It was a long walk to the small dwelling, Psychro's feet fell heavily on the ground, one in front of the other. For once his slow progress had nothing to do with the high gravity on the moon, but the weight dragging on his heart.
They had found Rathja's corpse in one of the tunnels, identified by a scrap of flesh that clung to the bone. His only child dead. On top of everything else he had endured it seemed unfair, a mocking taunt from the gods themselves. He'd had trouble sleeping that night, every movement of the covers had seemed to be Myrik's wandering hand. The bastard was dead, he'd made sure it was true, but his spirit was still out there. Lingering.
The door opened and Heavy Bevy ushered him in. He didn't need to say it, his face told her the story. She held him tight to herself and began crying. "How deed eet happen?" she asked between sobs.
He suspected she'd seen the news reports. Reporters had arrived on the scene shortly after the paramedics and police had, and they'd conducted interviews. None of the prisoners had been willing to talk, but enough details had gotten out. Even with that, he didn't think she was ready for the full story, but then she deserved the truth. She would forever wonder, and it would be better to have her hate him now than down the road. "It was horrible," he said softly, pulling her to the couch. "I wish I could say she didn't suffer, but I'm a terrible liar."
Slowly he told her, watching her reactions carefully, from what he knew of her abduction to the savage beating, how it had all been a ploy to get information out of him. He tried to explain how he had finally broken down and tried to save her, and how Crackle had apparently countermanded the order to send her to a hospital. He then assured her that all parties involved were dead.
Heavy Bevy's crying faltered, and he continued to hold her tightly. He'd grown to care for this woman, united through a common bond, and he feared to see hate in her face. "Thank you," she whispered. "We lost something that can never be returned. At least she died knowing you loved her."
She didn't know how true that was. So much had been lost, lives and innocense. The faces of the dead, covered in sheets, came unbidden to his mind. Each one had family, both hybrids and soldiers alike. Each would be mourned.
"Don't go yet," she said as he started to leave. And he obliged, staying well into the night, doing his best despite the hole in his heart to comfort her loss as well.
She'd been in the shower for two hours already and still she didn't feel clean. The Graviton government had reached out to the victims, provided them with a place to stay, fresh food and clean clothes. Fantasy stared up at the bathroom door, feeling sorry for Chedra. Though the offer of space had been gratefully accepted, there was also a limited amount of it. The two women had come to a strange agreement to keep one another company until permanent arrangements were made.
Fantasy understood the feeling. For all that they had been through, being alone brought the horrors back. Even now, when she closed her eyes, she could feel the imprint of the collar around her neck. She could feel Myrik's hands probing at places he had no right to. What had Chedra endured? Repeated beatings, mostly. The injuries would heal with time, but the scars would always be there.
The shower stopped and the half Cheetah finally emerged, wrapped in a bright purple towel. She collapsed on to the bed and just lay on the soft mattress for a long time. "What did the doctor say?" she finally asked.
A long hard swallow. Each of them had been thoroughly examined by a team of doctors, investigating how much radiation damage there had been amongst other things. But Fantasy had spoken to a female nurse about a different concern. Myrik had tried to be careful with his sex, but she'd always had a nagging doubt. Hearing the doctor dispel it had been a massive weight from her shoulders. The nurse had left a message just as Chedra was heading into the shower. "I'm not pregnant. Hopefully no one else is, either. Myrik's line ends with him," she replied. She'd considered having kids at one point, but not that way.
"Good." A longer silence, and Fantasy thought that Chedra must have drifted off to sleep. "Fantasy? We'll all keep in touch, won't we?"
The voice was soft, causing Fantasy to remember that Chedra was younger than she. "Of course we will. Anyone that wants to. I expect a lot of us will go to the trial too." She went quiet again, and this time Fantasy heard the soft snoring. The soothing sound allowed her to drift off to sleep.
Black Tiger jumped as the Darkling ship lifted off the ground. She was trying again to get to Third Earth, and the memory of that last trip still lingered. She'd had familiar faces with her last time. Psychro and Tug Mug. The former would eventually join her on that distant planet, while the latter was already there.
Mind Grind had been on that last voyage too. She'd seen his corpse laying in one of the tunnels, struck down by a soldier's gun. She'd seen many corpses, she hoped she could un-see them. She'd been invited, along with the others, to attend a mass funeral along with the individual funerals but had declined. She'd even turned down an invitation from Chedra to come to the trial. The thing she wanted most right now was to go to Third Earth and see her parents again. She needed to feel their love again. Chedra had understood and wished her well. Black Tiger certainly intended on keeping in touch with them, all of them.
She looked out the window. A squadron of fighters was accompanying them as far as the asteroid field, as an added precaution. The Moons of Purity were disbanded, but there might still have been a few stragglers out there.
"You know what you're asking, don't you." Mystan sipped a glass of wine as he looked over the table at Psychro. It was the day after the breakout and Mystan was waiting for a ship to take him back to the Psion Moon. In the meantime, a quiet café served as a pleasant interlude until it got there.
"I do, and I think it's for the best." Of course he did. Mystan had asked the question merely as a formality. Psychro's expression was easy to read. He knew what he was in for and had probably considered the consequences.
"It can be done, though I would make a suggestion. I know people who can fully erase memories, if that's what you really want, but the better option is muting them. You'll still remember what happened, remember the people and events, but the specifics and the emotions attached will be hazy, accessible only if you really concentrate."
Psychro didn't answer, he drank his beer and placed the empty mug back on the table, suggesting that he didn't want any memory of the days. He was obviously drunk too, which didn't help either. "I can tell you horror stories, if you want. Someday you'll notice a gap in your memory and you'll wonder, it happens more often than you think, and when you do you'll visit a Psion who will remove the block. If you thought living through whatever they did to you was bad once, experiencing it a second time will be horrific." It was why memory erasing was frowned upon, it was too common for a person to encounter difficulties surrounding the block. They might meet a face from that time and be unable to place them, they might see some object that should be familiar, and in some rare cases the block might erode on its own and seep the memories into dreams.
"Let me put it another way." Mystan decided to bring up that very issue. "What happens if you run into Fantasy again? You'll have no memory of her, just a faint buzz. And what about Rathja? You won't know that she's dead. I'm telling you, let me get someone to mute the memories. You'll be better off for it."
The two names struck chords within him. Mystan could tell that Psychro knew he was right. "Fine. We'll do it your way, but if it doesn't help..."
"I'll arrange for a more permanent solution. My ship arrives in two hours, you can accompany me back to the Psion Moon and I'll point you at the right person. In the meantime, no more alcohol. It needs to be done on a sober mind."
A week passed. Queen Luna, dressed in her most formal robe, the crown of office on her head, sat astride Amok and stared down from her balcony at the three beneath her. "Drell Mindrain, Raven of the Dark Moon, and Frostarn of House Whitestar, I sentence you all to death for the crimes you have committed against the Lunatak people. Given your propensity towards torture, your torments will be drawn out and painful. You will be transported to the Graviton Moon, bound hand and foot, and placed in the middle of the town square. Every day you will be tortured by professional torturers, both mentally and physically. At the end of the week, all those slaves that you took delight in torturing will be given the authority to end your torment, and beat you until you die."
Chedra smiled grimly. Killing Crackle had been fun, seeing Myrik's corpse likewise. These three would serve as fine examples of Lunar justice for all the moons to see. She would be present, to see an end to this chapter of her life. Then she would return to the Psion Moon, reconnect with family and friends, try to pick up the pieces of her life. She'd made some friends through this, but it wasn't worth the cost. Her knees were a dull throb when she wasn't paying attention, and several scars were starting to be covered over by fur.
Cameo watched mutely while Psychro and Psikaris hugged each other. His own fighter, dusted off, would play escort for Psychro's return to Third Earth, a promise he'd made to Psikaris. Psychro had grudgingly gone into some detail with both of them about what had happened, prior to asking for some money to cover the cost of some mental work. It shocked Cameo to hear it, and he might not have believed any of it if similar stories weren't emerging from the other prisoners.
How could such evil exist? Lunataks weren't 'nice' by any stretch of the imagination, but they were more civilized than any of this suggested. There was a darkness about Psychro, even now as he boarded the Icewalker ship. He hoped his brother in law would be fine, that he would be able to recover just as he'd hoped for all the former prisoners. He'd left an open invite to any of them that had lost jobs as a result of their disappearance, and two had taken him up on it. The more hybrids there were in positions of authority the better. Maybe something like this would never happen again.
"Chilla," Psychro said, greeting the Icewalker woman as he disembarked from the vessel. He was home on Third Earth and eager to get into some semblance of a routine again. Mystan was right, muting the memories helped and without the unpleasant side effects.
"I know. It was all over the news," she replied. It was strange to hear her say it. The media had sent word of it here, as he had expected. Even if they hadn't, Black Tiger had returned and word would have been circulating around.
But his focus wasn't on the girl, it was on the woman in front of him. He had won a date with her on a bet. Sleep with Mandora and Chilla would go out with him. The whole thing seemed ludicrous now in hindsight. "Chilla, I know you promised me a chance, but I don't know when I'm going to be ready to take you up on it. A lot has happened, it's put relationships in a whole new light. I'm sorry."
She touched his arm, a gesture that another time would have seemed out of character. It said everything. He'd been pursuing her for over a year now, and yet she understood the reasons. Chilla might not know specifically what he'd been through, but she understood that there was trauma involved. "Take your time. An Icewalker always keeps her promises. If you need help, ask." And that was all he needed. She stayed with him a moment longer, and he considered spilling everything, but he wasn't ready yet. As she walked away, and he turned back to his home, he wondered if he ever would be.
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