Ariadne’s Thread


How much had Theseus given up in order to slay the Minotaur? Everything, it seemed.

Though he was royalty by birth, nothing had been handed to him. Raised by his mother and a stranger to his father, he came to manhood by virtue of his rearing and circumstance, like anyone else. Growing from boy to man was easy. It was a straight path.

The troubles started when he decided to claim what he understood to be his birthright. When he decided to leave. Setting out on a winding path towards destiny, he fought nobly to find his way. He outwitted bandits and overpowered bullies. He corralled wild animals and wrestled with cruel masters. He loved. Eventually Theseus had traveled far and conquered enough and could rest easy in his father’s home forever.

Except he couldn’t. The Minotaur was out there and he knew it.

It was the beast that called to him, perhaps had always called to him. The labyrinth was an extension of the same maze of twists and turns his life had taken, he knew. His body could feel the familiar calling of the jumbled passageways, each similar to the one next to it, each promising to take him to his dreams, each lying. Theseus had wisely heeded the advice of his lover; “Go forward, always down, never left or right.” It was this tender compass that had seen him through the winding passages and navigated him to the center of his life’s maze. And there he did it. He slew the beast.

He did it without hesitation, without emotion. The Minotaur had exacted a great toll on the world and it could be suffered no more. This was his purpose, he understood. Theseus brandished his sword and watched in horror as he sliced the beast from sex to throat. The violence of the act was unimaginable, the scene ghastly. No words will consent to describe it. Theseus alone knows what he witnessed and how it changed him. He dropped his sword in the pooling blood and fur and stumbled back into the maze.

And now he wanders, lost in his own mind. He turns left as his attention wavers. He turns right as he seeks relief. The passageways wander and confound the man who can no longer remember where his path leads. His only hope is to notice the golden thread of his lover and to follow it back home before the beast takes him.

The Ethereal Languor, Chapter Two – “War Stories”


“…and the fucking jizzmonkies tried to jump us right in the middle of me taking the greatest shit of my goddamn life! I mean you wouldn’t fucking believe the size of this turd from fucking hell coming out of my anus like an assload of -”

“Jesus! Foulmouth. The story.”

“Ok, fuck! Keep yer tits on. So there we were, ass out, with these greasers sneaking up behind us. Janix hears a twig snap or some shit and he wheels around, trousers around his ankles, cock flapping in the winter wind, and just absolutely bitch slaps this cuntpuddle into the air. Holy shit was it beautiful. He spun, no lie, like at least 8 times before hitting the ground. The other jizzstain just froze in stunned silence like ‘What the fuck?’ And I swear Janix flipped up in some acrobatic ninja bullshit and clopped the other guy right in the jaw with his freshly shit-stained boot.”

“Ugh you can’t tell truth from exaggeration in your stories. Is that really how it happened, Janix?”

“Just as he says.”

“Yer goddamn right it’s as I say. And then we went up inta the town and may God strike me down if Janix didn’t fuck every single skank in that backwater whoremill at the same time. I myself had a-” Foulmouth pauses with his mouth open for a couple of seconds, then bellows “Is that fucking Halder?”

It was nice to see that nothing had changed.

“Last time I heard that story it was 5 spins.” Halder finishes walking in the doorway of the east wing cafeteria as his friends rush to greet him. Aidon “Foulmouth” Wikson grabs Halder in a bearhug, too tight as always. Wikson’s beard has gotten bigger, if that’s possible, and probably so has his prodigious gut. Hasn’t lost a bit of charm, though.

Janix places his hands on Halder’s shoulders. “It’s good to see you,” his eyes expressive and heartfelt. The two grew up together back in Dwunn and so have the advantage of not having to talk much. “Have you met Lethos?”

“No, well I…I thought Lethos was a guy. In your…who…”

The young woman (comparatively speaking) stands up and offers her hand. “I’m Fragil. Fragil Lethos. Widow of Renault Lethos.”

“Best damn gunner in the universe.” Wikson adds reverently.

Fragil is a wisp of a girl, dark-haired and somber. Bags under her eyes. She’s not healthy. She wears an old military jacket over a white dress that’s not more than a slip. She’s been eating what looks like beef tips in gravy with her hands. Halder can’t think of a way out of the handshake so he just does it.

“Aidon was just filling Lethos in on the Kleptine latrine incident. Somehow she hadn’t heard it yet. Come, pull up a seat. Eat with us. How have you been?”

Halder walks over to the handwash station, noticing for the first time a silver robot in the corner of the large room. The robot is staring at its own hand, moving it around slowly in front of its face. “I’m well, thanks. Hey what’s that robot?”

“Oh fer fuck’s sake, don’t. Just drop it.”

Halder shrugs. “Okay.” Then to the beverage interface, “Server, dispense a mug of Drillix Red. Extra head.” The station whirs and buzzes. The beer is dispensed, ice cold. He takes the seat next to Wikson, who eyes it greedily. Wikson’s own beer looks flat and warm.

“So where in the cack have you been?”

“I’ve been working,” Halder looks at his beer. “Things have been crazy.”

Fragil fills the silence with a question, “What do you do?”

Foulmouth pipes up, “He only built this entire fucking station with his bare hands.”

“I worked on some of the Server modules. It’s not that interesting. I’m actually sort of looking around for some new work these days.” Janix looks up at him and doesn’t smile. “Maybe I could join one of your teams. Uh, what do you do, Fragil?”




Janix explains, still looking at Halder with concern. “Lethos can sense the presence of others at a distance. The next room, across the station. Doesn’t matter. If she had been at Kleptine, Aidon would have been able to finish his shit in peace.”

“Well thanks fer fucking nothing, Lethos.”

“My pleasure,” she smarts back at Foulmouth. She slurps some gravy off her wrist.

Janix and Wikson start discussing military tactics mostly in acronyms. Halder loses the thread within a few sentences. He focuses on his beer. Fragil looks at a particularly large beef tip on her tray, tilting her head to the side and frowning. “Say,” she says a little too quietly, “can I borrow that knife?”

“Sure.” Halder picks up Wikson’s steak knife off the table and hands it over to Fragil.

“Thank you. And now at last I go home.”


Fragil spins the knife around and plunges it directly toward her heart. Janix’s arm flashes out, mashed potatoes flying as he releases his spoon. The robot in the corner watches in wonder as the spoon traces a trajectory into the wall. Janix’s hand catches Fragil’s wrist with a loud slap. “Whoa there. Nice try.” He takes the knife. She slumps back into her seat and grabs the large beef tip, eating it all at once with a pout.

Janix starts clearing the table, starting with the silverware. “Suicide watch. It’s part of our duties these days. Fragil’s been through a lot. We don’t know what we’d do without her.”

Halder finishes his beer and gets up for a refill. Wikson sees an opportunity, “Ya know, if ya’d like to keep drinkin’ I might, uh…know a guy who could help.” He looks around before raising up his trouser leg to show a series of plastic tubes circulating a murky golden liquid. “I know it’s still morning technically, but is there really time in space?”

“Server, pour me another beer.”

The interface beeps, “Authorization required. Code?”

Wikson points. “See what I mean? Damn nazi smegheads and their rationed gobshite.”


“Granted.” Another beer appears.

Foulmouth Wikson is flummoxed. “How? How did you do that?”

“You just have to give it your ID to authorize multiple drinks. It’s not locked down or anything.”

Stammering, “What-how-no, wait. What’s my ID? WHAT’S MY FUCKING ID?”

“Server, read the directory entry for Wikson-comma-Aidon.”

“Wikson. Aidon O. ID number zero-5-zero-4-S. Charged with multiple complaints of-” Wikson runs to the beverage station and commands it to produce a deliciously authorized Karuna Stout. He chugs the entire pint of dark, creamy liquid and lets out a sigh. “You little son of a bitch. You knew about this the whole time? The entire station thinks there’s a rationing on for some fucking reason.” His eyes unfocus, “You don’t know the great lengths I’ve gone to. Great. Lengths.”

“It’s all in the manual. Don’t you guys read the manual? Has nobody read the manual?”

“I don’t think so…” Wikson suddenly has the best idea of his life and he bolts upright, murder in his face- “No one speaks a word of this to anyone. Understand? Do you fucking understand?”

Alarm klaxons go off. The room is filled with an ear-piercing squeal and the lights flash red. Halder’s face goes white. “Valzon.”

Janix frowns. “That’s a hell of an assumption. It could be anything. It’s probably not Valzon. But we’ve got to get to our stations. Come with us. Nickel!” The robot turns its head, eyes wide. “You’re with me.”

“It is Valzon. I made his alarm a little less…squeally. So we could recognize it.”

Janix looks at Halder for a moment, studying him. He turns to Fragil and raises his eyebrows, waiting. She sighs, clamps her eyes shut tight, and concentrates.” She snaps her eyes open. “It is him,” she says in a hush. “It’s Valzon.”



The Ethereal Languor, Chapter One – Mise en place


The chirp of the door sensor startles him. He glances up at the antique clock on the bookcase. Right on time, as usual. She knows Halder hates surprises.

He double checks that everything in the room is in its proper place and waves the door open to see Administrator Alondra framed in the entranceway. Her thick chestnut hair is in its typical Kythirion braid and she is wearing the mint green dress with the gold trim that Halder thinks shows off her bust so nicely. He has decided that there is a thirty-five percent chance it’s been (tastefully) augmented.

She’s carrying a small potted tree this time. That’s odd.

“Hello, Halder.”

“Administrator. Please, come in.”

He watches as Alondra proceeds to the small table, stopping to bend down and place the tree on the floor. Forty percent. Halder moves a stack of paper from the chair across from her and sits down.

She studies him for a moment. “Halder, how are you?” She always starts that way.

“Going well. My latest tweaks to the algorithm are promising…maybe as much as a one percent increase to the…”

“No, I mean you. How are you?”

“Oh.” Something is off. She usually takes notes during these official check-ins. “I…I’m well?”

“I hope so. Listen, Halder.” She pauses. “There’s been a change. To the onboard automation project.”

He knew it. “If this is about the incident the other day with the freight scrapper, I can assure you that the system acted well within acceptable parameters. It was those boneheads in docking that don’t know how to read a fucking training manual!”

“No. The system acted perfectly. It always does. That’s what I want to discuss today. As you know, I’ve been sending summary reports to the station leadership board. They are quite pleased with your results and with the current state of the project.”

He waits, categorizing Alondra’s last few sentences as stalling.

She continues, looking down at her lap as she adjusts one of her silver bracelets. “In fact, the board feels that the system is performing so well that it might not need any further enhancements. At this time.”

Blood rushes to Halder’s head and his stomach drops. “But the enhancements! I’ve come up with a way to lower the response time of the ventilation unit to half a second!”

“And what is it now?”

“Almost a full second.”

Alondra lets out a sigh. “See, this is what I mean. The board doesn’t care if it takes a second for the air to come on. No one does, Halder. You’re so focused on the problem of efficiency that you don’t realize there isn’t a problem at all. You’re chasing your tail down here.”

Halder starts to feel unmoored from his chair. He grips the table and mumbles his next words. “You don’t understand my work.”

“I don’t. And neither does the board, which is a problem. When they asked me what tangible result-”

“You don’t think I’m important?”

“I do. I need help explaining why.”

“I built all of this! The whole system!”

“You did. And we thank you. And now? What do you do now?”

“I maintain it, every single day.” Halder rises from his chair and walks to the sink, leaning on it with a scowl.

“Okay, today for instance. What did you do today?”

He glances at the wooden cabinet near the living room. “I made sure there were no problems.”

“And were there?”


Silence hangs in the air before Alondra clears her throat. “Halder, I want to ask you something personal. I hope you don’t mind.” She takes the continued silence as permission, “When was the last time you left your quarters?”

Halder considers. “Well I’ve been…It was probably…” He couldn’t recall. It was surely more recent than last month’s State of the Ship formations, though he couldn’t think of a specific example. He liked to rely on the ship’s automated supply delivery conveyance. He’s proud of it.

“Am I the only person who visits you?”

He ignores the question, staring at a dish in the sink.

Alondra closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, getting back to business. “Halder, you were chosen from many qualified applicants and you hold a very privileged position as a member of this ship. As your commanding officer I am required to present justification of your commission renewal. Your review is coming up in less than two months.”

“You’re going to release me?” Halder’s eyes are wide and unfocused. He disappears into his mind for a moment, considering the implications. Non-renewal means going back to the war. Back down to Chimeria. To poverty and death.

Alondra rushes her words, “I don’t have to release you as long as I can prove you’re providing  tangible value to the mission. It would look fine if you wrapped up this successful project and immediately picked up another. It would probably even earn you some goodwill come ration adjustments.”

“But I’ve been working on this system for two years. What else do I do?”

Alondra stands and walks to the door, waving her hand to open it. “That’s up to you. I’m not going to hand you a project- everyone on the ship creates his own agenda, you know that. I’ve added value by serving as the liaison between the board and our crew, and that’s what I intend to continue to do at your review in two months. Please give me something to justify you staying. Please, Halder.”

Her face softens into a warm smile, then she turns to go through the door. He watches the mint green dress walk down the hallway, the door left wide open. “The tree is a gift, Halder. Water it.”


The Hallway


The man had lost the directions.

He was certain he’d had them just a short while ago, but both of his hands looked to be empty and he couldn’t imagine where else they might be. The pocket! They could be in there, he supposed. He dipped one of his hands into the pocket and fished around. Though it held many items, the directions were not to be found. A sense of dread settled among the folds of his stomach. He searched the floor around him, peered down the darkened hallway as far as he reasonably could. Nothing. He was lost.

No this can’t be, thought the man. He had sacrificed so much to get this far, survived so many trials. The Rift, The Swim, The Leap. Red Right ‘98! Danger had been his companion and determination his steady blade. He was the Hero of the Fitful Procession, who laughed at his misfortunes and marched into murky situations without hesitation, however uninviting. Kind of like that hallway.

If only he had been listening when he asked for directions. Though to be fair, why would he? His memory wasn’t as reliable as it had been yesterday. The directions were being written down in meticulous detail and he could just follow them. The plan was working flawlessly; consult the directions and go where they say. Heroes don’t have to wing everything.

The man squeezed his eyes tight and tried to picture the definitive phrasing of the directions in the recesses of his mind. He’d heard that hypnotists and television cops could jog a person’s memory in times of great need, but his watch was in the shop and he had never been on television. The only scrap of instruction he could recollect was “Go down the hallway.” The rest was lost forever in the trivia and the cobwebs of his psyche.

The man turned to face the hallway. The darkened, uninviting hallway. He checked his pocket again.