“Daddy, Mom says the auxiliary ion scoop got all bent. She’s been asking you to fix it for weeks.”
Laron Jipp gestured at the screen. “The game is on! Tell your mom it can wait til the game’s over.”
Within a minute, Laron’s wife Mara was standing over him.
“Laron Aloshux Jipp! Suit up, get out there, and fix that scoop! I’ve been asking for days!”
“But the game…”
“We could go off course! We could veer into Void Slug space. You don’t want your family eaten by Void Slugs do you?” Mara Jipp peered at the game. “This game happened over 700 years ago. Why don’t you just check the archives to find out if San Francisco beat, what is it, Chicago?”
Laron replied huffily “It took the FM waves 700 years to travel this far.”
It was no use. Wearily, he donned his walksuit. He closed the bubble helm over his balding head, squidged his pendulous belly into the jacket.
“I swear, my love,” he said under his breath, “someday I’ll be dead. And you’ll wish you had someone to make miserable.”
Outside the ship, Laron realized he’d brought the wrong hammer. He needed his recoil-free barium mallet, not the bulkhead-whanger. Distant stars floated in the impossible blackness. Using the wrong tools, Laron forced the ion scoop back into place with utmost difficulty. By the time he finished, his O2 was running out.
“Done!” Laron was about to twist the airlock handle when something translucent and grey enveloped his faceplate.
“MOOOOOOOMMM! I think Daddy got eaten by Void Slugs!”
“What? Oh god, I think you’re right. Yes, those are your Daddy’s kidneys floating past the window.”
“Is Daddy dead?”
“Of course he’s dead. You don’t get your body dissolved in slug juices and survive.”
“Daddy’s gone?” A tiny lip trembled.
“Don’t be absurd, child. He won’t get off that easily.” Mara reached for the maniple arm control. “Help me grab a chunk of Daddy so we can clone him.”
Laron Jipp was nothing. His consciousness was a mental singularity, unaware that it wasn’t conscious. The weight of sempiternal meganothingness pressed upon him.
An ember lit up the forever of the dark. The absence that was Laron somehow began swimming towards that spark. Every unstroke of nonmovement was a struggle against the impossible denial of being.
An infinity of eternities later, the spark expanded into a milky possibility. Laron Jipp’s nonbody crawled through a personal Big Bang, into a brand new universe. From there, he had a long swim ahead of him, from the stifling Planck Epoch, where fundamental forces squashed any hope of dimensional plausibility, to boundless bogs of electroweak matterslime, before he finally heaved his infinitesimal bulk onto a safe isle of Sakharov conditions.
What was this? By “this” Jipp’s nevermind meant anything at all.
A painful interminable process followed, in which Laron Jipp blobbed his way past a prokaryotic unicellular stage, jostled with pollywogs and earwigs in primordial slime, and finally, in agonies of meiotic uncertainty, forced himself to grow fins, splash towards the air, and flop up on a barren seashore.
Writhing, evolving, decomposing, going extinct, clawing his way back to complexity, Laron Jipp lived the entire rambling story of biological life once more. From there, it was a mere eon from caves to pyramids to castles, to the walls of his mother’s womb, and finally a fast sprint from infancy to puberty to baldness once more. And finally, Laron Jipp lay, gasping and naked, on the plastic bio-counter of his family’s spacecraft.
“Daddy! You’re back!”
Jipp vomited a small quantity of regen slurry. Gingerly, he removed the cranial download needles from his tender forehead.
“I- the slug! Good gods. I can’t believe I’m alive!” Jipp sat up slowly, his brand-new muscles protesting every stretch.
He glanced at his button-bright daughter and his shapely wife. A torrent of sentimental goodwill washed over Laron Jipp and he felt like weeping.
His wife set down her tissue-extruders and washed her hands. She turned to face her husband.
“Are you just going to sit there all day? The comm antenna needs to be oriented. I’ve been telling you to do it for months.”
There was an argument. It ended with a Void Slug eating heartily. At the end, a small voice inquired:
“Daddy, are we going to clone Mommy just like Mommy cloned you?”
“Yes honey. Yes we are.” Laron turned on the Chargers game. “I’ll get to it just as soon as I can.”