1. Welcome to Umbra Roleplaying! We are an 18+ multi-genre roleplaying and writing community open to writers of all types. Sign up today to have access to our forums and join our other talented members!

 MxF  Sci-Fi  Action/Adventure Endlessness Is Only Scary In A Group || Nyco & Kitti

Discussion in 'Roleplay Haven' started by Nyctibius, Jul 22, 2019.

  1. Nyctibius

    Nyctibius Militant Owl Admin Administrator

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2019
    Messages:
    512
    Likes Received:
    1,067
    Local Time:
    9:22 PM
    Michael throttled his thrusters back with one hand, slowing the approach with the docking tube that stuck out into space like an awkward, stubby arm. "Alignment off by point-six-four degrees," droned a soft female voice. He managed to avoid rolling his eyes as he tapped the thrusters, less than an instant, and brought the ship into the proper slot.

    "I know what I'm doing," he told the voice, though he knew it was pointless. His little freighter didn't have enough space for a real AI, only the automated voice system and basic navicomputing. The voice droned on again, announcing proper alignment even as the door clicked and clanked against the hull. A series of locks clicked into place, and then a second tube extended to his cargo bay with a much louder clunk that shook the entire thing. He pulled off his harness and switched the ship's gravity off, then yanked himself out of the cockpit and down a short hallway. Three doors branched off from it; one led to the living and sleeping quarters that took up a third of the space on the ship, and the other, directly across, led to the airlock. The door at the far end led down a short ladder into the cargo bay, and from the clunking he could already tell that the automated loaders were at work, carrying crates of food and supplies into the strange, secretive base.

    Michael sighed as he yanked the airlock open and submitted himself to the equalizing pressures and return of gravity. It was a short jaunt down the umbilical, into a glossy, well-cleaned reception area--and two armed guards. They eyed him suspiciously as he checked in with the wall-mounted computer to confirm his delivery. He glanced at the guards as the system tallied his crates and determined payment. "I don't imagine you get out much, working on an asteroid?" he asked dryly. One of the guards only scowled harder, like Michael hadn't seen the same tough guy act a hundred times over.

    Beeping at the monitor caught his attention, and he looked back to see 'DELIVERY COMPLETE - NEW CONTRACT ACCEPTED - STANDBY FOR DETAILS'. The words faded before he could blink, at which point he did blink. "What the hell?" He spun back to the guards. "What the hell is this? I never agreed to another job." Neither guard answered, but Mister Scowls went so far as to smirk at the captain's dismay. After another moment a fourth man joined them, a scientist of some kind judging by the white bodysuit he wore and the blue stripes on his collar.

    He flashed a nervous smile, his lip and jaw covered in coarse red hair, the top of his head shiny and bald. "Are you Captain Raptis? Mihalis Raptis? Captain of the, er..."

    "Call me Michael. My ship doesn't have a name. Just a serial number. Look, what the hell is this? I never agreed to take on cargo here. It was a simple supply run--I've got a vacation lined up four systems over, all paid for, I don't have time to run random errands."

    "I understand that. This cargo just needs to leave the station, Michael. It doesn't matter where it goes or where it ends up, as long as you take it from here. Offload it at the first port you can find. It's parts, mostly, spare parts we don't need but can't keep. The money's already been paid forward already--please, mister Raptis--"

    "Michael." The captain folded his arms and glanced at the wall panel again, then back at the scientist. "What if I just jettison it as soon as I'm in empty space?"

    "Please don't," the man said quickly, grabbing at Michael's sleeve almost before he could help himself. He seemed to regain control quickly, and let go just as swiftly, hands up. "Please. Please, just take it with you wherever it is you're going. Someone can make use of the parts... maybe even you. I don't know what's on your ship, but some of the components we're sending away could be useful." He glanced back at the guards, then stepped in closer. "If you transmit a confirmation I'll send you double what's already been paid. Imagine the vacation you could have with thirty thousand credits."

    The dull voice once more droned in his ear as he disengaged the airlock and used his thrusters to clear the asteroid facility, coasting out to ten thousand kilometers before he dialed a set of coordinates into the nav and left it to compute and engage. Once more he went down the hall, this time with the gravity on, and slid down the ladder at the back and into the storage bay. There was only a few crates compared to the half a hundred he had dropped off--three that he could see, all stuffed at the very front, like load distribution mattered in space. "Thirty thousand just to offload some junk," he mused, shaking his head as he took a prybar from its magnetic mount and began to work at the first crate. "What kind of weapons-grade bullshit have I got myself into?"
     
  2. Sunshine Kitti

    Sunshine Kitti Every light casts a shadow Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2019
    Messages:
    130
    Likes Received:
    135
    Local Time:
    12:22 AM
    The whispers had been what started it all. They had been quiet at first, barely passable as private thoughts. They came and went in less than seconds, so they had been hard to even try and consider much longer than they existed. But then they came more often, with more volume and longevity. They were but inklings of possibility, clumsily tapping against her brain over and over like moths drawn to a light, and she could swat them away with as much ease.

    But still they persisted. They were nourished by her own self doubt and continued to grow, more and more until they had become invasive, rampant fascinations that she could not dispel, no matter what she did. She fought with them; she reasoned, and argued, and even wrestled with them, beating them back for as long as she could, until one day, she simply could not.


    They began to materialize into questions and ideas. They began to change her, change how she saw things around her. They began to scare her.

    So she asked. Everything changed when she asked.


    Iris came awake with a start, and though she was sure that her eyes were open, she could not see at all. She did her best to shift, but her limbs felt suspended, unable to cooperate despite her best efforts. Her breathing quickened, already accelerated from the nightmare that still darkened the corners of her mind, and she managed to, at least, turn her head.

    She had been drugged. It was the only logical explanation she could come up with between her sluggish awakening and racing mind-- but why? Try as she might, she could not dredge up any recent memories. All she knew was that she had been sleeping and now she was not. She was in some sort of…?

    Suddenly, she found use of her hands and arms. She pressed them outwards to find the walls so close that they could not fully extend. She felt along the sides to discover them to be cool and smooth; metal. As she continued to feel around, she realized she was surrounded. Hundreds, if not thousands of tiny somethings rustled with every move she made. No matter what she did to be rid of them, there just seemed to be more and more.

    Every new question she formed about her circumstances were piling up with the rest going unanswered. Every attempt to even try and form some explanation only made her feel worse because the truth was she did not know.

    “Help… I… I need…”

    She couldn’t breathe-- how could she in what she could only assume to be a coffin? She began banging her hands against the too-close walls, and her mounting panic overflowed into tears. She pounded with more frequency to the tempo of her heart racing in her head. The tears evolved into outright sobs, which then peaked into wailing and screaming.

    “Let me out!” It was all that she could think now, even as she regained control of her legs and swung them up to kick at the top of the container. “Help! Please, let me out!
     
  3. Nyctibius

    Nyctibius Militant Owl Admin Administrator

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2019
    Messages:
    512
    Likes Received:
    1,067
    Local Time:
    9:22 PM
    Michael froze when he heard movement. There was no way--no, he had misheard. And then it started again, pounding, kicking, screaming--Michael backed away, shaking his head. "No. No fucking way, come on. Not this." There was a low, deep sort of thrum from the nose of the ship and the freighter shuddered as it leapt from normal space into the much faster FTL space, called the Slip. He felt his gut lurch for more than one reason and sat down right where he stood as the person inside the crate continued to yell and kick and punch. What was he supposed to do? No wonder that skeevy little scientist had been so... well... skeevy. Human trafficking.

    Yeah, maybe sometimes Michael transported some questionable goods. Some, say, spices. Enhancements. Things of that nature. But he'd always drawn the line at people. When slavers tried to hire him he set up a time and place and tipped off the authorities. When fugitives tried to pay for passage, he turned them down. Refugees too. People were messy. Dirty. Loud. Demanding. Michael had no desire to get involved, not in the terms of flying his ship. No, people were not his business. Not until now, it seemed like.

    With a groan and a deep sense of dread he went over to the still-thumping crate and worked the crowbar in under the lid. With a hard grunt and lean he began to pry the lid clear, and stopped when the metal creaked and groaned nearly halfway open. "Just... just stay where you are," he called without looking, repositioning further down to try and pry the lid the rest of the way off. This was insane, he kept telling himself. He'd find some kid, some bastard kid stowaway, and once he found out who her parents were there'd be hell--and a hefty fine--to pay.
     
  4. Sunshine Kitti

    Sunshine Kitti Every light casts a shadow Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2019
    Messages:
    130
    Likes Received:
    135
    Local Time:
    12:22 AM
    Iris was starting to feel the strain of her distress-- the wearing down of her limbs and the pain starting to radiate from the palms of her hands. But panic was fueling her, and even if fatigue tried to slow her, it overrode by desperation. Surely, she could not have been buried already? Surely someone was nearby? Anyone? Over and over, she pleaded into open air: let me out, let me out! And for a terrifying moment, she had to consider the possibility that maybe there was no one to let her out. What a mistake that had been; the terror only worsened. Her begging became wordless shrieks and her open hands for acoustics became fingers hooked like claws to scrabble at the sides of her prison.

    Too much time passed. Hope had long since been lost, and Iris would have given her last breath just to glimpse the light one more time. And then-- salvation. The heavens seemed to open and immediately she reached for it, pushing her fingers through to force the lid and the container apart. There was someone on the other side, and though they had asked her to stay where she was, there was no way that she could. The instant she was able, she grabbed the side of the box to haul herself up.

    It had not been completely opened, but she squeezed herself through the space and threw herself to the floor, weeping. From head to toe, she was covered in microfiber beads; the tiny white spheres clung to simple black scrubs and tear stained face. She was panting as she struggled to get them away, swiping wildly as if she was caught in some sort of web. She could not afford to think how she looked-- even now, she still felt trapped. She just wanted the damned things off!

    She was trying to shake them out of her hair when she caught sight of him-- the one who had finally answered her call. She froze with her fingers tangled in the red mess atop her head, and she realized she did not recognize him. Her vision swam again, and she immediately began to push herself away, scrambling back until she was pressed against the wall, and even then she tried to curl up and make herself small.

    “Wh-what is this?” Her voice was strained and crackling from her confinement. “Who are you…?”
     
  5. Nyctibius

    Nyctibius Militant Owl Admin Administrator

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2019
    Messages:
    512
    Likes Received:
    1,067
    Local Time:
    9:22 PM
    "What is this? Oh, that's the million credit fucking question," he said sourly, arms folded as he stared at the spreading pool of microbeads spilling out of the tipped-over crate. "And as for who I am, I'm the bloody idiot who agreed to a shipment without even a basic content scan, that's who I am. You just... just sit there and hold tight, okay? You aren't in any danger, and I'm not going to hurt you." His hand tightened on the crowbar. "But I'm going to hurt someone."

    Michael took half a step before a little thrum in the deckplates reminded him that they were in the Slip, and any sort of communication or redirection was going to be utterly impossible for the next good long while. "Fucksake," he snarled, raising the crowbar as if to fling it, but he caught himself and took the tool in both hands, forcing himself to breathe deep. He turned back around to face the poor woman as she lay on the floor, then knelt to set the hooked bar down, keeping both hands up and trying to make his face as totally neutral as he could. "My name is Michael. I don't know why you're on my ship, but that's where you are. In the cargo hold." As cargo. He pointed at the spreading wave of beads, now thoroughly worked into the cracks of the deck itself. "Do you mind helping me clean this up?"
     
  6. Sunshine Kitti

    Sunshine Kitti Every light casts a shadow Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2019
    Messages:
    130
    Likes Received:
    135
    Local Time:
    12:22 AM
    It was somehow hard to believe that he wasn't going to hurt her in the moment when he was swearing and standing over her with a blunt object tightly gripped between his fists. Iris couldn't help how she shrank further from him and his anger, but she hurriedly wiped any tears that threatened to fall with the heel of her hand. She took several breaths, trying to find the strength to keep herself as outwardly calm as possible, and instead of madly tearing her fingers through her hair, she did her best to tame it. It would be impossible to get the microbeads out of it completely, so she opted to tuck it behind her ears.

    "I'm sorry," she murmured, barely a whisper. The mess was indeed her fault and he was likely going to find the miniscule spheres for weeks in this room. But despite her desperation, it was clear from his reaction that he was not the one at fault. Or he was a very convincing actor... She squinted at the man's face, studying his expression for sincerity, before pointedly turning her full attention to the ocean of beads when she decided she couldn't tell. On her hands and knees, graceless as it was, she moved over to tip the container that had held her up right. Something rattled inside and she paused.

    "There's something..." Her voice trailed off as she reached in at once-- her curiosity had always been her weakness. She dug around in side, groping for the source of the weight that had been tossed around, found it and pulled. The color drained from her face as she recognized that she was holding a hand.

    She bit her tongue to stop the bubbling shriek short and threw it back into the box, then hurriedly began to scoop the beads back in after it, as if burying it would make her forget what she had seen. "Th-this is-- I don't know what happened..." Her breaths were coming in quicker draws once more. The phrase weighed heavier on her than she realized. "I... I can't remember anything in the past few days...? Or weeks?" What was wrong with her?

    She stopped and held her head as a sob stole her breath. She leaned against the box and her eyes landed on the words: SPARE PARTS and she stared until the tears made it impossible to see. "I'm sorry..." she said again. "I... I'm just so confused."
     
  7. Nyctibius

    Nyctibius Militant Owl Admin Administrator

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2019
    Messages:
    512
    Likes Received:
    1,067
    Local Time:
    9:22 PM
    Had that been a hand??

    Michael took a deep, slow, steady breath. Something here was not right. The girl, the... hand... the microbeads. He moved over to the open crate and peered inside, frowning at the fingertips even as the beads covered it right back up. This was really not what he wanted to be stuck with, not when he should have been on vacation. He looked back at the girl, though, and forced himself to be logical rather than self-pitying.

    She was terrified. Why wouldn't she be? Sealed into a crate with body parts, the crate itself labeled 'spare parts', something like that was enough to disturb anyone, much more someone who couldn't remember HOW they got there. He sighed and knelt down next to her again, slowly taking her hand and making her look at him. "Come with me." He turned and led her over to the ladder, then up and down the short hallway into his living space. He made her sit on the couch and went about rehydrating a can of soup, then set it down on the table in front of her.

    "Now, listen," he said calmly. "You sit here and eat and think things through, okay? Don't force anything, just... sort of try to let it bubble up on its own. I'm going to go back down into the hold and clean those beads up... somehow." He frowned. "A vaccuum, I guess." He straightened and went back to the door, then paused and looked back at her. "It's, um. It's going to be okay," he said, a bit lamely, then left, the door closing behind him.

    Half an hour later he finally finished cleaning most of the beads up, between a broom and a little handheld vaccuum hose. He had also dug through the open crate and come up with two hands--left and right--and two feet, also left and right. He didn't spend too long inspecting them--something about poking at a too-real disembodied foot made even Michael feel bizarre--but he did note that the space that would have connected them to their arm or leg was entirely smooth. With a groan, he picked up the crowbar and inspected the other two boxes. He hadn't been paid to snoop, and generally that was a bad practice for a trusted transporter, but it was also bad practice to cram women into boxes and transit them through space against their apparent will.

    The second box came open easier than the first had, and as suspected it was full of more microbeads. Michael hesitated for a moment, then took a deep breath and plunged a hand into the mess, sending more beads scattering across the deckplates. He ignored them for the time being as his hand closed on something soft, and he pulled it out with a determined frown. He looked down at what he'd pulled out and his mouth fell open. These. These were breasts. Disembodied, otherwise torso-free breasts. They had shoulders attached, but. Well. Okay. He dropped them back into the box with a slow nod.

    "Okay. So they stuffed her into a set of crates with... android parts. Realistic android parts. It made sense. Any scans that caught a random shape--a hand, a foot, those--could be written off as simply spare parts. That makes a certain amount of insane sense." He shook his head. "No, this makes no sense. This is absurd. This is insane."
     
  8. Sunshine Kitti

    Sunshine Kitti Every light casts a shadow Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2019
    Messages:
    130
    Likes Received:
    135
    Local Time:
    12:22 AM
    It was almost like walking through a dream; Iris followed numbly behind Michael as he deposited her in some sort of living room-- if it could be even called that given the size, and left her with simple instructions. Eat and think. Eat and think. She had stared up at him with wide, still wet eyes, and stared at the doorway long after he had disappeared through it. When it became clear after several minutes that he would not be back any time soon, she began to consider her options.

    She felt not tug of hunger as her attention landed on the barely steaming cup of soup, only the lingering ache of sickness. Eating was not an option. She looked around the rest of the room instead, trying to get a sense of her surroundings. For the most part, the wall were bare. There was one chair bolted to floor in front of what looked like a desk. The small table in front of her and the couch were the only real furniture that she could see. There were no pictures, no tablets or books. This was a place for one person to do the bare essentials and nothing more.

    But still, it was Michael's home.

    Suddenly she felt like she was intruding, and anxiety curled through her. She tucked her arms across her chest and rose to try and take up as little space as possible, when she caught sight of a mirror. She crossed over to it to get a better look at herself. Her hair was an unmanagable mess, with traces of those damned beads still caught in what might have once been a braid. She found the band at the end and began to carefully comb her fingers through to look less disheveled. If she looked the part, it would be easier to pretend wouldn't it? She could keep herself together, if only on the outside.

    With the last of the white fleck carefully plucked away, she was able to concentrate more on her face. Her features were soft, rounded with youth. Despite her weeping not too long ago, there were not dark circles under her aquamarine eyes. Just pale skin with a fine dusting of caramel colored freckles along her cheek and the bridge of her nose. She touched her own face, slid her fingers along the curve of her jaw, then wiped her eyes one more time for good measure.

    A chill suddenly ran up her spine that she could not rightfully place. This feels so... familiar.

    Iris shook the thought away. This day was only going to get stranger, wasn't it? She excused herself from the room, wondering if she could catch her unsuspecting host. Even though he had not been prepared to have her, he still might be able to answer some of the questions she was beginning to formulate. But instead of heading back down to where he had found her, she wound up on the small bridge that separated the living space from the pilot's bay.

    There was a button flashing green beside the shutters, indicating the mechanism's functionality. Though she knew it was not her place, her curiosity got the better of her and she pressed it down with her palm. The metal sheets folded upwards, and on the other side of the reinforced glass, space blurred past in a technicolor haze. Iris's eyes widened as she stepped closer, leaning up on her toes with her nose nearly pressed against the window.

    It was... incredible. She had never seen anything like it. The view enthralled her, rooted her in place, and allowed her to forget herself and her situation, just for a moment.
     
    • Love Love x 1
  9. Nyctibius

    Nyctibius Militant Owl Admin Administrator

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2019
    Messages:
    512
    Likes Received:
    1,067
    Local Time:
    9:22 PM
    A thorough exam of the third crate had yielded the exact same result--spare parts for highly realistic androids--and yet more microbeads. He cleaned up the mess he'd made, quietly wondering whose idea the absurd little packing pellets had been, and once it was finally clean enough he put everything away and stood at the ladder. A thoughtful scowl covered his face as he stared at the three boxes, so innocuous, so utterly unremarkable for ten thousand credits apiece. Michael was just beginning to come to terms with the situation. He could still do the job. Take her to the nearest spaceport once he dropped out of the Slip, leave her with the authorities and the boxes. So what if she'd been shoved into one of the crates against her will? It could have just been a prank gone horribly awry. What did he owe her, anyway?

    Nothing.

    He turned and climbed the ladder, set on his course and ready to explain what would happen next. He barely reached the top when he saw dancing lights and paused, looking up from his handhold to the open shutter. Despite himself he froze in place. There she stood, wearing a simple black set of clothes still specked here and there with beads, like she had folded space itself around her. And then there was her hair, bright and shocking red. Bare feet, both pressed up onto the toes so she could peer out into space. And then her face. How hadn't he realized it before? He watched the flashes and flickers of the Slip play across her nose, her lips, her cheek, and realized with a lurch that she was pretty--no, not just pretty, she was beautiful.

    Self-awareness rushed back to him and he wrenched his gaze away, climbing the rest of the way up as noisily as he could to try and avoid startling her. He approached and stood next to her, hands in his pockets, looking out at the surging kaleidoscope of color and shapes. After a moment he spoke, his voice very soft. "I remember the first time I saw the Slip for myself. I was sixteen. I'd just signed up for part-time work on a cruise freighter, hauling cargo in and out of guest rooms. It was the first time I'd gone out into space, into real, deep space out of the Sol system. I got stuck looking at it, too. I guess the reason it looks so weird is because... because, er, we're technically in a fifth dimension or... or something like that. And our minds can only process four at a time, so when there's five it turns into... chaos. Beautiful chaos."

    He cleared his throat and reached over to tap the control, shutting out the dancing lights. He felt like half a fool, standing here waxing poetic about his life. What did she care? "C'mon," he gestured, gruff now, "let's talk. I didn't get your name before, I don't think... if you can remember it. I'm Michael."
     
    • Love Love x 1
  10. Sunshine Kitti

    Sunshine Kitti Every light casts a shadow Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2019
    Messages:
    130
    Likes Received:
    135
    Local Time:
    12:22 AM
    Michael's approach had not been entirely unnoticed, but she had bristled all the same when she heard him speak. It had been so hard to tear her eyes away from the cascading hues, trying to make sense of it all. But his words had captivated her in the same way that the Slip had, and she found herself watching him with the same rapt attention. She had only heard about the inspiration that space could bring; she had only seen the stars from the ground or from a screen-- never been among them. But here this perfect stranger was, revealing parts of himself that there was no way she could have asked about. She knew at once that Michael was a remarkable man. He was not perfect, but no one truly was and there was much more to him than what little she had been able to see.

    With the shutters dropping back over the window, Iris was closed back into reality. Right... She was on a ship going who-knew-where with hole-punched memory. She cleared her throat and nodded, reaching to brush some hair behind her ear as she turned to face him. "I remember that, at least," she said. She noticed at once how she had to look up to meet his eyes and she tilted her head with wonder. Had she ever met someone so tall?

    He was so fascinating, it was distracting. She blinked and tried to appear more self-aware by beginning to pluck the remaining microbeads from her scrubs and put them in her pockets so she would not continue to make a mess everywhere she went. "Thank you... For letting me out, I mean." She paused to peer up at him and a plush lip caught between her teeth. "I wish I could tell you what I was doing in there, but I have no idea and..." Her voice trailed as she shook her head. "I-I'm sorry. My name. Right. It's Iris."

    The move to hold out her hand for him to shake felt so abrupt that she recoiled a little, then flashed him a tentative smile. "It's... nice to meet you? Ah... well, it would be, if things were different..." The curve of her lips faded and her brows drew. "I'm sure this isn't really an ideal situation for you either."
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2020
    • Love Love x 1
  11. Nyctibius

    Nyctibius Militant Owl Admin Administrator

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2019
    Messages:
    512
    Likes Received:
    1,067
    Local Time:
    9:22 PM
    "Ah, well, no. Not ideal. I wouldn't say that." He was finding it hard to maintain focus as long as he looked at her. There was something instantaneously alluring about her now that he wasn't annoyed or distracted. Her skin looked almost too soft, her lips too full, her hair too lustrous. Something about how sheepish and quiet she was made his protective instincts kick in. Her clothes were fine, but no shoes? The further he looked the more he found he cared. It wasn't comfortable, though it was somewhat... pleasant?

    He gently touched her shoulder and guided her back into the living room to sit back down on the couch. She hadn't touched the soup, he noticed, but that was just as well. It would keep. He sat down on the bolted-down swivel chair and turned to face her... and then on second thought turned away, unfolding the display screen from the top of the desk. He typed in a quick phrase in the search bar; Etymology: Iris.

    "Well, I looked through the other crates just now," he said, carefully not looking at her as the screen loaded up the relevant information. "They're all full of android parts. I didn't take a full tally, but there might be enough in there to replace pretty much a whole working machine. I think that that was just to fool scanners, though, in case you didn't wake up in time." He swallowed heavily. Membrane behind the cornea of the eye, shaped like a disc and pigmented. A plant with sword-shaped leaves and showy flowers, typically white/yellow/purple. Ancient usage: Grecian goddess of the rainbow. Well, that didn't tell him anything. It was just a pretty name. He took another swallow and prepared to turn and tell her the hard truth. "I..."

    I'm going to take you to the first spaceport I can and drop you there.

    He turned to face her, mouth open, and it was like a switch turned in his brain. Just looking at her, at the dusting of freckles on her delicate face, red hair still awry though now at least somewhat combed, it turned his intent on its ear before he could cognitively catch up. "I'm going to help you," he found himself saying, voice solemn. He leaned over and reached out to put his hand over hers. "Whatever that means, whatever I have to do, I'm going to try and help you, Iris. I promise."

    Wait.

    He scowled.

    That's not what I meant!

    But it was too late. He'd promised. Michael was many things, but none of them included 'liar'.
     
    • Fantastic Fantastic x 1
  12. Sunshine Kitti

    Sunshine Kitti Every light casts a shadow Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2019
    Messages:
    130
    Likes Received:
    135
    Local Time:
    12:22 AM
    His hand was warm. It was such a strange thing to notice, but it was the only thing that Iris found herself focusing on in the time that it took her for her to look down at her lap. His skin was rough, weathered by years of work, but the weight of his touch completely covering her own was somehow so gentle. She couldn't place why it meant so much to her to have experienced this, but she would cherish it. Who knew how long it would have been if she had not been freed? Who knew how different things might have been if anyone else would have found her?

    She flipped her palm upwards and clasped his hand between both of her own. She gave him a much warmer smile that came much easier. "Thank you, Michael," she said. Her fingers curled for a well-meaning squeeze. "I don't know how I could ever repay your kindness."

    She let him go in favor of settling back against the small couch again, bringing her legs up to fold neatly. Now, she had to think. If he was going to put in the effort to help her, she at least had to give him some sort of objective. She thought hard about it, and the effort creased her brow and wrinkled her nose. She tapped her finger along her arm as she tried to come up with some sort of detail-- anything that would make sense in any of this.

    "Oh!" she exclaimed suddenly, bright blue eyes flying open. "My father...!" A thread of panic entered her voice as she looked at Michael. "He must be so worried. He and I talk every night when he finishes in the labs." She patted for the communicator on her wrist and found it bare. "He's going to know that I am missing, at least, but... I have no means of contacting him." She sighed and rubbed her temples with the tips of her fingers. "I hate to make him worry, he works so hard. I just don't know how I could have gotten into this mess..."

    Another memory entered her mind. "You said... I was with android parts?" She frowned. "I didn't know that the Wexner Enterprises had an android division... I... was interning. At the location in the Jette colony." The pieces she could still gather were slowly coming together. "We mostly research intergalactic organic flora for conservation." She paused and her cheeks lightly reddened. "...Plants and flowers, most of the time. Nothing nearly as important as what you do, I'm sure."

    But the question still remained: how had she ended up in a box? "Where are we going, Michael?" She searched his eyes, hoping that he would be able to remain sincere. Surely, he had no reason to lie. He was just as confused as she was, it seemed.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2020
    • Like Like x 1
  13. Nyctibius

    Nyctibius Militant Owl Admin Administrator

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2019
    Messages:
    512
    Likes Received:
    1,067
    Local Time:
    9:22 PM
    "Well, I'm pretty sure it's Jette that we're leaving now," he murmured in thought, rubbing his hands together, like he was trying to forget her touch. "It was an older man who actually paid me to take the crates in the first place, a bald fellow with a red beard. White bodysuit, too, with two or three blue stripes at his collar. He seemed nervous, but he paid... well, too well." Michael shrugged and turned back to the computer, touching a few buttons. The table in the middle of the room shifted slightly, a lens appearing in the center, and projected a series of stars with a line curving through them.

    Michael pointed at one end of the line, which showed a blinking dot. "That's us. I entered the Slip on a heading toward Monero, here, four systems from Jette. My original plan was to stop off at Monero's moon and unload the crates there, since that was the deal, to just unload wherever I liked." He glanced at her. "Obviously I'm not going to do that now."

    It was bizarre, though. The old man must have known. Was he her father? Had he put her in there? Was something darker happening at Jette Colony? He rubbed his face with both hands. "It's going to take a few days to reach Monero, almost a week... and exiting the Slip before you mean to can be dangerous, but... well, I don't think we're near any kind of gravity well that'd rip the ship apart." He looked at her and frowned. "Do you want me to turn around? Take you back?"
     
  14. Sunshine Kitti

    Sunshine Kitti Every light casts a shadow Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2019
    Messages:
    130
    Likes Received:
    135
    Local Time:
    12:22 AM
    There was a moment where Iris's eyes had widened and the things that Michael was saying mattered a lot less than the images that suddenly appeared. She scooted forward from her seat, hands pressed on the table as she leaned closer and tracked the details of the small map. Her fascination was apparent as she reached forward and carefully swiped her fingers through the light. The image blurred at the point of contact and she withdrew, murmuring, "Amazing..." as the clarity restored.

    She had not realize how much technology had evolved beyond the stars.

    "I..." She faltered, working to catch up to what he had been trying to tell her, then shook hear head as realization struck. "I've already caused enough trouble for you. I don't want to put your ship in jeopardy, too." She drew her knees to her chest again as she tore her gaze from the map to look at him. He looked exhausted-- stressed perhaps. She couldn't say she could blame him. "I've never heard of Monero. But if it would only take a week at most to get there..." Her word trailed, and she glanced back at the map. The blip that represented them was steadily making its way along the illuminated path. Every second carried her thousands of miles further from the only place she had ever known to be home.

    "I-I'm sure it'll be fine." She did her best to smile. "Once I am able to make contact with the company, I'm sure they'll send someone for me. You're already doing more than enough by letting me stay aboard."

    Not that he was being given much of a choice. She did not think him to be a cruel man, given how distressed he seemed on her behalf. But even so, he could have kept her down in the cargo hold until they arrived. And for him to even think of exiting the Slip to take her back, knowing the risk...

    "You're very kind," she said, a bit suddenly. A shade of rose tinted her cheeks and she found herself trying to work he remaining tangles from her hair. "I... I said somehing like that already, but you are. It's sort of surprising." That sounded worse! She bit her lip and shook her head. "I mean! It's just... well, any of the other Captains delivering things to the facilities, they hadn't been very personable..." They all read as surly, operating and far too little sleep and too much time on their own.

    "But you," she went on, finding an excuse to look at anything but him. "I'm... just glad that, if I was going to end up in a box on someone's ship, it was someone like you." She cleared her throat. She had to change the subject. "So if there's anything I can do while I'm here... anything at all, please tell me."
     
    • Like Like x 1
  15. Nyctibius

    Nyctibius Militant Owl Admin Administrator

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2019
    Messages:
    512
    Likes Received:
    1,067
    Local Time:
    9:22 PM
    He nodded affably along with her decision. She was right--there was no need to risk both of their lives by dropping right into a star or a planet when he could just wait for her to make a simple call. In the meantime, maybe he could show her a good time. Monero was a vacation world, a planet that made its money purely on tourism. It was beautiful, bountiful, and personally Michael couldn't imagine a nicer place to take someone who'd never been anywhere. Somehow the concept of showing her a nice place and putting a smile of wonder on her face made him feel happy, too. He didn't like it. He did, but. It was very complicated.

    Mike was about to comment on it when she shared her next thought, and that next thought froze his solid. It thawed slowly, a series of concepts trickling through bit by bit.

    He had never considered himself kind. He was gruff, abrupt, downright rude. He didn't like people, so badly that once he had been told he was misanthropic. When he'd looked it up he had agreed--so much so that he'd almost named his little frigate Misanthropy. Could he even BE kind, if he hated people that much? He turned away as she continued, his hands returning to the computer keyboard to shut down the holographic projection of his--their--route. "This isn't really a job where you deal with other people a lot," he explained gruffly. "Regulations on Slip-travel state that usually any trip that lasts longer than a week requires cryostasis. Just as a matter of mental health."

    Mike glanced back at her, frowning. "Of the hundreds of freighter captains I've met, maybe a dozen adhere to that. We take this job because it's lonely. A week, a month, six months in the Slip--it lets us do what we really want to do. Some people design art, sculpture and whatever. Some write books. It's just... it's easier, right? Easier than dealing with people, or... or trying to make money just doing what you want to do, because there isn't money in what you want to do." He sputtered out as he realized that even he didn't know what his point was. Somehow he wanted to make her understand. He wasn't kind, he really wasn't. The concept was so intensely alien that he had to try and reason it away, rightfully or otherwise.

    The chair squeaked faintly as he stood and paced away, patting down his flight suit pockets as if trying to find something. "What do you like to do?" he asked abruptly, turning to face her. "You don't... there isn't anything for you to do, really. Or anything that I would ask of you. If you want to sleep, my bed is through that door there, or the cryo-closet is next to it. A four-day cryo would be... probably pointless, but that's up to you. Or whatever else you want to do. Maybe we could put together the android parts and see if they came with programming, or something. I don't know. I don't know. Whatever you want to do, Iris."

    Some detached part of himself wondered why he was so worked up over a simple compliment. He had been fine before, even taken with how beautiful and simple she seemed, but just a few kind words had thrown him utterly off center. He wasn't angry, he rationalized, just surprised. He didn't like anyone. Why would anyone like him?
     
    • Like Like x 1
  16. Sunshine Kitti

    Sunshine Kitti Every light casts a shadow Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2019
    Messages:
    130
    Likes Received:
    135
    Local Time:
    12:22 AM
    There was a tone in his voice just then, something clipped and sad that made Iris want to pry, though she knew right away that she shouldn't. Perhaps she was not the best judge of character, but none of that seemed to make sense in being applied to Michael. Even though he had done his best to dispprove her point somehow, he was already revealing to her more compassion than she could honestly recall.

    What few details she could dredge up from her memories were largely solitary. She knew she spent a great deal of time reading and researching. She remembered walking up and down aisles of various foliage, brushing her fingers against the leaves and blooms, taking in their scent. She remembered looking out of windows and peering around corners...

    She blinked. Was she lonely too?

    "I'm not sure," she answered him honestly. "I... suppose I haven't done much outside of work on the colony recently..." Her fingers were no longer being caught by any snags, so she finally tucked her hair behind both ears and folded them in her lap instead. She met his eyes and searched them. What was it that he was avoiding tell her?

    "You... speak like an artist," she said with sudden clarity. "Like someone who knows about everything you say from experience." She tilted her head. "What is it you do when you're traveling?" It was impolite to answer a question with a question, she knew. But there was no easy way to tell him that she truly had no idea. This situation was already complicated enough.
     
    • Love Love x 1
  17. Nyctibius

    Nyctibius Militant Owl Admin Administrator

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2019
    Messages:
    512
    Likes Received:
    1,067
    Local Time:
    9:22 PM
    "I," he started, stopped, scowled. Somehow, with a single heartfelt compliment, Iris had undone something that had been in place for years. Walls Michael had built as a teenager, reinforced as a young man, and stood solidly upon as an adult were crumbling down. This was why he didn't like people, he told himself. They come into your life and stir everything up. They confuse you with their beauty and then tell pretty lies to get under your skin. Even as he thought it, though, he knew he was wrong. Even as the emotions he had fought to bury swarmed loose of their confines he could admit to himself that he didn't blame her. He wasn't even really angry at her.

    A tiny, long-unheard part of himself was even happy.

    "I don't do anything," he snapped, finally forcing the words out, and he stomped across the room to the bedroom door. He tried to wrench it open, but the intensity of the gesture was stymied by the EZ-glide opening mechanism, which made the door slide slowly into the wall rather than swiftly so as to prevent loud noises. He hurried into the room and tried to shut the door, but the mechanism buzzed and clicked and locked itself in place. "Oh, thanks," he sneered at the utterly unfeeling machine. Michael turned toward the bed, and his eyes traveled naturally to the tiny dresser built into the wall next to it. Above it was a small shelf, upon which sat a case. He took a deep breath to steady himself. "I... actually, that's a lie," he called over his shoulder and reached up to take the case in hand.

    He emerged holding it carefully, and went to sit down next to Iris. He set the case on the table, the box built of real leather and copper trim. When he opened it he did so with mechanical latches that clicked and thudded satisfyingly open. Within the box was revealed to be made of real wood, lined with red silk. Resting on a stand was a wooden instrument almost two feet long, with a slender neck and four metal strings along its length. Next to it was an elegantly crafted wooden bow with long white fibers strung across its entirety. Both were a deep red-brown, obviously well-cared for, and Michael lifted the violin with a careful reverence. He plucked at a string, adjusted a knob at the end, plucked again, and nodded in satisfaction. Then he set the violin to his chin, lifted the bow, and let the fibers rest on the strings. Michael took a deep, silent breath... then he began to play.

    The melody was slow, somber, but somehow energetic at the same time. His eyes remained closed as he played, though he did sway where he sat, clearly taken by the song in a way he would never allow himself to be otherwise. The tempo picked up, lifted into a crescendo, and then ended with a final long, drawn out note. He sighed softly as he lowered the violin and bow, resting both in his lap. "I write music," he explained quietly. "When I can."
     
    • Fantastic Fantastic x 1
  18. Sunshine Kitti

    Sunshine Kitti Every light casts a shadow Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2019
    Messages:
    130
    Likes Received:
    135
    Local Time:
    12:22 AM
    There had been such a storm of emotion contorting Michael’s face before he had gone that Iris was sure that she had done something wrong. She did not understand what could have him so tormented; she had thought she was being kind. Self doubt weighed on her, and the moment he was out of sight, she pressed her face against her knees. Suddenly, she considered how things may have been better if she had been kept in that box. She had not known him long, and already she had intruded upon his home and disturbed him to where he did not even want to look at her--

    But in a moment, things changed. Michael came back, and with him, he had presented to her something else new and incredible. He sat, lifted the strange contraption from its ornate case, and then…

    Iris’ heart stammered as he began to play. She turned more fully towards him, unfurling from her withdrawn position and leaned closer, eyes wide and widening as the melody carried on. Music. It was a rare event on Jette; far too disturbing for sensitive projects and their overseers at all times of day. But if anything, Iris knew she had heard a sound like this before, but never with such complexity. The experience of watching him give himself over to the arrangement, the way that time seemed to slow and the rest of the galaxy ceased to exist. It was…

    “...Beautiful…” she whispered when she could find air. She had stopped breathing at some point, she realized, but every inhale came with a slight quiver now. She blinked and felt warmth slip along her cheek, and she was surprised to have her fingers come away wet with tears. But even as she was wiping her face, a smile was already in bloom.

    “That was incredible.” She clasped her hands, delight manifesting in an eager little wriggle. “I’ve never seen something like that. I never would have known that something like that could make such a lovely sound-- and so many!” She unconsciously shifted closer to him, wanting to get a better look at the violin. “What is it called? There aren’t any circuits in it, are there? Can you show me how it works?”

    Realizing her mistake at once, embarrassment colored her speckled cheeks and her nose. She bit her bottom lip and glanced away. “...Sorry. I just…” She laughed a little and sat back against the couch. “I don’t see a lot of new things often. I didn’t realize how much I wanted to.”
     
    • Like Like x 1
  19. Nyctibius

    Nyctibius Militant Owl Admin Administrator

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2019
    Messages:
    512
    Likes Received:
    1,067
    Local Time:
    9:22 PM
    He was still gazing at the violin when he became aware of how warm the air had grown next to his arm. He looked over and found himself nose-to-part with her hair, and blinked a few times in moderate surprise before she blushed and turned away. Wait, stay there, he wanted to say. His hands tightened on the aged wood. "No, no circuits," he said quietly. He felt better holding it, though his eyes stayed on her. Somehow with the weight of the instrument in his hands it was easier to stay calm, to maintain his emotional chill, so to speak. "This is called a violin. It's an instrument from Earth, from before it was almost uninhabitable."

    Michael dropped his gaze from her after another moment and cleared his throat, a bit pink himself. "It uses, um... see, with the knobs... you tighten the strings, right?" he explained, showing her how one of the wooden handles twisted. "This is called tuning--you get the string just right, just the... right amount of tightness, so it plays the right note... usually you can use a machine to find that note, but I like to do it by ear, like this." He plucked at it again, adjusting the knob as he went, the twang raising in timber until it was high and narrow. "Then you use this, it's called a bow, to play each string." He drew it in a quick arc across the cords, playing a soft four notes. "The vibrations work with the hollow body here to create the music you heard, and you can manipulate the vibrations and change the notes, makes them lower, higher, shorter, longer..." He played as he spoke, providing examples of each noise as he described it.

    When he was done he lowered the instrument again and set it in its case, though he kept the bow as something to fiddle with. She hadn't asked, but he felt the explanation bubble up anyway. "I've enjoyed music since I was a kid. I grew up on a space station, too. It's official name was Titan-Six Refueling Depot, but everyone called it Low Rider Station. I guess because it sat almost in the upper atmosphere of Saturn." He shrugged. "My parents weren't... ever around, though I was paid for. My parents make good money exploring space for humanity. They always seemed happy when they visited every... couple of years or so. Except I realized they weren't getting any older." He paused for a second and cleared his throat again, brushing aside that particular fact. "So I started to learn how to play. I had a few instructors, but most of it is just videos and self-tutoring. You didn't have a hobby like that back on Jette...?"
     
    • Love Love x 1
  20. Sunshine Kitti

    Sunshine Kitti Every light casts a shadow Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2019
    Messages:
    130
    Likes Received:
    135
    Local Time:
    12:22 AM
    Iris' eyes rounded with fascination, glimmering with intrigue as he explained and demonstrated. "Violin," she murmured, cherishing each syllable as she committed it to memory. She had never thought to ask about the origin of the sound, and now she thought back on the melody that she had heard so many times much more fondly. In her mind she could now imagine Michael along with it, drawing the bow over the strings in time with the music.

    Something in her stirred-- a tug at her heart that hitched her breath as he went on. To think that he spent so much time with only the comfort of this lone instrument, even as a boy... She knew better than to pity him, knowing that it would not translate the way that it should. But she could empathize at the very least.

    "No," the response was automatic, and honest. He was easy to talk to. "There were very strict protocols in place at the facility. Internships with Wexner Enterprises are competitive positions. We were alloted only so much free time, and in those times, I..." Her voice trailed off as she thought. Her mind stalled as she tried to find a time that she did not spend in the greenhouses, taking notes, inspecting the different specimens, tending to them.

    Frustration pinched her expression as she pressed her fingers to her temple. "...I can't remember." The words were barely above a whisper, and the reluctant admission was weighted with grief. He was being so open with her, sharing things with her that he did not have to. She owed him the same level of transparency, if nothing else.

    "There are so many things I can't remember," she said. "I wish I knew why. I wish I knew what happened, and how i wound up here. I feel fine, but..." Somthing had to have happened, hadn't it? She inspected her arms, searching for any swelling or bruising and found none. Just a silvery tattoo etched into the crook of her elbow that all Wexner employees were given as a way to identify them. The code linked to the symbols were unique to only her, and replaced the need for ID badges, thereby reducing the potential fo any security breaches.

    Without any answers to find, she sighed and sat back, looking at the ceiling. "But I do know that I love my job,' she continued. "Officially, my title would be a researcher for the terraforming branch, but..." She gave a little laugh, glancing at him. "It's a very pretentious way to say that I'm a botonist. There are so many kinds of flora in the galaxy, and they do all sorts of incredible things. There's a bright red flower from Old Earth called a poppy. Their seeds are so small that you would think they are harmless. But with enough of them, they produce an effect that people would use to alter their mental and physiological states for medicinal and recreational purposes. But too much of it could end in death."

    She paused, then half hid her face behind her hand. He hadn't asked, but it felt good to be sure of something, at least. "I guess I could go on about all the sorts of plants I've studied..." She glanced around the room, suddenly curious. "Research has shown that keeping plants on ships like these have many benefits, even if they're in their own terrariums. Do you have any, by chance?"
     
    • Love Love x 1

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice