THE SHADOW OVER ELEUTHERIA
The Patanela is an old legend. A capital class ship that used to fly and fight for the mighty Ivi-Tor corporation, it vanished in deep space for over thirty years, until it misteriously resurfaced under control of the self proclaimed Captain Killian Santiano. Under his command, the Patanela went from being the largest ship to ever vanish from corporate control to becoming an actual haunted ship. His crew is believed to be composed of lobotomized victims being manipulated by his awakened mental powers, and the ship is said to use souls as fuel for interestellar travel.
For ten years our little colony was left alone, until that day, when I saw the shadow of that ship consuming my home. My name is Maureen Sullivan, and this is how I joined the crew of the Patanela.
Eleutheria was among the first planets to be colonized after interestellar travel was mastered. Founded with the purpose of producing food and providing for Earth, and after the Great Exodus, other colonies, the useable area of our farming colony grew as the terraforming proccess neared completion. Despite that, Eleutheria is a relatively small colony in terms of population, being composed by many gargantuan farms along the surface of the planet, operated by a small number of workers and countless automated systems. A single urban center - The Tradeworks - resides in the middle of it all, intended as a place for trade and interaction between colonies from other stars. It no longer serves that purpose.
Ten years ago the last ship hailing from another star came to us. No one left ever since, probably afraid of the state of other colonies since the fuel shortage reached this severity. Considering Eleutheria is one of the few truly self sustaining colonies, there wasn't much reason to leave.
The night the Patanela arrived was like many others. After a long day in the Tradeworks fixing the increasingly malfunctioning apparatus, I was there, early in the morning and still awake, standing on the balcony of my favorite cafeteria, watching the skies, hoping for something. And then it came. At first, it was a small shadow on the sky, and over the next half an hour or so it grew, larger and larger, and it approached the ground, more and more, until the shape was clearly recognizable as one of the greatest structures I've ever seen. The automated farms were wide and spread, but their structure was shallow and slender. They are tools, nothing more. But the Patanela is a monument. At the time, I knew little of the origins of the spacecraft, yet, all I could see was its beauty. A machine so beautiful on the outside, I wondered what secrets it held inside.
The ship was so large it couldn't fit even in the largest landing pad in our spaceport. So it just stood there, beholding us. For weeks on end. The colony's interplanetary defense, once thought to be retired, scrambled back together swiftly and desperately. Attempts at communication were made to no avail. We were terrified. That ship alone could wipe out our decayed defenses and the entire colony with them. Every day we would wake up and see the shadow it cast over us. The Tradeworks became quieter. People were afraid of going out on the streets. And in my restless nights, instead of watching the skies, I contemplated the entity above us. It was in one of these nights that I saw something come out of the ship: A small transport, alone, descended into the spaceport. I was shocked for a few moments, but quickly ran to my car and drove there.
When I got there, the place was abandoned, as usual, but the doors were open, as if something were waiting for me. As I stepped in the building, its lights lit up. I stopped for a moment, and continued inside in a slower pace. The lights accompanied me as I walked into each room, leading the way to the northmost and smallest landing pad. Through the window I saw the small and humble transport, clearly unfitting to the design the Patanela, and next to its open door, a single, pale man, standing alone. I walked across the archway and stood beneath the night sky over the landing zone. The man, unflinching and uncaring, asked what was my occupation. A local repairwoman, it was all that I was, and that was my answer to him. He asked me my level of expertise, but how would I put it into words? I had no formal education. No degree signed and validated by some corporation. Only experience.
Before the fuel crisis I used to repair incoming and outgoing spacecraft. Mostly from smaller transports and merchants that could not afford full time personal technicians, but I took jobs from anyone that was willing to pay. I knew how to handle models coming from all over the Colonies, from the central neutral zone of Sanctora to far systems like the gene clinics of Cline. There was a time however, when I did work exclusively for the fabled Ivi-Tor corporation, on the corporate sector of our spaceport - A group of landing pads reserved exclusively for the highest bidders. It was there that perfomed my most wondrous work, on the largest transport ships, and the occasional military model, and it was also there that I learned that I despise corporate work.
When I mentioned my time at the Ivi-Tor, he glanced at me, and for a moment, I could look into his eyes. That was no ordinary man. He then asked me to board the transport, if, and only if, I was completely sure that I wanted to work aboard the Patanela. I did, and for what felt like an eternity we flew towards the Patanela, right under its shadow.
We docked on the Patanela's fighter bay. It was half empty, with many of its remaining small fighter ships stripped for parts and barely functional from what I could tell. Even then, it was more than enough to end the colony. As the pale man escorted me to the ship's command bridge, I saw a ship filled with few bodies, and even less souls. All the crew had a dead look on their eyes, the same as the pale man, and held no expression. All they did was their job, with no emotions to distract them. The ship however, was alive. At least, it had returned to life. Its damaged walls and exposed circuitry spoke of a battle fought long ago. Like a revenant that refuses to die, it still stood.
The bridge was more akin to a throne room, dark and expansive. Its shape didn't quite match with the exterior of the ship, and while at first I thought the bridge would be located atop the ship like most vessels, I wasn't sure of it anymore. There were many rows of screens and keyboards, half of wich had deadpan crewmates operating them. The room had no window, instead, its exterior was projected to several of the computer screens, that were also the only light sources in the bridge. In the center of the room was a massive throne of bronze, and perched on it, the most enigmatic shape I had ever seen.
Killian Santiano was an old man. His white beard wrapped around his neck like a scarf and his long, silvery hair fit his head like a cowl. His left eye emitted a faint, golden glow, and his right eye was barely visible from his eyebrow collapsing atop of it. Many layers of capes and coats concealed his overall body shape, except for his left arm and leg, wich were prostheses very similar to those used by impaired industrial workers. As he stood, just like the shadow of the Patanela consumed the Tradeworks of Eleutheria, his shadow engulfed my body, and my soul.
Next part is being written.