Reference to terrorism
Discussion of suicide/suicidal ideation
Life roared back, cold and wet and aching, somewhere in the dark.
Elpida sat bolt upright and retched clotted blood into her own hands.
She coughed and choked and drooled crimson mucus, wheezing to draw breath through a clogged throat. Her heart beat with an arrhythmic flutter, making her jerk and gasp. Her lungs heaved with stabbing pains; her skin was coated in freezing sweat and burning heat. Her head pounded worse than the time Howl had learned a new trick, and bounced her off the training mat over and over until Elpida had put Howl in a choke-hold.
She’d heard Howl’s voice, in her dying moments.
“How— Howl?” she tried to say, but managed only a strangled hiss. She leaned forward and brought up chunks of gristle, thick mucus, dried blood. She croaked, “Howl? … Howl?”
But Howl was dead. Elpida had heard only her own brain chemistry on the edge of oblivion.
A stained and raspy voice breathed in the dark: “Now that’s a miracle.”
Elpida pulled her head up.
She was in a small concrete room, like one of the box-bunkers down on Telokopolis’ plateau: bare walls, gritty floor, low ceiling. A metal rectangle covered a narrow slit window. Concrete steps on the right led up to a stout metal door, closed and barred. Another metal door stood half open behind her. Humped figures hunched against the walls. Elpida blinked her eyes to clear her vision, but the world was dark and blurred.
“Elpida?” said Vicky.
Elpida coughed up bloody mucus when she tried to speak. She spat on the floor, focused on breathing slowly and smoothly, and then tried again. “Yeah. Yes. Vicky.”
“Don’t force it,” Vicky rasped.
“I’m here,” Elpida forced. “I’m … I’m up.”
“Take it slowly, okay? You had a nasty wound.”
If her lungs hadn’t hurt so much, Elpida would have laughed. “I took a bullet through the heart.”
The Vicky-lump shifted in the darkness. “Sorry, let me get the light. Last one burnt out hours ago. I think we can see in the dark, a little bit, but it sucks. Let me just … ”
Snap; a cold blue light crept outward to fill the concrete bunker, from a glow-stick in Vicky’s left hand.
“Fuck me,” Vicky breathed. “You really are alive.”
Vicky looked awful; her dark skin was grey-pale with stress, eyes red and ringed with pain. She was sitting on a makeshift bed of spare coats. She’d been stripped to the waist and half-wrapped in an emergency thermal blanket. The crinkly material reflected the sickly blue light from the glow-stick. An unfamiliar fur-trimmed green coat was draped over her shoulders.
Her right arm lay in her lap — attached to her shoulder by a stringy mass of exposed muscle, glistening red and wet. White bone was visible through a split in the meat. Strips of skin grew across the gap as if reaching toward each other.
“I know, right?” Vicky hissed. “Wild.”
Elpida struggled not to cough: “I got you shot. You followed my orders and I got you shot. I’m sorry.”
Vicky shrugged with her left shoulder. She placed the glow-stick in her lap, next to the unmoving fingers of her right hand. “You slew the monster. And hey, I’m good as new.”
Vicky swallowed hard and tried to smile. “No. It hurts like a bitch and I can’t move it right. Reattaching it made me scream so loud I thought my lungs would burst. Apparently that’ll improve.”
“And your ribs?”
“Better than the arm. Stings when I breathe. How about you, Elpi?”
Amina and Ilyusha were huddled beneath a nest of spare coats in the corner, heads together, fast asleep. Ilyusha’s bionic tail poked out of their makeshift bed. A pair of ballistic shields stood against the wall, one intact, the other with a chunk missing from an upper corner. Three backpacks sat on the floor, one of them looking less plump now it had been raided for coats and emergency blankets. Elpida’s own armoured coat sat in a sad pile, covered in blood, holes in the back, along with some shredded grey underlayers from Vicky. Guns were laid out, including Vicky’s heavy machine gun and all the equipment Elpida had been carrying. But no coilgun.
Three empty cannisters stood in front of one of the backpacks; one had a couple of mouthfuls worth of blue slime left at the bottom.
“Did it stay down?” Elpida asked. “The Silico.”
“Yeah. Yeah, you fucked it up real good, Elpi. You saved us. Seriously. Whatever, you got me shot, whatever. I don’t care. You knew what to do, you saved the rest of us.”
Vicky was panting softly, speaking too fast, blinking as if concussed. Elpida couldn’t straighten up without pain, but she knew she needed to change the subject.
“Nice coat,” she said.
Vicky blinked several times, then laughed, then winced. “Ow. Spoils of war. Illy grabbed it from the battlefield, before we took off. Said it looks cool. Elpi, how are you feeling? You were … ”
Elpida examined herself. Her hands and arms worked without issue. She straightened up, ignoring the pain in her chest, struggling to suppress the cough. She was wrapped in a thermal blanket as well, crinkling beneath a fresh armoured coat draped over her shoulders. But her grey underlayers hadn’t been changed: her own blood had dried around three ragged holes in the fabric. She worked one hand up inside the shirt and found three areas of tender, spongy flesh, little throbbing craters in her front, sealed but wet. Her fingers came away covered in plasma and blood, almost black in the blue glow-stick light. Her whole chest felt like it was full of glass. Her heart spasmed. She coughed.
“You were dead,” Vicky was saying. “I mean, sure, we’re all dead, or undead, or whatever. But you were dead dead. You weren’t breathing — oh hell, none of us need to breathe. But you were cold and you were limp. No rigor mortis, I guess. You were dead, Elpi. You were fucking dead.”
“Do we regenerate? Come back to life?”
Vicky shook her head. “We used two cannisters of nanos on you. The blue goo stuff. Had to get it in there and pour it into your heart. Smear it on the damage. Thought I was gonna be sick. Same with my arm. That was weird, with so much of it missing and … and … the flesh was reaching … like … ”
“What? Oh. No, she’s fine. Flesh wound. Popped it right out. She did regen, for real, I think. Amina’s untouched. Lucky kid.” She pointed at the leftover nanomachine slime in the third cannister. “Supposed to tell you to drink the stuff when you wake up. Couldn’t make you swallow while you were … dead.”
Elpida couldn’t stop coughing. Her heartbeat was wrong — presumably healing. She hadn’t felt such an invasive sensation since twelve years old, when she and the cadre had undergone the wide-awake operations to install their mind-machine interface and neural lace. Her ribs ached where the Silico’s sabot-rounds had punched through her chest. Her back hurt like one big pulled muscle, crusted with blood from the massive exit wounds. Something back there felt cold when she inhaled.
She couldn’t process this second resurrection. Elpida’s mind was crafted and honed to absorb information without shock, but this was more than information. She had used her own death to buy the lives of her comrades — the way it always should have been back in Telokopolis, for Howl and Metris and Silla and all the others. She should have walked into the Civitas chambers with a bomb strapped to her chest years ago, should have marched up to the Covenanters when they were still playing politics, and turned them all into bloody meat and greasy carbon. She had sacrificed herself in the way she always should have done. She had corrected her mistake. Would Old Lady Nunnus be proud? Probably not. But Howl would be. Elpida had saved everyone. Howl grinned in her memories, bright and shining and right.
But still, she lived. Elpida drew in a wheezing breath and coughed blood into her hand. She said: “You … you came back for me? You carried me?”
“Not me.” Vicky turned her head and nodded. “Her.”
Pira was sitting against the wall, behind Elpida. Eyes closed, arms folded, back straight — maybe asleep or maybe pretending. She’d washed most of the blood off her pale, freckled face, and cleaned up her torn body armour. Her submachine gun lay in her lap. A twist of flame-red hair was tucked over one shoulder.
“She came back for me,” Elpida said. “At the end. She hit the Silico.”
Vicky nodded, panting softly. “Yeah. Came out of nowhere. Sneaky little bitch.” She laughed softly, then winced again. “I mean that with affection. Sorry. Pain is fucking me up. Wish we had some morphine, or even just some tylenol. Pira told us how to use the nanomachine goop. She smeared it on her fingers and got right into your chest with it. Knew exactly what to do. Said you’d probably come back, given time. But maybe you wouldn’t. But you did. So, yeah.”
Elpida stared at Pira’s sleeping face. Even in rest she looked taut.
“Pira. Are you awake?”
Vicky said: “She doesn’t talk much. Not to me, at least. I’ve been sleeping.”
“How—” Elpida coughed again. “How long have I been out?”
“Don’t know. Twelve, sixteen hours? Kaga’s got a clock, I think.”
Elpida’s mind sharpened through the pain. She glanced around the concrete box. “Where is Kagami? And Atyle?”
Vicky nodded at the half open metal door and the concrete corridor beyond. “Kaga’s down that way. There’s a couple of other rooms. A cistern, water. Vile, but we can drink it. Bunk-room too, but … nah.”
Vicky grimaced. “She walked off. When we were bugging out. I was screaming, too much pain, lost track of her. Kaga says she just turned away from us and walked, like she knew exactly where she really wanted to be.”
Elpida sighed. That hurt in a new way. “Damn.”
One lost. One was too many. Elpida clenched her stomach muscles to stop from coughing again. “Did somebody recover Zeltzin’s corpse, like me?”
“Uh, maybe. I think I saw Lianna, the big spider woman. Scooped her up? I couldn’t say for sure.”
“Where are we now?”
Vicky said, “Only about a hundred feet from the tomb pyramid. First safe spot we found. Went to ground. Barred the door. You weigh a ton, apparently. All that height and muscle, heh. Ah, ow.”
“Vicky, take it easy. Rest. You did well. Your job now is to recover and heal, so you focus on that. We’ll get that arm working again.”
Vicky pulled a grey grimace. “I didn’t do anything. I got shot. Couldn’t even carry my own arm.”
“That was my fault, not yours. You are not responsible for my mistake. Rest, relax, recover. That’s an order.”
An order. As if Elpida had the right to give any orders. But Vicky nodded.
Elpida stood up.
Her heart fluttered and jumped in strange directions. Her head flushed with blood, then drained out. Her whole body shook with weakness. She coughed several times. She peeled the thermal blanket open and stared down at her wounds — knotty twists of red muscle, wet and soft, holes sealed by nanomachine miracles. The skin was closing up, but too slowly to measure with the naked eye; Elpida understood that technology, at least. Skin-repair was well within the abilities of any hospital in Telokopolis. A Legion medical team or a pilot capsule could have kept her alive with a shattered heart and punctured lungs — but not on a bare concrete floor, with no equipment except bare hands and raw nanomachine sludge.
And she hadn’t been kept alive. She’d been dead.
Vicky rasped, “Elpi, you take it easy too, please.”
“I can stand.” The pain in her chest was incredible, but Telokopolis gene-engineering work was already dumping pain-blockers into her bloodstream. She nodded at the metal cover over the slit window. “Safe to open that?”
“Pira says no, not with light showing. And hey, I agree with her. We’re wounded and slow. We don’t want attention.”
Elpida looked down at Pira again. “Pira, are you awake?”
“No,” said Pira.
Elpida knew what it felt like to be saved. The cadre had defended each other in combat again and again, year after year. Howl had saved her life in more than a physical way. But this felt different. Pira was not her clade-sister, not one of her cadre.
“You came back for me,” she said.
Pira grunted. “Mmhmm.”
“We’re fresh. Still in the rapid regen period after resurrection. Knew you’d come back in a day or two. Leaving you there would be a waste, you’d just get eaten by scavengers. Depending on your deal, you’d have woken up in another tomb, weeks or months or years from now.”
That wasn’t an answer, but Elpida let it go. She said, “You came back and shot at the Silico. I wouldn’t have hit it without your support. Pira, thank you.”
Pira said nothing. Didn’t even open her eyes.
Vicky said: “Why do you call that thing ‘Silico’?”
Elpida shrugged. The gesture made her back and ribs scream with pain. She coughed. “Because that’s what it was. A Silico drone, from the green. Made of spare parts and stolen corpses. It wasn’t exactly like the ones I’m familiar with, but the principles were the same.” She nodded at the weapons on the floor. “Kind of like our guns. Same principles. Different eras.”
Pira said, “That was late era necro junk. Nothing more. Whatever your time was like, everything from it is gone.”
“That was a Silico construct. I recognised the principles.”
Vicky asked, “Did that thing used to be a person, like us? Lots of those girls back there had bionics. Was that just one of us, gone too far?”
“No,” said Pira and Elpida, both at the same time.
They paused. Elpida waited.
“No,” Pira repeated. “Just something still up and walking around. A zombie.”
Vicky puffed a tiny laugh. “Aren’t we zombies?”
Pira opened her eyes. Sky-blue and shining, even by the dead light of the glow-stick. She stared at Vicky for a long moment, as if considering the value of the question.
“Silico,” Elpida croaked. “It was Silico.”
Pira spoke to Vicky. “Zombie is a contextual word. Applied to one of us — revenants, from the tombs — it’s usually an insult, but it can mean affection. If somebody calls you ‘zombie’, they’re denying you’re a person. Or they’re your best friend, expressing solidarity.”
“Huh,” Vicky grunted. “Okay.”
“But usually it refers to everything other than us — the relics, the robots, other kinds of undead. Shuffling corpses, necro-era cyborgs like that thing back there. Leftovers, worm guardians, hunter killers, the nano-shit and monsters and all the rest. Even the occasional true necromantic construct. All the other weird shit out there. All of it is zombies.”
Vicky swallowed. “Shit. I think I liked you better when you weren’t talking much.”
Elpida asked, “You have categories for different classes of Silico? And other creatures?”
Pira snorted and closed her eyes again. “Good luck with that. I tried it before. Waste of time.”
Vicky and Elpida shared a look. Numb terror swam just beneath Vicky’s grey exhaustion. Elpida made an ‘ease down’ hand gesture, and said, “Vicky, it’s going to be alright. Pira, do you have any idea where Atyle might have gone?”
“The tall one with the bionic eye?” She shrugged. “Take your pick. We’re in the graveworm shadow, right after a tomb opened. Miles around will be crawling with revenants for days.”
Elpida asked, “We lost the coilgun?”
Vicky said: “Sorry.”
“It’s not your fault, Vicky. You only had one arm, right? Better the arm than the coilgun.”
Pira said, “Lost it in the retreat. Didn’t have enough hands.”
Elpida suppressed a sigh of disappointment. “That was a powerful piece of equipment.”
Pira snorted. “Wouldn’t have availed us much if that zombie had been something worse. Coilgun round would probably go through a worm-spawn shell, but wouldn’t do much more than tickle a necromancer machine.”
“Where’d that combat frame come down?”
Vicky said, “Combat frame?”
“The falling star.”
Pira replied, “North a ways, I think.” She frowned without opening her eyes. “That was rare. Not seen anything fall from orbit for a long time.”
Elpida nodded. Pira fell silent. Vicky looked down at the bloody mass of her healing arm. The concrete bunker walls were thick and sturdy; Elpida could hear the occasional muffled gunshot far away, and the scrape of cold wind across the roof. She took a deep breath to mirror the quiet, feeling her lungs ache and her heart lurch. Her vision wavered, then settled. She coughed.
“How long will it take for my heart to finish healing?”
Pira said: “A day? I don’t know. Chug the nanos, it’ll help.”
Elpida stepped over to the backpacks, squatted down, and poured the remaining nanomachine slime down her throat. It tasted of nothing, coated her mouth, and sat heavy in her stomach. She unzipped Ilyusha’s backpack and found plenty more of the cannisters still inside, faintly glowing blue. “Should I drink more?”
Pira replied in a disapproving tone. “If you want.”
Pira sighed, very slightly. She nodded toward Ilyusha and Amina. “Your bionic friend sleeping in the corner? She pulled shrapnel out of herself and healed up so fast she was risking cancerous growth. She drank several cans before the fight, didn’t she?”
Pira snorted and shook her head. “It’s valuable. Don’t waste it. You get into another fight like that in a week or two, you won’t be fresh, you won’t heal so fast. And you won’t survive having your heart turned into mince.”
Elpida zipped up the backpack. She could endure the pain. “Do we need to eat? I don’t feel hungry. At all.”
“Get used to that,” said Pira.
“Do we need water?”
“What about sleep?”
“Hm?” Pira opened her eyes again.
“Biologically. Do we need sleep?”
“ … no. But I wouldn’t recommend going without sleep. You’ll go insane, and quickly.”
Vicky laughed softly, then winced. “Same as it ever was, then.”
Elpida turned without standing up; she wanted to be eye-level with Pira for this. “Pira. Thank you for carrying me. Thank you for rescuing me. If you stay by my side, then you’re one of us. I will do my utmost to protect you. Thank you.”
Pira just stared, her eyes a flat and infinite blue. She said nothing.
Elpida said, “I need information. Answers. The lay of the land. Who’s out there, why are we—”
“I know what you need,” Pira said. “And I don’t have any real answers. I can’t point you toward salvation, because there is none. We’re here for nothing. You’re going to die, again and again, and there’s no meaning to any of it. The world is full of dead things, the machines have all gone mad, and there’s nothing left. Welcome to the end of the world.”
“Then why did you save me?”
Pira sighed. “And I’m not going to repeat myself four times. We’ll talk when your friend with the wonky legs gets back from sulking.” She nodded at the half-open door, then at Ilyusha and Amina. “And when these two wake up.”
Vicky pulled an awkward smile. “She’s down in the room with the water. Probably. And she wasn’t sulking, she was crying.”
Elpida scooped up her own submachine gun, checked it was loaded and the safety was on, then put the strap over her shoulder. She stood up. “I’ll go get her. Be right back.”
Vicky called after her as she shuffled through the half-open door: “Be gentle, Elpi! On yourself, too!”
The concrete bunker was nothing more than three rooms connected by a tiny T-shaped corridor, bathed in subterranean darkness. Vicky’s speculation was correct: Elpida could see in the dark, but only a little. She peered into the open door on the right and found a room with two metal bunk beds. All four mattresses were black with rot, skeletons lying on top, filthy bones embedded in glistening black goo. She backed up and took the other door instead.
This end of the bunker was similar to the other: a square concrete room with a slit window. At one side of the room was a concrete trough full of dirty water. No stairs and no exit; the slit window was lower; a long concrete block served as a seat and firing position in front of the aperture.
Kagami was sitting on the block, staring out of the open slit, a tiny delicate figure wrapped in a coat too large for her frame. Her visor and auspex gear hung loose around her neck. Her long black hair looked lank and greasy.
“Hey,” said Elpida.
Kagami looked round. Her eyes were red-rimmed in her soft brown face. “Ah. There she is. The prodigal daughter. Rolled the rock away from the tomb and rose on the third day, did you? Good thing you didn’t actually take three days, I would have drowned myself in the water tank.”
She turned back to the slit window. Elpida walked over and ducked her head to see.
Nothing but black sky, thick with choking clouds, and the distant teeth of the dead city drowned in shadows. The furnace-light of the dying sun had vanished again, replaced with a dim red glow from one corner of the sky.
Elpida straightened back up and looked at the water. “That’s what we’re drinking? It looks filthy.”
Kagami shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. I doubt we can get sick, not in the traditional sense. Pira says so, anyway. Fucking cryptic bitch thinks she knows better than a logician. Dealt with her kind before.”
Elpida stepped over to the water trough and drank some of the cold liquid from cupped hands. It tasted brackish and stale, but it quenched her thirst.
She said, “You don’t seem surprised that I came back from the dead.”
Kagami didn’t look around from the slit window. “Didn’t you hear the Christ joke? Fuck, you probably don’t even have Christianity.” She laughed, bitter. “I’m treating you like some Anglo-Rim visitor, some barbarian cunt trying to argue us out of dropping a rod on your stupid head. What do you believe in, huh? The eightfold path? Kami and spirits? Ganesh and all that? Or did the republic win, are you all good little atheists in the Pangaea Proxima future?”
“I believe in Telokopolis,” Elpida said.
Kagami snorted. “Great.”
“I’m not religious. Some in Telokopolis are. We—”
“Stop. Please. I don’t actually want the cultural exchange spiel. I was shitting on you.”
“Kagami, are you alright?”
Kagami looked around from the window again. Her lower lip was shaking. Her eyes were tight. “You and I both understand just how fucked this all is. I envy the fucking paleo and the bionic monster back there, I really do. I even envy Vicky. Poor fucking pre-contraction throwback. I’m not surprised you’re on your feet, no. You know why? Because we’re made of nanomachines. We’re not life. I’ve seen nanotech pushed past all legal and sane limits, and we’re way past that. I’ve seen the abominations it can create, the kind of things that can’t die properly. Death would be a mercy. I’ll bet killing any one of us would be extremely hard. And you know what? That’s a bad thing. That’s a very fucking bad thing.”
“Kagami, thank you for helping me kill the Silico. I only knew where to hit it because you told me the locations of the reactors. You did that. You did well. Thank you.”
Kagami shook her head. “What difference does it make?”
“It kept us alive.”
“For how long? In what kind of state? The weird little nun was right, this is a kind of hell.”
Elpida took a deep breath. Her ribs and back burned with skin regrowth. Her heart spasmed and made her cough. “That’s up to us. And Telokopolis is out there. I’m glad you didn’t get hurt during the fight. How are your legs doing now?”
Kagami sighed. “I can walk without tripping. They still feel wrong.”
“That’s good.” Elpida paused, then decided. “Kagami, you’re unarmed. Please don’t go off alone like this. Go armed, even if you’re not going far.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Kagami huffed. “I can’t shoot anything anyway. I’d just turn the gun on myself if I thought it would work.”
Elpida nodded. “Please never do that. I understand, but please don’t.”
“Aren’t you going to give me an order?”
“Do you want me to?”
Kagami held her gaze, then looked down at her lap.
Elpida said: “Don’t shoot yourself. That’s an order. Now, I can help you get back to the others, if you need a hand. Pira’s going to tell us what she knows.”
“What she knows.” Kagami snorted, amused. “Oh, lovely. Fucking hell. Alright, fine, give me your hand then.” Kagami stuck her hand out. “Hips are fucking stupid. I hate this.”
Elpida helped Kagami get to her feet and over to the open door. Kagami used one hand on Elpida’s arm in a clumsy vice-grip, but Elpida didn’t mind.
“Kagami, what was that thing which fell from the sky? It reminded me of a combat frame.”
Kagami answered as they shuffled into the corridor together. “Re-entry suit of some kind. Orbital deployment mech. Sloppy work, slow as a brick. Could have been floating up there for millennia. I highly doubt it’s from your time, you don’t even know what satellites are.”
They returned to the room with the others. Pira and Vicky were sitting in the same positions as before, but Vicky had peeled off her looted coat and looked a bit more awake. Ilyusha was still sleeping, but Amina was blinking and rubbing her eyes. Pira looked up, cold and empty.
“We need to talk,” Elpida said. “Kagami, do you want a coat for—”
“Sitting, yes, yes, fine. Sure.”
“I’ll get one,” Vicky said, reaching over to the bags with her good left arm.
Elpida said, “No, let me. You rest, Vicky, that’s your job—”
Clang clang clang.
Three knocks rang against the metal door, up the concrete steps, from the dead world outside.
Manmade horrors beyond our comprehension; maybe Kagami is right, maybe death would be a mercy compared to the consequences of this unlife. Elpida would disagree, she’s on her feet and still drawing breath and that’s what matters. Meanwhile, something knocks at the chamber door, but these are far from the last girls on earth.
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Thank you for reading! This story is a delight to write. More very soon!
Aww, snuggle pile with Amina and Ilyusha. The shipping begins
We’re getting a regular five girl band here, Elpida as leader, Vicky as lancer, Ilyusha as the big guy, Kagami as the brains, Amina as the heart, Piea as the 6th ranger
If consuming nanomachines gives the ability to revive from death, I see why cannibalism is such a normal thing. Nice and fresh, straight from a source
With all the augments the girls have, I wonder if in the reconstruction they could control the nanites to recreate themselves with improvements. While her heart is repairing, direct the nanites to make some sort of sheath around it or something.
Interesting information on the zombie. It was vaguely human shaped, but apparently not human in origin. Why construct it that way? There are better ‘frames’ than bipedal if you just want a walking weapons platform. Perhaps meant to emulate a humanoid form for the psychological factors as well
The shipping goes wild! I fully expect that, but these girls are shipping themselves with each other already. At least Amina and Ilyusha are, seeking comfort in each other in the dark.
Pira as the 6th ranger, gosh. I love that way of putting it, thank you.
Yup, there’s plenty of reason to eat immortal flesh when it gives you such power.
Oho! Those kinds of ideas, about rebuilding the body with augments, that’s going to get explored a lot in the future!
Perhaps the zombie came from a human culture before all this; or perhaps it was spat out by some ancient factory, or from elsewhere. Pira probably has theories.
Glad you enjoyed this one! Thank you!
Ooo yeah the arc I was looking forward to!
I enjoyed the setup but everyone constantly in “fuck you I don’t care about filling anyone else in” was getting tiring after a while. I’m looking forward to them getting properly cohesively together and opening up a little.
Absolutely, I agree 100%. I really enjoy sci-fi setting ambiguity, especially when it’s told through elements which are incomprehensible to the POV characters, to heighten the alien mystery and strangeness of a setting – but I also believe it only works with some level of grounding, and any story has to promise that grounding is coming. The first two arcs wouldn’t have worked without the implicit promise of this one. Elpida is not going to learn absolutely everything, but it’s a safe bet that she’s going to learn quite a bit, very shortly.
Absolutely, and beyond understanding what’s *going on* I also think it’s deeply important for bonds to truly form. Right now it feels like Elpida cares about *everyone else*, but beyond Vicky and maybe Ilyusha that doesn’t feel particularly reciprocated.
She’s done enough to *earn* that trust, now, so I am looking forward to those bonds getting cemented.
Indeed! There wasn’t much time for talking or sharing who they are while waking up and trying to outrun the clock. But now? Vicky and Elpida at least both need rest. They’ve got nothing but time and dirty water.
Atyle is gone, sounds like a good thing to me. Unless she is the knocker.
Once a week is torture for us broke readers.
Thank you for the chapter.
I can already see a few shops.
On another note will we ever get an actual timeframe for where the ladies come from and how it relates to which one came before the other?
*Shop = Ships*
The ships are coming from inside the story … well, Ilyusha/Amina at least. And Pira did technically already get inside Elpida’s heart. Biologically.
Oooh, the times the characters come from? I’ve hinted at it so far, at least for some of them. We’ll certainly get more details when they start talking to each other more in downtime. Perhaps when the story itself has unfolded all of those details, I could share a little list!
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Yay, for timelines and thank you for replying.
You’re very welcome! Thank you for commenting!
Losing Atyle might simplify the group’s dynamic a little, but Elpida could never accept that. She’s just not built for it.
Poor ladies indeed!
Once a week is torture for me too! I really want to do two chapters if I can; don’t worry though, if I do manage twice a week, that means 2 public chapters a week as well, as the story would just continue at the same pace.
And you are very very welcome indeed! Glad you enjoyed this!
Thank you for replying.
Hah! Figured. If miss four arms from earlier was still alive than I figured Elpida would be too. Anyway, with this the prologue has officially ended and the main story begins. I for one, am excited. Anyway, thanks for the chapter!
Can’t keep her down. Literally, she’ll get back up with a broken heart. Oh! Symbolism!
And you are very welcome indeed, glad you enjoyed the chapter! You’re right, the opening prologue is concluded, now we’re into the real meat of the story. I’m really excited about where this is all going.
Pira says it’s all meaningless, but keeps coming back – no choice? Lianna and co. seem to have a mission, or think they do.
Pira must have some purpose, something to keep living for, keep returning for. She was determined to get out of the tomb and survive. She must have something. Right? Maybe she’s just very tired and very cynical and running on automatic after so long.
Lianna and the other two, yeah, they certainly seemed to have a purpose too!