Besh sat on the deck of the bridge, a terra-cotta soldier buried alive. The ship around him was a silent tomb.
These new people, Beryl and Fife, were not vessels. They were independents, self-guided. They knew nothing of Water. Besh knew of independent people, though he’d never had much interest in them. Helper filled in the gaps in his knowledge.
“They will have unseen goals and motives. They may try to deceive or hurt you,” Helper informed him through his mental connection. They did not hear Helper’s warning.
Besh was not worried. Without Water he was already nothing.
He drank heartily from the offered canteen, filling his stomach as any thirsty automaton would. He could have survived without water for a long time, hardened as his body was against all manner of environmental extremes. Surviving without Water was another matter, was in fact an entirely different question.
“What happened?” asked the tall woman with the long black hair who was Fife.
Besh sat on the deck of the bridge, still naked and not uncomfortably so. Fife crouched in front of him. The squat man named Beryl frowned over a control panel looking queasy.
“The ship crashed,” said Besh sadly.
Fife winced, but quickly swept the expression from her face, summoning back a mask of comfort and concern. Intrigued by the game, Besh mimicked her. He gently raised his eyebrows in the middle, eyes opening, cheeks relaxing, a gentle sadness turning down the corners of his mouth.
“But why did it crash?” Fife asked again, her eyes flicking over Besh’s mirroring expression with discomfort.
Besh shrugged. “Water left. The ship had no purpose after that.”
Besh noticed that Beryl flinched at the mention of Water, but Besh had no reason to be curious or suspicious about such a reaction. Besh had no reason to be.
Beryl cleared his throat phlegmatically. “Speaking of the ship. The crash may have damaged the core. I can’t access the proper diagnostics, but based on these indicators…” He gestured at the panel.
Helper, is the ship’s core damaged? Besh asked without speaking.
Will it explode?
Besh turned to Beryl. “The core is damaged. It will explode.”
Beryl turned a deeper shade of green. Fife stood, said, “Let’s get out of here.”
Fife clipped her canteen to her belt. Beryl grabbed hold of the two seeker drones he’d used to ascend to the bridge. Besh didn’t move.
Fife lowered herself to the lip of the vertical shaft that she had climbed up. Beryl wavered on the edge, seekers like giant dragonflies held above his head. Fife’s eyes snapped from Besh to Beryl and back again. “You’re coming with us,” she said.
“Oh!” Besh responded, glad that someone had informed him regarding what he should do. He clambered over to the lip of the shaft and began to climb down. He felt neither happy nor sad to be leaving, just profoundly empty.
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