“When did you first realise you were special?”

The odd question floats around inside my head, sharing the blackness with me. Why can I remember that? Perhaps it was the last thing somebody said to me. Bewildering last words, but I cling to them, having clawed my way out of a darkness so deep I didn’t think I’d ever come back. So here I float, sans light, sans self.

“When did you first realise you were special?”

The words circle me, imprinted against the dark. In the distance I imagine flares of light, and as they flash I feel pain. I remember pain. It’s worth clinging to. For the longest time I was suffocating, reaching for the surface. The pain is crisp and clean and means life hasn’t yet left me, even if my memories have.

I float there for a while, grasping at sensation even as I’m suspended. I feel like the first animal to pull itself out of the sea – flopping and gasping on the shore – too exhausted to go further.

Much later, I decide I should open my eyes. First I have to remember I have eyes, and that eventually they need to open. Baby steps. From there it’s a small, agonising task to blink and let in the light.


At first there’s no context – I can’t make sense of what I see.

A planet floats in front of me, glinting fiercely in the sun. It spins one way, and then spins back again. I can’t remember if planets do that.

Sensation returns in little jabs. My right hand is clenched painfully like a claw. Everything on my right side hurts horribly. My left leg – that’s somehow worse. It feels alien – something is very wrong there. I won’t look there yet.

My vision clears a little. The planet spinning in front of me is a necklace, hanging on the end of a broken chain. It hangs above me, catching the overhead lighting, suspended from machinery I don’t recognise.

I can’t understand why I’m not dead with this much pain. Perhaps I’ve fought my way to consciousness only to die seconds from now. But I’m still breathing, still fighting. I can sense the blood pumping in my veins. “When did you first realise you were special?” circles me again. I don’t feel too special right now.

I turn my head a little to the left, careful not to look down at my legs. That can wait. I see what might be consoles, dials – countless buttons and gauges. Some lights flicker and occasionally a soft electronic chime sounds. It occurs to me that I’m in a med bay, but not on board my ship. I’m struggling with memory but I know I’m missing my ship. I sense a kinship with her – she’s mine and somebody hurt her. I should be with her, not strapped to a table.

Whatever tore into us left me in pieces and my ship took the worst of it.

For a while I’m asleep or unconscious again, or elsewhere. Returning is easier this time. Memories return as well – not everything, not nearly enough – but it’s a start. I’d laugh if I could – I remember “when did you first realise you were special?” and what it means. I’m a pilot, one of the very best.


They train you, condition you.

When they’re done they have to test what they’ve created. I hazily remember pride at all I’d achieved.

Then they walk you into a little room to test your mind – a ‘psych eval’.

“When did you first realise you were special?” asks the lady. It’s one of many questions designed to trip you up – to test they’ve not created an egotistical monster. I don’t remember all the questions, but that one stuck in my mind.

There must be so many ways to answer poorly, and so many ways they can tell if you’re lying. Micro expressions, heart rate – they’re checking all of it. I remember thinking for a long time before answering.

“I don’t know exactly” I replied carefully, “But when I excelled beyond everybody else in training, I felt pretty special then.”

She swipes the air in front of her with one finger, filling in a box I can’t see. Then she carries on, jabbing and feinting at my psyche. But that question lingered.

I was special. I think perhaps I was the best they’d seen. They gave me a ship – a wonderful ship unlike any other, and I flew her into the heart of a dead star.

Whatever happened after that is lost on me, but I remember seeing tendrils snake across me, patching and mending. I wanted to howl at the stars above me, but I was stronger than that. Is that how I survived in space?

And where am I now? I can feel a hard cold surface underneath me. I’m strapped down and movement is difficult. I hope the straps are for my own safety. I angrily move my head and look down. It’s worse than I feared – from my thigh to my foot my left hand side is covered in metal sheeting, sensors and cables.


Now I remember.

As the ship hull screeched and ruptured under ferocious pressure, I watched in detached wonder as automated cabling tore into my wrist and snaked inside my arm.

Overstressed medical tech must have fought to keep me alive, desperate for raw materials, and did the only thing it could – it fused us together, feeding oxygen into my veins, recycling my blood.

The ship and I were united for the journey through the wormhole, but now someone has crudely separated us. Do they mean to heal me, or finish what they started?

I should be horrified by what has happened to me but I’m strangely calm, and I have hope to cling to.

Perhaps I’ll even have a chance at vengeance.

As I lie beneath the sterile lights and machines and a tap drip-drip-drips somewhere behind my head I look up at the ceiling and clench my fist.

Yes, I think I’d like that.