Mythic Heart

By Lucas Enne


Liu zishan/ shutterstock


Riku came on board the Violentlight at the Kamach station, ironically.

We were just diving in for a few days to refresh our morale, stretch our legs, and do whatever the hell we pleased in the richest city in the universe. Most of the crew felt they needed to spend as much money as possible to make up for the long voyage ahead. We’d soon be trapped on the ship or in whatever backwater planets we were trading in. They went off to the latcheries, the parlors, and the infusers. I’ve never been interested in altering my state of mind, so I took the air-rails to a technologist and swapped out a few parts in my computer for the newest pieces.

After, I up-railed to the skywalk and took a stroll across the bridge. The path was a glass tube running from one skyscraper to another. I’d wanted to get a good overlook of Kamach, but the clouds were low enough that I couldn’t see a thing. Hardly anyone was up there. I didn’t end up minding. I realized I preferred peace and quiet in the clouds.

Riku was crusading at the mid point of the skywalk. Her hair was short, died half black and half green. She seemed harmless, going on about how people needed to learn how to think.

She followed me all the way to the rail I was taking eastbound. “Are you just going to follow me all the way back to my ship?” I asked.

Turned out she had business with my Comm. 




I was bunked up in the ship that night when Comm Lenai came in. “Sleeping on board tonight?”

I nodded. “I’ll be pretty damn unconscious anyway. Who’s this Riku?”

“One of the Aisvas daughters. Second rank.”

My heart just about dropped to the floor.

“Don’t worry,” Comm Lenai said. “She’s got enough of a brain to understand that she can’t expect reverence when she’s not showing status. But you’ve gotten yourself in some deep shit, Rove.”

I fumbled with my computer’s handreach and looked up Aisvas to make sure I wasn’t mistaking the name. I wasn’t. It was listed as the fifth most powerful of all current regimes. The leader of the entire dynasty was her uncle.

“What is an Aisvas crusading for?” I said.

Lenai shrugged. “She’s got a mind of her own. Her uncle’s got a bounty of sorts out on her. He contacted me as soon as we landed and threw in advance pay just for us to think about taking on the bounty trip. And the advance is enough to cover that whole trip and make us all rich already.”

“How much is the full pay?”

“Enough to start a small regime.”

I was reeling. The trip was supposed to be a calm and happy preview of my eventual retirement, and it was turning into life-altering madness. I wasn’t supposed to be chatting like I was friends with Lenai or taking an evening stroll in the skywalk with one of the most powerful women in the universe. 

“They want her home?” I asked.

“Her uncle does, yes. He has quite the affinity for her.”

“And she doesn’t want to go. He wants us to basically capture her and take her home.”

“Not exactly,” Lenai said. “She originally refused when we first landed. I don’t know what in the cosmic you said to her, but she just marched in here tonight with a list of demands. If we meet those demands, we can take her.”

“What’s that got to do with me?”

She sent the list from her handreach to mine. “Damn” was all I could say. Riku Aisvas was requesting to be placed in a small section of the guest quarters. She wanted me to move in across from there, and she wanted the ship fitted with another mechanic so I wouldn’t have to work at all. The rest of it was basically a list of rules asking the crew to not treat her like royalty.

“Care to explain?” Comm Lenai said.

“All we did was talk on the skywalk. I really couldn’t tell you. I swear I’m at a complete loss about this. You’re right though. I’m in real deep shit.”

“She also requires a small galaxyrunner to be attached to the mainship. An old A94. She has the right to take it and leave the voyage at any time. She even negotiated with her uncle to send another payout equal to our advance if she leaves, so we at least make out pretty well anyway.”

I nodded.

“Start moving your stuff, then,” Lenai said. “You’ll receive a much larger cut of the advance than the rest of the crew. Same goes for the second payout. I’ll send the contract to your handreach.”

Lenai walked off to finish the negotiations and alert the crew of an early departure. The cargobots arrived, and I stacked my belongings on them. Knowing who she was, the thought of seeing Riku again terrified me.




The day before departure, Riku asked me to meet her at Ridestreet Station in the cityheart, so I took the rail an hour early and sat at the station waiting for her, watching the people of Kamach go by. They all had nicer clothes than me, better hair, better statures. I wasn’t sure if I could ever belong.

Of course I belonged even less with someone like Riku.

She arrived wearing a plain dress and all-black hair. “Have you ever been to Ridestreet before?” she asked.

I hadn’t.

“If you’re going to spend the end of your life here, you should probably see what it’s really like.”

She took my hand and led me into the busy streets. Ridestreet is a vast array of interlocking walkways and elevators, ascending and descending across three city blocks and about a hundred stories. Despite its massive size, there was a crowd every place we went.

“Personally, I hate it here,” she said. “I love being in places with so many people, but there’s something about Kamach that turns my stomach.”

I was still rattled about her being an Aisvas. I had too many emotions to tell what I felt about the city. It seemed nice enough. I liked the sharpness of the people and the beauty of the city’s pre-planned design. Like a little shelter-world for humans against the vastness of the dangerous cosmos beyond.

We spent the day going between little shops and restaurants and watching a new movie in their grand theater. We even dropped into a latchery so I could see what it looks like for the wealthy to take biofuel beetles. They just placed the mandibles gently into their wrists and got serene looks on their faces. It was different from back home in Nawpaq.

The last place we went was the Kamach Upper Library. “My favorite place in this deadland city,” she said. 

Of course it had millions of archived digitals and hard copies. One of the librarians came up to say goodbye, and she handed Riku a hard copy of a book so worn I couldn’t read its cover. “A gift to the Aisvas,” the librarian said. 

Riku thanked her and explained that it was the volume she’d checked out the most. She looked really pleased about having it.

At the end of the day, I was feeling better. By then, I was more interested in Riku than I was in the entirety of Kamach. Which, needless to say, made me nervous.




A week after we left, Riku and I were sitting at a small dining table in her quarters eating nawsa noodles. The dining set was just a small square platform and two curve-backed chairs jutting out from the wall. It was so compact that it made me feel like I was back home. 

“I’ve had a lot of advantages in life,” Riku said.

No shit.

“What about you?” she asked. “What advantages have you had?”

“Driven parents, a great education, a push to be ambitious at a young age. Enough intelligence to gain my apprenticeship and get a great job. The list goes on.”

She nodded. “Do you love your family for what they gave you?”

“Yes. Do you love yours?”

“You’d think I was wickedly ungrateful if I said I didn’t.”

I took a drink of water. “I don’t know,” I said. “The world is a damn complicated place.”

She smiled. Her hair that day was split black and pink. “Okay, yeah,” she said. “That’s a good start.”

“A good start to what?”

“Us understanding each other.”

We finished our meals. Even though Riku had picked humble guest quarters, she’d still chosen one with a window. Half of the far wall was glass. There was just swirling light past it. It was a double-bridge journey to Aisvas from Kamach, and the first bridge was a month long. Something about the beauty of the stellar light helped me work up the courage to ask her.

“I don’t understand, Riku. Why are you so focused on me? Who the hell am I? Am I missing something?”

“No,” she said. “You’re not missing anything. I just thought that we could understand each other. That’s why.”

“Couldn’t you have picked just about anybody and gotten to understand them?”


“I don’t understand. Are you using me for something?”

She put her head down on the table in exasperation. Then she kept it there, and I heard a small noise and realized it wasn’t exasperation at all. I thought I was a real fuck-up, making an Aisvas daughter cry like that. When she lifted her head, I saw tears falling. Whatever cybernetics they’d given her made the tears larger and bright blue, which was pretty enough to make me feel even shittier. 

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“No, it’s okay.”

“You were telling me about your family earlier. Why are you off crusading instead of ruling a galaxy with them?”

That was a complex question.




She felt that, even though running a regime is an impossibly difficult and confusing task, her family was doing it wrong. There was a bit of the crusader jargon in her talk about it–good and evil, right and wrong, holy and unholy, better and worse. “People think that dualities lead to simplicities,” she said. “They don’t. The whole world is infinite binary.”

I had trouble understanding. She would talk on and on about it and her words would just wash over me. She insisted the universe was infinitely more complicated than we gave it credit for, and yet that all these dualistic concepts were still applicable. Her rejection of basic truths was what scared me the most. “If you step away from the human universal,” I said, “you step into dangerous ground.”

“What if the human universal is dangerous itself?” she said.

Our understandings of the human universal were slightly different but basically the same. I’d always seen it as the concept that every human must act in the service of greater humanity. Any specifics from there were just attempts at pinpointing that abstraction to practical reality.

“I agree we should all act in service of greater humanity,” she said. “What I don’t agree with is that acting in that service absolves us of all notions of right and wrong. Most people think that things either serve humanity or they don’t serve humanity, and then they act accordingly. It’s then in everybody’s best interest to serve that principle. The more people we have following that principle, the more humanity flourishes. So our innate concept of ‘bad’ is just an evolutionary trait designed to push the human race forward. It doesn’t actually have a moral quality. Right?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’d say that’s what people generally think.”

“It all sounds great,” she said. “Until you put it into reality. Then it ruins all real concepts of the purpose of being alive. Then the human race exists only to propagate itself, and all of these things we’ve built and all of these things we do are just means to the expansion of our species.”

“Is that so bad?”

“It just has no meaning.”

“It means survival,” I said.

“Are you going to tell anyone that I’m antihumanist?”

“Of course not. You sound too reasonable. I’m not even sure I believe you mean what you’re saying.”

We left her room and went to the dininghold to eat with the crew. Everyone was on edge around her. I could practically see the tension in their muscles. Riku was royalty of the caliber we never imagined we’d have around. She enjoyed dinner, though. As the meal went on, they acted more like themselves. Riku seemed, at least, to have no elitism in her blood.

We went to the upper viewing deck after and watched the bridge-lights through the dome of glass. It was gorgeous. All of the crew watching cleared out in a steady wave until it was just me and her. She stepped close to me and put her arm around my waist. I was all too aware of how amazing she looked. Her family had originally picked a dominant, authoritative genetic figure for her. When she was older, she chose to change that as much as possible. Some things remained from her birth-design, like the sharp cut of her jawline and her hooded eyes. Most, though, she had changed to make her presence unassuming. She was short and had a slim, almost forgettable figure. But when it was all put together with her demeanor and striking way of speaking, she was the least forgettable person in the universe.




Comm Lenai eventually requested me in her quarters. Of course she wanted to know what the hell was going on. “Is there something you’re not telling me about your past? About who you are?”

“If there’s something special about who I am, it’s a mystery to me, too.”

“What does Riku want with you?”

I shrugged. “I don’t have a clue. Seems like she just wants someone to talk to.”

“Don’t let her put you in her pocket.”

“Really, I don’t think she’s capable of that kind of deception.”

Lenai laughed and waved me over to her holoscreen. She filtered through the mainframe of her computer, went through five different folders, and unlocked the last one. “I picked this up in Kamach as soon I got the job. You need to read through some of this. Mostly it’s about her relatives, but there are a few files about her.”

Lenai left me to it. The files were gathered intelligence on the Aisvas dynasty. Mildly illegal to have, but easy enough to get your hands on. I didn’t give a damn about Riku’s relatives. I went straight to the files about her.

Her chronological age was the first shock. She was 100 years old with a biological age of 20. Her genetic encoders had done one hell of a job. I was 42/27. She’d practically lived two lifetimes already, and it showed in her history. Throughout most of her early life, she spent every waking moment at her uncle’s side or doing his bidding. 

As a biological kid, she had been a terror to insurgents, even worse than her uncle. Of course, her uncle had encouraged it in her. One story was about an insurgent who had stolen taxes off the top of an Aisvas planetary holding. Enough to make him extravagantly wealthy, but not enough to make any real impact on their regime’s finances. She was present at the man’s sentencing. When her uncle asked her what they should do to punish the man, she was vicious. And her uncle followed through with her idea, too. They counted the exact amount of money he had stolen, converted it into gold coins, and placed all of the coins in a massive glass box in the middle of the city. Then they put the man in there until he suffocated and they let his body rot on top of the coins he’d thieved.

The other stories from that era were similar. Wicked punishments and absolute devotion to her uncle and the regime. It was a clear dedication to the human universal. Her uncle had made a long and stable piece in a network of systems, and this peace contributed to humanity’s overall flourishing. So her violence was warranted.

When Riku was 80/16, she suddenly vanished from all public life, starting her second era. The next time she was seen was on an outlying planet in the Alvu Sector, talking with the leaders of the independently run planet about their governing methods. She reportedly asked why they did not align themselves with a regime, but she was not serving as any sort of ambassador. She stated she was there “on her own terms unrelated to the Aisvas.” After that, she was seen at a variety of similar colonies and spiritual retreats, asking many of the same questions. According to the reports, she appeared to have completely cut off contact with her family, despite her uncle’s attempts to get her to return home.

This era lasted all the way to the present. Her reason for being in Kamach appeared to be for research. As far as the intelligence had scouted, she was looking up documents about ancient civilizations, mostly on their governments, religions, and art forms.

I closed the files. That she had once been a violent devotee of the Aisvas dynasty meant little to me. Her violence was warranted in the effect it had on the populace. I had the idea, though, that her past violence meant a lot to her, and I was curious if she had really changed or if she was hiding something deeper.




I was tired, lying down on the couch listening to Riku, staving off sleep to keep talking. “Tell me more about your life,” she said.

There wasn’t much to tell. I was raised in a suburb of Nawpaq, where my family had purchased a small home right on the border of the better school district, so we lived in the poor area but went to school with the rich kids. I didn’t have much of a childhood in a normal sense. Since our biological clocks were ticking faster in my family, there was a rush to learn and maximize our time. So they put me in every program they could find and I never had a waking moment to myself. By the time I was old enough to think about university, I was a top student. 

I didn’t mind this upbringing. Lots of the idiotic and useless things children do were lost on me, and I treated all of the schooling and classes like a game, which was actually fun to me. University, apprenticeship, and ten years of working on the Violentlight were a lot of the same. Driven, intense, and focused. No time for the extra trappings people put in their lives for pleasure. I never felt like I had any room for error.

Riku was at the table, leaning forward with her chin on her hands. “What do you mean, no room for error?”

“If I mess up anywhere along the road, I’ll never have the money to retire on Kamach.”

“Why retire there? The last time I asked you, you were lying.”

I sat up and pressed my hands to my face. “Bloodlines,” I said. “That was my family’s goal from the outset, and it became mine too. I want my kids to have lives better than mine, just like I’ve lived better than my parents.”

“Kamach isn’t the only place for that,” she said.

She came over and sat next to me and tapped her handreach until a film appeared on the holoscreen in front of us. I recognized the planet in the opening credits–the same one she’d first been to in the alvu sector when she left the Aisvas regime. 

The film was Mythic Heart. It was four hours long and almost exclusively shot in close-ups of people’s faces as if the world around them didn’t exist. It was set in the icy mountain regions of Nawpaq. A few hours from my old home. The alvu sector planet looked just like it too.

It followed two brothers, Rove and Remani. They are legendary figures in Nawpaq lore, depicting happiness and sorrow. Everyone likes to split siblings into Rove and Remani in Nawpaq. Rove is the most popular name and no one dares to name their kid Remani. To call my brother and me Rove and Remani would’ve been accurate. I never seemed to know a moment of sorrow and I never really entered into the realms of life that can bring that to you. The closest I ever came to true sorrow was when my brother died, but we were never very close.

In Mythic Heart, Remani declares that he’s going to travel up to the mountains in the deep cold of winter to die, and Rove is tasked with convincing him not to. It’s a bitter film and doesn’t hold back. Remani’s face fills the screen often, weeping in existential terror, and Rove is tortured too by his brother’s sadness. Most of it is Rove stalling his brother, telling him to at least wait until the next season. “If you are going to die, wait until next winter,” he says. “If you never waver between now and next winter, then you can go to die in peace.” There’s no conclusion to the story. It ends with them staring up at the light of the star streaming down the mountainside and Rove saying, “One day existence itself will ascend into the mythic heavens, and then you’ll see.”

When Riku looked over I had my face buried in my hands. “I thought you might appreciate it,” Riku said. “Since it’s about your homeland.”

“Yes,” I said.

She came closer and held me for a while.

“My brother was a lot like Remani,” I finally said.

“He was?”

“Once I asked him why anyone would ever want to die, and he told me that was the wrong question. He said the question was why anyone would ever want to live.”

I was shaking. It was so embarrassing but I couldn’t control myself when I thought about him. Riku brought out the deepest emotions in me from the moment I saw her.

“I didn’t have an answer for him,” I said. “If he was still here and I could answer him, I’d say I couldn’t answer for all of the cosmos, but I could answer for myself. Why would anyone ever want him to live? Because I want him too. That’s all. Because I want him too.”

“I’m sorry,” Riku said. “I’m sorry.”

She could read between the lines. I didn’t have to explain any further.




The bridge dropped us into the Netralus system, a place remarkable only for its proximity to the Kamach and Aisvas bridges. There were two populated planets in the system. One was right along the path between the bridges and served as a glorified trading post and ship-stop. The other was a tiny mining colony on a cold planet called Meille. Riku wouldn’t stop talking about it.

“About twenty-thousand people live there,” she said. “All in a compact city to keep costs down against the brutal weather.”

We were at the upper viewing deck again. I could see the bright vision of the Netralus star and the bluish surface of the trading post planet. “What’s so interesting about Meille?” I asked.

“Wouldn’t it be amazing to live in a place like that for a while? See what it’s like to be around normal people?”

“I don’t think there are normal people anywhere in the cosmos.”

“Yes,” she said. “But just people who are focused on being human.”

Seemed like the old crusading pretension again.

“I don’t understand you,” I said. “I want to believe you. I want to believe everything you say, but I know that with the wealth and education you have backing you, you could be one hell of an actor. Powerful enough that I could never see through it. I just don’t understand the point of it all. Why bother with me at all?”

She looked hurt. “What do you mean?” she asked.

I told her I knew about the violence of her younger life, and that who she claimed to be made no sense in that context. “People change all the time,” I said. “But they don’t change without reason. And what could’ve made you change?”

“I’m glad to see you’ve come to know me so well,” she said bitterly and stormed off.

I gave her a few minutes and followed after. The crewmembers that had seen her coming by stared at me like I’d killed somebody. It takes a special kind of idiot to piss off an Aisvas daughter.

She didn’t answer her door.




After three days without seeing Riku, it was Comm Lenai knocking on my door. “I can see the disappointment in your eyes,” she said as she stepped inside. “Have you forgotten that you’re just some hardworking mechanic from Nawpaq?”

“That’s one way to put it,” I said.

We sat at my dining table and ate. She’d brought drinks and rations from the dininghold, bland but filling squares of rice and potatoes.

“Do you know what the odds were of you ever meeting the daughter of a top regime?” she asked.

“Not great,” I said.

“Something like one in a trillion.”

“Are you calling me lucky?”

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m calling you.”

I took a drink. “What does it matter how lucky I am?”

“You’re even luckier than you think,” she said.


“I’m an ambitious woman, Rove. I think you know that.”

I nodded.

“I thought about subterfuge and manipulation, but I’ll just be honest with you. You understand exactly what’s at stake for me. Enough wealth for the seed of a literal regime, to change my life and my descendants’ lives for ages to come. All I have to do for that is bring Riku to the Aisvas capital, which is only about a month’s journey now. I’m a month away from a life I could’ve never dreamed of before and the only thing in my way is the whims of this immature woman who for some unknown reason took a deep interest in my mechanic and has now stopped speaking to him.”

I threw my hands in the air. “Why am I in the middle of all this? Who the hell am I and what does everyone want with me? And how do I fix it?”

“Your history speaks for itself,” Lenai said. “You’re bright. Surely you can come up with something. Some grand romantic gesture?”

I was legitimately baffled. “Romantic?”

“What else would she want from you?”

I shrugged. “Like I said, I don’t have a clue.”

She looked dejected. “A few hours ago, Riku started prepping her galaxyrunner.”

That made me feel sick.

“I don’t know if that’s related to her spat with you or what,” Comm Lenai said. “But if it is, I suggest you fix it, whatever it is. If you’re gonna make us lose the payout from the Aisvas, at least have the decency to profit off of it somehow. You know where you stand with me if we secure the payout, and that’s about as rich of a reward as you could ask for.”

Lenai was right about that.

She rose and went to the door. “Comm Lenai?” I said.

She turned.

“If I’ve fucked this up, I’m really damn sorry.”

Lenai broke into a smile and laughed. “Don’t worry, Rove. I don’t like my new mechanic anyway.”




I filtered through what I remembered of all my conversations with Riku to figure out what she’d like. It made me feel like an idiot because all I could think of was flowers and plants. I tried her door again and she didn’t answer. Then it finally dawned on me that maybe she wasn’t in there.

The gazes of the crew were nasty. I was probably just imagining that they were glaring at me but I couldn’t shake the feeling. At the far east wing of the ship, I reached the A94 galaxyrunner. It was a sleek red and white with sharp angles on its wings like the old ships in museums. There was one A92 in Nawpaq’s flight museum that I’d always wanted to hop inside and launch into the sky. This one had the same feel. 

A crewmember stepped out of the A94 and I grabbed him. “Is Riku in there?”

“Sovereign Aisvas?” he said. “She’s in the garden.”

Of course she was.

The garden was near the ship’s heart. In my initial interview with Comm Lenai, I’d asked why she spent the money for it. Small gardens were typical, but Violentlight’s was larger than the navigation room and filled with exotic plants, apparently from the wild regions of Lenai’s homeworld. Going through it was like a dream. There were yellow asta grama blades as high as my neck, webbed kavia ivy, honeystill, and popil vines running up the rocky walls. Nightviolets that shone in the dark.

Lenai had said that, apart from her doing whatever the hell she pleased on her ship, she was convinced that prettier and larger gardens were worth their weight in gold when you were stuck flying through deep space. 

The garden was in its night cycle and the violets were brighter than I remembered. Riku was just a black silhouette on a bench, and I sat next to her and told her I was sorry.

“Are you leaving?” I asked.

“Visiting Meille,” she said. “Just for a few days.”

“What do you hope to find there?”

“To some degree,” she said, “I hope to find out that I’m wrong. That our concepts of good and bad really are just the push for the flourishing of the species.”

I noticed the fireblossoms radiating orange in the dark beneath the vines and little trees. They were like stars at our feet. “There’s something else there too, isn’t there?” I said.

“A filmmaker,” she said. “Harkas Aiyka. The one who made Mythic Heart.”

“What’s he doing on Meille?”

“He says he’s resting and finding himself again.”

“Why don’t you just call him?”

“No one knows his callreach, and no one in Meille knows where on the planet he is. And it wouldn’t be the same anyway.”

She seemed a bit out of her mind to think some filmmaker could answer her questions. The idea was pretty though, and I was starting to think stupid shit, like that I was falling in love with her. She asked if I wanted to join her on the trip and I said yes.

“Don’t tell anyone about Aiyka,” she said. “He doesn’t want his location known. And don’t even talk about it with me again, outside of just enjoying his films. People are listening almost everywhere.”

So we saddled up the galaxyrunner to prep for leaving the next day. I figured Comm Lenai would be angry, but she wasn’t.

“Just bring her back, for the love of all things good,” Lenai said.

I told her I’d do what I could.




On the ride to Meille, we watched another Harkas Aiyka film. She’d seen them all and wanted to show me her favorites. This one was called Mortal Bastion and it was set in the cityheart of Kamach. The opening scene was on the same skywalk where Riku and I’d met. There were about a thousand people walking along. Then one person dropped, foaming at the mouth and his stomach pulsing until metallic spiders burst out of his gut and he died. Everyone in the skywalk took off running but the nanospiders caught up to them and buried themselves in their skin or dove into their ears or mouths.

The whole thing was horrifying and I didn’t know what it meant. It was a lengthy film too, just one scene after another, not following any characters but the spread of the nanospiders as they slowly and steadily wiped out the entirety of Kamach. They came after everyone. Some were eating at a tucked-away booth in a restaurant, some were latching metallic beetles, and some were just relaxing in their homes. The spiders came without warning and nothing could stop them. All of the defense mechanisms that should have alerted the people never deployed, and no one noticed the people dying all around them until the actual nanospiders were in sight. Toward the end, I could see that everyone was dying with the same exact look on their face. There was no horror, confusion, or fear at the end for them. They all looked blank. Almost inhuman. 

It took me the whole trip to recover from that. On some level, I was missing the simplicity of day-in and day-out work as Violentlight’s mechanic, but I knew I was also missing not having to think about anything. All of Riku’s opinions and hopes and dreams had never really crossed my mind before.

“What the hell does that film mean anyway?” I asked.

She was scanning Meille’s surface looking for any hideaways apart from the city. “I don’t know,” she said. “I just think it’s good.”

Damn crusader logic again.

She spotted what appeared to be a small, domed habitation about fifty leagues away from the city. We descended through the atmosphere, docked near the structure, and prepared to explore the place. The A94’s crew insisted they probe the habitation first, but Riku refused to let them. She wanted us to show up at Aiyka’s doorstep ourselves.

“Who am I to you?” I asked her.

“A friend, I hope.”

“Yeah. I hope so too.”

When we got near the dwelling, she stopped me about ten lengths from the door. “I need you to stay here,” she said. “And I need you to stay out of sight. When I come back, we’re going to get back on the galaxyrunner and explore the city. We’re going to tell them we went inside the dwelling and found no one. Do you understand?”

I told her I understood. I guess I was starting to trust her after all.

She came back ten minutes later and we walked onto the A94, lied to the crew, and flew into the cityheart of Meille. There wasn’t much to do. We ate at the restaurant at the top of the city, overlooking the glacial plains. The food was shitty but I enjoyed it. Riku pulled me along to a physical video store and she bought a few popular movies, telling me she still loved the feel of a hardcopy cartridge in her hands. Then we left. 




“I’m starting to think of some different interpretations of the situation,” Comm Lenai said.

She’d called me into her quarters for a debrief on the Meille excursion. I lied to her about the dwelling too.

“We have this once-violent Aisvas daughter on board, and her uncle is so eager to get her back. She’s showing interest in crusades, ancient civilizations, a random ice planet in Netralus, and you. Do you see my concern here?”

I shook my head.

“Sovereigns don’t take interest in random things. These are all connected.”

“Can’t she just be a human?” I asked. “Just a girl running from her family, looking at old philosophy, and reluctantly returning?”

“I hope you’re right, Rove. Listen. I need you to be honest with me from here on out. Anything she says that can clue us in to what’s going on, anything she does, report to me. We’re entering the final bridge soon and once we’re out of the other end, we’ll be face-to-face with the might of the Aisvas regime. They can do whatever they want once they’ve got her. If they decide they’d rather not pay us, they simply shoot us down. No harm done. They can claim we kidnapped her and held her for ransom. They can make up any story about what happened.”

“I’m really not cut out for this,” I said.

“Maybe that’s why she chose you.”

Comm Lenai’s words lingered in the back of my mind all day. I didn’t have any interest in telling her about Aiyka and the dwelling, but I did look up Harkas Aiyka on my handreach. Turned out he was the firstborn son of the leader of a mid-tier regime. Which didn’t bode well at all for whatever happened in that dwelling. It got me thinking, though. Riku didn’t seem nostalgic enough to want cartridges of films she could get just as easily through the net.

I found her at the holoscreen in her room.

“Did he give you a video cartridge?” I asked.

She smiled. “The guy at the video store in Meille? Of course. I got a couple new ones. Strange Gravity and Dreadlight.”


Riku stood and flipped the lights off with her handreach. 

Streaks of white were glowing in her hair as she came closer. God, my heart was fluttering. She brought her lips to my left ear. “Don’t forget there are people listening when we speak loudly,” she whispered. “And there are people watching when the light’s shining.”

“Okay,” I said.

She led me to her bedroom and lay down on her side and I lay next to her and she placed her hand on my chest and I held it. I thought she was probably manipulating me, buying my silence and continuing some strange coercion of a nameless mechanic from Nawpaq.

“Lift your head,” she said.

I did. She reached her hand under the pillow, pulled out an old handreach, and slid it underneath my shirt. She settled her head sideways again and whispered in my ear. 

“I’m in danger,” she said. “You read some of my family’s history of violence, so you can understand what my uncle will do to maintain his power. He was fine with me wandering, but he finally caught wind of my treasonous belief. He even knows of my rejection of the human universal.”

I didn’t understand at first.

“I know these aren’t games you’re used to playing, Rove, and I’m sorry I’ve brought you into this. But really it was my uncle that brought your whole ship into it, and once he’d started that, there was no going back. Your Comm would have been more than willing to kidnap me for the kind of money he’s offering if I hadn’t walked on board willingly.

“The Aiyka regime has offered me shelter. In the dwelling, Harkas provided me with the intel of my uncle’s plans, as well as the handreach I just gave you. It can hack the mainframe of this ship and cloak it. Then we have to take control of it and dash for the Kaptikos bridge, which is just six hours further. Once we get through there, we can keep leaping until we vanish from the radar of the Aisvas.”

The pieces finally fell into place of why she chose me. The simple answer had evaded me–I was a damn good mechanic. I could hack the ship better than anyone. 

“My uncle’s plan is to have us go through the bridge, arrive in Aisvas, and then get shot down. He wants to claim that the Violentlight turned rogue and held me for ransom and that I died in the negotiations as I heroically tried to escape in my galaxyrunner.”

She propped herself up and gazed down at me. “Do you believe me? Will you help me?” she asked.

Of course I did, and I would.




Hacking and cloaking the ship was easy. I convinced Riku that we should go straight to Comm Lenai and let her handle running interference with her own crew. 

“You’re damn serious,” Lenai said.

I was relaying the information to her in a whisper. We stood in the upper deck.

“Damn me, if that’s not the only thing that makes sense,” she said. “I’ll get it moving right away. Don’t fuck this up, Rove.”

When she cleared the crew out of the mechanical rooms and cut the cameras, I went in and replaced the mainframe with the hack. Took a few hours, but I got it installed and the cloak functioning. Once it was finished, Comm Lenai and Riku came in. Lenai paced back and forth, checking our navigation on the handreach every few seconds. About five hours to the Kaptikos bridge and safety.

The problem was that we were suddenly sitting ducks. Once we had put up the cloak, it was clear to all of the Aisvas fleet that we were trying to escape. They just didn’t know where we were heading. It all depended on how prepared the Aisvas fleet was for our different possible escape routes. Our hope was that they had been plenty comfortable with the idea that we were going all the way to Aisvas. We’d given every indication that we were planning on it since we thought we really were heading that way.

I glanced at Riku and felt my gut twist. She was just manipulating some random mechanic after all. I pitied her, though. Even if we could escape, a true bounty from the Aisvas Regent was as good as being dead. 

“Fleet spotted at the entrance of Kaptikos,” Comm Lenai said. “Manually requesting we remove the cloak.”

Just like that, we were practically dead. Comm Lenai stopped pacing and sat leaning against the wall, burying her head in her hands. Riku tapped frantically through her handreach.

“Ten escape pods, all with cloaking?” she said.

Lenai nodded.

“If we eject them all at once, it’s possible one or two of them might get away,” Riku said.

“Yes,” Comm Lenai said. “That’s possible.”




I decided it was better to not know what the odds were of even one making it. It all happened so fast, I could barely believe it. None of the crew could either. We directed everyone to each escape pod, synced the launch timer, and relayed a manual message to the Aisvas fleet that basically said “fuck you.” The last I saw of Comm Lenai was her laughing as she sent the transmission.

Riku and I boarded the tenth escape pod. No one else wanted to be locked in with the actual target of the bounty. I was under no illusion that any one pod had a better chance of survival than the next, no matter who was in it.

The pod was cozy enough. Riku and I strapped into our seats as the launch prepped. 

“All of that to get the ship’s mechanic on your side, and I didn’t turn out to be of any use at all,” I said.

“I’m so sorry,” she said.

“It’s really not your fault. Sounds like we were all dead as soon as your uncle commissioned the Violentlight. All of your philosophy, your rejection of the human universal, though. All of that was real?”

“Yes,” she said. “That’s why they want me dead.”

The pod launched. We’d set them all to the highest speed possible with full cloaking. The hope was to get shot out so far into space that the intercepting fleet couldn’t find us.

Once the acceleration died off, we pulled off the straps and let ourselves float through the cabin. The pod had a single square window and through it we could see so many stars.

“Tell me of the life you dreamed of again,” she said.

I told her. Working forty more years and then retiring on the outskirts and Kamach and settling down and starting a family. Wandering through the streets and the skywalk whenever I wished, flying into space to just relax amongst the stars. Buying the best genes for my children.

I told her I thought she was right. About everything. Whatever her crusade was, it was the right one.

“I don’t think I ever asked you what your dreams are,” I said.

She smiled. Her hair was black and had white stars shining in it. “My dream is to escape my family and forget my past. To move to someplace like Meille, just a small city full of kind people, and infuse the place with wealth in the most human sense. I want to make the streets of the city overflow with flowers. I want to build artificial weather in a ring around the city so you can walk from rain to snow to starlight. I want to build a theater so large the entire city could be there. Think of an entire city watching films together, playing music, performing plays. I’d get married and live in the heights of the city and I’d spend my days tending the gardens. My entire job every day would be to go through the streets watering the flowers. Can you imagine?”

I could. I really could.


About the author: Lucas Enne is an author of fiction and poetry. His influences include Jeff Vandermeer and Cormac McCarthy, and his works are published or forthcoming in The Dread Machine and Illustrated Worlds. See ennewritings.com



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My name is Jack L. Bryson and I'm the editor of Teleport. I studied literature at University of Montana. I live in Mountain View Ca, and my email is coffeeant1@gmail.com

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