Was originally shooting for 6k words on this one, and I ought to have remembered that a two-strand narration with six main characters was a bad idea for length… Very fortunately, I checked the guidelines for the market I’m supposed to submit this to, and realised I’d misremembered and that it was going up to 10k (I doubt they’re going to be very happy about the 9k, but there’s clearly no way I can cut text out of this. If anything, it’s too short).
Don’t have a title yet: it’s called The Turtle’s Citadel after one of the main characters, but it’s a really bad title and I need to change it as soon as my magical title generator (aka the H) has read it and offered opinions. Also waiting for bunch of readers to read it and see how much is unclear. Lots of space scenes, which is unusual for me (I find space boring. Fortunately, a squad of homicidal attack drones generally makes things very interesting for everyone concerned). Also, lots of reflections on postcolonialism, imperialism and cultural clashes, as par for the course.
The derelict ward was in an isolated section of outsider space, one of the numerous spots left blank on interstellar maps, no more or no less tantalising than its neighbouring quadrants. To most people, it would be just that: a boring part of a long journey to be avoided–skipped over by Mind-ships as they cut through deep spaces, passed around at low speeds by outsider ships while their passengers slept in their hibernation cradles.
Only if anyone got closer would they see the hulking masses of ships: the glint of starlight on metal, the sharp, pristine beauty of their hulls, even though they all lay quiescent and crippled, forever unable to move–living corpses kept as a reminder of how far they had fallen; the outsiders’ brash statement of their military might, a reminder that their weapons held the means to fell any Mind-ships they chose to hound.
On the sensors of The Cinnabar Mansions, the ships all appeared small and diminished, like toy models or avatars–things Lan Nhen could have held in the palm of her hand and just as easily crushed. As the sensors’ line of sight moved–catching ship after ship in their field of view, wreck after wreck, indistinct masses of burnt and twisted metal, of ripped-out engines, of shattered life pods and crushed shuttles–Lan Nhen felt as if an icy fist were squeezing her heart into shards. To think of the Minds within–dead or crippled, forever unable to move…