The weapon discharges grew closer. Crimson stared at the Duklagan in his watersuit, and tried to come up with another solution. Braevel risked another glance over the edge of their slope, and immediately ducked back. “Now or never, Crimson!”
She wavered in her resolve, and it was enough for the water dweller. He crouched and sprang from the bank, slicing neatly into the pond and slipping away between the reeds and lily pads, scattering the multi-colored coy.
Her Mindframe blinked, waiting for the next command.
She had no answer.
Standing on both feet she rose up. The well-trained, armored hit squad scurried forward. P’Xak was huddled behind a barrel. Micron was nowhere to be seen.
Straightening her back like a board Crimson tilted, and fell backwards.
The water received her with a slap, then folded her into its delicious arms. The weight of her cybernetic appendages suddenly disappeared. For a moment, she was weightless. The deep gurgled of oxygen bubbles enveloped her ears, light dimmed blue, and a strange silence of mind swallowed her. The water was cold. Her pores tingled.
With a bump her machine leg and arm arrived at the bottom of the pond. The rest of her struck the soft artificial pond liner and then strangely floated.
The gun and plasma fight above her became only a series of clicks and pops somewhere above the surface. It seemed like a world away. She? She was alone.
Crimson realized she had neither bathed, nor showered, nor submerged herself in any way for… 12 years? Twelve years, 4 months, 13 days, 18 hours, and—
She silenced her Mindframe.
It was peaceful.
The pressure on her spine was gone. Her back didn’t hurt. Her joints weren’t compressed.
A fish flicked past. The lily pads were floating back to their places. Wispy algae swirled around her scalp and arm, like the brush of ethereal angel feathers.
Her lungs were beginning to ache. She allowed a bubble of air to leak from her nose, even as the stress of her foreign appendages seemed to escape through her few remaining human pores.
She could see nothing: a green haze. A few beads of oxygen clung to her eyelashes, and cheek, and arm hair.
She knew nothing. She twitched; her robotic limbs sent fiery electrodes back in response. The heavy weights were unresponsive. Her own inept movements like the unconscious spasm of a fetal child.
She could stay here.
No one would miss her. A casualty—lost in the siege.
No more whimpering colonists. No more squabbling crew. No more hunting the scum of the universe. No more vengeful bounties. No more anger. No more dark days. No more soullessness. No more memory-less days, buried under encyclopedic mountains of recorded human data. No more not-knowing: who did this to her, who was she. No more emptiness. No more weight.
No more of Keffler’s ‘universal truth’ of pain.
The pain in her lungs she didn’t mind. She leaked another air bubble, this from her lips. She pressed them together again, but felt the inviting water seep deeper in the corners of her mouth, seeking a way in.
Gator she’d miss. He’d been a best friend, for no other reason than he had found her, dying but not dead. A mechanical freak. He’d saved her. Helped her. Helped her to interface with the strange, invasive technology. He’d given her a chance at life. Wasn’t much but… he didn’t have to.
That was it, wasn’t it? This pond, like her mysterious tragedy, would either kill her, or re-make her. Either there was a reason for living or their wasn’t. She suddenly could see herself: a cold, lonely torso arm and a leg, at the bottom of a pond, in a spinning seedship green house, floating three days from a magnetic gateway, on the edge of a distant solar system, hurtling imperceptibly through an arm of the Whirlpool Galaxy, in the impossible infiniteness of space. A human torso. Alive.
Not much of a life—but more than a pond. If it ended here, at the bottom of a coy pond, her universe would culminate in a little, plastic filter.
Crimson cursed. Or she would have if she could have breathed.
Struggling, Crimson tried to move. She kicked her human hand and leg, and tried to get them under her. The cybernetic limbs groaned and protested, electrical impulses zapping and shorting in and out of water -disrupted pathways. They convulsed, but didn’t budge.
Now the fire in her lungs was fierce. Crimson tried again to push off the algae-soaked floor of the pond, and only managed to flop sideways.
Dammit. She thought, not like this…
She tried again. Pushing her booted human foot into the pond liner, and reaching across herself, she twisted. Success—she rolled over the awkward joint of her metal hip! Her lungs were desperate.
She placed her good hand and foot on the pond floor and pushed. Useless. Unable to bend, the dead bulk of her metal prosthesis might as well have been concrete. Maybe she could sit up. She arched and returned to her back with a flop.
She grunted and strained her abs—
If there was a God for cyborgs, it was certainly ironic. She finally decided she wanted to live and she was about to die by sucking fish pee into her lungs.
Come on! she thought.