The pain was intense, blinding and sudden. It always ended the same way, with him back in the room, weeping uncontrollably into the lap of his roommate. They came four times a week, twice for him, twice for Devin. Devin handled the sessions no better, and often Darian found himself being the comforter rather than the one being comforted.
The first week he had thought he would get used to the pain, but that kind of blind acceptance seemed to never happen. After every session, he felt wrong. Wrong was really the only appropriate word to describe his feelings. Like he was somehow torn apart and stitched together incorrectly. He didn’t feel appropriate in his own body, as if he was someone else.
The old man had grown quickly into a close friend and confident. They spoke most nights for hours on end, although it was always about trivial and unimportant things. The trivial things started to become more important when Darian realized after about two weeks that his memory was failing him. At first it was simple little things, but after every session, he was starting to realize that he was forgetting things.
Devin admitted to Darian that he had very little memory of his time outside of the cell, but Darian was determined to remember as much as possible. They provided no pens and no paper, unfortunately, making it very difficult for Darian to keep track of anything. He often told Devin stories, hoping to have Devin help remind him of things he had forgotten.
This often seemed pointless, as Devin often forgot the stories Darian had told him by the next day, finding himself not even able to bring up generalized points or ideas of the story. Devin laughed about his loss of memory, declaring that it was simply the consequence of being a crazy old man. Darian wasn’t so sure.
He already had trouble remembering subtle details, like the name of the high school he went to and the name of the friends he had at that school. Names of places and of people seemed to slip his mind. He stayed up many nights trying to run through a list of every person he knew. After every session, he could swear the list was getting shorter, but no matter what he did, he couldn’t bring up another name.
The day after he was brought back from his session was a “day of rest” as Devin had put it. They would not come for either of them that day, and they would have time to talk and relax, if anything they could do locked in this cell could be considered relaxation.
“You said you were going to answer my questions today?” Darian had asked when their morning porridge had been dispensed through the wall door.
“Did I?” Devin responded with a knowing smirk.
“Ask whatever questions you want to know,” the old man had stated, shortly after the two of them had finished their morning porridge.
“What is this place, where am I?”
“You don’t know?”
“No, like I said before, I know nothing about anything, where I came from, where I am, I don’t know any of it,” Darian had told him.
“As to where you came from, some ruins I believe, I know nothing but that you were in some stasis in some ruins. As to where you are, well, that’s a long story, but I suppose I have never told it to you before, so I guess I will need to tell it to you today.
“You are in a place known as the Taerren colonies. You ended up an experiment here, and will be their lab rat for some time. The Taerren colonies are a multi system government that controls 80 some star systems. It’s the largest, youngest, and fastest growing of the spigs. SPIG stands for Stars and Planetary Internalized Governments. Empires would be a better word for them, as they all seek out new land like an empire would.”
“There are currently seven SPIGs spread across known space complete with a few free planets known as outworlds. “
“And each empire is some alien race?” Darian asked.
“Aliens? No, all of the empires are all shaped from the same mold. The only aliens ever discovered were called Iridians. That’s a much different story. The Empires are descendents of Origin. Origin was the first planet, the one humanity evolved on. It was lost, a long time ago. Noone remembers where it was or what it was called.”
“That’s not exactly true, They remember, but the records were changed, and every empire claims there information is the right information. Some claim it was named this, some claim it was named that, some claimed it was destroyed, others claim that it was uninhabitable. It isn’t so much that the truth was lost, just that no one can tell the truths from the lies.”
“About 10,000 years ago, Origin sent out fifteen colony ships. These ships weren’t fast like modern ships, and didn’t benefit from the time dilations that let a crew go to a planet without dying. These ships were generational. They traveled close to a thousand years each to reach their destinations. Every colony has their own colonial history. Plagues, saboteurs, dictators, civil wars all occurred during these exoduses where people were born, lived, and died on these ships.”
“Only nine of them are known to have reached their destinations. And they formed the nine colonies. As the colonies grew separately, they all inevitably developed gateway travel. You see, the fastest anyone can travel is slightly slower than the speed of light. This slows down time or something, so you can travel just about anywhere, but by the time you get there, everyone you knew and loved was dead. So it’s great for traveling within a system, but if you ever wanted to leave the solar system it wasn’t possible.”
“At least, until gateway travel. It bends space or something, letting you cross from one point instantly to another.”
Darian nodded as Devin had continued. He recalled theories about bending space as a means of travel. He remembered these ideas often being related to black holes, and asked Devin as much. Devin shrugged.
“Black holes? I don’t know how gate travel works. I’m not an engineer or a scientist. Back before this captivity, I remember being a healer. I think, something like a healer. It’s hard to remember. It’s always getting harder. Damn these men, and their infernal machine. What they have done to you and me, it’s not right. You may forgive Faraday for what he’s done, I never will.”
“Faraday?” Darian asked.
Devin shook his head before turning away from Darian. He seemed embarrassed but wouldn’t say why. It was several minutes in silence before Darian decided to speak up.
“So these colonies? How did they recontact each other?”
Devin looked back at Darian before turning to him. He remained seated on the bed, crossing his legs as he continued.
“Time…a lot of time. With their colonies growing fast, they sent out people to nearby stars they expected to have fruitful planets. Two of the colonies were reconnected this way. Accidental, but it happened. Then began the reconnection plan. Gateways constructed for the sole purpose of reconnecting with each and every star. It’s random, and took 1000s of years. But each colony connected to each other colony. Taerrens were the last one found some 1500 years ago.”
Darian continued to press for answers, but he quickly got the feeling that Devin was preoccupied. When it became clear Devin was finished, Darian laid down on his bed and turned his head away. They didn’t talk much for the rest of that day, but the next day Devin continued to tell him more about the colonies. He knew surprisingly little about history. When Darian pressed him he declared that if Darian wanted more in depth information he’d need to talk to a historian.
Devin did know a fair amount about the colony of Arth. They had apparently been conquered by the Taerrens a thousand years ago at the end of a war known as the Iridian War, from which he was a descendent. His colony ships history was an interesting one. They had a period known as the great unrest where the colony ship had divided into three separate factions, each with a leader fighting for power over the ship. The great unrest only ended when one of the faction leaders died, and one of the others married his daughter off to create a peace tie between them.
Darian was initially startled by some of the very old customs that many of the colonies still practiced. Taerrens, for example, were headed by nobility, rather than election, with various houses competing for power. The Delphie were isolationists, and hid their faces from anyone they considered foreign or alien. The Usar were said to have very conservative views on women, denying them the right to work at various jobs.
When Darian pressed for details, Devin began to paint a picture that made it sound more like different civilizations. After each colony landed in their respective homeworlds, they began to grow, and their culture and even to some extent, their physical features, evolved over the course of thousands of years before they remade contact with their brethren.
As Devin put it, it was easy to see who came from what colony simply by looking at them. Taerrens were typically fair skinned and tall. Devin remarked that Darian looked very Taerren himself, which didn’t make him feel any better. The Akari were leaner and often had longer limbs. Ertlanders often had broad shoulders and big foreheads, and Hucton were often short. Usar were remarked for having larger than average ears.
Having never met an Akari, an Usar, an Ertlander, or a Hucton, Darian had very little to go by other than to take Devin at his word. They often would stay up into late hours of the night discussing anything and everything. Darian told Devin about his home, his family, his dreams, and what he had desired. Devin would wait patiently and listen to everything he said, offering support or sympathy wherever they applied.
“So, you were in stasis a long time,” Devin mentioned one day.
“What do you mean?” Darian had asked turning back to him.
Devin sucked through a gap in his tooth, a habit Darian found him to do often when he was thinking, He was in his bed laying down while Darian was in the bathroom rinsing his face.
“Well, the world you describe, it seems very old. I wonder how long it took you to get here…” He closed his eyes, sighing as if going off to sleep.
Darian stared at him for a moment. The memory loss was starting to grow more severe, and many of the people in his life were becoming distant shadows. He expected it to be more frightening than it was. It felt more like falling asleep. It was like he was in a dream that he couldn’t wake up from, ever since he woke up on the Vanderra station. He had learned that name from Devin, who recognized his description of the space station.
Before he was able to formulate a response, the door opened with one of the Taerren guards. They definitely were guards, Devin had confirmed this. They wore dark blue uniforms that signified their rank. As their location was on a planet instead of space, they didn’t require the customary jumpsuit. Instead, they wore a slightly more colorful khaki and coat combo.
It was always one of three guards that came and got them. This time it was the blond one which he had named Jeff. He had named each of his guards, simply to give a name to the face. The man who he had first met after awakening he called Bob. The other one he called Rick. Jeff was less prone to using the discipline stick, called a Stine, on them. As long as they did what they were told, he ignored them and let them do what they wanted. Rick, on the other hand, was prone to using it whenever they were a step out of line.
Either way, Darian bounded to his feet and headed over to the door. Even though Jeff was kinder, he wasn’t about to test how far that kindness went. Jeff led him down the nondescript hallway like he always did, and before long Darian was back in the chair, tied up and awaiting the strange man with the machine.
The man took longer than usual to arrive. At first, Darian really didn’t hear anything. However, after he found himself waiting for several minutes, he began listening for any sounds from the hallway. He realized he could hear muttering coming from outside the room in the hallway. The muttering grew louder until Darian was sure he could hear distinct words.
It seemed to be in the same tongue that was spoken on the Vanderra station. It must have been the common tongue, he was sure of it. The tone of the conversation seemed heated between the two. They shouted at each other, but eventually it seemed like one of the voices was cowed. A few moments later the door was shoved open and the man with the machine pushed his way into the room. For a second, his eyes met with the scientist and a flash of emotion shot through his body that startled him.
The scientist looked warily at Darian. The expression on his face must have been alarming. He quickly schooled his face. The emotion was now gone, but it had been there. It was the oddest thing that Darian had ever felt. Just then, when he had looked at the scientist, he had felt affection. He had felt like he had just run into and saw a good friend he hadn’t seen in days.
Perhaps he was going mad. That seemed perfectly logical. Devin had been there a great deal longer than he had, and Devin was most certainly unstable. The feeling had seemed so genuine though. For just a moment, he had felt like he had liked his torturer, as if they were friends. He shook his head to try to shake off the odd thoughts, but continued to watch the scientist.
The scientist worked uneasily. He seemed uncomfortable and depressed. He seemed to be struggling with something. He continued to mutter to himself in the common tongue, occasionally giving Darian uneasy looks. Darian realized he was staring at the man. Before, Darian had always ignored the scientist as the man went about his work. Darian keept his distance from the torturer. However, after that strange feeling, he seemed less inclined to do so now.
Suddenly, a word popped into Darian’s head. It was a word that the young woman at Vanderra had told him when he was agitated. Darian repeated the word out loud.
The man suddenly jumped as if someone had pinched him. He swung around and gave Darian a hard look. After a moment, he said something in the common tongue that Darian did not understand. When the man realized Darian did not understand him, he reluctantly continued with his work, now watching Darian as carefully as Darian was watching him.
Darian ended up back in his room afterwards, weeping in pain as always. He seemed to be able to recover a little quicker than he had in the past, but that could just be a trick of his imagination, he wasn’t sure. After he finally managed to wipe off his tears and regain most of his composure, he told Devin about what he had heard.
Devin thought about it briefly, sucking through his teeth, before finally shrugging. When Darian reluctantly mentioned his sudden feeling of comradely with the scientist, Devin barked a laugh.
“I’m not particularly surprised by that. He does torture you alot, but it’s just a job for him. I don’t think he takes any pleasure in it. I’ll never forgive him, but one day you might.” Devin responded, “It is a shame though, that you weren’t able to hear what they were talking about. At the very least, it would have been some gossip for us to talk about for a couple of days. It’s not like anything else ever seems to happen.”
“It was common tongue… I said a word to him, a word I had heard before. Ta ki, what does that word mean? He looked at me strangely when I said it.”
Devin burst out laughing when Darian finished. It took him several minutes to regain his breath.
“I am not surprised he looked at you strange. You said, ‘It’s Ok’. He was experimenting on you and you reassured him,” Devin continued to chuckle, “But I think it’s about time we remedy that little problem.”
“What Problem?” Darian asked.
“You need to learn common tongue, as long as your here, you will need to speak the language other people speak. I think I will start teaching you tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow will be a good day for you to start learning. Make sure to remind me of that in the morning.”
The very next day, Devin woke Darian up early, and he began to learn to speak common tongue.