Saturday, 7 January 2017


The first thing she thought upon waking was a question. It was a silly question and one that, as her mother said, was tempting fate, but she mentally asked it nonetheless. The question was this: Why haven't I got a headache?
Not that she made a habit of heavy drinking, but the only times she'd ever woken up without a clue where she was, who she was or what had happened the night before it was a result of a trip to the local saloon. A common symptom that accompanied those was a banging headache, like a thunder cloud was raging beneath the pasty white of her forehead. Yet not today, for some unknown reason. She felt fine, except for a distant absence. It took her a few seconds to realise why but eventually she managed it. The missing memories hadn't come back yet. She couldn't picture the sticky wood of the bar or the beer squelched carpets of the tavern, couldn't feel the unintentionally violent shoves and barges as she jumped up and down in some mosh pit, her ears almost bleeding at the scream of the donkey rock before her. None of that was coming back. She didn't like it.
Deciding that she maybe needed a little longer, to allow the headache to flare up and wash her memories back alongside the pain, to negate the panic beginning to wash through her empty mind, she turned her attention to the room around her. It wasn't big; she'd been in escape pods that were more spacious but neither was it homely. Her first space job had been as a cleaner on a Cycler Hotel between Kirkwood and Isherwood and, although it had been ridiculously small, the owners had made it warm, comforting and homely. A grin danced across her face. She was remembering stuff already. Couldn't have been that bad a hangover.
Anyway, the ship she was on now had walls of a dulled grey with strip lighting along the length of the ceiling. There was a huge circular window at the far end but shutters descended across it, blocking the view. Behind her, on the other end wall, was a ladder leading up to a closed door. Through there would be the computer system flying them. This ship was too small to be a manual drive, which she normally wouldn't mind but, in this situation with a lack of memory, it was making her anxious.
Sharing the small autopod with her were three other life forms. They were all relatively humanoid, ranging in height and build. One of them was a bloke, a big one too, maybe a soldier from his huge frame. Another was a woman, all slight and perfectly proportioned. She had a face like an Edener and instantly Luna- OH PRAISE THE LORDS, SHE COULD REMEMBER HER OWN NAME- felt more and more inadequate. She raised a couple of porky fingers and pressed at the round snout in the middle of her face. It wasn't as notable as her tusks but it was beginning to bristle again. She'd have it waxed next supply stop. A frown crinkled across her forehead. Supply stop? She was on a long haul, then, but a long haul where and with who?
The third humanoid, she couldn't identify gender wise. All Luna could tell was that the person was covered in grey fur, interrupted merely by purple spots. There was a black spacesuit covering her stunted body from the neck down but Luna couldn't make out any deliberate branding. Who were these people? And what was the ship?
Before she could ponder the questions further, there was a loud groan. She turned suddenly and saw the big man clambering to his feet. With him stood, he doesn't look nearly as imposing. Sure, he was bigger than your average Edener but his muscles had partially withered away and too much silver flecked his hair for a big Lourdaud girl like herself to be scared. She also couldn't help but notice a large red drum attached to his back with a plethora of cables. It looked almost like a droid but she couldn't imagine what a droid was doing hooked up to someone. He blinked a few times and then faced her, frowning. "Who are you?" He demanded. His accent was the deep confidence of a Falout soldier, maybe a general of some sort.
"Luna." She said, feeling a little woozy. "I think, er, I think I'm something to do with space."
"What do you mean think?" He asked then frowned. "Wait a second. How'd we get here?"
"I've no idea either. I can't remember anything, actually. Just my name and that I was once a cleaner."
"Hm. Turn around a second, would you?" He asked, clambering over the two others and studying the back of her neck. He nodded. "Thought so. Sorry if this stings."
She went to protest but felt his fingers, cold as they were, scrabbling against the back of her neck. And then she felt his nails digging and tearing. A yelp escaped her mouth as he tore something off her. "What the hell are you doing?"
"I'm helping you, lass." He said. "Someone put an Antimnem Patch on you. You know what one of those is?"
She raised her hand to the rectangle on the back of her neck where her hair had been torn away, rubbing it softly. "Yeah, I suppose so. They make you forget stuff, don't they?"
"They inject chemicals into your spinal chords which then disrupt your brain chemicals so you suffer an artificial amnesia." He nodded. "Handy little things, aren't they Whizzer."
Whizzer? She frowned and then saw. The red drum on his back was a droid after all, with a small arm rising up from the dome at the top, extending out different attachments to peel off the patch on the back of his neck.
"You're lucky I have a resistance to 'em, lass, otherwise neither of us would know what were wrong." He said. "I'm assuming our companions on the floor have 'em too. I'll get the ginger one, you deal with Little Miss Furball. Looks like it'll need a delicate touch."
"Yes, of course." Luna said, then paused. "How long does it take for memories to come back?"
"Depends how recent they are, and what species you are." He eyed for a second and then said, "You're a Lourdaud, right?"
She nodded. Fifth generation freed Lourdaud, born in the Lorem System but emigrated to the Edens.
"Well then, probably take you a couple of hours to get your most recent memories but base stuff should come pretty quick. You worried you're gonna remember this is a prison ship?"
"Why? Is it?"
"No idea, love. I had one of the patches on too, you know. Now, go get that patch off Furball before she wakes up and blames us for it."
Luna nodded and, as delicately as a girl of six foot with massive feet could manage, made her way over to the furry thing that the man had labelled a woman. She realised she didn't know the bloke's name but then, introductions would probably be made once everyone was awake. Kneeling down, she turned her attention to the pack of the woman's neck. The fur was fluffy and boisterous all over except for one small rectangle at the base of the neck. Pushing the overlapping fur aside, Luna saw the Antimnem Patch. It was a quadrilateral of clear material, interrupted only by a green barcode at the bottom. She reached down and took hold of it. Did she do it slowly and risk waking the lady up or did she do it as quick as possible like ripping off a plaster? She decided quickly, tightened her grip and yanked.
A small clump of fur came with it and the small creature woke up howling. Although her voice was deep, it was recognisably female. She rolled over and swore a few times in a foreign language. Then she switched to the Eden tongues and said, "What in the Hellfire of Raxillion Beta do you think you're doing, lassie?"
"You, er, you had a, oh, look, you had this." Luna passed over the hairy Antimnem Patch. The furball studided it, her beady black eyes sat beneath huge whiffs of white fur. The more Luna stared, the less she was sure what species the creature was. Suddenly, the black eyes turned to her and Luna nearly leapt out of her skin.
"What's so interesting, huh? My eyebrows wonky or something?" She let out a grin, her huge mouth opening to reveal row after row of white teeth. "Who are you and where are we?"
"I'm Luna, that's, er, what did you say your name was again?"
"I didn't." He said. "But I'll tell you now. My name is Avksenity. The little red guy on my back is Whizzer. Who are you?"
"Po." She said. "Where are we?"
"No idea." Avksenity said. "Maybe this little lady will remember?"
"Do you know her?" Luna asked.
"No, but she's a Clio. She's made for remembering stuff." With that, he knelt down and tore the patch off the back of her neck. The woman breathed in dramatically, jumping from the floor and almost attacking Avksenity. She managed to recover and then glanced around the room, terrified.
Now would be a good time to quickly explain that some of the Cosmos' space stations rely not on captured slave species but instead on genetically engineered and organically grown BioAssistants or, as they were colloquially known, flowers. Each was named after an old Earth god that corresponded to their speciality; Mnemosynes and Clios made ideal secretaries and archivists due to their memories, Ares and Athenas were perfect soldiers and guards due to their brute strength and cunning and Aphrodites and Eros, well, let's leave that to the imagination.
The one in front of them was a Clio, characterised by her ginger hair. Once she'd managed to calm herself, she frowned and said, "What's going on?"
"We don't know." Po said. "I reckon we shine some light on the subject. Your droid hack tech, Av?"
"It can." Avksenity said. "Why?"
"That window down there should have a control panel just to the left. I'd hack it myself- I'm an astromech- but I don't have any tools. See if your droid, what'd you call him?"
"See if Whizzer can open the window up. Let's see where we are." Avksenity nodded and made his way down the length of the ship, sitting down on the bench on the wall and hauling open a small black panel on the wall. Whizzer let out a whirring and then, from the bottom, a cable was released. At the end of the cable was an omni-port which he brought up and clicked into the wall. Whizzer's lights flickered in a strange array, a few inarticulate beeps were given off and then there was a soft hiss. The omni-port was ejected and retracted back into the red drum. "Here we go." Avksenity said.
The huge grey shutter began to unravel, pulling back and growing smaller. The beam of light that shot through the gap blinded them for a few moments and by the time their eyes cleared of luminescent fuzz, they were able to look out in abject horror. "Is that what I think it is?" Luna asked.
"Oh gods. We're going to die." Po grumbled.
Avksenity didn't say anything, leaving it to Clio to identify their untimely fate. They were floating through space towards a huge, rippling ball of crimson fire. "That's a red giant. We'll be vaporised."

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