Hello everyone! Time for another fantastic Fiction Friday.
And now, for something completely different: my first excerpt, hot off the presses, from the upcoming sequel to Mechalarum - Witherwelt.
SPOILER ALERT! If you haven't finished Mechalarum yet, there are some minor spoilers for character interactions in this piece.
Hope you enjoy!
At the edge of the wind-swept desert, where rock and raspy sand gave way to scrubby, twisted trees, a small fire burned. The dry, oily wood snapped and popped in the flames, burning hot and bright, a lone point of light in a sea of darkness. A figure cut deep with shadows stood nearby, so close that the smoke from the fire billowed and curled around him. The firelight danced over the light-bending material of his uniform, making it impossible to see more than a silhouette even at close quarters.
“You’re making me uncomfortable.” A woman sat on a flat, smooth stone several long paces away. The phosphorescent glow of a hoverlight illuminated the space around her. “Why do you have to stand so close? And why did you even light a fire in the first place? The temperature is fine, and our nutrient loaf doesn’t need cooking. Serl.”
“You’re far too reliant on those machines.” The comm-panel permanently affixed to Serl Aris Jolorn’s arm blinked and played a haunting tune. He swiped a hand across to silence it. “Someday you may find yourself having to survive without their constant presence. Didn’t you ever go camping as a youngling, Yulani?”
The Comant cringed at the Serl’s derogatory exclusion of her title and surname. “Not to offend, but you are a sciencer. You’re supposed to love machines. Serl.”
“My chosen profession has nothing to do with the fickle acrobatics of the heart, thankfully.” The Serl stepped around the fire and raised his full-light specs to his face. He gazed into the darkness. “Everything is a tool. Tools are used to fulfill a given purpose. When I’m done with them, I have no problem tossing them aside. Only the weak develop unnecessary attachments.”
A shadow dropped to the ground from the open sky, within reach of the Serl. In a brief burst of illumination from the pale green lights lining the creature’s Mechalarum suit, the Comant saw the figure stagger, then right itself.
Jolorn crossed his arms. “You’re late, Cerise.”
“Our apologies.” Cerise’s voice was a sultry purr. “It took us longer than expected to sync our comm-panel with ExPlan’s heavily encoded datastream. It would have been easier if you’d given us access, rather than making us hack into the system ourselves.”
“Plausible deniability,” Jolorn said, with a stiff shrug of his shoulders. “There are those within ExPlan, key members, who we can’t trust. Anyway, enough chatter. Did you find the information I requested?”
Light burst from the comm-panel on Cerise’s arm, briefly illuminating the jagged seams where her Mechalarum suit had been adjusted to accommodate the device. Her fingers danced in the brightness, eliciting tones and color patterns. The Serl’s comm-panel responded, and together they formed a discordant semblance of a tune. A satisfied chirp signaled the completion of the transmission.
“This will do.” The Serl peered at the panel on his arm, and nodded once. “Not perfect, but good enough.”
“Our pleasure.” Cerise’s voice dripped with sarcasm, and she mimicked a gesture of respect, twisting it into a crude one at the last moment. “We live to serve.”
The Serl grimaced. “Don’t do that. And I thought I told you to call me Serl.”
Cerise’s eyes narrowed. “You have no power over me.”
“We’ll see about that,” Serl Jolorn said, his expression once again unreadable. “We’ll see.”
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