I Wander the Stars: Part 1
I am the lonely wanderer. The traveler. The girl who dances the stars alone. I sing the song of eternity, of death and life. The sun and the moon and the stars and every world in this universe are mine to love. I protect them and hold them and save them from harm without their people ever knowing. It is a price I pay because no one else can.
My name is Wilhelmina Alsina Enton Marshall. I am seventeen years old. The spaceship I was working on was ruthlessly destroyed while in the Doren Sector neutral zone. I am the only survivor.
I am also the most hunted person in the universe.
Because when the ship was destroyed, I was changed in some very radical ways. I used to be human. Now I am something wholly new, something that has never existed before and probably never will again. My mind operates on an entirely different level now. I see the universe differently; everything is connected and moving and constantly changing. All of time stretches before me, all that was and is and could possibly be and what never should. Sometimes I feel as if I’m burning to ashes, like the heart of a dying sun. But there is one last thing that I can do, something that is both a blessing and a curse.
I can, of my own volition, travel anywhere in space and time.
That is why I’m being hunted. That’s why so many want me dead. Because if I can go anywhere, anywhen, without any restrictions, who knows what secrets and schemes I might discover? Everyone has secrets, and some of them are deadly.
My ship was the H.A. Wallaby. (For those of you who are from previous time periods, H.A.stands for Human Alliance, the title of the unified human race’s space program. Yes, it does happen but probably not the way you think. And not for quite a while. But it happens!) It was a simple exploration and colonization ship. We had peace treaties from every race whose territory we’d be passing through on our voyage. No guns, no special machinery, no muss, no fuss. Just the basic necessities of life and the supplies needed to start a colony on the new planet scientists back home had discovered was compatible with human life. I didn’t have any family on the ship; they died in a war back on Earth when I was small.
I got hired as the ship’s aquatics staff member at fifteen years old. I led all the swimming and water exercise classes—part of the ships mandatory on-board health regimen. In return, I was clothed, fed, and guaranteed a decent life on the new planet. It was a chance for me to start a new life, to begin again with a fresh start. I could get away from the war, the loss, the pain that haunted me back home on Earth. I was running from my past, but I didn’t know it then. Now that I do, I understand how much better it would have been for me if I’d just reached out for help on Earth and stayed safe at home. But that’s not how I work. Even back then, I was a loner—of my own design. Now I have no choice.
While I was on the ship, I devoured every book I could find in the ship’s library. Old books like The Lord of the Rings, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity were some of my favorites, along with newer ones like The Dangerous Play of Paradox Creation and Hyperspace Piloting for Dummies. I hoped to Heaven that our pilot never actually had needed to read that one.
The scrap dump was my play yard. I spent hours of my free time tinkering with various ideas; some worked; others exploded, but it was all great fun. Lots of the elderly men on the ship tinkered there as well, and I got to know them rather well.
The day the Wallaby met her untimely end began as usual: I was in the pool from 0600 to 1600 and had just changed back into dry clothing after my last lesson of the day. I was toweling dry my hair when the ship gave a rough shudder and the red emergency lights started flashing. The captain’s voice came over the speaker system.
“Attention all passengers and staff: Emergency Protocol 37 is being activated. This is not a drill. Please proceed to designated muster stations. I repeat, this is not a drill.”
Emergency Protocol 37? What was Emergency Protocol 37? I didn’t even know we had emergency protocols—none of my training included emergency plans of action. There wasn’t any need for them. Except apparently there was. I touched the band that never left my wrist and activated my personal computer’s holographic user interface.
“Hello, Wilhelmina. How may I be of assistance?”
“Janice, what the heck is Emergency Protocol 37?”
“Just a moment.” The screen flashed gray then pulled up a document. “Emergency Protocol 37,” the computer announced. I began to read.
>Emergency Protocol 37
>To be activated when ship is in imminent danger of attack from hostile forces. Captain is to alert all passengers and staff and evacuate the ship immediately. Staff members must ascertain that all passengers have been safely secured in their escape hubs before entering a capsule themselves. One staff member shall be designated to preserve all data from the ship’s archives. The captain is to direct all proceedings and ensure that evacuation is accomplished in a safe and orderly manner.
Just as I finished reading, the captain came on again.
“All staff members, place your left hand on the information connectors by the nearest door immediately.”
I placed each of my fingertips on its separate metal disk and stiffened slightly as I felt the sensors come alive under my hand. I would never get used to that feeling.
“Name and occupation,” the Captain demanded.
“Confirmed. You are compatible. We will transport you to the bridge. Please hold still.”
“Compatible? For what?” But there was no answer. A bluish light surrounded me, and I suddenly found myself standing on the bridge next to the captain, his second in command, and several scientists. I made to salute, but the captain waved his hand impatiently.
“Don’t bother, no time! Hold still and don’t panic.”
“Panic? Why would I panic? Should I be panicking? And why do I need to hold still?”
One of the scientists stepped forward, and before I could stop him he’d placed metal bands around my wrists and several sensor-things on my temples and forehead.
“What are you doing?” I exclaimed.
“You’ve been chosen to safeguard all the ship’s data. You may be interested to know that of all the people on this ship, you were the only one compatible. Of course, that is why we hired you.”
“What? You never asked me! I never gave consent! You can’t do this to me!”
“Please stop panicking. We need you to be conscious, and if you get hysterical, we’ll have to sedate you.”
“I am not panicking!” I shouted, clearly panicking.
“Wilhelmina, we thank you for your sacrifice,” the captain said, pushing a button.
“Sacrifice? What sacrifice? Would someone please tell me what’s going on? What are you going to do to me?” But once again, it was too late. They had teleported me to the engine room and into a harness system made of ripstop nylon. I could struggle for weeks and still not get free. I was trapped, tied up against my will, and I had no idea what was going on. Meanwhile, the ship was still shuddering, and I could hear faint booms and screams coming through the thick walls.
“Countdown to data transfer in Five, four…”
“Let me out! Let me go!” I cried. “Somebody! Anybody! Let me go!”
“Please!”I screamed. Tears rolled down my cheeks.
“One. Transfer initiated.”
I screamed again, this time a primal howl of pain. I finally understood what they were doing to me, and I was going to have none of it. They were using me as a living memory card, rewriting—erasing—me and replacing my mind with new data. I fought them with everything I had, and slowly I was able to push back the flood of data—I could be extremely stubborn when the need arose. Suddenly a crunching noise snapped my attention back to the ship. I looked up just in time to see a missile come in through the side of the room and smash into the engines. It just sat there for a moment; I could see a small light blinking on its end. Silence fell over the world, and I held my breath.
Then suddenly there was a blinding flash, a searing heat, a pulse of agony that flowed through my body, a suffocating lack of air, and the sudden knowledge that my heart had stopped beating. And I realized that I was dying and that everyone else was, too. All of this happened in a mere millisecond as the bomb exploded. And then I was pulled backwards into deep darkness, and I fell out of memory and didn’t wake up again for a long, long time.
To Be Continued…
By Stormy Nights