In the last couple weeks the ending to this weekly series has jelled in my mind. I’m excited about where this is going. I think that I will have an excellent first draft and that this whole thing might someday be revised into a novel. In the meantime, this remains the writing exercise that provides me with motivation to generate new material. It will be rough in places, plot points might come out of nowhere, things will certainly be foreshadowed poorly.
I plan on doing some other blog posts in the future (reflections on a writing conference, how world-building works in Altered Carbon, etc), but until then I’ll leave you with the next Silver Pod chapter and a link to this great writing advice video.
Jerry B. Jenkins: “The outline works for you, not the other way around.”
Me: I feel personally attacked.
“How could she have gotten loose?” the pudgy man called Beryl said, complaining more than asking.
“She couldn’t have,” the cat-like woman, Fife, replied. “I checked her restraints myself.”
The man of solid darkness, Besh, walked along behind them, unaffected by this turn of events.
Ohnsy watched them hunt her from behind a one-way mirror. She watched from within Silver Pod’s walls, the second of the ship’s two interiors. The first interior was a public luxury space, the second, a private maze of tunnels and secret passages. Silver Pod’s designer was eccentric. Ohnsy smiled. She thought that the ship’s Master would enjoy this game of cat and mouse. Ohnsy wondered if she should be enjoying it as much as she was.
She slipped away from the mirror, padding on slippered feet through narrow spaces between the walls. She came to a ladder, no fancy anti-grav lifts in this secret space. She descended the rungs, enjoying the feel of her muscles under artificial gravity, working out some of the tension from having been tied up.
She came to a dead end, an apparently forgotten storage space complete with a stack of replacement tiles, a box of wires, and an object indistinguishable from a dead mouse at all but the molecular level. She traced a system of cracks on the top tile with her fingertip, then tugged on a very particular wire. Her touch set into motion hidden mechanisms. A latch clicked. The wall slid away, revealing another secret passage.
Ohnsy pressed onward, down and down into the depths of the ship. The secret tunnels widened. She came to a door with a keycode lock. She punched in her secret code and walked into a brightly lit room, chilled by air conditioning, full of casket-shaped cryogenic freezers.
Row upon row of cryogenic units stored Ohnsy’s clones. Should she die or become unable to perform her duties due to injury or age, the ship’s computer would quicken a clone to take her place. If all the clones were quickened now, she thought, they would be more than a match for the Fife woman and her companions. She wouldn’t have to wait for the countdown to expire in order to take back the ship.
Ohnsy scampered over to one of the freezers and looked down into its frosted glass. She saw a twisted mockery of her own face, skin stretched taut and thin over bone. Veins running like wires, cold and blue, capillaries atrophied, sunken eye sockets. Mouth gaping like a fish. Proteins denatured, skin loose detached, but dragged tight by gravity. Ink-black blood pooling, long since pooled beneath the skull, flecks of dusty red trailing out of the ears.
She rushed to the next cryogenic unit, met the same dead stare, eyeballs wrinkled like peeled grapes. Her own death mask.
“No!” she said aloud. The chamber swallowed up the noise, consumed her denial with its truth.
Her trembling hand grasped the monitor hanging beside the nearest casket… unit. There was always comfort in monitors, always security in data.
A system update panel dominated the screen, its progress bar frozen, awaiting approval for some sort of minor authority to be granted. She jabbed her finger against the monitor, cancelling the update. The window vanished, replaced by a flashing red light and a warning chime that struck her like a slap across the face. The date on the alert was from over a hundred years ago, from before the ship’s master had left. She should have checked on these systems. It was her responsibility.
Her knees wobbled. She leaned against the side of the unit, then pushed herself away in disgust. Her thoughts flew back through time, cataloging, assessing, analyzing, judging. She’d kept all of the other systems running perfectly. She’d stuck to the maintenance schedule religiously in all ways but this one. Whenever it came time to check on her sister clones, she had postponed it. She had cleaned smudges off the windows and supervised the dust sucking robots rather than attend to the clones.
She shook her head, but the answering thoughts bubbled up against her will. Because she hated them. She couldn’t stand the sight of the clones, even now. She couldn’t stand the thought of someone else safeguarding this ship, her ship, not even someone wearing her face, her body, her DNA. That jealousy had cost her. She slid unsteadily to the floor. She was the most loathsome of devices. She was a broken tool.
She knew what she was supposed to do: report herself to the ship’s computer then step into the disposal chamber to have her atoms recycled into something useful.
She found that she didn’t want to do that. She couldn’t do that. There was no one to replace her. There were intruders still aboard. She had to find the ship’s master.
Yes, that was it! She still had duty to attend. She had to redeem herself.
She found herself nodding along, her body miming a physical judge that watched the arguments play out in her head, but an image arose in her mind’s eye. An image of one of her sisters rising from the cryo unit, holding up a flimsy veil-like material, perhaps skin. Her excuses were written all over it. The clone pointed a skeletal finger that dripped skin like wax, accusatory.
Ohnsy fled the chamber. She ran through the secret passages. She climbed the ladders. The image followed her every step of the way.
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