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2. The Wide, Wide World

Nanu looks at the wall of departures doubtfully. Spaceports are large places, some
larger than moons. This wall with a million glowing lights tells all the destinations in the
galaxy, and when the ships going to them leave. She squints, willing the tiny figures into meaningful forms.

Earth.

A small name for a big place. But it’s where she needs to go.

She carries with her a bag: food her mother has packed for her (a dozen sandwiches, it seems, lest she get a “little hungry” on a ten-year journey); a notebook,
the old-fashioned kind, with real paper and little lines to write between; a pen; her toolbox; some clothes; and her ID and credit disks.

To her surprise, her mother did not argue when she announced her intention to
go on this trip. “Someone must find the truth,” she said. “You are the one who will do it,
I think.”

Her mother’s reaction to the news of her father’s death was noticeable primarily for the lack of surprise. “He wasn’t an earth creature,” she said in that way she had of pronouncing facts like koans. “He was fire. He burnt himself out. Or other people burnt him. Fire burns and that is the way of it.” She was washing dishes as she said this. She looked at a pan in water, the graceful fall of liquid over metal. “I am an earth creature.
We don’t burn.” And that was all.

Nanu wasn’t a fire creature, or an earth creature, and this much she knew as if it had been ordained. She neither burned nor did not burn, she simply existed. When she blew glass, the heat did not touch her, and neither did the snow burn her brow. Lying on the ground on lovely days, she was aware of bugs, but the green things said nothing to her.

She was sad for this. It is a lonely life when nothing sings to you.

When she finally finds her destination codes and purchases a ticket, it seems like years have passed already. The cabin she is given is small, with a twin bunk lonely for its absent brother and a small desk with an attached lamp and storage box. The room is what it is and unmovable. Never having been on a ship before she ponders whether this construction is a descendent of the ship’s own ancient ocean forebears, everything bolted down in the event of a storm.

She feels no fear at this prospect. Earth creatures are afraid of tumult; Nanu is not.
What could intimidate a young, strong engineer with a purpose?


3. Wanderer

Tradik was not a happy man tonight. First off, the ship’s compression coils were,
according to his pilot, “being a little cranky.” Second off, there was a notable lack of funds to keep the ship in dock long enough for it to be fixed. Third off, the ship was being routed to Earth.

A long journey on a “cranky” boat. Not good, not good at all.

Tradik didn’t like planets, which was the whole reason he’d opted to be a Fleeter.
Never let your feet touch the ground, his Da always said, or they’ll take root and you’ll be stuck. As a child this had scared the shit out of him, and he was constantly moving so he’d never, as he imagined, have his feet transform into long tree branches digging into the ground, keeping him there forever. Tradik was a wandering man, and he wanted to
keep it that way.

Planets gave him a funny feeling. The ground always felt too soft, planetside;
yielding. It didn’t have that hard stability of metalwork on ships and bases. The air always smelled funny, with bugs and things in it. In the encompassing light of the ship’s bulbs, you have no shadow. Sunlight with the sharp relief of shadows made him feel like he was watched and followed. No, he was a space man, alright. He hummed an old song about disappearing into the black as he followed the narrow hallway to the canteen.

There weren’t too many passengers this time around, which suited him fine. Too many people on long journeys made for interesting happenings he wanted no part of; for instance, the usual yarns of ships stranded in space and their inhabitants turning cannibal.
The _Essex_ was most famous for that.

And then of course the love affairs and entanglements between crew and passengers. Those things weren’t allowed, naturally, but some folks always thought for some reason that the rules didn’t apply to them. Sex was a powerful thing that way. Love too, or so he heard.

Clearly he’d not had any of the former in too


Okay, stop that.

What?

I said stop it. You’re not doing it right.

How am I doing it wrong? You’re the one who said, “Oh we can make a story,
it’ll be easy, meh meh meh.

Well clearly I was wrong and we have to start over.

Fine. Whatever.


3. Wanderer

Tradik was not a happy man tonight. First off, the ship’s compression coils were,
according to his pilot, “being a little cranky.” Second off, there was a notable lack of funds to keep the ship in dock long enough for


No, don’t start there. We have to start all over again. From the beginning. You know?

Aw, crap.


1. The Womb of the World

In the beginning there was a cave, and it was called the womb of the world. It
wasn’t like Plato’s cave, as there is always more to the world than shadows even in theory. No, this was the usual sort of cave, with a dirt floor and moss growing over the rocks and a sort of dry smell like dust and dead things.

In the cave lived a woman and the woman’s name was Mari. No, not the one you’re thinking of. This is way too early for that. This was a different sort of Mari: very,
very small, with shoulders hunched from years of writing, very thin limbs like sticks and
sinews like ropes wrapped around them, shaggy gray hair falling loose over drooping bare dugs. This is the maiden become crone, who remembers her belly once swollen like the moon.

She writes things in the dirt that the wind blows away. So she writes it all over again, and she is stuck in this same story. This is very Promethean of her, though she doesn’t know anything of the Light-Bringer or his liver, or the fact that his story will one day be a dim echo of hers.

She is the first in all things.

In the dust she writes history. Some of you will think this is profound, and some of you will think it is cliché, but none of that matters because it is the truth and that’s all there is to it. At this point in time there isn’t much history yet, as the creatures that will become fossils are still infants and the creatures that will find and argue over fossils are barely links of molecules.

This is the real beginning. Not many people know that.


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