by Grace Bridges -
Ave crept along a Level 14 service corridor, and hoped she wouldn’t meet a cyborg. Unregistered persons were not allowed in service areas, and she didn’t like being chased any more than the chip-controlled humans liked chasing her.
Ave came alone, slipping away from the small children who liked to cling to her, so she could move quietly above all else. Perhaps this time, too, she would reach her goal, a curiously-built gangway that led nowhere except to a true anomaly—a window.
It was the only place Ave had ever looked Outside. She’d pestered the wizards to tell her what was out there. Now she could recognise the various objects visible depending on the station’s spin: Eclectia, sometimes close and ominous, or distantly seething; Sheba and Quatermain, with their shifting seas of molten rock; the great Whale Star, and its distant Twin.
She reached the final junction and looked left and right—no one was about—so she scooted across into the niche, only to scramble to a halt before a towering man-shaped silhouette. Gulp.
“I won’t hurt you,” said the giant.
Ave calmed her breathing and moved around to the left so the light from Outside fell on him. “Who are you?”
He spread his hands as if it pained him, and Ave caught sight of the power mop leaning against the wall behind him.
She drew in a sharp gasp. “You’re franked!”
“I am a servant.” He turned his face to her. In the Whale’s light reflecting from the ring section, she could see the battle in his eyes as with all cyborgs—he hated his programming. But this one was different. He hadn’t chased her off, for starters. That small rebellion alone would be earning him a splitting headache right now.
Ave wrinkled her brow. “How...?”
“My wife.” He forced the words out, wincing, defying the silence stricture. “Also a servant. Must...must care for her.”
Ave nodded. “You must love her very much to be so strong. What’s her name?”
“Enya.” A light came into his eyes as he gazed out the window, and it wasn’t just from the Whale Star. “My Enya.”