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Out of Nowhere by Patrick LeClerc.
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"Martha will deal with you. She is High Priestess, our saviour from the Hundred Years Night." The voice rang out in the dim lamplight, "Her birth ten and sixty years ago brought Sola back to the sky and ended the reign of the fallen angel. Now Martha alone governs the lives of all who live beneath the perpetual dance of Sola. Devils like you may still fall from the sky - sent by the fallen angel - but you'll never succeed in banishing Sola now. It is Martha's will."

 

These words naturally disturbed Karl Telemann, the latest steward from the HPCI (Hyperion Prison Colony Inspectorate), and immediate hostage in sector J. Within moments of his landing on the Saturnian satellite he had been shot with a tranquilliser gun, disarmed, stripped, robed, and tied to a makeshift altar in the elevator cage of a mine shaft. Now he awoke to this deranged sermon from an acolyte of some deranged religion. It appeared he had minutes to live before he met his end: before Martha sent him back to his devil.

 

All he knew of Hyperion's situation was that fifty years ago the last steward went missing on a routine inspection to Sector J. The disappearance raised few warning flags though. "Perhaps he liked it there?" A colleague tastelessly mused. The Inspectorate was an outdated feather-capping institution with a laissez-faire remit (it was required by law to send a steward to a randomly selected sector but once every hundred years!). This latest 'blip' provided uninterested administrators little motivation to act beyond issuing an empty condolence to the missing steward's family.

 

The door facing him opened. Karl's captor fell to his knees. A silken cloak, crowned with a flash of white, swept inside. "Well done Shaw, Sola will bless you." a female voice pronounced. Martha glowered over Karl with righteous anger: her face silvery like the Moon, her hair white and claw-like, like lightning captured mid-streak. "Devil!" She hissed, and pointed to a button on the wall which Shaw duly pressed. The cage jolted and began a slow climb to the surface.

 

What Karl and the colonists didn't know about Hyperion was that its rotation was chaotic; deterministically yet unpredictably subject to the gravitational push and pull of Saturn and its larger moon, Titan. That Sola, the Sun, had been lost from view for a hundred years was, in reality, nothing remarkable. Martha's birth at the moment it returned to the sky, as Saturn (the fallen angel) tumbled out of it, was mere coincidence. In truth the natural tendency for superstitious thinking colouring the original colonists' belief systems had multiplied, unchecked, across many generations. Now it led the current descendants into an age as dark as the remotest of their subterranean tunnels.

 

Karl groggily glimpsed his pulse gun holstered in Shaw's rope belt. He also noticed that though his right hand was bound its anaesthetised musculature made it a fraction more flexible...

 

At the top of the shaft he peered through the cage door and saw that it rested atop a broad, low frustrum with steps leading down to where Martha's disciples were kneeling in silent obeisancea sea of hooded heads. Above them all arched the dome of the biosphere, originally designed for the colonists of old to exercise above ground. Now it served as a venue for sacrificing sky devils - as evidenced by the uniformed skeleton of Karl's predecessor hanging from a purpose-built gallows near the dome's edge. Beyond it lay his shuttle, frozen and out of reach.

 

His survival instincts span into overdrive as Martha drew a long ceremonial knife from her sleeve and raised it to her lips, readying herself for his destruction.

 

"Wait!" He interrupted her consecrations, "I am a gift from Sola!"

 

"Silence devil!" She roared at him.


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