Below is the next bit of my novella, Dropping Slow, which I am posting serially during the month of June, as part of the Every Single Day Challenge to raise money for Sharon the Light. If you’re enjoying the story, please feel free to donate via my Crowdrise page ($10 minimum donation) or directly, at this link (no minimum donation). Everyone who donates will receive an ebook copy of Dropping Slow, once it’s all posted (if you donate directly, please leave a comment to let me know!).
They gather, all rather bashful and showered, in the kitchen. The calendar is new and the to-do list has changed; there’s a new and very fancy composter installed under one set of cabinets. But the dishes are in the same cupboards and the food is in the same places as she remembers–Tace is relieved and also excited that she remembers where they keep the cups and chips.
Javi makes coffee in their old three-cup bot; the middle niche is still programmed to Tace’s weird northern coffee preference, and the taste of it calms her because it’s what she’d been drinking with Trini before she left. The cup is new–red glazed clay, very heavy. “I like this,” she says, tipping it a little. Heavy is good for the tremors.
“The street market had a huge batch of them,” Linea says. “Some guy got more than he expected–I think they’re Laendish? Super cheap.” Javi puts Lin’s coffee in front of her and slides a hand over her shoulder before sitting down.
There’s a moment of silence that’s probably not as long as Tace thinks it is, and then she says, “I … I don’t know exactly what you know … we hadn’t really gotten to that when we … messaged?” They have no legal status, the three of them; the Corps was only obligated to contact Tace’s immediate family.
“We know you were wounded in battle–that was all over the news,” Javi says.
“Trini called us, right after,” Lin adds. “She didn’t know much, but she called. She kept us posted while she was with you, and let us know when you were coming back.”
“She … um. Said there was physical damage, but nothing the nanites can’t fix. And she said there was some brain damage.” Javi’s voice is brittle, and Tace watches his face to see if it goes stiff or strange like the Venae Cisara’s, but Javi’s voice is the only strange thing about him right now.
“I’m slower than I was,” Tace says carefully. “They said that will get better, but they aren’t sure how much. Nanites can’t do as much for the brain, I guess.” Her skull itches a little, but she ignores it. “I … um. There’s memory loss, too. I don’t. They don’t know. Some of it’s come back, but we don’t know how much will.”
Linea’s eyes are wide and beautifully green and worried. Javi’s are furious brown. She can’t look at either for very long, retreats back to her coffee cup. Javi’s voice is surprisingly gentle when he says, “That’s not from the battle, though. That’s the stim withdrawal that did that.”
“Yes.” Her port line dripping the pilot drugs into the cockpit instead of her veins.
“How long?” he asks.
Lin’s voice is not small, exactly, but diminished when she ventures, “Is that why you went to Holtzdorrne first? Because you couldn’t remember us?”
Her head jerks up, fast. “No! No–they, um. They insisted. My parents. I didn’t get a say, really.” She shook her head. “And … I didn’t message because …” Fear. My stupid brain. “… words were hard to figure out at first. They kind of still are.”
Linea reaches over to take her hand. “That’s okay. Javi and I have lots of words. We can help.”
Copyright 2017 by Laura E. Price. Feel free to link to this story–signal boosting is welcome!–but please don’t reproduce it without permission.