Black Sun: The Orphaned 3
November 4, 2011 § 1 Comment
He had a name, but he had not used it nor heard it used in so long that he didn’t casually remember it. It would have taken an effort, and he didn’t expend it. The Blue One had called him The Orphan, back when he’d been pledged to learn the Path of Water. He had not learned it. He’d meant to, but while he had the aptitude, he did not have the desire.
He pivoted his body in a form he’d learned long ago, when he’d first traveled to Biv. Snaking ropes of fire rippled off of his skin, slashing out at the terribly silent blackness. They did not reflect the lights aimed down at them so much as they ate light so thoroughly that you could tell where they were by how much darker it was. Looking at them caused his eyes to water and twitch. Horrible static emitted from the mass of them, a thousand scraping nails down shale. If they thought at all he couldn’t hear it.
He made a fist. Above him, a fist of pure seething red-orange plasma appeared and crashed down into the mass of them. Even as their figures tumbled and melted from it, more came up. It was pointless. He backed away, contemplating his next move. Flight was an option, if destruction couldn’t be successfully achieved and containment seemed improbable. He had no idea how many living things were on this planet. If it were heavily populated, it should have been like a beacon in the dark and the zero tunnel should have been easy to establish. Instead, he’d only found it by pure accident, following a trail of dead worlds that should have or could have supported life.
He could feel the radio emissions that suggested life, or at least intelligence, perhaps artificial. But the life itself was hidden. If he had not left the zero tunnel up he might have been trapped there. If these things had already killed off the world’s native life he had no reason to stay. Six tendrils of fire lashed out from his shoulders, striking in great sweeping arcs to clear tendrils composed entirely of the smaller black ovals. Scattering them in molten stone spraying backward, glittering trails of red hot rock and severed oval bodies.
He prepared himself to ascend when he felt coherent thoughts behind him. Someone was alive.
The thoughts themselves were fascinatingly familiar, and yet completely unlike his own. He didn’t force himself into them, simply let them come to him. An overriding concern for something, fear, confusion. He felt them crest over him like a wave, could sense that his appearance had stopped whoever it was for a moment, could taste her (her? Yes, a female, so much like his own people they even have two genders) and then knew she was running directly past him, trying to reach the bodies on the ground.
She wouldn’t make it.
He ground his teeth and forced himself to imagine a wave, like the water that used to break itself on the hills south of where his small domed house rose out of jet dark soil. He could see the moss clinging to the sides, remember the sea air. The wave that he imagined was not at all like the roaring wall of fire that appeared. It shimmered, heat waves warping the air. He sent that yellow-white wall of fire forward, feeling as if the back of his head was going to cave in from the pain, hearing the popping and hissing sound of the creatures being melted or driven back.
He inhaled and exhaled, knowing he was drawing too much from his own reserves. Even with the zero tunnel open he couldn’t draw nearly enough from elsewhere. His limbs began to shake.
The female (she looked only half grown to him) was cradling one of the corpses, speaking to it. Her voice rasped, and she convulsed. Even through the red haze of holding the wave against the cave entrance he remembered seeing small round shapes descend from the sky, and the end of days by the water pulling tube eels out in hooked nets. The end of running down the beach with his snarling pet by his side, its fur the color of the dawn sky. His own mother’s face, when they dragged her away. Fire and death, and him left alone surrounded by it.
He looked into her now. The strange leaden emptiness of the planet made it hard, but inside her was as strong a mind, a self as any he’d seen. And there near the top was that which he himself recognized, and knew he could make use of, if he could just make her understand him. A sharp stabbing pain in his left eye reminded him that he couldn’t keep the flame on that hole forever. He could sense them massing underneath the ground, static everywhere.
Elizabeth had pulled her mother out from underneath a flipped over mine cart and dragged her back, away from the fire and the monsters. She sobbed, feeling sick and hoarse.
“Please, please please please no please I got here momma you have to get up now I got here I got here you can’t be dead.” She wept, and screamed, her dirty blond hair hanging in sweat-tangled hanks. Her mother’s face was pallid, her teeth locked together, blood from a wound on the top of her head clotted into a purple streak across her forehead. “You can’t be dead.”
“Yes, she can be.”
Elizabeth nearly dropped her mother in shock. The man with the burning wings had floated over to where she was kneeling, his left hand extended towards the mine opening. His eyes were the same red and orange color as the wings on his back, flames that snapped and hissed in the air.
He didn’t say anything else to her. He simply looked at her, and she knew what he was thinking as if she was thinking it herself. By himself, he could not stand against the things, they were already looking for a new way to the surface. He would have to leave if he couldn’t get help, there was something wrong here that kept him from calling for help. Her planet would have to deal with these things by itself until he could get that help. More would die. More like her mother, like Dave, like everyone she had ever known in her entire life.
He showed her a beach, somewhere far from there, and a small boy with grey skin screaming at a body. He showed her a blue light, and a figure like nothing she had ever seen, tendrils and edges, and felt it offer peace. He showed her how he had failed to accept peace.
I don’t offer you peace, Elizabeth Sheridan. I don’t offer you peace at all.
She looked down at her mother’s dead face, her staring, empty eyes. She laid her down gently on the ground, and kissed her, and stood up.
“Yes, very much so.”
“Can’t hurt worse.” She threw Dave’s shotgun to the side. “Do it.”