Feb 20, 2021

Chapter 15 - Box of Pain

X2
It did not take X2 much time to gather his belongings from his modest cube. He had few personal effects that he gathered up in his duffle bag. He carried his toolbox with him, even though he was not sure if he would be needed in his capacity as a mechanic with the marines. 

He had seen the work that marines did first hand and somewhere in his scared little heart, he did not think that he was suitable for the job. But the men and women in the marines were capable and deadly when push came to shove. X2 looked around the cube that had been his home for the past many months. 

His bed was made up and the walls were bare. The spare uniform was in his duffle bag and he was wearing the other one. He went out of the door and did not look back. 

Skiz
In another part of the ship, Skiz was in a new room and looked at the strange clothes on the small table. He sat on the metal bed and put his head in his hand. 

The heartache he felt had nothing to do with not being able to see the sky of his home world or to feel the grass of the mountains between his feet. He felt alone because he was alone. 

The last of his kind. 

He closed his eyes and when he opened them again, he knew what he had to do. He was going to live and he was going to exact his revenge. He picked up the clothes, the fabric felt rough in his hand. He unfolded the garment and started to figure out how to put it on. 

There was a knock on the door of the room and the woman who called herself Nysha walked in. She took one look at Skiz and a smile divided her lips. 

"I am so sorry, I should have seen this coming."

She walked towards Skiz and put her hands around his waist. Her fingers were fast and the garment on Skiz's lower body fell down, bunching around his legs. She looked down and raised an eyebrow.

"This is going to be a problem," she sighed. 

"Skiz, you need to wear these pants the other way around. I cannot escort you to the boss if you are dressed wrong. Fix it. You seem to have gotten the hang of it already."

Skiz frowned and started to fix the pants the other way around. 


Jan 31, 2021

Chapter 14 - Where Do Killers Go?

His teeth would not stop chattering and his heart would not stop hurting. A physician came by his cube and gave him a patch to control the palpitation of his heart. He slept for a little while, but he woke up screaming once again. The manager of his shift visited him. He sat there. Looking at X2. A proud expression on his face. Eyes almost tearing up on seeing X2.


"How did you find out about them?"


X2 said nothing.


"They were planning to blow a section of the ship. I don't know which loophole they used to get on board the ship, but their presence alone was a risk that we would have paid dearly for."


X2 looked at the manager with a sore expression on his face. 


"You saved us, X2. I don't know how you found out about the man, but he was carrying encrypted blueprints for an explosive device on him when we found his body. The system raised a flag on his ID and when we decrypted his device, we found the plans. The only person he had been in regular contact with was his girlfriend."


X2 put his hand over his eyes and stifled a cry.


"She was one tough nut. We had to really dig into her files to find the evidence that she had been planning the explosion with her boyfriend. We decided that you should be the one to space her for her crime of plotting against our home."


X2 kept sobbing and the manager put a fatherly hand on his back. "I know it can be a little too much to take in. You should relax for a while. And when you feel like it, you can come to my cube and collect your resignation letter from your post."


The words shocked X2, but he wasn't surprised. He had known ever since he'd seen the manager that the final news would be something drastic. 


"Where will I go then?"


"To the marines, where else? That's where all the killers go.


Jan 29, 2021

Chapter 13 - Right Hand of Doom

When Skiz woke up next, the girl in the strange blue and white clothes was nowhere to be seen. In her place, another woman stood looking down at him. She was unlike the women in his village. Her hair was short, almost to her skull on side and only slightly longer on the other side. There was suspicion in her eyes and she stood next to his bed with her arms crossed, lost in thought, her eyes looking at some point beyond him even if they were looking at him. She blinked and focused on him. 

"Hello. My name is Nysha. What can I call you?"

This time, the words made sense in his head and he was surprised that he could understand her. She picked up the surprised look on his face. 

"We have given you a medicine to help you understand us. Does that make sense? I need to know your name."

"My name is Skiz." 

His own name sounded alien and rough to his ears. 

"You did well on the ground, Skiz. Not many can stand against a marine in armor. Boss was impressed. He has an offer for you."

"I don't understand. What is all this? Where am I?"

Nysha sighed. "Alright. I'll be quick. Your village is gone. Your people are gone. Your planet is going to get mined in the coming few weeks. You are the only survivor from your planet. You are in space. On the ship Oya. Things will not make sense for now, but stay here and you will learn soon. Do you understand any of this?"

"My people...my village..." 

"They are gone, Skiz. You are here. So what are you going to make of that?"

"What can I make of it?"

"I think only the boss knows. And he wants to meet you. You'd have been dead if he had not intervened. Make sure you thank him when you see him."

"My hand..." he raised his right forearm at her in a question. 

"We'll fix that. We've got ways to fix many things here. Don't worry about it. Up to meeting the boss?"

Skiz nodded at Nysha. He was confused, but the only way he was going to end this confusion was by learning things about his environment. Meeting the boss was a step in that direction. Besides, what option did he have?

Nysha tapped her ear once and spoke, "We won't need to space him. He is ready to meet the boss."

Skiz didn't know what the term 'space him' meant, but he gathered it was not something good. He wasn't worried. He would learn. 

Jan 25, 2021

Chapter 12 - Price of Sins


Tiberius III stood in the small cabin that was his home on the ship and looked out of the window at the endless expanse of dark space around him. They were moving again. The planet that his team had helped to seed with poison was left far behind. Another ship will take care of that planet, using it for whatever means necessary. 

He looked at the stars twinkling by, some of them dead for aeons, others barely in their infancy in this galactic drama of pain and horror. He had seen dark things in his service and his deeds were darker than any general that led men under his name, but of all the things, he could not forget the calm resolve of hatred on the face of the tribal man. 

Most men would cry or beg for forgiveness or a swift death, but this one was different. It would have been another death on Raster's killcount, but something had made Tiberius give the order to stop. And then he had done something so out of character by bringing that man on the ship. He hoped that he would not regret his decision. 

The stars continued to twinkle outside as thoughts wrestled for supremacy in Tiberius' head. 


--

There was going to be little ceremony to the verdict. The eye witnesses were too many and the weapon of murder was found in X2's possession. His fingerprints and the other man's blood on the tool sealed his fate. He realized that he did not give a fuck anymore. He was born in space, he was going to die in space. He had made his peace with the fact. The official who came to his cell to pick him up was a guy he had often seen around the bar. The man had thick set eyes and a paunch that did not feel like it belonged to a life lived in space. The man had a kind, fatherly expression on his face. He sat down on his haunches near the bars of X2's room. 


"Kid, do you pray?"


"Only to the machine gods."


"Well, I guess they heard your prayers. You lucked out."


"What do you mean? I thought you were going to space me today."


"No. Not you. We are spacing someone else."


"Who is it?


"Come with me, you might want to take a look at this."


There was a sense of uneasy relief in the middle of X2's chest. Like he had escaped an accident, but he did not know what to do next. There was nothing in his control, and he felt slightly numbed by this sudden revelation that he was not going to die. He got up from his bed and walked to the unlocked door. The fatherly policeman was already moving ahead, without waiting for X2 to follow. X2 followed. At some distance, a small crowd had gathered near a porthole. He walked up to the crowd with a growing feeling of dread in his stomach. The crowd slowly parted on seeing him. Some slapped him on the back, others squeezed his shoulder as he walked by. The crowd parted further till he was face to face with the glass of the porthole. Her face stared back at him from the other side of the glass. There was a defiant expression on her face, a burning visage of hate and anger. She puckered her lips and spat at the glass. The spit flew in an arc and splattered on the glass like a snowflake. X2 could not understand what was happening. Someone in the crowd was speaking his name. There was a note of celebration in the tone of their voice, but X2 could not make any sense of their words. Someone else took his hand and raised it up in the air above his head. He stared at everyone with a dumb expression on his face. Another big hand took hold of his palm. 


A face swam in his line of sight. The heavy voice spoke with a measured tone. "You did the first one, it's only right that you do this one too."


The face took his hand in its own huge paw and slammed it on a red button that protruded from a plate on the wall. 


The girl from missile control looked at X2. 


And then she was gone. Vanished. Sucked away by the cruel vacuum of space. 


X2 felt like his heart shattered into a million pieces in his chest. A keening sound rose in his throat and transformed into a yell of rage and horror. He was still crying when stronger arms carried him back to his cube.

Jan 16, 2021

Chapter 11 - Man In A Box

The cell they had put him in was more of a box than a room. 

He barely had enough space to fully stretch out and all he could do was sit on the bed that was bolted into the wall. He could not even walk two steps in the cell. X2 sat on the bed and put his forehead on the wall in front of him. He could lie down in the bed, but there was no way he was going to be able to stretch his legs. It was good thing that the cell was dark and he could not see the confined space. If he closed his eyes, he could imagine himself floating out there in the dark, cold space. Drifting like a body without a tether. X2 kept his forehead pressed to the cold wall and meditated on what he had done. 

He wished he had stabbed that guy harder and longer. He wanted that man to suffer. An easy death was not what he had in mind, but the drink had fucked up his judgment and he had done the deed in the most messy and quick way possible. The punishment would have been the same, but he had wanted to put some suffering in the body of the man. He did not. That was his only regret. The man's surprised face swam in his mind's eye as his screwdriver entered his neck and then the side of his face. X2 could feel the guy's hot blood spray on his face as he tried to stem the brutal puncture that X2 had inflicted on his neck. There were people screaming, but it was all far away. He had pushed the man to the ground and then kicked his body a few times, but it was not fun, because the man was already losing consciousness by then. Somewhere near him, a girl screamed even louder as X2 put the screwdriver back in his kit and simply walked away. No one had tried to stop him. Who would have dared?

The scene played in his head again and again. And he wondered about all the ways he could have prolonged the man's suffering, stretched out his moment of death and relished it a little more. Futile, now. All of it. Soon, they will come to tell him of the judgment that was pure and simple murder. 

They will space him soon. 

X2 realised that he did not give a fuck about that. 

He only wished he could see her face one more time. 

--

The room they had put him in was bigger than the halls of his village. 

Skiz opened his eyes and everything around him felt wrong. 

The air had a stale smell to it as he breathed it in. The light around him felt fake and when he moved his hand, it waved through the air too easily. There was something wrong with the earth's pull in the small room he had woken up in. He was lying on a small table, the surface of which felt cold to touch on his bare skin. The clothes on his body were not like the clothes they used to wear in the village. Someone had dressed him in strange clothes that felt constricting on his body. He moved his hand to tear off the clothes from his body and took his first look at the stump that remained of his hand. There was a small globe of a shiny material where his hand used to be. He swallowed. How was he supposed to live the life of a warrior without one hand. He could not wield a spear with his non-dominant hand. He lay back on the cold steel of his bed and closed his eyes. There was something in his blood that made thinking difficult for him right now. He sighed, cursed his luck and tried unsuccessfully to sleep, wishing that all this was just a bad dream. There were footsteps nearby and a door opened. A woman dressed in strange white and blue clothes entered the room and started to fiddle around with different surfaces around his bed. She tapped some with her fingers and moved the others to take a look at the lights and flickers on the surfaces that made no sense to Skiz. 

Then she took a look at Skiz. "Oh, you are awake. Funny, the drugs were supposed to keep you under for longer."

The words that she spoke were garbled when they came out of her mouth, but once they reached Skiz's ears, they made sense to him in a way that he could not explain. 

"Lie down and relax. The dictation module will take some time to calibrate your language input and output sensors. You might feel a little woozy till then. Just relax." She pressed a button on one of the screens and Skiz felt a tiny pinch on his shoulder. He turned his head and saw a machine swiveling away from him. The woman was looking at him with a strange expression on her face. 

"You are one beautiful motherfucker, aren't you?"

Skiz said nothing.