Netphren Feelings

(Written for this.)

Hermes listened to the hum of the ships’ low powered engines. He swung his legs over to the side of his bed, stood up and stretched. It was quiet here. The ship was empty save for him. There was nobody else here. He’d been left aboard, destined to watch over it as it slumbered. He left his room, door sliding shut behind him as he began to make his long rounds for the day. He had to make sure the ship was safe, and that nobody tried to tamper with him.

“Moring, Nietzsche…” Hermes said. A screen in the hall flickered on, and the face of a young man with curly black hair greeted him.

“Good Morning, Hermes!”

“How are all your systems?”

“My systems are perfectly fine. Engines are at low power. We’ve been on standby for so many years now. I doubt that anything strange will happen.”

“Ah. I hope so. It would be horrible if anyone came here. But I think there’s nothing to worry about. We’re safe because only one person knows the cloaking codes. As long as they aren’t told, nobody will ever see this ship here.” Hermes sighed.

Deep down, though he would never admit this to Nietzsche, he was really lonely. However, a controller stayed with their ship at all times. That was the fate of those selected to link up with a ship’s mind and control its most advanced weaponry. The Nietzsche was a dreadnought, put out of use under a treaty signed by Empress Rose’s grandfather, Lucian and Empress Elthene of Silica after it was used to destroy several colonies scattered throughout their universe. Hermes put himself into a deep slumber, unable to stand the pain of knowing that everyone had to abandon the ship.

A loud thump startled Hermes out of his usual routine of checking on the ship. He ran down a dark hallway that lit up with each step he took, searching for the source of the sound. “Nietzsche, what was that? Please tell me what it was!”

“Someone has crashed their vessel into the left cargo wall. They broke through somehow.” Nietzsche said the ship’s voice in a panic. “I have sealed the wall with a field, but that hole is going to need repairs. You will have to contact someone.”

“Why? Why should I depend on anyone? They are the ones who told me I had to stay here and rot!” Hermes yelled. He couldn’t stand it. The moment he was created, they bound him to this damn ship. He wouldn’t be able to leave it, ever. He had a twin brother, one with a better fate than his. His brother’s ship, the Messiah, was inhabited by a crew made of members of Silica’s Holy Order. They wouldn’t be going anywhere. Artemis wasn’t lonely.

Hermes put his hands up to his ears and began to sob, falling to his knees.

“Get it together already.” Nietzsche hissed. “The shuttle is in the cargo bay. Go down there and see if the person who crashed survived.”

Hermes let out an angry snarl. “I’m sick of listening to you; I’m tired of being stuck here!”

“Why? You’re not a true living being anyway? Why do you crave the company of others? Most people even now only see netphren as beings created for specific purposes, and programmed to carry them out. You were made in a lab, Hermes. Designed for me, after all.”

“Don’t you ever, ever say that I was made for you! You’re a ridiculous ship! The controller before me fried his own brain because he couldn’t stand you, I read your archives!” Hermes yelled. “Shut up and don’t you ever talk about me like that again!”

Hermes ran to one of the elevators and took it down to the level of the cargo bay. He punched in a code and the door slid open. The shuttle’s front end was badly damaged, but he walked over to the door and pulled it open with little effort and peeked inside. A person who looked like an exact replica of himself, save for the blue hair, lay curled up in a ball with a gash across his forehead. He was dressed in blue, and Hermes ran over to him.

He touched their face, his eyes starting to fill with tears. “Wake up, please wake up!” He picked the young man up and carried him out of the damaged shuttle.

“Nietzsche, this is bad- this is really bad- something’s wrong, controllers are never supposed to leave their ship!” Hermes said, carrying the arrival on his back up to sick bay, a room that hadn’t been used in forever. He put him down on one of the beds, and gently turned him on his side. He lifted up the blue hair away from his neck and ran his finger across the skin gently. A connector port appeared. He plugged a cord in, and then wiped the blood that was on his face. A screen came on, and began to play his memories.

There was a lot of screaming, and a fight. “They want our ship! We can’t let them take Messiah over! Send Artemis out of here!”

Static, everything was garbled. Hermes began to cry, laying his head against the young man’s shoulder. “Artemis… I was lonely, but I never wished for this to happen! I knew what my fate was from the beginning, I was programmed to know! But is it so wrong, so wrong to wish that there was someone else here with me- someone just like me?”

Hermes was crying in earnest now, and all Nietzsche did was watch over him. “I have looked over his data. The Messiah was seized, and they sent him away to keep the attackers from using the ship’s full potential. They will look for him.” Nietzsche told Hermes.

“I never wished for him to get hurt like this. I never did.”

“H…erm…es? I’m…scared.”

“I’ll protect you.” Hermes grabbed a cloth and wiped Artemis’ forehead. “And you’ll be feeling better in no time at all.”

The Bandit

(Written for this.)

As far as she could tell, Hilda spent most of her life traveling from town to town, besting men and women alike in sports and other challenges. She never settled down, thinking her life would be dull if she did settle down. Staying in one spot just wasn’t in her blood and today she was sitting in a bar, watching the others. At her corner of the bar she could see a surly man with what appeared to be a bad temper. Another man was talking loudly about his children, and the grumpy man hit him over the head with his fist.

“Nobody gives a fuck about yer damn kids.” The grumpy man snarled. Hilda got up from her seat and walked over to him, hands on her hips.

“Excuse me, but what gives you the right to punch a man on his head like that?” Hilda asked, glaring at him. “What do you have against children anyway?”

“They’re annoying little pests, that’s what I have against them.” He mumbled, looking away from Hilda.

“Mr. Child-hater, do you have a name?” Hilda asked, trying not to laugh in his face. He wasn’t the first man she met that hated children. “Hate children because you’re too irresponsible to care for one?”

“My name is Narthus and I’ll have you know that I will never bed a woman because children aren’t worth the risk for a night of pleasure. I can handle a child perfectly well. I just think the little brats are a waste of time and money.”

“Are you a virgin, Mr. Narthus?” Hilda had found her entertainment for the evening in the form of this angry, grumpy asshole of a man. “Hey, what do you do for a living?”

“Me bein’ a virgin has nothin’ to do with it!” Narthus yelled.

“OI! KEEP IT DOWN OVER THERE!” the barkeep yelled.

“Sorry!” Hilda said quickly, turning her attention back to Narthus. When she turned around, the man was gone.

“What the hell? There went my entertainment.” Hilda sat down and pouted. “Oh well. I guess it was fun while it lasted.”

***

“I’m going to make so much money!”

Amelia squeaked as she jumped up and down, her hands clenched together. If everything went according to plan, she would be able to take the money down to the orphanage she was raised in, to help the sisters take care of the wee ones. Since going out on her own and becoming a bandit, all Amelia ever wanted in life was to help people. She waited anxiously for the results of her stolen item’s place in the auction.

“And sold to Jakron for fifty five million shyra!” the announcer shouted. Ameila let out a high pitched screech. She’d be getting fifty million shyra back! That was more than enough for the orphanage! They needed that much money. There were leaks in the roof, and sometimes the old building never heated up in the winter. They needed all the funds they could get, and Amelia knew this would help.

“Risking my ass to steal that painting for a black market auction was a really good idea!” Amelia said to herself. While she stood there, trying to get over how happy she felt, a man emerged from the auction hall with two men carrying the painting wrapped in cloth to keep it safe until he got it home.

“So you are the young lady who stole that painting. I’ve been lookin’ for it forever. I’m sure that money will be well spent, eh?”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Don’t call me sir. My name is Jakron. I hope you enjoy that money young lady. It’s so tiresome having to steal rare paintings yourself. I truly thank you.”

“Wait a minute…” Amelia began, but she decided not to say anything more to him.

“I take it you may have heard of me. What you are thinking is true. I am that famous professor with several students, and the law hates my guts. I am a man who dwells in the criminal underworld, you see. He tripped over his own foot and used that as an opportunity to slip a piece of paper into Amelia’s blouse before getting into his car. There was a sleazy expression on his face that she could not see. He had the worst luck with women, they always managed to deny him.

Amelia stood there, her face beet red because he’d just inserted a slip of paper right into her cleavage and she wanted to scream at him but the car was already pulling off. She opened the paper and gasped at it with surprise. Jakron had written his phone number on the paper, and Amelia couldn’t tell if he was trying to get at her pants, or was he really being serious about helping her. Maybe she wouldn’t have to be a bandit and resort to stealing things and driving the townsfolk crazy with her antics.

After a few minutes of thinking far too much, Amelia went to talk to auction house master to make sure he transferred the funds to her bank account. Amelia’s balance was already large and she knew the bank didn’t care. The money would be going for good causes anyway. While she was in line to speak with the master, a man was in the line in front of her. He was humming and casually sharpening a knife while standing in the line. A few people looked wary of him.

“Uhm, you should probably put that thing away.” Amelia said.

The man turned around and pointed the knife under her chin. “You can’t tell me what to do, brat. I’m here to get my money.”

“You’re rude. You shouldn’t sharpen a knife in public like that.” Amelia folded her arms.

“I have a target in these parts. Gotta be prepared.”

“Target…”

Amelia cringed. She was talking to an assassin, she had to be. Being an assassin was actually a respected form of work in this realm. Killing people for money was one of the fastest ways to get wealthy quick. She even knew of a man who’d gotten so wealthy off killing targets for people that he was able to buy a huge manor house for his wife and children.

“I do hope he’s a damn challenge to kill. I hate it when they die the moment tell them it’s all over.” He looked honestly disappointed as he looked at Amelia.

Soon his turn came in the line and Amelia paced back and forth outside the office door. She and two other people were the last ones in line, all eager to get their money. All of a sudden she heard commotion behind the door.

***

“My liege wants you dead. He’s tired of your silly little auction house, got it? I could tell you to just shut it down and go on with your life, but that wouldn’t be any fun, now would it?”

Zexren pressed the knife blade against the man’s throat, staring into his eyes. “You know what I like? I like it when my targets beg for their lives. It gives me such a rush you just do not understand how much fun it is for me to watch someone scream and beg me for their life! Start begging. Please beg me to spare you.”

“I don’t know who sent you, but get outta here now!”

“Aww, you won’t beg? I’ll just take my time gutting you, then hanging you by your own guts for your cleaning crew to find in the morning, how’s that sound big boy? You wanna hang by your own entrails? I can make that happen for you. Come on, fight me for your life! Please fight me! I’m so bored. Entertain me!”

Zexren pulled out a knife and pinned the man’s hand to the desk with it. His eyes gleamed with glee. “Are you going to scream yet? I wonder if I scared off your other clients. You still have to transfer their money, don’tcha?”

The door was flung open, and Amelia stood there, her face red with anger. “What the hell is going on in here? I want my money!” she screamed.

“Ooh, a feisty little bitch has entered the arena! Let’s see if she’ll give me the challenge I oh so desperately crave!” Zexren’s attention left the auction master, who was trying to get that knife out of his hand.

Amelia glared at him. “Leave him alive until I have my money, I don’t care if you’re here to kill him.”

“Aww I was hoping you’d want to help me play with him! He’s such a fun target! Say, miss, how about you become my apprentice? You’d make a ton more money killing morons than you do stealing paintings.” Zexren offered.

“How’d you know I was stealing paintings? We have never met, ever.”

“I see it in your eyes, come on! Help me kill people! You’ll love it, I promise you.”

Amelia closed her eyes.

“I’ll pass.”