It was like she had been hollowed out. Jo was in the same room as the Devil.
‘That’s impossible,’ she said, because it was. Dr Vijai Singh had died two hundred years ago.
‘I assure you, said Singh, ’that is is as I say: along with several of my colleagues, I used this machine to encode my consciousness into a metaspace disjoint wavefront. We have been on a journey of not inconsiderable length, and now we are returning. It is all quite possible.’
Jo’s legs were shaking. She felt sick. She felt small, and she had no bullets left in her gun, and she looked at the floor between her feet. She closed her eyes.
‘Oh, Patrons help me,’ she whimpered. Please, she thought: I know Paradise is a long way from Earth, but please please* protect me.*
‘Jo,’ said Singh. She opened her eyes: he was standing directly in front of her, now, supported by the fighting machine. He was wearing a loose-fitting yellow robe, and no shoes. ‘I do not know what you have been told about our rebellion, but I am sure that much of it will have been fabrication. I am no demon, and those that rule you are not gods.’
‘Tell that to Booker,’ she snarled, and leaped forward: the fighting machine flowed so that it blocked her punch, then sent her sprawling back on the floor.
‘I regret the sergeant’s death, and that of Dr Simmons, but it was not my doing. I do not have control over this facility; that is why I need your help.’
Jo was winded, but that was all. The fighting machine could have killed her easily, but her helmet wasn’t even cracked. As she got her breath back, she imagined getting to her feet and telling this murdering bastard to fuck off. Even if he was telling the truth, this was the same Dr Singh that had turned Paradise into a wasteland. No way was she going to help him.
Then she sat up, and looked at the quicksilver fighting machine, and looked at Dr Singh, and all her bravado drained away. She wanted to live.