Memories: Fatigue

You can feel the fatigue caused by your consciousness beginning to set in at last. It was, of course, only a matter of time. The stasis pod has a limited number of measures to keep its occupant alive nearly indefinitely, but those are specifically designed for the unconscious. Your wakeful state is consuming more energy than the pod provides, and you’re slowly dying. Still, now is not the time to panic. Panic distracts thought, and that would only accelerate your death.

You are reminded at this time of when you were alone in the city, before you found Shilo. You had wandered for so long, trying to find just one living person, but the residences which had even still been occupied when the Valkyries came were few and far between, having already been evacuated. Where people had still been alive before the attack, however, you found only bodies or remnants thereof. Wandering out too far, you had gotten lost in the smoky streets. You would certainly have suffocated had you not remained calm and resolved your situation rationally. Now, you must do likewise. You set back into Shilo’s memories.

Zhilo’di Khuda’Cronell, Age 6, Processing Zone, Blue Selection Grounds, Undisclosed Location, Osgord

Shilo steps out of the ship with tears drying on her face. Though it has technically been several days since her parents’ death, the event was only minutes ago from her perspective. She wipes her eyes as she looks around, the other girls looking a bit shaken but none quite so much as her.

Taking a few moments to collect herself, Shilo marvels once more at the sheer number of girls and women with blue hair of various shades and amounts, some with only a few locks of blue, others with only a few strands of hair that aren’t blue. Looking around, she tries to find anyone without hair like her own. She can’t.

Trying to figure out what she’s supposed to do, Shilo searches the crowd for some sense of order. Her attention is grabbed when she sees the flight attendant who had grabbed her earlier directing a group of girls into a multi-line formation, calmly giving orders that Shilo can’t quite hear. She opts to move closer and quietly sneaks into the back of the formation. For a moment, she thinks the woman has noticed her, their eyes catching, but the woman quickly continues her visual scan of the formation, either not noticing or choosing to ignore Shilo’s appearance.

“When you get to your quarters,” the woman says, “you’ll have five millidays to sort through your things before forming up and prepping for uniform issue. You may not be Academics yet, but that’s no excuse not to act like ones. Now, we’ll start off with a light jog. Follow me.” With that, the woman takes off in what couldn’t have been any less than a full sprint.

Shilo’s group takes off after the woman, who somehow turns around in the middle of her sprint, her face still calm and collected as she says, “Stay in formation! If you can’t stay in a simple formation like this during a light jog, how can any of you expect to be admitted to the Academy?” Shilo’s face turns to stone as she realizes that she could still fail admission. She doesn’t find the run particularly difficult to maintain, but many of the other girls are falling out of the formation, not sure where to line up. As the formation falls apart, Shilo looks up at the woman who clearly isn’t actually a flight attendant. The woman looks around at the faces of all the girls before locking eyes with Shilo.

As she makes eye contact, Shilo tries to reach out toward the woman’s mind in an attempt to ask if there’s anything she can do. She gets no mental response, and she’s not entirely sure she even succeeded at contacting the woman until she notices a slight smirk appearing on the woman’s lips, turning around to face forward once more, as if to say, “I can’t see anyone breaking ranks if I’m looking this way.”

Shilo picks up her speed and pulls to the front on one side, saying, “Line up on me!” The girls to her side quickly straighten up, the ones behind them coming slowly into a line again, most of them struggling to maintain pace, but soon the girls move all the strugglers to the middle, encouraging them as best they can to stick in formation. The middle of the formation stays a bit unstable as the strugglers fall out of line and are pushed gently back into it by the faster girls behind them.

Many of the girls are losing their belongings to the path as the things they carry fall out of bags or their hands open up to push strugglers along, but they’re too focused on keeping formation to worry about it. One girl drops what seems to be a stuffed ulfr, and her eyes grow wide. Panicking, she stops and turns back to pick it up. Shilo doesn’t look back far enough to see what happens to her, but soon she hears muffled shouting, and the girl doesn’t return to formation. Silently, she thanks the Great One that her satchel’s pouches are all tightly secured. Soon, however, tears come to her eyes as she recalls who secured them, and she pushes the thought aside, focusing on the run.

After what seems like several rosts, the woman leading Shilo’s group slows down, and the formation follows suit, many of the girls out of breath. They stop, and the woman faces them, pacing in front of the formation. She instructs the girl opposite Shilo in the front of the formation to lead everyone inside in a single file. The girl steps outside the formation and begins to tell her fellows what to do. Before she finishes speaking, however, the woman comes up to her and whispers something into her ear. In response, the girl looks at her incredulously, her eyes confused.

“Right, then,” the woman says as she paces back across the front of the formation, “You there.” She looks at Shilo, who meets her gaze with a hard but silent determination. “You’ll be leading everyone inside now.” Shilo nods in response but says nothing, waiting for the woman to break eye contact first before focusing on the task. After a few moments, the woman turns around and goes back to pacing, that same smirk vaguely visible on her face.

Shilo isn’t sure exactly what the other girl did wrong, but clearly doing the same thing will do no good, so she tries a different approach. She sends out a mental instruction to the other girls in formation, detailing when to enter formation, and starts walking inside, the girl behind her following and the other columns soon falling in behind her own just as instructed.

When Shilo gets inside the building, she finds herself inside a hallway. Unsure where to go, she begins probing the location. Most of the eastern side of the building appears to be a simple dining hall of some sort. At the end of the building, there seems to be a large bathing room and a kitchen beside it. That only leaves the western compartment. She turns into it just as she reaches the entrance.

What she meets as she walks inside the compartment is not what she expected. On the south side of the room, there is an arrangement of stasis pods, lockers placed beside each one, while the north side is mostly empty with an assortment of items against the walls. Shilo opens the nearest locker and places her things inside it, reminding those behind her that they have five millidays to form up.

While everyone else is talking to one another, Shilo pulls out her book and opens it to the page where she had placed her photograph as a bookmark. Tears begin to tread down her face, but the moment is quickly lost when the woman in charge of Shilo’s group comes into the room and walks directly to Shilo. “It’s Zhilo’di, isn’t it?”

Shilo blinks, her eyes meeting the woman’s for a few moments before responding, “Yes, it is. I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?” The woman asks. Her lips are pursed and to one side, as if she’s trying to decypher a particularly difficult puzzle.

“I know I was supposed to be in a different group, but you were the only person I recognized.” Shilo’s tears begin to make their way out of her again, but the woman crouches down to meet her at eye level.

“Honestly, do you really think I would have let you join this group if it were that important?” The woman smiles. “You did miss my introduction, though. I’m your Candidate Chapter Commander, Keliar’di. Like everyone else here, I’m a Khuda’Cronell. Since that would get a bit confusing, we just use given names and nicknames here. We’re all sisters in a way, after all, aren’t we?” She smiles gently. “I knew your mother at one point, Zhilo’di. Qzculi’Adri was one of the best instructors at the Academy. I’m sorry about what happened, but I don’t recommend dwelling on it. The selection process here can be complicated at times, and it’s always difficult.”

Keliar’di stands and looks at her bare wrist. Somehow, though, it seems that there is some unseen information that she has gleaned from the glance, and she begins walking to the northern end of the compartment, where most of the other girls have gathered. Shilo quickly puts up her book and makes her way back to her spot in the formation.

“Right, girls,” Keliar’di says after the full time has passed, all the girls having returned to formation early, “you may have noticed that there are no beds here. There are only stasis pods. Now, those of you who were tired before the flight here may have noticed an interesting effect of stasis: It completely restores your mind while you’re under. It turns out that stasis only requires about five centidays for that effect to complete itself, making stasis much more efficient than regular sleep and leaving the days longer and more open to training and lessons.

“Now, you aren’t going to go into stasis every day for the rest of your lives, of course.” At this, a few girls sigh in relief. “While stasis restores your mind, it doesn’t reduce physical fatigue very much. It removes the fatiguing chemicals from your body, but your body has no opportunity to restore its t
issues while you’re in stasis, so eventually, you will need to sleep. The selection process isn’t so long that that will be a concern, but there is one concern that I must address about stasis.

“Your mind can wake up during stasis. It’s not typical, but it happens. Of course, a working mind consumes more energy than a static mind, so if your mind awakes, but if you fail to fully exit or re-enter stasis, you can very easily die. Normally, this is resolved by having someone monitor the condition of those in stasis, which we will have. However, there is always the chance that the person monitoring your condition fails to notice that you’re awake. In that case, you need to know how to save yourself. This is how you’re going to do it…”

You return from the memory to a dizzying sensation, a signal that you’re very near death. You’ve spent too much time in the memory. There’s a very good chance that you may have taken too long listening to Keliar’di and are now going to die regardless of what you know. Still, you refuse to panic.

Focusing on what you learned, you do exactly as Keliar’di told Shilo. You carefully remove all thought from your mind except that tiny amount of focus allowing you to remember. Then, you visualize yourself going to sleep, allowing that dizzying sensation to sweep over you as you think about black silence and stillness. Finally, you let go of even the memory and focus on being absolutely still, commanding your muscles not to move, then your lungs not to breathe, then your heart not to beat, then your mind not to think, and finally even your eyes not to glow. You sink into the blackness.


You gulp for air as the pod releases you from stasis. Your mind reels as your brain comes all the way back online. You are startled a bit at the age of Shilo’s voice when she calls out in your mind, ‘It’s alright, Shilo. You’ve made it out. Everything’s going to be ok.’ You choose to believe her as everything fades to black again while you slip into a genuine sleep.

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