***Written for 2015’s Pod and Planet Fiction Contest
While it wasn’t planned, there was no rush and the hatch was ajar so Saturnine slipped through. The ship’s interior, much like its exterior, was pure function – stalwart, nimble, unadorned. While not awe-inspiringly cavernous, the vessel’s cargo bay belly remained ample. Seduced by the ethereal courage of one having finally settled on suicide, Saturnine sauntered further into the craft, the soft patter of each footstep the only sound to be heard. Tentative ‘Hellos?’ produced only echo. Nobody seemed to be aboard. Turning to depart, Saturnine realized she was lost. “Typical,” she muttered. “Is this not every bit my life?”
CharmedLife was aware a stranger was aboard her boat. Wired in as she usually was meant nothing escaped her attention. CharmedLife preferred it that way.
Saturnine meandered. Hatches, when she found them, weren’t locked. Opening them revealed only additional baffling equipment or further low lit passages. Still, Saturnine remained thorough. No hatch went untested, no passage unexplored. “What boring place,” she grumbled. “The tiny hallway that once connected my bedroom and bathroom was more rousing than this du. . .” but the grumble trailed off as Saturnine’s jaw dropped. Before her not three meters away stood the ship’s command capsule. The pilot was aboard after all.
Suicide by Capsuleer certainly has ring to it, thought Saturnine. Stepping into the cozy chamber she strode up to the capsule and rapped insistently on its surface. That ought to rile a sociopathic pilot up! But no. Instead, the pilot rapped back.
Knock, knock, knock.
Knock, knock, knock.
Knock, tap. Knock, tap. Knock, tap.
Knock, tap. Knock, tap. Knock, tap.
“Foolishness,” mumbled Saturnine.
“Then speak,” replied the capsule in youthful female voice. “Spoken word remains a standard method of communication.”
“You Capsuleers dance in murder. Shouldn’t you be murdering me too?” goaded Saturnine.
“You wish to die?”
“Is the craving urgent?”
“I suppose not.”
“Then let’s chat first, shall we?”
It was true. Capsuleers danced in murder and CharmedLife was no exception though she brought her own unique twist to the art. Blinking her eyes, CharmedLife replayed vivid memory through her mind:
Bouncing happily in mother’s lap precocious toddler CharmedLife, suddenly grave, stopped to ask, “Momma Whoopsy, why didn’t you murder Poppa Hisoka?”
“Not my decision to make sweetie,” answered WhoopsyDaisy.
“I understand,” replied toddler CharmedLife. “I’ll decide tomorrow.”
And decide CharmedLife did. Poppa Hisoka would be spared. Nonetheless, someone had to die so CharmedLife murdered her mother instead. Momma Whoopsy took it well.
“. . . and yes, I’ve seen this ship moored here often,” continued Saturnine. “Why do you so rarely leave it?”
“I can complete nearly all my work from here,” replied CharmedLife, “Still, I suspect that’s not your genuine question. I suspect you want to know why I rarely leave my pod.”
“Yes,” responded Saturnine sheepishly.
“Pods can be comfortable places. Almost back to the womb, they feel like original home.”
“I miss my home.”
“Don’t we all.”
“It grows late. I really must be going.”
“So soon? I haven’t even murdered you yet.”
“If you really were going to kill me, you would have already.”
“Don’t be so sure. Perhaps tomorrow?”
“It’s a date.”
This time Saturnine found her way out of the ship with comparative ease. CharmedLife, it seems, had been befuddling Saturnine’s first day meandering by subtly altering passage lighting to quietly reveal and obscure hatches. Exiting off the dock, Saturnine watched the Core Complexion Inc. nickel highlighted ‘Prowler’ blockade runner deftly lift, spin about and depart the station. For the moment Saturnine felt light of heart though, sadly, she knew light would pass and blue would return. It always did.
“Did a puppy bite?” asked WhoopsyDaisy.
“Yes. First bait no less,” replied CharmedLife.
“Everything comes so easily to you.”
“I live a CharmedLife they say.”
As Saturnine anticipated, gloom had returned. Accordingly, itch for suicide by Capsuleer also returned meaning Saturnine stepped into the ship impatiently announcing, “Would be quicker if you showed me the way!” Most lights dimmed. Following the bright, Saturnine efficiently found her way to the boat’s metallic capsule heart.
“Tell me of death,” instructed Saturnine sitting down on the floor to lean her back against the capsule.
“I lack sage words,” replied CharmedLife.
“How can that be?” Saturnine interjected incredulously. “You’ve died multiple times.”
“Not exactly. Things go sour. There’s a shuddering gap. I shock awake elsewhere, cruelly disgorged from my comfortable capsule. Unpleasant yes. Death no. In truth, you know as much as I about the subject. We both experience death only as death of others.”
“My mother’s recent death devastates me but not for reasons you’d suspect. Yes she was central to my life and yes I miss her terribly and yes the breach I face weighs heavy on my heart but none of that is unnavigable. No, the torturous part is how, right alongside the morning chest pangs and evening tears is the blissful recognition that all our conflicts are resolved. We’ve no longer any unsettled differences, no more ongoing arguments, no onerous agreements to preserve. Death is a complete fresh start. Nothing crosses that threshold save what we, the living, carry. It’s God’s own reset button. I wasn’t prepared for the elation.”
“How troublingly appealing.”
“Why honey, what pleasant surprise!” exclaimed WhoopsyDaisy looking up from afternoon snack. “I so adore it when you unpod.”
Saying nothing, CharmedLife raised her pistol and pulled the trigger shooting her mother in the belly.
“Good God Charm!” cried WhoopsyDaisy palming irately at the blood gushing from the wound. “It’s been 15 days since my last clone back up. Important things happened last week. Now I’ll have to reacquaint myself with all of it. Warn a loving mother next time would you?” Then she collapsed on the kitchen floor, crimson hue spreading over the polished Arkadian Granite stone surface.
Disgusted, ChamedLife tossed the pistol beside her mother’s body. “No resets for me,” she complained proceeding to the estate’s wine cellar. “Have we any of the 112 vintage left? I need calming drink.”
Unhurried, Saturnine scouted a less direct, more scenic route to CharmedLife’s capsule compartment. Austere throughout, the boat displayed typical Minmatar harsh edged splendor. Beauty from essence rather than ornamentation, she observed.
“How old are you,” asked Saturnine entering the capsule compartment.
“We Capsuleers typically peg our birthdate to our first reanimation. By that reckoning I’m 5 years, 11 months and 3 days old,” replied CharmedLife.
“What of your time before first reanimation. Does that count for nothing?”
“I’ve little recollection of such time.”
Blinking her eyes, CharmedLife recalled her earliest memory:
“You’re pregnant!” exclaimed the first voice, distant but distinct.
“I thought it time to announce,” replied a second voice, younger, poignantly close, equally distinct.
Who are these speakers?
“Flitting about with a suicide ganker’s global criminal countdown on your head may not be in your unborn’s best interests Whoopsy,” continued the first voice.
“Wiring the tyke up to her own medical clone improves circumstances,” explained the second voice.
I am that unborn tyke? Second voice is my mother?
“How’d you hoodwink a bio technician into such illegal procedures?” asked the first voice.
“Well Sis, when your technician’s the love struck father, you can induce him to bend a few rules,” answered the second voice.
‘Sis’ . . . sister? So first voice is very probably my aunt, Poppa biotechs for a living and Momma murders.
Lost in conversation, Mamma Whoopsy successfully cracked the target but dallied her escape warp and got her pod popped. Though only a single pod was destroyed, two Capsuleers died that day.
“So I’ve concluded you are truly an abomination,” announced Saturnine.
“You’ve no idea,” replied CharmedLife.
“Doesn’t labeling you abomination annoy you? Genuinely, deeply annoy you?”
“Truth shouldn’t offend.”
Blinking her eyes, CharmedLife recalled her earliest emotion:
When the Navy Warfare Mindlinks came on market the Capsuleers quickly discovered a most curious unannounced feature: open access between Mindlink connected fleet member memories. A Capsuleer workaround was soon developed but it took ongoing mental effort meaning neither DireNecessity nor WhoopsyDaisy, both whom out-and-out refused onerous labor, shamelessly left the conduits open. The odd voyeurism amused them both during fleet lulls.
On the day WhoopsyDaisy carelessly introduced unborn CharmedLife into the mix, three Capsuleer minds were up for inspection but one mind, not yet having memories to search, remained invisible. Enraged by the disparate insult, *CharmedLife* dallied the escape warp and *CharmedLife* got their pod popped; her first mother murder. Neither WhoopsyDaisy nor DireNecessity had yet pieced this early history together. For Capsuleer stock, Mama Whoopsy and Aunty Dire could be rather dense.
“Once again, time grows late. Perhaps, you’ll murder me tomorrow?” jested Saturnine.
“It’s a date,” replied CharmedLife.
Light of heart, Saturnine exited the ship. Stepping off the dock, the gentle whoosh created by the Prowler’s depart tousled her shoulder length auburn hair.
“. . . and Mom’s untimely death coupled with the destruction of our home proved the last straw in this sorry ass life of mine,” moaned Saturnine facetiously. “I find I just can’t go on,” she added melodramatically raising her hand to her forehead. “But what know you of such things?”
“Very possibly more than you’d expect,” replied CharmedLife.
“Don’t be daft.”
“So murder tomorrow, around lunch?”
“I’ll find the time,” said Saturnine, licking the last vestiges of food off her fingers.
Departing, Saturnine ditched her empty meal container in the ship’s central cargo hold. Two consecutive days with moments free of crushing despair, she thought. Light hearted jest returns to my universe. Watching CharmedLife’s boat leave, Saturnine waved goodbye.
“Tell me more of your puppy,” WhoopsyDaisy chattered.
“Ludicrously audacious little thing,” replied CharmedLife.
“You’re enjoying the dalliance?”
“At least someone appreciates my appetites,” chuckled Saturnine as she settled into the banquet already laid out around the capsule.
“Desire is magnificent thing, no?” replied CharmedLife.
“So true!” chimed Saturnine, “When lost, you forget you ever had it. Thanks for helping me find mine again.”
“Now about this murder thing . . .”
“Yah, I see no sense in continuing the silly charade.”
At that the capsule burst open disgorging CharmedLife. Standing slowly, nutrient oil sheeting down her pristine lightly freckled skin, CharmedLife looked on Saturnine for the first time through flesh eyes. Saturnine, horrified at the sight of a Capsuleer – a child Capsuleer – crawled backwards toward the hatch but found it closed and locked. Seizing a blue handled knife from the banquet spread, CharmedLife lunged forward plunging the utensil into Saturnine’s abdomen. Completing the disemboweling, CharmedLife poked through the bloody entrails commenting aloud, “As I expected, pregnant.”
Some four weeks later, at her sixth birthday party, CharmedLife remained sullen. Hoping to cheer things up WhoopsyDaisy took a seat beside her daughter asking how her puppy was doing. Infuriated, CharmedLife shrieked, “She’s dead! You happy now!?” before jabbing a fork in WhoopsyDaisy’s gut.
“Dammit Charm!” exclaimed WhoopsyDaisy, “You think you’re the only person in the universe that resents being evicted from the womb? You really need to work on controlling your tantrums. This version of ‘I wish I were never born’ is maddeningly irksome.”
DireNecessity, rolling her eyes, announced, “I believe it’s time for your birthday gift CharmedLife. You do know your puppy Saturnine wasn’t only pregnant, yes? You do know she previously birthed a delightful baby boy, yes?”
“I did not know that,” replied CharmedLife, scowling.
“Well, she did, I found him and here he is,” continued DireNecessity pointing with flourish at the family estate’s head butler awkwardly carrying a toddler onto the veranda. “Enjoy your new puppy!”
“Oh Auntie Dire, this is the best birthday ever!” squealed CharmedLife sweeping up her new pet.
“So once again DireNecessity saves the day,” muttered WhoopsyDaisy lifting her blouse to examine her wounded belly.
“Goodness Whoopsy, she’s only six,” replied DireNecessity, “Six year olds aren’t that difficult to please.”
At the other end of the veranda, animatedly dressing her baby boy, birthday girl CharmedLife whispered into his ear, “Do you think they question how a mere six year old flies spacecraft? Do you think they recognize I’m not just prodigy? Do you think they’ll discern how, on that fateful day, when I first popped into awareness my invisible blank mind assiduously examined two lives’ worth of memories? I’m not six. Not exactly. I’m two lives plus six. Shhh, tell no one. It’s our special secret.”