8 years ago
There was a time, once, when dreams among the stars felt within his grasp. A universe felt conquerable, malleable, ready for change and the death of the status quo, upheld by an unfeeling aristocracy. A bastard boy could rise through the Interstellar Navy to rattle the stars and make a name for himself.
There was a time, once, when the idea of robbing the rich to give to the poor sent the thrill of life up his spine. He and his crew were fighting for change their lot in life and overturn an unspoken caste system, reaching beyond a destiny in the sullied earth of mining planets and farmworlds.
There was a time when warm whiskey invigorated him, when the touch of a lover made him alive, when food and vittles gave him sustenance and strength.
Those days were as dead as his many past lives.
Early morning, before the sun rose, in Kheligus, lecherous pirate utopia and capital of debauchery and sin, was unusually quiet for a place that seemed to bustle and move all hours of the day. Waves lapped at the shore, the planet’s moons visible on the horizon. From the balcony of his room, Ed could see the tin-roof houses and thatched huts, solar torches lighting the roads that looked like a drunkard had paved them. The wooden balustrade creaked as he propped his arm up upon it, free hand clasping the handle of a jug of Kanderian rum. Three bodies slept in the bed behind him.
The night, like several nights now after an especially successful raid, had been filled with what Kheligus was famous for—booze, love, and gambling—but early on, Ed had felt a familiar emptiness creep in after his company had fallen asleep, leading to a restless, brief sleep. Now, outside the fluttering drapes, Kheligus seemed quiet with only the faint din of clinging parties somewhere in the distance, and Ed took the time to listen.
Something scurried to his left. The old man might have normally made a grab for his pistol just inside, but at this point, he swept his eyes to left and grunted, “Aye?” Someone with leg, spider-like legs and blue pincers, teeth jutting out of her mouth, clambered down the side of the building to stand next to Ed.
“What ye find?” Ed asked with an uninterested rumble, knocking back a swig of his rum.
“… This.” She rasped, her voice like a whisper. She held up a letter, sealed with an emblem that made Ed’s heart skip a beat. He plucked it from her slowly, eyes incredulous and with something hard to pinpoint. “Thought the house were empty… it weren’t… to my misfortune…” She rubbed her head idly.
He opened the letter, reading it slowly as he moved behind the drapes, returning with a bag of coins to toss at the scorpion woman, who nodded and slunk back up the side of the house—not about to involve herself further.
When Ed finished reading the little piece of parchment, he felt something pulled out from under him, leading him to the only chair in the room to fall back into. The rum jug was set down softly. Everything was quiet, just as before, and the only sound were his lovers sleeping softly in the bed (save for one who had a funny, hitching snore). But he watched them strangely, as if he didn’t know them. As he didn’t know anything in the room, as if everything had taken on strange shapes. His hand came to his forehead.
He needed to leave.
Long since practiced in the art of quiet movement, Ed gathered his things, his pistol, his blade, his hat and coat, his share of treasure that remained in his sack, and slipped out the window to the shore, somehow never seen by a soul (or perhaps he had, but that soul was far too drunk to remember it). The boats hovered effortlessly, rocking gently in the soft Etherium wind, waiting for their passengers to disembark and take to the high waves again, eager for more riches. He found one skiff lazily moored, tied shoddily, and gave it a shove away from the pier. Up into it he crawled, tugging the solar sail and taking off with abandon into the indigo clouds glittering bright with stars.
Behind him fell away the port of Kheligus, the pirate haven, where he’d first become Black Eddy; behind him fell away his ship and crew that had served him loyally in theft, treachery, and robbery; and behind him fell away a life of twenty years.
And ahead lay the great Etherium: empty and waiting with home, somewhere far away.