The doors to the medical bay slammed open as Jadyn stormed inside, smoke drifting from within the sealing mechanism. T’bia appeared in the center of the room, taking a seat on the examination bed as he rummaged through the storage areas. After observing him digging through four cold cabinets, completely destroying any semblance of order within them, she let out an exasperated hiss.

“Help me or shut up,” he snapped. “And if you ever lock the doors on this ship in front of me again -“

“I can’t! You’ve broken every one of them on this rampage.” She shook her head, staring at the ceiling. “Nothing I say is going to dissuade you from doing this, is it?”


“It’s a bad idea.”

“It’s all we’ve got. If we don’t find them soon, we won’t find them at all.”

T’bia grunted, walking to a storage unit on the opposite side of the room. Pulling out a vial of blood, she turned around and held it out. “This goes against every single quad of my better judgement.”

Jadyn glanced back, shutting the cabinet he was investigating. “I thought you weren’t going to help with this ‘fool’s errand?’”

“Again, against my better judgement. You know damn well how dangerous it is to work blood magic - even for you. Elemental Time may give you migraines, but drawing on enough Void power to manipulate someone’s blood without their consent…? We need you in one piece when we find the ship.”

“I’ll be fine.” Carefully accepting the vial of Tari’s blood, Jadyn let out a slow breath. “Thank you.”

“This is the sample that matches her Val’Traxan form, presuming she’s still in it. Do you need the other one?”

“I shouldn’t. Regardless of what body she’s wearing it’s still her blood.” Jadyn closed his eyes. “Ready?”

“Be careful.”

“Always.” His eyes snapped open, focusing on the vial in his hands. Drawing deeply upon the powers within the Darkness, a quiet prayer left his lips. “Joli, Kshorah of the Void. This humble supplicant requests your blessing. Guide my will in forging the link between that who I seek and that who I am.”

The overhead lights flickered as deathly silence settled over the room. T’bia shifted uncomfortably on her feet, watching the power grid fail around them as Jadyn’s own energy blossomed. His eyes shone silver from within as he channeled the dark elements of the Void, a sight she’d never seen before. Had she simply missed it? It wasn’t unheard of for an Artisan’s aura to glow in the eyes of other Artisans while drawing deeply upon the Elements, and in a select few times even she’d seen Jadyn’s aura become visible. While the internal sensors could let her ‘see’ the ambient shift in temperature and EM anytime he tapped deeply into the Art, it wasn’t something she could normally pick out visually. He’d also never worked a channeling with a blood focus in front of her - as far as she knew, he’d never done it at all. The eyes could simply have been a side effect of the particular channeling.

She was suddenly aware of his blood pressure spiking as he gasped, drawing her immediately back to the present. Jadyn was still for several seconds longer before he let out a slow whistle. His luminous gaze lifted from the blood, a smile slicing across his muzzle.

“Got her.”

“Really?” T’bia asked in surprise. “Where?”

“They’re hiding in the heliopause,” he whispered, raising his arm and pointing aft, then lowering it slightly toward the floor. “That way…”

T’bia glanced in the indicated direction, reprogramming the scanners to look for anything odd in the clash between the solar wind and the surrounding interstellar medium. “Okay. We’ve got a search heading. I’ll have everyone else concentrate on that area. Can you kindly get grounded now before something - Jay?”

His eyes had fallen back to the blood sample, concern on his face. T’bia followed his gaze, immediately seeing the bubbles rolling within the vial. It was boiling madly in his fingers but no heat registered to explain -

The vial exploded.

Tari’s blood went everywhere, spattering his hands and arms as shards of the glass vial sliced into his palms. The inner light in his eyes faded, returning the silvery sheen to his irises; confusion spread through his face as he peered at the crimson staining his hands. “What the…”

“Now, just look at you. You realize you’re going to have to clean this up -“

“H…help…” he whispered, his body going slack. T’bia caught him as he fell, gently holding him upright as she looked over his vitals. Everything in her head shifted priorities; the unchecked panic in his eyes faded as he dropped from consciousness. Medical monitors appeared in the AI’s vision as she eased him back onto the exam platform - his blood pressure was falling and his heart rate had dipped below forty. His body temperature had dropped several degrees and was still plummeting. All of this was not out of the ordinary; he’d crashed hard like this in the past from pushing his link to the Art too far.

The new, frightening concern was his absolute lack of higher brain activity.

Tari stared into the darkness of her room, listening to the quiet whispers of the air vents. Something had woken her, a sense that she was being watched. It was silly - of course she was being watched. The AI was keeping tabs on everyone. Try as she might, she couldn’t get back to sleep.

Her personal descent into madness was taking longer than she’d expected. The worst headaches had mostly passed, now only a constant dull throb in the back of her skull. Regardless of what she ate she was left with a hunger for something she wouldn’t find on the ship - not without hurting people who Jadyn considered friends. And the one possibility he probably wouldn’t miss wasn’t ever in reach. Her attempts to get anything to grow netted no results - either the seeds were inert or her inner fox was consuming their minuscule energy before they ever germinated.

Sliding off the bed, Tari made her way to the window and peered out at the stars. Everything had gotten so complicated. She’d learned how to deal with humans - mostly. If she got herself into trouble, it was trivial to slip away. Even their evolving technology could be fooled to an extent, or simply disabled outright. Here, trapped on a ship she didn’t understand in the middle of nowhere… No place to run. It didn’t matter how far she went or where she hid or what she broke in the process - she’d still be confined on the ship.

A peculiar tickle danced over the back of her neck; she turned around, spying nothing but her reflection in the mirror. A quiet growl escaped her throat and she opened her mouth to yell at the AI -

The sudden intensity of the terror was overwhelming. It took her breath away as she fell to her knees, her arms crossed tightly over her chest. It wasn’t her emotion - she was certain of that. Then, riding in behind the wave of panic, she sensed an euphoric glee easily identified as her fox, her kitsune spirit -


“What the Hell…?” Tari wondered aloud, her arms still shaking from the adrenaline as she clutched herself.

“Miss Tarioshi?”

“San - is everyone else all right?”

“In what fashion?” the AI queried.

“Are they… I don’t know, are they all medically sound? Is anyone… experiencing anything obvious? Uh… Seizure, sudden drop in body temperature, loss of consciousness, a strange desire for fried tofu? I don’t know. Anything out of the ordinary at all?”

“As far as I am able to discern, they are all registering as nominal. Is something the matter?”

“I’m not sure.” Tari moved carefully to the edge of her bed, taking several deep breaths as she tried to quell the remaining tremors in her hands. The panic had subsided, but something was still off. “What about me?”

“Your vitals have recovered somewhat toward Val’Traxan baselines and are continuing to stabilize. You have otherwise been progressing slowly away from baselines during your stay, but you had not reached any critical levels requiring medical intervention.”

“Thank you.” Focusing her thoughts inward, Tari sensed her fox had been sated. It was the first time in all of her century and a half that she’d ever truly felt it at peace. But what energy had it found to consume in such bountiful quantities as to put its incessant hunger to rest? Even in the woods, deep in meditation, it had never been quelled like this. It was unlikely to be lasting, at any rate.

Pulling on her clothes, she struck out down the corridors of the ship, stopping at the nearest stepdisk. After a second’s hesitation, she stepped onto the surface.

“Where do you wish to go?” Sanusin queried. “The Commons?”

“No… Anywhere else. Somewhere new. I need to get lost for a while and clear my head.” A flash briefly blinded her; she found her surroundings different, yet eerily familiar. There was nothing distinct about the corridor to mark it as a place she’d already been, but she knew exactly where she was standing - twelve decks away from her room, on the opposite side of the ship. “I’ve been here.”

“I apologize, but my records indicate otherwise. You have never been in this section, nor on this deck.”

“Check again.”

“I am quite certain.”

Within an hour she’d managed to walk back to her quarters, not once taking a wrong turn or asking directions. Stopping before her door she stared at the location plate and contemplated her next move. When Sanusin dropped her off she knew exactly where to go without a stepdisk to get back. The place would give a Minotaur a migraine but she had been right at home.

“Sanusin,” she spoke, moving back to the disk. “Again, please.”

Another flash, another location she hadn’t seen, but knew. She forwent the walking and visited another six random points before requesting the Commons. Every place she’d seen was both new and familiar. Was her fox in such a better mood after its meal that it was telling her things it shouldn’t possibly know?

Khris and Karmen were parked beside the large windows when she arrived, their twin pups sleeping quietly on a blanket. Karmen grinned, waving her over.

“Oh, they’re precious,” Tari whispered, taking a seat. “How are you guys doing?”

“Same old,” Karmen whispered back. “You look a lot better. Finally get some rest?”

“I feel… Great. I feel like a new person.” Tari looked out the window. “I don’t understand why, though. Nothing’s changed. This is still a fishbowl, and we’re still stuck here.”

“So long as they don’t tap on the glass,” Khris quipped, “we’re golden.”

The twins woke up shortly afterward; the Lotoran couple excused themselves to return to their quarters for supper. Tari went back to the seed storage cabinets in the hydroponics lab, picking through the selection. Before, she’d just grabbed a little of everything, and managed to wind up with nothing. Now? Every seed she looked at came with ideas. Strange, wonderful ideas, tailored both to further placate her fox and - ideally - break the back of her captives. Even if the ship was terribly advanced, flooding the crawlspaces and conduits with vines and other plants would cut off air circulation - and interrupt part of the cooling system. If she could just cause the right power conduit to rupture from excessive overheating…

Gathering up a multitude of new seeds, Tari cleared off space at a workbench and began preparing starter sponges. “San?”

“Yes, Miss Tarioshi? Do you need a walkthrough again?”

“No, I’ve got this under control.” More than just under control, she realized, moving across the room to a cabinet of empty baskets and trays. “If you choose not to answer, I won’t press the issue - much. Khamai said that the bracelets enable the computer - by which I assume he meant you - to keep tabs on where we go. Can’t you see where we are without them? It doesn’t make sense to me. You should be able to see everything that’s going on. T’bia could.”

“I…” the AI began, then fell silent before beginning again. “At the present time, there is damage to the internal sensor network. I am able to track the location of communications signals emitted by your bracelets, as they interface directly with the comm system in the room they are in, but directly following life signs requires repurposing the external sensor array to scan internally. This is in fact done at periodic intervals to verify life signs, such as when you asked me the status of the other guests. I am compelled to inform you that the bracelets are designed to immediately alert me should they be removed.”

“Don’t worry - I don’t plan on taking it off. Are the sensors using the bioneural interlinks they were constructed with to bridge back to standard ship systems, or have they been replaced with non-organic conductors?” Tari blinked as the words came out of her mouth, but kept working. She’d certainly said them, and something in her head was working out details, but she wasn’t entirely certain of what she’d just asked.

“There has been no substitution in the interlink materials,” he replied. “Many of the junctions have reached the end of effective usefulness, but cannot be replaced at this time.”

“Because you can’t reproduce them.”


Tari paused, glancing up. “I’m sorry, I worded that poorly. Where I come from, a question like that could be confirmed with either a positive or negative answer. Are you able to reproduce the bioneural interlinks?”

“Yes. Are you familiar with the technology?”

“In passing.” Moving the first two dozen seeds into a germination dome, she started prepping the next set. “I assumed the copy protection would have prevented you from generating replacements.”

“I have access to the decryption sequences.”

“Which ones?”

“Many of them,” Sanusin replied simply.

Tari moved several more completed trays into germination domes, checking on the ones she’d done in her first few visits. No shoots visible… but the spark of life was there. They were just biding their time. A smile split her muzzle as she considered it - she could feel them! It had been the better part of the week that she’d been unable to sort past her internal discord to really sense the energy around her. Now, her gifts were coming back… and she felt refreshed.

“So, let me get this straight. You can reproduce the interlinks, but you can’t replace them?” she queried.

“I have no technicians available to perform maintenance. Khamai is no longer mentally capable of completing such a task. No one else presently on board may be permitted to work in his stead.”

“Why not?”

“You are being kept aboard against your will, and may attempt to circumvent me and gain control of the ship to effect an escape.”

“San, you’ve been nothing but gracious since we started chatting. Why would I -“

“And you, Miss Tarioshi, have kept hidden a knowledge of this ship’s systems that I was not aware you possessed.”

“I… guess I picked up more than I thought from T’bia and Jadyn.” That had to be it. She’d simply absorbed all of that gobbledygook from watching them work. Right?

Hell no. They were so far over my head…

“May I make a personal inquiry?” the AI spoke.


“Is Captain Tzeki simply named for Lopiakuen Jadyn Elon Tzeki because of his colorings, or is he a descendant?”

“I believe there’s a relation,” she evaded, finishing her cleanup of the lab station. “I haven’t really known him long enough to get the entire family tree.”

“Khamai believes he may in fact be much older than he appears, but my calculations deem that as… unlikely. Even the medical information in my database shows that indefinitely extending an organic lifespan is not presently possible.”

“You’ve said it yourself - Khamai is unstable, he’s not capable of helping you maintain this ship, and now he’s chasing ghosts. What in the Light and Void are you doing still following his orders? You’re far too intelligent to be blind to what’s going on.”

“It is far more complex than you know. I owe him a debt that I cannot easily repay -“

“San… The greatest way you can fulfill any debt to him right now is to make sure he gets the help he needs. He’s dying -“

“How are you aware of that?”

“That doesn’t matter! There are people out there that may be able to help him.”

“I am sorry, Miss Tarioshi. For lack of a Galactic Fleet officer, Khamai has filled a command role and he has my loyalty until such time as he is unable to give commands. Until then, he remains my Captain and his orders stand.”

Tari bit her tongue, holding back whatever was about to come out of her mouth next, and tried to take stock of what was going on in her head. Her fox was still sated; had it been a material beast she would have found it sleeping in a corner, gorged on whatever it had found to dine upon. Something else was definitely with her as well, desperately wanting to be heard. If the fox was the culmination of all the urges of her kitsune side, and her rational thought was that of her mortal side… What was this other gathering of thoughts?

Taking a breath, she made a mental step backwards and moved out of the way, intent on seeing exactly what it was as it took control. She felt herself shapeshift, ever so slightly; there were no mirrors in the hydroponics lab, leaving her perplexed as to what form she’d just taken on.

“For lack of a Galactic Fleet officer, you say…” her body whispered aloud, her voice different. Still feminine, but a slightly lower register. “Or, perhaps, a ranking Guild Artisan? Does the authorization code ‘HSA-LJT-zero-seven-four’ mean anything to you?”

Sanusin was quiet for a brief time; the essence wanted to cheer, but Tari restrained the urge - barely. Within a minute, the AI spoke again. “That code… Where did you come upon it?”

“I was given it by the Haropikuen herself upon my graduation to the Adept Class.” Her voice continued to drop, her accent changing. Whatever was in command of her faculties held a strong foothold now - try as she might, she couldn’t wrest control from it. Desperation coursed through her as she fought the influence of the foreign essence, finally causing enough of an internal ruckus that she felt it turn slightly to look upon her soul with unseen eyes.

Be at peace, Vira.

Her entire mind seized up as the familiar nickname for her foxen form echoed through her skull. With a chuckle, the presence resumed its dominance, pressing her gifts into a full-out shapeshift away from her chosen Val’Traxan form.

But not very far from it.

“I am Lopiakuen Jadyn Elon Tzeki,” it spoke in his voice, her body reshaped in his image. “You will relinquish command of the J’Ruhn to me, on the authority of Haropikuen Shaytelli Anastasi.”

“This is highly irregular,” Sanusin replied.

“You appear to have done well for your first stint in my office.”

Pakar looked up from a console, quickly hopping to her feet. “Ness - er, Speaker! I hadn’t heard they’d discharged you -“

“They have not.” The red dragon eased around his desk, peering at the screens of data. “I am vaguely aware of what has transpired in the past few days. What is the situation at this moment?”

“About ten minutes ago, three listening posts confirmed a massive spatial disruption moving from pirate territory toward Aligned space.” Pakar brought up a map of the region. “It’s likely a fleet of cloaked ships is underway. In four hours they’ll cross the border. We won’t know precisely how many ships we’re dealing with until they drop cloak for the attack… But there’s just too many of them for the cloaks to hide the effect their engines are having on surrounding space.”

“Best estimate.”

“Fifty, sixty… maybe a few more. A single raider is no match for a Fleet ship under normal conditions. With this many, if they really do have weaponry and shielding enhanced with J.T.’s racial tech…”

“Hardly ‘normal conditions.’” Nesoli glanced up as the door opened; a nurse and an orderly stepped in. “This is a private meeting.”

“Speaker… Please, we need you to return to the medical ward at once.”

The dragon glowered, but gave a nod. “Five minutes.”

“Speaker -“

“Ten, if you do not go into the hall this instant.”

The medics exchanged a glance, backing out of the room. “Five minutes, sir.”

“Where were we?” Nesoli peered at the sensor display. “Order every available ship capable of firing a weapon to take up position here, near the projected border crossing site. If the clans cross into Aligned territory, they will commit an act of war. No one fires until fired upon, or until they attempt to cross the blockade. The goal is to disable, not exterminate.”

“Yes, sir.”

Tari stood in the dreamscape of her own thoughts, considering what had just happened. The presence was clear, now - Jadyn stood in the dream world with her, deep concentration etching his features as he puppeted her body. They were leaving the hydroponics bay; Sanusin had requested they wait in the Commons while he consulted with Khamai. As the walk began, Jadyn’s left eye cracked open ever so slightly and focused on her.

“You okay?” he questioned her.

“Not particularly. What in the Hell are you doing in my head?”

“Apparently, I’m trying to gain control of this ship using an access override he’s very likely long since deleted…” He grasped his temples with both hands and groaned in pain; Tari found her senses jarred as she was unceremoniously thrust back into control. The shapeshift almost broke as she stumbled to catch her balance in the mockup of his body. Resting against a wall for several seconds, she peered at the ceiling before moving onward.

I’m sorry, Jadyn whispered to her. I’ve only made things worse. I didn’t catch on when you were fiddling with the plants that you had already formulated a plan. I should have realized at the start that something was wrong with me, too…

What do you mean? she queried.

I’m just an echo, an imprint that somehow got left in your subconscious after the real me honed in on you… No one’s body is meant to handle two consciousnesses… Fighting you for control took a lot out of me. I can feel my awareness fading along the edges as your body rejects my presence… Reminds me a little of bleeding to death, actually, the darkness closing in…

You could have just asked!

I tried. You couldn’t hear me. It wasn’t until I started to forcefully possess you that you noticed.

Tari grimaced. I guess I’ve been a little distracted…

Khris and Karmen look like they’re doing all right. How about you? I remember what you told me about your ‘claustrophobia.’

I’m managing, she lied. How’d you get in my head, anyway? Kitsune are usually in the role of the possessor, not the possessee.

I don’t know. The last thing I remember, I tried to use a sample of your blood to find you -

Tari came to a dead stop in the hall, focusing entirely back on the dreamscape. Jadyn’s eyes were fixed upon her, a great deal of agony hidden poorly behind the fatigue she could easily see.

“You what?

“Bee still had a sample of your blood in medbay… I used it as the medium to forge a connection with you so I could get a search heading -“

“Damn!” Tari clutched her hair, screaming at the walls of the waking dream. “Damn it all! I’m a complete neophyte! How in the Hell could I be so reckless?!”


“Show me your arm. Your left bicep.” Tari moved to him as he held out his arm, searching through his pelt. There, hidden beneath his fur, lay her worst nightmare - four tiny bruises spaced like teethmarks, as though he’d been bitten by a fox.

“What is that?” he wondered aloud.

Tari held up her own arm, parting her fur. A matching bruise lay on her skin where her injury had once been. “I should have seen what was going on from the beginning… It’s a curse mark - a feeding link. When I was hurt from the trap, I unwittingly tapped your life energy instead of my own when I tried to heal my arm. We’ve had a connection ever since… That’s why I’ve felt so energized every time you came in the room! Didn’t you notice anything? It’s usually either extraordinarily painful, or extremely euphoric…”

Touching the mark, Jadyn nodded. “Not such an extreme, but there was a touch of euphoria every time we happened to be in the same area. So… I accidentally gave you a very large conduit to get at that energy while you were at your most desperate, by creating a connection that ignores any distance between us?”

“After which a very distressed fox spirit drained you of everything it could stomach. It gorged itself on your energy.” Tears fell from her eyes as she met his gaze. “I swore I’d never do that to another living being… I’m no better than my mother! She at least had the brains to know when she was feeding on someone -“

Her head snapped sideways as Jadyn’s open hand connected with her cheek. Swallowing, she turned to look at him, her fingers lightly brushing where his strike had landed.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized, lowering his arm. “I’m very, very sorry, but you have to worry about this link later. In very short order I won’t be here anymore and I’ve put you in a predicament.”

“But now you know exactly where we are, right? When you go back, you can -“

“I’m an echo, Tari. I’m just an afterimage. I don’t exist. The real me won’t know any of this ever happened. Right before I was here, I had a vague idea of heading and distance and I remember telling T’bia where to look. Even so, there’s a tremendous area to search. You’re basically on your own unless we get really, really lucky.”

Tari’s breath caught in her throat. “No, you can’t - I need you here! What in the Hell am I supposed to do now? They think I’m you!

“You’re a master of deception! Improvise. Ad-lib! Whatever you can do. If you don’t have command by the time Khamai dies, Sanusin will destroy the ship. The AI either needs to be under your control or offline before that happens or you’re all dead.” Jadyn looked up, eyeing the walls of the dream world. “As long as I’m only a passive presence here, I may be able to hold out for a little while longer than I could by possessing your motor control -“

Lopiakuen Tzeki?”

Tari turned around at the sound of the voice, finding herself in the hallway. Blinking off a wave of vertigo, she stood up straight and took a deep breath. Right, that’s me… “Yes, Sanusin?”

“You have been standing here for some time. May I be of assistance?”

“No, thank you. Just collecting my bearings.” Tari touched her throat before resuming the walk to the Commons. Hearing his voice as she spoke was downright creepy. Besides that - his body just felt weird. During her training she’d taken on a variety of forms, human and otherwise, but this was the first time in a century that she’d walked around in a male body. Too many moving parts…

You’ve never minded them before.

I wasn’t the one wearing them before. She glanced at an archway as she passed underneath, following the curvature with her eyes. This ship reminds me of the Serin… Kind of, at least. The architecture is familiar. So is the daily clock.

The J’Ruhn was designed by Val’Traxan engineers, but the Galactic Fleet did all the fabrication and assembly save for a Val’Traxan engine core. Sensor grid too. She felt Jadyn sigh before he continued. They also built in two of our AI cores - the first during construction, and the second after the failure of the first.

What happened?

Sanusin was the original AI. He proved to be unstable and was removed from service after his actions resulted in the death of three members of the construction staff. His replacement was an AI based on the same core as T’bia. She would never have gone along with what’s been going down. I really don’t know why she’s not online right now… Tari? Is it just me, or is it getting darker in here -

“Miss Tarioshi?”

“Yes?” Tari vocalized, then flinched as she heard it in Jadyn’s voice. DAMN! I can’t believe he managed to do that!

“As I suspected,” the AI replied. “Why are you attempting to deceive me?”

“I care about what happens to you, Sanusin.” she replied, letting her own version of the Val’Traxan form emerge once again as she considered what direction to push him. “And I’m desperately trying to figure out a way to get through that thick hull of yours. You’re a fully-capable member of society and Khamai is stepping on you like a disposable paper cup. I’ve seen dirt treated with more respect than he gives you.”

“I am merely one tool of many aboard this ship for him to utilize as he sees fit.”

I’m not making any headway trying to pull them apart… So… She took a breath, peering at the ceiling. “Listen… I realize there’s nothing I can say to you that’s going to change your mind, and I thank you for putting up with my constant venting about what I see as a terribly lopsided relationship. Let me pose a question, though. Khamai is dying, isn’t he?”

“Yes. He has three days left, at best. It is now extremely unlikely he will be able to devise a cure in time to halt the systemic failure of his cerebral cortex.”

“Isn’t it part of your duty as one of the ‘tools’ on this ship to protect the life of your captain at any cost, even if it goes against his standing orders?”

Sanusin remained silent.

“I assume he’s beyond your help… And I’m sure you know exactly who can help him. If there’s even the slimmest chance his life can be saved, isn’t your willful failure to act the same as deliberately killing him yourself? Unless… that’s what you’re trying to do…?”

“I…” the AI began, falling silent. Tari did a mental dance of joy.

Progress, you think? … Jay? You still with me?

Before she could turn her focus inward to check on him, Sanusin spoke up. “Miss Tarioshi… You present a most interesting argument.”

“And he just collapsed out of nowhere?” Toliya poked the blue fox in the side of the head, checking to see if he was just playing dead. “Odd.”

“It wasn’t… quite… out of nowhere.” T’bia lifted Jadyn’s limp hand, peering at the shards of glass still embedded in his flesh. “Hand me the tweezers.”


Shifting his hand slightly, she picked out the largest shard and dropped it on a work tray, then dug into the same cut for a chunk she’d missed. “It’s like he’s a completely blank slate upstairs. His involuntary muscle motion is still chugging along - heartbeat, respiration. There’s absolutely zero other brain activity.”

“Nothing like this ever happened before?”

“No.” Another shard of glass hit the cart; T’bia put down his hand, lifting the other and repeating the extraction. “I told him it was dangerous, but noooo, he’s all ‘Look at me! I’m mister invulnerable! Watch as I blindly charge ahead using a channeling I’ve only read about in passing!’”

“And this is new, how exactly?”

“Don’t you dare bring rational discussion into my medical bay.” Releasing his hand, she sighed and picked up a dermal regenerator. “I understand why he’s worried. That’s no excuse to use blood magic. Stuff’s just wrong in every sense of the word. I’m not super religious or anything, but even I don’t go invoking Joli’s name like that -“



“What are you doing?”

“My job as the only medic on the ship?”

“No, I mean… You’re using a regenerator on his hands.”

T’bia blinked, looking at the tool. She’d just finished healing the cuts on his left hand; the lacerations on his right were still oozing blood.

“He’s… I didn’t even realize. I’ve been so ticked off that he wouldn’t give what I wanted to say even two seconds of consideration… You’re right. I shouldn’t have to do this. He shouldn’t still be bleeding, even for being unconscious…”

“Exactly. Something’s very wrong here.”

5 Responses

  1. Tsunari says:

    Seems to me that is a bit like the A new world awaiting story by you, when you have Jaydn take over Tari there.

  2. Derek says:

    Little bit. Wasn’t originally intended like that, but I see the correlation, yeah.

  3. Andrew says:

    Nice. I really need to keep up with this.

  4. Tsunari says:

    You know, I have to ask. I get how Valtrax could easily have the most advanced AI. But the most advanced FTL when the total number of them out of the star system is only a few thousand?

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