Vultures

NOTE: This story is a fan work for Friends at the Table, and was originally published in the COUNTER/Weight Fan Zine, edited by Quinn Milton.


The door was open, and a ghost emerged. It was a raptor. Ibex watched as Detachment sped toward him, screeching pain and fear and joy. A still-open hatch in the Divine’s side offered him a view to the picked-over bones within. Something caught in his throat. He had not seen it, not that moment, and yet the memory burned within his mind as vividly if he had. A metal hand, reaching out…

* * *

The hatch was open. And there his younger brother, Jerboa—no: Quentin. Always Quentin. Lifeless. Floating. Ibex stood on the bridge of the Seventh Sun, choking down his pain and keeping his face a calm, stoic mask. The monitors of the ship flared with Righteousness, a brief, burning expression he could not allow himself to give. His nails dug in to his hand, bleeding…

* * *

“The door was opened,” Ibex said into the comm of the old Rigger. The thing belonged in a museum. Perhaps he did too. Time had picked them both clean. Ibex gripped the controls of the machine; it had no grace or order to it—modern OriCon tech couldn’t, why would something so ancient? Now he had to wait for the others. He touched the console, willing a righteous purpose he didn’t truly feel into his hands.

* * *

The ghost ripped at him. A fragment of Liberty, a memory of Quentin. The decaying husk of Detachment was still a raptor, and its circling talons tore an impotent arm from Ibex’s Rigger, then another, then another. Desperate for some last action, he launched a blade from the ancient mech, but Liberty or Detachment or whatever it was now batted it effortlessly away. “Damn it!” he shouted, slamming his fist down on the console. He had relied on Righteousness for so long; without it, how could he trust his own frail hands?

Something else was coming through the door. Something massive and undeniable. Rigour. Liberty relented in its assault, darted off and away, leaving only memories to rip at Ibex. “One last close call,” he muttered into the comm. They heard him, the gathered forces of the Golden Branch. Years in the making, one last hope for the sector. “That’s all this was.” He touched a few buttons on the console, diverting all his power into the thrusters, surrendering the Rigger’s useless arms. He didn’t make it far before his comm sprang to life and a familiar voice filled the cockpit. Another memory. His hands trembled.

“Maryland?”

Rigour approached him. It was close now, he could see inside. Ibex—no: Attar… it had been so long since he allowed himself to be Attar Rose—looked into the face of Maryland September, the woman he had loved. But the thing from beyond the door that looked back at him was only a skeleton, like everything else he had left.

Her metal hand, reaching out…

I’m sorry, Quentin.

Flensing his flesh from the bone…

It’s like I told you…

Attar, floating…

It’s a fucking vulture.