Long Way Down

Main characters: Wrath Sings-to-the-Void, Heretic Mind

JNFV A Shadow Beneath A Nameless Sun, Ser South

The dreadnought is coasting, a sleek black shadow shaped like a triangular skyscraper, all straight lines and hard angles. Her battered hull is covered in countless millennia worth of soot and slag, the bow ram eroded and polished to a gleaming point by interstellar gas and debris. Auroras dance around it where particles light up in the ship's magnetic field and leaking atmospheer, their static song crackling across the radio channels.

Below the ram, rico plates flare outward, protecting the radiator farms further down the hull. A dark figure crouches in their shadow, cloven hooves planted firmly on the hull, the grapple gun's mag bolt stuck to the airlock frame. Wrath raises a skull-like face to the unblinking stars above, needlepoints of light reflecting in the perfect black of xyr left eye. Strands of greying mane float aimlessly in microgravity.

Xe turns xyr attention back to the ship. Before xem, a wide valley flanked by high curtains of radiators, sheets of liquid metal glowing a dull red now that the engines are off and the reactors idling. Xyr integrated AI calculates distances and projects the outline of the radiation shadow on xyr retina HUD. It's a long way down, and yet Wrath can smell the residual gamma radiation from here, mutated elements in the drive bus glowing in acrid, bitter light, invisible yet impossible to miss, fueling an ancient craving deep inside.

« Thou arn't jumping, » Heretic Mind says, ethereal words floating on the static-filled channel.
Wrath unhooks the grapple bolt and retracts the line into xyr cybernetic forearm. « Sure am, » xe says into the void, subvocal mic picking up the inaudible words.
« I won't send a tug to catch thee, Capt'n. » The shipmind's words carry an audible scowl, but the threat is as empty as the space out here.

Xe rises to xyr full height and walks away from the airlock door, mag boots holding xem to the hull, for now. Xe's dressed in boots and pants only; voidbrood have no use for vacsuits. Xyr bare skin is the same scarred and mottled black as the ship, scales worn by age and more battles than anybeing would care to count.

The HUD flashes a warning just as xe steps out of the shadow and into the faint infrared glow of the radiators. Wrath spreads xyr cybernetic wings for balance, but keeps walking while the dreadnought makes small course corrections, RCS thrusters spitting bright plumes of gas into the darkness. Once the ship steadies, xe starts running.

Switching the mag boots off mid-stride, Wrath dives off the hull, toward the engines and the edge of the radiation shadow. Exhilaration takes over as xe dives without lines or safeties, memories of a time long past, another universe, home dead and gone. It won't last. Xe can see the tug appear ahead of them, xyr HUD confirms the launch.

Radiation hits like a sudden gale, biting into xyr skin greedily soaking it up. Sudden clarity as energy floods xyr body, and the craving ebbs away. Then xe flips over and reaches up toward the tug, firing the grappling hook. It hits and locks, and the tug pulls xem back, thrusters spewing cold gas around xem.

Heretic is grumpy, all of them. Wrath watches the distant stars drift by, grinning to xemself.