Hungry Borja Babies
When Bex and Sumida crossed into the territory of the Borja, they were given a pair of personal fliers. They were ancient models and low on fuel. They wouldn’t get far but they would get them up through a gap in the honeycombed outer walls of the Borja colony to the next vertical level while giving them a chance to rest. Bex was grateful for the convenience but it didn’t lessen her exasperation.
“You’ve been telling everyone from the Forii colony to kingdom come, not to fight.” Bex had to yell to be heard over the din created by the whirring motors. “Back at Choktoi House, you’d flinch every time I fired my weapon. But I think maybe you’re not…the sort who breaks easily. What gives?”
“I’m a pacifist.” Sumida yelled back boldly. “I don’t like things that do damage.”
That included Bex. The sidelong barb didn’t escape the mercenary. She scowled over at Sumida. Snarky little twit.
“But you know it already, don’t you?”
Bex couldn’t help tossing the brat another bitter little dose of reality. “If you want to grab hold of what you claim is yours, you are going to have to do some damage too.”
Sumida shot Bex a hunted look. “I’m aware of that!” She yelled as she stopped ascending. Her craft subsided to a low hum as she let it hover.
“I’m…I’m aware of that.” She muttered distractedly as Bex’s craft came to rest, undulating in the air currents beside her.
Sumida was in a standing position now, feet still planted in the craft’s footholds, one hand bracing her weight against a handlebar and the other shielding her eyes from something blinding that only she could see.
“What now?” Bex squinted up into the nothingness ahead. “I don’t see anything.”
The words were barely out of her mouth when noise came raining down. The air became electrified. Flakes of starlight drifted down, swallowing up the darkness.
“It was a trap, you know.” Sumida’s head twisted slightly. “But don’t blame the Borja.”
She said it like she’d known this would happen all along, like Bex was the one who’d been the complete idiot for trusting the Borja just because they’d been so friendly and had gladly given Sumida shelter for a few minutes.
Bex racked her brain. What did she know about those dusty buzzers? The only Borja she’d ever encountered before today was Twelfth Bost from Kolona Tower.
The bug-eyed bastard was as shifty as contacts got. From time to time he’d provide intel or shelter for Bex, but she’d long ago learned that he’d sell her out in a heartbeat, and without apologies. She’d always assumed that was a peculiarity unique to him but what if it wasn’t? What if it was just good old Borja rationale?
“Sumida, tell me, do you know what makes the Borja tick?”
“So many waterways have dried up in this area,” Sumida’s voice echoed eerily in the wavering air. “The engine in this sector lost its power generator, what, ten years ago? Unlike other refugees who migrated to the surface, people like the Forii and the Borja couldn’t even move their settlement closer to a functioning engine. They must have been worried about their chances for survival.”
“Did you know?” Sumida’s head tilted in the way Bex was beginning to recognize as a habit.
“The Borja are a self-resurrecting species. They bury their dead in these mazes built along the old pipes. They let them lie to fallow. Something inside each corpse gestates over the course of a few thousand years and those old graveyards are slowly transformed into larval catacombs. It’s quite a fascinating process, actually.”
Bex listened in stunned silence. She’d never heard Sumida talk this much before. She’d never imagine that such a frail and soft-spoken person could say such terrible things, so easily.
Winny always said she kept forgetting-that she saw things that Bex couldn’t, that some things needed to be explained with words. Bex was only human, and always judged wrongly. Too quickly. Now that her eyes were opened, everything Bex figured that she knew about the runaway Starchaser was being turned upside down.
“It’s interesting.” Sumida sank back down onto the seat of her craft. “Not an entirely bad way to die.”
In the falling light, she was comically mucky, scared and yet she smiled. Stars… when she smiled, everything tilted. The girl was a menace, an irresistible and unbalanced wreck. Were the old Starchasers insane too? Was it this strangely endearing quality that had drawn so many other races to them and allowed them to make a menagerie of their massive ship?
Bex blinked, vaguely alarmed by the sudden, sharp pang in her already bruised heart. “So those shiny things falling ever so slowly toward us are–”
“Hungry Borja babies.” Sumida announced, sounding disgusted and fascinated at the same time. “Hundreds of them.”
“We’re meant to be their first meal?” Bex balked. “I can think of a thousand other ways I’d rather die than this.”
“No worries there,” Sumida tilted the nose of her flier downward. “Do you hear that?”
The noise washing over them had changed in tone ever so slightly. It was the sound of their pursuers harmonizing with the voracious buzzing of the infant Borja.
She nodded at Bex, eyes looking upward. “Good. They’re almost here too.”
Incredulous, Bex snapped. “Which part of this are you classifying as good, exactly?” She was having to yell to be heard again. “We’re about to be either shot or eaten alive!”
“You might get shot. I won’t.” Sumida smirked. “Anyway, it’s your turn to do as I say.”
Bex scowled. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You know. Follow me.” Sumida shouted, tightening her grip on the handlebars. She kicked her flier’s motor into high gear. “Try not to die!”
Image Credits: David Edwards