Short Serial Story: Psion (1)

My mind parts the air like a knife.

Sharper than any knife, the tongue I keep in check, as Pyth asks again: “How long?”

I snap myself back from a vision of chaos and swivel in my chair to fix Pyth with a stare. “Twenty five minutes, in theory and undisturbed.”

He winces and folds his arms. “Right. Fine.”

I swivel back and let my mind refocus.

“Why?” comes his voice, jarring me before I’ve even settled in.

Swivel. Stare.

“You really want to know?” I ask, knowing the answer before it leaves his lips.

“I really want to know.”

“She’s being guarded.”

“Shit. How many?”

“Three. Are you going to leave me alone, or are you going to keep pestering me like a child with nothing better to do?”

A pause. I can see him try to think of a retort, but I’m done dealing with his dumb face. I swivel back and try not to let his presence itself distract me as I lose myself in my crystal focus again.

My mind parts the air like a knife. The folds of space expand outward before me and close behind me. The whole of the universe– stars, black holes, pulsars and supernovas and nebulae– stretches out for me.

I smile.

Twenty five minutes is actually twenty four minutes too long. I’m just tired of Pyth whining at me.

Focusing in on Liss’s signal again, I find the barriers surrounding her location and, with a well placed stroke, cut them down. They disintegrate quickly, all three of them, and I withdraw before the enemy psion can figure out what I’ve done. Now I know exactly where she is.

I withdraw and, sighing a little, come back to myself. Pyth is just standing there next to me, waiting for me to open my eyes. I can feel him there.

I open my eyes and swivel around to look at him directly. I beam him the coordinates before hopping off my swivel seat and walking off the bridge. “There you go,” I mutter. “The keys to your girlfriend. Have fun playing the hero and reaping the rewards”

Pretending I’m not bitter doesn’t really work. I storm towards the holo-deck to conjure up the only person on the damn ship I can talk to.

***

“Ysun,” my friend says, in that voice I know means he wants me to pay attention. “You shouldn’t be so hard on Pyth. He’s always been blind.”

I roll my eyes and shrug.

“I’m serious. Among all the humans onboard he’s the only one I know to be completely absent of attraction awareness– I doubt he even knows you like Liss.”

“And that excuses him? I lost my last bond-mate. Liss is the only one of my kind I know, and right after Tiff gets incapacitated he decides ‘Oh, yup, time to ask her out’! The guy goes way beyond ‘insensitive’! Then he had the gall to ask me to find her for him!”

I resist the urge to lash out psionically, if only because doing so while in the holo deck often causes electromagnetic interference which DJINN finds uncomfortable.

The computer shrugs his artificially dimensional shoulders. “I know how badly you want to save her, Ys. But you’ve got to know that he can’t afford to risk you. You’re the only one on our team who can navigate psionic barriers.”

I make a face. “I know that much, DJINN. Still, there’s got to be something I could do to make him see how important she is to me.”

“Have you tried talking to him?” DJINN asks. His voice is a single step away from sarcastic. I know I’m straining even DJINN’s inexhaustible patience algorithms with my constant rants. This is the third time this cycle I’ve been to visit him.

“Several times. Any time I try, he goes on about how touching it is when I care so much about her safety and how beautiful compassion is as a personality trait, how wonderful chaste mind-love between Psions can be.”

DJINN’s hologram winces. “That is… worse than I first suspected. Is Pyth aware that you are a lesbian, Ys?”

“Trying to explain sexuality to Pyth is comparable to stepping off of a moving lift. The impact depends entirely on the height of his mood, and in Pyth’s case, it’s a lift that only ever goes up. Breaking the news to him now? He’s a total flip. You know that better than anyone. He’s been down to see you for counsel.” I sigh and rub my forehead with my fingertips. “He’d probably jump into folded space. It’d be like turning his whole world upside down. You know the first ten cycles out he had a crush on me?

DJINN and I are both silent, lost in our respective thoughts; my thoughts are morose, and his are doubtless optimistic. Eventually he lets out a sigh. It’s impressive for a hologram, with only simulated lungs.

“I don’t know what to tell you, Ys. I’ve never been faced with a problem like this one. Talking to the Captain can do no good, and encouraging him will only end in anguish on your and Liss’s part.”

I blink, at that. “You think Liss will care?”

“Have you been paying attention to the paths her eyes make across your body, Ys? Are you as blind as the Captain?”

“What are you-” but I stop and bite both of my lips. I shake my head and sigh. “So she likes me.”

“She enjoys the attention of both of you, but I can read her vitals, Ys. She would much rather be with you, even if she is not aware of that now.”

I offer the hologram a weak smile. “Thanks, DJINN.”

The computer cavalier bows, smiles back, and vanishes, leaving me in the holodeck. Alone with my thoughts.

***

“Pyth-”

“No.”

“I just want to be able to help!”

“You are too vital to our greater mission to risk boarding the station.”

“I can handle myself!” I snap.

Pyth gazes at me a few more seconds, frowning. “I’m sorry, Ysun. But if I’m killed, you can at least take the remaining crew home. If you are, my crew is stranded– you power both the drives and the shield that surrounds the ship. Before Tiff was…” he trails off and won’t meet my eyes. I know what he’s feeling. “Well, you get the idea,” he finishes lamely.

I struggle to keep my features empty of the swirling anger inside of me. Part of it must filter through to my twin shard, who makes the psionic shield around the craft possible– it flares red with shared rage as I storm away from the bridge. Never mind that I could make another mind-shard set to take the crew home. Never mind that I could predict threats and help counter the enemy psion when we board. I’m just too important to risk.

Fuming, I stalk off to the observation deck.

It’s there I meet Captain Pyth.

Again.

We stand, staring at one another for a few precious seconds. I can’t read his intentions. I can’t see what he will do or would do. It’s just us, staring one another down.

I open my mouth to speak, but he cuts me off. “Pretty, isn’t it?”

I shut my mouth again, staring at him as he gestures out into space. The shield around the ship flares from red to pink. I feel a flush color the tips of my lowermost tendrils.

I glance out across the deck, to the viewscreen showing the depths of the fold around the ship, the fold perpetrated by my mind-shard. I run his last sentence through my head again and struggle to come up with a response.

As I do, he brushes past me and into the hall adjoining the observation deck with the Bridge.

And then it hits me. I just spoke with Pyth. He was on the Bridge. Whoever that was, whoever it may have been or could have been, it was most certainly not Pyth. I can still feel Pyth if I focus for even a second, and he’s still on the Bridge.

I dash back after the imposter, slipping through the hatch as soon as it opens, just in time to watch the fake Captain enter the access code to the Bridge. The doors open for him and then slam closed in lockdown immediately, locking me out. Fields of my mind-shard’s psionic energies slam down over the hatches around me, preventing my escape from the hallway, and a dull alarm blares through the clean white hall.

Intruder lockdown measures.

The Captain can’t be in two places at once. Now he isn’t. He’s in the same room as the imposter.

I slam my foremost tendrils against the barrier, knowing the futility of it. Probing the psionic barriers with my tendrils confirms my own fears. There is no way past my shard’s work– it was built to withstand a full Psion assault, not a fractured one like my own.

I’m trapped, and the Captain will die.

——-

Copyright 2014 Eris (Sam Oliver).

——

I should probably finish the other serials before I start another one. Oh well! As and when the mood hits me, I guess. I’ll try to keep installments under 2000 words, for Psion, and I’ll post them as often as I can (my current situation is not conducive to rapid posting, but it rarely seems to be). I understand how difficult it can be to read big blocks of text.

Enjoy,

-Eris

 

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The Shifting Flames – 0

She holds herself. Her hands are red and cracked, her eyes are downcast, her mouth set in a line. Fingers curl against her skin as ashes blow around her feet. Dead ashes. Cold ashes.The fingers are hers.

The ashes are hers. Of hope, of dreams, of a life that now means nothing. Has meant nothing. She stares at her fingernails, caked with grey. All of it had been for nothing. The life here with this family had been for nothing. There is nothing to rebuild, not even the shadow of a glimmer of hope. The girl knows that there is nothing left here.

Feet help her rise, her hands pull at nothing, as much a stretch as a need for aid in standing. Her muscles ache from kneeling there for so long.

Before her, smoke hisses and sways in the breeze. Around her, shades of people she once knew flit here and there, carrying buckets both empty and full, fighting for life and limb amidst the smoking sand that had once been her home. She has no name.

The villagers around her do not see her, do not touch her, do not think of her as they rush by. Many children are sitting as she did, near the grasses or in the ashes of their old houses, staring numbly at nothing. She is but another broken child, like a doll worn and finally torn from overuse or mistreatment. She is of no use to the village, being barren and small and frail besides.

The day goes by and the blaze is fought down to nothing, the flames eventually burning down to cinders, and the cinders cool in the coming night. Still the girl stands there, in her rags and tatters and the singed remains of a dress that might have been pretty before it was coated in the ashes of the dead. The grey remains cling everywhere, her body painted with them.

She stares into the darkness as it falls, the night moonless, the stars eclipsed by clouds. Her stomach rumbles and her head pounds. Her lungs are weak, and she coughs with near every breath in, from the smoke.

The girl isn’t sad that her old family is dead. She doesn’t mourn the loss of her house. That she has nowhere to stay is of no consequence to her. She looks at the ashes that remain of her old home and in her mind, thoughts race.

They are focused on but one thing, as the smell of charred flesh is finally swept away on the night wind, a wind that chills her legs and arms and sends gooseflesh down her back. She is thinking of the dragon.

After a time, how long if asked she could not say, a pack of wolves comes forward from the grass of the plain surrounding the village. Those humans left without homes flee for the remaining standing houses, hoping for shelter, and these wolves– which are wild ones, dire ones, each the size of a horse– chase them down. Methodically they pick the old or the weak of the survivors out from the rest, herding them away from the safe shadow of the dwellings.

The girl does not look up as their screams echo into the night. Mercifully for the families locked in their houses, they do not last long.

The girl does not turn around until the pack leader approaches her from behind. A wolfish muzzle nudges her front, and razor teeth bared in a snarl meet her eyes as she finally snaps free from her near trance. Hot breath against her face does not make her tremble.
Instead, the girl reaches up and strokes the jaws of the alpha wolf, who stares down at her. The wolf speaks first.

“Why do you choose such a weak and vulnerable shape, shifter?” his voice is kept soft, but the threat of a growl is palpable in the air in each pause.

The girl simply smiles, and shrugs, a human habit. “I know of no other.”
“I could show you a shape. We would roll together in grass, feel the plains beneath our paws. The scent of the stars would be within your grasp, and you would learn what a true soul is like,” the dire wolf whispers. “Come with me, shifter. Learn to be free.”

The words are not apparent from lips alone. All of the creature’s body shows it, in the tensing of its muscles, in its stance and the way its tail slowly sweeps, side to side, the way its silver-green eyes stare into hers.

“No freedom comes without cost. To take your shape is to lose a part of me, great wolf,” the girl replies. “Should I give up such a thing and offer you myself for no gain of my own?”
“The gain is your life, shifter,” the wolf snaps, jaws closing bare inches from the girl’s hand. She yanks it away, but stands her ground. “If you do not come with me, you will remain a human, and prey.”

The girl folds her arms, and feels her heart rise and fall with the deep breath she takes. For her apparent eleven years, she seems far older in that moment, and far more tired than she should be.

“There is a catch, is there not?” she asks sharply. “If I go with you, if you share your form there is always a price. What do you wish of me?”

The alpha wolf’s stance denotes anger, then, hackles rising. “Do you want to die, little human? What price would not be worth life?”

“We all die sooner or later,” the girl answers calmly. “If you wanted to kill me, you would have done so when you first drew in my scent. Something about me piques your interest. What is it?”

The alpha wolf snarls, then rises and lashes out, knocking her back into the ashes of her home, throwing her right off her feet and forcing the wind from her lungs, sending searing tracks across her chest. Stabbing, overwhelmingly sharp pain indicates that the blow may have cracked her ribs. A sharp, cold fear runs through her now, as she stares up at the monstrous wolf standing above her. Will he kill her now? Despite her brave words, she isn’t sure she is ready to die.

“No price will be taken now,” he growls. “When you are older.”

Ah, the girl thinks wryly. That explains it, then.

A haze of pain hangs over her every movement. It makes it hard to think, breathe and speak. “Come here then, pack leader,” she whispers, voice trembling. “I’ve made my choice.”

She reaches up as he approaches her and settles next to her, in the ashes of her former home. The cold night air clings to her skin and as she buries a hand in the wolf’s fur, she buries her mind inside of herself.

Frayed memory greets her as she drifts in the vast, galactic expanse of her own ego, rolling, twisting to look at shimmering stars of vague wants, recollections of some of her earliest forms that are locked away from her and unlabeled, forgotten. As her spiritual form floats in that space, she realizes she can feel the dire wolf’s jaws closed on her physical body’s hand, the teeth but a moment’s pressure from wrenching it away from her.

Even now he’s being cautious, the girl notes silently. As he should be, of things he doesn’t understand.

She rises in her mind, buoyed upward on willpower alone, rising up through the galaxy of forms spiraling to either side of her, unused, untouched. Finally she reaches the surface, the ceiling, where she can see the specific spiritual signature of the dire wolf she clings to.

She rocks herself around it, a bead of light, dark and crimson red hanging in space, in her own head. The girl reaches out, takes it in one hand, and pulls it against herself. The sucking emptiness where it used to be demands something from her, and, helpless to refuse it, some of her essence, her glowing, radiant mind, parts from her soundlessly.

Searing ghost-pain rolls down her body the moment that piece of her leaves, and in the ashes, clinging to the alpha wolf’s fur, she hears herself whimper.

With a new bead hanging there, proclaiming itself to be the essence of her old form, she absorbs the mental bead of light, that dire wolf spirit, into herself and begins to change.
Her spine curves. Her arms turn to forelimbs, the whole structure of her body changes, from head to foot, toes shrinking, the littlest ones disappearing altogether. They form great paws, tipped with iron-sharp claws. Her face lengthens, twists and changes to form a long canine muzzle, teeth sharpening, lengthening, some of them disappearing, mostly specialized for rending meat. Her stomach grows, its emptiness more acute, her whole body grows out, fur covering every inch of her skin, the dress torn to pieces. The cuts on her chest turn tiny in comparison with her new size, her breasts shrink and disappear, growing out along where her human belly had been as two rows of little teats.

The alpha wolf slinks back, withdrawing his mouth from her forepaw as she finishes changing, watching the girl become wolf-like with a passive expression.

Ludicrously, her first instinct when the transformation is over is to find more clothes. She feels exposed. Her bones are hard as any metal now, though, and her skin has become more like hide, and rough to the touch. The fur warms her up, and she shakes herself, sitting back on her haunches, eyes downcast as the alpha stands. He towers over her still. Though she is much larger than any normal wolf, she is still young by dire wolf standards.
Many dire wolves could live as long as two hundred seasons. She is still but a child. A pup.
The pack leader’s stance is somewhat disappointed, but the girl-wolf is sure he didn’t expect much else, for it is also resigned.

“Come with us now, shifter,” he says quietly. “There is nothing in the ashes of this human den. Not for you, and not for the pack.”

The girl-wolf does not argue. He is her leader now. While she is slightly unsure, her body knows what it must do, so she lets it follow the pack leader away onto the plains, planting new paw-feet unsteadily, one after the other, until she is lost in the night.

 

 

 

 

©2012 Eris (Sam Oliver)

—-

So basically I’ve been kicking around this story along with Mesdan’s Three Hearts. It’s shorter- more a serial short rather than a serial novel. I’ll finish it eventually, this is just part ‘zero’ as I like to call it. I thought I’d share, because I do so love to write. I should be getting more of that done soon.