Black Sun: All Alone Together 2

November 12, 2011 § 1 Comment

“You are not here.” Belan’s voice cut across her, adrift in memory. Elizabeth turned to look up at her, really looking at those faintly yellow eyes. Unlike her, Belan’s eyes glowed naturally and almost all of her people could access the zero point to some degree. Belan called it “Elsewhere” but the principle was the same. Having never seen another of Belan’s people, she always wondered if they all looked so ethereal. It was like talking to an elf sometimes. An elf made of dark brown wood.

“I’m sorry. Just remembering.”

“Khayyin brought you here?”

“Yes.”

“If he was then as he was when I knew him, he took you immediately to Oldest. Always with theatre, that one. Everything he does is a performance.” She smirked, and it was such a human expression that it took Elizabth back to see it. “Oh, he thinks he is so straightforward, but he plays a role he invented for himself. Make no mistake. His grief is real, but his manner is feigned.”

“If his grief is real …” Floating together a few hundred feet off of the ground, the two women presented contrasts. Elizabeth’s frame was taut, muscle over bone with pale skin, while Belan was lean and languid in manner and dark as rich soil. Elizabeth’s jagged stripes of red chain lashed across her naked skin while Belan’s graceful waves of blue formed arches and curves. Belan flew in a gentle blue aura while Elizabeth’s crackling red caused the air to shimmer around her in heat distortion. “I don’t follow. He seems genuine enough to me.”

“I make it sound as if he lies. He does not lie. But if given a choice between a simple, quiet act and one that will make a scene, he will make the scene. He has forgotten himself. He is not pragmatic, as you are. Both of you ache, yes, but he uses his ache to make a theatre, to make an impact. He wins battles with spectacle as much as action.” She waved her hands in circles. “I sound uncharitable, but while it is pretense, it is pretense done sincerely.”

Elizabeth didn’t interject. Once Belan got herself on a subject she tended to worry at it, trying to express herself perfectly and be fair to everything and it was best just to let her. She knew little about Khayyin, even though he’d brought her there and understood to some degree her own grief and loss. He tended to brood, it was true enough, and she preferred to keep busy and take on assignments from one of the Azi or Krimat above her in seniority. Rank itself was hard to determine here, as there wasn’t much of a hierarchy to speak of. The Blue One, who had been one of the Azuria for thousands of years, held a great deal of respect and most deferred to it, but it wasn’t as if she had to obey. She could refuse if she wanted to, but it rarely asked her for anything she wasn’t willing to do.

It did once ask her to let go of her hate, and she hadn’t done that, of course. Her hate was precious to her, it warmed her and fed her. Theatrical or not, the Orphan had understood that much and it was why she was a Krimath and not Azuria. The paths were metaphors, but the metaphor of fire lit the black corners of her, she could feel it keeping her from closing down, shutting off, and she cherished that white blazing roar of outrage when it came.

They descended to land in a large plaza, arranged in curling lines around a central series of pictographs that seemed to represent the original inhabitants of the planet. Even the Blue One knew little of them, only the Eldest of their anarchic order was believed to know what they meant. Now, they were mostly decoration for an area that many of the Azuria and Krimath used to gather and eat and converse.

A floating creature made up of dozens of segments coiled in the air, turned away from the two forms it was speaking to and ribboned through the air to meet them. It cooed softly, a rainbow of chitin and limbs.

“Belan, Elizabeth! I was just telling Ga you were on world.” Despite looking like a cross between an eel and a centipede made of glass, the bright chiming tone of its words in her mind set Elizabeth at ease. I Who Float On Light understood why she sometimes flinched at seeing him, as she had been a patient of sorts when she’d first arrived on this wholly alien soil. “Come come, there are foods for you somewhere, I will acquire! I will get them. You stay and talk, we have not talked, I have missed listening to you talk.” Floats rocketed away, slicing and coiling in the air as it went, leaving the two women with Ga.

Both of Ga’s bodies were made of what appeared to Elizabeth to be flesh, although it wasn’t. Ga had explained it once, but she hated to admit it had made no sense to her. Ga’s mind existed in two bodies, both large spheres with several rugose tendrils dangling from each side. Despite looking absolutely nothing like a human, Ga could eat the same kind of food as Elizabeth and Belan, and did so by absorbing it into one of her bodies.

“How have you been?” Ga’s mind sounded like rocks grinding against each other. “I did not realize you were back, Elizabeth. What were you doing?”

“The Hessonians asked us for help with a slaver group outside of their space. I found them on a small pre-industrial rockball and cleaned them out, but they were harvesting organs before I got there.” Elizabeth swallowed at the memory of seeing those Hesson corpses, split open along their thorax-like structures, their bodies hanging empty. “The slavers were from Dulkarniz, so I knew taking them in wouldn’t serve any purpose.”

“So you burned them.”

“So I burned them.” Ga was a Krimath much like herself, and Elizabeth smiled. “Burned them all, actually. I may have gone overboard, but you know me.”

“Yes, you are irrational and you expect more from other bilaterally symmetrical beings.” Ga chuckled at that. “Ask Belan about her people’s history of slaving.”

“No two Lokar agree on anything, why would we on that?” Belan’s mask of seraphic indifference didn’t even twitch. “I do not defend the behavior of my entire race any more than you do so.”

“Na, na, I scold without teeth, you’re right.” Ga’s two bodies turned slowly and dipped closer to each other. “We are what we are. Where is Floats with our food? Guilt makes me hungry.”

Elizabeth felt her body lurch at the suggestion. She didn’t feel guilty, but she was ravenous.

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