Chapter 4: Sea of spirits
The Persona made the leap into the Wake station sector. Four heavily armed TRI vessels were there to escort her to the station, having received her hail a half-hour before. Inside, a small smile tugged at the corners of the pilot´s lips. ´I guess it is true…no such thing as bad attention,´ she thought to herself, as she casually glided the ship towards the docking rings. The four TRI fighters stayed right with her, guns trained and missiles armed.
Faith, having a bit of a mischievous streak, thought it might be fun to tease the pilots of the escort a bit, so she made a couple of quick motions at the controls, causing the ship to jerk sideways quickly. The other craft, as she had suspected, didn’t open fire, they backed away and just observed. She did it a few more times, and got the same result. ´Orders were apparently not to fire on me,´ she reasoned.
Her ship landed safely in the docking bay, where it was quickly surrounded by eleven TRI guards. Looking out the side view port, she could see there were three official looking people accompanying the guards. “Nice welcoming party,” she muttered to herself as she unbuckled herself from the cockpit and stood up. She casually removed the flight visor to get a better look at the three.
The three stood behind the semi-circle of guards, hands behind their backs. The one in front, presumably the official in charge, wore a neatly pressed TRI uniform. He was slightly balding, and what hair he did have was graying rapidly. The two who stood behind him to either side wore blue uniforms, and were probably just a couple of the station officials. The one in charge stepped forward slightly to speak. “Pilot Faith, please step out of the Typhoon. We´re taking you into custody,” he said, his voice coming from the speakers placed around the docking bay.
Faith smirked at the show of force presented in her ‘capture.’ They certainly wanted something with her alright. She’d come this far, so might as well oblige them further. She opened the bottom hatch and slipped out casually. Unbuckling her flight suit as she walked towards the guards, she noticed many of them seemed surprised by her appearance. ‘Who were they expecting?’ she wondered, pulling back her hood and giving a few of the guards a curious eye. They kept their rifles trained on her steadily, but she could tell, they weren’t exactly looking her in the face. “You know, they do make female pilots,” she scolded.
“Pilot Faith, my name is Lieutenant Namvir, I will be your arresting officer,” said the man in the grey uniform, his voice no longer being broadcast to the docking bay speakers.
Faith continued to walk forward casually, hands held out to the sides as if to portray innocence. “Are all arrests this friendly?” she queried. “Cause if so I gotta say it’s no wonder that–” One of the guards cut Faith off by quickly stepping forward and hitting her in the forehead with the butt of his gun. Unconsciousness fell upon Faith like a collapsing star. Faith fell backwards into the blackness that eroded her senses…
‘The sharp hiss of compressed air. Damp. Encompassing blackness. Sweat. Echo. It was warm, very warm. Caked blood from a recent wound. The tenacious smell of bleach. Sharp plastic biting flesh. Another hiss of compressed air. Hollow. Steam? Darkness still. Breathe. Still sweating. It´s so warm.’
Faith’s exhausted mind struggled to rise up onto the layer of consciousness that it had recently been dethroned from. She seemed unable to think of anything other than sensory input. She tried opening her eyes, but still couldn’t see anything. Her optic enhancer was displaying nothing. Not just nothing unusual, just nothing at all, as if it had turned off.
Faith turned her body to the side and felt the resistance of cables…and liquid? She turned the other way and felt the same sort of resistance. It was definitely wet wherever she was. Hiss of compressed air. She inhaled tentatively, but found to her relief to be wearing a breathing mask. ‘What in the silence is going on?’ she thought, beginning to panic.
A light clicked on on the far side of the room. Then another, then another, then another. The faintly purplish lights lit up several tubes, lining the corridor. Faith could eventually see that she was in some sort of tube, with more technology than she knew what was attached to her and surrounding her. To her surprise, she could also see other people, all children in the other tubes.
She stared at the little boy in the tube across from her. He looked a lot like Dyar…. Suddenly the boy’s eyes snapped open and met hers. They were so…green. So very green. Fear gripped Faith for no reason that she could fathom. The iridescent green burned holes into her eyes. She couldn’t look away. Terror sank into her as she met the boy’s glance.
And then she awoke…
After about a minute of the groggy awakening, she was able to place all the sensory input together to get an idea of her real situation.
She was standing, or rather hanging, by her wrists. She looked up, but couldn’t see what they were attached to or how they were attached in the blinding blackness. She struggled faintly, but whatever was holding her wrists wasn’t about to let go, and was only biting into her wrists further as she struggled. She touched the floor only barely with her feet. At first, she thought she was dreaming again, but if she was, it was a different dream this time: no liquid or cables around her.
Faith’s raven, shoulder-length tresses clung to her head, neck and shoulders from the humidity. Sweat lines trailed across the recently dried head wound she’d received, irritating it. Despite the palpable moisture in the air, her throat was parched and sore. The bleach smell from the cleaning agents used or stored in the room only added to the misery inflicted on her throat. She hoarsely tried to call out, but her voice only rasped quietly. ‘How long have they had me trussed up here?’ she pondered.
So she hung there, waiting. What seemed like hours later, the door opened and a silhouetted figure stepped into the doorway. From the height, posture, and slightly balding head, Faith figured it to be Lieutenant Namvir. The light that streamed in behind him hurt Faith’s eyes, but she had a better view of the room she was in. It looked like it was the coolant room for the station’s reactor. ‘Oh this is safe,’ mused Faith. Looking above her, her wrists had been bound together with surgical wire and lashed to an overhead pipe.
“Ah, good morning Faith. You’re looking well. I trust you slept well?” His voice was snide and condescending. Everything about him oozed confidence. From his posture to his voice, Lieutenant Namvir was definitely a person not to be screwed with. So naturally Faith felt up to it.
“Good morning Sergeant,” she started, her voice raspy and hoarse. Her words immediately brought a frown to cover the gloating smile on his face. “Slept like an angel, though I usually like a room with a window.”
She watched his facial reactions carefully, as she tested his buttons. At first he looked angered, but quickly his frown burst into a deep rumbling laugh. He placed a hand upon her stressed shoulder and pushed down slightly, leaning his weight against her. Faith winced as the plastic cut into her wrists more severely with the added weight. “Faith, Faith, Faith. You’re not cooperating, dear, and it’s only going to hurt you. We have the answers you seek.”
“Who are you? Really? You’re not TRI,” she voiced a little more clearly than her previous sarcasm.
Namvir seemed a little taken aback by her forward comments. Showing a little surprise, he released his weight from her and stepped away with raised eyebrows. “Very impressive. Your intuition serves you well. I am with … a . . . ‘special’ group one might say.”
“And what do you want with me? I’m just a miner.”
He ‘tsked’ scoldingly as he circled her. “We both know you are much more than that Faith. Much more. You are a … relic. A weapon. Something we want to harness.”
Faith tried to keep her violet eyes on him as he circled. With the light streaming through the door, and the huge headache she had, she had a lot of trouble focusing on him. “Funny way of asking for my help.”
“You clearly need more time to think. And perhaps more motivation.” He said with the casuality of the weather. The lieutenant stood with his back to her as he cracked his knuckles.
“So what . . . you’re going to beat me up? Oh, that’s mature. You know there’s a name for people like you.”
Namir let out a shallow laugh. “And what’s that?” he asked, humoring her for the moment.”
“Octavian,” she managed to say before his fist landed against her rib cage. She grunted and lurched in position before letting out a soft whimper. She could act tough certainly, but this wasn’t what she signed up for when she turned herself in.
Namir let out a shallow laugh. “I think I’ll leave the rest to your brother.”
Faith managed a confused quirk of her eyebrows despite the pain in her ribs. Sweat dripped from her brow as she struggled to catch a breath. “I have . . . no . . . brother,” she finally sputtered out.
Namir answered her by pulling a moisture absorbing tissue from one of his pockets and dabbing his forehead a moment. ‘At least he´s miserable in this heat too,’ she consoled herself with. Her eyes traveled from him to a figure that was now standing in the doorway, and nearly blocking it.
The man in the doorway had lightly blond hair and stood nearly seven feet tall. His physique was that of an Ibathro Wrestler. In a word, huge. He had to turn sideways to step into the room fully and once inside almost completely blocked the doorway. Namir gave a slight nod to the man and put his tissue away.
“Faith, may I introduce your brother, Aerin.”
Faith looked between Namir and Aerin, doubt evident on her face. The large man stepped closer and bent down to meet her eyes. Aerin’s green eyes practically glowed in the dark of the coolant room. ‘Those …eyes,’ Faith thought, terror beginning to well up from within her again. She wanted to scream, to run, but neither option provided themselves to her and all she could do was stare, lost in Aerin’s emerald eyes…
Aerin´s towering frame stepped forward, blocking out the light from the doorway. His green eyes shone like beacons in the dark coolant room. Sweat beads dabbed his tanned skin, though it looked as though he barely registered the heat. Lieutenant Namvir chuckled at Faith’s seemingly spellbound response to the twinkling eyes. He nodded his head once in approval and left the room whistling a merry tune. The whistle echoed across the pipes and tubes that made up the innards of Wake station, causing a dissonant hum to reverberate back.
Aerin had the most polite of smiles on his face as he reached out to the surgical wire that had Faith’s hands bound. Despite the look of calm kindness that his face bore, Faith couldn’t help but reel from the evil she saw in his eyes. She stumbled for words and finally came up with the witty remark, “You. I. Brother. No.”
Aerin chuckled, his voice merry and soft. “Not by birth. But we are still siblings.” With his bare fingers, he untwisted the surgical wire and released her from the bonds. Faith, weakly slumped to the floor; out of breath, exhausted, and injured. “This will be a home to you Aia. It was to me and our other siblings.”
Startled, Faith looked back up at him. His eyes were like sickly green fires, read and waiting to consume her glance. How could he know her real name? What was going on? “S…siblings? I don’t understand. How are — How do you know my name?”
Aerin gave a calm relaxed smile. It would have reassured her if the venom and hate didn’t drip from his eyes. “Siblings share a common parent. They come into the world via similar channels. We share a parent Aia. I know your name, because I saw you conceived. I was there. We all were.”
Faith was bewildered. She ran a hand through her sweat matted hair, trying to unravel it in hopes of possibly unraveling the conundrum before her. “I don’t understand,” was all she could manage to say. Her ribs still ached from the hit the Lieutenant had given her, and her forehead likewise from the rifle butt.
Aerin continued to loom over her with kind countenance despite his seething green eyes. “We came into this world together Aia. I was there when you awoke. You were there when I awoke. Can you stand?”
Faith tried to rise to her feet. She found she was able to do so, but was definitely unsteady. Obviously sensing that, Aerin reached out with a massive arm and held onto her shoulder. Faith flinched expecting another punch to come her way, but instead found support in the taller man. ‘Everything about him is gentle…except those eyes. How…can we be related? I still don’t understand,’ she thought and then said, “What parent do we share?”
Aerin laughed warmly and said with earnest, “Amananth.”
Faith’s lips parted into a grim chuckle. It hurt her ribs to laugh like that, but she couldn’t resist. “So what? I’m one of the Amananth Twenty now? That’s rich. Tell me another one.”
Aerin started walking to the doorway. His hand on her shoulder nearly forced her along, but that kind of force from him seemed casual at best. She clutched her hurt side with her arm , cradling it. It was already healing she could tell, another one of the virtues of the genetic enhancements TRI provided. Aerin said calmly, “Yes. Come, the others are waiting.”
“Why? I mean, for what?”
“Because you are family. We need you now. You are the eldest. We’ve waited long for your return Aia. You are hungry?”
Faith’s mind raced for a reasonable explanation to everything that was going on. ‘One of the Amananth Twenty? Impossible! Though in light of the recent changes my life has had, I wouldn’t rule out the impossible just yet…’ She resigned herself to going along with Aerin. If anything she could at least get something to eat. “Yes,” she said simply and left the coolant room with him.
Outside, they traveled wordlessly with the Lieutenant who Faith presumed, had listened to the entire conversation. He bore a smug smirk on his Faith, that she would’ve paid good credits to see wiped away. The walked down some of the maintenance hallways until they reached what looked to be a high level security door. Lieutenant Namvir stood before the gene-scanner, and after a few moments and some quick laser scans, the door accepted him as the key and opened.
Inside sat several men and women, all in their early twenties, around a table. Each ones appearance was drastically different from the next. Hair, eyes, facial features, grooming; nothing was similar between them except their claim. Faith stared across at them for a long moment and felt nothing. ‘I’m not one of them,’ she reassured herself,’ and something is definitely not right here…´
The shiny security doors silently slipped shut behind Faith as she and Aerin entered. She gave a quick glance over her shoulder and confirmed that the Lieutenant had not followed them in. Aerin led/forced her to the table and allowed/made her sit down. Faith remarked on the duality of Aerin, and wondered what made him act so peculiarly.
Across from her sat a young man with long bone white hair. His hair hung in front of his face like a mask. Looking carefully, Faith could see the man’s pale blue eyes and deeply scarred skin. His clothing was perhaps the most casual of everyone there. He wore a simple white robe. Aerin sat himself beside her and proceeded to explain.
“Welcome Aia. Sister. You are the eldest. You are now here, and we give thanks for that. That is Niaol. He was the first, and had the most taken from him.”
“Taken from him? I’m not sure I understand.”
“We all come into this world from the same place. The transition here was difficult. The Great Collapse cost the galaxy much, and in the same way, our resurrection here has cost us as well. We each lost something at Amananth. I lost the ability to feel. Nioal lost his sight and much of his appearance. You lost your identity. This is why we need you Aia. You are the last, and the eldest.”
Faith looked around the table slowly. Everyone was staring at her expectantly, though she could feel that not everything was being revealed. “How can I help you? I can’t even help myself,” she muttered.
Across the table, Nioal stood. From his lips poured sweet words, almost musical in their gentle tone. “Aia. You do not remember us. But you are the key. You are the weapon.” Faith turned her attention on him and listened. “There floats a tower, still preserved from the old era in what is currently known as the Sea of Shadows. It is called this, because long ago, it is where we met the Uirio.”
Faith shuddered to hear the mention of the void enemy from before the Collapse. She’d heard the word in her head, but hearing it from another person was a chilling experience. She was beginning to get confirmation that what she’d been experiencing was real . . . and that scared her.
Nioal continued and the others listened as intently as Faith was. They probably all knew the story she figured, but were captivated by his voice. “In this place, the Tower of Ire, we locked a weapon for if we had to face the Uirio again. We fear the sentient Conflux signal a return of the Uirio to their former power. We need you to unlock the weapon Aia. It was entrusted to you, to unlock the tower and release the weapon.”
Faith was doubtful, and something was definitely not right here. She looked suspiciously around the table and could tell everyone seemed to be hiding something from her. Having no way to find out what that was for the moment, she figured it best to bide her time. “Tell me more of life before the Collapse while we eat, I remember so little,” she said, forcing a smile to her face.
Aerin nodded his head once and left to a side room, presumably to fetch food. Nioal continued, his voice as a flowing river, “I must confess my sister, that most of us remember very little. We were young children when we were placed in stasis at the Ever-Home.”
‘He’s lying,’ thought Faith, watching Nioal speak. There was something about the way he motioned with his hands that made her sure he was lying about something. She smiled again politely and nodded her head. “Interesting,” she said simply.
Soon Aerin brought food for her and she ate in silence, going over things in her head. ‘Okay, let’s pretend for a moment that I am one of them. That means that I was preserved at Amananth with them . . . so how did we get separated? Why were they all together . . . and I was out mining for most of my career with TRI. Why didn’t this mysterious organization want me? If anyone’s going to have answers to this, it’s going to be someone within this organization.’
After she had finished eating, Aerin stood up and pulled out her chair. “We going somewhere?” she asked, a little amused at Aerin’s bluntness.
“It is time for you to go. They have a new ship for you. I will take you to it.”
Faith was a little surprised to hear that, but stood up nonetheless. Aerin took her by the shoulder and guided her from the room without a word to the others. Faith tossed a glance over her shoulder to the others who had remained silent during the meal. Though most were trying to hide it, the group by in large looked guilty, and Faith flt even more certain she was being set up for something. The doors slid open with a quiet hiss and after stepping through, quickly closed behind them.
As if on cue, the Lieutenant turned the corner and feigned a surprised look. “Done so soon? Oh, I’m delighted to see things are moving right along.” He still had that smug grin on his face. Faith figured he had been listening in on the conversation again and knew exactly what was going on. If anyone knew, he did.
Faith continued playing nice and gave that same faked smile back to him. “So I hear I have a new ship. I suppose I’d better see it and start going hadn’t I?” she said with as much sarcasm as she could muster.
The Lieutenants´s grin curbed for a moment before before reorienting itself on his face. He let out a grim chuckle and nodded, leading her and Aerin to one of Wake Stations’s docking bays.
Inside the docking bay, was a very customized Quantar Tornado. Instead of the usual grey and green paint, it had blue and purple streaks running down the sides of it. The back tail was curved inward, looking much like an archaic scythe. It had mounted four very large laser cannons, reminiscent of her dreams of the Yuria pulse laser. Just being near it, Faith could sense the pre-collapse technology within. “May I present the “Unweaver.” It´ll outrun a Typhoon, and outgun a Phoenix. It´s a little weak on the defensive side, but you won´t have any trouble I´m sure. The coloration is for protection in the Sea of Shadows. Hopefully the conflux there won’t give you any trouble. The tower is about seven hundred clicks from the “zero” jumpgate. Once you get there, we’re sure you’ll figure out or remember how to open it. We’ve given you a rotacol with the coordinates so that you can find the tower. I trust you know how to use one?”
“Do Solrains farm?” came her reply, laced with the same condescension that he was giving her.
His grin fell from his face and failed to return to it. He cleared his throat and nodded. “Well then. I suppose the pleasantries here are done. Safe flight to you Faith, you now fly for US.”
‘Perfect,’ Faith thought, ‘Just perfect…’
>Personal Log H63g-11b
I can no longer explain, or even try to guess what is going on around me. I’m being led in so many directions at once, that I feel all I can do now … is follow. I´m drowning in a vast…emptiness. Space is…consuming me.
This mission to Amananth space feels…foolish somehow. It shouldn’t be my responsibility, but it is. I guess. Aerin and the others are familiar, though I cannot say I feel like I am one of the Twenty…it just doesn’t fit…
From the memories I’ve recovered, I’d be too old to be one of the original 20. They were all found as children…and my memories show me much older than that…
Focus Faith…Aia. I guess I’ll start again…
The five systems have turned upside down. I’m on my way to Sea of Shadows in Amananth to, apparently, open up this Pre-Collapse Tower, that was once a weapon. I’ve met many of the Amananth Twenty, and have been told that I am one of them, the eldest, and also the key to this tower. That may be true, but it clashes with the memories I’ve regained, of my life on Erzan — before the Collapse.
I’m determined to find out what’s going on. Whether working for TRI-Black is a wise move, it is my only move at the moment. I’ll do what the “good” Lieutenant says for now, but I certainly owe him for his behavior in the coolant room.
As for the tower? Well, I guess I’ll figure it out when I get there. We need all the help we can get against the Sentients.
How long has it been since I mined? A week now? Time is slipping away from me rapidly. I haven’t had any more flashbacks since the incident at GVB, Erzan…
I wonder what happened to Iwakura?