Castaway Resolution – Chapter 06

Chapter 6.

Numbers stared at her with all three eyes, one of them flicking back and forth to look at the display near him. “The ‘Kryndomerr Resonance’?”

“You and I did the work together, but you were the one who first found the pattern that showed something was causing well-maintained ships to disappear, and then did the hard work of deriving the function and building the models that showed that it actually worked the way we thought.”

The Bemmie’s hide showed a doubtful blue-and-pink pattern. “You were the one who came up with the basic idea, though.” She saw, past the big alien, his pod or family, waiting at the nearby shuttle.

“Resonance? Come on. We both thought ‘resonance’ at the beginning, we just couldn’t figure out how there could be a resonance once we saw the maintenance records,” Sue said. “Yes, I did come up with the idea that a near-perfect field might resonate, but you were the one that came up with the model that showed that it could actually happen. Numbers, thousands of people thought it should be possible for people to fly through the air, the idea was ancient, but only the Wrights, Langley, Whitehead, and a few other pioneers made it real.”

Two eyes closed, the other narrowed, as different colors and patterns chased across Numbers’ body. “Is that the only reason you put my name on the effect, and my name first on the paper that you actually wrote? I’m terrible at writing.”

She laughed. “All right, no, it’s not. You guys have enough roadblocks in your way getting ahead in our society. It costs me nothing but a little credit to put your name first, and this is a big, splashy, important event in the history of space travel. If you get a lot of the credit, it will show a lot more people how much you have to contribute, not just by diving and swimming and so on, but in thinking fields, just as much as us. And you did do a lot of the work, so it’s not in any way a lie.”

The big Bemmie rubbed his arm-tendrils uncertainly for a moment, then relaxed. “Then. . . thank you, thank you very much, Sue. I’ll make sure to always mention you if anyone asks.”

She gave the alien a friendly slap on the back. “I’d expect no less, given how I’ll be talking you up.” She looked at her omni display. “Your family’s continuing on? You’re sure?”

“Yes,” he said emphatically. “Whips. . . Whips would not want his loss to stop us. We were honored beyond all other pods in being chosen; we cannot give up now, or it is possible that it will be a long time before any of our people is given the chance again.” His colors muted again for a moment. “And it has now been nine months. More than enough time for any survivors to have made it here. . . and longer than any of them could have survived.”

She held back a reflexive, well-meaning offer of hope. Kryndomerr was right; there weren’t enough supplies on any of the lifeboats to allow them to survive to this point, and even fewer supplies had been on LS-5, the boat that Numbers’ son had been aboard. “My sympathies again. But I’m sure you’re right.” She gripped the bases of two of his arms with her hands, the equivalent of a warm handshake. “Good luck on Tantalus. And maybe I’ll find a way to come out that way and visit.”

“Please do. My pod. . . my family would be honored to have you as a guest.”

She stood and watched as Numbers and his family — Windharvest, Dragline, and Pageturner — boarded the shuttle to the finally repaired Outward Initiative. All four of them stopped just before boarding and gave her a wave-and-flattened-bow that was the deepest sign of respect, echoed by the solemn color pattern on each. She waved and bowed back; a few moments later, the landing shuttle launched and was gone.

Sue stood there a moment, just letting the quiet efficiency of Orado Station soak into her. She thought back to the time just before Outward Initiative‘s arrival, and felt a pang of guilt. I was wishing something would happen then. I should always remind myself what ‘something happening’ means in space. This “something” had cost over two hundred people their lives. Some might have died long after the others, drifting in space in non-functioning shuttles; they obviously had not survived.

From now on, she promised herself, I will be happy to have nothing to do.

She smiled, and headed towards Port Control. Back to what I devoutly hope will be many years of boring duty!