I watched the starry night sky from the mast of the derelict ocean liner. The moons cast their bright fluorescence against the cold grey waters all about. Who else, I wondered, was watching the heavens?
There was no way for me to know.
I couldn't read minds. Only Roth could read minds, influence the thoughts even. That whore. She had all the power, and all she did was run and hide with her human mate.
At least I did my share in this war, whatever that amounted to. I heard Lee's footsteps before he ran outside the ocean liner. He emerged on the deck below.
"Aria! Aria! Someone is coming!"
I found Lee seven years ago, after planet Chiron's nuclear pyre. He'd looked like the rest of the corpses in the ruins of the University's conservatory: drowned in ashes, scorched skin wrapped over bone.
I'd palmed the crown of his skull in one hand, and begun to press it. You see, that's how merciful I am. The urchin couldn't possibly survive past the nuclear fallout alone any ways.
So I pressed the skull, harder.
Flesh tore beneath my grip. Blood ran between my fingers. The poor thing didn't even have the energy to scream. I saw its beady black eyes, so hollow, staring back at me.
I'd wondered if it was peering into my soul or such nonsense. I wasn't quite sure what it saw in my cold blue eyes, but the urchin then smiled at me all sudden like. A revolting smile, at that. Yellow teeth, blackened with ash.
I've been rightfully called a bitch many times, stone-hearted even, but I'm not an emotionless automaton. Besides, when your mind can consciously process trillions upon untold trillions of thoughts in a quadrillionthof a second, life can get pretty boring.
I decided to keep the urchin instead of killing it. I gave it water, food, shelter and all. After a few weeks, it walked on its own and followed me in my whimsical wanderings.
One day the urchin told me its name was Lee and asked for mine. I have names, but not the kind mothers gave to their children. On a whim, I gave Aria as my name.
I jumped down. Landing on the deck below, I ruffled my arctic blue night robe and paced to the urchin by the railing. It was looking out to the sea shore, giddy with excitement like a fucking dog.
"Look-look!" It turned, pointed, "They're flying on a golden sun!"
I tried to smile at him, but it was too painful. I hate stupid people. I saw the urchin's head dashed against the railing in my mind's eye, the explosion of bone as his limp corpse tumbles into the murky depths.
But, of course, I didn't do that.
He was my urchin, after all.
I came forward and angled a glance over the railing. I sensed the energy before I saw the source: a brilliant hexagonal crystal with golden prisms radiating from it like the rays of a sun. There was, apparently, a man and a woman flying toward us on a "golden sun."
I hate being wrong.
But how could that thing produce enough power to generate a stable anti-gravity field? The only technology humans had with anti-gravity were starships. I was certain about one aspect of the object: it was dangerous.
"Lee. Go to the bridge."
The urchin slowly backed away, timid, but ran inside. Turning to the coming guests, I began making educated guesses at their object's nature until they landed before me on the deck.
They both had white tunics, like ascetic monks of some sort. The woman had a wise, unnatural look about her, a face of exotic beauty that framed organic-green eyes. Whatever she was ...she wasn't a human.
The man standing next to her was older, at least sixty winters, but wore his years well. His face was stoic, the worn emerald of his eyes vaguely familiar. Perhaps his mind unhinged by a fit of astounding senility, the man saw fit to carry a sword instead of a gun.
"Welcome aboard," says I, leaning against the brass railing. "That's a nifty piece of art you have there. What is it? A power cell of some sort?"
"Quite," the older man kneeled before me. I found this odd.
"And a gate between galaxies," the woman said, "thrown wide by Inferi Sententia and his shameful hordes. He consumed my domain and now feasts on yours. We sought to destroy him, but we failed. O' Great Sword of Mercy, will you lend us your might?"
That was my other name, Sword of Mercy.
Only a handful of people were supposed to know that name. How did this strange woman figure out what I am?
"If you know that name," I told the woman, "then you know humanity will exist beneath the perseverance of their shield. This isn't my fight. I lost mine long ago."
"It told us a second hive mind is on Earth," the aged man pleaded. "Alpha Centauri is the only stronghold that remains, and one of the wretched hive minds is right here on Chiron."
"I already know about the hive mind. I've had conversations with it."
"Please," the woman pleaded, "fight for us."
I rolled my eyes. "That's been said before, rodent. That's not my problem. It's a problem between a delusional parasite that thinks itself a god, and humans who are collectively aspiring to become gods."
"Great Lord," the woman insisted, not understanding me, head shaking and all. "Why do you bicker like a truculent child? We cannot defeat Inferi Sententia and his hordes without your help."
A child! How I ached to strike this woman's pretty face against the brass railing, right there. Mind transfers and experimentations. The things they did to me. My body had twenty winters, but my existence was much older than that.
"Please," the woman pleaded. "We need your might."
"Of course," says I. "Always with the might."
"If you will not lend us your might--"
I dashed the woman's head then. I honestly didn't have to, but she asked for it.
My palm connected with her forehead in an instant; skull and brass rail met at speed, followed by a rich crimson spray that ran warm between my fingers. I pressed a fist-full of splintered bone and hewn innards with strength to crush steel, carelessly tossed the corpse overboard. She flew a good kilometer into the night sky before the murky depths took her.
The old man moved with surprising speed for his age. He cleared an obsidian blade from a steel sheath, shining in the moonlight. He took precisely two-thirds of a second to draw.
I had to stand there and count.
I grabbed the crystalline sword's hilt and tore it from his grip before he swung it. He flew overboard a fifth of a second later--stunned, broken wrist pivoting freely in its socket. His strange weapons followed him into the waters.
Satisfied, I leapt to the ocean liner's mast, fifty meters straight up. I balanced there against the wind, perfectly still, and continued to watch the sky. From my private height, I had a better view at the heavens.
You see, there was this starship I sent to Sol. I and Lee found the NSC Vidar crashed in a valley six years ago. Old, but a fine vessel. We lived in it until we decided to do something helpful with it.
I couldn't help but wonder: had the NSC Vidar arrived at Earth yet? The AI I salvaged from the University was meant to teach, not pilot starships or engage space borne strains of the plague, and there was a chance my modifications crippled its astronavigation suite.
No matter. I did my share in this war, whatever that amounted to.