Thursday, October 1, 2009

Friday Fiction for October 2, 2009

Friday Fiction is now organized and directed by Karlene, so make extra sure to pop over to her blog and give her a special thank-you for taking the reins on this project. Since she’s also hosting this week on Homespun Expressions, you have double the reason to visit.

And now, without further ado, here is the conclusion to Hogs of the Heavens. I hope this fulfills my promise of the story making sense.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Hogs of the Heavens

Part 6 – Conclusion

By Rick Higginson

“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.”

Cranston kept a close watch on Violet as they followed the green lights through Erikson’s labyrinthine passages. It wasn’t just the blood-sugar crash; the woman had become as emotionally broken as Minerva had been when he’d first met her. Did it just hit you that everyone you ever knew is dead? No – it couldn’t be that. You still had drive right up until you saw Minerva.

They paused for a few moments when one of the ship’s remotes intercepted them, carrying a folded bundle. It waited while Minerva slipped into the tailored jumpsuit, and then took her discarded rags for recycling.

The uniform only increased the disparity between the two. While the sow grew more confident and excited with the addition of decent clothing, Violet descended into a deeper morosity. She was, if possible, even more listless as they resumed progress towards the scout vessel.

At the docking collar, Cranston entered first and then reached back to draw Violet through. Minerva followed as he settled her into the cramped galley and strapped the woman into the seat. He prompted the synthesizer for three servings of food, and pressed the first delivered into Violet’s hands.

She gave the compressed wafer a blank look.

“Trust me,” he said. “It’s much better than anything the Erikson was able to synthesize. The technology has advanced a long way since your mission launched. If we were under normal gravity conditions, it would even look like normal food.”

Minerva accepted the second serving from him, and sniffed it. She took a bite and chewed it slowly. “Interesting,” she said. “I can identify the flavors blended in this, but I can’t really isolate the ingredients.”

“The ingredients are atomic elements,” Cranston said. “The synthesizer combines them into the molecular chains for the desired product, which, in this case, is a balanced carbohydrate and protein biscuit.”

“You have so many wonderful things,” Minerva said. She ate the remainder of her wafer quickly.

Cranston consumed his serving, and waited while Violet slowly finished hers. “Your color is better now,” he said, when she folded her empty hands into her lap. “Are you ready to talk yet?”

After a quiet moment, Violet nodded.

He spoke softly. “You weren’t surprised by Minerva, were you? You’re scared, but you’re not surprised. Tell us what happened here, Violet.”

She sniffed. “We lost over half our laborers in the accident,” she said. “We ended up heavens knows how far from where we were supposed to go, and without the primary navigation systems, we couldn’t even program a drone to carry a distress message back to Earthrise. We wound up close to this system, and after some preliminary scans, we limped our way to this planet. It had enough of an atmosphere to work with, including a thick shroud of water vapor in the atmosphere we could use.” She accepted a tissue from him and blew her nose. “The problem was, we no longer had enough workers to carry out the terraforming process.”

“So you created workers?”

She nodded, but avoided his eyes. “There were quite a few of us that objected to the idea, but the science team said it was the only option that made sense and gave us a chance, even if it was forbidden by Colonial Law. They said it would take far too long to produce enough workers with humans being able to deliver one child per year, and then having another ten to twenty years before they’re able to undertake the work. We had the flock of weanling pigs in the livestock SusAn storage, though, and they told us that pigs matured in only about a year, could produce two litters of between eight and fifteen offspring a year, and had already been proven compatible with human traits. All they had to do was raise the flock we had to breeding age, manipulate the genetics for the next generation, and we’d have plenty of workers in a fraction of the time it would take to replenish the human roster.” She turned the tissue and held it to her nose again. “The Mission Commander gave them the go-ahead, so they engineered pigs with usable hands, feet suitable for bipedal walking, and the necessary intelligence to learn language and work skills quickly.”

Minerva turned puzzled eyes towards him. “Cranston? What does she mean?”

He took a deep breath and slowly released it before answering. “I probably should have told you this before. Pigs on Earth have hooves and stay on all fours. They don’t have sufficient intelligence to speak. They changed your ancestors to make them like you are now.” He turned back to Violet. “What went wrong?”

She shrugged. “At first, nothing at all. It worked just the way they said it would. We soon had plenty of work-capable pigs doing the labor required to get the planet habitable. They even had a provision to correct the disparity when the time came that the human population reached sustainable levels.”

“A ‘provision?’ What kind of provision?” he asked.

“They encoded a chemical trigger into the pigs that would be activated by a certain food they would find irresistible. When the pigs were no longer needed, the engineers would plant these genetically modified truffles all over the planet, and once the pigs ate them, the genetic code would revert and all subsequent generations would be normal pigs again.”

Minerva stared at Violet, and though her mouth moved, no words came out.

“So what contingency did the brilliant biological engineers overlook?” Cranston asked.

“Ourselves. As the population of the pigs continued to grow like crazy, the food supplies couldn’t keep up. The leadership council imposed strict rationing, and a lot of people resented having to share the limited supply with pigs.”

“You had us doing your work!” Minerva blurted.

“I came back up to the Erikson to see if I could somehow remove the synthesizer system and adapt it to work on the planet’s surface. They took the Percheron back down with as much food as we could produce, and were supposed to make a return trip a week or so later.”

“’Supposed to’? I assume they didn’t?” Cranston said.

“They transmitted an incident report that week. It seems one group of men decided it was crazy to go hungry when there were hundreds of suckling pigs a short walk away. When it was discovered, the pigs were crying for justice, but the Leadership Council apparently didn’t take it serious enough. The last transmission from the Percheron said the pigs were in all-out revolt.”

“The stories were true,” Minerva said. “Humans did take pigs and eat them.”

“I waited for further word from the surface, and when it hadn’t come a year later, I went into the SusAn chamber because I couldn’t bear the loneliness any longer. I thought, maybe, the Percheron was damaged and they’d get it repaired eventually and come get me.”

Cranston looked at Minerva. “What did you find in that old settlement where you found the Datab?”

“A few old buildings with broken doors, and a lot of things we couldn’t identify.”

“How did the doors appear to have been broken?”

“Like they were hit from outside with something big and heavy,” she said.

“Your creations revolted, all right,” he said to Violet.

“They weren’t my creations,” she objected. “I was opposed to the idea.”

“Do you think that helped any of the people on the surface? When the slaves rose up, they were too angry to care which humans wanted them there, which ones thought they were just ham on the hoof, and which ones planned on taking away the sentience they had given them. Humans are the bogey-man down there, and apparently for good reason.” He rubbed his forehead. “There’s your truth that you were looking for, Minerva. What do you want to do with it?”

“I want to go home,” she said. “I want his Boarness to see what our history really is, and to let us learn from the truth instead of from silly myths that just perpetuate the ignorance. I want to learn all I can from you, and how we can use knowledge to make our lives better.”

“Will he accept the truth from you now?”

“He’ll have to, if you show him what you’ve shown me.”

“What if we want to go home, Minerva? Your kind has made this into your world now – a place for hogs and not humans. Voidrunner can return us to the Kino, and from there back to Procyon and the rest of the Archipelago. There are over a hundred worlds full of humans now, and any one of those could be home to us.”

Violet shook her head. “It’s been too long. Any semblance of home that I might have had ceased to exist a long time ago. I was better off in SusAn.”

“You could stay here,” Minerva said. “You know things that have long been lost to us. Your people created us – shouldn’t you also help us?” She turned pleading eyes on Cranston. “Don’t give me a glimpse of all of this, and then make me go back to being Mocking Sow again.”

He met her eyes and swallowed. “Voidrunner, prepare two relay drones. First destination is SRV Eusebio Kino, and second destination is Colonial Council Headquarter, Earthrise City. Copy all data collected here on both, and advise that I will be remaining to prepare this world for introduction to the Archipelago. Confirm.”

“Confirmed,” Voidrunner replied.

He smiled at Violet. “I couldn’t let you stay here alone, could I? Somehow, I think you’d like a chance to fix what the Erikson mission started, wouldn’t you?”

She thought a moment, and then slowly nodded.

Voidrunner, commence pre-descent diagnostics and calculate a return trajectory to the last landing spot. Let’s go help a certain boar redefine his idea of Hog Heaven.”

The End (or not)


Unknown said...

This has been a very intersting story. I wasn't sure what to make of it with that first section, but I have come to really enjoy your characters. I am curious on how the boar is going to handle all this news. Could be intersting!

Dee Yoder said... we have the answers to several questions, but will we get to hear more about the results of the visits? This is, by far, one of the most creative, and humorous, SF stories I've ever read. Loved this, Hoomi!

Lynda Schultz said...

This is fascinating!

Sara Harricharan said...

Oh boy. Now I have to schedule time to READ the other parts, lol! Fascinating and so thoroughly engaging setting/characters. This isn't really the end, right? ^_^ Great job!