Children of Heaven: Choir of Silence, Chapter 29

Chapter 29:

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She was naked.

That was all she knew.

No, that wasn’t true. She was naked and she was somewhere dark and cold. She couldn’t even see her hand in front of her face. Her heart was beating in her chest as she blindly felt around her enclosure; she’d woken up in the corner and she traced the walls, moving slowly. Her entire body hurt. She wanted to call out, but her voice was stuck in her throat. She’d always been afraid of the dark, ever since she’d been seven and a cave she’d been exploring collapsed on her. She’d been trapped in there for two days, had almost died. Even decades later, she hated the darkness.

Now, she was fighting down her own panic, her breath rasping in her throat. She would not start crying, she refused to break that easily. She focused on calming herself, taking a moment to steady herself against the wall. It was dark, that was all. There weren’t any monsters lurking out there. It was just dark. She repeated that mantra to her herself over and over, calming her nerves. That was better. She could handle this. She could-

That was when she heard the first scream.

It was so faint that she thought she was only imagining it, that her mind was playing tricks on her. She pressed an ear to the metal wall, listening. She thought she heard the sound repeat itself from somewhere deeper in the… was she on a ship? A station? A planet? She wasn’t certain. She’d lived in space so long that she’d almost been able to feel artificial gravity, but right now she couldn’t tell.

Where was she? Where was her crew?

She remembered… she remembered failure. There’d been so many of them. For every one of them that they’d killed, there’d been another. And another. Hundreds of them. Ships dying in droves, no mercy, no respite. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide…

As the darkness closed in, her breath caught in her throat, escaping in rasping little hiccups. It was a long time before she could make herself think clearly once more, continuing her exploration of the chamber. Her ship had been destroyed; she remembered that. Half a dozen of the bastards slugging away at her, but she’d taken over half of that squadron with her, fighting to get clear of their net and attack the largest ships at the center of their formation.

Hadn’t worked.

There were words, niggling little words, in the back of her brain, clamouring for her attention. She didn’t want to give it to them because if she did, she’d start fixating about the darkness again and she couldn’t afford that. She tried to think of anything else, but they were there and they drifted up, making her remember even more.

~

Point defences are down on our port flank, starboard side’s going fast – they’re stripping us clean, captain!”

Fire back with everything we have – Helm, pitch us towards the bastard on our port flank! Let’s see if we can’t make them blink.”

Like great oceanic beasts, the two wounded behemoths jockeyed against the lone vessel pinned between them, slothful and calculating in their maneuvers, bulls courting a lone cow and unwilling to accept rejection.

As the beleaguered vessel lurched at them, one of its violent suitors retreated, but only enough to avoid a collision. Now with the measure of its prey, it sidled back towards its victim, plucking away its teeth and claws. Boxy hangars opened, a hurricane of ugly little craft pouring towards the weakening defences of its intended. The assault boats cored through the skin of their unwilling partner, spilling their lethal cargo inside it.

A perfectly vile metaphor for what was happening to her ship.

We’re being boarded – multiple encounters across all port decks! Marine units are responding. I say again, we have been boarded by hostile troops!”

~

Boarded. The full impact of what had happened, what was happening, finally registered, jamming itself into her brain and refusing to leave. She remembered the acid bubbling in her stomach as her troops lost control of their own ship. Remembered alien soldiers cutting through the doors of the bridge, one of them swatting the pistol out of her hand so hard that she’d felt bones shatter, the creature lifting her off the deck by the neck with one hand, her own terrified expression reflected back at her from its polished silver helmet. And then… and then she’d woken up here.

Moria MacLean whimpered, pulling her knees up to her chest. She knew she was better then this, she wanted to be better then this, but she was trapped, alone in the dark aboard an alien vessel. Her crew was dead or imprisoned. She squeezed her eyes tight, hoping, praying to whomever or whatever was listening that this was all a bad dream, that all she had to do was open her eyes and she’d wake up in a Concordat sickbay.

“Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain.” The voice was flat and soulless, filling the dark room entirely.

She didn’t react, still desperately trying to pretend that this wasn’t real.

Her interrogator wasn’t so easily put off. “Subject status: conscious. Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, will respond.” When she still refused to respond to it, the voice grew silent for a moment. “Alternative measures: necessary.”

The pain came from nowhere, igniting every nerve in her body. Moira spasmed, flopping over the deck like a fish dragged from the water and thrown onto hot desert sands. The agony vanished as quickly as it had come, but her limbs ached from her seizing and her mind was numb from the ordeal. The captain rolled onto her hands and knees and vomited, emptying her stomach onto the smooth floor, her throat burning.

“Status: stimulation of pain receptors complete. Imperative: active and passive means of resistance will be punished. Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, will respond.”

“What… what do you want? Who are you?” Moria gagged out. As soon as she spoke, she felt warmer.

“Self-designation: Fallen Idol. Idolator, familiar designation. Objective: acquisition of information. Status: highthreat vessel commanded by Moira Maclean, Captain, excessively damaged in capture. Analysis: Moira Maclean, Captain, highest-caste highthreat still functional. Imperative: acquire tactical and strategic data necessary for completion of killfleet objectives.”

“I… I won’t tell you anything.” Moira braced herself for another wave of pain, but it never came.

“Highthreat analysis: incorrect,” the voice replied. Light blossomed inside the chamber as a holographic map shone down from a projector in the ceiling. Moira blinked against the sudden illumination, raising a hand to shield her eyes. The room was smaller then she’d thought, with no sign of a bed or sink. At the next corner, there was a shallow depression in the floor with a hole, which had to be a no-frills head.

The image flashed insistently, drawing her attention and Moira felt her gut fold in on inside as she recognized what this… ‘Idolator’ was showing her.

“Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, will identify this star system.”

“I’ve never seen it before.”

“Subject response: disingenuous.”

This time the pain was back. Moira shrieked, feeling as if she was burning alive. It went on longer then she could bear, until all she was was the pain and the flames that had to had to had to be eating her alive.

A minute, an hour, a week or year later when it was over, Moira pulled herself away from the holo-map, into the corner, shaking as she wrapped her arms around herself.

“Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, will identify this star system.”

She looked up at the ceiling, setting her jaw. “I’ve never seen it before.”

“Subject response: disingenuous.”

This time, she was ripped open. Like Prometheus, her guts torn out over and over only to be made whole. Only unlike the titan of old, there was no respite. The ravens kept tearing at her as she tried to beat them back, but there were too many, each of them taking a mouthful of her flesh, ripping at her arms and legs, her eyes and tongue, breasts and body.

“Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, will identify this star system.”

“Y-you can kill me if you w-want, b-but I-I’ll never help y-you.”

“Highthreat analysis: incorrect.”

~

“Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, will identify this star system.”

She didn’t know how many times she’d been asked that question, many times she’d refused to answer, how many times she’d been set on fire, had the breath crushed from her lungs, frozen to death, cut apart and stitched back together or worst of all, how many times it had shut down her senses, trapping her in darkness, leaving her there. How many times that this faceless thing had played her body like a sadist’s keyboard. She lay face-down on the floor, tasting the coppery saltiness of her own blood in her mouth, her hair matted with sweat and her own bile. “No,” she whispered beseechingly. “No more, please.”

“Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, will identify this star system.”

Her fingers were bloody and she dug them into the deck, trying to pull herself up, but she couldn’t muster the strength. “Please,” she begged. “Don’t ask me. Just stop. Please.”

“Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, will identify this star system.”

It never stopped. Idolator kept asking and asking no matter what she did. Cursed, begged, demanded, pleaded. She couldn’t keep doing this. “Hyperion Hive,” she squeezed her eyes shut, holding back self-hating tears. “It’s called Hyperion Hive.” Her weakness sickened her.

“Subject response: truthful. Imperative: enacted.”

The breath rushed from Moira’s lungs as warmth filled her from top to bottom, ten years of really great sex making every part of her tingle, the pain and exhausation washed away in an instant. The pleasure lingered even longer then pain had and only slowly retreated, Moira desperately trying to hold onto it, but it vanished like morning mist, leaving her naked and bloody on the floor of an alien cell. No longer having the pleasure was even worse than the pain.

“Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, cooperative,” the flat voice of her interrogator informed her. “Condition: replicable. Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, will identify system designated Hyperion Hive’s primary command nexus.”

Moira looked up, her lip quivering as she realized what she was being asked to do. “I won’t,” she asserted, trying to sound confident and defiant. “I won’t.”

“Highthreat analysis: incorrect. Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, will identify system designated Hyperion Hive’s primary command nexus. If designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, complies, favourable stimulation of nervous system will commence.”

“No,” she shook her head, the movement jerky and pained. “No. I don’t care what you do to me, what you promise. I won’t help you.”

“Highthreat analysis: incorrect. Imperative: comparative demonstration necessary.”

And she screamed all over again.

~

“No…”

“Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, will identify system designated Hyperion Hive’s primary command nexus.”

“Please…”

“Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, will identify system designated Hyperion Hive’s primary command nexus.”

“Please…”

“Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, will identify system designated Hyperion Hive’s primary command nexus.”

“Stop it, please…”

“Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, will identify system designated Hyperion Hive’s primary command nexus.”

“Don’t ask me… I can’t… I won’t…”

“Subject status: poor. Analysis: highthreat subject in need of revitalization. This unit can provide. Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, will identify system designated Hyperion Hive’s primary command nexus. Information: already known. Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, would be confirming extant records, not divulging heretofor unknown data. Subject’s imperative: confirm information. Cooperation: rewarded.”

She wanted it to stop. Moira squeezed her eyes shut, trying to block everything from her mind, trying once more to beg any listening gods to end this and end it now, but she heard nothing. If any of them were even listening. If they were even there. She cried, covering her face with her hands. Part of her screamed at her not to say anything, but it wasn’t the part that had been flayed and burned and boiled and torn open over and over and over and over again. Don’t say it! that voice begged her. Don’t give them anything!

“Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, will respond,” the voice commented.

If she didn’t answer, it would torture her again. If she lied, it would torture her. If she didn’t give it the answer it wanted, it would happen to her again and again and it would never stop. Forgive me. Please… forgive me. “The asteroid,” she sobbed. “Around the third planet.”

Warmth enfolded her again, lifting her up in a clear, warm sky, her body singing to her as every inch of her skin was caressed by a thousand lovers. She was only dimly aware of a voice speaking.

“Designation: Moira Maclean, Captain, cooperative.”

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