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Thirty-Six Interrogatories Propounded by the Human-Powered Plasma Bomb in the Moments Before Her Imminent Detonation

Erica L. Satifka's fiction has previously appeared in Daily Science Fiction, as well as Clarkesworld Magazine, PodCastle, and Ideomancer. She lives in Baltimore, Md., with her husband Rob and their three cats. Visit her online at www.ericasatifka.com.

1. When you lifted my body into the belly of the great gray ship, did you know I was sentient?
2. Did you know that I felt pain?
3. Were you aware that my species is a vain one, and that such alterations as you placed upon my body were abhorrent to me?
4. Did you realize that, as a general rule, humans do not communicate instantaneously through the mind-web, as you do?
5. Would that knowledge have played any factor in your decision to destroy our communications network?
6. Were you aware that such actions would lead to war?
7. Was it always your plan to use mind-web capabilities to simultaneously sever the frontal lobes of seven billion humans in order to prevent a total war you would have won anyway, or did you come up with that plan on the spot?
8. Why did you spare me?
9. Does your navigation system require higher thought to function, and if so, is that why you spared me?
10. Where are we going?
11. I don't have a driver's license. Do you trust me to navigate this ship?
12. Are you cognizant that, even in my current physical form, I need food and water to survive?
13. This isn't water. Do you know what water is?
14. When I was taken into the hatch, did you then understand why it was that I screamed so loud, why I tried to slash my wrists on the edge of the console panel, why my consciousness ceased until the instant you took me out of the restorer?
15. Is pain transmissible by mind-web technology?
16. Will such horrors as were visited upon my people by your people be replicated at our destination, and if so, can I kindly ask you to reconsider?
17. That isn't water, either. Would you like me to supply you with the correct chemical formula?
18. In my turret there is a thick brown residue laced with hard shell-like protrusions. Am I correct in believing that these are the remains of my predecessor?
19. Does space look as black to those of you in the mind-web as it does to me?
20. When I was a child, I feared enclosed spaces like the one in which I am currently shuttered. On such times when I was forcibly enclosed in the hall closet by my alcoholic mother and her junkie boyfriend, my only solace was a scrap of my childhood blanket, Coco, which I continued to carry with me throughout my adult life, until it was obliterated by your energy rays. Can you use mind-web technology to recreate this precious object for me?
21. Do you age in the mind-web?
22. Does time pass at all in the mind-web?
23. The instruments on my panel show that we are traveling in excess of four hundred thousand kilometers per second. Can this possibly be correct?
24. Do you intend for this body to be disposable, considering that it has no orifices, only a rudimentary set of sense organs, and a heart analogue that is beating so fast that it will lead to total system collapse in only a few hours?
25. Is my only role aboard this ship that of navigator?
26. Again going back to memories from my childhood, I often felt the presence of dreadful ghosts, horrible abominations of nature that no amount of counseling as an adult could resolve. Is it possible that these phenomena were an early form of communication with the mind-web?
27. Can you direct your servomechanisms to drip the water substitute directly onto my skin?
28. My control panel shows a red dot, getting larger all the time. Is this a destination of some sort?
29. Is it a target?
30. Do you believe that we as human beings, or alternatively, as exalted states within the mind-web, ever really know the destruction we're capable of?
31. Do I personally know the destruction I'm capable of?
32. Will they suffer as my race suffered?
33. I notice a fuzzy sensation on what passes for a cheek in my restored body. Coco?
34. We are slowing down. The lights are turning on. The red dot on my control panel has become a red screen eclipsing my entire field of vision. Does this mean what I think it does?
35. Can there be such a thing as evil without malice, forethought, or intent?
36. Is this going to hurt?
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Author Comments

By day I am a file clerk at a law firm, and look at many documents written in "legalese." Legal language drains upsetting situations of their emotional resonance, and I wanted to see if I could write a story about something very emotional (like the death of humanity) while keeping that same tone and format. I also love the poem "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" by Randall Jarrell, which served as inspiration for the weapon in which the protagonist is enclosed.

- Erica L. Satifka
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