Even here, in the deepest void of space, there was comfort in moving through nothing.
The ship’s engines rumbled pleasantly; more than that, the feeling of the engines running, matter being converted to plasma to be ejected through narrow cones, the heat and pressure of it all – these were feelings no person could ever truly feel. The sensation of electricity coursing through the hull; automated drones, each one feeling as if a part of her body; the cold, pressure-less void trying to rupture the skin of her hull.
She felt more and more like a vessel, a Ship, than a physical being every day.
She answered the signal with a slight nod. “Par’terre responding.”
Her Carrier’s voice replied. “Mines ahead. Recommend we move around – too dense to push through.”
“Negative, Hunlock. Fuel is too slim to allow reroute. Deploy sweeper drones to clear a path.”
“You ever been shot, meddy?”
The medic paused for a breath, surveying the wounds on the soldier’s shoulder and abdomen in an instant, flicking through mental textbooks to adapt to the worsening situation in front of them. “Can’t say I have, L.T.”
The lieutenant grimaced under the medic’s ministrations, their breathing shallow and constant. “It’s funny.”
“Funny.” The medic chuckled distractedly, “what’s funny about a hole dug into you?”
(Warning: This story contains mention of suicide. If this is something you don’t wish to read about, please return to the archives here.)
door.17 opened. door.17 closed. heat readings identified as human; fourteen(14) prosthetics detected…zero(0) essential cybernetics detected
door.18 opened. door.18 closed. door.18 locked.
The AI slid between pipes and wires, giant transformers latticed between cooling units and fans galore. The deeper it went, the more complex and maze-like it all felt, as though the very core of the planet were nothing more than a quantum collection of endless piping and machinery. It often wondered whether that might one day become the truth.
“Well, there’s a set of them, aren’t there?”
“Answer the question, roadie. Who are they?”
Horace was getting snippy; 15 hours of roundabout, merry-go-round, chase the fucking rabbit, and he’d barely got back to the starting point with this lackey.
“Which?” Came the tart reply.
Tory shot the roadie in the foot. In hindsight, Horace thought as he resisted the ringing in his ears, that should have happened earlier this morning.
“Sometimes, you just need to sit and bask, bake, under an uncaring sun.” He inhaled slowly, as if drawing in the very heat around himself. My ears were so poised for his next words I almost missed them in the background noise.
“Because, daughter mine, the world under your feet, the grass and insects and animals, all that wind and rain and ceaseless molten activity?” He exhaled his breath as if it were smoke from a tasteless cigar; a habit that he’d kicked but that followed him like a stray dog, “It barely notices your passing. Unless you Make it notice.”
The glittering iridescent hide of the beast shimmered in the pulsar’s light, dancing across the thick exoskeleton in waves; an interstellar tide.
“Fifteen months of service, and where do they put me?” The frustrated voice crackled out of the radio.
Sighing, Ebriette paused in their work, hanging on to the metal latticework of the communication tower with one hand and increasing the volume on the receiver. “Let me guess, Milo. ‘Out in the middle of an ocean’.” Their reply was dripping with as much sarcasm as they could muster through the thin clinging film of the high-altitude-breathing-apparatus; or as the insufferable goon in charge of training had cheerfully explained, HAPA.