"You know, I haven't told this to anyone before."
The Fer-De-Lance No Data Available sat on wide, airless plain. Seemingly not too far above rose a majestic red dwarf. Its cool magenta light illuminating the jet black ship and hard, tan ground around it. Out on the horizon, past an endless sea of rocks and dirt, sat two more orange orbs. While each the size of a small, hand-held ball to the naked eye, they contributed just enough to the scene to make it feel remote, alien, and private. Above however, the endless stars of the Milky Way Galaxy and beyond reminded the scene of its place and time.
"But, you're special to me now. We've been together for... what... a couple years? Seen a lot. Done a lot. More than I ever dreamed, to be truthful with you." Outside the ship, perfect silence reigned. Vacuum embraced the landscape totally, denying any sense of separation between itself and the rest of the cosmos.
"So, here it is! The memoir... the secret history... of Phisto."
Without a sound, a panel blinked: RECORD.
"That's one of my favorite things about you, Data. Such a good listener," the index and middle finger of Phisto's right hand hovered over the indicator. He looked at his fingers, then the panel, then back to his hand. He sighed, and pressed the button. He cleared his throat,
"Hi, yes... um. So this is me, I mean, Phisto. Leader of Newton's Fusiliers, member of the Pilot's Federation... and, uh, yes."
He coughed and again cleared his throat.
"I was born the 22nd day of the 11th month in the year 3267. My place of birth was a small, lonely system on one of the edges of human space. It was... an interesting place to be thrust into existence," he paused, pondering for a moment. As his face lit up at a thought, he continued, "Gonna pause here for just a moment. You see... I'm speaking as both a former member of that society as well as a... amateur... scholar of it. Should I unexpectedly wander between the notorious bias and holes of memory and the observations of a detached observer, I pray the listener give me grace." A loud whistle snuck up on Phisto's ears and pierced them, alerting him to the direction of the ship mess area.
"Fuck! My tea!" Rushing to the mess, he quickly turned the heating unit off, deftly lifted up the kettle, and with a dramatic dip and raise high into the air he poured the scalding water directly onto the tea filled bag at the bottom of his mug. Setting the kettle back down,
"Ok, so, I never knew my parents. But, neither did anyone else. We were raised communally, each child studied for their personality and gifts to be eventually shepherded to their life purpose." Phisto rolls his eyes but shakes his head and smiles fondly, "You see... my family, my clan, to use the scholarly phrase, served a very specific purpose in the greater whole. In decidedly feudal arrangements, with all the lovely obligations and drama that provides, we were a kind of priesthood."
He pauses for a moment, thinking, "Priesthood is probably too inaccurate a word. We were a martial clan, focused on earth and space-born ship to ship combat, but our position provided us a certain amount of... prestige with all the other clans. You see, when those famous obligations and drama reared their ugly heads, our judgement was considered absolute and final."
Phisto grins to himself, laughing, "Mainly cause if a clan didn't like what we had to say, we could back it the fuck up." Still in the mess, he finished preparing his tea, picking it up and moving to the ship's common area. "So my life was the typical life of a child conscripted into a religious cult of crazy fliers. Endless training, brutal combat at ages that would shock most folk, and more than my fair share of good times and merriment."
Sipping his tea gingerly, he looked up through the skylight at the red dwarf, and sighed.
"Sadly, the timing of my birth was particularly bad. Our society had opened itself up to the rest of humanity in the preceding decades. It was good for business, good for progress, but... bad, for the old ways. And me and mine? We were as old ways as it got." He looked back down from the skylight and forward to the cockpit and the wasteland beyond.
"So, of course, the betrayal came. And it came hard. At least half a dozen clans, all of them nursing decades old, hell, probably centuries old grudges against us. They came without warning, at the worst possible time, and utterly without mercy."
He turned his gaze to the floor and his bare feet. Curling his toes, his face dropped at the memory, "I was 15. Which, in my world, was an age pretty well versed in the ways of war. But, none of us had seen an attack like this. Doubt our world's history had witnessed it, either. The general evacuation order sounded, we rushed to our ships, desperate for escape." He grits his teeth, grinding them for a moment.
"We felt fear, collectively, for the first time," Phisto sips his drink and looks back up to the star above, his eyes desperate for comfort. "Despite their efforts, they only managed to inflict about 80% causalities. Mostly civilians, ground crew, supply personnel; folks that couldn't fly as well as the rest of us," he stares at the star, unflinching and still.
"Killed my best friend."
Minutes pass in near perfect silence, with only the occasional sound of hot liquid across bare lips interrupting. No Data Available sits, un-moving, recording every sound within it and bracing against the soundless void without. Phisto begins to smile. The smile turns into a grin. He begins to laugh gently, a few tears running down his cheeks. Reaching for a cloth with his free left hand, he wipes his face,
"But you thought this had an unhappy ending, didn't you?"