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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.