I signed as I rested my head against the cold metal paneling of Nick’s Eagle. To say that it had been a rough day would have been an understatement. In our search for information, we found ourselves visiting a station known as Citi Gateway, a popular location for commanders to visit. While Nick went to try and find things out the usual way, Ten and I went to the station’s main bar to talk to some other commanders. To my surprise, we actually managed to find a lead, but in the process we had accidentally dug up some repressed memories within Ten.
“How many jumps ‘till we’re there?” I asked.
“Eight, plus a scoopin’ break,” Nick replied from the pilot’s seat, intently watching the tiny white dot of our destination through witch-space. “Gonna go check up on the murderer?” he quipped, knowing the question would agitate me.
“You know I’d space you if you weren’t flying the ship right now, right?” I hissed as I pressed a few buttons on the door’s keypad.
“Yep, but I am flyin’ the ship so I know you’ll suck it up,” he countered. As much as it frustrated me, he was right, so I left quietly to check on Ten. In truth, I didn’t really care about his comment. I was already frustrated for a completely different reason. The whole event with Ten had been a total mess, and in the process I had to leave my Fer-de-Lance behind.
I found Ten curled up in one the cabins in the Eagle’s living quarters. The ship was significantly smaller than what I was used to, but it still had enough room for a modest living space. She didn’t bother to look at me as I floated over to the cabin. Now that things had finally calmed down, she had once again retreated into her emotionless shell.
“Holding up alright in there?” I asked.
“That was the second time now that I have lost control,” she muttered quietly. When we had brought her memories to the surface, she stepped out to try and take a breath, only to have a complete breakdown. We tried to calm her down at first, but luck wasn’t on our side. As if on cue, some idiot who was too focused on her personal device to see any of us managed to run right into Ten, and set her off. With a flick of her wrist she had snapped the poor woman’s neck, effectively shutting off her vital organs. It was lucky that the station’s medical care was top of the line, but I was still not entirely sure if the person had survived or not. We couldn’t stay to find out because the station’s security showed up almost immediately after.
“What happened the first time?” I hesitantly asked.
“The… factory… the place where they make… people like me… They do things to try and make you forget everything you’ve ever known… including your time there.” She looked at her prosthetic hand, deep in thought. “It’s… all still a blur, but I remembered a few things while we were at the bar. The first thing I remembered was the custodian’s name. Whistmire. Duke Whistmire is his public title.”
This was pretty important news, but I figured it could wait. “What else did you remember?”
“The first time I killed someone,” she paused for a moment. “One of the things they train you to do is kill people on command, so to test me, they… told me to kill one of the others… one who had failed.”
“And did you?”
“...No,” she closed her eyes and tensed up, “so they killed them for me. I… I was enraged, so I killed my trainer… which angered the other trainers.”
There was another pause as her retractable blade popped open for her to examine it. It was still stained with the dried blood of the unfortunate stranger. “What did they do?” I asked.
“They wanted to kill me, but… someone said they couldn’t. I… I don’t remember who, but they said I was important to their research, so they strapped me to a table, and cut my arm off instead.”
She paused again, and her blade returned to its place in her forearm. My anger had subsided almost entirely by the conclusion of the story. Given her reaction, it was likely that they had kept her awake as much as possible during the procedure, and having a limb hacked off must have been pretty traumatizing. Considering what she must have gone through, it shouldn’t have been a surprise at all that she reacted the way she did. Honestly, I had expected her to run in terror after she had effectively killed the woman, and if she had, I probably would have… No, I didn’t want to continue that train of thought. She didn’t run away. In fact, she tried to save the woman’s life, and may have, at that. It wasn’t really fair for me to be angry. As bad as things had gotten, they could have been so much worse.
“I remembered one last thing,” she added.
“Oh? What's that?” I asked.
“There was a song I liked to listen to. I listened to it all the time at…” she paused.
“I don’t h-… yeah.”
“What was it?”
“Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture,” she said, looking back up at me.
“Well, I haven’t heard of it, but you’ll have to show me sometime if we can find it,” I concluded.
“Are you two done yet? I swear if you two’re doin’ anythin’ weird in there I’m gonna turn off the life support,” Nick threatened over the intercom.
“Come on,” I said to Ten, “we should be arriving pretty soon.”