The Ballad of Basil and Zoe

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He was found alone, unwanted

Lying in the dust

The realized he was mechanical

(Amazed there was no rust).

 

They took him to their starship

Found the switch to wake him up

Offered water, coffee, tea…

(Of course, he crushed the cup)

 

His questions were unceasing

Sometimes basic, sometimes deep

They crew tried to answer everything,

But humanoids need sleep.

 

Back to Earth they finally went

Dropped him with fleet command.

They said he wasn’t sentient.  He said,

“I do not understand.”

 

For four years he was studied

As he completed menial tasks.

But he was programmed to evolve

He said, “I have an ask.”

 

“Admit me to the Academy.

Let me prove I can.”

Only one dissented

Insisting he was not a man.

 

But he met their every challenge.

He showed that he could grow.

And proved there were no limits

To how far that he might go.

 

He served on many spaceships

He rose up in the ranks.

He won awards and honors

World leaders gave him thanks.

 

When he was nearly thirty

(At least in human years)

He found her in the aquatics lab

With a book, and padd, and tears.

 

“What is wrong?” he asked her.

“May I join you sitting there?”

“I cannot fathom math,” she said.

“It really isn’t fair.”

 

He helped her through her homework.

By the end, she cracked a smile.

But she touched his hand before he left

“Stay and talk a while.”

 

She was but a student.

Her mother was on his team.

But he enjoyed their conversations.

And she did too, it seemed.

 

They bonded over music.

She set a goal to make him laugh.

Their friendship became solid.

Friends called her his “other half.”

 

But he waited for her birthday

The night she turned eighteen

To ask her for a change…

“In parameters, you mean?”

 

She’d found him in a hidden alcove

Overlooking the warp core.

She asked him why he was brooding.

He told her he wanted… more.

 

Their first kiss was magic.

Their second, just as sweet.

She wrapped herself around him.

He reveled in her heat.

 

Four years of separation

While she went to Earth for school.

But they called and wrote and visited

Breaking every warp-speed rule.

 

She became an actress

Found success upon the stage.

He published his poetry,

Writing her into every page.

 

They married, they had children.

(Some were built, and some were born.)

Their careers continued to ascend

Like stars on every morn.

 

He became a captain.

She an ambassador for arts.

They were the perfect team.

And they both enjoyed their parts.

 

When the time came to retire,

He passed on his baton,

To their first synthetic daughter…

Then they danced until the dawn.

 

He was a synthetic lifeform.

She was organic, completely.

But to each, and all they loved,

They were just Basil and Zoe.

 

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Note: this very bad poetry was for challenge #3 of Covid Metamorphosis. I’m woefully behind.

Family Planning

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Note: this story is for prompt #2 of “Covid Metamorphosis,” in which we were asked to begin and end with provided quotations from Ovid.

“I want to speak about bodies changed into new forms.”

I looked up at my partner, who was hovering in the door of the workroom while I was slicing tomatoes for a salad. “Basil?”

He held up the head – or ‘cranial unit’ as he preferred to call it – “as you know, my first attempt at creating a child did not go well.”

I remembered. We’d become friends not long after his first child – Noelle – had died after a series of cascade failures caused her neural net to disintegrate.  “And you’re concerned it will happen again?”

“I am, but only in the sense that any parent is worried about the survival of their children. I worry about Elizabeth injuring herself while snorkeling with you, or climbing trees with her friends or…”

“Okay, I get the point. So… what’s this about bodies and changing forms… and why are you quoting Ovid, anyway?”

“Ovid’s line seemed an appropriate entrée into this conversation.”

“Oh.” I rinsed tomato guts off my hands and dried them on the towel near the sink. Turning around and leaning against the sink, I gave my husband my full attention. “So, which bodies are we changing?”

“This one. I believe… I believe it would help me to move past the loss of Noelle if, rather than allowing this child to choose their gender and appearance, we select it for him.”

“Him?”

“You lost a son.”

We lost a son,” I corrected. And we had, two years before Elizabeth was born. Our son, Jake, had been stillborn. There had been no discernible cause. Sometimes, even with all the technology of many, many worlds, horrible things just… happened. “We are not building a replacement.”

“No, we are not. But, we have a living, thriving, daughter. I believe this child should be a son. For balance.”

“Balance, hmm?” I sensed there was more to it than that. “Not because a son would likely be a lot like you?”

“Perhaps, partially, but, by choosing his gender and appearance, we could blend our features to create a child that truly represented both of us.”

“My skin, your eyes?” I asked, with only a hint of a teasing lilt in my tone.

“Precisely.”

“Your hair, my nose?” It was bad enough Elizabeth had inherited my wild, unruly hair. We would not curse a synthetic child with the same.”

“If you wish.”

“You feel really strongly about this, don’t you, love?”

“I… Yes, Zoe, I do.”

“Alright.”

“All-right?”

“Alright,” I repeated. “Congratulations, Dad, it’s a boy.”

Basil turned back to the workroom, but I called his name, and he paused. “Dearest?”

“What’s the other reason – the true reason – you want a son?”

“Elizabeth is our daughter, but she is your child. Blood of your blood. I wish… I wish to have a similar child, to follow after me.”

“A legacy.”

“In a sense. Many poets have written of immortality via offspring, as well as great works….”

“And that’s why you want a son?”

But Basil didn’t give me a simple affirmative. Rather, he quoted Ovid again,  From anyone else it would have seemed pompous. From my husband, it made perfect sense:

“If there is truth in poet’s prophecies, I shall live.”