Confession II

I sat nervously in the confessional. Confession had always made me nervous.

“Forgive me father, for I have sinned,” I began. “It has been seventy years since my last confession.”

The ritual words were comforting.

“You are a capsuleer,” he responded, breaking the ritual. Nervousness flooded back into the small chamber. “I have never heard the confession of a capsuleer before,” he continued. “What has brought you here child?”


“None of us is above judgement,” I responded.

“The abyss awaits those who die in The Lord’s shadow,” he quoted, “But you are immortal. You have no fear of death.”

“I have died many times,” I said plainly, “But we are not immortal. A failed consciousness transfer, a faulty capsule…”

“These things have not happened in centuries,” he replied, “Since The Empire first began working with the Jovian technology.”

“… if my clone contract were to be canceled,” I continued.

He laughed. “You are one of Doriam’s chosen elite guard. There is little chance of that.”

“Perhaps,” I replied.

“I am sorry,” he said, his tone taking on a more serious timbre. “I will hear your confession child. I do not mean to offend. You are one of the immortals, and I can sense that weight of your deeds bears heavily upon you.”

“Your fate is bittersweet,” he continued,”you are immortal. At once free of fear of the Abyss but forbidden the bliss of Elysium. Tell me child of your sins.”

I took a deep breath. “This may take some time.”


In the Flesh

I remember stepping out into the hangar, still disoriented after my first resurrection. My executioner perched at the ready on the undock. The enormous hangar door was open wide. The red-orange Amarrian sky, tinged purple by the blue electric glow of the pressure shielding, dominated the room. It was at once familiar and alien.

I stared at the sleek ship. My ship. Emotions of freedom, power, panic, fear, terror washed over me. I felt physically detached, as if I was a camera drone hovering above the hangar observing. I could hear a tiny voice calling my name, as if from the bottom of a deep well. It was the commander. He was speaking on comms.

My attention snapped back into my body.

“Keep it together Ghenna. There’s a new pod ready for you on the decanter, get yourself back out here, it’s good for you.”

“Yes sir,” I replied.

I walked around to the right side of the executioner, toward the decanting rig. A fresh, new pod was waiting there, its clamshell doors open wide and welcoming. I climbed up the short stair, disrobed and started to secure myself in the flight harness. My mind wandered, I struggled to keep focus. I took a deep breath and locked the harness in place.

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My executioner cut a graceful curve through space as it orbited the training beacon. I adjusted my camera drones, watching as my engines painted a partially formed, ever-fading, luminescent halo of heat and plasma around the small radio array.

“How does she feel,” came a disembodied voice. I was startled. My ship shuddered, making small ripples in the halo. I realized it was Commander Jun speaking over coms.”

“Good sir,” I responded. I felt my lips move in thick liquid. More ripples in the halo. “I think the capacitor array isn’t feeding properly. It feels a bit,” I struggled for words.


“Yes sir,” I responded, “Exactly.”

“The capacitor array is fine,” He replied, “You’re getting corpus feedback. Still feeling your implants. You just got your spine drilled in twenty places.”

He was right. I had been struggling for the past twenty minutes to adjust to the synesthesia of simultaneously being a ship in space and a naked body floating in the dark in a fluid filled pod. I concentrated on the camera drones again, my halo had become highly irregular.

“Okay, training. Let’s get to it then. Stop the ship and eject,” he ordered.

I nodded. A momentary fear of drowning washed over me as I felt my head move in the viscous pod fluid. I focused my will, and the ship came to a graceful halt. I concentrated on peeling off my metal skin. The executioner broke apart, and my small pod emerged into the vastness of space. I felt cold and exposed. Something was flashing somewhere in my mind, or perhaps on the inner hull.

I focused. It was an alarm warning, I was being targeted and locked in place.

“What’s happening?,” I said, panic in my voice. I could taste the salt from the pod fluid.

“Welcome to the Imperial Guard child. I’ll debrief you in station.”

I swept my camera drones around. Jun’s punisher was hovering in space above the beacon, the halo left by my engine trails barely visible now below him. His pulse lasers swiveled into place and fired a volley of white beams into my capsule.

There was a dull red flash, like glancing directly into the sun. A thousand flashing images leapt into view. Warnings, diagnostics, damage reports. Confusion turned to terror.

I opened my eyes. The curved inner bulkhead of my capsule was visible. Glowing with a wicked red heat. I pushed away from the boiling metal as the light shifted to bright white.

I gasped, choked by warm fluid. I felt a short dull pain as hands firmly gripped my shoulders, pulling me closer to the heat. I struggled against it, choking, struggling for breath. Then I felt a tiny pin prick, like the sting of a bee, and my strength left me.

Strong arms lifted me out of the clone vat. I gasped for air and immediately vomited, expelling warm salty clone vat fluid from my new lungs.

“How’s she doing,” I heard a familiar voice.

“Terrible. We had to sedate her to get her out of the bath. Vitals are all over the place…”

“So situation normal then,” said Jun.

“Yes sir, pretty typical.”

A man shaped shadow entered my field of view. I struggled to focus, but the afterimage of white hot bulkheads still obscured my vision. I squinted.

“That’s why you don’t open your eyes,” he said calmly. “It’ll pass. Congratulations private, you passed. Clean yourself up and meet me on hangar deck in 20.”

“Yes sir,” I rasped. Shaking, I climbed out of the vat. The technician handed me a towel.

“You’ll find your uniform and a neocom in the locker,” he said in a comforting tone as he headed toward the exit. “Welcome to the first day of immortality. I’ll give you some privacy.”

I steadied myself on the clone vat and began toweling off the clone fluid. As my vision cleared, I stumbled over to the locker and gazed out the observation window at the training grounds. My executioner still hung in space, pilotless. My halo was no longer visible.

I dressed, collected my thoughts, and headed down to hangar deck.


On Sunday after sermon my mother always made fresh sweetbread. The taste is gone. A memory still floating somewhere in the void, but I can remember the smell. The complex smell of rich roasted grain with hints of cinnamon, cumin and sugar. Every Sunday as it came out of the oven I would run to the stove, enticed by that smell.

Once I was careless. Treading on my expensive Sunday dress, I tripped. I reached out instinctively to break my fall. My palm pressed hard into the hot cast iron stove.

“When we are careless, there is always a price to be paid,” my father scolded as my mother held my throbbing hand to a block of ice and wiped away my tears. It was a cold burning sensation, uncomfortable but not painful so long as I kept my palm on the ice.

My wounded coercer hung in space above the decimated remains of an asteroid mining colony. The battle had been vicious, stripping the armor from my hull and exposing the delicate internal systems to the harshness of space. A cold burning sensation covered my entire body. I rubbed my palm, though my clone no longer bore the scar.

“Is anyone still alive out there? Anyone have eyes on the situation,” the comm channel slid into my attention buffer almost undetected behind the cloud of warnings, diagnostics and system error messages.

I cleared my mind.

“Red Seven reporting in. I’m still in my pod, though my ship is essentially slag.”

“What do you see, what’s the situation,” the voice asked.

I was in total darkness. I blinked a few times to make sure and felt around. I could feel the colony below me, feel the gritty debris around my hull.

“I’m about five clicks above the colony asteroid, there’s a lot of debris. Camera drones are offline, I’m going to eject and take a look.”

“Roger that Red Seven.”

I initiated eject protocols and pushed free of the remains of my destroyer. It was a feeling not unlike disrobing: free, unrestricted and vulnerable. The capsule’s emergency systems leapt to life. I saw a blur, then a haze and then my surroundings eased into focus.


“It’s pretty bad, Sir,” I started. “Colony is depressurized. bodies everywhere. I don’t think anyone else survived.”

I looked upward, the enormous broken hull of a navy apocalypse loomed above me, recognizable fragments of Rifter still protruding from the bridge. They had no business attacking a fleet of our size, they fought wildly, savagely and died to a man.

Reckless. Careless.

And yet somewhere deep in Minmatar space eight Rifter pilots awoke in new clones, reflected on their mission and smiled. My father had been right. Carelessness always incurs a cost. Who gets left with the tab is less certain.


“I wanted you to have these,” he said, handing me the thin wooden box with both hands.

I received it with both hands, bowing my head. I felt the grain of the polished oak touch my fingertips. Despite my mixed feelings toward my father, I was honored by the gesture. I was careful not to drop it. Wood containers were for precious things.

“Open it,” he said, gesturing as if to a child.

I did as I was told.

The box opened smoothly and silently. The hinges nearly invisible, the dimensions exact. Craftsmanship that only a machine – or an artisan slave – could provide. Inside was plush black velvet, a soft cushion for the serious contents. I placed the box on a nearby table and removed the pair of daggers.

“Only soldiers of God carried these daggers,” he said, “centuries ago, in the land wars. Ceremonial to be sure, but the symbol is still relevant. We are so proud of you.”

I withdrew the daggers, the cold golden hilts seeming to conform to the shape of my palms as if the weapons had been crafted specifically for me. They were beautiful, masterfully crafted, the stories of the ages inlaid in intricate detail in their gold and silver hilts.

I examined them both. Both identical in weight, in shape, in purpose. Identical shards of zydrine in the pommel, identical designs in the golden hilt, and identical curved tungsten carbide blades – cold, harsh, undecorated – extending outward from the artistry of the hilt.

Murder only tolerates a certain degree of beauty.

“Thank you,” I said, putting the pen down on the table and standing up.

“Welcome to the Federal Defense Union soldier, you’ll receive your assignment soon,” the recruitment officer smiled and gestured for the next in line to come over.

I stepped out of the office, the green insignia of the federation weaving itself into the nano-patch on the shoulder of my flight suit.

I rubbed my thumb down the worn hilt of the old dagger on my belt and began the trek back to my hangar.