A man opened his eyes.
His breathe moved a few small grains of sand. Though he was dazed by a pulsating headache, he could feel the hot ground and a soft wind playing in his hair. After a while the man tried to sit up but his clumsy attempt only resulted in him loosing his balance and falling over.
With a quiet groan he finally sat up in pain. Then he slowly, and not without effort, came to his feet and froze at what his eyes saw.
The men stood on a big dune and looked at the horizon where a big sun was just peeking from behind her cover, casting her orange twilight above the world. As far as he could see, the landscape was marked by sand dunes and sharp rock formations. Giant green moss like plants and giant farns waved in the shadows beneath the dunes. Their stem-like blossoms bowed to the sun as if it was their steady fountain of hope. The Sky above him was lit in dark orange and revealed some isolated clouds towering like giant fingers pointing at the firmament.
Only now he realized he was almost naked. The man inspects his body with curiousity. A sticky, slimy substance covered his skin. He used his hands to wipe the disgusting goo off. Multiple bruises decorated his body like cruid ornaments. He touched one on his upper thigh and hot pain spilled through his body. His slender fingers made an other discovery. Something cold and hard was placed at the back of his neck. Like a giant parasitic tick, the metal thing clinged to his body.
He wanted to twist and turn his head to get a look at it, but the pain in his neck stopped him from seeing the scarifing implants.
“What should I do? Where am I? Who am I? And why the ■■■■ do I have this terrible headache?”
While he ponderd about it, he noticed an object that didn’t fit into the environment. It was at the bottom of “his” dune. The man decided to take a look at it. The object looked like a giant boulder that had rolled down the dune and left a long and deep trail in the sand and destroyed some vegetation on its way.
Uncomfortable, not just because of the pain in his legs, but also because of the bad feeling his mind adressed to the strange object, he stumbled down the dune. From afar the object seemed to be a strange boulder, but now he could see more details. The man shivered. It looked like a giant metal egg. The shape was broken and torn apart, like an enourmous animal had hatched from the inside.
The man limped closer. His bare feet sank into the ground. Around the egg, the sand felt cold, smooth and humid. He looked down and saw this goo everywhere. It was pouring out of the egg and moisted the ground… The man came to the horrifying conclusion that this object was somehow related to his fate. While he mashed trought the muddy sand he heard some loud metallic noise from inside the egg. He gasped as he understood the origin.
The human mind is programmed by evolution to fear certain visual silhuettes or shapes. Staring at him with an eyeless face a giant spider like creature was revealed to him. It’s giant hairy legs, that the man could not count, clinged to the shell of the egg like the creature was a web itself. Tensening to leap forward to catch it’s ignorant prey, the sounds immediatly stopped and a disturbing silence made the mans heart rate bounce.
For a moment the whole world paused. The man didn’t look away while he carefully stumbled backwards… The creature didn’t attempt to move. It was just lurking there like a horrifiying statue but it’s existence alone would haunt the man forever. Once he was a good deal away he turned and ran, climbing the dune so fast the sand couldn’t hold his feet and sprayed everywhere. He climbed an other dune and an other, until he finnaly collapsed…
Sivah was gathering her men. There was a fight raging in orbit and some ships, or parts of them, entered the atmosphere like swarms of meteroites. While most of them would melt or burn while transversing the atmosphere, some of the bigger parts made it through and could be salvaged for a good amount of profit. Sometimes important components could be even found intact.
"Kathao", as the locals called it, was a Planet far away from the center of the Republic right in the middle of a warzone. The very high oxygen level in the atmosphere was the cause of a very flurishing insect life on the planet. Having a stationary orbit around the single star, the planet was always covered in a present orange twilight. She was used to the look of long shadows like her gathering men now casted on the ground.
Dressed in cargo pants and a dirty shirt she informed her men about the mission. Her face was covered in dark tattoos that wriggled down her neck and arms. Her thick black hair tied to the back revealed her old, scarred face. She was the leader of her clan, her family. After years of fighting, and getting rid of other contenders finally proving herself worthy to rule the small colony.
“Our Radar has detected some big objects impacting just 250km away inside the twilight zone.” She pointed at the holographic map. “We think they are the remains of a large battleship.”
The men cheered. If that was the case, they were all about to make a big fortune.
“However, the Rattles will need about 4 days to reach it. So make sure you all carry enough water, It will get rough out there!”
The “Rattles” were soon mounted. Giant isopod like creatures that clinged hundreds of sharp feet into the ground. Their thick shells rattled as they moved - giving them their unique name.
Sivah was used to hovering vehicles of course, but the “Rattles” didn’t need expensive fuel and were perfectly adapted to this environment. They moved tireless and could carry far more weight than any hovering vehicle could… at least the small affordable ones.
A small implant on their head controlled the nervous system of the creatures, and made them obedient mounts. Sivah pet the hard head of her “Rattle” and soon the caravan moved away from the sun into the dunes, following their own shadows.
The man woke again. Disoriented he was remarked by the suns twilight that his nightmare was not over yet and never would be. His lips were cracked and reminded him of his thurst. How long didn’t he had a drink? The man decided to move down the dunes again into the next little garden beneath them. Giant moss and farns surely would grow only where water was present. He climbed down into the shadow of the dunes and the air got colder.
Timid he touched one of the green ferns. They looked much smaller from a distance, but now the man noticed their stems were bigger than his legs. He was disgusted first when he noticed the following. Caterpillars as big as his arms were feeding on the large farn. They were consuming the ferns with tireless effort. The man didn’t want to think to what kind of creatures those spawns of hell would evolve once they had digested all the vegetation. To underline the terrible reality of his thoughts, he percepted a loud, glaring noise from the distance.
A terrifying noise like a final desperate cry for help of some ancient creature that met its devourer. It echoed from the dunes and reminded him of the “Spider” he saw… yesterday?
Was it still the same day? To him, time seemed to have no influence on this place…
The man wandered around the dark vegetation but couldn’t find any water. Only those caterpillars munching. He grabbed a sharp stone and worked on the stem of a Fern. After some exhausting minutes and striking pain in his right arm, he finally managed to break the shell and the fern fell with a loud crack. The broken trunk revealed a honeycomb structure with a liquid inside. He used his finger to try it. Water… the viscosity was a little thicker and it tasted bitter, but it was edible.
The man smiled for the first time.
After he quenched his thirst the man left the small garden and stopped. In front of him, he saw the shape of a dark skinned human that just stood there and gazed at him. The twilight revealed one side of the body, the other one was like a blurred shape in the darkness. The man waved to great the figurine. Clearly relieved by the company.
But the figurine did not move. It just stared. It was a muscular, strong man.
“Hello, Who are you?!” Then man shouted.
The figurine finally moved and came closer with slow steps. “You don’t recognize me?” his grin was kind of uncanny.
“No … who are you and where am I? What’s this place?”
The dark man stopped three meters before him. From this distance his mouth revealed a golden thooth and multiple scars on his face.
“You have killed me! You are a murderer!”
“I am what?” The man began to panic a little.
“You are a murderer. You have killed hundreds of people. But I will revenge them now!”
With those words the dark man pulled out a giant knife whose blade flashed in the sunlight.
Panic. The man turned and ran away as fast as he could. Leaves and branches were scarring his face, the adrenaline covering up the pain in his legs. He made it out of the vegetation into the dunes. Again he had to flee, but this time it was harder. His feet slipped away as he crawled up the dune.
He finally couldn’t continue… his paralyzed body was exhausted and crumbled in pain as he hit the ground.
With his last spark of strenght he turned around and saw the armed man coming nearer. He stepped slowly out of the vegetation. Closer and closer not fast, but unstoppable like fate itself.
“I will kill you, murderer!” the dark man shouted as he approached.
Sivahs caravan was out for some days. When they finally reached their destination they were very surprised by what they found. First there was the “Tara Tara”, a spiderlike insect that was hiding in one of the salvageable wrecks and had injured one of her men when he explored it. But the really shocking thing they had found was a man, with no doubt of Ammarian heritage. He was shouting and calling them demons. Could he be the survivor of an unplanned entry? The man looked dehydrated and very week.
Two of Sivahs men catched him, he fidgeted but could not resist. They tied his hands behind his back -while he was cursing- and roughly pulled him towards Sivah.
“Chief, we should drag him to the tribal court. This Amarrian scum …”
Some days before, the man would curiously ask what an “Amarrian” is. Now he couldn’t care less.
“Let go off me, demons! You are not real!”
The strange man wiggled desperately.
Sivah slapped the man and grabbed his hair forcefully. “Stop this ■■■■■■■■! Be quiet! I am real!”
Sivah inspected the shocked, hard breathing man. She had recognized his implants. Her fellow tribesmates seemed to get it, too. This man was not a man. He was a capsuleer, a demigod. Some days ago, he was probably the noble captain of a starship, with more wealth that she could ever imagine, but now he made a very miserable impression, stranded on this isolated, rough planet.
“Who are you?” Sivah’s face didn’t reveal any emotion.
After a moment of silence the man found his ability to speak.
“I… I… I don’t know. But there are those demons following me. They are everywhere”
“Demons?” Sivah was amused and surprised. “Are you talking about the insects?”
“No no… they are following me… hundreds of them!”
Sivah gave him a worried and motherly look. “As you already noticed. They are not real. They only exist here” She tapped on his forehead.
One of her men raised his voice “Sivah, Chief, we should take him hostage and negotiate a ransom. He could …”
Sivah interrupted him with a hand gesture, got up and faced him.
“You know what would happen, right? We are not in the position to negotiate with the Amarr. If we commit such “heresy” they would wipe our village with our blood and enslave our children. Cut his ties and give him some food and water.”
“Do as I say!” She turned around and added “The rattles are loaded up, right?”
“Saddle up! All of you!” there was an unfamiliar tension in her tone, that none of the men wanted to provoke. “We will leave him to his fate!”
Sivah climbed her rattle, while the strange man was feasting on the small ration of fresh food and water. He didn’t care about the turbulence around him. She looked at him and thought for a moment, then she gave the order to return home.
The men followed her call, some of them reluctant. After some minutes Kahirs Rattle, he was the youngest of the men who rode with her, caught up to hers, that was leading the caravan.
He sounded angry: “We should drag him to the tribal court, chief. He deserves punishment! I bet he has killed a lot of brothers!”
Sivah turned to Kahir and gave him a serious look: “I have seen his eyes. He is full of fear and regret! He is seeing Demons that hunt him… You know, there is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience! He will not escape his judgement.”
With those wise words the caravan continued it’s way back home. To the ever disappearing sun. None of them looked back.
A man opens his eyes.
He remembers everything.
His tears vaporise on the hot sand.