Unnamed System, Sector C-6
“Well, if they're in a good mood it might be better than death by gas giant...If.” Niu says uncertainly as they both considered their change in fortunes, for better or worse they'd been saved from death by those they'd wronged.
Resolution In The Face Of Danger was preparing accommodations for its “guests” even as it was speeding towards the hyperlimit. Time was of the essence, not only because it needed the information fast, before the Enemy ship arrived, but for its own safety. Assuming the pilots were organic, which was likely given the presence of a cockpit on the captured strike craft, they would have to be secured before it was truly combat capable. The “crew” of the daemonic ship consisted of maintenance drones and swarms of nanites, and with the exception of a small section fit for organic habitation, the ship lacked not only atmosphere but even all but the most basic gravitics to counteract the worst of the ship’s immense acceleration. Any serious offensive or defensive maneuver would turn the ship’s organic captives outside the special section into thin red paste, which would make the whole exercise moot. Thus, as the Resolution zoomed towards the hyperlimit at a steady 53c, it was busy pressurizing its compartments, as well as securing the captured strike craft within a secondary hangar, used specifically for this purpose and thus cofferdammed and even equipped with an internal trapdoor system in case of an explosion.
Once inside, the terrified catgirls were dragged out of the Ripper’s cockpit, searched thoroughly and immediately led away elsewhere. Glancing backwards, Biu could see dozens of maintenance drones emerge out of hidden compartments inside the walls and swarm their captured craft, examining it in detail. Then, they entered a tall and wide hallway, evidently used to move cargo deeper inside the ship, and their craft disappeared from sight. Soon, however, they entered a much smaller side corridor, barely big enough for the 1.7 meter tall robots that were their escort. It was pitch dark, and the two kitties had to be practically carried by their captors.
“Who are you?! Where are you taking us?! Nyah!” the two Chamarrans cried out, but the robots ignored their shouts. The captives resisted, trying to break free, but the robots carrying them did not even notice their struggles. Finally, they found themselves in another corridor, this one slightly better lit than the one that brought them there. Armored bulkheads and massive emergency doors were installed every five or six meters. A rows of what looked to be cryotubes lined the walls. Biu could count at least three dozen in the visible section of the corridor, and probably more beyond the bend. The lids of two of the tubes nearest her were open. Her tail flicked nervously as light reflecting off a cruel-looking set of needles inside the tube caught her eye.
Quickly, the two captives were stripped of their clothing and pushed inside the tubes. The rear of the wall was soft, and Biu could feel it flow over her, embracing her limbs and neck. The sensation was somewhat pleasant, and it took her a moment to realize what was going on. Before she could say anything she found herself completely immobilized, not even able to tail-flick in frustration. She wiggled her ears instead.
“Nyah!” she cried out. “Let me go!”
“Sis, you okay?” she heard Niu’s concerned voice to her right. She wanted to turn her head, but the restraints prevented her from doing that.
“Yeah,” Biu said. And then. “Looks like we’re screwed after all.”
Suddenly, there was a sharp pain in the back of her head, as if a needle had plunged directly into her spinal cord.
“NYAAAAAH!” she cried out, her voice echoed by her sister. There was another sharp pain as the catheters of tube’s waste disposal system connected with their intended targets. “NYAAAAAAAAH!”
Then came the needles, dozens of them plunging through the restraining liquid into her arms and legs, and even her tail. Two entered her neck. “NYAAAAAAH!”
“Tailyanking bastards,” Niu cursed. “YOU HEAR THAT?! YOU’RE A BUNCH OF TAILYANKING OATHBREAKING BASTARDS!” her voice echoed across the empty corridor. The robots made no sign they heard her, continuing to sort through and examine their flight suits. Niu whimpered.
“Think there’s any chance of getting out of this one?” she asked, her voice trembling slightly.
Biu considered it. The Audacity
was out there somewhere, possibly bearing on the enemy ship right now. Would they attack? Even if they fail to get them out, at least they would end it quick.
“Might be,” she lied, even as she realized that likelihood of that was remote, at best. “Don’t lose hope.”
Niu began to say something, but her voice cut off suddenly.
“Niu? NIU?!” she screamed. “IF YOU BASTARDS HURT HER…” suddenly, she saw the lid of the cryotube closing in, plunging her into darkness and silence, and realized that she was merely soundproofed.
“Bastards,” she muttered. She felt tears streaming down her face. “Bastards,” she repeated, her voice hoarse. She whimpered. There was some pressure at the back of her head, which grew stronger and stronger, until she could tolerate it no more and screamed in sheer agony. Then, suddenly, it was gone, as abruptly as it began
The pain in her limbs died away, too, and, soon there was nothing. She had been waiting for her captors to do something, anything, to ask her questions, to torture her, even. Instead, there was only blackness and silence. She struggled against her restraints. She screamed, again and again. She cursed her captors and their whole misbegotten race. Only silence and stillness were her only response.
That is when she felt the first stirrings of terror. The Lost’s message spoke of energy beings in organic bodies, but what she encountered was far, far worse. The robotic bodies, the sheer ruthless efficiency with which they operated, the way they treated their captives as if they were nothing, it all resembled something far more terrible. Could it be?
she felt a stab of panic. She remembered the countless Chamarrans taken by the implacable Collectors, the tales of horrible experiments. “No,” she sobbed. “PLEASE! NO!”
Of course, there was no reply. She waited and waited, and with every moment her terror grew and multiplied, until it consumed her very being and there was nothing else left. It was not the terror of pain that was to come, but rather, the far greater terror of the unknown. Were these beings like the Collectors? What did they want with them? Would they experiment on her and her sister? Would they, an impossible hope dawned in her, perhaps merely interrogate them and then release them home? She did not know, and not knowing was causing her a pain that was almost physical. Perversely, she longed for the doors to open, for the robots to come and take her away and dissect her, or to let her go, for surely anything was better than this endless waiting.
Yet, the doors did not open, and slowly, her panicked thoughts took an even darker turn. She had assumed that this was a cryotank, but was it, truly? What if it was not, and she would be locked in here, conscious, wondering and waiting, for the entire journey? The thought made her sick to her stomach. How long would a journey to Lost space take? Where was Lost space? Were they even going to Lost space? What if…the thought was almost too horrible to contemplate….what if they remained on station?
How long would she remained locked in here then? Weeks? Months? Years?
What if….her train of thought continued….what if matters were even worse? Earlier, she thought and prayed and threatened that the Audacity
would attack and destroy the bastards utterly. What if they did?
What if the soundproof tank protected her as the enemy ship around her crumbled to a fiery hulk. What if it was drifting dead in space? What if the doors would never open?
What if she remained here, forever, until the air ran out and she died, alone, in the cold blackness of space? She thought she felt it, distant bangs and thumps, a subtle change in gravity, a faint smell of smoke in the air supply. She WAS alone, drifting and dying in a wrecked ship. The Audacity
attacked and destroyed the Lost cruiser, but was either too heavily damaged itself or simply did not find them in the wreck, and now she was doomed. “NO! NO!
” she screamed. “I don’t want to die! Please….”
She began to hold her breaths, making them shallow, making every second count. She knew that it was pointless, that she was merely prolonging her suffering, that she should surrender to the inevitable, but still she found herself clinging desperately to life. “I don’t want to die,” the thought repeated itself in her mind, over and over again. “I don’t want to die.” Yet time passed, and she did not
die, but rather lived and breathed and waited and feared until time itself seemed to lose all meaning.
And so the cycle went on, each successive terror-filled thought progressively worse than the one before, until, after what seemed to be years, the door of the tube opened at last.
The dim light of the corridor blinded her, and she closed her teary eyes. She could hear noises, too, the subtle hum of shipboard machinery and….sobs?…yes, sobs, coming from the adjacent tank.
“Niu?” she whispered. It pained her to admit it, but for a time, when she thought she was about to die alone, she had actually forgotten about her sister’s existence. She felt a stab of guilt. Niu was the younger one, always the one who needed to be cared for and protected, and now, she failed her utterly. What was it like for her, in the tank? What did she get her into? “Niu, I’m so, so sorry,” she said.
There was a noise, a metallic clang in front of her, and slowly, Biu opened her eyes. She saw a tall robot in a purple cape of sorts. The being was holding an object, some kind of datapad. Biu could see glowing symbols she could not understand.
“Greetings,” the robot said, its voice a surprisingly pleasant baritone. “I am Sabaoth, the diplomatic unit attached to this ship. You are Biu and Niu from the Chamarran Hierarchy, pilots from the ship Audacity
“How…” Biu wondered.
“How did I know this? You and your sister have talked quite a bit while in the examination tank. I learned that you are from a minor clan from the Chamarran Hierarchy, that your leader is someone called Rayarr, that you Chamarrans do not know who created your species, but do not think too highly of them. I learned that your mission was to spy on us, to determine whether we were real. I also learned,” the robot chuckled, although its face” remained completely impassive, “a very long list of Chamarran expletives.”
“You mean….you were listening in? You did all of this on purpose?” Biu screamed. “FUCKING SCUM! YOU OATHBREAKING FUCKING BASTARD! SADISTIC DOGSHIT”
“I am sorry,” Sabaoth raised its hand in a conciliatory gesture. The other hand remained where it was, holding the glowing tablet. “Causing you pain was not our primary intention. We had been performing a variety of tests and scans, while our technical units were examining your ship. We have caused you needless suffering, that is true. There was, however, no way around it. You see, we had assumed that you were the ancient enemy of our people, come to destroy us once and for all. The fact that you have destroyed our craft only strengthened that impression…”
“I’m sorry,” Biu could hear her sister’s voice from the other tube. “I’m sorry we destroyed your ships…”
“As you should be, for we have come in peace and would have given you the information you wanted, had you only asked…”
“What enemy?” Biu interrupted him. If she could somehow let the Hierarchy know, they could perhaps ally…
“The one with the massive ship, that is coming for us even now,” the robot said. Massive ship? Coming here now?
the thought exploded in Biu’s head. “How massive?”
The diplomat turned to her and examined her with its glowing blue eyes. “You think you know this ship.” It was not a question. “It is a ship with a power output that is at least seven thousand points on your Stefan-Wylkyns scale.”
Somehow, despite everything she felt before, Biu found it in herself to be afraid again. Only one power in known space built ships like that. She gasped. “Collectors…”
“Ah yes, we have heard of this entity. Robotic beings, are they not? For a time, you have even assumed that we were part of that civilization, and that frightened you, and especially your sister.”
“The Collectors…experiment,” Niu said. “On our people.”
“I see,” Sabaoth made a note of this. “It appears that you still have information that is of value to us. You must tell us everything you know of these Collectors.”
“And then you will let us go?” Biu asked, hoping and fearing to hear his answer. “You will repatriate us to the Hierarchy?”
“That is unlikely,” Sabaoth said. “but, alas, we have no time to discuss this now. There is less than eight hours before the ship arrives.”
“You mean you are staying?!” Niu screamed. “NYAH! You must go! To stay is death! Worse than death!”
“Yes,” Biu agreed. “You cannot stay and wait for them.” She did some mental calculations. “You might still escape if you redline your drives….”
“You are most likely correct,” Sabaoth said, its face as impassive as ever. “However, our orders are clear. We are to wait for the Enemy ship and observe its reaction to our presence. If this course of action results in our deaths, then that is what our Duty requires.”
“Nyah! No! Please!” Biu pleaded.
“I am sorry, but time is of the essence. I must conclude this conversation now. “ Sabaoth said and took a step back.
“Wait? Didn’t you say that you wanted us to tell you of the Collectors?” Biu asked.
“That is correct,” the robot agreed. “However, time and accuracy are of the utmost importance. We must know everything you know, and we must know it quickly. We cannot rely merely on your recollections, only to discover you have omitted something. In addition, we are not entirely certain of your willingness to cooperate with us in good faith. Normally, such a thing would be fairly easy to establish given enough time, but time is a luxury we do not have. Thus, we have no guarantee that you would cooperate fully and tell us the truth.”
“We will!” Niu pleaded. “I promise! I swear on my clan’s honor! I will tell you everything. Please don’t put us back into the tank!”
Sabaoth turned and examined her. “Perhaps, but this is a risk we cannot afford to take. Our survival as a species, and the very fate of this universe may depend on it. We have to be certain you are not holding anything back.”
The fate of the universe What does he mean? Biu wondered despite herself.
“Normally, there are certain chemical compounds we can use, as well as simply reading the information from your mind. However, we have very little data on your physiology, and thus cannot judge the efficacy of the chemicals, and your species is remarkably resistant to psychic intrusion. Thus, only one option remains open to us, and for that, I am truly sorry.”
Biu felt a chill in the pit of her stomach. Her ears began to tremble slightly. If he was apologizing….
“There is an interrogation specialist present on this ship,” the robot continued. “It will make contact with your and your sister’s minds via the direct neural link we have established. While it could, with time, break even your formidable mental defenses, that option will take too long. However, it is more than capable of taking control of the sensory input your brain receives. It is also capable of affecting your perception of time.”
“You’re going to torture us?!” Niu gasped. “Oh no no no no no”
“I apologize, but there is no other way. If we survive the encounter with the Collector ship, I will ensure that the memories of your experience shall be excised, which should limit the psychological trauma…..”
“Basssssstard!” Biu hissed “I hope the Collectors slag you and your whole pathetic kind! BASTARDS!” she screamed as the lid slid closed and she was plunged into darkness once more. Like before, the back of her head where the needle of the neural link penetrated her spinal cord exploded in agony. But this time, it did not go away. It grew until it fully occupied her head. Then it became bigger still. At last, she saw
“You are mine now,” came a voice inside her head, and suddenly the darkness was replaced by brilliant light. “NYAAAAAH!” she screamed she felt her eyes burning, she tried to cover them and discovered that she could not. She felt a presence, which grew bigger and bigger and bigger until it filled the whole universe. “You are mine now,” the voice repeated, and suddenly the light was gone and Biu could see again.
She saw a massive being sitting on a throne of brass, an enormous double- bladed glaive in its hand. Its head alone had been the size of a Juggernaut, its body greater than a planet. She and her sister were nothing, less than nothing, compared to its gargantuan presence.
“YOU ARE MINE NOW” the voice boomed in her head with the force of a thousand nuclear bombs. Suddenly, the whole world was fire. Biu burned. It felt as if star exploded in every cell of her being, over and over and over. “AAAAAAAAARGGGH!” she screamed, louder than ever before or after, a scream that came not from her throat, but from every cell of her being wracked in unimaginable agony. Biu burned. Her body blackened, then turned to cinders, and then to ash. Still the fires burnt on, consuming her very essence, the very core of her soul.
“YOU ARE MINE NOW!” she could still hear the voice. “AND WE SHALL HAVE SUCH FUN TOGETHER”
Then there was nothing but an eternity of pain. Eight hours later
Resolution In The Face Of Danger was in position. Since arriving into the system, it had assumed an orbit in the core of the system, less than two light minutes from the corona of the star. It had towed the relay with it. The information received from its captives had been encouraging, but should the encounter go wrong, it would take it scant seconds to order the relay to self-destruct, then dive into the star at full speed. It had sent a detailed update and confirmed this course of action with its superiors. It also sent off all its data on the Chamarran captives via submesonic link including mind-scans and biological information.
It had demanded to listen in on the interrogation in person, and its subordinates had no choice but to obey. At first, it had felt pleasure at their suffering, for they had, after all, destroyed one of its craft, and drove its ancient companion to suicide. However, as time went on, the interrogator breaking down their resistance, dominating their minds and souls until they considered the chance of telling it the truth the sole meaning of their lives and the pinnacle of their existence, Resolution’s attitudes began to change. There was something wrong, unnatural in the way the daemon had dominated its screaming captives. Originally, the ship intended to let the interrogator have its way with them all the way through the encounter, even after they had told it all that they knew, but as the time went by it reconsidered that decision. The concept of pity was alien to it, and so it could not explain why it chose to break the link as soon as the session was done, and to place its captives into a deep merciful sleep inside the stasis tubes, as the diplomatic unit asked it to, rather than leaving them to suffer in the darkness all the way through its journey as had been its natural inclination. It had spent whatever scraps of time and processing power it could spare to analyze this unusual phenomenon, but it had yet to reach a conclusion when it ran out of time.
Even deep inside the system’s hyperlimit, it felt the distant rumblings of the hyperspace as the giant mass of the Collector Monolith approached the system at last.
OOC: I apologize if this is too dark. I intended it to be a lot lighter (and shorter), but I found the exploration of terror and sensory deprivation too interesting to resist. This was the first time I wrote something like this, and I promise to keep the grimdark to a minimum from now on, as much as possible, at least, given the nature of my power
Have a very nice day.