"A World Possibly Not Born"
Bexley is not exactly like
the other girls she has known --
is not much like anyone she
has known before the Lacuna --
but she is still, unquestionably, a girl.
She digs through the archives
looking for other ways to be a girl
than what people foisted on her.
Surely there must be something.
Bexley crows in delight when
she finds the word "tomboy."
That is so exactly her.
She is boyish in some ways,
but still altogether a girl.
It feels better to have
a name for her nature,
as if she knows herself
better after finding it.
Bexley celebrates by going
to the Flask of Phlegethon.
She sips a yogurt drink and
watches the people around her.
She's really getting the hang
of reading people's feelings,
which is quite an accomplishment
after many hours of study with
Falconwing P42 helping her.
She watches the men and women
sitting together, and occasionally,
men with men or women with women.
Mostly singles, though. There aren't
that many couples in the Lacuna yet.
The AYES were gathered in a corner
as they often did, little round robots
allowing the ship-souls to travel
around the station with humans.
Most of them were silver,
the same color as the hulls of
the ships, but one was copper.
That was new.
Bexley finished her drink
and walked over to the AYES.
"Hello," she said. "I'm Bexley.
I haven't seen you in here before.
Who are you? What work do you do?"
"I am the Clipper Angeldust R1212,"
the copper robot replied. "I prefer to be
called 'she' even though I have no genitals.
I fought in the war until my pilot was killed. I
stayed here rather than take a new one before
I finished mourning the old. So I don't do
much actual work at the present time."
"Too bad about your pilot," Bexley said.
"You could make some friends, though.
I'm trying to do that, but it's not easy.
Ships are easy; humans are hard."
"Humans can be very hard,"
Angeldust said. "I am trying
to study them so I can learn
more about how to be feminine.
The other AYES do not know."
Bexley laughed. "Neither do I,"
she said. "I'm a girl, but I'm not
a girly girl. I just found a great word,
though. I'm what's called a tomboy!"
"That sounds interesting," Angeldust said.
"Are there more words, different ones,
for people's gender and identity? I've
studied some, but more would be better."
"Yes, plenty," Bexley said. "V got in
some new material from Astin's latest trip.
It has old books and several new articles
from the universities out in the Arms.
I'm trying to make it last."
"Is that something that
women do?" Angeldust said.
"I don't know," Bexley said.
"I do it, though. I read fast, and
we don't get new stuff very often."
"I read fast just because I am
a machine," Angeldust said.
"Sometimes I wish that I had
work to do. Too much downtime
is not satisfying. But I am not yet
ready to search for a new pilot."
"It sounds like you're bored
more than lonely," Bexley said.
"Why don't you just find a job
to do here at Sargasso Station?
You wouldn't need a pilot for that."
"A job doing what?" Angeldust said.
"I don't know," Bexley said. "What are
you good at doing? We're still working
to turn this place into a real colony.
There's a lot of stuff to do."
"I have traveled fast, fought in
battles, carried people and cargo,
or sometimes special messages,"
said Angeldust. "A clipper is small
and fast, so I couldn't carry much,
but I did still my part capably."
"Messages," Bexley echoed. "I bet
you could do that here. Lots of people
in the Lacuna are easily startled, so they
don't like intercoms. But you roll. They'd
see you coming and you could talk to them."
"That might work," Angeldust said.
"I could even get one of those robots
with a tall rod to carry the speaker ball."
"Then you'd be closer to human eye level,"
Bexley said. "That's a good idea."
"I would like to try it, but there were
no copper robots in that style when I
checked the equipment," Angeldust said.
"So?" Bexley said. "I'm leaning how to be
a pilot. I can either figure out how to mount
your current ball on a rod like that, or how
to change the color coating of a tall one."
"All right," Angeldust said. "Let's try it."
"Yes!" Bexley said, bounding toward
the door. Angeldust gave her a thrill of
excitement that she rarely found with others.
It was nice to spend time with another girl
who moved through the world a bit differently,
and yet still had things in common with her.
Bexley was already learning so many new things,
from people reading to repair skills, and she
wanted someone with whom to share
that accomplishment -- other than
Falconwing P42, who had taught
her most of it and thus didn't count.
It was like discovering whole new parts
of herself, just being around Angeldust
and setting off to do new things together.
Bexley realized that Angeldust
represented a whole world in her,
a world possibly not born until she
arrived, and it was only by this meeting
that a new world could be born.
It was so exciting.
* * *
Bexley -- a neurovariant girl of thirteen, who runs away with Cruiser Falconwing P42. She is introduced in "The Love We Give Our Fragile Craft" and "No Measure of Health."
Clipper Angeldust R1212 -- the AYES of a jumpship originally from the Carina-Sagittarius army. Unlike most AYES, she thinks of herself as female and prefers feminine pronouns instead of the usual neuter. She got along well with her pilot, but he was killed in action not long before the secession. Angeldust stayed in the Lacuna rather than get saddled with a new pilot before she finished mourning the old one. Introduced in "Mosaic Identities."
* * *
3. “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”
― Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934
Friendship is important for many reasons. It has particular significance for girls and women.