Becca, Gordon, and Evie left the
Library, each sure they were being watched.
It's just a stupid science-fair.
They're tinkering with us
and now we're surrounded by something we can't even see.
The black Tzikzik are here to
protect us. Isn't that what the
They're here to protect the
So, what's next? We're just
to go on about our way and
hope no one loses an arm when the girls open fire?
Yeah. Something like that.
You were pretty ready to give
iSkandar your belt.
What is a belt? Or even shield?
And what good can these things yet yield?
Preventing loss of leg or arm,
More than weapons cause us harm.
But toss away your safety net,
A demonstration of your pride.
Some big revenge you hope to get
By beating some poor Tzikzik's hide.
Oh, it's like that, is it?
Let's just say we share that
When the lift doors opened,
Gordon made sure he was the first out. Becca saw a
faint flicker as he activated his belt-shield and stuck his head into the
How much air do we have when
these things are on?
Never had it on long enough to
run out. Less, now that we're
Gordon waved for them to move
on. Becca turned on her shield and the corridor
fell into muffled silence.
iDana was kneeling next to the door, probing the panel with long tools. Becca could see the girl muttering but couldn't hear anything.
The two redheads standing on either side of the door swung to one side, obviously surprised. The two redheads weren't even in their blood-red armor; instead, they wore drab work-suits.
(internal) They don't even see
us as a threat. We're just something soft in their way.
One girl aimed and fired.
Gordon stood broadly in the hall, arms on his hips. When the bolt went past him, Becca saw a faint quaver in the air around his head. He flinched slightly, and the bolt went off in a wild angle, lodging itself in the wall behind Becca.
iDana was standing, the whites of her eyes fully visible around her cold blue irises.
Evie shouted something.
The two redheads looked at each other in amazement and the girl who had fired now flicked a switch on the side of her gun. The other followed suit and the two aimed at the three adults.
(internal) They aren't going to
fire them one at a time. How well do these shields work?
Becca rushed forward, next to
Gordon, and shut her eyes, preparing for the
When nothing happened, Becca opened her eyes.
The redheads were standing shock-still, looking at their empty hands. One bared her teeth and started to run towards them, head down, arms back, leaning into a powerful attack.
And Becca turned her shield off and raised her arm, aiming the pain-ray at the trio of child threats...
At first, it looked like smoke, thick and black. The blur swirled around the stand-off in the hallway and, just as suddenly, took the shape of three black-haired girls in dark uniforms. Two held guns by the barrels—-more holding them than preparing to fire; the third had the redhead who had charged on her knees in an arm-lock.
Doctor Tabib might be unwilling
to inflict pain. But I am unhampered by such restrictions.
If you do that
wrong, you're going to dislocate your own shoulder. But...please, by all
(sigh) I know when I'm beaten.
Go ahead. You can let her go.
The shadowy bodyguard released
the redhead and stepped back. The stocky redhead stood,
rolled her shoulder, and rushed the black-haired girl...
...Who disappeared in a dark blur that crushed the redhead's hand and broke her nose.
The other two black guards stood to one side and did not smile. One handed her captured gun to the other, who disappeared.
Black-haired Girl 2:
We're still here. Don't forget
And she faded away as well.
iDana had pressed her hand to her right eye to stop the rapid fluttering that had started when the first bolt missed.
How... You cannot. It
doesn't work that way. We're the
smart ones. You're only Human. We're better.
You cannot. We're stronger. We're faster. It's not possible.
Becca knelt next to the redhead
to examine the broken nose. The girl was
cradling her hand, crying. Her sister had already reached into a
pocket and pulled out a tube of spray.
We're older than you. We've been
we know what's out there.
No, we had the connection. You
something. You teamed up with the Vencume and you made something. I know you.
You had nothing to do with that. I know you.
You're not that smart.
One redhead was spraying her
sister's hand and face with spray, holding out fingers
to pull them straight.
Evie was standing over iDana and put her arms around the girl.
I wasn't a good
mother to you. You grew up without me and then I never paid attention to you
afterwards. But you need to know how proud I am of you. I am so proud and you
are so clever. Despite it all, I'm
glad I met you.
Let me go!
And I do love you, even though
I'm not very good at showing it. And I know you're not very good at showing it
either, because you're so much
like me. You're so afraid of everything around you and you have to control it
and you can't because you're so small. The universe is so big and scary and
you're so small.
You're not my mother! The
Vencume are my mother!
Evie pulled back, visibly stung.
iDana wriggled away and stood squarely, wiping away tears.
Be as proud as you
like, but the only thing you ever did for us was donate some DNA. You never
carried us or tucked us in bed or read stories to us. We grew up alone. (starts
to cry) I just want my sister back. I want iMala back.
Please, just give her back. I miss my sister and I want her back....
I...I don't have her.
Then what good are you?
I'm all you have. As crummy as
it is, I'm it.
I'm sorry. I think iMala is in advancement and I think Ulan is there as well.
They must be working on something very important to be away so long. You don't
think she misses you as well? And she's been away from you so much longer than
you have from her.
You don't know
anything about away. You've always
iDana picked up her tools and
huffed down the corridor.
Becca had to open the door to
the room. Evie had programmed it to respond to
Becca's DNA and Becca's alone. Not even Evie could open it if she wanted
(from the other room) I'm hungry!
Becca was laying on her bed,
trying to think about how they were going to get
off the ship.
(internl) There's still that
the twins prepared, but we don't
know the launch code. Maybe Evie can crack it...
Becca pulled on her shoes and
padded out into the main room.
Evie was already rummaging around the room.
There must be something. They
can't keep us blockaded in here forever.
Settle down, chief. We can go
see what's out there, but I think
we need to hold off for now.
This is ridiculous. Where the
hell is Ulan? She'd know which one of these is
Don't poison yourself.
Gordon was playing with some of the dried plants. He took a long, thin, red one and nibbled a tiny bit.
Here, this tastes like corn or
Don't encourage her.
Becca snatched the plant from
him, then she pressed the
chewed end to her tongue. It reminded her of...
(internal) Those awful noodles I
had at the
station at Peg-51! It tastes just like them! (external) Do Humans use any
How's that thing coming?
I have lots of work to do.
How much is that?
(playing) Eight bookoos in a
Sixteen lots in scad.
(internal) At least that
connection still works.
No, no, I have the belt. I have
to go eat something.
Aren't the Black Tzikzik still
out there? Can't you get them to
Oh, to hell with that.
Evie threw her arms up in the
air and stormed into
Gordon's room. She came back with something invisible pinched between her
fingers and went over to the door.
I should have done this a long
What are you doing?
You have a Y chromosome. I
should have made you the door-keeper.
Evie opened a panel and was
probing the insides with a tool from her smock. She rubbed
the panel with pinched fingers.
Is that my hair?
Either that or stink. You reek.
The door opened. Evie looked at
the panel with some surprise (or excitement
that it had worked), but the surprise changed to shock when the door opened to
a young woman with black hair.
Becca jumped enough to clack her teeth together.
There were two young women, actually: one with warm black hair and large brown eyes, the other with long gray hair and small blue eyes.
Who are you? (internal) They
look just like Evie!
Becca. I'm sorry we startled you.
I guess we really
did change that much. It's like I never left; but
then, it's only been a little while for you, hasn't it? (pause) Hi, mom.
I'm sure our appearance must be
startling. It was
only five years, but these bodies change so much in such a short period of time
and, I admit, we did leave at a critical stage.
Where have you
In advancement. We had two new
Tzikzik coming out, black and
white, and Buer asked us if we would like to help with the last stage--
It was something Becca had said,
long ago. In order to
complete the project, all the arms of Vencume had to be represented. There has
always been that
undercurrent of something that...wasn't quite right. My sisters have done well,
but there's much more to do...internally.
Weren't you bored?
(chuckles) At first? Very. But
then, our lives have always been
restricted. And these new girls, well, they're still younger than we are, but
they never teased me about how I spoke. They asked me questions and offered
suggestions and they never fought the way the others did.
How bad did it get? Things
really fell apart, didn't they?
We've seen the black Tzikzik
and they busted a nose already.
I was worried it might happen
like that. It's a good thing we
were able to get back quickly...for you.
What have you been
doing? Where have you been? So you thought things were going to go south, but
you skipped out anyway. You promised you'd never leave.
Save it. We have bigger things
to worry about at the moment.
We're coming up on Cancri-55 in a few hours and we need everyone prepared for
the next leg of the journey.
iMala had a box with her and set
in on the table. She opened it and pulled out a large piece of
iMala turned the device on.
Five children with white hair appeared. There was one with a square head and orange eyes, another with small hands and yellow eyes, a third with long hands and small, blue eyes, and a fourth, with black eyes.
The fifth white-haired child had her eyes shut and when she opened them, Becca could see her eyes were pale, almost white.
eRica represents the Reds now.
eStelle is for the Yellows;
eLaina for the Blues. eLeanor represents the Black group.
needed better representation. I think you'll agree with our solution.
All of you have strengths. You
have much to
offer, much to teach. But you also have much to learn. You have your
weaknesses. For too long, you have ignored these things.
We are not a chance for you to
live your life
over; that's the mistake the Vencume made so long ago. They stopped having
offspring of their own because they looked at it as a chance for immortality.
They remade themselves and lived on through their own creations, never letting
go of control. They could never adapt to a changing universe.
If you try to stand firm against
the storm, it will snap you in two. But if you bend, you can stand back up
again. It isn't a weakness at all.
Even Humans did that. If you had
never changed at all, you'd still be living in trees or hiding from jaguars.
And look at how you adapted to other planets: the Peggers on that large, cold
planet. Even Evie's ancestors; they became portmen and then returned and became
Human again, only to go back.
We are Human, but we're not. And
Vencume, but we're not. We learn from the triumphs and failures of both and
we'll have triumphs and failures of our own. The important part is that we're
taking the first step, the first real step, towards finding our place in the
We're going to go with the
Vencume to the meeting-place.
They're not here...
No, we're just visiting.
Neat, huh? This way we can talk
to the others
but keep these safe. I'm just calling it visiting
for now. I need to name all
of my devices. I think I'm going to call the pain-killing one an Insulator.
Kind of a double-play on words there on what
it affects and what it does.
What about your Collapser?
(coldly) I hate that thing.
But it's a good proof that you
understand the mechanics behind the
SOUND: door opens and closes quickly
A girl with
black hair and deep, black eyes suddenly appeared.
(internal) There she is! The one
thought was Ulan! How do they do that?
The girl leaned over to eLeanor
and whispered in her ear. As suddenly as the
girl had appeared, she disappeared.
That's the Advancer. I do like
Who was that? Is that a Black
Yes, iMala gave them a doohickey
that ignores the
borrowed-time field, so they can pop in and out as they please.
The others have been collected
in one place. It's time
we visited them as well.
Everyone had been herded to the
observation deck. iLyssa stood to one side with
the ten blondes, iDana to the other with the fourteen redheads. A group of ten
black-haired girls stood between them. Becca noticed that they were unarmed.
(internal) But they don't need
weapons, do they?
As soon as Ulan and iMala came
onto the deck, there was a collective gasp from
the crowd. iDana looked like she was about to cry. iLyssa covered her mouth.
Gordon was carrying the device and set in on the floor.
The project is a success. You
need to know that now. You
have succeeded and the Vencume are very pleased with the results.
can you call this a success?
I call it a success because of
the information it has provided. You have performed your function exactly as
required. I want to introduce you
to the next phase.
iMala turned the device on and
the five white-haired children appeared.
eStelle immediately danced up to the blondes and started to sing. They smiled and sang back. The eleven-part harmony echoed through the deck.
The redheads clustered around eRica. One put her hands on her hips and asked:
Could something winnowy and pale
Ever survive what we've been through?
You look so sickly and so frail
So tell me, just what good are you?
You're going to judge by how I
Just because my hair is white?
I know how much hell you guys took
And you'll know more tomorrow night.
The redheads laughed and punched
each others' shoulders. The redhead who had
asked the question had her hair tousled. Redheads took turns passing their
hands through their pale visitor.
eLaina and iMala had joined the two designers. iDana had gripped iMala tightly in a hug that would not let go. iMala was pointing at her chest and explaining something to iLyssa.
Ulan hung back with the three adults and the white-eyed girl.
This visit looks
like it's going well.
I hope there will be no hard
feelings after this.
What do you mean?
Visiting like this. It's got to
offensive, but we didn't know what kind of violence we might face.
You never told us your name.
One of the black-haired girls
came up to Ulan and whispered in her ear.
uLrika says we're eight hours
from Cancri-55. We need
to wrap up this visit and let everyone get some sleep before tomorrow. It's
going to be very busy.
We're going to leave after
dropping you off. You might not
see us for a while, but you'll recognize us when we get back. We'll keep the
white hair as a badge of our ancestry. It's unusual enough to
differentiate us and I doubt we'll ever have to face the same environments you
Becca, I have something for you.
You're not going to be able
to sleep otherwise, so I set this device for seven hours. You just turn it on
you'll drop right off. I'll show you how it works later.
You'd be able to wake up if you
had t. Don't worry. It won't
keep you under.
I might need one as well. This
You never told us your name.
This is an interesting body. I
thought it would be much
harder to get used to it, but the basic math is there. I like your emotions.
That's an interesting take on instincts; right now, I feel very good. I don't
know why, but the not knowing is part of the adventure, isn't it?
(very stiffly, like she wants to
strangle someone) Your. Name. You never
gave us your name.
Oh, yes. (laughs) I keep
forgetting that. Something else to adjust
to. (pause) You used to call me Buer.
Scene 4: Human Quarters, Becca's Dream
The device iMala had given her
clicked on fifteen minutes after Becca climbed
into bed. It didn't make any sound itself, but Becca thought she heard the
ocean, or the wind, or the laughter of her nieces and nephews. Her body became
heavier than leaving orbit, then lighter than zero-gee.
This is the last dream Becca has
in space that she can remember. Her dream is
about home and her daughter is happy to see her mother after so long and they
hug for forever. The faces she had missed for so long come crashing in like a
flood and it's overwhelming but in a good way.
And Evie and Gordon are in the dream and happy as well. They are all sitting at a table and having a big family meal. They didn't know each other before this, and this adventure has lasted as long as most deep-space flights, but they've gotten to know each other and they'll stay in contact after this, surely.
Becca has cooked a meal and everyone talks about how good it is and they wistfully remember how they all used to eat together in the mess-hall of the Vencume ship and it tastes almost the same, but Becca has bits of chicken in it now. They have coffee afterwards and don't talk about what happened to them so long ago because so much has happened since then.
Ulan is looking more and more like her mother, but there are no pictures of Evie from that time in her life. Ulan doesn't have thick glasses and she doesn't limp and she never underwent all those surgeries. She is alone, but she's starting to reach out to people.
The meal has ended and Ulan and Huri, Becca's daughter, clean the dishes while Evie and Becca play a quick game of chess. Gordon sits by the fire and reads a book while the two women match wits and battle with tiny, wooden figures.
The evening is over. The dream is coming to an end. Everyone hugs and kisses each other's cheeks and fond farewells from here. I hope to see you again. Don't forget to write.
When she woke, Becca felt
refreshed. The dream she'd had felt like a memory.
She lazily dressed and went into the main room.
Gordon was reading something on one of the displays.
They're going to ask you
a bunch of questions.
your travel visa will be reinstated.
He held up his right hand. There
was a tiny star-shaped mark on his palm.
The Shipping Authority is
already here? Did I oversleep? When
did they arrive? Are we over the station?
They sent over a small craft
with some equipment. The girls
already checked everything out and say it's safe. I had trouble sleeping, so I
was already up when the girls knocked on the door. It's two of them; man and
woman...like always. They're still talking to Evie.
Do you think she'll want to go?
Honestly? No. I'm not even sure
that I want to go back.
I want to go home and I want to
see my daughter. I want to be a
Human again and I'm tired of Vencume and I'm tired of this awful ship and the
awful things that happen here. I've been away long enough and my family must be
worried about me. There's an old oak table back home and it's calling my name.
You want stability.
Gordon, I've been crazy-scared
since all this started. Who's
attacking the ship? Is Evie dead? Who are these children? Am I ever going to
get home? How old will my daughter be before I get to be her mother again? What
the hell is going on?
OK, calm down. It's freaky, but
don't freak out. If you
can't be the most stable person on this ship, we're all doomed.
Gordon, I've never been
more unstable in my entire
life! I thought when Deniz died, I'd hit rock-bottom; but, these last few
months have been full of more self-doubt and worry than I thought possible.
Deniz was your husband, right?
(internal) Calm down. You are
freaking out and it's not
going to help anyone. Try to put all of this in context. (external) I'm sorry.
It all rushed at me at once. I don't
mean to unload on you like that, but it's all been so stressful.
That would explain the gray
hairs. But, if it's any consolation,
they actually make you look very distinguished.
What gray hairs?
Just at the temples. Like I
You're one to talk. You're gold
and silver, mister.
There are no mirrors on this
ship. I can't even keep my beard trimmed. Ulan did it for me.
We'll have mirrors enough when
we get back. Humans like to look
SOUND: knock at the door
The Shipping Authority has
finished talking to Evie. They want to talk to you. We're right over Cancri-55.
You let us know if you
need help from us.
Does it look like everything is
going to be OK?
They looked happy.
It will be fine.
Becca trudged down the corridor,
her mind racing the entire time.
The two Shipping Authority
representatives were sitting at a table in the
mess-hall with their equipment. They stood when Becca entered the room.
Doctor Tabib. Please, have a
If you could state your full
name for the record?
Dr. Rebecca Safiye Tabib.
Place your hands on the
down, in their natural position. (pause) Thank-you.
If you'll look in here,
please? There will be a flash of light, so try not to blink. Look straight
Becca pressed her eyes into the scanner and a bright light came on for two seconds. Leaning back, the afterimage floated over the table. She rubbed her eyes. The woman was holding an imager.
If you'll look this way?
Don't smile. (pause) And now if you could smile for us. Show
(internal) I've done all of this before.
(laughs) Forgive us if it all
sounds a little familiar. We do
this all the time. There's a script.
We know that the last time you
went through this, it was rather unpleasant. We won't be playing
good-cop/bad-cop with you.
We should also apologize for how
you were treated on Peg-51. Do you want something to drink during this? One of
offered us buckwheat tea.
You thirsty, Becca? aSabi made
that tea again.
No, aNevay, I'm fine. Thank-you,
We were a little surprised that
the girls insisted on no suits. It had us very worried.
But the crew of the Tong Defu noted they were not needed. And
you...the Tong Dizhou...you had no
suits on your stay.
Peg-51 had to go through a
complete decontamination. When you came aboard, you should have been put into
I'm sorry for the
inconvenience. Are the Wainwrights doing OK?
Which ones? If you mean your old
crew-mates, then, yes. No ill
effects. Once we knew that no one was at a risk for a biological...unparalleled
invasion...things settled down.
There's a strange smell here.
Almost like seaweed.
You learn to ignore it.
The girls are familiar with you.
Did you know them
before your arrival at Peg-51?
We were properly introduced
afterwards. But aSabi and aNevay
are from the second batch. I met them later.
(internal) I did it again. Like
cookies or something. (external) They're a
second run. Their programming was different—-after my connection.
We have a report given by a
Lieutenant Nie Faren of the QingJiang,
a basic understanding of the connection process. There is an additional report
that was given by the crew of a Tong Defu.
have described the process as
well. Do you feel that any system secrets have been given up during this?
Just the recipe for
imambayildi...(pause) It's made with aubergine, tomatoes, and onion.
Of course. Isn't that how we
these days? By what we eat?
(Becca laughs a little)
You are a widow, and you left
daughter. May I ask how your husband died?
(coldly) Slowly. He had systemic
scleroderma. His kidneys and
digestive tract failed.
That's an autoimmune disease. It
hardens the internal
It's a slow and painful way to
What a pity. It must have been
(internal) How dare you brush
that aside! I had to watch it! (external) Yes, it was.
Please, we don't mean to make
light of it in any way. We understand that some of these questions may bring
back painful memories. My own brother died of Lesch–Nyhan
syndrome. My mother never forgave herself.
I'm not familiar--
Genetic. He gouged his own eyes out.
I'm so sorry--
on. You had a new hand constructed for you by the
Vencume. Are you familiar with how this is done?
Uh...Yes. Uhm...I also helped to
the parts that we delivered to Peg-51 on our return trip. And...I replaced the
glenoid labrum in pilot Gordon Gorsky's right shoulder.
We have already spoken with him.
He said that both you and a
Vencume named 'iSkandar' performed the surgery.
iSkandar is a Tzikzik.
Tzikzik means a genetic experiment in cloning and genetic
improvement. There are several kinds. The girls you've met
are Red Tzikzik. The pilots are Yellow Tzikzik. There are three Blue Tzikzik
that do design work. iSkandar is a Blue Vencume Tzikzik. It's a tricky word.
So....there are Vencume Tzikzik
and Human Tzikzik. We can assume
that the attacks were by Vencume Tzikzik?
Yes. (internal) How many
civilized races are going through something like
this right now? (coughs. external) aSabi! Can we get
Are these...Human Tzikzik actually...Human?
SOUND: tea being served
We're Human. Buer already said
that when we get older, we can
cross-breed, whatever that means.
Buer is another Vencume. (pause)
It means you can have children with Humans when you get older.
Neat. (she leaves)
The Vencume gave us the
field, didn't they? And the snapback and the MOUS, right?
A couple generations ago, yes.
We wouldn't have the colonies
if they hadn't.
Why do you think they did that?
(The Two Shipping
Authority representatives laugh)
I don't mean to mock the
question. You've hit a bit of a
Those of us who deal with them
on a regular basis
think they're lonely. Don't Humans keep pets to hold that at bay? Anyone who
has owned a dog or cat wishes—-at some point—-that the animal could talk or had
longer life. We want to know that we aren't alone. The Vencume probably want
the same thing.
(internal) But that's not the
case. Loneliness seems so innocent in
comparison. (external, slowly) There is no Vencume home-world. It was destroyed
when their sun died. I've seen it. I know that sounds
crazy, but the...connection...process. They can show you things. (uncomfortable
silence) They can't find a planet where they can live. But they know
that Humans can live anywhere.
Before you came in, we were
just discussing how much the
redheads look like Peggers.
Mr. Gorsky noted that as well.
your blonde pilots look like Leonis natives.
Ms. Gaines was the base model,
Yes, they used Evie's DNA and
adjusted from there. That was
about the time they grew new arms and legs for her. After the attack on the
That wasn't very long ago. These
girls are at least ten
The Vencume developed the
borrowed-time field. You don't
think they could halt the process while in transit? They call it advancement.
(internal) Tell them about the
schedule. (external) I think...that this project is nowhere near ended. I
that the Vencume are looking for something to rally behind and this ship is
going to be it. There may be others...like this. There are more civilized races
than we know about.
(hushed tones) Do you think we
might actually go to war with the Vencume?
(following suit) I don't
think if it came to that, it would be much of a war.
Mr. Gorsky already expressed
concern with us. He said that you and Ms. Gaines might be the best defense
against such a threat.
It has to do with
your...connections. He said, 'With
those two coneheads, you'd know everything you need to know.' You understand
the cloning process. Ms. Gaines understands the borrowed-time field. He seems
to understand Vencume history and politics. We aren't just here to re-introduce
you to Human society. We want the three of you to teach us what you've learned.
We are offering you whatever resources you feel you need to advance the Human
to help us in any future conflicts.
I think...that the Vencume are
going to become Human. I don't
think we'll ever really understand them, but they understand us. They fear us,
but they admire us.
Do you think that fear will make
I think their curiosity is far
How do you mean?
You think about how a Human is
put together. It's not just the
physical parts but everything else: all the events from their life that made
them what they are. Our history is full of horror stories. Isn't that why the
portmen left? Think of everything that happened afterwards and how we got to
where we are today. Sure, the planet made us in one shape, but we made
ourselves into something that can lie and kill and even love. We're the force
that acts on itself and that must be very scary to anything that doesn't know
You make us sound so brutal.
But we are! We're brutal
and...divine at the same time. The
Vencume have been living like still-water for so long and then we come along
with our high and low tides. We're things that can create art and atrocities in
the same breath.
(pause) Do you think the girls
influenced you in any way?
(laughs) That's us, don't you
see? We're clever and strong and graceful,
but we're jealous and paranoid and apathetic. We accept whatever looks good and
ignore what looks like trouble. But we always want the next best thing, don't
we? If you knew what these girls can do—-what they are capable of—-you'd be
delighted and horrified at the same time. Yes! They are Humans, but extreme
Humans. They are the very best and worst of what we can do.
You think there might be
trouble with them?
That's our gift, see? That's a
big mirror that's going to show
us all the ugly and glorious parts of us. Oh, I've only been here a few months,
but I know it. I know it like a mother knows her own child. I've never been
more proud or more ashamed.
(after a pause) Thank-you,
Doctor Tabib. We will call for you when we need
Becca stormed away from the
They don't understand. They
it. This is far from over.
She caught a glimpse of uLdwyna
in the hall on the way back from the interview.
The Shipping Authority
representatives are still on the ship. There are no Vencume in this section.
Why would that be important?
But the girl had already faded
Becca was almost to the quarters when the lights in the corridor flickered.
SOUND: horrible grinding sound
She felt her feet leaving the
Ulan was hurtling towards her in the quickly fading light.
We've been cast
Cast off? What do you mean?
Make your way to the bay in the
arm. We're in free-float and need to evacuate before this section cools down.
(internal) They broke us off!
They're just going to abandon us here? Was everyone in this
section? Will we be able to make it off in time?
We don't have much time. Stop
dawdling. We have to get out.
The ten pilots were holding
hands and swimming through the corridors.
iDana was already floating next to a lift door and directing two redheads on how to force it.
Once it's open, we can push down
shaft-way. If we find the lift in the way, we can push it past the entrance.
Already in the bay. She was
seeing those two suits off.
iLyssa's with her.
Soon, aSabi and aNaba got the
lift door open only to find Gordon and the
remaining redheads in the shaftway.
I see light!
I'm evacuating a dead section of
ship. I don't know yet. Ask again tomorrow.
too dark down here to see!
Here, use this to force it open.
How many are we going to try to
cram into that little ship?
Ten blinkers, ten pilots,
fourteen ground, you, me,
Scene 7: Bay
The bay was already in chaos.
Evie was trying to direct things in the dark.
We've lost power for some
reason. If we just wait--
No waiting. Get that craft ready
and prepare for a crowd.
The Shipping Authority
representatives had already powered up their ship and
Becca was momentarily relieved to see that it was larger than a standard
life-boat. Everyone would be able to fit, but it would be tight.
We can't get the bay doors open.
Even if we
can get everyone on board, we're still stuck.
Radio your people and let them
know what's going on. They can
break open the doors if need be. We're not in any danger once we have
atmosphere in this craft.
The three designers had clustered together; iDana was sobbing into her bigger sister's shoulder. iMala smoothed her sister's hair and tried to keep the calm in her voice.
(sobbing) They left us!
They abandoned us!
OK. We'll be fine. We're Humans and we need to be with Humans. You'll see.
We'll be OK.
They're afraid of us. They must
They fear us and so they have to be sneaky.
Ten girls with black hair
floated near the back of the ship with arms and
ankles crossed. Their eyes were shut and their faces unnaturally calm.
The ten pilots were also clustered together near the door. They all had tears in their eyes but looked to each other and smiled falsely.
(internal) They're trying to be
brave. They're trying to be cheery.
This ship is the only place they've ever lived.
You want to fire four bolts at
the corners and the
door will give out. The atmosphere we have in the bay will blow it out,
so make sure you're clear.
(radio) The Vencume ship broke
apart. They're putting
it back together but there's a piece floating free. Is that where you are now?
We're in the loose section, but
we've lost all power. It looks
like everyone is safely on your craft, but we need pick-up. Just get the damn
door open and let us dock!
(radio) Who the hell are we
talking to, anyway?
This is Ulan Gaines requesting
immediate assistance to evacuate an alien
She's my daughter, did you hear
Settle down, Chief. We're not
Four bright points at the
corners of the bay door told everyone that the
Shipping Authority had finally blown the door. The sheet of metal pushed away
suddenly and hurtled away, towards the planet's surface.
That will burn up. That's going
to be quite a show.
(radio) The Vencume craft has
left! It just disappeared! It's
Good riddance...Meddlesome squid.
We're the best. I'll show them.
We're the best and they can't do better. We're smarter than all of
them put together.
Give it time. You'll get to show
them. Don't worry.
The Shipping Authority woman
gave the engines a push and the crowded craft
eased out of the bay.
The ten pilots were humming
something to themselves. One of the redheads
started a chant.
We've shown them what Humans can
So let the bastards run away
Just give us time and we can prove
That we're the best some future day
All we need is time to grow
We're Human, right down to the bone.
Let them have win, place, or show
But we, at least, will have a home
Ulan had floated back to where
Becca, Gordon, and Evie were. A faint smile
played on her face.
It's the only place they ever
knew. How are you ever going to
Dear Doctor Tabib. Oh, dear
Rebecca. You underestimate our army.
MUSIC: Laurie Anderson "oh, Superman (matt mix)"
These days, Becca has a home in
the mountains. There are fruit trees near the
back of her yard, next to the wind-fence—plums and cherries—and in the spring
they cover the yard with a fine snow of white petals. In late summer, the
children from the village will climb their branches and feed themselves sick on
On the fence itself, there are honey-suckle and jasmine and during the hot months, the yellow flowers fill the air with their sweet perfume. In the planters, there are four-o'clocks in varying colors that open late in the afternoon. The moon-flowers bloom at night. Aster daisies and cosmos fill in the patches and a fine layer of violets even it out.
Becca walks everywhere here. The local market has what she cannot grow at home and everyone in the village knows everyone else. It may be a little cut off from the rest of the world, but they produce everything they need there. It's a tight-knit community. Becca is occasionally asked to break the tie when the local council has a vote, but she avoids politics for the most part.
No reporters or government representatives bother her here, but people from around the world do come to the school she runs. iMala's has invented an evidencer that makes teaching easier. It broadcasts much like the Vencume connection process.
Huri, Becca's daughter, has just entered secondary school and in the evenings, after a meal of chicken in white sauce or a bowl of Noah's stew, they sit in the living room, at the ancient oak table, and Becca helps Huri with her studies.
Becca did get a letter from Evie once that included a picture of her family at the beach. Ulan's long black hair is in pig-tails and she smiles broadly, shielding her eyes from the sun and holding up a star-fish she has found. Gordon has gained weight and kept his beard. They look happy. They never visit.
Evie also has a school where she teaches engineering. Gordon teaches a class on Vencume history, but it seems pointless because no one has seen a Vencume since. Ulan manages the affairs of her sisters, wherever they are.
The girls are scattered throughout the colonies. iMala settled on Cygnus-70 but she wants to go to Cygnus-16 to study the black-hole there and she writes that she has almost figured out how to use it as a source of power. iDana is moving up the ranks of the Shipping Authority as a security expert and has brought the ten black-haired girls with her. iLyssa went to Big-Bear-47 to see if she could improve the vegetable farming system there, but she has also shown an interest in law. There are pilots between every colony. There are redheads everywhere. Evie's family is expanding slowly and Gaines is now as powerful a name as Wainwright or Trechantiris.
After making sure that Huri is in bed, Becca will pour a cup of tea and sit in her backyard, enjoying the smell of her garden and looking up at the stars, satisfied that they are far away.
She still has a terrible sense of direction.