ARCH – novella (excerpt)

A.R.C.H. – Applied Research and Controlled Habitat

He couldn’t figure out how it could’ve happened, and how it could’ve happened to the ARCH’s armory and a select few cryo-pods. The ship’s Security Officer, Greg Scott, figured it was sabotage. There was no one on board except those on the ship’s manifest and EVE1 would’ve told them if there had been any stowaways though that idea in itself was ludicrous. They were in cryo-suspension for the last twenty years and only a skeleton crew had been removed from the cryo-pods to manually land the ARCH. They’d only just started waking the others.

Brenin Klihp was the Chief Engineer in charge of the Hyperspace Tunnel and with Arty North, the Systems Analyst for EVE1, occupying one of those cryo-pods destroyed, Brenin found himself in charge of far more than he’d agreed to. The landing was dicey but EVE1 helped a lot. When they woke SO Scott, Brenin wished they hadn’t. He could still hear Scott’s acerbic voice ringing behind his temples.

“Am I expected to have sexual intercourse with all the men on this ship?”

A flat, expressionless voice inquired from behind him. The content of the words and the fact that his fourteen year old daughter was saying them made him whip his whole body around to face her.

“What?”

“I’ve menstruated and am capable of becoming pregnant. Am I supposed to repopulate this planet if the humans from Earth . . . “ his daughter paused, tapped her fingers three times on the nearest flat surface and clacked her teeth down in one decisive jolt. Brenin always worried that she would damage her teeth doing that. He thought she’d stopped doing that but it was a tense time, and her nervous ticks would present themselves whenever she was, “. . . for some reason can’t make it here?”

“Oh Jesus.” In all the frantic rushing around he’d forgotten how anxious this whole situation must be for Kitty.

Kit Klihp just stared at her father, waiting for the rest of his response.

“Where’d you get an idea like that, Kitty?”

“I’m 14,” she said, somberly. “I know about human sexual reproduction.”

“Well, no! God, no! Kitty. Don’t. And you don’t have to! And if anyone tries to,” he paused in disbelief that he was about to utter the words to his fourteen-year-old daughter, “engage in sexual relations with any of the men on this ship. And if they do try anything, please tell me. You’re 14!”

“But biologically, I’m capable of-“

“But Jesus! You’re 14!”

“I never thought you were so religious, Father,” she stared at him. In the silence she sniffled, and then immediately touched her nose three times; another one of her ticks. “Because you keep mentioning God and Jesus.”

“No, I . . . I just . . . Kitty, this is making me really uncomfortable.”

“Why?”

“Just, just got back to reading, sweetie. And no sex talk until you’re . . . 25,” he started to swivel back in his chair but his daughter’s voice stopped him.

“Why 11 years?” She furrowed her brow and looked off to a space beyond her father, through the flight deck and into the wilderness of Gliese 581g. “That seems arbitrary. Is there something about human anatomy that I missed in my research that presents itself at 25?”

“Go read, honey,” Brenin said softly. “Or go see Victoria and ask her.”

“Does she know something more about sexual intercourse that you don’t, Father?”

“Well . . . she’s a woman,” Brenin said, hoping that’d be the end.

“Good point,” she said flatly and turned on her heels to exit the room.

“See you at supper,” he called after her.

She stopped at the door, “I’m glad I don’t have to be sexually intimate with any of the men. I find the whole idea disagreeable.”

“Remember, it’s always your choice,” he looked at her to make sure she was focused on his voice. “Kitty, don’t ever do something you don’t want to do. Always do what you think is right!”

She nodded silently and stepped into the hallway. The automatic door hissed closed behind her.

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