Commissioned Interlude 9 – Persephone (Heretical Edge 2)

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Against the backdrop of stars far different from any that could be seen from the surface of Earth, a spaceship drifted along on low engines. The ship was a moderately large freighter, shaped essentially like what someone from Earth would know as a sperm whale. The vast majority of its nearly two mile long size was devoted to carrying supplies from the Seosten strongholds out to various frontlines of their war against the Fomorians. 

At least, that was what the ship had originally been meant for. In recent years, it had been commandeered by pirates. Now most of its interior held the various camps they had set up. What had once been a single enormous, open cargo bay had been sectioned off with various bits of makeshift walls, fences, even bits of hung curtains, to create places for each pirate and their closest companions and trusted allies to sleep and live together. Over a mile and three quarters worth of storage space transformed into a ragtag city. A city that moved through space, ransacking whatever worthwhile target they came across. Though, at the moment, there were no targets. The ship, previously known as the Seneia but redubbed Quietus by its new owners, currently had its coffers full from several recent jobs. Its occupants were enjoying the fruits of their labors. Which, in that case, meant partying from dawn to dusk. And considering there was no dawn or dusk in deep space, that amounted to near-constant celebration. There were areas cordoned off for sleeping, with active privacy spells for those who wanted to escape the almost deafening cheers, music, and rambunctious fighting to get some sleep. Others simply fell where they were, too drunk or too tired to be bothered by the ongoing parties around them. 

Of course, even a ship far away from any threats, on no particular current mission, with a load of treasure and blind drunk revelers had to have an actual (mostly) sober crew on duty. Everyone had a chance to celebrate, but the captain was firm that if it was your shift, you used whatever magic or potion needed to be coherent and alert, and you did your job properly. If not, you’d get tossed out the airlock. There were no second chances. Not aboard the Quietus

At the moment, two of those totally sober and alert crew members were in the collections chamber. It was a room located around the bottom front of the ship, around where the whale’s mouth would be. The chamber was semicircular in shape, with three duty stations, each overlooking a different magically reinforced window. Through those windows were three different enormous bare rooms, each large enough to park several Earth garbage trucks inside of. 

The central duty station was empty, with the two on-duty pirates faced away from one another, entertaining themselves (and keeping each other awake to avoid the wrath of Captain Motzer) with various stories and tall tales. Each was obviously making up the vast majority of their claims. Which was the point, of course. They knew the stories weren’t real. The goal was to be entertaining, not realistic. 

At the right-hand station sat a male Guhlben, a ten-foot-tall, monstrously overweight humanoid figure. His name, or the one the others called him, in any case, was Pocker. As with all chairs aboard modern multi-species vessels, Pocker’s seat grew automatically to match his size. Even then, rotund as he was (even more than usual for his species), the man dwarfed his chair to an almost comical degree. 

His companion was Qif, a female Bebarlang. They were a humanoid species that fed off of psychic energy from those they had touched recently. Most nourished themselves by giving harsh nightmares to those they had marked with their touch, as the terror made that energy so much tastier. 

The two pirates would have gone on for hours further, constantly one-upping each other with their tall tales, had it not been for a single, unmistakable beep from Pocker the Guhlben’s computer. The instant that sound came, accompanied by a light that popped into existence in the top right corner of the holographic screen, both of them went completely silent. 

“What?” Qif demanded, pushing away from her own duty station to move next to her massive crewmate. “What the void did the scanner pick up all the way out here?” 

Hitting a few buttons on his oversized console, Pocker shook his head. “Looks like a body.” He grunted thoughtfully, hit another button, and grimaced. “Seosten body.” 

“A Seosten body, out here in the middle of nowhere?” Qif made a face. “What do you think, teleportation mishap? You see any debris from an explosion or anything? What do the scanners say about magic signatures?” 

Pocker was already reaching out to hit the button for the intercom to the bridge. “Nothing, just the body.” He called it up to the captain, assuring the man that the body floating out there in space was definitely dead. There were no signs of life. Which only made sense, considering it had no real protective gear. Nothing aside from a standard Seosten bodysuit, red colored. The suits could protect their wearers in space for a short time, but not this long. Certainly not for long enough to be floating around in the middle of nowhere like this with no sign of how they’d gotten there. The scanners couldn’t detect any sign of debris or transportation energy that could explain the body’s presence. By all indications, it had simply drifted out here from someplace much further away. 

After a brief pause for consideration, Captain Motzer told them to haul the body in. There was always a chance that a Seosten corpse could have something valuable on it. Even the organs of dead ones were worth something to some people. And if nothing else, the Seosten themselves sometimes paid a handsome bounty to be sent back the bodies of their fallen. Particularly if they were someone important. 

Using the controls at his station, Pocker extended one of the smaller mechanical arms from the side of the ship. There were larger ones, used for grasping industrial cargo crates, smaller ships, and the like. These ones were meant for more precise jobs. The hand closed carefully around the body, sensors allowing its controller to avoid ripping through the body in the process. As soon as the corpse was enclosed, a hole in the arm opened up, and the body was sucked through a portal. Simultaneously, an identical portal appeared in the holding room through the window in front of the duty station, and the Seosten corpse tumbled through before lying there. 

The corpse was female. To a human, she would appear to be in her very early twenties. She had deeply tanned skin, a slim figure, and long, snow-white hair. Her eyes were closed, and the entire body was covered in a layer of frost that made it look as though the corpse would shatter under the slightest pressure. It was like a delicate ice sculpture. 

“Right,” Qif started while staring at the body’s frozen face, “Scan the body for parasites, bacteria, anything we don’t want to pull out of th–” 

In mid-sentence, she stopped talking. Because the Bebarlang realized that she was staring into pale green eyes. Pale green eyes that had been closed a moment earlier. The… corpse had opened its eyes and was staring at her. “Wha–” 

The corpse stood up. No, more than that. It bounced to its feet like it had been loaded with springs. A wide smile was stretched across the Seosten woman’s face, as she gave a violent, full-body shake, like an animal getting water off itself. The ice crystals on the not-corpse went flying, while two pirates simply stood in open-mouthed shock at what they were seeing, more frozen than the body that had just been retrieved from open space. 

Snapping out of it relatively quickly, Pocker’s hand lashed out to hit the alarm. But before he could reach it, the formerly dead body in the holding room took a running start. Both Pocker and Qif reflexively jerked backward. But that was pointless, because the window was layered with thin, yet powerful forcefields on either side and the glass itself was reinforced with magic. It was as strong as steel even before those protective forcefields were added. There was no way that a Seosten, even a powerful one boosting as much as possible, could even put a dent in the thing simply by lunging against it. 

And yet, against all logic, the window shattered under the impact of the body slamming into it. Both layers of forcefields flickered and dropped, as shards of glass went flying. The ‘corpse’ landed in the control room, directly in front of the two staggering pirates. 

Straightening, the white-haired figure offered the pair a bright, dazzling smile and an enthusiastic wave. “Hello! I’m glad you finally picked me up, I was getting bored out there! I mean, I have a really good imagination, but you can only talk to yourself for so long before you kinda go a little nuts, you know?! O’course you know! You’re space pirates!” The words came out in a rush, leaving the pair even more stunned than they already were, each reeling backward figuratively and literally.

“You… you can’t be alive,” Qif managed, staring at the figure in front of them. 

“Well, of course not, sillybuns!” came the immediate, brightly cheerful response. “I haven’t exactly been what you’d consider alive for a long time, but that’s never slowed me down before!  Now!” She clapped both hands together. “I’m looking for a crystal. It’s about yea big.” She held her index finger and thumb up in a rough circle shape. “It’s purple near the base, black in the middle, and red along the top. It’s a present for my wonderful, brilliant husband! Oh, he’s just going to be so happy that I finally found it! He asked for it over a hundred years ago, you know. I don’t think he knew just how much of a right bother it was going to be to find that darn thing. Anyway, listen to me, just gabbing your ears off. Gab gab gab! Hah! Well, let’s see, did I describe the crystal? Yes, I did. So, whoooo do we talk to about that? Do you have an official crystal holder? Oooh, does he have a special hat? I hope he has a special hat!” 

Almost to himself, Pocker muttered, “Sounds like the thing on the captain’s scept–” He was interrupted as Qif kicked him. 

“Captain! Of course the captain would have it.” The strange, supposedly dead figure’s smile widened, a bright, exuberant grin. “Let’s talk to him then, I’m sure once I explain just how much my honey bunny needs it, your captain will sell it.” 

“Sell it?” Qif piped up, suddenly intrigued. 

“Well, of course, goofy-goose,” the woman playfully replied. “You see?” Reaching into the pocket of the red bodysuit, she produced a marble-sized orb. “There’s enough energy stored here to fuel this ship of yours for a full year without any other help. That should be a good trade for the crystal.” 

The two pirates exchanged brief glances, before Pocker spoke up. “In that case, let’s go right up and talk to the captain.” 

So, eyes shining with the thought of not having to worry about fuel for a whole year, Pocker and Qif led the strange figure to the bridge. On the way, they attracted several followers, and once they were finally to their destination, there were no less than thirty people surrounding the supposedly-dead woman, counting everyone on the control center itself. As for that bridge, there were two levels to it, and the room was shaped a bit like a rounded triangle, with the higher rear section being where the executive officers stayed. 

Captain Motzer was an enormous figure by human standards. Standing slightly smaller than Pocker at a solid nine feet, he was covered in very fine metallic blue fur, had four arms, and six fur-covered yet insect-like legs in an even circle around his waist. Once Qif explained the situation in a hurried whisper, he and the rest of his assembled crew (those who weren’t still partying in the main living area) all focused on the strange woman. Motzer demanded, “Now who are you, and how aren’t you dead, exactly?” 

“Ohhh, it’s just like I told your little friends there, I am dead. I’ve been so very dead, by your standards, for a long time!” The response was just as bright and happy as everything else the woman had said up to that point. “As for who I am, well, I prefer the name Persephone right now. But maybe if we become friends, you’ll be able to call me Percy! I really hope we can be friends. All I need is that crystal right there.” She pointed to the scepter in one of the captain’s four hands. “Then I’ll give you this, and we can all be happy!” In two fingers, she held the power-filled marble. 

“Yeah… about that…” Motzer smiled, though his version of that expression was far less cheerful. “I kinda like my crystal just where it is. And I want your stone there. So here’s what’s gonna happen. We’re gonna take it from you, then toss you right back out the airlock. If you’re lucky, maybe whatever magic you used to survive out there’ll last until some other ship comes by.” 

“Aww.” Pouting, Persephone lamented, “But I really have to take that crystal. My love nugget wants it sooooo much! And I promised him I’d scour the whole universe until I found it. Like I told your friends, it took a long time! Now I found it! So I’ve just gotta take it to him. I can’t play airlock right now.” 

“Yeah, well…” Motzer drawled, before one of his hands abruptly snapped upward, pointing a pistol. A single shot sent a blindingly powerful blast of energy directly through the woman’s forehead. 

Or rather… against her forehead. The blast, which should have been enough to punch a hole through several feet of solid steel, barely left a singe mark against the woman’s tanned skin. Her head snapped backward, then simply righted once more. Her smile never wavered. 

“Oh, now that’s just all kinds of rude, that is,” she informed them, sounding no more put out than if the captain had made a demeaning gesture toward her.

“The fuck?” Motzer fired several more times, hitting the figure in the head twice more, in the neck, the stomach, and the chest. “What the fuck are–” Then he understood. “Revenant! It’s a void-damned Revenant!”  

None of the new shots accomplished anything more than the first had. Nor did the dozen extra that various confused crew members put into her. And the burst of fire, shot of electricity, and two different acidic gases that were added into the assault were equally useless. 

The attacks finally stopped, revealing that none had accomplished anything. The woman still stood right where she had been, utterly unphased. “I’m sorry,” she informed them brightly, as if they were only having the slightest disagreement. “But I feel like you’re being a bit unfair about all this. I mean, yes, I am a Revenant. But you don’t have to be all dramatic about it.” 

“That–that–how… you… “ Motzer opened and shut his mouth, reeling physically and mentally. “A Revenant possessing a Seosten? You’d run that body out in… in… days!” 

“Well, normally, yes!” came the cheerful response. “Revenants like me burn out the dead bodies we possess really quick, especially ones that use a lot of power. And once we burn out the corpses, they fall apart. And that’s really sad, cuz who wants to walk around with a body that’s falling apart? But I’m lucky! The dead Seosten I found was what they call an Olympian! Actually, I found my husband first. He controls dead things! His name is Manakel, and he is sooooo dreamy. He’s really great. I hope you find someone as smart as him someday. Anyway, he controls dead things so I just had to get to know him. There was a Seosten in their sick bay who was hurt. They couldn’t save her. So, I slipped inside as soon as she went kaput and I’ve been here ever since! It’s been a few thousand years now and we’re still going strong!” 

“Olympian–those… fucking, super-soldier Seosten,” Motzer managed, while a collection of confused voices arose around them. “Those upgrades of theirs. They’re… they’re keeping that body going. It should’ve worn out in a few days of being possessed by a Revenant like you, but the upgrades, they keep the body going.” 

“You got it!” Persephone held her right hand up sideways, back of the hand outward, with her index and middle finger extended and touching while her pinkie, ring finger, and thumb were all curled in against her palm. Then she gave her wrist a quick snap up and down, the whole gesture essentially amounting to what humans would know as a thumbs up. “I’m so glad we’re on the same page now. So, I’ll just take the crystal, and you can think about how you should treat guests in the future. See? It’s all good now.” 

“I told you before, I’m keeping the crystal,” came the growled response. “So I think we’ll see just how much that body can really hold up. Light her up!” 

With that, everyone on the bridge opened up, unleashing everything they had on the woman. None slowed her, as she took several steps forward. Motzer scrambled backward, but one of Persephone’s hands grabbed his nearest leg, yanking him closer with inhuman strength. Her free hand casually caught his extended arm, the one with the scepter, tearing it off with no more effort than one would use to crush an ant under their feet. As the man howled and a panicked frenzy of shots and deadly powers flooded into the woman, she tore the crystal from the scepter, dropped it, and gave a nod of satisfaction when the attacks finally ceased at a frantic wave from the injured captain. “There we are. Now you think about what you did. You don’t deserve being paid for this. It’s what you get for being very bad hosts.” With a firm nod, she pivoted to walk away, paying no attention to the people who had been shooting her. However, before she could reach the doorway, a pleasant chime emerged from her pocket. 

“Whoopsy daisy,” Persephone giggled, staring at the device she had tugged free. “Looks like I had a few missed messages while I was out there. It just connected to your system and…” Trailing off, her head tilted. “My Manakel, he’s dead. He’s gone. A human girl killed him and took his power. Chambers. Felicity Chambers. A girl named Felicity Chambers killed my Manakel and took his power.” 

There was an extended moment of silence so complete that a sweatdrop hitting the floor would almost have been audible. Finally, the snow-haired woman put the device away. “Well! I guess it turns out I can’t leave your ship just yet. I need you to turn this thing around and head to the border so I can go to Rysthael.” She used the Seosten name for Earth.  

“Go to Rysthael, just like that?” Holding an enchanted cloth against the stump of his missing arm that stopped the bleeding, Motzer stammered, “You gonna kill this girl for murdering the guy you loved?” 

“What?” Persephone looked genuinely perplexed for a moment, before her head shook. “Oh, no, no. You don’t understand. He controlled dead things. That was his power. That’s why I loved him, my little smoochie-bear. This… Felicity Chambers, she has that power now. She took it. It’s her power. And I guess that makes me hers too.

“Oooh, I can’t wait to meet her! I bet she’s a better kisser than Manakel.” 

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