Look at them. Humans. Aurin. Granok. Mingling in this forsaken spaceship bar where the drinks are sixty five percent more water than they are alcohol. But plenty of them are demonstrating signs of intoxication. I can practically sense the bar keeper rubbing his hands together as they buy more of his charlatan’s brew. The background sounds of some particularly inane music drown out most of the conversation. Which is mostly fine by me: the conversation is the intellectual level of a squashed fruit. When you are used to thinking at the speed of science, anything else is slow and tedious. The music is annoying. Thump. Thump. Thump. A resounding, repetitive rhythm underlying a cacophony of various instruments playing a tune. Then the squalling of a human male who is – according to what I’m hearing – Very Popular with the females of the species at this time. Apparently, the pinnacle of human music centres around repeated choruses that invariably contain vernacular and poorly-veiled euphemisms pertaining to the act of copulation. Such is the way of the human mind. Why not just say what they are thinking? Why dress it up with chords and infuriatingly catchy tunes? Still, they seem to be enjoying it, judging by the raucous noise coming from that side of the bar. Gregarious creatures, the humans. They mingle and include every other race around them. Almost every other race. I’m the only one of my species here at this late hour. It isn’t that the Mordesh don’t socialise – we just choose to do it at unsociable hours and we prefer to socialise with our own kind. But I’m an anomaly. I like to stir up the pot of accepted social convention and watch the bigotry float to the top, like fat separating from water. I am that kind of Mordesh. If there is a big red button labelled ‘do not touch’, I will press it. If there is an inappropriate question to be asked, you can guarantee that I will ask it. If I am not welcome in a social gathering, then I will show up, just to provoke a response. It’s a form of psychological defence, I suppose. Act outside expected conventions, leap effortlessly over the boundaries of good taste and social decency and watch the confusion spread. It makes me feel better about myself. Despite their differences, despite their frankly lesser status, the other races are interesting to watch. I find the humans particularly entertaining to watch. They are gullible creatures, pitiably so. Tell them that the sugar pill you just gave them will cure their headache and five minutes and forty two seconds later – on average – they will declare something along the lines that they’ve never felt better. Off they trot, back to their pointless, brief little lives. Granok are something of an unknown quantity to me. I have made observational notes on what I have witnessed. I have even attempted to engage one in conversation, but alas, I am forced to report that cheesiest of things… my efforts were met with a stony silence. I’m sorry about that. And the Aurin? Seriously, what are they even for? And why do they skip everywhere? My brother tells me that for all their... fluffiness, the Aurin fighters he’s witnessed on the training decks are fast, deadly weapons. I suppose any animal has to learn to defend its territory and the smaller they are, the more they have to fight. Still, there’s something about them that give me the urge to put one in a cage with a little wheel. My mood is slipping. I don’t quite know what it was that brought me into this place. Perhaps it was an uncharacteristic need for a change. I have spent hours working in the labs, tinkering, experimenting and inhaling things that anybody who is not inflicted with the Contagion could never hope to even go near. I am young, as my species measure these things, and my elders treat me with the same kind of tolerant contempt reserved for the younger generation. The generation which, if we do not successfully find measures to counter the Contagion, will be the last. So. Let’s recap, shall we? I left the lab to escape contempt. I feel contempt here as well. I can smell it on the other Exiles. The fear in their expressions when they look to my corner. I have exceptionally good hearing, augmented as it is. I’ve heard them whisper that this secluded part of the bar wasn’t shadowy when I arrived, but it is now. The gossip amongst the people on this ship is that we Mordesh cloak ourselves in shade and darkness to add an element of mystery to our horrific state. That we experiment on the bodies of our own dead – even our own living – in our eternal efforts to undo what Victor Lazarin did wrong. I suppose they’re right. On all counts. Victor Lazarin is more acceptable to most of the Exiles here. I find it odd how they look at him as some kind of scientific god, despite the fact that frankly, no Mordesh still living, or dead, or inhabiting that peculiar space in between the two has ever been so lauded. Even my own people cannot truly find it in themselves to despise Lazarin for his act of momentary madness. Perhaps because he suffers as we do and works tirelessly for us. The drink on the table in front of me is untouched. I only bought one for the look of the thing. But I haven’t had so much as a sip. I am here to people-watch, nothing more. Imagine what it’s going to be like when we reach Nexus. When we have to pull together. When they need us to help them. Here, they’ll say, throwing a bag at us without getting too close. Test these. All that new flora and fauna. Are they edible? Can they be used as medicines? Are they pets? What can we do with the skin of this creature? All these things seem small, but they’re important when considering settling on a new world. The music starts fresh, another dull, relentless beat that makes my delicate aural senses ache and I determine that I have had enough. I have the gift of rendering myself unseen and so I allow the shadows to cloak my ravaged body in particles of light and dark that ensure I am not noticed as I slip from the bar. There is work to be done before we arrive in the orbit of Nexus. The planet has become a symbol over the months of travel. The world represents a new hope for the Exiles. For the Mordesh, it represents our last.