I’m going through the anomaly, friends. I found where Thrice Seven went, and where they were stopped in their tracks. But that’s all I know. I know also that every scout sent back there since has vanished – save one. I saw a bit of what he said. It was frightening. I’m going to verify it, and see if I can get any more data to help us. So, as you read this, I’m nowhere to be found – and nowhere you want to be.
The anomaly loomed, ever closer. The trepidation.. and the flash.
6, no, 9, no 12 hostiles inbound. UNKNOWN Conflux! Go, go, go… flashing red… armor damage…. flashfire! What’s that? Another anomaly? Go, go.. go.. gooooooo! Flash. A rending, crashing boom. All was darkness.
Razor woke up with a start, his brow beaded in a cold sweat. He hated that particular dream. Hated it with a not-entirely-sane vehemence. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and rolled off his spare pallet in the transient’s quarters at Hyperial. It came, every night. Again, and again, and again, and again. Some fluxhunter he was. Nightmares about flux. It didn’t help that he’d fought every class of them since – especially the ones that shot him up so badly on his expedition. It didn’t help that he’d killed thousands – tens of thousands – since then. They never stopped coming. Not in his dreams – and not in space, either. He’d failed. Miserably. He’d failed New Dawn, he’d failed Amananth, he’d failed Holly, he’d failed… everyone.
I need answers.
That was what had started it all. That, and his arrogance.
So I will be your bloodhound. I will try. I’m not arrogant, but I’m confident in my skills against the Conflux. They’ve been tested enough, I’d venture to say. They may not be enough this time.
He winced, thinking of his own words, so long ago. So young, so foolish. To him, less than a year ago. Pain teaches more than comfort, they say. Some bloodhound. That confidence did you no good at all. The worst part was when the mantas swooped in with contemptuous ease to swat at him, after their bigger cousins blasted his shields to ribbons. Mantas. His mother’s murderers. Then he ran. Cut and ran, and found out nothing. Nothing except a long-dead personality – and he would have died, unimaginably far away from home, without her help. She thought he was hopelessly uncultured. A primitive barbarian, fit only for slaughter. Now her squadleader. He snorted contemptuously. Whatever she wanted those ECMs for, one of them wasn’t for herself. He’d have to make that one good to Sinver. She was up to something, but he couldn’t bring himself to confront her about it. Owing someone a life wasn’t exactly something he was used to. Even though it was a life changed without his consent. He tried to be mad about that, but he remembered. He was an automaton, those last days. A lifeless, soulless killing machine who didn’t care who he killed, or why, as long as he followed orders. He just knew enough to keep New Dawn out of it. He’d handed the keys over to Lupin, and transferred to ION. They would restrain him.
Aelagi had different ideas, though. He hadn’t got the entire story yet, but she had not only whisked him away under sedation and stuck him in the tank for repairs, but salvaged the awakened AIs.He wasn’t sure how he felt about having those AIs running about – for values of running – but there was nothing to be done about it now. Somehow, she’d also made a trade with Amananth. How else to explain her looking exactly as he’d imagined that she imagined herself – but standing there in front of him?
I don’t know for what, but I suspect that she did the station AI a favor. A favor involving the Children. She succeeded in protecting them – and I failed. Lupin succeeded – and I failed.
I can’t fail again. I can’t bear it. Oh, I put on the strong, confident “New Dawn Fleet Commander” face – but only because none of these people really know me. I’m scared to death that we’ll actually find Holly. She’d see through it – and I couldn’t bear the inevitable look of pity.
Some fluxhunter he was. Nightmares about flux.
They never stopped coming.
He scrubbed at his face at the washstand, avoiding his own eyes in the mirror.
Maybe if I kill enough of them, the nightmares will stop.
He strode purposefully out the door, uniform pristine, cocky swagger intact.
Kill them all. Every last one of the glowy nightmares. Then it’ll stop. Finally.
13 years of nightmares was enough for anyone, wasn’t it?
Oh yes, Aelagi. You missed your dreams so much.
Well, I got dreams.
13 years of constant nightmares, I could never wake up from.
KILL THEM ALL.
He climbed into his fighter, and thumbed the comm switch.
“RazorsKiss, launch ready, Hyperial control.”
“Hyperial Control. Good hunting, Commander.”
“It always is.”