The bridge breathed silence, save the occasional whisper from one of Navigation’s auxiliary functions. A subroutine collected detailed analyses from all foreign bodies surrounding the craft and assessed their threat probability, while unmanned consoles spewed raw data concerning the ship’s speed, velocity, shield strength, oxygen levels, and several dozen other related statistics. Arrays of lights danced eloquently through movement after graceful movement. The skeleton crew slumbered in their barracks, resting as the ship’s autopilot traversed across plasma and helium. While the Captain’s chair lay empty, two women huddled at a monitor-table, a single lightcone suspended directly above them.
“I’d really recommend three days, not two,” the first said, adjusting a lace headcovering over her snowy curls. “How often do we get to the Meloyian system? You’ve earned this; you ought to enjoy it.” A question opened in her face. “Have we EVER been to the Meloyian system?”
“Once,” the other woman answered, her stern face mismatched with her bright, inquisitive eyes. “The crocs drove us through the main belt, remember? That fez incident last year. But we were relatively busy trying to not to be shot, so I’m sure we missed some of the tourist attractions.”
Her companion chuckled. “Well, the Meloys aren’t exactly thorough. I doubt they’ll even remember the damage. And St. John has some rapport with one of their diplomatic flunkies. If things go pear-shaped, I can ask him to apply some leverage.” She toyed with the beads on her oversized crucifix. “They’re the most exquisite horses within 40 light-years, Susan. Take your time.”
“I know. That’s why it wears on me,” the second woman said softly. The communication relays on her uniform glinted in the lightstream, reflecting turquoise flares back to them. “Our entire voyage, everything we’ve seen–we’ve only just started. We could optimize the engines, use that underworld codger on Tentrix. Might buy us another few years. I–“
Lieutenant Elizabeth Cady Stanton clasped Susan’s hand and sadly shook her head, her tiny black opal earrings gently shaking. She couldn’t absorb the regret and frustration she read in her closest friend’s body language, heard in her distant voice–but decades with Susan by her side had done little to temper her yearning for the impossible. “You know we have to return,” she said, her eyes empathic viewscreens. “It’s a fixed point in time.”
Captain Susan B. Anthony, scheduled to die in 1906 AD, sighed and smiled slightly. “I know. But not yet.”
Susan and Elizabeth had been sipping tea on that September day in 1884, arguing lightheartedly about a passage in the draft for History of Woman Suffrage (Volume 3) when they heard five staccato knocks on the heavy hallway door. The Revolutionary was docked outside Stanton’s home, disguising itself as a miniature barn. Meredith, Trapper, St. John, and the rest of Susan’s future crew offered her the universe, in a ship named after the women’s rights newspaper she co-founded with Elizabeth. Six out of the ten Revolutionary crewmates–from four different species–identified as female and credited Susan for helping politically secure their rights, hundreds of years before Earth became aware their planets even existed.
Susan’s eyes shone as Meredith told her about the Nineteenth Amendment, about her legacy spreading through the solar system and eventually to other galaxies. “You’ve given so much for us,” the slight groundfelder warbled, her tentacles waving gently. “Allow us to return the favor.” She held out a badge with a Captain’s insignia, one that would enable her to travel across the stars. The only condition was that after three years, she would be required to return to her own timeline, to sleep in the time and place from when she came. Susan accepted–and not without insisting that Stanton accompany her, as was her custom.
She had filled six journals with spellbinding sights, stubbornly contending that she would never surrender her quill and paper, despite the Revolutionary being equipped with instant mind-to-storage technology in every room. The crew had neglected to mention the black holes, the space pirates, the thievery, the various assortments of intermittent plague, and other less popular features of 2800 AD, but Susan could not deny that adrenaline spikes resulting from her often-fragmentary briefings were not particularly unpleasant.
And yet, she couldn’t afford to stop counting the hours; every moment she spent as Captain Anthony was a moment stolen. Now, on the third day of their visit, she ran her fingers through the spatioequi’s magnificent mane, feeling the pulse of its dual heartbeats steadily drumming. Her advocacy on Earth consumed her and never permitted spare time for riding. When they’d arrived on Leo IV, her crew members had scattered to indulge themselves in every amusement. Even Elizabeth, her streadfast life cohort, discovered an antiques shop brimming with books and gadgets and art dating back to 2250. Susan was left to roam the lush fields on a horse with unmatched grace, the wind whistling her name while the cool mist kissed her soft, craggy visage, and the knowledge ratting in her mind that soon, all of this would end.
“I’m sorry, Lieutenant,” Holly’s rolling Glaswegian -tinged voice hummed later that evening. “Captain Anthony has requested that her current location remains classified.“
“Did she board the ship? She wasn’t at the spatioequi farm. I checked on my way back. She could be injured!”, Stanton sputtered, mentally preparing to mount a rescue mission.
“The captain has cleared me to confirm that she is on board; however, I cannot reveal her current location,” the ship’s AI repeated. “She suggests that you retire for the evening.”
“This is ridiculous.” Stanton stabbed her console, her fingers smashing out a flurry of commands. “Where ARE you, Susan?” And she then realized she already knew, had known for months now.
“Lower the field! Susan, I–“
“I think it would be best, Lieutenant, if you referred to me as ‘Captain’ for the current duration,” Susan said quietly. Trapper, St. John, and O’Hare fiddled with the warp drive’s controls, murmuring, fine-tuning, adjusting. Even through the field, Elizabeth could read their guilt. “Two more years, Elizabeth. It’s safe. O’Hare quadruple-checked the calculations,” the captain continued, gesturing to the Revolutionary‘s Chief Engineer. “We can stretch the remaining months slightly by continually fluctuating the velocity integral, and–“
“Are you all in on this? Have you lost your minds?”, Elizabeth shouted, her crucifix quaking. “Meredith warned us! We can’t cheat TIME, Su–Captain! “
“Why not? Why should we adhere to the so-called rules? So I can return to men shouting me down for having the audacity to speak? Shall I get arrested again like a criminal for daring to be treated like a human being? So I can watch brilliant women become dolls, whose only purpose is to clean the house and cook dinner and be a pet for some oaf with half her brainpower? I’m commanding a STARSHIP, Elizabeth!”
Stanton pushed forcefully against the field, knowing she’d never be able to puncture it. “And I’m your right hand, as I’ve always been. You think *I* want to return to our timeline? I’ve matched every tooth and claw you’ve thrown. After three and a half decades together, don’t you know me at all?” She gestured to her uniform, to the warp drive, to everything around her. “Don’t you understand? If we don’t die when we’re supposed to, our entire history will be erased. Everything we built–the Temperance Society, the National League, the Equal Rights Association, The Revolution, the Suffrage Association. Our books, our speeches, all the women we’ve inspired. The NINETEENTH AMENDMENT, Susan! It’ll all fade. We’ll be wiped from our own timeline!”
“You don’t actually know that.” Susan’s eyes were closed.
“Is another year and a half worth our entire legacy? Worth knowing that women may not be able to vote for decades or centuries? How long until others like us come along, willing to sacrifice our entire lives? Is it worth the females on this ship? Most of them aren’t even HUMAN, Susan. We’re a thousand years out of time, and we’re still remembered. Step away, Captain. Please.”
Susan didn’t move. “You sound like Frederick,” she said.
“I sound like me. Frederick isn’t here. But you know he’d agree with me if he were.” Stanton spread her hands over the field. The two near-septuagenarians stood so close, but never meeting. “I forged the thunderbolts,” Elizabeth said, her voice catching.
Seconds passed. “And I…fired them,” Susan finished, not looking at her.
The Revolution spun on through the dark.