You ask the girls where the song came from. One of them, Kim, tells you a ghost-story about a creature out in the dark between the planets who will suck out your soul with a straw. \n\nShe makes slurpy-soup noises until you both burst into giggles. You were never afraid of the dark.\n\n<<set $done = $done + 1>><<if $done lt 2>>\n[[Wait. I was supposed to be going somewhere...|Huh7]]\n<<else>>\nA soft whispering says: <html><font color="#0099CC">You think yourself brave, but you don't know even a thousandth of the dreams that flit between your little planets. Dreams that could devour your race entire, leaving not even the bones to mark your passage.</font></p>\n<font color="red"><del>Dad tried to keep me safe.<br/>\nMichael will stay home. He'll be safe.<br/>\nThere's something else important I forgot...<br/></del></font></html>\n\n[[No... this isn't right. Where am I?|Where]]<<endif>><<set $fear = $fear + 2>>
Only starlight and Earthlight illuminates the cabin, filtering dimly through the portholes. The front console reads: "LIFE SUPPORT ACTIVE" but nothing else seems powered.\n\n<<if $breathing_slowly eq 1>>You walk to the front of the Flinger, only a few steps away, and find the computer console outlined in red. You press the button labeled "Emergency Rescue Required" in several languages.<<endif>><<if $breathing_slowly eq 0>>You rush to the front of the Flinger and throw open the computer console outlined in red. You slam the "Emergency Rescue Required" button three times.<<endif>> There is no response or confirmation LED. You're not sure the button had any effect.\n\n<<set $hissing = 1>>In the darkness behind you, you can hear a soft whisper.\n\n[[Look for the space-suit.|Suit]]\n[[Locate the source of the whisper.|Hiss]]
The cabin is abruptly flooded with darkness as all of the lamps and consoles turn off. The computer does not respond to your query. The front console reads: "LIFE SUPPORT ACTIVE"\n\nYou stand involuntarily. Your thighs sharply protest with pain that claws down your legs. The Travel must still be wearing off.\n\n<html><font color="red"><del>Remember what to do in an emergency.</del></font></html>\n[[Find the emergency procedures instruction card immediately.|Emergency]]\n[[Try to remain calm.|Breathe]]
<html><font color="#0099CC">The animal doesn't immediately die. Your feeding has crippled it, but still it struggles. Vestigal remnants of self-preservation cause it to scramble about to survive, an insect without wings. Perhaps it will succeed and limp to some planet or other, but perhaps it will not.\n\n<p>Losing interest, you turn your focus elsewhere, elsewhen.</p>\n\n<p>Other delicious awarenesses nearby are ripening, ready for harvest.</p></font></html>\n\n[[The End|The Monstrous End]]
Travel is colorless, odorless and commonly used to relax passengers at near-light. \n\nThe University of California Santa Cruz full-ride scholarship covered both the Flinger vessel and a full dosage of Travel for the trip.\n\n[[Watch the stars as they pass, so slowly...|Window]]
The shadow on the porthole is cast from the outside by what appears to be a large lavender [[worm|Worm]], or a very small snake. \n\nOne wider end spins against the glass, causing a soft hiss and results in steady rotation throughout the whole creature. The other end of the worm lazily flaps out in space, as if there were a breeze.\n\nAs you inspect the worm, the spinning stops, as does the whispering hiss. The thinner end of the thing spasms.\n\nYour thoughts arrive without warning like bad house-guests, demanding all of your immediate attention.\n\n[[Will Michael and I be able to finish our game?|Game]]\n[[Did I forget to do something before I left?|Forgot]]\n[[What was that children's song again?|Song]]\n<<set $done = 0>>
You sit on your family home's roof, tipsy from the last goodbye meal. The stars are bright beyond the weather system net. You will leave for University tomorrow.\n\nYou fold the last name out of sight, so that your to-do list looks complete.\n\nYou kept putting it off and putting it off, and now there's no time left. The memorial where your mother is buried wouldn't be accepting more visitors. You could maybe rush in the morning before your flight, but it would stress you out. It's easier just to forget.\n\n[[She wouldn't want you to worry.|Worry]]\n[[Nobody will know.|Nobody]]
The stars gently shift across the porthole with a lazy grace, leaving you with the impression of a thousand comet-trails passing.\n\nYou watch the lights, blinking only when your eyes are dry.\n\n[[You think nothing at all.|Nothing]]\n\n
The stars gently shift across the porthole with a lazy grace, leaving you with the impression of a thousand comet-trails passing.\n\nThe peace of [[Travel]] leaves no room for impatience or excitement. You settle into your first space trip easily. \n\nAll of your anxieties float away with no effort at all. \n\n[[You watch the lights, captivated.|Lights]]
Only starlight and Earthlight illuminates the cabin, filtering dimly through the portholes. The front console reads: "LIFE SUPPORT ACTIVE" but nothing else seems powered.\n\n<<if $breathing_slowly eq 1>>You easily locate the closet, but as your hand touches the door, your eyes are drawn to a shadow against the porthole's darkness.<<endif>><<if $breathing_slowly eq 0>>Quickly, quickly, you throw open all of the possible doors that could reveal the closet. But you're starting to feel light-headed from hyperventilating, and you steady yourself with a hand on the porthole. Your eyes are drawn to a strange shape, a shadow against the porthole's darkness.<<endif>> \n<<set $hissing = 1>>You hear a steady whispering from the porthole, exactly where the shadow lies.\n\n[[Identify the cause of the whisper.|Hiss]]
Your starting condition:\nConfidence: ''5''\n<<if $fear eq 0>>Fear: ''0''<<endif>><<if $fear eq 1>>Fear: ''1''<<endif>><<if $fear eq 2>>Fear: ''2''<<endif>><<if $fear eq 3>>Fear: ''3''<<endif>><<if $fear eq 4>>Fear: ''4''<<endif>>\n<<if $guilt eq 0>>Guilt: ''0''<<endif>><<if $guilt eq 1>>Guilt: ''1''<<endif>><<if $guilt eq 2>>Guilt: ''2''<<endif>><<if $guilt eq 3>>Guilt: ''3''<<endif>><<if $guilt eq 4>>Guilt: ''4''<<endif>>\n<<if $sympathy eq 0>>Pity: ''0''<<endif>><<if $sympathy eq 1>>Pity: ''1''<<endif>><<if $sympathy eq 2>>Pity: ''2''<<endif>><<if $sympathy eq 3>>Pity: ''3''<<endif>><<if $sympathy eq 4>>Pity: ''4''<<endif>>\n\n[[Start|Goodbyes]]
Sarah, Kim, and Paul.\n\nSeran Wrap, Kool-Aid, and Paper Clip.\n\nThey looked down on you for going to Earth, but didn't offer any alternatives. They scoped new arrivals for marriage materials, built up the colony, and watched vids. No interest in art, poetry, or news from Earth. \n\nKim was the most friendly of the three, and you were close as kids, but she'd been spending her free time at [[Red Temple]] for the past few years.\n\nThe only things you shared with any of them were a hometown and a sense of obligation, and now those are both gone. \n\n[[Back|Forgot]]
You woke up late, but Michael is still at the dining room table. He eats his cereal quietly, half-watching vids on the console. He looks so young. You will leave for University in a week.\n\n"You play too many games alone as it is," you say.\n\n"Nuh uh. You play way more," he says.\n\n"Those are different! Anyway, I'm trying to make friends on Earth," you say.\n\n"Yeah."\n\nYou wonder how many hours he's actually been spending alone; how many more he'll spend once you're gone.\n\n[["I really do want to finish it with you."|Want To]]\n[["I'll send mail, no matter what."|Send Mail]]\n
Thank you for playing.\n\nYour final condition:\nConfidence: ''1''\n<<if $fear eq 0>>Fear: ''0''<<endif>><<if $fear eq 1>>Fear: ''1''<<endif>><<if $fear eq 2>>Fear: ''2''<<endif>><<if $fear eq 3>>Fear: ''3''<<endif>><<if $fear eq 4>>Fear: ''4''<<endif>>\n<<if $guilt eq 0>>Guilt: ''0''<<endif>><<if $guilt eq 1>>Guilt: ''1''<<endif>><<if $guilt eq 2>>Guilt: ''2''<<endif>><<if $guilt eq 3>>Guilt: ''3''<<endif>><<if $guilt eq 4>>Guilt: ''4''<<endif>>\n<<if $sympathy eq 0>>Pity: ''0''<<endif>><<if $sympathy eq 1>>Pity: ''1''<<endif>><<if $sympathy eq 2>>Pity: ''2''<<endif>><<if $sympathy eq 3>>Pity: ''3''<<endif>><<if $sympathy eq 4>>Pity: ''4''<<endif>>\n\nAuthor: Tanya Short, March 2013
Kim invited you, so you attended Red Temple once.\n\n"Why is it so plain?" you'd asked. "Do they need sculptors? Painters? Architects?"\n\nKim had just looked at you. She couldn't understand what you needed that the Temple wasn't giving you.\n\n[[Back|Forgot]]
Only starlight and Earthlight illuminates the cabin, filtering dimly through the portholes. The front console reads: "LIFE SUPPORT ACTIVE" but nothing else seems powered.\n\nNow that you're calm, you're pretty sure there were only two big diagrams on the instructions card. One was of a space-suit in a closet by the airlock. The other was to press the giant red "Emergency Rescue" button on the front console.\n\nThe soft whispering is definitely coming from your left.\n\n[[Look for the space-suit.|Suit]]\n[[Check the front computer console.|Console]]\n[[Locate the source of the whisper.|Hiss]]
Only starlight and Earthlight illuminates the cabin, filtering dimly through the portholes. The front console reads: "LIFE SUPPORT ACTIVE" but nothing else seems powered.\n\n<<set $breathing_slowly = 1>>You breathe slowly and deeply, despite your racing pulse, reclaiming control of your panic. \n\nClarity descends. The cabin is still pressurised. You are still alive. You will do what you can to sort this out, and that's all you can do.\n\n<<set $hissing = 1>>In the darkness, you hear a soft whisper.\n\n<<if $found_instructions eq 0>>[[Remember what to do in an emergency.|Remember]]\n[[Find the emergency procedures instruction card.|Emergency]]<<endif>><<if $found_instructions eq 1>>[[Look for the space-suit.|Suit]]\n[[Enter emergency code into the front console.|Console]]<<endif>>\n[[Locate the source of the whisper.|Hiss]]
After aide from Earth stopped arriving, just before you were born, everyone stopped using the printers. There's still a few printed buildings around, but they've mostly been replaced by simple, geometric stone bricks.\n\nHer memorial, your childhood home, your school, the Red Temple -- all of it is from the same dusty stone, carved for function but otherwise identical.\n\n[[Back|Worry]]
After aide from Earth stopped arriving, just before you were born, everyone stopped using the printers. There's still a few printed buildings around, but they've mostly been replaced by simple, geometric stone bricks.\n\nHer memorial, your childhood home, your school, the Red Temple -- all of it is from the same dusty stone, carved for function but otherwise identical.\n\n[[Back|Nobody]]
<<silently>>\n<<set $examined_cabin = 0>>\n<<set $tried_to_talk = 0>>\n<<set $lights_off = 0>>\n<<endsilently>>\n"Good morning," the computer says.\n\n"Course calculations are in progress. Passenger and cargo total weight exceeds maximum recommendation. Please stand by.”\n\nYou are instantly alert. Earth is not far, already grown from a dot into a blue marble.\n\n[["What is the recommended weight?"|Computer]]\n[[Examine the cabin.|Look]]
Only starlight and Earthlight illuminates the cabin, filtering dimly through the portholes. The front console reads: "LIFE SUPPORT ACTIVE" but nothing else seems powered.\n\nYou fumble through the pamphlets and magazines left for passengers. At length, the sturdy edge of the emergency instructions card leaves a cut along your finger. You pull it out and move to stand closer to the light.\n<<if $breathing_slowly eq 0>>You have trouble reading the text because your hands are shaking.<<endif>><<if $breathing_slowly eq 1>>Your eyes take a moment to adjust in the low light and you force yourself to be patient for just a moment longer.<<endif>>\nThe card has two large diagrams. One is of a space-suit stored in a closet by the airlock, which includes an emergency transmitter. The other is a code sequence to punch in to the front console, depending on the emergency. \n\nIt also recommends breathing slowly, for your peace of mind, as well as for maximum chance of survival. <<if $breathing_slowly eq 1>>Good thing you're already doing that.<<endif>>\n<<if $hissing eq 1>>The whispering in the darkness continues.<<endif>>\n<<if $breathing_slowly eq 0>>[[Begin breathing slowly.|Breathe]]<<endif>>\n[[Look for the space-suit.|Suit]]\n[[Enter emergency code into the front console.|Console]]\n<<if $hissing eq 1>>[[Locate the source of the whisper.|Hiss]]<<endif>>
"Resume travel," you say.\n\n "Travel dosage will resume when course calculations are complete. Please stand by."\n\n"How long will the calculations take?"\n\n<<display 'Darkness'>>
You sit on your family home's roof, tipsy from the last goodbye meal. The stars are bright beyond the weather system net. You will leave for University tomorrow.\n\nYou read aloud, out over the rooftops of the colony:\n"<html><del>Sarah</del></html>"\n"<html><del>Kim</del></html>"\n"<html><del>Paul</del></html>"\n"Mom"\n\n"Fuck, Mom. I'm sorry," you say into the night air.\n\n"I will visit when I come home. It might be awhile," you say.\n\n[[She wouldn't want you to worry.|Worry]]\n[[Nobody will know.|Nobody]]
You blink heavily in a sudden darkness.\n\nYou feel your vision is <html><font color="#0099CC">s</font></html>e<html><font color="#0099CC">p</html>a<html><font color="#0099CC">r</font></html>a<html><font color="#0099CC">t</font></html>e<html><font color="#0099CC">d</font></html>, as if <html><font color="#0099CC">each of</font></html> your eyes <html><font color="#0099CC">were watching</font></html> a different console.\n\n<html><font color="#0099CC">To one side, you see yourself, a human body crumpled against the darkness of a primitive space-vessel floor. Its consciousness appears to mostly consist of bitterness, guilt, and self-pity now. The delicious bits have all been eaten already.</font></html> \n\nOn the other side, a writhing mass darkens the University vessel's porthole. It is tethered to the window-glass by a lavender worm that appears to have bored straight through. It is plump and lies limp. The LIFE SUPPORT ACTIVE sign is flickering on and off at the front of the cabin.\n\n[[Leave the animal to die.|Leave]]\n[[Stand up.|Stand]]
Nobody will know you didn't visit Mom's memorial. So what does it matter? It's between you and a dead woman, and if you can accept that, the universe can too.\n\nThe colony buildings are mostly dark, but you think you can pick out where the memorial would be, in between the lights. Her name is there, [[carved in stone|Stone1]], cold.\n\n<<set $done = $done + 1>><<if $done lt 2>>\n[[Wait. I was supposed to be going somewhere...|Huh5]]\n<<else>>\nA soft whispering says: <html><font color="#0099CC">You're a coward. She deserves better. You couldn't wait to shake yourself free of her crumbs and fly away from the home she built for you. It's only because of her that you were able to see Mars at all, and you <i>threw it away</i> without so much as a goodbye.</font></p>\n<p><font color="red"><del>I spent my energy caring for the living.<br/>\nMichael will stay. He's a good son.<br/>\nI don't belong here. She would understand.<br/></del></font></html>\n\n[[No... this isn't right. Where am I?|Where]]<<endif>><<set $guilt = $guilt + 2>>
<<if $done eq 0>>The immediacy of the vessel fades.<<endif>> \n\nThe month before you left, you and your brother [[Michael|Brother]] had been playing "Knights of the Round" together. It was an Arthurian Earth game, wandering the kingdom completing quests. It was fun, in a fantastical, childish way.\n\nYou'd started it thinking it'd be easy to finish before you left, but everything took longer than you thought. Packing, saying goodbye to [[friends|Friends]], getting textbooks, clothes shopping, re-packing, and suddenly it was time to go.\n\n"It's not a big deal," he had said the morning you left. "I know you're really busy."\n\n"I can play without you," he said quietly.\n\n[["We'll finish it together."|Finish It]]\n[["You play too many games alone as it is."|Too Many]]
Kim invited you, so you attended Red Temple once.\n\n"Why is it so plain?" you'd asked. "Do they need sculptors? Painters? Architects?"\n\nKim had just looked at you. She couldn't understand what you needed that the Temple wasn't giving you.\n\n[[Back|Game]]
"What is the recommended weight?" you ask.\n\n "Three hundred kilograms."\n\n"Uh. What is the total weight?"\n\n "Four hundred and twenty-three kilograms."\n\n"How did we depart?"\n\n<<display 'Darkness'>>
<html><i>Maybe he'll be... or maybe she'll be... oh, I'm sure it will all work out</i></html>, you think.\n\nA distant part of you realises the [[Travel]] dosage has begun.\n\n[[Look out the window.|Window]]
The asphalt of the empty playground shines new and smooth under the bright, bright sun. It was built for future colonists and their many, many children. Right now, it's too big. You will leave for University in ten years.\n\nYou watch the tower wobble on the horizon, slowly shifting towards vertical. You can't see him, but you imagine your father as a small dot at the tower's base, working with all of his craft and power to make the colony better. You're so proud of him, doing real, good work, not like everyone else's [[scientist|Science]] parents studying rocks or weather.\n\nThe hop-scotch girls start singing again, this time shouting the emphasis: \n\n"To Earth and Mars and all the stars,\nWith the DARKness in beTWEEN!\nIt jumps in black and apple-jack,\nDrinking DEEP what can't be SEEN!"\n\n[[Ask the girls about the song.|Probe]]\n[[Sing along.|Sing]]
The stars gently shift across the porthole with a lazy grace, leaving you with the impression of a thousand comet-trails passing.\n\nAfter a time, you're woken by a [[soothing voice|Woken]].
Stowaway
Sarah, Kim, and Paul were as close to 'friends' as you had. \n\nThey were the only ones your age in the colony. It was natural to talk with them about school, vids, politics, and they were nice enough.\n\nEngineer, doctor, and geologist. Only Kim attended [[Red Temple|Temple]], but all of them had the same disinterest in art of any kind. They were always so <html><i>practical</i></html>.\n\nYou're glad you're done with those goodbyes.\n\n[[Back|Game]]
"I'll send mail no matter what," you say.\n\n"Okay. And I'll reply," he says. He's disappointed, but smiles with self-deprecating forgiveness.\n\nMichael focuses on the console, distracting himself from the conversation. He's already given into the solitude, accepted it as part of himself.\n\n<<set $done = $done + 1>><<if $done lt 2>>\n[[Wait. I was supposed to be going somewhere...|Huh4]]\n<<else>>\nA soft whispering says, "<html><font color="#0099CC">Mail is supposed to replace you? He doesn't even remember your mother; you were the warmest presence in his life. Who is he going to talk to when he has his first heartbreak? His first triumph? These are things you can't write in a mail. You're leaving him alone, <i>and for what</i>? You don't even know.</p></font>\n<p><font color="red"><del>Dad will be there for him when I can't be.<br/>\nMaybe I should have taken him to the memorial.<br/>\nI was alone, too, and I made it just fine.<br/></del></font></html>\n\n[[No... this isn't right. Where am I?|Where]]<<endif>><<set $sympathy = $sympathy + 2>>
Thank you for playing.\n\nYour final condition:\nConfidence: ''0''\n<<if $fear eq 0>>Fear: ''0''<<endif>><<if $fear eq 1>>Fear: ''1''<<endif>><<if $fear eq 2>>Fear: ''2''<<endif>><<if $fear eq 3>>Fear: ''3''<<endif>><<if $fear eq 4>>Fear: ''4''<<endif>>\n<<if $guilt eq 0>>Guilt: ''0''<<endif>><<if $guilt eq 1>>Guilt: ''1''<<endif>><<if $guilt eq 2>>Guilt: ''2''<<endif>><<if $guilt eq 3>>Guilt: ''3''<<endif>><<if $guilt eq 4>>Guilt: ''4''<<endif>>\n<<if $sympathy eq 0>>Pity: ''0''<<endif>><<if $sympathy eq 1>>Pity: ''1''<<endif>><<if $sympathy eq 2>>Pity: ''2''<<endif>><<if $sympathy eq 3>>Pity: ''3''<<endif>><<if $sympathy eq 4>>Pity: ''4''<<endif>>\n\nAuthor: Tanya Short, March 2013
Thank you for playing.\n\nYour final condition:\nConfidence: ''2''\n<<if $fear eq 0>>Fear: ''0''<<endif>><<if $fear eq 1>>Fear: ''1''<<endif>><<if $fear eq 2>>Fear: ''2''<<endif>><<if $fear eq 3>>Fear: ''3''<<endif>><<if $fear eq 4>>Fear: ''4''<<endif>>\n<<if $guilt eq 0>>Guilt: ''0''<<endif>><<if $guilt eq 1>>Guilt: ''1''<<endif>><<if $guilt eq 2>>Guilt: ''2''<<endif>><<if $guilt eq 3>>Guilt: ''3''<<endif>><<if $guilt eq 4>>Guilt: ''4''<<endif>>\n<<if $sympathy eq 0>>Pity: ''0''<<endif>><<if $sympathy eq 1>>Pity: ''1''<<endif>><<if $sympathy eq 2>>Pity: ''2''<<endif>><<if $sympathy eq 3>>Pity: ''3''<<endif>><<if $sympathy eq 4>>Pity: ''4''<<endif>>\n\nAuthor: Tanya Short, March 2013
The asphalt of the empty playground shines new and smooth under the bright, bright sun. It was built for future colonists and their many, many children. Right now, it's too big. You will leave for University in ten years.\n\nYou try to forget about your father on the horizon, instead jumping and skipping along to the hopscotch game.\n\nThe hop-scotch girls start singing again, this time shouting the emphasis: \n\n"To Earth and mars and all the stars,\nWith the DARKness in beTWEEN!\nIt jumps in black and apple-jack,\nDrinking DEEP what can't be SEEN!"\n\nYou win the game.\n\n[[Ask the girls about the song.|Probe]]\n[[Sing along|Sing]]
The vessel is no longer approaching Earth, judging by the unmoving stars out the window. Your destination is not so far though--Earth is already the size of a marble in the forward view.\n\n<<set $examined_cabin = 1>>Talons of soreness dig into your neck, as if you'd slept for weeks on a sharp rock. Despite the pain, you turn your head to look around the cabin.\n\nNobody.\n\nThe seats at the other portholes are empty, your luggage untouched where you hooked it in.\n\n<<if $tried_to_talk = 0>>[["Computer, what is the problem with the weight?"|Computer]]<<endif>>\n<<if $tried_to_talk = 0>>[["Resume travel."|Computer]]<<endif>>\n<<if $tried_to_talk = 1>>[["Computer, what is the recommended weight?"|Interrogation]]<<endif>>\n<<if $tried_to_talk = 1>>[["Resume travel."|Resume]]<<endif>>
The stars gently shift across the porthole with a lazy grace, leaving you with the impression of a thousand comet-trails passing.\n\nYou're distantly aware that you've made a trade, that your decision to continue on to Earth will cost you everything the whisper promised. You know there is much to fear and regret, but some stubborn hope still remains underneath it all. \n\nPerhaps you are better-prepared now, more ready when the whispers come true.\n\nSoon, the peace of Travel leaves no room for guilt or fear.\n\nSoon, you arrive at your new home.\n\n[[The End|The School End]]
You're on your way to university. You've just levelled out from take-off.\n\nA quick hug at the docks was all you'd had time for. The [[vessel|Vessel]] had been waiting for you, its insides plush with leather and dark wood. \n\nIt smelled like [[victory|Victory]].\n\nYou waved as long as the g-forces would allow, and then [[your family|Family]] slipped out of sight. You'll arrive just in time for freshman orientation.\n\n[[Should I really choose Art for my major?|Major]]\n[[I wonder what my roommate will be like?|Roommate]]\n[[I haven't done the orientation reading!|Orientation]]\n
At the founding of the colony, they had only sent researchers. Some were part-time engineers or doctors or therapists or politicians, but all of them were trained originally in science and logic. In a way, it explains the Red Temple perfectly.\n\nLater they realised they needed construction specialists, like your father, but they had never sent for artists. No-one in the colony wrote poetry except for funerals. Only children sang.\n\n[[Back|Construction]]
"I <html><i>want</i></html> to finish it with you," you say.\n\n"I know you do," he says. He smiles with self-deprecating forgiveness. He knows he's not as important as your college life will be.\n\nMichael focuses on the console, distracting himself from the conversation. He's already given into the solitude, accepted it as part of himself.\n\n<<set $done = $done + 1>><<if $done lt 2>>\n[[Wait. I was supposed to be going somewhere...|Huh3]]\n<<else>>\nA soft whispering says: <html><font color="#0099CC"><i>Wanting</i> isn't enough. <i>Wanting</i> won't stop him from cutting his thighs, his arms, starting next year. He will be alone, because of you. When he is a teenager and tries to cut his wrists, you won't be there. But you will <i>want</i> to.</p></font><br/>\n<font color="red"><del>Dad will be there for him when I can't be.<br/>\nMaybe I should have taken him to the memorial.<br/>\nI was alone, too, and I made it just fine.<br/></del></font></html>\n\n[[No... this isn't right. Where am I?|Where]]<<endif>><<set $guilt = $guilt + 2>>
He's a great kid. Funny, easy-going, and beats your score in every game ever. He takes after your mother. \n\nMichael came to the docks to see you off, but he was sullen all the way.\n\n"Come back for the harvest!" he shouted as the airlocks hissed closed.\n\n[[Back|Goodbyes]]
Michael's a gangly eleven-year-old. He has your mother's eyes and hair, and a wry sense of humor.\n\nSometimes he seems distant, but that might be due to the lack of other children his age at the colony. You remember being a restless pre-teen too, always bored, always in the way.\n\n[[Back|Game]]
It is difficult to study the shadow in the dark, but the 'worm' (snake?) appears to be seven to eight centimeters in length. It does not look familiar from any of your exobiology studies, but those were all bacteria anyway.\n\nIts fatter end spins with a steady speed, scraping a small beak or tooth against the glass, creating a soft whispering hiss. It happens to be perfectly centered in your reflection, as if it bored between your eyes.\n\n[[Back|Hiss]]
<html><font color="#0099CC">You pull your awareness back away from the shallow-minded creature in the vessel, flexing to pull your proboscis back through the glass. A cool Saturn-bound breeze slithers past, refreshing after your satisfying yet claustrophobic meal.\n<p>Some part of you is loathe to withdraw entirely, savoring the acidic taste of animal panic as it tries to stand.</p>\n<p>The hull breach begins to depressurise the vessel, quickly stealing the atmosphere from within.</p></font></html>\n\n[[Savor its final moments.|Savor]]\n[[No! I can fix this! I will live!|Live]]
"You're not going to the University of California," he'd said, again and again.\n\n"Earth is irrelevant now. There's nothing to learn there," he'd said.\n\n"Your mother would want you to stay. You belong here," he'd said.\n\nThat last manipulative stab had almost worked. Your mother <html><i>would</i></html> have wanted you to stay. [[Michael]] certainly does. You had second thoughts, for awhile.\n\nBut you had already applied to UC Santa Cruz without your father's permission. When you won the full-ride scholarship, you realised you had made your choice long ago.\n\n[[Back|Goodbyes]]
The horizon is a flat brown line, as flat as pictures you've seen of Earth's oceans. \n\nThe horizon hides craters and valleys just out of sight, great yawning emptinesses. Someday Victoria Crater would be Victoria Lake, or so the Earth politicians said again and again, but the colony children needed food more. The aide materials sent by Earth helped build sun farms and then the aide stopped.\n\nBy then, the colony didn't need their help.\n\n[[Back|Song]]
You start the silly nursery rhyme's second verse, wondering if they sing the same song on Earth:\n\n"Eats the pulp in one big gulp,\nDown the HATCH with sweet and CREAM!\nThere's no rind that's left behind,\nNom nom NOM and no more DREAMS!"\n\nYou hope recess is almost over. You want to go inside.\n\n<<set $done = $done + 1>><<if $done lt 2>>\n[[Wait. I was supposed to be going somewhere...|Huh8]]\n<<else>>\nA soft whispering says: <html><font color="#0099CC">So confident, so <i>certain</i> you are, traveling where you don't belong. Fierce little animal. You come from such a large nest, so many writhing limbs of arrogance that they can't even fit on one planet anymore. This excess will not go to waste.</font></p>\n<font color="red"><del>Dad thought I was arrogant, too.<br/>\nWould Michael be as fierce<br/>\nWill I get a memorial, I wonder?<br/></del></font></html>\n\n[[No... this isn't right. Where am I?|Where]]<<endif>><<set $fear = $fear + 2>>
You woke up late, but Michael is still at the dining room table. He eats his cereal quietly, half-watching vids on the console. He looks so young. You will leave for University in a week.\n\n"We'll finish it together," you say.\n\n"You don't have to," he says. "It's just a game."\n\nYou have no way of knowing whether they'd have a good enough connection at University to let you play together. Even if you did, would you have time enough? You can't promise anything.\n\n[["I know. But I want to."|Want To]]\n[["I'll send mail, no matter what."|Send Mail]]\n
.passage { width : 500px !important }
You feel plush carpeting cushioning your cheek. You open your eyes and see only darkness.\n\nAdrenaline thrums in your throat but you aren't sure why. The urgency is already ebbing, as fleeting as it was directionless.\n\nAs you calm, you see Kim before you as a young girl. She's still laughing about the silly soul sucker between the planets. She got all of her stories from her older sister, who was born on Earth.\n\nA soft whispering says: <html><font color="#0099CC">You think yourself brave, but you don't know even a thousandth of the dreams that flit between your little planets. Dreams that could devour your race entire, leaving not even the bones to mark your passage.</font></html>\n\n[[Michael will stay home. He'll be safe.|Game]]\n[[There's something else important I forgot...|Forgot]]
<html><i>Dad would be so much more proud, but art is so much more... what? What is the word for... oh well</i></html>, you think.\n\nA distant part of you realises the [[Travel]] dosage has begun.\n\n[[Look out the window.|Window]]
<html><i>Will I have enough time on the other side to read the whole... book? Was there a book? ... I guess it doesn't really matter</i></html>, you think.\n\nA distant part of you realises the [[Travel]] dosage has begun.\n\n[[Look out the window.|Window]]
Your father and brother, Michael, took you to the docks to say goodbye. Father made a good show of being happy for you, after he accepted [[defeat|Victory]].\n\n[[Michael]]'s only eleven, and not as good at faking it.\n\n[[Back|Goodbyes]]
<<silently>><<set $guilt = 0>><<set $sympathy = 0>><<set $fear = 0>><<endsilently>><html><font size="+5">Stowaway</font><br/>\n<p><img src="http://www.tanyaxshort.com/Images/moon2.png"><br/>\nCover art by <a href="http://www.pixeljoint.com/pixelart/53931.htm">Badassbill</a></p>\n</html>\n\n[[Play "Stowaway"|Stats]]\n
The immediacy of the vessel fades.\n\nYou're sitting on the edge of the school playground. A thin tower wavers on the [[horizon|Horizon]], where your father and the other workers are erecting the colony weather systems.\n\nThe air was so dry back then, the sun so bright.\n\nTwo girls, Kim and Sarah, play hop-scotch games nearby, singing:\n\n"To Earth and Mars and all the stars,\nWith the darkness in between..."\n\nOne of the girls misses a jump and they stop singing.\n\n[[Watch the weather tower construction.|Construction]]\n[[Join the game.|Join]]
A defiance rises in you, a primal, blood-borne desire to live. You shove at the invasive tendrils that linger, sidling up against your thoughts.\n\nYou plug the tiny hole in the porthole glass with a magazine. The gloss forms a tight seal. It's not perfect, but it looks like it'll work for long enough.\n\nAll systems power up and the lights turn back on.\n\n"Primary system setup in progress. Please input destination," says the soothing computer voice.\n\n[["Re-route course. Return home."|To Mars]]\n[["Continue on previous course. To Earth."|To Earth]]
You feel plush carpeting cushioning your cheek. You open your eyes and see only darkness.\n\nAdrenaline thrums in your throat but you aren't sure why. The urgency is already ebbing, as fleeting as it was directionless.\n\nAs you calm down, you are on your childhood playground again. Recess is almost over. You don't want to sing any more songs.\n\nA soft whispering says: <html><font color="#0099CC">So confident, so <i>certain</i> you are, traveling where you don't belong. Fierce little animal. You come from such a large nest, so many writhing limbs of arrogance that they can't even fit on one planet anymore. This excess will not go to waste.</font></html>\n\n[[Would Michael be as fierce?|Game]]\n[[Will I get a memorial, I wonder?|Forgot]]
The vessel is no longer approaching Earth, judging by the unmoving stars out the window. Your destination is not so far though--Earth is already a marble in the forward view.\n\n<<set $tried_to_talk = 1>><<set $breathing_slowly = 0>>You try to reply and croak deeply, your throat constricting. Your tongue weighs heavily in your mouth, defying several attempts to swallow.\n\nSensation slowly returns to your face, cool air whirring along your jaw from the fans.\n\n[[Try again: "What is the recommended weight?"|Interrogation]]\n[[Try again: "Resume Travel."|Resume]]\n<<if $examined_cabin eq 0>>[[Examine the cabin|Look]]<<endif>>
The stars gently shift across the porthole with a lazy grace, leaving you with the impression of a thousand comet-trails passing.\n\nYou're distantly aware that you've made a trade, that your decision to remain on Mars will have its own troubles. Something whispers that you will resent those who kept you from your dreams. You tell that voice that new joys wait here, away from the paths of selfishness.\n\nSoon, the peace of Travel leaves no room for anxiety or disappointment.\n\nSoon, you are home, never to leave again.\n\n[[The End|The Home End]]
<<if $done eq 0>>The immediacy of the vessel fades.<<endif>> \n\nThe University sent you a to-do list for new freshmen. Most of it was paperwork and shopping, but at the end, it exclaimed, "Enjoy the unique sights of your hometown! You won't be home for awhile!"\n\nYou wrote a list of people to say goodbye to. There were only three others in your graduating class, so although you [[had no friendship with|Dislike]] any of them, you felt you had to attend a farewell meal anyhow. You crossed each one off as they became irrelevant to your new future.\n\nThe last name on the list fills you with dread.\n\n[[Fold it under, out of sight.|Folded]]\n[[Read the name aloud.|Read]]
A commercial transport, Flinger class, big enough to hold 6 passengers comfortably. \n\nThe cabin recalls nautical quarters with dark wood wall panels and brass finishings. Plush carpeting softens your footsteps. The seats have been upholstered in artificial leather, each positioned near a pocket of magazines. The magazine pictures glossily boast of travels to and from Earth.\n\nNobody else is scheduled for an Earth trip today. The vessel is all yours.\n\n[[Back|Goodbyes]]
Tanya Short
You feel plush carpeting cushioning your cheek. You open your eyes and see only darkness.\n\nAdrenaline thrums in your throat but you aren't sure why. The urgency is already ebbing, as fleeting as it was directionless.\n\nAs you calm down, Michael sits before you, eating breakfast. His eyes are old with anxiety, more and more. You want to keep him close, despite the planetary distances you chose to put between you. You don't want to drift away, as you know you are, even now.\n\nA soft whispering says: <html><font color="#0099CC"><i>Wanting</i> isn't enough. <i>Wanting</i> won't stop him from cutting his thighs, his arms, starting next year. He will be alone, because of you. When he is a teenager and tries to cut his wrists, you won't be there. But you will <i>want</i> to.</p></font></html>\n\n[[Maybe I should have taken him to the memorial.|Forgot]]\n[[I was alone, too, and I made it. He will too.|Song]]
You feel plush carpeting cushioning your cheek. You open your eyes and see only darkness.\n\nAdrenaline thrums in your throat but you aren't sure why. The urgency is already ebbing, as fleeting as it was directionless.\n\nAs you calm down, you're on the roof of your childhood home, squinting into the darkness. The memorial is small and unlit, commemorating the lost colonists with the simple dignity of carved stone. You never liked the way it looked and thought Mom deserved better.\n\nA soft whispering says: <html><font color="#0099CC">So this is what you are. Unapologetic, rationalising your own <i>selfish cowardice</i>. You aren't half the warrior she was, adventuring to the frontier to raise a family. What makes you think you'll be strong enough to survive Earth on your own? You didn't visit her because you know that you are weak and undeserving.</font></html>\n\n[[I spent my energy caring for the living.|Game]]\n[[This was her planet, but it's not mine.|Song]]
You feel plush carpeting cushioning your cheek. You open your eyes and see only darkness.\n\nAdrenaline thrums in your throat but you aren't sure why. The urgency is already ebbing, as fleeting as it was directionless.\n\nAs you calm down, you're on the roof of your childhood home, squinting into the darkness. The memorial is small and unlit, commemorating the lost colonists with the simple dignity of carved stone. Your mother's name is out there, somewhere. You saw it once and never went back.\n\nA soft whispering says: <html><font color="#0099CC">You're a coward. She deserves better. You couldn't wait to shake yourself free of her crumbs and fly away from the home she built for you. It's only because of her that you were able to see Mars at all, and you <i>threw it away</i> without so much as a goodbye.</font></html>\n\n[[Michael will stay. He's a good son.|Game]]\n[[I don't belong here. She would understand.|Song]]
You feel plush carpeting cushioning your cheek. You open your eyes and see only darkness.\n\nAdrenaline thrums in your throat but you aren't sure why. The urgency is already ebbing, as fleeting as it was directionless.\n\nAs you calm down, Michael sits before you, eating breakfast. His eyes are old with anxiety, more and more. You want to keep him close, despite the planetary distances you chose to put between you. Mail seems so cold and impersonal.\n\nA soft whispering says, "<html><font color="#0099CC">Mail is supposed to replace you? He doesn't even remember your mother; you were the warmest presence in his life. Who is he going to talk to when he has his first date? His first heartbreak? These are things you can't write in a mail. You're leaving him alone, <i>and for what</i>?</p></font></html>\n\n[[Maybe I should have taken him to the memorial.|Forgot]]\n[[I was alone, too, and I made it just fine.|Song]]
She wouldn't want you to worry about her. You don't have many surviving memories of her, but you remember her as powerful with kindness. She appreciated gifts, but despised fussing over empty gestures. "Be sincere or don't be," she said once.\n\nThe colony buildings are mostly dark, but you think you can pick out where the memorial would be, in between the lights. Her name is there, [[carved in stone|Stone2]], cold.\n\n<<set $done = $done + 1>><<if $done lt 2>>\n[[Wait. I was supposed to be going somewhere...|Huh6]]\n<<else>>A soft whispering says: <html><font color="#0099CC">So this is what you are. Unapologetic, rationalising your own <i>selfish cowardice</i>. You aren't half the warrior she was, adventuring to the frontier to raise a family. What makes you think you'll be strong enough to survive Earth on your own? You didn't visit her because you know that you are weak and undeserving.</font></p>\n<font color="red"><del>Dad will still be proud of me.<br/>\nI spent my energy caring for the living.<br/>\nThis was her planet, but it's not mine..<br/></del></font></html>\n\n[[No... this isn't right. Where am I?|Where]]<<endif>><<set $fear = $fear + 2>>
You pull your awareness back away from the monstrous mind at the porthole, forcing yourself to stand and take stock of the situation. The LIFE SUPPORT ACTIVE sign is flickering on and off at the front of the cabin.\n\nThe lavender worm retreats and the writhing mass floats a small distance away. Some part of you recognise it as looking ... satisfied?\n\nPanic rips through you as you see it has left a hole in the porthole glass.\n\nThe hull breach begins to depressurise the vessel, stealing the cabin's air with nimble fingers.\n\n[[Plug the hole.|Live]]\n[[I wonder what the creature outside will do next...|Leave]]