Monday, March 31, 2008

Madonna and Child.

This time I open my eyes to a familiar face I've never seen before: only a boy, early twenties perhaps, physiologically. His face is a little lopsided, the cheekbone flatter to the left than to right. His ears are too big. And while the eyes below his frown shine with their own bright intelligence, I know immediately that he is natural.

I haven't spoken for millennia. My voice comes out a whisper: "Who are you?" Not what I'm supposed to ask, I know. Not the first question anyone on Eriophora asks, after coming back.

"I'm yours," he says.

I want to let that sink in, but he doesn't give me the chance: "You're not scheduled for this shift, but the Chimp wanted extra hands on deck. We've got kind of a situation brewing on this next build."

"Situation?" It can't be good; the appearance of new crew can only mean the death of old.

"Maybe a contact scenario."

I wonder how many centuries ago he was born. I wonder if he ever wondered about me, before now.

He doesn't tell me. He only says, "There's a sun up ahead. Half a lightyear. It's — flickering. Chimp thinks maybe it's talking to us."

And Chimp's not smart enough to deal with it on his own. They built him that way.

"Anyhow..." My son shrugs. "It's not like there's any mad rush. You've got lots of time to catch up."

I nod, but he hesitates. He's waiting for The Question, but I already see a kind of answer in his face. Our reinforcements were supposed to be pristine, built from perfect genes buried deep within Eri's iron-basalt mantle, safe from the sleeting blueshift. And yet my son has flaws. I see the damage in his face, I see those tiny flipped base-pairs resonating up from the microscopic and bending him just a little off-kilter. He looks like he grew up on a planet. He looks borne of parents who spent their whole lives hammered by raw sunlight.

How far out must we be by now, if even our own perfect building blocks have decayed so? How long has it taken us to get here? How long have I been dead?

How long? It's the first thing everyone asks.

This one time, I don't want to know.



Blogger Jacqie said...

AAGGHH! What next?!

March 31, 2008 8:45 PM  
Blogger Raja said...

Fucking awesome.

March 31, 2008 9:17 PM  
Anonymous chang said...

Brilliant. Oh. my. god. More, please.

March 31, 2008 10:12 PM  
Blogger Mac said...

You're a cruel, cruel man.

April 1, 2008 12:43 AM  
Blogger Teresa said...

He turns us in to addicts and then gives us just enough to keep us moaning, "more..."

April 1, 2008 2:10 AM  
Anonymous rorschach said...

"And while the eyes below his frown shine..."

What? Below?!? Reminds me of a certain character from "Family Guy," whose eyes are below his mouth (where his eyes should normally be). Am I wrong?

Otherwise, a most intriguing teaser.

April 1, 2008 5:31 AM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Hey, didn't I say the kid looked a little bit off?

April 1, 2008 9:29 AM  
Blogger eileen said...

"And while the eyes below his frown shine..."

Just wanted to point out that a frown mainly takes place on the know - as in 'furrowed brow'? So the characters' features, while somewhat skewed are still all in the expected places.

Bah! Look at what you're doing to us - you're just in the beginning stages of working out this story and we're already as picky and twitchy as trekkies!
...or was that just me??
Want. More.

April 1, 2008 1:40 PM  
Blogger oliverdyas said...

I thought maybe Canadians frown with their mouths or something; when people say really weird things I tend to jump to really weird explanations..

April 1, 2008 3:02 PM  
Anonymous dad2059 said...

He turns us in to addicts and then gives us just enough to keep us moaning, "more..."

This shit is my first, and favorite drug...


April 1, 2008 3:21 PM  
Blogger razorsmile said...

So maybe his eyes are beneath his mouth. Why not? In millions of years and technology of every imaginable provenance, that's a very minor divergence of the phenome.

More please. Pleeeease :D

April 3, 2008 12:38 AM  

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