Chapter 1 Prose in Eversea | World Anvil

Chapter 1

Skye stared blankly at the ceiling during the thankfully final debrief before the maiden voyage of The Beagle II. They just wanted this over with. They didn’t need to pay attention. They had literally wrote the book on this ship. This ship was their baby. More than that, they had forgotten more about this ship than most people knew about their own family. This ship was Skye, and Skye was the ship. That’s why they had asked for more safety precautions, which were denied. Asked for a human backup to the autopilot to be done in shifts should anything happen, also denied. Maintenance crews to be woken up for repairs on basic wear and tear; 600 years in a vacuum with all that radiation, cold, heat, just everything, was a lot for a thing to have to hold up for with no normal upkeep, again, also denied. Maintenance and engineering were only to be woken up in case of an emergency, whereby the head of security and the captain would also be woken up to access the next steps.
Sure, let some glorified mall cop who couldn’t tell the difference between a flex head ratchet and a laser drill tell them if they need to fix the thing or not only when in imminent danger, that sounded like a smart idea, not. What next? Would they have to ask permission from the captain to wipe their ass? This was bullshit. This whole thing was bullshit.
“And without further ado, our chief engineer and architect of The Beagle II, Skye Godwin.”
Skye blinked at the hearing of their own name and swore under their breath. He said he wasn’t going to do this. They uneasily stood up with the assistance of a cane and probably enough hardware holding their body together to make a personal vehicle. The fucker said he wouldn’t do this! The braces covered most of the hardware and helped them with control but not enough to make sure they walked well with a natural gate of an able-bodied person. They didn’t have that much control yet. They may never have that kind of control. Skye shambled awkwardly to the podium. He said he wasn’t going to do this, so they had nothing prepared because like an idiot, they had believed them.
“Just don’t make a scene,” the captain whispered in their ear.
Skye used a steading breath of composure to hide the fact that they rolled their eyes. Too fucking late, asshole. They took a second breath and opened their mouth when their communicator vibrated. They looked at their hand on the podium at the translucent screen that had expanded from their wrist.
The screen read:
You stupid bitch. Sign the damn papers so I don’t have to be legally tied to you for the rest of my natural life!

Skye put a hand to their forehead, grimacing, found the documents, signed it with their thumbprint, and sent them off.
They then remembered where they were and had been standing in silence for 30 solid seconds. Someone in the audience coughed. They saw before them a sea of faces of the best and brightest the Solar System had to offer and wondered if any one of them had known a day of hardship in their life. Skye leaned forward and practically put their mouth on the mic.
“I’m sorry that was my ex-wife,” they said with a stifled laugh. “I hope y’all have your affairs in order. This is your last chance.”
“THANK YOU!” The Captain said taking over the mic, quickly shooing them away from the podium and away from the stage. He pointed to a couple of men behind him and said away from the mic “You and you, help them down the stairs.” He went back to the mic and tried to make a face like all of this was fine. “Ioan humor. Gotta love it.”
The security officers kept trying to help them along after coming down the stairs.
“I got it from here, guys.”
The two officers glanced at each other and walked back to the stage.
Skye started awkwardly walking to their office on the ship, which was going to be a bit of an effort for them since The Beagle II was about 100 feet away and up a ramp, but then their office was pretty close to the entrance, so at least there was that. They had only taken a few steps before they heard
“Causing trouble again, Miss Godwin?” They looked up. It was the Chief of Security, Lieutenant Lachlan “Locke” Alexander of the Lunaran Navy leaning against the wall of the spaceport dome, eating an apple. His parents must have been the most unimaginative people on the planet. Locke had to be the most obviously genetically engineered person in existence. He was tall even for a Lunaran, built like an Adonis, pale blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, just the most well-groomed beard known to man, and skin like freshly cut marble. His parents probably looked up “handsome” in the dictionary to get his face, and you could tell he knew it. Currently, his handsome face was twisted in an expression of conceit with a glimmer of sadism. “Or is it Ms. now?”
Skye rolled their eyes, mostly ignored him, and kept walking. He was a man used to getting everything he wanted, and they knew at least 100 men that looked and acted just like him. He bored them, and, to them, was the second most insufferable person on this ship and was just generally not looking forward to spending any amount of time with him in the future.
“I’d hate to have to arrest you before we launch!” he called after them chuckling.
Skye didn’t break their stride and just said “Uh-huh” almost flatly, but with a slight undertone of sarcasm. By the time they got to the ramp, they had really wished it was an automatic one. They just tried to put one foot in front of the other, still concentrating on the ground so that they wouldn’t slip. The cane helped a lot. The braces helped a lot. It was just their brain that wasn’t used to the whole thing.
At the top of the ramp, they saw a pair of shoes blocking their way. They looked up and audibly groaned. “Graham, we launch in 2 hours.”
“Skye, I REALLY need you to retake your psych eval.”
Skye used their cane to gently but forcefully move the ship’s psychologist out of their way. Graham seemed surprised by their strength for a beat, then continued with his spiel.
“Skye, I mean it. You can’t just brush this off.”
Skye started to walk away towards their office, but Graham easily kept up with them. “We’ve been over this before. My psych eval is on file.”
“Yes, from over 2 years ago! Since then, you’ve had a major traumatic event, and the captain tells me your wife is leaving you?”
“Left me. Signed the papers today.”
“Look, it’s my duty to run another evaluation on you to test to see if you’re fit for duty. This whole thing is stressful enough as it is for normal people, much less—”
Skye heard “normal” and quickly swung around angrily to face him, probably too quickly because he flinched. The change in their face was subtle but definitely noticeable to the trained psychologist. Skye straightened up their posture which made them almost the same height; and looked the man dead in the eye, their electric green eyes meeting his brown. Susan used to say when Skye got angry, her eyes almost looked like they were glowing. Who knows, maybe with this new body they did. Graham could see in their eyes the urge to hurt him. Skye composed themself and sighed. “Graham, did Captain Serrano order a new psych eval?”
They started walking away and waved their hand dismissively at him. “Take it up with him then.”
When they finally got to their office, they closed the door behind them, leaned against it and sighed. “Normal.” What would a Europan know what was normal to an Ioan? They walked haltingly to their desk, less because of the new body now, and more due to sadness. When they got to their desk and finally sat down, they let out a slow sigh of relief and melancholy. They saw the digital framed picture of them and Susan; her tall, slender, and lovely, taken years ago when she was happy; and Skye looking like almost a completely different species from their wife with their old body. Even before the accident, Skye didn’t smile much, and when they did, it was so subtle, most people didn’t register it. Skye wasn’t genetically engineered, but by their looks, someone down the line was. Those eyes don’t happen often naturally. Skye was sickly pale, which her naturally raven black hair only highlighted. Her hair was prematurely graying, or at least was before the accident. They were 30, but had the eyes of someone of about 90, with permanent dark circles underneath. Maybe it was because their soul was just always tired, or maybe because her eyes were large and downturned, they always looked sad. Their body was not of desirable proportions. Short legs, long arms, long bent nose, and also weirdly overweight; when they lost their body, the doctors strongly advised against keeping their old appearance when they got a new body. Skye didn’t care. Skye knew the science and knew the integration would take better if everything was the same size. Besides, people would always be able to tell they were Ioan that way and wouldn’t be mistaken for anything else. Plus, it wasn’t just their face.
Skye picked up the digital frame and thought about throwing it. They decided against it, and just put it in a drawer. They would never see her again, and that’s how Susan wanted it anyway. Skye’s melancholy was there before the divorce. Skye’s depression went deeper than mourning the loss of a body, a family member, and just leaving all of humanity behind. It was the kind of melancholy that gets baked into a culture over time. Io was the closest thing to a biblical Hell in the solar system because of just the nature of the moon. Life on Io had always been hard, but people only made it harder with time. Like most Ioans, Skye’s clothes were pretty plain and had almost nothing that was form over function. Every item they wore had a purpose—except one. They had their long hair pulled back in a low ponytail, held in position by a hair clasp with a long sharp needle. Both clasp and needle were incredibly old and of intricate metal design of an alloy only found on Io. It was that of a fiery dragon coiled in knots, only to be eating its own tail—an extremely Ioan sentiment. But they weren’t made anymore.
Skye was generally just sad because someone down the line had cared. You don’t make art without caring. You don’t make something like Ioan knives without caring. Somewhere down the line, they as a people had lost their way. But it was systemic now, too deeply ingrained, and too big for one person to fix. The wheels of industry now ran on streets paved with the bodies of her people. Everyone was too run down, burned out, and overall just crushed that all they had left was the ability to survive, and some, not even that. The masses could not rise up if they were starving. The masses could not riseup if they were burning.
Skye didn’t fault their people for no longer caring, they faulted the systems that did this to their people. But Skye was no politician, no public figure, and barely even an activist. What could one small, disabled Ioan do against the machinations of the solar system? They didn’t know what to do or how to organize. They only knew how to build things. Things that take people away from other things.
So, they were going away forever. But as some often find, problems don’t go away when we leave, they only fester in our absence, and sometimes, they follow.
A chime at their door interrupted Skye’s ruminating.
“Come in,” they said.
The door opened and in walked a beautiful young woman in a lab coat. Her nametag on her coat said “Dr. Tiffany Nguyen. She/her.” She was tall, a little chubby, had brown eyes, and a beauty mark by her left eye—a genetic engineering fan favorite. Something seemed a little off about her though. Her hair looked like it was naturally black as her roots were showing but was badly bleached a brassy blonde like she had dyed it herself. That wasn’t a thing people commonly did anymore. Her hair was also uneven like she had cut it herself, which wasn’t unheard of, but again, not that common; especially since the rest of her seemed neat and rather well put together, rich even. She otherwise looked like a normal Terran woman.
“Hi! Just have to do some last-minute check-ins with everyone before launch,” she said happily with a slight tone of awkwardness and walked in. She checked her digital chart “Alright, Ms. Skye Godwin. Any new medical history to report before we leave. This was last updated a month ago for everyone, but some people got their wisdom teeth removed that kind of thing.”
“Oh! It says here you’re a full prosthetic cyborg! I’ve never had to treat one before, so you may have to teach me a few things,” she said, awkwardly chuckling.
“You make me feel so good, doc,” Skye said sarcastically.
The doctor laughed nervously and moved on. “Your religion on here is left blank. We might need it later for—” she cut herself off “uhhhh reasons.”
“Please don’t make me come out of the broom closet, doc,” Skye said wryly. “We just met, and we’re getting along so well.”
Dr. Nguyen seemed confused. “I’m sorry, ‘broom closet’?”
Skye sighed. “Nevermind.”
“You won’t be discriminated against if that’s your concern,” the doctor said in a hushed tone.
Skye groaned. They were already tired of this conversation. “Look, if I die, and my body won’t pollute the topsoil, plant a tree over me. If it will, just reuse my body for parts.”
Tiffany gave Skye a horrified look.
“It says I’m an organ donor in there, yeah? Well, I’m fresh out of organs. All I got left is parts. It’s the same thing!”
Before Dr. Nguyen could say anything, a voice behind her said “Skye, honey, don’t you be scaring the new doctor.” Tiffany turned around to meet the voice. “It’s been a while since we’ve had one this cute.” The owner of the voice winked. The person before them was a tall dark figure built like a mountain. Said person was built, but also on the chunky side, and had a slightly oversized completely metal prosthetic arm. They had very kind brown eyes and a face that seemed like they were always smiling at least a little. The rest of their appearance seemed to contradict the former. They had bright blue hair and beard, and wore a full face of makeup including fake eyelashes, not like they needed it.
“Evren, thank god!” Skye exclaimed.
“Oh! Mr. Balwinder, you’re on my list too!”
“Mx,” Evren corrected.
“Mix what?”
“No, that’s my title. Not Mr. Mx.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Mx. Evren Balwinder, do you have any new medical history in the past month you need to declare.”
“No, honey. Skye, why don’t you just tell the cute doctor you’re a witch and move on with your life?”
“A what?”
“Because, it’s not that simple, Evren.”
Evren sighed. “Just put them down for Omnism like me.”
“Omnism, I haven’t even heard of that. What is that?”
“It means we believe in a little bit of everything, honey.”
“Oh, so like the Universal Unitarians?”
“Sure, honey.”
“It is NOT!” Skye interjected.
“Honey, just put down Omnism before they start talking about religions’ evolution over the course of all human history.”
Skye laughed. “Oh, you’re such a bitch, Evren,” they said playfully.
Evren waved their manicured hand that them. “You know it, honey.”
Dr. Nguyen awkwardly looked back and forth at the two wildly different Ioan cyborgs, then cleared her throat. “Well, I think I’m all done here,” she said, and awkwardly side-stepped Evren and out of Skye’s office.
Evren looked after her curiously. “What was that about?”
“Man, I don’t even know.”
Evren suddenly remembered why they had come in the first place, walked closer to their desk and put their hands on their hips. “I heard you caused a scene at the assembly today.”
“I wouldn’t go that far.”
“What did we talk about winning more flies with honey?”
“I mean a lot of things attract flies, like corpses and pitcher plants.”
“Not what I meant, Skye,” said Evren, starting to get annoyed and leaning over their desk.
“Who wants flies anyway?”
“Skye, you know I’m talking about the expression,” Evren said exasperated. They straightened up, pinched the bridge of their nose, sighed, walked around Skye’s desk to be closer to them, and knelt down so they could meet eye to eye more easily. Evren touched Skye’s arm. “Skye, they’re a limited amount of people coming with us, and I don’t want you to be all alone in the world besides me and Di.”
Skye sighed. “I know.”
“I don’t want you to end up like me.”
“Evren, we’re the same age.”
“Yes, but I’m 30 years old and have never been married. I’m practically an old maid,” they said jokingly.
“Thanks, man. You make me feel so good.”
“Oh, hush. You’re a sexy divorcee. That’s different,” Evren teased.
Skye looked down and smiled mirthlessly. “Right,” they said quietly.
Evren lowered themselves further to meet their gaze again. “Hey,” they said softly. “Don’t you get away from me, Skye.” They brushed Skye’s messy graying hair out of their face. “Don’t you shut me out.”
Skye looked up at them.
“There you are,” Evren said gently, smiling. But there was something different in their expression, Skye couldn’t put a finger on.
Skye blinked. What is happening right now?
Their thoughts were interrupted by a voice over the intercom “Skye Godwin, please report to the bridge. Skye Godwin, please report to the bridge.”
“Shit! The report!” Skye exclaimed, and grabbed a pad from their desk.
“You forgot?!”
“Look, I’m having an off day!” they exclaimed and grabbed their cane.
“Well, you picked a great day for it!”
“Ass,” Skye said, sticking their tongue out playfully. Skye saw the slightest change of emotion in Evren’s eyes, but again, they couldn’t tell what that was, and regardless, there was no time. Skye got up with the pad and peeled out of their office as fast as their awkward new body could, the sounds of their shoes squeaking when they hugged corners.
Most people saw Skye and gave them a wide berth. Not every day you see a cane-user running, much less a full prosthetic cyborg one built like a wild boar. Although awkward, Skye could feel this new body running faster than their old one, and their eyes were having a hard time keeping up, and keeping her steady without them looking at the floor was difficult. That’s when someone didn’t have the reaction time to move out of their way they didn’t even register, and Skye ran headlong into them.
The two people crashed to the ground, their work pads hitting the ground with a crash.
“Ow!” said the familiar voice.
Skye shook their head to get their eyes to focus again. “Dido!”
Dido looked up, clutching her head. “Skye?” Then she registered. “Skye!” Dido practically leapt to hug her friend. Skye groaned as the wind was knocked out of them. “Oh, sorry!” Dido said, suddenly realizing, and pulled away.
Dido nervously beamed down at Skye, flashing their perfect smile. Dido was short, dark, and plump and wore a very expressive lab coat you could barely tell was a lab coat anymore with all the embroidery. Her hair was an equally loud, green, curly mohawk. Skye always thought Dido’s parents made an interesting choice with her eyes, but of course, so did most Mirandans with their children.
Someone cleared their throat. Standing above them was a serious-looking middle-aged Europan man. “Miss Syndel, we really must be going.”
Dido suddenly remembered. “Right! Right!” She quickly grabbed her pad. “We’ll catch up later!”
Skye waved slightly as their friend ran off, and then remembered, grabbed their own pad, and headed to the bridge. They quickly made it to the door when Skye stopped when they heard muffled yelling.
“Captain, I beg you to reconsider!” It was Graham.
“Mr. Honeycutt, we’ve been over this time and time again. Ms. Godwin is fit for duty. I know they may seem a bit eccentric, even for an Ioan, but if we shook down every weird Ioan with a tragic past, we’d have no Ioans instead of like handful we do have!”
Skye snorted at that, tried to keep a straight face, and walked right through the door. “Your report, sir. Sorry, it’s late.”
“We’ll talk about this later, Mr. Honeycutt,” Captain Serrano said through gritted teeth.
Graham walked past Skye to leave, each exchanging glances; Graham’s of resentment, Skye’s said “I told you so.”
Captain Serrano turned away from the door and leaned over the controls frustrated and exhausted. “You know, Skye, I know I say I like to think of us all as a family, but I’d love for just one day when y’all didn’t make me play Dad.”
“I’m sorry, sir.”
The captain sighed and sat in his chair before the controls. “I know you’re going through a lot right now, but can you tone it down just a smidge so I can keep this ship running?”
Skye cleared their throat. “Understood, sir,” they said quietly.
The captain sighed and glanced at them with a fleeting expression Skye recognized all too well: guilt. The captain was an extremely handsome, dark, middle-aged man. He looked serious, rugged, and yet also refined, but he always tried to play everyone’s fun dad rather than their superior officer or their boss. Nevertheless, Skye rarely saw a hair out of place on his high and tight or his just perfect beard and knew if they did, something was seriously wrong. If Skye were 15 years older and he wasn’t their boss they’d be down. Skye always thought it was strange he wasn’t married.
“Anything new to report before we get underway?” he asked, tiredly.
“Besides the extra safety measures I requested?”
Captain Serrano groaned. “Yes, Skye, besides the extra safety measures you requested.”
Skye cleared their throat and said quietly, “Then no, sir. We’re go for launch.”
“Alright, I’ll notify Central.”
“1 hour till launch. Please enter your cryotubes,” announced the computer over the intercom. “Repeat. 1 hour till launch. Please enter your cryotubes”
“See you on the other side, sir.”
The captain chuckled weakly. “Right.” Skye went to leave when they heard a commotion just outside the bridge.
The captain growled, and in a rare loss of composure, angrily got up, marched to the door, and threw it open.
Whatever noise that was happening outside stopped. Skye peeked behind him and then sighed.
“Gentlemen, is my universal translator broken?”
Locke let go of the cuff of Evren’s work uniform. Evren put down their mechanical arm from a stance that looked like they were going to punch him.
Captain Serrano walked toward them. “I said ‘Gentlemen, is my universal translator broken?’”
Locke coughed nervously and straightened himself. “No, sir.”
“I just thought I’d check because I cannot tell you how many times I’ve said, ‘there will be no brawling on my ship!’” yelled the captain. “Now we leave in 1 hour, and then you 2 have 600 years to cool off. Do you think you 2 can last that long without killing each other?”
“Yes, sir,” said Locke and Evren in unison. At the sound of the other’s voice, they flashed a glare at each other.
“Now, Mr. Alexander, did you misgender Mr---er Mx. Balwinder again?”
“No, sir,” said the lieutenant.
“Mx. Balwinder, did you comment on Mr. Alexander’s mother again?” Skye had to stifle a laugh at that, but the captain flashed them a glare, and they composed themself.
“No, sir.”
“Locke, you weren’t expressing your uh opinions about Ioans again were you?”
Skye looked at the captain surprised and then at Locke. Neither Locke nor Evren’s expression changed.
“No, sir,” the lieutenant said again.
“Then what?”
“Sir, I uh—” started Locke. “I said something out of turn to Mx. Balwinder of a uh more personal nature.”
Evren blushed and glanced up at Skye in an expression of what looked like shame. Skye just looked at them confused.
The captain sighed. “See that it doesn’t happen again, Locke,” he said. “And if you 2 cannot keep it together before we leave, so help me, I will eject you both from this ship and launch without you. Have I made myself clear?”
Locke blinked in surprise. “Yes, sir.”
That must have triggered something for Evren because they began pleading to the captain to not kick them off the ship.
“Have I made myself clear?” the captain repeated.
“Yes, sir,” they said.
“Alright, well, everyone clear out and go to your cryotubes. There’s nothing more to see and we leave in under an hour,” ordered the captain.
The crowd that had gathered, Locke, and the captain began to peter away. It felt like forever, but in the end, only Evren and Skye remained, Skye still confused, Evren still ashamed and embarrassed. Skye walked to them. Evren opened their mouth to say something but was interrupted with:
“30 minutes till launch. Please enter your cryotubes. Repeat. 30 minutes till launch. Please enter your cryotubes.”
Skye patted Evren’s shoulder, sighed, and kept walking. Evren stared after them, but then headed to their cryotube.
Skye went back to their office, collapsed in their chair, and left out another heavy sigh. Skye couldn’t tell you how long they stared at the ceiling but knew they were cutting it close when the computer said
“1 minute to launch. Launch imminent. Remaining personnel, enter your cryotubes. Begin countdown. 59. 58.”
Skye swore and started grasping under their shirt at their back.
“47. 46.”
Skye found their plug and scrambled around to find the outlet behind them.
“35. 34.”
Skye plugged themself into the wall. Immediately, they started to feel dizzy, and drowsy. Skye had just enough composure to right themselves so they would be able to safely rest their head on their desk. Good thing it was bolted to the floor.
“23. 22.”
Skye closed their eyes and wondered if they would dream. They really hoped not. The prospect of 600 years of nightmares didn’t sound appealing.
“5. 4. 3. 2.”
Skye was unconscious before the mag rail launched the ship into the endless night which gave them enough momentum to escape Europa’s gravity, and from there, with a jerk, the engines kicked over, the sound of which, triggered something in Skye.
Skye did dream. They dreamt the dream they have been having nearly every night for 2 years. They dreamt of fire.