Dyson's Angel

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Chapter 26

It had begun with a vague sense of familiarity when Zau/Heraxo first scanned the Spire, standing alone atop the sole remaining plateau of rock and earth in the zone, wreathed in protective fields so intense that they put human field technology to shame. Something in the tuning of the field structure stirred a fractured memory deep within the Heraxo memory elements. They could not recall the context in which they knew these field structures, that had been lost to the degradations of overwritten data, but Heraxo knew in that moment that it knew, or had known, something important about the Spire. That half forgotten memory continued to irritate Zau/Heraxo as they descended through the ravaged atmosphere and landed outside the temple, niggling them like an itch at the base of their metasoma.

Then they had arrived in Dyson’s workroom and seen the sensor data: The frequency of the Spire’s protective fields as they retuned the harmony of subatomic space; the signature of subatomic particles which spewed out from the Spire and slipped through the fields, their spin and wavelength distorted, but still familiar. It was like seeing an old friend through a pane of textured glass and recognizing them by the outline of their form and cadence of their step, rather than the features of their face.

“We recognize that ship,” Zau/Heraxo said.

“Ship? What ship?” Dyson asked.

Zau/Heraxo scissored their rings and bobbed irritatedly towards one of the wall displays. “The ship you call the Spire.”

Moira squinted at the display, trying to understand what Zau/Heraxo was on about, but she saw only the shadow of a skyscraper towering a thousand meters above the plateau, barely visible through a wreath of field distortion. She looked to Dyson, who had cocked his head to one side and pursed his lips as he studied the display.

“Maybe,” he muttered, “but it’s so large. If that is a ship, it would dwarf the largest void ships made by humans. Even void habitats rarely reach that size. Not that there are many of those, but…” Dyson’s voice trailed away as he began to calculate the mass of raw necessary to construct a ship the size of a small city.

“The thing which you call the Spire is a Ra’x cruiser. We do not recall its name, but its signature is familiar to us. We believe that we might have known this ship at one time,” Zau/Heraxo said.

“Dyson had been studying this thing for, how long? How can you tell me that you recognized it after minutes when nobody else worked out that it was a ship for, how many years?” Moira said.

“It is not impossible,” Gamayun said. “No direct probing has proved successful. The ship, if that is what it is, has been protected by its fields for over five hundred years.”

“We lay undiscovered for nearly as long,” Zau/Heraxo said.

Moira felt a shiver run up her spine. She shook her head silently, afraid to even ask the question.

Dyson asked it for her. “This couldn’t be a ship from your people, could it?”

Zau/Heraxo was silent for a long while. They considered what Dyson had asked, weighing the likelihood that they had so forgotten their own past that they had wandered the Shell for years in the company of a human, unaware that their mothership was a mere jump away. No, they decided. This was not their mothership, or any other element of the hive. They could not describe the exact nature of the difference to the humans. Indeed, owing to the fusion of the human mind with their own and the loss of so many memories, Zau/Heraxo did not completely understand the differentiation, but they supposed that it was close enough to say that the information tasted, or perhaps smelled, wrong to be associated with an ally.

“We believe this to be the ship of our enemy,” Zau/Heraxo announced. “Our memories of the ship are corrupted, but we are certain that it is not one of our own.”

“That’s just brilliant,” Moira sighed. She looked from Zau/Heraxo’s avatar, to Dyson, to Gamayun. Something was wrong here, Moira was certain. Coincidences of this magnitude simply did not happen. So, that meant that she was seeing her first genuine miracle, or somebody was playing her. She felt her left hand begin to tremble as confusion slowly transformed into rage, so she pulled her fingers into a fist and fixed Dyson with a fierce glare. “Is this some sort of plot? Did you put your mother up to hiring us, just so you could have an exo ship look at your data?”

“Frak that,” Dyson snorted.

“Of course not,” Gamayun said, speaking in its deep, soothing voice. “Dyson and I have had no contact with Evangeline since we departed from Abrigeist.”

The holographic display fuzzed then, the column of static rising from where Dyson leaned on it widening.

Dyson jumped back, cursing and shaking his left hand.

On the tabletop, the hand terminal Moira had brought with her was beginning to melt.

Moira stared at the terminal, her mouth dropping open in surprise. Dyson backed away from the table and moved to stand beside Moira, shaking his head.

The terminal collapsed into a black puddle, which spread out across the top of the holographic workstation. Wherever the ooze spread, the display above it shimmered into static.

“Midges,” Zau/Heraxo’s avatar said.

“You’ve fraking betrayed us!” Dyson screamed, rounding on Moira and swinging a fist at her.

Moira’s defensive mesh kicked in and, before she had consciously recognized that Dyson was attacking, she had raised her left hand to catch his blow. She twisted aside, sidestepping Dyson’s attack, and snapped her arm back, ripping Dyson off balance and sending him tumbling to the floor.

The needle drone screeched and hurled towards Moira, stuttering the room with painfully bright strobes of color and sound. Moira felt her body revolting against her as the sensory assault threatened to trigger a seizure. Her mesh compensated, the visual analysis algorithms recognizing the patterns of light and sound as a neurological warfare burst before the complete sequence and reached her brain. It cut off Moira’s optical and auditory pathways and took control of her body, spinning her away from the drone and down atop Dyson. Meanwhile, Zau/Heraxo’s avatar flicked their rings about as it extended a field and did something truly awful to the structure of space between it and the needle drone.

A ripple of distorted space ripped across the room, bending light around itself and pulling a cloud of dust and loose papers along in its wake. The gravity bolt slammed into the side of the needle drone and passed through it, ripping the drone sideways and causing its core to collapse inward, then explode out one side as the local focus of gravity shifted radically sideways and ramped up to over a dozen Gs along a narrow axis for a fraction of a second. The needle drone slammed into the holographic worktable in a sputtering cloud of sparks.

Zau/Heraxo’s orbital rings snapped around and their fields thrummed as they prepared to deliver another gravity bolt to Gamayun.

“Wait!” Moira shouted. “We’re not enemies.”

“Evangeline,” Gamayun said aloud, its voice a harsh whisper. It hovered very still, but as her vision returned Moira could see the region of refracted light thickening in front of the silvery drone as it ramped up its fields in anticipation of having to ward off a strike from Zau/Heraxo.

“What about her?” Moira snapped, pushing herself up. She reached a hand to Dyson, as much an offer of truce as a hand up.

“I knew you came to deliver a message, but did not think that she would send anything like that with you,” Gamayun replied aloud.

Silently to Moira, Gamayun and Zau/Heraxo carried on a rapid exchange. The silvery drone briefly feared that it would have to attack Zau/Heraxo, a fight it doubted it could win, but before Moira had time to respond to Gamayun’s words, it and Zau/Heraxo had agreed that they all had a common enemy.

Above the worktable, the holographic projection winked out as a cloud of midges rose up to surround the sparking body of the needle drone. To Moira’s surprise, the drone emitted a high pitched whine and lurched off the table, blasting through the cloud of midges that had attempted to consume it. The drone spluttered and collapsed again, clattering to the floor beside Dyson. Robbed of their prey, the midges sank down and began to chew at the worktable.

“Will somebody tell me what is going on here?” Moira snapped.

“The terminal you delivered was a trap,” Gamayun said. It darted past Moira and hovered beside Zau/Heraxo. The two drones synchronized their field generators to create a containment field surrounding the holographic workstation.

“Obviously,” Dyson said, dusting himself off. He jerked his chin towards Moira, saying, “And you were dumb enough to help. Great work, leading her right to us.”

“I’m still missing something here,” Moira said.

“Evangeline…” Dyson started to say, but he was interrupted by a splutter of high frequency noise from the sparking needle drone. He turned and scowled at it, “What did you expect, attacking them?”

Above the table, the midges arose and coalesced into the form of a human woman. Approximately a quarter of them by mass linked together to create the visible shell, meanwhile half the midges not engaged in this linked together to form a processing matrix and the remainder pooled their efforts to transfer a single gram of quantum entangled matter into the core of the processor.

“That looks eerily like your mother,” Moura said, pointing at the silvery woman standing within the enclosure field.

The midges completed assembling the processing unit. The restrillect housed within the swarm awakened and, recalling its sole task, activated the quantum entanglement link. The gram of compressed matter, which had been completely inert a millisecond before, shifted and transformed according to the pattern laid down in the paired quantum link which had long lain dormant in the most secure vault of the Satori estate.

Zau/Heraxo dropped their shield and blasted the midge swarm with their gravity bolt. The image of the woman collapsed in on itself in a swirling cloud of black smoke, coalescing to forma protective shell around the quantum link. It fell into the remnants of the table and silently continued its inexorable transformation.

“We are detecting a QEL transfer within the cloud,” Zau/Heraxo said.

“I should have thought of that,” Dyson hissed. “She would want to be here in person.”

“We need to leave. Now,” Gamayun said.

“Can’t you destroy it?” Moira asked.

“My own swarms are already on the way, but we must fall back to the ships,” Gamayun said.


“Because you’ve brought the single most dangerous woman in the whole Shell right into my lab,” Dyson snapped. He grabbed a pair of interface gloves from a nearby desk, slipped them on, and lifted the still sizzling remains of the needle drone off the deck.

Moira sent a silent trigger to the midge swarm that crawled across her skin like living tattoo. Obeying her defensive mesh, the swarm skittered over her skin and arrayed itself in a defensive web across her head, prepared to defend her eyes and ears from any invaders. As the swarm moved, she pulled her scarf up over her mouth and nose, then snapped her helmet back into place and slung her slug rifle around to rest in front of her. She did not understand how Evangeline Satori could be such a threat to them from millions of kilometers away, but she would be damned if she let that woman kill her.

“Let’s get out of here,” Moira said. “We can take shelter aboard Zau/Heraxo.”

“I’m not leaving my ship,” Dyson responded, turning away from the table with the needle drone in his arms.

“Give me Uvquara,” Gamayun said, extending a field to lift the needle drone from Dyson, “and get to the ship. I am preparing Raven’s Flight to dock within Zau/Heraxo’s hull.”

“If I can destroy the QEL everything will stop now,” Dyson said.

“You’re welcome to try, but my money is on the QEL and its swarm,” Moira said, pointing past the shield with the barrel of her rifle.

Dyson followed Moira’s gesture and swore. The swarm had recovered from Zau/Heraxo’s shot, but rather than assembling in the form of his mother it had formed a protective dome over the spot where the quantum entanglement link rested.

“The midges appear to be protecting the QEL until the transformation is complete,” Zau/Heraxo said. “We can continue attacking them, but in our estimation any attempt to interfere will result in death. We recommend {you go for it/evacuation}.”

“Evac it is,” Moira said. She grabbed Dyson’s shoulder and hauled him towards the door. He ducked away from her and Moira was about to turn her combat mesh loose on him when she realized that he was merely grabbing for an emergency respirator mounted on the wall.

They hurried out of the temple. Gamayun led the way, cradling the remains of the needle drone above the curve of its body in a field. Zau/Heraxo held the rear, occasionally blasting at the midge swarm with its gravity bolt as the roiling black cloud moved to follow them. They paused at the airlock and Moira was about to ask which of them would go through first when the unit exploded, spraying Gamayun’s protective field with shrapnel.

“No time to cycle,” Zau/Heraxo said.

“Get to the ship as fast as you can,” Gamayun shouted. “I’m reading increased signal traffic among the furies. I think Evangeline is attempting to communicate with them.”

None of them needed further encouragement. Dyson ran as fast as he could, respirator pressed to his face as he silently prayed to the odds that no hostile midges had breached their defenses. Moira moved along behind him, her slug thrower essentially useless against the invisible enemies that pressed in from all sides.

Zau/Heraxo’s rear cargo ramp rested open, the ship’s interior lights revealing a commotion within the bay as remora drones flitted around, examining the sleek exterior of the Raven’s Flight, which was now nestled tightly within Zau/Heraxo. Moira, Dyson, and the three drones raced up the ramp. They were hardly inside before the lights flickered, the ramp lurched upwards, and the ship lifted smoothly from the bare surface of the Shell.

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