I Was Mother To A Garbadge Scow

I was mother to a garbadge scow, and now I had to come to terms.

@p What went wrong? It didn't make sense. The auto-shipyard had been correctly loaded with Battleship Athremetica specifications, our last-ditch try at survival. The human race had mustered it's energies for three long years in the aftermath of the Bering Interstar Conflict to provide the raw materials, gathering them in secret and at the cost of many lives. When they had brought them together in one place, at a secret location in the asteroid belt known only to five of humanity's fifty three billion remaining persons, the plan was put into effect.

@p I was brought from Kendar Station to initiate the programming. Of course, I didn't know at the time what I was being recruited for, only that I had been transcripted for duties. Somehow, I would soon learn, the Barian Scurge had missed one of our largest shipyards-- probably because it was about 45 years out of date, and had fallen into disuse. But no matter-- it would suffice, though the construction would take longer.

@p We had obtained the plans, that is, the plans to the Battleship Athremetica, from a wandering Doulin Envoy. It had been thought that the Scurge had eliminated them all, but apparently not. They wanted to give us a fighting chance. The Battleship would have full compliment of Doulia's greatest mystery— the reverse panda torpedoes, as they were called, which combined space and negative space together in a kind of spectral flux, rendering all quantum color invalid in their range of detonation. This technology had almost won the war for them, if it were not for the Scurge developing the prime antibody: a bioweapon designed to remain hidden for three years, spreading, until all at once it took affect, turning it's host into an insane Scurge-bot, intuiting and performing the will of it's masters, even without command.

@p The Doulin, at that time the only sufficiently-advanced resisting species, fell shortly after.

@p We— all of humanity, I mean— were meant to be mopped up, more or less whenever we found our turn up on the Scurge's Roster of Total Wipeout. In the meantime we had developed a secret organization, called the Earth Recovery Sub-Government, and were in the midst of preparing something (I'm not sure any of us knew what, though) when the Doulin appeared with this final hope. Since then, we had marshaled ourselves entirely on this one plan. And now.

@p And now I stared at it.

@p Jet black, looming fifteen thousand meters from stem to stern, inscrutiable and terrible, save for yellow letters, one kilometer high, printed across the side: SHIT STINKER.

@p This what what I had produced instead of humanity's true, last and final hope: a scow of proportions undreamt.

@p It had been too risky to have anyone attend the shipyard while it labored for the year and a half needed to construct the Battleship. I alone had retreated to a nearby asteroid cabin, to wait out it's construction. If I was discovered, it would have all been over; but then, it would have anyway, since a sweep that fine would have meant our turn was up. It wasn't. It had been a boring, tedius, torturous wait, but I had survived unscathed. Bored, even.

@p Instead, at the appointed time I had cautiously returned to the secret shipyard, preparing to carry out my duty of powering-up and piloting the Battleship to a rendesvous point precisely 41% of the way between the orbits of Saturn and Jupiter, on the line bisected between the Sun and Earth. From there, the Earth Recovery Sub-government would enact the evacuation and resettlement plan, where a vanguard of humanity would be collected, to speed across and away from our corner of the galaxy, destroying any Scurge encountered, but moving on, and finally once arriving (and it would be decades, perhaps generations) in a space place, a safe space place, far from the Barian Empire, to settle and seed a new world. And carry on.

@p Instead, it turned out, we had only the SHIT STINKER, hanging silently in the sky, ready to collect any and all garbadge in it's sheer enormous maw, a hull simple, monolithic and vacuous scoop. Maximum supportable crew compliment: 5.

@p I knew this. I knew how I knew it.

@p I knew it, because I had designed it.

@p I had designed it during my cabin stay, as a way of passing the time. It had been 10 years since life had been normal enough that I could use my skills to design spacecraft. And so, nothing to do and no company, I had designed the SHIT STINKER as a way to amuse myself. It was a simple and ludicrous design, something that could never be built, and would have no purpose if it were. An inside joke to myself. It had only taken me a few days; after that, I moved on to other pursuits-- it had been disheartening to resume my design practice, a futile exercise after all.

@p So when I saw it, I at first was confused, thinking a dream had taken hold, that I had to be wakened from. But in that impossible-to-define way, I knew I was yet waking, and not in the sense where a dreaming self "knows" it is waking, only to find itself awoken, and still in another dream, "knowing" once more itself awake, until that illusion too, is shattered, an unending tesseract of dreams closing in on themselves, and yet then when the dreamer finally breaks free, they then know, unambiguously, somehow— in this true sense and real I knew I was awake.

@p It had to have been sabotage! The Doulin Envoy, they had tracked me to my cabin, surveiled me, and— no.

@p A lump.

@p A deep and sudden pit of realizing.

@p I turned in my chair, in my small transport craft, now floating before the behemoth. I unbuckled and floated to my locker, withdrew my design tab.

@p I checked the Subnet Connection, which I knew was off, for the icon wasn't there, which was what happened when it was turn-- wait.

@p The icon should have been there, just with a red line. There was nothing. I swiped into settings, control panel, connections. The subnet was active! What!? How could it— wait.

@p I swiped back, and quickly, I could feel vomit at the base of my taste, and it tasted like vomit, I wanted to vomit from it. I didn't vomit.

@p I swiped into Toolbar Options, and flicked down several pages until "S". At that momemnt I noticed on the toolbar an icon I didn't recognize, and I saw this icon, a strange parabola with sparks coming off it, was checked and enabled. It was for something I had never heard of, something called Succula Supa Sweepstakes. Why would I enabled that? It didn't make any sense, I never played at lott-- wait.

@p Below it, Subnet Connection, the toolbar icon, was unchecked.

@p I had disabled the icon for Subnet Connection status, and enabled the icon by accident for Succula Supa Sweepstakes.

@p I closed my eyes.

@p I opened them, and swiped back to my files. My Ship Plans.

@p I opened the folder, "Trash", which I had so named to hide the plans for the Battleship Athremetica. I was no expert but it seemed practically pretty smart. The folder had the Dropbox Secure Share tag hovering on it, a gold padlock in holographic clarity, unmistakable. I opened the folder. Inside was a single Plan1.mfsxl file. My index finger touched the tab deliberately on this icon, and in a moment, as deliberately, released it.

@p Starscape B-Studio Pro 3.816 started loading; it took an agonizing 6 seconds or so to load plugins, like it always did.

@p The file opened.

@p I looked at the screen.

@p I looked out my viewport, and back again at the screen.

@p I let go the tab, it floated off, and I closed my eyes, and I brought my hand upward, and I spread my fingers slightly, and I pressed them all together with palm against the flesh of my face, hurting my nose slightly.

@p A deep breath.

@p Another.

@p I laughed, out loud, and in a moment wondered if that was humanity's last lol, had after all at it's own expense.

I'm not sure how much time passed while I floated there. When I returned to my seat, I punched up a sensor survey, and found part of a microcarbon skeleton, about three days' work, of what must have been the aborted start of the Battleship Arithmetica, discarded dutifully by the auto-shipyard.

A month later, I would be at the rendesvous point, at the appointed time. Well, no, actually, I was exactly 15 minutes early.

@p I would communicate with the city ship of almost a 100,000 refugees, a tenth of whom had been selected by lottery to be the surviving vanguard.

@p I punched the com: "This is SHIT STINKER to Sub-Governmental Refugee Ship HAIL MARY FULL OF GRACE. I have room for four."

November 15, 2016

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