As the evil robots push Terminal Incursion through the final stages of wicked-ing, I have benevolently decided to publish and REPUBLISH tidbits that are... important to this story. This aside, from the award-winning book Rationality Zero, is just such a piece. Let's take note of the relationships between these characters, as well as the mention of Garret Valis. Garret, you may recall, also appeared in Windslinger and briefly in Cascading Error Critical.
Another vault door sat, cunningly wrought into the wall. Next to it, three glass containers lay in ruins, shattered. Two contained motionless, slumped bodies. I couldn’t say if they were dead, but they were definitely bleeding.
The body of a raven-haired young woman lay on the floor.
Careful. I stepped forward, katana at the ready. We don’t know—
She coughed violently, retching up a thin length of alien tendril. Thick mucus came with the writhing worm, followed by another pencil-thin tentacle.
We crept up close to the slender figure. Wyatt stomped on the undulating Vyriim, squishing them beneath his boot.
She’s coughing it up, Wyatt linked. He pecked at a few of his keys, keeping the Tangler aimed at the nude woman’s head. The device sang softly, a weirdling song.
Doesn’t mean she’s not deadly. I turned back toward the woman. “Hey.” I peered at the intricate tattoo on her back and shoulder. “Can you hear us?”
“What.” It wasn’t actually a question. She stared up at me, blue eyes wet.
Beautiful, I thought.
She retched again, bringing up another tendril.
Wyatt stomped it.
“What the fuck is happening?” The young woman slowly pushed herself up, seemingly unconcerned at her lack of clothing.
“We thought you might enlighten us,” I responded.
“You people—” She froze, staring at Wyatt. “You.”
For a long moment he stared back, shocked.
“Hey there.” My barbarian friend finally gave her a surprised grin. “Don’t I know you from one of the worst days of my life?”
“It is you,” she whispered. “Fucking Gentlemen.”
“The worst what now?” I turned from the woman to Wyatt.
“You aren’t here to save me, I’ll bet.” She coughed a wet gurgle that brought up thick yellow mucus. It stank of low tide and bile.
“Well.” I stared at the woman—the Irrat? I didn’t know what to think. She’d been in the tube, and our working theory indicated the Vyriim were using Irrats as hosts.
I felt as if I’d lost control somewhere.
“Are we?” I gaped at Wyatt. “Here… to save her?” The large man obviously had intel I didn’t.
If we can, he linked. If she’ll let us. She’s good people.
Well, of course we can. We can just knock her ass out if we have to. I shrugged and holstered my katana. What’s the deal?
“You don’t get it.” He adjusted his hat, frowning. “She’s good people,” he repeated.
“You…” I stared at the nude woman and then my friend. “Is this some kind of Firenzei thing? Are you collecting all the wrong kinds of friends?”
“What’s the deal with you even being here?” Wyatt asked her, sounding legitimately concerned.
“Just another example of you folk screwing over the little guy.” She shrugged and flapped her hand irritably. “Girl. Whatever. You get it.”
“That’s not really telling us what the deal is,” Wyatt observed.
“Garret can fuck himself in his Ass-hat ass. That’s the deal!” The young woman coughed again, even as she snapped at Wyatt, “Dude double crossed me. Left me to rot with these Sadhana apes.” She paused. “Taught me all I need to know about you people.”
“This place is…” I took a step forward as I searched for the right words, “horrifically dangerous. Maybe you should come with us.”
“We’re talking here,” the young woman snarled at me. “Maybe you should step back.”
“We don’t have time for this,” I fumed, waving my arm. “We can make you come peaceably.”
Behind us, I heard gunfire as Anya held the door.
Bishop. Wyatt’s link carried a soft warning.
“Can you.” She gave me a stark, bitter smile. It cut like the wind in winter.
“We can,” I confirmed.
“How about you make a saving throw, Ass-hat?”
“What?” I blinked, confused both by the young woman’s words and her rapid transformation.
In an instant, her eyes burned ice and ember blue, bluer than the sky in summer. That dark hair lifted, flowing around her, teased by an unnatural and spectral wind.
Something screamed, something dark and terrible. For a moment, I felt caught in a hurricane, an endless storm of wind and lamentation.
“Elizabeth,” Wyatt cautioned, “you can’t—”
“It’s Liz,” she snarled at him, her words echoing through wind-filled caverns. “And I’ve had about enough of being told what I can’t do!”
An azure symbol burned in front of her for the briefest instant, a sign in some ancient and forgotten tongue. With the fury of a wrathful god, a sharp and savage tempest pummeled into me, a strike like a wayward comet. I didn’t even have time to blink before I found myself hurled backward, ass over ankles.
I landed on the far side of the Broodwell, slamming into the ground.
I crumpled like a puppet.