The writing brain is back online, with a vengeance. Forty minutes, 1300+ words, and I have no freaking idea what this is, only that I had to write it. Also, if you’re curious, it’s in the same universe as Eternity Symbiote. Which I thought was dead, and gone, and had planned to pull that work from sale (it’s my first novel, and has issues). Basically, this is a snippet of nothing. I have no plans to do anything with it.

He stumbled over his words, and she cocked her head slightly at him. “Young man, I am 160 years old, and my give-a-shit meter broke darn near a century ago. Spit it out.”

“Well, um,” he cleared his throat. “Can we ever go back?” He blurted out finally.

She leaned forward tapped the glass with her fingertip, then lifted the microphone to her lips again. “For the same reason I’m stuck in here, no. I’m not about to risk giving you all a case of the Immortal Flu, and they won’t risk getting it.”

“Even though we don’t have it?” He looked around the lecture room packed full of students.

The entire college must be here, Gabrielle mused as she followed his gaze. All those eager young eyes, turned down on her from their tiered seats, waiting for her to tell them there was no need of their exile. And there wasn’t. Her give-a-shit meter wasn’t quite as broken as she’d thought it was.

“You might, and you might not.” She answered him. “Since they won’t let you close enough to test and find out,” she shrugged. “Also, your genes will have adapted to Greydawn, and that’s enough for them to call you out as nonhuman, these days.”

“How do you know all this?” His big brown eyes were suspiciously moist.

“Friends talk to friends.” That was as close as she’d gotten in years to admitting there were those on Earth who were still in communication with the colony of exiles. “That, and stray radio transmissions.”

A girl seated near the front called out. “The Mel’ani say they will take some of us.”

Gabrielle focused on her. “You have the look of a certain buck sergeant who came with us on that first flight. Red head, stubborn, and always sure of himself even when he was in over his head. Don’t trust the butterflies, kid. They’ll tell you what they firmly believe is true.”

The girl crossed her arms. Gabrielle found herself sighing again. “Look. We fled with little more than the clothes on our backs, and we were lucky to be alive. It was a frightening time, but also exciting because we had no idea there were aliens.”

A lot of eyes blinked in near unison, and she chuckled, the sound echoing off the sealed plastiglass harshly. “I know, it’s hard to believe now, but I’m sure some of you didn’t nap during history class. Earth was isolated and most of the population, saving a few crackpots, were sure we were alone and unique in the universe. Until suddenly we weren’t, and we were unwitting pawns in an intergalactic war. It was something right out of a comic book.” Actually, it was more likely interstellar than intergalactic, but no one – certainly not her – was sure just how far some of the Stranger’s ships traveled.

She continued out loud, “We still don’t know exactly who engineered the Immortal Flu, or why. They might have been trying to kill us all. They could have been trying to bioengineer a supersoldier race. Hell, they might even have been trying to lift us up from a race of ephemeral mayflies to life as fucking elves from Lothlorien…” She took a deep breath and let it all go. This wasn’t good for her blood pressure, remembering. “What they succeeded in was making a mess. Even quarantining the first of us, there was still contagious material in other places. So there was the Second Wave, and then the Third, who all of you are descended from. Folks who had no trace of the pathogen we call flu, even though it’s not. Just… genetically different.”

She went back to scanning their faces as she spoke, sitting on the stool and holding the microphone loosely. The Third Wave, although it wasn’t taught in their history books, had probably been banished more for their beliefs than any scientific or pseudoscientific reason, she didn’t say. It had been that wave of colonists to Greydawn that had lead to this odd compartmentalized society of theirs, where one side barely saw the other, and a chance unprotected encounter might lead to death… or something else. Appearances like hers were scheduled in hopes of rubbing some of the shiny off. The attractiveness that near-immortal life could bring, even though the chances were it’d kill you.

“We’re all human. Just some of us have these parasites inside us, that won’t let us die.” She spoke softly, and they leaned forward in their seats. All but a few, and she made mental notes of their faces. They would have a chance to have a private chat later… with counselors. And if they were still intransigent, be surveilled to prevent attempts to make contact. “We’re each and every one of us important, whether infected or non-infected. We can’t afford to throw our lives away.”

That was true. The colony was growing, always, but the birth rate on the non-infected side – the normal side, she thought of it – was not nearly as high as it should be. She and Jed had been agitating for some time to evacuate the infected from the planet, but it met with a lot of resistance. Understandable, given that this was home to so many of them. “Having the flu, well, it’s more likely to kill you than not.”

The rate of death-to-conversion on Earth had been something like ten to one. Now? It was worse, much worse. More like one hundred to one.

“You have the chance to do something with your life. Seize the chance.” She lowered the microphone.

The young man stood up again. “What if we want to leave here?”

“You’re not prisoners.” Gabrielle stood, feeling all of her years. It was psychosomatic, of course. The nannite-enhanced virus didn’t allow her body to deteriorate. “The butterflies always welcome combat-ready pilots, and I know many of you are on that track.”

Because the butterflies, to give their alien rescuers their descriptive nickname, were arrant cowards. They far preferred other races do their fighting with them pulling the strings in the background. Not that these kids would know that – the society here wasn’t nearly as open as it should be. Gabrielle was still kicking herself for not having fought the involvement of the Mel’ani more. But back then, they’d still had all the shiny of being big damn heroes. So the infected humans had retreated to keep the Third Wavers safe from their ‘flu’ and the butterfly aliens had set up their very own breeding colony or warlike humans.

“But what if we’re not combat-ready?” He insisted, a tear spilling down his cheek. He ignored it, and politely, she did too. It explained much.

“There’s still much need on planet,” she pointed out gently, speaking just to him and ignoring the rest of the class who were starting to lean away from him. “You’re no coward, son. You’ve been challenging me since I got here. You just have to find your own path.”

They’d give him hell for this. Protection of the colony through armed service was gospel, among the sheltered side of the planet. Her own side… She wished for the millionth time there was a way to break down the barrier without risking killing most of them in the auditorium in front of her. Time to wrap it up.

Pacing from one side of the container to another – her cage, to call it true – was three strides. “You all have choices. Flying into battle is only one of them, and not all of you can, or should, do that. Some of you might stay home and raise crops. Others, babies.” Gabrielle thought of her own children and now, exponential grandchildren, and felt her lips tug upward. This might be a sad chore, but soon she’d be home with her joy. “Some of you may find work in a lab that might, in time, make this…” She tapped the plastiglass again, and it made a few of them jump a little. “Unnecessary. That’s my hope. Cure us. Protect you. But until then, remember this:” She faced the glass squarely, holding the microphone by her chin, staring out at them. “We’re all human.”


3 responses to “GreyDawn”

  1. Hmm. It seems like it should go somewhere, but in the meantime it would make a good short story.

  2. Entertaining. I’d buy it.

    1. If I ever write more, I’ll give you that opportunity!