Writing Exercises

Silver Pod Part 31: Liftoff is Non-Negotiable

Writing Silver Pod has been my succor this week. Revising my novel has been a painful slog. This freewrite was much more fun. It’s imperfect, I don’t like chapters in which there is almost no character interaction, but I hope that I have put my characters in the most dire of straits and you, dear reader, are wondering how they could possibly escape.

Link to part 1

Link to previous part: 30

Ohnsy loped down the Silver Pod’s halls, kicking off walls, sailing toward the gravity lift. She leaped into the lift’s field. “Take me to the bridge, fast!”

Gravity reversed. She dove upward, head first as if Jupiter itself was pulling her toward its liquid metal ocean. Deck after deck whipped past, inches from her head. Then the gravity shifted, bouncing her out as if she had bounded up the tens of decks as nimbly as a cat.

Moments later she was ensconced in an acceleration shell, Silver Pod’s controls splayed before her fingertips. Alerts buzzed to let her know the outer hull was shedding small arms fire. Her fingers twitched. It would be so easy to let the automated defenses rain fire on the Lunars, but Beryl didn’t want that.

And you’re taking orders from Beryl now?

She shook off the reactionary voice in her head. That wasn’t it at all. It was Fife, the woman who’d let Ohnsy break her arm. Fife could have killed her, but instead she let Ohnsy get the first blow in, so she could disarm her without causing harm. The same woman who had stepped in front of a bullet meant for the blustering, physically incompetent man named Beryl. Ohnsy had watched her do it. She’d moved with decisive, intentional speed. What kind of a person did such things? What did such a person believe?

All this time Ohnsy had just wanted to protect her ship, the only thing she would have died for, but what good was a ship without a captain, without a crew?

Silver Pod’s master was truly gone, whisked away to some Post-human paradise without a farewell, and why not? After all, Ohnsy was just a tool, part of Silver Pod’s self-maintenance and repair systems, used and discarded as Besh had been used and discarded. Now the Post-humans were coming for Beryl, but he had a plan and it tickled Ohnsy to think that the plan might just work. It would serve the Post-humans right for discarding this world like so much wrapping paper.

So, without a word, she’d joined this strange little group. Group? Perhaps a crew.

She connected to the infirmary where Besh and Beryl were preparing the equipment. “Liftoff in T-minus ten seconds. I’ll keep anti-grav on to counter the acceleration, but there might still be some bumps.

Beryl’s phlegmy voice came back, too loud, and too breathy, too close to the mic. “Negative. We’re not ready. The PH’s are trying to manipulate Besh. He’s fighting it, but…”

Ohnsy brought up the infirmary cameras. Besh lay fetal on the floor spasming, his ever-calm face showed no struggle. Beryl hovered nearby, rubbing his hands, useless as usual.

“Eight seconds. Liftoff is non-negotiable. Hold on to something.”

Ohnsy set the liftoff to autopilot and targeted the infirmary’s medical system on Besh. She frowned. The system should already have recognized that something was wrong with him.

The Silver Pod lifted into the lunar sky. Ohnsy saw the horizon sink away, felt nothing, had the distinct sensation that the moon had moved while she remained motionless.

She checked the monitor. The countdown hovered at T-minus two seconds. The engines hadn’t fired. She scrolled other systems. Agrav: offline. The thrusters weren’t even warm. Yet Silver Pod rose. The stark line between star glitter black and crater gray dropped away.

Ohnsy’s hand swept up the sensor controls instinctively. She set Silver Pod’s opacity to zero. She looked up.

Icy creepers scurried up her spine.

The Post-human ship loomed over head, visible, huge on radar, vibrant on infrared, yet triggering neither alarms nor proximity sensors. Impossible, said her first thought. Arrogant, said her second. She shook her head, mouth agape, awed even though she knew that’s what they wanted her to feel. They could have rendered their ship invisible. Instead they advertised their presence and, somehow, told the defense system to ignore them.

And they drew the Silver Pod up.

Beryl was shouting something over the speaker, but she wasn’t paying attention. She activated the weapons systems, set them to manual control. At this distance, given the Post-human ship’s size. She couldn’t really miss.

It swam, or perhaps fluttered, if anything so large could be described so delicately, in wind or water that didn’t exist in the universe Ohnsy knew. The chroma and value of its colors approached the burning orange of a sunset, but captured in translucent physicality like fire in a jar, more like a jar made of static fire. Static fire that flirted with motion.

It was meant to awe, to stun the mind. And it worked, mostly. The effect didn’t stop Ohnsy from setting every one of Silver Pod’s mass drivers, plasma throwers, and anti-matter torpedoes to target a point in space a few hundred kilometers dead ahead. It didn’t stop her from lowering her index finger down on the key to fire.

Nothing happened.

She pressed the key again.


Then she heard Beryl. “They’re here. Oh, no, they’re in my head!”

Ohnsy looked at the weapons system readout. It reported green across the board, just like a well maintained system should, just like a thoroughly infiltrated system would.

“Oh no,” she breathed. The Post-humans didn’t need their giant, impossibly colored ship, she realized. They didn’t need to physically lift the Silver Pod. They could infiltrate the onboard systems, but they didn’t need to do that either.

She realized how foolish they’d been to think they could fight back. The PH’s could infiltrate a nervous system as easily as Silver Pod’s electronic brain.

Ohnsy tried to trigger the acceleration shell to release her. Her hand didn’t move. A numb sensation, like her limbs had all fallen asleep at once, smothered her from the outside inward. Her sense of self shriveled inward as the Post-humans balled up her proprioception into a tiny nugget. She felt a moment of terror, then they snuffed her like a candle.

Link to next part: 32


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