Chapter One

Chapter One

A Chapter by Kira Jaye
"

The daring Saphyra, also known as Saph, escapes from prison with the help of a guard named Rakos. Meanwhile, Doctor Ashlee Conner struggles with coming to terms of her leaving her friend behind.

"

Drip. Drip. Drip.

            Saph woke with a start. God, the sound was excruciating. She knew she would have to murder �" or at least bludgeon �" something or someone if it didn’t stop. The constant dripping was enough to make her more insane than usual. She didn’t see a faucet or anything and she didn’t really think she would. She listened to it for a full hour before she realized it wasn’t water at all. Inside her head, maybe. Lots of sounds without sources happened inside her head. The dripping was new, though and she didn’t much care for it. If she could just find the source- and then her eyes fell on her wrists, encased in metal chains and caked with a coat of thick, blue blood. A single drop slid down the cuff and on to the floor at a constant rate. Drip. Drip. Drip. The chains weren’t a surprise; they only let her out of them when absolutely necessary. But she had been bleeding in her sleep, and that was most definitely unusual. She must have had a nightmare, though she couldn’t remember. And that was a relief because nightmares meant fear and fear meant weakness. And Saphyra was anything but weak. She stood, taking her time as to not further damage her the thin skin around her arms, and stretched as well as she could in a prison cell.

            Abaddon: Interplanetary penitentiary for major threats to the galaxy and the criminally insane. She was categorized as something in the middle. The station was the farthest you could get from earth, farthest from Hell, if such a place existed below the surface. Yet it was the closet you could get to Hell. It hovered like a shadow above the planet Asylum, a haven for refugees. How ironic. This had been her home for about seven years now. She was kept in Ward Ten in the lowest point of the station, in isolation. They kept her as far away as possible from any other life forms as they could. Heaven forbid she came into contact with a guard or fellow prisoner. Actually, it was wise of them. She had this effect on people. She could probably start a riot with just the wave of her hand, or evoke munity with only a few choice words. She had in fact managed the latter before. She was the alpha female, fully capable of leading a pack of any size and shape. So yeah, isolation was wise. And of course, she had to be well guarded, so they always sent the most capable officer to deliver her food or sweep her cell for contraband or whatever. And she really didn’t mind being alone. Loneliness also meant freedom. The only place she belonged was where she was alone. She was a freak, a half-breed hybrid nobody wanted, the most literal definition of a mistake. And the other prisoners knew that and would exploit it if they had a chance. Of course, it would be their loss �" loss of limb or life, that is. But then she would be punished, and offenses added to her already growing list of sins. Which meant more time in Hell. That would just be inconvenient, so yeah, she could deal with the loneliness, a constant darkness that sat at the edge of her being and threatened to empty into her head. She kept it at bay as well as she could in order to give her just a little bit of hope that maybe she wasn’t so bad after all, even if it was only an illusion.

            What she would give to convince herself she just wasn’t so bad. She sat back down on the hard metal floor, and stretched her legs in front of her. At least they left her legs free from shackles, unless she was really bad. And since she didn’t have anyone to bother ‘really bad’ usually meant she made some attempt to bash her skull in. Lately, she had been generous to herself, and she thought maybe she would keep it that way for a bit. It was nice to stretch her legs. Made her feel more human �" or Surian �" or whatever the heck she really was. A dull ache rose in her arms as she tensed and relaxed the muscles in her legs. Ah, so there was the pain that went with the blood. She didn’t know why she hadn’t felt it before. Maybe she had finally become numb. But the numbness was gone now, replaced with a sting that slowly morphed into a raging agony. Damn, she needed some morphine, or something �" anything to kill the pain. It was hard to find drugs that worked for her, her anatomy was so foreign; her body rejected almost anything she threw at it. Once she tried to get addicted to Holosophide, a Gorgonian stimulant you inject straight into your heart. Course, she had no idea that her heart worked more like a Surian’s but her veins unfortunately human so-

Footsteps. They pierced through her train of thought and she forced her mind blank. She had years of practice shielding her thoughts back on Krysis, and put it to good use here. She wouldn’t put it past Core to bring in a Surian Lylis to read her mind. She barely trusted herself inside her own head. She leaned herself against the cell wall and relaxed as much as she could. It probably wasn’t anything big. In fact, if she had to guess- the small hatch on the door unlocked and flung open. “Dinner” Chimed a soft, but firm voice and a dark-skinned arm sent a trey of semi-solid skidding across the floor. But she wasn’t looking at the food. Before the arm could retreat, she caught a glimpse of a small tattoo on the wrist, one she knew very well �" a little red earth style toy boat. “Nice tattoo” she cooed with a smile. He had already backed away from the door, but she didn’t question if he had heard her. The sound of his quickly retreating footsteps were sign enough. She leaned, content, into the cool metal floor.

            She had a ticket home.

 

An inhuman scream pierced through the thick air, and Ashlee tightened her grip on her friend’s sweaty, purple palm. Claws dug into her skin, and she winced. She should be used to this by now, really she should. But she wasn’t. It was impossible to become accustomed to her friend’s constant pain, the sounds, the smells, the feeling of it all. Nevertheless, it was part of her job to be a comforter through it, so she swallowed her anxiety and turned towards the pained creature in the bed before her.

            “Almost there Leahn, don’t forget to breathe.” Reluctantly, she let go of Leahn’s hand, so she could prepare. Leahn screamed in protest.

            “No, Ke’ahn! This part is-“ Her sentence was cut short by another desperate scream. Ashlee expertly caught the small purple body as it emerged, and quickly passed it to a nearby nurse.

            “You’re doing great, hun! Just four more….

A dozen screams and four little bodies later, Ashlee collapsed, exhausted, on the floor next to the bed. That was the worst one yet, but it was the last. She looked up into Leahn’s solemn yellow eyes and sighed in relief.

            “Done.” She said.        

            “Forever?” Leahn’s voice was weak, and it melted Ashlee’s heart.

            “Forever. ”

They sat in the comfortable silence, the sticky air somehow welcoming. Dim yellow light from one of the moons �" it was hard to tell which  - flooded in through the small circular window. There was something final in this moment, something rewarding. But Ashlee knew that though her job was done, her friend’s hardships were far from over. She shifted nervously, and Leahn caught on instantly.

            “Something is bothering you, Ke’ahn.” Her eyes were closed, but Ashlee knew she would resolve whatever was bothering her before allowing herself to rest. The thought made Ashlee smile.

            “We did it, finally. Neither of this will ever have to go through this again.”

            “Yes, the worst is over.” Leahn agreed. “So there must be something else, a thought not as contenting, for you are restless.”

            Ashlee sighed, and let silence linger for a bit as she gathered her thoughts. “Well, there’s an old earth saying for times like this. Bittersweet.” Leahn patiently waited for an explanation, clenching and unclenching her delicate fists. Hesitantly, Ashlee continued. “It refers to something both good and bad at the same time.”

            “I still do not understand.”

Ashlee was growing even more restless, so she stood and began gathering up her supplies to keep her busy. “It’s a good thing, a very good thing, that you don’t have to mate anymore and I don’t have to keep delivering babies endlessly,” she saw her friend smile slightly, amused by her description, “but now that you don’t need me anymore, Core might send me to another colony or worse, back to Logos.” Leahn started to interrupt, but Ashlee put out a finger to stop her. “And that’s not even the most ‘bitter’ part. The worst is, now you’re ready to be queen and you have a whole colony to lead, battles to fight, all of that. And don’t think for a second that I doubt your ability to lead �" you will be a fantastic queen �" but that’s a huge burden, more pressure than even the weight of having to birth a certain number children in a certain amount of time, and more painful too. Not physically, but emotionally. And as your friend, as a Ke’ahn, I don’t want that to happen to you.” She was still scurrying around the room as she spoke, trying to keep herself busy  so she wouldn’t break down crying.

            “Doctor �" Ashlee.” She immediately stopped and whirled around at the sound of her name �" Leahn rarely ever called her by her first name. “Come.” She did, sitting on the edge of the bed. Leahn took her soft fleshy hand in one of her own, careful not to scratch it with her long claws. “Do not pity me. I am proud to become Gah’Rheen, to rule over my people. I was born for it and I know I am ready for it now. I earned the power, after all that I went through. I know that you know this to be true. The only thing that would truly distress me emotionally is being without you, Ke’ahn, friend of my people, and friend of mine. We have gotten to know each other well over the years,” Ashlee stared at the yellow eyes peering into her soul, and knew what was coming next. “Well enough to know when one of us is a lair.” Ashlee felt instantly guilty, and her gaze fell down at her feet.”

            “It’s not a lie, not really…” She could feel Leahn’s disapproval even without looking at her. “Alright, I guess it is. I don’t think that Core will reassign me… I already know. They’ve arranged to transfer  me to Tee’lah at the end of the week…“ her friend said nothing so she continued. “I’ve tried to convince them to let me stay, to monitor the colony and the progress on the new queen from your litter… but I guess I’ve trained your people well enough to handle themselves. Soon you’ll have Kel doctors with abilities and knowledge that surpasses my own, and that’s what they want for the other colonies across the planet. It really is for a good cause.”

            “It is not.”

            “What?” Ashlee was stunned by the anger in Leahn’s voice. Her eyes were closed again, her fists clenched tight.

            “It is not for a good cause. It is a selfish one. They only wish to strengthen relations with my people to better themselves. The other colonies have sufficient medical knowledge. They do not need you, Tee’leeh needs you.” She hesitated. “I need you…”  

            Before she could respond , a nurse walked in.

 “Doctor Conner, you are needed in the nursery.”  Torn, Ashlee reluctantly turned from her friend and followed the young male. But not before catching a glimpse of the tears welling in Leahn’s eyes.

She finished up in the nursery quickly. All thirty eight of the newborns from the most recent litter were perfectly healthy. Instead of returning to her friend, the Doctor chose to retire to her quarters. She didn’t have anything left to say to Leahn that wouldn’t leave her in tears. It was a short walk to her quarters from the Clinic and though usually she would take the hover tram, today she just didn’t mind the exercise. And being a Doctor, she knew the health benefits of walking, especially in the thicker atmosphere. Or maybe she was just feeling nostalgic. As she walked through the compound, she took in everything she saw even though she had made the same journey every day for five years. At first, Kel had filled her with anxiety. All the dust, the strange clay like substance their buildings were made out of, it was foreign and felt wrong. But now it was home.

 

Part one of Saph’s plan was almost complete.  She had thought she would need more time, but it seemed that only a few days had been more than sufficient. The moment after she had quickened that guard’s footsteps, with two simple words, her mind had been sent into warp speed. She hadn’t moved for a whole day, eyes squeezed shut, relishing in the silence that usually drove her mad. Her freedom was set on the shoulders on a man she had never met. She hadn’t relied on anyone else in years. But everything had gone surprisingly well. The day after she began formulating her escape, she had stretched her feet over the hatch, waiting patiently for dinner to arrive. Like clockwork, footsteps got louder and louder, and the little door was unlocked and pushed �"clink. The metal hit against her bare toes and snapped back into place. There was hesitation.

            “Move prisoner.” Again, the voice was firm but small. How strange. Saph didn’t comply, and in fact pressed harder, yawning.

            “I could do this all day, you know.” Really she could. She didn’t care for the mush they forced down her throat. Again there was silence. But if Saph was correct…

            “I’ll walk away, and take your food with me.”

            “Go for it, sweetheart.”  She thought she heard his teeth grind together. He wasn’t walking away.  A grin rose on her pale cheeks.  For once in her life, everything was going right. She wondered how long she could keep that up. “Still here, honey bunches?” No response. She didn’t expect one. She knew he was still there, she could hear him inhale and exhale and inhale again. He wasn’t going anywhere any time soon, which was Saph’s big break. They needed her alive, and at least somewhat healthy, so that they could extort her later. She knew things, golden tidbits of information that kept her alive. But it also kept her here, and it kept them watching, and it kept them believing they could break her. And as long as they believed they would try. Sometimes they would fill the room with gas, enough to choke her but not kill her, maybe an experimental truth serum that was designed to expose your deepest fears and regrets. But her resolve was too strong. Sometimes they would actually send someone there with a sick mind and something sharp. But her body had already been broken long ago, and what happened to it just didn’t matter to her anymore. She wasn’t giving up, and if she wasn’t giving up they weren’t either. So on that hunch �"and a few others �" Saph had built her scheme. So far, it was holding up.

Two full minutes of silence had passed. She was counting the seconds. Finally, there was a faint series of clicks �" nimble fingers running across a keypad. Though her wrists were strained against the chains, Saph didn’t feel like moving, so she stayed where she was, grinning ear to ear. The heavy metal door swung open.

It was even better than she had expected. The guard was human, though he didn’t look like any human she’d met and young too. He couldn’t have been older than twenty five, twenty six. His skin was dark, and his hair long, but only on one side. On the other it was shaved. He didn’t have any other tattoos, which was somewhat surprising, aside from the one on his wrist. He glared down at her with piercing almond shaped eyes. And the other hunch, that was the cornerstone for her plan, had just been confirmed.

“Haven’t seen you around here, darling.” He flung the tray at her, emotionless, and turned. She called out carelessly as the door slammed shut, “You don’t belong here, do ya?” The thud of metal against metal shook the cell. But Saphyra didn’t mind, it made her giddy with anticipation. All the pieces were falling perfectly into place. Phase one was complete.

Phase two was the screw.              

             When building a prison, someone should take great care to minimize protruding objects inside the cells, as to not provoke the occupants to harm themselves or others.  As was the way with Abaddon.  Everything was smooth, hard metal. There were no protrusions or bumps, not a bolt out of place. But there was one screw in the wall of Saphyra’s cell that stuck just slightly farther than the rest. Just one little screw taunting her, beckoning her, to yank it out. She had tried before when she got tired of the torture and interrogation and felt like the darkness was threatening to slip from the corner of her consciousness into her entire being. But now it was important �" she was desperate. It was too far away to reach with her fingers, but she could wrap her toes around it if she concentrated real hard. She tried again and again, until her toenails broke off, staining her feet blue with blood. At last she had no choice but to rest. Her breathing was becoming labored, and the strange air was not helping. The atmosphere in the prison had been tailored towards humans, and apparently it didn’t sit well in Saph’s lungs. She had gotten used to it over the years, but if she exhorted any kind of force it always backfired on her. She knew it was part of the torture, the composition of the air. Furloids had to wear masks �" which of course made them easy targets. Saph got lucky enough with her screwed up anatomy that she could still breathe it in without dying. But that didn’t mean it didn’t suck.

            She stared her advisory down, long and hard. Stupid screw. Just a tiny little cog in a much bigger, more menacing machine, but she had to take it down. She was pretty sure she had caused more damage in her sleep- she looked down at her manacled arms, still caked in a light layer of blood and remembered the intoxicating pain from the day before. Yeah, she had done worst and she hadn’t even been conscious. So how hard could it really be to extract a screw from a wall? But she was tired, weighed down by her deprived lungs and blood loss. Her gaze drifted over to the trey of mush next to her leg. If she ate something, she would feel better, but she couldn’t risk it. They were watching her. Her eyes flung up to the top left corner of the room where a small camera lens juts out of the wall, ever so slightly. She had noticed it the first time they intervened her attempted suicide. She grinned at it, knowing this was probably the last time she would get the chance-

            The camera. She had forgotten about it, it was a loose end she never planned to tie. Her smile faded as the optimism was drained from her. If she couldn’t get rid of the camera, there was no point of the rest of it. All that scheming, the twinges of hope she allowed herself to feel. It was all for nothing. There was no way she could reach it. And then there was the screw, it wasn’t coming loose and she had already lost a lot of blood and she was gonna have to lose some more, which wouldn’t be a problem if she didn’t already feel so weak and that screw that stupid, stupid, screw. The thought of it was consuming her, it’s image seemed to be burned into her mind. Just that little metal screw: and the camera. If she could kill two birds with one stone that would be something. But that screw wasn’t budging. Such a seemingly petty thing it was, holding her back. Her mind burned with anger and frustrated. Only if-

Clink! It came flying, all on its own, off the wall like a bullet, straight towards Saph’s head. She was so shocked she almost forgot to duck. It whizzed past her ear, into the far left corner of the room. There was the distinctive tinkling of falling shattered glass. Saph started, and forced herself onto her feet. She ignored the pain burning in her toes. She could deal with that later, now… she was awestruck. All her life, she her mother had her convinced that she was less than ordinary. But now it turned out she did in fact inherit some ‘good genes’.  All it took was enough anger, enough concentrated desperation.  If only her dearest mother could see her now! She triumphantly shuffled to the corner of the cell where small shards of glass gathered around a single silver object �" the screw.

 

            Thursday was poker day for the Guards at Abaddon. Groups of them gathered in the break room during their designated free time and gambled and carried on like the galaxy’s most dangerous criminals weren’t imprisoned all around them. Except Rakos. He sat at a table by himself , in a corner where no one would bother him. He didn’t care for trivial games, and he really didn’t care for gambling. To partake in such a thing reduced his colleagues to equivalents of the scum they were supposed to be guarding. It was shameful. As they swore and boasted, he closed his eyes and tried desperately to meditate. But he couldn’t clear his mind. Something, besides the ruckus around him, was disrupting his concentration.

            It was that devil woman. She haunted his waking dreams and his nightmares. He couldn’t sleep, or meditate. She was keeping him from finding peace. She was all he could see when he closed his eyes, her smile contorted and curled up into a menacing grin. At first he didn’t know why Core had assigned him to watch only one prisoner. But now it all made sense. It was to punish him for his past mistakes. He had only been in charge of ward ten for a little over a week and she had managed to tear him apart with two insignificant words:

            ‘Nice Tattoo’

He subconsciously pulled his fingers across the tender skin on his wrist under the fabric of his uniform. How he hated that little red boat. He had spent hours trying desperately to scrub it off. He’d ask for a miracle as he looked back down at his arm, raw and bloody. It would still be there, always proud as it tormented him. He pulled his hand away when he realized what he was doing. No, he wouldn’t even allow himself the satisfaction of pity. It was shameful, and it was his fault he let it happen. Maybe, though, he could make things right. He had been taught that if you did bad things, the universe would try to uproot you until you balanced the bad out with enough good. But his slate was so filthy, he knew it worked like that tattoo; no matter how hard he scrubbed, it would never come clean. He had betrayed his family, his honor, and now he was suffering, as he should. He didn’t think he deserved redemption. He wasn’t worthy of it. He rubbed his head and reluctantly let his eyelids pull open. It was no use. He thought perhaps he would watch the other guards engage in their foolish game and try to guess who was bluffing. But before he could stand, a sharp click in his ear got his attention. Someone was trying to page his comm. He gently pressed on the device, allowing it to receive and transmit.

            “Security team, ID number 8230573 responding.”

            “Are you the man who’s supposed to be watching Ward Ten?” He recognized the voice as the warden’s, and he was most definitely agitated about something.

            “Yes, sir. I was just-“

            “The security feeds gone dark. Get your carcass down there before I have to kick it there.”

The comm. stopped receiving. Rakos felt his stomach beginning to twist into knots. It must have been important if the Warden had contacted him directly. And it involved her. He swallowed, controlling his anxiety. He didn’t have a choice. There was no point in getting worked up over it. He steadied his breathing, Involuntary checked for the sword at his hip, and headed out the door, ignoring the glares from his comrades.

What was the worst that could have happened, really?

She was locked away in isolation in an empty cell, devoid of contact from any other life form save himself. It was probably just a glitch. The compound was over a century old, and as far as he knew Core didn’t pour money into it on a regular basis. A wire could be loose, or the signal lost because of a server error of some sort. It could be anything, but it was probably nothing of importance. He grew calmer and calmer as he approached the cell. But then something caught his eye and his heart rate quickened again. A thick pool of blue seeping out from under the door. It only took him a second before he realized it was blood.

Instinct and adrenaline kicking in, he typed the code as fast as he could and rushed in as the heavy door creaked open. He didn’t bother to close it behind him, he didn’t think the prisoner would be in any condition to try to escape. And he was right. She lay in a heap on the floor, seemingly floating in the dense liquid. A long oozing cut ran from one side of her neck to the other. Clinched in her fingers was a piece of glass, broken and bloodied. So many emotions hit him all at once, like a hammer to the head- fear, disgust, awe. He was flabbergasted. She was his only responsibility, and if she died on his watch… He shook away the thoughts, forcing himself to concentrate on the task at hand.  He bent down to check her pulse and was halfway done removing the shackles when realized he didn’t know exactly how to check her pulse. She obviously wasn’t human. Even unconscious, her sharp features upset the core of his being. He swallowed again, undid the coarse cuffs anyway with the key he was required to carry, and decided he could at least see if she was breathing. He leaned towards her, as close as he would dare, and waited. The unmistakable sound of blood dripping made his own blood curl. It seemed like an eternity had passed. He was about to give up, tell the warden he had failed, and resign. But then he heard it �" a faint rasp. She was alive. He felt strangely relieved, and told himself that was only because of his selfish desire to remain employed. He reached for his comm., to call for back up. But as he pressed down on the receiver, there was no sound. That was odd. He tried anyway.

“Security team, ID number 8230573 transmitting.” No response. He tried again. “Security team, ID 8230573, transmitting. Requesting back up in Ward Ten.” Nothing. The link was dead. How was that possible?

“Sorry bout that, sweetheart.” He jumped, and looked down at the body in his arms. Her eyes were open, but sullen and void. “had to shut that damn thing up. I just wanted it to be-“ She coughed, and little spurts of blue peppered his sleeve. “the two of us.” She smirked, a menacing pained little smirk that made his blood boil. He would love to drop her onto the hard metal, and just leave her to bleed out. “Ah, you wouldn’t do that, sweetheart.” She cackled. “You need me alive, just like I need you alive.” His eyes grew wide with fear.

            “You’re a Surian Lylis.” Of course, how had he not seen it before? The blue blood, the angular features were obviously Surian. And now she could read his thoughts, block transmissions. She had been planning this all along, and he had fallen into her trap.

            “Only half.” She muttered weakly. “And believe me; this mind reading crap is as new to me as it is to you.”

As interested as he was by all this, he knew that she was stalling and if he waited any longer, she would die. Obviously, she didn’t care if she lived or died but she must have had some reason for going to all this trouble to bring his here. His muscles tensed urgency. “What do you want from me?” Her responding chuckle was cold, but not devoid of humor. He was repulsed.

“Me and you, we got lots in common… Lots, and lots. We should… start a club.” She was growing weaker and weaker.

            “Tell me what you want!” His impatience was starting to morph into anger. She didn’t answer, only turned over her left wrist and held it up for him to see. He gasped. There, midst a plethora of other tattoos, was a little red boat. His mind was spinning. There was no turning back now. His life was over and it no longer mattered if she lived or died. He reached for his sword, but she grabbed his arm, stopping him. Her lifeless eyes bore into his own.

“But it does matter. You can’t kill me, I’m your key to survival darling.” He scoffed, and this time did let her fall. But she caught herself with surprising adeptness. “They’ll be her soon, and I’ll tell them the truth about you. All good things of course, about how wonderful an accomplice you were-“

            “They’ll never believe you.”

            “Oh but they will.” Her eyes were glowing with life now, and she was struggling to get to her feet. “Once I show them, our matching ink. Oh, but I’m afraid sweetheart, I’ll have to tell them that you weren’t such a good friend after all…especially since…you tried to murder me and everything…” She fell back down to her knees, her breaths labored. “Or I could die here…they’d question you and find it…the pretty little brand…” His skin grew cold. She was right. Either way, he would turn into a prisoner himself. He knew by the look in her eyes that she wasn’t bluffing. She was in bad shape, and he let her die, his freedom would go to the grave with her.  “There is… a third option.” She looked up at him with another crooked smile. The bleeding around her neck had slowed down, but hadn’t completely stopped yet. A shiver traveled through his spine. Tell me. He thought coldly. She didn’t respond but he didn’t need to be a mind reader to know what she was thinking. He gulped and silently offered her his arm. The sickening smile stayed plastered on her face as she leaned all of her weight against him.

“Better not slow me down, sweetheart.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ashlee couldn’t sleep. She tried, she really did. She knew she needed her rest. In two days, she would be traveling across the desert region, heading to Tee’lah, and it was a long journey. She knew that if she didn’t get sleep in advanced, she would be irritable and cranky as she traveled and she wanted to make a good impression in the new colony. She sighed, and sat up on the bed. Sometimes she really hated being her own doctor. But as the only human on that planet, she had no other choice. However, sometimes the human parts of her trumped the doctor parts. Tonight was one of those times. She stood. Then she sat back down again. She scratched her elbow with her bitten down fingernails. She stood again, and sat at the desk in the corner of the room. At first, she reached for the lightweight tablet resting on the desktop, but she stopped herself. This had to be personal. Her fingers grazed the thin wood, pulling the knob on the face, revealing a drawer. She pulled out a stack of parchment and a thin writing implement that resembled a pen from the pre-relocation era. Paper was hardly used anymore. All government employees �" which was most of the galaxy �" were issued tablets, and all the tablets were linked via satellite. Writing a letter seemed counterintuitive when it would be so much more efficient to just type a message. But this was for family, and to Ashlee, family was the most important thing in the universe. And they deserved a hand written letter.

            The first problem was addressing it. The proper thing to do, she thought, would be to address it to her mother. But she was probably too busy at the university, conducting life changing research of some sort. There was Sam of course, her  younger brother. He was nineteen now. It wasn’t like she didn’t keep in touch with him, though. She tried to contact him at least once a month whenever the video link server wasn’t experiencing technical difficulties. He was always happy to hear from her, especially when it had been a while, but he too was busy trying to make a name for himself in the shadow of their mother. Then there was Mykee. He would be twelve now. She smiled at the thought of him, trying to say her name. It always came out sounding like “Ashy”. She drew in a deep breath and began.

Mykee,

I’ve been on Kel for five years now, doing kind of what mom does. Except mom just studies aliens and teaches people about them. I actually help them feel better. Don’t get me wrong though; mom does great work. I just couldn’t do that. I like to see the difference I’m making.

She paused, struggling to continue, and then reluctantly pressed the pen to the paper again

You would like it here, Myke. The air is dry, so we live in these big compounds that span for miles. The people look kind of weird. They’re purple, with lots of long black hair and glowing yellow eyes. You’d love them, and I’m sure they’d get a kick out of you too. I’m the only human here, at least in this colony, but I’m not lonely. I have a really good friend. Her name is Leahn, and she’s about to become queen. The queen gets to do all kinds of cool things, like order people around and fight in wars and such. Kind of like what dad did.

Again, she hesitates.

I miss you, Mykee. And Dad too. And of course I miss Mom and Sam but that’s not the same. I still talk to them every once and a while, but I never get to see you or dad. I wish I could. They’re doing great, by the way. Mom still works at the University of Xeneology, but Sam doesn’t want to study aliens anymore. He wants to be a ship mechanic, of all things. I don’t mind; if he loves it, he should do it. But Mom, she doesn’t like it. She thinks he’s too smart for that sort of thing. At least, that’s her excuse. It is true: He graduated top of his class and was offered scholarships across the galaxy, So I hear. He didn’t care though. All he cares about any more is starships, and this girlfriend he’s got, Cara. I think he’s gonna marry her. I haven’t met her, but he tells me she’s a good girl, pretty too. And she likes to sing. He wants to move to Panos with her, open a garage or something. I think he’s mad at me for not being there during his high school years. I don’t blame him. He doesn’t talk about you and Dad. Mom doesn’t either. But I can’t just pretend like you never existed. Sometimes, you’re all I can think about it. I wish you were here with me. Sometimes, I get really sad. Dad wouldn’t stand for that. He’d do something, anything to make me crack a smile. I could never resist his corny jokes, no matter how angry I was.

She smiled at the thought of it.

You too, you’d laugh every time he made a goofy face. It was one of his favorite pass times, making you laugh. I wish I could hear you laugh again, just one more time.

She blinked away a few tears forming in her eyelids.

I’m writing you this because I’m leaving tomorrow. Not Kel, just the colony I live in, Tee’leeh. I’m going to miss it here. I’ve made lots of friends, I taught a lot of them how to be doctors like me. They like me a lot, they call me “Ke’ahn”  which means “friend to the Kelahn”. I’m going to miss all of them, but the person I’m gonna miss the most is Leahn. I hope she does okay without me. She acts tough but she’s a softy on the inside. She never really liked politics and war. Core says I’m needed somewhere else, but I don’t want to go. I know it’s childish to be this way, but no one likes moving to a new place where you have to start over. I’m a scientist though, I have to stay positive. There will be plenty new opportunities open to me in Tee’lah. I’m sure the queen there will be nice too. I’m sure the people could use my expertise. But I can’t shake the feeling that this is a mistake. I thought that maybe writing this would get rid of those feelings, but it’s only making them stronger-

There was a knock on the door. She looked down at the paper. It was wet with tears, and she knew she probably looked like Hell. She quickly stashed the letter in the back in the desk, wiped the leftover tears from her cheeks, and stood. “Come in.” She said, trying her hardest not to sound distressed. The door creaked open. It was Leahn, of course. And she looked just as bad as Ashlee felt. “Can’t sleep?” The Kelahn nodded, and stepped into the room. “Me either.”

            “My coronation is tomorrow, it is distressing me.” Leahn looked up at her friend and frowned, her thin eyebrows furrowing together. “You have been crying. What is wrong?”

            Ashlee sighed and gestured for her to sit next to her on the bed. She did, but Ashlee didn’t speak. She twiddled her thumbs nervously, until finally, she reasoned that now was probably the last chance she’d get to tell Leahn the truth. “You know how I told you that my dad left my mother when I was a teenager?” her friend nodded, her eyes intense but patient. “That’s not true. I told you that because I don’t like to talk about what really happened and it ‘s… it’s just easier to make it his fault.” Ashlee felt that Kelahn’s hand extended towards her own, and took it gratefully.

            “You do not have to tell me the truth.”

            Ashlee sighed again. “I want to.” She stood, walked over to the wooden desk and opened the drawer. Leahn watched, attentive and silent, as her friend handed her the crumpled piece of paper. Her eyes scanned it quickly.

            “I do not understand.” She said quietly, handing her back the letter carefully as if it were fragile. “Who is Mykee?”

            As she did when she was nervous, Ashlee flitted about the room, fidgeting with her fingers, not wanting to look directly into the Kelahn’s piercing eyes. “It was the day of my high school graduation. Dad was retired military, like I told you. But he wasn’t a hopeless drunk. He was an extremely honorable man, discharged as such after he suffered an injury. He had just picked up my two year old brother, Mykee, from daycare and was on the way to see me walk across that stage. I had always been a Daddy’s girl.” She was lost in a far off thought of her and her father twirling in circles endlessly when she was a little girl. “So when I didn’t see him there, cheering for me, I was angry.” She sat back on the bed again, and gazed at her feet. Leahn waited silently for her to continue. “I thought that he had forgotten. It was extremely petty of me, because I knew he wouldn’t miss my graduation for the world. But I was stubborn, like my mother. I still am.” Her friend smiled in agreement but still didn’t interrupt. Ashlee was grateful for the Kelahn’s patient nature. This is something she should have done a long time ago. It hurt, but it would help her move on in the coming days of hardship as she journeyed across planet. She shifted anxiously on the bed. “He and Mykee were in the small shuttlecraft we owned, a basic model but dad had fixed it up with a nice engine and all the other bells and whistles.” Leahn looked confused by the human expression, so Ashlee clarified, “The only time he ever spent extra money was when he was fixing up that shuttle. It was his favorite past time. Maybe that’s why Sam wants to be a mechanic.” She shook the thought and continued, no matter how much she didn’t want to. “I don’t know. Anyway, the shuttle was hit by a Core vessel on the spaceway. The pilot never stopped. The shuttle was launched into a nearby building and exploded on impact. Everyone in the building was fine but…” She couldn’t finish. She was in tears. Leahn put a comforting arm around her, and gently rubbed her back.

            “Hush,  Ke’ahn, all is well now.” She started singing to her incapacitated friend in Kelahn. Her voice was sweet and calming. It was a lullaby that roughly translated to;

                                   

Peace to you, in your dreams

Peace to you, in your days

Peace to you, as you rest

                  Peace to you, in your dreams.

            Ashlee knew it well. Sometimes she would hear the nurses singing it to the babies in the nursery, especially the female. Normally she would argue with her, saying she wasn’t a child, she was a professional. She didn’t need to be cradled or sung to. But here in this moment, there was nothing professional about her. She was an infant completely exposed and bare. She blubbered like an idiot into her friends arm as she rocked her back and forth. She suddenly didn’t care about professionalism anymore, and when her eyes were dry and puffy, she allowed sleep to take her. ‘Peace to you, Mykee, in your dreams.’ She thought, and drifted into her own nightmares.

           

Every time Saph swallowed, her throat burned like Hell. It was like someone had stabbed her in the neck… oh wait. God, she had had some pretty insane schemes in the past but this had to be the mother of all crazy ideas. She blinked rapidly, trying to distract herself from the shear agony rushing through her. The pain had to end soon or she might just take care of it herself. No. she had gotten so far already, she wasn’t about to give up now. After all, it hadn’t been a suicide attempt. If she wanted to kill herself, she would have been thorough. She should have slashed her wrists, decrease the chance of hitting an important artery. But she didn’t know much about her anatomy, obviously, and didn’t want to take the chance of it not being enough. If it wasn’t enough, they could send her to the prison infirmary and straight back into her cell complete with extra shackles and surveillance. No, it had to be her throat. She needed that little tattoo intact, and her neck was more accessible than her shackled wrists.

            But this way, there were variables hanging in the wind that she had absolutely no control over. She had to rely on something she didn’t know she had anymore: faith. She had to have faith in the Surian parts of her biology that she inherited those fast healing genes from her mother. It seemed though, that that was holding up. Already the bleeding had stopped and the cut was beginning to scab over. It still hurt of course. She thought she had been careful, as to not cut through a vein. But it seemed she might not have been careful enough. She was in dire need of medical attention. And that was great; she needed care that only the planet Asylum, thousands of feet below them, could offer. Once on Asylum, she had connections. But until she got there, she had other things to worry about.

            She had to have faith in the guard too, this stoic man that seemed to loathe her with every fiber of his being. He was silent and tense as he guided them through the bowels of the prison. It didn’t bother her much that he seemed to hate her. But it would make everything a lot easier if she didn’t have to worry about him turning her in anyway. The tattoo was a fantastic bartering chip, sure, but it wouldn’t keep her free forever. She sighed and made an effort. “So, do you have a name or should I just keep calling you sweetheart?” They turned through another corridor and he picked up the pace. Annoyed, Saph struggled to keep up with him. She wouldn’t dare let him know that her resolve was deteriorating. She tried to pull away from him and support all her weight. That was a mistake. She was weak from blood loss, and her legs gave way underneath her. The man swore bitterly in Rohosi as she fell, and reached down to help her steady herself. Saph found this interesting. Why would a human guard resort to an alien language? She took his hand without hesitation, still trying to get on his good side. They hustled quietly through the dark halls, the only sound the distant screeches of miserable prisoners. Saph could not wait to get out of this place. She didn’t have many friends anyway, but seven years of isolation did things to people. And she was no exception- it had changed her. She wasn’t sure how yet, other than the sudden emergence of telekinetic ability that had apparently been buried in her genetics, but she knew she would find out once she was on the outside. The taste of freedom was taunting her. She needed something else to occupy her time. Reluctantly, she mentally reached towards the guard, searching for his thoughts. She was tired of waiting for his answer and thought she should just find out for herself. But his mind didn’t have any coherent words or ideas floating about in it. Just raging agitation. She quickly retreated. She was new to this Surian mind reading stuff, but she figured out quickly that it was extremely limited. She could only read general emotions and complete statements. It also seemed that the person whose mind she was trying to read was completely oblivious to her mental presence. That would come in handy. But it still didn’t tell her what this guy’s name was. Finally, when they were almost to their destination, he spoke up.

            “I am Rakos.”

            “That’s not a name, that’s Rohosi for ‘shadow’.  No offense hun, but I’m not buying-“ Oops. She had forgotten she was trying to stay on his good side. He cut her off before she got too vulgar though, lifting a finger to silence her. She was about to object when he motioned for her to peer around the corner.  There was a guard standing in front of the escape pod shoot. Damn. They had gone this whole way without seeing a soul, and now it was all going to go to waste. She was not going to let that happen. It was just one guard; it would take them a while to find his body. And killing him would be easy, especially if she had that fancy sword this so-called ‘shadow’ carried around. Of course, when she reached for it, he grabbed her arm. She was gonna knock him out and take it anyway, but he pointed to his forehead.

            He wanted her to read his mind. Saph pulled her arm back, and smirked. He asked for it. She swallowed �" and cringed at the pain �" and allowed her mind to drift into his.

            We don’t have to kill him. Knock out his comm. and pretend to be unconscious. I will carry you.

            She rolled her eyes, but nodded so he knew she understood. She didn’t like appearing venerable or taking orders from this grunt, but she didn’t have much of a choice. As he bent over to lift her, she shut her eyes and steadied her breathing. He picked her up as if she weighed nothing. Actually, she probably was pretty much weightless. She couldn’t remember the last time she actually ate the mush that had been tossed through the hatch. Oh well, once she was free she would get back in shape again. She kept her eyes closed, reminding herself not to squint too much as to maintain the illusion of unconsciousness. Her heart beat fell in step with Rakos’s footsteps.

“Hold up. What’s your business here?”

Saph felt Rakos’s breathing increase and struggled to slow her own ragged breaths. His arms tightened around her instinctively. It had a relaxing effect on her, and her heart rate slowed significantly.  

“Security Team, ID 8230573. This prisoner will die if I do not get her medical attention planet side.”

Saph felt the guard examining her carefully. She slowed her breathing even more, and tried to look like she was in pain -which wasn’t hard because, damn, her throat was screaming at her.

“Why can’t you just take her to the infirmary?” Saph took that to mean ‘I don’t care if she lives or dies’ which she tried to not take personally. She felt Rakos exhale and thought it almost sounded like an annoyed sigh. Almost.

“This prisoner is priority level Alpha. The Warden requested I personally take her to the hospital in Asylum.” He shifted slightly. It took Saph a second to realize that was her cue. Trying not to panic, she grasped mentally to where she thought the guard was. It was nerve-racking to not be able to physically see what she was doing, especially to someone who had only had telepathy for about a day. And the dire circumstances weren’t exactly helping. Regardless, she was able to detect the electronic frequency and squash it like a bug, right as the guard clicked on the receiver.

“Security ID 8317526, transmitting. Requesting Warden.” When he didn’t get a response, he tried again. And again. Then he swore. “Alright, fine. But make it quick.” Saph felt herself relax simultaneously with Rakos. She waited until they were inside the pod and the door had closed before opening her eyes. She looked up at Rakos and grinned wildly. He looked absolutely disgusted and all but threw her onto the floor.

“Gees, watch it! I’m precious cargo, remember?” He ignored her and began typing a code into the key pad.

            “Emergency Code acknowledged, pod activated.” Chimed a computerized voice, and without warning the capsule plummeted towards the planet. Saph swore violently in Surian �" hopefully the one language Rakos didn’t know �" as she tumbled into the wall. She rubbed her head as it throbbed. Rakos was fine of course, he had obviously been prepared as he stood quietly in the corner with a smug look on his face. Every muscle in Saph’s body grew tense. God, she wanted to slit that man’s throat. She could just leave the body in the pod, find the hospital on her own… and then get sent right back up to Abaddon. As much as she didn’t like it, she needed him. And he would need her too, eventually. Plus, he would probably put up too much of a fight for Saphyra to with stand in her current state. But that didn’t keep her from plotting his murder in sixty two different ways as they stood in uncomfortable silence. The pod shook again as it made contact with the surface, and Saph swore once more. She should have seen that one coming.

“After you, sweetheart.”  She coughed gesturing towards the open doors. Rakos just stared at her.

            “I’m taking you to the hospital. Then I am going back up to Abaddon to report you.”

            Saph rolled her eyes. “Like Hell you will. Good luck explaining that one to the Warden,” she did her best to imitate her companion in her meager state, “sorry to bother you sir but I just dropped the most Dangerous prisoner in the whole damn galaxy down on the planet! I’ll take my promotion now.”

            As expected, Rakos was not amused. But he did seem to consider his options more thoroughly as he grabbed her by the arm and headed for the hospital.

“So, don’t you want to know who I am and why I’m so important?”  

            Rakos ignored her sarcasm yet again, and continued through the streets of Asylum. People were staring, but he didn’t care. If there was a job that needed doing, even if it was a risky one, he got it done. He still couldn’t believe this was happening. Just when he had finally gotten back on his feet, this creature snatched his life out from under him, sending him spiraling. The more he thought about it, the more he realized the prisoner was right. He could not go back to Abaddon. He certainly could not go back home to Logos. At least out here, past the Traverse, he was a freeman. The second he got back into the Prime system, he would have to go into hiding. He did not like being in hiding. He did not think that his freedom should be sacrificed for something he was forced to do, whether that was his past, or this escapade he had been bribed into now.  They were almost there now, he could see the white glossed over walls of the hospital building. It wasn’t hard to spot. It stood in stark contrast to the dirt and grime that covered the rest of Asylum. It was primarily a mining planet, as it was rich in resources and therefore perfect for refugees with nowhere else to go. The guards and other staff stayed in a compound below the prison. The conditions weren’t anything like Logos, but it was better than being confined to the prison itself, which is where he would be, if things back on Panos had gone much worst.

“You struck a deal with Core, didn’t you?” croaked the prisoner with pronounced self-satisfaction.

He had forgotten to keep his thoughts limited in defense against her mind reading. “Get out of my head, scum.”

“Oh come on, don’t be like that. I’m just trying to get friendly, since we’re gonna be hanging out together for a while.”

Rakos doubted that. As they approached the hospital, he increased his pace. A worried nurse ran up to him frantically. Obviously, the prisoner’s condition was indeed critical. “Goodness! What happened to her? Somebody get a stretcher!”  It took only a matter of seconds for her demand to be met, and about a dozen people crowded around the metal gurney as they wheeled it’s occupant inside. “Sir,” The nurse addressed him. “Don’t you want to make sure she’s alright?” Rakos all but scoffed, but realized it would look suspicious if he didn’t appear to care, and followed the woman into the hospital.

He was surprised at first that no one questioned him about the prisoner’s attire that indicated her as such, but it seemed the people of Asylum were blissfully unaware of the station that hung above them, harboring a different kind of fugitive. All the hospital staff cared about was saving lives. It didn’t matter what type of person the life they were saving was. The surgery took about an hour. He didn’t think that surgery would have been necessary. The prisoner must have been in worst condition than she let on. Eventually, the nurse emerged from the operating room and let him know he could go in and see her. He really didn’t want to, but again, he did not want to arouse suspicion. Before he entered the room, he reminded himself to keep his thoughts guarded. Even if she was unconscious, he wanted to be careful.

Much to his dismay, she was completely coherent. “Hey, sweetheart. Nice of you to join me.” Her voice was extremely weak and raspy, and she appeared to be grimacing at something unpleasant. He almost allowed himself to feel bad for her. Then he looked into her eyes and his heart filled with bitter hatred. 

“Can you give us a moment?” He addressed the nurse without looking at her. She scurried out of the room quickly.

“You weren’t very nice to that nurse, hun-“

“Don’t speak.” She stopped. That was more likely due to the pain speaking caused her rather than his command, but it still came as a surprise. “I am going to my quarters. I am going to collect my personal affects, then I will leave the planet. You will not follow me.”

“And who or what is going to stop me?”

“You do not know where I am going.”

Her face contorted into that menacing grin he loathed. “We are going to Kel.”

His heart dropped into his chest. She had learned more than she had let on while digging around inside his head on the way to the hospital.

“Oh yeah, I’m that good. So here’s what’s really gonna happen, darling,” She sat up, and winced slightly as she did so, but Rakos barely noticed. She was glaring straight into his soul. “My friends should be here soon. If you want your freedom, you’ll come with us to Kel. If you rather rot in prison…” She smiled mockingly and leaned back down into the bed. “I’m getting kinda tired of threatening you, sweetheart; we shouldn’t have to keep going through this.”

Then something deep inside of Rakos snapped, launching his fist around her injured throat. She gasped in surprise, and clawed at his fingers, but he held on tight. “You listen to me, you low life, scum sucking, half-breed.” a synthetic stich ripped from her neck, and a thin drop of blue blood slid down Rakos’s fingers. He didn’t have to finish his thought out loud. He screamed inside his head I WILL KILL YOU as loud as he could. She must have been getting the message because the smirk was wiped clean off her face. But her eyes stayed sharp, narrow with anger instead of wide with fear. He was going to do it. He was going to kill her. But there was a commotion in the hallway, something falling over, someone shouting, and he turned his attention to the door. It was only for a second, but he relaxed his grip ever so slightly. The woman took advantage. She bit down hard on his fingers, sending him flying back with a hardy Gorgonian swear.

She instinctively grabbed for her neck and wiped away the loose blood. Rakos was glad that she was too weak to fight back. Otherwise, he would have suffered worse than a few bruised fingers.

“Damn.” She coughed out. She looked as if she were going to say something more, a snide comment perhaps, but at that moment the door flew open and in barged a massive Gorgonian. A huge grin was plastered over his smooth, grey features. He threw his arms out, as if relieved about something and exclaimed loudly in heavily accented Rohosi,

“Boss!”

The woman was too weak to return the enthusiasm, but she smirked and replied hoarsely “Hey Thudd. Took you long enough, it’s been seven damn years.”

“You look like Hell.” Then the Gorgonian turned his attention to Rakos, and his smile was immediately replaced by a menacing scowl. “Who’s this bottom-feeder?” he growled in English.

“I am Rakos.” He voice was stern. Already, he did not like this Gorgonian. They stared each other down for a full minute before Thudd turned away.

“Where’d you find this pansy, Captain?”

Captain? The woman must have been listening to his thoughts, because she looked up at Rakos and shifted nervously.

“Shut up, Thudd.”

Thudd blinked, and didn’t seem to get the hint. “Wait, are you telling me he doesn’t know who you are?” He let out a loud throaty cackle, and leaned casually against the wall. “Should I enlighten him, boss?”

She grunted, and sat up, beginning to detach the various wires sticking out from her. Rakos stood with his arms crossed and waited for an explanation.

“You’ll get your explanation, sweetheart. First I have some ends to tie up.” Once she was detached, she stood- and immediately stumbled.  Thudd was by her side like a loyal dog.

“Take it easy, boss. What happened, how’d you get out and how the Hell did you end up here?”

The prisoner leaned against her friend and motioned towards the door. “I’ll tell you later. How’d you know I was here?”

“You kidding? News of a mangled up hybrid chick reaches the mines, it’s gotta be you. Damn, seven years. You still the same-ole Captain?”

She smiled. “Mostly. Speaking of which, where’s Sparky? I got something I need to show him.

“Already at the drop zone, boss. He’s got the Ghost in good shape too.”

She sternly looked back at Rakos and motioned for him to follow. He did so reluctantly. He could already tell things were only going to get worst from now on. “Good, I miss my baby. Got into enough trouble?”

They small talked like that for a while, as they nonchalantly made their way out the back of the building. Much to Rakos’s surprise, nobody stopped them. He was growing increasingly more anxious. He looked over towards the Gorgonian’s left wrist. Sure enough, a little red boat stood out plainly against the gray pigment. Before he went any farther, he had to know who or what he was dealing with. The woman sighed. She was reading his mind again.

            “Alright, I’ll tell you my name, but that’s all you get.” She swerved to face him, and bowed dramatically. “Captain Saphyra Curana, at your service. But if I catch you calling me that, I’ll gut you. Just Captain is fine; when we get real cozy you can call me Saph. Now can we please hurry up and get off this damn planet now?”

            Rakos looked deep into her beady black eyes. There was familiarity in that name, but he couldn’t place it. He knew she would tell him eventually. He stepped aside and quickened his pace as they stormed through the dirty streets.

            Darkness. It was there as they lived, thrived, failed, and died. It was eternal, consuming, omniscient… Unit 4829 thought all these things as he fixed another piece of machinery into place. For centuries, he and his people had embraced the darkness as reality. Before his time, and the time of those before him, and before them, and before even them, they had a lush planet where they could see the Socious suns twirl in harmony, one for day, and one for night. They had lived happy lives in servitude to an extinct race. But now they loomed in the distance, out of sight of the sun on a moon of another planet. Everything was always cold, always quiet. 4829 didn’t know anything other than darkness. And now the time had finally come to venture into the sun. They had spent ages developing ships with the broken parts from The Great Destruction. He gazed admirably at the vessel in front of him.  To an outsider, it was scrap metal. But to him, to his race, it was everything. Freedom, redemption, salvation; It was the only sun they could see. He worked methodically and efficiently. Preparation was all he and his people knew. Building the ships, and training for battle. Their war was one of peace. They would fight to save those who would otherwise destroy. They would fight for the light. Unit 4829 was growing weary, but knew he couldn’t rest. Rest would come with the sun.

            A harsh buzz rippled through the air. 4829 dropped his tools, and stood. The other units were already assembling. He instinctively fell into step behind them. They made their way, as they did every rotation, to the Center, a large rectangular building in the middle of the moon. Some would walk for miles, but it only took 4829 a matter of minutes to reach it. Row upon rows of people stood linear, clustered in the large building. An official walked through the crowd, gesturing to specific units. Those who were chosen knew what it meant. They stepped out of line and made their way to the Chamber. To be chosen for the chamber was an honor almost as great as being chosen for battle. As the official made his way through the line 4829 stood, he did not choose anyone. He almost did not notice when the creature lifted his spiny hand in front of his face, signifying he was to go to the chamber. It was an honor. He moved away from the ranks, and headed into the chamber. It was a large space, with tall black walls that stretched up to no end. He fell into line behind the other units. He could not at first see what was at the end of the line. As he got closer, he smelt burning. It was a furnace. The flames spread out, making his skin hot. One by one, they walked into the furnace. 4829 felt a brief flash of dread then it was gone. It was an honorable death. Almost as honorable as battle. He stepped into the fire, embracing it as it engulfed him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

            “For the love of- Come on, sweetheart, we don’t got all day!” Saph’s patience was beyond gone. Rakos had convinced them to stop by his quarters to get his possessions. She had been standing out there for ten earth minutes and people were starting to stare… that wasn’t good. This wasn’t like the hospital, people here worked on the Abaddon station. Luckily, she had been changed into some white get up when she went into surgery. She wrinkled her nose. White had never suited her; it clashed against her already nearly translucent skin. She preferred her own clothes. Of course, it had been years since she’d worn them. She was also gonna need a gun soon, too. If she had one now, it would cause suspicion, as they were outlawed on Asylum save for Abaddon personnel.  Laws didn’t matter, not normally, but she wanted to be extra careful. She couldn’t wait to get her own stuff back. When she got backed to her ship, everything would be better. She was glad to see Thudd, and anxious to see how Sparky was holding up, but the Ghost was her baby. Well, her current baby. She’d blown up several of her previous ships. Not on purpose of course. It was just something that kind of happened. She wasn’t exactly the best pilot in the universe. Sparky though, was a natural. So he was her pilot, Thudd was her muscle, and she was in charge. They had a good thing going, until Core chased her down. The one time she had decided to do the right thing, and it landed her in prison. Figures. She snorted and yelled into the doorway again. “Hurry up my toes are getting numb!” The anxiety was evident in her voice now. She had sent Thudd in there with him to make sure he didn’t do anything stupid, but she didn’t really think he would need to use force or-

            The distinct sound a suppressed gunshot echoed through the atmosphere. Saph took that as her cue, and ducked into the house. The gun was on the ground, and so were the two men, tangled up in a wrestling mess.  Rakos’s sword had been flung across the room. Saph rolled her eyes as they continued to struggle. “Oh, Hell.” She grumbled, picking the gun off of the floor. She fired a warning shot into the ceiling. They became still. “I leave you alone for five minutes and you turn into grappling children?” Thudd stood immediately, wiping bits of plaster from his arms. Rakos followed, not looking the least bit apologetic.

            “Eh, sorry boss, he was trying to escape so-“

            “I don’t care.” She handed the weapon back to the Gorgonian. “Let’s get the Hell off this rock.” Thudd grunted in agreement. Rakos picked up his things, which now included two swords, and rubbed his bloodied lip. He said nothing. With that, the gang headed towards the mining district.

            Asylum’s only useful quality was its large deposits of Iiranium, a mineral used primarily for fuel. The mines had been open for over two decades now, and they still had an ample supply. Most of it went back to Logos, of course. The whole operation was overseen by Core. They took advantage of refugees in the outer system. They got paid, but it wasn’t enough. And if they got caught with Iiranium, they’d be deported back to the Primus system. That didn’t prevent outlaws from smuggling, though. That’s precisely what Thudd and Sparky had been up to for seven years. With Saph’s advice, they had remained undetected. But now that she was back, they could handle the big jobs again. Saph knew Sparky would be dying to get off planet. As they approached the mining zone, Thudd flashed his not-exactly-official credintials. The guard let them through without hesitation.

            “Must have been nice to be the top dog for once.” Saph said with a smirk.

            The Gorgonian shrugged. “Yeah, boss, it’s been nice, but kinda tame, ya know? We’re ready to set off on some big jobs again,” His eyes flickered towards Rakos for s split second. “If we get that far.”

            Saph rolled her eyes. “Come on, Thudd. The kid’s harmless.” She knew Rakos would be offened that she was talking about him like he wasn’t there, and that she called him a kid. He visibly tensed. Good, let him get mad. From what she had seen, there was strength in his anger. He could have killed her back in the hospital �" he would have if Thudd hadn’t barged in. She could use his lack of control to her advantage.

            “But boss,” his voice dropped to a low whisper and he said in Rohosi, “His name is ‘shadow’ and his swords are from my people.”

            Saph was about to point out that Rakos spoke Rohosi, but he so politely interjected, “I can understand you, pig.”

            That shut Thudd up for a while. Saph was impressed. Thudd was the biggest and the meanest creature in the galaxy and he never shut up for anyone other than her. She might just have a new second in command. Thudd wouldn’t like it, but he’d get over it eventually.

            The miners were gawking at them as they passed. It was understandable. She was a Surian hybrid, the only one in the world probably, covered in scars and tattoos, fresh out of prison and still had some blood dripping from her neck. Not to mention the huge Gorgonian and intimidating man with swords trailing behind her. She stared at them back, and they immediately averted her gaze. She didn’t have time for this crap. Soon enough though, they came to a rocky clearing. Saph expected to see her beloved ship, waiting for her with Sparky standing next to it. Much to her dismay, the clearing was empty.

            “Where the Hell is my damn ship?”

As if on cue, a sharp whining rang out �" immediately followed by the rumble of a spaceship engine. The Ghost’s curved wings appeared over the mountain top, and Saph squealed in delight.

            She was just as beautiful as always. Maybe not beautiful to an outsider; the wings were coated in rust, and soot from the planet’s surface, and it wasn’t shy of dents. But to Saph it was magnificent. The Ghost was home. The touchdown was not as graceful as the entrance, and a cloud of dirt puffed out in their direction as metal made contact with the earth. Saph took off full speed. She ran, ran towards her home, the symbol of her hardships, her failures and victories. It felt like forever, but a minute had not yet passed, by the time she reached the ship. The airlock sprung open, and a spry Surian sporting an eye patch jumped out, landing firmly on his feet.

            He said nothing. He didn’t smile. In fact, his face was void of expression. But Saph knew he was happy to see her. She also knew he didn’t like to talk. But he was a Lylis, and apparently so was she, so that meant…

            Hey, Sparky. Look what I can do.

            His good eye grew wide with shock. Saphyra?

            It had been so long since she had heard the familiar voice in her head. She didn’t realize how much she had missed the two of them, her crew. If she had friends, it would be them. But she didn’t have friends, only subordinates. And that’s what they were. Still, it was nice now to be able to talk back to the almost mute Surian telepathically. He only spoke when absolutely necessary, and he didn’t speak English. He probably knew it, as he seemed to understand most human languages, but he never spoke it. He did know Rohosi, but preferred Surian. That in itself was strange, as Lylis rarely spoke Surian, a language reserved for the lower class Hylis. But it was what he preferred. Saph preferred it too. She had always identified better with the Hylis anyway.

            Yossai dar. She told him in his head in Surian, and then out loud in English, “yeah, it’s me.”

            He hesitated, then put out his hand. It took Saph a second to realize he was offering the human greeting gesture of a handshake. She grinned, and took his hand hardily.

            “Good to see you.”

            And I, you. He responded in Surian. And Saph swore she saw him smile.

            She whisked around. “Alright, let’s get this hunk of metal back in the sky, chop-chop!”

Thudd, always eager, gave a friendly nod to Sparky, and the two hurried inside. Rakos stayed where he was. “I need to know,” he started in that soft yet firm voice of his, “who you are and what you intend to do with me.”

            Smirk still plastered comfortably on the thin skin of her cheeks, she sauntered toward him. Her face was inches from his. He didn’t move away. She could feel the heat of anger rolling off of him. “I already told you who I am.”

            “You told me your name.”

            “I told you the truth. Consider that a compliment.”

            “You are avoiding my question Saphyra.”

            She huffed a steady exhale into his face. “It’s Captain to you.”

            “You are not my captain.”

            “Oh?” She stepped back just enough to see his expression change. “Then who is?”

            Absolute dread and anger blanketed his face and thoughts. “No one.”

            “It had to be someone; you’re one of us after all.”

            “I am not like you!”

            There it was again, his unrelenting anger. Saph wanted to see it in full force. “oh yes you are, sweetheart!” she shouted back, “You think because you’re human you’re better than us, huh?”

            He gritted his teeth, his dark almond shaped eyes burning with hatred. “I’m better than you because I strive to be, not because I am human.”

            “Ha, that’s a nice line darling, but you can’t even fool yourself. You are us.

            “Shut up.”

            “The scum of the universe, a criminal-”

            “Shut up.” His voice was a growl now.

            “A vagabond, lowlife, thieving-“

            “Shut up!”

She stopped, beaming. She had him right where she wanted him. She stepped back, just a smidge, and let the silence linger. It was a deafening sort of silence. Then, when the moment felt right, she reached into his mind and reached for the very word she knew was the precise pinpoint of all his rage. Slowly, she lifted her wrist so that the little tattoo was centered in his line of vision.

            “pirate.”

Both swords were in his hands as he charged. All that rage propelled him like a bullet towards her. He was quick, but so was she, and she managed to move around behind him. His reflexes sharp, he responded instantly bringing a blade in contact with her left knee. It stung, but she couldn’t stop now. She ducked as he swung the other sword towards her neck. Damn, he was good. He kept at her as she dodged his blows, catching another in her forearm. This time she swore out loud.

            “You think you can control me? Get inside my head, manipulate me with my thoughts!” He took another swing, sending her tumbling into the dirt. Well, crap. She had underestimated him. “I am not your puppet!” Another swing. She was struggling to back away from him, but still managed to dodge. “I am not leverage!” Another swing, just past her neck. Thin strands of dark hair fell past her line of vision. But he was getting tired now, he would slip soon. She gathered up all her stamina and focused her energy.  “And I am not a Pirate!” He brought both swords up, ready to decapitate her as they fell down for one final blow. But she was focused; all her concentration bundled up into a neat ball of energy. And she let it all go with an ear splitting scream. The swords were ripped from his hands by an unseen force and sent flying into the sand. She was up again, in a fluid movement, and with inhuman speed she crashed into him. The two crashed into ground. Rakos cried out, whether from shock or pain she didn’t know. She brought a fist to his throat, as he had done to her only a few short hours ago in the hospital.

            “I could kill you.” Her voice was barely audible, but she knew he was taking in every word. His eyes pleaded with her told her not to. She did not tighten her grip, but she didn’t loosen it either. Much unlike him, she was in complete control. “I’ve got power now, power you couldn’t believe. Hell, I could rule the universe if I wanted to, and I wouldn’t even need your help.” The look on his face made her believe he knew that to be true. “But I won’t kill you. And it’s not because I like you. It’s not because I need you,” She paused then echoed a thought she had heard floating around in his head.” It’s not even because I’ve done too many bad things I need redemption for.” She leaned in slowly, so that her lips were at his ear. “It’s because I’m feeling generous.” And she released him, leaving him on the ground gasping for breath. As she turned towards the ship, she saw Thudd and Sparky standing in the doorway in complete and utter awe. “What are you looking at? Get to work.”

            “Aye, boss.” The gorgonian muttered, and they hurried back inside. Saph followed them. She left Rakos where he was. He could run if he wanted. She didn’t care anymore. She stepped into the bridge and plopped down into the hard fabric of the Captian’s chair. Finally home. She could rest. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, taking it all in. So many memories dwelled in this chair, and inside the very metal of the walls and in what was the soul of the vessel. There was so much pain, bloodshed, laughter, contentment, frustration, hatred, sadness, and misery. She breathed it all in. She inhaled, and she exhaled. Then she heard familiar footsteps. The same footsteps that had led her to freedom.

            “Permission to… come aboard, Captain?”

She didn’t open her eyes. The smile that slid onto her face, wasn’t happy but it wasn’t sad. It was from something lost in a memory.

            “Sure, sweetheart.” 



© 2014 Kira Jaye


Advertise Here
Want to advertise here? Get started for as little as $5

Author's Note

Kira Jaye
Weird transfer... sorry about that. I'll try to fix it. I'm interested in feedback about the plot and characters.

My Review

Would you like to review this Chapter?
Login | Register




Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

309 Views
Added on March 27, 2014
Last Updated on March 27, 2014
Tags: space, universe, space travel, warp, pirates, space pirates, captain, prison, break out, violence, fighting, brutes, adventure


Author

Kira Jaye
Kira Jaye

FL



About
Psychology student at the University of South Florida, Christian, Nerd, and also a musician as well as a writer. I believe all these things color my works. I started writing in sixth grade when the fi.. more..

Writing
Anna Anna

A Poem by Kira Jaye


Sorry Sorry

A Poem by Kira Jaye