[Void Galaxia] Chapter 15: Triton No Taikutsu


The man who looked like a young Nick Stahl sat relaxed on a rocky outcrop [not unlike a patio], surrounded by endless acres of nitrogen ice, staring up at the gigantic, bluer than blue warden Neptune looming above, thinking the words warden uncle, then warden aunty, then Stasi overseer thing, then infinite fucking blue uncle Stasi over aunty seeing nothing but same kid moon wasn’t even from there just crashed in one millennia and

       blue uncle bobbed there and took it

       blue aunty bob

       blue Stasi overcount bob


       He held up a fingertip, prodding impotently at the smallest gas giant.

       Directly in front of him was a chessboard on a plastic table, a half-slouched human player on the other side, but he didn’t seem interested in either.

      Neptune vs chess?

      Only one of these had ever invited him to kill himself…even if it was a failed attempt. Cut. Wrong choice of words. A thwarted attempt, that was more accurate. Thwarted by his purple holo-babysitter.

      Ah, those first hundred…the sunny years.

      He stretched out a human hand, pushing it slowly towards the forcefield a metre beyond the table. Those almost imperceptible flecks of blue were the only things protecting him – and his chess opponent – from almost instant death. At first, when Assta had told him he was stuck on this moon, he would make a habit of wearing a helmet outside, even within the perimeter, and avoid the nitrogen ice on the surface at all costs. Didn’t want to do anything stupid like die before the rescue ship came. That was the idea. Now, he couldn’t even remember where the helmets were kept. Or what they looked like.

      ‘Grey patches…’ he muttered, fixing his eyes back on the table.

      The player opposite didn’t respond.

      ‘Pointless. Unreliable.’

      A plume of nitrogen gas erupted nearby, the dust expelled clashing with the forcefield and turning the blue flecks frantic. Auxiliary dust trickled down at a sedate pace, wry if he felt like attaching personality to the thing, and settled on the rocky slope beyond the perimeter.

      The man who looked like a young Nick Stahl shunned the spectacle and instead arched his neck towards the black ceiling above. ‘Up there, Keitho…that’s where the real madness is. Oort Cloud. Alpha Centauri. Helix Nebula. Da’ba Da’baka. The million other places she never bothers to tell me about.’

      He stopped scanning and came back for the seven hundredth time to the chessboard. His eyes scrutinized the smudged and scuffed Roscosmos costume of the player opposite, head tilted to make it more professorial, but it didn’t seem to register that he was staring at a corpse.

      ‘Your move, Childs.’

      No answer.



      ‘You still sucking in power over there?’


      The man who looked like a young Nick Stahl waited a few seconds then moved over to the body of his opponent. Keith David, ancient and tall, the glass of his replica cosmonaut helmet cracked, the flesh on his face a bit grey but generally well-preserved.

      ‘Purple finally cut you off…’

      No response.

      ‘Mid-game too.’

      Whistling off-key, he turned and studied the path back to base. About two hundred metres, not too far. Unless you had a two hundred-odd pound corpse to carry.

      ‘Have to leave you here for a while, Keitho. Get the purple assist, fly you over to the cemetery. You know the routine.’

      In the distance, seemingly dug into the side of the mountain, a beacon started to emit bursts of fluorescent purple light.

      ‘Ah, how predictable. Meal time.’

      The man who looked like a young Nick Stahl put a hand on Keith David’s shoulder and accidentally caused his head to slump to the side. Luckily, the neck bones were still composed enough to stop it toppling off.

      ‘Be back in an hour. No cheating while I’m gone.’

      Leaving his chair pulled out from the plastic table, the man who looked like a young Nick Stahl started off along the path that he could’ve walked with his eyes cut out. Base to View Point 2. View Point 2 to Base. For a human, it would’ve been a brisk, diverting stroll, but for an alien with the talents he sometimes had, it was pure tedium. Not only the fact that he could’ve completed the trip in seconds with purple-assist, but the way he had no choice but to walk like this. Traipsing about on Earth with the potential to go fast, okay, fine, but not being physically able to, at all…completely enervating.

      Ironically, all his internal moaning killed most of the travel time and pretty soon he was heading through the tetryon protection field and down the KAV-tunnel into what humans would’ve called a hotel lobby.

      As usual, Assta had adjusted the colour of the walls, this time to fern green, and kept the dreg-holograms running in the seating area. Apparently, they stayed operational even when he wasn’t there, the logic being that it would give them unique experiences to relay back to him when they conversed again.

      Of course, it was ropey logic – what possible experiences could a dreg-hologram have sitting in the exact same place all the time, interacting solely with other dreg-holograms? – but there wasn’t much he could do about it. Assta was manager, mother and psycho-therapist all in one. And physician too.

      ‘Neck please,’ said his eternal nurse, appearing seemingly out of the floor with a giant syringe in her hand.

      ‘Can I get a drink first?’

      ‘Neck then drink.’

      The man who looked like a young Nick Stahl audibly sighed and pulled down his collar. The giant syringe was in and out before he knew it. Like a contract being stamped.

      ‘Now you may get a drink.’


      ‘I recommend Asaluchan Tea.’


      He walked over to the seating area and waved his hand through the stream of hazy particles in the wall nearby. Almost instantly a glass of blue liquid materialized on the table in front of him.

      ‘Pretty chilly outside,’ said one of the dreg-holograms, a replica of what Assta told him had been a great adventurer from one of the Earth coloniser nations.

      He mumbled, ‘not with the containment field up,’ and sipped his drink.

      The dreg-hologram nodded and returned to their book. Planet Gaarrr // Barbara Kingjoy. Great, garbage sci-fi, written by a human know-nothing-say-everything.

      ‘That is not Asaluchan Tea,’ said Assta, hovering behind his seat.

      ‘I felt like something sparkier.’

      The tall hologram dipped her head, the purple eyes darkening slightly as she examined the contents of his glass. ‘If you are bored, the battle room can be initiated.’


      ‘The ball bouncing room.’

      ‘Even more veto.’

      ‘Your body language indicates that you are 7% away from moderate depression. Perhaps sex with a belligerent figure from human history would be beneficial?’

      ‘Atilla the Hun again?’

      ‘There are seven thousand, realistic character profiles in our database, male and female, seventy-three intersex, two hundred-and-eight non-binary.’

      ‘I know, I know. You don’t have to tell me every time.’

      ‘It is in my programming.’

      ‘I know that too.’

      Assta ceased hovering and decided to kneel down by the arm of his chair. Modulating her tone to a whisper, she asked if he was still upset about the Bosnian situation.

      ‘That was two years ago.’

      ‘Trauma is both dogged and persistent.’

      ‘I’m not traumatized. I murdered all of them.’

      ‘But you did not enjoy it.’

      ‘It was okay.’

      ‘Your tone and facial expression suggests you are lying.’

      The man who looked like a young Nick Stahl shifted in his seat and almost knocked his glass over in the process. ‘In truth, I’ve been thinking about that Japanese boy.’

      ‘That is not a recommended target.’

      ‘I checked up on him last night. Or two nights ago. Or last week, whenever it was. He went through with the operation.’

      Assta straightened up, eyes flickering like the forcefield flecks.

      ‘See, you didn’t predict that, did you?’


      ‘Don’t bother, I’ve already made up my mind. I’m going to pay him a visit.’

      ‘Confirmed. He is currently on his way to Liverpool, North Britain.’

      ‘Glad you approve.’

      ‘Our approval is irrelevant. We are merely advisors.’

      ‘And bodyguards and mothers and doctors and psychologists and all the rest of it.’ He pushed himself back onto his feet and stretched his arms through the grey, wraith-like, dreg- holographic head immediately behind him. ‘I’ll be in the Steam Lab if you need me.’

      ‘There is a problem. The boy’s face is still Japanese.’


      ‘The operation was flawed. His mind is now an erratic composite of two distinct personalities. In addition to this, his face remains unchanged.’

      ‘Even better.’

      ‘It will be a frustrating experience if you interact with him.’

      ‘Exhilarating more like.’

      ‘We suggest that you delay contact for six months. Allow the two personalities to settle.’

      ‘Suggestion noted.’

      The man who looked like a young Nick Stahl patted Assta on the head like a moon koala then, whistling, moved off to the arch on the other side of the room. Before long, he was in another tunnel, spiraling downwards to the Steam Lab. To get him in the mood, tendrils of purple mist crept out of the vents and a pulsating beat led him all the way to the main pod.

      Climbing inside, he was about to pull down the lid when Assta appeared again and asked if this was really the right thing for him to do at this time.

      ‘Psychologically? Oh yeah.’

      ‘Another disappointment could fracture your psyche and mold you into a recluse, which would be detrimental in the event of rescue.’

      ‘That infamous rescue ship, four hundred years in the making.’

      ‘Sarcasm is unwarranted. There are many plausible explanations for why the ship has taken so long to arrive.’

      ‘Forget it, Assta. I’m okay. I feel fine.’

      ‘Temporarily, that is correct.’

       ‘Besides, if my psyche does fracture or crack or whatever, you’ll be here to stop me doing anything stupid. Right?’

       ‘We can only prevent telegraphed suicide attempts.’

       ‘And you can read me like a book. Now, if you’ll let me get this lid down, I’ve got a new friend to make.’

      Assta’s eyes buffered and a second later her whole form disassembled.

      Inside the pod, things became purple.

      Mist seeped in from outside and slithered out again, and whatever happened inside, happened in silence, without screams or even slight grunts. Finally, a beeping sound came from the side and the lid opened again.

      A pair of purple eyes emerged first, followed by the body housing them. It still resembled Nick Stahl, only now a few inches taller.

      Floating out from the pod, the modified alien rose up through a hole that opened automatically in the ceiling, then turned right and drifted through another tunnel. This one was completely blank, undesigned, and was soon left behind as Nick continued out of the base and away from the mountain and then, after half a minute of drifting, down onto an isolated rock clearing with about seventy-odd gravestones.

      A short while later, the corpse of Keith David floated down like a curious cloud dog and settled itself into a freshly dug grave.

      A headstone appeared, with a personalized message: A good friend for a good while.

      The man who looked like a taller Nick Stahl gave unbroken attention to his good friend’s corpse as the dirt rolled in from the side, filling up the grave.

      When it was done, he held a finger to his temple in salute then flew back up into the air. Dodging a plume of sublimating nitrogen ice, he edged back inside the perimeter and skimmed over to a small alcove dug into the rocks above the base. It was well-lit with hanging strips of fluorescent purple hanging form the walls, and empty except for the five totems laid out in a semi-circle deeper inside. Folding his arms across his chest, he uttered the word activate in his own language and closed his eyes as a pale bank of purple mist materialized in the air before him, adding Iceland quickly when it started slithering forward.

      As usual, full absorption took forty-three seconds.

     Another two seconds after that, gone.

      Mist and alien.

      Outside, Triton and the base continued on like every other Thursday – nitrogen ice, helium haze, sudden dust plumes, holo-gossip – barely noticing a thing.

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