Amable and the Generation Ship
A short story about Amable growing up
Amable and the Generation ship
In deep space the Crab Nebulae still glowed from ancient violence. A dark spot in front of the nebulae grew in size and zoomed past, fleeing violence not so ancient.
A closer look shows a black asteroid seventeen kilometers long, but this asteroid isn’t solid. It is a vast generational ship, called the Refugees. Beneath the surface are tunnels, rooms, and then a hollow world of warmth, air, and life.
A teenage boy stood on a grassy hill overlooking gently sloping terrain. A netted bag filled with small squirming pale green creatures hung from one shoulder. His dark eyes, bracketed by seven-inch yellow tufts of hair over his ears, looked around his home. The horizon curved upward to his left and right. In front of him the ground gently descended with an occasional brook winding along. The brooks emptied into a lake. To the right and the left the lake could be seen as the horizon curved upward. Looking up he could see the lake made a complete circle, undulating around the inside of the hollow cylinder. Closer came reflections off light from the tops of barrel like structures standing tall behind some trees.
“Hey Amable,” a voice said. “What are you doing? Waiting for a deem to catch you.”
Amable ran down the hill to his friend, Bob. “I have time. We’ll win the game. It isn’t as if they are real deems here.”
Bob shook his head in mild annoyance. “You and your real deems, I tell you, Amable, deems are just another made up part of the whole story of our leaving. And if they were real where are they? We’ve been traveling for twenty-one generations and we’re safe.”
Amable laughed at his friend. “I thought you were worried about winning the game. Get me started in an argument and we’ll never find the generation tube.”
From the distance came the cries of pretend rage from their friends playing the part of the deems. Amable started running followed by Bob.
Bob called quietly to Amable. “Wait up.”
Amable said, “Run faster slow poke.”
Dodging around a bush Amable slid to a stop, brushed his black hair back out of his eyes, and he pointed ahead to some iridescent black and silver stripes between the trees. In a playful voice he declared. “Our rides await us.”
Breathing hard Bob bumped into Amable. “Do you… have enough… phids?”
Patting Bob’s back, Amable announced in a jovial voice. “Oh ye doubting refugee. Watch me and learn how to negotiate a deal.” With a big grin and confident swagger, Amable walked past the trees. Three fifteen-foot long noodlers stood on their six legs at the base of translucent, barrel-shaped trunks reaching twenty-feet into the air.
Bob’s urgent voice quietly called to Amable. “Come back.”
Annoyed at the interruption to his planned show Amable hurried back to Bob. “Now what?”
Bob pointed in between the trees. “Quiet.”
Crouching down Amable gazed in the direction Bob pointed. Faintly he could hear a couple of voices.
“I thought I heard some tweakers playing over here.”
“Leave them be. You can’t get them to come the Remembrance meeting.”
“You’re probably right. They’re so irresponsible. It’s a wonder they’re allowed to live.”
Bob whispered to Amable. “Let me have one of the phids to throw at them.”
“No. I need it.”
Bob placed his hands on his hips and began talking through his nose, pretending to be important and uppity. “Those tweakers are so irresponsible. It’s a wonder they’re allowed to live.” And then changing his tone to an aggrieved one he said, “Don’t they know without us everyone would forget to have fun and eventually even forget to have children. The day of Remembrance stuff is stupid.”
Amable stood, seven inch yellow tufts of hair gently moving back and forth, looking at his friend with an amused expression. “You do know the Remembrance day’s important?”
Looking astonished, Bob said, “You have to be kidding. I can’t believe how serious you take that Remembrance stuff. It’s almost as if you aren’t a tweaker.”
Bob tweaked Amable’s nose and Amable collapsed into a fit of laughter. Bob shrugged. “Yep, you’re a tweaker. None of those stuffy folks could pretend to laugh like that. About that Remembrance stuff, I like stories, but who wants to watch millions of people getting killed by horrible monsters that came out of the dark of space. It’s enough to give one nightmares.”
Amable’s laughter died away. “It could happen again.”
Bob rolled his eyes. “Let’s get back to playing. I thought you were going to show how good a salesman you are.”
Grinning Amable resumed his swaggering across the ground to the noodlers. The noodlers stood carefully examining the barrel plants. “Hello,” Amable said, in his best salesman’s voice, getting the noodlers’ attention. All three noodlers turned from the plants eagerly crowded against each other to get close to Amable.
Amable pointed to the smallest noodler. “We don’t need you.” Looking at the two larger noodlers, Amable held up a pale green phid from his bag. Speaking carefully and pantomiming with his hands Amable convinced them to carry him and Bob on the noodlers backs in return for the phids in his bag.
Bob patted Amable on the back and then started climbing up on to one of the noodlers’ shiny smooth backs. He struggled to get a good hold. “I wish these things had hand holds designed into them.”
The other noodler stretched out a spiny leg toward Amable. Who scampered up it to the edge of the noodler’s shell like back and slapped the shell. The shell and wings lifted up allowing Amable to carefully climb under them. In a moment Amable had his legs firmly set into folds in the noodler’s skin and held on tight to a ridge. “Are you ready?” Amable asked Bob.
Bob just finished struggling. He had jammed himself in front of his noodler’s back and had his arms around the small neck shell. “Okay.”
Amable leaned forward and dug his heals into the noodler. With a whirring sound his noodler launched into the air followed by the other noodler. Swaying back and forth Amable guided his noodler closer to the circum-cylinder lake.
A gleam from the ground caught Amable’s eye. Shifting his weight, Amable bought his noodler down for a landing. The spicy sent of a horat bush filled the air. After scrambling down, Amable split the phids in his bag between the two noodlers. They carefully took them and flew away toward the phid pastures.
Bob held his hand out for a red and yellow butterfly, with two inch wings, to land. “What a lovely place.”
Amable looked at Bob. “I agree. Our home is a wonderful place, but aren’t you forgetting the game? The generation tube is over there, resting in the top of that horat bush.”
From around them came pretend cries of rage from the deem players, and then good natured laughter. “Amable’s winning again, everyone. Let’s see what he wants to do now.”
Amable Leaned back against a nine-foot tall vent tube, shut his eyes, and waited for his friend to get the generation tube.
Bob said, “Heads up.”
Amable, startled, opened his eyes in time to see the generation tube fly above him. It hit above his head on the lip of the vent tube with a ting. It teetered for a moment and then tipped over to disappear inside.
A voice said in consternation, “Oh no. We can’t play deems and refugees anymore.”
Another said, “Amable can’t win this time.”
Quickly Amable pulled a slender rope out of a bag at his hip. One end had a grapple. He swung the grapple around his head letting rope slide through his hand and then letting go of the rope. The grapple arced through the air falling into the vent hole. Carefully Amable pulled the rope taught.
“He’s getting away.”
Hand over hand Amable pulled himself up the rope, until he grasped the lip with one hand and then two hands. From below he heard the sound of running footsteps and panting breathe.
“We’re going to get Amable!”
Quickly Amable pulled and twisted until he could swing one leg up over the lip. Inside the vent was darkness.
A shout, “I’ve got him!” pulled Amable’s attention back from the vent. He quickly pulled the other leg up. Grinning down at his pursuers, Amable said, “I’ll meet you all later at the waterfall for lunch.”
Then he began to lower himself down into the dark. As he started to descend a familiar tug on his mind tried to stop him. Frowning in disgust, Amable continued into the dark.