Elusive Desire (Pod and Planet Fiction 2013 Contest Entry)

Elusive Desire

 

                Sweet nothingness.

                A smile crept across Caelix’s face as his ship emptied out of the hangar into the cold vast space before him. He took a second to relax, closing his eyes and savoring the silence. He hated the noise and busy nature of the stations. The pure silence of space was his refuge. He craved it. The doctors had claimed he was insane. He had killed them.

                As the docking procedures finished, Caelix used his mind to punch in the coordinates of his destination into the navigational computer. He was able to control everything, despite the inside of his pod being so smooth. It was a marvel and a curse that the Jhovians bestowed upon the lesser races. The vigorous hum of the warp drives spinning up brought him some comfort as another devilish smile crossed his lips.

                It’s payday.

                There were few stations that would harbor him anymore, and fewer still that would allow him to use much more than the hangar for simple repairs. It was a shame he had to blow this one up. Mercenary life had its perks though. Caelix saw the explosions rip through the station’s core levels and fracture the structure in a hundred places just as his ship, Miasma, leaped into warp, leaving hundreds, if not thousands, to die.

                They don’t know how lucky they are.

                It happened every time Caelix killed. He was angry and jealous; it was an almost infinite hatred for those he murdered. He wanted what he gave them. Nothingness. He wanted an end. Instead, every time he died, he would just wake up in another location, naked and angry. It wasn’t even partially due to the pain involved with re-integrating his retinue of implants; No, that was simply a minor inconvenience, but the fact that he could never truly die caused his rage to boil and fester ceaselessly. He thought that, perhaps, if he were to bring enough people to that sweet Nothingness, he would be granted a true death, that he himself would somehow receive that nothingness.

                It was only a few short seconds in warp until Caelix dropped out just shy of the jump gate. As he prepared to command the ship to jump through, he saw the familiar flashing icon of his financials on his ship’s display. He quickly checked the amount and proceeded with the gate, making a mental note that he was shorted several hundred million kredits.

                Does he take me for a fool?!

                As the gate jump finished, Caelix opened communications with his contact. He did not enjoy being slighted. His hands began to shake with agitation.

                The man on the other end of the conversation, while appearing composed visually on screen, sounded terrified as he answered. “Y…Yes?”

                Caelix’s voice, though robotic in sound due to speaking through the ship, dripped with venom. It was cold and merciless. “Governor, your voice betrays you. You have broken our contract. You and everyone you hold dear will pay for your insolence.”

                “It…It…I…It was an honest mistake,” the man squeaked, his composed expression shifting into that of a panicked animal. “I’ll send the rest right away, just please leave my family out of this!”

                The familiar flash of the Caelix’s financials lit up again, this time showing far more than what he had originally been told he would receive. It made no difference.

                “Generous, but foolish. You’ve only made your killer richer.” He watched the eyes of his next victim bulge in terror. “See you soon, Governor.”

                “No! Wait! I..”

                Caelix cut the communications short and began reeling up his warp drives once again. His hands still shook violently from the slight.

                There is nowhere to hide, Governor, but please do run. It makes it so much more enjoyable.

                This kill would be tricky, but nothing he couldn’t handle. The locals didn’t call him Dread Specter for nothing. He had gotten in and out of fully secure facilities more than once in his career. He crossed through several sectors of space before finally arriving at the station from which he based most of his operations. He needed to prepare.

                He never truly liked the name, Dread Specter, which the various peoples of the galaxy had given him, but it instilled fear in his targets, so he allowed it to remain. He had heard rumors in various cantinas and bars around the galaxy that it had been given to him after his assassination of the last CEO of a major corporation in Caldari space, but he had also heard that it was given to him after his feats of sabotage during the War of Gales. It mattered little, he supposed, but he found it amusing none-the-less.

                Caelix was a name he had taken for himself after his first assignment. It had been his first target’s name, but afterwards he had used it as a means to receive the funds being transferred for his service. Like the name Dread Specter, it held no meaning to him, but it served a purpose.

                Long ago he had attempted to discover his origin, and his real name, but his search was nearly fruitless until he stumbled across a lead in an outlying system. A handful of medical documents and a few dozen murders later, he had learned that he was never truly born and that he had been part of some program called Genesis. The program had been hidden from the major powers of the galaxy at the time, though it hadn’t stayed hidden for long. Capsuleers, they called them eventually. He had been part of the initial program, created in a lab, and unable to die. He was no one and the discovery had sent his mental state spiraling.

                Caelix stepped off the loading ramp of his ship onto the deck of the hangar bay, his mostly naked body feeling alien outside of his pod. Stations were always so strangely warm. Even the metal floor beneath his bare feet felt hot. His head began to pound as the myriad of reverberations from the station’s various systems and passing ships hit him like a hammer. He groaned and hurried off the deck, eager to get inside to less noise.

                His captain’s quarters were just as he had left them when he had procured them from their former owner. The poor pilot’s blood stain still lingered on the wall. Caelix smirked at the sight.

                The fool thought he could fight me. He had gall at least.

                He turned his attention back toward the armory, which housed several sets of his modified equipment and the computer system capable of outfitting his ship for him. He selected his favored ship from the list and went about configuring the turrets and bays, allowing for the most speed and stealth he could get without sacrificing durability. There was no need for extreme firepower. Not this time.

                Once the configuration was finished, Caelix turned to his modified equipment and took a small cloaking device that he had had re-engineered to work on his person, rather than a ship. He had murdered the man who made it for him the instant it had been completed and tested. It was one of a kind. His lips curled into an almost fond smile as he recalled the memory.

                A messy kill, but I could see the Nothingness in his eyes as life slipped from him. Lucky bastard.

                Hearing the notification that his ship outfitting had been completed by the dock systems, Caelix turned from his armory and headed toward the deck, affixing the cloaking device around his neck like jewelry. As he approached the deck, he stood back, inspecting and admiring the ship briefly.

                It was an older styled interceptor class with an overhauled interface and warp core. He had had it coated a deep crimson and reinforced with newer metals, as well as had advanced cloaking modules installed. It was a ship in a class all of its own, and it was nearly invisible to everything. It was his Demon. His most prized ship. The ship he hoped to find that sweet nothingness in.

                Maybe this time.

                Pleased with what he saw, Caelix hurried back to the armory to gather the rest of what he would need. Among those things were several viciously curved combat knives and a set of sleek crimson clothing. Guns would be too loud. He was going to have to do this the fun way.

                The thought of seeing the Nothingness in the Governor’s eyes excited him. He hurried back to his ship and secured his equipment in the bay with his pod. Caelix settled into the capsule and let the ectoplasmic liquid surround him once more.

                Now, let’s find out where our little coward is hiding.

                He opened communications with a locater agent within the station, masking his image with that of what the locals had come to know as Dread Spector. Several moments passed before the link was established. A rather portly man appeared. His hair was a mess and the stain of lipstick dotted his face and neck. His voice was gruff.

                “This had better be good, those girls aren’t chea…oh, Dread…” His voice faltered a bit as he turned his face to the communications. He cleared his throat before continuing, attempting to appear professional. “How might I assist you today?”

                Amusing.

                “I need to find the Governor of Rax Prime, Elir ‘Nix, and his family. Do it fast enough and I may even buy you a few more hours with those girls of yours.”

                The agent seemed to brighten at that. “R…Right away! Give me just a moment.”

                Simple minded fool.

                Dread undocked Demon and began testing its maneuverability while awaiting a response. The sleek ship turned and twisted, sometimes before he even thought about it. It was part of him. It reacted the same way his body would to any situation, almost instantly.

                As he completed a series of evasive maneuvers, the portly man reappeared with a cheerful grin. “I’ve found him. He’s with his family and less than ten jumps from you. Hiding in an abandoned medical facility, or at least the records say it was abandoned. There should be little to no security at the actual facility itself. I’m sending you the coordinates now.”

                Dread transferred a large sum of kredits and closed the communications once he had confirmed the coordinates. He had given the agent three times his normal price.

                Perhaps the girls will give him a heart attack before I return to kill him myself.

                He chuckled at the thought. With the money he had just given the agent, the prostitutes might even kill the man themselves. Greed was a powerful tool in New Eden, even more so in these parts of space.

                Demon aligned to the destination stargate and began accelerating, jumping into warp within seconds. The sheer speed of the ship brought Dread within a single jump of his target in mere moments. He sent Demon through a combination of spins and rolls once more and then dove through the gate, anxious to begin.

                Let’s see what the fool bought to protect him.

                The instant Demon dropped out of the gate tunnel, Dread initiated the ship’s cloaking. His scanner showed a small army of battleships and cruisers, likely all huddled around the medical facility. He smirked.

                Only forty?

                He aligned Demon to the facility and warped to a position a hundred kilometers off the target, re-cloaking himself as he traveled. He hacked into the communications lines and listened in on the fleet chatter.

                “Captain, I saw something on the scanner, but it’s gone now.”

                “Can anyone confirm?”

                Several seconds passed in silence until the captain spoke up once more.

                “We have to assume it was our target. Keep your eyes peeled. Deploy your drones. Engage target at will.”

                Too easy.

                Dread closed the communications and sent Demon speeding toward the facility at maximum velocity, closing in on the fleet at frightening speed. A terrible smile spread across his face as he passed the ships unnoticed, weaving in and out of their orbit patterns and various drones.

                He checked his cargohold as he landed Demon at the facility. Everything was in order. He left his capsule and got dressed in the sleek combat clothing, attaching the vicious knives to his belt, legs, and chest. Dread adjusted the cloaking device on his neck once more before activating it and leaving his ship.

                The hunt begins.

————————————————————————————————————————-

 

                The sounds of a ship landing in the hangar bay of the facility echoed throughout the complex, sending an unknown fear crawling up the inhabitants’ backs.

                “Wh…what…was that?”

                Governor Elir ‘Nix On’dal frantically hovered over the shoulder of one of his security officers, watching the screens as cameras focused in on the hangar area. He wrung his hands nervously as his eyes darted from monitor to monitor.

                “I’m not sure, sir. There is nothing showing up on the video feeds…wait, a singular life sign just showed up on the scan…it’s gone now.”

                The Governor swallowed hard. He was here. “Warn your team. We have an intruder.”

                The security officer looked over his shoulder alarmed. “How can you be so sure?”

                “You don’t live in politics as long as I have without learning a few things along the way. Now, warn your team.” Elir ‘Nix’s voice was sterner this time around.

                Still a bit bewildered, the security officer sent the warning out to his team through the coms.

                Turning away from the consoles, the Governor took a few deep breaths before continuing toward the room in which his family had been securely locked. He rapped the door twice; the hollow, cold noise failing to calm his frantic mind.

                Another of the security team answered the door, filling in the opening with his bulk. The sound of children playing together could be heard coming from behind him.

                “Oh, Governor…”

                Ignoring the guard, Elir ‘Nix pushed past him into the room, allowing a fake smile to overtake his face momentarily as the kids ran to greet him.

                “Father! When do we get to go home? This place stinks!”

                “Yeah! It smells like old people!”

                “Soon, my children…soon. We just have to wait a little while longer and we’ll be home again on Rax Prime.”

                “Promise!?” The children’s voices rang in unison.

                “I promise,” the Governor said, still smiling his fake smile, “and when we get there I’ll take you both out for a frozen treat.”

                A cheer went up from the two children and they hugged his legs tightly before running off to play again. His wife gave him a worried look.

                Elir ‘Nix sighed heavily as he shuffled toward the far room. His mind raced through all the possible outcomes, and a few of them were less than pleasant.

                The facility itself was a maze, long ago abandoned for that very reason. It was hard to efficiently administer aid to patients when the staff was constantly lost. He knew that fact was a favorable advantage since the assassin had no good place to start, and he had spread the security throughout the complex in order to not give away their location.

                He had not expected the fleet outside to actually catch the Dread Spector, but it had been a small comfort at least. He had given them a command to bombard the facility should they lose connection to his coms. He hoped they would do so instead of turning tail as men were wont to do when faced with a capsuleer.

                Elir ‘Nix sat down heavily in the chair at his desk. His head slowly sank into his hands as another heavy sigh escaped him. He suddenly felt very old and very foolish.

                “Perhaps he would be willing to trade my family’s lives for some information…” He said to himself quietly. “No, it’s more likely that he’ll take the information and then kill them in front of me slowly.”

                The facilities alarms expectedly went off and the security coms became afire with chatter.

                “Patrol one is down! Oh, Gods. Oh, Gods. I…I didn’t sign up for this!”

                “Patrol two, calm yourselves! Where are you?”

                “East wing. There’s…There’s blood everywhere. Oh, Gods. Wait, what was that?”

                A bone chilling scream crackled through the coms. And then a familiar voice answered. “You didn’t hide very well, Governor”.

                Elir ‘Nix nearly let his bowels slip in terror as the coms became silent. His mind couldn’t comprehend how the assassin had discovered the section of the facility so quickly. He felt sick.

                Several dreadful minutes passed, each one wrenching his stomach just a little more. He had grabbed the firearm from his desk shortly after the initial coms chatter, but his hand now ached from his white-knuckled grip. He wasn’t even sure he could shoot the thing if he needed to.

                The Governor nearly jumped out of his skin as the burly guard from the room before came crashing into his office.

                “Sir, we caught him!”

                “You…what?”

                “We caught him, sir.”

                Elir ‘Nix had to sit back down. His head was swimming. “H…How?”

                “We surrounded him on floor 32 as he attacked Patrol eight. One of our men managed to knock him out with the butt of his firearm before he could disappear.”

                It sounded too good to be true. The Governor rose slowly from his chair. “Show me.”

                The guard led him down the hall to a room not far away. As they entered, Elir ‘Nix cursed himself under his breath for forgetting the firearm on his desk. He had let go of it in surprise when the guard had burst in. He was surrounded by armed men, but he felt utterly naked standing before the man who had come to kill him.

                The security team had chained the assassin to the wall using new MagTech technology. So long as the surface was metallic, the chains would remain solidly in place at their anchor point. As far as Elir ‘Nix could tell, he looked to be a normal human in crimson clothing. No strange tattoos. No jewelry. In fact, the assassin had little on him at all.

                “Where are his effects?”

                “Sorry, sir. There was nothing on him when we captured him. Well, nothing else but the knife he buried six inches deep in Frin’s back. He was just like you see him now. Except for the bruises that is.” The rest of the security team chuckled at the last comment.

                Elir ‘Nix’s stomach turned almost on cue as a bloodcurdling scream came from down the hall. He watched the face of the captured man seemingly melt away into that of one of the patrol men at almost the same instant.

                “Oh, Gods…” escaped his lips as he sank to his knees. He was paralyzed with fear.

                The security team poured out of the room around him, signaling commands to each other with their hands. Elir ‘Nix watched them enter the room, two at a time, almost in slow motion. He heard the screams, one after the other. The terrible wails of life slipping from the lungs of those brave men and women nearly caused his own breathing to stop. It felt as though the walls of the room were closing in on him.

                It seemed like an eternity passed before Elir ‘Nix found the strength to rise. He shuffled slowly toward his fate, knowing full well that if he ran his death would be far more painful. He stopped at the doorway to their personal rooms, doubling over to vomit. The scene inside was horrendous.

                Blood lay in thick, dark pools under the corpses of more than a dozen security personnel. It was splattered across the ceilings and walls in a terrible fashion. It looked like a wild beast from the legends he was told as a child had come and wreaked havoc upon the living. His eyes slowly roamed the room, fearfully searching for his wife and children. Then he saw them, strung up by their arms, anchored against the wall with chains, their throats sliced open from ear to ear. He tried to scream, but nothing came out. Tears cascaded to the floor, mixing with the slick blood beneath his feet.

                The murderer stepped out from the anti-room, a single viciously carved knife flipping through the air from one hand to the other. He stopped abruptly and turned toward Elir ‘Nix.

                “Governor, so nice of you to join us. I was beginning to think you had run off without saying goodbye to your family.” The assassin laughed.

                Elir ‘Nix couldn’t form any words. They seemed to catch in his throat. The room seemed to throb with the pain in his chest.

                The assassin leaned back against the doorframe, picking dried blood from underneath his fingernails with the blade. “I have to commend you, Governor. I haven’t had this much fun in years. The looks on your children’s faces…”

                Elir ‘Nix suddenly jumped to his feet and rushed straight ahead with reckless abandon, blind rage fueling his desire to kill the man who murdered his family.

                “Die!” He screamed hoarsely as he charged.

                The murderer stepped to the side at the last second, chuckling as Elir ‘Nix crashed into the anti-room, falling face first to the ground.

                “My, My, what a temper. Don’t you see, Governor? I gave your family the ultimate gift. The sweet Nothingness of death. Far more than what you deserve!” The assassin hissed, his own ire growing quickly. “I will bring everyone here to that sweet Nothingness and then I will finally be allowed to embrace it myself!”

                “You’re mad,” coughed Elir ‘Nix, unable to rise, “The fleet outside the facility has been ordered to blast this place to dust if my life sign is lost from the coms.”

                A frightening gleam showed in the assassin’s eye. “They won’t get a chance to fire.” He smiled wickedly.

                The Governor watched as Dread Spector pressed a hidden button on his necklace and a white light engulfed the room. The last thing he felt was a blast of intense heat.

————————————————————————————————————————–

                “He did what!?”

                “He set off a chain reaction within his warp engines and turned the entire quadrant of space into dust. Not a single soul lived. Scavengers reported they could hear maniacal laughing on the interstellar winds, but that’s probably just a grab for attention.”

                “Oh my Gods…”

                Caelix could hear the frightened voices outside of his clone vat, but he was still too groggy to move or initiate the release procedures. Something was wrong. He tried to listen more closely to the conversation happening outside his vat between the two scientists.

                “We aren’t going to just let him out into the galaxy again are we?”

                “I don’t know. I hope not. We can track him, sure, but we can’t control him. What would stop him from coming back here and killing all of us?”

                “We have the answers he seeks”

                Dread straightened a bit.

                Answers? What the hell is going on!?

                “We might have the answers, but he’s crazy. He’d just as soon as kill us after we told him. We should just kill him right now and delete his information so he can’t clone again.”

                Sweet Nothingness.

                Dread could hear a door open as the two scientists went quiet.

                “Doctor Tirg, welcome. We weren’t expecting you.”

                “Of course you weren’t, dear. Now, where is Number Eight’s data?”

                “Number Eight, sir?”

                The doctor sighed exasperatedly. “Dread Spector, dear girl, the man you’ve been gossiping about for the last half hour.”

                The female scientist stammered, taken completely by surprise. “S…Sorry, sir. The data is right here.”

                Caelix could hear the doctor clear his throat loudly.

                “Well, it certainly seems our patient here has gotten out of hand. Administer Serum X54 immediately. Reach me on the coms when he awakens.”

                The scientists responded in unison. “Yes, sir.”

                Serum X54?

                The hiss of the hydraulic doors signaled the departure of the doctor and he heard the two scientists begin chattering excitedly again.

                “Have you ever worked with Serum X54?”

                “No. What is it?”

                “I haven’t the slightest clue. They never give us any details on it.”

                “Well, I suppose they don’t pay us to ask questions. Let’s get this over with. I’m starving.”

                A few minutes of silence passed before he heard any noise again. It sounded like something being opened and then closed again.

                “Integrating Serum X54…now.”

                Caelix tried to scream as the green liquid filled the vat. The sudden pain was immense. It felt like there was a fire inside of his skull. He was trapped with no escape. He was helpless. He was terrified. And then there was only blackness.

                Sweet Nothingness.

 ————————————————————————————————————————-

                “Can you hear me? Nod if you can.”

                He nodded.

                “Do you remember anything?”

                His mouth felt like it was full of cotton. “No.” He managed.

                “Here, drink this.”

                He gladly gulped the liquid, allowing it to soothe his throat.

                “Where am I? Who am I?” The questions came flooding from his mouth. He still couldn’t see anything.

                The female voice responded once more. “Hang on there, mister. You’ve only just started to recover. One thing at a time, ok?”

                He nodded. “At least tell me my name?”

                “It’s Ghinn.”

                “Ghinn…” The name sounded strange. It didn’t seem right, but he had no idea why.

                “Your vision should return here shortly. I will be right back. I’m going to go get the doctor.”

                Ghinn nodded once more, his hands moving to his temples. He had a wicked headache.

                A few moments passed and his vision began to return. He could barely make out the shapes of various cabinets and tables. Objects began to sharpen in focus as the doctor and the female nurse returned.

                “Hello there, Ghinn. How are you feeling? Has your sight returned?”

                “I’ve got a hell of a headache, but I can see again. What is going on? Where am I?”

                The tall doctor nodded to the nurse before answering. “Myt here will get you something for that headache. As to where you are…you are in a medical facility in the Khanid system. You were in quite a nasty accident.”

                “An accident? Why can’t I remember anything?”

                Myt handed him a handful of pills as the doctor continued. “Yes, an accident. You were hauling goods for a company when you were attacked by rogue drones. Your clone data was corrupted during the transfer due to a solar flare. Fortunately, we are able to fill in the blanks for you from our files.”

                Ghinn sat back in his chair, raking his hands through his hair and letting them come to rest on the back of his neck. He shot forward suddenly.

                “What…what is this metal on my neck and head?”

                “Calm down. You are what is called a capsuleer. Those metal rings are the method by which you are connected to your ship.”

                “Capsuleer…It…sounds familiar.”

                “All will come with time. Myt, would you mind handing him his file?”

                The female nurse timidly put a large folder in his lap. Ghinn picked it up and began to skim through it.

                That was strange. Is she afraid of me? Something isn’t right here. It doesn’t feel right.

                The doctor spoke up again as he reached the end of the folder. “Well, we will leave you to absorb that information. Please remain here while we prepare your release documentation.”

                He nodded. “Sure.”

                Ghinn went back through the folder more slowly, reading through the file that supposedly told him who he was. He stopped half way through, deciding to stretch his legs before continuing. As he rose from the chair, he accidentally dropped the folder, sending papers flying all over the floor. He sighed and began picking them up.

                A small blue piece of paper he didn’t remember seeing before turned up among the mess. Curious, he picked it up and read it.

Caelix.

Everything thing they have told you is a lie.

Remember.

                Caelix?

                He twitched.

                Why does that…sound…so…familiar?

                He gasped sharply as thousands of images suddenly raced through his mind. The pain that accompanied them paled in comparison to the exhilaration of the memories flooding into him, but it still brought him to his knees. By the time it finished, he was panting. Beads of sweat lined his brow. He stood slowly, a devilish smile upon his face.

                There was nothing in the room that he could use.

                No matter.

                Caelix finished picking up the papers and put them all back in the folder. He sat back down in the chair, waiting for the doctor and female nurse to return. The smile still lingered on his lips.

                He didn’t have to wait long as the hiss of the hydraulic door brought forth his prey.

                “How are we feeling now, Ghinn? I’m sure you probably have more questions, but we can fill those in as we walk. It’s a long way to the docking bays.”

                He waited until the door closed again before he leaped from his chair at his first victim. In one smooth action he pulled the doctor down to the ground and snapped his neck, the look of surprise forever imprinted upon the corpse’s face.

                “It’s Caelix.”

                The female nurse screamed in sheer terror like he knew she would. He sprang at her, blocking the exit, and slamming her head into the cabinets. The sickening thud it made brought another smile to his lips. His hand closed around her delicate neck, squeezing the life from her. Security alarms began sounding throughout the building.

                He looked deep into her eyes as she struggled for breath.

                Sweet Nothingness.

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