Chapter 21 (Second Draft)

Kathryn and Jaren burst through the door to the dining hall, almost falling together to the ground as the door slid open after they’d been leaning on the other side of it.  At first Kathryn pulled on Jaren’s shirt to keep him from falling but in the process nearly fell over herself, but this time Jaren was secure enough to keep hold of her arm to prevent her from falling to the floor.

It turned out that unbeknownst to any of the others who did, several of all three crews had brought alcoholic drinks to celebrate with should the occasion arise.  Tonight seemed like an appropriate night to celebrate all they had accomplished on this mission, and they had a good laugh as they all discovered that so many others had had the same idea when everyone had thought it had just been them.

It hadn’t been a formal party, more like some concurrent parties in different living quarters nearby each other in the habitat ring, with people floating between the different locations, enjoying the company at each.

Jaren and Kathryn had stolen away to find something to eat, so they’d stumbled their way down to the dining hall, but they both had something else unambiguously on their mind.  Their mission was effectively over, there was no longer any need of pretense of professionalism anymore as Kathryn slowly walked backwards, urging Jaren towards her with a gesturing finger, and the seductive eyes she’d once practiced in the mirror but never found herself particularly effective in.  She was drunk enough to be feeling playful though in such an open sensual invitation she’d ordinarily never be altogether comfortable with.

She was having fun tonight though; she was allowing herself to be comfortable with behaviour she ordinarily wouldn’t.  She was also long past the point of being concerned that Jaren would reject her for anything she might do in a moment of silliness.  They’d both been hungry to be this way so openly for some time now. 

When he got close enough she turned to bound away mischievously, but he caught her and pulled her towards him and embraced her in a long and lingering hug from behind, and they slowly rocked back and forth together as she stroked his arm appreciatively, savouring the closeness.  How long it had been since she’d felt this way, how much she felt like she’d never felt quite this way before at all, how much she was looking forward to turning around and kissing him again.

It was at that moment that all the lights went on in the dining hall, which startled them as much as it blinded them.  “Ahem,” they heard Molly say from where she was sitting in the middle of the room above one of the viewing portals to the outside of the ship.  “I… didn’t want to bother you, but I was worried the longer I didn’t say anything the weirder it would get.”

Kathryn smiled and walked towards her, pulling Jaren by the hand behind her.  “Why did you have the lights off?” she asked.

“Makes seeing out the windows easier,” she distantly explained.

It had taken two days of careful work, but between the instruction and schematic data in the archives, and Molly’s own explicit instruction, Jaren and the other engineers had successfully been able to transplant her simulant quantum brain from her old head into the head of the new body they’d found for her.  She still had to carry around the antimatter power source until engineers on Kobol could fashion her a proper replacement of the kind she was built to house inside her, but having a fully functional body, she was able to carry the battery herself in a backpack which was such a minor inconvenience in the larger scope of things, and the life she’d been consigned to only a couple short weeks ago.

Kathryn came over and sat down beside her around the circular window in the floor, and Jaren followed suit by sitting beside Kathryn.

“How’s the new body working out for you?” Jaren asked.

“Everything seems to be working okay Jaren, thank you.”

“My pleasure.”

“It’s funny though… I always imagined that I wanted a young woman’s body again, I always longed for the beauty of my youth.  But now…”  Molly looked distantly at her own hand as Kathryn had noticed her doing quite frequently since being transplanted.  She seemed interested in the look of her new body overall, but especially the hand she’d been missing all those years.  “Now I really don’t think I’d want it any other way.  I fell in love with this body at first sight.  To want a young woman’s body would be…” she sighed, “to be chasing a re-becoming of what I once was, a regression.  But simulant or not, I’m not a young woman anymore… and this new embodiment I think much better represents the woman I have become.  It conveys the wisdom of age, compared to my original body it is ancient… as I am.  I suspect it will take some time until the sight of myself in the mirror doesn’t shock me, until I can even recognize my own hands.”

With the hand she’d been musing over she reached over for the bottle she’d apparently been drinking out of.  “You humans have it easier I think.  Sure you actually age, but it dawns on you so gradually.  Sure you periodically look in the mirror and are shocked to realize how much you’ve aged but that’s just the product of accumulated denial.  You can see the passage of time in your face anew every day if you really look for it.”

She poured each of them a glass of the liquid.  “One of the Kobol crew was kind enough to allow me to try some of this alien pink champagne.”

“Ah yes,” Jaren acknowledged in understanding, “beashou.”

“Can alcohol even affect you Molly?” Kathryn asked.

“Yes, well… the system detects and simulates the effects,” she said as she handed the glasses of bubbling pink liquid to the other two.  “Molly though…” she considered reflectively.  “Hardly an appropriate name anymore is it?  Rather a girl’s name don’t you think?”

The other two shrugged.  It wasn’t a common name for people of any age group on either of their worlds.

“I think Margaret might be more appropriate for a woman of my age now.  Yes… I definitely see a Margaret in the mirror now much more than I see a Molly.”

Kathryn laughed a lighthearted laugh that was a mixture of moderate intoxication and sleep deprivation.  “To Margaret!” she exclaimed as she held up her glass.

“To Margaret!” Margaret and Jaren parroted and likewise raised their glasses before all three drank the entire contents of their glasses.

They were quiet for a short time in reflection.  Kathryn looked on Margaret and found that she really did seem to suit her new body.  She was wearing a fitted and conservatively cut dress with her thick bone white hair pulled back in a ponytail.  Her eyes were pale blue and remarkably piercing, and the lines and wrinkles on her face suited her, they suggested a life well lived more than a life of conflict survived.

“Jaren,” Kathryn said as she put a hand on his shoulder, “why don’t you go and wait for me in Felix’s room with all of the others.  I’ll meet you there, okay?”

“Sure,” he answered.  He understood well enough, and was happy to leave them some time to discuss in private with Margaret whatever she wanted.  He put a hand behind her head and pulled her towards him to meet his leaning forward and gave her a kiss on the forehead before standing himself up and making for the door with only the slightest hint of an alcohol induced stagger.

“Can I ask you something?” Kathryn asked Margaret.  She nodded slowly with that same mischievous smile Kathryn had come to know of her before she’d even changed bodies.  “You know?” she laughed.  “I’ve forgotten what I was going to ask!  Guess I’ve had too many of these…” she said as she looked at her glass and whirled it around with a grin.

“Hmm,” Margaret said, looking down with a smile.  “You know… I never realized before how much I associated my body with what was done to it, with… what it was made for,” she said as she poured another modest amount of rose coloured sparkling liquid into Kathryn’s glass and then her own.

“My obsession with the youth and beauty I once had… I think at some point it became metaphor for my… my innocence or something.  Does that make any sense?”

Kathryn nodded.

“It’s almost like I wanted to go back not just to a state of a perfectly functioning body, but a new body like this one, fresh out of production, completely… untouched.  Virgin perhaps.  And now this body, not only is it completely fresh and brand new, not only is it untouched, but it is the body of someone who was loved, someone who lived a life, someone… who I believe lived a happy life, though I have nothing to base that on of course, I just have a feeling.

“Now, in this body, I feel like I am free of so much, not just my infirmities, but all of the baggage I was carrying around in that body, all of the bitterness and bad experiences I associated with it.  Of course I had a lot of good times in that body as well, all those years with Colin and our children… those were good years.  But it’s weird, somehow I feel like those are mine to keep still, part of my mind instead of my old body which I can shed all of that darkness away with.”

“Does it bother you at all that Jaren is going to take your old body back to Kobol for study?  It’s use in another sense.”

Margaret thought about it for a moment.  “No, I don’t think so, not at all… I’m not in in it anymore, it’s not me anymore.  I guess that’s really the key isn’t it?  Things that I feel were done to my body I can leave behind with it, things in my mind I get to keep.”

“Sounds good to me,” Kathryn said as she finished the last of her drink.

Margaret looked at her for several moments with those piercing pale blue eyes.  “You two are quite obviously very much in love.  Obviously you’ve forgiven him.  I’m happy for you.”

“Thank you.  It’s new, but… it’s also so different from anything I’ve ever known.  I can be silly with him, that’s so new for me.  I feel like I can… be myself in a way I’ve never been able to before.  He feels like my equal in every way.  I don’t have to impress him, and he never fails to impress me.”

“That’s the best you could hope for I would think,” Margaret offered as she finished her own glass.  “A word of advice though.  Cherish it.  No matter how well it goes it will all be over all too soon, so it goes…  Every moment you’re able to remember to, cherish that you’re still alive and that you’re with him, that it’s a wonderful moment to live.  Know that someday it will all be over in every sense, and let that dark reality in just enough to highlight in grand relief how wonderful it is that day has yet to come.  Look at me, six hundred plus years and a brand new body, and I still feel sad at the idea of it all coming to an end someday.  Sixty years, six hundred years, six thousand years, it doesn’t matter.  No matter how much time you have it’s never enough.  One more day will always be the most valuable commodity in the universe for any mortal being, and you and your team have given not only me, but this whole planet hope for the first time in a long time, a new hope for one more day to live.