4.6 Blast Off

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The interior of the streamship was a world without smoke or wreckage. A calm, clean, orderly world that bore no relationship to war zone outside.

Alex found himself standing amidst snow-white cushions and glass sculptures of alien animals. He didn't belong here, among breakable, delicate objects, even though the domed ceiling was tall enough for him to stand up straight.

Villagers watched him, probably for signs of aggression. They perched uncomfortably on spotless furniture. Some clung to each other in bereavement.

Alex began to suspect that someone else had died due to his clumsiness. Maybe someone else's mother. Maybe more than one loved one.

His mother would have begged him to sit down, to be respectful. She wouldn't have told him to apologize, but she would have looked ashamed enough for both of them.

He just didn't have enough room in his thoughts for shame right now. Part of his awareness remained where the launch pad was barely attached to the smashed pier; where his mother's body should be. He needed to keep the broken ground level. Otherwise the ship and everyone aboard would plunge into the abyss. He was partly steel, and he had to remain strong, so he didn't dare think too much about the atrocities he had caused. Not yet.

He simply followed Margo through the overcrowded aisle towards the control panel.

"Finally." Thomas floated in front of an arc of holographic displays, selecting his way through glowing menus. "Alex, I'm going to need you to direct an electromagnetic pulse into our launch pad when I tell you to."

Alex stared at the boy. Thomas should be afraid, or wary, like everyone else. Instead, he only sounded irritable.

Then again, Thomas was particularly good at hiding his emotions. He must sense how clueless Alex was about electromagnetic pulses, and if he was truly calm, he would have gone ahead and explained how to do it.

"Electromagnetic pulses are just a certain type of ..." Thomas gave Alex a resentful glance, as if he was an idiot. "Never mind." He tapped rapidly through menus. "You'll figure it out. Just get ready."

Alex wanted to ask who else had died, and who might be injured. He glanced around to see if there was anyone he could heal. Surely there was some good he could do.

He had failed when it most mattered, though. His mother's life spark had disintegrated to nothingness. He had tried and tried to recreate that spark, or to at least ignite an ember. But he couldn't figure out how. Reversing death, or creating new life, might be impossible for him.

So he should have been faster. He shouldn't have lost control, with so little regard for anyone else.

An explosion rocked the ship. There was a mad scrambling as villagers tried to protect each other.

"Keep us steady!" Thomas snapped.

Alex spiked his awareness through steely supports, reexamining his grip on the launch pad. Since he couldn't see any of the steel he was inhabiting, it was a matter of guesswork.

His grip was tenuous. And it was far too easy to get distracted. Every time his attention wavered, he forgot exactly what he needed to hold, and where. A prolonged distraction would send them plummeting downward, onto the mountain of ruination below.

Alex considered pouring more of himself into the launch pad, and into the ship.

Then he shuddered at the idea. Nothing was worth the risk of losing control again. He might kill Margo by accident next time, or Thomas. He needed to stay small. Remember who he was.

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