Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

It’s been ten years since the Humanis Confederacy swept the Roekuld from the Spiral Arm in a rebellion that no-one thought mankind capable of. In six months we undid the defeats and treacheries of fifty years. Victory was absolute and mercy forgotten.

We. Sadly. My blood is tinged with green and I can read thoughts within eight metres. I am a Rho-Ka-Mismeja, elite of the Absalon Rage, premiere commando of the Roekuld. I trained for five years to join humanity. Underwent six months of irreversible surgery, losing a half metre in height and a digit from each appendage. But the ‘man’ who joined the harvest labourers in Barron, a small town on the frontier world of Fettya, had the rugged features and hefty build that marked the nomads of the mountain ranges. My willingness to work and drink got me accepted, and after the winter I moved to Dellaban, the capital city. Command knew there was something major being planned. I had barely been accepted into the resistance when that something became the end of my race.

I spent a year as a homeless drunk, risking the minimal chance of detection. Only a small group of humans pursued the ‘shadow company’. The rest thought that we only existed in wartime myth. A year later I had become a vagrant when my remaining comrades commandeered an armoured freighter to strike at the heart of the Confederacy. I saw their final broadcast, all vengeful fury and bared teeth. They were blasted to dust and humanity celebrated the end of the Roekuld. I was alone, yet never regretted being too drunk to answer the final call to join them.

Three years later I returned to Barron, welcomed back like a prodigal son. Two years after that I had become the town smithy, with a profitable sideline in unusual jewellery: unusual because it used designs from my disintegrated homeland.

Early one dawning I was staggering home when a thought hit me: “You smell like a hebegraf.”

I spun round too fast and fell in a heap, opening my eyes to see a pair of grey eyes framed in a mass of tawny hair. She raised a hand so I could see one of my bracelets on her wrist.

“Your work made me cry. To see Lethdargil scrollwork again was something I never expected to do.”

I lay there as shock chased the hangover away. The smell emanating from me became all too clear. I smiled. “I remember hebegraf smelling better. Apologies, I thought myself alone.”

“I am Atanel of Palameen.”

Images of that vast, lush tropical delta spotted with small communities came to mind.

“Bushlarl of Lethdargil.”

She smiled. “The mountains bred another metalworker?”

“Family trade. Here I am Bush.”


While I washed, she made breakfast and we spun to each other, the affinity of thought sharing healing us in places we had thought unreachable.

“I was wallowing when the last call came. I was the only one to refuse and had to waste half a year out of my mind so they could not find me. Then I wandered until I saw your bracelet. That was a year ago.”

She appeared in the doorway, mugs of steaming broth in hand and a faint smile on her face. “Shall I be your sister or first love?”

“First love, please. The drinking was only partly to forget. It also kept Barron’s marriageable women at bay.”

She laughed. I knew then that we could share, finding a refuge in each other’s mind while Barron became a comfortable place to slip unnoticed into extinction.


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