+ inload: Endworlds +

+ Whatever happened to Barbari Kills? +


The cover was up. For whatever reason, humans did not adapt well to the empty night skies of the galaxy's rim. Haim felt it. They all had; though in different ways. She had tried to explain it to Brunski, a few weeks back, as the ship glided silently through the black, empty void. 

"Like... being watched; but not enough? Do you–" She had paused; started again. "It's just as though there's nothing holding me down; no anchor. Nothing secure. It's all too..." she had waved her hands in slow, loose, frustrated circles. 

Brunski had just grunted, got up and left.

+++

Lowering her weatherhood, she cast a glance over her shoulder. A nod to Brunski saw him holster his rifle. He and Castaway turned and went back out; hoods up, eyes down. 

The sign read, in the peculiar glyphs of the backwater, 'Teleroftaels'. It wasn't hard to see the derivation – particularly not for an ideodact like Haim. Teller of tales. A village bard, then, she supposed; some sort of archivist, she dared to hope. A job as old as humanity. 

From the rear of the spare, stone building, came a voice. "Come; come." The voice was surprisingly deep, and rich; though it was cut through with a scratch. Haim was reminded, for a brief, absurd moment, of her father's audiorepeater. "The arrangement details are all in order; you are well come here." 

The woman's smile was warm; her skin folded and tanned like soft leather. Her head was shaved completely bald, save for two tufts at the other edges of her eyes, where the remnants of her eyebrows had been extended into short, beaded braids. A bold stripe, darker brown than the rest of her skin, ran over the crest of her head. Paint? Make-up? Some sort of tattoo? 

If she noticed Haim's vacant look, the teleroftael's face showed no sign. Her smile remained soft, unwavering. 

"Ti?" 

Haim blinked, and embarrassedly demurred the offer; waving away the proffered cup. The water here required adaptation. Inquisitrix Barbari Kills hadn't intended to stay longer than was necessary; and so nor did her team. 

"No, no; thank you. Do you mind if–?" Haim gestured at her own flask, securely gathered on her webbing. The teleroftaels nodded permission. You'll have my gratitude for information, rather than refreshment, mam. Even so; thank-you." At the other woman's gesture, Haim looked for a place to sit. There was a brief, awkward pause before the teleroftaels smiled apologetically, and lifted aside a pile of soiled textiles from what turned out to be a low bench.

Stepping back, the teleroftaels squinted gnomically, assessing Haim. The moment stretched. Just before Haim spoke, the teleroftaels announced, "You'll be want the history." 

Haim nodded. Odd phrasing, but for such an isolated region, it was reassuring to find anyone that spoke anything resembling Gothic. Most of the populations Corewards of Saxa Tarpeia had been utterly incomprehensible to Kills and her team. 

"Thank you, yes. Solid form if you have it. I tell you," she continued. "It's been a hell of a time getting any cartography or records of this entire region." The teleroftael's smile broadened, perhaps in pride. Haim carried on. "It's such a relief to find an historical repository. Even if it's just the local... " She stopped herself as she watched the teleroftaels shuffle backwards towards the back of the room; clearly uncomfortable with  turning her back on her guest. "Sorry; I'm gabbling. It's been a long search. I'm just excited. Should I ask my colleague to help carry them?"

The teleroftael's smile slipped for a moment; wrong-footed. Haim wondered if she had strayed over some cultural boundary. 

"Not think that'll be needed."

Unsure, Haim made a small half-hearted nod; and the teleroftaels disappeared behind a curtain. 

+++

"Rimworlds, you Imperials call 'em. Most here just call it Edgeside. Out beyond the galaxy's rim. It's an... odd place. Liminal; know what I mean? Out beyond it's the big black. Just nothing. Sounds simple when I say that, but it's..." she paused. "Heh. Comes to something when even my words fall into the black."

"Like I say, it's odd. The big black. It's the end of it all, see? Sure, there's other galaxies out there, but they're just like us. Little island universes gradually wearing away. And make no mistake –" she waved a finger in the Rogue Trader's face, "It sure is wearing away." She paused, looking out of the colossal window once more. "Look far enough, and you can see it happening. Slowly, sure, and dust – just dust. Trickling away from the galaxy's edge into the true void. But nothing comes back in."

Her faraway gaze suddenly switched; as though a lever had gone off in the back of her mind. Fear. That was all Taiwo saw in her eyes.

"Nothing you want to meet, anyway."

+++

No comments:

Post a comment

+ submission exloadform: inload [comments] herein +