Money lost is never money made.
Someone in Beautifuland was about to die.
Breedj, a crystalline creature made of hexagons and pink diamond shapes, exhaled a sad, clattering sound and rested her pentagonal face in her diamond-tipped appendages.
“Fhodrae means three or more of us. That word will soon have no application. Look at Old Kael.” Breedj pointed at the hunched, misshapen creature growing from the corner of the grotto. His head, a slate black trapezoid, had been chipped at so much his features barely remained.
Sinin, a Fhodr made of blue and green crystals, did not answer.
Breedj studied the grotto’s entrance. “If one of us looks like they’re free floating, close to the top of the grotto, then the miners will take them.”
“What good does a willing sacrifice do?” Sinin groused, his chimes dissonant. “We’re trying **not** to die!”
Breedj stiffened, the statement chiming through her body. “I’ll float in the blind spot until they arrive, then I’ll melt them.”
“This is a terrible idea! You can’t cut your line! You’ll float away, like Valen did. You’ll die!” Sinin protested.
“It’s stupid that you propose to do it,” sang up Old Kael in his dark, sharp, metallic notes. “I should be the one to free-float in danger.”
Breedj twisted the coppery wire on which she grew. “It’s my idea. I should take the risk. Besides, I’m only cutting the top line. I’m still anchored.”
Breedj spun around her line. The idea of flinging across the grotto and cutting her own line made her feel fragmented. She addressed the smallest Fhodr, one made of bright yellow and orange. “Yallah, I will spin out on the middle of my line. You’ve got to catch my first arm. It’s the longest.” Breedj looked up to the grotto opening. The star grew bigger. The Miners would be here soon. She wound herself up on the line. Tighter. She twisted as much as she could, then thought it might not be enough, and pushed herself a little further around. She heard a warning crack somewhere in her mid-body.
“Are you ready?” she called.
There was a pause from Yallah. “Yes!”
The line propelled Breedj in a crazy circle and her world was a whirl of all the colors that ever lived. Pinks and reds and hues of blue, then jammering and screeching filled her auditory neurals. Yallah had missed.
**It’s not gonna work.**
The world jammed to a halt as something caught Breedj’s appendage and yanked it. She looked over, shocked. Sinin, a mix of fear and reproach singing through his chimes, had somehow stretched his limbs enough to catch her.
Now came the ugly part.
Breedj looked away as she swung her appendage up and lashed through her line. Her body jerked free. For an awful moment everyone just stared at her.
She poked Sinin’s neural polygon with the tip of the appendage she used to cut her own cord. “Push me to the blind spot! Hurry!”
The pain of her atoms being zinged away from each other hit Breedj as Sinin guided her into the light. She considered begging him to pull her away.
But the line was cut, she was committed.
“Move!” Sinin hissed in a low scraping voice, and yanked her remaining cord, moving Breedj just far enough out of the heat to recall her senses.
A miner crested the grotto ceiling and pointed at her with his second limb. She hoped the heat would stay in her body long enough to give this miner and his friends a moment of pause. As he approached, she could see his neural bubble. No visual or auditory apparatus, just five limbs and its round, squishy, sack-like body in the middle.
I have to get this right, Breedj thought. The miner drifted closer.
**He has to get close enough.** Breedj fought the urge to swing herself toward him and just lunge to get it over with. But if she did it now she’d miss…
Breedj grabbed the Miner and pressed her body against the creature. She felt weak little metal bits in the Miner’s suit soften and melt. She also, to her surprise, felt the tips of her appendages dig through the skin of the suit. Something warm. Something sticky.
Two more miners flew through the grotto entrance and one pointed a long cylindrical weapon at Breedj. Breedj wondered what a Miner’s weapon discharge would feel like. Probably like being mined.
A large black shadow flew across her vision and struck the Miner.
It was Old Kael.
Or at least part of him.
Breedj looked back to see the rest of Old Kael slingshot toward the two miners. One managed to dodge back toward the roof of the grotto, but Old Kael caught the other, his neural polygon crashing into the Miner’s neural bubble, smashing it.
Breedj heard a hoarse, bubbly, smacking sound erupt through the grotto. The Miner’s suit sputtered under Old Kael’s grip and they tumbled up toward the grotto’s entrance.
Twice as high as anyone had ever been.
Breedj watched as Old Kael floated toward the grotto entrance. He twisted and struggled with the miner, then tossed something down toward Breedj.
She realized with a mix of shock and awe that it was his appendage. It rang, Old Kael’s last song chiming down through the Grotto.
“You look so beautiful from up here.”