The Cage (in progress) - Part 1 : Chapter 3 by David Golledge

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Why not ‘friends'? Anything except that formal term which itself was a throwback to the lost days of empire before they had left Terra.

Out of all of them Graal was the most intelligent and probably the strongest, both emotionally and physically. Unfortunately, his gifts were often manifested in displays of profound indifference towards the universe. And towards the people with whom he had lived for what equated to three lifetimes. It was something which Phil had attempted to communicate to Graal throughout the years but it had led to nothing, Graal's self awareness of his faults unable to overcome a core of cold apathy.

Their historic atrocities had made them all famous but none more so than Michel Graal. His serial murders had attracted the attention of the entire planet, straddling as they did almost every continent. Such had been the long and drawn out suffering of his victims that it had not been difficult for law enforcers throughout Terra to connect his crimes. That, and the fact that virtual h-grams of sexual perversions, brandings, flayings, power tools meeting flesh and nerve shattering screams were sent by him to local broadcasters before the bodies were even discovered.

Of course the majority of citizens believed that deep space was too good for him.but there were others, perverts, ghouls, sickos, who craved those h-grams and Burgess had heard of copies exchanging hands for tens of thousands of lira. He could never understand such behaviour. He was as close as anyone could ever be to the twisted psyche of Grall yet he could not imagine such desires, believing the buyers of such material to be accomplices, accessories by virtue of acceptance. Graal had been ill, very ill. And if that illness were returning... it was something he did not care to contemplate.

"I'm a little freaked", Graal continued. "Now we're actually here it all seems so... I don't know. Everything's gonna change. We've been together for so long it's taking quite a leap of imagination to imagine things changing".

"Oh, come on", Jessica piped irritably. "Why the sudden fatalism? We're all tired and a little disturbed now that Terra's so close but what the hell did we expect? Lasershows and adoration? We were banished, exiled. Between us we committed some of the worst atrocities of the 23rd century. We've been away for a very long time and there are going to be questions but we're prepped aren't we? If we weren't they would never have given us the opportunity to return".

"You're assigning them with too many human charateristics,, Jessica", Glass said heavily. "It didn't matter to them whether we were ready or not. They gave us an opportunity and we took it. It's entirely in our hands and has been since we left their world".

There was a sudden weighty silence, broken only by the deep, soft background hum of the aft liquid turbines. In the silence they all felt the distance between Vediovis and their current position in space, between each other, as a tangible, tactile force.

"I miss green", Glass said with sudden, sad abstraction.

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