Isindyll: The Arc of Deep Space (Peregrine x J_"Kr

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by Peregrine, Jul 14, 2015.

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  1. Rhys’evin hadn’t known the transfer was about to happen until it was only seconds away from occurring. The first clue was the sound of metal hitting the floor outside the cell, detectable by faint vibrations carried through the equally metal floor and walls that pressed in on all sides. The space was miniscule, barely large enough for all the various body parts to fit within, and it had been a massive struggle for the guards to actually succeed in closing off the space with the intended prisoner inside. More than a few of Rhys’evin’s many tendril-like feelers had been lost in the effort to keep the door from closing.

    Rhys’evin knew it was well deserved. In fact, it could almost be called flattering that they had taken such precautions to ensure escape would be impossible. Not only was the space tiny, preventing the tendrils from forming into a form that might be somewhat useful, but they had quickly discovered the Karthk’yarii dependence on food, and what would happen if the quantity of meals was drastically reduced. At this point thoughts were almost incoherent babble, barely decipherable even to the individual to which they belonged. What was more, many tendrils now littered the floor, dead and withered in a desperate attempt to preserve and use what little resources were left. The guards were taking every precaution, and making a few up along the way. Rhys’evin was starting to worry.

    No, that wasn’t quite true. Rhys’evin was starting to feel fear. It was a foreign emotion, even more so because this was its first appearance. Up until that moment, Rhys’evin had never doubted that any situation was escapable, no matter how deep the trouble seemed to get. It was starting to become a challenge to continue to believe that fact. Was it possible this cell would be the only view until the Empire decided upon an appropriate punishment, and life fled? No, it wasn’t possible.

    This unexpected visit was simply proof of that. Every time something changed there was an opportunity for escape. Of course, maybe this wasn’t it. As soon as the door was open a bag filled the space, and was slowly pushed into the cell until Rhys’evin was forced to enter. The moment that happened the bag was sealed, and the sudden whirring of a pump was accompanied by the air being slowly drained from the bag. Rhys’evin knew that a few more feelers would die for this stunt, but the lack of air would not be deadly. What it would do was completely restrict movement, making escape not only impossible, but putting it among the category of things that included “Uetie acting selfish” and “Syastin creating chaos”.

    What the bag did not do was create a senseless zone. The vibrations through the bag made it more than possible to hear the conversation that was taking place outside, even if it was somewhat muffled. Rhys’evin was more than happy to listen in. Maybe they would drop a clue about what was happening.

    “What a monster.”

    Rhys’evin wanted to protest. The Karthk’yarii might have been a bit odd, being one of the few species that had no definitive form but could weave together their feelers to create a facsimile of almost any species, but they certainly weren’t the worse. The current trophy of grotesque belonged to one of the guards not dragging the bag along the ground, an unnatural behemoth who looked to be made of nothing more than blobs of gelatinous green fat, contained by a thin, translucent membrane, which would occasionally split open, letting some of the goop slide out. It would promptly turn red upon contact with air and liquify, running down the things side, only to be promptly consumed by the hundreds of mouths that ringed the bottom of the monstrous body. Then again, it was entirely possible that they weren’t actually referring to appearance. If they were referring to acts of cruelty against the Empire, Rhys was more than happy to take the trophy.

    “At least the thing won’t be our responsibility anymore.”

    Was that so? Then whose responsibility would “the thing” become?

    “I hope it’s finally getting what it deserves.”

    There was a muttered chorus of agreement. Rhys’evin did not agree. Unfortunately, the guards did not seem to know much more than that, as they continued to drag bag and prisoner through the winding corridors and out of the underground penitentiary that housed some of the most dangerous individuals imprisoned by the local sixth council. It had not been prepared to house someone like Rhys’evin, and the warden had been forced to evacuate the entire bottom floor and converted it into one giant containment unit. If they were performing a transfer now, it meant Rhys was being taken to somewhere that was better prepared. That was not a good thing.

    The one bad thing about the bag was that it did completely restrict Rhys’ ability to get a sense of the surrounding area. There was no way to know what was coming. However, it was possible to recognize the already large entourage of guards growing even larger as the procession rose through the levels. But once they were outside of the prison Rhys’evin lost all sense of where they were, or any ability to predict what was coming. It was a silent, tense wait as, two by two, the guards peeled away, only to be replaced by others. These others seemed notably more professional than Rhys’ old friends, as there was no chatter or shifting among them, only the sound of timed footsteps for those with two legs.

    Suddenly, and with almost no warning, the bag was ripped away. Rhys’evin was moving in an instant, and there was a shout of surprise alarm from the surrounding guards at the speed of the unexpected attack. Rhys was, however, forcibly and violently halted when a mass of feelers, shaped together into a needle-like spear, was halted less than a millimeter away from the nearest guard’s face. Or at least what looked like its face. Eyes were usually a good bet.

    Something fluid that was not water or goop or any other substance Rhys had ever felt was moving from the floor, slowly enveloping the enraged Karthk’yarii, separating every one of the woven feelers, not only halting any chance of controlling them, but also able to move them against Rhys’ own volition. It only took a moment for Rhys to come to a startling understanding of what was happening. The floor, the walls, the ceiling of the cell was moving in, slowly enveloping every feeler, trapping them more completely than they had ever been trapped. It was a deadening sensation, one that cut out all ability for sensation, and reminded Rhys of one of the rights of passage among the Karthk’yarii that involved near death starvation, and every one of the feelers had fallen away.

    It was completely terrifying.

    Just before the strange cell completely closed in, Rhys’evin heard a short conversation.

    “Now do you see what I mean, Isindyll?” There was a Vollori Captain in front of him, face intense. “This thing is dangerous, heartless, compassionless, and if it gets out, it will slaughter everything on board without a second thought.”

    “I understand, Yolhn,” replied a high, sweet, feminine, almost childlike voice.

    “There is no mercy in this monstrosity,” Captain Yolhn pushed. “Only ice.”

    “I won’t let it out Yolhn. I promise.”

    Then the conversation was cut out and Rhys’evin was left in suspension, completely and totally deprived of everything and anything.
     
    #1 Peregrine, Jul 14, 2015
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2015
  2. Nyarri was not claustrophobic. Though she had been raised upon a planet, and by rights developed a fear of enclosed spaces, she was also a marine of the Empire. By now, she had spent more revelars aboard ships with crammed corridors, tight airlocks, and enclosed cabins than within the familiar, tugging pull of a planet's gravity. Any claustrophobia had been squashed by experience and training. On all accounts, the thought of being aboard a ship so large it could afford the space for its own air producers and greenhouses should have been tantalizing to any travel-hardened soldier. And yet..

    And yet this was entirely different.

    Hallways wide enough for three suddenly became as constricting as service vents. Rooms that could house a squad of marines comfortably were rat cages. Not even gazing out into the empty void of space would help quiet the sensation, she knew that much. The knowledge that she was not inside a ship, but rather inside a being unsettled Nyarri. The other marines in her unit, the other Vollori, made no such feeling public and she knew that nothing, particularly running like a child to a commanding officer, would relieve her of the feeling that her world had been made far too minuscule far too quickly. The weight of a weapon bouncing on her hip and the stretch and pull of combat armor had helped force the constriction to the background of her mind, though she knew that eventually the suit would have to come off and the weapon would have to be placed back in its rack.

    Her unit had stood around Captain Yolhn ceremoniously as he escorted the prisoner. Three on either side of their superior, the other four escorting the ominously limp, air-tight bag containing it. That had been all they had called it. Rhys'evin. Though each marine under Yolhn's command had been briefed on what the thing lying motionless in the bag could do, no data report, diagram, or analysis had helped stamp the nature of rumor. From rumor, Nyarri had learned that it was either a biological weapon made by the Empire, or else a sentient parasite. That it was deadly as two squads of hardened marines or as powerful as entire warships. That it killed for vengeance or to help bring down the Empire for some resistance movement or another.

    "Let the Karthk’yarii out," Yohln ordered dryly.

    The guards currently clinging tightly to the induced-vacuum bag tore it open and hefted it upwards, letting something spill out onto the floor in a mass of feelers. Before Nyarri could truly analyze what had fallen out, it had surged forwards, towards her. Time slowed down as the marine reached for her MAC. Before the weapon could clear its holster, the creature was suspended by less than a finger's breadth away from her face, body tightened into a sharp point.

    There they both hung, frozen in place until the needle before Nyarri was dragged out of reach and enveloped entirely in an organic mass of tissue. Yolhn ordered someone to do something about the thing that had come with millimeters of skewering her. Nyarri couldn't hear what her captain had said, but her attention was dragged back to the present when the ship responded. The voice could have come from the most delicate child, but to the marine it was more disturbing because of it.

    "I won't let it out Yolhn. I promise."

    The ship could do what no other prison ship could do. It could care for the assassin it housed, and if it felt inclined to help it escape there would be nothing the occupants could do to stop it. They would be thrown from airlocks, locked in cabins, or imprisoned in organic cells until that mass of tentacles was the only thing remaining. Suddenly, the tugging sensation of claustrophobia was very real once more. Only now the fear of the ship went beyond the understanding that it was alive. Nyarri was as insignificant as any individual cell in a body. Worse, she was an antibody in an organism that was immune to infection. A blood vessel in a creature that didn't bleed.

    "I don't want anyone making any attempt at contact with that thing, understand? It will kill you well before you realize the gravity of your mistake. The others in your unit will be the next to wonder what your mistake will truly cost before they too are lifeless corpses upon the ground. If I suspect anyone of any involvement with the thing in that cell beyond staring at it threateningly, you will be replaced immediately. Am I understood?"

    The captain was met with a chorus of acknowledgement. He left the chamber, offering one last glance backwards towards the gel prison. Had he felt that same fear Nyarri had? Or was he like all the other Vollori - skilled in hiding fear until it was too late? With a faint, grim amusement she wondered which was worse and took her place by the doorway the captain had exited through, having no focus but for the cell.

    "Might be best to have weapons free," Nyaeri said in her guttural, vibrating voice, "won't get to draw if it breaks free."

    "It'll never break containment," one of the Vollori commented dryly. "We are here on a mission of looks and looks alone. Here to look threatening, wave some weapons around, take this thing where it'll never be our problem again. That briefing? All to make sure we know there's no way this thing will get back to civilized space."

    On a normal ship, he would be correct in his assumption. On this one? A living thing with its own thoughts, experiences, and desires? It would like entrusting the entirety of the Empire to a newborn child in every facet. There would be advisors, voices of reason, guiding hands, but ultimately, a child was a child. The captain, the liason officers, the pilots, they were all just there to suggest a proper path to this thing, this ship. It was master here. It was the hand of fate.
     
    #2 J_"Kraken", Jul 15, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2015
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  3. Rhys’evin was quaking. Were it not for the training all Karthk’yarii were subjected to, sanity would have certainly been replaced by madness at this point. All of the other prisoners in this place, Rhys’evin couldn’t imagine the living ship was being used just for the sake of a single prisoner, would have almost certainly succumbed to sensory-deprived madnes by now. Rhys’evin had no way of telling how much time had passed since the transfer. It could have been many Solors or even a Var. It could have been only a few Ticks. It couldn’t have been only a few Ticks. If it had only been a few Ticks, madness seemed inevitable. If only it was possible to sense something. Some faint trace of light or sound or motion would allow the passage of time to become more overt, and would keep the madness at bay longer. But such was impossible. Even the faint quaking of the feelers was lost in this motionless substance.

    Suddenly, however, something else was coming. Rhys’evin didn’t understand what it was until the lump of soft goop was shoved into the small, exposed, beak-like mouth that was the only truly solid thing on the Karthk’yarii body. Food. The ship, the strange, living ship that was so skilled at containment, was giving Rhys food. That was something on which to orient. It had been one Solor since the last meal, because for the last Revalar and a half that Rhys had been imprisoned the guards had brought food once every Solor like clockwork. That meant this imprisonment had lasted approximately 40 to 45 Delens. It wasn’t even a full Solor, but still Rhys’evin’s quaking stilled. It was something.

    Food became the most important thing in the world. It had always been important, Rhys’evin was supposed to eat, at a very minimum, three times every Solor to remain healthy, but now it was the only lifeline in the middle of the Void. There was nothing for Rhys to do but count the Solors that passed, and watch as more and more feelers withered away under the effects of painfully slow starvation. For a time the ship did not seem to notice that some of the feelers were no longer attached, but when it did it pulled them out of the cell. Rhys’evin couldn’t help but wonder what it did with them.

    Every Solor the situation began to seem more and more hopeless. If wherever they were going was even more escape proof than this place, Rhys’evin would never escape. Maybe, for the first time, Rhys had miscalculated. It only needed to happen once.

    No. Courage. Rhys’evin had been in tight spaces before, and every single one of them had been escapable. That would not change now.

    But something did change. Something that gave Rhys a burst of new hope.

    “Why are you withering?”

    The sound was so foreign and unexpected that it took Rhys’evin longer than desired to understand what was going on. The strange cell jostled slightly.

    “Why are you withering?” came the voice again, slightly more insistently.

    Rhys knew that voice. It was the ship. The ship was speaking. It had returned to the one thing to which it had been forbidden, just like a curious child.

    “I’m not withering. I’m dying.” Bound tight, it was nearly impossible to speak. Rhys’ true mouth was not capable of making sound, so it was normally necessary to weave together the fibers to form an adequate facsimile. But even creatures who had something shoved down their throat could still be understood, and so too could Rhys.

    “Dying?” The ship sounded somewhat alarmed at the prospect. This gave Rhys an unexpected insight. The ship was compassionate. Even though it knew it was talking to a murderer, had undoubtedly been warned about Rhys countless times, it was still alarmed at the thought of Rhys dying. Fascinating.

    “Yes. I am being slowly starved to death. It may take many more Revalars, before it would be complete, but the captain is killing me.”

    “...Does he know?” The ship sounded like it already knew the answer. Rhys responded anyways.

    “Yes. They want to keep me weak and controllable, no matter the consequences.”

    “But isn’t that cruel?”

    Rhys picked at the words carefully, not wanting to offend the ship, but at the same time not wanting to lessen the apparent significance to the ship of this act of cruelty. For Rhys’evin, cruelty was a part of life. Sometimes it was the only way to achieve a goal.

    “Many things in life are cruel. Have there never been any cruelties exacted against you?”

    “Well, yes. But I don’t think they knew I was there at the time.”

    Rhys took a moment to puzzle over this odd statement, before deciding it made little sense. Perhaps if there was more food...

    “I think they definitely know I’m here, ship.”

    “Isindyll.”

    “What?”

    “My name is Isindyll.”

    Had this body posessed eyes, Rhys’evin would have blinked in surprise. “My apologies, Isindyll.”

    That statement seemed to take the ship by surprise, although it did not speak again. Rhys’evin waited, patient, hopeful, expectant, but it did not return. Perhaps it had gotten offended, although Rhys could not guess at what.

    The sudden arrival of food was an unexpected shock. Rhys may not have had any methods to tell time, but the time between the arrival of food had become familiar. This was not familiar. Rhys took the food without question.

    When it was swallowed, Rhys spoke, softly but insistently.

    “Isindyll?” There was no reply. “Isindyll?”

    Finally an answer came. “Yes?”

    “You are bringing me more food.” It wasn’t a question.

    “Yes.”

    “Did the captain tell you to?”

    There was a long, awkward pause. Finally, “No.”

    “Yet you are doing it anyways?”

    “Yes.”

    The unexpected stab of hope was deliciously painful. It was feeding him. Maybe that meant it, or perhaps it would be better to start thinking of it as her, lest that objecifying pronoun slip out and risk scaring it... her away, would be willing to break more rules. Rhys would have to approach this carefully.

    “Thank you, Isindyll.”

    “You’re welcome.”

    Over the course of the coming Solors, Rhys began to feel the stubs of new feelers slowly emerging. It was a delightful sensation.
     
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  4. "You're killing him."

    Yolhn dismissed the echoing voice to his imagination - he had told the ship he wanted nothing within his own quarters save for the most important matters. He had not yet felt the familiar shaking that followed a direct hit from an enemy weapon. No liaison officer has contacted him via the tightbeam communications network they had established, and unless the captain had suddenly been stricken deaf, he could discern no alarm klaxons from the (slightly offsetting) din of the ship around him.

    "You're killing him!" the ship repeated. Annoyed, Yolhn wheeled in his chair and faced nowhere in particular. So ingrained in his mind that voices came from holoboards or physical beings that he had momentarily stumbled.

    "Killing what?" He knew perfectly well what Isindyll was referring to.

    "This thing is dangerous, heartless, compassionless, and if it gets out, it will slaughter everything on board without a second thought," the voice was bitter, almost resentful, "You're the one killing him!"

    "Him? When did I state that this creature had an identified sex? This murderer is a writhing mass of tentacles with a few potent tricks up its sleeve, nothing more. Whatever you perceived as death is but a physical reaction to st- to your imprisonment."

    "It sounds like a 'he'," Isindyll replied. "He said he was dying! If I could only feed him more, maybe he could feel better about being trapped."

    Yolhn pressed thumb and forefinger across his steadily creasing forehead in agitation. If his ship began feeling any remorse for its actions, began to care for the prisoners, it would mean a messy flight. Realizing his current tactic of dismissing the circumstances as a quirk of the assassin's species was only serving to embolden Isindyll, he changed course.

    "If we feed him any more, he will begin to grow again and-"

    "He'll stop dying!"

    Not amused, Yolhn continued, "He will kill everyone on that floor, possibly more. Think, which is more pressing? The death of one killer or dozens of innocents?"

    "He didn't choose th-"

    "The others didn't choose to have you unleash the monster..."

    "Understood..." The ship sounded defeated, though Yolhn doubted this would be the last conversation the two would share over the assassin's fate.

    But best to leave that for another time.

    ---

    Nyarri had not been quite sure what the periodic, sickening sound the cell made heralded. Every so often, about once or twice a Solor, the pod would writhe, something within its confines would stir, and the motion would cease as quickly as it had come. Originally, her unit had dismissed the bursts of activity as just that: random biological processes acting out, nothing of note. Though now, a good while after their ship had taken flight into the Void beyond, the activity was beginning to take place more often.

    Her initial reports of the increased activity had left Yolhn equally bemused and inquisitive. Her orders from then were to report a further increase in the activity to the on-board technicians (if that term was applicable, which she doubted) and await further instruction. That hadn't happened yet. In the absence of true activity or work whatsoever, Nyarri's unit had taken to short-lived conversations to break the silent tension. Though they had shared the tedium of a space flight before, there had always been a mission to discuss, plans to go over, last-minute training to share. None had a stated goal so simple - 'stand and report.'

    "How do you figure the Uetie made this thing a living ship?" Kallou, the unit's acting commander, questioned. This has not been the first time he had prompted the question, and every time he had, they had come to the same conclusion: no one had the expertise or claim to knowledge to accurately answer it.

    "I figure it doesn't matter," Nyarri replied, eyes shifting over to Kallou with a flicker of dim amusement.

    A pause followed and another marine spoke up, "I still say they have some sort of body somewhere, hooked into some wiring network."

    "Doesn't explain the hull," Kallou retorted, shaking his head vigorously, "I think it has to be an AI given a full body, like a synthetic android..."

    "Only much bigger with engines, weapon systems, and a team of tiny cells to operate it?" Nyarri's airways stretched and snapped back in an instant, producing a sharp huff of disapproval. "No, the Uetie have developed feats of technology far greater than this before. Something about an organic body makes the warp process more efficient."

    "You spent time with a Uetie recently, praetor?" Questioned Kallou. It wasn't a joking question, Nyarri knew that.

    "Picked up some chatter with the engine 'techs. They don't quite know what makes this thing tick, but they do know that our fuel keeps coming back."

    Their conversation was cut short: Kallou's communications unit was ringing dimly. The marine snapped to attention and answered it. Nyarri, not being one to pick up on only one half of a conversation attempted to link in to the call. Access denied. Lightly huffing again, she waited for her commander's call to finish, beginning to rake her clawed fingers across the side of her holster. Had it been made of any standard materials, the thing would have been worn through by now with how many times its owner had resorted to this means of chipping away at the hours.

    "New orders. For the next three Solors, this cell's on high alert. Weapons free, keep them aimed."

    "Yolhn say why?" Questioned a marine, unfastening his weapon among the din of others doing the same.

    "No, but something tells me it has to do with our transport's little flaw."

    Little flaw. That certainly was one way to put to terms a living ship.

    "Well, you heard the man," Kallou stated dryly, "High alert, time to stand around and look threatening."

    "With guns." Nyarri added.
     
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  5. “They hate you. Especially the Captain. He really hates you.”

    It was a rather unexpected set of sentences for a greeting, but Rhys’evin took it in stride. Since that morning, or whatever time of day it had been, when Isindyll had inquired into why the feelers had been steadily falling off, she had come back moderately frequently. It seemed the act of flying and navigating did not take much of her attention, and she could multitask better than any living creature Rhys’evin had met.

    At first their conversations had been very short. Most likely Isindyll was testing how far she could push before the reaction would be frustration or anger. She had said some particularly insulting things, trying to provoke an angry reaction. Rhys’evin had treated her much like any Karthk’yarii would treat a Kor’lk pup that needed training. They were wild beasts, as was everything on Rhys’evin’s homeworld, but with the right training they could become loyal to the point of death.

    Therefore, when Isindyll did something that was obviously supposed to be rude or pushing the boundaries of civilized behavior, Rhys would ignore her. Rhys would stop responding until she either returned to polite conversation or, if the attack was more serious, until she apologized. The first time Rhys had done that she had stormed away, exactly like an enraged child. For a time Rhys had silently panicked that she wouldn’t come back.

    She had.

    From that point their relationship progressed well. Rhys told enchanting stories of the many adventures hidden within dark corners of the Empire. Isindyll particularly enjoyed stories of some of the beautiful, exotic planets that it was possible to find in faraway galaxies, and the bizarre life that would grow on them. The longer they talked, the more convinced Rhys became that she was no longer seeing a murderer contained in her cell, but an acquaintance. Perhaps soon enough she would see a friend. Never once in all their conversations was Isindyll greeted with indifference or rudeness. There were no shortcuts to make her believe she was the most important thing that had ever been present in Rhys’ life. In many ways, she was.

    But, in all that time, she had never spoken of two things. She never broached the subject of why Rhys was a prisoner, and she never spoke of the people on board. Perhaps she was afraid that mentioning either of those thing would remind Rhys that the Karthk’yarii was supposed to be a heartless killer, and she would lose a friend.

    That was why her greeting was such a surprise.

    “I know.”

    “Why do they hate you?”

    Rhys was not a naturally honest creature. In fact, it was entirely possible to say that dishonesty was a far more natural state than honesty. There was very little Rhys’evin had ever done that required honesty, even before the Empire ship had arrived on the homeworld and opened the doors to the galaxy. No, Rhys was anything but honest. But, if honesty was the only option to continue existing, blatant honesty it would be.

    “Are you sure you want to ask that Isindyll? I will answer you.”

    “I want...” she hesitated. “No. Not yet.”

    “Okay. What would you like to talk about today.”

    Isindyll gave another gift shortly after that conversation. Before that point the organic material of her body had always been rigidly solid. However, now it softened and became more supple. Rhys’evin was still undoubtedly trapped, there was no question of moving any of the feelers or shifting the occupied space, but it did soften. What that allowed was faint traces of the outside world to reach Rhys. It was like watching the world through a blanket, but even a blanket was better than nothing. It was very faint sensation, just enough to offer a taste of what was happening outside in. Rhys let out a faint, contented hum. It would be impossible to know what the people outside were saying, but it would be possible to know when someone approached, or when the guards began changing shifts.

    Combined with the return of the feelers, it was almost like feeling whole again.

    When Isindyll was not around or interested in talking, which, ever so slowly, grew into a smaller and smaller portion of each Solor, Rhys’evin watched the rotations of the guards almost obsessively, memorizing how they moved, when they came and went, trying to get a sense for which were the most professional and which might be less important targets. If, no, when, the opportunity for escape presented itself Rhys wanted every possible advantage. There wasn’t much to be garnered simply from silhouettes and vague information, but it was so much better than the nothing that had been before.
     
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  6. Some spent their time off shifts catching up on missed rest. Some viewed listlessly into the Void as it zipped by at speeds unimaginable to those on board. Nyarri trained. Though others had spent a good share of the downtime doing the same, none had remained for longer than an hour at a time. None seemed to perceive the assassin as the threat Nyarri perceived it to be, and why should they? They hadn't been put to the test of reflexes and lost like she had. They hadn't experienced the sheer terror of watching years of training and experience fall short, and next time, she doubted the ship would be there to play cleanup with their slack.

    Though firing ranges had been deemed obsolete (auto-correction, aim adjustment, and heads-up-displays had made being a soldier less about marksmanship and more about reflexes a machine couldn't possess), nothing had prevented Nyarri from practicing within the confines of her own, admittedly, shared quarters. Every moment spent drawing her MAC from its holster felt like one small step towards outdoing the superior biological killer that awaited her behind its fleshy prison. Every melee drill - sometimes with comrades, others with training simulations - helped chip away at the fear it had instilled.

    In her maddened state of preparation, she had forgotten the claustrophobia. She had forgotten the ship. She had left everything behind but one purpose: ensuring she was still tougher than anything thrown her way. But every half Solor, her training would be cut and she would be forced back to the chamber. Back to her unseen, unresponsive enemy.

    Rhys' chamber was still at a steady high alert, the period having been extended well beyond three Solors now. An entire unit, ten marines, would have to actively be watching the cell. This meant that once a door was opened, a pair would leave as soon as a pair was ready to take its place. Had this been a stand prison ship, incapable of literally engulfing its cargo, perhaps the ritual of changing shifts would have been done with poise and precision. As the situation stood, the garrison had grown lazy. Complacent. Let Yolhn sit and worry over the ship and its new found acquaintance, so long as the nightmare remained in its cell, they doubted the likelihood it would ever leave until ordered to.

    Nyarri was one of the last to enter the chamber. The others before her unit had more or less attempted to follow the rule of two-in, two-out, but in truth they had left all at once and left the room empty for a brief moment. Once inside, each of Nyarri's comrades had unfastened the knots at their holsters and stood with one hand on the handle of the weapon, gaze occasionally flickering to mound of shifting organics before them. Nyarri's own hand was unsteady on her weapon, jolting at any sudden motion (be it from friend or foe), believing every slight shift in the room to be her chance to break loose at last.

    If the ship could perceive everything that went on inside of its own body, and if the ship could communicate with the prisoner, then it would know everything about the layout of the guards. The room. The way they changed shifts. But then, Nyarri already knew that, and she hoped the others had the sense to know that as well. At first she had believed the captain's sudden change in demeanor regarding the killer would have provoked a reaction, any reaction in the other marines. So far, that belief was proving to be unfounded. Once more, if the Vollori felt anything internally about the situation, they did not make the feeling public.

    And such it always was with the Vollori. Orders over independence. Their captain had ordered them to a higher alert status, and until told to do otherwise, they would treat the cell as if it were no more than a simulation. Something separated from the real world. If Nyarri had not believed slackening her own, if excessive, measures as falling to the complacent levels of those around her, she would have done so by now. But even as the pod writhed once more, and the Scromi marine felt that seem thrilling sensation of adrenaline and synapses firing at peak efficiency, only to realize nothing of note had happened, she still felt the time spent training was well spent.

    She believed she was the toughest being on the ship again, felt the assassin was an equal match for her now. The only thing that could pose a threat now was the ship, but Nyarri wouldn't it be a problem. Everything was hers, nothing was beyond her grasp. Ignore that she could be hurled from the airlock at any moment, ignore the prisons the ship could summon at will. Her reality existed of herself, her training, and the beast beyond the gates.
     
  7. There was one thing that was changed by Isindyll’s decision to let sensation into her organic prison, and it was something that hadn’t really occurred to Rhys’evin until that moment. Isindyll traveled nearly silently. Rhsy had been on many different ships before, from luxury spacecrafts that were so huge it could take well over four Delens to walk from one side to the other, and on tiny police crafts that could dart halfway across the galaxy on less than half a tank of fuel, but the one thing that had always been omnipresent on board either of these ships was the sound of the engine. On the giant ships it was subtle, nothing more than a faint vibration in the bones that caused the water on tables to tremble, while on the little ships it was far more like a scream than a drone, but it was always there. Except on Isindyll.

    If Rhys’evin had been in a position to think about it, it probably would have made sense. Isindyll didn’t have engines. Whatever it was that caused her to move was a part of her living-ness, not some machine forced inside of her. But the really spectacular thing was, even when she entered warp and used the synthetic black-hole fuel she alone could produce to rip a hole through space-time and appear somewhere else, there was only a faint lurch, barely enough to sway someone who was solidly planted on their feet. She was built to do this, and to do it to the best of her ability. It was nearly flawless.

    However, even with limited sensory perception, this made it nearly impossible to tell when they were entering and leaving warp, when the ship was at a resting standstill, or when it was flitting through the void faster than the speed of light, albeit still slower than the warp. Up until this point it had been irrelevant, beyond the scope of imprisoned imagination. Now, however, Rhys had reason to think about it, and to begin to worry.

    Isindyll was undoubtedly bonding with her newfound friend, but it was a slow, gradual process of careful attention and wooing. Eventually there would be a tipping point, a stage in their relationship where it would change from a friendship of convenience into something deeper, and at that point Isindyll would no longer be content to see the Karthk’yarii taken away from her, and left who-knew-where. Rhys’evin held no illusions. If they were to arrive at their destination right now Isindyll would be sorry to see Rhys get taken away, but she would not put up a fight. Rhys needed that fight.

    Yet the beginning strain of time pressure was far worse than simply not knowing. Under the pressure of not knowing when they were arriving at their destination but having the subtle clues of getting closer and closer, it would be possible to make a mistake, push too hard, and risk chasing Isindyll away forever. That was a risk that was too big to take.

    So it was, as their rather unusual and, at least to Rhys, unintelligible conversation about what it was like to have people living inside of her came to an end, Rhys did something brand new, and asked a question.

    It was a calculated risk. Before this point Rhys had never wanted to ask Isindyll for information, fearing that the ship would think that their friendship was just a ploy to get information. At the same time, Rhys knew that the time pressure would only continue to grow until it was finally too much and led to a mistake. That mistake would likely be much more catastrophic than asking a question. The question was the lesser of two evils.

    Of course, Rhys did not straight out ask how much longer they would be on their journey. That would have been far too abrupt. It would be far better to ease her into it. Hopefully it would only take the one question, and it would be possible to subtly guide the conversation the rest of the way.

    “How long have we been traveling, Isindyll?”

    “Just under three Vars.” Her answer brought a wash of relief, not so much for the time frame, which was alarmingly high already, but because she had not seemed the least bit hesitant about answering the question. Perhaps this was simply a question that was asked so often it hadn’t even occurred to her to wonder why Rhys might not be asking. Perhaps, though, she was comfortable with being asked questions. There was no way to know.

    “That’s quite the journey already.”

    “It is! I was never let out for longer than a Delen before this trip. It is so exciting.”

    “I would have thought they’d be worried to let you go on such a voyage.”

    “I think they were, but this is what I’m supposed to do. They... made me so that I could take people to the edge of the galaxy and back while still having enough power to warp.”

    The list of things they didn’t talk about was quite large. They never talked about what Rhys had done to get imprisoned. They never talked about the guards, except for funny stories that Isindyll wanted to share. They never talked about where they were going, or what would happen when they got there. It had never occurred to Rhys to add the fact that Isindyll had been created by scientists to that list, but that was another thing they never talked about. It was rare for Isindyll to bring it up at all. Rhys couldn’t blame her. The training that all Karthk’yarii, young and old, went through had undoubtedly shaped Rhys, but it had not truly been a creation, only a sculpting. It was impossible to imagine what it felt like to be created.

    “I’m sorry.”

    “What?”

    “...I’m sorry?”

    Somehow, Isindyll seemed to understand what Rhys was awkwardly trying to say. She squeezed gently. “It’s okay. I like my job. I’m going to get to see lots of things that most people won’t ever get to see. Someday, I’m going to see all those places you’ve told me about.”

    “I’m sure you will.” The silence quickly began to stretch. There was no choice but to ask the next question.

    “What are you going to see now?”

    There was a faint, bubbling laugh. “I’ve imagined you asking me where we are going so many ways, Rhys, and that was by far the least subtle of all of them!”

    Had Isindyll been able to see Rhys at that moment, she would have seen several of the feelers flushing the faintest shade of pink at their tips. It was impossible to speak again. For a time, Rhys thought Isindyll was gone, although the sound of her laughter had seemed amused, not mocking.

    Indeed, before long, she spoke again. “I’m not mad, Rhys. You probably deserve to know. It is your fate, after all. I just... don’t like to think about it. I don’t like to think about you, there.”

    “Where am I going?”

    “I’m taking... we are going to a planet Yolhn called Kadorak. It is in an uninhabited solar system, and from what I’ve gathered the place is... unpleasant. It barely has any atmosphere, and the life on it is limited to things growing in small pockets of water. You’ll probably have to live deep underground in order to survive, because the days are almost unbearably hot, and the nights freezing cold. I know Yolhn doesn’t think any of you will make it even close to a Var. It is a planet for slow, painful executions.”

    “Unpleasant, huh?” Rhys replied, sounding surprisingly unconcerned about his fate. Isindyll giggled despite herself, but sobered up quickly.

    “How long until we get there?”

    “Another Var, maybe two if I slowed down a bit. The Uetie told me not to rush, because they wanted to get a good sense for how I fly, and data about my warp capacities. Our course isn’t exactly a straight one.”

    Another Var, maybe two, to live. Unless Isindyll decided Rhys’ freedom was more important than anything else. Somehow, it still felt like a possibility.
     
    • Love Love x 1
  8. Vaadwan's role upon Isindyll officially held no capacity in terms the Empire used for other vessels. He was, to certain degrees of the word, a technician, though that was inaccurate for there was very little on Isindyll to repair. Perhaps in the figurative sense of the word, he was a technician of the ship's mental capacity. The first problem with any form of living being, particularly one inclined to expanded sentience, was the tendency for mental fatigue to become more damaging than physical fatigue could be. In fact, with Isindyll's capability to absorb solar radiation (which was for all effects infinite), physical fatigue was nearly impossible over extended periods.

    So no, Vaadwan believed he did not serve a traditional role - he was as much a psychiatrist as he was a liaison officer between Isindyll and the captain. In many ways, he held more authority than the captain did, but in a contest of direct force, the captain still had the Uetie beat; having more insight into the vessel than anyone meant little when dealing with any form of military who happened to share that vessel.

    Though for some time now, no more than four or five Solors, the ship had not been responding to Vaadwan. Initially he had accounted it to some internal flaw with her voice capacitors, as most species with multiple mouths often developed neurological complications when attempting to vocalize over several locations, but he had been unable to detect any flaws within the ship's nervous system. Either she was willfully ignoring him, the captain, and the crew or there was another, invisible flaw the Uetie had not foreseen. All doubt had been quieted when Isindyll finally broke the silence.

    "I would like to take a longer route." The sudden contact had caused Vaadwan to momentarily panic, though the sensation was short lived and replaced with a wash of relief. Relief soon gave way to agitation.

    "Your little game of shirking your duty to this crew has been most agitating. We believed something we had not accounted for had come to harm you. You are more than a ship with parts that are individually mapped out, Isindyll. If something breaks down, it is not a simple matter of fixing it. You are malleable to the maladies of flesh so long as you remain our grand experiment," Vaadwan's tone was flat, no hint of his inner disapproval managing its way out.

    "I would like to take a longer route."

    "And why should I allow that?" the Uetie had no personal feelings towards the notion one way or the other, but the inquisitive portion of him yearned to see the capacity of Isindyll to form ideas and communicate them. His tone left just enough rejection to invoke a response that required counterpoints or justification.

    It worked.

    "I don't want to go back to my home," Isindyll responded defensively, "I enjoy it out here. I'm not straining myself, I promise. If we took a route that increased the trip by a Var at least, it would be much better than a quick leap to and back. It's not too much, is it?"

    Vaadwan paused for a moment, too long.

    "It's too much, isn't it?"

    "No, no. I will inform the captain, though you will get a single Var and no more. That much I can promise you, but no more." Doubt, reasoning, memory. Isindyll was proving to be more applicable than artificial intelligence could ever be. "If the captain mentions it, direct him to me. This will be a Uetie matter."

    "Thank you."

    ---

    "The training needs to stop." It was an order, not a request or a suggestion.

    "Others are training-" Nyarri began, only to be interrupted by Kallou. When the Vollori was disapproving or, in this instance closer to true anger, he always had the habit of twirling his helmet between his hands. The trademark clink of the face mask, loose and fastened, had become as distinct as jailer's keys to a warden or bells to a clock tower.

    "Others are maintaining physical performance in abnormal gravity. You are obsessing over getting your ass handed to you and being saved by luck. When was the last time you slept for an uninterrupted period more than six Delens?" When no response was forthcoming, he continued. "You're no good to anyone barely standing when you're needed. All that training equates to shit if you don't have the wits to keep fighting after the adrenaline fades."

    For a while, the only sound between the two was the clinking of his helmet. Ruffling her vocals in a gesture that mimicked clearing a throat, Nyarri replied, "Understood, sir."

    "You're to train with another unit member. If that unit member leaves, you leave. Don't think you'll be able to get any of these soldiers to stay longer, either, that'll see you to something menial. Now I'll leave you here to sleep or relax or something that isn't beating away at simulations and quick-drawing your MAC. I've told our technician to inform our ship to lock this door for the next six Delends. Consider yourself on lockdown, praetor Z'Nyarri."

    Before the marine could form another retort, one last plea, Kallou had left and the door made an audible crunch as something locked her in. Rather than be left to the disgust of wondering what sort of mechanism served for locks on board a living ship, Nyarri collapsed onto the bed and quickly fell into slumber she hadn't even known she needed.
     
  9. After many Solors of regular feeding, Rhys’evin’s feelers had finally completely regrown. Were it not for the continued state of imprisonment that plagued every moment, whole and hale might have almost been applicable adjectives. Isindyll had softened her cell even further, which offered near perfect sensory perception of the surrounding area, and even a little bit down the hallway. Rhys’evin knew that the many-laid plans that had been crafted since Isindyll first spoke were only one push away from fruition. The problem was, Rhys had no clue what that one push would be. For now, though, there was still time. Isindyll had delivered just as promised, and managed to lengthen the journey by an entire Var. That doubled the available time. Patience was still key at the moment.

    “Are you happy, Isindyll?”

    There was a moment of considering silence. “Yes. I think I am. There isn’t much to see out here, but everything is still new. All the people are new, and the things they talk about are new. It is so much more interesting than my bunker.”

    “What about when it is no longer new.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Will you still be happy when things are no longer new?”

    Isindyll was silent. Rhys held still, intently listening for anything that would offer a hint to what she was thinking. With other species it could be so easy. Breathing, blinking, twitching, shifting, there were so many little, subtle hints that could offer a perceptive observer so many hints to the subconscious of the individual. With Isindyll there was nothing but waiting and guessing.

    “But there will always be new things, won’t there?”

    Was it possible to explain this to her? She was still so young, hardly more than a child. No, she was a child. No matter what it would have been preferable to believe, Rhys’evin had started to grow fond of Isindyll. It was a foreign emotion, and Rhys could not honestly recall the last time it had stumbled into the commonly accessed range of feelings in daily life. It might have even been completely possible to say that it was not a feeling that had appeared since Rhys had left Home, and maybe even long before then. Yet Rhys still knew exactly what it was. It was a worry for Isindyll, an uncertainty of what would come to happen to her if she didn’t follow through with the plan Rhys had laid. As much as there was fear of having to go to this prison planet, this Kadorak, and knowing it would undoubtedly be deadly, there was another, unexpected fear, for Isindyll. Rhys knew that people listened to her, but it wasn’t difficult to imagine how they listened to her. It was the way that Rhys had listened to her at the beginning of their conversations, as a facsimile of intelligence, as a talking ship that was ultimately a tool.

    But there was so much more to find within her. It hadn’t taken Rhys long to learn that she had likes and dislikes, just like everyone else, although they were limited to simple things. She didn’t like it when people walked heavy, purposefully stomping their feet to sound impressive. She liked bright and reflective things, especially when they were left unattended and she could create a simple light and play with them, watching the way the reflection would bounce around the room. She liked it when people talked softly and intimately, even if they weren’t talking to her. She didn’t like people who ignored her when she wanted to talk about the silliest things, and while she could understand being busy she couldn’t understand how some people only ever wanted to know things that were both important and relevant. To her many things that weren’t relevant were still important.

    Would anyone on board this ship ever have reason to really listen to her, and use that listening to break through the preconceived notions that existed? If no one was forced to listen as Rhys was, what would happen to Isindyll when things no longer became new? Would she mature, and fold into the Empire, content to be nothing but the prototype of a tool, and one that might eventually be rendered obsolete? Or would her personality continue to unfurl and bloom into something unique, and something that would undoubtedly be crushed in the name of duty and obedience? What would happen to her if Isindyll didn’t set Rhys’evin free?

    “There will always be new things,” Rhys agreed. Isindyll let out a contented hum. “But the longer time goes on, the more old things there will be too. And those old things will stack up into a giant mound, while there will only ever be a few new things at any time. Once something becomes old, it can never be new again. Eventually those few new things will seem so small against the old.

    “New can’t be your joy, Isindyll.”

    The only answer was silence.
     
  10. "I'm sorry." The voice had come suddenly, without warning or provocation, but Nyarri knew it in an instant. The same, childlike voice that had spoken to Yolhn moments before the assassin had been locked away. Delicate, innocent, soft. For a long moment, Nyarri ignored the ship speaking to her, hoping it would lose interest and move on. The silence extended onward until Isindyll saw to break it again.

    "They made me lock the door. I didn't understand why, you weren't locked away like the others were. Are you dangerous, too?"

    Should she say yes? Was the ship intelligent enough to distinguish between a criminal and a soldier? Her answer came without another thought to the matter.

    "Sometimes. I'm a soldier, we need to be dangerous, but we're the good type of dangerous."

    When the ship spoke again, it didn't sound convinced, "Is there a good type of dangerous?"

    "The only thing to stop dangerous people is with other, equally dangerous people, otherwise the really bad ones get to do what they want. Does that make sense?" Nyarri did not believe she had actually started to carry on a conversation with the ship. Being crammed into a chamber, alone, with no ways of communicating with the outside world had made her desperate for something to occupy her mind she supposed.

    "I think so," this time, the voice was a tad more reassured. "What did you do?"

    Nyarri paused, trying to think of a way to word it delicately. Though her anger over the situation had passed, she doubted her ability to discuss the matter maturely. "I worked myself too much, so to make sure I didn't do something harmful to innocent people, they put me here."

    "People worry that I strain myself, too."

    "Interesting," though her tone was anything but interested.

    "Am I bothering you? I can come back later, you seem annoyed."

    The marine let out a sigh and rose into a sitting position from the bunk bed she currently occupied, stretching her arms and legs as she did so. Outside the viewport of the chamber glowed the wide expanse of space. Nebulae, stars, planets all shooting by in the span of seconds. The crew could hardly feel the shifting gravity of acceleration on board Isindyll, something Nyarri had not been quite sure was possible until having actually experienced the feeling of constant gravity in flight. Apparently the ship thought she had taken too long to reply.

    "I'll be back later-"

    "No," Nyarri's voice faltered, "I appreciate the company. What would you like to talk about?"

    It was better than utter solitude, she allowed herself that.

    "Oh, well! Let me tell you about how space feels. Well, this one's short, it doesn't really feel like anything at all and...."

    ---

    "I don't care if your Uetie technician told you to take a longer route. You aren't the ultimate authority on this vessel, Isindyll!" Yolhn roared to the empty expanse of his chambers. "You are an official, registered vessel of the Empire, we have orders, we have a time line, we can't just have you asking for longer trips because you 'feel like it.'"

    "My technician told me to direct you to him if you didn't like it," Isindyll replied. "I think he said that the prisoners weren't the only interesting thing to the Empire. I wasn't paying too much attention."

    "That's irrelevant," Yolhn's rage was lurking now, shoved aside as he attempted to disguise it, "you should have asked me first then confirmed with your technician."

    "I was told that I should ask the Uetie first." This exchange was becoming infuriating to the captain. He was used to total control upon a vessel, free of restraints in the pursuit of impractical matters. What good did having the first experiment of the ship be a vital prison run if they weren't even focused on transporting the prisoners? A normal vessel, even with restrictions to warp time, could have made the journey in half the total time it would currently take with Yolhn at the helm.

    "From now on, you answer to me first and the Uetie later." When Isindyll began to interrupt, he cut her off, "I don't care what they told you, they aren't the ones with direct orders. Once my mission is done, you can do laps around the fucking universe for all I care, just don't expect me on board when you do, understand?"

    "I understand..." She sounded, once again, defeated, but what had that told him the last time? The excuse 'deal with it when it came up' was beginning to fall short as more and more personality quirks came about with operating the ship. He had asked the technician several times if a living, conscious ship had been intentional and several times he had been told (if in the proper way) to see his way to the exit. 'This is a matter between the Uetie and the Empire' they had told him. Yolhn disagreed. So long as he was at the helm of Isindyll, Yolhn believed everything having to do with the ship was his business.

    And now the Uetie were actively working against him. They were taking control of his ship out of his hands. They were allowing a civilian to outrank a military leader on a military ship. They were relying on their status as the key scientific minds of the galaxy to see to it that they were left unquestioned and he was tired of it. The question now: what could he do about it?
     
    • Love Love x 1
  11. “I don’t know how much more I can take of him!”

    Rhys had been in the middle of plotting, trying to fill in the empty spaces of a mental ship with some of the gathered information that had come from many hours of careful observation. Isindyll had been away for a while, much longer than usual, but Rhys didn’t worry. She was around often enough that there was no need to worry anymore about having unintentionally upset her.

    “Of whom?”

    She seemed to hesitate, but frustration overcame her by now ingrained reluctance to speak about matters of the crew with a prisoner. “Yolhn! He never used to be this rude.”

    “Yolhn’s being rude?”

    “Yes! He’s treating me like I’m his servant, like I should subject myself to every one of his whims, and I don’t get any opinion of my own.” There was a mournful, throaty hum. “I miss the old Yolhn.”

    Rhys willingly set aside the internal ship, and gave Isindyll as close as it was possible to come to complete attention. “What did Yolhn used to be like?”

    “When I first met him, he seemed so excited. Did you know, before they were planning this journey, they brought in hundreds of Vollori captains to see who would be the most compatible with me? Vaadwan told me that thousands of them applied for the position, from all over the galaxy. He said everyone knew what an honor it was to be my captain on my first test flight.

    “The scientists weeded it down two 240 potential applicants, and then they bought them all in. It was the most people I had ever seen before in my life, at least all at one time. When they walked in there was this collective gasp of awe and surprise. I wish you could have heard it Rhys; it was the most flattering sound in the world. It happened again when I opened up the doorways to enter, and again when I turned on all the lights.

    “All of the Captains were so busy studying me that I think they forgot I was actually there. But not Yolhn. He never forgot I was there, even though he had only been told once. He looked too, I don’t think he could have done otherwise, but it felt like he was admiring me, not some abstract living ship that just happened to inhabit that space. He always asked permission before he touched, and after all the other Captains had gotten their fill of looking he stayed. Most of them went to ask the Ueite questions about my capabilities, but he asked me what I could do.

    “I told him as much as I could, although I didn’t know everything. He seemed so understanding, and even offered to help me find out more once we got out into space together. Some of the others came to talk to me after they were done talking to the Uetie. I talked to all of them. Some were sweet, although I know some just wanted to test me and see if I really had a personality. It felt quite rude. But even the nice ones didn’t seem very nice after Captain Yolhn. He was the only one who had taken an interest in me right from the onset. I’d made my choice already, and the Uetie didn’t mind, even though they had planned many days to give me time to meet the Captains. I knew they wouldn’t have let anyone in here that they didn’t feel was completely qualified.

    “Yolhn took me for a test flight the next day.”

    “What do you think changed?” Rhys asked softly.

    Isindyll was silent for a moment. “Do you remember what you told me before, about how new things become old, and then the new things no longer seem so important, because there’s so much old?”

    “I remember.”

    “I think that’s what happened. I became old to him.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “When I first met Yolhn, I didn’t know much about the Vollori. But there have been lots of Vollori with me for quite a while now, and I’ve begun to get a better understanding of them. Most of the soldiers only ever seem to think about the present, and they only think about the future in order to make sure they can better prepare for some abstract future present. That is what they focus on, what they prepare for, and what they pay attention to. The present. But a species couldn’t survive that way. So Captains have to do the future thinking for the entire species, and that doesn’t leave room for anything else.

    “I don’t know why Yolhn was the only one to realize that paying attention to me was the most important thing. Perhaps he was the most forward thinking of the entire group. Maybe that made it even worse. When I first met him, Yolhn wanted to know all about me because I was the anomaly. I was the thing that didn’t fit into the world as he knew it, and he had to figure me out to incorporate me into his plans for the future. But now I’m no longer new, I’m familiar. And Yolhn doesn’t have time for familiar things. All he cares about is the anomalies, the unexpected.

    “I’m starting to wonder if he ever really cared about me at all, or if I was just too young to understand the difference between curiosity and kindness.”

    Rhys remained silent for a time. This was the deepest thinking that had ever come from Isindyll in the entire time they had been talking. Maybe she truly was growing up.

    “I’m scared now, Rhys. Scared of the future. What if all the people in the world are like Captain Yolhn.”

    “I’m not like Captain Yolhn.”

    There was a moment of considering silence. “No.” She let out a quiet sigh of relief. “You’re not. Don’t ever become like Yolhn, Rhys. It would break my heart. I don’t think I could survive it.”

    Rhys’evin was silent for a moment, considering. And then the Karthk’yarii made a binding promise that would have a much larger impact than even Rhys could predict. “I won’t. I promise.”

    “Really.”

    “You can hold me to it until my dying day.”

    Which, if this plan didn’t work out, might not be more than another couple Vars. But the future was starting to look more and more hopeful.
     
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  12. Though now her official 'imprisonment' had ended, Nyarri had found herself spending more and more time off shifts talking with the ship. The majority of their conversations had been one-sided, with Isindyll leading more often than not. Her train of thought was sporadic, trailing mid-conversation from various stories about crew members to what the on-board food production centers felt like. Nothing was too minuscule for her all-reaching attention, even if that attention was stretched.

    "Tell me, what do you think about Yolhn?" Isindyll asked. The question caught the marine off guard.

    "Does it really matter? He's my superior's superior. If he asked me to poke my head out the airlock, my only response would be 'how far, sir'."

    "But you must think something about him..." The ship let the statement hang in the air: she was quite skilled at provoking responses that way.

    "Truthfully? I've shared all of a brief walk through a corridor with him before Rhys sprung at me and-" And you saved me. No, for all she knew the ship was still cooperating with him, "and that was about that. Anything I learn about Yolhn I hear second-hand, and that's hardly a judgment call."

    For a long moment, Isindyll was still. Nyarri, having accustomed herself to these often, random lapses in interaction, relaxed across the bed once more and waited. Though there was very little to do within the quarters themselves save look out into the Void as it sped by, the marine had found comfort in these periods of nothingness. Whatever fear of living inside the ship had gradually dissipated over the course of the voyage and, now having found an unusual companionship with it, the presence had become a benefit to Isindyll more than an annoyance.

    Even her paranoia and terror of the assassin was on the wane. Nyarri still doubted that the ship was innocent of assisting the killer it housed, but if Isindyll had wanted him out, no doubt it would have happened by now.

    Lost in thought, Nyarri had neglected to hear Isindyll's return to the room, "Nyarri?"

    "Sorry," the marine responded.

    "Oh, that's fine! I was just saying that I wanted to ask because I've heard lots of things about the captain, but those were mostly when they thought I wasn't there. I wanted to see what would happen if I asked someone directly."

    "I see."

    "You better get going, your shift's about to start." By now, Isindyll knew the marine's schedule better than Nyarri did and her brain was in sync with the on-board chrono unit.

    "Thanks, Isindyll."

    Nyarri stood, donned her plascrete breastplate, slid into her magnetic boots, and clipped her MAC to its holster. She gave one last look to where she had imagined the ship was, the viewport, and nodded.

    "I've got the bane of politicians to guard."

    "Wait - what?"

    "Rhys'evin? Yolhn didn't tell you? Killed an core-world politician, real high-up. Doubt either Yolhn or Rhys'evin'd tell you the straight story if you asked. I don't know much either, but the Empire had a mark on him ever since. Barely managed to scoop him up before he fled out of the Core."

    When Isindyll remained silent, Nyarri nodded again at the viewport and marched out of the quarters. She was, technically, going to be late to Rhys' cell room, but they weren't running an official operation no matter what the captain thought. Still, she picked up the pace...

    Appearances were important.
     
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  13. “Rhys?”

    They had been in the middle of a conversation about colors in space, and whether or not they were different from colors on a planet, when Isindyll had gone silent. When she came back, it seemed she had completely forgotten about the conversation that had been going on only a little bit before, and was now on a completely different train of thought. Rhys transitioned easily enough.

    “Yes, Isindyll?”

    “You once told me that if I truly wanted to know what you had done, you would tell me. Do you still stand by that statement?”

    Rhys was silent for a moment, thinking. Maybe that was where Isindyll had learned that pauses in conversation weren’t an unusual thing. Mentally redirecting to the question at hand, Rhys’evin considered it carefully. It didn’t take take long to figure out what the answer would be.

    “Yes, I do.”

    “Then tell me.”

    For just one moment, Rhys wished that the Karthk’yarii naturally possessed some of the calming ticks that other species did. Some stroked their feelers together, some blinked their eyes rhythmically, some took a lungful of air. It was a preparation for a hard task to come. Rhys had none of that. The only thing to do was start.

    “Before I was arrested, nearing on a couple Revalars ago now, I worked for a crime organization known as the Disciples. They were all hard, cold people. They had to be. The Disciples took on some of the most dangerous and public jobs in the entire galaxy, the ones that the other gangs were all too sane to even consider attempting.”

    “What kind of things did they do?”

    “Well, perhaps the best example I can give is by telling you the job I was assigned to do. You know the first council, right?”

    “The head of the Empire. The most important Council in the galaxy, that is in charge of all the most critical decisions that are made.”

    “That’s right. In many ways, those representatives of each of the four species are the most important and powerful people in the entire Galaxy. Everyone knows their names. They are the only ones with the power to send the Empire to war.”

    Isindyll let out a small shudder.

    “Yes,” Rhys agreed. “But being that powerful always earns enmity from other individuals. Most of them can’t do anything about it, or wouldn’t even dream of trying. The Syastin would never challenge their ruler, the Uetie are too like-minded to want someone new, and the Vollori consider their councilor to be the high general of all generals. But the Arak’un... there is still a greed inside of them that wasn’t completely crushed when they destroyed their own home world. Back when the last Arak’un first councilor died, there were two others that contended to replace him. As must happen, in the end, the First Council chose one of them over the other. The loser admitted his loss with grace, but it left a bitterness that began to grow with old age. On his deathbed, the Arak’un hired the Disciples to kill his old competitor, saying that he refused to lose the competition of life as well.

    “No one doubts that he was senile, but he promised the Disciples his entire estate, all his wealth, if we could complete the task before he died. It was too sweet a job to resist. This was the hardest job they had ever attempted, so they went to the best assassin they had. Me.”

    “What’s an assassin?”

    “Did Yolhn not tell you? An assassin is someone who kills other people for money. An assassin is hired by an angry or bitter person to kill someone for the client, because the client can’t do it themselves.”

    “That seems so...”

    “Cold. It is. Every person within you has probably killed someone. The guards do it to protect something else. Some of the killers do it in the heat of passion, for a personal wrong or slight. I do it because someone else gave me money to complete it. There is nothing personal about it. I simply kill.”

    The silence began to stretch. “Do you hate me for this, Isindyll?”

    “...I don’t know.”

    Rhys felt a stab of pain, but there was no physical attack to fend against or defeat. It was fear, fear that the carefully created escape plan would fail, but there was more to it than that. “Do you want to go back to our other conversation, Isindyll? Do you want to forget all about what I’m telling you, and just talk of happy things until we reach Kadorak? Because... because I will if you want me to.”

    Not for the first time, Rhys wished it was possible to really, and truly know what Isindyll was thinking. This time, however, the wish was more intense than it had ever been. The silence continued to stretch. “Tell me what you are thinking, Isindyll.”

    “I’m thinking... I’m thinking I don’t understand you, assassin. Rhys’evin. Rhys. I really don’t understand you. But I also think that the Captain and the soldiers, they don’t understand you either. They don’t understand you at all.”

    They sat in silence, and Rhys had never felt so heavy.

    “Continue. Please.”

    “I knew, before I even started this assignment, that there was no way I was going to escape if I managed to complete the attack. The First Councilors are too well guarded. There is no way to poison them or kill them from afar. The only way to harm them is up close and personal, right in among all the other guards.”

    “Why did you agree to do it?”

    “Because, whether I liked it or not, the Disciples were my only lifeline in the Empire. I was born on a planet that was not a part of the Empire, and when I... fled it, I would have died had I not been picked up by a Disciple craft. There was nowhere else for me to go, and members of the Disciples never turn down a job. I was vain enough to believe that, no matter what happened, I would be able to escape before final retribution came.

    “It was not an easy task. Of course it wasn’t. If it was an easy task, anyone could have done it. What made an already impossible task even harder was that I was on a deadline. I only had until the old Arak’un passed away, and if I didn’t do it before then the Disciples would get nothing. I’ll spare you all the gory, gritty details of how I actually pulled it off, but pull it off I did. And, just as anticipated, I got arrested, although I managed to kill nearly the entire police force stationed on that satellite before they succeeded in entrapping me. I almost thought I was going to get away.”

    Rhys seemed to have become lost somewhere in the story, continuing without fully recognizing the words anymore. “I wonder if that old Arak’un got to revel in the councilor’s death, or if he was too senile to even recognize his undeserved victory anymore. I wonder if my portion of the estate is even still waiting for me out there, or if they’ve all written me off as dead and divided it up.”

    There was silence, stretching on for an unknowable time. “And that is the story of my imprisonment, Isindyll. The whole sordid affair. Make of it what you will.”

    She said nothing.
     
  14. Isindyll's attention had been wandering around the ship for some time. Though before she had been driven by curiosity, the motion now felt more like aimless wandering. Conversations that would have piqued her interest pushed her away. Looking outward to space left her feeling just as empty. She would have talked to Yolhn, but he would be have flaunted his moral victory. She would have looked to Vaadwan, if the Uetie had any interest in solving her problems as opposed to identifying them. Had she been naive in doubting the others before?

    The marine, Nyarri, had said that judgment calls from those other than the individual were hasty and wrongful, but she had received, what she had assumed to be, the entire truth from Rhys. There was no room for error. But if most on this ship had also killed, did it make it any different? Was there a morality to it at all?

    'Sometimes. I'm a soldier, we need to be dangerous, but we're the good type of dangerous.'

    'Cold. It is. Every person within you has probably killed someone. The guards do it to protect something else. Some of the killers do it in the heat of passion, for a personal wrong or slight. I do it because someone else gave me money to complete it. There is nothing personal about it. I simply kill.'

    'There is no mercy in this monstrosity.'

    She remembered it all. Every opinion she could gather about Rhys, every single scrap of information. No one individual piece could justify any of them: they each had a different morality. The marines fought for some purpose they viewed higher than themselves, and that made it alright. Rhys killed for personal honor in a profession, and that made it alright. There were too many answers to one issue, too many variables. Until now, morality had been black-and-white. Yes-and-no. Ones-and-zeroes. She had enjoyed the good, avoided the bad.

    But now they were one of the same.

    ---

    Nyarri's shift had ended two Delens earlier, her training one Delen earlier. She was unsure if Kallou's ban on the activity still extended, but had remained content to avoid stirring any old wrath. The extra activity in Rhys' chamber had ceased for the majority of the shift, but they had been ordered to respond to an increase, so none had made a note of it other than to say that it had been quite an unusual change. A mixture of classic Vollori obedience and pure lack of interest had kept Nyarri from reporting it, too.

    By now, having spent enough time in her quarters to draw Isindyll's attention, Nyarri was surprised to find that the ship had not yet offered some attention her way. She had originally tacked it down to her unit removing combat gear, since Isindyll never came unless Nyarri was alone, but once they had left, the room had remained utterly silent. Nothing, not even the slight stirs and vibrations of space travel, pierced the shroud. When the marine had stood to take her leave of the chamber and find where her unit had gone off to, she was startled by Isindyll's sudden voice booming with the force of a torpedo in atmosphere by contrast to the built-up silence.

    "I had no idea."

    "That space actually feels cold?" Nyarri questioned, laughing as she thought the ship was trying to fall back to their earlier conversation.

    "No," Isindyll sounded taken aback, almost agitated, "Rhys, he was what you all said he was. But he also said that you and your friends kill, too. I don't know what to think."

    "I said we were the good type of dangerous," Nyarri began, seating herself back down upon the bed, "but you need to decide what the good type is for yourself." What was she saying? Was she giving the ship the choice of what morality to follow? Rather than attempt to alter or take back the statement, Nyarri let Isindyll mull over it.

    "If it varies among people, then why do you all seem so content to say that individuals like Rhys of the countless other prisoners are the ones in the wrong?"

    Her doubts confirmed about Isindyll's exact relationship with the assassin, Nyarri responded carefully, attempting to word each syllable slowly and deliberately, "If we knew the answer to that question, we would have no prisoners, no conflict. No one agrees unanimously with a system, but if the majority do, then it is still for the common good."

    "Common good?" Of course, Isindyll was still a child.

    "That, too, you'll need to learn for yourself."

    "But what if I don't want to?"

    "No one does."

    "That's unsettling." Isindyll replied after a lengthy pause.

    Nyarri, finished with their heavy conversation of what constituted right and wrong, attempted to change tact. She rolled across her bed, laying down, and spoke with a forced enthusiasm, "So, am I right? Is space actually cold?"

    Whether Isindyll had paid attention or not, she made no gesture to it. Nyarri was met with silence.
     
    • Love Love x 1
  15. “Rhys, what is the common good?”

    Isindyll’s return was such a surprise that it took Rhys a while to speak. In fact, it took such a long time that Isindyll thought he wasn’t going to speak, that he was ignoring her to punish her like he had almost a Luner ago.

    “Look, I’m sorry I just left without saying anything, and that I haven’t spoken to you in a couple Solors, but what you said... Didn’t I have the right?”

    “Yes, Isindyll. You did have the right, and I’m glad you came back at all.”

    “Really?”

    “Really.”

    For a moment that seemed to settle the matter, and then Isindyll seemed to remember that she had come with a question. “What is the common good? Nyarri mentioned it, but she wouldn’t explain it to me.”

    Rhys didn’t know who Nyarri was, this was a new name to add to the collection, but it was easy to see why the individual hadn’t been able to explain common good. It wasn’t an easy task. Rhys’evin, unfortunately, couldn’t pass it off onto someone else. Who else would take the time?

    “The common good is something that is beneficial for everyone.”

    “But that doesn’t make sense. Nyarri said sending criminals away was for the common good But that isn’t good for the criminals.”

    “You are right. That’s a little too superficial of a way of explaining it. Perhaps a better way of explaining it would be to say it is the thing that brings the most benefit to the largest number of individuals. Criminals are, in a way, those who act against the common good.”

    “But why would anyone do that?”

    “Because the common good is completely selfless. Imagine that you had one hundred servings of grain stored away, and one hundred people on board. What would you do if everyone on board only needed one serving of grain to feel completely full?”

    “I’d give them all one serving.” Isindyll sounded like she considered this a very stupid game to be playing.

    “So would I. But what would you do if every person needed two servings to feel full?”

    “I’d... ummm... I don’t know.”

    “If you were following the rules of common good, you would give everyone one serving of grain.”

    “But then everyone would still be hungry!”

    “Yes, they would. But no one would be more hungry than anyone else.”

    “That still doesn’t seem right. Why didn’t I just bring more grain?”

    “This is a hypothetical, Isindyll. It’s supposed to illustrate a point, not be believable. Stay focused.”

    “Right. Sorry.”

    “A criminal is someone who doesn’t think they should be hungry. So, rather than waiting for you to give them their one serving, they would break into the storage unit and take the two they needed.”

    “But then everyone else would get even less!”

    “True. But the criminal would be full, and it would only be a little bit less for everyone else.”

    “That doesn’t sound so bad...”

    “Perhaps. But what happens if fifty people chose to be criminals?”

    “Everyone else would starve.”

    “Yes. That is why, if you catch one criminal breaking into the rice and taking some, you put him in a cell, and give him less than a full serving. Not only does that give those who believe in the common good a little bit more, but it discourages more people from acting like the criminal. People you might not catch at it.”

    “Then why steal it in the first place?”

    “Because those who act upon the common good are still hungry, every single day.”

    “I don’t like it!” Something inside Isindyll sounded like it was breaking. She was so young. Was it right to force her into such a harsh view of the world, when she still potentially had many Revalars of innocence she could otherwise enjoy? Perhaps, but Rhys knew one thing for sure. If she didn’t come to understand it, and didn’t decide that she wasn’t ready to follow the tenets of common good to the letter, Kadorak was the only thing left in Rhys’ future.

    “I don’t like it either. No one likes it. But that’s the way it is.”

    “Why?”

    “Because there isn’t enough in the world to give everyone everything they want. For someone to have everything they want, someone else has to have less.”

    “That is sad.”

    “Yes. Yes it is.”

    “Is this why you killed people Rhys? To have everything you want?”

    “It still isn’t that straightforward, Isindyll.”

    “But you just said...”

    “I know I did. But I was talking about grain, and I was simplifying it.”

    “It isn’t complicated enough already?”

    “No. With the grain, it was easier. Two servings were full. But imagine instead that two servings made you full, but eating even more would just make it better and better. Therefore, people always want more. When the criminal breaks into the grain, they might not just take two servings. They might take it all, if they could get it.”

    “Then everyone else would starve. But that criminal would be the happiest person ever.”

    “Yes.”

    “So what is... grain in the real world?”

    “Money, power, luxury, influence, the list goes on.”

    “So you killed people for these things?”

    “Yes and no.”

    “No?”

    “The Disciples did a lot more than just killing. If I’d wanted, I could have worked on something different.”

    “Then why did you?”

    Rhys was silent, trying to think. It wasn’t the kind of thing that should ever have to be put in words. As the silence stretched on Rhys could feel Isindyll growing impatient. “I’ll answer you Isindyll. Just give me time to think.” She did.

    Finally Rhys began to speak. “Did I ever tell you about where I came from?”

    “Don’t change the subject.”

    “I’m not. I promise.”

    “You’ve told me how it was a very hostile place, and everything could kill you. How every day was a fight for survival.”

    “Yes. Perhaps that numbed me a bit, it made death seem more common. But there’s something else it gave me. It gave me a will to survive, no matter the cost.

    “Will you tolerate another hypothetical, Isindyll?”

    “Yes.”

    “Imagine that, instead of being on you, those 100 people were in a cave. At the far end of that cave there is enough grain that everyone could have as much as they possibly wanted, and everyone would be blissfully happy. But, in between them and that grain is a trap, which has a single use, but is guaranteed to kill the person who triggers it. What should be done for the common good?”

    “Everyone leaves, right? That way everyone is equal.”

    “No. For the common good one of those 100 people should spring the trap, so that the rest of the 99 can live in joy for the rest of their lives.”

    “One person should kill themselves?”

    “Yes. As much as it is about equality, it is also about individual sacrifice for the sake of others. The Uetie would do it in a heartbeat. So would the Syastin and the Vollori. Even most Arak’un would do it at this point. Every soldier on board here would sacrifice themselves if it meant saving their team from certain death. But I wouldn’t. If it came down to a choice between myself and anyone else on this ship, I would pick myself.

    “But, even more than that, if I was in that cave and no one would volunteer, I would push someone into that trap.”

    “That’s awful.”

    “Is it? Better we all starve then?”

    “Rhys, you are scaring me. Are you really that evil?”

    “It isn’t evil, Isindyll. The Empire might want you to believe that, but caring more about yourself than others isn’t evil. Go ahead and ask your guard Nyarri, your captain, or your Uetie, if they are really happy. Ask them to be honest, and then listen closely to the answer. Listen closely, and then decide whether or not that is the kind of life you want to lead until you die. Once you decide, come and talk to me again.”
     
    • Love Love x 1
  16. "So there's one hundred people in a cave-" Isindyll began.

    "What?" Nyarri interjected. Of all the ways the ship had started a conversation, this by far had been the most unusual. Thinking it some part of the ship she hadn't explored, the marine continued. "There's a 'cave' on board?"

    "No, I'm being hypothetical."

    Which of course meant someone had talked to her about something complex, thought-provoking, and utterly subjective. Bracing herself for what was becoming a common matter of discussion, Nyarri grudgingly responded, dragging every syllable out. "Then continue."

    "So there's one hundred people in a cave," the ship continued, "and they need to get out to get food and..." A pause." "Oh, and there's a trap, do you spring it yourself or do you push someone else to it?"

    "Be straight with me, Isindyll. I don't have patience for darting around issues."

    "Are you happy with who you are?"

    "What does happiness have to do with a cave and a trap?" Nyarri questioned, rising from her prone position upon the bed of her quarters. Before Isindyill could retort, she continued. "I am content. I suppose you could call it happiness, but I've never put thought to my station in life. I wanted to explore the stars, I wanted to see foreign worlds. The Empire's marines appealed to me, so I joined up with them before I was left to rot on my home world working some task or another over and over again. I became invested. I've fought pirates and had my fair share of gunfights, but most of my time's been on ships in one or another.

    "What can I say? The view from here's nicer. Could hardly see the stars back home, here, I'm not just seeing them, I am on a level with them. There's something poetic in that, I'm sure, but it wasn't what I'd wanted."

    "Is that a yes?"

    "It's an indefinite."

    "These 'grey' areas are starting to annoy me." Isindyll complained, sounding all too much like her presumed age.

    "I am happy more often than I am not," Nyarri clarified, "but everyone has off moments, Isindyll. I have been though the Core, been on warships of unimaginable size, cloud-jumpers built for three, been on what I'm sure is the only ship with a personality I've ever see. There's nothing wrong with my life."

    "But is that happiness?"

    The marine paused. Though it was the truth that she had not put much thought to her station in life, telling Isindyll certainly would further both their frustration. Attempting to create an answer that wasn't entirely a lie, Nyarri thought back to her time on the moon she had called home. Had she been happy then? Was there anything in her life she could truly say caused nothing but joy?

    She took too long.

    "Do you not know? Or are you unhappy?" Isindyll questioned.

    "No," Nyarri finally spoke, "I am happy with my life. More than where I have been, I have met countless others, helped them, laughed with them, fought with them. No, I wouldn't trade this station for anything."


    "Thank you, Nyarri." Isindyll replied at last.

    The marine clearly hadn't expected a response, as she stammered for a moment, producing nothing but listless vibrations in the air for a good while. At last, she spoke, "That's all the existential crisis I can take for right now."

    "Existential?"

    "Don't worry about it."

    Now the marine sounded distant, like she wasn't focusing on the conversation at hand. Taking note that now would be a good time to leave Nyarri be, Isindyll let her be. At least, Nyarri assumed the ship had finally learned the art of proper timing. Maybe she'd just started to bore Isindyll, or else the ship received what she had come for and no longer needed to dally around. Nyarri didn't doubt that she was confirmed all of this with the assassin, but without proof, she didn't want to risk tossing her one indirect line into that cell away so quickly. But if Rhys'evin could be a decent enough individual that the ship cared for him, what did that mean for the rest of them?

    Her thoughts torn from what Isindyll had meant by asking about happiness and fulfillment, Nyarri began questioning what sort of game Rhys'evin was playing. Was he the one provoking these questions? Or was Isindyll just coming to grips with reality, and prisoners in general happened to lead her to these questions? The lack of knowledge was slowly starting to enrage Nyarri more than having been forced to talk with Isindyll originally. The only way she'd know now was confronting the ship about it, and she wasn't sure there was an ideal time for that... Until it was too late.
     
    #16 J_"Kraken", Jul 20, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2015
  17. “Rhys?”

    “Yes?”

    “Does being a criminal make you happy?”

    There it was. She had fallen, completely and fully. All that was needed now was a simple yes, and Rhys would be free. Before Isindyll realized the lie a Disciple ship could arrive, and Rhys would be away.

    Why wouldn’t the word come?

    “In some ways, yes. I’ve gotten to live a life of luxury that few could imagine, let alone realize. But being a criminal is what led me to spending the past Revalar and a half in a jail cell. I will spend the rest of my life hunted by the Empire Police.”

    “But... but Rhys, I don’t understand. You told me to go ask them if they were happy. They said they were, but only some of the time. I thought this taking that you talked about... I thought it would be the difference between some of the time and all of the time.”

    “No one can be happy all of the time, Isindyll. There’s too much sorrow in the universe for that. I’m sorry I didn’t explain well what I meant.”

    “But... but...”

    “You talked to Nyarri, right?”

    “Yes...”

    “What did she say made her happy?”

    “She said she was happy because she has been places and seen things, but mostly because she had met and helped a lot of other people.”

    “That doesn’t surprise me. Nyarri is like most people who serve this Empire. She gets her joy from helping strangers and acquaintances, from seeing their joy and serving their needs. That is the happiness that comes from serving the empire. Can that be your happiness Isindyll? Can you be happy living your life serving others?”

    When had this bid for freedom became more about Isindyll’s happiness than Rhys’ ability to escape? Rhys had just handed over the last chance for escape to a child-like ship, who was far more likely to agree with the Empire that had made her than a criminal she barely knew. Why? Why do this? The answer would not come.

    “I can’t. My happiness has always come from serving myself. Myself, and those rare, special few who somehow end up meaning something to me. Who I’d tear the galaxy apart for. That is the option that can never be found within the Empire, and it is why I will always be a criminal and an outcast, as will all those who cannot find happiness in serving others. Could you be happy, Isindyll, as an outcast? With me?”

    She was silent, but Rhys kept on talking. It was impossible to know whether Isindyll was even listening anymore. Hopefully she was.

    “It isn’t going to fall neatly into a box. Maybe that is where the dissatisfaction comes from, those parts that fall outside those options. In the end, though, there’s nothing to do but pick. I’m sorry this choice has come upon you so suddenly, and I’m sorry there’s no middle ground, and I’m sorry that once you pick there’s no way to change your mind. But you must choose.”

    And then Rhys waited. Waited with as much patience as it was possible to muster. And it was painful. There was no doubt of that.

    “What happens if I set you free?”

    It was the most beautiful thing Rhys had ever heard.

    “Once it’s just you and me, we will head out into the Outskirts, beyond Empire control. We will be safe there, for the most part, and it will give us time to figure out what we are going to do in a bit more detail. But, before that, we are going to need to empty you out. And to do that... Isindyll, I’m going to have to kill them.”

    “What?”

    “They are soldiers. To some of them, maybe even many of them, they’ll fight to the death to try and stop me. And I’ll fight until I kill them.”

    “Can’t you just incapacitate them? Then I could put them on the emergency ships they brought, and set them off towards home.”

    “I can try. But it is harder to incapacitate without seriously wounding than it is to kill. If I end up in a position where I’d get hurt or wounded for trying to incapacitate them, I will have to kill them.”

    “They don’t deserve that.”

    “Perhaps not. But that is the price we would have to pay. Can you pay that?”

    “...Yes.” That word, that commitment, sounded as though it was torn from her. Isindyll might have still been a child in voice and age, but a child she was no more. Not really.

    “Then, when I tell you, let me go.”

    Rhys had watched the shift changes every quarter-Solor since the day Isindyll had allowed anything into her cell. What was coming was as set as clockwork. The guards would be lazy. In the moment they were trading shifts there would be a moment when no one was paying attention. Rhys waited.

    “Now!”

    For a moment Rhys thought Isindyll had changed her mind. But then the cell that had so long halted all movement was gone, and Rhys was moving. Even after so long, it was impossible to forget how to form, how to move, how to... no not kill. Not this time. Six guards, six quicks. It was slow, much slower than desirable, but that was the price Rhys paid for incapacitation rather than death.

    Rhys was off down the hallway in a flash rolling through Isindyll’s corridors in an almost formless shape that allowed for near perfect movement feelers riling and shifting to suit the faintest thought. Suddenly, however, the hallways were filled with an artificial shriek. It was nothing like the sounds Isindyll could make. A mechanical alarm. It wasn’t surprising.

    It only took a moment for Rhys to figure out what had happened. One of the blows had been pulled too much, and one of the guards had woken back up to sound the alarm. It had to happen eventually.

    That was the price Rhys’evin paid. Isindyll’s price would come soon enough.
     
  18. Nyarri's fears came to a painfully vivid realization as she heard the alarm initially resonate through the decks of the ship. Without further delay, she jolted upwards and and donned her equipment. She was very aware of the fact that every second of delay was a potential casualty, every fumble with her suit a wasted life. When at last she has cleared the doors of her quarters, well over three Quicks had passed.

    "Contact report," the marine called into her tightbeam communications unit, "has Rhys'evin broken containment?"

    She triggered the release and sent the message out. On the other ends of other units, she heard a mixture of confused yells, requests for orders, and the occasional whip-like crack of MACs discharging. Nyarri repeated her request. No official answer, just more chaos upon the other end. Realizing standing in the corridors of Isindyll wasn't going to do anyone any good, Nyarri switched from the tightbeam to an internal map of the ship. She was on deck four, Rhys'evin had broken out on deck five below her, and the bridge was well in the center of deck two.

    She had the head start, but caution stayed her hand.

    If she arrived on the bridge and Rhys'evin would butcher his way there, she would make no difference. Perhaps she could get lock the bridge off, buy them more time, but ultimately it would be futile. Isindyll held control over most of the ship's systems, and Nyarri was unsure if she could even control her machine components as well. So many questions she should have asked. So many pieces of information she could have gathered. No matter, now she was here without orders with a killer loose on board a ship that had knowingly launched it.

    "I repeat, contact report," Nyarri repeated on the open channel.

    A voice, an unrecognizable voice, replied, "Z'Nyarri?" Kallou.

    "Affirmative, sir."

    "Switch to our unit's communication, sky's too crowded on the open network." Of course, why hadn't she done that earlier?

    "Requesting orders."

    "You're due on deck one - we can't allow Rhys'evin to-"

    "Negative," Nyarri interrupted, making her way to deck one regardless, reasoning it was better to begin to head in the proper direction, "Rhys'evin is headed for the bridge."

    "Can anyone confirm?" Kallou responded. A series of 'negative' pings followed, drawing a silent curse from Nyarri.

    "I can, sir."

    "You're the only one," her commanding officer mused.

    How could she justify it? That she had spoken to the ship and been able to pick up clues from the way it had talked? It would make her seem deranged. Nyarri already appeared unhinged to Kallou, and talking about the ship zeroing her out would not help her case should any of them survive to see another Solor. Rather than approach the matter truthfully, the marine opted to stretch the truth.

    "It's a hunch. You can escape from the first deck, but you can't take everyone out from it. Airlock controls, weapon systems, they're all in the bridge. If he gets there, he can make sure no one will oppose his last leg of the trip."

    Kallou was not amused, and in her mind, Nyarri could hear the clicking of his swinging helmet. Though he made no comment against her suggestion, the commanding officer did not support it. No one did. Met with the pressing silence, Nyarri had two options: accept the ship was doomed and, at best, earn a dishonorable discharge if this affair ended well for the crew or take charge and save herself. Duty held out over pure self interest.

    "Understood, sir. I am on approach to the first deck. If anything interesting on this end comes up, I'll be sure you're the first to know."

    They both knew she wouldn't, but in the interest of formality, she had to offer it.

    Her true combat instincts were on full burn. The MAC never lowered beneath Nyarri's torso, her head scanned corridors just as thoroughly as any computer program could, and her footfalls were both swift and silent upon the floor. It was part practice, part nagging fear. Could Rhys'evin fight his way through so many decks so quickly? Was the ship assisting him? Would she turn a corner and find herself tugged out a nearby chute or corridor and into the Void? Or was Rhys'evin going to have the courage to end her life himself?
     
  19. There was a whirlwind moving through the hallways, and its name was Rhys’evin.

    It was an inopportune moment for it, but Rhys could not help being impressed with the response of the guards. Initially, Rhys'evin had known that every guard on this ship was a professional, highly trained in the art of war. Watching them over the following Vars had somewhat lowered that opinion, what with the informal way they had treated their guard duty, but now that they had a threat to face they were all practical efficiency. Blockades were set up at strategic points throughout Isindyll, at places where it should have been impossible for Rhys'evin to attack one group without falling prey to another.

    Had it been anyone else who had escaped, Rhys'evin would have been neutralized within the first couple Delens, but the guards were woefully unprepared for the reality of fighting against a Karthk'yarii. The guards settled into rows, trading off in bursts of gunfire that allowed for a light but steady stream of attacks. Rhys'evin dodged every one, sliding between the rays and continuing to move forward. The first group who witnessed such an act was left stunned, nearly paralyzed with fear. It made them easy targets. The team supporting the now unconscious soldiers was only slightly better at their reaction, opening a stream of fire that would have been much more effective were it not released in panic.

    But even still, with such large numbers of people, and Rhys attempting such a difficult and precise task, there was no room to slip. There was no room for error or miscalculation. But when it happened, Rhys had to compensate somehow. The first body hit the floor, the nearly black blood of the Vollori causing one of his team members to slip. The second body hit the floor. Sometimes, the line between death and incapacitation was so thin that Rhys wasn't certain whether the limp figure was still alive or had died. In the end it would be up to Isindyll to figure it out.

    It wasn't hard to imagine how the slaughter was affecting Isindyll. It was so faint beneath the ringing vibration of the mechanical alarm, but Rhys could hear her faint, gurgling cries of alarm. In a brief break between the ranks of soldiers, Rhys wondered if she was second guessing her decision, if she could do it over again she would never have opened that cell, but instead gone all the way to Kadorak. There was no time for Rhys to second guess now. The only thing to do was trust that Isindyll wouldn't change her mind enough to find a way to forcibly bring the rampage to a halt.

    Rhys moved by instinct, traveling from team of soldiers to team of soldiers, caring little for where the corridor would finally arrive, or what was waiting there. The only thing that mattered was removing every soldier within Isindyll, one way or another. But as the fight went on, as the lesser number of soldiers was able to start organizing better and better, the fight got harder. The soldiers did not know how or where to attack, but sometimes only something that strongly resembled fortune guided the gunshots to a mass of feelers instead of the one spot where Rhys' life could be stolen. If Isindyll had not been bringing food for so many Solors, giving Rhys time to heal and return to a state reminiscent of full strength, Rhys might have fallen by now.

    But as the fight went on, the number of bodies grew, both unconscious and dead. At some point there had to be a peak, a point where it began getting easier instead of harder. And Rhys reached it by the time the bridge Isindyll had been navigating towards came into view. The best of the best would be waiting on the other side, prepared to fight to the death. Rhys burst in.
     
  20. By the time Nyarri had reached the bridge, accepting the potential for later consequences of denying direct orders, the fight for Isindyll had reached its final act. Rhys'evin and the ship were able to capitalize on every flaw, every gap. The assassin struck from corridors believed to be unconnected or locked, crept past established barricades in key choke points, and disabled lone marines looking for orders. He had been everywhere and nowhere. He had been a ghost haunting the halls. A rodent in the vents.

    But now the rodent would need to step into the trap, risk springing it for the reward kept within it. Rhys'evin would need to storm the bridge.

    Had Isindyll been a normal ship, the engineering and reactor bays would have been protected in equal measure to the bridge. If any one of the three were compromised, the other two were tasked with scuttling the ship, laying waste to whatever force had taken it. Pirates were infamous for exclusively using this tactic, some going as far to leave lone crewmen to detonate the condemned vessel, others utilized the detonation of a reactor to serve as a ballistic device in its own right. Nyarri preferred to see the silver lining in Isindyll's status as both a living being and a prototype: no one would be scuttling the ship.

    In the tense state of the bridge, Nyarri had gone almost unnoticed as she joined the loose formation of soldiers positioned throughout the spacious command station. Being a contingent of defensive-fighters, none of the guards on board had access to anything more powerful than a larger variant of the MAC, designed for open engagements across wide battlefields; one in three unfortunate souls had been tasked with carrying that unwieldy variant. They were stationed towards the rear of the chamber, weapons braced against analysis platforms, poking out from cracks in crew seats, or standing upright while their comrades crouched to grant them clear line of sight. Nyarri had found a position somewhere halfway down the line, well out of the initial slaughter bound to come hurdling through the doors.

    "When those doors open," began Yolhn, well into the rear of the bridge, "I want no gap in the fire. That thing can't take a single step. Don't aim, don't check your shots, just shoot until it stops moving."

    No one responded and the bridge once again sank into an uneasy silence. The subtle clicking of last-minute weapon checks, of moving armor plates, and quivering helmets were all that stirred the air. From the time the room had settled to the time the doors began to stir felt an eternity. Calls of 'hold!' and 'easy!' were ignored and soon the open corridor was ablaze with slivers of metallic particles hurtling forward at one quarter the speed of light. The sound of cracking whips rang through the bridge as the marines fired, blazes of light trailing through whatever they could reach. One by one the lights died out, the cracks ceased, replaced by grunts and yells. Yelps and shrieks. The firing line disintegrated as Rhys'evin cascaded into them. No doubt some shots had found their marks, but all it had taken was one marine locked in short-range combat with the beast to complicate everything.

    By the time the assassin had flung his way through another cluster of six marines, heading towards Nyarri, the marine had braced herself against the floor. Her magnetic boots had locked onto the vaguely metallic deck, her shoulder remained braced towards Rhys'evin's direction, and she had discarded her MAC in favor of a stout, humming vibro-blade. The weapon could slice through a ship's bulkhead as easily metal would have through flesh. As the mass of thriving limbs hurled itself towards Nyarri, the marine noticed that he was not aiming to skewer her as he had been before. From the way his tendrils spun, he looked to be aiming to cause blunt trauma intended to disable or knock unconscious. Taken aback momentarily, Nyarri had failed to raise her vibro-blade high enough to do little more than catch a segment of the assassin's feelers before she was knocked to the ground, ankles snapping fiercely; her magnetic boots had been unable to accommodate the sudden shove quickly enough to transition gradually.

    Nyarri's vision flared white with pain as she attempted to hold onto consciousness. Though her ears rang with the sudden slam of her head upon the floor, she was dimly aware of the chaos around her. The sounds of fire had withered and died, in its stead the methodical swish swish swish of Rhys'evins twirling form and the distinct whirring of vibro-blades at work. The sounds of the blades registering with organic material were outnumbered by the number of times a swish would end in a thud and another fallen soldier.

    Her vision having returned, though dim and unresponsive as the din in her ears continued, Nyarri looked down at her limp and pain-stricken legs, willing them to move. Willing them to continue on. All she managed was disconnecting her magnetic boots from their frail attempt at grasping the surface beneath them. Her weapon, her blade, was a good deal to her right, nestled well out of reach among a handful of other discarded and forgotten equipment. By the time she had crawled inch by hard-fought inch, the battle had ended. The assassin had won. Nyarri reached for her fallen weapon, clutching it in now-shaking hands tight to her chest.

    Cursing silently to herself, Nyarri turned on her back and hoisted herself upwards, gingerly testing the feeling of weight upon her injured feet. Though pain lanced upward through her spine, Nyarri was able to balance enough and form into a loose fighting position. Her arms remained poised, the vibro-knife in her hands pointing in the direction of Rhys'evin. The heads-up-display on the marine's helmet had cracked on her fall, leaving it a dead piece of glass: her shot would be left to luck and luck alone.

    And then, to her horror, Rhys'evin began to move again.
     
    #20 J_"Kraken", Jul 24, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2015
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