Sean Robinson

Sean is a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA. His work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction and is forthcoming from Betwixt, and Apex Magazine. When not writing, he works in the social services field in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. You can find him (occasionally) on twitter @Kesterian

Sean is a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA. His work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction and is forthcoming from Betwixt, and Apex Magazine. When not writing, he works in the social services field in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. You can find him (occasionally) on twitter @Kesterian

The Blue Tigress Dreams

To: Tavis Kysiene
Systems Manager I
Goutflame Station

From: Lurie Kysiene
Welder III
Rilltide Station

Tav,

Did you know that at Rilltide, there are six names for mold? It all depends on what the color is and where you find it. Today we were scrubbing green slime from a bank of failed oxyinators. They call it “Green Jenny.” It smells like that time you decided to make us compost. Remember? A month of rotting garbage in bins before Mom called it off?

Gross. I can still smell it under my fingernails.

Work sucks, Tav. If we didn’t need the money, I’d find something else. I don’t know what or where but…

She knows when I hurt her. I don’t care what you say about “Machinae don’t feel pain” garbage. Blue Sion hates it when I weld her. And I don’t blame her, not really.

But there’s not much choice, is there? Palladium armor stripped off to keep the sodium-lights running and the saline purifiers keeping us wet or not and we shut down shop and that’s not going to happen.

So, that has been my week. Mold and torture.

We can’t leave her bone motors and silica-net to the air. It’s too wet in the station now, and we both know what will happen if moisture gets into the systems, let alone mold. I don’t know what they’d call mold inside Blue Sion.

She’s too old.

I asked around like you wanted me to, there’s no one at the station who has any idea what to do if she had a major malfunction. There are a couple of deadwater techs who think they know how. I wouldn’t trust them to fix the toilets right.

I’ve been here for six months, Tavis. And no one even knows my name.

To top it all off, the tide generators aren’t working right either, so they’ve shut down half the station and there’s talk about more layoffs. There are whole sections of the station where the lights are off and there’s nothing but the sound of the ocean pushing against the walls. Things aren’t looking too good. We turned the water system off for two days to get enough power into the mag-dock. No showers, only bottled water.

We both know I need this job, big brother. If we’re both not working… I don’t know what Mom will do.

The work still sucks though.

I felt bad about what we had to do, watching her handler lead her into the gate only to have the locks turn on. I don’t know what you do for Red Sion, but Blue fought it when the magnets pulled her paws down and made her crouch down. I worried that her plasteel frame would break under the strain.

She roared while we did it, Tav. There are only five people left on the welding team, it took most of the day to pull the plating off her. Without the dock I don’t trust our chances to do it again. Her claws are still palladium and there’s no way we’re going to declaw her.

At least we’ll last a little longer. The Site Manager said the palladium we took off her would keep us going for another six months. It’s sad to see the station this bad off. But what do you do with a weapon when the war’s over?

I love you. Please don’t spend your entire letter-allowance writing to me a lecture. You’re not a doctor yet.

Love your sister,
Lurie

P.S. Everything still smells like mildew. The eco-grid is awful.

P.P.S. Yes, I remembered to transfer money into Dad’s account. I won’t forget again.

* * *
To: Lurie Kysiene
Welder III
Rilltide Station

From: Tavis Kysiene
Systems Manager I
Goutflame Station

Dear Sis,

I’m sorry things are mildewey. If the heating-shield fails this close to the caldera, mildew won’t be our problem. There are some issues with the thermal transformers, but all-in-all, things aren’t too bad out here in the heat. If I get bored, I can go out and get a tan.

Thanks for sending Dad the money. It’s been busy here, too, but just because we’re busy doesn’t mean we don’t have responsibilities, Lurie.

And yeah, it’s been busy here.

Can you believe we ran through an alarm drill last week? I don’t know what Management was thinking. A whole lot of work for nothing. Red actually tried to fire up his thermal cannons. The lights were flashing and the alarms blared for almost an hour. It’s been fifty years since there was an incursion.

The old thing actually thought his Pilot was calling. Red Pilot must be what? Seventy? It was actually sort of sad, Red bashing against the hatch.

There must be something wrong with his wiring. He should know better. Took his handler most of a day to calm him down. We’ve scheduled the blaster removal for next week. Something that old has no business with a gun the size of a star cruiser on his back.

Red’s been on half rations since the Calm started, thank god. You’ve probably sat through the same video training I did when I started: the Sions blasting away whatever the Enemy called up. We had to watch the one with Shadow Zerker at our last facility training. If you haven’t seen it, it’s the one from when the war just started and they were still filming in color.

There’s good footage of Blue Sion, if you ever get bored. You were always the sentimental one.

Still creeps me out to see that cannon’s turbines whirring though. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sound.

Anyway, I’m going to write the Systems Manager at Cobblerock Station. He was visiting last month and I think we hit it off. I know they frown on inter-base relations, but it’s not like we get leave or live off-base. Can’t spill secrets, right? I’m sure Green Sion’s no different than Blue or Red—out to pasture waiting to get put down. At least it’s a paying job, right?

I know it gets lonely. I feel it too. Keep writing me.

Lurie—write Dad. He says he hasn’t heard from you.

Love,
Tavis

P.S. Don’t forget to wash your underwear.

* * *
To: Tavis Kysiene
Systems Manager I
Goutflame Station

From: Lurie Kysiene
Welder III
Rilltide Station

Dear Smartass,

I’m writing from Blue’s observation deck. The windows look out over the enclosure with its deep pools and high rock. It’s amazing to think that the water goes down ten stories.

It’s quiet, and as close to abandoned as Rilltide is, quiet is a luxury, so I sit here and ponder three important things, dear brother:

1. My underwear is none of your business.
2. I’m not writing Dad anything. Stop asking. I sent the money and he can go to hell.
3. Tavis got a boyfriend? Are you kidding?

You can imagine which of these things matter to me the most. I thought you were dating an engineer? Did the volcano finally blow up? No, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. I hope it works out, Tav. You deserve someone nice, and someone whose underwear you can ask about besides your sister’s.

I don’t know why I keep sitting here. Observation deck has a nice kind of mold they call “Grey Prancer” and it makes my eyes water. Too dry in here to get slime, but no one sits on these chairs and watches her anymore. Not in years.

She’s pacing in the enclosure tonight. Sometimes she acts like a real cat—dashes from place to place, claws at the rocks. Remember when Mom brought home that kitten? Kind of like that. I figure Red does the same, huh?

Do machinae dream, Tav? I wonder what Blue dreams of when her systems slow and the sodium lights are turned down for the night. I don’t dream of anything, any more. There’s not much in this place worth dreaming about, even if the pay is steady.

I don’t want to be here. I want to tell Dad he can pay his own bills. He could get up and find a job, do something good instead of live off his kids.

I’m watching her tonight to make sure the new welds hold. She doesn’t have any palladium left, and the metal looks like a motley coat. We’ve salvaged whatever we could—steel, aluminum plate to weld the gash. Blue Sion is twelve meters at the shoulder; there isn’t enough metal in stores for that kind of repair.

Weird, she’s grooming herself like a real cat. I never stop being surprised by her, Tavis. There’s something beautiful about her, the way she is so perfectly herself, no matter how bad things have become. She saved the world from the Enemy and we repaid her with a cage. I wonder sometimes.

Anyway, I hope things work out with the guy from Cobblerock. A piece of advice though? Don’t ask him about his underwear until the third date. Believe me. Third date.

Love you,
Lurie

P.S. I overheard a couple of the deadwaters talking about Important Visitors coming soon (capital letters and all). Not sure what that’s about.

* * *
To: Lurie Kysiene
Welder III
Rilltide Station

From: Tavis Kysiene
Systems Manager I
Goutflame Station

Hey,

I know I said I wasn’t going to write to you this week, but my letter to Siao got returned, unopened and my letter allowance got credited. I don’t know if he just didn’t want to talk to me, or whether Management cares more about inter-station relations than I thought they did.

Damn it, Lurie. You know I agree with you. This is a good job and there aren’t a lot of them. The pay is steady and I’m not killing myself in a factory somewhere. But… it’s lonely. All the windows look out onto the Caldera. There are—what did you call them? Deadwaters. The old timers who remember when working on Red Sion was a privilege, they were helping stop the Adversary. There’s no one here that I’m friends with, and being stuck on “special assignment” makes it all that much harder.

Dad can’t work and you know it. It’s not his fault. I’m as lonely as you are.

You mentioned Blue grooming after you took the plating off: there’s a machine inside the tongue system on the Sions that regenerates armor after battles. That’s probably what she’s doing.

But look, Sis—go make some friends. It bugs me knowing that you’re stuck in that station and it was my idea to get you there in the first place. Don’t sit up in the observation deck for hours in the dark. That’s how you go crazy.

Anyway, there’s not much going on here. Work work work, sleep, eat processed food. Watch the lava flow, wait for the alarms to ring. They’re never going to ring, though. The Calm is going to last forever—isn’t that what the news says?

It’s good enough for me. It’s what people like Dad fought for. The least we can do it keep the lights burning a little longer.

Any new molds?

Love you,
Tavis

P.S. No PS this time. But maybe you should talk to your boss about a promotion or something? Seems like you’ve been working hard. Tell them I recommended you.

* * *

To: Tavis Kysiene
Systems Manager I
Goutflame Station

From: Lurie Kysiene
Welder III
Rilltide Station

Dear Tav,

The Important Person was a surprise visit with the War Minister. Tav, you wouldn’t believe how crazy it was—like someone had kicked an ant hill! I don’t think an attack from the Adversary would have sent us scrambling so bad. They had to dig out uniforms from stores.

I’ve never seen a uniform in this place. And they were made of this weird plastic-feeling fabric. There was blue fringe and epaulets and whatever else.

Mine was too big, almost down to my knees. But something got through them so there were a bunch that were ripped or eaten or gnawed. There was mold on a few of them blue-grey like the dinner we had a few nights ago (Blue Jimmy, since you’ve become fascinated with mold).

We stood in line as though we practiced that sort of garbage every day. He walked down the line, didn’t stop to talk or inspect or whatever the War Minister does. He was about as tall as you. About as fat as dad with a thick moustache the silver of plasteel. We lined up on the launch deck and it surprised me how few people were actually at Rilltide. Maybe fifty. This station used to hold seven thousand.

Blue Pilot came, too.

She was old like you said, Tav. It’s hard to imagine her as our age. She was fat, and it strained the suit she wore. The suit was peach colored, like the water gets when the desalinators don’t work right and the chemicals wind up in the drinking supply rather than in the filters. She lurched behind the War Minister and didn’t say anything to anyone.

Tavis, she never saw Blue. She didn’t ask the handler anything. She showed up, walked a few hundred yards and then left.

How could she have done that? I don’t think Blue realized what happened. If she knew it, it would have broken her heart.

We got the order after the Minister left.

Tav, the order is to get the palladium off her claws. They’re going to declaw Blue Sion. The order says they expect “residual damage” from the process. They don’t expect her to make it.

This isn’t what I signed up for. I watched the videos again—where the Scions came together and made MechaSion and the final battle when they defeated the Adversary and brought the Calm. Where’s the pride we had then? Where is the loyalty? How can the Sions be scrapped for parts, while we wear hand-me-down uniforms and pretend to care?

It hurts.
* * *
To: Lurie Kysiene
Welder III
Rilltide Station

From: Tavis Kysiene
Systems Manager I
Goutflame Station

Come on, Lurie. They’re machinae. They were built for a purpose and it’s over. The bases are falling apart and they’re not going to upkeep obsolete systems. It costs money the government can’t afford. This isn’t about Blue Sion and you know it.

But sure, if you want to say it is, let’s talk about some things:

1. It’s been fifty years and there are still cities in rubble. The communication framework is restricted to military personnel. We have to write letters to each other and get one letter a week. The days where these stations matter are over.

2. We’ve been bleeding Red into the power systems for years. His reactor reinforces the Goutflame Station. If we weren’t, the Eco-grid would fail and the station would melt into the volcano. Same way Rilltide would drown or Guststorm Station would fall out of the sky. Hiding these bases made sense in the war, but now we’re haunting the relics.

3. It’s over, Lurie. Do your job. Get it done.

They’ll find another place for you. Maybe White Sion or Black. Look, I’ll talk to the Station Manager here and see if you can transfer.

You won’t be lonely forever. We can talk about Dad and see if we can’t figure out something. I’ll send him a little more and maybe he can just make do, okay?

Just get through it. I’ll take care of you, sis.

Love, Tavis

* * *
To: Tavis Kysiene
Systems Manager I
Goutflame Station

From: Lurie Kysiene
Welder III
Rilltide Station

Tavis,

The mag-dock was broken. They’re calling it sabotage. There’s no way for them to take her claws now.

It’s not about Dad or the money. It’s not about mold or quiet halls or…

I’ve been dreaming, Tavis. That my claws are digging into the rock. The alarm is my heartbeat. There are monsters to fight. The Adversary cannot win. There is a Pilot to guide me. When I dream, I know I am not alone.

How did they build the Sions, Tavis? If they’re just machinae why does she howl and claw and pace? Why does dread move down my back when I wake up? I’ve started sleeping here in the twilight of the observation deck. I don’t want her to feel so alone.

– L
* * *
To: Lurie Kysiene
Welder III
Rilltide Station

From: Tavis Kysiene
Systems Manager I
Goutflame Station

Sis, you’re scaring me. I just got your letter. Are you crazy? Do you know what they’ll do to you if they think it’s you? It’s just a machina. It is just metal and parts and pieces. It’s not alive, Lurie.

No, I don’t know who built it. Some government program long-since shut down and forgotten. They’re going to shut down the stations. We just had a walkthrough too.

But it doesn’t matter, we’ll land on our feet. Talk to someone you trust, sis. Or don’t trust. Only don’t do this. I’m half a continent away and can’t lose you. Who’s going to write to me? Or remind me of stupid stuff we did growing up? Pull yourself together. If not for yourself, than for me. Please.

Things are getting ugly here too. Pay didn’t get distributed this week, but they’re still collecting rent for rooms and food. There’s grumbling and a few people tried to talk to the Station Manager. No luck there. What else can we do?

Let me know you’re being safe. Please.

Love, your brother,
Tavis.

* * *

To: Tavis Kysiene
Systems Manager I
Goutflame Station

From: Lurie Kysiene
Welder III
Rilltide Station

Tavis,

I went into her enclosure tonight. The station sleeps by 20:00 hours. They’re rationing power now. Four of the tide generators shorted out over the last week. There’s water rationing going on too. More of the sodium lights are off and the hallways are filled with darkness so thick you half-expect a monster from the Adversary to materialize.

No one checks the doors anymore. There’s not enough people to care. There’s probably a system somewhere that checks for codes and scans finger prints or something. It wasn’t hard to pop the lock. We used to do it as kids, remember? One of the useful things Dad taught us from his army days.

I wanted to see her. No, I needed to see her.

It was cold in the enclosure. The sea water lapped at the rocks. They don’t bother with lights inside either, at night. At first, the only thing I could hear was my heart beating. They told me at orientation that the Sions weren’t safe to be around outside of a Mag Dock.

And I kept thinking that I was one of the people who peeled her armor off and replaced it with scavenged siding from walls and decking from old floors off the station. She should hate me.

Blue’s paws didn’t make noise on the rock. I didn’t realize she was behind me until I saw four stories of Sion leaning down. How she moves so quietly, I don’t know. Her eyes double as lights, Tavis, did you know that? They made two pools of blue light. And as I looked up there were her eyes and her teeth.

It felt like I stopped breathing, looking into those lights. It’s probably how a mouse feels before it gets eaten. But Blue didn’t stamp me out with her paws, or claw me. She didn’t knock me into the water and watch me drown.

She lowered herself beside me, tons of metal. She put her head down on her paws, looking out into the dark water. I don’t know how long we sat there, until I rested against the smooth metal.

I didn’t realize that Sions were warm. Is there a system that makes it happen?

She was warm, even though the air was cold and the sea lapped at the edge of the enclosure. I don’t know, Tavis, but as the hours past I watched as another light grew. There is a hatch near her shoulder. It opened on greased hinges. There is a stair that descends all the stories.

Blue didn’t move. Didn’t growl or shake. She only offered, Tavis. But as I saw it, I got scared. It hit me that I shouldn’t be there, like you said. That I had no business in the Enclosure and what would happen if I got caught. At best, I’d be fired and there’d be no one for Blue Sion at the Station. At worst…

Tavis—the alarm’s ringing. It’s ringing. The lights just went up. The sirens are echoing down the hall. Tav–I can hear her roaring. I can feel it echoing through the Station. I need to go, I need to go…

Be happy, Tavis.

* * *
To: Lurie Kysiene
Welder III
Rilltide Station

From: Tavis Kysiene
Systems Manager I
Goutflame Station

Lurie,

What’s going on? Your last message was cut off. We had an alarm here. Lurie, answer me as soon as you can. Red went crazy. The containment systems failed. There was an alarm and the outside hatches opened. The Eco-Grid almost went off. We tried to stop Red, but he went out into the heat. No one realized that he had enough energy to get the jet boosters going, but he did.

Red Sion’s disappeared. We’re trying to get secondary systems up and running to track him, but they’re old. We’re not even sure which of the computer banks the trackers are, even if they worked, or if we could get enough energy without compromising the entire station

Jesus Sis, we’re not getting news reports. What’s going on? Management is telling us to calm down, but Red’s gone. Without him to back up the reactor systems, we’re not going to be able to keep the Eco-Grid going. I don’t know what we’re going to do.

When you get this, please let me know you’re alright. Hopefully—hopefully the Sions will be back. It must have been an accident, or some sort of test? No one’s sure and they’re starting to get scared. If you’re okay, I don’t need to be scared. I’m sending a letter to Dad too, to make sure he’s okay. Please, please, please tell me you’re okay.

Love,
Tavis

* * *

To: Lurie Kysiene
Welder III
Rilltide Station

From: Tavis Kysiene
Systems Manager I
Goutflame Station

It’s been a week, Sis. You haven’t answered. Red hasn’t come back. There’s rumors that there was an attack on one of the cities. People are getting drunk and saying that the Adversary is back and the Sions were called.

How could they have called the Sions? The Sions were being scrapped. They didn’t have Pilots, or weapons or armor. How could they?

No one will say if Blue Sion was there. No one says what happened. They all just keep looking at me from the side of their eyes as if they know something I don’t. People keep asking me if I have a sister from Rilltide Station.

Where are you, Lurie? Goutflame’s Eco-Grid is failing. We can’t stay here any longer. I won’t be able to write you.

Look – I’m coming, alright? They’re shipping us out and I’ll start making my way to you. It will be a few weeks for me to get to Rilltide, but I’m coming. I promise. Please hold on.

Please be there.

I love you, Sis,
Tavis

Sean is a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA. His work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction and is forthcoming from Betwixt, and Apex Magazine. When not writing, he works in the social services field in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. You can find him (occasionally) on twitter @Kesterian