Open University of Celestial Hardship (OUCH)

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A good friend of mine once told me, “There are no heroes in space……..only survivors.”

And, up until that time, we had both been survivors, but the day after he told me that, he was dead.

Dead? But how you say? We have our clones, we are the select few, the chosen ones.

A nurse working in the clone bay where his clone was stored, was all fucked up on dope and didn’t configure his clone capsule correctly, it was already dead when he needed it. Nowhere to go, you know?

Did he just drift away? Fade to black, so to speak? No one can really tell me what happened to him, no one really knows, I guess.

The corporations don’t want you to know this, they want you to keep believing that life is infinite, that we all just keep going on, but that’s not true at all.

Sooner or later, we all succumb to death…………

******************************************************************************


Temerian walked into the Star-Bar.

Now this is a bar,” he thought, “not that pathetic excuse for a bar, the Omega Lounge.”

He had made somewhat of a fool of himself the other night at the “Omega”, after drinking too much he had ended up telling the place off, more or less, and claimed he would never return. Afterward he had passed out somewhere in a corridor on his way back to his ship.

Why do I do that?” he wondered vaguely.

He had resolved after that night to never drink more than he could handle. Of course, he had made that resolution before. Often times he would follow through on it for a while, but then out of the blue he’d lose it one night and get himself wasted.

He was a frequent visitor here and as he made his way to the bar, a few people nodded or waved, he nodded back or would say a quick greeting. Occasionally he would stop for a moment and speak to someone at a table and there would be a raucous laugh or a friendly pat on the shoulder before he would move on.

As soon as he reached the bar, he sat down and Lulu was right there, “Beer, Tem?” She had two glasses ready. Apparently she was going to have a drink with him.

“Yes, Lulu,” he replied, and after he thought about it for a moment, “and a shot of bourbon.”

Lulu smiled slightly and nodded, turning away quickly to get the beers.

He leaned forward onto the bar and looked around the place. It was fairly busy for this time of day with a number of people sitting out at the tables and a few others at the bar itself. Not a bad little crowd for early afternoon, but by later this evening this place would be jumping.


A moment later Lulu returned with two large glasses of draft beer. She placed one of them in front of him and kept the other for herself.

He took a quick drink and relaxed in the chair a bit.

Reaching quickly to the back counter Lulu grabbed a bottle of bourbon and then reached beneath the counter and produced a shot glass. She poured the bourbon quickly, with the experience of someone who does it quite often, and then sat the shot glass next to his beer.

Without wasting any more time, Temerian lifted the shot glass and drank the whiskey down quickly, it tasted of liquid caramel with a strong after taste of burnt wood or charcoal, it warmed his throat as it went down and spread quickly out from his stomach, warming the rest of his core. As for his reaction to the whiskey, it might as well have been water that he was drinking.

He sat the empty glass down and looked up, Lulu was still there staring at him, obviously bursting at the seams with some gossip that she wanted to share.

Temerian looked at her and raised his eyebrows in a questioning manner, “Yes, Lulu?”

“Your friend was here earlier.”

“My friend?” He wondered vaguely who she might be talking about, “You’ll have to be more specific Lulu.” He replied and took another long drink of the draft.

She only smiled back at him wickedly, taking a drink of her own beer.

He had many friends and so couldn’t think who she might be talking about, “Lulu, I’m in no mood for your games, so please, if you’re going…”

“Captain Lasko,” she cut in, “you remember........ from Concord.”

She said that last part with a kind of upbeat glee that he had honestly never known Lulu of having.

Did he remember? How could he forget? Captain Lasko, an overbearing, sadistic, prick of a man who not only had an extremely strong dislike of Temerian, but was also the lead for the Concord’s DED in this area of space. Which, for all intents and purposes, made him practically untouchable.

He tried to seem uninterested, but was very concerned nonetheless.

“Oh? What did he want?”

Lulu sat looking at him with a smirk, the kind of smirk that a cat wears after eating your pet bird.

“Didn’t really say,” she replied almost smiling.

A customer from down the bar called to Lulu and she turned to go.

“Something about throwing you in an airlock.”


“What?” Temerian replied quickly.

“Yeah, something about ejecting you into space when he found you.”


“You didn’t think that was important enough to mention first?”

“Maybe,” she replied coolly and shrugged, walking away.



...........To be Continued
Temerian looked around the bar once again and took a long drink of his draft beer while he considered what Lulu had just told him.

This was not good,” He thought, “if Lasko was looking for him, then it would only be a matter of time until he was found…….. And this business of being air locked into space, well if he was serious, that would not be pleasant at all.

And from what he had heard about Captain Lasko, he had no reason to think he wasn’t serious, “Well, with a medical clone in place it wouldn’t be the end.”

The memory of his dead friend quickly shot through his mind, “shouldn’t be the end anyways.”

But clones did nothing to alleviate the pain of death, and quite frankly medical clones were expensive, running upwards of two million ISK. Running missions and salvaging was lucrative, but no one wanted to go through the pain and agony of death and then shell out two million ISK, if it could be avoided.

With another long drink he emptied the glass of beer, “What to do?”

Lulu returned from assisting other customers, “Another drink, Tem?”

He looked at her for a moment, “I don’t think so Lulu………I think I’ll head out.”

“Ohhhh,” she replied with an obvious fake concern, “I hope it wasn’t something I said?”

Temerian frowned and stood up, “always a pleasure Lulu.”

She laughed as he walked away, “You take care of yourself, Tem!”

He thought she sounded sincere when she said that, but with lulu, who could tell?

Quickly making his way through the bar he had just walked out the door when he was violently slammed across the corridor into a bulkhead, spun around and pressed back against the wall by two large military types.

Temerian fought for a moment but it was useless against these two hulks, “Take it easy fellas!”

It only took him a moment to regain his senses and when he was finally able to calm down and focus he was looking directly into the unforgiving face of Captain Lasko.

The captain smiled an evil grin, “Going somewhere Temerian?”

“Lasko!” Temerian said with some enthusiasm.

One of the brutes holding him punched him hard then, squarely in the stomach. He had not been at all prepared for that, not that preparation would have mattered, and the force of the blow forced him to double over.

The men holding him forced him up and slammed him hard, back against the wall. He gasped and coughed as his vision started to fade out around the edges, and for the briefest of moments he thought he might pass out, but then he gained his breath and his vision started to clear.

Temerian wheezed and managed to let out a quiet, “Captain Lasko.”

Lasko smiled a truly honest smile then, a smile that spoke of pleasure at watching another person’s pain and suffering, a smile that exposed the enjoyment from having complete power over another person’s life, a smile that revealed the true nature of the man that stood before him in the corridor, a sadistic psychopath.

Other people in the corridor didn’t even look in this direction, they walked by like there was nothing going on at all, not even daring to glance this way, while others turned around altogether and went back the way they had come. Whether they knew the nature of the powerful captain standing in the corridor, or simply wanted to avoid any encounter with Concord was irrelevant, it was an effective dissuasion either way.

“Bring him,” Lasko said shortly and turned, walking away.

The two hulks, one on either side of Temerian each holding him firmly by the arm and neck, forcefully turned him and half carried, half dragged him down the corridor after the captain.

As he was carted down the hall, his mind raced, “what the hell is going on?”

Temerian had a strong idea that Captain Lasko didn’t like him very much from a couple of close encounters with the man, but nothing in his mind that would draw this kind of reaction.

He knew the reputation of the man, and had heard rumors of how he deals with others so he had made it a point to avoid him altogether, but there was obviously no avoiding this.

Perhaps it was some kind of misunderstanding, “Uh, captain Lasko, what’s this….”

One of the men interrupted his question by smashing him hard with his fist right in the side of the head, which almost knocked him unconscious again and literally left him dazed and confused.

The captain had paid no heed to him whatsoever and had kept right on walking, with him being dragged behind.

After some unknown minutes when his mind began to clear he realized that some blood had run down onto his neck, possibly from his ear, but he was in no position to do anything about it at the moment.

The wet blood on his neck created a cool spot on his skin as he was dragged along, which formed quite the contrast with the heat and pain emanating from the side of his head where he had received the blow.

Temerian suddenly felt ill, his stomach turned over and it was all he could do to stop from puking on the floor, his head hurt badly and he thought he might have a concussion, which at the moment was the least of his concerns.

And all the while he was being dragged along he kept thinking, “this is bad.”

“But why?”


...........to be continued
Temerian noticed that they had moved from the common public corridors to the much more private service corridors that ran throughout the station, the ones used only by the people that worked there. The scenery had definitely changed in these service corridors, the lighting was much dimmer and everything had a much more dirty and rough look to it, not the polished and bright appearance of the public areas.

This also meant that they encountered far less people, and the few they did encounter seemed to know right away to either get out of the way, or disappear altogether. None of them asked any questions.

Temerian tried to keep track of where they were going but he wasn’t familiar with these areas at all, that combined with the beatings that he had already taken meant that he basically had no idea where they were at, or where they were going.

They went through a couple of heavy portals, the kind designed to be sealed off in case of atmospheric decompression, and ended up in a much larger area that looked like a cargo bay of some kind. The ceilings were very high here and there were crates and pallets of equipment and merchandise stacked everywhere.

As they moved through the storage crates they came to another area that was clearly a loading dock as there were a number of very large, ship sized airlocks designed to accommodate cargo ships. In between the large airlocks were smaller ones that looked like they were designed for personal to access the outside of the station, probably for repairs.

It was at one of these smaller airlocks that the captain stopped.

The two hulks that were escorting Temerian threw him unceremoniously against the door of the airlock and stepped back a bit, granting him a very small piece of freedom, while captain Lasko turned around slowly to face him.

He hadn’t realized it while being man handled in the corridor, but both his arms had gone to sleep and now had that tingling, stinging feeling. He stretched his arms and flexed his hands open and closed to get the blood circulating again. He was hurt, and he was sick and tired of this bullshit.

“What’s this about Lasko?” Temerian blurted out angrily.

One of the men started to step toward him, presumably to deliver another fist sandwich, but Lasko held up his hand and he stepped back.

Captain Lasko stared at him coldly, “I’m surprised you’ve forgotten so soon.”

Temerian returned the stare and shook his head, “Forgotten, what?”

Lasko stared at him a moment longer and then a look of acknowledgement came slowly over his stony face, and he smiled………………. and then he started laughing.

Temerian stared at him, dumfounded.

Lasko laughed.


The two giants stood motionless, glancing at the captain and then quickly back at Temerian, possibly wondering if their leader had finally gone completely insane.

“Oh this is priceless!” he exclaimed loudly while laughing.

Temerian touched the side of his head, near his ear, and flinched quickly from the pain, “What the hell is so funny?”

He was suddenly sure of one very important thing, you don’t ever want to see a complete psychopath laughing like this……….. It was just very, very unnerving.

“You are,” the captain replied as he slowly regained his composure.

The laughing slowly stopped and he stood there staring at him with a crazy smile.

“You really don’t remember?” Lasko said incredulously.

Temerian stared at him.

“The other night at the Omega Lounge,” he said, “I was there.”

This tiny little fact was like a bomb blowing up in Temerian’s mind, it was almost too much to comprehend and it left him speechless and a little numb.

“I tried to stop you when you were having your drunken little fit in the middle of the bar…….”

Temerian stood there unbelieving.


“Nothing serious mind you, I only suggested that you be on your way to sleep it off, and give the rest of us a break.”

The pieces suddenly started to fit together in Temerian’s brain.

What little was left of a smile left the cold features of Lasko’s face, “but you wouldn’t have it, you insulted me, you disrespected me…..”

Lasko’s eyes narrowed, “you belittled me in front of my friends.”


Friends? Really? The thought raced through Temerian’s head and he pushed it away.

“But, I……..”

Lasko went on, “The people who respect me….”

“was drunk……”

Lasko wasn’t even listening anymore, his eyes had sort of glazed over like he wasn’t even there anymore, “the people who love me.”

This was going south quickly……… actually this had gone south quite a while ago, it was now going so far south it was into uncharted territory.

Try for him now,”  Temerian thought, “if you can get him around the neck you might be able to get out of here.”  It was a bold plan on his part, a shot at the golden ring, a chance for escape.


He lunged forward thinking he might grab Lasko and get him in a choke hold, force him to capitulate and then let him go.

The two meat heads weren’t having any of that.


As soon as he moved, one grabbed him by the head and neck and the other one kicked him in the stomach, literally lifting him off the ground.

Temerian fell down in a crumpled mass on the floor while the giant who had him by the head reached back to strike him with his fist.

Lasko snapped out of his little trance, “Stop it you idiots! I want him awake!”

They stepped back quickly.

Lasko stood staring down at the bent over form of Temerian on the floor, “Don’t ever come back to this station again.”

Temerian was having trouble breathing after the kick to his abdomen, every time he took a breath a pain shot up the side of his body, probably a broken rib or two, “Fine, let me go and we can forget all about this.”

It was as if he had not spoken at all, no one paid any attention to him.

Lasko nodded toward the door, “put him in the lock.”

Put him in the lock?” did he really hear that? Lasko had said it just as casually as if he was asking one of them to order a pizza, or go pick up my dry cleaning, but instead, “put him in the lock.”
 
Temerian was on his hands and knees all crouched up on the floor and he tried to move away but his side hurt too badly for any kind of quick, purposeful movement. All he could do was hope.

Maybe one of the meat heads would have a moment of independent thought, a moment of compassion where they would decide that this just wasn’t right. Maybe they would turn to their captain and try to change his mind about the whole thing.

Meathead number one reached down and grabbed Temerian, lifting him unceremoniously off the floor, pain shot through his side like an electrical jolt.

The other hulk pressed a button and the door to the airlock opened.

Nope, no independent thought here.”

“Lasko, don’t do this,” Temerian said through gritted teeth.

Lasko stared at him with absolutely no emotion whatsoever.

The hulk that was holding him threw him through the door and onto the floor of the airlock.

Temerian cried out in pain but forced himself up, the pain shooting up his side like a red hot poker being jabbed into his side.

The door to the airlock closed.

This can’t be happening,” he thought through the pain, “this is a joke, they’re just trying to scare me.”

He limped back to the door and pressed his face against the glass view port, “Please don’t do this.”

They could no longer hear him.

Lasko walked casually to the door never taking his eyes off of Temerian and smiled.

He smiled,” Temerian thought, “what kind of an animal…….”


Lasko pressed the button and the outer airlock door opened.

Temerian was almost instantly sucked out into space.

Everything happened pretty quickly after that, the soft tissues started to freeze due to the extreme cold, his eyes crusted over almost instantly. Due to the extreme change of pressure the air in his lungs expanded to more than double, stretching his lungs until they burst. Gas bubbles developed in his blood almost instantly and he began to swell up like a balloon.

None of that mattered of course, because the pain of all those things happening at once was too much to bear, it was more pain than anyone can even imagine, it was all encompassing, it was everything.

There was only pain, his entire existence was pain……..

And then mercifully, blackness……..

And finally death.
 



 
Somewhere in another galaxy he woke up in a sterile, all-white room, coughing and spitting up symbiotic fluid, still reeling from the memory of all that trauma and pain.

“Now, now, you’ll be alright,” a nurse said, helping him out of a clone capsule, “just breathe.”

She wrapped him in a white robe and gave him a towel to dry off. She walked him to a seat where he could get oriented and relax for a moment.

She looked at him with concern, “Now, is that better?”


Temerian looked up at her and nodded.


“Ok, then,” She smiled, “………..will that be cash or credit?”

**********************************************************************************

The corporations don’t want you to know that it’s all just a game to them. We are simply paychecks waiting to be cashed.

Cows headed for the slaughter.


For now, I’m still a survivor……………..but for how long?
+1 Good story
+1
Great writing.