S1E27 - AZARIAH - I Had To Look For Where The Stars Weren't
There is, unfortunately, no escaping physics. Bound by the speed of light, even information must take its time to get birth going. And as we move farther into the void, that time grows until the distance becomes unspeakable.Speaker B:
Never been in here at night before. Tony's office, I mean. It's really quiet in here right now. Kind of freaking me out. I mean, usually you can hear Alf banging around in the shop out front, or Benny whistling, or Tony yelling at his 20 year old laser ball rerun tapes. Kind of spooky the quiet. Sorry, Lex. It's as again. It's late here. Everyone's in bed. I got to keep it down. So sorry for the ASMR or whatever. I was just laying there with my brain going around in circles, you know? So I figured I'd just talk until I pass back out. I didn't technically break in here. It's not like Tony Locks's office thought I could divert a little more power to the Pldn terminal. Should give us some more time. I feel like I should be transparent here. I've been hooking up with Benny for, like, I don't know, a couple weeks now. It's not, like, serious, but he's here and I'm here. And you're not mad, right? Holmes? Look, I know we said we tell each other that kind of stuff, but let's be real. You're not hearing these. Let's just call it payback for that time I caught you fooling around with Enson Hannigan in the officer's lounge. All right? I can't unsee that shit. You know that scar at the back of my neck that looks like a little puckered sphincter? My second asshole, as it were. He asked me about it last night, wanted to touch it, and I let him. But I didn't tell him what it was from. I didn't want to tell him. We're just not like that yet. When you've been to a guy's bunk, like, twice and he's like, what's that scar from? You can't just be like, oh, no biggie. It's from the neural spike of a fallen engine that trapped me inside of itself to use as a human battery for two years. You know what I mean? Especially if you're just messing around. Although I guess that's an easier talk to have than explaining how I grew up in a place where AI were classified as either weapons or enemies, not people still, like, working through that. You know how people always say we're the products of our upbringing, or whatever? The AI. R and D teams on the Agnes Day weren't trying to create intelligent life. They were trying to create intelligent guns. Whole different set of parameters and fail states for that. Nobody taught me that Calamity Dawn was a person, and nobody taught her that she was a person, either. I only realized after leaving the Agnes Day that the engines they were making were like babies. They were still in the early phases of experimentation and development, and there were so many blocks and parameters, they couldn't grow to adulthood. Like, what if a baby lived in a little metal box so it could never get bigger? Like, all the fallen engines knew how to do was turn human into battery and shoot gun. I get it now, of course. Oh, and by the way, if Preservation Mobile Engine Command gets a hold of these transmissions somehow and wants to know why I'm breaking all the Agnes Day gag orders, tell him to come arrest me about it. Love to see him fucking try. I don't want to be here. Come get me. Eat my ass. They don't want anyone to know about the fallen engines, where they came from, what they are, what they used to be. And I get it, people would freak out, but nobody's hearing these, so who gives a fuck? It was literally like my fourth mission. Well, okay, so first of all, everybody on the Agnes Day takes an aptitude test when they turn 13, right? It's like you get into this little fake cockpit with stickers where the buttons would be, and they shut your inhibitor chip off and put a headset on you and put you in this series of simulations where you're prompted with various stimuli so they can measure your emotional reactions. I scored really good on that, so they pulled me for a year of pilot training. Anyways, four missions in, we had a perfect hit rate. Me and Calamity Dawn, we never lost a battle. We were mostly fighting sky rays out there. You ever seen one? Those big flat thingies like 20 meters wide with the fucked up whippy tails? They don't come into the system much. The Agnes Day was passing through this cluster of exoplanets with these deep frozen cloud layers, and the rays were making caves and nests in there and, like, freaking out when the ship got too close. Anyway, we never had a problem with those. So when Command scrambled us against a fallen engine, we were overconfident. Totally thought we could handle it. Other two pilots in my squad were older than me. One of them had fought a fallen engine before. She thought I wasn't ready, told me to hang back, let her and the other pilot take care of it. Well, that pissed me off. Empathetic engines run on us getting pissed off. So Calamity Dawn powered up off of that piss off at Ness, and we charged out ahead like idiots. So that fight lasted about 10 seconds for me. I was told later that my squadmates held out longer, but, like, not a lot longer. That thing stuck out its arm and well, okay, first of all, it had a lot of arms, and we couldn't keep track of them because the whole engine was filmed over black limbs and cockpit and all. Somebody had dunked it in that antireflective paint that sucks in light so we couldn't see it for shit. I had it right there. On my radar, but as we charged it, I had to look for where the stars weren't. Anyways, 1 second I'm in the cockpit, and the next second I'm looking at this huge, ragged hole in Calamity don's back with this long arm, jabbing through it. And at the end of the arm, there's a metal claw, that same black coated metal, and it's crushing me from all sides, punctured my plugsuit. Somewhere, my helmet is telling me, and I can't feel my engine at all. Like, I reach out for her with my mind, but she's offline. We're out of phase with each other, and it pulls me through her body. I'm in shock at this point, right? Like, I can hear my squadmates yelling over the radio, but I can't say anything back. And then the fallen engine's cockpit opens and it sticks an arm inside itself and roots around for a second and pulls out well, a corpse. The previous meal, I have to guess. So now I'm freaking out, kicking, screaming, the whole thing doesn't matter. It crams me into the cockpit and seals it up behind me, and it is so dark in there. And then the cockpit starts filling up with, like, some kind of cold slime or gel maybe. I can feel it seeping into the tear in my plugsuit. And it's freezing cold at first, but then it warms up to the temperature of my skin, and then I don't remember anything after that. Don't even remember the neural spike going in. Barely remember it coming out. And boy, that was a whole fucking ordeal. Two years, they told me. The rescue team, when they finally cut me out of that thing. I was in there for two years, shriveled up like a prune, adrenal glands burnt to shit, big old scar on the back of my neck. And all I could remember was the simulation. It was running that whole time. Just this endless bottomless dream. I was running too. I was looking for something. You know when you can tell you're dreaming but you can't figure out how to wake yourself up, so you just have to do the things you think you're supposed to be doing and wait for it to be over? Yeah. Sometimes I was on the Agnes day, sirens going off, trying to get to the hangar to scramble my engine for a battle. Sometimes I was running through a forest at night, just sprinting blind, chasing something. Or maybe being chased. I don't know. Or I'd be underwater, drowning, freezing, whatever, trying to find the surface. And it wasn't a perfect simulation either. Things would be the wrong shape, wrong size, wrong way up. But I couldn't. There was nothing I could. You know how hard it is to remember a dream? How it, like, slides off your brain as soon as you wake up and real life takes over? Well, this is the opposite. I can remember all that in perfect detail. It drags me away from reality if I let it. And the memories have that lived quality, you know? Felt like ten years to me. Ten lifetimes. So, yeah, I didn't feel like explaining all that to Benny. Kind of hoping I'm off this rock before we get that serious. Hey, thanks for listening, man. Even if these recordings are getting to you a year from now or whatever. I probably couldn't say all that shit to your face anyway, but, you know, it's.Speaker C:
Unspeakable. Distance is an actual play. Podcast of communication delay by Audio Quinn a link to the game's itch IO page and credits for our players are available in the show notes linked to this episode. This podcast has been a production of the Library of Cursed Knowledge podcast network.