Verge Vendor Region
White tables filled the white room where everyone dressed in white. Joesen sat with his protected forehead resting on the hard surface in front of him. His long, untied robe hung open. The white shirt and pants he wore were freshly washed, smelled fresh, and his soft slippers kept his feet warm. The tall three sets of doors to the outside let in the frosty air. It smelled pleasant compared to the smell of Tarmin’s shit that permeated the place most of the time.
Joesen raised his head up and looked toward the high, bland ceiling. His pale green eyes looked beyond the long windows, beyond the blue, beyond the atmosphere to the stars above. Of course, he could not see them during the day, but he knew they were there. The Gallente form tattoos streaked his pale face, his features gaunt and thin gave him an unhealthy appearance.
“Fuck!” Joesen yelled, bringing his head down to strike the table. “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” Each word was followed by a heavy head slam. The staff of the facility learned quickly that Joesen needed something to keep him from injuring his head on any nearby surface, so they shaved his head and put on a white safety helmet. He seemed to like it, so he did not fight them.
Tarmin slowly looked over with vacant eyes from across the room. His brown art piece on the protected wall prepared in the medium of shit, looked like nothing more than turd scribbles. He drooled and looked slightly agitated as his mouth opened and closed several times. The brown on his hand matched the stains on the back of his pants and lower shirt. The facility staff kept him penned in with half dividers he would not cross. The stench kept the other residents away.
Numerous others dotted the room, some along the massive windows that let in the view of wide beaches and the ocean. Others sat at tables alone or small groups. White clouds drifted on the gentle wind, and the cityscape’s towers and buildings below reflected the scenery. The facility sat above the city on a green bluff overlooking the area, only one building of a massive medical complex with every conceivable service available. A hub of activity for the sick and injured including a cutting edge psychological section.
“Calm down, Joe,” Maggi told him. She sat across the table and raised an eyebrow at his outburst. She brushed at stray strands of curly brown hair in her face that escaped her binding attempt.
Mikael sat to Joesen’s left and rocked slightly back and forth with his thumb in his mouth. He began softly humming a lullaby, pulling his robe to his cheek like a blanket. The stress drove him further into his own baby world. His clean shaven, round face and buzzed head added to the impression.
“I have to agree,” Wendel said, positioning himself with Maggi’s assessment. He sat to Joesen’s right at their four sided table. His large glasses and full, thick, black beard gave him the persona of a scholar. According to what he said, prior to his mental break, he was supposedly a professor at an illustrious planet side university.
On the table, a game board sat positioned between them. The table was solid, so Joesen smacking his head did not disturb the pieces much. Maggi and Wendel returned the board to its prior configuration easy enough. The latter scratched his beard and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose considering his next move in the cooperative game play.
“None of you understand,” Joesen said. “I was a capsuleer once. A god among the stars! Master of my own fate. Immortal!” He waved his hands around in a frantic manner emphasising his points.
“Yes, we know,” Maggi said rolling her eyes. “If you could manage to focus on and finish the game in front of you, we will allow you to tell us all about it… again.” She pointed at the table and lifted her vape device to her lips drawing in a long breath. The massive cloud she exhaled drifted upward following the air currents.
“Hit me,” Wendel said.
Maggi leaned over and allowed him to take an equally long draw. He held it in for several moments, running his hands through his long hair and stretching his back. Letting it out, he sighed softly as Joesen mumbled incoherently. “So good,” he told her.
Maggi smiled, nodded, and relaxed in her seat. She looked down her nose at Joesen wondering if he would be able to continue the game before them. Glancing at Mikael, she doubted it, seeing how enthusastically he sucked his thumb, keeping his eyes closed. Fiddling with her pony tail hanging down over her left shoulder, she gave them a fifty-fifty chance.
“It was one zero seven, so long ago,” Joesen said, his eyes glazing, distracted focus.
“And we lost him,” Maggi commented lightly rubbing her face. The sleeve of her shirt and robe slipped down revealing numerous scars across her wrist and forearm.
Wendel gazed at Joesen through the top section of his glasses. His clear, blue eyes intense. “Perhaps,” he commented softly. “Give him a little time. He will come back.”
“Why dont we see you very often?” Maggi asked.
“You know. I enjoy my solitude.” Wendel told her. He turned his attention to Joesen.
“We were out in Inaya in The Forge, joined a corporation led by that Deteis Caldari bastard. I’d call him a son-of-a-bitch, but he was grown in a tube! Smart fucker. Smarter than anyone I have ever met. We only planned to be with them for a short time. Just enough to gain his trust. But, he was so far ahead of us at every point.” Joesen smacked the edge of one hand in his open palm emphasizing his point. Mikael tensed with each blow.
In a sudden change, Joesen laughed remembering. “We were always combatting those mineral stealing pieces of shit.”
“Tangent,” Maggi said tilting her head back slightly, throwing her hands up in defeat.”
Wendel shushed her softly and took her hand in his to reassure her. Gently patting it, then rubbing her wrist scars on that side. He whispered to her. “No big deal. I actually haven’t heard this part before.”
“Easy to spot! Yes, they were. Always in a belt, mining barges, taking our rock all the time. They didn’t live there. Get them talking on comms and you could draw them out. Big, organized, fucking pieces of mineral stealing shit, robbing our system. For what? So they could give their take to some boss somewhere who would turn it into ISK and pay them barely enough to survive. They weren’t engineers like us! Leeches!”
Maggi dragged her chair closer to Wendel and rested her head on his shoulder, letting him rub the scars on her forearm too, drawing in more haze from her device. It relaxed her as she slowly exhaled. Wendel’s slow fingers felt nice, and she needed it to listen to Joesen’s ravings. Wendel observed the passion and manic look in Joesen’s face, curious of how the Caldari bastard handled the situation.
“We… well he decides one day that we would begin a campaign against them. Make their theft so miserable and without profit that they would leave the system and not come back,” Joesen continued. “Take their ore when they dumped. Shoot up their ships if they tried to taken it back. Blow up their defense ships if they brought them out, which they did. One time coming out of warp, he used the station shielding to sling shot around just in time to blast one of them trying to dock. Who knows how to do that shit? The station commanders got so pissed a ship blew up so close to them.” He laughed softly reliving the moments. “Always working within the Concord convention guidlines as he put it. It was glorious.”
“Go on. Go on,” Wendel prompted softly.
“Then one day the bastard starts talking all crazy like, throwing out archaic terms from maritime sea hunting or some such nonsense. We have eyes on a thief when out of nowhere he shows up in a massive battleship. Long and thick, one of those Caldari Rokhs. He modified and fit it for speed and smart bombs too. Comes flying through the asteroid belt like a massive battering ram screaming on comms like some fanatic Amarrian. ‘There he rises! From wrath’s heart the divine stab at thee!'” Joesen yelled it, the words echoing around the room.
Most did not bother to even look. Wendel grinned as he listened closely. Mikael crawled out of his chair and rolled into a ball on the floor. Maggi sighed feeling bored, wanting to get back to the game.
“And what happened next?” Wendel asked.
Joesen rubbed his helmet. “Coming in at an angle, he knocked that mining barge clear out of the belt. Something like thirty kilometers. I couldn’t believe it! The entire corp laughed and laughed, even followed the thief to the gate back to Osmon to see them out. All the while giving them a piece of our mind.” Joesen wiped at the tears in his eyes from laughing so hard. “The nick names that were given to that ship… so funny.”
“Why did you leave the corporation?” Wendel prodded.
Joesen changed immediately. Going from euphoric humor to a deep, serious anger. “Fucking shit eating Caldari! When he decided to venture out with part of the corp into null sec, we thought our opportunity arrived. I didn’t know he set a trap on the blue print vault in the station offices. I thought he trusted us. When I went to steal the corporation manufacturing blueprints, I was hit by… I don’t even remember, but it fried my brain, sockets, and internal circuitry. My days in a pod fucking ended! Here I am, a fucking baseliner! Mortal and stuck in this wilting flesh for the last thirteen years! Not even ten percent of the man I once was.”
He slammed his head into the table and grabbed the game board, throwing it into the air in his rage. Froth and spittle flew from his lips as he cried out.
“What was the name of the corporation? What is the Caldari’s name?” Wendel yelled, his face alive with anticipation, holding on to the table.
“I don’t fucking know! I can’t fucking remember!” Joesen screamed, his face splotched red and eyes wild. “Always asking! Curse him! Curse the fucking Caladari bastard! Curse him!” He ran to another table and upended it, sending the resident there scampering out of the way. Joesen wailed in anguish, thrashing his arms through the air.
Wendel sat back in his chair, dislodging Maggi, a soft smile pulling at the edges of his mouth, and a look of satisfaction in his eyes. She sighed and moved her chair back. The two watched the big, male nurses in their green uniforms run over and grab Joesen, trying to sooth him by their gentle words. It did not help.
Joesen fought hard and four of them finally got him under control, managing to get him in restraints. He could not swing his arms or kick his legs, but he could still bite. One of the nurses lost a bloody chunk out of his arm in the struggle. Other patients got upset and nurses returned them to their rooms to lower the stress and reduce risk.
“Sad. More solitary,” Wendel said shaking his head when Joesen finally stopped struggling.
He was breathing heavily along with the nurses, all of them sweaty from the fight. “Oh. That is unfortunate,” Maggi said glancing at one of the doors. She took another long draw from her vape.
Wendel followed her gaze and quickly lowered his eyes and head, letting his hair fall around the sides of his face. “Who is that?” he whispered.
“Joesen’s twin brother,” Maggi answered. “He visits regularly.”
The man was an exact image of Joesen, but he looked fit and healthy. Same tattoos and piercing green eyes. A head full of hair, well dressed, and appeared amused watching his brother’s predicament, he held up his hand. “Joesen!” he called.
Joesen immediately gazed in that direction, recognizing the voice.
“I have chocolate pudding!” Joesen’s brother said loudly, holding the container so he could see. He smiled wide.
Joesen’s smile mirrored his brother’s exactly when the treat registered in the troubled mind, yet his bloody teeth, lips, and chin corrupted the sweetness. “I like pudding!” he said calmly. “Hi!” Joesen would have waved, but he could not move his arms.
As the nurses dragged Joesen out with his brother following, Wendel caught the words his brother said before the doors closed. “Maybe, pudding will get you to remember today.” He also noticed a capsuleer socket on the back of his neck.
“I’m sorry we didn’t get to finish our game,” Wendel said.
“It’s nothing new. I rarely get to finish anything around here.” Maggi nudged Mikael on the floor with her foot, but he only tightened further into a ball. The sadness in her features was unmistakable.
Wendel stood and patted her forearm heading away. “I’m going to give you what you want,” he told her.
Maggi looked at him slightly confused. Shrugging her shoulders she got up and went to one of the big windows to sit in a rocking chair. She wondered about his words as she pulled her sleeve back to scratch an itch. Her eyes drifted over the numerous, long scars.
* * * * *
Wendel walked with purpose. Going into a private staff bathroom, he found his bag in the locker where he left it. Taking off his glasses, stripping off his clothes, he pulled on his regular garments. A simple black shirt, black pants, black boots, and a thick jacket rounded out the ensemble, covering the tech in his flesh.
Moving to the mirror he removed his long wig, then he pulled off his mustache and beard, letting them drop into the reprocessor. Wendel was gone. The face of a Deteis Caldari stared back at him from the mirror.
He arrived at the nursing station on the way out and smiled at the nurse behind the counter. She grinned and waved.
“Have a nice visit?” she asked.
“I did,” he said taking the electronic tablet from her to sign out. Quickly glancing at the log, the name of the man who recently arrived was Joecen Rizdo. An interesting, familiar name. Pieces of the mystery finally solidified for him.
He nodded goodbye to the nurse, handed her the tablet back, and walked out. He felt relaxed and exited with a much better understanding of why old friends let him know someone was discreetly asking questions about the days back in Inaya.
* * * * *
Maggi rocked in her chair feeling the familiar crushing despair and depression shoving its way in around her. Like darkness that began to descend on the world, she felt its cold grip. The last bits of sun slipped below the horizon, and twilight appeared. She glanced up to see something like a shooting star in the sky. Her heart fluttered a little looking at the beauty.
It appeared to be moving slow at first, but quickly increased. Turning into a fire star falling from heaven, it looked to be getting closer, splitting into multiple points of light. She stood up and approached the window mesmerized, recognizing the incoming ordinance volley from her past life as a ship based weapons specialist. Placing her hand against the glass she smiled.