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Archie Phoenix

"The Thief Always Dies First"

And in those moments after, Archie knew only falling.


At first his falling was tangible, a descent through a smooth-walled chute of cold iron. He’d intended to follow the rest of his group through the concealed opening into this chute, escaping from the green-skinned boar-faced warriors swarming around them only after he allowed the others to disappear under the heavy stone slab he held up. His flight became a fall when the axe of one of the warriors dug into his chest. The force of the blow threw him between the chute opening and the stone slab, a twist of fate which at least spared him whatever indignities the alien creatures might plan for his lifeless form. As he slid, the slab closed over the opening with a thunderous crash of stone against stone, the last thing Archie heard.


By the time his body hit the ground of the room below, his falling had become a mental journey not unlike the descent he‘d just experienced. In his mind he withheld a chute much like the one through which he’d just plummeted. He withheld a small opening with a light beyond, not unlike the escape hatch, only in this case he was falling toward it rather than away from it. He could still feel. The screaming of the gash in his chest affirmed that. But as he fell, the pain slowly faded. The light before him, growing as he soared closer, was shapeless and seemed otherworldly. In his mind, he associated a feeling of comfort with the light, of return to a place with which he was familiar and from which he had been away too long. At last, that light enveloped him in a brilliant flash.


Archie was alone in the industrial sector of Deck 10. It was raining. Archie found that odd, but not as odd as the fact that he was alone in the industrial sector of Deck 10. Wasn’t he in the stone prison with Daena and Katherine? Wasn’t he dead?


The rain, falling from the deck plating above his head, seemed to bend around him. It was not missing his back, though; the back of his uniform felt damp. As Archie realized this, he felt that something important was missing. He’d forgotten something, back at the exposed power node that he’d finished repairing. When he’d left, he was sure he hadn’t forgotten anything, but now he felt something calling to him. Was it calling because it wished to return to him? Or because it wished him to return to it?


“ heeheehee … aaaar … chiiieeeee …. “


“Samantha?” Archie thought, though no lips moved nor voice intoned.


He glided through the industrial corridors, answering the call. He remembered feeling fear when he’d left this section before. The voice! The disembodied voice had terrified him, then. But now he felt no fear. Had death stripped the ability to fear from him? Did fear have no hold on a being without life? Or did the experience of death, that which is feared above all, render all other fears inert?


Or did the voice, impossibly, intend to help him?


Archie arrived at the junction of corridors where he’d completed the repairs, though it was not in the state in which he‘d left it. The deck was still flooded, the damaged circuitry was still exposed, and the lights were still flickering. When Archie spotted the thing that had been calling to him, a chill shot through him. Lying in the water on the deck was his body. The skin was pale and the eyes were devoid of life.


Samantha‘s voice rocked his senses.


“ … time to wake up, archie … “


His eyes opened. His head was throbbing in time to the flickering lights. The back of his uniform was soaked. When he realized that he was still lying on the flooded deck, he sat up with a good deal of struggle; his muscles felt extremely weak.


“Ahhh!” He groaned, reaching up to grab his aching head. He’d never had such a headache! And his arm felt like lead, such was the effort of lifting it. But as he allowed the pain and the weakness to sink in, a tremendous sensation washed over him.




This was real! The unquestionable though inexplicable sense of reality one felt when waking from a vivid dream that had seemed -so- real at the time …


Everything! Getting off the flooded deck. Draining the water. Replacing the wall panel and restoring the power. Fleeing the strange voice. Filing his report in engineering and speaking with Torre. The transport to the stone prison! Daena. Katherine. The traps. The green warriors! The axe!


Now that he was immersed back in reality, his basis of comparison restored, he realized that all of it had been in his mind! All of it had been an hallucination! What was the last -real- thing he remembered?


The radiation!


He had to grab one of the exposed power cables to pull himself to his knees. Had something gone wrong with the radiation treatment? Had it gone farther than it was supposed to? Had it reacted unexpectedly with the dust organisms? The sensations coursing through his body suggested that something had gone terribly wrong.


He tapped his commbadge. “Lieutenant Black?” He waited a few moments, but received no response. He tried again. “Captain Lo’Ami? Commander Alces? Lieutenant Ze‘Rea?”


Was he the only one conscious? The only one alive? He quickly debated whether to go to the Bridge or to Engineering. Any number of disasters could ensue aboard a ship without a functioning crew. He decided that he could do more good at the station he knew best and made his way back to the turbolift as quickly as he could while bracing himself against the wall on a weakened arm.

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