Read the first part of Losing the Light (a selection from The Time is Light) here:
Losing the Light
We’re all prisoners to the pull of the sun, the Duranna thought, streaking through the Oort Cloud as a beam of energy. An ice fragment tumbled away from her on its inbound fall.
She’d felt the homeward pull at Canopus, where the summons uplinked to her. The Chudson told her not to confirm – StarReach was lying. A recall now could only mean disaster, the Chudson had warned, and besides, it was more important for her to stay on schedule for Andromeda, instead.
But she was a Duranna. Her line of pilots never disconnected from the link to duty.
Outside the orbit of Saturn, she savored the song of the universe, the flow of stars in her veins of pure energy. Riding the beam coupled her with the cosmos, and she soared free of the human form. “Duranna … come away with us…” voices whispered, titillating her.
All too soon, drifting sparks and tingles reminded her of her corporeal being, and bit by bit, ensnared her essence into a glowing cocoon. Re-materialization stole her energy from her.
She shot into the asteroid belt as her brain-ship meld ran down to its inevitable end. The ship’s hull slowly took shape from the glimmering stream around her, forming into a sleek bullet contour. Duranna tried to linger as a beam in the tentacled grip of the Transformation Device, but she couldn’t hold onto singing stars much longer.
Her molecules spun. Hints of human shape lashed around the energy beam, within the hull. Past Mars, the song died, and the universe went cold, and she felt…
Nothing. The absence of light.
Neurons fired, and the last of her genetically engineered particles rearranged themselves. She was a form now, leashed to a titanic mass. But empty.
* * * * *
Matter transformation always left her body feeling more used up, and her mind, momentarily disoriented. Despite her training and her enhanced DNA, she was still human – most of the time. The human form craved a spatial perception that didn’t exist in the vacuum of her infinite playground.
Earth, reflecting more sunlight than she remembered, made her blink. Since the last time she’d seen the homeworld, clouds had grown thicker. Holes punched through the white shroud and spotlighted brilliant ice fields.
Duranna turned away from Earth and took over from the shipboard program. She guided the ship, a 107 model, toward Luna Station hanging above her head like a string of bubbles. Behind the orbiting modules, the stark, daytime surface of the moon filled most of the viewport, blinding her with its brightness. The 107 docked too hard against the moorings of its berth at the station.
A human’s voice, no longer intelligible to her, burst over the speaker. It was a harsh gush of sounds compared to the stars’ music. After a few clanging tugs at the hull, the outer hatch opened with a bang, jarring the Transformation Device, which held her torso with a few flickering remnants of light. A tech floated inside and launched himself toward her.
Duranna recognized fear on his face, and yes, maybe a bit of loathing, too. She’d seen it many times before. The unknown was what really frightened traditional humans when they came face to face with an embodied StarReach pilot.
The tech pulled a chip the size of a thumbnail out of his toolbox and held it up for her to inspect. She moved the lead weight of her head in a painful nod of approval, and he quickly inserted the chip into her cranial access.
“Is that better?” Now she could understand him. “Welcome back. Did you experience any difficulties on your trip?”
“Why the summons?” she asked instead, her new voice snapping to mask her own fear. StarReach wanted to retire her. “Why the rush?”
“Malfunction, ma’am.” He went about his business, touching a sequence of pads, activating the release sequence. “You’ve experienced excessive sparking after transformation – “
“There’s nothing wrong with my ship.”
“If we don’t take care of it right away, we could have an emergency situation. I’d say it’s about time this old 107 came in for a refit.” All the while, he worked without looking her in the eye. As if there were something not quite human about Duranna.
Her facial muscles twitched.
“The Bra’er and the Eltsinoh never made it back,” the tech added. “People are questioning whether or not we should travel in space at all if we have to do it this way. With so many losses we’ve suffered lately, even the boss is getting nervous.”
That would explain her summons.
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