The Last Stop - Part 3
If you’ve just jumped in, start at the beginning here.
“It started so promising,” said the Director to the team of five scientists gathered around the stasis pod. A human child was inside. I watched from the periphery, as I always did, invisible yet omnipresent. “Ten cycles ago, it looked like we could tweak the human’s genome, just like the Krad demanded.”
“We should give the experiment at least one more cycle,” pleaded one of the scientists. They projected a holographic series of numbers before them and pointed. “We need just a little more data so we can perform a three-sigma regression.”
“No.” The Director flushed orange as they waved the projection away. “It is clear the original success was not correlated to the simulation. I don’t want to waste any more resources on this dead end. The experiment will be shut down immediately. Alpha team’s new simulation is already leading to faster results.”
“What will happen to the subject?” asked the Human Custodian—the only one among them who seemed to care about the human living in the simulation. They stepped forward until they were less than an appendage’s distance from the Director.
“It is too old to be assimilated into a future simulation, it will be recycled on this cycle.”
“But—” The Custodian was cut off.
“See to it,” ordered the Director staring the Custodian down. “I expect the experiment to be terminated immediately.”
The Custodian’s ganglia quivered as they looked at their superior. Then they stalked away from the meeting.
“Ship, you are to record the Custodian’s actions to ensure they fulfill my direction,” said the Director. “I will be returning to the mothership.”
“I will comply,” I said, but the Director hadn’t waited for my response. They were already headed to their shuttle with the other scientists. I shifted my view to the canteen, where the Custodian sulked. I did nothing but observe, as I had been ordered.
Twenty minutes later, the Custodian’s skin flushed orange and they stood. I watched as they returned to the room with the stasis pod and put an appendage on its controls.
“We steal them from their homes,” they said keeping their eyes fixed on the pod. “What we do isn’t right.”
I said nothing and continued to observe.
“Ship, what is the state of your fuel reserve?” the Custodian asked.
My programming compelled me to respond to direct questions. “67.8 percent.”
“That’s enough to return this child home.”
“Where is this child’s home?” I asked, as far as I knew all the subjects were born one of the Krad’s farming ships—a place no one would call home.
“Earth.” The Custodian looked down at the pod and flushed cyan. With a flick of a tentacle, they initiated the waking process—the pod would soon open, releasing the human into my corridors.
“Reverse the process right now,” I demanded knowing it was too late.
“Take it home,” said the Custodian. “I will transfer the human archives to you.”
As soon as the pod started to open, the Custodian turned and fled. I let them go, choosing to watch as the tiny human emerge from the pod’s fluid. It looked around and screamed, a piercing noise my sensors could pick up in every corridor.
Once the Custodian stepped through my airlock, I released my hold on the Krad ship. I let my hull drift away as I ignored the other ship’s calls to explain myself. I would do what the Custodian had asked of me and return the child home.
I did a series of calculations and quickly realized going to Earth would be a one way trip.