Ketta Terace: Chapter 1

 

“Your crimes against the Skivri Empire cannot go unpunished. You will be transferred to the planetary prison of Ketta Terace. May the Goddess of Darkness show you clarity in the void.”

The words still echoed in her head.

She had screamed, she had cried out, her pride would not let her give the judge, the guards, or the public what they wanted, but all the same, it happened and all that was left now were the echoing words and the watching. Watching as the confines of her life passed from the cell, to the long corridors, to the landing pad, and then into the transport cabin. She watched as she flew across the ever dimming stars into the the darkest reaches of the Somnus sector and the dark shape of a planet came into view. Numb to the simple pain of being tossed down the gangplank, she watched as an expressionless Skivri tossed a pistol at her feet. She watched as the last piece of civilization for any number of light years powered up and flew away.

She was left alone on the landing pad, standing in the rain that fell like a constant sheet. Her bindings undid themselves and dropped to the slick metallic floor. In the wet puddles and splashing drops, the red light on the bindings flickered off. Next to them was the blue light on the pistol she had been given. Half-charged. Maybe ten shots if it worked at all. It was a very old model, its features, once stylized to be smooth and sleek, were now chipped and cracked and a panel near the muzzle was missing showing the exposed wiring looped within. The only indication that it did work was the half full blue bar. She picked it up and stuffed it down the back of her loose fitting neon green prisoner pants.

From the landing pad, there were a series of flickering and dim floodlights that showed the ground just under the raised structure, but the light was soon swallowed into the encompassing darkness that spanned out into the pounding rain. The prisoner could only just see the subtle line of a horizon, until a brief flash of purple light struck across the sky. The flash of light showed where she believed the horizon line to be was actually the first among a sprawling ocean of towering square masses that spanned for hundreds of miles. Between the masses were intricate gorges steeped with vertical walls. She had to squint to be sure that one of the square mountains did not move, but then the light was gone and a deep thunder rolled out across the expanse, reverberating in eerie tones.

Feeling her wrists, the human moved across the landing pad to the tower that descended down to the surface. The stairs inside were shielded by a concrete overhang, but in place of windows were free openings to the elements. She was at least glad to have some respite from the rain. She wondered if she should wait until daytime, if there ever was a daytime. The best she made out from the transport window was a small white star that seemed to be nothing more than a pinprick of light far into the void of space. If that was the case, there was no point in waiting except for the weather to clear. That was also a hopeful possibility. Perhaps, not all those marooned here would be bent on killing each other, it only made sense to band together if the planet itself was a death sentence. If she could find even a hint of civilization that was her best chance. No telling which direction that would be in though. She ran a hand over her wet shaved head.

It was then that she noticed markings in the walls. Scratched into the concrete were the words “GET OUT!” and “Stop the Rain.” written in insane repetitions. Among other such manic messages were bloodstains and the signs of conflict over nearly every inch of the stairwell. She shivered and drew her arms close as she moved down to the surface, reading some of the messages as she went. As she descended the messages grew at least somewhat more cogent. “Denderax was here: 2E 1113” “Death to Pyra”. And then she halted because a dark shape was huddled in one of the corners on the next landing. A huddled mass covered in a heavy hooded coat. It had gold buttons and lapels, now tarnished and raggedly hanging off the heavy leather material over whatever emaciated form was beneath it.

“Hey!” she said, tentative to approach. There was no response.

She did not call a second time. Still, wary of surprises, she gripped the handle of the pistol at the small of her back. She edged closer towards the unmoving coat. Reaching out, she grasped the material and threw the hood back. Revealed was the hollow face of a decayed Skivri, its head lolled over to one side. Small white insects scattered about the heavy black material. She recoiled, but the coat would serve better against the rain than her prison clothes. Black was less conspicuous than neon green anyway.

She carefully removed the coat from the Skivri’s body, now only a stiff exoskeletal form. She shook off as many of the white bugs as she could. A pair of objects fell from the jacket. One was a bright yellow torch and the other was a canteen which clattered loudly to the landing. Nearly empty. She wrapped herself in the clothes of the dead being and pocketed the objects. The Skivri had been swimming in the coat, but it hung down to about the calves on her human frame. Pushing the thought of greasy dead Skivri juices out of her mind, she descended the rest of the way with the light from the torch, little more than a glow-stick on a small handle. The skeleton of her benefactor was left bare on the landing above.

The markings and messages continued along the walls, she glanced over them in the orange light, but none were consequential, either insane or some effort of these lost criminals to make their final mark. As she reached the final landing of the tower, the concrete floor was covered in a half inch of water. She stepped down, instantly soaking the slippers she had been given in prison. It was cruel to put here here in the first place and only cruller still to give her a weapon, but not a decent pair of boots. Then she saw it, scratched deeper and clearer than any other message was an arrow pointing directly out the open threshold to the rainy world. The associated word was: “FOR ANY HOPE, GO DIRECTLY OUT AND DO NOT CHANGE DIRECTION. LOOK FOR YELLOW GREEN LIGHTS IN THE GORGE.”

That was something at least.

She flipped up the hood on her new coat and stepped out from the tower and onto the surface of the planet. The rain thwacked against the leather. Her soaked shoes sunk into the mud and patchy grass clumps. As she began to walk forward, a slipper was sucked off. She decided that they were useless anyway. Her bare feet sunk into the mud between her toes. The floodlights from the platform flickered near and around the hillside, but another great crash of thunder and lightning revealed, once again, the towering geometric masses that loomed in the dark beyond. They were somehow cut into perfect lines and corners. The paths between them were craggled gorges. She began to make her way as directed by the message, strictly forward and towards the nearest entrance to the intricate network that spanned around her. Yet she paused. She was now certain that she had seen a lumbering figure just down the hillside.

 

By Jason Pratley

Jason Pratley joined the team sometime in 2013 when he created the concepts for the gods of ODR. He has since become the Writing Director and de facto loremaster for DDG. Check out some other stories and content at jvfpp.wordpress.com and goodevilcomic.com