Fiction – Untitled

As I crossed in front of the crew’s quarters on my way back to my private station, a door glided open and Jes stepped out. She stopped as soon as she saw me.

            “Second,” I said in acknowledgement, nodding at her.

            “Hurly,” she replied, using my last name rather than my title of Captain. I didn’t mind her informality—I’d long resented the hierarchal structure of the space fleets—but it wasn’t like Jes to forgo what she saw as earned respect.

            “How’s the shoulder?” Though I had work to do, something besides the ship’s gravity simulator held me to the spot.

            She rolled it, wincing. “Tight but healing.” She seemed to waver but held eye contact in a way that I recognized as being pure Jes. “Can we talk?”

            “Of course.”

            “Um, crew’s quarters are a little cramped right now…”

            I realized at once this was to be a Serious Talk, requiring privacy and a delicacy of which I might not be capable, especially after learning what I had from Lead Commander Wren. Despite that, I had to give Jes my best attention. She’d saved my life on more than one occasion and would no doubt have opportunity to do so again.

            “Come with me to my quarters. I wanted to check to see if the specs for circling were in yet.”

            Jes’ face concealed her surprise, but having shared a tight living space with her for several years, I saw through it. I’d never invited anyone back to my quarters, the one luxury I maintained as Captain. Few others had their own living space. The doctor, the engineers simply because that level had the space, and a makeshift cabin for gunnery lead Kurinne because her post-traumatic stress after the near-miss take-off from Everine kept her from sleeping most nights.

            We took the stairs, both preferring the busyness of walking. Usually Jes’ opinions took up the space between us, and the contrast made her silence all the more disconcerting. At the top of the second riser I made the sharp left to my cabin and waited for the door to recognize me. It opened, shuddering a little—I kept forgetting to have an engineer take a look at it.

            “Come in,” I said over my shoulder as I walked through the doorway and waved on the info board above my desk. The specs had yet to arrive. My stomach eased.

            “Anik, Captain’s door is acting up again. No rush, sometime after mess should be fine, I know you’re working on the grav.” Jes waved off her tablet and slid it into her chest plate, her smile sheepish.

            “You do take care of me.” I returned her smile, thinking not for the first time how lost I’d be without her. Probably literally, considering her internal navigation was superior to my own in every way. ‘Earth-bound’, she liked to tease me.

            “I’m glad to help. Wouldn’t want you getting stuck in here.”

            “Ah, but then you’d be First. Not a promotion you’re after?”

            She should have known I was teasing; I’d never once suspected she’d step over me. But she shook her head, solemn. “I don’t want your job. It’s yours because you’re the only one who can do it.”

            “Is everything okay?” I asked, needing to know what was behind her furrowed brow and never one to wait patiently for exposition.

            “Yeah, of course.” In one smooth movement she pulled back her shoulders and widened her stance, like a cat puffing up to appear bigger. On a subconscious level it worked and some of my concern alleviated, but at the forefront of my mind I recognized it was a ploy, self-defence.

            She continued, “Just, gets overwhelming sometimes. Floating in the nothing, touching down only once every few months, knocking out Searchers and never hearing anything.” She slumped, her collarbones becoming prominent with her shoulders falling forward. I forced myself back into her words, my eyes on hers.

            “It’s the mission,” I said, voice soft, easing the cat’s fur back. You don’t have to be so big with me, I wanted to say but didn’t.

            “It’s more than that—” She cut herself off, maybe as surprised as I was by her abrupt tone. “Sorry, Captain.” She moved past me, standing in front of my cabin door with her back to me. Etiquette dictated that I stand beside her to let her out, since the door wouldn’t recognize or obey her. I decided to be rude, but watched carefully for signs that she really did want out and away from me. It was almost painful to follow my instincts because being wrong could hurt our friendship, something I care about more than even the mission.

            I put my hand on her shoulder. “Jes—”

            She turned hard on her heel to face me. Her hand came up to knock mine off but it seemed accidental, it was simply in the way, because now both her hands were on my shoulders, and she stood a mere half-metre from my face. The few centimetres of height she had on me disappeared with proximity. I was looking at her collarbones again, the dips in her brown skin, her skeleton seeming barely contained.

            I knew what was happening but I couldn’t move. I was her captain, there was an imbalance of power. Even if I were sure, I couldn’t trust myself, couldn’t forgive myself if she wasn’t sure. But when she pulled her hands back, I missed the warmth, and my body was moving without express permission. I grabbed her hands, replaced them, held them.

            Then she kissed me. With our bulky suits and mass of hands between us, my mouth felt everything, undistracted. There was the waxy slide of the honey balm we used to defend against the arid manufactured air. Her mouth opened and she breathed, and though it had occurred to me before that we’d shared a million common breaths on this ship, never had I tasted her like this. My grip on her hands tightened—how long could I hold her against me, how much of herself could she share?

            Why now, when the truth of our mission had been revealed to me, and I could never tell her?




Sorry for the wall of text but I wasn’t allowed to edit. This is an assignment my therapist gave me.

How to fix the world by writing without stopping. It seems easiest to start at the smallest thing and work my way up to the biggest thing, but how to define things? Creatures, yes, insects are very small, and bacteria are alive, and what about atoms, are they things or do they live? What does being alive mean in this context? I don’t really know but what I do know is that every thing, living or not living or in some liminal space of moving but not growing (is to grow to be alive?) lost my train of thought here hmmm okay starting over with the smallest thing that I can think of how to fix, bugs. Bugs are having a really rough go of it. There are 200 species on our planet going extinct EVERY day, that is 1000x the natural rate of extinction. Most of these species are bugs and that’s why most people don’t care. People think that bugs are pests, we kill them all the time, but every insect is here for a very specific purpose, and even if that purpose is simply food for the next biggest on the scale, that is a very noble cause indeed. Bees are the most important insect, arguably, because without them, we would have very little agriculture in five years. In fact, Einstein, who stole many of his ideas from his first wife and never credited them, said that without bees, men would disappear from the planet in four years. I’m sure by men he meant humans, but at that time women were not considered human but Other, and we didn’t really count. Interesting here that the current epoch we are living in is the anthropocene, Time of Man, which I think is very appropriate, especially since most experts consider this time to be almost over. Now, most men would tell you this means the extinction of Man which is, again, a stand-in for Human, but I disagree, of course. I think we are heading into the gynopocene. Time of Woman. This was a digression but an important one. You’ll have capitalists say, fuck the bees, we’ll just make poor people pollinate by hand, isn’t that lovely, JOBS! Steven Harper would be delighted. Then you’ll have futurists say, too bad about the bees but we’ll just make robot bees! Isn’t the future wonderful? Let’s all go to south Africa and dig twenty miles down into their land for the resources we need to create these robotic wonders, we’ll barf out our pollution there and it’ll be like it never happened! Never once thinking that ANY pollution ANYWHERE on the planet affects our GLOBAL climate. Anyway. Women, that is to say females, being the only true creators on the planet (I don’t mean inventing, or building, or engineering, but creating, growing), will say Save The Bees. And since women don’t have any money or land or power in a true global sense, everyone, even other women will say, what a stupid idea, it must be stupid since a woman thought it. So in conclusion, I didn’t get to talk about the things I meant to starting out, like the ocean or the Earth itself as a living organism on which we live the same way microbes live under our eyelids and feed on our dead eye guts, which is a lovely example of parasitic symbiosis, but unfortunately with men in charge and their hunger for power and money money money, resources, always extracting, taking, forgot about the SYMBIOSIS part of that exchange and have been simply acting as a cancer upon on our Earth since the beginning of agriculture and animal husbandry, which was the first time a man realized that HIS sperm in a woman helped create a human child, after which he decided this meant that he OWNED that woman AND that child, stamped them both his His Name and women have suffered ever since. Women, on the other hand, despite internalized misogyny and patriarchal brainwashing, understand that life is about give and take, but instead of every human doing both, we have become accustomed to one sex doing the giving, and one always the taking. So what does that mean? It means that if women stopped the population boom and refused PIV sex that the planet would be man-free in a hundred years and we’d finally have the time and energy to deal with our own trauma and the trauma of our distraught and destroyed planet. During that time women scientists will find the solution to living forever (reprogramming planned cell death or altering our telomeres so they don’t shrink with every reproduction, it doesn’t matter how all that matters is that we do it without profit in mind and then give it to everybody who wants it regardless of race or class, and even men can have it but only if they promise never to make another child, and if they want to have children then they can’t have it). We have to address the massive extinction level event problems NOW or we will suffer terribly. The solution is to put women in charge, everywhere, all over the globe. We need the bees for food, yes, but we could learn a lot from the way they construct their societies as well.