Today is my weekly Describli short story. And Lena’s back! I missed her while I’ve been writing other things. I’m thinking that a full-length novel is going to have to be written about her and her crew. She’s clamouring for it.
Anyway, here’s part 1 of The Past. Part 2 net Thursday, if all goes to plan.
Several maps lay spread out on the table. Lena looked from one to the other, tracing the changes in land mass and the shape of the oceans. Earth changed so much during its time, even during the relatively short time that humans spent living on it. If she had one wish it would be to go back to the planet, and breathe its air, walk on its land, and drink from its waters. Most of all though, she wanted to look up at the sky of her ancestors and see the stars that they saw. Well, her mother’s ancestors, anyway.
A small tap on the door. Lena looked up. Zinna. “What’s up?” she asked.
Zinna rolled her shoulders, a sign she was feeling restless. “Nothing.” Her eyes went to the maps. “Are you still staring at those?”
They were a recent acquisition, taken from a shipment that no one happened to be watching at the time.
“They’re fascinating,” Lena said.
Zinna lowered her gaze to look at them. “They’re pointless. What use are maps of a place that doesn’t exist anymore?”
“It’s not about their use,” Lena said, “it’s about what we can learn. Half of me comes from this place. It’s where the human race was born and lived for generations… I want to know about it.”
Zinna shook her head, resigned to what she perceived as Lena’s eccentricities. She took Lena’s hand and stroked the back of it with her thumb. “I was thinking that maybe there’s a better way to fill in the boring hours of life…”
Her brows rose suggestively.
Lena bit her bottom lip, tempted by the proposition.
Zinna kissed her, and the decision seemed a whole lot easier.
“Sure you don’t want keep looking at the maps?” Zinna murmured as they crossed the room.
Lena pulled her down onto the bed. “What maps?”
The ship jolted, like when a land vehicle hit a bump on the ground. The cake in Lena’s hand fell from its plate and onto the bed. She swore.
Zinna sighed. “That’s the end of that then.” She poked at the lump of creamy mess.
“It wasn’t that great anyway.” Lena put the plate down beside the mess and scooped what she could onto it. What she would give for a real slice of cake, not replicated, but baked, in a real oven with real ingredients….
The radio crackled, and Leo’s voice came over it. “I think we’ve got an engine problem going on here.”
Lena’s eyes met Zinna’s. That wasn’t good. She crawled over Zinna and reached for the transceiver on the wall.
“That, and we’ve stopped. The console’s dead.”
That really wasn’t good. “Okay, we’re on our way.”
She dropped back down beside Zinna. “Break over?” Zinna asked.
“It looks like.” She swung her legs over the bed, intending to reach down for her clothes.
Zinna caught her arm.
She looked over her shoulder. Zinna didn’t say anything. But there was a look in her eyes, serious emotion that didn’t often find its way there. Lena couldn’t put a name to it, but she knew what the feeling was. And she knew what Zinna was telling her with that look. Not love. Not like. Or friendship. Something else. Something deeper. Something else.
The moment between them passed and they both got dressed, then walked up to the bridge in silence.
Leo greeted them. Every light around him, usually bright and vibrant, was dead. “What happened?” Lena asked.
Leo shrugged. “I don’t know. One minute everything was fine, and the next, the jolt, and this.”
“At the same time?” Zinna asked.
“At the same time,” he confirmed.
“Hm,” Zinna walked over to the weapons console, and ran her hand over some of the buttons. “We should check the engine room,” she said.
“I agree,” Lena said, then turned and lead the way from the bridge down to the beating heart of the ship. They really needed a specialist engineer aboard, but one of those would cost money, and none of them were good at letting strangers into their circle either. Trust was hard to come by in this universe.
The engine room was small, and packed with heat and noise. Or it was usually. Now, all the machinery stood lifeless. A strange burning smell filled the air. Another not good thing. “Can you smell that?” Lena asked.
Zinna sniffed at the air, as did Leo. She said, “Yes. Smells like something’s burned out.”
They tried to trace the smell, wandering around the maze of machinery.
“Huh, that’s different,” Leo said into the quiet.
Lena made her way to him, and Zinna arrived at the same time. He was staring at a new feature on the wall. A big red button.
“That’s not usually there is it?” Zinna asked, looking at Lena.
“No.” She had a perfect memory. She knew every inch of this ship. And that did not belong.
“So how’d it get there?”
Good question. And more to the point – what did it do?
The prompt that I used today is: The big red button.