And here we are finally at the end this strange journey, after nearly 5 months adventuring together through the wilds. This is Chapter 52: Exodus.
If, for some strange reason, you’d like to read the rest of the book first, you can find the entirety of Biotech Legacy: Long Fall right here at the Oktopod Blog.
If you haven’t read the previous novel, Biotech Legacy: Stars Rain Down, it’s currently available exclusively through Amazon, but will be in other stores soon.
Get ready to say your goodbyes…
Two stars burned out in the cold dark. They were far enough apart that Amira Saladin nearly made a figure-T while pointing at both simultaneously.
The feeling of being in an entirely different solar system was overwhelming. This was a childhood dream she’d discarded as she grew older and cynical, now suddenly brought to life in the worst possible circumstances.
Her eyes grew wet as she sat down, then she lightly gripped her knees and decided to just watch for a bit. There was even the first phantom stirring of feeling safe, but she stamped that out before it ever had a chance.
“Is it everything you hoped?” Donovan asked.
“I’m not sure,” she said. “Feels like it’s too early to judge.”
The three Yuon Kwon–Amiasha and his two remaining parents–hovered silently in the distance. They were so large that they seemed almost like nearby planets made of crenelated blue coral, and Amira marveled at the sight.
“This is certainly some family we’ve got here,” she said. “Frightened, prideful, held together by lies and omission. A lot like most families, I guess.”
“We’ll make it work,” Donovan said. “Frankly, I don’t see any other choice… and with a little luck, our allies won’t either.”
Amira knew him well enough to understand that luck with Donovan was rarely anything of the sort. He made his own, using whatever tools he had at hand.
“If this is going to work, it’ll take structure,” she said, “logistics. You can’t just throw a mixture this volatile together and hope for the best.”
“I get that,” the starship said shamefully.
“And it all has to be above board, out in the open.”
“Sal,” he said. “Amira… I don’t want to be in control.”
She never once thought she’d hear Donovan say those words. And to think, all it took was a miraculous transformation into a five-kilometer spaceship to give him some perspective.
“Then who will be?” she asked.
“The people, a council, a king… It’s not for me to say. I can’t make my perfect world, so I’ll settle for protecting the one we’ve got.”
She couldn’t tell if that was defeat or growth. Maybe the two weren’t so different.
A small object bobbed gently alongside Donovan’s hull out in space. Amira flipped down her headset’s glasses and zoomed in, discovering the object to be a broad-winged Yuon Kwon. Opposite it, a blue and white figure knelt on the outside of the ship, both hands touching the smooth skin.
It was Jack Hernandez, and Amira wasn’t precisely sure what he was up to.
When they arrived in the Alpha Centauri system, Faulkland’s first order as Fleet Commander was to have Jack… Vigil removed not just from Donovan’s powerplant, but from all Fleet vessels entirely. He called it a safety precaution. Then teams patched the damaged hollow-drive as best they could, and they started looking for a more long-term answer.
The answer soon came to them. A contingent of curious Sey Chen volunteered to supplement Donovan’s power with several of their miniature stars, and Amira oversaw the retrofit. Now the hybrid-starship was running under a mix of Eireki and Oikeyan technologies.
“What about Jack?” she asked.
“He’ll do whatever he thinks is right, everyone else be damned.”
That was absolutely true, but Amira shook her head. “Your conspiracy…” she said. “We have to tell people the truth. This isn’t right.”
“Maybe it isn’t, but you said it yourself… that lie is the only thing holding us together. Any chance we have of surviving out here in the desert depends on it.”
“Yeah,” she said. “Well played.”
She took a deep breath and tried to let go of the anger, and though it remained, it could wait… at least until after she’d grown tired of looking at two stars she’d only ever known as words in a textbook. She craned around at the hundred-billion other tiny points surrounding them in every direction, and wondered at the possibilities.
“What do you think we’ll find out there?” Donovan asked.
“Stampeding land-whales, mutant frog men, talking refrigerators… the whole nine yards,” she said. “A purple guppy the size of a comet that only feeds on the rings of gas giants. You?”
Donovan was quiet for a long time, then said, “Things I’ve never dreamed of yet.”
And they sat there like that admiring the stars for another few hours while the swarm of orange tugs completed their work.
Lisa Albright was too pregnant to be at work, but she didn’t know what else to do with herself. Dozens of makeshift hospitals had been slapped together since the escape, but they weren’t enough. It seemed like the tide of new patients would never stop, which meant all hands on deck… even the bloated ones.
The other option was to sit alone in her empty flat, thinking about everything terrible that’d just happened. No, she much preferred to keep her bloated hands busy.
A small jackrabbit child was huddled in the corner, shivering but not crying, with orange bloodstains all over his fur. Lisa walked over at a deliberate pace then leaned on a table to ease her aching back. She briefly considered squatting down to the alien’s level, but decided against it for fear of never being able to get back up.
“Could someone give me a hand?” she said, but she wasn’t sure anyone could have possibly heard her over the ongoing clatter.
Someone did. “What can I do for ya, fatty?”
“I’m pregnant, jack ass…”
When she turned, her heart caught in her throat. At nearly two meters tall, Leo Nikitin looked like a big, friendly architectural feature, with that eternally goofy grin of his painted up near the top. “Just tell me what you need, porker. I’m yours.”
Lisa lightly swatted his shoulder. “Could you help me with this little guy? It’s all this damned fat. I’m just not as springy as I used to be.”
Leo crouched down, his long legs folding like scaffolding. He reached out and rubbed the jackrabbit’s cheek with a gentle hand, then picked the child up and turned. “Where to, Doc?”
They walked together into an exam room that was nearly a quarter empty. Three other patients were already there, but at least a flat surface was available.
Leo set the jackrabbit down, and Lisa started to look him over for obvious wounds. While she worked, she said, “So, where have you been?”
“Here and there,” he said. “People need help. It’s what we do.”
She flashed him a weary smile. “And you just happened to make it back in time?”
“Dumb luck,” he said. “Me and the guys were in town for supplies and a couple days rest… and zoom!”
She twisted her lip. “Was Jack with you?”
Leo laughed. “Took you longer than I expected,” he said with a grin. “Sorry to say, but I haven’t seen him in a while. He passed through months back. Uh, heading west, I think.”
She knew there was only war and death in the West, and no way he could’ve made it out in time. Lisa nodded her head and looked back down at her work. She found a three inch wound along the patient’s ribs, not too deep, but it had fur caught in it so she grabbed her disinfectant kit.
Leo said, “So, this thing with Charlie…”
Everyone around her was dropping dead, one after another, and now one had come back. “Yeah,” she said, still unable to process current events. Her hands shook as she worked, and she tried to steady them.
“It’s true then?”
“I guess,” she said. “Back… from the grave.”
She said, “No,” avoiding the rest of the question entirely. She looked down at the neatly shaved and cleaned patch of skin on her patient, then took a long, slow breath and began to stitch the wound back together.
“I’m sorry,” Leo said. “I’m just trying to wrap my head around all this.” He looked down at her swollen belly. “And I’m guessing you are too.”
“That’s about the size of it,” she said. “I’ll tell you one thing… I never once guessed I’d be waddling around the apocalypse pregnant.”
“Um, you had other apocalypse scenarios in mind?”
Lisa pulled a pseudermal bandage out of its wrapper and applied it to the child’s side. “What can I say,” she said, “I’m a planner. Well… usually.”
“What’s the plan then, planner?”
“Doing this,” she said, indicating the rest of the hospital with a wave. “There’s a lot of this to get done.” The packed hallway outside rather effectively made her point.
Leo affected a conspiratorial whisper. “I mean that,” he said while not-so-subtly motioning toward her stomach region. “You have to talk to Charlie at some point. No matter what he’s turned into, he’d still care about you and his child.”
Lisa patted the jackrabbit child on the forehead, stroked his long ears back, and tucked him under a blanket. The abundance of blankets was one silver lining, at least.
Then she motioned for Leo to follow her back out into the hall. They walked over to the waiting area and began searching for their next patient, while Lisa had a strange, sad smile toying with her lips. She finally looked up at the towering man and said, “This little bundle isn’t Charlie’s. He stepped in to help me out, and… we were just compatible. He was so sweet.”
“Jack’s,” she said. Her eyes and nose burned, but she held the tears back.
“He left you?”
“I sent him away,” she said. “You know Jack… he’s always heard a calling. He needs to be out there doing the job or it just kills him. I… refused to watch him die.”
“Jesus,” Leo said. “And you didn’t tell him.”
“He would’ve stayed,” she said. She didn’t add the worst part, that he’d still be alive there with her in Amiasha, with at least one tomorrow left on his calendar. She didn’t add that she’d sent him off to his death, because those things were just too awful to say out loud.
Something hit her and she wasn’t sure what it was at first, but it only took a moment to realize that the giant man who reeked of cigars was giving her a hug. She thought it was ridiculous at first, but it turned out to be just what she needed right that second.
And for the thinnest sliver of a second, standing there in hallways filled with the wounded and terrorized of a dozen species, aboard a living starship more than four lightyears from her home, Lisa Albright thought everything might just be alright.
The End. There’s some buffer material to add (an opening quote, a coda like in Stars), and another editing pass to go, but there you have it.
Amused? Confused? Irritated? In love? Let me know what you think!
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