A Sample of Tyche’s Lost

I started the latest Tyche story today. If you want a totally unedited, rough-enough-to-sand-with sample, here you go.

Saveria woke to the gentle hum of the escape pod. Light dappled the interior of the cabin. She lay on her acceleration couch, facing up. Her view of the outside world was limited to the aperture provided by the pod’s eight top windows. Half were behind her, but the other half showed green leaves, dappled with starlight.

It’s called daylight.

Her fingers found the clasps holding her in place. She freed them with a snap and clatter of fabric and metal. Her arm knocked against the acceleration couch beside her. Laying on the couch was a man. Lean, fit-looking, but he wasn’t familiar to her. Should she know him? They must have spoken to each other before getting in the escape pod.

She rubbed her arms, the crinkle of her ship suit nudging aside the hush of the air cyclers for a moment. I don’t know who that is. I don’t know where I am.

Was she a prisoner? She didn’t have a weapon, but her hands weren’t bound. A passenger, perhaps? There must have been an accident. Starships rarely died in the night, but spacers knew how to get into a ship suit fast as thought.

Am I a spacer?

The cant of the escape pod meant she needed to walk up a small slope to get to the hatch. She scrambled up, hand on the release lever, and looked through the glass. Outside showed her a glen, trees, and sun. No one waited. She cranked the lever, the explosive bolts thunk-thunk-thunk-thunking before the hatch blew, spinning across the glen.

She clambered free, breathing air clean and sweet. She turned a slow circle. The escape pod had GRAVEDIGGER emblazoned on the side. It sat in a small circle of scorched earth where the braking thruster slowed their descent. The trees above were broken, dropping branches about the pod. The pod itself looked undamaged.

Stepping closer, she ran her fingers over the GRAVEDIGGER letters. I know this name. Don’t I?

Her head felt empty. It felt soft. She ran a hand through her hair, pulling strands away. It lay, brown and straight, across the palm of her glove. It wasn’t pink.

She should be holding pink hair. Not brown. She shouldn’t have hair at all. Her head was metal, burnished gold. It wasn’t soft, pliable meat.

I don’t know who I am.

An insect buzzed past her head, startling her. Saveria followed it, uncertain. A bird chirped. She spied it through the trees, singing. It was olive green. Anthornis melanura, without a doubt. She held a hand out, but the bird flew away. She drifted after it. It sounded sweat, like tiny bells, and it sounded good.

Another bird swooped low. She didn’t know what it was. It snatched an insect from the air. She almost couldn’t make out what happened. She rubbed her eyes. Where they malfunctioning? The refresh rate felt low.

I don’t have a refresh rate.

A crack drew her attention. She spotted a young man watching her through the trees. He was as frozen as her. For all that he was young, his face was careworn. Scarring marked the line of his jaw. Bright green eyes watched her from a face darkened by days in the sun. He didn’t wear a ship suit like her. His jacket was brown leather. He carried a wooden club, but absently like someone asked him to hold it for a spell.

The moment between them held. Did she know him? Was there another escape pod nearby? The man looked to his club, then back to her. He took a step closer. She took a step back, then held herself firm. “Hello. I think my spaceship crashed.” Saveria felt like she should have a baseball cap, something to pull lower, to hide her face from what she’d done.

What did I do?

The man turned, hurrying off. Saveria watched him go, then followed. “Wait! I could use your help. There’s a…” A what? Was her companion in the pod a friend or enemy? “Another passenger. Wait!” Her lips felt like weak rubber, slow at speaking. She tried to match the man’s pace, but her legs lumbered beneath her. She stumbled, catching her balance against a tree. Her gloved fingers rasped against the bark.

Why is my hair not pink?

She pushed off from the tree, hurrying through the forest. It felt alive, an entire organism, not a collection of individual ones. She felt like she should be able to feel it, or feel something. She couldn’t hear anything aside from the crashing ahead as the man tried to get away. Saveria was sure she should be able to hear something else, but not with her ears.

With my heart.

She slowed, pausing for breath. She was hot. She peeled the front of the ship suit open. Underneath she wore a sheer bodysuit. GRAVEDIGGER was emblazoned above her left breast. She couldn’t very well take the ship suit off here. She had boots, but no shoes. She was alone in a forest.

Why am I wearing pirate colors?

Saveria looked up, meeting the young man’s eyes. Not so alone after all. He held his club like he was terrified of her. “You’ve got to come with me.”

She nodded. “I do. I have a,” she mentally groped for the right word, “friend who needs help.”

“No.” He shook his head. “You’re for the Altar.”

“The what?” He lunged at her, swinging his club like a bat. She ducked underneath it, grabbed the handle, and twisted. He spun through the air, wrist acting like a pivot, and crashed into the ground. Saveria held the club before her eyes while the young man scrambled back like a crab. It was crude, perhaps machined on a lathe rather than made in a fabricator. She held it out to him. “You dropped this.”

He got to his feet, the movement uncertain, like she was a scorpion waiting to strike. She nodded, encouraging, and let him snatch the club. “How did you do that?” He rubbed his wrist.

Krav maga / kendo / karate / judo / jiu jitsu… She sifted through until she worked out what she’d done. “Aikido.” Someone taught her aikido. He’d touched her inside, and given her the gift of knowledge.

“Is that how you’ll kill the gods?” He tried for a sneer, but it wouldn’t stick.

She watched him for a few moments. “Do you know my name?”

He blinked, mouth slack, then shook his head. “I don’t know you at all.”

“Neither do I.” Saveria turned back the way she’d come. “I have to go.”

“Wait.” He stepped closer, stopping after a couple of paces. Not wanting to meet aikido again, or something else? “I’m Forrest Blake.”

She wanted to give him something, but her head was empty. Saveria ran a hand inside her ship suit. Her fingers found the slight rasp of the bodysuit’s lettering. “Call me Gravedigger.”

A shout rose from where she’d come from. She spun, but Forrest’s hand on her arm stopped her. She cycled through a hundred ways to break the brittle parts of his meat before she realized it was concern, not anger, in his eyes. “They’ll kill you.”

“You can’t kill someone who’s already dead.” Saveria shook herself free, running back through the forest. Leaves and branches slapped her as she ran. She made the small glen. It was as she’d left it, except for one tiny detail.

The escape pod was empty.

The forest loam was churned as if by many feet. They’d blazed a path through the trees. She might catch up to them if she hurried. She almost ran off, then held herself still. She returned to the escape pod, jimmying the emergency supplies cabinet. Inside was water, ration bars, a small blaster, and good Empire coin. The blaster’s battery was dead, but the food and money were good anywhere.

She let coins tinkle to the floor of the escape pod. She needed to know where she was, and who her companion was to her, and who she was. Saveria put a hand to her head. It felt lopsided, like it had metal inside, a tiny vault holding her memories close.

Stepping from the escape pod, she looked at the sky, breathed the air, then squared her shoulders. She touched her lips with curious fingers. Someone else touched her like that not long ago. “Where has my Hope gone?”

Aside from the tinkle of the bellbirds, the forest didn’t answer. She’d have to get her answers another way.

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