The Universe Sometimes Keeps Her Secrets

An Earth 2 fan fiction

by

Douglas Neman

Feeling lost and left out of things, Uly rounded a corner and found a girl staring at him with suspicion and anger.

"Please don't stare at me," was all Uly could think to say.

"I'm not!" True shot back, irritated because she knew she was. This was the kid who was responsible for taking her away from the stations. She disliked him immediately.

"Uly, don't wear yourself out, now." A man came down the corridor after the boy, wheeling a chair in front of him. Only when he reached him did he see True, as if he was blind or something.

True noted with suspicion that he was a Yale, and dad had told her they were worse than strangers. Having the brat and the Yale in the hallway with her at the same time really put her on edge.

And she didn't like being put on edge.

"Well, hello!" the man said. "We'd heard there was another child on board!"

Really, thought True, feeling like she was being treated as inferior, or some kind of intruder into their cozy world. "My dad said they stopped the Yale program, that you all went crazy," she said bluntly. She wanted him to go away. The sooner the better.

Yale was caught off guard, again coming up against the wall of fear and suspicion as he so often did. He supposed it was his lot in life, as payment for his crimes. He really couldn't blame the child. Perhaps the girl's family had known a victim of one of the Yales. "A few of the Yales did have strange recall of their criminal past," he said kindly.

"He doesn't have a memory glitch. He's a great tutor," Uly said, wondering what this girl's problem was. All Yale had done was say, "Hello," and she was being really ugly in return. But like Mom had always told him – don't let it get to you, some people are just like that.

Yale laughed lightly as he picked Uly up and put him in his chair. "Well," he told True, "I'm sorry that we are parting ways at G889. We all could have gotten to know one another!" He wheeled Uly off around the corner, back to whatever strange place they came from.

True looked after them, wondering why they were so weird. Getting to know them was the last thing she wanted to do. She wanted to go home. She wanted her cat.

She forgot about Uly and the Yale, and returned her attention to the coil lifters.

 

Uly wondered why that girl had been so weird.

"Why do people have to be so mean, Yale?" Uly asked, as the tutor wheeled him back to their quarters.

Yale shrugged briefly. "I don't know, Ulysses. If I knew why people do what they do, I would be a rich and powerful man. I don't think she was all that mean, really. People are frightened of what they don't understand, and when they are frightened, they get angry and lash out. Perhaps she was simply hungry or tired, and she was feeling cranky, and we just happened to be in the way. We'll never know."

"Do you think it was because she was a girl?" Uly asked.

Yale laughed good-naturedly. "No, Ulysses. I don't think it was because she was a girl."

"I've heard girls get angry a lot, Yale," Uly continued innocently.

"You hear too much, Ulysses," Yale said.

Uly fell silent. The only sound was the slight creak of the wheels as Yale pushed the chair.

"Why don't I have a dad, Yale?" Uly asked suddenly.

Yale's eyes grew wide, and he stopped the chair. "Why do you ask that question now, Ulysses?"

Uly shrugged, and turned around. His immunosuit had a way of making his face seem sadder than it really was. Or perhaps that wasn't a trick.

"I dunno. I just want to know why I don't have a dad. I mean...where do I come from, Yale?"

Yale opened his mouth, then closed it again, looking away. He thought, Why me? Why now?

"Let's...get you back to your mother," he said slowly, pushing Uly's chair forward again. "Then you can ask her all the questions you want."

 

At first, Devon was confused when Yale brought Uly into their quarters and hurriedly left, mumbling that he was needed elsewhere on the ship. But as soon as Uly opened his mouth, Devon knew why Yale had beat a hasty retreat.

"Mom, where did I come from?"

Devon sighed. "Well, Uly, that's a perfectly good question, and I'm glad you asked. And that question deserves a really good answer, but I'm afraid that right now, we don't have the time to talk about it, okay?"

"Yes, we do," he countered. "The drop isn't scheduled for another two hours."

"Yes, well...we have a lot of things to do in preparation for the drop, Uly."

"No, we don't," he countered again. "Everything we have is already packed away on the cargo pods, and all we have to do to drop is walk in the capsules and sit down."

Devon looked at her eight-year-old son, realizing that he was not only smart enough to keep up with her, but smart enough to best her sometimes.

Damn, he was going to be a fine man some day! she thought proudly.

"All right, Uly." She sat down on the bunk and patted it, motioning him to sit beside her, which he did. She had to have this conversation with him some time, and it wasn't in her habit to procrastinate.

It was time to have The Talk with her son.

"Uly, when a man and a woman get together and like each other very much, they get close, physically, and something very special happens."

"You mean sex?"

Devon stopped and looked at her son. "Um...yes, I mean sex."

"I already know about that, Mom," Uly said simply.

"You do?" she asked, feeling somewhat apprehensive of what he might have heard – and what he hadn't. "And just where did you learn about sex, Uly?"

He shrugged. "Oh, in the ward, and in school. We all know about it. Especially after nurse Creighton took her boyfriend into the dispensary one night, and Dr. Vasquez caught them and they came running out-"

"Yes, yes," Devon motioned him to stop. "I heard about that, and I was not pleased. There is a time and place for sex, and that was not it. That's why Dr. Vasquez fired Ms. Creighton. With her background, he should never have hired her in the first place."

"Her boyfriend came running out in his boxer shorts! It was really funny!" Uly started to laugh, but it quickly became a fit of coughing, as it was more than his lungs could take.

Devon was giving him a sideways look, somewhat stern. "I didn't find it particularly amusing when I heard about it, Uly."

Ulysses stopped laughing, with a little difficulty, and stared at the far wall, swinging his feet. He still thought it was funny. All the children in the ward had.

"Besides," Devon continued, "I'm willing to bet that whatever you heard about sex was neither accurate nor complete."

"You mean about the sperm and the egg?" Uly asked.

Devon just looked at him. "Yes. I mean about the sperm and the egg. How did you know about that, hmm?"

"Charlie had this book he brought with him from home one day, and we passed it around-"

"Enough," Devon held up her hand and closed her eyes. "I'm sorry I asked."

"It was really gross," Uly went on.

"Yes," Devon nodded, wondering how she had been written out of this equation. Wasn't she the one who was supposed to pass this information on? She knew children grew up fast sometimes, but this was ridiculous. Apparently, she had some catching up to do.

So she asked, "Well, if you know so much about sex, Mr. Worldly-Wise, then what is it you're trying to find out?"

"Well, what about me? Where did I come from? I mean, who did you..." Not even Uly could bring himself to say it.

"You want to know who you're father is, don't you," Devon asked kindly.

"Yeah!"

Devon sighed. She could almost swear she felt a few of her hairs turn grey.

"Well, Uly, sex isn't the only urge to hit people sometimes. Most women have an in-born urge to have a baby. It's biological. We hit a certain age, and we feel like having a baby very, very much. This urge hit me, and I wanted a child.

"But I was far too busy to think about family life. I had just come into my inheritance as the CEO of Adair Incorporated, and dealing with the death of your grandpa at the same time. I was working seven days a week, and finding myself in charge, suddenly everyone wanted my attention – accountants, builders, the government. And in the middle of it all, my body was screaming at me to have a child.

"So I did. I didn't want to start a family with someone I worked with, because I don't think it's proper. And all the men I ever met were either already taken, or they weren't good enough. You see, Ulysses, there are a lot of corrupt people at the top of the corporate ladder, and I had to deal with those people on a constant basis. I looked all around me, and I didn't find a single man whom I felt was both honorable enough and single. But I still wanted a child. So I elected for artificial insemination."

"You did? But why?"

"I just told you why, Ulysses."

"So who is my father?"

"I have no idea."

"You mean you didn't ask?" Uly was amazed.

"No. Even if I'd wanted to know, they wouldn't have allowed it. All I was told was that the donor's psychological profile was a good one – that he was a decent man of good moral character, he had a high intelligence, and a strong will to survive. And that was good enough for me."

Uly thought about this for a while. "Do you think that's why I was born with the Syndrome?" he finally asked.

"No," Devon said firmly. "That was also my very first thought when you were diagnosed with the Syndrome – that it was genetically passed down, and I'd made the wrong choice. But Dr. Vasquez assured me that it doesn't work that way, that the Syndrome appears to manifest itself randomly."

Uly was silent again for a little while, taking all this in.

Finally, Devon asked gently, "Are you angry with me?"

Her son looked up at her. "No," he shook his head. He seemed surprised by his own answer, as if he felt he should have been upset. "I don't know why, but I'm not."

"But you still wish you had a father, don't you?" she asked softly.

Uly shrugged. "I guess so. It would be nice. I sometimes imagine what he'd be like." He was silent again for a few minutes. "But I guess it's not a perfect world, is it, Mom? I mean, you and I both know that."

Devon almost started to cry. "You bet we do, sweetie!" she said, playfully hugging him close.

 

Thirty minutes later, Ulysses was in a remote part of the Roanoke, whispering commands into a workstation.

"Station records, 2180," Uly said softly.

"Access denied," an automated voice said again.

"Station records, genie- genia- geniligy," he finally whispered.

"Request unknown," the computer said.

"Station records, ge- genealogy!" He finally remembered the word.

"What are you doing?" came back the sharp reply.

Uly jumped, staring at the workstation in horror. Then he realized the answer had not come from the computer, but from behind him. He turned to find that weird girl looking at him.

"Go away!" he snapped, embarrassed. "You're not supposed to be here!"

True's eyes grew wide. "Who says?" she shot back. "I can go anywhere I want! I bet you're not supposed to be here!"

"I am too!" he retorted.

"Then what are you doing?"

"None of your business! What are you doing?"

"Why should I tell you?"

The two children glared at each other. Finally, Uly looked away. He so much wanted to be left alone to access the records. Within two hours, the ship would be left behind, and he would never get another chance.

Ever.

Still glaring at him, True walked across the corridor, sat on a low shelf, opened a panel, and thrust in a few wires.

Ulysses looked longingly at the workstation. He wondered if he could just type the commands in, instead of speaking them. He didn't want that girl to hear. She would just make fun of him. He knew she would! They all did.

The keyboard was in a slide-out compartment beneath the screen. Since everything was voice-activated, it was really for emergency use only. He awkwardly pulled it out. It came half way, then stuck.

Suddenly, feeling totally embarrassed, he shoved the keyboard back into its slot. Why should he care if this stupid girl heard him? He really wanted to be alone. But it had taken him all this time to find a workstation in a remote part of the ship, and he knew Mom would be looking for him any moment, if she wasn't already. One thing he'd learned from his mom was being able to tell when he had to move quickly. Now was one of those times.

The message on the screen told him his last request had also been denied. He sighed. What did he have to do? What would it take?

"Are you going to be there long?" True asked pointedly, suddenly standing beside him.

"What's it to you?"

"I have to run diagnostics on all these systems before we drop you off!" she said. "Once they've checked out okay, I have to tell the ship's computer. So I have to use this station. I need it now!"

"Yeah? Well I was here first! Go find your own!"

"You're crazy!" True shot back. "Just because you're rich, you think you can have it any way you want!"

"That's not true!"

"Yes it is!"

"I need this workstation!" Uly insisted. "I have to have it!"

True opened her mouth to reply, but stopped. There was a desperation in Uly's eyes and voice, something that went far beyond being whiny. It was almost panic.

"What are you doing here, anyway?" she asked, a little more quietly.

"None of your business."

"Either tell me what you're doing here, or I'm going to find your mother and tell her where you are."

"No!" Uly shot back.

"I bet you're not supposed to be here!" True folded her arms triumphantly.

"I'm not doing anything wrong!"

"Then prove it!"

Uly grew quiet, then said, "I'm trying to find out who my dad is."

True didn't blink an eye. "Don't you know?"

"Go away!" Uly yelled, and to his surprise, tears sprang to his eyes. He bit them back, suddenly quiet and embarrassed again. His eyes were shut.

True just stared at him, not knowing what to think.

"Please," Uly finally said.

True pursed her lips. "How come you don't know who your own dad is?" she asked.

"Mom...Mom had me by artificial insemination," Uly said quietly. "She only just now told me. This is my only chance to find out who it was."

"Why do you think the ship's computer could tell you that?"

"I heard Commander O'Neill say that every ship that goes to the stars carries a full copy of the main database from back on the stations. That way, people will have a complete record of everything they need to know in case they get lost or stranded somewhere. Since my dad's ID is somewhere in the station's computer, that must mean it's somewhere in the ship's computer, too."

True was surprised. "That's pretty smart thinking, for a rich kid," she said.

"Oh, I'm so glad you're impressed."

"I mean it!" she shot back. "Most of you rich kids wouldn't be able to wipe your own noses without help."

"How would you know?" Uly retorted. "How many rich kids have you ever met?"

Ulysses stopped, and fell back in his chair slowly, but it was too late. Even he was old enough to know he shouldn't have said that. True looked as if she'd just been slapped in the face, and she started to cry.

"Do you know what it's like not to have money?" she asked. "Do you? My dad has had to sell almost everything we own just to keep our place and eat! He sells anything he can to make money! I don't get everything I want! I don't have a personal tutor! I don't live in a penthouse! I don't have my own personal spaceship to take me away! I'm lucky if I have anything at all!"

"But at least you have a dad," Uly said.

"But I don't have a mo-!" True stopped, then turned away.

"A mother?" Uly asked.

"Forget it," she whispered, absently fingering a spot on the wall.

"Is that what you were going to say?"

"I said forget it!" she snapped.

There was an uncomfortable silence between them, as neither knew what to say.

Finally, Uly hesitantly said, "I'm sorry you've never had a lot of money."

True gave a little shrug.

"If I had any, I'd give you some."

True shrugged again. Almost too quietly to hear, she whispered, "I don't think I'd want it."

"What do you want?"

"I want to go home," she said.

"And I want to know who my dad is," Uly said. "I just want a name. And I've still got to find a way into this system."

He turned back to the computer screen, wondering exactly how he could do this. True looked at him for a second. Then she reached down into her bag and took out a small box.

"Hold out your arm," she said.

Uly turned to face her. "Huh?"

"I think I can help. But you'll need to give me your arm."

"Why?"

"Just do it!"

Hesitantly, Uly held out his hand. Before he knew what had happened, True pricked his finger.

"Hey!" He snatched his hand back.

"Don't be such a baby," she said simply. She took the drop of blood she'd taken and placed it on a tiny sensor pad, affixed to a small machine.

"What are you doing?" Uly asked.

"This is a first-aid kit. Dad makes me take it everywhere, in case of an emergency. One of the things it has is a blood dispenser, and one of the things the blood dispenser can do is check a person's blood for diseases and things."

"So what?"

"So, it will also scan your blood and give me your exact DNA profile."

"Well, if all you wanted was my DNA profile, I could have handed it to you," Uly said simply. He pulled a data chip out of a compartment in the side of his chair. "This has the bio-stats of my mom and me. Mom makes me take it everywhere, in case of an emergency."

"Your mom sounds like my dad," she said. She took the chip from him, looked at it for a second, then said, "I think this'll work. A lot better than your blood sample."

She plugged it into the workstation. "Now – your DNA will be a combination of the DNA of your parents, right?" she asked.

Uly nodded.

"So, it's just like math," she said. "If we were doing a math problem that had three numbers, and we knew any two of the numbers, we could figure out the third number. Right?"

"Uh...right," Uly said.

"So we have your mom's DNA, and your DNA. That means the computer will be able to tell what your dad's DNA looked like. So, we don't need to do anything fancy. All we have to do is tell the computer to scan every single man in the whole database, until it finds a match."

"How are we going to tell it to search everyone's DNA?" Uly asked.

"Um...I don't know."

"Wait a minute!" Uly brightened up. "We could tell the computer that we're looking for a criminal! Because we're not on the stations any more, we won't need authorization! The computer will assume that it's an emergency of some kind, because we're colonists!"

"Go for it."

"Station records, manhunt," Uly ordered. "Find third DNA set, corresponding to mother and child."

"Searching," the computer said.

Both children beamed at each other. "It's working!" Uly exclaimed.

True grabbed his arm. "And after we find out who your dad is," she said, then paused before continuing, as if she was frightened. "We find out who my mom is."

"You got a deal."

They stood in silence, watching the computer silently spin its way through cyber-blackness, searching a thousand names a second, looking for the one matching DNA code.

Uly found himself shivering in anticipation, then realized it wasn't him – it was the ship. The vessel around them began to tremble and shake.

Suddenly True was knocked off her feet. The ship lurched forward, then back again just as quickly. Uly was thrown out of his chair. Both children began to scream.

That's when the alarms started blaring.

Panicking, Uly got up with the help of his immunosuit and just started running, bouncing off the sides of the corridor. True ran after him a little ways, but was knocked to the floor yet again. An overhead light hit the floor next to her and exploded. Screaming, she crawled into a nearby cabinet to shield herself, and huddled in its safe darkness.

Around her, the ship went mad.

A polite voice said, "Proceed...to evacuation...pods...1...2...3."

Uly rounded another corner and ran straight into his mom.

"Oh thank God!" Devon exclaimed, swooping him up and running forward through the mayhem. She held onto her son as best as she could, and struggled to keep her balance as the ship threw her against one wall, then another.

True held herself, crying, listening to the screaming of the people, listening to the screaming of the engines as they cried out against gravity.

"Evacuation...pod...is...away," she heard. "Proceed...to...evacuation...pods...2...3."

Then she heard another voice, cutting through the bedlam, and suddenly she knew she could hope. "True! True!"

"Daddy!"

"True! Sweetheart! Oh, God!" And there were the big, strong arms of her dad, reaching in, holding her. Feeling small, she clutched herself to his chest, and let him carry her away from the horrible place, away from the madness, away from the nightmare.

"Oh, God!" her dad said. "Okay, okay, baby, come on, lets go! Gotta keep your head down! All right? Come on, it'll be okay!"

"Daddy, I'm scared!" she yelled.

He ran through the ship, constantly reassuring her that they would be safe. But it was not to be.

"There's no room, there's too many people!" the woman said. "Take the other one!"

Then the door swung shut, and another door slid down. The madness wasn't over.

"Air...lock...secure. Evacuation...pod...2...is...away."

"Dad, hurry! Hurry!"

They made it to the third pod.

"Everybody – secure!" she heard someone yell.

Her dad sat in one of the seats and pulled the bar down over them both. Uly looked on, already in his seat, unable to believe this was all happening.

Alonzo and Julia ran into the pod. Alonzo helped Julia into a seat, then grabbed the pod release. "Everyone inside!"

"Hurry!" True screamed.

"I said, everyone inside!"

"Yes! Disengage!" O'Neill ordered.

"Go!" Devon said.

Alonzo pulled the release.

True screamed.

"Evacuation...
pod...
three...
is...
away."

And the ship was empty.

It fell right behind the escape pod, almost threatening to overtake it. The last few cargo pods broke free and fell with it.

Atmospheric friction turned the ship into flame. But through it all, the computer continued running its program.

The ship's outer hull twisted into a savage, molten mass. Still, the program ran.

The burning ship hit the first massive air currents of the upper atmosphere. Unable to take the strain, the hull ruptured. Bulkheads were torn apart like paper. Still, the program ran.

Still straining to lift the ship, screaming with the pain of an impossible task, almost as if they were living creatures gritting their teeth in supreme agony, the engines finally could take no more. They blew two thirds of the ship to smithereens, sending the rest spinning across the sky.

Still, the program ran.

As what remained of the Roanoke sailed toward the hillside destined to become its final resting place, the computer program dutifully continued scanning. With three seconds to go, it found a match.

Its voice circuits were gone. But the screen still carried the simple message:

"Danziger, John H."

Then the ship slammed into the surface of G889 at a speed of just over ten miles per second, throwing up a fireball one mile high and half a mile in diameter.

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