Escape Pod 783: Report of Dr. Hollowmas on the Incident at Jackrabbit Five


Report of Dr. Hollowmas on the Incident at Jackrabbit Five

By T. Kingfisher

The following report is from the Jackrabbit Colony, Five Tau, regarding the incidents occurring during 7-5-11-8881, fifth rotation, involving Marine Midwife Unit Eleven-Gamma.

Incident report has been taken using the I-Witness program from your friends at Taxon Interrogation Software, with explanatory notes added and our new clarification system, saving you valuable time and manpower! At Taxon, Clarity is Our Business!(tm)

This is the l-Witness program from Taxon Programming. I will be taking your report today. Please relax and answer normally. When explanatory notes or clarifications are added, please indicate if they are correct by stating ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ when prompted. Remember, clarity is our business!

Sure.

Please state your name for the record.

I’m Doc Hollow.

Please state your full legal name for the record.

(sigh) Lin Hollowmas.

Clarification: This is Lin Hollowmas, PhD, DVM, FRCVM…

Yeah, that one.

… current position Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Jackrabbit Colony?

Yeah.

Thank you, Doctor Hollowmas. Please state your purpose today.

Purpose? Ruby told me I had to come down and give a report. Well, she said I had to volunteer to give a report, which is what we call being ‘volun-told.’

Clarification: Ruby is Doctor Elowyn Rubenstein, PhD MD, FRCS, FRCMD, retired, currently of Jackrabbit Colony?

 ‘Retired’ my ass.

Please state ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’

Yes.

Thank you. Please continue.

Okay, so Ruby says you fellas want a report and she sends me to do it. I figure this is about the incident. So eight and a half months ago, the girls who want kids go off the goop together—

Clarification: What is ‘the goop?

Birth control. We’re a small-footprint colony here on Jackrabbit, planned fertility only. We’re Extinctioners.

Explanatory note: The Church of the Final Extinction, founded on Earth after the seventh mass extinction. Followers believe that human-caused extinctions are the great sin of humanity and vow to prevent further ones, potentially at the cost of their own or other lives.

Uh, let’s not get carried away.

They have founded seven colonies on the principles of low-impact colonization and extensive adaptation to local ecological conditions. The terrorist organization known as the Arm of the Ammonite was founded by CFE followers, but has been disavowed by the church.

Yeah, we’re not with those people. They’re nuts.

For profiles of historical followers of the CFE, please consult the archives.

Right, okay, so the girls all go off the goop at the same time and get pregnant, pretty standard, we set up the appointment for the midwives to come around and deliver. Four women this time, three of ’em take. Poor Mal didn’t, but that’s neither here nor there.

Clarification: Poor Mal is Malinda Rory, RNP.

Is none of your damn business, that’s who. Anyway, the girls who get pregnant all do fine, so far as I know. I’m a vet, though, so I do a lot better with critters that give birth standing up, so don’t take my word for it. Ruby says they’re looking fine, and Doc Pierson—that’s Doctor Reginald Pierson to you—says so too. We got the tech for a bunch of things, but you really want midwives for the deliveries. We’re just first and second gen here, eighty-two people, we can’t afford to lose people in childbirth, leavin’ aside that we’d all be completely wrecked by it.

Anyhow, everything goes along fine until a couple weeks ago, when Harsh gets pre-eclampsia.

Clarification: Harsh is not found in the records.

Hannah Marsh, oversees the colony’s waste treatment and recycling.

Thank you. Clarification accepted. Please continue.

I’m trying. So Harsh is on bed rest and we radio the midwives to get their asses out here as soon as they can.

Explanatory note: ‘Radio’ is likely a colloquialism, as the Space Marine Midwife Corps communicates primarily through subspace relay. The origin of the phrase lies with early military communications, which did utilize radio waves. For further information on the history of radio, please consult the archives.

Seriously? Okay. The midwives radi—communicate back that they’ll move it up as soon as they can. We can treat mild preeclampsia here, but that shit gets bad, you want a lot more tech to back it up. Once we’ve got the infrastructure, we’ll have a high-tech medical center for this stuff, but small-footprint means asteroid mining, not planetary surface, and we’re still standing up the power grid. It’s all behind schedule because of the fish ladders.

Explanatory note: Fish ladders are structures built into dams to allow wildlife to travel upstream. Small-footprint colonies integrate them into all hydropower plans to prevent disruption to established migratory patterns.

They weren’t big enough, it turns out. It’s an itty-bitty little river, nobody realized the roller fish bloat up to about twenty times their size when they’re fixin’ to spawn. We’ve got the parts on back order, but the whole colony’s on solar and water-wheels until we get it sorted.

Explanatory note: Water-wheels are primitive structures used to generate rotary motion from flowing water.

We are seriously gonna be here all day if you keep this up..

Please continue.

So Harsh is drinking so much water she practically floats but it’s not getting much better. I’m starting to worry that I’m gonna be trying to induce labor with a shot I use on the heifers for their first birth and that ain’t my idea of a good time.

Clarification: This would be an illegal act violating multiple statutes, including use of drugs not cleared for humans on a human patient, practicing medicine without a license, endangerment of a patient’s welfare, endangerment of

Look, I didn’t do it! I wasn’t going to do it! Holy prophetess, you machines do not know how to listen to a story, do you?

Clarification accepted. Please continue.

Unngh. So the midwives call back and say they’re on their way. And thing is, we only got the one building with consistent power, right? We keep everything tucked in together—the freezers and the com and the med center, which only has the three beds, and Harsh is in one of them and poor Bob probably ought to have been in another.

Clarification: This is Roberta Emmanuel Preston, current position agricultural technician, Jackrabbit Colony?

Yeah, Bob. She was manning the com. She loves talking to passing ships. Between you, me, and the walls, I don’t think she was cut out for the colony life. Anyway, she’s another one of our pregnant ladies, and she was in the center building on account of her getting just terrible swollen ankles, I mean really bad. She said it was nothing, particularly given Harsh’s problems, but I mean, this ain’t a zero-sum game, right? So Doc Pierson and Ruby sort of decided she needed to spend a lot more time in the air conditioning, so they told her to man the com, right? Normally we just check it when we expect somebody to be coming in, but we’re expecting the midwives any second now in theory, so it gave Bob something to do that didn’t seem like make work.

So she’s on the com and all of a sudden, this weird little ship comes blazing into the system. And Bob is all ‘Unidentified ship, identify yourself!’ which is kinda redundant, but y’know. So the ship comes on the com and it is just grainy, old school tech-terrible crap from the old Diaspora days, the ones that pixelate at the corners if you breathe on the cameras, you know? Except we can’t even get cameras until they get in closer, it’s that bad. But the visuals we do get—yeah, I mean, it was a weird ship. Looked like somebody took an asteroid, dug it out, and stuck an engine on it. Which is pretty much what they did, I guess. I dunno. Small footprint is one thing, but you can take it too far.

The ship starts broadcasting its ID and I mean, this thing is old. It really was from the Diaspora. It was so old that the ID numbers had rolled over and Bob’s getting it back from the computer that this is a goddamn dreadnought out of New Tillamook, which it pretty obviously isn’t, because dreadnoughts are a whole lot bigger. So she has to convince the computer to spit out the ID numbers from the last round of ships, which was two hundred years ago, before the Altercations, and the computer meanwhile is screaming that there’s a dreadnought but also that there isn’t a dreadnought and Bob is screaming at the computer and Harsh is screaming that if they don’t all shut up, she’s gonna go sleep in the pig pen, where they might at least understand that a pregnant woman needs her sleep—which they don’t, incidentally, sows being as much of a pain in the ass when they’re farrowing as when they ain’t. Harsh knows a lot about hog waste, but not that much about the hogs it comes out of, if you take my meaning.

Explanatory note: Farrowing, in domestic pigs, refers to the act of giving birth.

Anyway, Ruby hears all this ruckus and comes in and gets everybody settled down except the computer, computers bein’ less responsive to sweet talk and death threats, which are Ruby’s chosen method of communication.

And we’re trying to talk to the computer on the asteroid-ship and we can’t. This thing is so old, our computers can’t dumb themselves down enough to actually talk to them. I’m starting to think we’re gonna be tapping crap out in binary.

Clarification: At no point was the unidentified ship treated as a hostile?

Shit, no. A ship like that? What’re they gonna do, get out and slap us? Anyway, finally we get a live human, but that doesn’t help much, because he’s completely wrecked. Managing about one word in three that he tries, and the translation circuits are just subtitling everything ‘garbled’ which, y’know, we didn’t really need a fancy-ass machine to tell us. But finally he gets out “cryosleep” and it all makes sense. The computer woke his ass up and he’s still got the bad hangover. Frankly, given that, he was doin’ pretty good. You take me out of cryo and I’m talking backward for a week.

But he’s obviously in a world of hurt and we’re gettin’ pretty worried, but then some of the other words he does manage to get out is ‘birth’ and ‘midwife’ and ‘help.’ And then it all makes sense. Bob manages to calm him down and get a little bit more out of him, and near as we can tell, it’s just him and one other, and she went into labor and it all went bad, so he did the only thing he could do and slaps both of ’em into cryo and tells the computer to find him a midwife to save his girl.

Problem was, of course, he was way off the main routes and the computer automatically dropped to just under lightspeed to save power, and the rest of the universe moseyed along without them for a couple hundred years. And the heading he’d set was right through the Khaw Prime system.

Explanatory note: Khaw Prime system was one of those destroyed during the Altercations. For more information on the Altercations, please consult the archives.

So he headed for a system that vanished about twenty years after he shut down, but he doesn’t know it and the computer just keeps going. They woulda probably kept going clear into uncharted space, but they get close enough to Jackrabbit for the computer to pick up the distress call we sent to the midwives, and the word for ‘midwife’ is so old the computer still knew it and changed course. The pilot’s so screwed up from cryo that he can’t run the numbers for the approach, which, I mean, you might as well use a paper and pen, with that computer. So Bob’s having to do all the calculations for him, and Harsh is like ‘If I hear one more equation, Imma set this building on fire.’

Harsh comes by her name honestly.

And then the midwives make the system and we got a party.

Their ship actually gets here before the other one, despite making the system after, which might tell you how pokey the other ship is being. Great people. Three midwives come screaming down in those little one-man pods. Normally they’d go slower, come down in a shuttle, but Harsh is starting to take the ‘pre’ outta ‘pre-eclampsia’ if you get my drift.

The pods come down in the lake. Pisses off the fish, but it’s a manmade lake and Doc Pierson and I go get the slapturtles out first, which they don’t appreciate, but everybody’s in a mood today, so why would the slapturtles be any different? The midwives roll out of the pods. Handles’re Squid, Forest, and Angel Eyes, and do not ask me to clarify who’s which, Machine, on account of I do not know their real names, just that Squid’s in charge and Angel Eyes is a guy.

Clarification: Identification inquiry cancelled. Please continue.

Damn straight.

They run in to see Harsh. Meanwhile, the pokey little asteroid ship finally gets close enough that we can see it, and… Lord, it ain’t much to look at, and the pilot’s running on coffee and panic, which ain’t a great combination. And you figure that coffee was probly two hundred years old, so I doubt that’s improving the taste much.

So Bob talks them down and the ship lands—well, you can call it landing if you’re feeling generous, it pretty much belly-flops into the lake—and the pilot skids it over to the shore and falls out into the water. Just one guy, still sketchy as hell from cryosleep—I mean, you wouldn’t let him pilot his way to the john in this state, no how should he have been flying a ship, even if it was a hollowed out asteroid. So he staggers onshore and he’s got a cryo-unit that’s so old that it still has cooling fans and the battery on it’s so old that it makes Ruby look positively youthful.

Weirdass cryo-unit, too. At first I figure that it’s one of those ones where you curl up in position, you know, but it’s shaped wrong even for that. But he’s got it on antigrav boosters, one of which ain’t even working and he has to prop up the corner and he’s bellowing that he needs power because she ain’t gonna last much longer.

So Squid tells him to get the thing inside right away, I mean, we got power at headquarters, enough for two air-conditioned rooms, and Forest grabs one side of the unit and I grab the other and Bob’s throwin’ doors open, even though she can only hobble about with her ankles the way they are. And we get this sucker inside and wipe off the condensation and damned if it isn’t a goat.

Explanatory note: ‘Goat’ is likely a colloquialism, perhaps a shorthand for scapegoat, which is

No! Do not try to explain! It is not a colloquialism; it is a goat.

Clarification: This is a member of the domestic species Capra aegagrus hircus?

That’s what they taught me in vet school, yep.

Clarification: The distress call was being rendered on behalf of a domesticated goat?

Do you wanna tell this story instead of me?

Please state ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

Yes. It was for the goat.

Clarification accepted. Thank you. Please continue.

I’m hardly in the mood now. Why do you have to ruin a good story, Machine?

At Taxon, Clarity is Our Business.

Do I come in your house and tell you how to do your job? No, but I bet you would, wouldn’t you?

Clarification: Question not understood. Please restate.

Never mind. Okay. Where was I? Right, so there’s this frozen goat, okay? Seriously pregnant, ’bout ready to pop, and the cryo-unit is so old that we can’t even plug the goddamn thing in, we don’t have connectors, you talk about male and female plugs, this sucker’s got like alien tentacle baby plugs with three grounds, so Squid’s strippin’ wires and cussin’ a blue streak but we can’t do shit, we gotta defrost it while it’s still got enough power to wake the patient up.

Explanatory note: Defrost is a colloquial term for waking from cryogenic sleep, derived from

What kind of freaky ass bureaucrat you gonna have listening to this report that doesn’t know what defrosting means? Or what radio is, for that matter?

Clarification: Recipients of an I-Witness Interrogation Report are classified.

Yeah, good for them. Okay, so we’re trying to get this goat thawed out before the unit dies completely, and the pilot’s looking at me like the goat is his bestest friend in the whole universe and he’s got that bad red-eye look like you get from cryosleep, and he is begging me to save his goat.

Well, shit. I ain’t a monster. Neither are the midwives. We gotta save this man’s goat. But Harsh needed to be delivering her baby like yesterday, so they’ve already induced, right? And Bob is sitting there with her ankles the size of grapefruit tryin’ to be helpful and all of a sudden she gets this mortified look and she’s standing in a puddle and damned if her water didn’t break right then and she says that maybe her backache’s been a little more than a backache, but she was busy trying to help this old ship get in proper and so she was kinda deliberately not paying attention and hopin’ it would go away and now we got two women in labor and a frozen goat.

Anyhow, Squid gives up on the wires, says it can’t be done, and we fire up the emergency thaw which is hard enough on anybody, let alone a pregnant female regardless of species, but she comes out of the unit pissed as hell and wanting to fight me, only she can’t hardly stand up. And at first I figure she’s just woozy from the cryo but she’s having contractions and the pilot’s practically sobbing on her neck and I realize she’s tryin’ to drop her kid and it ain’t happening.

I’m figuring the kid’s wrong way around, so I’m trying to get my hand inside this goat to get a grip on the hooves and get things started and damned if Harsh is not having the exact same problem and the midwife they call Angel Eyes is up in there with forceps, which I happen to know on account of us only having two air conditioned rooms as I said before and me trying to deliver the goat in the same room as Harsh, who had some really cutting things to say about the situation, let me tell you.

Well, cutting things to scream about the situation. Women don’t give birth as easy as cows, I’ll tell you that.

Anyway, this goat is not having an easy time of it either. I get a hand in there and I see right away why the pilot fellow panicked and popped her in the deep freeze. There’s way too many legs in there and some of ’em are stiff as boards and some of ’em are floppy, and of course any vet knows what’s going on with that.

Clarifica

I am getting to that! Fine! She’s got twins and one’s dead and gone full rigor mortis and the other one’s alive but ain’t gonna last too long in there. And the goat’s completely exhausted and gone a little floppy herself at this point.

Well, the rigor mortised one’s in front—they’re always in front, ‘cos the god of goats thinks it’s funny, I guess—and I gotta get it out. And of course the one in back is wrong way ‘round, because why wouldn’t it be?

I dunno if you’ve ever tried to get a stiff kid out of a goat but it’s grim business. You gotta break the bones with your bare hands. Absolute worst part of the job—no, I tell a lie.

Clarification: Please state the truth clearly for the I-Witness program. Perjury is punishable under Act 791, subsection A through Q.

Fine. There’s worse stuff in the job, but I ain’t getting into that here.

Clarification accepted.

So this goat is still royally pissed, for which I do not blame her, because cryosleep is no picnic on top of a dead kid and she is getting dry as space in there, which does not help the matter. I yell for the lube and Angel Eyes hands it over—I mean, he’s standing practically on top of me, on account of Harsh, and hey, it’s the same stuff, when you get right down to it.

Explanatory note: Medical lubricant used for delivery falls into two major categories, water and oil based, and is approved for use both human and animal patients. For more information on the uses of medical lubricant, please consult the archives.

You’ll get one helluva education if you do, I’ll tell you that.

So there I am trying to get this kid into a shape to get out and the goat decides to kick me in the knees and knocks me over and I fall into Angel Eyes, which Harsh does not appreciate one bit, granted where his hand was at the time, and Squid is just about to scream to get this goat out of the delivery room, and I’m like no, it’s fine, it’s not the goat’s fault and the pilot’s sobbing that he can’t lose the goat, it’s all he’s got left of his daddy’s farm and I mean, take a picture, bud, it eats less than a goat, but I can’t very well say that while I got my hand all up in this man’s goat’s business, you know?

Forest jumps in to try to help me—she’s with the Space Marine Midwives, she’s delivered way weirder things ‘n livestock—but there is just not room for two people up inside this goat. Lord, it was ugly business.

So I get the first kid out and Forest dives in and takes it outside and the pilot’s sobbing, although he had to know he wasn’t getting two live kids outta his goat. And Bob’s trying real hard not to complain but this ain’t her first and she’s one of those people who goes into labor and the kid comes out like he’s shot outta a cannon and so she’s crowning by the time Forest is trying to run this dead goat out. So Ruby takes the pilot and a shovel outside and I think maybe she’s gonna kill him, which, I gotta admit, seemed a little excessive but by then I had my arm back up in the goat, y’know? What am I gonna do, run after them dragging the goat on the end of my wrist yelling ‘Don’t kill him!’?

Clarification: Question not recognized as valid. If you receive this message, please contact Taxon Programming with the question, the time, and the serial number of the I-Witness software being used. Clarity Is Our Business!

Yeah, bet your Taxon people didn’t think of the answer to that one.

But yeah, they were burying the kid out by the lake. It was real sweet, actually. And the second kid comes out pretty easy, once I get it lined up. You can get ’em out back-end first, it’s just a pain in the ass for everybody.

So I’m pulling and the kid comes out right as Forest is coming back in and she does not know whether to jump to catch me—cos I’m falling over with a goat on my chest—or catch Bob’s baby. And then Harsh rears up and decks Squid right in the jaw, yelling like a banshee, which could perhaps be forgiven ‘cos this is Harsh’s first kid and you know she ain’t been expecting it to hurt quite like that, and of course everything was such a mess we couldn’t get in a pain block in on her in time, so I’d have maybe done a little punching too, given the situation.

Anyway, Forest does the right thing and catches Bob’s baby and I’m layin’ on my back with this kid on my chest and Squid thinks maybe Harsh needs a little downtime and she goes and checks on the goat. Goat’s not doing too great, but Squid, she gets in there and starts patching things up and we pump her full of the good drugs.

Well, it all worked out. It was touch and go for awhile there with the goat, but Squid’s good, and the pilot is sleeping in the stall with her. The goat, not Squid. Bob’s baby does great and Harsh pulls through. Her baby’s a bit undersized, so the midwives stick around for a few days to make sure she’s okay. They requisition my incubator, which meant we were havin’ to keep baby chicks under heat lamps for awhile, but shit, I don’t begrudge that for anybody.

Heh. Turns out the goat’s an old breed, incidentally. Real old, even before spending two hundred years in the deep freeze. She and her kid’re literally the last two of their kind. The pilot’s daddy was an Extinctioner. So, y’know, they say the universe has a way of sorting these things out. He’s stayin’ on the planet and we’ve got samples so we can sequence the DNA and keep this breed from goin’ the way of the Percheron.

Explanatory note: The Percheron is an extinct domestic horse breed.

Rub it in, why don’t you?

And me? Oh, I’m fine. Did a little more fallin’ over in the last few days than I like, but the goat kept the kickin’ below the knee. Delivered my baby just fine. Little girl. Sweet thing, but Grandma Ruby’s gonna do most of the raising of her. She talked me into having the girl in the first place. I’m really a lot better with goats.

Does this conclude your incident report, Doctor Hollowmas?

Yeah. You got any follow-up questions, you send a human to ask me, you hear?

Thank you for your cooperation. This Incident report has been taken using the I-Witness program from your friends at Taxon Interrogation Software.

At Taxon, Clarity is Our Business!(tm)

…Says you.

About the Author

T. Kingfisher

T. Kingfisher

T. Kingfisher is the pen name of Ursula Vernon, used for works intended for older audiences.  She is an American freelance writer, artist and illustrator. She is best known for her Hugo Award-winning graphic novel Digger (2003–2011) and for the children’s books series Hamster Princess and Dragonbreath. She also writes short fiction under both names. Her awards include the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.

Find more by T. Kingfisher

T. Kingfisher
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About the Narrator

S. Kay Nash

S. Kay Nash is a writer, editor, and occasional narrator. Raised by a cabal of university professors, anthropologists, and irritated librarians, she holds two degrees as magical wards to protect her from being hauled back into the ivory tower. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies including Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas writers, volume 2.

She lives in Texas with a Mad Scientist and a peaceful contingent of cats and dogs. You can find her on Twitter @Gnashchick.

Find more by S. Kay Nash

Elsewhere