The Void Princess 3: Trust And Promise


Okay. This is fine.

If Laika wanted to kill me, I’d be dead already. I’m safe, I have plenty of food, water and oxygen to last until rescue, and rescue will definitely be coming. It’s hard to know when rescue is coming without knowing Laika’s route, but it should be within days, a couple of weeks at most.


The first thing I do is a proper stocktake and inspection of my environment. The livable space is all just one room – no privacy or decency concerns in a vehicle that can only carry one person – so I can see most of what I’m working with from the pilot’s chair. Directly behind me is a very narrow cot against one wall, empty but for a blanket, a single thin pillow, and flight safety straps. Against the other wall is the tiniest living area I’ve ever seen; just a very narrow bench with a cheap food heater/cooler unit bolted to one corner. Behind that is another bench with vice bolted to it (a workshop, maybe?) and its own chair; in the whole cabin, this area looks like the only one where any luxuries were taken in regards to using space or expense, as the chair is larger and more comfortable-looking than the basic pilot’s chair I’m currently strapped to, and the desk is a proper, solid one, not tiny and lightweight to save of space and propulsion costs like everything else. Way down the back are the hygiene facilities. The only part of the cabin that’s walled off into a separate ‘room’ is the narrow little shower itself, to protect everything else from water damage. As expected in such a small space, every free nook and cavity has been converted into a drawer or cupboard.

A quick rummage through the drawers reveals that when the engineers replenished the survival supplies, they left Lyllania’s personal effects in place. Presumably this was just easier than storing them somewhere else until the next of kin showed up. Or maybe Laika’s body is technically a crime scene, what with Lyllania’s baffling death. Either way, there’s a spare set of bed linens in the drawers under the bed, along with a couple of towels and cleaning rags, and – score! – a few spare outfits. Fantastic, I won’t be totally gross when I’m rescued. All the clothes are slightly too big for me, but wearable. Lyllania was a girl after my own heart, clothing-wise; everything is more practical than fashionable, all hardwearing denims and cut-resistant non-plastic synthetics. One jacket, folded with particular care and wrapped in a sheet of clean, breathable fabric, looks to be made of genuine leather. I resist the temptation to unfold it and have a look at it; I don’t want to risk damaging it.

Lyllania apparently also had a sweet tooth. In addition to the restocked survival supplies, I find an entire drawer of chocolate bars. I munch on one while I inspect the workshop. Drawers of gears and circuit board and wires and thing sheets of metal and tiny tools that I can only guess the purpose of – Lyllania was clearly some kind of engineer, but I don’t know enough to even guess what kind. This is the only area of the cabin that’s decorated to any significant degree, sporting some posters of commercial release dragons and dragon parts, a couple of unlabelled hand-drawn schematics that I don’t even try to decipher, and a large poster advertising someplace called the Rust Bucket on Dullahan. I’ve never been to Dullahan, but judging from the drink prices advertised, the Rust Bucket is probably a bar.

Several of the drawers are locked. I ask Laika to open them. He ignores me.

My most useful find is in an out-of-the-way closet wedged in a gap between the shower and wall. I yank it open to find a suit of bulky, white cloth with an enclosed helmet – a space suit! It’s an extremely basic design – no propulsion system, no internal cameras or life support monitoring, and the shittiest and most basic temperature regulation and air cycling systems allowed by law – but it looks functional. It’s a little bit too big for me, presumably sized for Lyllania, but wearable. In an emergency, I can exit Laika’s cabin. Temporarily. An hour, tops. But it’s something.

Okay, so supplies are better than expected. What information do I have?

Not much. A poke around the human-centric side of the computer system reveals very little that isn’t password protected. I ask Laika for the password (he ignores me again, of course) and look around what I have access to. Apparently Laika’s neck and tail do contain external storage compartments after all, six in total, currently full of emergency fuel and sheets of metal alloys that I know nothing about and couldn’t guess the purpose of. Either material for Lyllania’s engineering work, or some kind of trade cargo, I guess.

I can’t access any kind of schematics on Laika himself. That’s not surprising. If they were readily accessible, then Melu would’ve had them, and would’ve known that the standard restraints wouldn’t hold him. Which… raises a lot of questions on its own, actually.

Laika’s cabin is very clearly suited to holing only the pilot, but there are locks and passwords on things. That can’t be a defence against passengers because you can’t fit any passengers in here. It’s against intruders, but the door itself isn’t particularly secure. Laika is built to be able to escape standard wing restraints, and the modifications aren’t obvious; Melu clearly didn’t notice them. Similarly, he must have hidden secondary fuel tanks for his thrusters, because there’s no way his fuel tanks weren’t drained. Even his behaviour – despite being half out of his mind upon capture, he feigned being restrained until he was ready to escape. He even let me come inside and switch him off the first time, despite the fact that he can apparently ignore the manual emergency overrides. Laika isn’t built to be secure, he’s built to be deceptive. This is a dragon specifically designed to be able to keep secrets and escape capture.

Maybe that’s why so much of him is custom made with non-standard parts. Any law enforcement agency in colonised space could get the overrides to get through his factory standard access port, but custom locks and hidden fuel lines are a lot harder to find and deal with. So… smuggler? That seems to be the obvious option. Might be something worse, though. Something really shady.

All of which spells some pretty bad news for Laika. I mean, he’s likely to be decommissioned as a result of grabbing me anyway, but if he has a serious criminal record and he’s difficult to contain, his chances are even slimmer. I slump back into the pilot’s chair and finish my chocolate bar.

Where are we going? I ask again.


Yeah, yeah, secret. Why did you take me?

Laika sends me a… something. It’s a flash of soul, but not his own. For one thing, it’s clearly a human soul, not a dragon one. For another, it doesn’t match his feelings at all. It’s a recording, like the ones in movies; a deeper scan than anyone bothers with for movies, but unreactive, static.

Whoever it’s from, I don’t know her. This isn’t surprising, as Laika and I only have one acquaintance in common. The recording radiates…. Caring. Compassion. Love, appreciation, a desire to help and make everything better, a desire entrenched far deeper and far more vibrant than the best actor n colonised space would ever be able to fake. It’s not even aimed at me, and I’m driven to the edge of tears by the truth and purity and love in it. Whoever this was, she loved Laika very much. In the instant this was captured, at least, he was the only thing that mattered in her world.

Is this your princess? I ask.


I flash him a spark of comfort and sorrow. I’m sorry for your loss. She seems lovely.

He flashes annoyance and frustration back. After a moment, he sends me the soul memory again, but this time he switches the main viewscreen from the space before us to something else. A recording from his eyes (or one of his eyes, I guess) as he stands shakily on a building roof, staring down at a tiny human in tattered formal clothes cradling a shattered arm. She glares up at him in anger and irritation while her soul radiates love and compassion.

Oh. This is how Laika sees me.

I’m… not really sure what to do with that.

Either I’m a fantastic actor, or there’s something flawed in Laika’s memory. I like dragons, obviously, I mean it’d be hard to become a dragon tamer otherwise, but I’m pretty sure I don’t love this sulky, party-ruining, kidnapping dipshit that much. That wouldn’t make any sense. Maybe the sober-up I’d taken hadn’t worked; maybe I was still drunk at the time. Whatever.

If Laika’s plan is to get help, he’s gone the wrong way about it. He can’t make me help him. He can’t make me do anything.

They will kill you for this, I tell him, trying to keep the concept as simple as possible so that he might actually understand this time.

He flashes dismissal at me. They will kill me anyway.

Ah. So he did understand the consequences of what he was doing. Sometimes off-market dragons have a lot of trouble with concepts of human law, unless they have a diligent princess to guide them, but apparently Laika likes to live on the wild side. Then why?


You won’t reach it!

We go, we might. We stay, we don’t.

Faced with certain death and failure, he’d taken the path with any chance of success at all, even a negligible chance. Alright.

Where are we going?




This ‘secret’ was different. Usually he said it like it was a secret to share with me. ‘Here is a mystery that we must investigate’. This time, it was a secret from me. ‘This is a mystery that you aren’t entitled to’.

Hypothetical: we evade security. Will we get to secret before my food and air runs out?


You want me alive, right? So we will need to stop somewhere. How will you avoid capture then?

A flash of dismissal. Not ‘this isn’t a problem’, but ‘we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it’.

This won’t work.

Try. Only option.

There’s another option! Trust me, let me help you.

A flash of hope. But doubt. He doesn’t trust me completely. I flash back at him the concept of my soul as he remembered it on the roof. Blurry, a memory of a memory, but he hesitates. Considers.


The transmission, raw and flat and littered with the artefacts of security-standard long range transmitters, is for my benefit; the actual transmission, dragon-to-dragon, takes place on a conceptual level I can barely understand beyond undertones of ‘this is an official message’ and ‘if you resist, you will regret it’. I do catch the name of the transmitting dragon (Septimon, Intercity Trade Route Patrol). This is much faster a rescue than I’d planned for – I hadn’t figured on the ITRP. We’re in a heavy trade area, so nearby patrol dragons makes sense.

Laika’s only response to the message is to gain speed. Oh, that’s not going to work. Even if he can outfly Septimon (and I have no idea if he can, I’m not well-versed in the builds of trade security dragons), running is just going to increase the urgency to find him, and Septimon would’ve broadcast our specific location already. Security are everywhere, and Laika only has so much fuel.

I try for the manual controls, but of course they don’t work. Laika, stop. You have to stop.


We won’t get there like this! I can help. Do you have a transmission booster?

No response.

Laika, do you have a transmission booster?


Boost my signal enough to reach Septimus. Please. This is the best chance, the only chance, you have.

I send him the memory of the roof again and he, begrudgingly, activates the transmission booster. I take a moment to figure out how the fuck I’m actually supposed to deescalate this.


Security commission! Hi! Hello, Septimon. Who else am I speaking to?

The message cuts off. A pause. I assume they’re analysing my ID tagged to the transmission, alert for deception. They’re not close enough to actually look at my soul directly and get any sort of automatic response to my probing, and we don’t have any sort of verified ID system in place like I do with friends and family, so they kind of have to take my word for it. But then, who else would I be?


This message has an ID tag – Orlani, Princess of Septimon. Well, okay, that’s not really informative. But at least I can put a name to the voice now.

I’m fine. I apologise for all this fuss. Laika here is a bit excitable – he was pretty recently traumatised, you know how the resocialisation process can be.


I’m not hurt.

And here is where I have a choice. I know what my job is. It’s the job I’ve been doing for decades – calm the dragon down, get him somewhere safe, hand him over to the care of the people who can help him. Advocate for him, convince everyone that he can be resocialised, let the professionals work him through his grief and cajole him into explaining his ‘secret’, let Lyllania’s family have her stuff back and let someone with the patience and experience and mindset to form a proper dragon bond step into his life and take care of him. Like every other dragon I’ve dealt with.


When I’d told him that he’d be decommissioned for kidnapping me, he’d said that they would have killed him anyway. I don’t know anything about his history, or what’s in his locked drawers or locked files, or why Lyllania had killed herself in such a fashion, but I do know that this was an act of desperation in a situation so dire that even certain failure was his best option. He’s clearly certain that whatever he has, or is, or did, marks him for death regardless, and dragons can’t always be trusted on this sort of thing, they’re not always great at understanding human systems without a princess to guide them, but…

What if he’s right?

I’ll never be the person that Laika saw on that rooftop. But I’m not the kind of person who can turn him over for execution, either. Not without knowing what he did, not without knowing that there’s no other choice.

I’m not hurt, I continue. There’s just been a bit of a misunderstanding. When I told Laika I wanted to adopt him, he got so excited that he jumped right off to space, completely forgetting that we have assessments and paperwork and soforth to fill out first.

Another pause. The consideration is obvious – I’m at Laika’s mercy right now. What if I’m being threatened? Orlani certainly can’t trust my words.


Yes, of course. We need to head for a city to do the assessments and registration anyway. Again, I’m sorry about this.


Understood. I turn my soul back to Laika’s. Laika, you need to slow down. What’s the nearest city on or close to our current flight path? Not counting Minotaur behind us, obviously.


Head there. At a speed that doesn’t look like we’re running away.

No. Not safe. Secret.

We won’t find this secret unless we get these security forces off our backs. If you flee, Septimon will chase you down, and if he can’t, his compatriots will. On our journey, we’ll need to visit cities to restock fuel, not to mention supplies to keep me alive, and you’ll be picked up at the first den we reach. We can fix this now, but if you run, we won’t be able to. I can only talk down so much misbehaviour. Please, Laika, trust me. Let me help you.

I’m not sure how much of the details he actually understands, but he must sense the honesty in my soul, because he slows down and changes course slightly. He opens up a bit more if his soul to me so I can see the navigation and flight path. We are, indeed, heading to Cyclops.

Orlani! Septimon! We’re heading for Cyclops. Does this work for you?


I play with Laika’s light and camera settings until I can see Septimon, trailing a long way behind us. He’s massive, at least in comparison to Laika. I’m glad the situation didn’t come down to a fight.

I’m also glad I can stop talking to Orlani. Those standard-issue security force transmission boosters make everyone so fucking loud. It gives me a headache.

I fish another chocolate bar out of Lyllania’s stash, and notice, distantly, that Laika’s updated his soul’s public ID tag to include his name. And mine, as his princess. I’m not sure when, exactly he did that, but after my explanation to Orlani, I don’t really have a choice but to update mine as well.

Okay, then. I suppose that this is what I’m doing now.