Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Titanomachia: A Brief Respite

Xavier dreamed of a world of grey ash, coating everything and searing his lungs with every breath. There was something roaring, he knew, in the background. He couldn't hear it, but he knew it was out there. Its hot, grey breath was choking him. It was choking everything. He could not understand where anything was, but he knew that it was there; roaring out its death. All he could see was grey ash, and the shadows of staggering grey figures. Was the world always this way? Had something happened?

"Don't worry," said a calm voice over the roaring, "Take my hand and I'll wake you." The voice was familiar, and very reassuring. That anyone could be calm in this apocalypse gave him hope. Maybe all he had to do was wake up. Could he wake up again? Xavier had been dreaming a long time, and all he knew at the moment was the taste of ashes in his mouth.

Someone touched his hand, and Xavier wiped the back of his other sleeve across his eyes. He saw light suffused through his tears, but the warm blue-green lustre of it came from the hand holding his. So he woke up.

The Titan was the first thing he saw, in her aspect as the Simulated Crew Avatar. She was seated at the end of his bed, leaning over slightly to take his hand in her buzzing, holostatic clasp. Her avatar was easy to see in the dark, glowing blue-green and vast in proportion to the bulkheads of the medical bay. Rhea had always contrived the trick of her avatar looming over her crew, perhaps to remind them of their service to her. Xavier suspected that the Titan wished to remind her crew where she stood, and that was above them.

Rhea's immediate presence in the sluggish aftermath of the grey ash reminded him of the world that he had experienced in the dream. And he had woken up in the medical bay. Realisation struck with the force of the Titan's macro gun. Through a jaw suddenly too sore to work properly Xavier managed to gasp out a question: "Did we win?"

The Titan grinned at him, eyes narrowed and square teeth bared in an expression of cheerful bellicosity. Her perfect, classical features flickered for just a moment, and Xavier saw Rhea as she truly was. The temple of her vast hull and super-structures were pitted with shell craters and riven with cracks. Her turret had been sheered off. Then it was gone and Rhea once again resembled a person rather than a colossal war machine. That she still functioned was a miracle. But he was laid up in her medical bay, and she appeared at his bedside like a doting, incandescent mother. It could have been worse. She grinned again: "Yeah, but I should stop and pick you up first next time!"

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