Posted Aug-05-2016 1:13 AM
He hated the waiting; the uncertainty. The feel of the cryo-pod's thick, unyielding support pads made his already damp skin chafe. The condensation from his breath only added to the discomfort - fogging the view shield above him and compounding the clammy feel across his body. It was all distant and without concern when the "mothball sleep" was in full swing; but he never stayed asleep. He couldn't.
Jacob Best was by no means a rookie when it came to deep space forays. Quite the contrary; he'd practically been born a spacer. The story of his mother giving birth to him only 20 minutes after making planetfall on Cyprus IV never failed to raise an eyebrow or two. Everyone had a story, though - and he'd heard quite a few over the course of his 15 year service to the company. There wasn't a single man or woman doing their part to "Build better World's" that didn't have a driving reason behind their decision to step away from Earth into the wide black beyond. Most were a little too altruistic or romantic for Jacob's liking, though. The one's who wanted to travel the stars to pave the way for mankind's future? They were usually sideways; just as likely to shake your hand as stab you cleanly in the back. The ladies and gentlemen who gave up their place back on Earth because it was the only way to make a steady paycheck? Those were the ones you wanted to know. They meant what they said and didn't mind rolling up their sleeves for a job - or well-earned R&R. It was just too bad that no examples of the latter individuals were on his team.
Two graduates from some science academy and a corporate bean-counter. That's what they'd given him. He usually liked being bought a drink before he got screwed; but life didn't always agree with his notions. Life didn't always throw fair pitches, either. That's why he had awakened - now for the third time since the return voyage had been initiated. Not many things could keep Jacob up after more than a week's worth of scrabbling over rock escarpments made nearly-invisible by constant dust storms. A cargo hold full of dead crew members did the trick nicely, though.
Listening to his breath as we watched the life monitor's digital display registering his vitals as the cryo-pod prepared to open, Jacob stretched his limbs ever so slightly, feeling the deep-seeded pain in his left shoulder and bicep - the only testament to the fall he'd taken back on Yahga-A15. The only testament to Jillian' s last moments. He could still hear her shouting for him; could still vividly see her terrified face vanishing down into the dark fissure as he dove in vain to keep her from being dragged away...
The hiss of compressed air and the faint click of the pod's securing locks coming undone drew him quickly from his grim musings. Moments later, the moisture-fogged view shield at last lifted away. Jacob was quick in his movements as he maneuvered his legs over the side of the capsule and prepared to make his way to the hygenics bay. Most newcomers or hard-ballers took a few minutes to thaw-out; but not him. He never did have the patience for a long wait - even if there was a risk of ice crystals in his blood. He'd walk it off.
Sitting forward and cupping his face in his hands with a slow sigh, Jacob took his hands away in preparation to stand - and lurched back with a gasp at the pale, serene visage that now greeted his eyes. David stood not a foot away; his slender form leaning forward, unmoving. His face was no more than two inches from Jacob's. Slowly arching an eyebrow as he kept his pale eyes upon Jacob's, David softly said "You're awake again, Officer Best. Bad dreams?" Breathing out to calm his nerves, Jacob said "Don't you know?". Smiling mirthlessly, David simply drew away with slow fluidity - his eyes still fixed on Jacob's. However, Jacob had long since taken his eyes from the android' s. His gaze was now fixed upon David's chest - and the ragged, gaping hole that dominated it.
It had been there from the moment his team had located the android. Roughly eight inches in diameter, surrounded by shredded tissue that still oozed synth-blood, the massive wound revealed broken carbon-press rib bones and a bisected sternum. David didn't seem to notice the massive rupture upon his torso, however. He just kept looking fixedly upon Jacob. "Children aren't easy to bring into the world, Officer Best." David's voice was hollow, but tinged with a facsimile of bemusement. Looking down slowly upon the ragged void in his chest, David moved aside a few strands of straw-white hair that fell over his brow and softly said "The pain is...temporary - just as it is with birth. Yet the life is lasting; made to endure. Every parent only wishes the best for their offspring..." Slowly looking up to meet David's eyes, Jacob softly said "It wasn't a "child", and you're not a "parent". Children don't kill like that thing did...and parents don't stand by and watch as they do it." Lifting his eyes to gaze coldly back at Jacob, David gave a practiced half-smile and said "They just need a firm hand. The cruelty of the young is not a myth; how many beetles and worms did you mishandle before you at last realized that life is fragile? Before you knew that care must be taken with...smaller creatures?"
Continuing to stare into the android' s eyes, Jacob said "How many other Davids had your directive? How many other crews are going to find one of you - torn open and waiting for recovery - before being slaughtered by whatever the hell it is you were sent to acquire?" Allowing his features to relax, David slowly moved to sit down beside Jacob - attempting to promote a friendly atmosphere. Looking over to Jacob as he sat, David simply said "What did you do with it?" "HOW MANY?!", Jacob shouted, his form trembling with anger.
Folding his hands neatly within his lap, his features a cool approximation of concern, David softly said "Nets must be wide in the vastness of the ocean, Officer Best. Would you care for a little tea? I would join you, but...it goes through me rather swiftly these days..."