Bearing Witness

By Marguerite Reed

Part 2 of 2

Read Part 1 here

"You have problems last night?" Kancheli asked at breakfast.

Yamilah gave thanks for the mouthful of oatmeal that allowed a cocked head and quizzical eyebrow as a response.

"Your readings—nothing registered."

She winced, offering what she hoped was a suitably feminine pout. "Nightmares. I woke up and had a claustrophobic moment. I took off the sensors."

A scowl darkened Kancheli's face. "You'll have to do it again and delete another assignment, or we'll have to eliminate that segment of the study."

"I get nightmares too," Milkovic said.

They all turned to look at him. His upper lip lifted in an expression between a smile and a sneer. "You show me a cosmonaut who doesn't have nightmares, you're showing me someone with no imagination. We all have 'em, we just don't talk about it."

"You're right, Jura. I have terrible nightmares," Carliss said, shaking his head gravely.

Kancheli frowned. "You do?"

"Yeah—that I'm commanding a tin can filled with a bunch of crazy people."

Everyone groaned. Amid wide-eyed protests of "You mean it's not a dream?" Yamilah and Milkovic shoved Carliss, and he tumbled out of his seat, cackling, to bump against the ceiling.

"You can stay there for the rest of the meal," Yamilah said, and flicked a muffin toward him.

"Whattaya know—there is a kid's table on board," Carliss said. "Okay, people—let's get cracking. Yamilah, you and I have payload status to do; Jura, you were going to run system checks on that digital recorder, right? We've got to mount the thing in just four days. And who's signed up first for the bike?"

The grinning ape Kancheli; caustic, contemptuous Milkovic; her friend Carliss, a nurturer in his clownish way. Their words flurried up in some teasing argument about the exercise roster. Suddenly she hated them: in their bulk and their hairiness, their physical strength, their very smell, they ceased to be human and became merely men.

She shoved her unfinished breakfast in the wastebag and drew the string tight. "I'm off, fellas," she said, pushing away from the table. "See you at lunch."


By the time she propelled into the Destiny module she heard Carliss calling after her. She grabbed a strut and swung around to face him.

"Jesus, Yamilah; what's eating you?"

She could see he regretted the words the moment they left his mouth. It didn't soften her.

"I'm pregnant," she snarled. "Have you thought about what that means? I'm stuck here for another two months. What if I develop pre-eclampsia? What if I have a miscarriage up here? What if I have a miscarriage up here at twenty-three weeks along and it's alive?"

She let her words pummel him. "If I do get home safely, what the hell condition is it going to be in? Two years ago Ou-Yang tried to take up a pregnant rat; the thing died from an embolism."

"But they preserved the body." Kancheli drifted into the module. "And a dissection was performed when they returned."

Yamilah's fear hit flashpoint and vaporized to rage. "That's what you're going to do to me, isn't it? What you're going to do to whatever this—this thing is!"

Carliss lifted his hands in a placating gesture. "I wanted to tell you. Your test malfunctioned. By the time we found out, it was too late."

"You're lying to me. Christ, I can't believe this—"

"No-one's lying—" Carliss began, and was interrupted in turn by Milkovic, who pushed Kancheli aside.

"Stop it, she's smarter than that." For once his narrow face was bare of mockery. "He is lying to you. When the information got out that the test was positive, they put this—this Nazism in action."

"How many of you knew? All of you?" None of them met her gaze. "Whose idea was it? Yours, Jura? Yours, Petro?"

As if from a throat rusted shut, Carliss's voice creaked. "It was a project requested by the Pentagon and the Kremlin. Rosviakosmos and NASA would get beaucoup funding if they ever managed to send up a pregnant astronaut."

"And what kind of private funding would you guys get, huh? Petro, you getting a bigger house and a second car? Jura, you gonna be able to afford a third ex-Mrs. Milkovic? And Dantrell—" She gulped, gritted her teeth. "You know this is in blatant violation of the ISS Code of Conduct."

"Punishable by fine or imprisonment of not more than one year," Milkovic said. "The Americans pay the fine; Petro and I go to prison. At least a Russian prison's an improvement on a Croatian one."

Carliss shrugged, spread his hands in mimicry of compassion. "What's there to do? It's not as if we can pop you down to Earth in the CRV for a quick abortion."

"You don't care if you get a living result of this experiment, do you?" Stung by an idea, she focused on Kancheli. "I could probably get an abortion on the hush at some military lab, right?"

"Oh, our instructions are to keep you here as long as possible," Milkovic said.

"Well, this was 'as long as possible!'" She grabbed the strut above her head and swivelled as if to continue through to the docking node, watching how they all drifted in that direction—then thrust herself from the wall toward the entrance to the U.S. lab module. She cannoned right for Milkovic. He slid aside and she swam past, positioning herself with another kick. Behind her she heard protests: "You let her go!"

As fast as she could, she swam through, pulling herself along, kicking off anything she could make contact with. Debris floated in her wake; she heard cursing as the others pursued. On the threshold of the Kibo, she bulleted for the communications console and crashed into it, slapping the switches for S-band, Ku-band, UHF. Someone, somewhere, would pick up the signal—some com geek hunched over his computer in Baja or Sapporo would be fine.

"Mayday, mayday, this is a violation of ISS code of conduct—I'm a nonconsenting test subject—repeat, I'm a non—"

The glass of the monitor reflected Kancheli behind her. She spun, too slowly. Kancheli's hand descended in a glittering arc toward her shoulder. Something stung her trapezius muscle; she snatched at Kancheli and caught his wrist.

In his hand he held a syringe.

"Science Officer Reis, you are having a psychotic episode," he said. Carliss bounded up slowly behind him, Milkovic lagging.

Yamilah gaped at him. "The hell I am—you're all a bunch of traitors—" With her other hand she swung for Kancheli's face.

Kancheli pushed her arm away, snaring his fingers in her shirtsleeve. The force of their colliding blows propelled him away from her, but he dragged her with him; he spun her around and yanked her arm up behind her back. "Carliss, you have the tape?"

"Dantrell, help me! Jura —"

Kancheli flipped her so that her body hovered parallel to the floor. She thrashed like a netted fish, weeping, while he struggled to hold her still and Carliss taped her wrists and ankles. Only then did Kancheli right her. Tears whisked away from her skin and floated in the air, globes of brine.

Kancheli hovered in front of her. "It's for your own good, Yamilah. You're a danger to your crew members—you have to be restrained. That shot was haloperidol; that's a tranq—"

"I know what haloperidol is," she said between gritted teeth. "Don't you think that might affect the fetus?"

"They'll just have to factor that into the results."

She threw her head back and howled. This, the apotheosis of everything a human woman might fear: the forced pregnancy, the child endangered, the gang rape—still here, at the light, enlightened, lovely membrane of the world. No escape. Soft blooms of darkness exploded over her vision.

Yamilah tried to cry out again but her body refused to obey her. She managed only a whine. Someone was bracing her neck upright with something soft and firm—she felt terrycloth on her jaw. A rolled towel, to immobilize her head. The fight to keep her eyes open struck her as unprofitable.

"You can see she's gone right over the edge," she heard Kancheli say. How compassionate, how condescending his tone!

"And we pushed her there." Milkovic. Bastard, she wanted to shout. You bastard, you understand— "Jura!" she thought she said.

Between the impulse and the first syllable her consciousness disintegrated.


"—Fucking hands off me!"

The shout rang in Yamilah's ears. Who—? Why was she so hot? Stupid sleep studies, she'd better get out of her sleeping bag—

She could not move. Like a slap memory returned to her; she let out a moan and squeezed shut her eyes.

"Yamilah? You awake?"

Her eyes flew open to see Carliss swimming across the small space toward her, holding something pointed. She flinched, trying to duck away.

What he held resolved into a juice envelope, straw jutting upwards. Pride took a back seat to thirst and she let him maneuver the straw to her lips. Apple juice, on the cool side of tepid. She swallowed convulsively, took a second sip, and sprayed it into his face.

"Aw, goddamnit, Yamilah—" He armed his face clean.

"Looks like you'll have to clean it yourself," she said.

"Yamilah, please—you have to understand my position—"

"No! I understand that you befriended me all the time you knew what was going on! I was your friend—I was your friend, Dantrell!"

Carliss reached out, sleevecuff doubled over his thumb, and wiped the juice from her mouth. "I'm still your friend." She sneered at him; he hurried on: "Don't you think you need a friend through all of this? You think Petro's your friend? Jura? What d'you think it'll be like when we get home?"

"My husband—"she began, and stopped at the look on his face. "Don't tell me Fernao is in on this!"

"No, he's not." Then, as she shut her eyes in relief, "But I don't know if you'll be able to see him. When we get back, you'll be hustled away some place that makes Hangar 18 look like the Mall of the Americas."

"But why? Why, all this? Why this horrible experiment?" When he hesitated, she swore. "You owe me."

"Colonization."

"What? Is that all?"

"Yeah—yeah, that's all." Carliss reached out to touch her again. She twisted as well as she could, but his hand fell only to her shoulder in an impassioned clasp. "Only our dream for over a hundred years. Possibly the means to redeem . . . humankind and save our planet. Isn't that why you're here? Isn't that why any of us are here? "

"Trash the press conference script. That Greenie crap is no excuse for this. Look at me!" She writhed in her bonds; the duct tape pinched her skin. "Look at what you've done, at this—this monster growing in my body that should have been my baby, and give me the real answer!"

"We're on a time-line." He bobbed away from her to catch a strut on the ceiling.

Literally taking the high ground, Yamilah thought. "Go on."

"It's all political. When was the last time you worked with a Chinese astronaut?"

"China? This is some kind of us-versus-them ploy?"

He nodded. "The globe isn't big enough for three superpowers— "

"—Russia is hardly a superpower anymore."

"Don't tell them that. While the U.S. was running around chasing Mohammed, China kept itself some scientists who understood you gotta put in points B and C if you want to get from A to D."

"A space program does not a superpower make."

"They think it does. And when you walk like a duck, quack like a duck, and swim like a duck, to the other guys in the pond, you're a duck." He shook his head. "In fact, all of Asia is looking to China. They want to change the paradigm. What's the one thing the West can do to show everyone else that White still makes Might? Get more territory. How the hell you get more territory when there are eight billion people on the planet? Go somewhere else. And colonize it."

"And breed there?"

"The plan was to accelerate testing on tamarin monkeys. Your pregnancy was . . . serendipitous."

She pushed on. "But the plan for Mars is decades into the future. The only colonization being done—that should be done—is by analog robots."

He was shaking his head by her third word. "Ten years. That's all they're giving us." He drifted down to look her in the eye. "I hoped you'd find out. You're breaking new ground. You'll be the woman who leads us into a new age."

"No," she said.


Eventually they unwrapped her. The patches of abraded skin stung; the haloperidol had given her a headache and set her heart jogging. When Kancheli tried to speak to her, she rolled over and picked at the sticky grey pills the tape had left on her socks.

"In the event of a threatened miscarriage, you will be sent back in the CRV," Kancheli said. "We know you're not psychotic, but with the frequencies open, we didn't have a choice."

Yamilah checked her wrists for blood beads. Did a slow head roll to reassure her aching neck that it was free of confinement.

"Would you like to use the toilet?" asked Milkovic.

She nodded, not looking at him; but when Kancheli barked "You're not letting her go alone," she imagined it was anger that crackled in Milkovic's non-English response.

"You're not happy with this," she said as he towed her to the head.

"Very perceptive."

"I'm all about perception," she said sourly. She peeled down her pants and underwear and pulled herself onto the toilet, heedless of the open door. Milkovic turned his back, but she was past caring. "Why are you going along with it?"

"The government can be very persuasive."

Urination seemed to take hours. Yamilah imagined her uterus, swelling minutely with amniotic fluid, with placenta, with the fetus itself, pressing on her urethra.

"Jura, do me a favor?"

He grunted, whether in assent or acknowledgment she couldn't tell.

"Punch me."

He yanked himself around. "What?"

"I said punch— "

"I heard you. You want me to punch you? In the belly? How if I kick you, too?" Agitation thickened his accent. "How if I unscrew one of these"—he waved at one of the handholds next to the toilet—"and beat you with it?"

"Yes, dammit, yes! Why don't you do that?"

With a vicious movement he thrust himself down to her. "Where I come from, they call that Bosnian birth control. That's how the Chetniks graciously did an abortion for my auntie; that's what my own mother begged for. To hell with you—I'm not my father."

"—Your father?"

He gave her an alum smile. "Who knows? One of a bunch of Chetniks who raped my mother for days at the Vilina Vlas Hotel." He started to spit, then checked himself. "They wanted all the pretty girls to breed good little Chetniks."

"You understand what they did to me. What they're doing to me."

He nodded curtly.

"Then help me."

Milkovic flung himself away from her, catching himself at the doorway. "I can't. Who the hell takes care of my mother now?"

Tears, again, thickened Yamilah's throat. She wiped herself and looked futilely for any bloody sign. "So you're my keeper?"

He shrugged; an expression crossed his face that took Yamilah a few seconds to decipher. Apology—Milkovic, bristly bitchy Milkovic actually felt sorry. "What choice do you have?"

"There's always a choice," she said. "It may not be a choice I like, but there is always a choice."


A week passed. Yamilah behaved with perfect passivity, so meek and mild she wondered that no one became suspicious. Kancheli approached her for tests; she submitted. Inwardly she felt as madonna-like as a caged rat. The few times she felt the fetus move she purposefully hurt herself, pushing a fork into her palm, scoring her skin with a broken microscope slide. She went to great lengths to avoid touching her abdomen.

How different from her other two pregnancies: while she read or watched the net, she would stroke the great hump usurping her lap as absently and fondly as if it were a pet.

At times revulsion struck her afresh; guilt at not bonding with the pregnancy immobilized her. And yet she could not think of it as a baby. It was a parasite. Rage and pity made her weep, not love.

When Milkovic reported that the Fishnet fan seemed to be developing a wobble, she listened with bitter disinterest. How long ago that seemed, when she worked in tandem with trust. She picked at her food while the discussion eddied around her, and looked up only when the voices stopped.

All eyes were on her. She forced herself to chew, to swallow. "What?"

"As the most experienced EVA personnel," Kancheli began, "you should be the one—"

A moue twisted Carliss's features. "Oh, I don't know that we should ask her to—"

"Nonsense!" barked Kancheli. "This is not a new condition for her!"

"Fuck you, Petro," Yamilah said. "What if I say no?"

"I suppose Petro'll have to go out," Milkovic said. His pretense of not seeing Kancheli's reaction to that was so blatant that Yamilah smiled.

"The experiment will go out and fix the other experiment. Petro, I suppose you'll want to attach more sensors. Dantrell" —and her now-constant fury erased all contrition for her pettiness—"you can watch."


Kancheli hooked her up as thoroughly as if she were entering another sleep cycle. "Job's easier now that you don't have to hide this, isn't it?" she asked through her oxygen mask.

"It would have been easier if they'd given us a willing subject. Or an animal." He did not look at her, keying notes into his laptop. He now kept it in his sleep cubicle, she'd noticed. A lesson learned too late.

"It would've been easier if you'd said no."

"That would have meant saying no to my son."

"As you're saying 'no' to my child?"

"Do you know what prison he's in, Yamilah? The Colorado SuperMax." Still typing. Voice even, as if in recitation. "Twenty-three hours a day he's in his cell."

"You do this, he goes free, is that it?"

Kancheli shook his head. "Melodrama. Can I deny that my son is a criminal? But when we come down, he'll go to a medium security prison. And there he can eat his meals in a dining room. He can turn the light on or off in his cell. He can live almost like a human being—"

"—Instead of like a test animal," Yamilah said. "That's what my child gets. My child for yours, right?"

Kancheli closed his laptop with a snap. "My job," he said, finally meeting Yamilah's gaze, "would be easier if you were dead."


Easier if you were dead. The phrase reverberated through Yamilah's brain as Carliss assisted her in the airlock. She did not look at him; they went through the procedures by rote. Drink bag in the hard upper torso—she was careful to keep the straw at a decent length, as the first time she'd gone on EVA the straw'd been too high and kept poking her in the nose. . . . Easier if you were dead.

Carliss helped her into the lower torso assembly. She pulled it up while Carliss plugged the umbilical into the chest-mounted module, and into the airlock outlet—the station would power her suit until she was ready to step outside. After wriggling into the upper torso, she spent some time attaching cooling tubes, electrical connections; plenty of time for Kancheli's words to splice themselves into an unbroken loop.

Carliss lifted the helmet, preparatory to settling it over her head. "Dantrell—" She wanted to sneer at him for the hope that crossed his face. "What happens if I die?"

Lie warred with truth in his expression. "Someone takes you back on the CRV," he said finally. "They take your body to the government lab and dissect you—"

"—And the fetus."

"Yes."

Her family would have little left to bury. The only option would be cremation, after the pathologists had broken their way through her body and the child's. Biopsies kept well in zip-lock bags in the walk-in freezer, available at anytime to slice and transfer to slides. Technicians would have to be careful with the fetus, however; depending on how long it took to get her body to Earth, the remains would be macerated.

"So it's a win-win either way," she said.

"Of course not!"

She reached up and pulled the helmet onto her head. Carliss's mouth still moved, but soundlessly. She had made her decision.


Yamilah moved as if in a dream. Light from the setting sun shot over Earth's horizon. Even through the polarized visor the light blaring off the white surfaces made her squint. Foot by foot she pulled her way down the station's side toward the suspect bolt, trying to focus, trying to concentrate.

The diagnosis had been accurate. Instead of lying flush, one of the bolts had worked itself free to the extent of half a centimeter. What kind of forces had dragged on a steel and ceramic bolt, six centimeters in diameter, enough to loosen it that much? What kind of radiation assaulted it—assaulted her, as she drifted on the outer orbit of the planet?

"Yamilah, anything wrong?" Carliss over the comm, still trying to re-establish their shredded connection.

"You can see on the helmet cam it's just as Jura reported," she said.

"You've been staring at it for the past five minutes. Are you okay?"

She made no response but released the handhold and slipped her feet free. She reached out with her gloved hand and pushed with her fingertips. The slight force sent her drifting inches away from the side of the station.

No tether held her. If Yamilah somehow got separated from the station, her backpack held a nitrogen-gas unit that could propel her back.

If she chose to use it.

Above her, to either side, all was black. The sun's brightness obliterated the light of any other stars. Below her the Great Barrier Reef of Australia shone like a trove of opals, shimmering blue, flames of green, copper-shot where the waves receded.

Fernao had taken her and the girls not too many years ago, after he'd wrapped a shoot in New Zealand. They'd spent a glorious, indolent week; she and Fernao half-drunk in the sun, her daughters shrieking in the surf and scaring each other with tales of great whites and box jellies.

Fernao will take them to Portugal, she thought. He can marry again. Zara and Betriz will swim in the sea every weekend. They'll search constellations in the sky and know their mama watches them. . . .

Once her oxygen ran out, suffocation would kill her—she could bring death more quickly by removing her helmet, but she would hold that as an option until she could stand it no longer—or unless the rest of the crew threatened to come after her.

Yamilah pulled up her knees as far as the suit permitted, and kicked. Her feet struck the side of the station with a ring she felt through the soles of her boots. She raised her arms and took a swan dive into space.

Beauty above her, beauty below her; she rolled in the stars like a porpoise in her element.

The comm blatted in her ear.

"Go away," she said.

What are you doing you can't do this Yamilah are you crazy Yamilah you're going to die

"That's the idea."

What about don't you think don't you know what kind of a mother are you

Behind her the moon was rising. She twisted to watch it. At first it was merely a hint, a promise behind the blurred orange troposphere; and as Yamilah moved in orbit, it climbed through the veil of noctilucent cloud like a Babylonian goddess emerging from her bath.

We're sorry we had no choice it's for science for the greater good for humanity

The sight of the moon from space never failed to stun her. From the ground the moon looked two-dimensional, a white disk, a drawn bow. In space one realized the moon was a sphere, the side not lit by the sun still visible, and seemingly close enough to touch—a gravid, taut presence. It was no wonder previous civilizations equated the moon with fertility and femininity.

Yet looking at the pocked surface, at the immense globe of barren rock, she thought of the moon's other face: insanity, superstition, death. All this her womb held; all this she escaped through the act of her own will.

The comm crackled again. Milkovic's voice pierced her reverie. "Damned if they'll take you alive, right?"

"You got it," she said.

"That's the way to cheat your enemy. I bet that's what some of the girls at Vilina Vlas thought, too."

"Who's to say they didn't do the right thing?"

"Not me. But a few years from now, NASA, or Rosviakosmos, or one of those private companies'll send out a crew to retrieve your dead body. And they'll send another pregnant woman, and maybe that time it won't be any accidental pregnancy."

"You can't blame that on me."

"I'm not, Yamilah." Who knew Milkovic could muster such patience in his voice? "But who will stop it?"

"You could. You and all of you who sold me out."

"You still have enough oxygen to turn back."

"And the moment I come back you bastards jump me again."

"Yamilah—when you come back, you and I will take the CRV and return to Earth."

The pandemonium over the comm hurt her eardrum. They accused Milkovic of being insane, of leaving them with no emergency escape, of putting their lives in jeopardy.

Kancheli raised the objection she knew should hurt Milkovic most. "You do this, Rosviakosmos will never let you go into space again. You'll never fly so much as a prop plane."

"They'll eat us alive no matter what happens. I wouldn't be surprised if the poor son of a bitch who picked up her transmission got arrested."

Yamilah hissed in frustration. "Play some music over the comm or something. I don't want to spend my last hours listening to all of you fight."

"You should've thought of that."

"Jura, please. Please." Against the relentless glory surrounding her she closed her eyes.

"I'm not letting you go. I'm talking to you until you get back here—I won't shut up unless you come back."

The thing inside her uterus jerked. When she had been pregnant with Zara, she could barely tolerate sitting in the car, as every time she settled herself, Zara would jam her foot beneath Yamilah's right floating rib and push—until Yamilah got out of the car. And Betriz had kicked so hard she once unbalanced a plate Yamilah had nonchalantly placed on her stomach. What possible strength could this little thing have?

"Then I'll just take off my helmet."

"What happens to me? After you die, I'm going to have to take your death down there and tell them about it. I'm going to have to tell people what happened. About the secret files, the injections, the tests." There was a growled denial in the background; Kancheli, she thought. "I planned to do that all along."

"You should've done that at the beginning."

His voice shook in an unhappy laugh. "I wanted it both ways. Thought I could take the money and be a whistleblower at the same time."

"It won't work." The adrenaline elicited by her escape leached away, and she fought for the strength to escape the pull of human need. "Black ice in April. A lit cigarette at the petrol pump. Your mother will never find out, and she'll believe you abandoned her. Don't waste your time trying to save me."

"This isn't about you, Reis; get it through your head!"

She watched the space station grow smaller, waited for him to recite the old rhetoric about the sanctity of unborn life, how she as a mother owed her baby a chance. . . .

"It's about Vilina Vlas . . . those girls there . . . and at every camp in Bosnia. You are a witness, Yamilah. I am a witness. It is our duty to those people to testify. We have voices where they had none."

"This isn't Bosnia!" she snapped, hoping the comm would conceal the tremor in her voice. "I'm not your mother! I'm not your dead aunt!"

"The hell you're not! . . . You have a responsibility to every woman living, dead, or yet to come to take that place of witness—instead of the place of victim!"

It would be better to die. What could she do against so many who opposed her, so many whose careers, love, sense of self was bound up in her degradation? She reached for the catch on her helmet. "I can't."

"You won't be alone, Yamilah."

Alone, utterly alone, she hung over the face of the earth.

"I'll be with you every step of the way."

There, in the vast dark, she trusted, she reached out, she took his hand.


Nothing more was said between them in the hour it took her to power back to the station; and when she emerged from the airlock, the other men, shamefaced or scowling, swung aside. Carliss, after one searching stare, turned his back.

Milkovic swam forward to help her.

"If you betray me . . ." she muttered.

He wore the same tart smile she had always seen on his face. "I can't. They're all waiting for you, back home." At her look he actually laughed. "The last thing kept from you. That communication you tried to send—eleven countries got it. There's a class 5 media storm brewing."

"Why didn't you tell me this, out there?"

"Out there, would it've made a difference?"

She imagined a crush of microphones, camcorders behind security guards, the attention of every journalist. Public apologies. Retribution.

And Kancheli's son, unable to watch her from his supermax cell.

Regret wrenched her heart when she and Milkovic settled into the cockpit of the CRV. Struggle without victory, witness without reparation was what she chose. Had she died in space, everyone might have been momentarily happy.

"Have you made a dupe of me, Jura?" she asked, her voice low.

Strapped into the seat, he turned his head to look at her. "What do you choose?"

The station had orbited past the moon some time ago, and now the sun's effulgence burned through her closed eyelids. "I choose not to let a stranger tell my daughters the truth."

Without a word Milkovic engaged the computer. The little craft slipped free and, at a safe distance from the station, shivered as tons of fuel ignited for the propulsion into Earth's atmosphere. Something that felt like a foot jammed hard into Yamilah's diaphragm all the way down, down toward the Gulf of Mexico, gold and lapis in the morning.