Monday, December 17, 2007

Resolution

"It's not fair," Brigadier Aster complained in the deserted bar.

She was deep in her cups, having downed one bottle of whiskey already and working on another. Grumpily, she complained, "Some people get resolutions, endings. I don't. Not ever."

The bartender took pity on her. "What happened to you?" he asked.

"Surely you've heard," she answered snappishly.

"No, actually," he answered.

"It started fifteen years ago," Aster said melancholically. "I was a civilian then, leading a team exploring a mass ansible. There were over a dozen of us then, scouring every system for more mass ansibles, more links to distant stars."

"This one seemed little different. There was some scoring on the floor in front of the portal, some debris in the corners... My assistant asked if I wanted to call it off. I told him, no. Activate the ansible."

"That was my decision. And it's haunted me every since." She stopped, staring into her drink.

"Go on," the bartender urged her.

"You really want me to?" Aster asked. "All right. The Buggers came through the gate -"

"The Buggers?" the bartender exclaimed. "The same ones we've been fighting for the last twelve years?"

Aster stared into her glass, ignoring the bartender. She took another swallow, and then nodded. "This is what began it all. They killed the rest of the team, and took me prisoner - God only knows why. They interrogated me - learned our language, a little bit - infected me. Though I didn't know then."

Aster's glass was empty. The bartender filled it without being asked. "Go on," he coaxed.

"Since then, my whole life's revolved around that - incident," Aster complained, her throat rough with liquor. "I found that I was infected - eventually managed to stop the spread, but my whole right arm is still partly Bugger. The power from that put me in the war in a major role for a while - fighting the buggers, helping intelligence... but it's more than that."

"I've been back to that ansible a dozen times - there and my prison, as the war swung back and forth. I've seen ghosts of the old team members, Bugger clones, killed the Buggers who started the war, killed their commanders, found the true reason for the debris and killed that... classified. Every tiniest little detail, rehashed over and over and over."

"I'd move on, but I can't. There's a war. And they say I'm... needed. I've tried to leave. But they always pull me back."

"And it never, ever ends."

The bartender waited for Aster to finish speaking; then, as she began to snore (passed out on the barstool!), he slowly began to reach beneath the counter. He pulled out a long, distended rifle, and aimed it at Aster. With a click, he disabled the safety.

Aster snapped upright, her pupils huge. The bartender was smashed backwards into the wall by a wave of purple energy flowing from Aster's arm. Hanging there, suspended, he stared at her, panicked.

"Trying to pump me, eh?" Aster snarled. Her voice was different - odd harmonics curled around it, making it utterly alien. "Well. It's not the first time. And it won't be the last." She twisted her arm. The bartender bent, then cracked. Purple ichor oozed from him.

"Buggers," Aster complained as the energy faded. "I suppose this begins a whole new plot, that everything I did was foretold, that the Bugger High Council or the evil beings manipulating them or the fake god manipulating them plans it all five moves in advance." Getting up, she swayed noticeably, still quite drunk. "Screw 'em."

She staggered to the entrance, talking to herself in a slurred voice. "One day it'll all end. One day. I'll be able to go home, not worry about my family members being used as pawns against me. I'll be able to be a scientist again, an explorer, not a damn... whatever I am."

The darkened habitat gusted cold air through the door as Aster opened it. The whispered, "One day..." was torn from her mouth.

Then the door slammed behind her; and there, at least, is an ending.

Author's Note: This one's been incubating from at least 30/11. Hasn't gone stale, though. I hope.

It's a commentary on stories - television, print, whatever - that go on far beyond reason and end up sort of cannibalistic. I'm thinking, rather unfairly, of Buffy, but I'm sure there are better examples. Also there's some inspiration from something else, it's not subtle to those who know. But it wasn't really the point.

I'm rambling.

Time to put an end to this, too.

2 comments:

Oldboy said...

She was deep in her cups
My assistant asked if I wanted to call it off. I told him, no. That was my decision.
"Go on," the bartender urged her.
"You really want me to?" Aster asked. "All right.
She took another swallow, and then nodded.
"Go on," he coaxed.
"I'd move on, but I can't.
And they say I'm... needed. I've tried to leave. But they always pull me back."
"And it never, ever ends."
"Trying to pump me, eh?
Well. It's not the first time. And it won't be the last."
She twisted her arm. The bartender bent, then cracked. Purple ichor oozed from him.
Getting up, she swayed noticeably, still quite drunk. "Screw 'em."

King Kessler said...

… that go on far beyond reason and end up sort of cannibalistic…

This part confuses me.