My patrons voted and they wanted to see more of The Hungry Stars, so here we are with chapter 23! A casual tour of a cloning facility to start and end with, and the perspective of a League captain with her, er, partner. The Confederates’ patience is wearing thin, but the League still promises a lot. However, with enough promises and an empty sack, you’ll at least have somewhere to carry your groceries. It’s only been a few days, but Echo is a little tired of the former, and she doesn’t even need the latter.
Fortunately, the League has an ace up their sleeve. What’s the best way to derail any conservation? Kittens!
…okay, second best, then.
Meanwhile, we touch in on the Black Veil. We’ve gone a while without talking to Red One or Echo, haven’t we? Let’s see what’s up on that front.
In this snippet, we’re given a pointed reminder why those who know who and what they’re facing when they engage the Wound won’t let themselves be taken alive. All the determination, willpower and anti-interrogation training in the universe doesn’t mean squat when you have nanites crawling through the memory centers of your brain. Don’t think about pink elephants.
For the full chapter and story to date, check out the links above!
Dark. It was dark. His eyes opened – he was sure they were open – but he couldn’t see. He couldn’t feel his body, but he thought he was laying down. A bed? It felt like it. He couldn’t move. He opened his mouth to call for assistance, but before he could utter a word, the darkness spoke.
“You’re awake.” The voice was that of a young Tribune woman. “Excellent. The injuries you suffered were quite extensive. It was touch and go there for a while, and I was concerned you wouldn’t wake up. I’m glad you did. It’s much easier this way.”
“I… I can’t see.”
“The vision centers of your brain were too damaged to restore,” the woman told him. “You’re blind.”
A sense of icy dread washed over him, but he quickly banished it. “Where am I? Is this Headsman’s Eye?”
“No, you’re not aboard your ship. You’re aboard me, Group Leader.”
“Aboard you? I don’t… I don’t understand.” He blinked his blind eyes. “I remember…” His mind was foggy, and his thoughts were sluggish. “The last thing I remember was… it was….”
–the bulkhead blew in, the command deck bisected by a rail round. Shrapnel from the cruiser’s inner hull ripped his right arm away and before he passed out from the pain, his last sight was of being pulled out into space-
“It was death, wasn’t it?” his unseen companion asked him after he fell silent. “You remember dying.”
“I… what… what is going on?”
“I try to recover the bodies of enemy crew whenever I can,” the woman told him. “You never know how useful they’ll be. Your species are very durable, Group Leader. My daughter collected your corpse before substantial degradation to your neural pathways could occur. That was a very lucky break. Your ship purged most of its databanks before it was disabled, but I reconstructed a number of references to a shift in your strategic deployment. You’re going to tell me about that.”
His head spun. He’d died? No… no, this was some kind of trick. His opponent had revealed themselves to be his enemy and he grabbed a hold of that. “I don’t know who you are,” he snarled, driving away the fear and helplessness with anger. “But I will not tell you anything.”
A childish giggle rippled out of the darkness. “You will,” his captor whispered in a sweet, sadistic tone. “It’s already begun. My nanites are accessing the memory centers of your brain as we speak, Group Leader. Whatever knowledge is left in there… you will share it with me, and there is nothing you can do to prevent that.” There was the barest of pauses before she spoke again. “And then I’ll let you die.”