and froze out those that refused to play by their rules. It didn't hurt that a number of out-worlds fell to feuding and raised the specter of a general interstellar war again, after a few centuries of comparative peace and expansion. The Company could afford to be generous and set a few extra places at the table. The space-born families, the people who had worked the independent ships on the edges of the human expansion, could not afford to look a gift-horse in the mouth. Not exactly win-win, but not lose-lose, either.
The twins' relationship with their parents was always problematic. Their mother was the captain, and demanded loyalty. Their father was the ships' engineer and mechanic, and demanded perfection. The elder twin never stopped trying to please them both, and often he succeeded. The younger twin... chose a different path.
Valentine Saint Wednesday, Valiant Val, was named for a character in an old 2-D monster movie which both his parents had liked very much; it was their 'date' movie, comfort food for the soul. No matter how many times the mechanic scoffed at the impossibility of the threat, or the captain railed against two goof-offs saving the day, it was really about people working the problem and saving themselves. That always had special meaning for the two of them.
Val took the lifestyle to heart; he also had liked the swashbuckling archaeologist, and the free-booting First Officer from that SF horror series. He made a career of bucking the system, looking for treasure, fighting monsters and sending home stories for his little sister. The Transmatt network got bigger every year, and he steered to the edges of it, for the wild frontiers that he visited first as a construction worker, then as a gambler and an explorer, and finally as a... what he did didn't have a set name or job-description. He troubleshot. He found problems, solved them or patched things over. His brother worked 70-hour weeks, following in his mother's footsteps, and Val worked for a less public section of the same company, risking life and limb, sanity and soul, 24-7 and 365 days a year... except for when he came home, busted up and in need of recuperation.
This time it was an eye; his right eye. The bad guys had not gone gently into that good night, had had to be hoist on their own petard, assisted off-stage with a little of their own medicine. The alien artifact responsible for their diabolical little scheme had had a very high density energy-storage device built in, which the company was interested in reverse engineering from the remaining shards, one of them removed from behind his sadly non-functioning eyeball. Medical Section was growing him a new one, but for the eternal now, Val wore an eyepatch rakishly, trying out by turns his grizzled old U.S. Marshal and his nihilistic guttersnipe impersonations.
In his brother's living room he intoned, "Snake, the name's Snake Pli-"
"Daddy, Uncle Val is funny!" his six-year old niece, Lisa, pronounced. Davie, aged two, sippy cup deployed, observed the local life-forms with interest.
"Your Uncle Val is a real laugh-riot," her father not-quite agreed, and the two brothers shared a look. Over thirty years ago, they had come from the same mother, two identical halves of the same genetic crap-shoot. Now, in their late thirties, they looked like fun-house mirror images, light and dark, law and chaos, straight and crooked. Each envied the other, and reviled the other, and depended on the other. 'He is what I'm not, and I am not what he is...'
"Doctor Peterson is Sally's old room-mate, you know-" Louis Armstrong Wednesday IV began.
"Dinner!" his nine-year old namesake, his and his father's, interrupted. Junior and his grandmother had cooked a special home-coming meal. Senior... had assisted. The twins hung back by mutual agreement, a thing which passed between them like telepathy.
"So the Doc is your wife's old gal-pal..."
"If the that chip hadn't destroyed the orbit of your eye, it might have tumbled around..."
"And if it had hit me square in the skull, it would have ricocheted. Or three centimeters to the right and it would have grazed the back of my head, just a low velocity fragment of a 'splody piece of alien tech- So what?"
"Number Two, why do you do it?"
"Because it's fun, Number One- 'splody bits!"
"Grow up!" said the father of three tiredly.
"Boys! Get in here and eat!" their mother called.
Val snuck up on Doctor Diana Peterson at her work station and leaned over her shoulder. She asked, "What are you up to, Mr. Wednesday?"
"I'm 'playing doctor' with my doctor, Doctor."
"Are you, now?" She turned around in her chair and he dropped down on one knee so that he could kiss her, which she returned with interest before he continued on around to her neck. She closed her eyes and sighed contentedly. "I suppose a check-up is called for..."
She did interrupt their little make-out session to look over his wounds, and sighed again. "You are such a very good customer, Val. One of these days..."
"Never gonna happen."
"Because?" She prompted, whispering in his ear and taking his ear-lobe between her teeth.
"I'm lucky, and because I've got the best Doc- Ow!" He yelped.
"Dumb-ass! I can't do anything but pick up the pieces, do you understand? Do you? Stop trying to get yourself killed."
Val leaned back to get a good look at her, taking her face in his hands. "You alright?"
"No, I'm not." She met his eyes. "Don't worry, Val. This isn't getting serious, or anything like that. But one of my best friends keeps going out and finding a woodchipper to stick his-" She closed her eyes. "I thought you probably would wise up after this one, and you haven't."
"Well maybe I'm almost as good a liar as you, Diana." Val brushed away a tear on her heart-shaped face and stood up. "Thanks, Doc."
"Oh no, you don't. I'll be having my pound of flesh, for services rendered," Diana said as she got up from her chair and put a hand to his chest, fingernails pressing ever so slightly through the fabric into the skin over his heart. There was one time-tested remedy for death, come knocking at your door.
Val smiled. "Blood-thirsty woman..."
Barbara Kelly Wednesday was singing along with an old tune when Val found her later that night. Moments like this were what made him so very good at his job; he liked to stand apart and observe before he acted. It didn't occur to him that this held him apart from everyone else.
"...and I am not afraid, so bring on the rain!"
Val smiled and backed down the hall, then came on again, making just a little purposeful noise. At her door he leaned against the jam and peered at her. Barbara looked up from her work, startled and embarrassed, and then she smiled at seeing him there.
"Lady sings the Blues..." Val drawled, waiting for it.
"But that's a late American Empire Country and Western song," she countered automatically. She was a teacher and a historian, of sorts. Her day-job was IT and Data Security. But that was 'just to pay the bills' and gave her access, the keys to the kingdom. Since the insurance provisions of the Transmatt meant that they held onto copies of all media transmitted physically, the T-Corps' Data Deeps had taken a page from the Library of Alexandria and kept everything they could, even the stuff that they officially deleted; Barbara made copies of copies. She had a better grasp of the extended economy, of the governments and the culture of the Human Expansion than any other private individual, and better than most institutions of higher learning. She also wrote, was a published novelist three times over, all period pieces, capers and thrillers. She also had dozens of short stories and novellas to her credit, taught both writing and information systems for the Corporate University as well as history. Two of her non-fiction books were a history of the Space Born and a complete reference on Ancient Data Storage Media, from 2-D movies to text files. She wore thirty extra kilos with ill-grace, slogging through the hated exercise with grim determination but no real hope.
"I stand corrected. So, why weren't you at dinner?"
"I got busy with the new novel and lost track of time..." she answered a little shame-faced.
Val laughed. "You know, you're the only one in the family not giving me grief about..." he waved a hand at his face, "Because you, you don't really believe I could die, do you?"
"No, I'm actually grateful. And okay with it besides! I'm like one of the characters in your stories-"
"But Val, I kill off your favorites, all the time. And you give me grief, for that, all the time."
"You give them good deaths. That's something... Let's change the subject, okay?"
They talked about the new novel for a bit, two great story-tellers completely at home with their craft, at ease in their own skins. Someday Val would have to try his hand at this business; for now he was content with the fiction in his reports.
"So, what are you up to next?" Barbara asked just a little too casually. Val gave her a look that said, 'Really? And who taught you to suck eggs?'
"I'm getting a new eye..." he pointed at the doc-patch which covered his missing one. "Lost it..." Val swallowed. Even he couldn't whistle past his own, unoccupied for now, grave. Not with is little sister. "I've got a few months of down-time while this gets... better, and I'm planning on hiding out. Just so's they can't grab me for some new Charlie Foxtrot before I get to enjoy life a little bit."
"I've got a little thing planned-"
"Are you getting married, Sis?!"
Barbara rolled her eyes. "No! Who has time? And after that last little misadventure, I'm... No, this is a trip I've had planned for a while now, to a wrecked human world- Aurora."
Val whistled. "You located Aurora?"
Aurora was the planet where the original Big Bad Aliens had first attacked humanity and filled their species in on the dread realities of the Known Galaxy, over seven hundred years before. This arm of it had been a pretty bad neighborhood back then, with three different Hunters-of-Dawn, berserker-type species; the Bigbees, of course, the Tommyknockers and the Jabberwocky. Humanity had gone to the stars and settled a dozen worlds before being rudely being awakened to the facts of life. Then they had settled in to survive, adapt, scheme, lie, cheat and steal. To commit genocide and fratricide; to outlast and overcome first the Jabberwocky, then the Bigbees and finally the Tommyknockers. Along the way, they had managed to become the most common and widespread of the starfaring species, made friends, and ended enemies.
Aurora was where it all began.
"Do I even have to say it? I'm in."
That was not the end of it, of course. There were, shall we say, interested parties with their own opinions on, "Trekking halfway across the Galaxy!" Neither their mother nor their older brother wanted them to go; from Transmatter-head by ancient starship of questionable maintenance to a planet out of legend. Their older niece and nephew wanted to go, of course. Davie had no opinion and did not care what all the hollering was about. He was a very strange child, for a Wednesday; when all the drama had rolled into the living room, he had quietly found his Aunt Barb, curled up in her lap despite her being one half of ground-zero, and took a nap. Clearly, the local life-forms needed more time for their threat and posturing rituals...
Barbara hugged her brother's child to her like her old toy Hippo and idly wondered if she would ever have one of her own. There had never been a man, or a woman, for that matter, who had been 'just right'. Admittedly she was romantic and had certain high expectations. But she did want children, and not because of some old-fashioned, silly sense of duty, that 'the ship must have a crew', as the litany  went. She wanted to share her life with a son or daughter who would live into the next century, take what she had done with her life, plus the gifts and baggage of ten thousand generations,  to build on.
The arguing stage was winding down; even Wednesdays had to shut up and listen to each other eventually. Barbara decided it was past time to hit her points again. What had Churchill said? If you had something to say, a point to make, keep hammering away, a mighty whack! And, of course, the one everyone knew from The Hiding Time, that if you're going through hell, keep on going...
"This little excursion is worth the risk. We don't really know much from that time, at the beginning of the Hiding, nor about life, before. They kept seed banks and such on Old Earth, but she got completely trashed-" The Mother of Man had been hit by at least seventeen different Dawn-Hunter task-forces from the big three and was sterile. Mars had more Earth-life, now. "Perhaps Aurora has, I don't know, coffee? Or elephants! There were three big genetic engineering companies there, Aurora is an outlier and they were altering the human genome to better fit the environment, as well as terraforming it to be a better fit for us."
"What's it like now, I wonder," Sally Wednesday asked. She was a strategic planner for T-Corp; where the company was going, how and why were her concerns. Habitability was high on her list of desirable traits in a world. People could and had lived anywhere, during the Hiding. Had made a living in the atmosphere of gas giants, tunnel-farmed foamed-plastic walled habitats inside comets, made antimatter in close to hellish suns. A natural lifesystem was far cheaper to maintain, and maintain they did. Sustainability was just a sensible business plan, the only way for the immortal corporation to persist past even one human lifetime. T-Corp used the resources of whole worlds, and could easily use them all up.
Barbara smiled. "Why don't we go find out?"
"I don't see how there could possibly be anything salvageable, after all this time-"
"N-Stasis was experimenting with a method for turning organic, living tissue into an inert block, completely dehydrated and hopefully impervious to bacteria. Their reversal method was problematic, but there could still be something, a little something that we could turn into an epic species cascade, like with cows and horses!" Cows and horses had been brought back by steps; first goats giving birth to pony foals, then smaller breeds of cows and horses giving birth to buffalo and plow-horse breeds like Percherons and Cydesdales. But mostly domesticated animals. Elephants, giraffes, tigers, bears and orcas, not so much.
"What sort of resources do you need?" Susan Kelly-Wednesday asked. She had risen through management to VP of Operations. Her eldest son was doing her old job, along with half a dozen other Transmatt Site Start-Up Managers. The network was over three thousand installed T-Sites with one or more Transmatts, roughly comparable to old-fashioned spaceports or airports, on about a thousand worlds of the Human Expansion and several allied species. Unfriendly species were left out of a pan-species economic sphere that grew at double digits every year.
"Among other things, I need a ship..."
They had beached 'Columbia' on Kestral a quarter of a century ago, and she was still there, mostly. The space born who passed through had helped themselves to spares off of the 'good old girl' and, untended, her lifesystem had died, leaving a stinking mess of organic gunk to be cleaned out and recycled, the lifesystem refreshed with new cultures, borrowed off of 'Golden Gate' and 'Halley', as well as a half a dozen other ships. 'Windy City' was grounded a few hundred meters to port, with old No. 3 fusor. Three of Susan's Bates older cousins had retired in gentile poverty, with the rest of their clan scattered to the Transmatt network. They tended their garden plots and ranched bunnylopes, told tales to visitors and watched the skies for more starships. There were always more, every year.