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>Happy International Pixel Stained Technopeasant Day! April 23, 2010

Posted by Elizabeth Schechter in excerpt, ipstp, writing.
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>Happy IPSTP Day!

For my offering, here’s an excerpt from my short story “Darkest Night” which will be included in the Circlet Press anthology Apocalypse Sex.

***

Darkest Night

They say that things are darkest before the dawn.

They’re wrong.

We know it for a fact now. Things are darkest right before the lights go out for the last time. Things are pretty dark now, as we wait for the end.

It was the middle of ship’s night when we learned of it. Often, in the night, I amuse myself by scanning for fossil signals from transmissions sent out into the dark who knows how long ago. It was only luck that I found this one. I listened to it once, and then went to wake Tariq, my captain.

I found him on the ceiling, entangled with his lover, Marcus. Marcus was still new to us, nominally brought on board just over a month ago as an all-around engineer. I never begrudge Tariq his lovers. I want him to be happy, and while there are many things that an A.I can do, cuddling isn’t one of them. Marcus was just Tariq’s type: intelligent, eloquent, as pretty to look at as a nebula cloud, and sexually insatiable.

I was quiet for a long time, a minute at least; I so enjoyed watching them together. The contrast between Marcus’ station-bred pallor and Tariq’s darkness was wonderful to watch, especially when they came together in this position, each of them pleasuring the other. I could tell that Tariq was enjoying himself immensely, and I hated to disturb him.

“Tariq,” I called, softly at first, then a little louder when he didn’t respond. I heard Marcus grunt past a mouthful of Tariq, then saw his eyes widen as the two of them rotated past my sensors. He was scowling, and I knew that I’d once again raised his ire.

“Tariq,” I repeated. This time I heard him react, saw his head fall back, away from Marcus’ cock. He groaned softly.

“…better… better be good…” he mumbled.

“I’m picking up a fossil signal, Tariq. I think it may be important.”

He groaned again, his eyes closing in pleasure as Marcus did something that I couldn’t see. Then he slapped Marcus’ bare ass, “Stop that, you.”

Marcus let go and floated away, reaching out to grab at a handhold and pull himself towards the wall, “Come on, lover. Why’d you have to go spoil our fun?”

“Because Moira wouldn’t interrupt without cause,” Tariq launched himself across the cabin and pulled a jumpsuit out of his locker. “I’ll make it up to you.”

“You listen to that damned machine more than you listen to me.” Marcus turned away from Tariq, finding his own clothes where they’d come to rest next to the air vent. “Tariq, if you loved me, you’d turn that thing off like I asked. It gives me the creeps, having that… machine watching us all the time.”

Tariq is many things, but tactful is not one of them. He stared at Marcus for a minute, then burst out laughing. “You’re joking!” he sputtered finally. “Moira’s run this ship for fifteen years. I’d be lost without her, and I’m not crippling the Taraqa to cater to your whims.”

Tariq jaunted out into the corridor, so he didn’t see Marcus’ face go red. I did, but I ignored it, following Tariq out to the command deck and waiting for him to take his place on his couch.

“Should I wait for Marcus?” I asked.

“No. Let me hear this.” He leaned back and closed his eyes, and I knew that he was listening with all of his attention. I started the saved transmission:

“…unknown origins… wave of incredible strength… all worlds utterly destroyed… all ships vaporized… cannot outrun… speed near ‘c’… evacuate all stations… warn all colonies… possibility of survival slim… must take shelter as deep as possible beneath planet surface… God have mercy on our souls…”

The signal faded to white noise, and I cut it off.

Tariq opened his eyes, his eyes troubled, “Origin and time stamp?”

“The signal seems to have originated in the Gamma Epsilon system, time stamped eight months, five days and sixteen hours ago,” I answered. Tariq frowned, and I could tell he was thinking hard. It would only annoy him if I interrupted, so I remained silent. Marcus didn’t.

“Tariq!” Marcus had stopped just inside the doorway, gripping the handhold there so tightly that his knuckles were white. “You need to make a choice,” he said, his words tightly clipped. “If you want me, then that… abomination has to go. Otherwise, I’m leaving at our next port-of-call.”

Tariq turned his couch so that he faced the door, “Marcus, we have more important things to worry about. Moira, play that again.”

I replayed the transmission, and Marcus looked at Tariq, obviously confused, “What was that?”

“Apparently, the end of the human race,” Tariq answered quietly.

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