Writing Exercises

Silver Pod Part 29: Helping a Friend

This section is long and was difficult to write, both in deciding what should happen and in deciding how to execute it. I love parts of it but not others. The ending may have congealed in my mind, but the writing of it inevitably changes things. The twist at the end was planned, but it wasn’t planned to be like this, nor right here. Later, much later, there will be revision and even rewrite and things might change, but for now, this is the story. This is what happens next, for better or for worse.

Link to part 1

Link to previous part: 28

Beryl froze at Besh’s words. Someone was coming. He wasn’t ready to face the judgment of the Post-humans and he didn’t want his friends around when he did.


He hadn’t thought of them as friends before, but the thought had popped into his head.

They were his friends… except for Ohnsy, obviously.

He stepped toward the open bay doors to head out and meet his fate, or he meant to at least. In the low gravity his step turned into a bound that put him on a collision course with the top of the door. He yelled in panic, threw his arms out and pushed the top of the door away from his vulnerable helmet. This sent him into a spin, head tipping backward, feet rotating up.

Fife caught him and yanked him down to the floor.

“What would you do without me?” She asked.

“Yes, what,” he muttered, flush with embarrassment.

He cleared his throat, looked up to face what was coming. The lunar sky was stark black, dotted with crystal clear star dots. The domes of the port were half-circle hills of not-quite-black in the dim light. In front of the domes, a solitary figure glided toward them.

The figure was human shaped, suited in a slim space suit, and apparently accustomed to the lunar gravity. The person skimmed across the tarmac, low to the ground, propelled almost directly horizontal with pulls of their booted toes.

Besh waved.

“Put your hand down,” Beryl grumbled. Then, “We should get back to safety.” He tried to turn around, bounced, tilted, found himself in feather-slow fall. He braced for an impact that hit like a pillow. Fife loomed over him.

“Where was my help that time?” he asked.

Fife shrugged beneath her suit. “At some point you’ve got to learn for yourself.”

“And that’s for you to decide?” he accused, while ineffectually flopping.

“Tuck your knees in,” Fife said.

He did so and bounced upright with surprising ease.

“Now relax,” she continued. “I think they come in peace.”

*      *      *

The visitor stopped fifty meters from the Silver Pod’s hull, waiting until Ohnsy managed to find a channel to communicate on. The visitor was a she, speaking a lunar dialect of Panglish. She asked to come aboard for a peaceful discussion.

Fife, their defacto leader, granted her permission.

Beryl sat on a box in the cargo hold, swinging his legs anxiously, thinking of sand running through an hour glass, picturing the Post-human ship stitching itself into existence one quanta at a time.

The visitor stepped up the ramp, paused, surveyed the scene without comment. They closed the doors and pumped breathable air back into the hold. Helmets popped off. Besh opened his throat and let air fill his collapsed lungs.

The woman was middle-aged, tall and wiry, her hair was more black streaked with white than gray. She remained standing at the top of the ramp where she’d come in, her helmet tucked under her arm.

Fife went around and introduced everyone. The only title she shared was Ohnsy’s, Warden of the starship Silver Pod. The woman introduced herself as Dole Namar, Minister of Luna.

“Where are you from?” Dole asked.

They looked at each other. “Earth,” Fife answered. Beryl thought it was as good an answer as any.

“No one comes from Earth anymore,” Dole said plainly.

Beryl jumped in, “It wasn’t exactly crowded, I’ll give you that, but we get to ask the questions, not you. You shot at us.”

Dole looked at Beryl, with the same shallow-breath stare she’d maintained since removing her helmet. She seemed to be waiting for something. She said, “We saw the anomaly. We thought you were with the Post-humans.”

Ohnsy barked with laughter until she lost her breath and had to lean on the wall, her stomach pumping air back in to her chest.

“What my colleague means to ask, I think,” Fife interpreted, “is, why would you think those weapons would have any affect on a PH ship?”

“We fight with the weapons we have,” Dole said icily.

“We’re not with them,” Fife clarified. “In fact, we’re fleeing them.”

Dole fixed her with a glare. “Your ship seems to be working fine. If we give you fuel, will you leave?”

“We don’t need fuel.”

“Strange that you would flee by parking under the nose of your pursuer.”

Beryl dropped down off the crate, toes reaching for a slow-rising floor, wobbling in the unfamiliar gravity. “They want me,” he said. “I’m going to give myself up.”

“Not alone,” Fife said. Besh nodded. Ohnsy tapped her wrist, an ancient gesture for awaiting the passage of time.

Dole watched it all hawkishly, then seemed to relax. She said, “We thought you were some sort of PH illusion, come to trick us.”

“Don’t you get it,” Ohnsy practically shouted. “Post-humans don’t need to use illusions anymore than we’d need to use sleight of hand to steal candy from a baby.”

Beryl cleared his throat. “My morally questionable colleague is correct. I should know. I used to be one of them.”

The gun appeared in Dole’s hand between blinks, too fast for him to see where she’d been hiding it, but not too fast for Fife. Fife already stood between them, hands raised.

“They took our people!” Dole cried, her voice crystal webbed with cracks. “They took the people of Earth!”

Besh said, “That explains a lot.”

“No it doesn’t,” Beryl protested, hardly phased by the latest threat to his life. “They don’t need new people. They can copy and modify their own. They can scan and digitize the living without them even noticing.”

“Well they did!” Dole yelled, her anger shivering out into her hair, making it frizz out.

“When?” Beryl asked gently.

Between hiccup breaths she said, “One hundred and thirty years ago. My parents’ generation.”

Beryl touched Fife on the shoulder, asking her to move aside with his eyes. She obliged.

Beryl faced Dole and her gun. He spoke softly, “I don’t think they took your parents.”

“They did!” she cried, whipping the gun toward him. The barrel wobbled around.

Beryl continued, “The Post-humans asked if they wanted to leave. They said yes.”


“That’s how they would have done it. The Post-humans would see it as mercy.” Beryl turned to Ohnsy. “That must have been where Silver Pod’s owner went too.”

Ohnsy curled her lip into a snarl, but she didn’t deny it.

“No,” Dole repeated. She wiped her tears on the sleeve of her space suit. “I won’t let you spread these lies. I won’t let you take more people away.”

Fife patted the air, said gently, “We’re not here to take anyone.”

“It doesn’t matter.” Dole sounded more in control of herself now. “People will want to leave if they hear what you have to say. They’ll want to go to the Post-human fantasy reality or whatever it is. Leave now or I’ll be forced to kill you.”

“I need a ship,” Beryl said, “so I don’t endanger my friends.”

Fife shook her head. “Besh and I are going with you.”

“You’re not staying on my ship,” Ohnsy cut in, raising her voice.

“You can’t just take one of our ships,” Dole said even louder.

Beryl turned to Ohnsy. “Please, let us use Silver Pod a little longer, just to drop me off. I’ll face…”

Bam! The gunshot resounded deafeningly in the hard-walled space. A moment later something impacted Beryl behind his shoulder, he fell forward, drifting down too slow, hands grasping at empty air, the lazy lunar gravity preventing him from reacting. As if I had anything useful to contribute to this fight, he thought.

The wound didn’t hurt hardly at all. He figured he was in shock. He hoped that if he died, the Post-humans would leave his friends alone.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Besh dart forward. Another shot rang out. It didn’t hit him. Finally the floor rose up to meet his palms. He bounced, flailed once more in air.

His ears rang, but he thought he heard fighting behind him, hopefully the sound of Fife and Besh subduing Dole. He wished he could turn over. He wished he weren’t so helpless.

Then Ohnsy, of all people, was beside him, grabbing the collar of his spacesuit, orienting his feet toward the floor. Still there was no pain.

He turned around. The pain came suddenly, overwhelming and unexpected in its degree and its nature.

Fife lay on the floor, blood oozing between her gloved fingers where she put pressure on her own wound. She had been fast enough even in the lunar gravity. She had stepped between him and the bullet. She had hit him, been driven into him, when the bullet struck her.

He hardly noticed Besh pinning Dole. That didn’t matter.

“No,” Beryl moaned.

He fell to his knees, bounced inelegantly, irreverently.

“No,” he said again. “You shouldn’t have.” His vision blurred with tears.

Fife’s eyes came back from the middle distance, fixed on him. She had incredible green eyes. Her raven hair pooled around her, wafting easily in the low gravity. The best genetics money could buy. An unfathomable, priceless moral sense.

He shook his head. “I don’t deserve this.”

She swallowed. Blood lingered around her gums and between her teeth. She said, “You helped a friend once. Don’t sell yourself short.”

He could barely process her words. Only later would he understand she meant Water.

Then she smiled, said, “My story’s not over.”

But it was.

Link to next part: 30


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