Alice pushed up from her cot. Her arms were tense, the skin along them warm with sweat. She hadn’t slept well last night. Then again, when did Alice ever sleep well? She had a lot going on in her mind, a lot going on in her life.
She was the last of her kind, the last of her race. And what was worse, she was the last of the Old Ones.
And no, that didn’t mean that Alice was a geriatric. She was young for her species; it just so happened that her people were considered ancient. The ones who’d come before. The aliens who’d been responsible for crafting the modern universe.
Alice stood up, taking a deep breath as she did.
Then she padded across the room, her bare feet soft against the cold floor. She headed toward the console in the corner. Letting out a massive, rattling sigh, she pushed down into the broken flight chair she’d salvaged from one of the dumps outside.
Biting her bottom lip hard, she tried to muster the confidence required for what she needed to do next.
Check the news.
Alice pushed her fingernails into her hand as she tried to garner enough confidence and courage in order to bring her hand up and let the sensor in the console register her movements so she could command the holographic images.
For most ordinary people, checking the news wouldn’t be a big ordeal. For most ordinary people, they weren’t the last of their kind. They were also not on the run from a universe, that if it knew they existed, would be after them with every single ship and warrior and weapon they had.
That was Alice’s life. That was the secret behind her desperation, her fear, the reason she was stuck in this tiny apartment, in this small room on her little cot.
No friends, no family, no one to rely on. Just Alice and one hell of a history chasing her down.
The galaxy hadn’t always been this way, and neither had the universe. For billions upon billions of years, everything had been separated. Every race and every cluster had been kept apart by the depths of space, just the way nature intended it to be. Then the Old Ones had come along. They hadn’t been one distinct race but a group of many. They’d seeded the universe with technology so powerful that it managed to connect even the furthest reaches of reality to one another.
But more than the technology they’d created, it was the power source that had kept it running that was remarkable.
Beyond words, beyond concepts even. Possibly the greatest invention in all of the history of the universe.
Alice’s race had been behind that invention. It was her fingers as they scrolled up and down, the computer console picking up on the movements to move the holographic images displayed before her, that were the true key to modern civilization.
Power. Energy, beyond people’s wildest dreams. Enough to enable the most fantastic of technologies, the most incredible of capabilities.
Sighing, Alice pressed her fingers further into her head. She’d learned that from the humans; apparently massaging your brow helped relieve tension.
It didn’t work. If Alice wanted to release her tension, she would have to hop a transport and travel to an abandoned galaxy with no sign of any other race to bother her. Then and only then would she be able to relax. With no one around her, there would be no threat that someone could find out what she was, use her abilities to rekindle the Old Technology, and no doubt lay waste to the modern universe.
She wasn’t going to get that opportunity.
Not now, not ever.
Winking one eye open, Alice looked at the holographic feed in front of her. As her hand moved slowly from left-to-right, thousands upon thousands of images flickered for just long enough for the human mind to pick them up. Alice wasn’t human, and her mind was capable of processing so much more. As the images flickered past, snippets of sound clips accompanied them. It was a heady experience. And if it weren’t one Alice had lived thousands of times, it would confuse the hell out of her.
A lot of modern society confused the hell out of her.
Alice’s race may have been foundational in bringing the universe to the level of civilization it now had, but there was still a part of her that wanted a simpler, easy life, closer to nature and as far away from technology as she could get.
Despite how much she yearned for simplicity, she was never going to get it. The universe was connected now and drenched in technology, and unless a catastrophic event occurred, it would remain that way.
Bringing a hand out, clutching it onto the edge of the console, letting her fingers tense as they pressed right into the metal, Alice found it.
The exact news she was looking for.
News of the Rim.
The war. Or at least the impending one. The one that the Government wasn’t comfortable admitting to yet.
Her eyes darted over the information that appeared on the screen. Processing the images and sound clips at a speed most races would consider incredible, Alice found out what she needed to.
It relieved her but only just.
Stretching back in her chair, taking an uncomfortable breath, Alice couldn’t help but reflect on how pitiful her life had become.
She was in a horrible world of her own. Despite the fact she knew she could never let anybody else find out what she was, that didn’t mean Alice couldn’t feel the guilt of doing nothing.
So much was going wrong in the universe these days, especially in the Milky Way. Alice’s race hadn’t only been technologically deft, but they were physically strong too, fantastically powerful by human standards. They’d been a race of warriors, of peacekeepers. But Alice couldn’t run off to join the Union Forces; she would be found out. She couldn’t run off to protect the colonies along the Rim; she would be found out. And if she was found out, something far, far worse would happen.
Forcing herself to stand up, Alice walked around the room several times, clutching her hands behind her back. She’d once seen that exact move in a video from Old Earth. It had been a movie of some sort, some kind of fictional description of ancient Earth history. Anyway, the main character in it, a captain of some sort, would always walk around his troops with his hands held behind his back, his chest puffed out, his neck receded slightly. It gave him, according to humans at least, a measure of gravitas. Of controlled force.
Well, Alice would like some of that. For a creature who was powerful, who had the key to most of the Old Technology scattered around the universe, she often felt so small and insignificant that flecks of space dust would have better self-confidence.
“Come on, you’ve got to get up. You’ve got to get to work,” she said through gritted teeth, staring down at the holographic newsfeed.
Again, her eyes darted from left-to-right, processing the information at an astounding rate. As they did, her hands clenched by her side, the fingernails pressing further into her palms. An ordinary human might have bled by now. She wasn’t going to bleed. It would take a hell of a lot more to cut through her skin. It would also take a hell of a lot more to damage her in any way.
Despite her incredible abilities, Alice always lived life on a precipice. If someone found out what she was capable of… her life would end. All the energy she had left inside her would be sucked out.
Closing her eyes, shaking her head, Alice stepped back several times. Then she keyed a number into the pad by her door and waited with her arms outstretched as clothes were knitted over her bare body.
Pushing her thick black and blue hair against the base of her neck, Alice told the door to open, and she walked outside.
The rest of Ghost of Mind Episode One is available from most ebook retailers.