Into the Dark: Ten

Co-authored by Ciarente and Silver Night


The water hit Ciarente behind the knees and she staggered, managed to keep her balance for a second and then fell. It wasn't deep, not yet, but the force of it tumbled her over. She got a mouthful of water, spat it out and got to her knees as the light on the other side of the cavern toppled over.

Everything went black.

Cami, Cami, Ciarente thought frantically. She could feel the water rising around her. Where are you, Cami? Where?

The lamp. Fumbling, she managed to find the switch on the light Amieta had fastened to her wrist and its glow weakly illuminated the cavern, casting the bones into grotesque relief.

Ciarente could see Amieta's second-in-command, Sarakai Voutelen, still on her feet, heading across the cavern, looked in the direction she was going and saw Camille floundering as the cascade of water pressed her against the opposite wall.

Ciarente didn't bother to even try to get back to her feet. She flung herself forward, letting the water carry her, swimming diagonally with it rather than trying to fight.

You can't fight the river. No-one can. You have to let it take you.

And hope for a friend with a good rope.

There were no ropes here.

Sarakai was swimming as well now, still heading for Camille. Thank Fortune she can swim, Ciarente thought. Ami can too, I remember her saying. That's something.

It had been months and months since Ciarente'd been in the water, in fact, this body had never been in the water, but it came back to her, the easy rhythm, body turning as her arms lifted, feeling the torsion drive her forward. Hours upon hours of practice, when my name came up for the Local Emergency Service roster, hours and hours up and down the pool, right left right breathe, left right left breathe.

She reached Sarakai, passed her, timed her last stroke to bring her to Camille and grabbed a handful of sodden shirt. Got her other hand on the wall of bones in front of her, gripping a femur, and pulled.

Camille came up, gasping.

"Up," Ciarente urged her. "Climb, cherie, climb the bones, climb!"

Camille nodded and started climbing. Ciarente pushed her up and started up behind her, then paused and reached down as Sarakai reached the wall. The small Caldari woman took her hand and scrambled out of the water, pulling herself clear and reaching up to steady Camille.

"Did you see where she went?" Sarakai asked. "Amieta?"

"No," Ciarente said. She turned as best she could, craning to see. "No." No, I didn't see. I was thinking about Camille. I didn't stop to think that Ami ...

The water was still rising, its surface choppy, the weak illumination of the wrist-light casting shadows too deep for Ciarente's gaze to penetrate.

"Can you see her?" she asked Sarakai. "Can you?

"There!" Sarakai said with a jerk of her chin, and Ciarente saw Amieta break the surface and start swimming towards them, her powerful strokes closing the distance quickly.

And behind her ...


"Ami, look out!" Ciarente yelled.

Camille turned to see and slipped a little with a squeak. Ciarente grabbed her at the same time as Sarakai and together they boosted her back up. When Ciarente looked down again Amieta had reached the wall, Jorion Roth right behind her.

"Papa, stop!" Ciarente screamed at him. "Stop! Stop it!"

"What? Where?" Camille asked, and lost her grip entirely.

Sarakai's grasp for Camille was fractionally too slow, Ciarente's own even slower. Camille dropped back into the water and went under. Ciarente pushed herself away from the wall and jumped after her, seeing Amieta turn her head and start swimming toward Camille as she hit the water. 

The current pushed her down, hard. Ciarente got a grip on the bone wall and pulled herself sideways, out of the worst of it, and kicked for the surface. Camille. Ami She shook water from her eyes and saw Amieta lift Camille out of the water so she could climb back on the the wall.

"No!" Papa shouted from somewhere near as Amieta hoisted Camille. "Get away from her!"

Ciarente swam the few strokes to Amieta. "Are you - " alright?

A hand closed on her throat and cut her off before she could complete the question. Ciarente clawed at her neck, trying to prise the fingers free, went under, hearing Camille screaming her name. The water around her was a turmoil of legs and arms as she struggled to get to the surface.

Suddenly the fingers loosened and she kicked hard, sucking in a desperate breath as she got her head above water. Amieta and Papa were struggling, first one under the water, then the other.

"We don't - have time - for this, Roth," Amieta snarled. She headbutted him, but he kept his grip, one arm hooked around her neck, hand clutching ...

The grenade.

The grenade with little flashing lights on the side.

"Cia!" Camille screamed, barely held to the wall by Sarakai's grip. "Cia! Do something! Cia!"

Do something. Ciarente trod water, staring at the blinking lights that were flickering out the last seconds Amieta had to live. Me. Do something.

That's got to be Fortune's best joke.

"Cia!" Camille screamed. "Help her!"

I can't.

And in that instant ... Burning

Ciarente went under as the pain hit her, inhaled a chestful of flame, fought her way to the surface again and coughed. In front of her, obscuring her view of Amieta and Papa, was a familiar face, a familiar lack of face, skin blackened and cracking away, eyes seared always open, lips drawn back in a soundless scream that could never end. Do something.

"I - can't!"

You're so weak. You were afraid of the pain, so you made me to hurt for you. You were afraid to be angry, so you gave me your anger. Weak.

"Cia!" Camille screamed.

"I can't," Ciarente whispered.

No, you can't. I could. But you sent me away. You didn't want me.

How's that working out for you?

Camille was screaming wordlessly now. Ciarente struggled to lift her arms from the fire, dragging herself towards Amieta. She kept pace. Help her. She came here for you. She came here to save you. What kind of a friend are you if you can't help her?

What kind of a sister?

Ciarente gasped, slipped under. A hand closed over hers, blackened flesh cracking open to show the bones. You can't, though, can you? Can't help her.

You should. But you can't.

She got her head into the air and gasped. "Then help me!"

Help you? Don't you have enough people helping you?

"Help me help her!" Ciarente floundered closer to Amieta. "And f'fortune's sake - hurry up!

It will hurt.

"I don't - care!" The grenade was flashing faster now, but Ciarente was almost there. "I don't care! Help me! Right now!"

It was true.

It hurt.

Hotter than fire, colder than space, it hurt, like every kind of pain Ciarente had ever known, if I see you again I'll have no choice but to set you free ... seeing Nerila shake her head and turn away ... Je suis ici, cherie ... I hate you and I want to go home! ... you’re that girl in the picture ... death shall have no dominion ... millions of people each day ... you’re a weapon now .... dead men rise up never ... there’s a seven second delay on the telemetry readout, I wrote it up as interface failure .... though they go mad they shall be sane...lose your original body and it's all test-tubes and birth-bays at best ...I could have got them out with one more minute .... I'm sure every young capsuleer falls ...From too much love of living .... there’s nothing I can do .... from hope and fear set free .... why can’t Papa come and take care of us since you can’t .... I'm going to cross that river ... the knife goes in so easily and she's not expecting it because she thinks I'm hurt, she wants to help me ... only the sleep eternal in an eternal night .... don’t want what you can’t ever have .... it was poison looks like it was him .... I'm going to live forever ... feed us and we will go away .... Though they be mad and dead as nails...tell me about how that felt .... that’s normal for you now .... you’re a pilot ... you’re a weapon ... stars at elbow and foot ... You've got to save me, spirits, I think they're coming ... I'm going to touch tomorrow now .... you couldn’t go back even if there was somewhere to go back to ... though lovers be lost love shall not ... I’m sorry ... ... I’ll have no choice, cherie, je suis ici, cherie, je suis ici, je suis, je suis …

Je suis.

Ciarente raised her hands out of the water, seeing them sheathed in gloves of flame, ghostly fire that no river could extinguish. Je suis. She took hold of Papa's hand and prised his fingers back, feeling bones snap. Je suis. The grenade came loose into her hand.

Pain, new and sharp, exploded across her face. Ciarente felt her body slacken, felt it as something far away and belonging to someone else, heard Amieta's voice.


Je suis ici, ami. Je suis ici.

The water closed over her head.

It was cold. Not fire. Ciarente turned her head slowly and saw the grenade in her hand, flashing fast and faster.

I should probably not be holding on to that, she thought distantly, and opened her fingers.

The grenade fell away. Slowly, Ciarente kicked toward the surface. She had almost reached it when a wave of water hit her, tumbling her over. Almost out of air, she righted herself and kicked up again, lungs burning, kicked and kicked and finally felt her head break the surface.

For a moment all she could do was float and breathe, tasting blood. Finally she gathered the strength to lift her head and look around. Amieta. Camille.

Camille was still clinging to the wall with Sarakai. A moment later Amieta surfaced with a gasp. All right. Wearily, Ciarente turned over in the water to swim towards them.

The movement brought her face to face with Papa.

The glow of the light on her wrist showed him as pale as the bones that lined the walls. He opened his eyes.

"Cia?" he asked. "Cia, is that you, cherie?" He coughed. "I'm - hurt. That Sansha bitch ... Cia? Are you there?"

Am I here?

"Oui," Ciarente said. "Oui, Papa. Je suis ici."

Her hands were fire, her eyes were full of flames, as she took hold of him and kicked, kicked hard, kicked down, dragging him under with her. Somewhere behind her Camille was screaming, Amieta was shouting something, but the sounds were lost as the fire closed over her head. Papa struggled weakly as she pushed him down, the fire peeling everything away from both of them, skin, flesh, lies, the river washing them away, sweeping away the deceptions of her childhood, the love and the cruelties, the fear and and anger and the hope until at last he was still, and she could see in his open eyes that finally, finally he knew her, finally he could see her.

Je suis ici, Papa. Je suis ici.

Je suis.

She opened her hands and let him float away from her into the dark.

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