Monday, September 28, 2009

Hogs of the Heavens, Part 5

I know I had promised the conclusion to Hogs of the Heavens for Monday, and I’m posting this while it’s still Monday here in Arizona. Unfortunately, due to a very busy weekend and Monday, I haven’t had much chance to work on the story, and so I regret to say this part will not be the conclusion. I will do everything in my power to be sure I have the conclusion posted for Friday Fiction this week, before we leave for Mexico on Friday morning.

Eusebio Kino, the man that Cranston’s main vessel is named after, is a well-known name in Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico. If you read about him on Wikipedia, you’ll find why I considered him an apt namesake for this kind of vessel.

Hogs of the Heavens is turning out longer than I originally thought it would, and the more I get into the story, the more I think this would make a good prelude to a novel-length manuscript. For now, it looks to take its place with the Rover Tales I write from time to time, and gives me new ideas to consider.

Previous Parts:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Hogs of the Heavens

Part 5

By Rick Higginson

“Affirmative,” he said, and then turned to her. “When I wake up, we should have something better for you to wear.”

“What should I do while you sleep?”

“You can slip into one of the cots and sleep as well, or just stay close by, or you can even go explore the ship a little.”

“I can move about freely?”

“Why not? You’re not a prisoner or a threat, are you? As a visitor, the Erikson won’t let you go anywhere you shouldn’t, or do anything that could cause problems, and you can’t get lost, as she’ll guide you to me if you just ask.” He yawned. “If I don’t get some sleep, though, I’m going to start seeing things that aren’t really there.”

“If I need any help - ?”

“Just ask the ship. Either the Erikson will tell you what you need, or she’ll wake me to come help you, and believe me, I won’t sleep through the summons.”

“Thank you, Cranston. Whatever I find up here could not make me happier than having someone believe I’m more than just a foolish, helpless sow.”

He opened his mouth to respond, and lost his words in another yawn as she floated back towards the bulkhead door. Sleep came quickly, and his eyes were closing before she made it to the corridor.

Faces danced through the interval of dream-sleep – people he’d known and left behind at Procyon. He saw them as they once were, peers his age or younger, and not as he knew they were now. His time in SusAn had kept him young through the years of space travel, while his friends and family had continued to age. He dreamed of home, and his little sister now had a son that was older than him.

His sister sounded like their mother as she told him in the dream, “Cranston? He went away years ago and never came back.”

Deep sleep ended the dream before he could tell her he was Cranston.

He was shaken awake after what seemed far too short a nap. He mumbled unintelligibly and blinked his eyes, trying to focus when he wasn’t sure he was even ready to wake up.

“Please wake up and tell me you’re real,” the voice pleaded just in front of him.

“I – guh – what?” he said. His vision cleared and met a pair of soft brown eyes, peering at him from beneath floating locks of hair the color of deep space.

“I didn’t think I’d ever see anyone again,” she said. “Did you repair the Percheron? Is the colony all right?”

He pulled his arms out of the bed sleeve and rubbed his eyes and face. “The Percheron – was that your lander?”

“Yes; is it flying again?”

“Okay, let’s start with introductions. I’m Cranston Berryman, Rover-Pilot of the Scout Vessel Voidrunner dispatched from the Survey Research Vessel Eusebio Kino in response to your distress beacon. Now, who are you?”

“Did you find the Percheron? What about the colony?”

“We’ll get to that, just as soon as I know what I can call you.”

“I’m Violet Versak, one of the Voidship technicians for the Erikson.”

“Did the Erikson inform you just how long you’ve been in SusAn?”

“No. I woke up, got dressed, and saw you over here sleeping.”

He stretched and drew his knees up inside the sleeve. “Well, Violet, when the Kino departed Procyon for her current mission, the Erikson had been missing over two standard centuries. We picked up the distress beacon, and I was sent to see if there was any reason to bring a larger vessel in response. You’re the only human survivor I’ve found.”

Her expression turned coldly sober. “No human survivors? What did you find?”

“Current location of visitor Minerva,” he directed towards the ship.

“Visitor Minerva is in the observatory,” Erikson replied.

“Are you hungry? I doubt your synthesizer is working well after this long, but Voidrunner has a small galley that’s considerably better than the best they had when Erikson was built. Why don’t we go get something to eat, and we can discuss what happened here.”

“Who’s Minerva?” she asked.

He sighed, and slid out of the bed sleeve. “I want to ask you that same question, and I hope you have some answers for me as well,” he said. “Do you want to meet her over dinner, or in the observatory?”

“What did you bring to my ship?” It was as much accusation as question, and with practiced fluidity, she propelled herself towards the bulkhead door.

He pushed off the cot in pursuit of her, and kept up a reckless pace through the weightless corridors behind her. “Violet,” he called. When she didn’t respond, he got more insistent. “Technician Versak!”

She ignored him and flipped around a tight corner.

Her familiarity with her vessel was evident, and he nearly yanked his arm out of his shoulder trying to take the surprise turn. “Violet, if you keep up this pace, you’re going to crash. SusAn may have kept you from aging, but two lifetimes in the field can’t pass without draining your body’s resources.”

It took another three minutes to catch up with her, and he only did so because she rested in the corner of a bulkhead, gasping and looking sick. “What’s in my observatory?” she asked between wheezes.

He glanced down the side corridor, and saw the door labeled, “Observatory.” Once he’d caught his breath, he answered. “Someone who helped me out of a bad situation, and who wants to know the truth about her own history.” He pulled her towards the door. “You need to tell her what happened here, Technician Versak.”

She was like a limp doll. “It wasn’t me,” she said.

The door slid open, and Minerva floated with her snout pressed against a window a short ways ahead. “Minerva,” he called to her.

“It’s so beautiful out there, Cranston,” Minerva said, not taking her eyes from the view. “The settlement we found had some writing about God. Is this where we find God?”

Violet was shaking her head and trembling, and he slipped his arm around her in what he hoped was a reassuring gesture.

“God finds us when we’re ready to be found by Him, no matter where we are,” he said. “Minerva, I want to introduce you to Violet, the woman from the SusAn chamber.”

The sow took her snout from the window and looked at them. She sniffed the air, and approached a little closer. “She is afraid, Cranston. Why is she afraid?”

“I don’t know, but I think we need to get her back to Voidrunner and get some food in her before she can tell us much.”

To be continued…

1 comment:

BethL said...

Hoomi, I'm just catching up. I wasn't sure if there when be sparks when Violet and Minerva met. :) I need to research Eusebio Kino (there is still a lot about AZ history that I don't know). I liked the addition of Violet to this. You have so many possibilities with this story.