The Mutiny on the Protsvetanie
Rain fell on the city from its great central shaft. The heat from the decrepit reactor washed through the hull of the ship, sending columns of steam skyward from the old apartments and sewers. Around the central shaft, great masses of water condensed and split and merged along the delicate balance between surface tension and gravity. And, beneath, in the streets of the city, it rained.
The rain fell on a living city. Great vines grew up the sides of buildings, and wildflowers grew in the filthy cracks between windows. Grass grew where it could find foothold in mud and feces. Cockroaches fed on the feces, and rats fed on the cockroaches, and the cats fed on the rats. At the top of the food chains, the last few mangy, feral dogs fed on the cats. It was not a complicated ecosystem, but it worked.
And, clinging to the eaves and inching her way down the street out of the rain came the last human in the city. She was eight years old, and she had never seen a blue sky in her life.
She was filthy, and she was naked, and her left leg was a little crooked from a badly healed break, but she was alive and she was not starving. Not yet, anyway. She held a pointed stick in one hand, and the muddy remains of a blue camisole around her neck as a satchel. She paused to drink from a puddle, and then returned to the hunt. The cats stayed out of the rain when it came, and a cat indoors was an easy meal.
She found a building that she could get into, the door left ajar by its previous owner in some long-forgotten haste. The girl, whose name was Emy, slunk inside and gently shut the door shut behind her.
Inside, it smelled of cat. There were the remains of a rug on the floor, and warped picture frames lay in puddles by the walls. The rain had been eating away at the carboncrete for years, leaving splits and soft spots in the walls that glittered with diamond flakes in the black titanium rust. They were pretty, but she stayed away from them, because they made you sick. You saw it often enough. Dead animals slumped over in the road, the rotting meat sparkling unnaturally. The other animals didn't touch them.
She moved slowly into the other room on the bottom floor. It was mostly underwater, the last of the kitchen table floating in the hole, and the ceiling had caved in overhead. She could see up onto the second floor from the doorway. A small shape darted past the edge of the hole as she watched Upstairs it was.
The staircase itself was highly suspect, waterlogged and partially collapsed, and she climbed it on her hands and knees. Several steps were very loose, and the carboncrete seemed ready to give out entirely. When she made it to the top, she climbed onto the floor with some trepidation. The ground outside, under the textured carboncrete, was reasonably sound structural diamond. It could collapse, sure, but you couldn't exactly go anywhere. Here, stepping on a soft spot meant a broken leg or worse. She tested each step very carefully, keeping her head down. The smell of cat was very strong up here, and she could see the remains of several generations of unlucky mice piled neatly in the corners. She watched the shadows. Cats were fast, and if you let them get behind you, you'd never catch them without killing yourself.
She walked very lightly across the floor, listening for the telltale squeal of the ground giving way. Fortunately, the gravity was noticably lessened up here, so she could tread very lightly indeed. This didn't surprise her in any way.
She was, in a way, very much a product of her environment. It did not surprise her that gravity should decrease as you got higher. It didn't surprise her that if you walked East or West for about a half a mile you'd end up back where you started. It didn’t seem strange to her that if you threw a stone straight up as hard as you possibly could from the roof of the very tallest building, it would never come down again. When she reached out to catch something, her hand moved just a little bit further than it ought to, to compensate for the Coriolis effect. This was all she had ever known, and was innocent of any other way for things to be.
The next room was a bedroom. The mattress was little but a mat of rotting polyester fibers, and the carpet’s only existence now was as a smear of muddy organic matter that sustained a population of lillies under a skylight.
On the bare springs of the bed were two mounds of bones, tangled with each other and the remaining fibers. Inside each skull, through the eye sockets, it was just possible to see a rusted mess of wires. The skeletons didn't particularly scare the girl, and they had never played a starring role in her nightmares. The dead couldn't hurt you. Other things could.
The room was dissapointingly empty of cats, and she moved on. The next room had an enormous hole in the floor overlooking the kitchen. The girl nervously edged around the hole, to the last door. The smell of stale urine and cat hair and musk wafted out. She turned, and stepped into the nursery.
It was still very dry in that room. A crib was overturned, with a small pile of bones just visible inside. A number of pillows and blankets and stuffed animals had been shredded into nests, and a family of cats were bolting across the floor, already in motion as she entered. She lunged for the nearest one, missed, and her foot went through the floor, sending a shower of sparkling grit pouring down onto the lower floor.
She caught the doorjam, barely, and managed to pull herself out of the soft spot in time, leaving a small hole in the floor. She got to her feet and grabbed her stick just in time to see the last cat vanish around the corner into the stairwell.
Her stomach growled ominously, and she swore, remarkably fluently for her age. She had just about decided to try the house next door when she heard the bell on the downstairs door jingle. She froze. Then, she heard the matchbox sounds of claws on the carboncrete floor, and a dull, throaty growl. She retreated back into the room, looking for a door to lock. The only door available was wooden, and rotten right through. Skirting the soft spot, she positioned herself behind it, and gripped her stick. If she needed to, the far wall looked soft. If she jumped through it, they probably wouldn't be hungry enough to follow her. She might be okay.
There was the sound of claws scrabbling up the staircase, and then a faint snuffling sound. If she was lucky, the overwhelming smell of cat might distract them enough for her to surprise them.
The dogs rounded the corner into view. picking their way carefully along the edge of the hole. The biggest was a skinny white pitbull cross, blind in one eye, with it's ribs sticking out and tooth scars down its side. A rotted leather collar hung around its neck, two sizes too large. The other was a little smaller, probably a golden retriever under all the mud. The last one was some kind of terrier. On the whole, not good odds.
The pitbull saw her and froze. It had a kind of intelligence in its remaining eye, and it was careful. It had been alive for a long time in dog terms, and it hadn't done it by taking unnecessary risks. It didn't dart at cornered pray, not without a moment’s thought. A dog on a good day isn't much more than a mentally retarded wolf, and hunger makes you smart fast.
Fortunately, the golden retriever wasn't as careful, and hit the ground running. It leapt through the door, landed dead on the soft spot in front of her. The ground creaked and collapsed under it. It scrabbled at the edge of the hole for an endless second, and then vanished, with a yelp, into the abyss. There was a crash a moment later as it hit the ground a floor below.
The other dog moved very, very carefully, across the floor to the doorway. It stared at her across the hole. Its eye was endlessly patient, and seemed to say 'I can wait longer than you can.’
She backed away, slowly, looking for an exit. The dog watched, very calmly. Then, without changing its expression in the slightest, it lunged.
She'd seen it tense for the spring,and she was ready. She got a solid kick in between the ribs, caught it's collar in both hands, and threw it as hard as she could. It was surprisingly light, and it left the ground, sailing into the far wall with a crash. It staggered onto solid ground, and launched itself towards her again. She stabbed blindly with the stick, and felt it sink into the dog's good eye, which filled with blood.
It howled in pain and anger and snapped at her, getting only the stick.. Without waiting for it to orient itself, she bolted for the staircase, leaving the blinded animal scrabbling around the floor. .
She ran past the skeletons on the bed frame, down the stairs, which buckled under her feet, and out the front door, which she shut.
Outside, the rain had dulled to a trickle. She moved quickly away from the building, bruised and hungry. No dinner tonight, and probably not tomorrow, either. She ate a handful of bitter dandelion leaves in a mud puddle, and decided to ask God for help.
The irony of the name was, of course, lost on her. Her religious upbringing had been lackluster to the point of non-existence. All she knew about God was that he was a person who lived in the ceiling, and that sometimes he would feed you if you asked the right way. So, in a way, her religious thinking had come out much the same as most people’s.
Water and electronics don't get along well, so most of the apartments and shops that she could get into didn't have a connection to God anymore. So she walked due North, down the length of the city, until it suddenly ended, abruptly, in a great mirrored wall that created the illusion, from a distance, of an infinite tunnel of buildings. On the wall, a ladder led straight up, wrapped with vines. She climbed it carefully.
As she climbed, she began to feel more and more weightless, until eventually she was able to hold onto the ladder by no more than a single finger without falling. She didn’t do that, though. If you lost your grip on the ladder, there was no way back, and you would fall, eventually. It would be exceedingly slow, and you would have plenty of time to reflect on your mistake before you really began to feel the acceleration. And, low gravity or no, it was still fifty stories down.
After some time, she finally came to the large airlock seal. An interface flickered to life in front of it, and she tapped the "door-open" tile. A line of text appeared as the door opened.
AUTHORIZATION ACCEPTED: Emily Grakov, Captain's Daughter.
And then she was inside the nest. It was small and dusty and the vast majority of it was taken up by an enormous leather chair with a half a dozen padded arms splayed around it like metal fingers wrapped in leather. She had piled blankets and pillows into it over the years, and they formed a loose halo in the zero gravity. As she entered, a glowing interface appeared in the air above it.
There had been a corpse in the chair, once, and there was a little brown stain on the back where the knife had gone in, but that had been a long time ago, and she no longer really remembered it. The corpse was long gone, anyway: garnished clumsily with flowers and twigs and pushed out into the void by the surprising strength of small hands unconstrained by gravity.
She sat down in the chair, which gripped her obligingly, and then the ship's computer slowly woke itself up. Most of it's periferal hardware was solid state, and its kernel (a tiny ball of nanostuff, no more than a milimeter wide) would never wear out. So long as the reactor kept running, it might well be able to continue to function for another century or more. In a way, they'd been very lucky to have it. The girl's mother had once told her that most ships didn't have computers that could talk. That's why they'd named theirs 'God'. God controlled the food, God controlled their course, and God controlled the rain. Well, used to, anyway.
As the girl watched, the interface finished loading, and the face of God appeared. It wasn't much of a face, just a glowing white sphere that pulsed gently and without apparant pattern.
"Hi, Emy. Are you here for another lesson?"
Her diction was good, though a careful observer might have noticed a faint awkwardness to the girl’s speech that might have suggested echoes of learning to speak from a synthesized voice. No such observer was present, or cared to comment.
Emy, irritated, repeated herself.
There was a brief pause as the computer quietly performed millions of tree searches and contextual extrapolations to interpret the meaning of this request and decide if it could be complied with. When it finally came up with an answer, after some thousands of trillions of clock cycles, it returned with its answer, and an explanation of its reasoning.
"I'm sorry, Emy, we don’t have much food. I can't feed you unless lack of food begins to present a health risk, and your rig provides no evidence for that."
“But I’m hungry.”
God said nothing. Had Emy been the captain, or even a legal adult, it would have been obliged to comply with her requests and commands. As the situation stood, much was left to its discretion.
Emy frowned. Well, they’d come to this impasse before.
“If you don’t give me food, I’m going to hold my breath until I die.”
There was an extremely short pause.
“That is not biologically possible.”
Emy took a deep breath and held it. After a moment, she began to turn blue. The camera in the back of the nest watched her impassively. As parental figures go, the computer God was remarkably hard to strong-arm into much of anything. After the edges of her vision began to go sparkly, and her lungs felt ready to burst, Emy gave up and tried another tact.
“If you don’t feed me, I’ll jump out of the hatch. Then you’ll be sorry.”
There was a slightly longer pause, as the computer quietly took its internal probablistic model of Emy, which had grown quite detailed over the years, and adjusted it to her current levels of overall health, hunger, age, and stress, and plotted the probability of her genuinely being suicidal. It then weighed this against the probability that she was lying to manipulate it, which the model highly favored. The results were not persuasive.
“I find that scenario extremely unlikely. On the other hand, the possibility that we’re going to need the available food in the future is very high. The risk reward graph suggests that your long term odds of survival are best if I don’t feed you now. Come back when you’re ketotic.”
Emy didn’t know what that meant.
“You’re a bad computer!”
God didn’t answer. Value judgements were a little beyond its grasp. Which was, in its own way, a sort of advantage when dealing with small children.
“Do you want a lesson?”
“Don’t like lessons.”
“But you need them. When you’re older, you need to be able to understand things so you can tell me what to do.”
Emy didn’t answer.
The computer experimented on its model of Emy for a few seconds. It dismissed speaking to her better nature out of hand, because even computers aren’t stupid. It also decided not to try appealing to her ability to delay gratification, because as far as it could tell she didn’t have one. Eventually it came up with something that had occasionally worked before.
“If you do a lesson with me, I’ll tell you a story.”
“Heard all your stories.”
And this was certainly true. The computer’s database of folklore was woefully inadequate to the task of raising a child, and God’s few (tentative) forays into original storytelling had been largely disastrous. The computer almost entirely lacked an imagination of any kind.
There was another brief pause as it considered other options, and an extremely long one as it weighed the overall value of a few grams of cellulose, sugar, and chocolate against the value of one lesson, which was not easy for it. Eventually, after much deliberation and adjustment of scenarios, it made a call.
“If you do a lesson, I’ll give you a sweet.”
Emy perked up. This was what she’d been hoping for. Then her face clouded.
“What kind of lesson?”
The computer hesitated again. Her mathematics were woefully inadequate, but so was essentially everything else except practical self-defense and outdoorsmanship, which she had consumed voraciously years ago. Eventually, it settled on English. In a pinch, it was capable of doing the hard math for her, but she needed to be able to understand what was being told. If it could expand her vocabulary a little, it might be able to make her mentally competent to be Captain as young as sixteen, and then, finally, it would have someone to tell it what to do. And that, in its little silicon soul, was all God really wanted.
“English. Sit down and pay attention.”
She stuck out her tongue, but became marginally stiller. A sweet had been promised.
God had spent an extremely long time (quadrillions of clock cycles) working out the curriculum. Much of the default teaching material available to it was badly archaic. Most of it was focused on things like cows, which didn’t exist, and trains, which she'd never seen, and dogs, which simply scared her. As a result, God had compiled its own curriculum, mostly out of the technical documentation, with a firm eye on practicality.
God’s face vanished, and an image appeared onscreen. Text appeared below it, and God’s synthesized voice said. "O-ring."
Emy quietly repeated God.
"O-ring. Oscar hyphen Romeo-India-November-Golf."
The picture and the word changed.
Two hours later, the lesson was still going strong.
A picture appeared on the screen.
"Good. Use it in a sentence."
"The planet orbits the sun. God, I'm tired, can we please stop?"
God consulted the model and decoded that this was probably true. It reluctantly decided to end the lesson.
"That's good enough, Emy."
The interface closed quietly, and the seat restraints relaxed, allowing her to float loose.
Emy, though tired, had not lost track of the prize.
The compiler on the wall hummed, and, after a moment, opened with a ding to reveal a warm chocolate chip cookie, which Emy consumed voraciously.
Then, temporarily sated, she wrapped herself up in the blankets and the seat restraints gently half-closed to contain her, like a baby bird in a closed fist. She fell asleep, matted hair in a halo around her head, with recorded lullabyes playing in the background.
Outside the hull, the vaccum of interstellar space abided, as it had done for a thousand billion years before that moment, and as it would for a thousand billion years after. The Protsvetanie turned, slowly and aimlessly through the void, coasting on old momentum.
There were no gravity wells out here. The nearest star was a long, long way off. The only light was the faint illumination of the stars and the glow of radioactive decay from the generator.
And, somewhere off in the distance, a star went black for a split second as it was eclipsed by the motion of an unseen body. And nobody, not one living soul saw it.
But an unliving one did.
The next day, Emy ate tabby cooked over an open fire. She was perched in the middle of a wide sheet of exposed structural diamond, where the carboncrete had been stripped away by a never-finished construction project.
Beneath her pile of burning sticks, she could see the passage of stars pinwheeling beneath her. She paid them not much attention. Beauty had lost that battle to familiarity.
With the last of the meat gone, she scraped the hide and smoked it and wrapped it around her head because she liked the way it looked. Then she picked some wildflowers and put them in her hair and went to go find a puddle of water to look at herself.
As she did so, she thought she heard a voice say her name, and she jerked around to look for it, but there was no one. She paused, and then dismissed it as a trick of the wind, and kept walking. It happened again, a few minutes later, and this time it was unmistakable. It was God’s voice, though badly distorted and indistinct. Then a flicker of light appeared in front of her, briefly making the image of God’s round face and then vanishing.
Then she heard the voice again, much louder and scratchy, but audible.
“Emy? Emy? Can you hear me?”
“How are you doing that?”
“Emy, listen to me. This is important.”
“How are you talking to me?”
“I’ve got the transmitter on maximum power so I can transmit to your rig from here. It’s bad for the equipment. Now, listen to me. You need to go hide somewhere right now. There are men on board the ship. They might hurt you. I need you to hide. Can you do that?”
There was a brief pause, as Emy entirely failed to grasp most of the concepts God had just raised.
God paused, and, after some deliberation, decided to make a stab at metaphor. It did a massive search for things it knew scared Emy, and came up with an extremely short list. It found the common theme and ran with it.
“They’re like dogs, Emy. Big dogs with sticks. You need to hide. Please.”
That she understood. And, now that she listened, she could hear that something was wrong. The sounds were subtly different. Something was spooking the wildlife, and it was coming towards her.
She ran for it, ducking into a store front and crouching behind the wall. She tried to talk to God, but it was gone. After a long, long moment, she heard the crunch of footsteps on the crumbling road.
Then, she heard voices. The accent was thick, but comprehensible.
“Look at this place. How long you think it’s been derelict?”
“Five years, maybe.”
“Really? Only five?”
“It’s the carboncrete, brother. Get it wet, and it rots like cardboard. Deadly, too. Worse than asbestos.”
There was a brief silence. .
“So what happened to everybody? You think this is a honeypot? We gonna get jumped by Crown הגסטפו?”
“I dunno. Something bad happened here. The bodies are everywhere. Not resting easy, either, by the looks of it. Nobody had time to bury the dead. These animals are creeping me out, too. You saw that dog. They must have been drifting for years.”
There was another silence.
“Honestly, brother, I don’t see much to salvage here. We can’t tow the hull, and the water’s destroyed everything else. Unless you think there’s a market for crazy-ass half-starved mongrels, we’re wasting our time.”
“Patience, Emmanuel. Patience. There’s still the helm. The logs said this ship had a שפחה on board. Forget the dogs, there’s your money. .
They moved on, leaving Emy sitting along in the dark. They hadn’t sounded like dogs. They sounded strange though, and they used words she didn’t know, that sounded like gravel and honey.
And, though she wasn’t totally sure about this, it sounded like they wanted to take God away. Emy had spent a large fraction of her waking hours to date in a kind of war with God in an effort to get more food and fewer lessons. She had never seriously considered the possibility of God not being there. God was simply a fact of life, like the rain or the stars. And, she suddenly realized, without him she would have no-one to talk to, ever. She began to cry, and then grabbed her pointed stick with tears in her eyes. She had dealt with dogs before.
Before she could move, she heard a faint crackling in her ears, and then a voice.
“I’m here. Did you hear that?”
“I heard. Emy, I need you to do some things for me.”
Deep in the recesses of the ship, God worked quietly at its analysis of the situation. The men were black state pirates, which was bad. On the other hand, they also didn’t seem particularly violent. Scavengers, really, picking over the dead. God’s current models ranked the probability that they would actively hurt Emy fairly low. The risk that they would disable the computer system was close to a hundred percent, though. God didn’t have a self-preservation instinct, as such, but it did have an extremely long list of goals, and the odds of any of them being accomplished approached zero if it was incapacitated or destroyed.
As matters stood, the most pressing goal, at this point, was to get the crew and passengers to a safe harbor. That was what the mission protocol dictated in the aftermath of a serious disaster. As Emy was the last remainder of both, this meant keeping her safe. And, since it wasn’t allowed to access the navigational system until authorized to do so by a mentally competent adult, that meant keeping her alive and educated for at least another eight to ten years.
The logic was really very simple. And, now there was a wrench in the works. It briefly considered some options. It could inform them of the existence of Emy and allow them to scrap it in the hope that they would bring her to a safe harbor -- but that had any number of problems, not the least of which being that they’d undoubtedly take her to a black state port, and that hardly qualified as a safe harbor, especially for a young girl with no family and no property. .
Alternatively, if he could get her to the airlock, he could depressurize the city. But there just wasn’t enough air for that, and, besides, that would be the end of the food supply too.
The list of strategies, which had started in the millions of options that looked at all plausible, was weeded down to a few options - and, finally, to just one. Left with no better options, God quietly drafted a plan. Then, it called Emy. .
“Emy? I heard. Emy, I need you to do some things for me.”
Emy scurried down the streets as fast as she could. The men had a longer stride and a head start, but they were sightseeing, and she was running flat out through terrain she knew. She knew the routes where the dogs didn’t go, and she knew where the collapsed buildings blocked the street. She easily beat them to the north wall, and was halfway up and well out of sight by the time they found the base.
Echoing up the wall, she faintly heard voices below her.
“Oh, you are joking. There’s no elevator?”
“Locked out, Captain’s orders. Looks like we’re climbing. We’ll probably have to cut through some pressure doors up there. You got the kit?”
“Brother, it’s fifty fucking stories. I just did the math, just now.”
“Relax, Emmanuel. The gravity is all downhill from here, neh? Come on, the lights will be going out in less than an hour.”
Emy climbed very quickly up to the cockpit, locked the door behind her, and climbed into the chair. God spoke to her.
“Emy? In the event of an emergency in which the life of a crewman or passenger, i.e. you is in immediate danger and no officer is available, I am allowed to open the console to anyone who I feel able to resolve the situation, at my discretion. Protsvetanie charter, Emergencies, clause 14.”
Emy stared blankly at the camera.
“I can give you Captain’s access.”
The minimal interfaces around her head bloomed into a complex array of instrumentation. Navigation, life support, reactor status, day/night cycles, everything. Emy’s eyes widened at the complexity of it all.”
“I am not allowed to adjust the position of the ship without due authorization -- which, currently, cannot be given by any living person. However, I am able to explain to an operator, namely you, how to perform a given task. Do you understand?”
“You’re going to tell me how to do something.”
“That’s right. It’s just another lesson. To your left, you’ll see the navigation panel. Drag it to the center of the screen. Good. Now, select the option panel that says ‘maneuvering,’ then tap ‘thrusters’ That’s Tango-hotel-romeo-
“Okay, there should be six thrusters listed. East, West, North, South, Up, Down.”
“I see them.”
“Good. Now, open the North thruster, and there’ll be two fields. You remember the keyboard lessons? Good. Put in a force of one gravity, and an impulse of four seconds. Good. Now, you’ll see a fire button. If you press that, the ship will move about a hundred meters forward, and then coast at a speed of about 39 meters per second.”
There was a brief pause.
“And what will that do?”
The computer nearly hesitated -- but, it wasn’t designed to lie.
“There are currently some hundreds of thousands of kilograms of water condensed on the central shaft. This impulse will give it a considerable northward acceleration, roughly equivalent to dropping it off a ten story building. When the accelerated water hits the north wall, it should have easily lethal energy.
“It’ll kill them?”
There was no hesitation - the answer to this question was in the rapid access cache.
“Yes. You need to hurry. They’ll be here very soon.”
Emy sat, and thought very hard, by eight-year-old standards. She was uniquely comfortable with the idea of death. Where many children were traumatized by the death of a childhood pets, she had been hunting and killing feral housecats since she was five, and God had deemed her old enough to begin feeding herself.
Still, something about the idea of pressing a button and killing two people who did not seem especially evil minded (and who were not, in fact, aware of her existence) struck her as, if not morally repugnant, at least a little unfair.
God said nothing. On the subject of moral dilemmas, it had no advice to give. After a moment, she heard the sound of a portable plasma torch being applied to the outside doors.
She ran to the door and shouted through it, angrily.
There was a brief cessation of motion on the other side.
“Hello? Who is this?”
Emy drew herself up.
“I’m Emily Grakov, and if you don’t listen, I’ll tell the computer to crush you with a million kilos of water.”
There was a brief pause, and then a voice, a little incredulous, asked.
“How old are you?”
Emy blinked. In a world without seasons or a sun, the concept of a year was a little hard for her, and God had never deemed it important enough to emphasize. She turned to the computer and whispered,
“God, how old am I?”
“Two hundred and fifty six million, nine hundred and ninety four thousand, two hundred and eight seconds.”
She turned back to the door.
“Two hundred and fifty seven million seconds.”
There was a brief pause as mental arithmetic was done.
Emy turned to God.
There was a brief pause as God tried some units.
“Eight Imperial standard years, approximately, yes.”
She leaned back against the door.
Somebody mumbled something, and the first voice cut in.
“Shut up, Emmanuel - you live here alone?”
Emy though for a moment.
“Well, me and God.”
There was a knowing pause.
“Oh, I see.”
“God lives in the computer. He gives me sweets and lessons and tells me stories. Sometimes.”
There was another pause as this was digested. After a while,the voice returned, cautously, with
“What was that about crushing us?”
“I have the button right here. If I move the ship, all the water will fall on you.”
A barely audible argument ensued.
“Can she actually do that?”
“I don’t know. Probably.”
“So what do we do?”
“Stay on her good side, I’d imagine.”
“This isn’t funny.”
“Brother, this is hilarious. If we weren’t probably going to die, I’d be rolling.”
The voice returned to normal volume.
“We’re listening. What are your demands?”
Emy hesitated. She had not thought this far ahead.
“Let me talk to god.”
She climbed back into the chair.
“God, what are my demands?”
There was a brief pause.
“What do you want?”
“I want them to go away.”
“Then those are your demands.”
She got out of the chair and walked back to the door.
“My demands are: I want you to go away.”
There was another brief pause, and then a voice said
“Are you going to crush us will a million kilos of water?
“It’s not really a million.”:
“Oh. Are you?”
“Not if you leave.”
“Emmanuel, shut up. We are okay with that.”
There was another brief pause.
“How long have you been up here by yourself?”
Emy asked, then came back to the door.
“About a hundred and sixty two million seconds,”
There was a low whistle.
“You know, we could take you somewhere. There’s plenty of room.”
Emy said, firmly,
“I’m okay here. God says we can go anywhere I want, when I’m old enough.”
There was a brief silence.
“That’s certainly your right. We’re leaving now. Pleasure to meet you, Emily. Emmanuel and I will just be on our way.”
There was the sound of two very confused men making the start of a long and awkward descent. When they finally left, the interfaces quietly shut down as the emergency was averted.
The next morning, Emy found a crate of rations, a box of seeds, an electronic book, and a gun piled by the southern airlock. So perhaps they weren’t bad men, after all.
Emy never saw them again, but she didn’t die, either, and one day she was old enough to tell God what to do...
...but, that’s a story for another day.