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Information Exchange

science fiction by Gitte Christensen

They think I’m unconscious.

Fools. Their drugs don’t work on me. I’ve got bits missing, bytes added.

I can hear them moving about the room – the medsims, the human doctors and nurses, the politicians and scientists, the military people.

At first, I listened to their hypotheses and debates, eager to stay informed, a good little soldier ready to participate once they woke me (though for my own peace of mind, I learned to zone out whenever they talked of contingency plans) but now they’re silent and secretive around me. No-one uses my name anymore. No-one has patted my hand or stroked my brow in over eighteen months.

I’m no longer a person to them. I’m a package.

Sometimes I wonder whether they even intend to revive me. It might be more convenient for them to simply record that I died during the information discharge.

Information Discharge. A good title for the pBook I’m writing. It gives me something to construct and organize, something to do besides wonder whether or not I’ll survive the data delivery.

Data Delivery is another catchy title.

The important officials who visit me constantly salve their consciences by saying things like This is all her own fault, really.

Really?

So I took a chance. That’s what you do for love, isn’t it?

When I was a little girl, my father gave me a telescope. The first time I focused on a nebula, I committed my heart and soul to outer space. I became a professor of astrophysics, joined the air force, and wangled a posting at the Bureau for Extraterrestrial Relations, where I steadfastly worked my way through the intergalactic messages that began bombarding Earth back in the late 2020’s. When the research geeks finally cracked the infamous Alani communiqué, BETR put me in charge of constructing a real-time link up using the minuscule wormholes that riddle the universe.

Greetings, Colonel Ruby Merrimack. I am Asharon was the first thing he ever said to me.

Asharon was my childhood dream, my man from the stars. We swapped information on art, science, philosophy. We shared a naive wonder of the cosmos.

Whatever was I thinking? An intergalactic relationship – it was never going to work.

An actual meeting was his idea. The inhabitants of distant, backwater planets like Earth, he explained, often cross interstellar space as pure data, meeting on worlds with established facilities that are situated closer to the more populous galactic core.

I know the perfect place, Asharon said.

Not yet, my bosses at BETR ruled. Not until we’ve analyzed the scenario. But they ordered me to build the infrastructure.

I’ll encode something special for you, Asharon said.

Not yet, my superiors insisted.  Not until we’ve fully assessed the intergalactic community’s power hierarchy.

So I snuck off without their permission. Naughty scientist. Starblind hussy.

Worried that I might grow too old for the mission before the BETR bureaucrats finally green-lighted it, I disassembled and my constituent information was automatically beamed through a crack in space near Jupiter.

I went to an alien solar system.

Asharon and I met amidst the digitized delights of his programmed paradise. He knew me so well. Ah, the ecstasy of informational overload.

Remembering that pleasure, I sigh. It is the only physical response I can still control. Initially, the soft sound excited the doctors (I tried to communicate with them, but they didn’t understand.) These days, the medsims simply log the time.

Time.

There’s just so much of it.

Two years and still counting, always counting, day after day, counting and remembering and trying not to let terror overwhelm me.

It never occurred to me that, upon discovering my absence, BETR would immediately initiate my home beacon. Asharon was caught by surprise too. As we were prematurely pulled apart, he, with an air of panic, requested something.

I didn’t understand what he wanted.

Time. Far too much now, far too little then.

Asharon lashed out. Whirls of energy whipped my departing data and penetrated me. Parts were ripped away.

Oh, if only I’d included a download interference prophylactic in my matrix. Or, at the very least, a spam filter. Surely a more savvy space traveler would have insisted that he wear a condom? But on what? His positioning antenna? His quantum re-stabilizer, sample probe, tentacles —

Laughter, grim and tense, fills my tiny, dark world, but I know it’s just me laughing at myself again, so I ignore the disturbance. Lunacy lurks. It dogs my every thought every moment of every day. I have to be firm. Stay focused. Heel, Madness! Sit. Good boy.

Back on Earth, twenty years after my departure, Asharon’s assault translated into pain.

I was screaming as they reassembled me.

The drawn-out agony fractured my newly-made mind. Shattered sequences left my rebuilt body warped and incomplete.

But he didn’t mean to hurt me.

Forgive me, he cried. He did. The psyches think that I imagined it, but Asharon really did apologize.

The medsims were about to repair me when they discovered the extra information embedded within my womb. We can’t fix your body yet, they said. We can’t risk contaminating the data consignment.

So what will my firstborn be? A boy? A girl? A space lizard? A battle fleet? I can’t feel my body. No-one gives me progress reports anymore. Does Asharon ask about me? Why won’t they tell me? What are they hiding?

They rendered me unconscious against my will. It was a military decision.

Fools. Your drugs don’t work on me. I’ve got bits missing, bytes added.

Sometimes I wonder whether they will even revive me. I wonder how much longer the gestation will take, how long I —

Greetings, Ruby Merrimack.

Shock jolts my comatose body. Humans and medsims start bustling, hands manipulate me. Somewhere, an alarm howled.

I sigh, happily.

Hello, Asharon. Welcome to Earth.

My lifelong yearning fills with a bittersweet joy.

So I will walk upon other worlds after all?

Yes, Ruby Merrimack. You already do.

copyright July 2011 by Gitte Christensen

Gitte Christensen lives in Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia. Her speculative fiction has appeared in both online and printed publications, including Aurealis Magazine, Flash Me Magazine, Moonlight Tuber, AntipodeanSF and the anthology The Tangled Bank: Love, Wonder and Evolution. Gitte is a member of the Australian Horror Writers Association.  She blogs at At a Steady Pace.

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One Response

  1. I like the phrase “backwater planets like Earth”; I was precisely thinking something almost like that earlier today

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