Darkship Revenge – Snippet 03

“I’m fine,” I said.  “I know I’m tired, but don’t feel it.  May I see her?”

He made a sound that was either a sigh or a chuckle.  “She’s not much not look at,” he said, as he picked her up, and handed her to me.

She wasn’t much to look at.  She was small, wrinkled, with a head covered in tight black curls, and big blue eyes with puffy eyelids, as if she’d been crying for a long time.  And she was glaring at me as though I’d offended her mortally.

I probably had, ejecting her from the only world she’d ever known and into … this.  I counted her fingers and toes.  Yes, I know it’s stupid, but I’d read somewhere if they had all their fingers and toes, they’d be all right.  And with Kit and I, both, being the product of labs and test tubes, you never knew.  But she was perfect, not a tentacle in sight.  “Shouldn’t you go see if there are any affected systems, besides grav?” I asked Kit.  “And see if you can make them stop attacking us.”

“I told you the systems are fine for now. They’ve stopped attacking us.  The shot that took grav out was the last.  When I checked on systems, they’d left.” He raised his head slowly.  He was shaking and his eyes looked like he was somewhere far, far away.  He took a deep breath and shook his head.  “They… They seem to have disappeared too.  I can’t find them on any view screens.” He took a deep breath. “I’ll need to go outside and repair connections and sensors,” he said.  “But we’re not in danger any more.  And it’s repairable.  Everything on this ship is.”

“That makes no sense,” I said. I tried to figure out how to nurse, even though I’d only experienced it in sensies before.  You’d think it would be self-explanatory too, I mean, what else were my breasts for but to feed babies?  Beyond Kit’s amusement of course.  But it turned out to be pretty complicated.  Maybe evolution coded for aesthetics more than for function?  I pushed my nipple at the baby, but it just glanced off her lips.  And then, when she got hold of it, it was to the side, and her sucking hurt like the devil.  I said a string of bad words, as I put my finger in between her mouth and my breast to break suction.

“Athena! Don’t swear in front of the baby!” Kit said.  I swear he actually said that.

“Your daughter can’t understand how to feed herself, much less bad language. She obviously gets this from you.  Both problems.”

“I doubt it,” he said.  “I always understood female breasts.”  I realized that I had no idea if Kit had been breast fed, or even how many people in Eden breastfed. I suspected most used some kind of bio-feeder like the wombs.  I mean, navigators and pilots had babies while out on pod-collecting trips. Perhaps what I was trying to do looked as archaic to him as it did to me.  But we had no baby formula aboard the Cathouse.

Just then she latched. Properly. Her eyes went really big at the sensation or the taste of milk, and I looked up at Kit. “The ship attacking us and leaving makes no sense. Why would they attack us and then leave?”

“I don’t know,” Kit said.  “Maybe it was a case of mistaken identity.  Earth is at war, after all.”  He frowned.  “Several wars, I expect by now.”

“But that shouldn’t extend to space,” I protested.  “There really is no space presence beyond Circum.”

“Maybe,” he said.  “But your idea of how things were and how they really were aren’t always the same.  Maybe the Good Men had secret bases in space.  They were secretive bastards.”

I inclined my head in semi-agreement.  The last few years had been a series of shocks about how the world really worked and what history really had been.  “Maybe.”

We were both covered in blood, I was naked, and the room, between lack of gravity and the dirty aspects of birth, looked like particularly messy barbarians had stormed through.

My child sucked, greedily, completely absorbed in her task. I held her and looked down at her thinking how odd this was.  How strange that I could become a mother so — Not easily, no, not quickly, but almost accidentally.

Kit looked at us, with that odd look of reverence that males reserve for things that scare them more than a little.  “We have a daughter,” he said. He sounded like he wasn’t sure what to do with the situation.

I nodded.  This small creature was utterly dependent on me and would surely die without me.  I’d never had anyone utterly dependent on me.  Yes, I’d rescued Kit from some horrible situations, but he’d rescued me too.  It wasn’t a one-sided relationship.  And he could go on living without me, no matter how little he would like it. But with my daughter…

The word tasted wrong, as something that could not possibly apply to me.  She looked small, unfinished and red, with a face the size of a large orange, and the most determined expression I’d ever seen.  She clenched her fists, as though she were engaged in a difficult battle and she glared up at me as though she couldn’t trust me.

Kit stood up, stood by the side of the bed, looking down. “She has your eyes,” he said.

“Sure,” I said.  And since his, feline shaped and to a certain extent feline-efficient, were the result of a bio-engineering virus introduced in the first trimester of gestation, I added, “We didn’t pay extra for her to have yours.  Still, she might make a decent navigator yet.”  Both navigators and pilots – colloquially called Cats in Eden – were bioengineered.  Navigators’ improvements were largely invisible: things like visual memory, very good sense of direction and an ability for mechanical reasoning.  I had those, engineered into me for other reasons than to become a navigator.  Which is why I could fly pod-collecting missions with Kit.  And our daughter, while obviously not inheriting his eyes, could have inherited my characteristics.

He did a laugh that sounded like a hiccup.  “I hope –”


“Nothing.  Foolishness,” he said.  “I was going to say I hoped the world would be kind to her, but I don’t think that’s how it works.”

“No, we each have to make the world as kind to us as we can.”

“And we’ll have to protect her until she can look out for herself,” he said.

“Yes,” I said. This tasted strange, but it also felt right.  I didn’t want it to be true, but if I didn’t owe anything to someone I’d created, to whom would I owe anything? She couldn’t look after herself.  And I’d brought her here, on purpose or not.

He got up.  “Right,” he said.  “I’m going to see about fixing those sensors.  And then I’ll come back and help get you cleaned up.”

It was the last I saw of him aboard the Cathouse.