Thursday, March 3, 2011

Friday Fiction for March 4, 2011

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Karlene, at Homespun Expressions. This is where you should find the Linky tool.

I decided to revisit “The Ericson Exigency,” my NaNoWriMo novel for 2010, for this week’s excerpt. As a recap, since it’s been a few months since I last posted anything from this story, the Ericson has suffered a catastrophic mishap, which has sent it far off course and stranded it some eighty light years from Earth. In order to try and survive without the equipment needed to begin the agricultural part of converting a planet into a habitable colony, the lead Scientist on the mission, Artemis Wulf, has bio-engineered pigs with the necessary intelligence and physical traits to perform work. However, the food synthesizing equipment the Ericson brought was intended for the human population of the mission, not a large number of porcine laborers. Tensions have been growing as the fledgling colony struggles with constant hunger, and resentment towards the pigs has been festering.

Chapter 25


Wilbur waited while Wulf considered what he had just said.

“How many weanlings are missing?” Wulf asked.

“Six,” Wilbur said.

“You are sure they are missing, and not simply in another sty?”

“Yes. I have looked, and the sows have looked for them. The sows, especially, would recognize the scent of their piglets.”

“Might they have wandered off, and gotten lost?”

He thought about that for a minute. “Maybe, but not likely. If they had all wandered away at the same time, they might have been playing, and ran too far to find their way back. They went missing one at a time, several days apart.”

“Hmmm, yes. That does seem odd. I will have the Lead Officers ask their people if anyone has seen them, and we will go from there.”

“We need to look for them.”

“I understand your concern, but if you and their mothers could not find them, then I’m not sure what you expect us to do. I really cannot afford to take people away from their work, to duplicate an effort you have already done. The greatest likelihood is that one of my people has seen them, and the best way to find that out is by passing along the information through the Lead Officers. Now, if there is nothing else, I need to get back to work myself.”

Wilbur turned away from the front of the module, and dropped back to all fours. Once again, Wulf had chosen to meet with him outside, rather than in the office like they used to meet. Have I done something to displease him, somehow? He does not seem happy to see me anymore. If this were not so important, I would not have disturbed him, but he appeared more concerned by the visit than by the missing piglets.

Something must be very wrong, for him to not care as much about the piglets.

He arrived back at the sty, to be met by several of the sows. “What did Wulf say?” Charlotte asked. “Will he help find our weanlings?”

Wilbur grunted. “Things must be going very poorly for the humans,” he said. “Wulf cannot call any of the humans away to help us look.”

“Are things so poor for them, that they do not care that we have lost piglets?”

“I do not know. Wulf has always cared for us, and watched over us. He must care about the missing ones, even if he cannot do anything.”

Charlotte snorted. “Maybe he is becoming like the other humans. We should have asked Miss Violet. She would take the time to help us, somehow.”

“Wulf has spoken,” Wilbur said. Those three words brought any discussion to a close. “He thinks they may have wandered off and gotten lost. We will look farther than we have, and we will not defy Wulf by asking for help from any other humans.”

The sows signaled their submission by their postures, even if their expressions showed they were not happy with the decision.

“We will help ourselves, though. Let the word be passed, that all piglets, whether suckling or weanling, and even up to half-grown, are not to be anywhere in groups smaller than five. Sucklings and weanlings are to have at least one adult watching over them at all times. Even groups are not to go anywhere that they cannot see their sty clearly. These are my orders for the herd.”

Each sow spoke their acceptance of the instructions, and then headed off to the various sties to convey the message.

Wilbur went outside the sty, and stood on his hind legs. Looking towards the Colony, he gave a low grunt. You speak, when you think we cannot hear. When you speak to us, your words tell us one thing, while your scent tells us another. You give us the work you need to have done, and begrudge us the food we need to do this work. Do any of you care about our missing piglets, or do you think of them only as competition for food?

I have spoken for you, Wulf, to the pigs. Will you speak for us to the humans? We serve, as you created us to, and we recite your laws to each other and to our piglets. I have taught the pigs to trust you and the humans, but I fear their trust is weakening, for they say that you no longer care for us.

I wonder, Wulf, if it had been human young that were missing, if you would have pulled your people away from their work. I do not need to wonder, though, if you would have asked for us to help find the missing, that I would have sent word that every available pig was to search with the humans.

He held his front hooves up, and looked at them. I remember the others. I remember the sow that suckled me, and that she never stood on two legs. I remember when I first spoke to her, and she only squealed at me in reply. I remember that she could not hold things with her hooves, and how pleased you were that we, her piglets, were so different from her.

You and the other humans do not think we remember, Wulf, but we do. We know where we came from, and the value of the gift you have given us. We owe you for the ability to think and to speak, and for the promise that humans and pigs will share this world when we have made it into the home you have described to us. How will we share this world, though, when humans still see us the way my mother was?

You have not said it, Wulf, but others of your people have. We are ‘just pigs,’ and I hope this isn’t why you will not help us find the missing piglets. Maybe to you humans, they are ‘just piglets,’ but to us, they are as your young are to you.

If you make us choose between your laws and our young, I do not know how we will choose. I can speak for you, Wulf, but I cannot make this herd listen, if the humans have given them reason not to.


Debra Gray-Elliott said...

As always, you left me wanting to read more.

Catrina Bradley said...

What an interesting concept! Animal farm with a twist. I'm interested in reading more - I missed your posts about your NaNo novel somehow.

e said...

Wonderful idea! I just read Animal Farm again for the 100th time and could totally relate it to that. Nice entry.