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Piranha - Chapter 1: Death

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By Rayfan
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PIRANHA
Chapter One:  Death

In absolute darkness, incarcerated in a coffin-like box that serves as cell, life support, and torture device all in one, Rayman is suspended.  A procession of images moves across the blackness before his eyes, voices so real inside his ear that he would turn his head to look, if he could.  Closing his eyes makes no difference. Pictures of the war, the events just preceding, during, and following the defeat of his planet and his own capture – the successes, the failures; his inspired ideas, his catastrophic errors.  And then the one that comes back, over and over, crowds out all the rest, the picture that crushes a moan out of him:  the picture of Ly, blindfolded, her hands tied, brutally struck, forced into a concrete coffin while he watched.  He can’t turn his head away from the sight, he can’t close his eyes to it, he still hears her gasp of pain and shock as the metal fist strikes her head...  And then seeing so many more of his people meet the same fate, thirty, fifty, a hundred, losing track of how many, seeing each of them locked away, for what unknown purpose – to die? – before he too is shut into an oblong grey concrete box.  And, as he knows, thousands, tens of thousands more are still being captured, still being herded in and locked up somewhere on the immense pirate ship.

They had lost.  They had lost.  It was all his fault.  His people were killed, enslaved, their world devastated, and it was all his fault.  They had counted on him, and he had failed.

***

After having been forced to witness the fate of all his friends, he too had been thrust down into a coffin, lying horizontal on a waist-height pedestal, a box just large enough for him and its own machinery.  Medical slaves had rapidly hooked up the many tubes and electrical leads of the life support system, along with the complex series of restraints that held him motionless.  He had lain silent, glaring up his tormentors with ferocity, although more than anything his awareness was fixated on how horribly difficult it was becoming to breathe.

And then, his enemy, Anaconda, the conqueror – had bent casually over him for a last look.

“Goodbye, Rayman,” he smiled.  Startling in the flat matte black of his metallic face, the small glowing yellow eyes were half-shuttered with satisfaction.  “They explained to you about the life support system, I hope?  You’ll have a long life – as long as this ship keeps going.  Hundreds, maybe thousands of years, who knows?  You won’t... there’s no time in the box.  Or, there’s infinite time.  So, bye-bye.  It was a fun war, I’ll miss you.  I really will.  Eh, maybe some day I’ll drop by to see how you’re doing.  If I think of it.  Enjoy your retirement.  Sorry about no gold watch.  Don’t rust, now.”  And the heavy concrete lid scraped shut, slicing away the universe, bringing utter blackness.

Rayman had only glared at him with contempt.  But after the lid was closed and the machine activated, and he felt something slow, burning cold, terrifying, like liquid nitrogen creeping into his body, like a mass of solid fire, his eyes opened wide in the darkness.  His mouth opened, though no sound came out. He tried to take a deep breath, but he couldn’t.  There was no air.  And he was an explosion of raw animal panic.

Then he calmed.  He almost chuckled.  What?  Resisting death?  Now?

***

He is entombed.  There is no light.  There is silence, except for the faint clickings and sighings of the machine in its homeostatic operations.  He can’t touch anything, can’t even feel the wires and tubing and restraints on him, at most can only sense the closeness of a rough surface just beyond his face, unseeable, unreachable.  The only variety in his experience is the waxing and waning cycle of the pain.  At its peak, red and gold explosions go off in his eyes, his brain whites out.  At its lowest point, he is able to feel how desperately he wants to breathe.  Yet though he can’t seem to breathe, he is alive; and though something unnameable is searing him from the inside, tearing him atom by atom to pieces, he is conscious, he can’t lose consciousness, he can’t faint, he can’t sleep, he can’t quit, he can’t give up.  And he still knows where he is ... even if the idea that there was once another place beyond this pain – some other world of light, motion, life – seems more and more hallucination.  

And the hallucination tempts him:  its colour, its freshness, its light and air.  It grows brighter, more vivid, he edges closer and closer to plunging in.  There they are, his friends, his world, the trees and water and sky; faces, kind laughing eyes, outstretched hands.  

And then there is Ly.  On her knees, in tears, hands covering her beautiful eyes, devastation crashing all around her, so many falling trees, so many villages razed, so many clear rivers defiled, and the slaughter of so many people ...

Now he sees her moaning, trying to writhe, unheard in her coffin; and he is back, fully aware, in his own.  Only one thought grips him now:  What if the bastard does come back?  What then?  What then?  What then?

He feels himself dying.  He can’t, he mustn’t, he has to be ready, Anaconda might come back.  The lid might crack open.  He has to be ready.

He is dying.  A deep coldness, a stillness, advance on him silently, under the distracting barrage of his agony; but he doesn’t quite die.  Perhaps this is how it’s supposed to be, in the box.  And all in the midst of his dying his mind goes on working, working, turning this way, that way, tearing like a panther into every possibility.  Fighter as he was, Rayman never fought like this in that mythical time when he was alive.

Meanwhile, he doesn’t know if hours have passed, or days, or years.  Anaconda, as always, was right.

***

In the midst of that endless, timeless battle, something different happens.  Something tugs at his attention, pulling him bit by bit out of the hell of his own body.  There is a rumbling blast like the explosion of a planet, and then a nova, shattering brightness; then empty space.  The concrete lid is being dragged open.

Despite his desperate effort to perceive, to see, to hear, it is a few moments before he is physically able to make out the face of his enemy smiling patronizingly down on him.  He struggles harder, a ghastly effort to get air, to find his voice – he has to seize the chance before the tormentor closes the lid and goes away, never to return.  But his half-paralyzed body responds sludgily, in slow motion, as though it had forgotten all it ever knew.  The tormentor stands over him, watching, grinning.  

Rayman at last coughs and forces breath into his aching chest.  Even as his dazzled, bewildered eyes still struggle to focus, his face becomes steady and composed.  He looks up at his enemy with a strange mixture of a sort of honest recognition of helplessness, and an implacable self-possession that makes nothing of that helplessness.

Anaconda looks at him with some touch of recognition in his own eyes.  “No screaming, no begging, and yet you’re quite conscious,” he says.  “I have to grant you, you’re a tough little bastard, pipsqueak.”

Rayman is coughing, chest heaving in a savage attempt to activate his voice.  “Listen,” he gasps.  “Listen.”  

“Make it quick.”

Rayman looks into that narrow yellow gaze, his own large eyes now calm and focused, quietly angry, and showing a quiet, very quiet challenge.  “I have an offer to make you,” he whispers hoarsely.  He can’t speak any louder.  

“Really,” says his enemy.  “What can you possibly have to offer me?”

Coolly, Rayman looks at him.  “Myself,” he says.

Anaconda’s metallic eyebrows go up.  “Yourself?  Rayman, do I need to point out that I have you already?”

Rayman can’t shake his head, but isn’t there just the hint of a smile on his face now?  “Have me?  No, you don’t,” he says.  “You have my body.  A useless corpse.  No, I’m offering you me.  Your living enemy.  To work for you.”

“What?  You to work for me?  Why should I want ...”  But the conqueror’s voice falls away as he looks into those big eyes, that are now, despite utter defeat, despite obvious physical pain, very openly amused.  The jaw-dropping arrogance of the little freak!

Rayman murmurs, lightly, “I’m useful.”

Anaconda is silent.  But he hasn’t closed the lid.  Rayman adds, “You know what I can do.”

“Don’t I!” snorts Anaconda.  “So what makes you imagine I would trust you to ‘do’ all that for me?”

Rayman smiles at him collectedly.  “Not possible to cheat on this deal.”

“A deal, eh?  I let you out and you work for me.”

“No, no,” Rayman says, “No.  You let my friends out of these boxes, you free my people, you go away from my planet – and I work for you.”

Smoothly, Anaconda turns a gasp into a laugh.  “What!  Even for a self-marketing slave, don’t you think you price yourself a little high?”

Rayman closes his eyes, his smile now gentle, almost dreamy.  “Well, you know …  the actual question is, what could something like me be worth to you?”

“Well, you conceited little–”

“Conceited?  Think.  Just how hard did you have to work to put me here?  How many hundreds of men did you lose in the process?  What did it cost you, in time, money, personnel, sheer aggravation, to take my planet?  To track me down? ... How about having all that on your side next time?”

Anaconda is starting to look thoughtful.  “Rayman...  You know what would be the consequence if you betrayed me by so much as a hair, a breath, a thought.”

“Free my planet and my people and I won’t ever think that thought.”

“The torture wouldn’t end with you.  I know who your friends are.  I know who –”

“Yes, yes, yes.  Listen to me:  If you accept my price, you will own me.  You have my word.  I’ll serve you with all of my ability, all of it.  I’ve led a whole planet in war.  I can deal with that collection of louts you call a crew.  You could conquer worlds in half the time, a quarter of the time –  What’s the value of one little green planet compared to the gold you’ll get?  Take yourself and your stooges away from my world forever, free the population, and I’ll belong to you.”

His enemy draws back a little, looking down at him; with an odd, crafty, dawningly triumphant look.  “Rayman,” he murmurs, softly, smiling just barely.  “Rayman.  This could be very entertaining ...  If I accepted your price ...  Do you really understand what you’re offering?  What price you’d have to pay?”

Rayman closes his eyes.  He is silent for a moment.  Then he says, quietly, “Yes.”

Anaconda straightens up, grinning now.  “You know... I believe you actually would be simple enough to keep your word.  I admit... it’s a very inviting thought.  And, of course, if you didn’t... that could be interesting, too.  ... But I really do think you actually, pathetically would.  Well, well.”

Rayman lies silent, eyes closed.  A terrible coldness is soughing through him, from the center of him out, to his extremities, his head, he’s reeling.  He’s done it.  He has done it.

God help him, he’s done it.

***

Anaconda is directing his servants.  “Get him out of that thing – should still be possible.  Take him to an empty officer’s cabin, find him some clothes, wash him, feed him, all that.  Send the call to the troops.  We’re shipping out.”

Rayman’s eyes open at that.  “My friends,” he says hoarsely.

“Oh, sure.  We’re still on your planet, easy to take care of.”

“I want to see each one of them out of the box, alive and well, and see them freed.  Or I won’t consider you’ve kept your side of the deal.”

“Yes, yes, no problem. You, there, Ginsop, Malak – see to it.  Do what he said.”

Rayman squeezes his eyes shut, suddenly overwhelmingly aware of his pain and exhaustion.  Just like that!  As if it were nothing to him, that bastard, as if he’d have let them go anyway, the vile, loathsome bastard!  And now Rayman is committed, he’s committed himself, it’s all over.  He lies quietly spinning in vertigo, in weakness, while a group of human slaves begin to bustle around him, preparing for the lengthy process of disengaging him from the machine.

***

He is sitting, or rather reclining, on a hard bench near the exit from the ship.  An old bathrobe is wrapped around him (his own clothes are long gone).  He is painfully thin, wasted, debilitated, barely able to stand or walk.  He can only sit up for short periods.  But he rouses himself fiercely to make sure the pirates are keeping their side of the deal.  Those huge black eyes, feverishly bigger than ever, keep close watch as his friends are brought past him, one by one, to exit the ship.

Though none are as hard-hit as Rayman, they are all dazed, ill, weak.  He gives each of them a sharp, evaluative glance as they approach.  Then he looks away, does not meet their eyes, does not respond to their gasps of amazement and bewilderment at seeing him, at being released; he does not take their anxious hands.  At most he whispers a barely audible goodbye.  But with that one glance he makes sure that they are well enough to go, and he makes sure that they leave the ship; and his eyes intently follow each descent, step by step down the gangway to the brilliantly green earth below.

***

And then there is Ly.  As she is brought to the door, he is sitting up.  His eyes gape for an instant as she approaches.  Then he turns away, swallowing.  With a mad wrench she breaks free from her escort, she runs to him, seizes his hands.  He keeps his face averted.

“Rayman!  Oh, my god, you’re alive!  Are you all right?  What are you doing here?  Why are they letting us go?”

He murmurs hoarsely, “They didn’t tell you?”

“They told me nothing, absolutely nothing, except that I was being sent back to the planet, and I see the others are too, nobody knows why.”

He turns to face her, holding onto her hands; looks at her for a brief moment.  “Are you okay, Ly?”

“I’m all right, but Rayman, you look–”

“–I was just released from the box like you.  I’m doing better now.  Ly, you have to leave, right away.”

“Why are they letting us go?”

He looks away.  “I ... I arranged it.”

She stares at him.  “You’re coming too, aren’t you?”

“– No.”

“What!”  But seeing the anguish on his face, she subsides.  “But ...”

He is struggling with tears.  She can feel the trembling of his hands.

“Rayman,” she whispers, “Rayman, what did you do to free us?”

He is shivering, he looks like he is going to faint.  He still won’t meet her eyes.

“You couldn’t have –” she says, slowly, “Rayman – you didn’t agree to give them something?”

He lowers his eyes even more, swallows with difficulty.  

“Oh, my god,” she whispers.  “Rayman – you couldn’t – you’d never –”

Her hands are still in his, and he clenches them convulsively, painfully, as something like a bullet goes through him.  Then he pulls away, hunches over, she sees tears welling from his shut eyes, and he hides his face.

Abruptly, dizzyingly, she is looking down into the abyss of his grief, it engulfs her too.  Tears rush to her own eyes.  She tries to put her arms around him, but he twists away, blocking her with his hands, and the pirates are there, dragging her away from him, and although she calls to him, does not take her eyes off him, cries out and even screams to him as she is forcibly marched out of the ship, he does not look up, does not meet her eyes, does not watch her go.

But he knows, he knows that she is gone.

And that she is safe.

And her world is safe.

***

At last all the people of Rayman’s planet have been released, and the hundreds of members of the ship’s crew have returned with all their equipment – not to mention a certain amount of last-minute loot.  The ship takes off.  Rayman watches through a porthole as his planet – so quickly, in a matter of minutes – dwindles and vanishes into the blackness of space, the twin suns of his world coalescing to a mere bright speck, which is soon swallowed up in the masses of bright specks crowding into the porthole.  

Then he is led – shaky, stumbling, panting with weakness – to the cabin he has been given as a more convenient cell.  He is shoved onto the bed, where he sprawls motionless, and the door of the room closes.  He lies there alone.  Nothing matters now.

Nothing matters.  Except that he has a lifetime to get through.  He has to stay alive, he has to follow through, he has to do what he promised; or his planet, every living innocent thing on it, will pay once again for his failure.  His people’s freedom, their safety, their existence, hang on the very thin thread of his life.

He lies on the bed, glazed eyes staring at nothing; can’t stir to close them; spent, utterly, spent beyond exhaustion; spent beyond death.  Yes, that’s it.  Beyond death.

[End of chapter]


Updated Intro, December 2008:


This is an exploration of what Rayman might find himself doing in an unavoidably evil situation.

More specifically, it's kind of a re-imagining or riff on the basic story and situation of "Rayman 2: The Great Escape." Done mostly because I couldn't resist imagining how the story might have gone if Rayman and his planet had lost the war.

Please note that this story has nothing at all to do with any of the games after Rayman 2.  New characters, transformed old characters, and revamped "stories" such as they are, didn't exist when I started this thing around 2000 and don't enter into this world in any way.  (I don't mind Rayman having slightly more hair-like hair however. :D)

I was also having a lot of thoughts at the time about the subject of "good guys" versus "bad guys" and how idiotic that concept is when "heroes" are no less violent and destructive than "villains."

My most urgent reason for writing this, though, was that I wanted to take Rayman himself seriously as a character, round him out as a person, and try to conceive of what somebody extraordinary enough to be capable of saving a planet might be like. (Not that I don't love Ubisoft versions in Rayman 1 and 2, they are why I got interested in him in the first place.)

I didn't want to place the story in the actual world of R2. I needed a more menacing setting, more suitable to a more "realistic" Rayman. Razorbeard is fine in his own way, but he wouldn't work in this story.


As a warning to Rayman fans, this really is a dark story. However, since I began writing it, even as the Rayman games themselves have gotten lighter and fluffier, the Rayman fan world has darkened and matured a lot.  So I doubt people will be either as shocked or as upset as some of them were when I first started this thing. In any case, it is NOT totally grim all the way through. Life just isn't like that.

And it's also turned out to be taking longer than I ever dreamed, but the plot is fully laid out. If I live long enough, I'll finish it. I doubt I'd ever live long enough to cut it down to the size it should be, however. Thus, it has many, many words.

All right? Enter at own risk.

NOTE: The cover pictures on this and the next several chapters were made for the story by :iconpitopishi: - a wonderful artist, even better now than she was then, but who has moved on from the Rayman fan world, so you likely won't find much if any Rayman material in her gallery anymore.

Rayman & Ly (c) Ubisoft Entertainment
Cover art (c) pitopishi

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© 2003 - 2021 Rayfan
Comments103
anonymous's avatar
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AshesSakura's avatar
Okay, wow! Just wow! I am instantly hooked and thank you for this gem! Also, like the fact that Razorbeard was swapped out for another big bad who fits this setting and the mature tone.
Rayfan's avatar
Thank you!  Yeah, although I kind of like Razorbeard better now than I did when I started this story, he really would have a hard time pulling off this role. 
MoofintheDestroyer's avatar
Ouch the edge.

i think I just cut myself on it
C-Puff's avatar
Favouriting to read later because it's 11:40 at night and I haven't slept in 2 days |D :heart:
ShadowsLittleAngel's avatar
Rayfan's avatar
Hehheh, thanks. :D
ShadowsLittleAngel's avatar
I can't seem to find the fav button.. I WANNA PUSH IT!!
puppetmaster411's avatar
As much as I love Rayman Origins, I miss the dark tone Rayman 2 offered. I just finished reading this chapter and I can already tell it's gonna keep me up all night.
dbkit's avatar
I've decided to re read this fic. Because I have to be honest I've forgotten these first chapters.
Rayfan's avatar
I have to reread it all from time to time because I forget lots of stuff myself. :D
Beliou's avatar
Oh gosh very nice chapter *__*
Rayfan's avatar
Glad you like it!

Nice avatar by the way. :)
Beliou's avatar
welcome. !

Oh thank you. : )
Senzadox's avatar
I've been hearing about this but I never took the time to actually read it DX
From reading at last...just...I honestly don't know how to describe it-screw it this is excellent! I'll be looking forward to reading the next chapters :D
Seriously I wish I could write like you can! Keep it up!
Rayfan's avatar
Thanks, hope you liked the rest of it. :)
Cerasum92's avatar
Very nice!
A friend told me about your fanfiction here.
It's very... how should I say... thrilling?
I really like chapter one. I will go on reading the other chapters~

It's really like my friend said. It's a "living" story. The way you write makes you feel like you're actually there. :3
I love it if a story makes me feel like that!
Rayfan's avatar
Thank you very much - I really appreciate getting such an expressive comment!
Cerasum92's avatar
No problem!You really deserve them :3

Yesterday I read to chapter 3... chapter 3 was very cute, I like how you describe everything :3
The girl is sooo cute and... Rayman is just perfect... :heart:

Well, time to go on reading ;D
klembyr's avatar
:clap: Great history :D
Rayfan's avatar
Thanks, glad you like it. :)
Rayalain's avatar
Your history is too well
Rayfan's avatar
anonymous's avatar
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