Stories from the Rift: Nekati

Part 1a


It’s a weird sensation, to be locked inside your own mind. Being able to feel everything that’s going on around you, to be able to see what they’re doing to you, unable to scream no matter how much it hurts. You start to think about every decision you made that lead you there, to be laying there in your own blood. It gets to a point where the pain overtakes you and everything starts to blur… then nothing.

Two days earlier I had been hiding out in the refurbs of district 273. The old habitats there had suffered severe fire damage several solar cycles before and they were only now getting gutted and restored. The towering ribs of Hab 14 would be home for the next few weeks until the drone crews had finished inspecting the buildings integrity and started repairs. Once they started rebuilding that would be it… we would all have to find shelter somewhere else. For now though, we could perch high above the dirt and grime of the city floor. Sitting there on exposed beams Jarquo city felt almost alien. Being from the lower levels you didn’t often look up or even wonder how far it went on for.

Food… food was the main driving force. Food and shelter. Jarquo was warm for the most part, but the nights could get bitter cold at times. Some of the younger and weaker of us wouldn’t make it through the tougher nights even though we would huddle together to keep warm. Most of the time we would be scavenging for food, but sometimes some of us were able to find work. We knew that when we took it there was a high chance that we wouldn’t come back at all, so we often avoided it until we didn’t have a choice. The older one amongst us would take our Kattun, a small totem that we all kept that was unique to us, and put it in a container. The youngest amongst us would pick one out and it would be final. I had seen this happen while growing up and now I was of age to be included.

Scraps had been getting less and less for some time and it was getting harder to hunt for street animals due to the cities drive to reduce pests for some reason. Who knows, maybe the cities Custodian got bitten by one. It was another in a string of pointless initiatives that they would forget about in a few weeks. Just another way for those that ‘have’ to make it harder for those of us that ‘have not’. What this meant for us was that someone had to go and see Lady Keiko as 273 was her domain.

Lady Keiko was not a real Lady, we all knew that. She was a slender and tall, quite typical for an Outan. Her jet black eyes seemed to pierce right into your soul, making her a walking nightmare for most of us. There were rumours that she would eat those that failed her, a rumour that wasn’t helped by her two rows of needle sharp teeth that resided in her large gaping maw. Her acolytes, as she called them, all had a similar nightmarish look to them. I remember one in particular… Tarvan

Tarvan had originally been Shanoi, like me, but had so many augmentations that he was more machine than flesh and bone. His legs had been replaced and he stood a good foot taller than any other Shanoi. His arms had major modifications to them including full replacement of his hands with long knife like fingers. The only part of his body that seemed to have been left was his face that he would frequently hide behind a metal mask. With his long flowing robes that hung off his mostly metallic frame he was the living embodiment of the universal image of death. I had been near when the cities guards cornered him in the streets after a failed robbery. He was surrounded, standing out in the daylight with the sun reflecting of his steel limbs. He continued to fight through the hail of weapons fire until he was unable to move. His face was fixed, never flinching… not even as fire from a takedown rifle ripped through his cheek bone and out the other side of his head. This image has stayed with me ever since and added to the terrifying legend of Lady Keiko and her Acolytes.

That afternoon we all met in the heights of Hab 14 and those of us 13 solar cycles or older put their totem in the pot. There were less of us now than there were at the last draw. Jarquo was a dangerous place to live at the best of times, but as a street kid you always had to be vigilant. Kids had been disappearing with more frequency and our group had been effected as much as any of the others.

Etta stepped forward, being pushed by one of the other slightly older kids. She was nervous, she didn’t want to draw a totem that would mean that another one of us may not come back. Jaryd shook the container to mix up the totems and thrust it forward towards Etta. “It’s ok” he said softly to her “I came back last time, didn’t i!?”

Posted in lore, Nekati.