This one’s moving along slowly, but it is my Official NaNoWriMo Project. It’s a continuation of the story from Inside the Jump (NaNo 2013). So, without further ado…
Jehen was dreaming, and only half aware of it.
Undersea — so it had to be a dream — in silver halls, where the faces of the dead leered at them from niches, Jehen walked between the refectory tables at the Academy, human bones crunching underfoot; she stepped carefully to avoid trapping her foot in a ribcage that arched up like open jaws.
The faces of the dead. The Immortal of T-7, hideous in his ornamented helmet, hideous — even more — in the visual feed from Genubi’s autopsy. That already she knew was not fictional. The mass of tumor where there ought to have been a face, might have been a face, knotted and amorphous, clear leads snaking into it like cilia.
Once upon a time, her little sister Yasmin had disbelieved the existence of a world more than half water.
Undersea, deep blue shimmered with veins of light.
Her own sister, Yasmin, long dead as a human being, reborn as a Ship. Though Yasmin’s face was beautiful, her funeral mask all silver on the face of the Avatar-Ashore. And Mavra, Mavra in half-death had been reunited with her love and Ship’s Heart.
One of the trainee Captains attending Melisand Ship’s-Heart bore his name: Timur.
She was dreaming, and now fully aware of it.
Martisset next to her, holding her hand, as they had never done at the Academy. They’d been together, fully acknowledged, but not blatant.
Those fingers, interlocked with hers, carried an erotic charge. Jehen and Martisset walked together, hand in hand, between the tables peopled with ghosts, under the more-than-life-size banners with the images of the gods of Karis, only where those sacred images once had hung, now leaned the dead, glorious and otherwise.
In the course of Jehen’s fifteen years Aboard-Ships, Martisset had returned in dreams to haunt her with what could never be. She knew that she’d wake from this dream as well, and find her hand clasping nothing, or the shoulder next to her an illusion of her own body heat reflected back from the bedding.
Yasmin smiled down from the wall, in costume as the Daughter of Storms. Surrounded by storm-wrack and scud, in a rising spiral of messenger birds, hair longer and fuller than any real person’s ever was, blue-black like clouds and shot with lightning, she held the reigns of four rearing black horses.
She would wake and the refectory would be gone, Martisset would be gone.
Yasmin would persist.
Halfway, more than halfway to waking, and the fingers interlocked with her own were still real.
“Ouch,” Martisset said. “You’re crushing my hand.”
“Oh my, you’re not a dream,” Jehen said, relinquishing the hand and opening her eyes to Martisset leaning over her, in the tiny niche in her sleeping quarters under the Dome.
“I should hope not,” Martisset said, with a not-at-all-sleepy smile. “I’ve been awake for ages.”
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