Lucia awoke in an uncomfortable bed. Her first thought was that her head was in intense pain, worse than she’d ever felt. She felt overly hot as well, her body drenched in sweat. She was wearing a strange sort of open backed gown. She looked at herself and noticed she’d had various tubes and needles and strange patches attached to her. ‘Modern’ medical equipment, she supposed. She looked around the room she was in. It was far too bright, and hurt to look at, so she decided to simply close her eyes again. She heard someone enter the room. “H-hello?” she called out, her voice weaker than she expected.
“Hello there, Miss Carlena. Good to see you’re awake!” said a friendly sounding male voice on her left.
“What happened to me? My head hurts, and it’s so hot, and-”
“Now now, calm down. We’ve done a CATNS scan, and it seems the nanites in your brain overheated. I’ve never seen nanites quite like them, seems to be a custom job. Now, can you tell me what you were doing directly before your head began to hurt?”
Lucia struggled to focus past the pain. “I.. I was… Niarith, she.. She was talking to me. In my head. She said she was using our matching nanites to do it.”
The man walked across the room and Lucia heard water flowing. “I see… and this was… oh dear.”
“What? What is it?” Lucia opened her eyes to look at the man. She saw a tall man in a white coat and teal pants, a teal shirt visible beneath the coat. He seemed to be in late middle age, a white mustache above his lip and a head of thin white hair.
“Your connected nanite signals may have caused an overload, resulting in excess heating. These nanites don’t seem to be designed for that sort of telepathy, using them for that would have already been a strain on their systems... It could have killed you, Miss Carlena”
Lucia felt her stomach drop. She'd nearly died. She wasn’t sure what to think. She’d never come close to death before. Her job as an assassin had been dangerous, but she’d been careful, and executed her assignments as silently as possible. The closest she’d come to dying had been when Mirideth had spotted her, back in the throne room. She could have died there easily. But that would have been honorable, she’d have died doing the right thing. But this… this was random, unexpected. She’d never considered the possibility of sudden, random death before. She’d been so focused on dealing it, it had never occurred to her that it could happen to her.
There was silence for a long, awkward moment. “Miss Carlena? Are you alright?” the man who was obviously a physician asked. He walked over and handed her a small cup filled with water.
Lucia slowly sipped at it for a few moments, then asked “Is Niarith okay?”
The doctor nodded “Yes she’ll be just fine, as will you. Her nanites were kept somewhat in check by the entity that you described. It is very much there. It has… fused with Miss Velnazranak’s nervous system. It cannot be removed. But the damage to the nanites is extensive in both you and Miss Velnazranak. They can no longer perform their main function. That being the override of your nervous system and thought patterns. The entity within Miss Velnazranak is not able to act on her, or you any longer. It is trapped within her.”
Lucia stared… Mirideth was no longer a danger. This was something that had never once in her life been true. It was over. She had, through incredibly roundabout and not exactly her fault means, actually accomplished her mission. She felt a combination of emotions, satisfaction, happiness, relief, fear, sadness, longing…. She’d accomplished her mission, but she had lost her home. Her family. Everything she’d ever known. And now the only thing she had, Niarith, was stuck with that monster inside her. But she did still have Niarith. What they would do now, Lucia couldn’t fathom.
“Miss Carlena?” The doctor asked.
“Oh, uhm.. What?”
The doctor sighed, seemingly losing his patience “I said, Miss Velnazranak will be waking up soon. Do not try to contact her telepathically, your nanites aren’t functional enough and another failure like that will kill you.” With that, the doctor turned and walked out of the room, leaving Lucia alone again.
She woke up what seemed like seconds later, to find a beautiful, dark skinned woman with short brown hair and dark eyes standing over her. Lucia stared up at her for a moment. She was wearing the same strange gown Lucia was wearing, and looked a bit worse for wear. But it was undeniably her. Niarith. “Hey Luci, they said you came out of the nanite failure worse than me, but wow, you look bad.” She leaned over and gave Lucia a kiss on the forehead. “So, I guess we did it, huh? We beat her. We beat her and we’re not even going to jail for it! My story held up, we’re not being charged!”
Lucia nodded, sighing in relief “Yes but, where are we going, now?”
Niarith looked puzzled. “Nowhere for a couple days, we’ve gotta recover, and make sure that Mirideth here” she patted her own head “really can’t do anything… like she does.” Nirarith gently sat down on the side of Lucia’s bed. “Like I said, I’ve pretty much certainly lost my job, and the ship. Buuut” she lowered her voice to a whisper “I think I’m gonna keep it anyway. I mean, I’ve already committed multiple crimes getting here, I’m not gonna just get shipped off to the nearest planet. The station should have auto-refueled the ship, so all we need to do is get on board and run like hell.”
Lucia looked troubled. ”Are you sure about this, Niarith? It seems a bit.. needlessly reckless to me.”
“Maybe it is, but if we don’t, we’re gonna be stuck on whatever backwater planet is nearby. And likely won’t get off of it for years. I’m not about to sit around on some nowhere planet after what we just experienced! Besides, it’s a shitty old ship anyway, they’re not gonna come after us for it, as long as we get away.”
Lucia pondered that for a moment, before saying “I’ll follow your lead, Nia. It’s gotten me this far, and I won’t leave you now.”
Niarith leaned in and kissed Lucia. “That’s my girl.”
Three days later, Lucia had recovered, Mirideth was confirmed to be inert, and all was well. Lucia was awoken suddenly by Niarith. “C’mon, Luci. Now’s our chance, this place barely has anyone around! That marine detachment left yesterday and their security is down to one person.” Niarith pulled Lucia out of bed and they quietly made their way through the empty metal corridors to Bay A07. Niarith let out a small giggle as they reached the door. “They left the hatch down? I didn’t think they’d make it quite this easy.”
Lucia chimed in “Perhaps they didn’t expect us to try and take it?”
“All the easier for us then. C’mon!” Niarith grabbed Lucia’s arm and dragged her along toward the ship. As they approached Lucia became more and more nervous. She’d been outside the Void for what, a few months? Had been conscious of it for a few days, and here she was about to steal a starship with her girlfriend. How had this become her life? No more time for wondering, they were aboard.
Lucia found herself back in the cockpit with Niarith, pressing buttons, pulling levers, and flipping switches as directed. “Holy shit Luci! We’re doing this!” Niarith exclaimed as the ship’s engines powered up, and the bay door opened.
<ALERT> <UNAUTHORIZED DEPARTURE FROM BAY A07> <ALERT> <SECURITY TEAMS PLEASE RESPOND>
“Okay, we’re gonna have to hit the LightDrive pretty much as soon as we clear the hangar bay, otherwise the automated defenses are gonna kill us.”
Lucia’s eyes widened “What?! Kill us?! Niarith you never mentioned they could kill us!”
Niarith spared a glance back at Lucia “I never mentioned it because it won’t happen, Luci. Like I said, we engage the LightDrive and get outta here.” Lucia found herself gripping her seat tightly, her apprehension growing by the second. The ship shuddered as it tore itself free of the mooring bolts and slid out of the docking bay. “Hold on!” Niarith said, as she pushed a large lever forward. For a moment, nothing happened, until suddenly a feeling like being pulled in every direction at once hit Lucia. She struggled to remain in her seat as the ship shuddered violently. She spared a glance out the front panel and saw something unlike anything she’d ever seen, which was an ever more frequent occurrence these days.
She saw colors, bright colors like she’d never seen before, shifting and changing and combining in seemingly impossible ways. The ship slowly stopped shuddering, relaxing to a low buzz of vibration. Niarith jumped up out of her seat with a joyful shout. “We did it! Holy shit we did it!” She suddenly turned around, and stopped, upon seeing Lucia sitting in her seat, gripping the sides in terror. Niarith’s expression changed to one of concern, and then realization. “Oh right, the LightDrive. Guess you haven’t experienced it yet, huh?” She walked over and put a hand on Lucia’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Luci. We’re safe, we got away, and they’re not gonna come after a worthless hunk of junk like this ship. I know the LightDrive can feel pretty crazy, but it’s been used for over 200 years now, and nobody’s ever been hurt by it, not directly anyway.” Lucia swallowed and slowly managed to regain her composure. “S-so… where to now?”
The Epsilon VI arrived in orbit of the planet Xia IV a few hours later. Lucia stared at it through the panel she’d first seen her own planet through, in the dining area of the Epsilon VI. Xia IV was a grey, smog choked ball of rock. Niarith had told her the whole thing was one huge city. Lucia hadn’t believed it until now. The PA system squealed to life from a speaker in the ceiling. “Well, here it is Luci! Home sweet home!” Minutes later the Epsilon VI had docked at a spaceport, and Lucia and Niarith were disembarking. Lucia found herself in a docking bay not unlike Bay A07, though it was much smaller, barely fitting the Epsilon VI into it.
As they stepped through the doors of the docking bay, Lucia’s senses were immediately assaulted by all manner of sights, smells, sounds, even tastes. It was too much to handle, and Lucia barely noticed when she fell to her knees, her hands over her ears, her eyes squeezed tightly shut. She realized she was panicking, and would have simply curled up into a ball on the floor if Niarith hadn’t placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder, before placing one of the devices they’d used to defeat Mirideth’s control over her head. The sounds deadened to a vague static, she blinked her eyes open, seeing the now familiar white outlines. Niarith’s oddly modulated voice spoke to her “Sorry, Luci, I should’ve realized. Luckily these devices do have more than one use.” She helped Lucia back to her feet. “Now, my apartment isn’t far, just a short walk.”