Having done her bit for the planet, Mac is home, more than happy to resume her life and the coming field season.
If only the rest of the universe was paying attention.
“Czerneda is a masterful storyteller and one of the best of the recent voices in science fiction.”–Voya
Excerpt from Migration (So many spoilers!)
By what measure
a moral choice.
(Recent corridor inscription,
Progenitor’s Hold, Ship.)
The great journey has been renewed. That which is Dhryn has remembered. All that is Dhryn must move.
That which is Dhryn…hungers.
That which is Dhryn remembers this place, knows its taste.
All that is Dhryn must move.
It is the way of the journey, that all follow the taste.
It is survival.
The language of the Eeling didn’t lend itself to emotion. There was no need; the bioluminescent beings were able to flash patterns of excitement, joy, or strife.
“We have incoming ships,” the transect technician reported. His voice didn’t change, but his lithe body was suddenly ablaze. “Sir.”
There should have been no reason for such a display. There were always incoming ships. The Naralax Transect was like an artery to Ascendis, the Eeling homeworld, anchored between the orbits of her two moons, constantly pumping trade goods to and from the lush planet, bringing ships to her famed refit stations on the nether moon, sending them away again faster and more powerful. And in debt.
“Multiple collisions. Sir.”
“On my station.” Sometimes a freighter strayed from its assigned path; dealing with aliens and their differing perceptions made that inevitable. The supervisor, as suited One Responsible, covered his feelings beneath an opaque cloak. Despite that caution, as he took in what his own screen now showed, alarm ringed each wrist with light and spilled past his collar, catching fire on the spikes of chin and frill.
The screen showed mayhem. Over fifteen ships were reporting hull impacts, several careening into other ships in turn. But there was no time to think about those lives, lost or at risk. For the legal traffic had virtually disappeared among a cloud of new arrivals. This was no confused freighter captain. It wasn’t a convoy of audacious imry poachers, orbiting Ascendis herself while their servo scoops netted blossoms, relying on surprise and speed to evade the rangers who protected the rich forests of the north.
The supervisor drew himself up. “Send a planet-wide alarm. Do it now.”
The cloud wasn’t assuming orbit; it was heading for the upper atmosphere. It expanded at the same time, sensors translating the splitting of each new arrival into multiple targets, those into more, then more, all on the same trajectory. To the surface.
So many ships were breaking through the atmosphere at once, they set off weather control alarms as they shattered programmed winds and burned through clouds. Thousands, perhaps millions.
“What should I say? What are they?” The technician glowed so frantically the supervisor wondered he could see his own screen past that light.
Not that any of them needed to. Not now.
Now was too late.
The supervisor pulled his cloak closed, dousing the flickering light of his despair.
Chapter 1: Recovery and Resumption
“You ask her.”
“Not me. Don’t you know who she is?”
“The Dr. Connor, Mackenzie Connor. The one who lost her arm in that terrible accident last fall. You know. When the moorings collapsed under the pods and dozens of students were killed–”
“Five, not dozens.”
“Whatever. Well, I heard it wasn’t completely an accident.”
“What do you mean?”
“Sabotage. I’m not joking. And when Dr. Connor tried to stop it, the ones responsible took her best friend, a scientist on contract here. They’ve never found the body.” A meaningful pause. “What kind of person could come back and run this place after something like that?”
“Weellll…Someone has to ask her. He can’t stay out there all day. Go on. You do it.”
Mac, who could hear the whispered argument quite well through the half-open door to her office, ran her fingers through her hair and gave those short curls an impatient tug. A reputation for solid science and fair, if tough, marking was one thing, she thought. But these ridiculous rumors spreading through Base were becoming a royal pain–not that she had any hope of setting that record straight. The Ministry of Extra-Sol Human Affairs had been succinct, if highly unhelpful. Mac’s role was over. The rest of humanity had been informed. Measures were being taken by the Interspecies Union. There was, with perverse predictability, no hysteria and barely any press.
After all, any threat was out there, to others.
If anything, humanity’s reaction had been rather smug, as if reassured to learn that, like themselves, another species had its share of troublemakers. Somehow, Mac thought with a sour taste in her mouth, her kind seemed to view the entire business as over, now that the “unpleasant neighbors” had been found out and–oh so conveniently–left “town.”
Meanwhile, there was the small, inconvenient issue of what had happened here, on Earth. Now that friend was foe, and foe possibly friend, the politics were, to put it mildly, mud.
So Mac was to say nothing, accept whatever lies they’d planted in her absence, and get on with her life as if nothing had happened.
Some days, she almost could.
“I’m not deaf!” she snapped. The ensuing silence could only be described as terrified.