Beginning in January, I will start publishing short stories to my Patreon page, chronicling the misadventure of a young alien who ends up traveling the universe, trapped outside of any specific dimension, with only an AI drone for company.
I’d like to introduce Ehl’i in this post, since I’ve just nailed down her physiology in the image above, which I drew the other night. You may have already seen this image go up on Twitter and Instagram.
Role in Story
Ehl’i is the main character, and narrator. She is the sole organic survivor of a ship which experienced a dimensional phasic containment failure. Due to her proximity to the gate drive when it malfunctioned, she is the only life form aboard Harrow’s Tusk who phased in synch with the ship. I should say the phasic containment failure was not her fault.
She was a technician working in engineering, but not a commissioned officer and not highly specialized in the phasic drive. It was just one of several systems she serviced as required. She is an invertebrate and serves the vertebrate owners of the ship which is not designed for their height and broad shoulders.
Ehl’i is one of a race called the Iscillian. She is slender, but short. Strong, but willowy. Her skin is delicate, but her internal structure is very flexible. She has many qualities of a cephalopod and/or gastropod, but is bipedal, with two arms. The scansor pads of her four-fingered hands have lamellae and setae for grip. Her face is round and childlike. She has the appearance of short shaggy hair, which is actually the cerata she uses to sense her environment.
Her skin changes color based on her nervous system (moods and stimuli). She looks solid black when she is exposed to the radiation which keeps her in sync with the ship.
To others outside the phasic resonance, she would appear as a partially transparent black figure, with white eyes. No one would be able to distinguish between her and her suit, so she would seem wide and bulky except for her head, which is protected within an invisible forcefield.
Ehl’i was always quiet and reserved. Bookish. She did not socialize with the other members of her crew, and they never really tried to include her. She did her work well, was never late to her shift, and worked late if the work was not finished. But her heart wasn’t in it. She always hoped that the ship’s exploration missions would lead her to rediscover the location of her home planet.
Now that she has gone phasic, she is more withdrawn, though there is little to withdraw from on an empty ship. She doesn’t exactly miss the crew, but her awareness of being completely alone is more pronounced. It would be nice to have the bustle and noise of the crew back. Maybe she would even join them in the recreation hall for a drink, if she could.
She is curious, but she has to fight back the desolation to tap into her natural explorer’s spirit.
Whenever she arrives somewhere new, she does not move until she can observe the area for a moment. But she is very observant and finds that documenting her search gives her day more purpose. And perhaps, she thinks, someone will accidentally phase into the same dimspace as the ship, and find her records. Or perhaps long after she is gone BEETL will be able to fix the Tusk’s gate drive and phase the ship back somewhere again. Then perhaps it will be as though she actually existed.
Ehl’i’s people are naturally curious, and set off from their home world as soon as technology made them able. The species spread far and wide, and were treated in a similarly unkind manner as the Romani of Earth (except in her case she does not have the strong community ties that the Romani do). For the oversized owners of foreign-built ships, she is a necessary feature of a ship more than a person with any rights. Somewhere the planet may still have inhabitants, but so many generations have passed and their records are faulty, based largely in an oral tradition.
Ehl’i was raised in the care of another race. While Ehl’i was treated with affection and did not experience outright objectification until she was older, she was clearly different and never felt as though she truly belonged. She grew accustomed to solitude, drifting to it rather than attempting to fit in with the aliens she shared her days with.
She had the opportunity to be well-educated, but did not advance from foundational vocation training to the specialization schooling. Too many things were interesting to her and she had difficulty focusing on one area of study. She was happy to spend her free time in reading and painting. But life has its costs, and she joined a ship on its maintenance crew, using her Iscillian form to earn her passage. Around her shifts she continued to read and paint. Her illustrations are technically perfect but not very expressive.
She fights depression. Until she came across an unusual phasic phenomenon and felt the drive to document it, she had little ambition in life, and no idea of what to want if she were to feel any specific desires. She always believed her life would start if and when she discovered more of her people, or found her home planet (hopefully with a civilization for her to rejoin).
She barely exists. The gate drive containment failure has left her nearly incorporeal, trapped between dimensions and locked out of the flow of time. The rest of the crew have completely phased out of dimspace with the ship and likely asphyxiated in the vacuum of space without the ship around them.
Now Ehl’i is a ghost on a ghost ship. She can travel anywhere in three-dimensional space, but until BEETL fixes the drive, she can’t stay long at any of the locations she visits, and she appears as a ghost to any of the lifeforms she sees.