Escape Pod

by Lyn C. A. Gardner


We sat in the pod, arguing while the ship turned like a wheel above
us.  They yelled at me: "You shouldn't have left your post!  Now
they'll be sure to come after us!"

"Would you rather have left me there?" I countered, and they all fell
silent.  Silent as the grave.  I turned my back on them.  And yet, we
were almost free.  Free of the ship I'd made my home for the last
twenty years.  Invaded now.  Tainted.  They blamed me.  I was the one
who had opened the hatch, thinking to rescue Solace, whom we'd sent
out to service the ship only hours before.  She'd never responded to
our signals, and now they were here--just as I had come, myself,
twenty years ago, searching for something I could almost taste, even
now--something beyond my reach, grasped like the tendrils of a dream
too long after waking.  What was it all about?  Back then, I'd thought
I'd known.

I wasn't young, even then.  I was wandering, in search of a home that
was more than a dream.  I thought I had found one in this crew, in
this ship--finally, others like me.  Now we were cast adrift, all our
hopes cut asunder like our lifeline to the ship: we'd hacked our
umbilical free when the ship (our mother) would not let go.  We
drifted on one small motor, waiting for the inevitable pulse of our
doomed, exploding ship to propel us farther through the press of
wreckage, to a fate none of us wished to contemplate: the last of our
kind.

I warned them to cover their eyes.  They stared at me in blank
confusion, a child's panic in the whites of their eyes.  "Who set the
charges?" asked Cecily, my little charmer, with the spunk and the
golden ringlets.  Second only to Solace, gone now.  Cecily would have
to do, mother to the golden dawn of a new civilization.  Somewhere,
there must be a place we could call home.

Our ship flattened, blotting out the stars, spilling the last of its
gold warmth in a flare of orange incandescence.  I watched carefully
for any string of silver shooting out from the wreck--a trail that
would mean they had learned, they had followed.  Through the blank
void, the ship's extensions flared like arms, reaching for us, then
crumpled into blackness.

"They never knew," I sighed.  "We're safe at last."

But my dear ones huddle like rabbits in our narrow hutch, their faces
crunched in unreasoning fear as they stare at me, and the scene above
my head.  I feel like a prophet, the ship's last radiance illuminating
my outstretched hands, still streaked with her phosphor glow.