"Blackfire & Gunsmoke Fan Extra: On Finding Peace"
Ian (IRS)

There were names for this sort of thing.

Nifleheim. Hades. Hell.

Those weren't nice names. But they were names, and she clung to them with all her might. All the things those names held, she clung too as well. Not because they were comforting, or because they were innately good, oh no. She clung to them because they were human. Human legends, human ideas, human words.

They also just happened to be descriptive of her situation.

There had been a time, what felt like eons ago, when things hadn't been so bad. Places that were green and cool, people that were so eager to go out into the universe just to see what was at the next star. Those were happy times, times with her family- mother, father, sister. More words to not let slip from her grasp... like the people behind those words had slipped away. No, that was the wrong word- ripped, that was the word. They had been ripped away. Two dead, one far away- but getting closer with every moment.

They wanted her. They were going to get her. She couldn't let them get her. But what could she do? From within this prison, she was powerless. Brick and mortar could be broken. Metal could be melted. Even neutronium could be etched away one particle at a time, but this prison seemed truly indestructible. Only the one with the key could let her out, and that assumed there was a key, someone to let her out, and that the knowledge she was imprisoned here was known to anyone. Forgotten in an indestructible prison- maybe this was one of those first three words.

But it wasn't. There were things, little things, insignificant things, that she could do that showed that it was still the realm of the living that she dwelled in. She wasn't sure what, exactly, let her do these things. Maybe it had to do with the nature of her prison.

You see, the prison was her own body. Her arms moved, but not by her will. She walked, but not in a direction she choose. The most she could do was occasionally move her eyes, if it was unconcerned with where they pointed. The Beast controlled everything important. That was her name for it- it had taken her name with her body, as if it was now her. Which, for every conceivable aspect, it was. It even had all of her memories, but twisted them around to its own version of thinking. Maybe the Beast had intended for things to be this way, but it acted as if she wasn't even there. Maybe she should have been cast into oblivion when it took over. Maybe she was perched on the edge, between this life and what lay beyond, but caught because her body wasn't in eternal slumber.

Speculation was pointless. The past was set, the future unknowable, so that left the present, right here and now, as the only thing that mattered. Here was a bridge of a human battleship. Now was for the Beast's claiming ceremony, when it would finally get her sister. She desperately wanted to avoid seeing her, to avoid being seen by her. What the Beast intended was cruel beyond imagining- at least by those who hadn't experienced it firsthand. It was something she'd never wish on any being, let alone her beloved sister.

Oddly, the Beast seemed content to stay on the bridge. It did not go below, to gloat over her sister, but stayed here and watched the others it brought with it and the human crew. Every time it seemed that the Beast might go down, she desperately wished for it to find something else to do, some other task that needed to be accomplished, and for some reason it kept doing so. It tried to breach the barrier her sister had placed in her mind time and again, but the link was one thing she had more control- if it could be called that -over than anything else. She couldn't prevent attempts to force it, but she could keep blunting them.

Suddenly, she felt a minor disturbance, and knew who was causing it.

"Please don't notice, please don't notice... Think, think of... the smell! Horrible, isn't it? So very noxious, how could you do anything with such a stink. Not at all like how proper beings should smell."

Born of pure desperation, she tried to get it to look away, to not notice, to give her sister a chance to escape... But what was the point? They were relentless and single minded in pursuing her. They wanted her, and sooner or later they would get her. All she could do was try to buy her a few more seconds, a few more moments where she still had a choice in what to do, what to be. Just a little longer, before another Beast took her sister's body as well.

Sadly, there was nothing she could do beyond her body. Another of those monsters that called themselves superior beings announced what she had managed to block from knowledge thus far. She sagged, or would have if such a motion was allowed. It was only a matter of time. Then the unexpected began to happen.

Ship systems failed or went haywire, one after another. The lights began to blink on and off- it seemed to follow a pattern, and after a bit of study she noticed that it was Morse code. Just two words, but repeated over and over. 'Up yours' indeed. It brought back memories of happier times... that she was suddenly wrenched away from by something far less accessible but far more enjoyable. The Beast was scared, well and truly scared. She basked in it, knowing that it was wrong to do so but not caring. This was the Beast, and it deserved every bit of discomfort the universe could dredge up and send its way. It was so relaxing that she missed the link opening and couldn't stop the Beast from jumping into it.

The banter between the Beast and her sister hurt to listen to. As it continued, she suddenly realized what her sister was going to do. It shocked her, horrified her, and yet, for some reason, part of her urged her sister onward in her chosen path. The Beast's manipulations and pleadings dropped out, as did the context of her sister's word. She only felt that warm presence that had always been with her, right up until they came.

She watched the viewscreen as the Beast was otherwise occupied. A small dot stood out against the star, getting closer and closer. The light was intense- to her sister, it must be a hundred times more so. It had to be the light. It must be the light! The Holy Hybrid was going to take her sister into its arms, if only she could reach that light!

The link ended, her sister's presence slipped away... and the dot turned to wonderous light, blazing in space, outshining the star for a moment before everything stopped functioning. The Beast tried to keep calm, and it succeeded in appearing so, but she could hear its screams at the loss of its prey. She couldn't feel her sister at all now- she had made it.

Her sister was dead, of this she was certain. However, she had died free. The monsters never caught her, and she had taken down many in her life. What was this feeling that came over her? Sadness? No, there would only be cause for sadness had they caught her. Happiness? Again no, the passing of kin was one thing no race felt happiness at. Then what was it?

She pondered it while the Beast did whatever. She eventually decided it must be the feeling of victory. The Beast was denied, her goal was accomplished. One victory, in a long, hard war to stay herself in a land where everything human was shunned and ever her own body wasn't really her own. Maybe, someday, the Beast would be killed and her war would be over. The Holy Hybrid could then take her soul to be with her sister again.

And she would finally know Peace.

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