A Thousand Dead Voices


My book is finished!

Tentatively titled Americana Dreams, it features a collection of short stories with elements of Fantasy and Horror written in an Americana theme. Some of those stories I’ve posted here, so the book, once completed and as soon as I can get a cover, will be released for free.

In the meantime, here’s a short science-fiction story about a Captain trying his best to avoid a war.

There was no asteroid field in existence that proved to be more perilous than the floating wreckage of a battle waged in space. Nor were than any greater riches to be found if one was daring enough to risk Captain and crew to salvage what was left behind. Often times, we found ourselves hung precariously between the two latest warring clans to claim this sector of the universe, which was ironic to me because if there was one thing we had in abundance, it was space.

I’d discovered this fact on my first engagement in a war no one remembered when our captain threw away the lives of everyone on board for what amounted to little more than a dirty ball of gas no one would’ve wanted on a bad day. The fact that the enemy had claimed it made it an offense worthy of the lives of three thousand souls to fight over. Nowadays, no one even remembered the name of the General whose back had been broken near that small sun. No one save for me.

“Bring her in close,” I said softly, though there was no need.

Our latest discovery looked like an old cruiser whose guts had been spilled and left to die. She was a class of warship greater than the parts I’d pulled together, though in actuality, what I’d managed to salvage was now pieced together from so many extra parts, I didn’t recognize it myself. Still, any extra water or batteries she held would’ve made this excursion into once enemy space worth it. By the time anyone recognized us, we’d be little more than distant memory.

“She’s broadcasting on all channels,” Haley said.

“As well as she should be, but pay no attention to it,” I said. “It’s merely her death rattle. No one will be responding any time soon.”

I turned to the First Mate, a dour looking man who was missing half his face. I’d found him on a ship in a sick bay pod with vitals still pumping through his system, despite having half the ship exposed to the void. The better part of me convinced myself to keep him and see if he could be saved. He survived, though we’d had to make do with a composite rather than any advanced cybernetics. If he objected, he’d never once complained and he’d proven himself more than once earning my respect.

“Make it happen, John,” I said. He nodded and pulled three men with him for the mission.

“Their AI is still active, Captain,” A voice chimed seeming right next to my ear.

I sighed. “John, Rose is telling me their AI is possibly salvageable as well. See what you can do, ok?”

“Got it,” John said and I could tell from the tone in his voice that he was grinning.

“This is the last one Rose,” I said for the hundredth time.

Rose was the Original AI, the computer through which everything functioned on our ship and the sole reason I was still alive to tell my story. She nursed me back to health in the crippled bowels of my old ship, leaching off of systems to keep me alive while I pieced something space-worthy back together from the dead parts of my fleet. As such, she was more than a piece of technology to me and whenever she said an AI was more than just circuits, crystal, and energy, I believed her. I’d seen for myself the madness that a machine can experience all alone in the depths of space.

“We have survivors, Captain,” John’s voice cut through my thoughts. “A male and a female. Looks like they’d crammed themselves into an escape pod. We might be too late.”

“Bring them in,” I said. While we had AI to spare, our human crew were lacking as of late. I didn’t think I had enough for the extra mouths but their skill and knowledge should make up for that. Besides, I knew I couldn’t just leave them out in space. Not with my own experiences still decade’s fresh. The man howled like a devil when he was resuscitated.

“Kill me!” He begged until we’d juiced him with enough sedatives to lull him back into unconsciousness. His female counterpart simply stared at me from her bed past large eyes as if trying to decide if I was a real or not.

“Are we dead?” She asked.

“You are now,” I grinned. “I’m sure all hands were shown to have went down with your ship. You died an honorable death with full military honors.”

She nodded. “She was called the Silent Death, you know. We called her Sid.”

“Sid. Nice name for a dead ship,” I said. “It’ll look well carved upon a wall for all to see. Personally, I’ve never found much use in a name.”

“You have no need for one. Everyone knows who you are,” She said softly, tears forming at the corner of her eyes.

For a moment, I was taken aback. Certainly I’d never gotten close enough to ingratiate myself or the lives of my crew in so silly a matter as a war. That anyone could know who I was had to be an outright lie, but her eyes showed me her conviction even if I held none for myself.

“Tell me then who it is you claim I am,” I said.

“Death. The Black Raven. The Vortice. Every crew has a name for you. We’d heard the stories of your black ship on the edges of detectable space, waiting like a spirit to carry the dead home. We could hear the screams of a thousand dead crews picked up on our AI, ghosts of ships that we once knew to be dead and those we’ve never heard of,” She said, becoming silent. “We picked you up at the height of our battle; a thousand voices of once dead ship systems screaming at us for rescue, others telling us to flee. Our Captain hesitated and that’s what killed us. Our enemy didn’t even bother to wait for confirmation. They fled like the devil was after them and now we’re a part of your crew of the damned.”

I laughed as she blushed crimson. “Crew of the dead? Though I must admit I rather like the idea of the Black Raven, we are none of what you speak. I’ll have to get Rose to quiet down those damned AI’s she’s been collecting. You see, she has them running everything from the coffee maker to the toilet. We have a battle cruiser operating the door leading into and out of this room. Needless, perhaps, but entertaining. I’m sure they’d rather be doing that than left in space, after all.”

“So, I’m not dead?” She asked, her tears now flowing freely.

I shook my head. “Not quite, though I’d recommend staying dead until your war is over. Unless you fancy going back and being put into the grinder again? That would mean becoming a part of my dread crew of dead men if you’re willing.”

“And my friend?” She asked.

“Well, I think he’s seen enough to keep the story of the dead ship alive. We’ll jettison him in his pod in a place someone will find him,” I grinned. “Welcome aboard.”


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