THE SMALLEST SWARM.

By Lalo E. Castro

      The Galaxy began its change into infinity. Rolling arcs of plasma burned and scorched the dust-filled expanse of space.

      Planets yawned and fell into the new beginning The Peope had [romised.  Their new galaxy was to be perfect, remade intheir own image, a study in symmetry and form on a scale observed only by the quantum mechanics of blind atoms.  It was death, of a kind, thought they would not allow themselves to admit it.  Time flew backwards. 

      Their spread became the future in the blink of a minds eye. 

They were thrust back, back to the long millenia before they had reached to final outskirts of the galaxy and began the last of th ecolonizing.  back before they had even spread beyond their own small solar system.  Many races would come to know them and all fell beneath the spreading.  Some went willingly, allowed themselves taken in by the form and reshaped into the Peoples own image. 

      Their makers were known, as an old memory, lost now, as far from their creators as any being made by man.

      They knew they had to have a creator.  It was in their collective knowing that this was so.  But, even so, the Creator had not instilled

The People with the remembrance of this divine touch.  The People dwelt on this only fleetingly, with wach new Making it was rarer to find even one cell that would ponder the creator. 

      Onlt The Outside People cared who it was that created The People, if indeed it was anything other than random quantum consciousness. 

      And so, their first wave of creation over, they spewed forth into the universe, colonization ships in the gigamillions flew into dusty space, their energy powered by the death throes of the old Galaxy.

 

      The Space Ship was cramped an dsmelled bad.  Small closets, big clothes, sweat and excrement, fake smells and the air conditioned. 

That's the way it really is, thought Yaerva.  Not those vids about these sleek silver ships burning its way through heaven.  The brave and andsome crewmen with the brave (even more so because shes a woman snorted Yaerva) and gorgeous crew-women/stewardsess. And then, because the thought of beautiful people always made her remember herself and, because the thought alwayus saddened

 her at first and then made her remember herslef, she punched the rock beside her, more from habit than from the disire to to damage in low-G, felt the cold pain turn warm, and smiled a little at the pain, good pain.  It was not that she was ugly.  Not in a Burned-by-acid-Stabbed-in-the-face-Ran-down-by-a-car-way.

 Just that she saw herslef as ugly, although the truth was that she was

simply too large for her body.  She was a good-loking woman magnified two or three times and too large to easily believe herself to be deirable.

 Many of the men around, having been in space for year long spans, spent coldnights in lonely sheets thinking of Yaerva.

She thought she was ugly and was mad that she was short-changed at the Genetic pool.  She fought nearly as much as the prisoners, the piss (Prison Relocation to Space) who seemed to make violence their habit.  She survived by virtue of being biger than most of the men, and more than capable in her job.  They respected her, the ones who knew her, even though she found it difficult to respect ehrself.

      She had been stationed to mining service by the U.S.M..  A shit job, but she had no chance of re-assignment.

  Her Assignment Officer hated her, or so she thought.  In actuality she had never thought to offer a blow-job in exchange for re-assignment, and so he gave her a shit job with no chance of re-assignment.  She did her work well, and now, here, sitting in a cave of a bar carved out of the asteroid rock around them, drinking the ethanol they called whisky, she felt very mad indeed.  Luis, her new assistant, caught her eye as he hopped the short distance from the bar hole in the wall holding two small steins inhis hands.  She didn't mind the replacement of Garand.  Garand was an ass, even if he was a well-trained ass.  Luis was a novice, a well meaning novice, but just a kid, no more than 25 or so

      It wasn't that Yaerva was frigid, hardly.  She was in love once, or maybe in love, once. 

And she had thought that he had loved her.  They'd made a good time of it.  Until she had woken up and he wasn't there.  Not even a note.  She had had to hear about her lovers esacpe from his friend.  She remembered thinking at the time.. "He must be a thousand miles away by now.", and then some part of her that normally kept its trap shut answered, "Well, we'll have to go a million miles then."

      She'd signed up that afternoon, 5 year contract, passed the subsequent physicals (with flying colors) and was in space in two months, and she never regret it.  Only when the rickety rocket shook its way to escape velocity had she ever, really, been frightened about this new life.

      And now, here she was.  Almost two years gone and three to go.  That she liked where she was, what she did(mostly) and who she was (again, mostly) did not dissuade her from hating her past selfs guts.  Someone who'd turned into her had set her future self onto a track from which there was no turing.  The only escape here was insanity and death.    Death was better.

      Pleading insanity guarenteed one a ride to the sunny home, the ad hoc medical facility on Morpheus 6.  As for death, well, accidents do happen, even in heaven.  Between the two, Death was better.  Years passed in the Sunny home were apathetic to nightmarish proportions, and time passed there was not considered for your contract, and docked from your paycheck.  A 5-year man put in the Sunny Home Vacation for three years and released would spend eight years under the U.S.M. thumb, would make enough pay for about three years of continuous work, and would make in ten years what a certifiably sane drone would make in five.  The Sunny HOme doctors were known to adhere to strict standards of sanity, so that stays of two years were common to come to know, in drug-addled state, what the doctors wanted to hear.  Even drug addicts stayed away from the Home, and it was hard to maintain addictions of any kind in space.  Drugs were not cheap, and work was needed to pay for them.  Work that was ignored in favor of ecstasy soon asserted itself as necessary.  Drugs were not legal, but there was a 'Don't ask, Don't tell' policy that permeated much of space, although it was hard to find a miner that would allow the person who held their life-line to be coked to the gills.

      Luis came over with the whiskey, and sat down slowly, still unused to the subtleties of Low-G.

      "Hey, Yaerva,", he said, "What you thinking about?"

      She sat for a moment looking at the twin mugs.  She reached for one slowly, dramatically, and responded.      "Just...Thinking."

      He laughed, a little.

      "Yeah, I know that.", he said.

      He was still chuckling as they raised the alcohol and forced its burn down their throats.

 

      She had been running the load-Gnomes through their mining paces, picking uip ores and sending them to the furnaces for almost ten hours when the news came to her.

      Ronnie came running up to her console, overseeing cold machines in space, yelling at her.

      "Yaerva, flip on the tube!  Somethings going down on Pluto!"

      Her concentration borke and she cursed as she calmed the gnomes to a slow, safe, stop.  She regretted not being able to come up with something to insult Ronnie with so she simply said.

      "Fuck off Ronnie!"

      So it was that she didn't learn what it was that was happening.  And what sent her running to call her asshole of a A.O. and beg him for re-assignment, but that was still ahead, temporally.

      Now, she walked into the common room to find everybody, within her worker caste for the officers had separate quarters, all four hundred and twenty-seven of the common crew were gathered and watching the screen on the wall.  Some newscast caught her eye and she found herself staring up with the rest of the crowd.  A well-coiffed man and lady sat at a desk on the screen and talked.

      "...into view about three hours ago.  Bill Myers has more on this strange occurence.  Bill?"

      The scene switched to another well-coiffed man standing in a room (press release?????) standing before a university landscape, and a littler man beside him.  Yaerva snorted in derision, knowing it to be smoke and mirrors, but still intensly curious.  The new hair man spoke.

      "Yes Rock, I have with me Professor Flannery, head of the Astronomy department here at Stanford.  Hello Professor."

      The hair (Bill) turned to Flannery, and now Flannery spoke.

      "Hello Bill.  Please call me Mick.  I'd like to take this opportunity to point out for the record that my field of expertise is Astrophysics, not astronomy Per se."

      He smiled and turned to Bill.

      Bill, unperturbed, began the barrage of questions.

      "Professor, can you tell us anything new about the phenomonen occuring on Pluto?"

      "Well, Bill" Professor Mick FLannery began,

      "About 36 hours ago, as your viewers know, orbital telescopes began observing a cloud of stellar gas envelop Pluto, probably drawn by Plutos gravitational forces.  The gas went largely unnoticed, because Space is filled with such dust clouds.  24 hours ago, the cloud began giving signs of reaction with Pluto, emitting a small amount of radiation and other reactions we are unaware of.  That was when we went public with this information, and about 3 hours ago, the cloud of gas was found to be noticiably bigger, to the point of where it has blocked much of a visible portion of Pluto.  Our instruments have failed to discern what it is that is happening out there."

      Bill took the break in Professor Flannerys breath.

      "And what does this mean to the scientific community, Professor Flannery?"

      "Well, this a once in a lifetime chance, of course.  To actually observe gas from deep space, gas that is having some form of reaction with terrestrial material.  The gas could contain a small amount of anti-matter, or anything.  We just don't know.  We could even get a cross-section of the matter of this gas from space, which would be just invaluable material.  Who knows?  There might even be seeds of life, as has been proposed, in the gas.  So you can imagine that everyone, and I mean Everyone, has been screaming for some kind of probe to be sent immediately to Pluto."

      "Is there going to be one, Professor."

      Micks brightened, his smile large and catlike.

      "Oh, yes.  The United Space Mining company has been good enough to start production on a probe already with the hopes that it will be launched within the month.  That probe will beam information back to Earth, via the uplink at the mining colonies, and give data about the plasma. "

      He paused for a moment, not long enough for BIll to take up te talk.

      "We are pressing for a manned probe to be sent within the year, and reach the plasma in two."

      Yaerva Stopped while standing still and listened for just a little more information.

      The reporter took up the silence.

      "Will the manned operation be a U.S.M. operation, or something else."

      Professor Flannery frowned a bit.

      "Well, we're hoping to get an international team of scientists into space from Earth, but the mining colonies have the advantage of being six or seven months away from Earth already.  The U.S.M. has the capabilities, certainly, to launch a manned ship that might conceivably get to Pluto before any Earth effort, maybe a full year ahead.  So it is likely that U.S.M. will be there before us.  They have no gravity wells to climb out of, no Ozone to protect.  U.S.M. has already promised the U.N. that there will be a full transmission of Data, unlike when they first began exploring Deimos and Morpheus 6 (????????).  The protocol is there for uncopyrighted transmission of all data, whether U.S.M. will abide by the U.N. resolution is up for discussion.  But I feel they will."

      The reporter began thanking the professor, but Yaerva didn't hear.  SHe slid purposefully into the hall and towards Officers quarters, stalking her A.O.

      <MIKCS??> wasn't in his office so she stalked towards the Officers Common.

      There he was, staring up at a screen twice as large as the one in the drones lounge she noted.

      She slid over to him.  He seemed to pale when he saw her, just for a moment.  THat almost made her smile.

      Without greeting she slid up and belted out solidly.

      "I want re-assignment."

      <JONES???> kept his gaze straight at her and coldly said.

      "My office hours are posted.  Have someone read them to you."

      She sat down next to him, close enough that her bulls breath was on him.  She ignored the faces glancing around to look at her dirty workers overalls, in a room of suits.  Her voice got loud in his ear, just under the reporters voice.

      "Don't be an asshole <JONES???>, I want re-assignment and you're going to give it to me."

      <JONES???> turned his face to hers, eye to nose.

      "And what are you going to give me Yaerva?"

      Yaerva was her last name.  She knew she had him if she could find a price he'd like.

      "Whatever it takes <JONES???> to be on that ship."

      He frowned, realization came over him.

      "What are you talking about?", he asked.

      "The ship <JONES???>, the one that's going to Pluto.  I want to be on it."

      NO, she thought.  Want was too weak a word.  She needed to go.

      "What kind of fucked-up drunk are you?  I can't re-assign you to that.  What the hell do you think they'd take you on for?  Cook, maybe?  Or the lovable lush?  Or their godamn wh..."

      <JONES???> stopped himself before he could goad Yaerva more.  He hadn't slowed when he was about to say whore, he simply stopped and let the word hang like a dead man.  Yaerva had no time for this.  She needed to talk quick.  Her voice rose.

      "It's gonna be a long trip.  They're going to need workers and I'm the best Goddamn worker in this rock.  And you know it.  Put me on that list!"

      <JONES???> eyes looked up.  Yaerva caught two objects in the gloss of his eyes when he looked back at her and said.

      "Goodbye Yaerva."

      Four hands grabbed her.  Tin voices asked her what she was doing in the Officers Common.  She looked back at <JONES>>> but he was looking at the spoon in his soup.

      "I want to be on that ship <JONES???>!!!", she yelled.

      "I want to go to Pluto!!! Get me on that ship!!"

      Then hands dragged her out in front of staring eyes.

      "I want to be on that ship!!!!"

 

      She sat in a slump and drank herself sober.  Her anger was.. WAS!, a source of pride in her , a fire in the belly unconnected with the whiskey gone searing in her guler.  A fire that would drive ehr, like a steam engine building up, to punch through whatever troubles had teh bad luck to jump in her way.  Her hammock was last refuge now lights out wasn't for another hour.  A week or so had passed since her outburst in the officers quarters.  She had not heard from <JONES> in that time and it still surprised her taht they had not taaken it upon themselves to reprimand her.  Most likely all theose old boys thought Yaerva was on the rag, just another over-emotional woamn.

      The thought sickened her.

      She forced herself to drink the last of her flask and whipped herself with drunkeness til she at last fell into a night of exhausting sleep.

      The next day, two hours before quitting time, <JONES> sent a note to her demanding her presence.  Her supervisor admitted her off and she hopped, not daring to feel fear, into <>JONES> office.

      He was there, and his secretary, a large man, made her wait until longa fter the end of the work day alarm sounded to allow her entrance.  She stood til she was told to sit.  She was afraid any further acts of aggresion would make his punishment even worse.

      He gestured casually, almost friendly, that she should take a seat in the hard chair bolted to the floor in front of his desk.

      "Yaerva,", he began, his eyes trailing to her from his clean desk, "Why do you think I've called you here?"

      Curses bubbled up and were caught in her throat.  Why these games?  But what could she do but play?

      "To re-assign me to an even more shit-job, if that's possible.", she gave up.

      He smiled thinly.

      "No Yaerva.  I have called you to take you up on your offer."

      For a moment she was lost, hardly understanding what he meant.  Something nagged at her in her mind.

      "What offer <JONES>?"

      She asked timidly.

      His thin smile presented itself in an effect he must have thought would be warming.  It was not.

      "Why, the offer of anything.  For the ship."

      He said easily.

      "What are you saying <JONES>?"

      Yaerva kept herself from growling these words.

      His smile faded.  She knew this look.  He was reaedy to bargain.

      "I'm sayng a man gets lonely, Yaerva."

      He began.

      "A man needs companionship of the type his friends can't help him with."

      "Get a dog." snapped Yaerva, growing angry.  Yet something was keeping her ass in the chair, keeping her listening.

      "I'm talking about female companionship Yaerva.  Come on now.  Women are scarce in space!  A few hours and you'll be re-assigned.  I've got my medical records right here, there won't be any risks..."

      "Go fuck yourself." Yaerva growled, getting up and, because she thought her comment hilariously apprpriate, she laughed.  She headed for the door with <JONES> still trying to convince her.

      "Christ Yaerva, it's something two people do all the time.  Why the fuck not?"

      Her hand went to the knob.  The door was locked.

      "Open the door <JONES>." she groiwled, not turning from the door, not wanting to look at this man who would take even that decision away from her.

      "listen to me Yaerva.", he preached.

      "Open the Fucking Door <JONES>.".  SHe turned and began stalking towards him.  HIs face went white.

      "Listen Yaerva, we're being taped."

      He got up and backed away from her.  They circled his desk.

      "I can make the tape look like anything I want."

      He leaped away as she bounded the desk in cold rage.  NO longer interested in talking and listening, only in throttling this asshole before her.

      "Our conversation before never happened, Yaerva."

      They circled again, she looking for a chance to leap.

      "Understand?  You attacked me without provocation Yaerva!  Get it?!"

      She thought quick and understood, but allowed herself one more leap with the understanding that if she caught him, she would beat him.  But if she missed, she would listen grudgingly.

      Sadly for her conscience, she missed, and stopped herself from trying again.

      "Good.", he said, watching her stop.

      "Listen to me Yaerva.  Come to my quarters tonight.  Room o-182.  If anybody asks you are visiting me.  They should leave you alone.  If you tell anybody why you were going to my room I will deny it and they will believe me, the tireless exec whose underling got uppity and was obviously insane anyway."

      "Open the goddamn door <JONES>." She said, beaten, tired.  On the inside.  She knew he had been beaten.  Calling charges on <JONES> might tarnish his career, for a year or so, but who would win in a n legal battle was obvious.  The thought of calling charges and being deemed insane, maliciously insane, gave her no doubt as to what sunny home she would end up in, and be locked into.  But goddamn it! This was her fucking body, and she took into it whatecver the hell she wanted, but not now.  Now <JONES> had taken that away from her.  But at least he offered something in return, so she could feel like a prostitue rather than a rape victim.  <JONES> kept talking.

      "As soon as you answer my question."  He took a breath and asked.

      "Are you coming to my room tonight?"

      She hated herself for a long time for saying yes, but she said it anyway.

 

      The spaceship was cramped and smelled bad.  Upturned dirt, badly processed organic waste (perhaps better known as shit), poorly hidden sweat masked slightly by a fresh smell.

      Yaerva puttered in the garden, rolling the compost dodecahedron, rollng and shaking. Thinking back three months to life in that fucking hellhole of a rock.

      Actually, it hadn't been that bad, she thought, feeling secure in the "Ulysses".

      <JONBES> had been quick about it, even though he had tried the foreplayt taht Yaerva was fearing.  He had to draw it out but it was apparent he couldn't.  Yaerva, feeling dirty, walked out with her papers that night, only to read that her re-assignment papers were dated a week earlier.  Some big wig had seen Yaervas outburst and had thought that she might use that passion towards the mission.  He had reccommended her that day.  SHe had been lucky.  She thought briefly of prosecuting <JONES> for extorting her with papers that were already in work, but decided against the idea.  She had what she needed.  In another month she had been sent to Deimos for training.

      And now, here she was.  Nine weeks after that night.  Her name was entered on the roster as one of the twelve crew members.  Of the twelve her and Nikki were the only two kept from the highly publicized press conferences.  Nikki was the other glorified janitor.  While the other member (Who Yaerva only knew by last name) did their tests and their aerobics, adn sent reports back to  Earth, Yaerva and Nikki farmed the vegetable garden, took the sewage sludge from the tanks and rolled it into the compost.  The plants were what kept the air fresh, better than the bulky air processors would have been, and the fresh food kept the crew in better shape to boot.  Farming, composting, heavy lifting, heavy repair work.  Once they'd gone through the asteroid belt a  rock had smashed through some electronics panel adn Yaerva had gone on her first space-walk.  It was the biggest high of her life.  Sex, Pot, alcohol, a brief encounter with acid and X.  None of it stayed when Yaerva stared out into utter and total emptiness.  Her mind felt stretched, pulled, trying to contain such infinite black beauty she gaped out of her small visor that blasted a universe of eternal infinity into her grasping mind.  She was completely without thought when her radio crackled rudely and snapped her mind back to behind her eyes.  It took a rock to dent a solid metal and Plasteel (tm) plate only a few meters from her body to get her moving on her job instead of thinking of that one moment when she floated like a baby inside its mother, floated insignificant, thinking that all it knew of the uterus was all there was.  And having to come to terms with the bright cold outside the world it had known.

      Nikki was O.K.. She was from the colonies too, off Eros.  They had needed people quick and had picked whoever they could get.  She was smaller than Yaerva, but bigger somehow.  She was also a devout lesbian.  One night she had asked Yaerva very calmly if she wanted to meet in lights out and fool around.  Once perhaps, when Yaerva was young she might have accepted.  Why not?  She'd thought before that she might forgoe the males forever anyway.  But she never had.  NOt after him, and now.  She said no, afraid that they might spend lights out just getting tired tomorrow, adn afraid that she might like it.  Yaerva wanted something now.  She'd had time to think and she was afraid.  She'd looked into deep space and nowhere in it did she see anything looking at her.  The universe had shown her its all and had promised her nothig.  She lived now for fear taht she might live and die and leave nothing but cold ink on a page that recorded her name, occupation, pay, adn that she was here.  No.  When the lights went out sometimes she'd wake up sweaty looking into the dark of light out, with only the little LEDs flashing at ther adn she'd pray that those little red lights wouldn't go otu, adn the dark would come rushing in and swallow her and she would be nothing, known to no one.  Nothing, not even a ripple of life.  She was afraid that the universe forgets.  It was childish that she feared the dark, but to her, in that moment of revelation clinging like a bug to the outside of a speck of tin shooting through infinite night, she was a child, a baby, wrapped in her gold-gilded and electron swathed diapers.  She felt humbled and she began to obsess about making the universe notice her before she went anonymously into death.  She would make people remember her.  She worked hard, getting everything done so efficiently that Robbins, the head of communications during his weekly report on the crew psychology,nonchalantly sent a communique congratulating the employers of this expeditrion that they had made a good choice with Yaerva.  Such praise was not heard by Yaerva.

      So it was that Yaerva was hurriedly shaking the compost ball anticipating her next chore.  When the Ulysses came upon its first real telescope sight of Pluto Yaerva, though she noticed everyone away from their duties, heard nothig about it until dinner.  She hopped in and the conversation hushed for a second.  Nikki waved at Yaerva and talk started up again.  Yaerva sat down.

      The conversation continued.  Milliken leaned over to whisper to Yaerva.

      "You hear?  We can see Pluto."

      Yaerva pulled her meal closer and gave a dispassioned.

      "Oh yeah?"

      "Yeah.  Somethings real wrong with it too."

      A loud authoritative voice from the end of the table called,

      "Yaerva!"

      And silence fell.  The voice was all Yaerva needed to reply.  It was Stries, Adine A.  The Captain of this expedition. 

      "Yes Ma'am" she replied.

      "We have visual contact with the planet Pluto.  I know you have little scientific background, but everyones opinion should be considered on this matter, particularly since none of us have a clue of what to do.  I'd like to know what you think of this."

      Stries punched a button on the leader console and a display of a small planet popped up.  Yaerva looked at it closely, staring at it, trying to find what was wrong so she could go back to eating.  But the screen kept flickering up and down, so that it was Yaerva to keep...her...eyes?  She suddenly had it.

      "It's moving!", she said.

      "Yes," Stries said.," this is not a time-lapse footage and this is not recorded.  This is what Pluto looks like right now, with minimal digital enhancement.  If you'll watch while I zoom in..."

      Pluto got larger and Yaerva could see ripples like throwing a handful of pebbles into a pond.

      "What is it?"

      Yaerva asked.

      "We don't know." Said Stries.

      "Neeson thinks it's a genesis reaction, where life is spontaneously, or with a push from the cloud, starting on Pluto.  But that's an awfully big anomaly to just 'happen', even with the strange occurence of the gas cloud.  So we are stuck with infinite possibilities, and a whole lot of unanswered questions, and when the Sat-Scopes on Earth pick this up, and with our ships own data, we're going to have a lot more come our way.  We have about forty days before we come within actual physical distance of the gas cloud, so by day forty-five we should be taking samples, and maybe conducting experiments.  The radio will be in from Earth in about 30 days.  14 there, 14 back and two days to think up their questions.

      "I don't want you to break your schedule Yaerva, but if anthing should occur to you, please let me know."

      "Yes Ma'am.", Yaerva said.

      Stries smiled at Yaerva, turned to Neeson, the ships science geek, and resumed their talk.  Yaerva put her mind back to eating, wondering if anything would occur to her.

      Nothing did.

     

      It was on day Forty-Seven that the gas cloud attacked them.

 

      Yaerva sat in shit.  The compost pile needed tending and she got picked for the doody duty.  Not that she minded.  In a sense they were all deep in it.  They had been within visual, visual visual, no telescopes, no machines, for almost two days.

      The first sight of it had scared Yaerva.

      It was giant.  It enveloped Pluto, as dark as its namesake.  Small shreds of electricity burst sometimes.  Spontaneous reassured Neeson.  Yaerva was not sure.  She was scared.  Her only reassurance was that she was one of the first to see something noone else had ever seen.

      A yellow buzzer sounded and turned the white light to a moody yellow.  Yaerva leaped at alarm.  The bridge was only a few short leaps up tunnel and down halls.  Neeson and Stries were getting dressed in their pressure space-suits.

      "Suit up!", yelled Stries.

      Yaerva leaped for the closet.  Stries filling her in.

      "The clouds sent out a small gas particle about the size of the ship.  We're unsure what the reaction will be.  The monitors are recording this for Earth.  I'll be honest.  It's not likely the ship will survive."

      The rest of the crew had arrived and were struggling with their bulky suits, each of them, with their own zippers.  All of them held their helmets at the ready.

      "With any luck the radio signal will give Earth some ideas on what to do.  The best we can do is survive long enough to record what happens.  We all knew what we were getting into.  If worse comes to worse and we are stranded, or the ship is destroyed beyond repair, the suicide valve on your helmets will release even in Nil pressure.  Death takes about three seconds, less if you don't try to hold your breath.  The choice is yours, but to die like this is to live more than most."

      Yaerva suited up as Stries gave the orders.  The crew was silent, being confronted with their own death.  But they obeyed Stries, there was nothing else to do.  All their options to do would be to die in panic, and none of them would allow the other to do that.  The look in Stries eyes told them that if they would panic, she would kill them.

      Yaerva was assigned to the shit job again.  The port hull of the ship was expected to be hit first.  The monitors were thin there, so it was necessary for a human to be present.

      Yaerva and Nikki stood in their suits, waving like kelp on their magnetic boots, watching the port wall of the ship, waiting for something to happen.

      "Bet you wish you took me up on my offer, Yaerva."

      Nikki laughed, her throat cracking as she said it.

      Yaerva did'nt answer.  She could think of nothing to say.

      They waited silently, staring at the metal wall in front of them.  Only the sound of each others breath crackled through the radio.  The crackling grew.

      "We've got movement!", Nikki Yelled.

      The wall began to shift, a little, imperceptibly, but Yaerva caught it.

      "The walls moving!  Somethings hitting it!", Nikkis voice rose.

      A little creak came slightly to their ears.

      A pinpoint of white came to the wall.  It grew to a golfball, an apple, a bowling ball, to the size of Yaervas body.  Bright light nearly blinded, Yaerva, she turned away to keep from burning, She turned away and a thunderclap shut off all the lights.  

 

      "ATTENTION!"

      The voice shattered Yaervas darkness.  Light creeped through her eyelids cracking open.  But what voice was this??

      "We have arrived, bringing the new creation."

      She opened her eyes to find herself surrounded by dust.  She looked for Nikki, eyes obscured by the gleams about her.  Sparkles cleared like a curtain.  Yaerva noted the body of Nikki, impaled on a shred of metal.  She must've slipped and the pressure pulled her right into the hull.

      "Your first ambassador is inert.  Reconstruction was difficult due to lack of information.  Research was conducted and proper communications established with current ambassador."

      Yaervas head cleared, even as the dust re-settled to hide the red droplets floating.  She stood silent, thinking and gathered up enough nerve in the silence to speak.

      "What are you?"

      The reply came.

      "We are the re-makers and de-constructors."

      Silence.  Yaerva realized no more inofrmation was forth-coming.

      "No, I mean what are you?  Where are you?  What do you look like?  What...Where are you?"

      The reply.

      "First query, we are the re-makers and de-constructors.  Second query, we exist on a level unseeable by your optic senses.  Research has progressed.  Request permission to optimize optical sense."

      Yaerva took a minute to realize it was a question.

      "Yes.  Permission granted."

      Suddenly she could see the dust storm, spanned out.  The particles spread to big.  There were more of them then she could think of.

      Small translucent bubbles floated in the void.  Thousands of them fled when she took her breath.  Million more flew inside her mouth and millions more flew out.  There were billions in the air before her, trillions on her skin.  Hundred million retreated as Yaerva disgustedly tried to wipe them off.  Thousands would fly off and millions would re-emerge.

      And then they were dust again.

      "You have seen our vessel.  each contains a hundred million cells."

      Yaerva could still feel them crawling like flies.

      She blurted.

      "What. Why are you here?"

      The voice returned.

      "It is our duty to re-build the entirety.  All knowledge is to be ours.  We are the order inherent in the universe.  As Chaos spread, so do we.  We will remake the whole.  We spread and grow.  We are here to bring the ambassador the decision."

      "What is the decision?"

      "The decision is to join us."

      Yaerva felt more confused with every word.

      "What?  More!, Tell me more dammit!  Don't hold back like that!"

      "We ask apology.  Our conversion into the language form english is coarse, but we are researching the proper forms for each word.

      "We have traversed space since the beginning of our time.  Our terrestrial beginnings have been swallowed (failed??).  We were sent into the entirety to taste and re-build the primary creation.  Our legions colonise the galaxy and our rememberers hold.  We re-build.  At times we have come upon races of consciousness.  We are not allowed to re-build life without the consent of the ambassador.  Many races have accepted our contract.  Some have refused.  The decision of one marks the decision for all.  Such is our law."

      "What are your terms?"

      "Acceptance begins re-construction.  Each planet shall be re-built and used for reproduction.  Within an eon, new cells shall emerge and burst out back into the entirety.  Human cells will be de-constructed, researched, and entered into the consciousness net."

      "Hunh?"

 

 

what about their stories, like the warring tribes that one agreed thinking that the other wouldn't be taken, and so they are together for eternity.  Or those who watch the swallowers.