Darkship Revenge – Snippet 05

So, Kit couldn’t have run away. Good to know.  And I couldn’t picture him committing suicide by jumping from the ship to outer space with only the limited oxygen in a spacesuit. And so, the second place I checked was the suit storage locker.

Spacesuits from Eden are made of material unavailable on Earth.  They look and feel like a soft knit, but somehow lock when outside, to keep internal pressure.  The same for the helmet, which looks like a hood with a transparent view window.

Our suits normally hung in a closet, side by side.

Kit’s was gone.

So, he’d gone outside, wearing a suit and intending to repair the ship, as he said he would.  It was always possible, of course, that an unexpected tear in the suit, or something could have killed him without his realizing it was coming.  It was a risk we lived with.

I stood in the bedroom, watching my daughter sleep in the middle of our very large bed.  If Kit was gone, I must go outside and fix what was wrong with the ship, otherwise we were going to be dead.  And while life without Kit seemed horrible, I was responsible for that little creature: responsible for making her, responsible for bringing her into the world and responsible for choosing to take this trip while pregnant. Moisture formed in my eyes and rolled down my cheeks.

None of this felt fair, and the injustice of it all galled me.  It made no difference. There was no one to see me cry, and even if there were, who would care?  No one ever did anything for me because I cried, except maybe Kit. I was in charge of saving myself and my daughter.  And by damn I was going to do it.

Tears continued to flow as I decided the first order of business was to clean myself and the baby and to diaper her and dress her in something.  Then I’d leave her on the bed and go outside to fix the ship.  I felt a twinge at this, but didn’t know what else to do.

First of all, the bed had a horrible organic mess that I suspected, from reading, was the placenta.  Have I mentioned this is a stupid design?  I disposed of it down the incinerator.

I got in the fresher alone, first, cleaning the blood and sweat and other residues of the messy process of bringing a human to life, right down the drain.

Then I came back to the room, still naked, picked my daughter up and took her back with me to the fresher.  The business of being born must be even more tiring than the business of giving birth.  Though I’d set the fresher for water, she didn’t awake when I washed her, merely grumbled in her sleep and half opened her eyes, before closing them again.

She woke as I was drying her and set up a scream that wouldn’t stop.  Since I assumed she didn’t object to being dried, I diagnosed the problem as hunger.

Once she had been nursed, she dozed again, not waking as I diapered her using for the purpose a quick reengineering of feminine hygiene products, provided in the normal stocking of the ship, but not used by me at all this whole trip until now.

One of my tunics, stylishly tied around her feet served as further clothing.

She slept through all this, but opened her eyes when I put her back on the bed.  And I stopped.

I stopped, staring at her blue eyes and thinking that Kit had gone outside and something had happened.  What if I went outside and something happened to me?

Then I’d leave her behind here.  And she couldn’t even feed herself.

“Okay,” I said, surprised and annoyed at the sound of tears in my voice.  “That’s so not happening.”

The spacesuits stretched.  Not far, granted, but they did stretch.

It was uncomfortable and the baby squirmed. It took some doing to squeeze into it with my daughter tied around my middle, with the excess of her tunic’s sleeves.  Her nose protruded just below my chin, safely within the helmet and able to breathe, her back supported against me.  One thing I had managed to understand from the stories was that human newborns lacked spine strength.  This again seemed like a design flaw to me.  We’re a lousily engineered race.

It was uncomfortable as hell, but not as scary as leaving her alone in the ship, while I went outside to work on the shell of the Cathouse. And it made me feel less abandoned, less alone, safer.  It made no sense, because a little baby had no way of keeping me safe, but that’s how I felt.

She seemed to agree.  She fell back to sleep as we proceeded through the air locks, and outside. She didn’t even wake as the suit stiffened in response to outer vacuum.

I hate being outside the ship in space.  I always have.  I know the shoes that come with the spacesuit attach to the ship and that as long as I took care not to jump and have both feet off the ship, I’d be fine.  As the resident repair mechanic, given that the cathouse was designed almost as badly as the human body, I’d been outside many times.

It doesn’t make it any more comfortable.  I hate the idea of being in a place where you can fall, in any direction, without stopping, ever.  It’s not a fear of open spaces so much as a fear of lack of control.

This whole situation was tweaking that fear.  I wanted Kit back, and I wanted to know where he was.  I wanted my life back.

I got the little tool kit and walked in an unnatural duck-walk, so the entire sole of the suit made contact with the ship, to the air processing nodule first.  It wasn’t actually the air processing mechanism, merely the linkage of power to the air processor.  It was a bubble-like protrusion in the skin of the ship, and opening it, I looked at charred internals and blinked.

It wasn’t the charred internals that disturbed me.  There were replacement wires – only they weren’t exactly wires, being bioed, and technically I THINK living creatures – in the bottom of the tool box, and I had expected the ones in place to be charred.

No.  What I was staring at was characters, written in the charred remains of the connectors.  Two words.  Kidnapped and Earth.

“At least it isn’t Croatoan,” I told no one in particular, thinking of a particularly scary story about a lost colony which I’d read long ago in my father’s library.

It made no sense, but then the ship attacking us made no sense either.  Had they lurked around to kidnap Kit?  How does one lurk in open space?  And how easy was it to kidnap my husband? I couldn’t imagine him going without a fight. Then I thought again.  He might not have wanted them to notice he was not alone.  He might have gone quietly if he saw no chance of fighting them off without endangering us. He might have sacrificed himself to save us.  At least sacrificed himself to the extent of allowing himself to be kidnapped.  Which meant it was my job to set things right and free him. Besides the fact that I’d gotten used to him, and had no intention of living without him for any length of time.

I had to stay alive for my daughter, and life without Kit would be unbearable.  Therefore my daughter and I would have to go and find him.

It was getting really tiring calling her the baby or my daughter.  Kit and I had only spoken of names in jest.  If I’d had a boy I’d probably have named him Bartolomeu.  Or Jarl Bartolomeu, after the closest thing Kit had to a biological father and his mentor. But I didn’t. And we’d never agreed on a name for a girl.

Men had strange ideas, and my husband might be the strangest of all.  The only name he’d proposed for a girl was unsuitable. I was not going to call my daughter after Kit’s first wife.  There are limits in what love can cause me to do.  Through a moment when I’d shared his memories accidentally, I’d formed my opinion of that lady.  And it was not so complementary I wanted my daughter’s name to pay her homage.  On the contrary.  And it didn’t matter how much Kit’s guilt and his illusions made him like the name.

I thought of Kit, kidnapped and taken to Earth, and of the circumstances of my child’s birth.  There was really only one name for her.  “It’s alright, Eris,” I said, though she was probably asleep.  “We’re going to go to Earth and get daddy back.”