Thursday, November 25, 2010


The world was blurred, far away, as if I were experiencing it from an immeasurable distance. I could see fuzzy white shadows around me, but it took all my effort to keep them from slipping into unconsciousness. I tried to move, but it seemed like my limbs wouldn’t obey me. I lay quiet, focusing on my breathing, willing the woolen wrapping around my mind to dissipate. Gradually, my surroundings came into focus. I could see, above me, the gentle glow of white ambiance lights. Beside my bed was a machine, blinking softly with green lights. To the other side, I could see a figure moving, and pushed it into focus, revealing a woman in a white coat, her hair black and long, held back from her dark skinned face by a strip of red cloth. I tried, but her features remained a blur. She leaned down over me, speaking softly.

“Ah. You’re awake, Mr. Criminal.” A cool hand was placed on my head. “Please, don’t try to move. You’re heavily sedated, and since we don’t know who you are, you’re also quite strongly restrained.” Her cold fingers gently pressed into the side of my neck. “Besides, we still have some work to do.”

I felt, as if from a long way away, a tiny pinprick in my throat, beside her fingers. I tried to struggle, but her other hand held my head still, and my limbs still would not obey me. I felt the darkness well up behind my eyes, and fell back into it, the white room flying upwards and far away from me. I reached out, stretching for awareness, but the walls of shadow rushed over and around me, and consciousness faded.

I jerk awake, sitting bolt upright, my surroundings unfamiliar. I look around, hands fumbling at my sides for a weapon, but as my eyes adjust to the darkness, I relax, making out the familiar features and layouts of a Veto member apartment. I swing my legs to the floor, and take a deep breath, as memory comes back to me: I’d fallen asleep on Caerephon’s couch, after helping him home. The poor lad had drunk too much again. I stand, my legs protesting slightly, stiff from sleeping on the less than comfortable couch, and make my way to the bathroom. The lights flick on to maximum as I cross the threshold, their glare stabbing into my eye sockets, and I wince reflexively, squeezing my eyes tightly. “Lights, dim,” I mutter, and the computer obeys, draining the white brilliance down to a dim incandescent glow.

My vision regained, I twist the cool chrome handle of the sink’s faucet, letting the water run cold. I lean down over it, watching the stream of water twinkle in the orange warmth of the room, and then put my cupped hands into its flow. The frigid shock makes my breath stop for a moment, and before I can recover, I splash the handful of icy liquid into my face, making my muscles contract with a jerk, a shiver rushing up and down my spine, and causing me to let out a shuddering exhalation. I stand upright, the water slowly dripping down my chin and neck, beginning to soak my black undershirt, and I reach for a towel, wiping my hands and face dry.

The door to the bedroom is well kept, and hardly makes a noise as I inch it open, then slide in. I leave the lights dark, not wanting to disturb the occupant, a young blonde Gallentean man, sprawled on the twisted sheets of his bed. I quietly push the door closed behind me with a click, and step forward, so that I am standing over him. He is muttering something in his sleep, and his eyes are flickering rapidly under his eyelids. I let my sight adjust to the dark, then lean over a little and run my hand through his soft golden hair. He doesn’t respond at first, but then he mumbles something, and his legs twitch. I feel a grin across my face, but can’t help it. I pull the covers back over his sleeping form, then silently let myself out, and make my way back to my own apartment.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Climbing Down to Darkness

The harsh actinic glare of the cutting torch cast sharp-edged shadows in the dim red-lit derelict vessel. Its ferocious heat slowly carved a circular entrance into the ceiling, and when the leading edge reached its point of origins, the now loose slab of tritanium slammed down to the floor, the clang echoing up and down it’s corridors. A black rope fell down from above, and pooled on the scuffed steel floor. Through the emptiness of the void surrounding the craft, a wave of radiation carried a voice, crackling with solar interference and compressive algorithms.

“Salvage Team Alpha to Claw Shrimp Away Command, we have gained ingress to the scuttled transport. Interior is quiet, emergency lighting still on. There appears to be functioning life support, sir. Permission to make entry?”

“Permission Granted, Alpha. Stay frosty, this is a prisoner transport, and we don’t know what happened,” the response came back.

“Roger that, Command. We’ll stay in contact.”

First one figure then another dropped down the rope. They are black-clad, armoured with slightly scratched and dented armour plates, their sensor studded helmets rotating to take in the interior of the craft.

“Command, this is Alpha. We’re in. Looks quiet still form here. By your scans, we should be just aft of the cells.”

One figure patted the other on the shoulder, and the other nodded, then they began to move down the corridor, their heavy boots softly clanking on the floor.

“Command, the cell block is mostly empty; only one slot is loaded. Moving to investigate.”

“Roger that, Alpha. Keep us appraised.”

“Uh, looks like the locks on the cell are disengaged, Command. We’re going in.”

The utter blackness of the room was slowly pushed back into the corners as the door swung silently open, silhouetting the intruder in the soft red glow of the emergency lighting. His head swung from side to side, and then his hand rose to the bulbous insect-like helmet. With a sharp click, seeming overly loud in the dead quiet of the space, a bright spear of light shot from a lamp on the side of the figure’s head, throwing a brilliant circle of light on the opposite wall, and resolving the vague shadows of the chamber into the shapes of a cell, with three additional sprawled forms laid across the floor. The light flicked back and forth once, checking the corners of the room, then leaped to the figures of the floor, illuminating the lifeless forms of three men, dressed in the uniforms of the Minmatar Republic military police. Beneath them was a pool of blood, completely still, but remaining a sharp crimson.

“Uh, Command, this is Alpha. We’re in the cell now, and there are no occupants, but three dead guards.”

“Roger that, Alpha. Keep investigating, but watch your backs. Who knows what kind of loony could be out here?”

“Affirmative, Command.”

The dark figure stepped into the room, until he was beside the first body, lying on its side, facing away. A new figure steps up to the doorway, and walks just inside, turning to keep a watchful eye on the corridor leading to the door. The first investigator kneels down, rolls the corpse over. The circle of his spotlight slides up the lifeless man, revealing him fully. His jacked front is a mess of blood, starting to dry slightly black, all coming from a deep wound right over the man’s heart. The light moves up, and the man’s head flops to the side as the salvager lifts him slightly off the ground, revealing the knife sticking up to the hilt in the man’s head. The man’s black gloves grasp the corpse’s chin, twist his head from side to side. On the side of the knife, the body’s eye is filled with blood, the whites gone almost burgundy.

“Command, this is Alpha. First guy down with two knife wounds, and it’s pretty brutal. I’d hazard one attacker, but a real psycho.” The light glances down to the body’s belt, then the intruder puts him back down. “It happened fast, too, Command. The bastard didn’t even have time to get his gun out.”

“Got it, Alpha. Um, I’m giving you weapons free, from here. If you see someone and he doesn’t immediately get down on the ground when you tell him, you have the go ahead to shoot, repeat, go ahead to shoot.”

“Thanks, Command. Alpha out.” The intruder by the door reaches down and slides a bulky, mean looking rail-pistol from a holster, as the other moves deeper in to the second body, this one lying on the ground face up, lifeless eyes staring at the ceiling.

At first, other than a twisted, wrong-angled elbow, the corpse does not seem visibly hurt, but when the investigator lifts him a little off the ground and shines the light up his body, it reveals fragments of skull and bits of hair in a pool of blood below the body’s head. “Void,” the man whispers, his voice seeming lost in the room. He puts the body back down, and steps to the last one, almost sitting at the back of the cell, but slumped far over. The man squats down in front of him. “Let’s see how he did you, mate,” he mumbles to himself.

The light reveals that the late guard’s shirt is utterly drenched in blood, the spatters rising up above his chin, and also seeming to have poured from his mouth and nose. The man leans in closer, twisting his head around to bring the glare of the spot into the body’s neck. It reveals a mass of stab wounds, black and puckered around the too-white flesh. The investigator stands up, and makes his way back to his partner. He puts a hand on their shoulder, and they reach up and pat his hand.

“Okay, Command. Second man had his head smashed open on the floor, and the last guy was nearly fucking decapitated. This looks really bad, Command.”

“We don’t know, Alpha. But we can tell you that we’ve gotten a hit on our deep penetrative scans. So we know two more things now. First, looks like this thing suffered from catastrophic warp drive malfunction. It all looks normal from the outside, but half the electronics on this bucket are completely scrapped, and another quarter of the rest is simply evaporated into space.”

“Well, shit, Command. We’re not gonna get much for this thing, then. Means it’s basically a block of tritanium vaguely shaped like a spaceship. So, what’s the other thing?”

“We’ve got a faint life-sign reading on the bridge, Alpha. Think you mind checking it out before heading home?”

“Roger that, Command.”

As they usually are in such craft, the bridge was extremely cramped, comprising of several stations, all brushing elbows with each other. The entrance to this particular model was a hatch in the ceiling. The locking mechanism began slowly to rotate, and then the door opened with a well-oiled hydraulic hiss. A beam of light blasted down, filling the smallish room with shadows, sharp where they touched on the main circle of light, but growing fuzzier the further they went. The inside was spattered with blood, all over the consoles, some of it even in an arc across the ceiling. The light disappeared, then a black boot fitted itself to a rung with a clunk. The other follows, and the intruder climbs down the ladder to the floor. The illuminating circle from his helmet swings about the room again, taking in the crimson sprays, then downwards to two figures lying on the ground. One is dressed in the uniform of a Republic military police ship captain, lying on his back, his uniform drenched in blood, his face white as a sheet. The light holds on him, and the vicious cut across his throat is clearly visible. The other figure, curled beside him, is still alive, his chest slowly rising and falling with breath. He is a small man, dark-skinned, not more than six inches taller than five feet, and lean, but wiry and sculpted rather than thin. His hair is shaved off, and he is wearing the costume of a prisoner, black with thick diagonal red stripes.

“Command, Alpha here. Looks like your live one is the prisoner, all curled up beside the body of the Captain.” The unconscious figure twitches slightly as the man speaks, but does not move. He continues. “Want me to continue investigations?”

“Please do, Alpha. Command out.”

The man steps in closer, avoiding the limbs of the dead captain, and kneels down on one knee above the survivor. He puts a hand on the unconscious prisoner’s shoulder, and turns him onto his back. As he does, the prisoner’s eyes fly open, and he lunges up, his hand describing an arc towards the intruder’s throat, but he is too slow, and the bigger man jerks back, allowing the knife to trace a skittering line of sparks across his armoured chest. Then his steel-clad elbow connects with the other man’s temple, and he slumps back to the floor, his eyes flickering close.

“Void! The little fucker just tried to kill me! With a goddamn Knife!”

“Uh, are you in danger, Alpha? Please say again.”

“Sorry Command. He was awake, and when I went to turn him over, he tried to cut my throat. Uh, negative, though. I knocked him out, he should be safe, now.”

“Roger that, Alpha.” A faint laugh comes over the com system, seemingly not belonging to the man addressed as Command, and then there is a faint pause. “Okay, Alpha. We’ve got orders. You are to ship the survivor to us, and do not, I repeat NOT, harm him. From Black Claw’s own mouth, Alpha.”

“Shit, really?” The figure clicks his mic off, and sighs, muttering a more potent curse, then turns it back on. “Affirmative, Command. We’re on our way back.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Shining Arc

The room was dark, with the exception of a single bright light creating a pool of visibility in the center of the room. I felt as though I was watching from afar, but I could see my body, standing beside a rough wooden table in the centre. I tried to shout, but no sound came out. I couldn’t move. Two men appeared behind me, dressed in the uniforms of Veto Corporation Security. They grabbed my shoulders, pressed me down until my cheek was resting against the coarse wood of the table. I still couldn’t move, couldn’t scream a warning to myself. It was like I was wrapped in molasses. A huge figure appeared in the edges of the light behind me, the gloom concealing his identity until he stepped forward into the circle. An enormous Gallente man, with spiked red hair; undoubtedly Ethan Verone, the man who leads my alliance. I can’t understand what’s happening, until my mind finally registers that the object dangling loosely from his left hand is a vicious axe, well worn with use, but with a glinting razor edge. He extends a hand to my head, rests it there for a moment, then says “Sorry, kid, but they’re shouting for blood, and I have to give them something. Maybe next time you’ll think twice before going off half-cocked, hmm?” I try to look away, shut my eyes, anything, but can’t, as that axe rises into the air, then hangs above his head for one glimmering second, before crashing down...

I jerk awake, my eyes flicking open, but there’s only darkness. Then, they begin to adjust, and I can make out my apartment. I pull myself into a sitting position, my body covered in a cold sweat, the sheets twisted around me. I rub my neck, feeling a dull ache. “Lights,” I mutter, then shout as the room flares to actinic white brilliance. The glare stabs into me even through my closed eyelids, and I add “Lights, Dusk.” I see the glare of the lights fade, and risk opening my eyes. It’s better now, I’m bathed in a soft orange glow. I rub my forehead, wiping away the drops of cold sweat, and swing my legs over the edge of the bed. It’s early, but I may as well take a shower, and go fly something. No way I’m sleeping again.