For Brandy, thank you for the starter, I hope you enjoy the story.
It was just for one night…
…and it didn’t matter how much skin I was going to take off in the process. My little sister had taken the abuse for me but that was going to end here. Tonight. The ground was coming up fast; I had maybe a hundred yards before it was either splat or I was going to just skim the surface of that patch of death below. I’d read about Hell in the old books. Some distant, undefined place where the Devil resided. No matter how bad it was, it had nothing on the hot, dark blaze that I was headed for. It burned at over 300 degrees and was so fiery that it turned to ash everything and anything it came into contact with. As a result, it was black as sin and as wide as the ocean. The Pilots called it the Last Land because it was the last thing that the first explorers saw and the patch of stars that no one ever went to unless they wanted to kill themselves or if they wanted to win a bet. Racing headlong at the oblivion and then turning at the last second was a great way to make a lot of money in a hurry if you had the guts for it as rich people with nothing better to do paid a lot of money to see some idiot turn themselves into cinder.
I licked my lips. Anticipation growing as I set the final course correction, grabbed the steering column for lack of something else to do, and waited. This was the worst part. Too much time allowed for too much thought. This was where I would at last prove whether I was as horrible as I always knew I was or whether I had some part of me that deserved redemption and there was only one way to find out.
Liquid eased from my hairline and slid down my face, burning a trail as if to remind me of my sins. I wasn’t religious but I knew that there were forces beyond me that had set this up. No one gets away with hiding for as long as I have and not have to pay for it. I re-gripped the control stick between my legs, tightening my fingers inside my gloves. My moment of truth was here and I had doubts. I wanted to cry at the knowledge. Why? Why was I born such a coward?
At that moment a loud, clanging ring rattled throughout the tin can I was in. A call was coming through. Of all the fucking things to be working, it had to be the one thing that did. The gods seemed to have heard my question and were prepared to answer it.
I smashed my hand against the controllers, sparking a few circuits that I probably needed but the ringing continued. I wasn’t being let off that easy. Still I wasn’t planning on taking it. Let it continue until I burned up in the ash below. The gods had another plan.
“Hello?” came a shaky, female voice.
The voice was muffled as it came through the ancient voice box but I’d know it anywhere. It was my sister. My breath caught in my dry throat and settled harshly against my lungs.
“Brother?” she called out again, a little more desperate this time. “Are you there?”
There was silence that followed as she waited for me to reply. I couldn’t though. Talking to her would only get her hurt.
“God dammit, Bastian, answer me. I know you’re there. I can hear you breathing.”
It was a lie. Of sorts. She couldn’t technically hear me over so shitty a connection as ours, but we were twins and we’d always had a special bond.
“Bastian, please,” she pleaded and I could hear the grief in her voice.
Tears came to my eyes and I couldn’t fight it.
“Talk to me,” she said quietly.
She must’ve sensed my deteriorating resolve because she added one of her patented “please’s” that I could never turn from.
“Hey,” I said, my voice thick even to my own ears.
“Hey,” she replied and the relief was evident. “Where are you?”
I didn’t answer that and my silence must’ve been enough because I could feel her anger before she said anything and it was enormous.
“You fucking idiot! What the hell are you doing?” she yelled and her voice reverberated off of everything including the inside of my skull.
“I had to,” I croaked out.
“No, no you didn’t. You turn your ass right around and you get back here. Do you understand me?”
I snorted, “You, know for a younger sister, you are really bossy.”
My attempt at levity was not well met.
“I swear to the Gods, Sebastian Reynolds, I will hunt you into every life you have after this if you don’t turn around right this minute.”
I looked down at the controls. Not that I had any plans to follow her order, but I needed an excuse and I found one.
“I can’t,” I stated simply.
“Yes, you can. I know you can.”
“Dials are going wild, sis; I have no more control.”
“You could fly a horse underwater if you needed to, brother, so don’t give me that bullshit.”
I sighed and let go of the stick, sitting back in the shitty seat and letting my head fall back against the cracked and beaten head rest. It reminded me of myself.
“I’m not turning back, Belly,” I said quietly and looked at my final destination with a sense of certainty.
The ground was coming up far too quickly now and I knew that I had maybe ten minutes left before I entered the gravitational pull of the piece of rock in front of me and had next to no possibility of survival.
I should be panicking, but instead I all I could feel was this odd sort of peace. It was here. My end was finally here. I could finally leave it all behind and I didn’t have to keep fighting it. I’d cause no more pain.
“You never caused me pain, brother,” she said suddenly, hearing my thoughts as clear as if they were her own.
Her voice was thick again, anger leaving her and a new wave of desperation rolled over me. I knew it was hers but it didn’t deter me. I was going to save her.
The closer I got, the hotter the tin can I was in was getting. The dials were going crazy now, swinging wildly out of control. Just like me. I was so out of control that I’d willing put myself in this situation, but what choice did I have? It was either this or let that bastard continue and I wasn’t going to let that happen.
The anticipation lifted the rhythm of my heart to a thicker, quicker beat. I could feel my blood pulsing, vibrating my body. It would seem that as I finally wanted things to speed up they only slowed down. I knew I had less than five minutes now but it felt like ages. The black mass of earth was becoming more and more defined. It was coming. My retribution
I licked my lips in anticipation. Maybe the scales would finally be balanced.
“Bas,” she said tearfully through the line, “this isn’t how you can save me.”
“Yes it is,” I said, my own tears spraining back to my eyes.
It was always thus with us.
“No, Bas, what am I going to do without you?”
“Live a good life,” I said harshly though it wasn’t directed at her.
“No,” she said and I could almost see her shaking her head, “No. You honestly think that he’s just going to let me go when you hit that inferno?”
I didn’t answer. My thought process hadn’t extended that far. All I’d see what the blood covering her body and the ultimatum I’d been given. Race one final time and instead of pulling out at the last second like everyone who was watching was betting on, I was to go down in a blaze of glory. Only it was no kind of glory that I’d ever wanted for myself save only that it would finally free my sister. My craft jerked violently and then started to rattle wildly. I’d touched the outer rim of the gravity. There was no turning back now.
“He’s a monster, Bas,” she insisted roughly. “There will be no one to enforce your stupid agreement with him with you gone.”
That was true. No, I shook my head. I couldn’t listen to her any more or she would dissuade me. I gripped the controller again. Don’t lose faith, don’t lose faith, I chanted over and over again in my head.
“Brother!” she screamed and it took everything in me not to turn the stick.
“I have to do this, Bel,” I said hoarsely. “He will kill you if I don’t.”
“No, he won’t. I’m his star. He won’t touch me.”
I snorted, “Do you think it was a fluke that you got through to me?”
She clearly hadn’t thought about that.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“This is a test. He wants me to suffer in every way possible, Bel, but there is a bomb in your room right now and it’s timed so that it will go off a few seconds after I’m to hit the blaze.”
She was quiet for a second.
“If you pull out, I blow,” she finished for me quietly.
I nodded though there was no one to see it.
“He just wanted to hear me plead with you.”
“Yeah, Bel. Don’t you see? This is the only way.”
An overwhelming sense of sadness mixed with hatred swelled throughout my body.
“Bel,” I said quietly.
She tried to answer evenly, but I could hear the hitch in her voice.
“I love you and I’m so sorry.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for.”
“Yes, I do.”
“No Bas. No. You don’t.”
I tried to shake my head but the rattling was so bad now that I didn’t know if the bobbing of my chin was of my volition or not.
“It’s because of me-”
“Shhhhh,” she said quietly. “We’ve all made mistakes. I slept with the bastard, not you.”
“Yeah, true, that was pretty stupid,” I said, though the tears were falling freely at this point.
A strangled laugh came out of her and it mirrored my sentiments. I had less than a minute now and the fact that I would never see or talk to her again was finally hitting me. That single bit of data was more horrifying and more detrimental to my final resolve than any other thing she could’ve said.
There was a sniffle through the line. She was crying and she’d heard everything that I’d just thought. After everything I was putting even my last worry on her.
“Don’t you dare do that,” she said.
“Do what?” I asked limply.
“Blame yourself for caring about me.”
I wiped the tears from my cheeks and took a long, cleansing breath. I was seconds from my end.
I was about to respond but the nose of my ship hit the blaze and whatever shielding I had was ripped away in a second. The tin can was now an inferno and I had no time left.
“I love you Bel,” I said softly.
“I know you do big brother. Hey Bel?”
My ship was quickly falling into the fiery pit and my body had suddenly burst into blame and started to burn hotter than the hell I’d been sentenced to. I screamed and I felt panic overwhelm me. She was still connected to me in my mind.
No, Bel, get out of my head. She didn’t need to see this.
Bas, she called out wildly.
I will find you again. I promise.
It was the last thing I heard before I combusted; the final scream caught inside my death trap.