Dominic opened his eyes and shadowy corners of the fantasy world snapped into the sharp angles and cool lighting of his quarters. Though his eyes completed the transition instantly, it took his mind a few seconds to reorient itself and he experienced several flashes of mingled perception as his brain worked to completely flush the artificial perceptions of the Incarna and replace them with impressions of his surroundings. The scent of the place still lingered in his memory, mixing the simulated odor of smoke and meat, blood, sweat, and spilled mead with the genuine olfactory sensations of metal, plastics, and a lingering scent of human sweat clinging to the thin blue blanket on the bed.
That faint scent, and the memories it recalled, brought Dominic back out of the simulation more forcefully than the starkness of the little room.
He shook his head in frustration and pulled up his internal diagnostics. The fight against the Steward agents had expended nearly a kilogram of compressed air from his internal reserves. That was more than he had ever used while training, or operating, with Council Security. Come to think of it, Dominic realized that yesterday’s fight had probably been the most wasteful conflict the Drake had seen since the rear portion of shaft three had been irradiated by a reactor meltdown during the rebellion, at least in terms of resources expended which could never be recovered. Three people were dead. Dozens of kilograms of air had been lost from the breached window and the suits of the dead. All of those resources were now somewhere out there in space, drifting away from the Drake even as they kept pace with it. If the Drake ever managed to slow itself upon entry into its destination solar system, those precious molecules would continue to hurtle onward into the unknown depths of space.
And Kamon was lost to him forever. Not even drifting along in space beside the ship, a silent companion he could picture and whisper to in the night. He had seen her hit with the beam weapon. Seen the structure of her shattered and reduced to flecks of flaming ash that scattered into the vacuum as it sprayed away like fireflies swarming off into the night.
However much of the ship’s resources had been expended, however the loss of Kamon ripped at Dominic’s soul, he knew that all of that was nothing compared to the devastation that would result if the antimatter in shaft three detonated. His personal tragedy would have to wait until the people of the Drake had been rescued and the Captain’s mysterious plans carried out.
Dominic stared down at the bare toes of his case. Even after three years he couldn’t bear to think of it as his body. Kamon had accepted it quickly, telling him that his new synthetic skin still thrilled her every time she pressed herself against it, assuring him that she felt nothing mechanical in his touch, pressing her soft lips against his and promising Dominic that she still loved him. And he believed her. But, especially with her gone, he didn’t know if he could love himself.