The Labyrinth of Time And Space

Fraeia's head hangs low, but only for a moment. "We have laws against such forms of study on intelligent life. It's too invasive, too traumatic."   The hurt builds, and I'm not sure how to handle it. I'm angry, moments away from making a huge mistake. No, wait. This already happened. I thought…   my eyes fill with tears. Fraeia still stands. I'm awake, or at least, I think I am. What's happening? The matriarch glares back at Fraeia, an air of authority radiating from them as they realize diplomacy is no longer an option. "Be that as it may…"   Don't get angry. Don't get angry. Don't get angry. Keep your mouth shut, Amber.   Fraeia shouts, "An answer was given. What happens next is your decision."   That's not what happened the first time. Is this like before, with Caesar and… and the man I killed. It feels so much more real. I'm not seeing visions, I'm living them. How can I trust my own eyes? Is this not the present?   I feel Thelaela's hand. It covers my mouth to stifle the scream that follows. The muffled sounds are enough to get Fraeia's attention, though. Wait… oh no.   Fraeia turns, and like before, the blade takes their life and I find myself in darkness. I see something in that darkness, angry and feral. It's massive with tendrils flailing about in the blackness like locks of long, black hair. Gibraltar. How can I see it? It should be impossible to see with the contrast of black on black.   A moment passes and again, I'm back at the start. Fraeia's head hangs low, but only for a moment. "We have laws against such forms of-"     "Fraeia, attack." I command. The result is the same. Can I not save them? Is this unavoidable? Again, I drift in darkness staring at my great enemy. It twists, spinning in the black as if trying to tell me something.     It's jarring, to say the least. I am constantly pulled and pushed through infinite possibilities. I trace the paths I take. I'm trying to map out the journey, but I lack a ball of yarn. I have no breadcrumbs, no chalk to mark where I've been and know where I have yet to go. Is this even real, or Is it all in my head? It feels real.   After several loops, it's clear I have no idea where I am, where I'm going, or where i've been. I'm lost in a labyrinth, the labyrinth of space and time.   My thoughts shift to Fraeia. They'll die if I can't figure this out. That assumes I can figure it out in the first place. How is Gibraltar doing this? Why is it doing this? When I see Fray's death for the hundredth time, I scream out at my enemy, still writhing in the black. Despite this, I hear no sound.   I try again with the same result. I'm angry, terrified, and without hope. There is no stopping what happens here. I stare at the beast as it sits in silence. Why not just let me pass, demon? Let me face what horrors await me.   I get flashes, visions of what it is I'm asking for. They mutilate me. Over and over, they tear into me in search of answers to a question I can't even comprehend.   Why are they so desperate? Why resort to such barbaric behavior? The pain… I can't even begin to describe it. It seems so unlike the eden, or maybe it's just the face they chose not to show. We all have a bad side, don't we?   Another loop begins and the moment I hear Fraeia speak I ask, "Why does this matter so much?"   The matriarch blinks at my question as if they never considered I'd bother to ask. Is that a good sign? "It's best for you not to know."   I stand up straight, my voice firm as I speak, "I'd say I have a right to know. If you're going to rip me open, tear me apart without even the courtesy of anesthetic, I demand an answer."   They shake their head, "What do you take us for? Savages?"   I ignore her, and instead call out to Fraeia. "They have a blade sheathed on their right side, likely at the hip."   The matriarch's eyes widen. They stare at me in stunned silence. Eventually, they nod but still refuse to answer my question. "The loop binds us all, yes? All you need to know is Gibraltar and those like it are the greatest foes we've yet to face. The truth is heavier than you can imagine. None deserve such a burden."   I look down at the terminal, see the syringe filled with sedatives. I need to know, I have to know. I will not suffer in ignorance. If I must lose the only person who treats me like a person, I will know why. "My whole life is a burden. What makes this any different?"   I grab the syringe and drive it into Thilaelas stomach, injecting around half the dose Before removing it. The other Eden rush forward to subdue me. The syringe falls and shatters on the ground and they grab my arms, but what about Fray?   I look up in time to see Freeia driving the blade into the Matriarch's shoulder, removing it, then stabbing the stomach. Black blood spills forth, coating their hands and clothing.   Fray turns and points at my assailants with the blade. "Make a choice."   They let me go and run along the walls of the room, darting through the threshold likely to retrieve reinforcements.   "You let them go?" I shout.   "I'm not keen on killing my own any more than you are." They reply.   I know what's coming, we won't survive this time either. The loop will reset, but now I can get answers.   The matriarch crawls toward the nearest wall. They try to use it for support, but fall with every attempt to stand.   I walk over and push them down to the ground. They land on their back staring up at us as we tower over them.   "Speak," I command. "Why is Gibraltar such a great enemy to you?" I hear a commotion on the other side of the door, the cavalry's here. Fray rushes to lock the door, buying us time.   I kneel over the matriarch and beg, "Please."   "Gibraltar isn't an enemy, but will be. And yet, It has always been our enemy since the beginning, since the Lebhni first ventured into the void." The matriarch fades, death slowly rising to claim its prize. They know it too. "I don't have time to explain." They say, "It's nothing a human will need to worry about." The matriarch Then turns their attention to Fraeia, "You've killed me, so that must mean-" they frown and shake their head. "I'm sorry. I pray death finds you, sister. Well played."   Fraeia nods as the matriarch lets out a final breath. The commotion outside grows louder by the second. Fray turns to me and begins to speak, "You're seeing possibilities again, aren't you? What do we do n-"   A loud boom followed by a raging ball of force and fire fills the room, an explosive. Our ears rupture, and our bones shatter. It kills us before rendering our bodies to ash, and darkness falls once more.   Again, I drift in the black with my enemy. "What are you trying to do?" I ask. "What is the best course of action to take? We can't escape. There is no way out of this. We fell for the trap already." I'm crying now, shouting not in anger but grief, "Why couldn't you have helped when it mattered? We could have seen this coming, could have left the moment we docked. If there's no way out, then Just Let me die. Please, just let me die."     In moments, I find myself somewhere different. The loop reset, but I'm not in the clinic. I'm on my ship. We've just touched down on the vigil ring.     I hear Fraeia's voice and immediately have to resist breaking down. "It's considered a military fortress. Why make it easy for the enemy to navigate?"   Fray stands up and narrows their eyes the moment they see my face. I prepare myself for the sensation when they start to speak, "Amber? What-"   I let the tears fall, stepping forward and wrapping my arms around them and burying my head in their shoulder.   Their arms fly up to keep balanced, stuttering as they try to finish their sentence. "What's wrong?" They ask, returning the embrace, "What happened?"   Explaining everything took time, probably more time then we had to spare, but I managed to do so through the sobs and weeping. When I finish, they stare at me in silence. The expression on their face speaks volumes, a complex combination of endearment, confusion, and terror.   They immediately return to the pilots chair and prime the engines only to find the ship's systems unresponsive. They shake their head, stand, and walk calmly to their quarters.   When they return, they do so in full combat gear. They grab the rifle leaning on the wall and turn to me with even more fear in their eyes. "Were not fighting the Dhitol, Amber. I cant protect both of us. No hesitation." They hand me a rifle of my own. "Pick your targets and shoot to kill. You have no other choice." They activate the airlock door and wait for it to open as they continue, "If killing bothers you too much, then take solace in knowing your victims actually want to die." When able, we step through the door and into the empty hall of pure white walls. "Do not engage in melee, you won't survive. We need to reach dock control to even leave the planet. It's not far."   I nod in reply, then follow behind them as we move through the hall. My heart is pounding, my body trembling. I can't speak through the rush, the adrenaline filling my veins.   After a few steps they stop, Fray lowers their rifle, and turns to me. "Amber. If we die, we do so in glory. I hope there's a place for you in The Rainbow Orchard"

Comments

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Feb 22, 2022 02:54

This is getting crazy intense!

Feb 22, 2022 09:05 by Andrew Booth

I wonder... the looping of Amber's thoughts... the Loop... perhaps the reason the Lebha fear Gibraltar might be because it has too much of their own selves in it?

Feb 22, 2022 09:26 by R. Dylon Elder

Ooo well said and thank you. You're closer than you know.

Feb 24, 2022 08:58 by TC

Im so confused and loving it. Is amber actually zooming around in space in time or is that just her thoughts? I'm assuming probably just her thoughts. God this loop deal is just so damn interesting. Thank god there's another chapter already

Creator of Arda Almayed
Jun 3, 2022 23:15 by Grace Gittel Lewis

I had a feeling it was another vision haha, well, things are getting very interesting...again!

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