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Hell collapsed onto the deck, trembling with terror for a good few moments before realising two things. First, he wasn’t dead, which was odd because he was fairly sure he could remember the bullet hitting him. But more importantly there was metal panelling under his palms, cold metal, and he couldn’t actually think of a place in Yann hi Shanapi where you could find such a thing. Well, not in one piece anyway.

After some long deliberation he decided it was probably safe to open his eyes.

The whole world lay before him, a small blue green penny beyond a pane of glass. From up here Hell couldn’t see the scars of fifty years of war, the destruction, the death, the pain, or his own township being ravaged. For an instant he froze, awestruck.

“Where the heck am I?” Hell asked, breaking the void.

“You are onboard the fast as light star ship Curiosity,” a voice chimed suddenly and Hell whipped round, searching for the speaker. “We are currently orbiting around RD3 B, known in your language as Aesaka, at an average distance of two hundred and thirty nine thousand miles.”

“We’re in space?” Hell exclaimed. “How… No, first, who, where, and if neither is applicable, what are you?”

“I am the ship’s computer,” the voice responded. “Designated Friday.”

Friday,” Hell echoed, getting used to the unfamiliar word. The disembodied voice was beginning to freak him out and he kept twitching his head to try and get an empathic reading, at best though he was getting a vague sense of electricity in the walls, and that was about as effective as trying to read the emotional state of a light bulb.

“Okay Friday,” Hell began. “How did I get here?”

“An error occurred in a subroutine that resulted in your accidental retrieval from Aesaka,” the computer replied.

“And put simply…”

“That was put simply. Do you wish me to give the full explanation? It is rather lengthy.”

“I’m in no hurry to go back,” Hell said, flicking his tail in annoyance.

“Very well, Sir. You may or not be aware that fifty years ago the entity known as Daraen made contact with your species shortly after it was revealed that he had been affecting history for some ten thousand years.”

“Yeah, that’s that myth the Word keep spouting,” Hell interjected. “Why’s it important?”

“It is important because it is not a myth,” Friday said testily. “Daraen is a real person, and you are currently aboard his ship.”

Hell froze.

Daraen is real,” he intoned. “The Word is worshiping an actual person?”

“Affirmative.”

“Which means he’s responsible for all of this,” Hell continued, voice rising in anger. “The Word’s world domination, the Last War, why our planet is a sanjva nuclear wasteland?”

“While the revelation of his existence was a major upset it was never his intention…”

“Well what was his sanjva intention?” Hell swore.

“He only wished to help,” Friday murmured.

“Help!” Hell exclaimed. “Help would have been shooting down the bombs. Help would have been shooting those Word sanjvani before they slaughtered my friends.”

Daraen’s plan to rectify the situation has been in motion for the last twenty rotations.”

“Twenty years,” Hell snarled. “He’s been sitting on his tail for the last twenty years? Where is this moron? I want to speak to him personally.”

Daraen is on the observation deck,” the computer said simply.

“Right,” Hell snapped, preparing to storm off. “And where am I?”

“On the observation deck.”

Hell jumped, and looked hastily around. The room he was in was large, but well lit by an entire wall of floor to ceiling windows looking out on the void of space, set back from the windows were a few comically oversized chairs, but there was nowhere to hide.

“I can’t see him,” Hell protested, only now realising it was probably a bad idea to insult someone when you’re a hundred thousand miles from the next place to breathe.

“Then find a mirror,” Friday sighed. “You are Daraen.”

“Sorry,” Hell said after a long moment. “Are you honestly telling me I’m God?”

“You’re not a god,” the computer snipped.

“Some alien super being from the planet Yaell then,” Hell continued, waving Friday off. “That’s ridiculous. I’m as Ewtan as the next guy.”

“Which is exactly the point,” Friday interrupted. “Twenty years ago, as the situation spun rapidly out of control, Daraen judged himself too detached from the Ewt point of view to make valid decisions on behalf of your society and, as penance, he incarnated himself as one of your people for a lifetime.”

“Meaning me?”

“Indeed.”

That, Hell felt, explained a lot. A total absence of parents, his unique colouring, the fact that he’d never really gotten close to anyone. Heck, maybe it even explained why he’d frozen against the Word; he’d been expecting something beyond himself to save the day.

“Shouldn’t you have gotten your Daraen back when I got my brains blown out then?” Hell asked, wrinkling his muzzle.

“Technically yes,” Friday explained, somehow managing to sound sheepish. “But Daraen was not in the most coherent frame of mind while creating you and more than a few loopholes were left in the code. For example, the automatic recovery routines still functioned when you received your mortal wound. Fortunately that is no longer an issue now you are already aboard the Curiosity.”

“I don’t like the sound of that.”

“Nor should you,” continued Friday. “As to bring back Daraen you must die.”

Hell felt that there really should have been some emotion behind those words; however the far more rational part of his brain had him running.

“Open!” he snapped as he sped towards a door and raced along a darkened corridor.

Hell, this is pointless,” Friday chided. “I am the ship; you can’t run away from me.”

“I can get away from any death traps though,” he shot back.

“I didn’t say I was going to kill you, I can’t anyway.”

Hell skidded to a stop. “More loopholes?”

“Yes. Look step into the control room.”

The wall next to Hell evaporated revealing a vast, featureless room with a single light illuminating a huge throne in the centre. Hell approached it cautiously, glancing nervously over his shoulder every so often, and when he was close enough touched a tentative hand to the metal.

Some memory stirred in him. Hell couldn’t say if it was good or bad, more than anything it just felt cold and sterile, but he knew that Daraen had spent a long time in this room. Lifetimes in fact. And that he was possibly the only other person ever to see it.

“You are remembering?” the computer queried.

“Yes… Maybe.”

“We must hurry then,” it continued. A slim black shape rose, like liquid, out of the chair. “Take this it’s…”

“A gun?” Hell completed, sighing. “You seriously expect me to kill myself.”

“It’s is the only way to bring back Daraen,” Friday pressed. “And he can save your world.”

“Kind of ironic seeing he’s the one who doomed it.”

“Please. Do this for your planet.”

Hell sighed deeply, and went to sling himself up onto the throne when the computer screamed.

“No! Do not sit on the chair!”

“Alright,” Hell snapped, rolling his eyes and instead sliding to the floor. “Go easy on the guy about to sacrifice himself for the planet.”

“You’ll do it then?” Friday asked eagerly.

Hell weighed the little gun in his hands. It didn’t really look powerful enough to kill. On the other hand as it was from Daraen’s ship he reckoned it could probably take out continents if you let it.

“Can I really do this?” he muttered, slumping against the side of the throne. “Kill myself and save the world? Kill myself. Save the world. It shouldn’t really be a hard choice.”

“There is little time,” the computer hurried.

“The world’s been dying for years, a few minutes won’t kill anyone.”

“Incorrect, but I understand the euphemism.”

Another long silence stretched across the room. It was probably some metaphor Hell realised. A single point of light in an otherwise totally black room. And his brain trying desperately to think of anything but his impending demise was probably significant too.

“Come on Hell, be a hero,” he murmured. “You let them all down once today. Don’t doom them all twice.”

With a deep breath, he raised the gun to the side of his head.

“Bring back Daraen and save the world. You can do it. You can…”

Something clicked.

Not the gun.

“Wait!” Hell snapped, hurling the gun away from him. “You never said Daraen would help.”

“Sir, you must do this!” Friday insisted, as another weapon dropped into Hell’s lap.

“No,” he protested, getting to his feet and discarding the new weapon as well. “Will Daraen save the world?”

“There is no time…”

“Will he, or wont he?” Hell roared.

The silence stretched.

“Well?”

“Evidence suggests,” the computer admitted at great length. “That even with your experiences, Daraen’s policy of inaction will continue under the assumption that he is not fit to make decisions on your behalf. At best he will attempt to mitigate the oncoming ecological catastrophe.”

“Well sanj that!” Hell screamed, taking a few aggressive steps into the blackness. “You were going to have me kill myself for mitigation! Well I’m going to do something.”

“No, you must…” the computer protested.

“Shut up!” Hell snarled, turning to sit on the throne.

A blinding wall of energy slammed into the ground in front of him, but Hell didn’t falter, stepping straight through as it were nothing more than a summer shower.

“In your own words,” Hell boomed, directly beneath the column of fire. “You can’t hurt me.”

“Please,” Friday begged, as the inferno vanished. “Don’t do this.”

“I’ll do whatever I like,” Hell snapped, and took his place on the throne.

It was uncomfortable for maybe half a second, before the whole seat remodelled itself for Hell’s physique, and he sat back, letting a wave of information wash over him. The ship was incredible. It had the power of a sun. No, two suns. It could do anything he wanted. Life, death, all could be his with less effort than twitching his tail.

A slow grin slid across Hell’s face, only for it to be whipped off a moment later as the sun exploded.

It wasn’t his sun, he realised a moment later, as a tidal wave of stellar dust ripped through the thousands of orbital habitats clustered around it in total silence. Billions were dying he knew, though he wasn’t quite sure how he knew, and tears clouded his mind’s eye as the planets buckled beneath the unstoppable tide of death. There would be no survivors. Only a half dozen ships could outrun the firestorm, and he was on one of them.

Within a few scant hours he could be the last of his species.

Hell smacked himself around the head to try and clear the memory only to have another try and take its place.

He’d spent eons searching, scanning the sky for another whiff of atmosphere, and at last he’d found it a scant thousand light-years away. At long last he wouldn’t…

“Get out of my head!” Hell screamed.

Angels or animals they’d said; well they’d been all too right. But there was one that showed promise, a small newt like pack hunter that seemed on the path to sentience. Maybe with a little guidance he’d one day have someone to…

“Argh! Computer, stop!”

A suddenly as they’d come the memories were gone.

“Maybe now you understand,” Friday sighed.

“He had his chance,” Hell panted. “And with it, he destroyed my world, for a conversation.” Hell reached into the ships systems with little more than whim and began to charge the main cannon, turning the dozens of satellites onto the surface of his world.

“What are you doing?” the computer demanded.

“Fixing the world,” Hell growled. “Starting with the Word of Daraen.”

The temple of the Word appeared on a floating view screen, seen from above and resplendent in the new dawn light. Around it sprawled a huge river delta and a bustling city. From the lofty height of the camera you could only just see that there were people down there.

“You’re using too much power!” Friday exclaimed. “You’ll kill them all.”

“That’s kind of the point,” Hell whispered.

“Please Hell,” begged Friday. “Daraen will never recover if you do this.”

“Good,” he replied, with a wry smile. “Computer,” he ordered in English. “Unleash hell.”

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