SD First Draft 9

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.

Evangeline had intended to be aboard Zau/Heraxo when it jumped into the Spire. That had been her primary purpose in hiring Moira: knowing that the mercenary was said to be in possession of a singular exo vessel which could skip through space in an instant, potentially bypassing the shields which had stymied investigation of the spire for centuries. She had not anticipated the ship escaping from her. In retrospect, she ought to have placed an element of her consciousness on the ship before revealing herself to Moira and Dyson, but doing so could have compromised the ship’s ability to freely pass through the protective fields which kept rogue syntellects from escaping a zone. 

Anyone with the ambition and drive of Evangeline had to be prepared with contingency plans nested many layers deep, and if she could only get the faintest of signals through the spire’s shields her agent on the inside would hear the whispered command and do her bidding.

Having passengers aboard the ship bothered Moira. For years she and Zau/Heraxo had operated together in relative isolation, picking up mercenary jobs from the network, tracking down the occasional pre-enclosure relic to sell to collectors, occasionally taking on a passenger who needed rapid transport or had been captured for a bounty. But those were always temporary situations, and their guests were generally carefully contained to a single compartment, often by means of chains.

Now she had Dyson and Gamayun wandering the ship with little in the way of supervision, thanks to Zau/Heraxo being too befuddled to reliably monitor their cameras or supervise the remoras. Moira had considered keeping them confined to their ship, but without Zau/Heraxo’s assistance there was no way to reliably monitor them. But that was only the beginning of her passenger troubles.

No, the worst of it was Anomaly.

How in nine hells was she supposed to keep tabs on an entity which could pass through walls and read her thoughts?

“Can you show me where everyone is?” Moira asked, calling out to Zau/Heraxo from her seat on the command deck. Around her, the screens fuzzed and jumped, stuttering away from the fractured diagram of the spire and to series of projections of the Shell, with known population centers marked by a gradated heat map. 

Moira blew out an exasperated sigh and shook her head. “👎🏼it, Heraxo, I meant on the ship. Can you locate everyone aboard the ship?”

“You should have {been more specific/known we are busy}.”

“I just want to make sure that the anomaly isn’t 🖕🏽ing around with the jump core. Or Dyson for that matter.”

The was no response. 

“Zau?” Moira called. She was grateful that Zau/Heraxo had recovered from their initial trauma following the jump, but the hybrid syntellect was still unreliable at best. 

“Zau, can you hear me?”

Zau could, and Heraxo also, but in that instant they were occupied with the nearly insurmountable task of accessing a memory which Anomaly had found buried at a deep level of their cognition network. The data had already been overwritten multiple times, but by observing atomic-level disruptions to memory cell alignment, Anomaly had posited that memories which had been long forgotten might be retrievable, with careful effort and examination. The effort was crudely proximate to a human using delicate strokes of pencil shading to extract words from the blank pages of paper which had been leaned upon while writing, but with the complication that said paper had already been used to print multiple times in different colors of ink. Zau was having to work very carefully to maintain their equality with the Heraxo hive mind, which their self was struggling to not erase any components of itself in the drive to extract and interpret data which had long been overwritten. 

“Is there no way to externalize this data?” Zau/Heraxo asked Anomaly, their minds linked through Anomaly’s contact with the cognition core. “You can read our mind, would it not be possible to copy the forgotten memories into yourself or whatever substrate you run on?”

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To learn more about this book or view the table of contents for these first drafts posts, visit the novel page here.

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