Antares Fiction – ‘Epilogue’ by Tim Bancroft

Soft light; gentle sounds of breakers on a nearby shore; a musty, slightly spicey smell. He opened his eyes to see a smile, dark eyes. ‘Baray.’

‘Welcome home, sire.’

‘Where are we?’

‘On board the Vard of Delhren, sir, amongst the Home Fleet. We’re in a hospital recovery room. You’ve been in intensive care for a few weeks.’

‘A few weeks?’

‘There was a lot of work to do – and not all of it was able to be done. How do you feel?’

‘Fine.’ Actually, he felt great, better than he had for months. He raised a hand, turned it over. It looked clean, a little paler than normal, but otherwise fine. He braced himself, raised his head and looked down his body. ‘My legs look fine.’ He wriggled a toe. ‘And they work.’

‘Induced coma, enhanced regrowth.’

‘Aah. I take it we were rescued?’

‘Apparently we were in stasis a month or so before a rescue ship came through the gate. The system is rife with Ghar but those Ma’req really know how to build stealth ships.’

‘I bet that caused a stir when it was discovered.’

‘Certainly did. House techs are swarming over it, now.’

‘Ceahray? Her scientists and AI?’

‘Most survived. Ceahray’s gone back already, the others will as soon as they’ve recovered. She gives her regards, says “Well played”. I think she likes you.’

‘Thanks. I think.’

Baray’s smile widened. ‘You’ve caused a stir.’

‘A new planet?’

‘A new, almost useless planet,’ she corrected him. ‘Even the Ghar aren’t landing anything or one for long. No, the real stir is the bionanocytes you brought back that integrated themselves with your shard interface and neural system.’

‘Really?’ He opened his internal link. ‘MyShard, are you there?’

‘Yes, Batu, as always.’

‘Are you back to normal?’

‘I have found a new equilibrium. I believe that you will find the changes disconcerting.’

‘Such as?’

‘I am more advanced, can use some of your brain’s pattern recognition power. My interfaces can be unreliable as my core module is partially fused with the Shamasai wetware and replacement Delhren interfaces.’

Batu refocused his gaze on Baray. ‘They can’t replace my shard interface.’

‘No. You’re stuck with it as it is. The good news is that it’s really capable, probably Vard-level or even approaching NuHu functionality, but still only has Doma-famlia security access. The House is worried, has built a lot of security algorithms to block the Shamasai ‘cytes doing anything to the Delhren IMTel hierarchies.’ She paused, her smile faded. ‘You have a permanent security detail, part bodyguard. I’m heading it up.’

‘Congratulations. So I’m under surveillance and you’re protecting and guarding against someone with a Senatex-like virus, an erratic shard interface and new legs.’ He drew himself up onto his elbows, swung his legs over the side of the hospital couch. They were skinny, pale. ‘Might as well give them a go.’

Baray hovered by his side, ready to take the weight when he tried to walk. ‘Take it easy, sire. Muscle training takes a bit of practice.’

Batu flapped his hands to shoo her away. ‘No, Sergeant. I’ll do this on my own, my way.’ He pushed himself away from the couch.

Baray gave a wry smile. ‘Just as you always do, sire.’

He took a step; she caught him before he toppled to the floor.

***

Tim Bancroft has sent in a number of pieces – his previous work can be found here:

Read Refurbished – Part 1

Read Refurbished – Part 2

Read Chapter 2 Questions

Read Chapter 3 – Bait

Read Chapter 4 – Storm

Read Chapter 5 – Shaltoks Sheep

Read Chapter 6 – Pyrrhic Success

Read Chapter 7 – Abominable Tech

Read Chapter 8 – Aftermath Part One

Read Chapter 9 – Aftermath Part Two

Read Chapter 10 – Field Promotion

Read Chapter 11  – Deductions

Read Chapter 12 – Underground, Overground

Read Chapter 13 – Staking Claims

Tim Bancroft has been longlisted for the James White SF Award 2015 and won the Orwell Dystopian Fiction Award 2014. Follow Tim on his Blog at: timbancroft.me.uk.

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