Thursday, June 18, 2015

Whispers in the Night


What if it were all for nothing?  Ryven wondered to himself.  He had left the EVE Gate, the whispering growing too frequent and too disquieting.  What if removing the old Ryven had just been a futile gesture?  Was he also going mad?  Was he hallucinating the whispers?  Ryven shook his head, trying to clear his mind.  What good does it do to worry over it? What can I do about it?

He had received a reply from Kat, thanking him and attempting to explain to her reasons for resorting to torture.  She didn't have to do that.  It's not like I could really have told her no.  His thoughts turned to her often.  He never really had the opportunity to say goodbye properly when she left.  I did have my own colossal mountain of shit to deal with at the time.  Fuck you, Ryven.  She had sort of disappeared from his life.  That's why her message had been so jarring.  How much have you changed, Kat?  You were always a top notch fighter, but this is different.  Of course, he had changed too, hadn't he?  Of course I've changed.  But, then again, there's no escaping the fact that this person that I am now is just a fictional person created by Dr. Tobit.  I'm a parasite, an infestation that took over, like one of those parasitic fungi that invades insects and drives them mad.  The anger hit him with the force of a clenched fist, straight behind his eyes.  He lashed out involuntarily with his fist and struck the bulkhead.  He felt one of his fingers break.  Teeth clenching through the pain, he clutched his injured hand in his uninjured left hand and held it against his chest.  "Fuck." He said to no one.  He examined his broken finger, the third one on his right hand, checking to see how badly he had damaged it.  It hurts, but it looks like a fairly minor fracture.  Fuck it, it will be fine.

He sat down in his chair in his tiny quarters.  The Manticore class is not a roomy vessel and his quarters were not adorned with much in the way of furnishing or decor.  He had a small table, a chair, a bunk, and a few drawers to hold his belongings.  The lighting was a plain dim white light that managed somehow to cast shadows in the corners, despite the room's small dimensions.  There was a bottle of vodka on the table and he took a quick sip of it.  The sudden warm rush of the alcohol was refreshing, so he took a longer second sip.  What am I even doing out here running at a snail's pace from star to star?  What am I even searching for?  He listened closely, hoping there might be an answer.  Then he realized how ridiculous that idea was and took another long drink from his bottle.  Whatever it is, I hope I know it when I find it.  If I find it.  If it's even something that can be found.  That would be my luck, wouldn't it?  Search the goddamn cluster for something only to find it isn't even something that can be found, some fool's errand.  Self-discovery is such a fucking drag.

Ryven took a last sip of his vodka and climbed into his bunk to get some rest and hopefully quiet his mind.


The meteor began a century before as a chunk of the hull of a cargo vessel for delivery of supplies between the local planets and outposts of the system.  The ship had suffered a tragedy when local pirates attacked it, immobilized it, killed the crew, and took the cargo.  The chunk of hull had flown off with the force of the explosion that had breached that part of the ship.  Spinning and whirling with no frictional forces, it continued on at the same speed it had been traveling.  Thus its long journey began.  For a century it traveled through the system, its course altered by the gravitational pulls of the other planets and moons of the system and always trapped by the gravity of the orange star at the center of the system.

Today, however, it's journey would end when it finally collided with another object in space, one not visible to the naked eye, a cloaked vessel sitting still near the edge of the system.


Ordinarily, Ryven's ship would have been able to avoid the collision.  Ordinarily, the ship would have had a full crew compliment.  As it was, no one noticed the debris hurtling toward them.  The four ton chunk of hull struck the Penance, overwhelmed the shields, and struck the ship's engines.

Ryven awoke with the jarring impact and the sudden cacophany of blaring alarms.  He was thrown from his bunk and crashed hard onto his face on the cold metal floor.  His jaw shot streaks of pain through his vision.  "Fuck!"

He rushed to the capsuleer bay of the ship only to find the equipment too damaged for him to utilize it.  "Fuck!"  He'd have to do it the old fashioned way.  He ran up to the ship's bridge.  Ryven had a policy of keeping a fully functioning bridge on his ships in order to allow for this very possibility.  That being said, he had not had to use it in a while.  Still, he had all of Ryven's memories and he had spent decades on ships that weren't rigged for capsuleers.  Of course, he had a minimal crew, no more than three people on board other than himself.  He wondered how many were still functional.

He arrived on the tiny bridge to find two crew members already trying to fight the damage.  One was an older man with a scraggly reddish beard and the beginnings of a paunch.   The other was a woman in her early thirties with short cropped black hair with blue tips.  She looked exhausted, so, Ryven assumed she had been on watch when the ship was damaged.  Ryven spoke to her first. "Hargrave, right?"

She nodded, her attention on the display in front of her.


She shook her head and he could see the lines of worry etched on her face. "I don't want to sound alarmist, but, I think a conservative estimate is we're royally fucked, sir."

Under different circumstances, Ryven might have chuckled.  It was a shame she was probably going to be dead in the next ten minutes.  Shit snowballs really fast on a ship.  "What hit us?"

"I'm not sure, sir.  Meteor?  Looked like a chunk of debris, probably ten meters by ten meters, a lot of mass or a lot of velocity."

Ryven nodded.  That made sense.  "Where did it hit?"

"Port quarter, engines.  We've got no maneuvering."

"Life support?"

"We're good for the moment.  But, the maneuvering is a real problem."  She pointed out the forward viewport. "We can't dodge that."

Ryven looked up and saw the planet rapidly filling his view.  "Well, shit."


Ryven had done everything he could to alter the Penance's attitude as it entered the planet's atmosphere.  He had forced a mechanical breakdown of one of the ship's life support reservoirs and it had vented its contents out into space with enough force to alter the ship's course to a much shallower angle.  He wasn't worried about the heat of the reentry, but with no chance of maneuvering in the planet's atmosphere, he needed to neutralize the angle of impact.  He had managed it, but only barely.  He was lucky to have pulled it off.  Well, sort of.  He glanced down at the mangled corpses of his two crew.  He had failed them.  He wondered what sort of lives they led when they weren't serving him?  Had they families?  Children?  Unlike him, they wouldn't wake up in a new body lightyears away with only vague memories of the pain and the terror.  Instead they died violently when the ship impacted and threw them forward at several hundred meters per second.  He had had to pry them off of the forward bulkhead of the bridge.  He still wasn't sure why he had done that.

He looked around at his surroundings.  The planet was temperate, which was good.  He had crash landed in a field, which also had helped.  He had been saved from demise by pure luck.  He had strapped himself into a chair, the same as the others.  Unlike the others, though, his chair had not detached from the deck when the ship crashed.  The impact had still cracked some ribs and he may have broken his clavicle.  It was extremely sore, at the least, and his breathing was labored.  Still, he had survived.  Wait.  Why is that a good thing?  I'm a capsuleer.  I would have woken up in a new clone light years away.

He pondered that for a moment. He heard the whispering again, but this time he could make out the words.

"It's not time to return yet."  The whisper was very clear, but it seemed to be coming from outside of him, as though someone was whispering directly into his ear.  "You're not ready."

I'm not ready for what? He thought to himself.

"You're not ready to take up the mission."



Justice?  What sort of mission is that?  How the fuck am I to accomplish something as amorphous and goddamn hopeless as that?

"That's why you're not ready."

Ryven may have been dazed from the crash, but at the moment that actually made sense to him.  His eyelids had gotten very heavy, after all, and it was becoming very difficult to keep upright.  He plodded over to what looked like a very soft bit of ground and dropped to his knees before laying down on the soft soil in the middle of the grassy field.

His eyes closed and before he knew it, he drifted off to sleep with the sun sinking slowly on the horizon.

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