Monday, March 7, 2016
August 28, estimated (part 1)
My best guess was that another day had passed when the ship started to shake again. It wasn’t as violent as the first time, but it was still pretty bad.
Our lights flickered in and out, strobing so that that the room’s movements seemed to happen in stop-motion. The heaps of debris slid, sending off dangerous avalanches of shattered lighting panels.
“Stay low!” Resan yelled to me as we scrambled to the center of our cleared area, away from the shifting wreckage threatening us.
I did as he said, my crawling more like slithering with my belly to the floor. Damn this room and nothing to hide under.
“More explosives?” I shouted. At this rate, half the transport would be blown away.
“It feels more like fighting. Like a sustained attack from another large vessel.”
I could only hope the Pussy ‘Porter wasn’t having to take on the Earther battlecruiser. We were done for in that case.
There was an awful booming sound right over our heads. Resan and I looked up to see a huge crack had formed across the ceiling beneath the computer panels. Dust rained down on our upturned faces. A couple of computer interfaces dropped down, one crashing barely a foot from Resan’s head.
My heart hammered and I quaked even without the floor shuddering beneath me. Yet my tone was surprisingly bland. “Well, fuck.”
What else was there to say?
Resan and I watched as the crack overhead widened. It seemed pretty certain the ceiling was going to crash down on us. I thought of Anrel and readied myself for the worst.
Then all went quiet again, but for the groaning of the ship around us. Hearing the creaking supports within the walls and ceiling reacting to the shock was about as hair-raising as the actual attack had been. I thought something might still cave in on us at any second. At least the lights steadied. The room no longer shuddered.
After the chaos, I wanted desperately to com Oses or Betra. I wanted to check on them and Anrel. However I’d received no word that normal communications had been restored. Plus Oses – if he was all right – was no doubt too busy to deal with my worrying. He had a ship to protect.
I still tried to com Betra on the off chance I would reach him. No such luck. For a wonder, Resan didn’t make fun of me attempting what we both knew was a vain attempt. He focused on clearing the piles of shit that had fallen in our space and glaring at the cracked ceiling. It was as if he thought he could intimidate the fissure into fixing itself. If I was that ceiling, I’d have fallen just to spite him.
Once I’d given up on hearing Betra’s voice, I also worked to move the fallen pieces out of our way. I noted that making the clearing as big as Resan had before might have saved us from being chopped to bits. I didn’t say anything about it though. We enlarged our space more than before, putting debris up against the walls.
Then there was nothing to do once more but wait for the next ration of food and pain medication. And rescue. Waiting, waiting, waiting. In its way, it was worse than hanging on for dear life as the room rocked all around. Listening to the continued muffled noises of the room’s damaged structure straining to remain intact was nightmarish.
I hurt like hell too. I was determined to wait for as long as possible before giving in and taking something for the pain. If we were still under attack, who knew when we would be pulled out? If ever. Now there was a cheerful thought.
Resan had located his handheld computer as he’d picked up debris. He turned it over in his hands, looking at it with grim interest. He’d turned it on once to verify it still worked. It did, but like the transmitter linking our coms to the ship, it couldn’t access a connection to send out any messages. Not only that, he didn’t have the means to recharge it once its power was depleted. So he kept it off, conserving it for whatever aid it might render at some future time.
Resan stopped playing with it and looked at me. “I have a request.”
“I think it would be wise to record final messages to my parent and grandparent clans in the event I don’t survive this. I ask that you see to it they receive those messages.”
My first instinct was to tell Resan that of course he would make it. However I knew better. I would not throw empty words around in the hopes of temporary comfort. We could die at any moment. There was no point in pretending otherwise.
“Sure. I’ll do that,” I said.
“You may record messages on my device too, if you wish. If you are killed and I am not, I will see to it your loved ones get your last communication.”
I nodded. “Thank you.”
I don’t know about Resan, but the thought of being the last link to those he might leave behind gave me a boost in courage. We talked about the chances of our end, but far from being a gesture of throwing in the towel, it bolstered my resolve to survive. Delivering Resan’s final messages to grieving loved ones felt like an important mission. I certainly could not fail his esteemed grandmother who he threw in my face so often – may the great lady live forever.
While Resan recorded his messages, speaking in Kalquorian too rapid for me to follow, I sorted out who I would leave my final words to. My mother, of course. My dads. Oses. Betra. Most important of all, Anrel.
It hurt to think of my little girl growing up with no memory of me, no good times to reflect on. I hated the idea of being a short series of pictures and vids for her. Of being a story others would share. Of being a voice from the long-lost past.
I thought of all the things I needed to tell her, of my life on Earth before her, of Armageddon, of all that had come after. I thought of sharing our dramatic start together, each of us fighting in her own way to escape the It. And then the wonderful moments of seeing her grow, of every little miracle of progress that she made to live.
I could have written volumes of books to tell Anrel just half the things I wanted her to know. How was I supposed to share everything I felt needed to be said? How would I reach across time to allow her a connection to a woman she wouldn’t remember?
When Resan gave me the handheld, I still had no idea of how to express a universe of experiences. So I kept it to the things I wanted Anrel to know most of all.
“Hello, Anrel. This is your mother, Shalia Monroe. I am recording this for you, for later, because I’m in a bad situation that may mean I won’t live to see you again.
“I want you to know more than anything that I love you. In the short time I’ve been blessed with your existence, I have felt like the luckiest woman alive. Just seeing you makes my heart fill. You are the greatest gift I could have ever asked for. Thank you for that.
“Anrel, never give up on anything that you feel is right. Never give up on yourself. If you would do anything to make me proud, do that.
“Be strong. Keep getting up when you don’t think you have the strength to do so anymore.
“Be brave. Do what’s right even when fear is choking you. Never let fear stop you from pushing forward, because fear is only a feeling.
“Always reach for success. Do your best even when you know you can’t win, because trying is its own success.
“Don’t forget to stop and appreciate the good things in life. The people who love you. A beautiful day. The talents you will develop. It’s easy to forget and take everyday wonderful things for granted. Try to remember every now and then to count your blessings, because that’s what makes everything worthwhile. More than success and money and all the rest, I want you to be happy. Do that for me, Anrel. Above all else, be happy.
“I love you, my warrior girl. Forever and always.”
I clicked to end the recording. I sat for a moment, wondering if I had said the right things. I hadn’t told Anrel anything about myself. I hadn’t given her a hint of the woman who’d carried her. My message had been all about a mother’s hopes and wishes for her child, a desperate attempt at all the guidance I might not be able to give in person.
I couldn’t think straight though. Every time I thought of what else I should say, all I could come up with was the hope that Anrel would be okay. That she wouldn’t make bad choices, that she would be safe, that she would be strong enough to make others fuck off when they tried to harm her.
As I tried to sort through the onslaught of feelings and worries, my gaze fell on Resan. He regarded me with interest. His expression was impossible to read otherwise. His brows pulled together. There was a hint of a smile on his lips.
Before I could ask him what the fuck he thought he was looking at, he gave me a slow nod. For the first time, I heard him speak to me in a tone filled with respect. “A good message for your daughter to hear in the years to come. Well done.”
Prophets help us. Hell just froze over.