Featured Story
Recent Stories
Stories by Topic
News
Make the universe a better place! Support DSF with a donation:
small-go-arrowdonate
Take me to a...
Random story
top-rated stories only
Enter any portion of the author name or story title:
small-go-arrowsearch
Sign up for free daily sci-fi!
your email will be kept private

Breaking News
Get a copy of Not Just Rockets and Robots: Daily Science Fiction Year One. 260 adventures into new worlds, fantastical and science fictional. Rocket Dragons Ignite: the anthology for year two, is also available!
Kindle Edition
Kindle Edition
DSF stories are available in monthly digests for Kindle!
DSF for Kindle
Publish your stories or art on Daily Science Fiction:
Submit your story
Check story status
Not just rockets & robots...
What is Science Fiction?
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.
close






Hatchlings

Beth Cato is the author of The Clockwork Dagger, a steampunk fantasy novel from Harper Voyager. Her short fiction is in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Nature. This is her sixth story in Daily Science Fiction. She's a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat. Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.
If there is any justice in the world, Priscilla Reardon's associate-hatchling will be a walking, talking pile of dung. But even if it is, everyone will probably applaud and say it's gorgeous.
My whole class, Priscilla included, is from the same creche batch. We turn ten today, of age to get our requisite associate.
The raw bioengineering took months to form them in the lab. Associates are derived from native stuff around the colony but complement our DNA, skills, and future occupation-line, too. A pet, but a lot more. More of a survival assistant.
We had all gathered around Priscilla's incubator. Hers is third to hatch. Her mom is financier of the colony. Everyone wants to be Priscilla's friend.
No such popularity when you're me, stuck in a mobilizer, with common clerks for parents.
Priscilla's egg busts open. This gorgeous butterfly emerges, wings iridescent and see-through like a bubble. We all gasp. Much as I hate to see Pricilla gain more attention, I feel a wistful twist in my gut. The butterfly really is extraordinary.
I glance at my egg, in an incubator just behind Priscilla's. The shell is glossy brown, like all of them. If it holds something like an iridescent butterfly, I could spend years drawing it.
"But what does the butterfly do?" one of the boys asks.
We can't help but look at Mrs. Masaaki. We know she knows the algorithms that individualized associates for each of us. She shrugs. "Priscilla will find out, in time. A good associate is a partner, one that will help in your occupation-line."
Priscilla smiles at that. Her occupation-line's been set since age five--diplomacy. She'll probably excel at it, unless she tries to sell something to me.
Another incubator beeps. Mrs. Masaaki and part of the group split off to watch the egg open. Most of the girls stay with Priscilla. Her butterfly hovers over her shoulder, so beautiful it makes my fingers ache to hold a stylus.
"My mom says I can get a second associate at winter solstice," Priscilla says.
"You're so lucky," whispers another girl.
"You have a pretty associate so you can go to Earth and show them how pretty things are here!" says another.
Extra associates cost a lot of money. Some councilors have five as company as they walk down the street. Kids always envy them. These days, I envy everyone who is walking.
A ganalfa bit off part of my leg early in the solar cycle. My favorite thing is--was--to walk into the woods, where I could find all kinds of things to draw. The mine collapse a while back used up our allotment of ralatanium for making prostheses. My parents can't afford transport to another colony, so I'm stuck in a mobilizer.
All the serotonin-balancers in the colony can't make me forget what I'm missing outside. It's prime blooming season for fifi flowers. My mom keeps telling me, "There are still ganalfas out there," but that doesn't make me feel any better.
Some days, I feel like I'd give up my other leg if it meant I could go to the woods and draw again.
My incubator beeps. Priscilla's crowd turns around.
"Oh, it's Nadra's turn," says Priscilla. "Are you going to hatch a new leg?" Some of the others giggle.
I don't say anything, because I've learned it drives her crazy. She wants a response, just like how when she smiles, she needs everyone to smile back.
"Maybe it will be a skinny leg this time so a ganalfa won't want it." More laughter.
The shell cracks open. Everyone goes silent.
A thing emerges. Brown. Slick. Like a toad, but longer. It uncoils to fill the incubator. Its eyes go to me first, knowing me, imprinting. I try to smile, but all I can see is how ugly it is. I can't draw this. It looks like something I'd scrape off my shoe.
A few shocked seconds of silence, and then the hoots and laughter begin. I grip the arms of the mobilizer. As if to mock me, Priscilla's butterfly hovers overhead.
My associate writhes in the box and stares at me with bright green eyes.
As sad as I am, I suddenly feel the urge to look at the butterfly above. It's so very pretty, like a floating rainbow. Looking at it makes me feel better. I smile at Priscilla.
My associate erupts in bristles. Everyone jerks back. The thing does a big hop to land on my lap. It's really hot. The associate opens its mouth and looks up. A big purple tongue unrolls.
The butterfly's wings beat once, twice, then it retreats to Priscilla's shoulder.
My weird, happy feeling is gone. My associate's bristles go flat.
"Well, that was very interesting." Mrs. Masaaki stands just behind me.
Priscilla starts screeching like a drill alarm. "Nadra's associate threatened to eat my beautiful butterfly! Did you see?"
The kids stare at me. Associates are designed to be safe for people. I hunch over to shelter the thing in my lap. It starts to purr.
"Nadra's associate is designed to act in her defense. Priscilla, yours psychologically inclines people to like you. It's intriguing that her associate judged this to be an attack." Mrs. Masaaki tapped in the air, making notes to her system. "It's principally to protect her from physical attacks."
Like ganalfas, and everything else in the woods. Once I have my leg, I can explore and draw again. The other kids--Priscilla included--look at me with leery eyes, but I don't care. I already see the paths to fifi flowers.
My associate looks up at me with those bright green eyes. "Hi, beautiful," I whisper.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, October 16th, 2014


This story came about because my son started watching Pokemon. Yes, really. One day I idly began to wonder about more realistic scenarios where a child might be bonded with a monster. "Hatchlings" was the result.

- Beth Cato

RATE THIS STORY
Please click to rate this story from 1 (ho-hum) to 7 (excellent!):

Please don't read too much into these ratings. For many reasons, a superior story may not get a superior score.

5.6 Rocket Dragons Average

SHARE THIS STORY

JOIN MAILING LIST
Please join our mailing list and receive free daily sci-fi (your email address will be kept 100% private):
 
Copyright Info
Tell a Friend
Send Feedback
About Us