The problem with no longer having to hide every day is that you forget you do need to hide every day. Or at the very least not stay in the quarters that the security chief has assigned to you. I’m almost at them when a door slides open into the hallway behind me. I spin, snapping an impact staff into my hand and it is yanked out of my grip almost before I have time to register it, a hand driving into my chest and shoving me hard against the wall.
I feel energy behind the blow, technology in the arm I can ruin with a single thought. Some people have genetic traits to be beautiful, to win wars, to heal wounds: I disrupt energy: I can shut down signals to almost any system, which includes the human brain, and definitely synthetic limbs. I almost flex the talent out of my body without thinking but the other person has already stepped back and is handing the impact staff to me. And I know them.
I blink, take a few deep breaths and hold the field inside. My control isn’t good. I’d disrupt every system on the floor, which includes both life support and gravity. I can survive longer without life support than some, but I do need it. One reason Dar has been trying to get me to focus it, to understand how the field works. To make a weapon like me more and less dangerous at the same time.
I’ve only met Orien a few times. He lives with Dar, a medic with a good chunk of his body as synthetic limbs after some explosion on a battlefield. That much I knew, but he moves faster than any medic I’ve ever heard of and doesn’t seem at all worried that I might fry his systems here and now.
“You’re not shielded against me. Not like Dar is.”
“I know.” Nothing else.
I take my weapon back, put it away. “I could have fried you.”
“Dar said he’d been training you; I trusted that.” The medic smiles, and it would be disarming except for the speed at which he’d disarmed me.
“So this was a test?”
Orien shrugs. “If you like. I was curious. I also have some advice for you.”
I draw myself up and glare at him, which seems to have no effect at all. “Advice.”
“Everyone needs some, sometimes. You gave Dar some good advice about us.” I say nothing to that; I have no idea what relationship they have, how a human and transfer get on. He’s human, Dar is a human mind in another body, a chunk of technology on treads. I’ve made it three weeks into knowing him without thinking about how they do anything, and I aim to keep doing that.
“So I thought I’d repay that,” he says with a small smile that seems to imply he knows exactly what I’m thinking. “Dar has a very high security clearance, but everyone has blind spots. He knows you had one parental unit, and that they died. He hasn’t looked into it. I did.”
I say nothing to that. I had expected Security to do this, if anyone did. Not some medic on their own.
“I asked security to let me handle this,” he says as if my mind is an open book. “They knew you were a danger – everyone knew that – but no one had done the math. And Dar, well, people talk about transfers and how alien and horrible it must be, how so few survive. But those that do survive need little, and don’t think about money like the rest of us. He knows a splice like your parental unit made is expensive. It’s not a common trait, but it’s cheap enough to splice because it is far, far too dangerous to splice into someone more than once.
“Because you disrupt yourself every time you use it. The basic use: doors, small gateways, is entirely normal. The splice was folded into you over a dozen times, with other splices allowing you to survive use of it, to survive situations using the trait would put you in,” he says, ticking points off on his fingers. “Your body produces the disruption field, can even absorb other energies and convert them, and the disruption ripples out. So you needed to be able to survive floating in vacuum for an indefinite period of time, to say nothing of moving through it unaided if you effectively murdered an entire starship.”
“Splices mature with the body.” It’s not much, but it’s the only thing I can think to say.
“I know. You’re not at that potential yet. If you were, nothing Dar or I could do would have stopped the security chief from having you killed.” Orien smiles then, thin and strange. “I don’t know what that’s like, living as you do. But Dar does, in ways large and small. There aren’t many medics with my particular skillsets around.”
“Dar tends to be drawn to people – or draw them to him – if they are unusual. He’s never had normal friends – some would argue that the mechanics he’s worked with count, but I know mechanics so I wouldn’t – and that colours his view of normal, Brin. To him, you’re no different than probably a dozen other people he’s met who were turned into weapons. But if you break his trust in you, he will walk away. He hasn’t pushed you, because that’s not his way, and he hasn’t worked out just how much money was spent to create you simply because it would never occur to him.”
I say nothing to that.
“You can tell me. You are going to have to tell him.”
“I murdered my parental unit.”
He snorts at that. “No kidding. You are here on your own, a living weapon without a handler.”
I focus the field, let a fraction of it out. Enough to cause the power to blip, enough to make him wary. It’s small and cheap, but I need something. “I’m not telling you their name. Or who they worked for. I want that to die and be forgot.” It sounds silly, but I push on: “I killed an entire starcruiser in the Ashel quadrant because – because it was that or be used to do far worse things. I don’t know how I made it to the Duli systems. I ended up planet-side. Somehow. Snuck onto a supply ship, ended up here.” I’m hugging myself and I didn’t mean to and I can’t stop it. “The starcruiser I cut power to fell into a sun, all lives lost on board. There were no other starships around.”
“Ask Dar to check into it if you want,” Orien says, soft. Not moving closer, not moving away. “What did they want you to do in the Ashel system?”
I shake my head, say nothing. Some things I’m not sharing, not with a medic. People think of a disruption field and they think technology, and artificial gravity. No one thinks of real gravity, of moons. And planets below them.
He just gives me a long look, then turns and walks away. “Whoever taught you how to defend yourself did so poorly. We can talk about that later, if you talk to Dar first.”
I just enter my quarters and close the door by way of reply. Better silence than the truth, however long it can last.