Up in flames

Meldeen runes appeared on the screen. They were familiar, although Siph couldn’t read them. Nothing to misinterpret about a repeated game-over screen. The fire covering the virtual ground rose up and consumed the world. Siph confirmed. Up in flames, once more.

The screen went dark, and for a moment, the room was pitch black.

The optimistic drums and fanfare of Flame Generals blared out, and a different set of familiar runes appeared. Should he try once more? With his reflexes and his coordination and his perception being as they were after the failed augmentation that had done the opposite? Not even able to pass that level?

Simeon would do it for him once he got home from his negotiations. Or maybe he would fail and not mind. In any case he’d understand, as he always did, because something in his nature made him understand the pariah who had experimented with his own brain and lost some of his skills, as others subject to his research had lost their lives because they had not been able to panic and remove their own neuro implants. It had been a beautiful dream. Then Thereth Station had been in shambles.

And now here he was in a room on Hayes, a refugee on a slowly failing space station. Sitting in the dark, frustrated at a game he had shown Simeon on a whim when confronted with his love of Meldeen culture of all things. A novelty, back then. And currently the bane of his existence.

Simeon would understand. Because of that twisted something in his nature that made him understand the pariah over his victims; that had made him take him in instead of the innocent arriving on the same ship. Made him seek his company over that of those who would have deserved the attention. His eyes narrowed in a smile, the tip of his tongue darting out to taste the air this situation was in.

Too uncertain, still. Too much negative ghosting around. All in his head, of course.

Banking on the understanding of someone who appreciated Meldeen culture and yet tolerated his self-inflicted weakness was a shaky ground to walk on.

Worrying about it in the context of too many virtual deaths was comical. Yet that fanfare kept mocking him. At last, he turned down the sound. Too quiet, now.

The door slid open, and he turned around. There he was, with a smile at the screen and then at him, pale like those of his kind had become that had adapted to Jairra’s toxicity, here because he hadn’t adapted enough. Perhaps…

The door slid shut behind Simeon, and he turned on the light. Well. Really he had already done that moments ago.

Siph’s eyes were slits, he noticed. “Welcome home.”

“Thank you.” Simeon’s eyes wandered between him and the surroundings as he sat down next to Siph. “It was of course completely useless. Those people…” A pause, and Siph could see him gather his thoughts and words. “They don’t like sense. It’s too neutral. And they only like empathy in name. If they could just admit what they want, this would be a lot easier. But they can’t do that either. Empathy still sounds too good, in name.”

Siph’s tongue flicked out briefly. “So no progress?”

“None. There was no point in me being there. Not as Mrs. Thorne’s token refugee, and certainly not as anyone who…” He gestured back at the door. “Who has anything to say that they’d listen to. I can’t deal with those people.”

Siph’s eyes wandered over him and landed on those pale hands that looked as if they could be snapped by a gust of wind. He placed the controller in those hands. “Then could you deal with Sar’thrak’s armies for me?”

The Jairran’s lips curled into a different smile, his eyes took on an appraising note. “I’ll say. Next time I’ll take you along.”

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