Abyss Looking Back

Prompt: He waits by the window / And wonders / At the empty place inside / Heartlessly helping himself to her bad dreams / He worries ~ CSN - Helplessly Hoping by pygmymuse. Writing into the Abyss, Part II

Liana Mir

Liana Mir reads, writes, and wrangles the muses from her mundane home in the Colorado Rockies and, occasionally, from the other side of the Barrier.

Series Listing

16 — 02. Summer

When the Clock Strikes Midnight

16 — 02. Summer through 03. Autumn

Wake and Thrive

16 — 03. Autumn through 17 — 01. Spring

Its Own Absolution

16 — 03. Late Autumn

After the Grief

16 — 03. Late Autumn

Battery Acid

17 — 02. Summer

Accounting for Redemption

17 — 02. Summer

Counting Heartbeats

18 — 01. Spring

Song Between the Waking and the Dreaming

20 — 04. Winter

Echoes of Anchor Lost

21 — 01. Spring

Don’t Remind Me That It’s Over

21 — 02. Summer


21— 02 Summer through 22 — 01 Spring

Name Me Another (or Glass Angel, Redux)

22 — 01. Spring

Glass Angel

22 — 01. Spring

Pause the Sonata

22 — 02. Summer

Without a Reason

22 — 03. Autumn

Learning Legato

23 — 02. Summer

Acceptable Cost

23 — 02. Summer

History Lesson on the Night Train

23 — 03. Autumn

Abyss Looking Back

23 — 03. Autumn

Collateral Damage

23 — 03. Autumn

Five Reasons I Love You

23 — 03. Autumn

Little Things

23 — 03. Autumn

Owning Beauty

23 — 04. Winter

Dream the Dance

23 — 04. Winter

Snow Day

24 — 02. Summer

As the River Breathes

AU 21 — 04. Winter

Normal written in coffee grounds

Abyss Looking Back

Sometimes Justus wonders why Rachelle is always looking into the abyss.

Justus and the Database have known each other for years, long enough for him to ignore break the anger and silence between them to help her as much as she will allow.

23 — 03. Autumn
Kingdoms and Thorn Science Fiction
Flash Fiction Short Story

Morning light broke gently through the glass wall of her apartment, the one she liked to call a window overlooking her city. Justus watched the play of dawn’s rays over her face. Even in sleep, she seemed weary and drawn. He kept his fingers from clenching—the pressure wouldn’t help her—but he knew she had been fighting her own body too long.

The girl of a hundred names and special human abilities: the Database, Cypher, Battery Acid, Rachelle Winslow, Guardian. He had named her that last, but he never knew what to call her when she got like this, when the world finally overwhelmed this woman who managed to snap back invulnerable at her own body hurting her. He knew that he held her lightly, touched her with his eyes instead of his hands, felt more for her then than when she was so strong.

She would wake up soon. Justus could feel it through the way her body rested against his on her living room couch. One wrong breath and all that tension would trigger instincts she had been trained in from childhood. And what would he call her then?

The light spread from rays into weak ambience, then brightened further and he watched her eyelids flutter open. Her eyes were brown, alive and expressive. Right now, they expressed pain. She grimaced as she sat up.

Justus just watched, not helping, not wanting to touch her more than necessary when any and all pressure against her skin would hurt. The Database was one of about eleven hundred survivors of the Thorn Republic’s genetic experimentation to create military operatives who could serve as living weapons. They were called special type humans. Her special ability was a unique vascular system able to process genetic data and replicate it inside her own body. It allowed her to mimic other specials for a few seconds at a time and allowed her to read DNA more easily than Justus could read a book. The problem was that her vessels could only hold so much information, so much fluid, so much genetic material before breaking, and her space was running out.

“Stop looking at me like that,” she snapped over her shoulder, heading for the kitchen. “I won’t break.”

A part of her did break, regularly, but that part was under her skin and Justus sat up with a sigh, knowing he wasn’t the one person she had ever let under it. “You’d think I wasn’t your teammate.”

“Shut up.” The words were delivered amicably though they would not have sounded amicable to an outsider. She put on coffee, as he expected, and winced as she poked at the skin on her arm under the medical star she had put on last night to give her vessels a little more room for archiving data.

With that, he could name her again, and it was with relief that he called her, “Database,” with some exasperation.

The Database ignored him. She stirred her steaming mug and lifted it with both hands to test it with the tip of her tongue. “I didn’t ask you to come,” she retorted, this time with some heat, perhaps a little bitterness.

Justus looked at her silently. Ilsa Killinger had called him, told him a healer was pouring life into the Database’s broken vascular system, and that he was the emergency contact listed for such an event. The Database had been patched up well enough but there was no way in heaven or earth he would have let her drive herself home.

Her shoulders tensed. She shrugged jerkily, a resigned sort of truce. He wondered briefly if she’d read his mind with some borrowed gift or just known what he was thinking. They had known each other for years now, long enough to become involved in their own weird way and long enough for him to fall in love with her, much to her chagrin.

Rachelle Winslow, the Database, Guardian, Battery Acid was not the marrying type.

“You cycled three months ago,” Justus pointed out bluntly, hitting her where it counted because she was sharp and raw and always hit him where it mattered most.

A seething hiss between her teeth. She downed the rest of her coffee and he knew it scalded but she didn’t care.

She used to go a couple quarters between cycles, when she forced her body to assimilate and archive all the flotsam and jetsam of genetic data running through her system. When they had first made her, she said she could go a few years before bothering with it. Working files, she called them. Cached DNA-prints, accessible and readable enough before she made them a part of her own genome, though she could only use them afterward.

It counted. Time was running down and three months ago, she’d stopped speaking to him because she figured out he’d been fool enough to love her. His words reminded her of two things she didn’t want to think about. But she didn’t talk about it. She rinsed her mug and stuck it in the sanitizer.

“I’m going to change,” she commented as if they had said nothing else. They had fallen asleep on the couch in their clothes from yesterday. It was a reasonable enough excuse.

He didn’t talk about it. He looked out the window wall of apartment glass out onto the city—her city—golden Kishet with its skyscraper buildings and tangled quarters and districts and kingdoms. He looked out as he heard her shoes on the tile leading into the bedroom area, the shower water begin to run, and looked at the rush of nameless faces and soundless cars running below. He wondered how she kept moving forward with her bad dreams of a future where her body betrayed her and killed her at last with nothing inside to warm or comfort her. He wondered if all those nameless faces made her feel less lonely that she was one of them.


Kingdoms and Thorn Science Fiction

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