The Demon that you know….
Time: Sometime after 1 October 2071.
My name is Jonathan Murrel. I used to work for Interstellar Expeditions, searching for lost caches of technology in the Deep Periphery…..before I died…..before the Demons came to take me.
“My friends….my co-workers…..all dead at the hands of the Demons after being taken from the Explorer that we traveled on. Yet, I still live. Why?” I ask myself.
I find myself upright, stripped of all clothing, bound and suspended by my wrists and ankles, completely helpless in the apparent absence of any gravity. The chamber where I am being held is dark, illuminated only by red light. I have lost all track of time since the Demons took me. The pungent smell of sulphur fills the air that I breathe. I do not remember being given any food or water. My mouth is filled with the bitter taste of wormwood.
“Am I in hell?” I ask as I look up.
The Demon stands before me. I see dark wings unfolding from his back. He is huge, at least two meters in height. His visage is beyond terrifying…. His smile displays bright white teeth and long fangs that contrast with his coal black inhuman flesh. His hands and feet end in sharp talons.
“Yes. There is no escape from here either. Abandon all hope, because your flesh and soul belong to me now.
The Demon’s unnaturally booming voice is so powerful that it even shakes the walls of the chamber that I am being held in.
“Your travels within the Periphery have offended My Master. My Master has questions of you that he wishes answered now. I obey My Master’s wishes no matter what the cost…as will you …”
“Get behind me, Satan…” I cry out defiantly, clinging to my faith for strength
“The Demon pulls out his whip, sparks flying along its length, and repeats his demand…”
“Tell me what you know….where you have been….what you have seen…or you will suffer as no man has ever suffered before.”
“My body feels like it is on fire as the Demon’s whip lashes over my body like what had been done to My Lord before He was crucified….”
“I scream in agony, but I will not give in to the Demon. I pray for salvation even as the lash violently wraps around and caresses my naked body with pure, unadulterated pain…”
“The Demon continues to torment me. The lash scourges my body again and again. I completely lose track of time as the pain overwhelms me. It could be hours. It could be days.”
“I lean on my faith as never before that My Lord will save me from this horror….that He will honor His promise never to abandon me as I remember the verses from Psalms that promise protection even through the Valley of Death.”
“I suddenly hear screaming and feel the entire chamber tremble. Then I see bright lights and hear loud noises that sound almost like explosions before I pass into blessed unconsciousness”
Pirate JumpShip: Black Diamond
Near Zenith Jump Point
Virtue System, Lyran Alliance
18 October 3071
Angela Collins sat there in the Invader’s briefing room. The petite blonde was still wearing the same dirty coveralls that she had on while trying to make a myriad of badly needed repairs on the pirate band’s newly acquired Mule class Pocket WarShip. She heard the door open and saw Captain Farrow enter the compartment. She started to speak but he quickly held his hand up to stop her. He then took a seat at the table next to Angela and began to speak.
“Angela, I know that you were busy with repairs on the DropShip. I really hated to interrupt you. But I need for you do to a very special task for me, Angela. Do you remember hearing about the prisoner that we found on that captured Jihadist Pocket WarShip?
“Yes, I did. Was there something special about him?”
“It appears that he was working for Interstellar Expeditions and had just returned from a recon mission somewhere in the Deep Periphery, or at least that is what Moriarty has found so far in the Mule’s computer files.
We also found some other things about the prisoner as well.”
Captain Farrow held out his hand. “This was discovered in his personal effects that we found on the Mule.”
It was a necklace with a cross very similar in appearance to the one that Angela always wore around her neck.
“Somehow, I think that you will find a connection with this man. I saw the tapes that the Robes made while interrogating him. He is obviously someone who takes his faith very seriously, just like you do.
I need for you to find a way to gain his trust and obtain the information that the Robes wanted so badly.” Captain Farrow explained.
“He may not know anything at all, sir.” Angela argued.
“Oh, he knows something. Otherwise, the Robes would have killed him like they did the rest of his crew. After all, he had been working for Interstellar Expeditions somewhere out in the Deep Periphery.”
“But I’m an engineering tech, not an interrogator.” Angela protested.
“Would you rather that I let the first officer interrogate him instead?” Captain Farrow answered back caustically.
The thought of what Sarah Bucholtz might do to the prisoner sent shivers down Angela’s spine as she hesitated. Before she could reply, Captain Farrow spoke again, this time with a much more conciliatory tone.
“You know that I would rather that Sarah not handle the interrogation either. When we captured that female Blakist operative a few months ago, Sarah interrogated her. I knew that Sarah had very few inhibitions regarding interrogations. But, damn, I never thought that I would see a woman do to another woman what Sarah did to that Robe. Sarah got some information, but there wasn’t much left of that Robe by the time that Sarah finally flushed her out of the airlock.”
Even Capt. Farrow was shocked by what his first officer had done.
“I need you to do this. I have a gut feeling that you can gain his trust…that you can make the connection that will enable us to gain access to whatever valuable information that he has, Angela.
You may even save his life if you are successful. Will you try?“
Angela looked over at the video monitor at the prisoner. She knew in her heart that Captain Farrow was right. Angela could not stand aside and let this man suffer anymore. Not if she could help it.
“Yes, sir. I will.” Angela simply said.
“Here’s what I want you to do….” Captain Farrow began.
“When I awaken, I stare into the eyes of an Angel. I am lying down, no longer bound or in pain. I feel like I am floating though I cannot move my arms and legs. Her lovely face and golden hair are framed in a bright light. Her body dressed in flowing white garments. I am also now dressed in white and no longer feel the shame of being nude in front of others.”
“The Demons?” I whispered in a hoarse voice. My throat still ached from so much screaming.
“You are safe now. The demons are gone now.” The Angel tells me in a soothing voice.
She reaches out to touch me. I try to draw back, fearing the pain that even the Demon’s slightest touch gave me, but still cannot move. But this time, there is no pain, just comforting warmth from her touch.
I feel tears running down my face. I can’t help it, even though I am not sure of where I am or what is going on.
The Angel brings me a cup of water to drink. I cannot hold it myself, so she gently brings the cup to my lips.
“Is this living water?” I ask.
“Yes. I bring it to quench your thirst, my brother.” The Angel responds.
“Thank you.” I reply before taking my first sip. I never imagined that water could taste so good. The air that I breathed in was so sweet and fresh as well. The Angel continued to give me the water that my parched body craved so badly.
I was tended to by this Angel for what appeared to be several days before finally asking the question that had been in my mind ever since I woke up and saw her shining face for the first time.
“Am I in heaven?”
“No. Not yet. You have much to do still. But for now, you are safe from the Demons who possessed you. They had many questions of you, did they not? The Angel responded.
“Yes. But I would not tell them what they wanted to know. What good would it have done to comply with anything that a Demon would demand? All that they desire is evil. So to answer their questions would only aid their evil plans.” I replied.
“Please tell me what it was that the Demons sought from you. The truth will set you free…” the Angel told me.
“I am not sure if I can answer your question. But I do still see visions that may be what the Demons wanted.” I told the Angel.
“Please tell me of your visions then, Jonathan.” The Angel asked.
I hesitate at first. But I then look into the Angel’s warm blue eyes, so full of love and compassion. I hear my own voice before I am even aware that I am speaking.
“I saw ships with White Sharks painted on their tails, dancing among the rocks within the mouth of the Spiny Crab…a giant hollow rock with a world inside of it nearby….”
“Please tell me more. I know that you feel the need to unburden your heart…”
“22…44….89” I repeat the numbers several times, almost mechanically.
“What do the numbers mean, my brother?” the Angel asked calmly
“I don’t remember. I just know that they are important.”
“Do you remember anything else, Jonathan?” she asked.
“I’m not sure…..nothing that I can see clearly yet.”
“It’s alright. You are safe now and have plenty of time to remember later on. Now, it is time for you to rest.” The Angel serenely told me.
I closed my eyes to sleep. But it isn’t long before the visions of the Demons appear again…and again, leaving me in a cold sweat as I wake up screaming. Am I alive? Am I dead? I still just don’t know yet.
As the Angel left me, I heard strange voices somewhere off in the distance. They were talking about salvage, raids and prize money. Why would I hear such things here if I am with the angels? As I drift off to sleep once again, I feel very confused about where I am and what is happening to me.
Pirate JumpShip: Black Diamond
Near Zenith Jump Point
Ferihegy System, Lyran Alliance
26 October 3071
Captain Jackson Farrow and his engineering officer Angela Collins sat in another compartment, watching the video recording of the Interstellar Expeditions explorer’s interrogation. Angela had already changed clothing from the “angel’s” costume to the utilitarian black work coveralls that were her normal attire. She has also rolled her blonde hair back up into a tight bun on the back of her head.
The Interstellar Expeditions operative had been moved to the Black Diamond after being discovered being held captive on a Blakist Mule class Pocket WarShip. The pirates captured the Mule after repelling an attempted clandestine boarding of the pirates’ JumpShip by the Blakists. The pirates had turned the tables on the jihadists and mounted their own successful boarding action against the Pocket Warship while she was still attached to the pirates’ JumpShip. The pirates had tried to use one of their Mules, heavily armed with concealed weapons of its own, to pretend to be the jihadist Pocket WarShip and capture the Blakists’ own Tramp class JumpShip. Unfortunately for the pirates, the Tramp jumped out of the star system before the pirates could reach it. A week later, the pirates also jumped out of the Virtue system to avoid encountering the Blakists again.
“You played your part well, Angela. It’s quite remarkable what you have been able to accomplish in the eight days since we recovered the surviving Interstellar Expeditions operative from the jihadist vessel.” The captain said as he turned towards the petite blonde and smiled.
“Thank you, sir. You were right about him. It helped me very much that Jonathan had an exceptionally strong religious upbringing. We saw in the Blakist recordings of their interrogation of Jonathan that he used his faith to resist his captors. We used the symbols and themes of that faith, in turn, to gain his trust and obtain information from him.”
“You admire him, don’t you?”
“I guess that I do. But I also feel sorry for him after he has endured so much horror at the hands of those bastard Manei Domini monsters.” Angela answered while looking down at the floor and feeling more than a little bit of shame over her own exploitation of the injured Interstellar Expeditions explorer.
“I know that his memories seem a bit fuzzy. But, it sounds like his team might have at least found some missing Rim World Republic vessels, not that it’s going to do him any good now.”
“What about that business with the ‘world inside of a rock’? What do you think that was?” Angela asked.
“I don’t know. I guess that we are just going to have to look around and see if we can find it also. Still, who would have figured that the Blakists would have run into someone whose religious faith would be even stronger than their belief in their damned Blake?” the pirate captain said with the irony evident in his tone.
“A faith that I had almost forgotten about myself….a faith that I had been taught as a child. I should have never left that faith and its morality behind.” These were the words that silently ran through Angela’s mind and echoed deep in her heart after seeing the strength that Jonathan had drawn from his faith in the face of such horrors.
“Yes. The Manei Domini who were doing the interrogation had him pumped full of hallucinogens as well as drugs that made his skin so sensitive that the slightest touch caused him pain. We’ve taken him off of the latter, but are continuing the use of the hallucinogens have helped us convince him that he is truly talking to an angel. We’ve added a mild paralytic agent that keeps him unable to move his arms and legs while at the same time providing him with the sensation of floating.” Angela replied after straightening up in her seat, distracted from her memories of the interrogations, both the interrogations done by the Manei Domini that she had watched from their own video recordings and the ones that she conducted herself.
“Very good. It seems to have been a very effective combination. Especially, if my hunch is correct that the ships that he described are located in an asteroid belt near the center of the Spiny Crab nebula. We have been looking for derelict ships to salvage from for a very long time.” Captain Farrow replied with a sly smile as he continued to watch the prisoner through the video monitor.
“...and the numbers, that he gave us?”
“The navigator thinks that they are spatial coordinates to one of the stars within the center of the nebula. Certainly, they will narrow down our search area considerably.” The captain explained.
“What are we going to do with Jonathan? Between the use of the neural whip and the nightmare games that those jihadist cyborgs used on him, I’m not sure that he is capable of returning to a mental state resembling normal sanity. Even now, he can’t sleep more than a couple of hours at a time before having more of those hellish nightmares.”
“Just keep him sedated for now. The doc will work on getting his physical health improved to the extent possible. She’s already got an IV hooked up to him as well as a feeding tube. I want you to be ready to play “Angel” whenever he is conscious though. He might know a lot more information that we can use.”
”Yes, Sir. I hope that we won’t have to push him too hard though. If Jonathan finds out that his ‘angel’ has betrayed him, he may withdraw so deeply that we will never get anything from him again.“
“We will have to rely on both your intuition as well as the doc’s expertise. I know that she’s been pretty busy dealing with all of other casualties from the boarding action though. Damned exploding cyborgs…. I wish that we could have flushed them all out of the airlock before they had a chance to blow themselves up in the midst of my people. Anyway….. Use your best judgment, Angela.”
Captain Farrow was still fuming about the fifteen men and women of his crew that he lost to the Manei Domini that were on the Pocket WarShip.
Angela looked away from her captain for a few moments. She hated pretending to be an angel to the horribly brutalized man in the next compartment. But she didn’t know what else she could do to help him. If not for the information that Jonathan possessed, the pirates’ executive officer, among others, would have flushed him out of an airlock along with the rest of the garbage.
“I have always thought of myself as an engineer who happens to work on a pirate ship, not a pirate who does engineering work. What am I becoming now?” Angela silently asked herself before quickly wiping her eyes and turning back towards Captain Farrow.
“We may have missed our opportunity to seize that Blakist Tramp to add to the Pocket WarShip that we captured from them, but thanks to our ‘friend’ here, we may end up doing far better instead. Incidentally, I’ve decided to keep her named Hidden Blade. It still seems quite fitting. ” Captain Farrow calmly said as he played absently with his moustache.
“One other thing, Angela. How is the refitting work progressing on our new prize? I know that you have still been keeping up with the engineering stuff in spite of the extra duties that I’ve had you doing lately.”
The engineer in Angela that loved to tinker quickly came out, causing her eyes to brighten up and a smile to immediately appear on her face.
“Well, Sir. I think that we have her controls patched up enough that she can be flown now, though the repair work is still far from complete. I’ve also got a crew beginning to remove all but two of the capital missile launchers from her like you had requested.” She responded with her usual enthusiasm restored.
“Excellent. There’s no way that we could have kept all of those launchers supplied in missiles. The launchers are also pretty manpower intensive. That’s something that we can’t afford either. One launcher per flank will do just fine for the kinds of fights that we would have anyway. There will certainly be a market out there for the launchers that we are disposing of in any event. The hard part will be getting enough firepower to replace what we are removing from the Hidden Blade. I don’t want it all to be short range stuff nor weapons that will bankrupt us with ammunition costs.” The pirate captain replied.
“I understand. Sir. Who knows what we might find available. I do have some ideas of what I would like to install though.” Angela’s smile grew broader as more ideas came to mind.
“Good. We’ll talk about this more later. Right now, you need to get some well deserved rest.” Captain Farrow said with a smile.
“Thank you and good night, Sir.” Angela said as she walked out of the compartment towards her quarters.
Captain Farrow turned back towards the monitor and looked at the prisoner.
“I wonder what other secrets that you might know? You are going to give them up to us, one way or another.” He quietly said to himself.
As Jonathan drifted in and out of consciousness, one thought kept repeating in his brutalized mind, still trying to grasp onto the reality of the world surrounding him.
“Who do you believe in? The Demon that you know….or the Angel that you don’t know?”
The Demon that you know….
By Gerald L. Hall
3681 Bellville North Road, Mansfield Ohio 44904
Word Count (3425 words)
Jonathan Murrel is an explorer for Interstellar Expeditions who has been captured by a being of seemingly pure evil. The being is demanding answers about what Jonathan has found while traveling through the Deep Periphery. When Jonathan finds himself in seemingly kinder hands, will he truly be any safer?
This story works hand in hand with the previous story Theft, Death and Mutual Deception. The future stories with Farrow’s Marauders (or the Farrow Gang, if you prefer) will be intertwined with the life of Word of Blake Adept Victor Stern. The ups and downs of his life and career will intersect with Farrow’s unit in a variety of levels. We may even find Adept Stern becoming so disenchanted with the Word of Blake and its Jihad that he may try to find a way to escape them while bearing a very important gift for the Coalition. My next story Combat Test will be focusing upon Adept Stern while introducing a new Pocket WarShip that Herb has already seen and likes. It will be a unique story and scenario for BattleCorps as well. I look forward to hearing from you.
Gerald L. Hall