Short Story: Prism

Hello all! Back again with another short story, this one a dystopian Sci-Fi with aliens, chaotic neutrals, gangs, evil governments, and more.

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Prism, by Ashe Mocaw

Information File: Blemmer-8 Group “Prism”

*Please note: records have been hacked and Levels 2 through 5 encrypted information has been lost on the suspected members of the group “Prism”. Work is believed to be of the hacker known as Amber. Level 1 details have been recovered, attached. See Work Order #00896 for more information. All ages recorded in Universal Standard Years.

Suspect Name: Byrn Lun
Age: 30
Height: 7’2
Species: Fayvaes, Super Predator
Gender: Male
Summary: Born and raised on Filo-12. Fled to Blemmer-8 three years ago after the Corvid Coup. Super Predator, needs constant food to maintain energy. Plumage akin to an Earth-1 “Golden Eagle”. Unknown wingspan as subject was too nervous to spread wings.

Violet

“‘ow about this guy?”

Byrn looks up from his digital newspaper to see two figures walking towards him. One, a cyborg human, her arms crossed on her chest, black hair messily chopped. The other, a green-scaled Snann, sporting a dark brown ponytail wig. His wings tighten against his back. They’re dressed similarly enough for him to know where this is going. They’re part of a gang.

He knew he shouldn’t have taken the first ship off his planet. Blemmer-8 isn’t much better than Filo-12—except he hadn’t thought he was being actively pursued here. He thought he’d left his troubles behind. Oh, why hasn’t he listened to his mother and become a minister?

“Hey, Fayvaes,” the Snann says, leaning on his table. His tea rattles on its saucer, but thankfully doesn’t spill onto his tablet. “You’re smart, right?”

“No, Ferric!” the cyborg interrupts. “Organized! I don’t care how many brains he’s got if he can’t use ’em.” She turns to him, winking, her tone going sickeningly sweet. “You look organized, luv. Are you? D’ya need a job?”

“A—what?” Byrn blinks. His mind blanks. Weren’t they going to kill him? What if they did because he didn’t answer?! “I mean, uh, I suppose I’m organized. I work—worked—as a bureaucrat, planning events and schedules, as well as, uh, handling finances—”

“Good enough fer me!” The cyborg’s grin splits her face, and she offers him a metal hand. “Come along. We’ll take you t’the boss. She’ll just luv you.”

“I… I don’t really want to be involved in s-something like this.” He grabs his tablet, trying to hid the shake in his hands. “Please, just go. I’ll give you credits, if you want. All my credits!”

“Ah, don’t be such a stick!” The Snann, Ferric, grins, her fangs glisten in the evening light. “We don’t need your cash, and you’ll get something outta this, too. You fled Filo-whatever, right? Heard there’s mercenaries out looking for people like you. Boss can keep you safe. She’s pretty good about shit like that.”

Byrn pauses. This is a terrible idea. A horrible idea. He isn’t built for anything like this, and the last thing he needs is a job for a gang. A gang! His mother would be horrified, may she fly in the sky forever! He takes a deep breath and… watches in horror as both women sit down at his table. Ferric pulls out a piece of jerky from her bag and starts chomping down.

A sign. It must be a sign. From his own back pocket, Byrn draws out a bag of jerky—the same kind: water rat, extra spicy. His eyes dart between them and he manages to match Ferric’s smile. Maybe he could try. Just for a little bit.

Suspect Name: Vawn Skye
Age: 25
Height: 5’8
Species: Human
Gender: Female
Summary: Born on Blemmer-8. Former member of the Nebula Gang (see Gang Tattoo Guide, attached). Dropped off radar after clash with WIMPs Gang that left Nebula gutted. Assumed dead. Outfitted with black market cybernetic limbs. Unknown how much internal matter is tissue and how much is metal.

Indigo

Everything bloody hurts. But she’s alive.

Vawn sits up, with a huge amount effort. Her body feels heavy, worn, exhausted. She had been injured, then. She runs a hand through her hair—a metal hand. Well, that explained a lot. She takes in her body: the medical robe, her new limbs, the joints where metal meets flesh. A whole leg, a whole arm, below her knee, her other hand… and she’s guessing by the patch over her left eye it’s been upgraded, too.

“You’re awake!” a voice chirps. A young Kaitus wanders in through a door at the end of the small room, a small tuner in her one hand and a toolbox in the other. She shifts her yellow poncho around her neck and smiles. Her cat ears twitch. “I knew you’d make it.”

“Nebulas don’t go down easy, luv. D’ya mind tellin’ me where I am?” The Kaitus nods, putting down her toolbox on the floor and holding up a finger. She ducks outside again, and returns, moments later, with a water bottle. She cracks it open and passes it over to Vawn, who takes a long drink.

“My boss picked you off the street, mostly dead. We had the cybernetics here, and she asked me to save you, if I could. Which, really, she hardly need ask, of course I could.” She sniffs, crossing her arms. “I’m the best mechanic around.”

“Well, I’m grateful, t’you and your boss. Where’s my gang? They’d luv to pay this debt, I’m sure.” Vawn flexes her fingers. There’s strength there she hasn’t had before. She wonders how hard she could slug someone.

“Um…you’re the only one who made it out of the blast.” The Kaitus studies her claws and shifts on her feet. Vawn stares at the water bottle in her hand for a long moment before taking another sip. The girl continues talking, rushing past the statement. “But, Boss says you’re welcome here, if you don’t have anywhere else to go. She knows how important gangs are, but we’re starting one, kind of, ourselves, and I’d love if you could stick around a little longer for some tune ups, I really wanna be sure you’re working correctly and the height’s correct on your legs, since—”

A crash, followed by shouting, somewhere down the hall. The lights dim, flicker, and go out completely with a shattering sound. Vawn reaches to her waist for a laser gun she knows isn’t there anymore. The Kaitus, meanwhile, sighs as if this happens all the time.

“That’s Ferric and Cres,” she mutters. “I think I need to go—our manager, Kai-Anne, isn’t here, so I’m stuck with their messes. Would you be willing to meet with our boss? I can send her in.”

Vawn looks at the grey metal fingers on her hand as they close into a fist. “Yeah,” she says. “Send her in.”

Suspect Name: Cres schen Dohe
Age: ?
Height: 5’0
Species: ?
Gender: Agender
Summary: Species undiscovered. Appears to be sentient electricity-based life form. Claims to be a member of the “6 Powers” (see children’s literature, attached). Cannot confirm age, and suspect refuses to disclose. Right hand appears to have undocumented powers. Do not engage.

Suspect Name: Ferric Mahtta
Age: 28
Height: 5’10
Species: Snann, Green-Scaled
Gender: Female
Summary: Claims to be a Blemmer-8 native, but no birth records exist to confirm. Possible fake name. Can produce venom only fatal to smaller prey creatures. Have not tested sample on larger subjects. Cold blooded—keep warm or she will shut down. Will not stop chewing grass. (Note: hair is a wig and can be removed).

Blue and Green

“Hey, Snann—you’re cheating! I saw you slip that ace from your sleeve!”

That’s Ferric’s cue to leave. She grabs her bag off the table, a wad of credits from the gambling pile, and jumps back the moment before the large Fayvaes grabs for her. There’s only so long you can cheat at cards before someone notices, she guesses. She upends the table as a human reaches for her, tossing cards, booze, and credits all over the floor.

“See ya, suckers!” Ferric yells. She lunges for the window, dodging a bodyguard and the Fayvaes’ wings. A hand grabs her ponytail, but she ducks, and the wig sails off behind her. One hand throws open the glass pane; the other pushes her through it.

Ferric laughs as she falls. Another successful escape, another night’s earnings.

She stops laughing when she realizes there’s someone on the street beneath her.

She lands squarely on top of them, her laugh turning to a shout. For a moment, she lies dazed, blinking at the concrete and a weird blue glow. Something is shoving her chest. Right, the alien.

“Get off me!” they yell. Ferric rolls, unsteady as she gets to her feet and examines the creature. Blue skin, glowing on their face and arm, yellow hair. Their eyes are solid blue without a pupil to speak of. In all her years on Blemmer-8, Ferric’s never seen someone like this.

“Are you—are you glowing?!” she gasps. They stare her down as they stand. They’re incredibly short, and she almost laughs at their haughty expression. “Look, it’s been rad, but I gotta—”

“Ferric Mahtta, I’m gonna kill you!” The Fayvaes’ voice carries from the window to the street below. It’s a blessing he’s too large to fit through the window Ferric had jumped from. She flips him the finger, turning back to the alien beside her.

“I’d recommend not being around when he gets down. He’s got quite the temper.”

“I don’t even know you! Why would I care about—” A cracking sound splits the night. Ferric and the alien whip their heads around. The door bursts off its hinges as the Fayvaes storms out, wings unfurling to full length. Aw, hell. The alien speaks again. “If I die here, I’m going to murder you in my next life.”

“No such thing,” Ferric replies, snatching their wrist.

“Not for you,” they mutter. Ferric wrinkles her face, but bolts. The Fayvaes is already in the air. She pulls away from the streets, ducking into the alleys. Tarps cover some of them, wires the rest, and there’s no way his large form can get in from above. She hears him crash into a building when she makes a sharp turn. She snorts. Ferric, the master of all crime, has truly escaped yet again!

“This is a dead end!” The alien beside her yells. They yank their wrist back. “What the fuck are you doing?”

Forget that brag, then. Ferric’s eyes dart around, but she’s out of ideas. Her venom isn’t great on Fayvaes, but she could try. The alien beside her brings their fingers together, and the glow—is that electricity leaping from their hand?!

Before she can speak, a door opens in the alley, from a building that Ferric had written off as abandoned. A human holding a large bag of trash. She turns her head, silver shades obscuring any expression in her eyes, while her face remains stone solid. She takes a moment to examine the two of them. The alien stops the electricity, and Ferric is dying to know how they started it. The yells and wing beats of the Fayvaes get louder, closer.

The human’s head tilts to the end of the alley. “I’ll get you two out of here on the condition you come with me and don’t ask any questions. You two aren’t ideal, but I need someone to run a job for me.”

Easy choice—death or a few quick credits for an errand. Ferric nods. “I’m in.”

The alien beside her scowls. “I don’t work for anyone. I’m not involved in this mess. I’ve literally been dragged here. I’ll pay back my debt, but that’s all, human.”

The human nods and adjusts her shades, throwing the trash on the ground as she exits the alley. She’s back in five minutes with blood and feathers on her knuckles, the air still, quiet. The wingbeats are no more.

Ferric’s pretty damn impressed.

Suspect Name: Violin
Age: 19
Height: 5’4
Species: Kaitus, Calico
Gender: Female
Summary: Littermate of Fiddle, third in litter of five. Born on Blemmer-8. Claims to have a job as a mechanic, but no information can confirm exact nature of mechanical work. Repaired door in interrogation room during questioning with no tools. Markings individual, sketch attached.

Yellow

“Oi, Lin! Where are you?”

Violin perks up from underneath the abandoned assembly line robot. Fiddle’s back. She stands, wiping grease-covered hands on a handkerchief that’s nearly as grease-covered. She’s light on her toes, darting around the factory at top speed until she slides into their hidden back room that acts as their home.

Fiddle’s there, hands stuffed in his favourite orange vest. With him is a human whose expression says everything about how chatty Fiddle was on the way here. He never shuts up. Ugh. Such a pain. She’d never sick that chatterbox on anyone! And she, meanwhile, had never once chatted too long to anyone.

Especially not her brother.

“Fiddle, where were you!” she huffs, pressing her hands against her hips around her poncho. “I expected you back an hour ago! Why, I even had time to re-scope the welding droids, and you know how long that takes. Your hands…empty! Did you forget to buy dinner again? I swear—”

“I’m here an hour early, sis. You lost track of time.” He sticks out his tongue, and she sticks hers right back out. The nerve! She’d never lose track of time. He must be mistaken. He’s definitely late. And not even addressing the food problem! “Anyway, I wanted to introduce you. This is Kai-Anne. They’ve got a proposition for us I think you’ll like.”

Violin tosses her head back, huffing a second time. “You think you can smooth things over with a new job? You think I’m that easy to please?”

“Yup.” He offers a private smile, the one they share, have shared, since they were born. “It’s a good one, Lin. And…they’re buying us dinner.”

That’s all she needed to hear. “I’m in. Explain on the way.”

Kai-Anne frowns. Seems like they don’t know what family they’ve gotten involved with. Good. That’s just how Violin likes it.

Suspect Name: Fiddle
Age: 19
Height: 5’4
Species: Kaitus, Calico
Gender: Male
Summary: Littermate of Violin, fifth in litter of five. Born on Blemmer-8. Four time winner of Blemmer-8’s Global Programming Challenge before disappearing at age 13. Also suspect in Case 89-W “Amber Hacker”, file attached (Note: Case 89-W files have been wiped. See Work Order #00896 for more information). Markings individual, sketch attached.

Orange

He hears them long before he sees them. Someone’s in the abandoned building he uses as a base of operations. Fiddle checks his last line of code and the coolant levels on his servers before he picks his way around wires and out of his nest of computers. It looms, a patch of black in the grey of old cubicles, heat emanating from it despite his best attempts at coolant formulas. He’ll have to try again tomorrow, he supposes.

He strolls to the hole that used to be an office suite, dropping down to the floor beneath, his feline grace saving him from mishap. It’s four floors from that to the ground and the source of the scuffling. On the second floor, he draws his knife. Better safe than sorry, and he left the laser gun with Violin if she wanted to use it to pry parts off the welding droids. He keeps it close in hand when he lands on the ground floor, checking around corners before he turns them. Smooth. Stealthy.

“It’d be easier to sneak around if you weren’t in a puffy orange vest, you realize.”

Fiddle whips around. A short, plump human with brown skin and cropped red hair stands there, arms crossed. Their head is shaking slowly. Fiddle offers a low bow. “Hello, fellow scavenger—”

“Cut the crap, boy. I know who you are, Amber, and what this little place is. You’re good, but you’re not the only one who knows how to track people down.”

Fiddle narrows his eyes, flattens his ears. He feels the scowl form on his face. The knife twirls in his fingers. “Alright, spill, human. What do you want?”

They shrug. “I want to hire you. Don’t act so scared. Who do you think I’d turn you over to? I tracked you down after the hack you did on the Watchtower last month. We could use someone of your talent, and give you somewhere to work that…” Their eyes roam the dilapidated building. “…has a roof, for starters. It won’t be safe, or easy, and it’ll be a long job. But it should be fun, if you’re in. I’ve been in this near a year now and having the damn best time of my life.”

He taps his chin, ears perking back up. He loves a good challenge, a good job, and anyone good enough to find him is good enough to work for. He grins, sharp teeth flashing. “Deal. But I want a hot meal before I go back with you.”

“Deal.” The human offers their hand, and Fiddle drops the knife to take it. Their grip is as firm as his, and he’s careful not to dig his claws in.

“Y’know,” he says, still holding on, “I know someone else who just might be in for this ride. If you trust me.”

The human grins, their teeth, while not as sharp as his, promising just as much danger, thrill. “The question is, do you trust me?”

He doesn’t. But he has a feeling he will.

Suspect Name: Kai-Anne Saegayray
Age: 33
Height: 4’9
Species: Human
Gender: Nonbinary
Summary: Born on Blemmer-8. Graduated from University of Cog-8. Former administrative assistant at the municipality of Cog-10. No further information available.

Red

It’s the fifth time this week they’ve seen her.

She hasn’t done anything: only watching as Kai-Anne leaves work. Her long dreadlocks are always pulled back from her face, highlighting the shades she always wears. Solid and mirrored. Silver. It tells a whole story without needing to say anything else. She’s human, but not just any human—one from Earth-1, one who survived. And Kai-Anne has no idea what she wants.

Until she speaks.

“Hey.” She uncrosses her arms from her chest, straightens. Kai-Anne looks her over, but stands their ground. They grew up on Blemmer-8. She can’t do anything they can’t handle. “You’re the admin here, aren’t you?”

“Suppose I am. What of it?” Kai-Anne tilts their head, daring the stranger to continue. Light filters around them, harsh and white against the night overhead.

“I’ve been watching for a while. You’re the only one in this damn city who seems to give a shit about it. The police, the politicians, everything’s a mess, and no one cares.” Kai-Anne blinks, but holds their surprise. They don’t know where this is going, which isn’t always good. But the woman continues, unhindered. “I need someone like you. Reliable, smart, hard working. Someone with your guts, who hasn’t forgotten.”

“Forgotten what?”

The woman takes a step forwards, into the light, and pulls off her shades. “What makes us human.”

Kai-Anne meets those eyes and never looks back.

Suspect Name: ? (“The Boss”)
Age: ?
Height: 6’3
Species: Human
Gender: Female
Summary: Leader of the group known as Prism. Name and age unknown, even to own subordinates. “The Boss” was born and raised on Earth and lived through the Red Cloud crisis. Silvered shades are medical necessity for vision. Immigrated to Blemmer-8. Records are being searched for a possible identity, but none have been a match so far.

White

She can breathe. For the first time in ten years, as she steps off the space ship for good, she can breathe.

Blemmer-8 has nothing else going for it.

The streets are dirty, dark with clouds during the day, bright with neon at night. The people are rough, sharp points, sharp glares, sharp knives. Authority comes from the government and the gang lords, but there’s not a difference between the two that she can see. Death litters the corners, forgotten like the trash, the torn posters, the broken windows.

It isn’t safe to be alone, unless you’re tough. Unyielding. She’s both those things and even more. Earth-1 doesn’t let anyone survive who isn’t steel, diamond, unbroken at their core. Blemmer-8 is no different that way.

In fact, there’s only one difference she’s noticed so far. And it’s what the locals don’t have. Hope. Vision. The determination to see both through to the end, any end. The desire for change and improvement. The very things humans have kept with them for centuries, through climate crisis and war, from the very first time they looked to the heavens and wondered. The fresh air stokes the fire that burns inside her, the passion that saved her time and time again.

There have to be people on this planet she can turn to her cause. It’s time to build a team.

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