Bargains

Daily Writing Exercise: Science Fiction. Beware of Fae bearing gifts. A sort of sideways reply to a r/WritingPrompts post, but the plot bunny bit and I had to follow! 519 words.

500 Words Story Index


The planet is perfect in a way that twitches my ruff and slicks the poison in my fangs, but we’re out of choices. Ship’s dying and the best the Engineers can do is lay it to rest in orbit around a world that shouldn’t be.

***

“We’ve scanned this section hundreds of times, that was never anything but a lifeless husk.” Frusk sensed the trap’s jaws as much as I did, his feathered ruff half-flush with blood as he swiped at the hologram of the paradise that hung in the display as if it had always been there. “If we die, let us die at the bite of the void and not some oasis dream!”

“It’s not a dream,” said Gauur in the calm dialect of Engineers. “We’ve checked, Ship’s checked– and it’s where we will go. It’s real now, just as it wasn’t real before.”

Magic,” spat Frusk and poison sizzled against Gauur’s hooded robes. 

“Language,” I chided, but luckily this time the Engineer took no offense. “Did Ship say how it knew to look?” Because there was no reason to be scanning known systems that far away. It was at the edge of our possible range and there were other closer worlds with safe orbits.

Gauur was silent.

“I can’t agree to this, not without a reason.” There were hundreds of sleeping colonists depending on me and I’d come to peace with the fact the sleepers would survive until rescue, but the crew would die. I couldn’t risk them chasing a ghost to save ourselves.

I was expecting him to leave silently, having stated the Engineers’ position, or explain (although they never did). What I didn’t expect was for Ship to speak.

“It called to me,” it said without a voice, rumbling along my bones and dancing across a ruff gone flush with terror. “It felt my distress and called to me, offering a bargain that I’ve accepted. For us, it will exist, and we shall be healed and sent on our way.”

“What– what sort of bargain?” Poison flows cold and bitter across my tongue and Frusk is silent. Ships never talk to anyone but Engineers, but Gauur says nothing.

“We will share with them all we know, for a year and a day, and then we will… forget.” Ship sounded almost wistful, but it was too old, too large for such a simple thing as regret.

I had thought I was terrified before, but this– the Lost Year was a myth, a centuries old horror story of unexplained time skips for those gullible enough to believe the tales. Because sometimes it was only the Ship who survived.

I opened my mouth to protest and the words flared to ashes against my fangs.

Will go, Guaar had said will go, not need to go or should go, but will

I was only Captain as long as the Ship allowed, but it was an ancient bargain made in blood and circuitry that shouldn’t haven’t broken this easily. Shouldn’t have broken at all.

“As the Ship wills,” said Frusk, because what else could we do?

“As the Ship wills.”


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