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Ana Nova

Chapter 1

By MikMacMeerkatPublished 2 years ago 19 min read
Artwork by Mikmacmeerkat

Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. But you could hear the whales. Named after beasts that swam in the oceans of Old Earth. A planet long since lost the ravages of war and time. Their calls reverberated through the floor of the ship. Plumes of interstellar dust glittered as the whales played in the nebula. It reminded me of ocean spray. They absorbed all the light behind them. Like someone had taken the universe and cut out a whale shaped hole. In the darkness of space, they were invisible. But here they decided to play in front of the multicoloured light.

Their call was a thing of magic. Scientific mystery. I could feel it inside me. Singing to me, as if I could join them on their swim. In the silence of space, they made themselves heard.

I was jealous.

The people around me paid them no mind. More concerned with the condensed carbon around their necks. To them, the whales were an achievement. An experience to boast over at later events. Instead, they glided about the ballroom and made snide comments about the decor. Insulted each other’s gowns behind fluttering fans. In the world of space travel where each extra kilo cost thousands to launch, wealth was shown in weight. The women were laden with jewels and draped in rich fabrics. The men wore velvet coats with heavy brocade. Black as the depths of space or shining in all the colours of the nebula in front of me. A shiver of sharks disguised as tropical fish. I wasn’t fooled.

The ballroom was truly a marvel to behold. Columns of gold veined marble lined the walls. Stone tables were laden with porcelain plates and fresh fruit.

Fresh fruit, in the depths of space.


Floor to ceiling windows ran the length of the Starboard side and at the far end of the hall, a fire blazed. Its carved stone facade was big enough to stand in. Consuming valuable oxygen. Like burning money.

A voice cut through the whale’s call. Rich and smooth, it sent a wave of cold dread down my spine. I hid behind a pillar as my hands began to shake. In all the ships in all the universe, why did he have to be on mine?

Magnus Vance. Billionaire. Philanthropist. Tipped to be the next leader of the Authority. Love of my god-forsaken life. The one man I could never have.

My heart was like a black hole in my chest, greedy. It sought him in any way it could. An image in the circulars, news about his growing empire. Or that voice message he had left on my comm. For months I had listened to that crackling recording on repeat. The reality of his voice was better and so much worse.

Son of an opera singer and a politician. His voice was like honey, whisky, and wine. He could read a user manual and women would swoon. My chest tightened as his laugh floated over. Of all the stupid human affectations I suffered from, this was the worst. Pain thickened my throat and stung the back of my eyes. If I could turn off my emotions, I would. Barbed memories tried to push themselves to the surface. Even the happiest now caused me pain. I needed to leave, but . . One look. One last look. To tide us over for the next month, year, or more.

He was surrounded by the richest of women. The artificial gravity pulled at their gowns. Layers of heavy embroidery and sparkling jewels. One woman put her gloved hand on his arm. Staking a claim. I satisfied myself by imagining how many ways I could break each dainty finger.

The light flowing fabric of my dress, and the size of the crystals around my neck singled me out as new money. Not the best disguise but I hadn’t had time to steal anything heavier. Still, I liked the way the silky blue fabric draped around me, giving me the illusion of curves. It hung dangerously low in the front, dipping to my navel. The back was non-existent, two thin straps crossed my spine meeting with the midnight blue at my hips. It kept eyes dropping below my neck. If I was lucky, no one would remember my face. But it brought its own dangers. I needed to get out of this party before I attracted the attention of anyone. Being approached by someone of higher rank demanded total submission. Anything less could mean death. The less time I spent in this shark tank, the better.

The woman had moved closer, pressing herself against his arm. The bodice of her dress pulled indecently low by the sheer weight of the gown. He had told me once that he hated the attention his rank brought him. You wouldn’t know. An indulgent smile played on his lips as he looked at her. His ebony skin set aglow by the sharp black of his suit. Uncluttered by the adornments most men here wore to announce their status and wealth. The woman leaned closer pushing back the curls of his hair to whisper in his ear. He smiled, eyes sparkling, a picture of health and wellness. I hated it.

The bracelet on my wrist chimed, pulling me out of my green haze. Delilah was close. I reminded myself of why I was here. Delilah and the others. They deserved my focus.

With one last long glance, I stepped away from the pillar, and straight into a waitress.

Robots,” Talia, the waitress, muttered under her breath. She bent to scrape up the food. I knew her from the mess hall. She was kind. Without thinking I crouched to help her.

“No need to get your pretty dress dirty, mistress,” she said. More out of self-preservation than any concern for the blue silk. If a complaint was made the Quartermaster would take it out of her wages. It would take her ten turns to earn off the debt. I’d seen people ruined for less.

I brushed two more canapes back onto her serving platter before she bravely lifted her eyes to my face. Looking someone from the Upper decks in the eyes was a fineable offence. Fortunately for her, I wasn’t an Upper.

“Ana! I barely recognised you!” She whispered, we hid in the shadow of the pillar where no one could see, “What are you doin’ here? You know what the Uppers are like!” Unthinking, unfeeling. Like Robots. She didn’t say the slur out loud this time. But I could see it in her eyes. She hoisted the platter back on her shoulder, rising to stand. I followed, checking just once to ensure no one was looking. Talia didn’t understand my language, we communicated mainly in written notes. But the best thing about Talia is that she could talk for two.

“Not that I’m ungrateful mind,” she tucked an errant strand of blonde back into her bun. “A jobs a job, and puts money on the table back home. But the way they treat cha,’” she shook her head. I smiled at the familiar chatter. “You lookin’ for your friend then?” she asked.

I nodded. Friend was not the word Delilah would use, but it fit me.

Her badge beeped and she scowled. “I’ve been out too long. Be careful, love,” she squeezed my arm once in farewell, “I’ll see you when you re-join the humans.” With that she moved off, platter of floor food held high. I tracked her movement through the crowd. The Quatermaster would likely charge her for the spoiled food. I made a mental note to reimburse her when I could. She swerved to the group I had been staring at before, stopping to offer the ladies surrounding Magnus some canapes. I stifled a laugh as she winked at me. Still hiding in the shadow of my pillar. Magnus’s eyes lifted and I ducked behind the marble again. I took a deep breath, it did nothing of course.

Delilah. I reminded myself. You are here for Delilah.

I raised my bracelet. A cuff about ten centimetres wide. Thin metal engraved with the swirling patterns of a mandala. A symbol often found on the ocean-bound planet I grew up on. It contained one of the most advanced tracking systems money could buy. I pressed my palm to its surface to activate the display. Living metal, one of my father’s best inventions. The curling engraved designs rearranged themselves into a miniature floorplan. A rotating star showed my position at the Starboard side. But beyond the doors, at the Port side a triangle flashed. Delilah.

Thousands of people on this ship. The HMS Opal was built to shepherd the rich from one diamond-encrusted destination to another. For the upper decks it was a luxury cruise. For the lower decks, it was all that stood between us and starvation.

For Delilah, it was a place to hide. She had disappeared into the Opal two months ago. I’d come to find her. My bracelet buzzed against my skin. A count down flickered on its side. I didn’t have much time.

The hall beyond the port doors was reserved for only the highest caliber guests. Even Opal staff weren’t allowed. The aristocrats preferred to bring their own personnel. This was the only chance I had. But between me and those doors was an ocean of poisonous fish and hidden predators.

I stepped out from my hiding place and held my head high. I needed to look like I belonged. My dress floated around me as I walked. Gliding in and out of the gilded crowd.

I made it halfway.

A man stepped into my path. He slipped to my side and pressed his hand to my lower back. I stopped in my tracks. His hair was grey, and his tanned skin spoke of being planet-side for too long. Three rows of metal badges lined his chest. A Commander. I knew how to hold myself I had practice in these sharp-edged circles. To move away would be an insult. To insult a Commander could end me. His hand lingered like he had every right to touch my skin. A cape hung off one shoulder a deep heavy satin of royal blue. With a light pressure, he turned me away from the door. The few steps I had gained were lost in seconds.

“What’s a pretty thing like you doing without a glass?” The Commander asked. He thrust a crystal flute into my hands silencing me. Turning me back to the windows and the beauty of the whales.

“Protected species,” the man mused, “such a shame.” My fingers clenched on the flute in my hands.

“Bleeding hearts shouldn’t get in the way of a man’s sport.” He didn’t ask me a question, so I didn’t bother answering. Wouldn’t understand me if I did.

“The Mad King and his Mechanical Monsters ruled this part of space. Hunted the whales to near extinction. It may be treasonous for me to say. But the man knew how to have a good time.” He spoke of the most formidable military mind of the last century like he was a spoiled child. The Mad King had built an army from scrap. An army that had nearly taken down the Interplanetary Authority in a matter of months.

“But we won that war,” the Commander said with pride.

He bent to my ear.

“And we took his monsters apart gear by gear. Then killed The Mad King for our troubles.” His lies trickled down the skin of my neck. I fought back the shudder that ran through my frame. My father was a man of twisted metal and rusted gears. His back permanently bent from hunching over his worktable. Brass glasses framed a perpetual frown. He had given me the brown hair and eyes of his youth, but beyond that nothing singled me out as his. I often wondered how he had done it. How he had convinced an entire armada of his demise. Though perhaps it wasn’t that hard to believe. Fragile egos needed many lies to sustain themselves. As I had found out myself, lies could be useful.

What would he think if he knew he was talking to The Mad King's daughter? Would he pity me or fear me?

“I like you,” he murmured, brushing a wayward strand from my face.

Of course he did, I hadn’t said anything.

“A woman of taste I can tell by your exquisite jewels.” His hand swept over the fake diamond choker at my neck but his eyes traveled lower and stayed. The glass shook in my hand. So long as he didn’t look at my face. I turned from the whales, tucking my chin I stole a quick glance at the doors.

Delilah was down that corridor, time ticking down. I needed to get away from this man. If we were alone, I could smash the cartilage of his nose back into his brain. Pull out the metal pins that held my hair in place and stab out his eyes. But to draw blood amongst sharks was suicide. I needed to leave him without aggravating him. But the intricacies of delicate conversation were impossible for me.

“Ana?” Magnus’s voice rolled over me. My heart reached for the sound, hitting the cage of my chest.

“The lady wants to stay with me Magister Vance, don’t you baby?” He used his official title, showing deference to their status. Uppers, and their rules. To ignore someone’s title when addressing them was worse than a slap in the face. The Commander pressed his hand into my back, pulling me closer. I averted my eyes to Magnus’s shoes. Unable to look him in the eye.

“See?” the Commander said when I didn’t respond.

“On what planet does silence mean yes Byron?” The woman beside him gasped at his familiarity. Commander Byron. I knew that name. He had been in the circulars as often as Magnus. They were rivals in both politics and business. And equal in rank. The room fell silent. Every face turned my way. Any anonymity I had hoped to keep had vanished.

Commander Byron let go of my waist and I slipped out of his hold. Magnus held out his hand. I sidestepped it, moving past him without a backward glance.

“Well done, Magnus,” Commander Byron said. “Giving up that conquest, was worth it to see the look on your face.”

I wove through the women’s hostile glares. My time on the ship had just gotten more difficult. Within seconds I had slipped through the door. The hall was dark. The same marble lined the floor, lit only by the flickering of hologrammatic candles.

I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking. I clenched one into a fist as I moved down the hall, the flute of champaign still clutched in the other. Tears bit at the back of my eyes.

“Ana!” Magnus called. I stopped, turning to see him close the door behind him. An action that I was sure everyone in the ballroom was now gossiping over.

With just a few long strides he caught up to me. He took the flute of champagne from my hand placing it on one of the mirrored side tables that dotted the long hall.

“Well? Speak,” he said.

My hands hung limp at my sides.

“Nothing to say?” did he want me to thank him? In and out that was the plan, his schoolyard match with the Commander had put a spotlight on me I didn’t want or need.

I lifted my hands, twisting them into agitated words.

“What are you doing here?” I signed.

“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?” he asked, understanding the language of my hands easily. “Ana, if they find out someone from the lower decks has crashed their party, they’ll throw you out of the airlock for fun!” he hissed.

Nice friends you have,” I said with very sarcastic fingers.

“There’s a reason your class calls us robots. Cold and unfeeling, or did I read your note wrong?” And there it was. “Hell of a way to break off an engagement. A human cannot love -”

“I remember!” I said, pushing his shoulder to stop him. I’d thought of that note every day for the last year.

I wished, for the millionth time, that I could speak. Explain. But my fingers didn’t have the words. I wanted to tell him that I was keeping him safe. That I gave him up so that he could live. That the day he asked me to marry him was both the happiest and saddest day of my life. That when I told my father we were engaged, he smiled. I wanted to tell him that my father’s smile was the worst reaction he could have had.

“I thought I meant more to you than six words,” said Magnus, his eyes didn’t meet mine.

“I’ve never been much of a talker,” I said, my fingers felt clumsy as they folded the lie.

“That’s not true, get you started on something you love and you’re impossible to shut up. My eyes could barely keep up with your hands.” He smiled, but it was a sad thing, not lighting his eyes the way it should.

We stood in silence. The weight of everything unsaid hung between us.

“I was sorry to hear about your father,” he said.

I wasn’t.

“He was a great man,” he concluded.

A great man. What people always said. When saying he was a good man would be a lie.

Magnus took a step into my space. Cupping my elbow in his hand, “You need to leave Ana. That man you were with? If he knew you were a Lower, he’d kill you for the insult of being in his company.” With a firm pressure on my arm, he guided me deeper down the darkened hall. “There is an access elevator down here. You can leave and no one will know of your little adventure.”

I pulled out of his grasp. I was not done. He read the defiance in my face.

“No one can hear you scream in the depths of space Ana. Do you know why they say that? It’s not a warning it’s a threat!”

“No one can ever hear me scream,” I said.

The sound of a door opening echoed across the glossy floor.

I moved to leave but he grabbed my wrists. My fingers quickly formed furious words.

“Shut up,” he said. Pushing me against the dark paneled wall.

I lifted my middle fingers up into the universal language.

“Very mature,” he said.

“Who’s that?” someone called. I pushed against his chest.

“Would you let me help you?” he asked.

“I do not need your help,” I said.

“Ana Nova never needs anybody,” he sighed.

“Hello?” another voice called. Magnus settled his forearm next to my head against the wall. Hiding my face from the two men walking toward the ball.

He pulled my leg up over his hip. Swearing under his breath as it slipped through the slit in my dress. Bare to the top of the thigh. His hand burnt like fire and my heart soaked him in. His warmth. The smell of his aftershave. The tickle of his breath.

This close I could see that I had been wrong. He wasn’t as well as he seemed. Bags lined his eyes and stubble coated his jaw. His collar was rumpled, tie pulled loose. I had never seen him anything but perfectly pressed and clean shaven.

“Just Magnus making a new conquest,” one of the strangers said to the other as they passed us by.

I pressed my hand to his jaw. His tired eyes traveled my face. Again and again. Like he was trying to memorise it. I had done this. My black heart twisted in my chest.

“Ana,” he warned, but when I tried to pull my hand away, he caught it and pressed it to his lips. “Can you just tell me, why?” he whispered the question across my skin. Close enough to kiss me. My heart pushed me forward. Just once. It pleaded. To tide us over.

I pressed my hand to my chest. The way my father had done to me that terrible day. My heart quietened. Two hands. Ten points of contact and four words was all it took. I remembered the gleam in his cold eyes as he whispered his plan. “When he next tells you he loves you,” my father had clarified.

My bracelet chimed against my skin. The timer had zeroed out. I pushed him, he pulled away slowly. His eyes scanned my face for answers that weren't there. With a swipe of my palm, I activated my bracelet. The flashing triangle lead me further down the corridor. With one last glance at him I ran.

Sliding in front of a pair of red doors, I pushed them open. The room beyond was grand. Two stories of dark paneled wood. A fire burned unattended at the far end. A window on the port side looked out over the black of space. Beside it lay Delilah. Her glazed eyes stared out at the distant stars. It looked like she had dragged herself across the floor. The flesh of her fingers had given way to the metal underneath. Half her face had been torn, the silver and brass gears could be seen ticking under the surface. The virus that infected her had run its course.

I bent down to my Delilah’s body and pressed a shaking hand to her ruined cheek. She shouldn’t have gone like this. Magnus crouched beside me, pulling my hand away from her.

“She’s one of them,” he gasped “The Mechanical Monsters. They were destroyed, disassembled. My father’s entire career was based on that fact.”

“She was my friend.” I signed. But he wasn’t looking. Now lost in the lies of his family. I knew that fate. I didn’t wish it on anyone.

“The intricacy of these gears, the skin. You wouldn’t be able to tell. And they call us robots,” He laughed. A cold bitter sound. I punched his arm.

She was my friend!

“You knew this machine?”

“I knew her. HER,” I wanted him to understand this. But I needed him to hate me.

“Are you saying she was sentient?”

I nodded, brushing black hair from her face.

Delilah had been an artist. She painted, sketched, and sculpted. Her abstract artworks were a thing of mathematical beauty. She had evolved beyond my father’s programming. That was why she had to die. Tears blurred my vision.

There was a moment where time hung still. I pressed a kiss to Delilah’s head.

“Ana,” Magnus murmured. His fingertips brushed the tears from my cheek.

“You weren’t supposed to be on this ship,” I said, my hands shaking.

“What is that supposed to mean?” his eyes dropped to my dress. They swept up, over the cubic zirconia at my neck, stopping before they dipped lower. With another laugh, he rose.

“These are Commander Byron’s rooms,” he said, “I thought you snuck into the party. And here I come like some hero trying to get you out. Idiot,” the manic smile on his face darkened, “How much did The Commander pay you? Enough for the dress, diamonds? A place on the upper decks of this ship?”

A denial thrummed in the tips of my fingers, but I didn’t move. Lies could be useful.

“But here’s the million-dollar question. Did he pay you to seduce me or leave me?” My useless lungs screamed in my chest as my heart beat against them in a fury. I clenched my hands on my thighs. I needed him to hate me, and it was killing me.

He nodded as though my silence had answered his question. With a final look, he turned and left. As the door closed I heaved in a breath. Tears seared my cheeks again. Like a flood. The black hole of my heart pulled painfully against my ribs. He hated me now. Well done. He would never tell me he loved me again. He was safe from my father’s command.

I pushed Delilah’s body onto its back with tear shaken hands.

She had been kind to me.

They were always kind before I killed them.

I straddled her torso and splayed my fingers across her collar bone. Pressing against her fake flesh in ten exact places. Her body jerked before I could push. Cold metal hands grabbed my wrists as she tried to buck me off.

“Why?” she rasped. Her voice metallic, devoid of that sweet saccharine melody that made the humans think she was one of them.

I fought back against her grip. Her eyes went wide as she realised. She was made of metal, but I was stronger. I speared my thumbs into the platinum tendons at her wrists. Hooking over the red wire inside, I wrenched. The wire that travelled up her arm pulled out at the shoulder and her limbs fell loose and useless. Her body shuddered. The last of my virus took over her core systems.

“Why?” she asked again.

“Love,” I signed.

But she didn’t understand, and I didn’t have time to explain. I pulled out the pins that held my hair in a twist and plunged them through the glass of her eyes. Her body thrashed as I swiveled the metal spikes through the wires of her brain. With one last shudder, her mechanical shell died. I pulled the pins out of her skull and twisted my hair back into place.

Three monsters to go. And they were all on this ship.

Human scientists had argued over what made the mechanical monsters run. Solar, motion nuclear. They were all wrong. I spread my fingers out on her chest. The way my father had so often done to me before his death. Pushing my fingers into her fake flesh I found the nodes underneath. These old models were tough. My fingers flexed against her skin, pressing again with more force. Six lines of light cut across her chest, cutting through her flesh. Each segment folded back like a fan. And there it was. The secret politicians and army commanders would kill for. My father’s best invention, powered by something he never made.

Black, it absorbed the light. Like someone had cut a heart shaped hole in the universe. I cupped my hands behind it. As thin as a shadow. Powerful enough to take down governments. It felt warm in my palms. Metal wires speared it on all sides. One by one they fell away. Free of her metal shell Delilah sighed. I placed her delicately on the cold marble floor as I pressed my hands to my chest. Fingers spread in ten exact places. A line of blue bisected my chest, and it opened like a flower. My metal ribs spun back one by one till I could see the bags of my lungs. The tubes of my fake digestive tract. Lifting her delicate heart, I placed it in my hollowed chest. Next to mine.

The mechanical body was just an empty shell now. No secrets to tell. I pushed my chest closed pulling the low-cut dress into place, and rose to my feet, leaving the Commander's quarters.

My heart pulled my gaze back down the darkened marble floor to where Magnus would surely be.

It was good he hated me. I told it.

As I had written in my final note to him, a human could never love a robot.

Sci FiLove

About the Creator


I spend so much time daydreaming I figured I should start writing it down.

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Comments (2)

  • Signe Paige2 years ago

    Friend, you have done it again! Please, pLeAsE, PLEASE! Write more for this! I love it! (And, as usual, here's a list of things I particularly love about it!) There's so much depth and worldbuilding/lore information given but not in an info dump and seems entirely natural to the situation! "In the silence of space, they made themselves heard." "No one can ever hear me scream,” "My useless lungs screamed in my chest as my heart beat against them in a fury." "I lifted my hands, twisting them into agitated words.“ My heart reached for the sound, hitting the cage of my chest." ---All this/the fact she's mute is honestly the BEST part! Especially for the contest it was for! I'm surprised it didn't win anything. There is so much that can be done/represented and artfully shown with that concept and the emptiness of space. “I thought I meant more to you than six words,” said Magnus, his eyes didn’t meet mine. “I’ve never been much of a talker,” I said, my fingers felt clumsy as they folded the lie. “That’s not true, get you started on something you love and you’re impossible to shut up. My eyes could barely keep up with your hands.” He smiled, but it was a sad thing, not lighting his eyes the way it should. --- Had to give this it's own section cause it is a really great conversation to represent the idea above, it gives excellent characterization, and is beautifully stated! "My heart was like a black hole in my chest, greedy. It sought him in any way it could." "For months I had listened to that crackling recording on repeat. The reality of his voice was better and so much worse." "His voice was like honey, whisky, and wine." --- Do I have to explain it? Chef's kiss! "What would he think if he knew he was talking to The Mad King's daughter?" --- I always love a good reveal, and this marked the first of them! Though, the reveal she was mute was my favorite, I would say this was my second. I still liked the end reveal/that she killed Delilah, but was a little confused as to how it was done and how the timeline of events fit into the story. "I wanted to tell him that my father’s smile was the worst reaction he could have had." --- Great way to showcase a lot in a single sentence. "Fingers spread in ten exact places."--- Excellent tie in/reveal branching from the first time you mentioned it/made it mysterious but without explicitly stating it!

  • Ellen Hunt2 years ago

    Extremely creative and wondrous! Amazing story, as usual :)

MikMacMeerkatWritten by MikMacMeerkat

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