Nerve-wracking. These things were creeping the hell out of her. It was as if her skin would peel off her bones the instant she’d set her eyes on that wretched spacescape. She cloaked up in a hurry and spammed the directional scanner. The Freaks in the wormholes might have already spotted her and the thought was enough to send shivers run down her spine. She double-checked the cloak. It was as if heaps of covert ships were staring right at her through that bloody alleged invisibility device. Or it was the immaterial eyes of a sentient space. What the hell Sleepers? She had to wonder which one she’d prefer. And that was without counting the nut bars who camped in random force fields within these hell holes.
For Scriptures’ sake! What the hell are you doing, Rain?
She pulled herself together and checked the directional once again. That damn Asty! One day she’d make her swallow her bossy tongue. That girl had the mental agility of a soap dish and yet she was the best at pissing her off. Why did she always ask her, out of everyone else? She treated her ship to a pathetic little pout and that made her cringe even more. Her desperately gloomy temper had driven Asty to ticket her ‘Rain’ and the diminutive now stuck to her skin like spikes to Sansha ships. Damnit. She’d deliver the package and get the hell out of there.
Four nightmares to slip through. Shudders again. Rain initiated warp towards the coordinates Asty had sent over. The place seemed to be deserted, and yet echoes of presence resounded around like far cries. A plaintive requiem for the lost; an unbearable shriek for passers-by. Never had she wished so hard to see the next hole materialize before her eyes. One behind was one crossed safely, but one behind was also her world torn away from her reach. The howling acceleration wormhole space kept delivering in that horrible slow motion finally dropped her ship 4,000 meters off the hole, thankfully still cloaked. She automatically ran the scanner again, her mind hesitating as always. In the front, the ephemeral skylight of the wormhole was sending back to her an obscene reflection of shivers, and yet, strangely enough, she found herself attracted to the gentle opal swirls. She felt like she should abandon herself to the calling waves, beyond the confined space that held infinity coiled up within. Holding infinity… alluring indifference, isn’t it. Fucking monster. Her blood was running cold; she bade it to flow faster. You are out of my league, I know that. Don’t talk to me. She fled through and closed her eyes while one world distorted and combined with another.
Clear. She dashed through the second wormhole, a bright ‘Cataclysmic Variable C3’ whatever that meant. She noticed a few structures on the way somewhere in-between. She’d never understand how people could live there. About just everything felt hostile, from the sinister shroud the air was pressing against intruders to the creepy form of ‘life’ that crawled in there. When she was still a kid, she used to imagine the wormhole settlers as great adventurers who’d discover new ores, develop techniques, unveil mysteries. But that was when she was a kid. Now was different; to her, the settlers had merged into the shroud of mystery and become like the ghoulish souls of some atrocious wormhole gods. Now they were the nut bars that came in with the hell hole package. And she, Rain, had to deal with it because Asty was demanding her to. She gritted her teeth and jumped through to the next system.
As the ‘C3’ vanished when dimensions intersected, her glance lingered on the after-image of a luminous fringe behind. Wait… what was that? A ship? Her heart sank together with matter, and when mended back with the spacescape of what seemed to be a ‘C5’, it had shrunk so much she could barely breathe. Especially when she saw the battleship-class Abaddon sitting nearby. She instinctively hustled the heavy Bustard away from the wormhole, away from the Abaddon, activated the cloak and began scanning the system, the ship slowly cruising away as if really nothing was happening. Faster you retard! The device reported a Sabre and a Loki inbound. What do I do… This is so freaking scary. Come on, faster! This was worse than a nightmare and she was reacting like a hysterical kid. A cloak… I have a cloak…. What am I saying in times like these! This is the real thing, Rain! She thought about turning around but there had been that fringe of light on the other side and she was way too slow. Fuck that, I’m running away! She tried to take a deep breath, maneuvering to align the outer coordinates and entered warp just as the wormhole’s magnetic moan resounded too loud behind. Too loud. Rain turned to see the vortex flicker and disappear: that’s so not happening… her way out had just been collapsed with the return of ‘fringe of light’ dude.
There was only ahead left. Ahead and one way. But she’d get some help to find a new exit. It would be okay, wouldn’t it? If she didn’t get herself killed before… She felt shameful having forgotten the basics of wormhole navigation like that. Her body and mind were just so reluctant to be there she couldn’t get a clear idea of what she had to do. She would have cried if she had had the time and space for it, but warp engulfed her tears together with the receding stars. And that feeling of eternity warping alongside her and her ship… She focused on the elusive end of the warp tunnel, her staring eyes building up phantasmal colours into wormholes’ characteristic whirlpools. When warp stabilized and dropped them immobile, she looked around in a fog. She couldn’t see any wormhole. The crack in her gaze widened. There was no wormhole here. No way out. How can it not be here? She double-checked the coordinates. She couldn’t probe. She was trapped. She would die here.
Asty! Ray of hope as she tries to establish contact feverishly.
Calm hazel eyes met her despair without a word.
“Miss Astydameia, I’m… sorry to bother you.” She winced. “I encountered trouble on my way.”
She waited a little for a reaction, a word or a frown, anything, but Asty kept looking at her in silence. She had never been able to read her mind, probably nor to reach it either, no matter how hard she had tried to see through the unblinking face. She swallowed her pride again and went on.
“I followed your directions and it seems there was a mistake concerning the ‘C5’’s exit. There’s nothing here and some nut… wormhole dwellers have just collapsed my entrance. Could you send me the coordinates again please?”
Even silence might have felt for her, but Asty would not.
“There is no mistake, Rain. There never are for me.” She paused, as stoned-faced as before. “Really Rain, I feel most upset about the delivery. It seems I’ll have to do without my sweet Ni-Kunni delicacies tonight.”
Asty carelessly cut the communications and furor distorted Rain’s features. Delicacies? Sweet Ni-Kunni delicacies? Are you fucking kidding me?
Her broken, muffled voice died out fast but its own echoes resounded deep in her mind and body.
“Asty, I hate you.”
It took her a moment to focus back on her current situation. She tried to gather information. The console notified her that the ‘C5’ was a so-called ‘C5 static with a Black hole effect’. Oh really? More holes? And then she saw it. And she understood. She was trembling uncontrollably. It was the first time she had felt such creeping horror run up and down her body. The blind eye darted its black iris at her, spinning madly its deformed vortex of insight around.