Continuing the first drafts of Splintered Demons. To learn more about this book or view the table of contents for these first drafts posts, visit the novel page here.
Slowly, Heraxo began to fall into line.
They agreed that caution was necessary, for something about the spire was reminiscent of an ancient enemy.
They agreed that the ship was in danger, because the wound they had been nursing in the heart of the jump core had been suddenly and violently ripped wide by the strain of jumping past the Spire’s shields.
They agreed, finally, that they still needed help.
Help to repair a flaw that was approaching critical.
Help to search their memories for the truth about the Spire.
Help to remain alive.
# # #
Moira tossed the empty nutrient pack into the recycler and slammed the door shut. Leaning against the wall, she pressed her knuckles into her eyes and flicked away the crust which had developed there as her midges dumped toxins out of her body. It had been three wakes since she had managed to sleep and while the midge-induced refresh cycle was capable of keeping her body nearly as refreshed as true sleep, her mind was growing weary without the opportunity to shut down for a few hours.
“You there yet, Zau?” she called, glancing up at one of the pickups in the ceiling.
The ship remained silent.
Moira scowled at the pickup for the space of several long breaths, then shook her head and shoved off the wall. She manually opened the door to her quarters, then stalked down the thoracic corridor towards the cargo bay. She ought to be accustomed to Zau’s absence by now, and Heroaxo’s silence was if anything an improvement over the borderline homicidal attitude the syntellect had demonstrated at times, but Moira was beginning to worry that the ship might be permanently damaged. That the shock of the jump might have done some physical harm to the syntellect core.
Approaching the cargo bay, Moira heard the chugging rhythms of neothrash echoing through the open door. Not an artist she recognized, but given the decidedly anti-corporate attitudes of most neothrash artists, that did not surprise her. Moira slipped between the equipment racks lining the walls and the hulking body of Dyson’s voidship, cursing the tight space. Zau/Hereaxo had been built as something between a scout ship and a remora delivery hive, and as a result the hold was relatively small in comparison to the rest of the ship. It certainly had not been built to transport sleek voidrunners built for the pleasure of wealthy pilots looking for a joyride.
Rounding the corner of the Raven’s Flight, Moira found Dyson sitting crosslegged on a ratty orange sofa, hands pawing at the air as he manipulated imagery within his overlay. She paused for a moment, leaning against the side of the cargo hatch as Dyson continued to work, seemingly oblivious to her arrival. Despite his apparent lack of concern for personal security or the opinions of others, Dyson was not without his attractive qualities. Not that she was in the mood for a 🖕🏽, but if the situation had been different – Zau’s status less ambiguous… Heraxo not trapped in a god👎🏼 alien artifact – Moira could imagine herself wanting a role with Dyson.
He stimulates your reproductive urges? A voice whispered in her mind.
“Jesu!” Moira shouted, startling and turning to look for the source of the voice.
Anomaly unfolded from the side of an equipment rack, fracturing the air as it extracted itself from the surface of reality. I have startled you. Apologies are seemingly traditional in this situation, though I am surprised that you are surprised given our previous interactions and now you are upset with me.
“I thought I asked you to stop reading my mind,” Moira groused.
That would be tantamount to you no longer breathing for you. If you would prefer I can only react to the words which come from your mouth, but in what little time I have spent with your species I already know that those rarely convey the precise nature of your thoughts.
Moira muttered a string of expletives and shook her head. If Zau/Heraxo had just stopped 🖕🏽ing about with their jump core, this abomination would never have been born. But she supposed it was too late now. “What are you doing? Spying on Dyson?”
Spying… no. He is aware that I am here.
At that instant, Dyson turned his head and nodded towards Moira, blinking as if to clear his overlay. “Oh, I didn’t notice that you had arrived.”
“I see you’ve been speaking with our pet aberration,” Moira said, jerking a thumb towards Anomaly.
I prefer to be called Anomaly.
“Yeah, it’s fascinating. We spoke for some time before I returned to studying the external scans.”
“What do you make of it?”
Dyson shrugged awkwardly and pulled aside a heavy lock of black hair, glancing at Anomaly as he might a person being excluded from the conversation. “It is… something which defies my understanding of physics. But then, there is much within the Shell violates the supposed laws of the universe as we understood them prior to the enclosure. The zone barriers alone utterly devastated our understanding of field enclosures.”
Moira shook her head and stepped up the ramp and into the cargo hold of the Raven’s Flight, then flopped loosely onto the sofa. She studied Dyson as he stood in the middle of the space, pointedly not looking directly at her. Clearly she had violated some sort of personal boundary which he preferred not to cross. “What, exactly, is your plan?”
“We didn’t exactly plan on coming here. Rather, I didn’t. I can’t speak for Zau/Heraxo. Now we’re trapped in… whatever in nine hells this place is… and I’d appreciate knowing what you’re plan is.”
“That is a very good question. And one I might equally ask you,” Dyson replied. After another moment’s awkward pause, he settled onto the far end of the sofa.
Anomaly stuttered through the air towards them, then melded into the surface of the sofa. As it approached, Moira imagined that she felt an electrical field crackling across her skin, raising hairs and goosebumps across her arms, but a check of her wetware registered no external electrical interference. Whatever Anomaly might be, and whatever disturbance it might cause to her spirit, it did not seem to pose any physical threat.
To learn more about this book or view the table of contents for these first drafts posts, visit the novel page here.