Though I’m busy with teaching, the little I’ve been writing has been with enthusiasm. Even when I can see the flaws in my writing, when I tap into that enthusiastic energy, it comes through in my writing. My novel revision (in some parts re-writing from scratch) reflects this as well. If there’s a magic spell to summon or capture such energy, I don’t know what it is, but I’ll ride it as long as I’ve got it.
Ohnsy has been put out of commission. What can Besh do in the face of this powerful enemy? Read on, dear reader, and find out.
The request at the back of Besh’s skull was as painless as a shoulder tap. Besh’s denial of the request stabbed splinters into every nerve ending in his body.
The Post-human, a particular individual, or at least a sentient sub-pattern, asked him again. Let me in.
Once again, Besh said no.
The pain forced his jaw shut. He curled in on himself, sank to the floor of Silver Pod’s infirmary.
Beryl was yelling at Ohnsy. He stopped, came to Besh’s side, shaking him with a clammy hand. “Are you ok?”
Besh relaxed his face, tried to apologize to Beryl. He wished he could have done more to protect his new friend from the Post-humans, but the hands of the puppet master were forcing their way inside him. He couldn’t speak.
Then Beryl cried out, a surprised gagging bark. He seized his hand back from Besh. “They’re inside me!”
That meant that the PH’s had entered Reimann space, the so-called real world. Besh was built for interface, but they would need access to local quantum in order to resonate with Beryl.
Beryl’s plan had been a good one. It was a shame they wouldn’t get a chance to implement it. Beryl stumbled back away from Besh as if he’d caught the mind virus from him, a ridiculous idea. The PH’s didn’t need anything so crude as contact transference.
As Beryl ceased to block Besh’s field of view, the infirmary floor stretched like a vast plain, which he lay sideways upon in the fetal position. The elevated table that held Fife’s body reared up like a mountain.
In all his life, Besh hadn’t met many people who hadn’t been transcendent beings gallivanting around in human bodies as a game. Nonetheless Fife seemed special. He wondered what she would have done in his position.
It was obvious. She would have fought back. Even knowing it was impossible, she would have tried. He forced his metacognition up from the dark depths that the PH was trying to shove him down into. He gripped his own mind. He pushed himself up off the floor.
The punishment came swiftly, sharp pain like nothing he’d ever known. He’d been built for awe, wonder, sensation, and pleasure. This, in some ways, was an exciting new experience. Such pain! And not just physical, but laced with misery. The PH’s were skilled. They knew pain could be overcome, but misery and despair existed on another level.
Besh sank back down, forehead resting on the cool hard surface, faint ammonia scent tickling his nostrils. Best to give up, to let the cruel PH win. It would take the suffering away once it had what it wanted.
Not even Fife could have fought this beach head of despair coming from within him. Could she? A kernel of perception bobbed to the surface, free of the punishing pain. It was something Besh had in inhuman amounts, curiosity. What would happen if he did fight back? It was enough.
He put his palms flat on the floor, pushed himself upward. His legs flexed into a frog stance, then he stood. He felt like a sentient tower, wobbling in the wind. Beryl’s mewling voice was a background wash of bird songs. Ohnsy’s inquiries buzzing from the comm were crickets. Lifting his leg felt like pulling tree roots out of the ground. Besh walked toward Fife’s body like a statue come to life.
The Post-human in his head sent conflicting signals down his spine. He collapsed, banging knees and elbows on the hard floor, but he shut down the signal and regained control. Besh crawled the rest of the way, excited by the Post-human’s obvious frustration.
Why? Why do this? it asked in his head.
Besh only smiled. He didn’t really know why. Was it for his friend, Beryl? Was he inspired by Fife’s example? Was it pure curiosity? No single reason sufficed, but the sum matched the suffering of this pain.
Besh reached the table. Fife was pale with blood loss, but she looked calm, in control even in death. He reached down and took the mesh wrap off her head. He placed it over his own bald head.
“Invoke my oldest memories,” Besh told the infirmary.
Maybe it was too late. Maybe the Post-humans were already in the system and would override his command. Maybe it wouldn’t make a difference either way. Beryl’s plan was based on conjecture, but there was a chance and that was worth fighting for.
The infirmary machine activated. It took him back to his oldest memories.
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