“I’m Tygon,” the stranger says, tugging off his helmet as the airlock coughs and cycles around him. Dark hair in desperate need of a cut falls into his eyes. “This is the Daedalus, and Berry’s around somewhere. She’ll come out – or not, there’s no telling with cats.” Continue reading
The sound of a human voice – or even a voice speaking Human – is enough to make him cry. Almost. Jack doesn’t cry. Old habits, and practical ones: he can’t afford to fog up his helmet. Can’t afford to reach out a hand to an enemy either, and it makes him cautious.
Loud and clear, he tells his comm, watching the stars rotate past his field of view, watching the hulk of what used to be the Waxwing slowly beating itself to death against the shattered derelict they’d come to salvage.
The stranger’s tether snaps taut, leaving him – them – it – an arm’s short reach from Jack. An extended arm.
Need a ride?
He has options, Jack tells himself. He can ignore the hand. Wait until his O runs out. Pop his top and try to breathe vacuum. Hit his beacon and hope that whatever comes along next, if anything does, is friendly.
His hand closes around the stranger’s, an imagined warmth inside the hexed fabric of the suit’s glove.
Where are we going?
Wherever we want. Welcome to the Daedalus. Watch out for the cat.
“You have the mind of an accountant and the eyes of a scavenger,” Wulfgang had always teased him. Now Jack can’t help himself: he counts tentacles. Adds up the way they wrap around the cargo hold of the torn derelict. Calculates the irredeemable damage to the Waxwing. Wonders what the value of five human lives is, the multiplier of the unnamed ensouled aliens aboard the mystery ship. Wonders what his own life is worth, in the dark, alone.
That’s when fire breaks across the sky, or what would be the sky if this were a planet, if Jack weren’t holding his breath trying to make his tanks last.
Saurian engines, his accountant’s mind tells him, still trying to wrap itself around the expense of a transparent hull. The gate generator there is Human. Some of those weapon systems are Odacovan cutters. Other systems are unrecognizable. That hyperdrive is as much a mystery as the new ship itself.
So are the weapons, the cannons that are reducing the tentacles and the rift beyond them to drifting ash, space echoes. Magitech, if he had to guess; conventional weapons don’t close holes in reality.
You can’t brace yourself in zero-gee, drifting, but Jack tries nevertheless as he taps up against a fragment of hull. He can’t even tell if it’s his own.
The hatch to the newcomer’s airlock opens and there is a humanoid form in a perfectly respectable human-made spacesuit there. The shape kicks off, scattering ash and leaving behind an uncoiling tether. And finally, the transmissions alight on the Waxwing‘s old comm frequency. “…how about this channel? Can you hear me?”