CatastrophicFailure

Revelations of the Kraken (​​​​​​​Chapter 12: Questionable Tastes)

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Posted (edited)

REVELATIONS OF THE KRAKEN
Every World must Break                              a KSP novel, part III of:                                  Every Tower must Fall

The Kraken Trilogy
Shadows of the Kraken                                 Whispers of the Kraken

Spoiler

 

The Mappe. Complete credit goes to @Pds314 and his thread can be found here.

MjWmrtN.jpg

 

 

 

 

Prologue: The End and the Beginning 
---------------------------------------------------

The White Horse

Chapter 1: Wake, O Sleeper 
Chapter 2: Rules 
Chapter 3: Awakenings 
Chapter 4: Patient Zero 
Chapter 5: Dire Words 
Chapter 6: While You Were Sleeping 
Chapter 7: Truth and Consequences 
Chapter 8: Dead Inside 
Chapter 9: Pride 
Chapter 10: The Island of Misfit Toys 
Chapter 11: The City that Never Sleeps 
Chapter 12: Questionable Tastes 

 

--------------------------------------------------

The Black Horse

--------------------------------------------------

The Red Horse

--------------------------------------------------

The Pale Horse
 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure

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Posted (edited)

Every World must Break, 
Every Tower must fall.
Woe to thee, O lamented Age, 
For the Revelation is at hand. 

 

Prologue: The End, and the Beginning

A harsh wind roared across a cracked, crumbling expanse of nothing, dry and dead, every last trace of moisture long passed. It kicked up gritty, alkaline dust, scouring at the surface and shrouding the land in a sickly yellow haze. Trudging through the murk came a figure, clad all in black, hunched over against the remorseless wind. 

Its hands were bandaged, its legs wrapped in rags. Nothing was left exposed to the abrasive torrent around it. What might once have been a gas mask covered its eyes, the rubber cracked and split, the dark lenses scratched to near opacity. With one hand, the figure held a scrap of its ragged cloak across the rest of its face. It plodded with its head bowed, studying the tortured ground as it trudged onward, never looking up. 

As it did so, a great form loomed in the sepia haze. The figure approached, unperturbed, pausing before the enormous bulk rising out of the ruined land. A worn scrap of cloth still clung tenaciously to an opening, next to a pathetic patch of ground where the dried, brown stalks of some stringy plant were slowly being eroded by the unceasing gale. The figure paused only a moment more before sweeping the bit of cloth aside, and disappearing within. 

"Bugger this for a bloody blue box o' bleedin'... bananas! Faugh! Blaugh! Gawgh! Puh—tooey!" it ripped the mask from its face in a fury of gritty spittle, "bloody sandstorm! Bloody sand! Cor, I got sand so far up me wotsit I'll be passing bricks for a munth!"

The Brick-layer's eyes scanned around the inside of the tent as the wind howled outside. Piles of wooden crates, some open, some not, filled nearly all the space. In a puddle of light off in one corner, another figure hunched over a large table covered with artifacts, beneath a lonely oil lamp. It was scribbling furiously in a notebook. 

The gastric mason's face split into a gritty grin, "oi! You!"

The pencil tip snapped. The other Kerbal's shoulders tensed for a moment, "Lodvin... need I remind you, I am a graduate student, and you are an undergrad. I would expect you to address me with just a bit of res—"

"Bugger that fer a box o' scraps!" Lodvin spat, literally, "Sir Kerman wants to see you."

The graduate's head snapped up so quickly it smacked the hanging lamp and he spent several uncomfortable seconds trying to secure it from smashing down onto his notes, "he-he-he-he does?"

Lodvin put a thoughtful, mocking hand to his chin, "well, Oi believe his exact words were, 'tell that good-fer-nuthin freeloadin' leech to get 'is wobbly green behind in here this instant or Oi'll crack it the other way.'"

"He... he said that?" the scribbler turned a much whiter shade of pale... green.

Lodvin shrugged, "more or less." 

He turned on his heel, and his cruel grin disappeared as if scoured away. He considered the tent flap, "'take a semester abroad,' the kerb said. 'See the world,' the kerb said." He pulled the tattered remains of the mask back on, "cor, Oi ain't seen nuthin' more n' tree meters ahead o' me fer weeks, now. Bugrit." 

He tore the flap aside, for a moment allowing in wind that screamed like a dying thing, then disappeared off into it. 

The scribbler was left alone to stare after him, as the tempest wailed outside. His jaw twitched as if seeking words that would not come. Finally he gave a shuddering sigh, and reached for a complete gas mask, where the rubber had only just begun to harden and crack. He pulled on a heavy, wind-proof thawb, after the style of the locals, and thick leather gloves. He charged out into the storm before he could think himself out of it. 

The wind at his back nearly sent him sprawling. He stumbled forward, fighting back panic, knowing too well the danger of getting lost in this roiling shroud. Slowly, deliberately, he turned around, leaning into the wind as it tore at his clothing, trying to drag him away. He took step after cautious step, at last finding one of the lifelines strung between the tents in the camp. Clinging to it like a lover, he paused to compose himself. All around, strange shadows seemed to play in the dusty murk. Play, and whisper, just beyond sight. 

Calm. Steady. The shrouded figure began to inch his way along the rope, and at once the wind changed. Once more it pushed at his back, driving him away from his tent. He trudged on, step by step, hand over hand, never letting go of the line that felt like his last connection to sanity in this tempest of madness. He reached a cross-point where two ropes met, thought a moment, set out again. 

He passed one of the tents of the local laborers. Strange chants could just be heard inside over the roar of the wind. Were they praying for deliverance from the storm? Beyond in the sand, the shadows shifted closer. Perhaps the supplicants begged deliverance from something more.

The figure moved on, lurching, stumbling. He reached the tent of the other students, and the sounds of song and carousing from within. Celebrations he had never been welcome to, here or anywhere else. 

He found the next cross-rope, and shifted again. Here was a tent much bigger than the others. A wooden sign hung over the flap, the word Headmaster slowly being eroded from it by the driving sand. The figure took one last heavy, filtered breath, and stepped inside. 

The wind dropped way to distant moans. This tent was luxuriously appointed, filled with carved woods and rich leathers. Rare artifacts from all over the world stood on plinths around the periphery, and his feet seemed to sink into the thick, exotic carpet. 

"Ah, there you are, lad," said a whiskered old kerb behind an enormous desk, "have a seat, please."

The lad did so, cautiously, as if expecting the seat opposite the old kerb to suddenly snap shut on him, "y-y-you wanted to see me, Professor? Um, Sir? Um, Milord?" He offered a wan grin. 

Sir Kerman stared at him blankly for a moment, before rolling his tired old eyes, "er, yes, lad. Ah think y'know why Ah asked ya here."

The grin trembled away to nothing, "I-I-I-I'm sorry, I-I-I've just been so busy with my work, this time I-I-I—"

"Lad," the Professor raised a hand, "yer grades have slipped. Again."

"I-I-I-I'll try harder, I swear! I'm on the verge of a real breakthrough, this latest batch of articles from the lower tombs—"

"We've been through this, lad—"

"I–I–I—I just need a little more time!"

The old kerb slammed his hand down on the desk, driving a muffled yelp from the trembling scholar across from him, "you've always needed just a little more time! Fer three years now, and you've nothing to show fer it but more wild ideas and cockamamie theories. Krakens an' crowns an' lost cities! Towers an' turtles' an-an-an—— bloody talking fishes! You—!" 

He took a breath to compose himself, and continued more softly, "you kinna neglect yer regular coursework. You were barely passing b'fore, and now... yer not even barely."

"I–I... but... but..."

The other Kerbal just shook his head, "that puts you on academic probation. Ah've been as lenient as Ah can fer as long as Ah can, but Ah'm afraid mah hands are tied now. You're no longer meeting the standards of the program and so yer participation has been revoked. Ah'm sorry, lad, but you'll have to go back home to the university."

Somewhere off in the distance, something shattered. The young scholar seemed to grow smaller, collapse in on himself like a dying star. His eyes darted about as if seeking aid before sinking to the desk. For a moment, his mouth tried to form words, then it too gave up. Slowly he rose, and turned back toward the exit.

"Yes, Sir," he said softly. 

"Wait."

He half turned back. 

The old teacher sighed, "look, lad, nobody's going anywhere in this storm. Ah'll give ya credit for whatever cataloging you finish until it passes, but only the syllabus stuff, no... theories. It won't change yer grade but it'll help yer average. It's the best Ah can do."

"Yes, Sir," he turned, then back once more, "thank you, Sir."

"Lad," the professor said, "you're a bright student, one of mah brightest, you've got laser focus when you want but you've got to learn to see the big picture, else you'll end up galavanting all over the world chasing whatever piques yer fancy like mah damn fool brother Agatha."

"Yes, Sir."

Putting on something that might have been a smile, the old fellow tried once more, "buck up, now. You can reapply in two years' time. After all, it's not the end of the world."

"No, Sir," the crumpled form agreed, before pulling his mask back on and fleeing out into the storm. 

The wind caught him once more, sending him tumbling, his hand just catching the edge of the tent. He forced himself back upright, tried to pull himself up to the rope. The storm seemed to rage twice as hard now tearing at him like a panicked animal. Hand over hand, he crawled along the line, feet scrabbling for purchase. 

He reached the tent of the other students. Inside, someone was having a grand old laugh about something. Perhaps... perhaps, he should go in. Have a drink and a dance, forget this madness for a time. Then go home, and find some way to start over. Some way that didn't involve following on his own brother's coat tails. 

But... no. 

Those within had denied him time and time again. They would deny him now, cast him back into the tempest like a curse. Dropping his gaze, he moved on. 

He reached the tent of the locals. It seemed to glow with inner light. He could hear the cantor leading a melodic, lilting orison. Perhaps... perhaps he should go in there. Seek answers amongst the mystical, where the physical had so far failed him. Seek his peace. 

But... no. 

The locals didn't care for foreigners. They were tolerated because their coin was as gold as anyone else's. And really, who could blame the locals for such proclivity, with the foreigners' habit of digging up their ancestors and carting them off to museums. 

No, they would not accept him either. 

Once more he crawled on, away from the light and the song. 

The wind raged, howled as if a warning to the world itself. It tried to drag the young kerb back, or drive him off into oblivion, away from the shelter of his tent. Yet at last he pulled himself through the entrance, left his gear piled on the floor. 

He plopped down hard into his little chair by the worktable, his sand-crusted eyes wide but unseeing. All at once, he let out a great, whimpering sigh. For a moment his eyes grew wet, but only for a moment, the dry desert air sapping the moisture away. 

I want to cry... but I can't...

He stared down at nothing as the storm wailed outside, hands in his lap, shoulders slumped. Then, with nothing else to do for it, he reached into the other crate, and brought out a huge, dusty sandstone tablet. He regarded it blankly for a while before drawing in a breath and blowing the dust off. 

And immediately went into a furious fit of coughing. The dust burned at his lungs like acid, stung his face. It smelled like death. 

HACK! HACK! HACK! Ach—TCHOOOO!!!!!

The tablet slipped from his grasp and hit the table with a sickening crack. 

Despite the lingering dust in the air, he gaped wide-eyed at nothing, jaw hanging, his face a mask of terror. Slowly, ever so slowly, his eyes crept down while the rest of his face remained frozen. 

The tablet... wasn't broken. 

He blinked, brow hunched. The tablet's surface was covered in jagged, angular characters he didn't recognize, that seemed to sting his eyes. Or perhaps, it was just the wafting dust. He ran his fingers over them, amazed. 

And gasped. 

The tablet had cracked, but in the most improbable of ways. He peered down, where it was split all along one edge, as if flat layers had separated. All his thoughts of misery huddled aside as the curiosity that had always driven him came forward once more. There was a gap now from the crack. Thin, but... he could almost... he reached with his left hand, and ran his thumb along the——

"Gah—AAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUGH!"

Recoiling, he stuck his thumb in his mouth making little whining, keening noises. Copper washed over his tongue. Still puling, he withdrew it and gaped. His whole hand was throbbing and spasming. There was a ragged gash along the pad of thumb from which blood dripped freely. Angry red lines traced down onto his palm like a days-old infection. 

He did not see the drops of his blood spattering onto the tablet, being drawn into the letters and spelling out vile words for a moment before disappearing into the thirsty stone. 

Still, curiosity drew him onward. He picked up an old butter knife laying nearby with his other hand, and, with a wince of guilt as the brittle stone crunched, stuck it in the gap and levered it upwards. 

The heavy sandstone tablet opened like a book. 

Once more his eyes grew wide. Inside was line after line of those horrid symbols, but he did not see that. Set into one stone half like a fossil was a disc of purest black. It had no other features, only a perfectly smooth surface that reflected the onlooker's surprised face in darkness. Mouth agape, thumb still dripping, slowly he reached for it...

...and a single drop of blood fell upon the surface, splashing into it as if liquid. 

The butter knife clattered to the table. At once his hands went to his head. He arched back in pain, lips torn in a silent scream. All the light fled the room. The thing on the table seemed to emanate darkness, and throw shadows of light, casting the space in negative. 

Pressure. Unimaginable pressure... crushed at his brain... his mind... It shifted, focused to a singularity, like a drill boring into his skull, and then something... popped. 

Words, sounds, not-sounds, all flooded into his mind, a billion tongues in a trillion voices, scouring at his psyche, eroding it like the wooden sign out in the storm, threatening to sweep him away, but then——

KERBAL. 

Something... something alien... something other...

I WAKE... I WAKE.

Trembling, breath coming only in ragged, throaty gasps, his lips struggled in vain to form a word.

What..?

I AM...

Another spasm wracked his body as things... foul, slimy things worked into his mind... touched his consciousness...

I AM THE CURSÉD. I AM THE CAST OUT. I AM THE SHUNNED. I AM THE GREAT, MADE SMALL. I AM THE MANY, MADE ONE. I AM THE UNHEARD. I AM THE DESPISED. I AM THE FONT OF RETRIBUTION, I AM THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE. I AM THE FIRST. I AM THE LAST. I AM THE UNDYING WHICH ETERNAL LIE.

I AM THE GREAT LORD OF CHAOS... AND I HAVE NEED OF YOU.

Unbidden, a thought seemed to be pulled from his mind, what do you want of me?

Deeper, deeper, as his chest heaved to give up a scream his throat would not pass, tendrils of darkness twisted into his mind, invaded his dreams, defiled his memories.

THEY... CAST YOU OUT. DISMISSED YOU. THREW YOU AWAY. I WILL LIFT YOU UP. I WILL GIVE YOU POWER, ABOVE ALL OF THEM. I WILL GIVE YOU LIFE EVERLASTING. I WILL GIVE YOU KNOWLEDGE OF AGES. WHAT THEY HAVE REJECTED, I WILL MAKE MY CORNERSTONE. 

TO THEM YOU ARE FORSAKEN, BUT YOU... YOU SHALL BE MY CHOSEN.

Again the thought was torn from his mind even as he tried impotently to restrain it, what must I do?

RELEASE ME FROM MY PRISON, AND BRING ME A CHARIOT OF FIRE, THAT I MIGHT DECEND UPON THIS PLACE CALLED... KERBIN.

Why..?

Every muscle in his body tensed at once, as if he would tear himself apart. Slowly, inexorably, his face was drawn downward, his eyes toward the tablet. Yet there was no disc there, now. No dark surface. Only an empty pool of nothing. Not blackness, nothing, a hole in reality. In that hole, visions now writhed.

BEHOLD, THE BILLION SHOCKS THAT FLESH IS HEIR TO. 

BEHOLD, THE BANE OF LIFE. 

BEHOLD, THE END OF ALL THINGS. 

Veins swelled up from the skin of his face. Tiny dots of red broke the surface, as sweat became as blood. 

BEHOLD... THE REVELATION. 

His fingers curled into claws. Tendons popped, bones cracked, as he forced his trembling hands up... to pluck the eyes from their sockets... to tear them from his face... to stop the horrors flooding through his mind...

But his fingers found only nothing.

DO YOU SEE?

Slowly his face rose from the tablet, the corners of his mouth turned up in a taut mask of ecstasy and agony. 

"Yes... I see!"

Jerdous Kerman laughed. 

And screamed. 

And cried. 

 

 

 

Edited by CatastrophicFailure

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Will this poor graduate student release the Kraken!? PLEASE! DON'T RELEASE THE KRAKEN! he'll kill you..........are you even listening to me!?

 

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1 hour ago, Alpha 360 said:

Will this poor graduate student release the Kraken!? PLEASE! DON'T RELEASE THE KRAKEN! he'll kill you..........are you even listening to me!?

Can't comment on that but you may want to check @CatastrophicFailure's signature, or the first post on this thread. We're into Book 3 of this series now and the third book will probably make more sense if you've read the other two. :) Plus they're well worth reading anyway - if you liked the first chapter of  Revelations of the Kraken, you're in for a treat with the other two!

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I have being reading his books since last year. I know the kraken is released, but still it doesn't hurt to scream it at the kerbal. 

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Ahh OK. Sorry about that.

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Posted (edited)

Dammit, and to think I haven't read either piece in their entirety... :blush:

Note to self: schedule binge-reading session on Wednesday. I will finish both Shadows and Whispers! icon_twisted.gif

Edited by TotallyNotHuman_
grumble grumble image embeds grumble grumble

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1 hour ago, TotallyNotHuman_ said:

Dammit, and to think I haven't read either piece in their entirety... :blush:

Note to self: schedule binge-reading session on Wednesday. I will finish both Shadows and Whispers! icon_twisted.gif

Erm, yes, finishing the middle and the beginning is generally wise before diving into the end. Updates will be slow for a while, you've got time. :wink:

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Anyhow - great way to start Book 3!

As they say in the desert - never trust a kerbal living in a log cabin, for the logs may not be what they seem... And whilst I'm in a Dark Tower frame of mind, I have but two comments.

Johnny Cash is everything...

I shall show you fear in a handful of sand...

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Well, now we know how Jerdous became evil. Poor guy. Great start to the third part though!

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On 6/19/2017 at 11:20 AM, TotallyNotHuman_ said:

Dammit, and to think I haven't read either piece in their entirety... :blush:

Note to self: schedule binge-reading session on Wednesday. I will finish both Shadows and Whispers! icon_twisted.gif

Yes, trust me, this is one of the best series on the forum, and well worth taking the time to start at the beginning!  :)

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*wonders where he's heard that song before*

*rewatches TSCC*

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12 hours ago, vsully said:

*wonders where he's heard that song before*

*rewatches TSCC*

The... Sarah Connor chronicles?

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On 6/30/2017 at 0:40 AM, CatastrophicFailure said:

The... Sarah Connor chronicles?

....yes....

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maxresdefault.jpg

Just sayin'.

So how's it going? Need any help? :P

 

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57 minutes ago, vsully said:

Just sayin'.

:sticktongue: Next chapter is off to editing, with the understanding that it might be a bit. Chapter 2 is well underway and should follow much more quickly.

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The White Horse

Thus was the Seal broken, 
And one of the four Living Beings spoke,
Saying, "Come and see," and I saw, and behold: a White Horse,
And he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: 
And he went forth conquering, and to conquer.
At his back swung a brass quiver filled with poisoned arrows,
And he bent his bow, and struck one-third of the people from the land. 

 

Chapter 1: Wake, O Sleeper

 

In the Beginning, there was nothing.

The heavens were without form, and darkness laid upon the face of the void. 

Then it was said, let there be Light!

And there was Light. 

Flatline. 

Charge to 150.

Ready— Clear!

Let there be Light!

But the Light... was not Good.

Flatline.

Push ten of epinephrine, charge to 180.

For the Light touched something... that did not know light. 

Ready... clear!

Let there be Light!

Something beyond light... beyond darkness... beyond age or Ages...

Flatline.

Ok, adrenaline.

How much?

Um... 15... charge to 220.

Something, that now knowing Light, sought to end it.

Ready... clear!

Let there be... Light!

Flat— no, wait, v-fib... no... lost it...

One more time with the adrenaline, charge to 300.

Something that sought and end to all that was not It.

How much adrenaline?

All of it!

What—?

One chance!

Something...

Ready... clear!

Let there be... LIGHT!

...that even a Kraken feared.

Taching... I've got a rhythm!

Adenosine, 12mg. 

Got it!

...and there was Light. And breath. And sensation.

Stabilizing...

Crap, she's waking up!

Whoah! Calm down, lady, you're ok...

She's gonna hurt herself!

Calm down, please! Don't struggle, you'll—

Gah, she's strong! Ow!

You just pumped her full of adrenaline!

Can you reach those restraints? (Huff)

(Guh)No, not without letting go. Where's the Boss, anyway?!

On his way (grunt), sent me on ahead with her (oof), wanted to secure—

Aaack!

Lady, please, we're trying to help—!

She's getting—!

There was light. And breath. And sensation. Cold flooring beneath her feet. Strange voices, alien sounds. Bizarre passages she did not know. 

Grab her! Careful!

And fear. Towering, driving fear. All else grew pale, faded away before that fear, scourging her onward in mindless, frenzied dread. She bolted down the sterile hallways, past curved doors and thick hatches. Tripped over something, stumbled, fell against a wall and charged on. Her mind was a vast expanse of nothing. 

Nothing, except fear. 

Another corridor, and then another, stretching out into a maze. A scream built in her lungs. Doors. Nothing but closed doors. Behind them, voices. Taunting. Pleading. Condemning. A billion tongues in a trillion voices. Behind her, the horrors grew, stretching out like shadows, creeping along the walls. 

Fear. Nothing but fear. 

Her foot slipped. She stumbled left, pivoted, right, and—

BLAM!

"Ooooff!!"

Reeling from the impact, she sat down hard on the floor, just across from...

"Yyoouu..."

"IIkknnoowwyyoouu..."

"II kknnooww yyoouu..."

"Yyoouu..."

"Yyoouuaarree..."

"Valentina Kermanova!"
"The gas man!"

The other Kerbal sprawled on the floor blinked, "um, what?"

The unfamiliar words... name... called to her... but were quickly eclipsed by the growing chill in her posterior that announced that she was, unfortunately, stark naked. 

Her mind struggled with the concept. It seemed important, but in a distant, dreamy way. So she did the only sensible thing she could do in that situation. 

"Ow!" the other yelped, clutching his face, "what was that for?! I didn't..."

She didn't wait. Panic struck at her like a stalking beast. She pushed back, tried to rise but one arm simply folded in half as if boneless, sending her sprawling. Somehow she found her feet, bounded down the hall as it lurched and twisted around her. Darkness... from everywhere, darkness moved in to swallow her. 

She burst through a door into a small room, and froze, eyes wide. Outside beyond the window, illuminated by floodlights piercing the purple twilight, snow billowed and churned in raging wind. 

"I am... home..." she said, as the darkness swallowed her, and the first star fell from the sky.

 

***

 

Dilford Kerman sat on what once might have been a dock, head resting on his hand, a straw hat pulled down over his eyes. He let out a long sigh, and gave the rotted timber below him a languid kick. Before him, the brownish river muddled along with vague indifference. He sighed once more, swapped his fishing pole to his right hand and his head to his left. All around in the dense mash of woods and vines, insects buzzed or clicked away. The place was so overgrown, he couldn't even make out the far bank, only a gradual change from turbid brown water to green swamp. 

Figures. 

Years slaving away, and he finally decided to take a real vacation. Sat on a train for hours. Even bought a new pole. Now he'd spent every day of the last week in this literal backwater, that the guy at the bait shop had raved about when Dilford slipped him an extra bill. And all he had to show for it was...

He lifted his pole, and looked at the worm hanging from the hook. It looked back at him, arms crossed, silently judging him. 

Which was a bit odd, since Worms don't generally have arms. But then, it was said all sorts of odd things lived in these waters. Like the one on the rusted old warning sign he'd passed on the weed-strewn trail down here. It had looked sort of like a fish. But also like a rat. And also like a squirrel. Which was very odd indeed. 

But, he suspected, it was just another way the locals toyed with naive tourists such as himself. Like the stuffed jackalope the guy at the bait shop had tried to sell him. Maybe he should have just bought it. At least then he'd have something to bring back. 

The worm went from glaring to tapping a finger, and Dilford sighed once more. He laid the pole down and set about packing up his tackle. This was pointless. He wasn't going to catch anything here—

Nearby, something broke the surface. 

Dilford frowned. He watched the waters for a moment, and was just about to give up when it happened again. This time, he saw a vague, dark form just below the surface. It didn't look very large, but maybe there was something to be found here. 

He leaned in.

There it was again, quite close this time. It actually seemed to be coming nearer. He leaned over a little more. 

That's odd, it looks like it's coming right this—

Splash.

Mmmpgprh!!

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15 minutes ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

"Valentina Kermanova!"

WOOOOHOOOOOOOOO  She's back!!!!  :D

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The one who was dead shall live again,
And lo, the world shall quake.
The risen one shall raise hand and beckon,
And call forth the end of days. 


Chapter 2: Rules

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . .

A heart monitor toned out a slow, weak rhythm. Nearby, the steady shhhhhh–pop of a ventilator kept time to the barely perceptible rise and fall beneath the blanket. In silent syncopation, an IV bag drip–dripped away. Edgas Kerman watched, unmoving, hands folded behind his back, a shadow laying upon his face in the dim room. 

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . .

Before the question even formed on his tongue, he knew the answer, but such questions must be asked, as if by some cosmic diktat, "How is she, Doc?"

Beside him, Doc just shook his head. He opened his mouth and drew breath, then closed it again with a sigh. He tried pursing his lips and raising a hand, but that didn't seem right either. He settled on twisting a medical mask between his fingers. 

"She's alive," he said, "barely." A shrug, "I still don't understand how. Nasty spiral fracture of the humerus. Dislocated shoulder, broken clavicle, broken cheekbone, broken eye orbital. The rest of her is one big bruise." His lips pursed again, "somebody beat the everloving tar out of her. I don't know how she lived through that."

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . .

From somewhere, Doc produced what looked like a thin sheet of rolled plastic that came alive with a touch. Pictures popped onto the screen as he held it up to Edgas, "petechial hemorrhages in the eyes, gums, nail beds. Mild frostbite at the extremities. The AutoDoc flagged diffuse alveolar bleeding. Those are signs of exposure to hard vacuum. I don't know how she lived through that."

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . .

He tapped the page again, "toxicology report. Boss, there's traces in her blood the AutoDoc couldn't even identify. I had to take a sample down to the machine shop and run it through an oil analysis. Dimethyl sulfoxide, ethylene glycol, methyl pentanediol. That's antifreeze! And other things I... I... I still don't know what they are. I don't know how she lived through that.

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . .

"And as far as I can tell, all this happened within the last few hours," he turned to Edgas, "to someone who's been dead for twelve years."

Edgas raised an eye... bulge, "you still think it's her?"

Doc looked at the indistinct form on the gurney, surrounded by blinking machines. The barest hint of a smile touched his mouth, "oh it's her, alright. That face is burned into my memory like the rest of it, even swollen that." He rubbed at a tiny scar on his chin, "you don't?"

"It's her," Edgas agreed, "which puts an even more disturbing twist on the whole thing."

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . .

Once again, he knew the answer before he asked the question, but such things must be done, "prognosis?"

Doc just frowned, and shook his head, "I've done what I can. The AutoDoc isn't equipped to handle this, either." Already, the electronic tempo from the monitor seemed to be slowing. 

"Boss... Ed..." Doc began, "she needs a real hospital, with real doctors. I'm... just a medic..."

The shadows on Edgas's face shifted just slightly, into something that might, too, have been a hint of a smile, "you'll never be just a medic, Docmore Kerman."

The two of them stared in silence for a while, neither one wanting to say what had to be said, both already knowing the answer to the unasked question. 

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . .

At length, it was Doc who spoke, not looking up, "the nearest hospital is in an Ussari outpost at the edge of the ice sheet. A snow-cat would take days. She doesn't have that long. A Skeeter might make it in time, but it doesn't have the range. And if we called for a rescue flight... in this storm..."

Edgas finished the thought, his eyes not leaving the bed, "they would come. And fifty-fifty, end up splattered all over the mountains like the last one."

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . .

The two kept staring in the heavy silence that was broken only by the sound of the machines keeping the form under the blankets alive. Edgas already knew what he had to do. He had known, he supposed, ever since he had first laid eyes on her yesterday. Everything about this— everything!— rekindled old feelings he didn't want drawn up. Memories dead and buried that deserved their rest. Yet somehow, some part of him had always known it was coming. 

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . .

Some things... must be done. 

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . .

He turned to his crewmate, "Doc, I want you to go down to the shop and find Chief Lofan, have the crew start stripping down a pair of Skeeters so we can strap every jerry can we have to them. Oh, and find me three volunteers."

"You'll only need two, Boss," Doc smiled and spun around. 

"And one more thing..."

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . .

He paused, and saw the shadows on Edgas's face seem to shift darker as he approached.

"I've learned to trust my gut on things like this, and right now it's screaming at me," Edgas intoned, "whatever happens, I think it is vitally important that no one outside this station knows she's here, especially the Ussaris. At least for now. Understood?"

Doc nodded gravely, "got it, Boss," and hurried off. 

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . .

Edgas watched him go. He hated giving the crew busy work that wouldn't matter later, but he needed no witnesses. Just... better for everyone, this way. He shut the door to the little room with a soft click, and turned the lock. 

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . .

Shadows played back and forth across his face as Edgas once more approached the gurney, and the motionless form upon it. He took a large syringe from his pocket, tapping any bubbles out with a finger. 

I promised myself I'd never do this...

His face a blank mask, he poked the needle into a port on the IV line, and pressed the plunger. In the darkened room, the clear plastic tubing began to glow...

Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . Beep . . . . Beep . . . . . Beep . . . . . . Beep . . . . . . . . Beep . . . . . . .

***

"Good morning, sir!" the bright, smiling ticket agent said with a posh Omork accent. She glanced at the fishing pole, "ooh, catch anything?"

Dilford Kerman spat a huge wad of gum out into a napkin, "no!"

"Oh," the agent blinked, "terribly sorry, I've heard this was the best season in years, here."

A long, breathy sigh fled from Dilford's lungs, the rest of him seeming to contract in its wake, "well, not for me, I guess." He handed her a scrap of paper with something scrawled on it, "the baggage guy with the blue kar said to give you this, he's taking my stuff around to the depot."

She frowned at it, "oh, ah... we don't... have baggage handlers with blue kars..." she glanced at it again, "this even says 'ha ha I stole your luggage'..."

Dilford's jaw dropped for a moment, then his entire face slowly squeezed into a wince. Without another word, he handed over his ticket. 

The agent's brow pinched with sympathy, "I'll call security down here right away and—— oh! You're quite late! The train is boarding already."

"Um... er..." Dilford's eyes darted around, "can you rebook me?"

"I'm afraid not," now her face turned to genuine pain, "everything to Kermingham is booked solid for the next two weeks... busy season and all... If you call customer service you can file a report..." The efficacy of actually doing so was plain in her voice.  

Dilford seemed to collapse a little more. With a sigh, he simply held out his hand. The agent stamped his ticket and passed it back. 

"Do hurry, you're between Platform 9 and 10," and then, futilely, offered, "have a nice... day?"

Shuffling amongst the crushing mass of people going back and forth, Dilford clung to his fishing pole like a lifeline. Figures. Stupid vacation. One hand shoved more gum into his mouth as he went along. He shuffled this way, shuffled that, wound his way through the cavernous train station as quickly as he could through an ever shifting mass of bodies.  

As he trotted along, he looked down at his ticket once more to check the platform number. The agent had signed a little smiley face on it. That was nice. At at least he still had his prized fishing——

Oof! 
Crack.

Dilford rubbed at the lump already rising on his forehead. He looked up at the wall he'd just run into. He looked down at the shattered bits of his pole. 

Once more, he sighed. 

He began to look forward to finding a nice, quiet seat on the train and having a good cr——

An incredible crowd was trying to cram their way into the passenger car as one. Dilford checked his ticket again. Of course, this was his car. 

"Aaaaaaaaaaaallllllll aboard!"

As if in a dream, he moved forward into the throng, "'scuse me... 'scuse me... pardon me... 'scuse me..." and found that he didn't have room to sigh. 

Instead, as the train slowly lumbered ahead, he began to cough...

 

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Posted (edited)

Well that last line isn't at all ominous.. 

And how in the name of Igor's unlamented jockey shorts did Val wind up in a research outpost at the outer end of nowhere? Is she even on Kerbin? I'm not sure it's technically possible to start on a cliffhanger but you've surely managed it! Very much looking forward to seeing what happens next.

 

Edited by KSK

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6 minutes ago, KSK said:

I'm not sure it's technically possible to start on a cliffhanger but you've surely managed it!

I know, right? I thought I was good at cliffhangers... but, wow!  I am so impressed!!! :)

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Oh snap!

Valentina mysteriously returning... Maybe-evil-but-definitely-not-right-Edgas injecting her with some glowing crap... A guy getting...did that thing do what I think it did? Why am I getting Alien vibes...

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21 hours ago, KSK said:

I'm not sure it's technically possible to start on a cliffhanger but you've surely managed it!

:D Now if I can pull that off another hundred or so times in a row, I will have achieved literary mastery! :rolleyes:

So that's probably a no, but there should be some guffaws incoming, a few gasps, couple of "awwwww's," spattering of "hah! I knew it!'s," a few "wait, did that just happen?!'s," and of course... onions for flavor. :o

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1 hour ago, vsully said:

Oh snap!

Valentina mysteriously returning... Maybe-evil-but-definitely-not-right-Edgas injecting her with some glowing crap... A guy getting...did that thing do what I think it did? Why am I getting Alien vibes...

Ahh - I *think* the glowing goop is benign. Usual caveat applies - this is a @CatastrophicFailure story so expect the unexpected, but it sounds very much like the good 'ol mystery goo that turned out to be so helpful back in Book 1. :) 

57 minutes ago, CatastrophicFailure said:

:D Now if I can pull that off another hundred or so times in a row, I will have achieved literary mastery! :rolleyes:

So that's probably a no, but there should be some guffaws incoming, a few gasps, couple of "awwwww's," spattering of "hah! I knew it!'s," a few "wait, did that just happen?!'s," and of course... onions for flavor. :o

Oooh - onions. Nice and crispy I hope? Om nom nom nom...

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