Hello to everyone who’s been following my Writer In Motion journey. It’s self-revision week and boy did I have my work cut out. The initial draft came in close to 1600 words, and I challenged myself this round to get off the couch and start running again. One broken treadmill and a new trampoline later, I’m now bouncing my way off the couch and learning some new revision skills.
As promised, the feature image has a new layer as I continue to build the blend for this story. The addition was originally going to be more of a mood tone, but when I saw this jungle piece I couldn’t resist. Braygen lives in the jungle most days and understands its rhythm like a familiar heartbeat. But of course for Writer In Motion he traveled far south into the darkness to find something very precious—technology from home that holds the key to his future.
CITY WITHOUT LIGHT
The day the mad commander died, he said five final words to the woman he loved: “Go back to the beginning.”
Moments after his farewell, I was born on a now-derelict starship beyond the night sky hologram. Since that day, I’ve searched for the woman he tried to save, but all I had to my name was a faded image of her face and dragon fire burning deep in my bones.
Today I wanted more, forgetting the words my father once taught me: Every heroic deed requires sacrifice.
Marco clapped me on the shoulder, mud splattered across his russet brown hand. “We can do this tomorrow. Those fires will burn a few days yet.”
My friend had a point, and I could do with the heat of his touch for one more night. Yet as the hovering steel forge dragged its long legs across the plaza, belching green flame from its central orb, the siren call of the woman’s soft brown eyes tugged at my soul.
“No, it has to be now.” Her faded image tucked in my pocket, I ignored the pain in my bones and slipped into the crowd, clutching an arrow from my quiver.
Darkness clung to the metal city under a starless sky. Black cloth draped the old Guardian monoliths as a warning of death to all who defied their hive queen. As I passed Herana’s statue, the woman in my pocket, I yanked the rough cloth down to give her life again.
She was the only Guardian who mattered.
“Hey, you!” one of the guards shouted, the skull on his breastplate glowing green. I left Marco and his deadly sword arm to deal with the bastard while I headed straight for the city’s Fueler, who raised their hands to a gathering crowd.
“Today we honor our great hive queen,” the Fueler shouted as the squid-like forge hovered near their shoulder. “The itharäth trapped us here, but we’ll destroy their world and build ours upon the ashes.”
Their words ignited the fire in my bones, uncoiling a defiance to grab the metal forge in my jaws and rip it out of the air.
Biting back the alien sensation, I scanned the bins at the Fueler’s feet, each stuffed with panels, weapons, and old starship technology. Those were my heritage… my home.
I wanted them all, but anything I couldn’t hide under my clothes might get us killed.
The Fueler turned from the crowd and picked up a steel rifle. I could use one of those, but my heart beat faster at the silver gleam of a datapad next to their leg. As the Fueler slid the rifle into the forge fires, I hastened forward and slid to one knee, driving my arrow into their calf.
I grabbed the datapad and tucked it against my chest, leaving the buried arrow as a souvenir. Bolting beneath the metal queen’s belly, the forge fires sweltered an unforgiving heat.
Sweat dripped into my beard as I whipped around, a dagger gripped and ready to fly.
A long, grayish tentacle had Marco by the throat as he dropped to his knees. The Fueler swayed behind him, tentacles climbing his shoulders and lifeless eyes toward the starless night. “Your invader queen sleeps. Soon she will wake and open the gate back to our world.”
I wanted to kill that bastard and let the dagger fly. Dropping near Marco, I tried to untangle the pulsing tentacle. He screamed an unnatural howl as his head arched back.
The tentacle released him and slammed against my cheek. I flew across the platform, the datapad slipping from my hands. Skin stinging from its slime, I scrambled for the precious technology.
Marco howled again as a fleshy mass pinned him down, digging long tentacles into his spine. The creature slid into Marcos’ body, fleshy pulp dissolving until it disappeared beneath the skin.
The thing was a damn parasite.
Marco blinked and gasped for air. The pale blue tinge to his suffocating features softened to a deep russet.
Shoving the datapad in my pocket next to Herana’s image, I ripped the bow from my back and nocked an arrow.
Marco held up his hands, but a cold malice lingered where once his hazel eyes held soft affection. “You left our queen beyond the gate. Now we destroy your hive, Itharä.”
My arm shuddered as my bones lit like an arsonist’s fire. “Wha’d that thing do, Marco?”
All traces of my friend’s gentle spirit vanished. Stripping off his weapons, Marco threw them into the forge and pulled on the dead Fueler’s black armor. “Let us sacrifice these relics to…”
I knew Marco was lost.
With tears in my eyes, I disappeared into the crowd, heart aching with the loss of someone so dear. Cold loneliness gutted my soul as I escaped the treacherous city and returned to our horses on the hilly outskirts.
My father always said every heroic deed requires sacrifice. Only the promise of Herana’s face soothed the rage burning my bones. I would have done anything for Marco, but the moment my Guardian’s gentle features lit the screen, I knew I’d never look back.
Marco was in the great between now, and soon he would find a new life. Maybe we’d meet again in the future, but as I released his mare into the wild, the fire in me let go of him and focused on the Guardian I was desperate to find.
There was no path back home to the old starship, but I could search every inch of this world for her. Mounting my clouded gray, I turned north toward the jungle where four suns burned bright beyond the horizon.
A zankata cawed from a leafless oak, no doubt long dead since someone turned the sky hologram to constant night over the hive queen’s city. The crow-like bird was a reminder of the next step in my journey. Time to search for the real Herana and to do that I must find the beginning.