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[Short story] Nightmares

Author
#1 - 2012-12-02 16:51:15 UTC  |  Edited by: Che Biko
Nightmares
---
By Ché Biko


Sanctum Constellation - Genesis Region
November 29th, YC 112.


I wake up. Or I was already awake, but still trying to dream. Trying to pay no attention to the world outside my head, but at some point becoming so conscious about the fact that it exists that you can no longer ignore it. It was an arrhythmic shadow play, a Morse code of light and darkness on my still closed eyelids that made it impossible. Light...shadow.........light.....shadow..light........shadow.

So I open my eyes, during a period of shadow. I look at the clock to see if my love, she is no longer lying next to me in our bed, has gone to her work already. A sound in the kitchen betrays her presence before I have fully focused on the clock. The light of the Tekaima star fills the room again, our hybrid living and bedroom. The sunscreen of our apartment on the CONCORD Bureau station has already been set in daytime mode by my love. I look outside to see what the source of the shadow play is.
It’s a Nightmare, a battleship rumored to be designed by Sansha Kuvakei himself. It’s not a common sight. Not a lot of Pod Cleared pilots command one, and I think there are practically none Not Pod Cleared captains that can even claim to have been on the bridge of one, unless they are loyal to Master Kuvakei. Or it used to be an uncommon sight. In the past year, there had been plenty of occasions where you could see entire fleets of them, commanded by Sansha’s “children”. I had witnessed one of those fleets myself. They were the latest chapter in a book most people thought would be finished apart from some footnotes, but the war has flared up again.

I am not alarmed though. I cannot recall Sansha's Nation attacking a space station in recent history. The shape of the ship, with its spikes and open spaces between parts of its hull, does give me a probable cause for the shadow play, especially in combination with its unusual approach. It looks like it had just finished turning between the star and me. It must have ended up around there after dropping out of warp. I close my eyes and lay my head back down on the pillow again, not quite awake enough yet to get up and join my love for breakfast, but I attempt to shout to her anyway.

"There's a pretty ship outside! If you're quick, you might see it before it docks!"

Nation ships are just her style. She does not even have a shuttle pilot license, but if she did, she would fly a Nation shuttle for sure, if there is such a thing.
She must have heard me; I hear her rushing towards the window. Then I notice something else. There's a slight tremble...and another one… and another one. As the frequency of the trembles increases, I start to realize something.

"...Unusual approach...that ship isn't docking!"

I look up to the window. I see my love looking in the direction of where the battleship was going when I last saw it. I see flashes of light reflecting on her face, her expression tells me that my suspicions can't be far from the truth. I quickly get up to stand next to her and see what is going on.
The scene before my eyes makes me think I'm having a nightmare, I cannot believe this is real. A fleet of about 30 Sansha ships is attacking the station and the few other ships outside. I stand there in shock for a minute before I'm able to think again. Then I nudge my love and rush to my pile of clothes.

"I'm going to the promenade for a better look!"
#2 - 2012-12-02 16:51:44 UTC  |  Edited by: Che Biko
I quickly put on my pants and a shirt while my love slowly turns away from the window, she's clearly as shocked as I was just a moment ago. However, my shock was quickly replaced with something else...determination perhaps. I decide not to bother with shoes and underwear; the buzzing alarms do their job at conveying urgency.
I head out the door and towards one of the round transparent alcoves offering a better view at the exterior of the station. A brief glance around tells me that I'm not the only one doing so, although most people are running around, with their faces displaying varying levels of distress. I notice my love is following behind me, although more hesitantly.

When I look outside, I can barely believe my eyes. The Sansha ships have already destroyed or disabled the few defending ships outside. I see them, or pieces of them, rotating eerily through the vacuum, and together with the creepy Sansha ships, the scene gives me the shivers for a moment. Then I feel the warm arms of my love holding me, and I'm grateful for that, because I may have seen a Sansha attack before, but this time, seeing it with my own two eyes and nothing but a pair of transparent nanoalloy sheets separating me from the carnage outside makes me feel a bit...naked. Too close for comfort.
Then I notice something that makes my discomfort fade away, and I'm intrigued instead. The attack patterns are changing. That by itself is not surprising, as it is quite logical to change them after the defenses of the station have been disabled, and it looks like they've done that by now, but what the patterns are changing into fascinates me so much that I forget about being worried about the destroyed sentry guns.
I see the lasers of the Sansha burning away the armor of the station at seemingly random spots with surgical precision, until only the bare structure is exposed. Then I see some Sansha cruisers, Phantasms they call them, crashing into those spots, slamming into the station like thistles slamming into trees during a hurricane.
I've never heard of them doing this before, and I'm wondering what the point of this suicide attack is. One would think that the Sansha would know that it is hardly an efficient tactic; there aren't enough cruisers to damage the station severely, even if the battleship joined them. They are just removing firepower from the attack. "If only they had a supercarrier..." I joke inside my head.
However, as the dust and debris scatters from the impact points, I see something, and I'm in awe. The Phantasms have suffered little damage from the collision. I had heard that these ships are sturdy, but this...wow. I am so impressed that it takes a few urgent tugs from my love to alert me to a message being relayed through the speakers.

"Intruder alert! All citizens and non-essential personnel are to head towards the nearest emergency shelters immediately!"

My love clearly wants to follow those instructions, but I hesitate and look towards one of the Phantasms that penetrated the station. This could be my chance.

Just as the pleas from my love have convinced me to come with her a set of lasers striking near our location needlessly encourage me in doing so. We run down the corridor hand in hand, away from the focal point of the lasers. We are running for about a minute when a jolt throws us off balance and we tumble to the floor. We are still for a moment until a slight, short-lived breeze informs us that while some air has escaped into space, the remaining structure is holding, and the force fields have sealed the breach, at least for now. Well...not just the force fields, I'm guessing.
I look behind me to confirm my suspicions, but a mixture of vapors, gasses and disabled lights shrouds the area. A number of fast closing sirens draw my attention away from the impact point and we hurry to the side of the corridor to make room for dozens of hover carts, carrying squads of emergency response troops. I am impressed by their response time, even after I realize that the station commander must have noticed what the Sansha were doing and send the troops here right after the lasers started hitting the armor.
The sound of weapons fire coming from the impact point, about 400 meters from where we are, can be heard long before the last cart passes us, and as it passes I feel like the slipstream begs me to follow it.
"So close...I've never been this close..." I think as I walk back to the central axis of the corridor.
I stand there for a while, trying to gauge how the battle is proceeding, until I've made up my mind. I look towards my love, and she looks like she already knows what I'm going to do. The look on her face, a strange mixture of desperation and resignation, makes me feel sorry for her, but not enough so that it makes me change my mind.

"I have to see." I say apologetically.
#3 - 2012-12-02 16:51:52 UTC  |  Edited by: Che Biko
I start making my way through the corridor, half crouching, half jogging, and staying close to the side. About halfway I look behind me, knowing this might be my last chance to see my love, but to my surprise, she is following me, and after a moment of hesitation, I keep going. The fact that we are now the only civilians in the area barely registers within my mind, and does not discourage me in the least.

The corridor ends into a large open area, I guess that's why the Sansha cruiser picked this spot to crash into. The ceiling about is 50 meters above my head and it's partially sliced in half by the large, spear-like front spike of the ship. I always wondered if those spikes had another function than just frightening their opponents.
In front of me, to the left, is a waist high wall made of gold-like looking metal. A squad of troops is using it for cover as they fire down towards the lower area, while another squad makes their way down the wide, shallow stairs on the right side. I try to judge the severity of the incoming fire aimed at the wall. Just when I deem it safe to move behind it for a better look, the squad that is using it for cover goes down the stairs as well.
I get behind the wall and peek over it. On the floor below are two or three hundred bodies, about half of them are station troops. Scattered between them are the few dozen soldiers that are still fighting. The Sansha are trying to hold their ground to prevent the station troops from entering the big opened hatch in the ship. I notice something on the hull that looks like a turret, it appears to be ripped apart by the impact of the ship with the station, and I guess that that might have played a part in why the station troops are winning here. The infantry loyal to Sansha look just like what I had expected, but it surprises me at the same time: zombie-like cyborgs you see in horror holoflicks. They have a lot of armor, and that makes them easier to look at. It's where the armor has been torn away from their pale skin, pierced with tubes and covered with implants and body modifications of varying sizes, that they look most horrific, even when I'm not focusing on the wounds that have killed them.

After a while, the last of the Sansha have either been killed or retreated into the ship, and the shooting has stopped. I slowly stand up and look over the battlefield. For a moment, it's almost as if time has stopped. The few squads of station troops that remain standing appear like statues, their weapons aimed at the giant open hatch in the ship. Then one of the wounded screams for help, and the statues come alive again. A few orders are shouted. Some troops keep their weapons aimed at the hatch, others try to aid the wounded, and I think one is frantically trying to reach the command center through his communicator.
They appear anxious, and in a hurry. They are not paying attention to me or my love, who has once again come to stand by my side, if they even noticed us at all. I suddenly realize why they are afraid, and why they do not board the ship.
The Sansha are likely to do one of two things: either they try to pull their ship out of the station, which will likely expose this area to space long enough for serious decompression, or they will self-destruct their ship, which is even worse.
Suddenly I am also affected by a sense of urgency, and I make my way down the stairs while I gesture to my love to stay back. I carefully move between the wounded and the dead. The blood and other fluids covering the floor come into contact with my bare feet, but it does not bother me. I do try to avoid stepping on the bodies, or body parts, some of them still moving in sort of a mechanical, spastic way, and as I do I scan them with my eyes, looking for that one piece of equipment that will give me answers.
Answers to questions I've had for a long time, long enough to send me into a depression, aided by my mostly meaningless existence, my ambitions of creating a better nation long gone, discouraged by dealing with uncaring capsuleers and becoming more complacent as my wealth increased. Nonetheless, the questions remained.
#4 - 2012-12-02 16:52:06 UTC  |  Edited by: Che Biko
Ever since I learned about the Promised Land, the name that Sansha Kuvakei gave to his domain in Stain, and his utopian dream, I have had these questions. And as I learned more, some questions were answered, some remained and new ones took the place of the ones that were answered. The same happened when I exchanged some thoughts with Nation sympathizers. A lot of them indeed seemed to be much like the idealist Kuvakei claimed to be, wishing to bring peace and unity to humankind.
At the same time, a lot of those opposing Nation bring forth arguments that mean less and less to me. They want to protect the free will of humankind, and I do not believe in free will. And even if I did, I might want to sacrifice it for cluster wide peace and unity.
Some say that Nation should be destroyed because of all those they kill in Kuvakei's name, but how is that any different from any of the other empires, that are now once again locked in a war that may never end?
Others speak of cultures, or traditions, or emotions, but are those worth having when they stand in the way of a united humankind?
They even speak about the preservation of humankind itself, as if the current form of humans is the only right one, the true pinnacle of life. We might as well fight evolution itself. And is humankind, as it exists today, not the greatest threat to itself? Even if Nation's citizens and slaves cannot be considered humans, they might be better than humans, perhaps even more...humane.
Over time, one question became more important than others: Is a utopian cluster really Kuvakei's goal, or is it just a farce, a scam to enslave humankind to his will?
Sadly, there are not many ways to be sure. The journey to Stain is dangerous, but I was considering going there anyway, in an effort to end my depression, to have a goal. The other way to be sure is to plug yourself into the fabled Sansha hive mind somehow, but I was not even sure it existed, and it seemed like a farfetched possibility...until now.

If I would ever find a connection to the hive mind, I would find it here, now. And so I search the bodies of Sansha's soldiers. The feeling of being so close to answers is more than enough to make me forget about the threat the Nation cruiser poses.

After a searching for a minute or two, I find what I'm looking for. At my feet lies a Nation soldier, his helmet broken, the side of his head exposed. Curled partly around his ear is a half translucent rubbery antenna, with a color resembling quicksilver. One end is attached to a blue plastic implant sticking into his ear canal. I kneel down and I try to pull it out, but it's stuck. I try twisting it, after a second or two I hear a short faint hiss and I feel it move a little. Then the antenna suddenly curls up into a coil. It startles me, and I let go. I look at the thing for a moment, it does not move anymore. I reach out again and now I can pull it out easily.
I stand up and hold the end of the antenna between my thumb and index finger. The coil is a bit flexible and it stretches under the weight of the solid blue part. Suddenly an adrenaline rush affects me; I feel my heart beating faster. This is it. I have reached the end of the diving board and now I'm looking into the deep dark below. I'm anxious, and I hesitate. Will the water quench my thirst for answers, or will I fall into an abyss, drowning, with no chance of escape? Possibly both.
I look over my shoulder and I see my love still standing behind the wall. She is looking at me and I spend a few moments just looking at her. I don't have to say anything; she knows how I feel.
After I've calmed down a little, I return my attention to the implant. I grab the blue end and gradually push it inside my ear. Nothing happens at first and just as I'm starting to wonder if I should do something to activate it, I feel a sensation resembling a dozen thin anesthetic needles spreading out from inside my ear canal, and the antenna curls around my ear. It does not hurt, or I don't think it hurts. Anyway, the sensation is gone before I can even consciously react to it, and it does not matter as the next sensation washes over me.

It works! I am connected! And I am at peace.
I start to smile. I have my answers. I am at peace.
I climb the stairs and make my way to my love. I am at peace.
She smiles at me hesitantly as I smile at her and hold her head in my hands. I am at peace.
I break her neck and let her body fall to the floor.
I look at it and keep smiling.
I am at peace.

***


I wake up. Or I was already awake, but still trying to dream. Trying to pay no attention to the world outside my head, but at some point becoming so conscious about the fact that it exists that you can no longer ignore it. It was a arrhythmic shadow play, a Morse code of light and darkness on my still closed eyelids that made it impossible.

So I open my eyes, during a period of shadow. I look outside to see what the source of the shadow play is. It's a Nightmare battleship, on a regular approach. Sounds coming from the kitchen tell me that my love is alive and well. It was just a nightmare.
I close my eyes and lay my head back down on the pillow again. I chuckle softly at some of the silly aspects of my dream; the rather low-tech representation of the hive mind in my dream, kind of like the retro headsets that were in fashion not too long ago, and the improbable tactic of Sansha cruisers ramming the station.

Then a sadness comes over me as I realize something: I still have no answers. I’m not at peace.
I find myself wishing that the dream was real.
I am awake now, and this is my nightmare.
#5 - 2012-12-02 17:02:21 UTC
Well, that's it.
I hope you enjoyed reading it.
Feel free to comment and recommend.Blink
Vengeful Seraph
#6 - 2012-12-20 02:24:27 UTC
Engrossing story. The use of the present tense can often be difficult to pull off, but you do it well. Likes all around.

Retainer of Lady Newelle and House Sarum.

"Those who step into the light shall be redeemed, the sins of their past cleansed, so that they may know salvation." -Empress Jamyl Sarum I

Virtue. Valor. Victory.

Amarr Empire
#7 - 2012-12-20 02:58:41 UTC
Very nice job indeed, with a main character that adquires depth and develops interestingly, and nice questions raised. A very good job indeed!

Sepherim Catillah Praetoria Imperialis Excubitoris Liuteneant Ex-Imperial Navy Imperator Commander

#8 - 2013-02-27 15:35:03 UTC
Quote:
The narrative of this story was fairly schizophrenic, switching between overwritten and underwritten at seemingly random. I also felt the ending was rather weak; dream reveals are rarely satisfying.

For the over/underwritten comment (since I know that's not exactly the most clear comment), it essentially means how complicated the language was. At some points it would be too complicated on the side of flowery, and other times it would be uncomplicated on the side of dry. If you can find a midpoint, it would probably be much better.

Telegram Sam wrote:
Hi Che,

"Nightmares" was a good one. A good plot, with an intriguing twist at the end. Some twisted psychology there. I like the way the reader is left at the end to fill in the narrator's character and future. Only remorse from the dream is the "silly aspects," such as the low-tech hive mind and the tactic of ramming the station. I can't place which story, but it kind of reminds me of Edgar Allen Poe. The narrator hasn't done the deed yet, but he may do it when the circumstances align just the right way.

I honestly didn't notice the insider jokes/references. I guess I just wasn't thinking that way. I was thinking more about the protagonist and the tension built around him. But I'm kind of dense about references like that, if I'm absorbed in the action of the story. Eterne would probably be more likely to spot things like that than I would.

Suggestions for possible improvements.: A little more rounding-out in the text might have been good. Some more details along the way to give the reader images or insights to give the story a little more depth. A slightly slower pace, and some more rounding out. I've said the same thingt to almost everybody who asked for feedback. "A little more depth or details to give the illusion of being alive and make the reader suspend disbelief and temporarily live in the story' setting." Of course, I realize many people had to move quickly through the plot to get it told in 5,000 words or less. The balance between pace and depth is tricky-- I'm not saying what I can do as a writer, I'm saying what I'd like to see as picky reader. :]

Along the same lines, I'd have liked to see the girlfriend have used just a little more developing. I know her function was mostly just to be a foil for the protagonist. But a couple of more sentences to round her out would have helped me picture her better. Then again, you may have intentionally wanted to leave her as not more than just a nebulous concept in the protagonist's self-centered mind. If that was the choice, then maybe just a little more text in the last paragraphs to reinforce that (the narrator's cold, rather warped mind) would help drive the point home.

Anyway, those are my thoughts from the peanut gallery. Honest and frank feedback from one aspiring writer to another.. : ] But to close, I want to say that "Nightmares" was a good story with excellent, totally original concepts, and told well. My suggestions aren't criticisms, they're just ideas for making it a perfect story-- from the perspective of just this one reader.

Hope to see some more stories man.

o7
Sam
Gallente Federation
#9 - 2013-03-01 14:48:54 UTC
Good story! EVE fiction has to be appropriately dark.
Gallente Federation
#10 - 2013-05-12 02:27:04 UTC
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, The tone did sway back and forth a bit from concise simple descriptions to "flowery" metaphor but I can't say if that was intentional or not. Regardless it seemed to serve the narrators twisted views and did not harm the piece as whole.
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