Content Warning: VagueSexual Situations
Eli's Bad Day
PERSONAL LOG ENTRY #55
It's been five weeks today since my family died.
I can still remember it so clearly: dad sitting in his study, going over the family finances. Mom was with Mari and me in the next room. I'd snuck out to watch dad work — he was my role model, after all.
I can still remember mom laughing when I told her I wanted to be like dad. She promised I would, in time, and that she'd be proud to see it.
Except we'll never know, now that she's dead, too.
I remember opening the door ever so slightly to peek inside, and that dad seemed a bit stressed, but otherwise perfectly normal. He had large stacks of datapads on his desk, and with one hand he would hold one up to read, while the other tapped away furiously at his keyboard. Clearly, he was very busy...but I was a kid, and all I knew was that my role model was acting so cool.
And then I heard noise behind me. I scampered away, hiding behind some furniture, thinking it was mom, who had probably noticed I was gone.
Even now, long after everything, I wish that had been the case.
Eli looked up in surprise from his desk, turning to see the ship's first mate, Geoff, standing at the door, looking bemused.
"Is that a diary?" he asked with a grin.
Eli flushed as he quickly shut down the application and turned back to Liam. "N-No…" he denied, embarrassed.
Geoff barked a laugh before jutting a thumb over his shoulder. "C'mon. Chow time."
Eli nodded as he stood up, following his superior officer into the halls of the Ithacan Traveller, a merchantman he'd managed to book a job on back on Macedon. Considering his circumstances, Eli had felt the opportunity a godsend, since the recruiter had neglected to ask about his history. Instead, it seemed like they were just happy to have more hands on board.
Of course, once he was on board, he understood why — they were shipping Hellenic cattle over to Fenghou, in the Azure system. The beasts were an excellent source of meat and dairy, but tended to become very anxious in enclosed spaces, like ships. The extra hands would serve to keep them under control and prevent them from trampling each other to death in the cargo hold.
"Oi, look who I found!" Geoff crowed as they entered the mess. Eli smiled weakly and gave a rather pitiful wave as the other crewmembers greeted Geoff, mostly. Not that Eli was feeling resentful — he was one of the newcomers, a stranger. Most of these men were lifers, having served aboard the transport ship for years.
Sitting down towards the end of the table — Geoff parted from him about halfway — Eli sat down with the other "indies" — independent contractors and hands that were just along for this one job, like him. As usual, in their four day trip, the others had little interest in interacting with each other, and most of the noise in the room came from the lifers.
Naturally, this made for a rather boring affair, which was why Eli liked eating as close to the lifers as possible, so he could hear some of their stories. Given he was last to the table, he'd been forced a bit further away, but was glad to notice that his fellow "indies" were quiet enough he could still hear the conversation.
"...So then Karl pays the girl, says it was a nice night, and goes to leave, yeah?" one of the lifers was saying. "But it turns out the girl wasn't a hooker at all! Next time we see him, Karl's got this massive handprint on his cheek, claiming he got assaulted by a lunatic...and guess who our waitress was?"
"No fucking way."
"I fucking know, right?! Who comes our way but his one night stand! Best part? She hears the whole thing, and pours hot coffee on his lap!"
Roars of laughter arose from the crewmen at the story, and Eli could spot Karl ducking his head in embarrassment.
"Did you have to tell that story, asshole?" Eli heard Karl mutter, prompting a small smile on his own face.
Eli had to admit — if it weren't for his circumstances, he might've considered asking to join up on a more permanent basis. The crew was interesting enough, and genial with the "indies," even if there was always that slight gap in their interactions that came from knowing you were probably never going to see the guy you were working with right now ever again. He particularly liked Geoff — the older, grizzled man was an alright sort, never really shouting at Eli or the other "indies" unless they really fucked up.
"Shows what happens when your mouth runs faster than your brains, Karl."
And, of course, the captain wasn't bad to look at.
Eli and every other "indie" had to exert considerable effort not to stare as the Ithaca's captain, Eleanor, walked into the room, to the cheers and shouted greetings of her crew. The 6'8", statuesque woman always seemed to be the center of attention wherever she went, and her disposition made her even more attractive. Firm, but fair, she commanded true respect among her crew, not just lust — something which, according to the stories he'd overheard, she managed to keep in check well enough as well.
Like everyone else, Eli harboured a crush on her, and he had no doubts she knew about it — it explained the smiles she shot his way whenever he ended up staring at her. Of course, wishing it was reciprocal was just fantasy, and Eli had long ago learned to put no stock in fantasy.
He watched as she sat at the head of the table, easily integrating herself in the conversation as though she'd always been there. She always seemed to know just what to say to get a laugh out of her crew, and Eli often found himself feeling jealous of the lifers for having such a great woman leading them.
Eli sighed as he returned to his meal — daydreaming would just get him mocked later on by whichever lifer would be assigned to work with him. Reluctantly, he tore his attention from the crew's conversation to his meal.
And then I heard noise behind me. I scampered away, hiding behind some furniture, thinking it was mom, who had probably noticed I was gone.
Even now, long after everything, I wish that had been the case.
I can still hardly believe what I saw that night. Uncle Aiden, with a few of dad's coworkers, marching up the stairs, looking grim. For a moment, I'd thought about jumping out and greeting them, but something about them made me stay in my hiding spot. I saw as Uncle Aiden stopped at the top of the stairs and motioned for two of them to go where mom and Mari were, while the rest followed him into dad's study.
Then the screaming started.
"So, you do write in a journal."
Eli shut off the app so quick his hands seemed to blur. Spinning in his chair, he felt mounting horror as he realised he was being watched by the Captain herself, who seemed more than a little amused at the sight of him looking so frazzled.
"C-Captain!" he squeaked as he jumped to his feet.
"At ease," she ordered him with a grin, waving him down. She eyed the now-turned off computer. "I was curious if Geoff had been pulling my leg."
Eli idly wondered if there was a way to hurt Geoff without anyone catching him. There had to be; maybe a wrench falling off a tube and onto his head? Surely, that would do the trick?
"Don't worry, I'm not here to make fun of you," she assured him as she walked past him and sat down on his bunk. The Ithacan Traveller was a rarity among trading ships — large enough to accommodate even its "indie" contractors without the need for too much bunking. Eli had lucked out and gotten a private cabin of his own — apparently, the lifer crew had gotten all the bunks. "It's cute."
Eli felt his cheeks burn in embarrassed gratification as she said the words. Even now, long after Humanity had left their homeworld and exploded onto the galactic stage, there were still some preconceived notions that plagued its people — like the idea that writing in a journal was decidedly "unmanly."
"It's just a habit from when I was younger," Eli admitted, rubbing his nape nervously — he wasn't entirely sure how he should act around the Captain. Between her beauty and her dominant personality, he rather felt like cornered prey being eyed by a predator. "Lets me keep my thoughts in order."
She hummed in understanding, running a hand along the sheets of his cot. "I get it," she told him with a coy smile. "You know, you've impressed me these past few days."
Eli's eyes widened in surprise. He hadn't even known she was looking. "I...it's nothing, captain! Just doing my job!"
The captain smiled. "I think it's a bit more than that," she said. "You're a hard worker, Eli. You follow orders, but you make sure to do them right. You're always looking for more ways to help, and I've seen you during mess — you're always looking over at my boys."
Eli stayed silent, though his face reddened progressively as she spoke. He couldn't believe he'd garnered such attention without realising it. He was getting sloppier.
"You're too kind, Captain," he managed to get out.
She smiled and patted the spot next to her on the cot. It took Eli a second to realise what she was asking, and hesitatingly complied with the request, sitting down slowly next to her.
"I want to offer you a job, Eli," she told him, leaning closer to him, such that she was almost purring into his ear. "Join my crew. Join me. I think we both know you'd be much happier on this ship than working side-gigs all your life."
Eli swallowed nervously. His blood flow was causing him quite a few problems right now, and his mind raced trying to find a way to keep himself under control. He settled on thinking about Jovian cuisine — it was almost universally considered the most disgusting food in the UNSA.
She touched his arm — food fled his thoughts, replaced by something a bit more primal. Cursing himself silently, he made a show of thinking about her proposal. To be honest, she wasn't wrong — the life of an independent contractor was tough, given that there were never any guarantees regarding employment. Moreover, independent contractors were more liable to work injuries than lifers, and less likely to find medical attention quickly. On the other hand, lifers tended to make less per job than an independent contractor, and Eli needed a lot of cash quickly.
Then again, he only really needed the cash in order to find a place to hide, and a ship wasn't a bad idea — particularly an independent trade ship, which would always be on the move, seeking the next big job.
So her offer had merit. The only question was whether it had enough merit.
He felt her index finger push against his lips as she breathed softly on his neck, making his hairs stand on end. Even a blind man at this point would've known what she was trying to do. And he was not averse to the idea, either.
"Shh…" she whispered. Eli made a mental note to check the door was locked before this advanced beyond the point of no return. He rather dreaded what would happen to him if anyone else on the ship found out about this.
Of course, such considerations flew from his mind the moment her lips met his, and Eli decided to simply say "fuck it," and enjoy the moment. How often was it that one got to be with such a remarkable woman, after all?
Waking up hours later, Eli was momentarily confused by his whereabouts before his memory returned, causing him to grin goofily. Feeling someone lying next to him, Eli's grin grew wider as the memory grew even more vivid, now accentuated with visible reminders.
The Captain had, as expected, been the dominant partner in the whole affair, and Eli was entirely alright with that. In terms of experience, it was clear she'd had much more than him, and while that did arouse mixed feelings in him, further contemplation made him realise he didn't really give a damn.
Getting his clothes and wrapping a towel around him, he made his way to the communal showers, where he swore he got a few knowing looks from the lifers. He brushed that aside, thinking he was seeing things, and quickly went through his routine. When he got back, he was actually surprised to see that the Captain was just now stirring.
"Morning, Captain," he greeted her as he entered the cabin. The woman turned on her side to face him, the covers doing little to hide the curvature of her lines, and smiled.
"Morning, Eli," she greeted him in turn. Alright, so she didn't seem at all embarrassed by what they'd done, or regretful. Always a good sign, and a boost to his ego. She grinned at him coyly. "Pleasant sleep?"
Eli blushed as he dumped his dirty clothes into the cabin's automated hamper. He'd get the clothes back by evening, all washed and cleaned — the joys of automation. "Can't complain," he answered, unable to keep a small grin from forming.
He felt her grab at his shirt and pull him back onto the bed, where she pulled him into a steamy kiss. Ignoring her morning breath — which, surprisingly, she didn't seem to have? — Eli allowed himself to get sucked into the Captain's charms once more, once more ending up underneath her.
However, even in the midst of his pleasurable haze, something seemed off to Eli. Something about this entire situation was...wrong. Groaning as the Captain jerked in a particular fashion, he arched his head back and managed to catch a glance of his desk.
The screen was turned off, but the unmistakeable green light of the computer itself was turned on.
A chill ran down his spine. Why was his computer on? Why was the screen off? He distinctly remembered shutting everything down last night. It was password protected, too, but he belatedly realised that as Captain of the ship, his current partner could have access to the means of circumventing such security. He'd never actually asked, after all.
He deftly rolled himself and the Captain over, switching positions, and before she could make much of it, pinned her arms over her head.
"Captain, why is my computer on?" he asked her steadily, the haze that had been upon him lifting. There was a reason why he kept his secrets close to the chest.
The Captain blinked in surprise at the sudden question — especially considering their current activity — but then morphed her expression into a sensual smile. Eli swallowed; he couldn't deny she was managing to achieve her desired effect, but he remained strong.
"Don't worry about it," she cooed, tilting up her head to plant a kiss on his lips. "Just let go…"
It was tempting — it really, really was — but Eli had to be sure he was just being paranoid. If so, he would apologise and hope she would forgive him long enough to give him a job. If not, then he needed to know now.
"Captain, I must insist," Eli said a bit more forcefully, his hands pinning arms with a bit more strength.
She stared him down for a moment before shrugging. "I'm a curious girl," she said unapologetically. "I like to know who I've got on my ship, Eli...or is it Eliecer Duff?"
If there was ever a sign that things had come to a head, that was it.
Before Eli could react appropriately, the Captain's shapely legs had locked him in a vice grip and, using her momentum, flipped them over again, ending up straddling him. Were it not for the new circumstances of their situation, Eli might've been quite aroused. As it was, Eli knew he had been tricked — this was no ally. This was an enemy.
"I have to say, Eli," the Captain drawled as she now pinned him down. "I'm quite disappointed in you. Here I thought you were a good little boy, but it turns out you're pretty bad, too."
"Did my uncle put you up to this?" Eli asked.
The Captain smiled down at him, her long, brunette hair cascading around her face and framing his, obscuring the rest of the room from his sight. "Nah," she answered. "I didn't even know who you really were till I got a sneak peek at your little diary over there."
Well, that served to confirm that she could bypass the security measures put in place on this ship. It also meant she'd faked being asleep in the morning to search his notes while he showered. "And you're going to turn me in, now," he deduced.
She shrugged. "Can you blame me?" she asked rhetorically.
"Quite easily," he cut in nonetheless.
"A girl's gotta eat, Eli," she continued as though she hadn't heard him. "And a billion credits is enough to set me and mine for life. Several lives, in fact."
So, Uncle Aiden had upped the bounty. Eli was surprised — the backstabbing traitor had always been a penny-pincher when it came to rewarding people. He mentally scoffed; it probably meant Aiden would kill whoever brought in the bounty, just to get out of paying it.
"I'm not going to go quietly," he told her defiantly.
The Captain looked surprised, but then shrugged. "You're one man, on my ship. Do you really think your opinion matters in this?"
Eli's only response was to thrust his hips up, causing her to give a sudden gasp as she apparently forgot what they'd been doing right up until this confrontation. That momentary distraction gave him the only opening he needed. As her grip on his arms weakened, he pulled out of lock and grabbed her by the back of the head, pulling her into a vicious headbutt.
She yelped in pain and fell to his side as he moved away from her, getting off the bed. Quickly locking the door — lest anyone walked in on the fight, which would be hard indeed to explain — he then moved back to his aching opponent and turned her to face him. Before she could curse at him, he wrapped his hands around her neck and pressed hard. He ignored her thrashing, the petechiae, the slight foaming at the edge of her mouth. All he needed from her was to disappear. If she stayed alive, even knocked out, she presented an ongoing threat to his life. He would not return to Aiden. He refused to.
She was too dangerous to be allowed to live.
A few more seconds passed, during which her thrashing lost its desperate force. Her strength was draining, and Eli could see the spark of life leave her bloodshot eyes ever so slowly, tears streaming down both her and his cheeks. He hadn't wanted to kill her. He hadn't. But he had to. He'd actually quite liked her, sex notwithstanding. This had been supposed to be his way out of running for the rest of his life.
It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair!
The thrashing stopped. Eli choked out a sob as he removed his hands from her throat, hating the purple bruises that blemished her otherwise quasi-perfect beauty. Staring at his hands, he found them suddenly ugly and horrifying, wishing he could be rid of them. But he couldn't. He hadn't had any choice. If he wanted to survive, as he had for the past 9 years, he had to keep moving, and keep erasing the obstacles in his way.
Still straddling his former lover, Eli gently closed her eyes, wiped the drool and foam from the sides of her mouth, and closed the mouth itself, giving her a resting appearance. He knew he wouldn't be able to stay on the ship for much longer — her failure to appear would soon raise enough eyebrows to warrant an investigation.
Turning her onto her side and tucking her in his sheets, to give the impression she was still sound asleep, he quickly packed up what belongings he could carry — clothes, his pistol, and finally, his memory chip, where he kept his journal. He paused to contemplate whether he wouldn't be better off without it — after all, it had led to this murder. It was rationally more problematic than helpful, and if he stopped writing about his past, perhaps this sort of situation wouldn't arise.
On the other hand, they were all the memories he had left of his past. He had no pictures, no videos...nothing but his words. They were the chronology of all that he had lived through and suffered over the past 9 years.
Could he really part with that?
He looked over at the Captain — her long legs, her curvaceous figure, her flowing hair...she'd been beautiful and inspiring. She'd made him want to work for her, and her crew loved her as much, he recognised. A moment of doubt, a moment of greed had unravelled everything. A moment created by his own carelessness.
His gloved fist gripped the chip tightly, and in his fist he heard the tell-tale snap of the chip breaking in half.
The past was a chain, he reminded himself. The more he let it grip him, the slower he would be in running from Aiden. And he had to run — he had to run long enough, far enough, for him to find the means to get what he needed to finally make his dear uncle pay for murdering his family.
Shouldering his kit, he checked his gauss pistol to make sure it had sufficient charge and holstered it. With any luck, he could reach the ship's escape pods without too much trouble, but just in case...well, it never hurt to be prepared.
Standing at the door, he spared the dead Captain one last, regretful glance before disengaging the lock. As the door slid open, he let the door slide shut behind him, fortunately not bumping into anyone in the hallway — they were likely all already at their posts.
Softly, he managed to keep his footfalls as quiet as possible as he navigated the ship's corridors, making for the escape pods. He doubted he had much time left before someone went to his cabin and find out what happened to the Captain. Fortunately, he'd only given the Captain his first name, so all he had to do was dye his hair again, get another pair of coloured contacts, and then proceed to change his last name...yet again.
As he reached the escape pods, he wondered when, if ever, he would get to stop running. When would he have to stop killing people just because they knew who he was? The more he killed, he realised as he opened a pod and threw his stuff inside, the more he felt part of him die inside. If he didn't stop soon, he feared he would become just as bad as his uncle.
He tapped in a destination into his console — Gaia seemed like a good bet. Plenty of work for an independent hand; the problem would be getting rid of the pod as discretely as possible, and without getting picked up by the authorities. Fortunately, they were scheduled to reach the Azure system shortly, which meant that the moment they dropped out of slipspace, he would eject.
As predicted, the ship suddenly lurched, almost throwing him from his seat — the tell-tale sign of the ship's slipspace drive deactivating. The momentary lurch was quickly negated by the ship's inertial compensators. Then, a moment later, the lights in the hallway beyond the pod's door turned red — an alarm. That meant they'd found the Captain.
Time to go.
As he punched in the activation sequence, Eli rested back against the chair, letting his thoughts wander. Even now, killing his uncle seemed like a distant goal. Without steady work, he was unlikely to be able to come even close. However, the longer he stayed put, the likelier it was that people would discover his true identity. Case in point.
Eli sighed. All he had left of his heritage was the pistol now strapped to his waist. It had been the only thing he'd managed to steal back from Aiden, a full two years after the bloody incident that led to the murder of his parents and sister. It had once belonged to his father, and Eli had vowed to use it to kill Aiden.
His stomach lurched. He hadn't been able to eat breakfast before fleeing the ship.
The problem was that Aiden was protected by a veritable wall of organisations and thugs. Eli knew that without substantial backup, he would be unable to reach that far.
It wasn't fucking fair.
And that, Eli reflected, was perhaps what life was meant to be like: unfair, unjust, and violent.
He hoped he didn't have to kill anyone the next time around.