Gideon Plock stood over the stasis pod, bathed in the soft amber light it put off. He was going over the units read outs one last time. This particular pod belonged to the last member of the processing team. Gideon had put the twenty of them into their pods personally. He thought that it was only right that he saw them all into their pods. It had taken nearly a week from start to finish, but he was the last waking person in the ship.
He walked along the row of glowing amber eggs, each egg a womb to carry and protect its passenger until their new lives began. Each one a combination of wondrous technologies, each one a life that he was now responsible for. He paused his stride and looked down the length of the sleeping chamber. It was a long and low hallway that ran the length of the entire ship, it was impossible to see from one end to the other.
He wandered the long narrow hallways and cavernous storage rooms of the ship feeling the weight of so many lives on his shoulders. He drank in the solitude and reveled in the quiet of the ship, paying no heed to where in the ship his wandering took him. After several hours of undirected ambling the absolute silence of the ship was interrupted by the soothing and melodic tones of Alice’s voice.
“Doctor Plock, my readings indicate that everyone but you is already in a stasis pod. I have detected no discernable pattern or purpose in your travel through the ship. I request that you head to your designated pod.”
“I will when I am ready Alice. Have you checked our immediate trajectory and ensured it’s clear of space debris.”
“Our trajectory is clear Dr. Plock. I have made all the necessary pre flight preparations. I am ready to begin hard acceleration, but cannot do so until you are protected by the effects of the stasis bubble.”
“Begin slow acceleration towards our destination. Nothing I would notice. And Alice, please bring the ship around so that I can see Earth one last time before we depart please. I’ll contact you should I need anything else. Thank you.”
“As you wish Dr. Plock.”
“Oh Alice, one more thing please. How’s my son doing?”
“Gideon is doing quite well. The setting you chose for the partition he exists seems to disturb him a little, but the presence of three familiar and comforting entities has helped him adjust.”
“I suppose a wide open space like that would be a little strange to him, he’s never seen one before. Thank you Alice, that will be all.”
Looking around Gideon found his bearings and changed direction, heading for one of the ships few viewing rooms. Luckily his earlier wanderings had brought him near one. He would wait there to look down on the planet one last time. If he was lucky it would be night time on his side and he would get to see a magical sight. Entire continents glowing with life, pressed between dark and troubled oceans on either side.
He stood before the door to the viewing room for a moment before it opened for him. Stepping inside he was greeted with a look out into the void of space. He could see the distant stars moving as Alice maneuvered the ship around for him. He settled down in the middle of the floor, as he began the slow process of second guessing every decision he had made over the last five years.
Gideon woke up to an incredible surprise, overnight a jungle gym, complete with swing set, had been erected in his backyard. He would have completely skipped breakfast if his mother had not made him sit and eat.
“You like your surprise?” she beamed, smiling as he ate his cereal.
Gideon nodded vigorously, he had heard other kids talk about playgrounds but he had never been to one before. Now he had one in his own back yard!
His answer made her happy, “I know children just love playing on, and all my memories suggest that you’ve never been on one. So I had one added so you could play anytime you wanted!” His mother seemed very pleased with herself, but Gideon was too excited to notice his mothers mood.
He hungrily ate the rest of his cereal, devouring it as quickly as possible. The soggy circles were mashed between his teeth as he wrestled with the decision of what to play on first. Two knocks on the door put a halt to his internal conflict. His mothers voice signaled that his two friends could enter and seconds later Harry and Sara were in the kitchen. Gideon’s eyes pleaded with his mother, her permission came in the form of a small smile and a nod.
His small form shot up from the table and he ran for the backdoor, “Follow me guys!” the small blur shouted. Only a few seconds later Gideon and his friends stood on the houses rear porch, looking down at a huge jungle gym. Rope bridges, sliding poles, slides, swings, monkey bars, everything was there for Gideon, Harry and Sara to play on. The three of them began exploring all the jungle gym had to offer while Stacy Plock sat on the porch with a very satisfied smile on her face.
The three friends had been playing on the jungle gym for hours now, and Stacy Plock relished every squeal, giggle, and smile that came from her son. Now she was watching Harry and Gideon pump their legs as they swung higher and higher. Sara was sitting on the porch watching with Stacy, the boys were almost horizontal with the top bar now.
“Hey guys! Watch this!”
Harry looked like a cannonball as he left the swing and flew into the open air. Harry’s body was tumbling through the air, lacking any kind of grace or control. Gideon stopped kicking his legs as he watched his friend land hard and subsequently roll to a stop. Much to Gideon’s surprise, Harry picked himself up off the ground and brushed himself off, seemingly completely unhurt. He grinned and waved at Gideon.
Gideon worked his legs again, urging the swing higher and higher. If Harry could jump like that and be ok, Gideon could do way better. When he was satisfied with his height and speed he made ready, then jumped when he thought the angle was right. Gideon felt his body tumble over itself over and over as he flew through the air. He tried kicking his feet and waving his arms to right himself for landing, but he had spent his precious little time airborne poorly.
Gideon hit the slope of the hill, forcing his leg and arm behind his back in and awkward and painful manner. He felt the flesh on his knees shred and tear dirt and gravel raked his bare flesh. His forward momentum depleted itself and he lay there on the ground, both knees bloody, and his body covered in small bruises and lacerations.
Tears streamed down his face as he let loose a horrible wail of pain. Gideons world devolved into an amalgam of pain and screams. He did not see it but his mother rushed towards him, running down the hill at incredible speed. He saw his mother lean over him and picked him up off the ground as if he weighed nothing. She cooed softly at him, quickly ascending the hill and laying Gideon down on the porch.
“It’ll be ok baby, momma is gonna fix it.” His mother looked completely calm an in control. She looked up and down his body, taking note of each and every cut and bruise.
Gideon lay on the hard and weathered boards of the porch while his mom inspected him. Her hands began very slowly sweeping over his body, and wherever they passed the pain melted away. After several minutes of controlled and gentle crying Gideon heard his mother declare that she was done. The sound of her voice prompted him to realize that his body no longer ached and his knees no longer throbbed.
He looked up at his mother, her smile and assuring nod pushing him to be brave. He looked down his body and saw that every injury was gone. He sat up testing his limbs, surprised to find that all his injuries were gone. Turning to his mother, astonishment in his eyes.
“What did you do mom?”
“I made you better. Just a little trick your dad taught me, and now to make sure that my darling little boy is never has to deal with this again.” His mother waved a hand through the air, a small screen and the outline of a keyboard appeared, she immediately went to work typing on it, her fingers lithely danced over the keys, characters seemed to appear on the ghostly screen faster than she was typing. Finally she struck the enter key and any remaining pain melted away.
His mother smiled down at him, then tickled his belly “There my little boy will never have to feel pain again, I turned off our partions ability to emulate pain.” His mother smiled down at him satisfied as Gideon tested all his limbs, ensuring there was no pain. With the pain and injuries gone Gideon jumped up from the deck and ran for the jungle gym.
“Last one to the jungle gym is a monkies uncle!” Gideons form was a blur as he ran full tilt for the jungle gym again.
For Gideon life inside the simulation had been nothing short of wonderful, barring his crash off the swings several days ago. It had taken him a day or two to get used to so much open space, but now that he had he loved it. He had spent the last few days playing on the hill and in the fields surrounding his house. His mom would sit on the porch and watch him play all day, perfectly content with her surroundings. Sara and Harry had come over everyday in the morning and left when the sun was beginning to go down, and today was no different.
Gideon, Sara, and Harry had spent the morning playing space pirates and aliens. They had been stalking through the wildflowers together, hunting down dangerous aliens together as a brave crew of space pirates would. Now they were all sitting along the crest of hill, eating the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches Gideon’s mother had made them for lunch. Something in the field caught Gideons eyes, small, but beautiful, sheets of color flapping back and forth in the wind. He watched the shimmering colors as they danced in the air, moving from flower to flower.
“Do you guys see that?” Gideon asked his friends, the awe apparent in his question.
Both his friends looked down the hill and out over the field, searching for what Gideon saw. “See what?” they replied in stereo.
Gideon hunched down then put a hand over his mouth to shield his words so unwanted ears would not hear. “I think there is a fairy eating the flowers near the fence.”
Upon seeing both of his friends struck with confusion and worry Gideon pointed down the hill at the shimmering set of wings bobbing from flower to flower. Harry and Sara followed his finger, and both started laughing as soon as they saw what he was pointing at.
“Thats not a fairy, it’s a butterfly!” Sara exclaimed.
“What is a butterfly?” Gideon asked, his cheeks began to warm as his embarrassment flourished.
“It’s a bug from Earth.” his mother chimed in from behind them, “There used to be thousands of different kinds, and probably millions of individual butterflies, but almost none exist in the wild anymore.”
His mother held out her hand, and after a few moments a butterfly that was blue-er than the sky that seemed to glow landed in her hand. Without even looking at it she said, “This one is called a Blue Morpho, it’s one of my favorites.” A gentle flick of her hand sent the butterfly back into the air.
“Where did all of the butterflies go mom?” Gideon asked
His mother looked down at him, with a soft and gentle look on her face. “Humans took their homes, since the butterflies didn’t have a home to go back to, they just died.”
Gideon looked hurt, “Why did we take their homes?”
A familiar but recently unheard voice interrupted the conversation, “It’s not really that simple.” His father answered as he stepped around the edge of the house.