If I can just -
He knew he was going to die.
The Phracton warrior was hunched into his floating, globe-shaped module,
like a cowering crustacean. Through the numerous feeder tubes surrounding
his body pulse after pulse was pumping into him, telling him...
To end his life.
The warrior's organic part was just a blob of flesh, a twist of wet
fibres and gnarled organs. Back on the home-world, this flesh had floundered
with shameless joy among the semi-gaseous swamps, the young Phracton inflating
himself with the pungent nutrients and casting his tendrils around for
his playful primary-mate.
But it had come, as it always did for every young Phracton - the summons
to the Centre to enlist as a warrior in the Swarm. And there, in the Hall
of Becoming, needles had given the youngster implants of unwanted strength,
and cybro-pads fused lobes of his brains into the jewelled connections
of the Web. The heart of the Swarm, where the Commandant lurked, exuding
strength and reassurance.
He had been briefed for his mission with other minds, other new initiates
into the world of the Swarm. A mission to reclaim a colony rich in Porizium
deposits, which had been disgracefully occupied by humans from the Terran
Empire. It was to be a battle fought, as always with honour - a Phracton
who killed for pleasure or sport would forever be a disgrace to his Swarm-brothers.
Now that was all immaterial. For Phracton 3X-877+, the world was about
When his shuttle had impacted with the ground of this backwater asteroid
called Gadrell Major, the major feeder to the Swarm had been damaged.
It was clear what he had to do. His organic impulses, unfettered now
by the warrior mesh, would be a liability to the Swarm. He was obliged
to destroy himself.
He forced his regulators into the danger sector - where they would melt
the links, causing his organic matter to swell up like a hideous sponge
and explode in the oxygen-rich atmosphere.
He would be found later. Not quite dead.
He would be found by one more evil and more deadly than any human or
By one with a power that spanned time and space.
If I can just reach out -
She hoped she was going to live. The pretty young woman with gleaming
mercury-coloured hair trod carefully through the library Stacks, her read-out
flickering in one hand. The Stacks were old, and smelled of paper, dirt,
heat and unopened windows. She could almost taste the age of the library
in the dust that settled on her tongue
She took a handful of disks from one of the towering shelves and leafed
through them without much apparent interest. For a moment she let them
sit in her hand as if she were somehow absorbing the ancient knowledge
by osmosis, but then she let them fall to the floor with a clatter.
She shook her head. There was no point.
Something tickled the back of her neck. She gasped, whirled round with
A stream of dark, greyish dust fell vertically in front of her. She
extended a hand. It caressed her skin with a soft greasiness and she recognised
the sand from the surface.
And now, as she listened carefully she could hear sounds from high above...
A dull, repeated boom like stone being shattered. She felt herself shake
with fear as she rubbed the slippery sand between her fingers.
So. It had started. There was, in that case, one vital thing to be done.
She activated her tracker again and soon found the relevant section
of the Stacks. Here, electronic media sat beside ancient volumes on real
paper bound in cloth. She found what she was looking for - the collected
works of a particular dead writer from Earth. Her hand ran along the gold
embossing until she touched Volume Sixteen. Officially there were only
fifteen volumes in the set, but she had a purpose for the extra one.
She reached it down, turned the spine towards her and snapped the stiff
leather open. In the padded box within the fake book there was a slim,
silver pistol. The girl smiled, pocketed the gun, and headed back towards
he ladder which would return her to the surface.
If I can just reach out and -
Through the storms of time, through impossible gateways a battered blue
Inside there lurked another dimension a universe of silence. Within
the smooth and functional console-room with its roundelled walls nothing
stirred. Orange light bathed it, a dim parody of its usual brightness.
The craft had occupants, but they were not easily located. One, a passenger
was exploring new areas of the craft, but she was about to stumble once
more upon a familiar room full of outlandish clothes, containing something
very unusual indeed.
The other was the pilot and owner. He had not been seen by the passenger
for several days.
But there he was, like a hint of himself, like a ghost. He stood, silent
and still, deep within the craft - in a stone grey water-blue chamber.
It resembled a neo-Gothic sculpture of the main console room, and the owner
stood at its centre, barely perceptible, his impish face bathed in blue
He was calm, recuperating. His hands were folded together and the jewel
on his ring pulsed with light, illuminating the stonework like the cursor
of some gigantic computer-program coursing through the timeless systems.
He was gathering his strength.
If I can just reach out and touch you.
Gone. Splintering into the light and shadow
of time, fluttering away like some short-lived insect.
But I have the feeling we shall met again,