In the bulky strangeness of then I remember time sliding, molding to the touch. Sometimes now, in the dark, I wake to find myself reaching up from the bed, clawing at... at what precious peace it all seemed to be. At the possibility of a happy an ending that skirted around the things I would, actually, be required later to do: killing, barter.
Things I did – not to win, but to survive.
"So, why Snow?"
I tilted the welding mask back and rested cold elbows on Figurer's smeared metal. We were sweating through repairs in the main hold, artfully making do with an almighty patchwork across the skin and innards of my ship.
Snow, patching a snarled mat of frayed console wires on the other side of the ship, was visible only from the knees down.
I saw his feet go still, a heel twitch in the sudden silence. He'd become my host and sitter, keeping me occupied and away from the others – having now been onboard for the guts of a month and never once seen the scattered crew again.
"Why... Snow? Why my name?"
"Why any of your names here, Snow, Vast, Gyre..." Vast, a tall and quiet woman with knobbled wrists and a dotted tattoo between her fingers. Gyre, her son and the boy with gunmetal grey hair whose reassurance that first night at dinner still hung warm in the back of my mind... (if Snow heard that, he said nothing).
He tilted around the bowed end of the ship to meet my eyes, shrugging before falling back into his work."Dunno why – sounded good I guess. Lived on Adelaide years kicking up dust and sweating like a pig. Snow just felt good to say... like a wish."
"What was it before?" I asked.
Snow's tools dropped into a box on the floor – a sour signal he was finished with repairs for the day. "Sometimes there's no reason at all to the names we give ourselves. So bottle it."
We were quiet, watching each other. "I'm not trading life stories, Jack."
Probably be a fuckin' sob story anyway. You got time to cry it all out for a stranger?
Riddick again. Always when I paused on the knife-edge he crept into my ears like a shadow. I was beginning to wonder if he was still a real flesh and blood thing or if I was chasing static.
Was I still chasing?
In my berth after lights out I lay in the dark, trying hard to focus on him. If i could just know again, the way I had in that merc bar, if I could get free of here...
Come find your bogey man and kill those nightmares once and for all.
"Is that what you are, now?"
That what you wanna make me?
A ringing knock on my door, the sound scratching my teeth and making me jump.
"Miss Jack, is it just you in there?
I pulled the blankets a little closer. Kyra. She had vanished into the winding tunnels of the craft almost immediately following our first meeting. Since that moment at the dinner, she'd not been seen or heard again... something I was more glad of than I'd ever admit.
In a honey voice that could melt iron. "Is there anything at all I can do?"
I could feel the heat of her breath against the door, she was smiling.
"Maybe we could... talk. Share the stories knocking around in that head of yours?"
Another pause, and then:
"Maybe chat with whoever it is you've got in there with you..."
There's a wolf at the door, little red.
The sharp edge of my fan blades blinked to mind. The soft curves of taanite ore sang quietly, like this: blood and blood and blood...
Outside, she sighed with a sad note, "Oh, we've gotten off on the wrong foot. But we'll soon set things right."
Footsteps rang on the grating as she made her way back to the crew quarters. In my mind I could still feel a powerful pressure like the hard search Snow had tried only once, and I'd taught him to stay away.
But Kyra didn't seem interested in lessons.