12 August 2012 - 12:32 pm

Swan Song: Part 2

Would hate to keep you all waiting, so here’s the second chunk of my short story for you all to enjoy! We continue to move through the aged ships that travelled to establish the colony at Yuva.

Confused about what’s going on? Start at Part 1. Trust me, it’ll all make sense in the end.


Swan Song (cont.)

“For a hundred years, we travelled through the darkness. We slept and dreamed of the possibilities that our new home would bring. During that time, there were trials we could not know about, dangers we were not aware of. It was the dedicated officers of these ships who carried us through them.”


Kashani, Captain’s Quarters
Gliese 581 -10 minutes

“Hey, Schkotty, where areya?”

The voice crackled over the intercom, scraping through what was left of the ship’s innards. Between the quality of the lines and the slurring, the words were barely comprehensible.

Malachi Scott caught hold of a grip on the edge of the lift tube door and raised his voice, almost shouting at the intercom port on the wall. “Be back in a minute. Hold your horses.” A quivering green light showed that the intercom had picked him up.

“Hurryup,” Trotter’s voice slurred. “Ain’t no holdin’ back the schun, y’know.”

Malachi shook his head and pushed himself up to the Observation Deck level, cursing silently at the stiffness of his bad knee. It protested even in zero-G these days.

There was a net of hooch bottles floating behind him, clipped to his belt, and he cracked open a bottle as he floated along. He gulped and grimaced; the liquid burned all the way down his gullet, but he kept drinking, because hell, what was there to lose? It wasn’t like he had to fear tomorrow’s hangover.

When he thumped the trigger for the Obs Deck doors, a blast of sound and light washed over him. Music thumped and Gliese speared into his eyes from the huge sweep of ferrographite glass. The sun’s orange glow momentarily blotted everything else out. Not yet, he thought as he blinked the spots out of his eyes. Not quite yet, you bastard.

A part of him was surprised that the Obs Deck hadn’t been dismantled along with the rest of the ship, but apparently there was a flaw in the curved window that might give way and kill them all. Not good enough for the colony but fine for a voyage like theirs. So of course, this was where the party was.

Things had deteriorated since he’d departed to check the autopilot settings and fetch more hooch. The centre of the Obs Deck was a mess of bodies.

Malachi stopped and stared at them as his vision cleared. Pale, sticky limbs moved in time with grunts and mumbles that punctuated the music. His brain kept ticking over the facts – that’s the cryonic specialist, and there’s the ion engineer, how the hell is her hip not dislocating in that position, and who the hell installed sex-tethers in here? – while his skin crawled with horror. Of all the things he wanted to see on this final journey, a zero-G geriatric orgy wasn’t on the list.

“-ey, Schkotty!” Trotter smacked him on the leg with a cane and the sharp pain made Malachi blink. The old fella was clipped into a reclining couch and, thankfully, not indulging in the carnal activity. “You gonna gimme a bottle or wha’?”

Malachi shrugged. He unclipped the net of hooch bottles and nudged it towards the old fella. “Here ya go. What the hell?” He tried to gesture towards the copulation without looking at it directly.

Trotter shrugged and took a gulp of hooch. “Dunno. They wasch dancin’, then th’ten-minute warnin’ came over, an’ all of a sudden they wasch tumblin’ all over each other.” He grinned sideways up at Malachi. “You wanna bet how many of ’em pop before we hit?”

He couldn’t help it: Malachi smiled back. That was just like Trotter. “Nah. That means we’d have to watch ’em to keep count.”

Trotter gurgled to himself; it was supposed to be a giggle but it sounded more like he was drowning in his own amusement. He wriggled in his couch and swiped a shirt out of his way so he could see better.

Malachi pushed himself past a listless woman on his way to the couch next to Trotter’s.

“What happened to her?” He nudged the woman, Kerise, and she smiled, blinking slowly. Not unconscious, but definitely not there with them. She floated a short way before the tether attaching her to the wall arrested the motion. She drifted back again.

Trotter belched loudly. “Dunno. Been like that since y’left.”

The world was growing fuzzy when Malachi leaned over to grab one of her slack arms. The hooch was kicking in, softening the edges of the world, and he licked his lips. There, where her sleeve was pushed up: a pinprick. She’d managed to bring narcotics with her, probably stolen from the colony’s med centre. He felt a stab of jealousy.

When he pulled himself around to kneel over her, he barely felt a twinge from his bad knee. His skin was warm all over, faintly tingling in places. Damn good hooch. He started to fumble through Kerise’s clothing, his fingers feeling oddly thick.

Trotter’s gurgling laugh surged over him. “You too, you too! Go on, boy. She ain’t gonna mind!”

Malachi frowned; that wasn’t what he was doing. But maybe it’s not such a bad idea, he thought. Then his hand closed around a syringe in her pocket.


“We will never know some of those who made this journey possible. They watched over us while we slept; they guided us through the darkness. They were our caretakers and trailblazers, and they gave their lives for us. Without them, we would not be here today.”


Avicenna, Observation Deck
Gliese 581 -5 minutes

“He’s coming around again.”

Sara wasn’t sure who had spoken but the words pulled her out of her reverie. She glanced down at her split knuckles and thought about the cleansing nature of blood. Her hands were starting to hurt, but that wasn’t going to stop her.

The pair of hands curling around her arm and belt did, though. She looked into Dominique’s face and felt something soften inside her. Resolve, maybe.

“We’re almost there,” Dom said. “It’s enough, isn’t it?”

There were four others milling around the room, but the soft voice beside her was all Sara heard. She looked forward and frowned. The huge Obs Deck window had been replaced on the Avicenna with patches of old hull plating, with only two ferrographite glass panels to show the death rushing towards them. Tethered across each was a body: spread-eagled silhouettes against the oncoming sun.

Technically, neither of these bodies was supposed to be here. The one on the right had been accused of killing four people, including two children. There hadn’t been enough evidence to convict her and official colony justice had been forced to set her free.

She’d been heard boasting in a bar afterwards, so the story went. All Sara knew was that they’d found her lashed to the Obs Deck wall a day after they’d set out for the sun. Everyone knew her face from the news transmissions, so there was little doubt that unofficial colony justice had put her there.

Sara wondered how many compartments in the three ships held people who weren’t supposed to be on board. How many of the colony’s problems was this voyage cleaning up?

The second body sprawled across the window was Terry Butcher. He was the only crew member to ever be forcibly put back into cryo-stasis. All of those present knew why.

He had been the biochemist in charge when they had been defrosted and incorporated into the crew as teenagers. He’d been responsible for training them, and for him that meant putting his hands on all the young girls. Even after they had convinced the captain about what he was doing and Butcher had been thrown back into stasis, it had been years before Sara could spend time alone in hydroponics without suffering a panic attack.

Upon arriving at Yuva, they had tried to get the colony leaders to prosecute him: the six surviving victims and the new captain. But the leaders didn’t want to start the colony with that kind of dirt raked out into the open. They wanted to cover it up, leave him frozen until no-one remembered.

The crew wanted justice.

Sara watched the blood floating in the air, globs of coagulating pain. She wanted to hurt him as much as he’d hurt her.

She shivered as she realised that it would never be enough. She couldn’t look at him without seeing how young he was: thirty-something to her ninety-two. He hadn’t changed, and that made the memories fresher for her. There was no washing them away.

“Let the sun have him,” Dominique murmured from Sara’s side. “Let it go.”

Sara tore her gaze away from the windows. Dom was the only one who hadn’t vented her rage on Butcher’s body; the only one whose hands were clean. Maybe that’s why Sara wanted to hurt him so badly: because her partner couldn’t. Or maybe she just wished for the peace that Dom had found.

She closed her eyes and rested her forehead against Dom’s. Butcher was still a young man, but she was old. She’d had a full life. She’d made improvements on his shitty hydroponics and they’d named the new system after her. She’d seen more stars pass them by than she could count, and she’d seen alien plants crawling up the walls of human settlements. She had loved and been loved.

She took a deep breath and let it out again. “Damn you, anyway,” she said, and she felt Dom laugh softly.

“I know.”

Sara’s lips quirked and then dipped to press against Dom’s. For many long heartbeats, they clung and kissed, and parted only to breathe again. Something deep inside her relaxed and, for the first time on this voyage, she could see past the bodies in the windows.

Maybe, she thought, maybe this is what peace feels like.

(Part 3 coming soon!)

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  1. Matt says:

    Hey, I remember reading this! I notice you let us read it first before posting it, I’m flattered!

    September 4th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

  2. Mel says:

    Of course! It wasn’t done until it had been read by you guys. 😀

    Which reminds me: I should post the last section up here soon.

    September 5th, 2012 at 9:33 am