This is a rewrite of a short that I wrote a while ago. It's not perfect, but I do like this draft better.


It was Take Your Child To Work Day, and Ellie thought her dad had the coolest job there was. They took the elevator up that morning. Initially, she was terrified because she was afraid of heights, but a few seconds after liftoff, curiosity overcame her, and she spent the entire rest of the ride with her face pressed against the window, watching the ground fall away beneath her, blurring into a patchwork of greens and browns and blues. Somehow, when she was high enough up to see the curvature of the earth, distance no longer held the same meaning or provoked the same fear. She squeezed her father’s hand, and could only manage to exclaim “Wow!”

Her father smiled, and pointed out a cluster of big lakes, a rainstorm over mountains, and massive sheets of white ice. Ellie had seen pictures and projections before, but the sheer scale of it was awesome. She hugged her father’s arm and stared out the window as the blue sky gave way to a light gray, and finally to the starry blackness of space. The world looked big and small, both at the same time.

When the elevator settled into its cradle, and the view was blocked by the inside of the dock, Ellie finally peeled herself off of the window. “Dad, do you do this every day?” Ellie asked, while they stood, waiting to exit.

“Not every day, Ellie. Sometimes there’s things that need doing on the ground,” her father said, smiling. “But I try to make the trip once a week at least. There’s nothing like it, is there?”

Ellie shook her head no, her eyes wide.

Once off the elevator, they boarded a pod, and took the Ring to the wrecking platform. The trip took twenty minutes, but without any windows, Ellie thought it was a lot longer. Her father assured her they were going thousands of kilometers, and to be patient. Just as Ellie was sure they must have gone all the way around the world, the pod slid to a halt. The harness retracted automatically, and Ellie squealed with fear and delight at her weightlessness, as she began to float off her seat.

Ellie’s father grinned, caught her, wrapped an arm around her waist, and, with a quick extending of his knees, arrowed them both down the corridor. They bounced and spun down the cylindrical hallways, and Ellie screamed and laughed, as she lost all sense of up and down. The people they passed flattened themselves, chuckling, against the sides of the tubes to avoid collisions.

They finally stopped at one of the hatches off of the corridor which opened onto a small room with a domed window. A single chair occupied the center of the room, facing towards the domed glass and the Earth below. Between the Ring and the Earth was a hulking gray and black blocky shape, buzzing with the activity of smaller shapes.

Ellie’s father settled down on the room’s seat, and set Ellie on his lap, lightly strapping the both of them in. The emitters sprang to life, flickering in a brief panic as they tried to project to two different viewpoints in a single chair. After a few seconds, they brought the images into focus on both sets of eyes. Ellie stared at the overlay, the jumble of lines, numbers, and designations complete gibberish to her.

“What is all that out there, Dad?” Ellie asked, pointing at the chunk of metal out in orbit.

“That’s what we’re taking apart today, Ellie,” her father said, his fingers dancing across the keypads on the armrests. “Here, let me bring it a bit closer.”

The projectors showed a zoomed image in the center of Ellie’s vision. It was old, full of right angles, and incredibly discolored from what seemed like ages of wear and tear. Hundreds of smaller crafts buzzed around it, but the massive vessel itself was silent and lifeless.

“How big is it? And how far away?” Ellie wondered.

“It’s about 5 kilometers long, and about as far away. It’s mass, minus crew and cargo, is about Fifty Million metric tons.” Ellie’s father started to bring up views of the ship from different angles. It hung in orbit, inert, silent, imposing. “It’s one of the old terraformers. Do you know what they were for?”

“My teacher said they were for fixing the planet,” Ellie said, quietly, taking it all in.

“Partly,” her father said. “Before that, they were for other planets. It takes some very specific conditions for a planet to be considered habitable. These ships were for turning those lifeless rocks into the sort of place we can live.”

“So then why are we breaking it?” Ellie asked, twisting around to look at her father.

Her father smiled. “Because it’s old, Ellie. We can make better ones now, and we can use parts of this old one to make them.”

"Oh." Ellie stared out at the old ship in silence for a minute. "What was its name? Don’t ships have names?"

"You know, I don’t know. Let’s ask!" Her father pushed a button. "Hey Mitch! My little girl wants to know what the name of this former is."

A sharp, bearded face popped up on a new projection. “You’re on the salvage job, right? The Gore. The N.S.S. Gore. Hey there, Ellie!”

“Hi Mister Rother! Why is it called that?” Ellie’s father rolled his eyes. Kids always had more questions.

“I don’t know, hon,” shrugged Mitch. “Maybe you can look that up later.”

"Aww, homework?" Ellie moaned.

Mitch chuckled. “Nah, Ellie, it counts as fun if nobody makes you do it,” he said with a wink.

The room was quiet for a few minutes. Ellie watched her father as he remotely positioned the drones, lining up the first cut. Finally, when he was satisfied with the angle, he poked his daughter in the ribs, causing her to squeal “Daddy!” and giggle.

“Want to do the honors, hon?” He indicated a flashing button on the chair’s right armrest.

“Honors?” Ellie asked, slumping in the chair and pushing her head backwards against her father’s chest until she could see his upside-down face.

“Do you want to make the first cut?” he asked, blowing Ellie’s weightless blonde hair out of his face.

Ellie looked back at the distant terraformer. “There’s no one on it, right?” she asked, her voice marking her excitement.

“It’s all empty, hon,” her father assured her. “This button here. Go ahead.”

Ellie grinned and pressed the button. A white-hot glow emitted from the old ship, as one of the drones began to make the first incision, carving off a slice of the bulkhead. A burst of debris particles leaked from the wound, and the collector drones swooped in to scoop them up. As the drone completed the cut, the segment of the terraformer’s hull was loaded into a waiting transport.

“Cool!” Ellie exclaimed, staring at the projections, which now overlayed a grid of planned cuts.

“I guess it is, Ellie,” her father grinned and tussled her hair. “Alright, let’s say goodbye and thank you to the S.S. Gore, while we can still recognize it.”

They did.

As her father made more incisions, Ellie asked, “Why’d we thank it? It doesn’t have an AI or anything, does it?”

“No, but we owe it a lot,” her father explained. “That ship and others like it were finally able to repair some things that people ruined many many years ago, before we could even really come up here. You know how your mom says you should leave things in better shape than you found them?”

Ellie nodded.

“Well, Ellie, we finally did. It took us a long time, but we finally did.”