She sat alone in the observatory, drinking coffee and watching the 11-dimensional universe unfurl itself around her ship like a kaleidoscope exploding inside a mirror maze during a fireworks show. It was so very strange. The coffee, that is; not foldspace. She never used to like coffee, let alone without an aggressive amount of cream and sugar, but the bitterness somehow suited her now. Was she still herself anymore? So many little things had changed.
“Ambassador Dior?” A light, not unpleasant voice behind her. One of her many assistants; she couldn’t keep track of them all.
Dior lifted her head only just in acknowledgement, but did not turn.
“We’ll be arriving in about an hour. Can I get you anything?”
Dior waved a hand: no.
“Ambassador,” the assistant said in parting, bowing lightly before padding softly away. Dior didn’t need to see it to know she had bowed. So formal. So proper. What the hell was she doing here? Ambassador Dior. It wasn’t only the small things that had changed.
Dior was from a remote colony—the so-called outworlds, more than 1,000 light-years from Sol. No formal education. Her parents—regular folks with simple values and desires—worked at the shipyards, and Dior had taken early to the trades. She had a knack for gravitic work and earned an apprenticeship with the Guild. Was well on her way to becoming a master gravtech. And then there’d been an accident.
Everything changed. She changed.
She should have been dead.
There’d been too many crews working in the same space, not enough communication. It was hard to blame anyone—she didn’t, anyway. Regardless, as fate had it, she’d been looking down a length of conduit—with her left eye; they seemed to think that was relevant—when someone accidentally activated the flow without potential diverters. A megajoule train of gravitons spiraled unencumbered through her left temporal lobe.
Thankfully she didn’t remember it, but she’d relived it in nightmares ever since. She could never remember the nightmares, either, but she knew. When she’d recovered, Dior noticed some changes right away. She was left-handed now, for instance. And her hair only grew ghost white and hung very straight—no more dark curls.
And later, she found that she understood Pivviyoji. It was an alien language. No one had been able to decipher it in the 140 years since first contact. She couldn’t teach it any more than she could use her own beating heart to create another one. It was just there, and it worked automatically. So at 26, an outworld gravtech apprentice with a traumatic brain injury became humanity’s ambassador to the Grand Vviy Empire.
Dior took another sip of her coffee and tried to enjoy the light show. The geometry of foldspace allowed the human eye to see a wider band of colors than were normally possible. But right at this moment, she couldn’t pick out which colors were new. Was that baby blue, or midnight ultraviolet?
She didn’t really care about the answer; only the temporary relief of distraction.