Friday, November 02, 2007

October 15, 741 a.t. Interstellar Space

The ship is very quiet, these days; the crowds of colonists and children that filled these tiny quarters are gone. Only a few people are awake at any one time, a few colonists, fewer medics, and a few specialists checking the systems. I might have been one of those specialists, but I need more retraining to replace the skills I seem to have lost in the ice. Most of the time I'm alone, trying to make sense of the jumble in my head.

I'm recording this entry in my favoured spot in the forward hold, floating in microgravity between the cargo shuttlecraft and the outer hull. This is the only place where you can get near a real window, and see the stars with your own eyes. The window is no more than a circle of glass ten centimetres across, just enough to glimpse the Pleiades, or the Southern Cross, or Orion. The Destination, Epsilon Indi, would be an unimpressive star dead ahead, if I could see it. We are now only two light years away but it still isn't very bright – and the angle of the hull makes it impossible to see anyway.

I shouldn't stay here too long, as the cosmic-ray shielding is very thin here, although I am not entirely sure I care.

I tell myself that I am missing Rosie, I just can't be sure of my real feelings in this matter. To tell the truth most of my memories of that woman are gone. Of course I do remember the dreams, which were vivid enough; and maybe some other, less dreamlike but more reliable recollections are clawing their way to the surface of my mind. Most of my recent life, and most of what I think I should be, has gone, blown away like smoke.

I have read over my journals and diary entries for the last however-many-years to try to answer that for myself. I believe that I started this diary with the express intention of recording my impressions for posterity; in that case I would expect other people to read it too, one day, Yet reading the pages I realise that I haven't given many details about myself- this is particularly frustrating for me now that I am trying to re-imagine and reconstruct my life. For several reasons, I realise that I haven't even mentioned my own name, my ancestry or even my sex. Such as it is.

Someone chancing across this journal might think I was a man; they would be wrong. But then I am not currently much of a woman, either.

So who am I?

My given name is Elanor Denley; I am a member of the clade Parthene. Perhaps this clade will be unfamiliar to my hypothetical future readers; there have never been that many of us, even among the asteroids where our clan began. All Parthenes are female. Our biology has been changed quite subtly to give us control over our own bodies; we can regulate our hormones and when we so desire, we can give birth without sexual contact. Yes, we are parthenogenic, when we want to be. Perhaps I should explain that too- although it is so basic to our nature that it seems impossible to think that any hypothetical reader might not know what the word means. In short, it means we clone ourselves without outside help.

I could have a child at any time, and that child would be a perfect copy of myself. I am a perfect copy of my mother, and my grandmother. For obvious reasons only women can do this little trick. There are no boy-children in the clade Parthene.

Most of the time we Parthenes do not let our hormones rule our lives. The geneticists who developed our race centuries ago gave us fine control over our bodies; we can adapt ourselves to freefall just as well as most planetary gravities, and much of the time we suppress our female cycle. Right now, for instance, I have practically no secondary sexual characteristics of any kind; a stranger might mistake me for a slightly built young male. The great plan was that we would become dispassionate, creatures of logic, and in some ways it has worked; but I can assure you I most certainly have a temper, and I will not suffer disrespect. If those far-off and long-ago geneticists thought they were creating emotionless automatons, they were very wrong.

I was born in the year 601 a.t. on the asteroid habitat 6 Hebe. My mother was killed by a swarm infection when I was in my teens. My aunts and I were relocated to the Tyr Habitat orbiting Mars, and I trained as a fusion plant technician there. Most of my life I have been working on the surface of Mars or in orbit trying to maintain the power generation equipment. First the surface of Mars became too dangerous for colonisation, then the habitat itself was relocated far from the planet for safety reasons. I can still remember the news of the Great Expulsion from Earth, but after that, my memories have become unreliable, thanks to the low-level damage caused by the effects of cryostasis on board this ship.

Many of my skills have been lost because of this trauma, and bizarrely, I have also lost the ability to speak Esperanto, which I clearly remember knowing well at college.

Somewhere in my lost years I hooked up with Rosie, also a Parthene; neither of us has reproduced, but there should still be plenty of time for that when we reach the new system.

If we do.

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