Mission to Michigan
What follows is a response to Stephan Zielinski’s writing prompt, which I highly recommend reading before trying to figure out what the heck is going on here.
TEN DAYS AFTER CONTACT
As Darian lay in the service tunnel, watching bubbles of her pretty candy-apple-purple blood flow up through the ventilation grate like a very depressing lava lamp, she had at last opportunity to consider where she had gone wrong.
She was young. She was fit. She had the processing power of a dual exhaust MegaMother from Fabulon Five. Would it really have been so difficult a week ago to politely show the Gorin to the jettison, and, if they resisted, kick them about the shins? In retrospect it seemed as thuddingly obvious as the spike through her neck.
The Gorin seemed harmless when they arrived — sad drifters through Centauri 9, no different from herself. The rest of the crew thought they were cute, in that homely way peculiar to French bulldogs and kids’ pottery.
The female’s name was Forblax, or something similarly phlegmmy. She had a shrill, keening voice, and used it to complain in an adorable way about everything put before her. Just the week before, in the mad carnivorous panic of sushi and fried chicken night, she all but climbed on her chair in horror of the former.
Squealed she: “I can’t eat raw meat!”
And next to her was Byron, that great steaming stallion of a man, who disposed of the offending fish as quickly as it was decried.
Said he, “Now sashimi. Now you don’t.”
Ah, Byron. How many times had Darian headed off to hypersleep with fantasies of Byron thundering through her CPU?: his soft brown eyes, his wavy hair, his luscious mouth, his large but dexterous hands. It was a shame he was on the bridge in fifty pieces.
ONE DAY BEFORE CONTACT
“You don’t have to knock,” said Gertrude, not looking up from the trio of screens.
“Just being polite,” said Darian. “Though it’s harder without the door. You rang…?”
“I want you to take a look at this.” Gert pointed at a magnificent poopstorm of Perl. “And explain to the captain why it’ll be at least a day before I get the superdrive running again.”
“Uh,” said Darian.
“You ever tried to modify another programmer’s regular expressions without a test harness?” snorted Gert. “That’s not a plan! That’s a… a…”
“POSIX of one, half a dozen of your mother,” said Darian. “I suppose Maxwell if hadn’t drunk himself to death we’d have unit tests to run.”
“But he did, so we don’t.” Gert hit enter and immediately generated another KeyboardInterrupt. “You’d think after five hundred years we’d have a better general-purpose language. Mother of God, even my mobile is written in Rubython.” She sat back and ruffled her silver hair. “Just let the captain know we’ll back on track to salvage the Michigan by morning.”
“Will do,” said Darian.
“I’m sure you have better things to do than listen to me vent. My apologies — technology is the only topic that really interests me.”
Said Darian, “I understand completely.”
TEN DAYS AFTER CONTACT
Byron covered Darian with his body, which troubled her not at all.
“Who knew they could move that fast!” he gasped.
“I know,” said Darian. “They’re built like door stops.”
“And they dragged the whole hamburger grill into the service tunnel for some reason. I never thought that could fit.”
“Yeah — it’s like ‘what’s a grill like you doing in a place like this?'”
Byron peered through the porthole. Twenty ugly-cute, blood-soaked Gorin babies toddled past.
“We have to blow up the Blue Wing.”
“That sounds like a terrible idea.”
“Terribler than waiting for the Gorin to find us?”
Darian covered Byron’s ungrammatical mouth with hers, then forced him aside. “I have to do it,” she said.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because there will only be thirty seconds to escape the explosion, and you are made of meat.”
“Oh, right,” said Byron.
LATER THAT DAY
Darian observed that three impaled Gorin babies can really spoil the balance of one’s improvised sword. She scraped them off with her instep of her space boot.
Forblax screamed the sound of peeling a steel banana. Darian covered her ears and retreated to a shadow, which is where she noticed the sizzling hamburger grill.
Huh — where’d they get all those hamburgers?
It was also where she noticed the pile of bloody uniforms.
She scythed through another few babies queueing with paper plates, and it was about that time the metamorphosed Forblax came sailing down the service tunnel on heinous bat wings.
“You won’t defeat the humans!” shouted Darian.
“What the hell do you think happened to the Michigan?” screeched Forblax.
“Oh, frick,” said Darian.
Darian leveled the pike at the Forblax’s furry heart, but the Gorin easily toppled her. Unfortunately, it was onto the utility dashboard. Even more unfortunately, the gravity lever stabbed Darian through the neck, pinning her tight.
Why ever did we make that gravity lever so pointy? Wait — I have an idea.
Darian braced herself and, with the insides of her neck, pulled down the gravity lever. There it goes. The light little babies bobbled into the air first. Right behind them came the grill, which fried them into delicious oblivion against the ceiling.
It would be fair to say weightlessness interfered with Forblax’s power of flight; however, it had no consequences for her squealing or her steady crawl to Darian.
“Do you really have to scream so high?” asked Darian. “It’s quite disruptive.”
“Screaming runs in my family,” said Forblax, chomping on Darian’s shin.
“Well, but what about the tone?”
“It’s how I screech a conclusion.” About this time Forblax came up with a mouth full of purple blood. “You taste terrible.”
“A bit like antifreeze?” offered Darian.
“Wonder how that could be.”
Thus died Forblax.
EVEN LATER THAT DAY
Amid a cloud of metal and debris, Darian rode the explosion into space. Yes, there was the rest of the ship intact. Yes, there were people alive inside — she had fulfilled her mission. But as she tumbled gently, trailing pleasant streams of purple blood, facing unknown thousands of years alone in the depths of space, she reflected that Asimov’s rules of robotics suck out loud.
But then she suddenly felt quite smart, and snatched an iron pylon from the floating wreckage.
I can use my remaining power surge to magnetize this…
Just need to work out the physics…
x(t) = x(0) + uâˆ† t + 1/2 aâˆ† t^2…
Wait — how the hell do I remember that?
It dawned on Darian that the supercool of space was allowing her circuits to operate at maximum efficiency. In fact, she spent the next ten picoseconds tabulating the molecules in Byron — and then the vowels in Proust, just to say she had.
She aimed the pylon at the ship and drew herself slo-o-o-owly to it, with the grace only a half-chewed supercooled purple android from Centauri 9 can muster.
TWELVE DAYS AFTER CONTACT
Darian gazed into Byron’s soft eyes. They were embedded in soft agar, in a soft dish, affixed to a jar of his brains.
Also reconstituted were Byron’s hands and lips. Darian had decided she could live without the hair.
“You should really be at that medal ceremony,” said Byron through his VoxTron 5000 neural translator.
“They’re still giving speeches,” said Darian. “It’ll be another forty minutes before they notice I’ve gone.” She caressed his brain jar. “At the next station we’ll get you a nice cart, and you can leave the room.”
“That will be lovely.”
They kissed, showering the table with purple sparks.
Said Byron: “I never dreamed it could be like this.”
Said Darian: “Oh, darling. Your jar is adored.”