In the lightless hold of the Nisseri ship,there was nothing to do in the dark but wait and think. Even surrounded by others, the dark isolated each of them, their only company memory and regret.
Macbeth leaned against the cold metal wall, thinking of her family, wondering if Ariel was alive, or salvaged for parts. The idea made her sick, her chest tight, the muscles squeezing her heart.
No, no, she couldn't think of that now, it would drive her mad. She was the level headed one. The one who held the family together through everything.
The farm was so different when she was young; idyllic days spent racing through fields, climbing trees, and swimming in the river from sunrise to dinner. It was usually the three of them, the terrible trio of her, Ariel, and Paris. Horatio was too old, helping their father run the farm, Portia too young to keep up. The three of them were inseparable, mischief makers and pranksters. But when their mother sounded the dinner bell, all slights forgiven. They would gather for meals, laughing, arguing, swapping stories. That was life, a decent life. She could have stayed that way forever.
Then sickness came. Medical science cured a great many illnesses, but no human born pathogen could be snuffed out completely. Eventually, something would mutate, creeping back into the human populace like wolves in the night. An entire district in New Tokyo was dedicated to the production of vaccines and preventative measures. But Pembrook farm was a long way from New Tokyo. When the virus struck, it was an aggressive strain that cooked its victims to death with fever. Aggressive and deadly, the virus was also oddly selective. Of the whole Pembrook household, their mother, Meredith was the only one struck down. Her family desperately tried to keep her alive, ignoring the rules of quarantine.
Macbeth sat with her for hours, reading her favorite works of Shakespeare, dosing her with anti fever hypo spray, keeping her bundled in sweat soaked blankets. It was a full day before the vaccine arrived, twenty eight hours. Their mother lasted twenty. The family was in shock. How could their mother be the only one affected out of their whole family. Even among the farmhands, no one got sick.
After her death, the farm changed. Their father became volatile, firing staff over the smallest slights, drinking too much, sitting through the evening meal in a belligerent stupor. This led to screaming matches between him and her brothers. Ariel, barely sixteen, began chasing women, usually avoiding the family meal altogether. Paris and Horatio both struggled to keep the farm running, doing the workload of dozens, in a continual state of irritation and exhaustion. Portia, not even seven at the time, stopped speaking, hiding in her room to cry. It fell on Macbeth, at twelve, to take over the household affairs. She studied constantly, attaining data chips on everything from balancing finances to fixing machines and programming the ovens to produce nutritional dinners that didn't taste like sand.
When her father got too drunk to enter coordinates in a transport, she bullied Ariel into taking her to the open market of Alexandria, learning how to barter their harvest for supplies. When one of the aging pieces of farming tech broke, she repaired it and taught her brothers how to do the same. It was Macbeth who made sure Portia kept up with her studies, ate three meals a day, and drew her back into the world. It was Macbeth who helped Horatio hire new farmhands and settle disputes among them.
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New Earth 6Science Fiction
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