(All characters of the graichic race are hermaphroditic, and do not have gender-specific pronouns; a singular they has been used in place. If this becomes too confusing, it will be switched to a different pronoun.)
The waterfalls were deafening, even from so far away; like so many rains happening further below, all thunderous cacophony and deep bass rumbling. It filled Fa with such a peace that the last month’s hardships were slowly ebbed away, and they allowed themselves a few moments of dozing in the early summer sun, surrounded by their raichii who splashed happily in the waters. Fa was nearly asleep by the time they felt a nudging head poke into their abdomen.
“Where is Mo, Fa?” Came the little voice from beside them.
The dull screech of ceramic on rock pinged through the suit’s hull, giving Vej the shivers. There was only a moment to think, and shi dug hir hands into the walls around hir, rewarding hir with another horrific, echoing peal that rung out into the clinging shadows of the asteroid.
This wasn’t like those old sci-fi shows, with the crew warping in wearing thin cotton jumpers; Vej had slowly maneuvered through a dense asteroid field, avoid microdebris that easily could have lacerated the front of hir shuttle. Shi’d flown with the blast screen down, given the high particle count, and relied on lidar to avoid anything big. Then, after securing to the slow-spinning rock, shi’d mapped a careful route along its exterior towards a cave mouth, a near 70-foot drop into the caverns below.
(Warning: This story contains mention of suicide. If this is something you don’t wish to read about, please return to the archives here.)
door.17 opened. door.17 closed. heat readings identified as human; fourteen(14) prosthetics detected…zero(0) essential cybernetics detected
door.18 opened. door.18 closed. door.18 locked.
The AI slid between pipes and wires, giant transformers latticed between cooling units and fans galore. The deeper it went, the more complex and maze-like it all felt, as though the very core of the planet were nothing more than a quantum collection of endless piping and machinery. It often wondered whether that might one day become the truth.
“Well, there’s a set of them, aren’t there?”
“Answer the question, roadie. Who are they?”
Horace was getting snippy; 15 hours of roundabout, merry-go-round, chase the fucking rabbit, and he’d barely got back to the starting point with this lackey.
“Which?” Came the tart reply.
Tory shot the roadie in the foot. In hindsight, Horace thought as he resisted the ringing in his ears, that should have happened earlier this morning.
“Sometimes, you just need to sit and bask, bake, under an uncaring sun.” He inhaled slowly, as if drawing in the very heat around himself. My ears were so poised for his next words I almost missed them in the background noise.
“Because, daughter mine, the world under your feet, the grass and insects and animals, all that wind and rain and ceaseless molten activity?” He exhaled his breath as if it were smoke from a tasteless cigar; a habit that he’d kicked but that followed him like a stray dog, “It barely notices your passing. Unless you Make it notice.”
The glittering iridescent hide of the beast shimmered in the pulsar’s light, dancing across the thick exoskeleton in waves; an interstellar tide.
“Fifteen months of service, and where do they put me?” The frustrated voice crackled out of the radio.
Sighing, Ebriette paused in their work, hanging on to the metal latticework of the communication tower with one hand and increasing the volume on the receiver. “Let me guess, Milo. ‘Out in the middle of an ocean’.” Their reply was dripping with as much sarcasm as they could muster through the thin clinging film of the high-altitude-breathing-apparatus; or as the insufferable goon in charge of training had cheerfully explained, HAPA.
This story is based off of a story from the game Dwarf Fortress, provided by the lovely Dusty Dorfs posts here and here. Dwarf Fortress is a game steeped in lore and legends, as well as nuanced and complex histories. I have taken some liberties with added names and personalities, but I drew much of the information here directly from those posts. From this we have a story of Cuquimo Mergedyell, the human general of a conflict against that wretched blight, the Goblin, and the kind of impact that has on a person later in their life…
The corpse-laden battlefield, heavy with the burden of war, stretched out below them like death’s own bloody harvest.
Cuquimo Lecbealá, she of the title “The Colourless Viper”, stood atop a short crest where the officers had made camp; from here, she could survey the battle’s results, and hear faint conversation from the soldiers under her command. There was the faint stench of blood and soiled bodies even upwind, and the guttering pitch of the torches did little to aid the smell.
The voices below occasionally rang out in boisterous laughter or raucous songs, accompanied by the rhythmic clanking of tankards and armor and the stomping of many a boot. A sort of chaotic symphony, attesting that their victory was one to be celebrated, lauded in song and dance for days to come.
Her home was empty, both of noise and of another home within it, as a song without a melody. Her bones felt the chill of autumn’s touch all too keenly from the open windows, but she could not bring herself to close them. Something in her said that it was right; his spirit could not find her if the house was shut up like a tomb, could not bade her fond farewell or show her to their mutual love. Saden had been missing for nearly three days since the passing, and she would not hold the wake without him. Not only for his sake and company, but for Syf’s spirit to know they were both there at the last.
Deep green fluid, transparent and illuminated from all sides by miniature bulbs, gurgled quietly as it circled in the pool. As it poured over over a head the size of a small house, steam jetted along the length of it, hissing in the slight viscosity coating it. Multiple symmetrical grooves ran lengthwise along the almost-humanoid jaw, though the shape resembled that of a warship’s prow more than a human face. Circuitry pulsed with life in these channels, a veritable night’s sky of lights blinking in and out in a lazy pattern. The metal beast slumbered wearily, its languor clear as it idled within the restoring bath.