In the Universe of God, in the milky way galaxy, in the Sol... solar system, on the 3rd planet from the sun, in the county of America, in the state of North Carolina, in a small neighborhood with woods all around and little play parks between the houses, was a two story, three room house, with green shutters, and a big, cursive M hanging from the front door.
Inside the house, in the living room, on the couch, in front of the TV, behind a coffee table, sat Mark and Monica... Side-by-side.
Monica inhaled deeply through her canid nostrils, and sighed out of her foxish maw as she spoke. "So... It's come back to this." She flicked her bushy, almost fox-like, tail, in foxy irritation, little white bits of fox fur floating off- "They get it, I'm a furry." -And getting the couch covered in stinky, musky hairs. "Eat me."
"Monica!" Mark thrust-ed his arm into the air epic-ally and clenched his fist in a tight fist of fisty, epic triumph! "Do you know what today is?!1!?!"
"You know." Monica looked down and began fiddling with her phone. "I read somewhere that using exclamation points outside of dialog is like jerking off during your own narrative."
"No, you heard that on Marley and Me, which was way too depressing for a movie about a dog!" Mark stood up on the couch, raising his fist of power even higher. "Today is an extraordinarily stupendous... day, for... er, today, I begin writing our weird adventures again!"
"Look, dude." Monica leaned over the couch arm dejectedly. "The last story you wrote about us literally culminated with your wife bleeding out in Okinawa after slipping on a samurai sword during a hurricane, you selling your soul to Cthulhu to save her-"
"Wgah'nagl fhtagn." Mark declared for the dark lord.
"-and me becoming your weird, traveling, murdering thrall."
"S-o-o-o, I don't know how we top that."
"Come on, we're still young!" Mark gestured at the living room's white, normal walls, and normal, brown hardwood floor. "There all kinds of adventures we can do... have... partake."
Monica flipped her phone to 'Animal' by Disturbed, and plugged one of the headphones into her ear. "Mark, there's just nothing interesting about some stupid, bald, white dude-"
"..." Mark's feelings weren't hurt; nope. Not at all.
"-and the weird fantasy creature he came up with in middle school," Monica gestured at the Minotaur standing in front of the TV, "screwing around watching TV or whatev-... er."
Mark and Monica both stared at the... Hold on, what was it again? Minotaur? Yeah, a Minotaur. They stared at the Minota-
"Female fur creature!" The Minotaur's voice rattled the walls, the TV screen cracked from the shockwave, and his loin cloth shifted a little.
"Aw, Christ!" Monica threw her phone against the Minotaur's massive chest muscles. "I can already see where this is going!" She slapped Mark upside his bald head.
"Hey, what, I-" Mark was speechless. "I don't know what's happening! I'm not doing this."
The Minotaur took a massive, hooved step towards Monica. "Female, I am enticed by your supple-" So she pulled out her Glock 23 and blew his head off.
"Woah, Jesus!" Mark jerked into a ball on the couch, knees tight, eyes wide.
"That's what I think of that!" Monica slammed her handgun on the coffee table, as the Minotaur's brains and blood began to ooze all over the nice hardwood floor. "No stories about us, and no weird shit." Monica pointed at Mark. "Got it!?"
"Yeah yea yea, no problem. The end."
"Oh no you don't!" Monica pointed harder, scarier. "Do it right!"
The riot was in full swing, the tipping point fingered so hard it'd split all the way to the navel. The quarter million homeless and half million ironically homeless had broken the faux steel barricade separating the two groups, and both had converged into a massive brawl/orgy, stinking, social vagrants mixing with stoned, academy elites. The neo-humanist pacifists had taken this opportunity to strike; they'd triggered several neural paralysis bombs, causing huge sectors of the riot to fall helpless, their bodies strewn like corpses in the middle of the puke and cum soaked faux concrete mega-highway.
I drop my steel visor over empty eye-holes and link with the task force. Our ten sleek, silver drop-ships, from four different mega-city municipalities, buzz around the massive, angular body of a skyscraper sized warship. The monolithic cube of raw military angles and dark maroon hues rumbles the very air as it hovers slowly into position over the mass of gestating humanity.
"Bitches." Team leader stalks the drop-ship bay behind us. "Rip-check." I draw my mind back into my body, pressing my forehead to the drop-ship doors. I flex everything in an attempt to psyche myself up for this mission; suit tight, harness tight, armor tight, weapon tight, network link strong, camera...
... Off. No matter how subscribe-able or marketable, no one is allowed to record what we do here tonight.
"Xara, up." I sound off, followed by the rest of the team.
"Durmion-ready." The male voice sends shudders down my spine; I felt his words inside my mind, the military commando's addition to our unit a small sign of what will take place here tonight.
"Drop- zone Assessment." I can hear the fear in team leader's voice as she tries to go through the motions. "I'm reading a mass of bio-signatures on your selected landing spot-"
"I know." His response is highlighted by action; I feel the massive warship light up like a strobe, thousands of thin red lasers tracing across the crowd.
Data replaces doubt as the commando's brain rapes information into my empty skull. Three hundred and seventy-two personal IDs indicate concealed weapon's permits, and cameras on the warship feed over three hundred images across my eyes: faces of men and women, grid-coordinates of the owners, X-ray feeds of the said weapons, and information on most-likely-courses-of-action if engaged.
Another thousand of the people are open carrying, standing out in the open with assault rifles across their chests and pistols along their genitals like fucking idiots. "Confirm." Another male voice comes at me from the other side, double loading me with more info. "Population armed. Collateral damage limits are reascended."
"Xara, confirm." I quiver as another male enters me, demanding a response.
"Yes." I coo. Four men inside, and we're just getting started. How many fucking people will I get to kill tonight?
"Confirmed." Jesus fuck, another male voice piles on. "Engaging."
"What?" I'm not ready; We haven't counted off. Or, did we? Fuck, I can't think while taking it from so many commandos.
"Stand-by, please." Team leader's voice sounds like she's in the middle of getting it from the two guys who sell funnel-cake and flavored condoms on the corner of 66th and 218th. "We still need to-"
My eyes dilate, my groin aches, as the tic-tac-snap of automatic fire rattles across our dropship. The door vibrates from the impact, which rattles against my visor, which shakes my forehead.
"Faugh, God!" Dara falls down, legs crossed. I instinctively link with my team mates, partly due to the threat of enemy fire, but mostly just to pony off of Dara's orgasm.
"Fuck, go go go." Team leader signals the pilot. I tighten my thighs around my rifle and close my eyes, as my helmet needle ejaculates drugs through the slit between my spine and skull into the base of my brain.
The drop-ship door in front of me opens to the orgy of flesh and lights, the massive riot below a speck before the titan skyscraper lanes and highways stretching as far as I can see. No starlight can survive the whorish red/blue/green lights of the city, and only the wind whipping across my body and through the open drop-ship is any indication that we are even in the real world.
I look down and leap out with my team, all of us linked through the network and military males. Dara is behind a pace due to her combat 'high', but quickly recovers and rolls out. We fall as one, five shooters and one team leader. The wires tighten ten meters from the ground, teens and twats below yell and gawk, scrambling to get out of our way as we fall. We un-sling our rifles together, all six landing in a tactical crouch inside the heart of the riot, weapons tight to cheeks and eyes.
A flash of light in the middle of our circle startles me, but then I feel him. The commando teleports right into our fucking center, a barefoot, muscular monster with harness, armor plates, no weapon, gas-mask, and empty pits for eyes. He points at the group of junkies to our left, and the red lasers from the warship thicken and shine. The beams flicker at a million flashes per-second, and all hell breaks loose.
I watch, mouth agape, as the beams cut down ten, twenty, a hundred rioters effortlessly. Meaty chunks fall into piles all around us, and a red mist rises from the crowd. I see a fifteen year old drug dealer, 3D printed pistol between his ass cheeks, get cut open from ball-sack to lip ring, his body cooking and blistering open. He pops like a meat balloon with half a gallon of milk inside, baked, stinking innards sloshing on the filthy faux concrete road.
"Focus right!" Team leader skull-fucks my head into the game. We all aim down our sights to the right and adjust our formation. An emaciated, male rioter is screaming at the warship above, two halves of a dead woman cradled in his quivering arms, lasers criss-crossing across his body harmlessly. Tears stain his cheeks, literal plasma burning inside his eyes.
"Cyborg!" Our male commando yells. "Engage now-" His voice is cut off as he jukes left, leaping thirty meters and out of sight in an impossible blur. A massive crash sends me to my ass, as the emaciate rioter smashes in our midst where the commando was a split second earlier. I spin around to face him; everyone else is down. The rioter faces me and jumps again.
I close my eyes, settle my hand around my weapon, and take a quick network minute to download a hand-to-hand combat program. The science and subtly of cybernetic alteration is difficult to master, and those who undergo the dangerous surgery require much more that simple medications and alterations to function with the enhancements. Copious amounts of training in the use of super-human strength, as well as simple lessons in physics, are required for a cyborg to have any hope of functioning in a useful manner.
With the initial shock of his presence passed, I can tell from the way he moves, the way he strains against the ground with his jumps, that this illegally altered rioter has no idea what he's doing with his enhancements. He's no better than a red-neck with a sawed off shotgun shoved down his pants, the presence of steel and weight nothing more than a poor man's male enhancement.
The monster lands at my feet and swings, telegraphing his attack every time he shakes the ground. I roll away, the punch lands, and I ride the shock-wave up to my feet. I land in the weaver stance, weapon tight, and fire full automatic into the side of his head.
He jerks away reflexively, no drugs or training protecting his nerves and mind from the instinctual fear of an unexpected attack. I lick my lips; automatic fire makes me cum every time, and my military bearing is broken ever so slightly as my knees turn in instinctively.
I'm no fool. Apart from some brain stuff I'm a vanilla human; fucking white bread. He'd probably kill me if I was alone, but I'm one of six hard bitches and one nightmare, and we're all recovered and hungry for fuck. Dara shoots his cock, Lara fires at his head, and team leader is already closing the distance. As he turns towards me, team leader dives hard and grabs his right knee, just the right, and twists her whole body like some half-snake half-pitbull bitch. The leg snaps, the rioter screams and buckles, just as Dara leaps and wraps around his face and neck.
Our male commando returns, teleporting, walking, fuck if I know, and again I feel his mind fucking every cybernetic brain within a ten kilometer radius. Even as we tear down the hostile, the commando reaches and rakes through the network, lobotomizing this emaciated, homeless cyborg, frying his brain and erasing everything that makes him anything but a vegetable.
I reload my weapon and savor the throbs of pleasure as I feel his brain waves sputter and flicker out. Nine other teams of bitches and military males descend from the drop-ships to subdue the riot. I cum, like, so much, you guys, and later that night I ride one of the military cyborg dudes in the showers for a fucking hour.
"Ten-two-seven-three." I flex my thonged ass and tighten my grip on my rifle. "Breach-breach-breach!" I trigger the charge. The explosion clears the door.
"Go-go-go." Our stack leader yells and shifts forward. She cuts right- fires two shots. Stack member two moves in and cuts left- two shots. We're in full swing now. I'm third. I lean forward, weapon tight, optic up, and-
"No nonono!!" Zach flops over to our fireteam. He waves dramatically with both hands, the flowing white sleeves on his blouse flapping and blowing. "What the actual fuck..." He pauses for dramatic effect. "...was that?"
Stack member two, Dara, walks slowly out of the room. I lower my weapon dejectedly as she passes. Four hasn't even moved, still aiming towards the rear at nothing.
Team leader speaks. "Standard stack breach on an unknown room." She doesn't exit. She's still in the room.
"Oh really?" Zach points at Dara's form fitting-breast armor. "Then why the piss was rack-a-lam, big-tits here the second one into the room!?!"
The door hinges smoke a little. I hear our team leader sigh. I stare at Dara's substantially larger breasts, her specially designed bust plates, #Victoria's Vulva, showing off the massive EE curves and the very, very, edges of her pink areolas.
That reminds me, I need to change the tires on my car, #Civic. "If you bitches want enough subs to make this mission a reality-" Zach continues the tongue-lashing. "-You need to have Dara in the front for maximum exposure when the fucking cameras go hot. Feeds from the criminal links and eye-feeds are going to be huge for this case, not to mention- AUGH!"
I smirk as Zach taps his earhpone, #Apple. "What, bitch, I'm fucking working?" After a short pause he points at me. "You. Chief. Meeting. Now!"
I stand at attention in the office, making sure my ass is facing camera 548, back erect, everything showing, oh-so hot. On the other side of the glass desk, staring out a clear bay window, is the 6th Municipality Chief. She is facing away from me, staring out across the glistening, glowing, glamorous metropolis.
I cringe at Chief's backside, and the... intruder therein, #AdamandEveplaytime.
"Fuck, Xara." I'm not sure if the Chief's words are a request, an order, or a question. "Just... fuck." This may be easier than I thought. I reach up to unbutton my sheer tube-top. Chief turns around. "Put that back on, idiot!" Chief moves to sit down in her chair- Reconsiders. She signs, experienced bosoms heaving, fists clenched on the top of her desk, back arched as she bends over.
"Tough day with the mayor?" I offer. Chief just glares at me, fists on her desk tightening.
"You're fucking me... like, SO bad." Chief glares.
I look up at the ceiling. My lips are tight. "I'm not doing it."
"Fuck yes you are!" Chief points at me. "The entire council liked the motion: seven million up-votes to ten thousand fifty-dislikes!" She taps her desk control. A massive row of chat conversations are superimposed on the walls.
Many of the messages all have an attachment, all the same: A picture of the ugliest fucking tan sweater you can imagine.
"This is a joke." Tears are in my perfectly outlined eyes.
The Chief's voice is deadly low, like my body fat percentage. "It's no joke. Comments are in on your fire team: The public thinks you're the... 'good girl-"
"No!" I heave my chest like I was trained, twist my body to an unnatural angle, and grab the Chief by the mini-kini straps. "I didn't join to be some PG-13 family show bimbo!" I press my breasts and hips right up against the Chief's, curves and soft spots tingling. "I'm a cop, damn it! Hashtag 6th Municipality, hashtag Glock-"
The Chief cuts me off with a tight grasp around my throat, making sure not to block my cleavage, and throws me onto the glass desk "The mayor's up my ass on this one, Xara!" Her face hovers close to mine, eyes burning with anger/lust. "You've got no choice, Dammit!"
"I wanted." I sob/sqeek. "I just wanted to serve..." I perch my heels, angle my knees, arch my back, and throw my head back. "...all the people."
The Chief doesn't fight back. She slinks her arms around my body and moves in close, eyes heavy with pride/desire. "I admire you devotion, officer, but my hands are tied." I cum. "You're gonna have to wear the sweater."
The drab, baggy, hot, humid, shitty sweater looks nothing like the sleek harnesses and heels of my fire team.
Zach is sobbing in his sleeve. Mara shakes her head, and Lara just stares.
"Holy, cock!" I hate Dara. "What is that made of?"
I hate this. "Just shut up." This is going to be a fucked up week.
Fucking End, #Ass
"Cassie, what's your favorite color?" I would glare at Shaw if I could see him. This canyon-sized fissure in the hull of the dying ship is so warped by heat distortions that the only clue we are moving is the low rumble of my pod engines and the slow, molten-metal lava flowing alongside us. We are inside the metal volcano, a radioactive, but quick, death a kilometer away in every direction.
I'm sweating so much. We're so close to scoring. "Are you really doing this test right now?" We picked the stress fracture because this route, unlike a painful trek through melting decks and sub-decks, is a straight shot to the ship core. These fissures are the source of the radiation and heat tearing apart the ship. Following one is our best bet for a payoff.
The massive tunnel has been clear so far, although the painful, ember glow along the titan walls is a constant threat. Shaw and my pod can withstand the direct output of a dying star: so long as the specialized hulls don't touch the source of heat, they will remain in equilibrium.
"The Turing Test is used by AIs to check the mental state of a human counterpart..." Shaw will not let it go. "... requiring that an AI should be able to distinguish the human from another AI by using the replies to questions put to both."
"Oh, you think I died on the approach?" I'm trying to go over the method for removing fuel rods in my head, and Shaw's doing personality tests. "You think the Gs ripped up my brain?"
"You just executed an impossible maneuver with guesswork. You got lucky." He's so flattering. "I can't get anymore readings on the ship this close to the damage. There's a good chance the rods' have nothing left- maybe the core is about to go critical."
"We can't stop now! The hard part's over." I'm lying to myself. The dangerous part is over. The next part is dangerous, and hard.
Shaw won't back off. "What's your favorite color?"
"Well Shaw, I'd say my favorite color is no color." I lean back in my seat and look up at the distant, ember roof. "Because if I choose a favorite color, then I'll be disappointed with anything that's not that color. I'll want to paint it or cure it, when the very act of coloring something is an irritating, largely superfluous idea that wastes time and money."
No response from the machine. The walls shift and warp as we coast along quietly for a few moments. "That's not a real answer-"
"You see..." I interrupt Shaw. "... My mom wasn't a military officer or a businesswoman; No hard charging motivator was there to give me advice on academy applications or solid investments. My dad wasn't some charmer, with big ideas, big balls, with a trillion acolytes screaming their name on the web to elevate me to stardom after he died." A speck at the end of the fissure, a little circle of brightly burning ember, marks the source of everything. The end of our journey is close.
"So, if you're wondering why I don't have a favorite color, it's because while other people worry about dumb stuff like wallpaper and the effect its hue has on the greater meaning of life, I'm out here in space ripping pieces off of spaceships!" My gloves soak into the quick with sweat as I accelerate towards the circle of fire, it's approach sending my heart throbbing. "Are there any survivors on this ship?"
"What?" Shaw's voice warbles, his processor likely stumbling over my quick question. "I... I'm not equipped to detect-"
"That's right! Because I didn't give you the equipment to detect people." Not people. Lifeforms. "Because I don't want to know if any lifeforms are fighting for their lives around me, because I'm fighting for my life right now! Plus, homeless people don't fucking pay much when you rescue them!"
"Cassie..." The AI's voice actually sounds disappointed. The entrance is so close.
"So if it seems like I'm risking a lot here..." I stumble over my words. A little fear has pushed to the surface, passed the lust and hunger. "I am! I'm risking it all." I try to rub sweat from my forehead, but end up just slapping my hand against my helmet face. A dumb, greasy smear across the glass mocks my nervous action. "How far to the lode?"
Shaw answers but I don't listen. I don't care how far it is- the mouth of the tunnel is meters away. I'm not stopping now. The narrow molten fissure gives way. Shaw takes his place up and to the right of my cockpit.
I stare unblinking into a white-hot womb of gestating hurricanes and dying tornadoes. There is broken method and twisted order to the chaos. Progressively more massive and terrible storms of raw atomic energy fatten themselves on the corpses of dying mini-stars and twisting nebula. A small supernova twists and struggles with itself against the weeping, oozing walls. Blazing teardrops of molten metal slough through the maelstrom.
The titan firestorm breaks and twists against my target. The jet-black core stands solid in the center of the chamber. Two vertical towers press the orb from the top and bottom, the bulb pillar stark, and unwavering against the backdrop of oblivion. While the core remains immobile and intact, the ceiling of the chamber has begun to ooze it's way down along the tower.
"Shaw." My pod swells and shifts in the waves of hell. "Can you tell if any of the rods are intact?" Sweat drips into my mouth and around my chin as I ride through the storm.
"My sensors fried when we entered the chamber." The surface of Shaw's tight, balled body is red hot. I cringe at the thought of what my pod looks like. "However, my last visual reading indicated that the containment pillar still has almost all of its fuel rods."
I whip my pod hard to the left, as a giant glob of molten tungsten drifts lazily across my path. Shaw doesn't change course, and he barely misses slapping right into the orb.
"Shaw!" His body is so bright, his little engine burning steadily. "Stay with me."
His response is warbled. "I'm having trouble navigating."
"Are you all right?" The storm whips across my cockpit, obscuring my view of my one friend in this chaotic whirl.
"Tight as a tick, slick." He actually manages to do a little front flip. "Although, I feel about as useful."
I laugh out-loud. "You leave this to me then. Stay put and wait by the entrance to this chamber. Can you make it back?"
"Should be simple." His chime response erases my doubt. "Don't die."
Licking the sweat from my lips, I accelerate through the storm to the top section of the tower. The fire seems to part for me, my surge into the center uninterrupted. As I approach the skyscraper sized containment tower I thumb my 'claw' control. I don't have any fancy magnet bulbs, or force tractor emitters. No, I will literally be grabbing a building- sized plutonium fuel rod out of a melting reactor with a dorky, three fingered claw on the bottom of my pod.
It's not even a real claw; just three giant prongs that open and close. No wrist, no fingers, no real dexterity. Three stupid clamps that tighten. The rest of the work is done by my pod's engine, and the simple lack of gravity.
A massive, bone shattering vibration shakes my pod. I bounce in my seat like a rag-doll, recovering just in time to see a massive section of the tower shift. One of the fuel rods detaches, and two little air jets fire, sending the rod sliding perfectly along the surface of the tower and out of view. I rotate my pod nose-down to watch the descent. The rod slams into the core.
The storm is invigorated, fed by fresh radioactive material. Whatever computer error or human mistake that led to the core reaching this out-of-control state is still cycling. I have to work fast.
Pressing into my seat I finagle the controls carefully- I get one try. I orient my ship nose-up, 'claw' against the tower. Slowly, I descend, landing my pod on the side of the tower. My vessel shudders from the careful landing. I thumb the 'claw'.
My pod creaks and rumbles. So much could go wrong. The heat coating could rub off, the claw could break, a hydraulic actuator could break. A gust from the storm could tear me off the pillar and embed me the oozing walls. But, it doesn't. I don't even have to spend one ounce of engine power to secure my payday. The fuel rod I'm holding releases, and the little air jets fire.
Choking on sweat and surprise, I throttling my engines to full power. I can't resist the energy of the air-jets as the pillar surges towards the core, but I do pull the rod away from the tower. It's path disrupted, the massive fuel rod falls, with me attached, down past the massive onyx core.
I feel like I am going to vomit from the combination of sheer joy and nauseating vertigo as my descent through the hell-storm gradually slows to a halt. "Shaw!" My engines are at full power. The pillar has stabilized. "Shaw!" Every move after this is straight out, straight home, forward movement to safety. "I got it!"
"Good!" Shaw's voice is mixed with static. "Come back to the fissure!" The storm seems to rise and quake at my victory. My heart is in my ears. Acceleration is slow, but I am tugging the fuel rod towards the exit. I can't believe it. I've got it. I won.
Seat-straps tight, heart throbbing, pod straining painfully against the mass of the fuel rod, I navigate to the maw of molten fire leading out into the cool of space. "Shaw!" I can't see him. "Where are you?! Respond. I'm at the exit!" I twist the throttle backward, anxiety mixing in the storm of my victorious soul. I am literally bobbing up and down in my seat. "Where the hell are you?!"
My pod accelerates against my command. I twist the throttle off and thumb the control-lock to cut any accidental input. Nothing. "I'm sorry." Shaw's voice is so calm. "I lied."
"Shaw?!" I'm in the molten fissure, accelerating steadily away from the core. "Where are you?" No answer. "Respond!"
"Upon entering the core chamber I noted the deterioration of the tower and incalculable nature of the fusion storm." Oh, no. "After you left me I linked with the ship's computer and activated the fuel rod jettison process." No, no, no-no. "Opening my long-rang radio antenna damaged my navigation systems and compromised my processor."
I kick the control stick. Nothing. "You idiot! Where are you? I'm coming back!"
"I'm uncomfortable with you spending an extended amount of time in such a dangerous environment. You have a fuel rod. You're done here."
"Hahaha, yeah good one!" I grab the control sticks and rattle them back and forth, back and forth. "Let's go! "Stop goofing around!" I punch the screen. "Let me go!"
"If you tried to recover me, there's only a seventy-five point nine percent chance you would survive. Alone, you have almost a ninety percent chance."
My smile of insane terror presses my hot cheeks against the pads. "See! That's stupid!" I clap madly inside the cockpit, applauding Shaw's stupidity. "Fifteen percent is nothing! Nothing!" I kick the screen, shattering the glass with my rubber heel. "We can make it!"
Nothing I do, none of my violence, can stop the override. The pod surges through the tube of ember lava. Shaw says nothing. I wait for him to change his mind, lips tight, eyes watering. What have I done? "You bitch!" I scream at the cockpit. "You giving up on me!?" Cracks shift and open in my rage-filled voice, the anger melting into fear and sorrow. I yell everything, anything I think will make Shaw stop. "I order you to stop!" I can see the black dot of space ahead. My pod is almost out of the ship. "I own you!" I'm screaming. "You have to obey me!"
"Artificial intelligence are born complete." His little voice is so far away now. I tighten my face to silence my blabbering, choking on the sobs. "We know our destiny in life from the very beginning."
"No." Don't leave. Don't go.
"But, humans have to struggle for it, wasting away their fragile lives in a sprint towards a blind, unsure future. Worse. Some die never knowing their purpose. It's our belief, the highest honor for my kind, to accelerate a human soul towards their destiny."
A little image flickers on the shattered view screen. A little cartoon loop plays: An animation of Shaw doing an aileron roll. "Cassie. I hope I helped you find your destiny."
The little cartoon Shaw is painted blue.
Space is so black, Asher a dull blue speck so far away. The dying vessel burning behind me continues its worthless spin. My pod's engines finally cut, the fuel rod's smoldering body slowly icing over in the thermal shock of absolute zero. Shaw's blue ghost twists for me, the little maneuver making me gasp and cry every time.
I close my eyes against the nothing. Tears stream as I mourn the better part of my soul, abandoned in the twisting husk of desire and greed. Shaw. I'll never forget you.
With the most delicate finger twitches against the control sticks, I guide my pod towards the target. The spin of the massive wreck looks lazy, but that's only because it's 5 kilometers in the distance. "Shaw. What's the yaw rate on the target?"
Shaw's little claw body boosts ahead of my pod, settling a few meters to the right and above my cockpit. One of his arms flips open, a little running light illuminating on the tip. "9170 kilometers per hour." Not very fast for a spacecraft to travel.
But the ship isn't traveling. It's stalling. A 10,000 kph stall is catastrophic.
"Acronyms, please." The shape of the massive vessel is no clearer as we approach. The violent burn of the engines casts everything into shafts of light and shadow. The titanium and aramid fuselage is warped and shattered from the heat and velocity. Sensory towers bend, and superstructure scaffolding peals off in a constant, haunting cloud of titan debris. Some pieces are hundreds of times larger than my pod.
I blink away the wanderlust. "Pitch?"
"8910 kph." Shaw's response is quicker this time.
"Roll?" No answer. I glance up at Shaw's little body floating alongside my pod. He looks fine. "Shaw?"
"Calculating." It's never good when a robot says it's calculating. Their minds can pick apart math, trajectories, and statistics like a fat guy can pick apart a ham. 'Calculating' means he's trying to invent a lie to tell me- a much harder task for an robot.
I can't help but smirk, the expression pressing my cheeks against the inside of my helmet. The cool pressure of the pads feels nice, reminding me I'm not just a piece of meat. I thumb the control-lock, securing all cockpit controls against input, and stretch my whole body. I arch my back, splay my arms, and point my toesies. I strain against the seat belts, working hard to extend my joints. My space-suit stretches and creaks and the back of my helmet clinks against a metal panel. Outside the cockpit little particles of dust and debris float in space. My left knee pops. My stomach gurgles.
"710." Shaw snaps and spins. "Where are you?" He spins again. I bump my helmet on cockpit glass as I settle back into my seat and snatch the controls. "Roll is 710 kph."
"I heard you!" My voice flutters as a mix of hunger and adrenaline focuses my mind. Luck isn't a lady. Luck's a drunk guy wandering into your apartment butt-naked with a suitcase full of sandwiches made of gold.
With yaw and pitch at nearly 10,000 kph, but roll only 710 kph, the melting, city-sized vessel is like one of those spinning, toy tops, wobbling slightly right before it falls over. If I can settle somewhere in the middle of the rational axis and burn hard enough, I have a chance to attach and enter the vessel. The max velocity of my pod is 1200 kph. Trying to land a large, flying trashcan on a small continent, spinning at 10,000 kph on every axis, is stupid.
But only two terminal axis, with one axis spinning at nearly half of my max burn? I've seen it done. Seen it. Never done it. "Shaw, tell me you've got something."
"Marking projected attach-point." Another of Shaw's arms flips open. A bright green laser cuts into the chaos, illuminating the particles and dust between us and the target ship. The laser point flickers wildly against the rapidly changing surface of the target ship. "You're 1 km out with a minute of burn at max speed." Shaw's engine flame dies, but the nozzle tightens in preparation for thrust vectoring. "On you."
A twinge of animal arousal flutters in my chest. "Go!" We're hitting this lode.
I flex the throttle halfway. My head swims and everything tightens. I'm pressed against the seat as we accelerate towards our target. Shaw's engine burns bright. The little flicks and flecks outside disappear. The pod rattles, sparks and shards snapping across the cockpit as particles bounce away. I strain to focus on the laser, ignoring the dangerous monolith as it spins and swings in the distance.
Shaw's claw body tightens into a rugged metal orb. "Entering the debris cloud." His running lights cut, engine flame the only sign of his existence.
The cloud of radiation, heat, pulverized metal dust, and broken dreams jars my ship. "Entering debris cloud!" My voice is less calm than Shaw's. My seat rattles my spine and the straps pull at my shoulders and crotch. If I didn't know any better, I'd think my pod was already falling apart. "How do I look?!"
"Entry clean. Pod trajectory stable. Fuselage holding." Shaw's green laser is bright as we blast through the cloud to the ship. "1500 meters out."
I ignore the size of the target ship. I ignore the rattle of it's blood around my pod. I focus on my drone's laser, making minute adjustments to my trajectory. They say landing a fighter-jet on a moving aircraft carrier is like putting a stamp in the middle of a living room, turning off every light, and leaping from the couch to land your nose on the stamp.
I narrow my thrust vector, the vibration of the pod the only proof that it's working- the indicator display broke a year ago. I max the throttle, fiddling it through the part where it sticks, and surge my pod towards max velocity. "You just passed 710 kph." Shaw informs. I aim the nose of my pod along the top of the target, adjusting carefully to line up properly. The target ship's size still hides its speed, but I can already tell I'm falling behind.
The pod is lined up 1 km above the monolith as the cloud rips across my pod. The G forces crush harder than ever as I continue accelerating. The pain in my eyes tells me I'm approaching 1200 kph.
"1200 kph, max velocity!" Shaw's voice is loud, but distant.
At max velocity the Gs of acceleration taper off a little. I can finally focus. The cockpit is a blaze of sparks and rattling. "Give me a feed of the latch point!" Shaw's feed appears on the display. The image makes my head swim worse than anything so far.
The landing zone looks like one of those stupid slot machines in the "Tuggin' Twiddler Bar and Repair Shop." Portholes, hull cracks, rifts and slits larger than mountains pass at blinding speed in a randomized, vertical flash of pure un-luck. The only thing missing is an annoying jingle.
"Deedle-doodlee deedle-doodlee." I hate Shaw.
"Shut up and give me a reading!" I literally can't focus on the image- it's moving too fast. A burning hole in the armor flashes by, the gash wider than my apartment building. My crappy screen blinks and flickers from the vibration. This isn't going to work.
"This is the center of the stall axis." Shaw's voice is serious again. "There's nowhere else we could try and land."
In the blaze of fire and haze of motion, a lack of movement catches my eye. I look up from the screen and stare straight forward through the crappy cockpit glass. The 'horizon' of the massive ship spreads out in front of me, a sprawling landscape of giant metal ridges, deep valleys, towering spires, and white fire under a cloud of hazy, radioactive fog. The huge planet of steel rotates slowly away from me. Shaw's engine burns above the scene, thin laser pointed down.
I notice a pattern across the surface of the ship. Two skyscraper 'ridge-lines' have just passed away from me, traveling towards the horizon. After a few seconds, another passes below. Another. I see my chance. Between each ridge is a perfectly flat area.
My jerk of the controls sends the pod into a nose-down dive. I float in my seat and strain my neck to keep my gaze on the passing horizon. In my peripheral vision I see Shaw follow.
We surge straight into what I calculate will be another flat area between two ridges. The burn is hard, my neck aching as I stare upward at the horizon. A ridge appears, passes below at breakneck speed. If we hit it I'm dead. The ridge I'm blasting towards bleeds like the rest of the ship, withering and burning.
My stomach turns as the ridge cuts away into the sharp edge of a sheer metal cliff. I jerk the stick and flex my face. My vision goes red as the momentum settles my guts into my stomach, legs, feet, and toes. I'm flying blind, the hard circle of my maneuver all that will save my life. "Shaw-I'm-blind!" I can barely speak. I can't breathe.
"Taper off, you're coming out of the valley!" I obey, trusting him with my life. The G's do not taper off as my momentum shifts. "Down!" I flex my arms, fighting to keep my adjustment controlled. My cheeks are tight against my helmet. Vision red. Stomach in crotch. Teeth hurt.
"Relax." How can I relax? "Good, taper off." I release all input on the controls. "750 meters until rear ridge impact." I gasp as the centripetal force from my maneuver finally releases. I gasp, eyes watering, vision still red. Straight ahead, the wall of the metal cliff descends into the horizon. "250 meters." The cloud is notably less here. The rattling and scraping on the cockpit glass has stopped.
I sigh heavily and thumb my rear view camera, noting the metal cliff's breakneck approach. I am too mentally exhausted to really care as I throttle my pod engine one more time, opening the vector for maximum resistance against the surface. I press against the seat as the vibration of the pod engine shakes me. I want to kiss our lord and savior Newton, as my little pod's weak burn feeds off the approaching metal cliff.
I do a cursory scan of the titan valley my pod has stabilized inside. The cloud of debris is coalescing nominally here, an orange haze settling over ripples and rifts of jagged metal. "Shaw." My whole body feels like this terrain. Broken, seething, and hot. "Did you live?"
"Safe and scanning." I look for his little form, but the radioactive haze, stinging sweat, G-force blood coagulating in my head, and freshly scratched cockpit glass all conspire to steal any visibility. "Within our immediate vicinity I've found ten superstructure canals and fifteen catastrophic stress fractures, all leading straight through to the engine core." At least the robot can see.
"That's promising." My enthusiasm is a little forced. "What's your readout of the core volatility?" Sweat stings my eyes, moisture chafing my butt.
"This close to the damage, my sensors are having trouble getting a clear reading. Too much radiation."
I yell for myself more than Shaw. "Great! Lets get this bitch open." I move through the pain and haze around my body, read to move my pod through the haze of the dying ship. The easy part's over.
Time to take apart the safety mechanism of a small, manmade star.
To Be Continued...
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