Characters/Pairings: Della (OC), Vira, Noah - Noah/Vira implied.
Summary: The Earth will burn, but the story must survive.
Word Count: 1530
Original Story: The Waiting Room World by stunt_muppet.
Notes: This story contains 30th-century vocabulary, as seen in The Ark in Space. Vira claimed to have "hypoied in Classicals": I have taken this to mean 'majored' and used the word in that sense. I have also substituted 'thesis' for 'college'. Hopefully, the rest should be fairly self-explantory.
Notes: This story contains 30th-century vocabulary, as seen in The Ark in Space. Vira claimed to have "hypoied in Classicals": I have taken this to mean 'majored' and used the word in that sense. I have also substituted 'thesis' for 'college'. Hopefully, the rest should be fairly self-explantory. Many, many thanks to elliptic_eye, purple_bug and and rodlox for beta-ing.
Della grows up knowing the Earth will one day burn.
Her father’s records of the discovery are among the first words she reads. Scientists calculated that the solar flares will increase in strength, reaching the Earth in around sixty years’ time. The estimate varies in later records, as the scientists checked and rechecked, but the prognosis remains the same. The world will choke on radiation. The science of it is not the historians’ problem, as her brother’s colony-speech would have it. It is not part of their function. Their function is to preserve and produce records; to take refuge in the past in the face of such a future.
Her father is cataloguing the dissolution of individual governments and the establishment of the World Executive when Della goes to thesis. They are all just humans now, and no single government could hope to run an operation of such scale. When she returns, her formal education complete, she will take over the story of this waiting-room world.
The world manages to plot a certain course for her through an uncertain future. But the strangeness of the situation cannot be denied, even if it is all she has ever known, and there are some jolts, which curve the path away from that intended.
Della hypoies in Classicals at thesis, as do most children from families with a similar function. As does First Med-tech Rehn’s daughter, startlingly uncategorised, unexpectedly straying from her assigned task. This could never have happened before the threat of the flares, she is sure.
The story changes. They might have never met, except at a rare meeting of the First families; instead, they are friends. Della never asks why Vira is there, but thinks she might know as they compare the ancient conflicts they have chosen to study. Vira has chosen Hastings, almost two thousand years ago; Della, Bosworth Field, four hundred years later. Both King Harold and King Richard III sat atop a hill; both rushed down; both were defeated.
“If you don’t learn from mistakes,” Vira murmurs, “how can you hope to move forward?”
“‘Normans are sneaky; don’t chase them’. Sorry, Vira, I can’t see how that would have helped Richard.”
“Sneaky? What a strange word. Where did you pick that one up?”
The language does that, Della thinks, remembering that day. It insinuates itself into your daily life, just a few words, from all over history, here and there in your world. It assimilates. You need to keep your distance from the stories, because otherwise they get under your skin. It starts as colony-speech and ends up marking you as regressive.
The latest entry in the records had been made by a med-tech. That would have been unthinkable in her father’s day. Della had never thought her brother would volunteer for a colony to escape the consequences of being a regressive element, though – only the desperately poor volunteered for the colonies, those that had nothing to lose, like the pioneers of the American West a thousand years ago – so Vira had been the one to detail the event, the names, and the zero/zero survival predict for Colony Nine.
She had come over to the medical block, once she had awoken, in the hope of finding and thanking Vira. She spent most of her time here, calculating, practising, testing the procedure that was supposed to ensure the future of the human race.
She had found Vira arguing with Lazar. No, Vira never argued with Lazar: she was coolly reasonable, soothed his temper and presented her point. Turning to go, she had caught her own name. She wasn’t eavesdropping. She hadn’t meant to, at least. Della leans against the wall and closes her eyes, listening to Vira defend the function of the First Historian, watching as an alternate history, without Vira, writes itself across the inside of her eyelids.
Della knows what Lazar thinks of her and her stories. He does not believe them, her, to be of value. He doesn’t see the point, as dawn-timers might say.
She tries to share her stories. She tells him the ancient story of Noah’s Ark. It has become one of her favourites, now, with the sunspots looming large over her life. She can almost understand why their ancestors, in such a dangerous, bewildering world, tried to live their lives according to the lessons these legends teach. She tells him that she finds the stories of past catastrophe and recovery reassuring.
She does not say that the future he prizes so highly would be nothing without a past; that it is the history and knowledge and experience of the human race, built up through so many years, that they are protecting from the solar flares.
She tells him that viewing the patchwork quilt of history at a distance gives her strength, and hope that the needle will only pause in its work and their square, their patch of history will one day be small in its surroundings, with more leading from it than came to it.
He does not listen, certain of his importance in the here and now, and scornful of her fanciful image. He has no use for fancy; he tells her her story has no basis in fact.
She does not tell him that some of the species being taken onboard Space Station Nerva predate humanity by unimaginable stretches of time (to her, at least: she deals in human history and will talk of centuries and millennia easily, regardless of how small her lifespan is within them) yet know nothing of all that time. She does not tell him that she believes humanity’s keeping of their story to be part of what separates them from the animals or that she sometimes pictures Lazar, in his wilful, stubborn dismissal, among them. Perhaps his choice of ignorance is much more human than she’d like to admit, but the image still amuses her.
If she said that, he would listen. He would listen, and no amount of Vira’s calm reasoning, defending her position, would save her. Her position is precarious: with her brother as precedent, she does not doubt that Lazar would find it easy to declare her regressive and take what the Council would deem condign action against her. She would fit within the plan’s seven percent stretch factor.
The words remain silent, for the sake of the stories, but she smiles. He cannot read her mind – all scientific experiments were halted, decades ago, as science concentrated on the possibility then the certainty of catastrophe – and she wonders if he can even read her face.
Sometimes Della tries to look deeper. She tries to see what Vira sees. She would like to know why Vira smiled when it was calculated that she and Lazar were an appropriate genetic match, likely to produce healthy, intelligent children who would be of value in the new world. The expression on Vira’s face when she told her was similar to one she’d sometimes worn in thesis, of discovery and new worlds opening up before her. Della tries, but she rather suspects that this story will, like many others, be one she knows but does not understand. Della herself was pair-bonded with Regli, who reads the history of the universe in stars and dark matter. The report on their genetic material was fairly dull. Their children will have a twenty-five percent chance of blue eyes and an IQ between one hundred and thirty and one hundred and sixty-five. Vira seems to see potential after the pause that she does not.
It flickers in the corner of her eye when Lazar seeks her out one evening in what must be a rare spare moment. She looks up from the story of the colony Astra, established nearly five hundred years ago in the early twenty-fifth century, as he sits down opposite her.
He asks to hear the story of Noah’s Ark again. This time, he listens, interrupts and questions.
“No species could be repopulated from one breeding pair. We are taking far more than that.”
“It is a myth, Commander,” she replies and adds, mischievously parroting his words back at him, “It has no basis in fact.”
He looks back at her straight-faced and she continues the tale.
“You say you find this reassuring?” he asks, once she has finished.
“Yes, Commander. Nerva is our Ark and you are our Noah.”
“You are my animals?”
“No, Noah, we are your family!” She laughs before she can stop herself at the image his question has conjured, but she does not seem to have offended him.
He looks thoughtful. He might even look very slightly pleased. Maybe, she thinks, he could fit that name.
It was a small amusement in the last days. Her last days came earlier than those of Noah and Vira, of course. She has been assigned a pallet, a place in the revivification pattern – and in the irradiation queue.
“Let me remind you that you take with you all our pasts. You carry the torch that has been handed down from generation to generation.” The recorded voice of the High Minister finishes speaking as the biocryonic vibrations lull Della into oblivion.
She hopes to dream.V