Writing Exercises

Silver Pod Part 30: To Save a Raven

The plan is for this to be the fourth to last chapter. That seems right, at least for this draft. I had no idea this exercise would last so long. It’s strange to have a mostly-unplanned novel on my blog at this point. Should I revise it? Let it sit and wait awhile? Immediately move on to other things?

School has started and I can sink all my time, thoughts, and emotion into it if I want to, but then what would become of Besh, Fife, and Ohnsy?

Link to part 1

Link to previous part: 29

His feet should have been pounding, but the lunar gravity robbed Beryl of intensity. Still his arms ached and cramps jabbed beneath his ribs. His body had been designed to punish him. If the best revenge is to live well, the best punishment is to live poorly. The Post-humans had designed this body for him. It would resist age, damage, and disease. It would cause him pain at every opportunity.

They needn’t have bothered. Meat-space was cruel and hostile, uncaring and deadly.

He and Ohnsy carried Fife between them. The deadweight helped them move faster. Beryl winced, his eyes swimming in tears. Not deadweight, his friend, the most amazing person he’d ever met.

Around a bend, their inertia carried Beryl off his feet. Ohnsy ate the brunt of the force, crunched against the wall.

“Watch it,” she barked at him.

“I’m *gasp* sorry *gasp.”

He was sorry, so very sorry.

Don’t sell yourself short. Why had she said that? He was worthless. What had he ever done to deserve her sacrifice?

My story’s not over.

Please let that be true, he thought.

They skidded into the infirmary. The room was almost blinding in its pristine, whiteness. Machinery woke, sensing a patient, sensing a purpose. Grasping arms descended from the ceiling, helped lift Fife’s body into a shallow, human-shaped tray. Ohnsy gestured for Beryl to step back.

Needle-tipped tubes reared like cobras, jabbed just as swiftly into Fife’s body. Robotic hands scissored off her clothes, affixed her with dermal monitor pads. A larger tube dove aggressively down her throat. Beryl felt sick, couldn’t look away. A laser glowed ruby red, tiny smoke wisped up from Fife’s bare chest like a tiny soul flitting away.

There’s no such thing, Beryl thought. My story’s not over. What did you mean?

More robotic hands, sharp crack of her chest being broken open, inside a mess of ruined organs. More stabbing, penetrating tubes to take up the work those organs could no longer do.

“Get her brain stabilized, damn it!” Beryl yelled.

Ohnsy glared at him, spoke evenly, “There’s a procedure. It knows what it’s doing.”

But the machines seemed to hear him, because next her head was treated. With a splash of noxious chemicals her hair dissolved away. A netting of shiny metal was stretched over her head. Tiny robotic arms drilled into her skull with a high-pitched whine.

Beryl rubbed his clammy hands and rocked back and forth. It had to work. Her story couldn’t end like this.

The action slowed all at once. A dozen robotic limbs and tubes retracted, tucked themselves away into walls and floors. Those that remained seemed to sag as if giving up in defeat.

“No!” Beryl shouted, “No, no, no. Tell them to keep going.”

Ohnsy stood at a raised monitor, its information flickering green reflections in her eyes. “It’s over,” she said.

“No. It can’t be over.”

Ohnsy snapped her head head at him, jaw set. “The bullet had a toxin capsule in it, got into her blood stream, dissolved her brain in seconds.”

Beryl felt cold all over. “Tell that machine to extract something from her mind, anything.”

Ohnsy gestured at the monitor, palm up. “It doesn’t even recognize what it’s seeing as a brain. There’s nothing we can do.”

Beryl staggered across the infirmary to where Fife lay. He tried to wipe away tears, but they swam back up his eyes and wouldn’t fall, the surface tension stronger relative to the lunar gravity. How he hated this universe for all its petty stings.

“My story’s not over. Why did she say it?” he touched her head, the chemicals making his throat clench and his palms burn.

There’s no afterlife. There’s nothing. He shook her lifeless head. “Why did you say it?”

She said nothing.

Besh burst into the room, stopped suddenly, eyes falling on Beryl, on Fife.

“Dole?” Ohnsy asked.

“I threw her out,” Besh said softly, not taking his eyes off Fife.

“Without a space suit, I hope,” Ohnsy added.

Beryl ignored all this. He scrunched his eyes shut, forcing out the tears. He saw clearly. Fife’s dramatic raven hair was gone. With her eyes shut she looked almost peaceful. Below the neck her torso was rent open, wet and glistening and oozing black where the bullet had torn through. Her heart was a motionless lump of veiny muscle.

He wanted to take her heart in his hands and pulse it, force it to work, as irrelevant as it was.

My story’s not over. She wouldn’t have said that arbitrarily. She had meant something, but he didn’t understand. Of course he didn’t understand. Don’t sell yourself short. Maybe she’d been mocking him.

He almost didn’t hear Besh groan. Beryl turned as Besh fell to his knees, the dark man’s face twisted in pain. Beryl knew what it was before Besh spoke.

The pain passed. Besh looked up. “They’re here.”

The Post-human ship was finished. It had become fully realized in real space. Now they were pinging Besh to get his location, to get Beryl’s location.

“I’ll give myself up,” Beryl offered quickly. “You can jettison me in a space suit and fly far away from here. You’ll have your ship back, Ohnsy.”

“No,” Besh said adamantly, pushing himself to standing. “I’m sticking with you.”

The old Beryl stirred, the petty, smart being, ready to throw around its reason no matter the harm it caused. “You think that’s what she wanted?” He yelled the question at Besh. “Maybe she wanted me to sacrifice myself for you. Did you think of that? Maybe you’re robbing me of my heroic moment.”

Besh stood implacable, his expression schooled after the pain of the probe into the Post-human receptacle in his head. “It’s what I want.”

“Bah!” Beryl spat. He pushed himself to his knees, floating despite the heaviness he felt.

A sharp alarm bleated. Ohnsy’s eyes snapped back to the monitor. “The Lunars are taking shots at our hull,” Ohnsy informed them. “Let me shoot back,” she said greedily.

For a moment Beryl considered giving in. For a moment he considered the pleasure it would bring him to rip the lunar colony apart. The moment passed. Fife has spared them once. He wouldn’t be the one to kill them now.

There was something else. Something Ohnsy had said.

Our hull.

She didn’t need permission to shoot back, but she was asking anyway.

“They aren’t our enemy,” Beryl said. Our enemy. He pressed his lips into a determined line. “I’ve got an idea.”

Link to next part: 31


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