(Serial fiction, sci-fi)
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Eve looked down on the dead girl lying on the suspension table for disposal. She already wept for her. The granddaughter she barely knew.
That girl always was the small one. The one not built for childbearing. She gave a son at age 13, barely, but something must have been damaged in her womb. After this second pregnancy at 15, they couldn't stop the bleeding. The tiny baby girl was stable, and they worked hard with their crystalline pinchers erupting and retracting from their amoeba arms. The moving minerals comprising their bodies sounded like sandpaper. Those crystals flashed faster and more precisely than any human fingers could move. Yet, they couldn't save her. Even if they knew an epoch of human anatomy and medicine, it might not have been enough. The biochemical intricacies of human life confounded even them.
There were many reasons not to weep. One death out of so many successful births. The daughters of daughters of daughters were now breeding, and 46 males training in the lower levels of the ship would be generals and leaders of men.
Eve was old. Twenty-two children had worn her thin, regardless of the early deliveries by caesarian. She respected the Mala. She even came to love the sound of their clicked and hummed language. She still smiled when she remembered the first real communication between them--when she realized that the mmmm-lll-a sound they made indicated a question. They seemed amused when she called them "Mala" after that sound. It was as if every interaction of hers with them was inquisitive.
In their pictograph language Eve helped develop, they often showed her the character meaning complete or adequate or enough. Eve often chose the smiley face. Of course, they had no faces to communicate body language with, but they certainly could see hers and what happiness looked like. They never chose the smiley face in their inquisitive and demanding sentences.
She wanted to believe that they would let her live out her life post menopause. Maybe not in luxury, but at least in health and comfort. She could still catch glimpses of her progeny and feel accomplishment. She could never talk to them, or let them know that she existed, but maybe the Mala would let them hear the volumes of human history she recorded. Maybe they would let her preserve the identity of her species.
Crystals protruded from the Mala doctor next to her and triggered transfer from the table into the disposal. A plasma wave of brilliant blue flared and advanced. She did cry a little when the wave swept back to reveal white ash. But a jolt to her back stiffened her body and cut off the tears.
She couldn't yell out when her face hit the bottom of the disposal unit. The grimace refused to form on her face.
The lid clicked down over her and the plasma wave hummed.
A sound like the Mala word for "hello."
On to Part 10.
Back to Part 8.