Starsight - Brandon Sanderson



I slammed on my overburn and boosted my starship through the middle of a chaotic mess of destructor blasts and explosions. Above me extended the awesome vastness of space. Compared to that infinite blackness, both planets and starships alike seemed insignificant. Meaningless.

Except, of course, for the fact that those insignificant starships were doing their best to kill me.

I dodged, spinning my ship and cutting my boosters midturn. Once I’d flipped around, I immediately slammed on the boosters again, burning in the other direction in an attempt to lose the three ships tailing me.

Fighting in space is way different from fighting in atmosphere. For one thing, your wings are useless. No air means no airflow, no lift, no drag. In space, you don’t really fly. You just don’t fall.

I executed another spin and boost, heading back toward the main firefight. Unfortunately, maneuvers that had been impressive down in the atmosphere were commonplace up here. Fighting in a vacuum these last six months had provided a whole new set of skills to master.

“Spensa,” a lively masculine voice said from my console, “you remember how you told me to warn you if you were being extra irrational?”

“No,” I said with a grunt, dodging to the right. The destructor blasts from behind swept over the dome of my cockpit. “I don’t believe I did anything of the sort.”

“You said, ‘Can we talk about this later?’ ”

I dodged again. Scud. Were those drones getting better at dogfighting, or was I losing my touch?

“Technically, it was ‘later’ right after you spoke,” continued the talkative voice—my ship’s AI, M-Bot. “But human beings don’t actually use that word to mean ‘anytime chronologically after this moment.’ They use it to mean ‘sometime after now that is more convenient to me.’ ”

The Krell drones swarmed around us, trying to cut off my escape back toward the main body of the battlefield.

“And you think this is a more convenient time?” I demanded.

“Why wouldn’t it be?”

“Because we’re in combat!”

“Well, I would think that a life-and-death situation is exactly when you’d like to know if you’re being extra irrational.”

I could remember, with some measure of fondness, the days when my starships hadn’t talked back to me. That had been before I’d helped repair M-Bot, whose personality was a remnant of ancient technology we still didn’t understand. I frequently wondered: Had all advanced AIs been this sassy, or was mine just a special case?

“Spensa,” M-Bot said. “You’re supposed to be leading these drones toward the others, remember?”

It had been six months since we’d beaten back the Krell attempt to bomb us into oblivion. Alongside our victory, we’d learned some important facts. The enemy we called “the Krell” were a group of aliens tasked with keeping my people contained on our planet, Detritus, which was kind of a cross between a prison and a nature preserve for human civilization. The Krell reported to a larger galactic government called the Superiority.

They employed remote drones to fight us—piloted by aliens who lived far away, controlling their drones via faster-than-light communications. The drones were never driven by AIs, as it was against galactic law to let a ship pilot itself. Even M-Bot was severely limited in what he could do on his own. Beyond that, there was something that the Superiority feared deeply: people who had the ability to see into the space where FTL communication happened. People called cytonics.

People like me.

They knew what I was, and they hated me. The drones tended to target me specifically—and we could use that. We should use that. In today’s pre-battle briefing, I’d swayed the rest of the pilots reluctantly to go with a bold plan. I was to get a little out of formation, tempt the enemy drones to swarm me, then lead them back through the rest of the team. My friends could then eliminate the drones while they were focused on me.

It was a sound plan. And I’d make good on it . . . eventually.

Now, though, I wanted to test something.

I hit my overburn, accelerating away from the enemy ships. M-Bot was faster and more maneuverable than they were, though part of his big advantage had been in his ability to maneuver at high speed in air without ripping himself apart. Out here in a vacuum that wasn’t a factor, and the enemy drones did a better job of keeping up.

They swarmed after me as I dove toward Detritus. My homeworld was protected by layers of ancient metal platforms—like shells—with gun emplacements all along them. After our