What is the radius of a thought? How far does it reach?

In the cold, antiseptic air of the mind lab, Saladin and Crow argued. Clenched their fists—and their jaws. It seemed, to both of them, like they were defending a position. A position of conscience. The survival of humanity in an unfair and often unjust universe. The preservation of humanity through a torrent of battles that threatened to erode more than organisms, more than beating hearts. 

The preservation not just of the species but its soul.

Did either want to budge? Want to give ground? When an inch in any direction could mean disaster?

They meant what they said. Saladin, smelling like the stale sweat in his etched armor, knew humanity had no future if it didn’t survive. Crow, so tired it made him feel thinned out, felt like survival wasn’t worth it without humanity.

But each stirred up the other, like a storm roughing up a lake. Beneath their surfaces, they each had more to say. More to face. Beneath the reason and tactics, beneath the armor and the scars, swam bleak, snaking fears and regrets they didn’t want to look at but couldn’t ignore.

They were both worn down after miles of rough road, traveling toward the same place, but out of step. Saladin needed the scars he’d earned, or so he thought. Crow needed the pain that defined him, or so he thought.

Perpendicular interference. Conflicting structures. Mountains and winds. Reason and emotion. All of it complex and real, not all of it compatible.

In a different place, at a different time, I could have used that. Could have bent them, struck them like sparks, made fire from the friction and let them burn. But these were not my orders.

They strode off in their separate ways and dissolved across space via transmat, leaving me in the rippling wake of their psychic waveforms. As the static subsided, I saved my progress and turned my mind back to the Hive, to their strata of unencrypted spite and spiky wrath.