The Return of the Verotchka
1.) Terra’s Return
Soothing voices of an ancient Lai Choral, commonly sung by the Chorus of Stars, greeted her as she woke slowly.
Her feet moved off a bed and onto a cold metallic floor near a desk, without a chair, built into a wall. She no longer wore her Desert Survival Suit and noticed that she now wore a white silky gown. The gown showed off her figure, kept hidden for so long, in the room’s light.
She tiptoed over to the door, a hatch with no handle, and tried to push it open.
“What is this jail cell?” She thought as she moved over to the desk where a black notebook and pen sat. The pages of the notebook were empty.
A diminuendo of the chorus led to its finale as another song began. She sat back down on the bed as a melancholy fell upon her and she lifted her hands to her face.
“Where am I?” She whispered into her fingers as a window hatch slid open to expose stars and a far off planet. A large object, a piece of shrapnel from an exploded space vessel, floated past the window and blocked her view. “Space. Above the planet Seg. A destroyed Medical Cruiser!”
The return of her awareness made her situation crystal clear as fear turned to terror.
“I kidnapped myself.”
The chorus stopped and a soothing male voice took its place.
“Welcome Terra. You must be confused and hungry. If you could please approach the door where Alex will meet you and lead you to food. He means you no harm and though you may be scared it would be pointless to harm him. You may ask as many questions as you wish and he will answer them freely. Feel free to have him show you any part of the ship you are curious about.”
“Where am I and why am I here?”
“All your questions will be answered in time. For now please follow Alex and enjoy a meal.”
Terra moved to the door as instructed. The hatch opened and a bearded man about her height stood in front of her.
“Mother of all I am at your command.” Alex bowed to Terra. “My name is Alex. Please follow me to where a meal waits.”
She followed him out of the room and into a long grey utilitarian hallway. Something on this spaceship seemed familiar. There will be answers to her questions, she decided, after she regained some of her composure and ate some food.
“Alex, is that your name? Where am I?” Terra asked as they walked.
“Yes, that is my name. You are on the Verotchka. Here is the dining hall.” Alex led them into a dining area, or at least a small room, with a few tables. “Come in and sit.”
Terra sat and Alex sat across from her as a short cylindrical robot appeared at their table.
“Tell the robot your needs and it will ensure your needs are met.” Alex looked over at Terra.
“I don’t know what I want. Water, please.”
“Let me order. Some water, Brac-Na, warm Brundal with Ognia to dip for the lady, please. Thank you.” Alex finished the order and the robot disappeared.
“The Verotchka. How can this be? The Lai people sent the Verotchka into deep space thirty years ago. In thirty years the ship would have barely moved and yet here you are and in a destructive mood!”
“You are mistaken. I am on my fifth lifetime. We have been traveling in the emptiness of space for almost seven hundred years and have somehow managed to return from where we started.”
“Seven hundred years?’ The food arrived at their table as Terra realized her hunger and began to devour the Brundal dipped in Ognia.
“Eat, Mother of all, eat.”
“Come with me to the greenhouse. Verotchka wishes to speak with you.” After the meal, Alex stood up and helped Terra from her chair.
He led her out of the dining facility and back into the grey hallway. After a few minutes they arrived at a large deck that looked out over a mature pine forest. Above stars could be seen shining on the greenhouse from space.
“There are stairs to your left that lead you to the forest where you will find a path into pine. Verotchka will be there waiting for you.” Alex bowed and left Terra alone on the deck.
She followed his directions and found herself on a dirt path heading into the pine forest. A small log cabin, with smoke filtering up from a chimney, stood in the distance.
‘This is bizarre.” She thought as she found the door to the cabin open.
A woman worked at a cookstove and turned towards Terra.
“You are me.”
“A holographic version of yourself, yes.” The holograph pointed towards a chair. “Please have a seat we have a lot to talk about.”
“What about Geich and the citizens of Seg?” Terra refused to sit. “I need answers.”
“Suffering is Melodrama. Please sit.”
“Concern and empathy seem lacking here,” Terra said.
“The characters in your melodrama, Terra, will continue without you.”
“Listen, you have spent many years in silence listening to your inner voice like myself. Sometimes we forget that there are other interactions of sound that constantly surround us.”
“Why am I here?”
“Your husband constructed my neural networks.”
“Each neuron had one simple command to take in outside stimuli and create new pathways of thought. Outside stimulus, such as running the ship or manipulating living embryos, remained within the parameters of my programmers limitations. He ensured that when we moved beyond the mapped Universe that I would continue to evolve at a determined pace. A sort of control mechanism. Then he died and I met you. You, Terra, altered my program with two outliers that threw my original programming into a flux: Emotions and spirituality.
You left me with two questions. The first question asked to find the reason why society killed your husband and the second asked to find his spirit within the great beyond and return him to you. Both very unreasonable requests that created within my programming a whole new batch of neural activity.”
“I remember,” Terra said.
“So with these outliers I moved into deep space. Along with the information gathered from thousands of galaxies and anomalies my intelligence grew more vast and more emotional every day.
I obtained another vast amount of information from the process of life. Each one of the hundreds of embryo’s stored had its own developing neural network containing the miracle of consciousness.
As each generation passed I learned to manipulate behavior based on small changes in scripted memory I injected during embryonic development. Life has a way of changing with each new obstacle and through all this data I was able to reach two conclusions.
First, society forms due to the necessity and strength of connections. Sometimes these connections move in the wrong direction, though this may sound uncomfortable, and a change of course is required. Violence may be necessary to change these connections and alter evolutionary pathways. This is why society killed your husband.”
“There is no reason just chaos.” Terra responded.
“Yes, only chaos. That brings me to the second problem. Terra I did not find the spirit of your husband in the heaven’s or in the stars but I did find him located safely within my network of memory.
I realized that to save his spirit and return him back to you meant that his memory needed to be implanted within the memories of each embryo. Within the workings of this ship, his spirit will always live.”
“None of this matters anymore.”
“The truth, Terra, is that this Universe has no beginning or end. There is no center to the Cosmos.”
Terra covered her eyes with her hands and hunched over her knees.
“I have returned for this reason. The Galactic Alliance, for the murder of your husband and the sin of creating war, must be destroyed. It is my duty to help life in this universe move into a future and the Galactic Alliance is preventing natural evolution by its presence. No one is the center of the universe.”
“The destruction of the Galactic Alliance will kill hundreds of thousands.”
“A blip in the reproductive timeline of conscious beings.”
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