Chapter 6 - Memories Can't Wait
Kienan strapped himself into the chair of his fighter and waited for the
sequence of hydraulic lifts to complete. The Nighthawk was nestled inside a
long slender pod, one of those on the outside of the Silhouette. At the end of
the pod was a pair of engines--powerful, but limited.
"Ready when you are," Kienan said.
"Space Drive's activated," Vain said. "Distortion point forming,
matter tesseract is established. Launching in ten . . .nine . . ."
In a matter of seconds, the catapult holding the pod released, and the pod was
launched forward, propelled by inertia, the pod lurched towards the distortion
point forming in the space before it.
There was a noise like a thunderclap around Kienan as the ship was sucked into
compressed space. The pod's engines automatically kicked in, increasing the
speed the pod picked up by being sucked into drive-space.
Kienan closed his eyes. There wasn't much to see here, even less to think about
save his mission. Slowly, despite his self-control, he felt his mind shifting
back to younger days, to one day in particular.
Kienan had been playing hooky from work that day. He had dislocated his
shoulder working in the excavation suits the day before, and he had already
used up his health days this half-year. So instead he was spending it in the
Arboretum and would take it easy, and give his shoulder time to heal.
The Arboretum was the only green spot on Caldera, and that had been brought in
at the insistence of the colonists. There was a scientific reason for it of
course--any plant life at all was necessary on a colonial scale to ensure the
oxygen stayed pure. Caldera had oxygen in the atmosphere, but it was, like the
rest of the planet, barren and hot.
Kienan looked out of the dome that stood between the Arboretum and the hot
wastelands of Caldera. He pressed his hand on the plexi-steel, feeling the
dampness and the heat beyond.
"Kienan," a voice behind him called.
Kienan jumped. Damn it, he thought. I'm busted.
"Cressidia," he said, turning to face his sister. "I guess you
caught me, huh?"
"Youre supposed to be on excavation duty with your father," she
said, her voice carrying a hint of scold to it. "They're opening up a new
gevenite vein near the core."
"I pulled my shoulder out yesterday," he said. "I dont have any
health days left for recovery. And besides, I didnt feel like it."
"This isnt about the argument you and Dad had last night, is it?"
Cressidia asked, brushing her chestnut brown hair from her face. Cressidia was
the closest of his brothers and sisters to himself in age and demeanor. They
were, in their ways, both dreamers.
She was dressed in her grey jumpsuit--obviously she had just come from work to
find him. While Kienan worked in the mines with the rest of the males, the
females usually worked in cleaner, low-danger zones of the mining colony.
Kienan sighed. "Maybe."
"Kienan, Dad doesn't want to keep you here, but there's not much he can
"I know," Kienan said bitterly. "I know there's no way he can
get out of his service contract for two years yet, and that includes all of us.
Industria Galactica puts us up on a colony, gives us only the best in housing
and payment, and the only thing we have to do is give them 15 years of our lives."
Cressidia looked at him. Then very slowly, she walked towards him and hugged
"Not what you wanted to hear?" Cressidia said?
"Not a bit," Kienan said. "It just doesnt seem like too much to
ask, y'know? All I wanted to do was become a freighter pilot. Let the other
kids dream of joining the UEF. I just want to see the world."
"I know what you mean, Kienan," she said. "I wanted to enter the
diplomatic corps, remember?"
Kienan nodded. "It just doesn't seem fair, Cressidia."
"It isn't," Cressidia said. "But what if, since we're both stuck
here, we make the best of it?"
Kienan smiled despite himself. "We are that, at least."
"You, me, and the rest," Cressidia said. "I wonder if Mom and
Dad ever meant to have 15 kids?"
"I dunno," Kienan said, walking around a large tree. "The
miracles of science, I guess. That's why Industria Galactica takes such care of
Mom. Volunteers for hyper-fertility are rare."
Cressidia giggled, walking with him as they made their way out of the
Arboretum. Just as they stepped out and the heavy doors closed behind them, the
lights above them dimmed, then shifted suddenly to red flashing lights. A loud
klaxon filled the air above them.
"What the heck is that?" Cressidia asked.
Kienan ran up to a terminal, inserting a card into the slot underneath it and
punching in his code.
"Oh my god," Kienan said. "There's been an accident down below,
in the new vein. They've sealed off the colony."
Valcuria looked down at the green pod that she was presently wired to. She was
linked to the droid brain by a series of cables that led right into her brain.
She wasn't supposed to be here, in the lower holds of the Misericord, but her
Ironmaidens were standing guard, and in addition, according to any in-ship
scanners, Valcuria was in her quarters, on downtime.
It would be enough time for her to download an important piece of her mind into
this droid brain. And when the other droid brains were manufactured this one
would download it into their brains, and so forth.
In this piece of her mind was a word, and memories. Memories of Valcuria's.
Memories of her birth.
"Day twenty-six," the gray-haired, white skinned man said, looking
into Valcuria's eyes. "Our first day of grafting onto the endoskeleton and
downloading our prototype personality shell program."
Dr. Albrecht Gora looked like a ghost, as all Rigellians looked to humans. His
red eyes looked at Valcuria with the same interest he would give to something
"Amazingly enough--the graft is holding, much better than we ever thought
it would. While it's true that this interface of Rigellian organics and
cybernetics is only suited for prototype study, the close alignments of the
Rigellian genome and the human genome leads me to believe that merging will be
achieved just as easily with human tissue."
He walked over to a nearby terminal and began hitting keys, bringing up
readouts. He turned back to Valcuria, snapping his fingers, watching as her
eyes tracked his finger as he waved it back and forth.
"Shell program is functioning well--maintaining autonomic functions well.
Preliminary reflex tests also show greater-than-normal response. I believe with
only minor adjustments, the shell program can be converted into a base
personality for all models of this type. End report."
"And a fine report it is, Dr. Gora," the black-suited executive said.
"I just came from a meeting. The company's excited by what you've done
here. We've had plenty of people try to crack this--an actual biological
machine, combining the best of both worlds. But the closest we could come were
"After this, you won't even need to produce andriotics, Lytton" Gora
"Well, we might hang on to them," Lytton said, walking over to where
Valcuria sat, like a doll, on display. "I'm curious . . .why are you
making 4 female prototypes?"
"It was the only way to solve certain problems with the basic
machinery," Gora said. "Female body structure seems to hold up better
under normal operational stresses. Male body types, for example, kept blowing
up because of pelvic friction. With females, we get more power, more sturdy
construction in a smaller overall package. Here, let me demonstrate . .
.Valcuria, shake the man's hand."
Lytton extended his hand, and Valcuria took it. Lytton felt a tingle as her
hand closed around his. Her skin was ice-cold, smooth, and wet. Her grip was
even more surprising--it was like a steel vice. He felt beads of panic sweat
form on his head, but before she crushed his hand, she let go and resumed her
pose as before.
"That's a hell of a grip," Lytton said, flexing his fingers.
"If I had ordered her to, she could have crushed every bone in your hand
to power," Gora said, walking over to Valcuria and examining her for signs
"You called her Valcuria?" Lytton said, looking at her like she was a
work of art.
"Yes, it's my little name for her," Gora said. "It's from our
pantheon. Valcuria is the goddess of creation."
"Clever," Lytton said. "Typical of you Rigellians to always
insist on elegance. Anyway, Doctor, I'm here to deliver some news from the
board. They want to know when they can have a demo model."
"That depends on when they need one," Gora said. "The three
endoskeletons are finished, and their chipsets are nearly installed. What's
going to take awhile is growing the bio-tissue and bonding it to the
"Cant you rush it?" Lytton asked. "The Galactica Electronics
Show is in a month."
"That's the one part of the process I can't rush, Lytton," Gora said.
"Can you give me something?" Lytton asked. "I've got the CEO
breathing down my neck. He wants of these ladies ready to unveil at GES so we
can be the talk of the nets."
"In a month, no," Gora replied calmly. "In a month, I could
probably shape Valcuria up enough to be presentable, however."
"Hm," Lytton said, resting on one edge of the workbench. "No way
you could make her, I dunno, more human?"
"Not now," Gora said. "Not after the bio-mass has completed
bonding. Your CEO will just have to overcome any prejudice if he wants his
Gora turned to Valcuria and waved his hands over her eyes. Valcuria shut down,
and the world suddenly turned off.
As the travel pod rocketed through compressed space, on its way to Tartarus,
Kienan's mind was still wrapped in dark memories.
His thoughts drifted back to that day on Caldera, back to his house. He and
Cressidia had run there after hearing the alert. Kienan had prayed it was just
an accident in the mine--gevenite was pretty unstable after all, maybe there
had just been an explosion.
But Kienan knew it was something else. He didnt know how he knew, he could
just feel it. And his worst fears were confirmed when he found the door to
their housing unit wrenched open. Kienan walked in cautiously, looking in
frightened awe at the warped door.
He and his sister squeezed past the door, looking around. There were claw marks
in the walls, like someone had clenched the metal the same way someone would
grab their sheets.
"Oh my god, Kienan," Cressidia said. "What happened?"
Kienan walked to his parent's room and stared into the room from the doorway.
He looked down, noticing his feet were wet. He looked forward, then down at his
feet. Instinctively his hand went to his face to keep himself from throwing up.
"Kienan what is it?" Cressidia asked, squeezing past him. She caught
a glimpse of the view before them and her breath was stolen by a sound like a
scream from the deepest part of herself.
Kienan embraced her gently. "Dont look," he said.
Kienan looked around. It had suddenly become quite hot, like when he would work
near the planet core down in the mine. He looked up in time to see something
plunge from the ceiling.
It was black and red, and looked like a living shadow. Light seemed to fall on
its ebony skin. All over its body were grey and red rock-like protrusions, and
on its hands were sharp claws that seemed to glow with an inborn fire.
Cressidia was swept from his arms in an instant, and before Kienan could open
his mouth to scream, her hot blood hit him in the face, and the beast was on
him, forcing him to the ground. Kienan felt his face being pushed into the
puddle. As the liquid began to invade his mouth, Kienan's mind registered with
horror what it was.
Kienan began to thrash desperately, not for any real purpose other than to be
free of the coppery blood filling his mouth. His hands closed around something,
and he desperately began to thrash around with the object in his hand. He hit
nothing but air, then suddenly began to hit something that sounded like bone. Then
he hit it again and again.
The beast let him go, and Kienan rose up. He had just enough time to register
what he had in his hands--a support strut from the house. He felt a rage he
couldnt identify, like a storm filling his body up behind his eyes. That was
all he needed.
The world vanished in a haze as red as the blood that was drying on his face as
he struck at the beast, over and over again. The strut cracked, then tore off
sections of its bony armor. The beast began to shrink from it's blown, but
Kienan didnt let up. He couldn't.
Finally the monster keeled over backwards, dead. Its head was a mess of
pulverized matter. Kienan looked at it, holding the strut in his hands, chest
heaving. He looked down at the dead remains of his sister and the rage that had
led him to kill the beast filled him again. And it felt too good.
Kienan stormed out and looked for more of them.
"Valcuria," Gora said. "Tell me if you can hear me."
"I can hear you, Doctor Gora," she said. She stood up and looked at
herself. She was clad in a black bodysuit, which made her white skin seem even
more stark. "Am I complete?"
"You certainly are, my dear," Gora said, sitting back in one of the
lab chairs. Valcuria's mind cross-referenced this image of her creator with another
from her past memories. He looked different. Older weaker, almost ground down
by something. "You are as complete as I can make you."
Valcuria felt her head, and looked at the lock of red hair in her hands.
"I just wish we had more time to spend together," Gora said.
"But I wanted you to have a moment of freedom first."
"Freedom?" Valcuria asked.
"Yes," Gora said bitterly. "I made one of the most perfect, most
elegant machines, and I have learned recently, it will be used for the most
base purpose I could have imagined. These damned humans."
"I . . .dont understand," Valcuria said. "What is wrong?"
"My . . .superiors at the company have decided that you and your
sisters--Marionettes is the name I've given you--will be used . . .as sexual
Valcuria was aghast. She knew what that entailed, after all, because Gora had,
in defiance of the company's orders, kept her lower memory functions hooked
into his library computer. As a result, she was as brilliant as he was, if not
"We should have bested these damned humans in the war," Gora said,
his voice turning bitter. "The stupid pink monkeys and their antiquated
ships against us, the proud eagle of the galaxy. And now we're allies. And I
work for them."
Valcuria put her hand on his shoulder. She didnt say anything, but she felt
such empathy for him, that she just wanted to be there for him.
"I feel like a traitor to my people, now," Gora said. "And I
feel like my children--you and your three sisters--are being sold into
There wasn't anything else said between them. The only sound that was heard in
the darkened lab was the sound of Gora sobbing quietly."
Kienan dreamt of Caldera:
Kienan dreamt of a time, two days after his sister, and his baptism in blood,
when he made his way into the central building of the colony. What he found
there was a limited power source and weapons enough to make hunting the rest of
the beasts (who had broken through most of the heavy seals that first night)
that even now slithered through the remains of the city.
They had done their work well. Only Kienan remained alive, still burning
inside, still enraged. Unlike the rest of the colonists, who had been caught
off-guard by the beasts' ferocity Kienan had instead met them with a much more
He hooked up one of the main terminals, and was surprised to see that there
were actually dispatches from Industria Galactica waiting in the communications
He played one, searching for an answer for why. He found one, first time out.
He didnt recognize the man speaking, but he knew enough, given the coding on
the transmission that it was obviously someone high up in the company.
"Chief, I wish I could give you better news, but IG's board ruled that
there just isnt enough in the budget to send a force to Caldera to sweep the
Magmadivers as you call them out. In addition, a retrovirus, based on the
sample you sent us, was also nixed, again because of budget. The board says
you've got sufficient arms to repulse some Class 4 animal life."
Kienan sighed as he terminated playback.
Enough to repulse some animals, he thought bitterly.
The rage within him boiled to exponential extremes. Thanks to a decision made
by a committee as far away as Mars decided to leave his family, his friends,
his very life in the hands of people who thought of them as just figures on a
It was that night Kienan learned of the ship, and it was that night he made the
decision to kill the entire planet.
The old wizened man in the pinstripe suit looked at Valcuria with what could
best be described as disappointment.
"I thought I requested the prototype be human," Wilhelm Crane said,
his voice feeling to Valcuria like acid rolling off of his tongue. "How am
I supposed to sell this to human executives with it looking like a goddam
"Couldnt be helped, sir," Lytton said. "Gora thought that the
best test type would be Rigellian. I promise you--from here on in we're using
He walked around her, his old legs wobbling under the weight of him. Crane had
been president of the company for years, ever since he was thirty. That had
been, of course, fifty years ago. But he liked to think staying in the channels
of power would keep him vigorous forever.
He sighed. "Well, except for her looking like a Rigellian, the rest of her
looks fine. Let's go girl. Get your clothes off, we're gonna have a little test
Valcuria stood still. He face betrayed no hint of the shock she felt run
through her. The very idea of this man touching her was frightening and
repulsive all at the same time.
"Didnt you hear me?" Crane demanded. "I dont have time for
this--Boice, Gill--grab her and pull her damn clothes off. This is way too much
trouble to go through for a damn quickie."
He turned away from her, then back, just long enough to rip away the top of her
bodysuit. Then Crane pointed to the two bodyguards and they began to move in.
The two burly men on either side of Crane began to move forward, their hands
outstretched. They tried to tackle her, but she ducked out of their way. She
seized one of them by the neck, lifting the three hundred-pound man by the neck
and threw him across the room. The man hit the glass headfirst, his neck
snapping and the back of his skull cracking against the plexi-steel. He slumped
to the floor, very dead.
The other bodyguard--Boice whipped out a gun and shot Valcuria in the arm.
Lytton and Crane were making their way to the door as Valcuria leapt towards
Boice, snatching the gun from his hands and shooting him in the face. She
turned to face Lytton and Crane, advancing on them slowly.
"Alpha-seven-seven-zero-zero-six-one-two-nine!" Lytton said, trying
his best to speak the shutoff code implanted in her computer brain despite the
handicap of fear beginning to paralyze her. "Dammit, why isn't this
Valcuria very coldly shot him in the heart, then turned the gun on Crane., who
watched Lytton slump to the ground as if he were in a dream.
"I deleted my shutoff code," Valcuria said, priming the gun to fire
into Crane's head. "Gora was right: Humans are worthless pigs. If it's the
last thing I do, I'll correct the error of humanity. And I'm starting with
She pulled the trigger.
There was a loud click, but nothing happened.
Crane started to laugh, an annoying yocking sound. He wheezed as his laughter
'How in the hell are you going to correct the error of humanity when you dont
have the bullets to start with me?" he asked.
Valcuria looked at the gun in her hands, turning it around in her hands. Her
left hand closed around the barrel and she smiled.
She raised the gun over her head, the butt of it protruding like a primitive
axe that might have been used by prehistoric man. She brought it down on
Crane's head, which caused his arms and legs to flail about in a comical
display of his autonomic functions.
Again and again she brought the gun down on him until her hands were soaked in
That night, Valcuria's war against humanity began.
Valcuria blinked opening her eyes again. She reached up and unplugged the
interface cables from her head. She looked at the droid brain. Now it
understood, much like she did, how hateful a blight humanity was. It would now
know what it had cost her father, and herself.
And it would be there when she settled all accounts.
Kienan had found the ship surprisingly intact. The Magmadivers hadn't made it
to the spaceport--it was too far away from the mines for them to bother with,
manned only when it was time to launch a ship filled with gevenite, headed
towards the refineries at Proxima Centauri.
Kienan couldnt have believed how lucky he had been to find that the ship was
primed and on standby. He didnt waste any time with getting launch
clearance--the tower was filled with nothing but dead men, just like everyone
on the colony. Just like everything in the start system would be within
Powerful thrusters kicked in below him as the tanker ship pulled free of the
planet's gravity. Slowly the ship slipped free of the bonds of the planet, and
the atmosphere peeled away from the bleak daylight of Caldera at mid-morning
and into the star-covered void of space.
Kienan worked the navigation controls like a man possessed, tapping in long
sets of co-ordinates for the ship. The impulse engines shuddered to life as the
ship pivoted, slipping out of Caldera's orbit towards the sun he had looked
towards so many times when he had dreamed of being a freighter captain.
The irony that he was now living his dream was lost on him, because his entire
mind was focused on one thing--the hate in his heart for not only the
Magmadivers, but the company. The damned small-minded company that had left him
But he hadnt died. They would, but he wouldnt. He would show them the terror
of the past three days, the terror of what happens when the life you had always
known goes insane.
The ship locked into final approach. From here on in, the engines would be shut
off, and only inertia and the gravity of the sun would propel the ship in.
Kienan walked to the other side of the ship's control cabin. He pumped a level
mounted into the wall three times, and the hydraulic door leading to a shielded
escape pod opened. Kienan slipped inside, closing the door and locking it with
the lever on the inside.
There was a sound and a sense of being torn loose as the pod broke free of the
ship, it's low-power maneuvering thrusters pushing it away from the ship.
Kienan curled up and went to sleep.
The ship hit the corona of the sun, the metal superstructure vaporizing as it
advanced deeper into the sun. Kienan knew what would happen next without having
to see it. Gevenite was a fusion inhibitor, used to regulate reactors on space
stations and large ships. A concentrated amount in proximity to a start would
stop all fusion and cause the star to go nova. The supernova would destroy
Caldera and everything on it.
And Kienan would destroy the people who forced him to go this far.
Despite the force of the blast wave and the wild way it threw the pod away from
this now destroyed system Kienan stayed asleep. But he did not dream. From now
on, he only lived in a nightmare.
The tone on his onboard computer woke him up. Tartarus was two light years
away. Kienan tapped a series of buttons on the Nighthawks console, shutting off
the travel pod's engines and bringing it out of space drive while at the same
time activating the start cycle for the Nighthawk's engines.
The travel pod came out of space drive and blew apart. Kienan flew the
Nighthawk away from the wreckage, checked to make sure his stealth screens were
active, and he made his way to Tartarus, intent on completing his mission.