[ISS] Contact (Our 2.2)



You were asked to strip down by Corporal Tek and use a harsh cleansing agent on your body. After you finished, you were handed a set of white clothes of a soft fabric and directed to walk into this room.

You enter the clean, white room that serves as a conduit between the quarantined section and the active section. Between the children and the adults. The infected and the pure. There is a single table here and a wall display. The walls are bare otherwise. The place smells like bleach, it stings your nose.

After a few minutes of waiting, your mother comes through the sealed door opposite where you entered. She is in a grey and white encounter suit, one that was originally designed for spacewalks and has been repurposed. The helmet is mostly see-through, and for the first time in a very long time, you see your mother. She sees you, starts walking over towards you.

You catch movement behind the airlock door where she came from. There are a pair of armed guards just outside. There are cameras in here, watching everything. Listening, too.

What do you do?


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    The corporal has to watch. Make sure you wash everywhere. When I glimpse Tek’s face he shows nothing but clinical detachment, but I don’t remember feeling this naked the last time I did this. Then there are the cuts, scabbed over and healing now, but visible. I’m efficient but not so quick that it implies discomfort with the situation, and I make no attempt to preserve any modesty.

    I pass into the room, put on the clothes and wait.

    The Commandant appears. I’m struck by how small she is, shorter than I am now. It doesn’t seem to mesh with my mental sense of her or how she seems on the vids. Bigger than life. Powerful. And slightly unreal. Now she is real and solid before me.

    I have a distant urge to run to her and hug her, an urge I have every time. Remnants of childhood. Though this time it’s stronger than it has been. Perhaps the length of time since we saw each other last.I dismiss it and stand to attention as I know I should.


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    image Your mother comes up to stand in front of you, her posture straight, official. Her dark eyes skim over you, check your shoulder position, the width between your feet, all at a glance. "At ease, Ourania." She gestures for the table, and walks over. In her left hand you see she has a small box, perhaps 16 centimeters in length, a dull metallic sheen to it. When she reaches the table, she sets it there, at the spot where she expects you will sit. She moves to the seat opposite and waits for you to join her. "Please have a seat."

    Once you've seated, she glances at the box. "Your father's ring. And a few other items."
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    I relax when she puts me at east and follow her to the table, sitting down in front of the box, glancing at it curiously. A few other items?

    With a glance at the Commandant I open the box and look inside.

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    The interior is padded lightly. You see
    - your father's ring, a thin red ribbon tied to it, the other end of the ribbon leads under the padded bottom.
    - a bottle of scented shampoo, your favorite kind from when you were small and she washed you in the showers
    - a very small button. It is black and shiny, looks like a button that might be sewn on a set of clothes that anyone in your class might have in their closet. You flip it over to see that it is, in fact, as you might have guessed, a small explosive.
    - a small metal tube that holds the key sequence to set off that explosive remotely
    - a small gamepad you used to have when you were small. What games are on it? Twitch games, little RPGs? Puzzle stuff?
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    I reach out and gently touch the ring, remembering it on Dad’s finger. It was one of those things I fixated on when I was little. When both the ring and his hand looked so big. How can it be so small now?

    The shampoo. I glance up at the Commandant. It must be some kind of test. I don’t know what it is she’s expecting to see from me. What is she looking to expose? I am uncertain what to do a moment. I finally reach for it and take a delicate sniff, my best guess at what she’s expecting. I can almost feel the hot water and her firm fingers as she washed my hair. There is a curious sensation in my stomach.

    The gamepad… Memories there too. I spent lots of time on it pretending to be a hero, a warrior, a princess, a private eye. Always on some quest or another to save the world.

    I place the explosive button back down carefully. I raise an eyebrow in question. Perhaps she won’t explain it.

    “Thank you, Ma’am. I… I hope it isn’t taking much time from your duties to bring me this.”

    My fingers tingle. Like I want to touch her. I fold them in my lap.

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    image Your mother meets your eyes, then the moment passes as she continues looking at you, but it feels more like through you. "It took some effort to clear this with the technical and medical staff, but you have served the ship very well. It was worth the effort to meet your request, Ourania." She regards you again, but it's in the more dictatorial role, you sense it instantly. "Tabitha Raja Smith's concerns about Doctor Haladay were correct. He did refuse treatment to her as set forth in our protocols. He has hidden behind the fact that she is a failed clone replacement of Ioanna, but this was overridden. He will no longer serve your section as a medical officer. Your replacement medical officer is already in place. They will meet protocols. As a result of this, I am allowing some flexibility in Tabitha Raja Smith's sentencing. She did destroy ship property. She has served three days in iso. Whether she returns to complete her sentence, I leave to you."

    What do you do?

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    I'm feeling more... Mixed up, I guess, than I expected. First there is the extraordinary lengths she went to to give me the things I asked for. Then I feel her connect and I don't know what to do about it and by the time I am able to sort out any kind of response, it's gone again, and the Commandant is back.

    "The iso logs indicate she is using her time well. Given the extraordinary provocation and her usual cooperative demeanor I think time already served is sufficient, Ma'am. I will take responsibility for her." I say, quietly.

    I'm watching her eyes, for that flicker in her persona that I'm detecting. I don't know if it's just this visit or if I simply I never noticed them before. I touch the ring again.

    "It's pretty." I say, a question implicit in the words, curious as to how she will respond. Father was many things, gregarious, intelligent... Fun. But he had no eye for design. You wouldn't think the Commandant would either, since she is not generally give to ornamenting herself, but I remember one of the first really beautiful dresses I had. Spring yellow with little violet flowers and and matching ribbons. I remember thanking Father for it. He accepted the thanks, but when the Commandant left the room, he leaned in an whispered that she had picked it out for me. I stil have a scrap of the fabric in one of my drawers somewhere.
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    image Your mother takes a long moment before she responds, "Your father had good taste." It's a sideways acknowledgement. Long moments pass as the business is done, but your mother seems hesitant to leave. Or perhaps you're imagining it?
    She breaks eye contact, "You look well." Her hands are on the table, her posture generally relaxed. Your mother stiffens for a moment, then reaches down to pull out her Navi. She looks at it, moving through screens. She stands, scooting her seat back. "I'm sorry, daughter. Some trouble. Ah, your speedball team is playing now. You could catch the end of their scrimmage, if you hurry." She looks up, meets your eyes, "Goodbye."
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    I stand when she does. It’s an automatic reaction.

    There is a curious dip in my stomach but at the same time my jaw clenches. My voice stays cool. I glance away.

    “Of course, Ma’am. I understand. Duty calls.” It feels like a rock I throw at her head. A rock from a big pile. “Thank you again for this.” I hold up the box a little then lower it again and come to ruthlessly professional attention.

    “Goodbye. Ma’am”

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    End Scene

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