Sirius always drew gazes when he traveled through the few subway stations separating his house from university. He’d always striven to ignore them – and to gently rebuff the girls who occasionally mustered up enough courage to come hit on him – but today was on a whole other level.

More specifically, most of the stares weren’t aimed at him, but at the young woman sitting next to him. Nova had warned him this would happen and suggested they call a cab, but Sirius felt this was overkill. There were only a few minutes of travel time until they reached their destination. Surely, nothing troubling would happen, especially with Sirius here to accompany her.

Indeed, no one had accosted Nova, yet, but Sirius could see that the eyes of every single other passenger in the wagon were inexorably drawn toward her.

There weren’t enough people in the train to consider it crowded, but when they boarded, all the seats were already occupied. Nova, making the most of her gifts, had managed to acquire a seat simply by staring for a few moments into the eyes of a young teenager presumably heading for school. She hadn’t said or done anything, but her unfortunate victim had blushed uncontrollably and readily offered her his spot. He’d looked proud and gratified when Nova nodded to him and sat down in his place, like she’d been the one to do him a favor, while Sirius could only helplessly shake his head. Now, Nova was sitting with her legs stretched out in front of her and her hands folded over her belly, looking so relaxed that she might soon fall asleep.Continue reading

Dinner with the Antema family was a peaceful affair. Even after the little commotion of Nova’s arrival, no one held it against her. Even Camilla, though she sulked a bit and clearly wasn’t too fond of Nova, didn’t snipe at her constantly. She was just a bit more taciturn than her parents and her brother.

Rana had produced some home-made burgers, which had the advantage of only requiring one hand to eat. This let Nova speak more comfortably and actively participate in the conversation. They were also delicious enough to please even Nova’s sensitive taste buds.

Still, eating burgers was not a trivial science. Nova had to juggle dozens of variables at the same time: the force of gravity on the stuffing of her burger depending on the angle at which she tilted it, the friction between the salad and the steak, the lubricating effect of the melted cheese, the viscosity and surface tension of the ketchup, the pressure her fingers applied to the buns, the collisions between ingredients when taking a bite rearranged their relative positions… Fortunately, after focusing 95% of her total brain power on the task, she did manage to eat the burger with elegance and dignity, a feat which once again proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she had far surpassed human limitations and ascended to a higher plane of existence.

“So you’ll accompany Sirius to university tomorrow?” Rana asked with a warm smile as they ate. “You’ll follow him to his classes?”Continue reading

After disembarking from her private jet, Nova decisively vetoed the idea of using public transport and called a cab. Nova and Sirius took the passenger seats facing the front of the car, while Wieslaw sat across from them.

As soon as they were seated, Nova stretched out her legs and rested them across Sirius’s lap, to his distinct lack of amusement. Still, it didn’t seem very appropriate to start an argument at this time and place, so he bore with it stoically and allowed her to do as she pleased. It wasn’t like she was heavy, anyway.

Sirius was starting to doubt the wisdom of lending Nova a room in his house. She’d wanted to rent a hotel suite, at first, but Sirius had offered her the use of his home, more by reflexive politeness than any real desire to live under the same roof. Her immediate agreement, as if she didn’t want to leave him enough time to retract the offer, had already been a bad omen, but when he remembered her joke on the plane about asking his parents to approve of a marriage…

She wouldn’t say anything weird, right?Continue reading

“You don’t think it’s a good cause?” Sirius asked, his eyebrows rising.

‘It is a good cause. It’s also a pointless and thankless cause. I refuse to put my life on the line for such a thing.’

“Pointless?” Sirius said, bristling. “We are doing our very best to save lives. How could that ever be pointless? Even if we saved only one person, it would all be worth it.”

Nova’s left hand moved animatedly as she strove to keep up with the conversation. It was at times like this one that the work she’d put in improving her bracer paid off. She’d applied the knowledge she’d gained in her past life – and shored up in this one – in machine learning to create an autocompletion system with predictions far more advanced and accurate than before. And she could even use the bracer one-handed, now – it didn’t even require gloves or anything of the sort; it instead read the movements of her fingers through pressure sensors inside the bracer translating the way the bones, muscles, and tendons in her forearm shifted beneath her skin.Continue reading

Nova jumped off Sirius’s motorcycle as soon as it slowed enough to allow it without bone-shattering danger and barrelled through the front door of the Storm family’s house.

It had been a while since she’d visited.

She’d moved out to her lighthouse near the capital a bit more than a year ago, to make it more convenient to commute to the six different part-time jobs she’d simultaneously taken up – and to her therapist, too. Thus, she became an apprentice tailor, smith – using an old forge and everything, rather than more modern metalworking techniques, carpenter, architect, jeweler, and cook. Of course, since she had neither credentials nor education – not even elementary education, as far as official records were concerned – it had taken a healthy helping of money to convince each of these artisans to take in a potentially useless girl and teach her their respective craft.

Edea’s international calendar was a bit different from Earth’s; it worked with six days a week, four weeks a month, fourteen months a year, with sometimes a leap day or two at the end of the year to account for the planet’s orbit around its sun. With those six days, Nova barely managed to arrange a convenient rotation where she worked at a different place every day. It made her schedule somewhat cramped, but at least she was never bored.Continue reading

Sirius took the last turn down Altera’s famous Independence Street, where tens of thousands of citizens gathered to celebrate Altera wresting its newfound sovereignty from Amidonia’s hands, 159 years ago. In accordance with its reputation as a tourist destination, the place was quite picturesque, with buildings and houses of a distinctly different, quainter architectural style than the rest of the capital.

Sirius wasn’t a tourist, though, and his destination wasn’t Independence Street.

He continued until he found himself following the shoreline of Lake Baikan. Altera – the city, not the country – was built on the westernmost point of Lake Baikan, one of the most massive bodies of freshwater in the world. Most of the lake’s surface area wasn’t on even alteran soil, but instead stretched all the way from Altera to the middle-western highlands of Amidonia, bridging over the border between the two countries. It too was a tourist destination, and it too was picturesque.

Sirius was no more a tourist now than when he crossed Independence Street, but his destination was indeed Lake Baikan.Continue reading

That put something of a damper on the whole ‘let’s cooperate amicably’ thing Wieslaw and Sirius had got going, but Nova didn’t regret saying it. She leaned back into her seat. ‘Just making things clear. Don’t want misunderstandings, do we?’

“Ah, sure…” Wieslaw said.

Sirius looked only mildly surprised at the verbal violence – he probably didn’t take it too seriously – but Wieslaw seemed more profoundly affected. It most likely didn’t mean that he was actually afraid of Nova or anything like that, but perhaps he wasn’t used to receiving death threats that rung true? A potentially significant weakness in his otherwise beneficial trait. If certain truths could disturb or disable him at a critical moment, it might be something Nova could use, if she ever needed to.

In any case, since she’d delivered her intentions, there was no need for her to reiterate her point. She continued with her next question. ‘Any information on the trials?’Continue reading

At Wieslaw’s unexpected question, all the fun Nova’d been having picking on Sirius earlier was instantly dispelled, like she’d been suddenly dunked in a tub of ice-cold water.

Though it wasn’t exactly the question which was unexpected, but rather its timing. Nova knew the subject would come up at one point or another. If nothing else, Aaron and Marian would want to know where Sirius’s unusual strength, which had been caught crystal-clear on camera, came from. They might not have pressed the point, yet, but Nova was sure they wouldn’t commit themselves to anything big without having some questions answered. Thus, it stood to reason that at least some part of the truth about the two boys would soon come to light.

What she hadn’t expected was that they would be the one to make the first move and try to get the truth about her. And at such a time, too, in the middle of a crowd, barely a minute and a half after greeting each other for the first time…

Fortunately, on this occasion, Nova’s mandatory expressionlessness was a blessing. Not a single inkling of the shock she felt inwardly ever made it onto her face.

The world around her slowed to a crawl as her brain went into overdrive.Continue reading

Sirius watched the landscape scroll past as he sat comfortably in the sidecar of Nova’s motorcycle. The thing was unquestionably a luxury item, which probably cost more than Sirius’s whole house in Verizen. Not only did Sirius have enough room to stretch his legs, but a small control screen in front of him also allowed him to deploy a roof over his head or a windshield in front of him, the latter of which doubled as an augmented reality display, turn on a heater embedded in his seat… The sidecar was probably equipped with a few machine guns and an ejector seat, too.

And there was even a beautiful woman to keep him company. Really, the only thing lacking during this trip was conversation, because the beautiful woman in question happened to be mute.

Sirius glanced to the side at Nova’s profile. She was focused on the road, her face still locked in the same blank, emotionless mask as always. At first, Sirius had thought he had done something to earn her ire, but he eventually realized that the issue didn’t come from him, because she offered the same icy countenance to even her family members. According to Lynn Storm, Nova’s sister and Sirius’s most… talkative… source of inside intel on the Storm family, Nova’s facial muscles had been paralyzed since birth. In other words, just because she wasn’t smiling didn’t mean she was angry at him.

And so, Sirius had taken the first step and started a conversation with her. He’d been somewhat surprised to discover that she was rather easy to talk to. The only difficulty was that he sometimes had to make an effort to understand what she wanted to say, since she rarely bothered to speak whole sentences.Continue reading

A therapist? Why would I need to see a therapist? I’m not crazy or anything. On the contrary, I’d say I’m a very sane person compared to most of the rest of the world…

Nova sighed, her breath pushing away a lock of hair which had gotten in her eyes. She tightened her grip on the wrench and locked the last bolt in place, taking care not to mess the alignment of the sidecar relative to her motorcycle. Once it was secured correctly, she took hold of the loose cables hanging below the frame of the sidecar and connected them to the bike’s engine block.

Brakes, propulsion, suspension…

With all the cables anchored in the right place, Nova took a step back to admire her handiwork.Continue reading