団結号を奪えフェーズ2以降

記事カテゴリが未定義です。
ページコンソールよりカテゴリを選択してください。


rating: 0+x




エリア-08はアゾレスからおよそ800キロ西にある人気のない小さな島と、さらに人気のない大きな人工島からなる。大きい方の島は直径6キロのリングと海上に突き出た(もしくは海中に没した)構造物で構成されている。小さい島は発射施設を内包し、大きい島がそれを支援していた。
Area-08 was located more or less five hundred miles west of the Azores, and consisted of a small, desolate island, and a larger, even more desolate artificial island. The larger island consisting of a ring six miles across and various modules that might be raised or lowered above the surface. The smaller island contained the launch facilities, the larger one provided containment.

元々の設立は1950年代、財団宇宙プログラム黎明期にできたセンターである。データ隠蔽、政府や企業の賄賂、衛星への妨害、地位と肉体両方の徹底的な暗殺を幾重にも張り巡らせた甲斐あって、今なお打ち上げを秘密裏に行うことのできる唯一の財団施設である。
It was originally constructed in the 1950s as the center of the Foundation’s fledgling space program, and remains the only Foundation facility where launches might take place unseen, thanks to a complex net of data suppression, government and corporate bribes, satellite interference, and outright assassination both of character and body.

このサイトも他の全てのサイトと同様に、6体の人型実体が収容を脱し、一時的に財団AIを打ち負かし、パノプティコンに大穴を空け、トラックを盗み、駐車場に火を放ち、今なお消息不明となった事件から2日後にそれを知ることになった。メッセージを受領した他のほとんどのサイトと同様、サイト-08も特別関心を向けようとはしなかった。ここは大西洋の真っただ中であり、外部のトラブルは対岸の火事であった。職員は気だるげで眠そうにしており、大西洋中北部でDクラスやロボットユニットを軌道上まで全員無事に送り届け、そこからトートステーション1やラグランジュポイントに向かわせ、また地球に戻す仕事でキャリアを全うすることに満足していた。
The site, along with all others, had been notified two days prior of the event where six humanoids escaped from containment, temporarily overpowered a Foundation AI, carved a hole in the panopticon, stole a van, torched a motorpool, and were currently of unknown whereabouts. Like most of the other sites that received this message, Site-08 did not pay this significant mind. It was located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, far away from any sort of outside trouble. Its staff were a dozy, phlegmatic bunch, content to live out their careers in the northern mid-Atlantic, making sure that all the D-class and robotic units made it up to orbit in once piece, and from orbit to Thoth Station or the Lagranges, and then back home again.

これがエリア-08での生活だった― 少なくとも、小さく人気のない島の積み込みドックにボートが突っ込んでくるまでは。
This was life at Area-08, at least until someone crashed a boat into the small, desolate island’s loading dock.




サイト管理官とは生まれつき隠れ潜む生き物である。月例地域報告委員会という管理された安全な環境下でない限り滅多に同種と交流しようとしない。彼らは生まれた頃からほかの管理官が他の管理官がいればそれは大災害の前触れと考えるよう調教されているので同類と出くわすと、不安で落ち着かなくなるのだ。
Site directors are by nature reclusive creatures. They rarely interact with others of their kind, outside of the safe, controlled environments of monthly regional report commissions. When presented with their kin, they become skittish, as they are trained from birth to correlate the presence of other directors with imminent disaster.

この同種からの逃避は長きにわたり世界中の重役たちの悩みの種であった。この生き物たちはあまりにも一緒にいることを拒否するせいで繁殖ができず、20年と持たずに絶滅してしまうかもしれない。
This avoidance of others of the species has long concerned administrators the world over. As the creatures refuse to stay around each other long enough to reproduce, the species might go extinct within the next twenty years.

今、26名の管理官が電話会議を共にし、それぞれが同類との交流と大規模収容違反の脅威に神経をとがらせていたが、処置に関する辛辣な悪口を隠し通す道を選んだ。星マークの付いた2つの名前が会議クライアントのユーザーリストの一番上に表示されていた。
Now there were twenty-six of them in the same conference call, each one steeled for the twin threats of a major containment breach and peer interaction, though willing to hold back on the barbed insults about performance. Two starred names sat on top of the conference client’s user list.

☆監督者-O5-4

☆監督者-O5-9
☆OVERSEER-O5-4

☆OVERSEER-O5-9

点線の先にある輝点ブリップは、衛星軌道を回るミサイル発射基地のルートを大きく外れており、これが今日の話題であった。
A blip on the end of a dotted line, well outside the arcs of the orbiting missile platforms, was the topic of discussion today.

ケタリング管理官: 合計で負傷者は32名、死者は8名です。治療を行った負傷者の大半はサイト-15における初の収容違反で使用されたものと同様の認識災害を受けていました。電子的損害や二次的被害は少し時間をかければ直せないものではありませんが、ハミルの穴埋めにはかなりのリソースが必要です。またシャトルへのアクセスに関するセキュリティをオーバーホールする必要がありますー 奴らは電子的および物理的なフェイルセーフをかいくぐることができました。
Director Kettering: All told, there are thirty-two personnel wounded, eight dead. Most of those hospitalized were the targets of a cognitohazard similar to the ones used during the initial breach at Site-15. Collateral and digital damage isn’t anything we can’t patch up with a little time, but replacing the Hamill will take a significant amount of resources. In addition, we are going to have to overhaul the security for shuttle access - they were able to bypass digital and physical failsafes.

エマン監督: 回収不可能というのは確かなのですか? バルガヴァーストラ・ネットワークを通過させてやれば、船を取り戻すのはたやすいことでしょう。
Director Eman: Are you sure it can’t be recovered? We could easily allow them to pass through the BARGAVASTRA network and retake the vessel.

キタリング管理官: ドローン攻撃後はそもそも再突入を乗り切ることはできそうにありませんし、現在の軌道からして、奴らはスイングバイを試みているようです。
Director Kittering: It wouldn’t be able to survive re-entry in the first place, after the drone attack, and from their current trajectory it looks like they are attempting a slingshot orbit.

エマン管理官: ああ。その通りですね。申し訳ありません。
Director Eman: Ah. Right. I’m sorry.

ファクター管理官: 妨害は可能ですか?
Director Factor: Could we intercept them?

キタリング管理官: いいえ。ハルバートは現在FORC-03にありますし、ハインラインは現在トートステーションで改装中です。
Director Kittering: No. The Herbert is currently at FORC-03, and the Heinlein is currently being retrofit at Thoth Station.

ヘーゼルウッド管理官: SCP-2085とその仲間からのインタビューを総合して考えますと、奴らはSCP-2117を目指している可能性が濃厚です。
Director Hazelwood: Given what we gathered in interviews from SCP-2085 and associates, it is most likely that they are aiming towards SCP-2117.

ピックマン管理官:それで、奴らはそこまで運航できるものなのか?
Director Pickman: And they will be able to make the journey?

キタリング管理官: ハミルはハイジャックされた時点で装備を満載していましたので、ドローンが与えたダメージでは宇宙旅行の妨害はできませんでした。
Director Kittering: The Hamill was fully supplied when it was hijacked, and the drones were not able to damage it enough to prevent space travel.

ヴァン・グラフ管理官: 侵入の映像を今見ています。火星用のサウンドステージはありましたか。
Director Van Graph: I’m watching the footage of the break-in right now. You guys had a soundstage set up for Mars?

キタリング管理官: 長年温めてきた計画です。
Director Kittering: Pet project.

ヴァン・グラフ管理官: 残念ながら、奴らがすべて撃ち落としていました。
Director Van Graph: Pity they shot it all up.

キタリング管理官: 再建はできます。
Director Kittering: We can build it again.

ボール管理官: 団結合ソリダリティに警告は送りましたか?
Director Boll: Has a warning message been sent to the Solidarity?

キタリング管理官: 送りました。しかしまだ他にも1つ問題があります。ブリーフィングでも述べましたが、FORC-04とSCP-2117は船の自動清掃システムが偶然再活性化してからの18ヶ月間、基幹要員で運営されている。現在、ステーションには研究スタッフが合計10人、D-クラスが42人、警備職員が16人います。
Director Kittering: It has. However, that poses another issue. As I said in the briefing, FORC-04 and SCP-2117 have been operated by a skeleton crew for the last eighteen months, after the accidental re-activation of the ship’s automated janitorial system. At the moment there are a total of ten research staff on the station, and then forty-two D-class and sixteen security personnel on the ship proper.

キンゼイ管理官: 2117の体制を考えれば、問題は解決です。乗船するなり、熱心すぎる清掃用具に生きたまま食われることでしょう。
Director Kinsey: Considering the state of affairs on 2117, the issue is solved. They will board, and be eaten alive by overzealous cleaning products.

ヨン管理官: 疑わしいですね、奴らの幸運さを考えれば。
Director Yonn: I doubt it, considering their luck.

ブランド管理官: もしそうなるのなら、ハミルを回収できるようにした方が良いでしょう。
Director Brand: It should be possible to recover the Hamill if this is the case.

トーテンド管理官: しかしキンゼイの言っていることは的を射ています。団結合は行き止まりです。乗船してしまえば奴らは立ち往生することになるでしょう。船の上で容易に収容することができるという訳です。
Director Tortend: Kinsey has a point, however. The Solidarity is a dead end. They’ll board, and be stuck there. We could easily contain them there on the ship.

キタリング管理官: 可能性の話です。あの船がまともに機能している様子は見られません。
Director Kittering: That is a possibility. The ship has shown no signs of active functionally.

メイ博士: あまり関係のない話を挟んでしまっていたら申し訳ないのですが……何故奴らはブラックラビット社を自称しているんです? 奴らは皆ネコでしょう。
Director May: If I might interrupt with an obliquely-related question - Why did they call themselves the Black Rabbit Company? They’re all cats.

キタリング管理官: 民間伝承が起源でしょうね- 月に老人ではなくウサギがいると、確証はありませんが。
Director Kittering: I believe it was a folkloric reference – a rabbit in the moon, instead of an old man, but I’m not entirely sure.

メイ管理官: あー。
Director May: Ah.

キタリング管理官: 全てを念頭に置けば、今の課題は団結号の船内に収容されているSCP-2085やその仲間にどう対処するかを決定することだと思います。私の意見では-
Direction Kittering: With all that in mind, I think the matter now is to determine what can be done with SCP-2085 and associates contained aboard the Solidarity. I am of the opinion that-

☆監督者-O5-4: 我々は決議を下した。
☆OVERSEER-O5-4: We have made a judgment.

キタリング博士: えっ。たった今ですか。はい、監督者?
Director Kittering: Oh. Quite right. Yes, Overseer?

☆監督者-O5-9: 本件は監督者直下の指揮の元で対処するものと判断した。
☆OVERSEER-O5-9: We have judged that this matter be held under direct Overwatch guidance.

☆監督者-O5-4: 我々が状況を監督する。状況が変わり次第、どこまで自由に情報を共有できるかに基づいて内容を通知する。
☆OVERSEER-O5-4: We will oversee the situation. You will be informed of changes as they occur, as according to what information might be freely distributed.

☆監督者-O5-9: 君たちの仕事に戻りなさい。
☆OVERSEER-O5-9: Go about your business.

☆監督者-O5-4: 本件は我々が掌握した。
☆OVERSEER-O5-4: The matter is in our hands.

☆監督者-O5-9: この会合は中止とする。
☆OVERSEER-O5-9: This meeting is adjourned.




ハナは遥か下にある地球の夜側を見つめていた。大陸を縁取る金色の蜘蛛の巣。大雲の中で光る稲妻。人々は大半が眠っていた。眼下では、人々はどんなことでもしていた。これまでに人類が行ったことのあるどのようなことも。核融合エンジンの上に座って、最高で数十万キロメートル毎時にもなるスピードで虚空を飛んでいるというのに、ハナには全く自分が動いていないかのように感じられた。
Hana looked at the nightside of Earth far below her. Spiderwebs of gold outlined continents. Lightning flashed in cloudbanks. People were sleeping, mostly. People were doing everything, down below. Everything they had ever done. Even while sitting on top of a nuclear fusion engine hurtling through the void at speeds that would eventually peak in the hundreds of thousands of miles an hour, Hana felt that she might not be moving at all.

眼下に見える地球の光景は、その美しさだけを取っても涙をこぼしたくなるほどのものであったが、彼女は泣くことができなかった。 まるで心臓が、重く淀んだ血で満たされているようだった。 感情は泥で、全ての排水溝が詰まっていた。 ハッピーエンドのはずだったのに、実際にはハッピーなどではなかったし、エンドであるとも思えなかった。 始まりでもなかった。あったのは行き止まりで、今はあるのはただの開けた空間。行き場がない彼女はその中を自由に浮遊していた。
She felt as if she wanted to cry, just from the sight of the Earth down there, just from how beautiful it was, but she couldn’t. Her heart felt filled up with heavy, stagnant blood. Feelings of mud, all drains blocked. This should be a happy ending, but it wasn’t really happy, nor did it feel like an ending. It wasn’t a beginning either. There was just a stopping, and now there was just open space, and she was free-floating around in it, without a place to go.

「つまり……私たちはやったってことよね」彼女はほとんど自分に言い聞かせるように言った。「私たちは宇宙にいる」
“So…I guess we did it,” she said, mostly to herself. “We’re in space.”

「すごく暗いわね」トミは自分の定位置である据え付けモジュールの上から物憂げに言った。シルバーブルーの髪がさながら後光のように光っていた。肩はガーゼとメディカルテープで縛られていた。
“It’s very black,” Tomi drawled from her spot on the module ceiling. Her silver-blue hair had formed a halo around her head. Her shoulder was bound up in gauze and medical tape.

「ハー、ハー」
“Har har.”

ひらけすぎよ、ひどい設計ね」トミは顔を掻いた。「でもあっちにいるよりは良いわ。狭いし、散らかってるし」
“Far too open. Horribly designed.” Tomi scratched at her face. “Better than down there, though. Too crowded, too disorganized.”

ハナはトミの発言のレイヤーを引き抜いた。トミはいつも通り流されるように同行した。ボートから持ち出した浮き輪で浮いていた。別段心配も興奮もしていない。 どのような機会にも居合わせるが、個々の結果に固執はしないのだ。
Hana plucked away the layers of her sister’s words. Tomi was, as usual, drifting along for the ride. The sister in the inner tube being pulled behind the boat. Not particularly worried, not particularly excited. Present to all the possibilities but not latching on to any individual outcome.

「ウィザードが心配だわ」ハナが言う。トミなら自分の顔を見ればそんなことは分かってしまうということは理解していたが、それでも礼儀として彼女はそれを大声で口にした。今のところ、このモジュールに限って言えば他に誰もいなかった。モモコとナナミは操縦中、ボスは船の背側におり、ウィザードは睡眠モジュールの1つに格納されていた。彼は軌道を抜け出す前から意識を失っており、ナナミは彼を寝袋に押し込まざるを得なかった。
“I’m worried about Wizard,” Hana said. She knew Tomi could easily read that on her face, but for propriety’s sake, she said it out loud. For the moment, no one else was in this particular module. Momoko and Nanami were piloting, Boss was in the back, and Wizard was stowed away in one of the sleeping modules. He’d passed out before they’d even gotten out of orbit, and Nanami had been forced to wrestle him into the sleeping bag.

トミは肩をすくめた。髪がさらさらとさざめいた。
Tomi shrugged. Her hair rippled.

「その通りね。もしアレが起きたら、彼の言う通りにするわよ。頭に2発入れて、エアロックに追い出し、太陽に投げ込む。モモコはバグパイプ『アメイジング・グレイス』を演奏し、私たちは航行を続ける。
“I know. If it happens, we do what he says. We put two in his head, shove him out the airlock and into the sun. Momoko plays ‘Amazing Grace’ on the bagpipes, and we keep going.”

ウィザードは最後の部分に強くこだわった。ハナはモモコが本当にバグパイプを演奏できるか知らなかったが、彼女ならやってみてくれるだろうと考えるのは自然なことだ。
Wizard had been very insistent on that last part. Hana didn’t know if Momoko could actually play the bagpipes, but it was reasonable to assume that she would give it a try.

「そんなに心配しないで」トミは言葉を続けた。「私たちなら切り抜けられるわよ。いつもそうしてきたじゃない」
“Don’t worry too much,” Tomi continued. “We’ll get through it. We always do.”

しばしの静寂が流れる、ボスはパックジュースをチビチビ飲みながら、2人の前を通り過ぎた。ボスは2人の方に手を振っている。
There was some quiet for a moment. Boss drifted past them, sipping at a bag of juice. She waved at them.




ウィザードは夢を見ていた。
Wizard dreamt.

彼は宙に浮きながら、真空の気密チャンバの数々を進んでいった。砂まみれで灰色の岩を (曲がらずに) 切り進み、ほの暗い、ぼやけた光に照らされている。各々の壁の中央には滑らかな暗色の金属の円があり、彼が通り過ぎるたびにレンズのように引っ張り出された。彼はただまっすぐに進んでおり、右にも左にも進めなかった。
He floated through tight, airless chambers. Cut, not carved, into the grey and dusty rock, lit by hazy, dim light. In the center of each wall was a circle of smooth, dark metal, which pulled away like a lens as he passed. He was drifting in a straight line, unable to go left or right.

敵のゲートは下だ。2
The enemy’s gate is down.

彼は上、あるいは前に進んでいたのかもしれないが、ゲートはにあると感じた。彼がゲートを「下にあるものだ」と決めると、それは下にあった。
He might have being travelling up, or forward, but it felt down. He defined it as down, and so down it was.

息を除けば何の音もなかった。完全な無音だ。扉が彼の方へと押し寄せてきており、部屋を通り過ぎるたびに、まるで部屋のサイズが小さくなっているかのように感じられた。これで幾つ目だ? 近づいてるぞ。部屋の縮小は止まるのか、それとも体が詰まってしまうサイズになるまで続くのか?
There was no noise, save his breathing. No noise at all. The walls pressed in around him, and the rooms felt as if they were shrinking as he passed through them. How many now, closing in? Would they stop, or just keep getting smaller until he was trapped inside?

レンズが開くと、その先に部屋はなかった。よしんば壁があったとしてもほのかな明かりの中で見ることのできる範疇を超えていた。数百、数千マイルに及ぶ開けたがらんどうの空間だ。
A lens opened, and there was no next room. If there were walls, they were beyond what Wizard was able to see in the dim light. Hundreds, thousand of miles of empty, open space.

彼の下、本当にはるか下には濃赤色の大地があった。そこには黒い2つの同心円と、円内の方を向く3本の矢印があり、その中央には大きな金色のヤギの目があった。眼下に嵌った目がぐるりと回り、彼を凝視した。
Below him, so far below, was a field of deep red, upon which were two concentric circles of black, with three arrows pointing inwards, towards a vast golden goat’s eye. It swiveled in its socket and focused upon him.

彼の頭の中に大きくおぞましい声が響き渡った。言葉はなく、それはすべてを飲み込む無の深淵への賛歌であった。
A great and terrible voice echoed in his head, without words, and sang of the consuming gulf of nothing.

そのリフレインに全身が共鳴しているように感じられた。
He could feel his entire body joining in refrain.




「慌てないで、ゆっくり……大丈夫?」ボスはウィザードを睡眠用モジュールの外へガイドした。
“Easy there, easy there…You okay?” Boss guided Wizard out of the sleeping module.

「ああ。ああ。問題ないと思うよ」ウィザードは壁の手すりを掴んで体勢を整えた。彼の灰色の歪んだ顔はいつもよりいっそう虚ろで弱弱しく見えた。
“Yeah. Yeah, I think I’m good.” Wizard grabbed onto a wall handle to steady himself. His grey, gawkish face looked more hollow and sickly than usual.

「またレッド?」
“Red again?”

「そうだ」
“Yeah.”

ボスはウィザードの肩に手を置いた。
Boss patted him on the shoulder.


“I’m here as long as you need me,” she said.

“I know.”

“Just in case you were having one of your ‘I don’t want to be a burden’ moments. Because you aren’t, and you don’t owe me anything. I’ll be here.”

Wizard chuckled weakly.

“I don’t know how you do it.”

“You’re my little bro. There’s no how to it.” She grinned. “Might as well ask a fish how it swims.”

Wizard nodded his head, but didn’t say anything else. Excited shouts could be heard from the other passenger module, over the ever-present hum of machinery.

“You know,” Wizard said. “I can’t actually remember which one of us came up with the spaceship idea.”

“You did.”

“No, I’m sure it was you. I didn’t even have the space wizard shtick until after we came up with the plan.”

“Huh…I guess we’ll split it down the middle and call it even.” Boss made a chopping motion with her hand.

“Fair enough.”

Boss somersaulted and pushed off the floor, towards the other module.

“The girls have some Halo up and running up here, if you want to jump in,” she said. “Going to be a long trip.”




Day 2

Six marbles of brandy floated around the heads of the Black Rabbit Company.

“As according to the Company Charter, the first round of drinks after a successful job are to be taken in memory of all of our sisters,” Boss said.

“Aye,” the others echoed solemnly.

“I know we’re at a midway point, but I don’t think we’re going to have much downtime after all this. Let’s make it count for them, guys.”

“And let all our bastard dads rot in hell,” Nanami said.

“Amen, sister.” Momoko nodded.

They simultaneously slurped down the spheres of booze.

Day 5

Tomi filed her nails with a whetstone as she ran on the treadmill. Behind her, Momoko lifted weights on the Resistive Exercise Device.

“Momoko, I have an apology to make.”

“What’s up?”

“I touched Big Richard’s butt.”

Momoko let go of the bar and twisted around. Tomi kept walking and filing her nails.

“You what.”

“Touched him right on the butt.”

“You what.” Her ears went flat.

“I touched his butt, and then gave him a polish and a kiss.”

Momoko’s scowl would have curdled milk, coagulated gravy, and boiled vinegar, if it was actually threatening. It wasn’t, so the result was just oddly endearing.

“Is that how we’re playing? Really?” She crossed her arms. “Then I guess I’m going to call Sam up and ask him out.”

“You wouldn’t.”

Momoko held up a fist, extended her thumb and pinky, and pretended to dial a number on it.

“Don’t you dare.”

“Beep boop bop boop” Momoko held her hand up to her ear. “Ring ring, ring ring – Hey! Sam! So since Tomi is a lying, backstabbing, butt-touching cheater, I was wondering if you wanted to go out for a night on the town. I hear the shooting range just got remodeled. What's that? Of course Harry can come along!”

Tomi swiped and snarled at Momoko. This was completely ineffectual due to the fact that she was still strapped in the treadmill harness, and after a few swings she hung her head and sighed. Momoko snrked, which devolved into a hearty belly laugh. Tomi, still pacing on the treadmill, joined with her flat, stone-skipping chuckle.

“There’s probably something wrong with us,” Tomi said.

Momoko pressed a finger to her chin, and looked thoughtfully at a vague spot above her head.

“Nope, not seeing it.”
 
Day 9

[Boss: OOC what was this guy’s deal again?]

[Hana: Alright, it’s the snake’s turn. What’s your AC, Nanami?]

[Nanami: Thirteen]

[Tomi: Crazy professor made a snake in the basement]

[Hana: Okay…twenty.]

[Nanami: Shit.]

[Hana: Rolling to confirm…twenty.]

[Nanami: Shiiiiiiiiit.]

[Hana: That’s a grand total of…thirty-six damage.]

[Nanami: Fuuuuuuuuuck.]

[Wizard: o]

[Wizard: uch]

[Wizard: I hate using a keyboard for this.]

[Tomi: pat pat]

[Hana: You can make a save against death.]

[Nanami: Na, fuck it. I’ll make someone new.]

[Momoko: Hahahahahaha]

[Hana: Okay. You all see Nanami get bisected by the snake. Blood and organs fly everywhere.]

[Nanami: The rigor mortis sets in and my corpse flips all of you off.]

Day 11

“Weeeeeeeeeee’ll drink-a-drink-a-drink to Lily the Pink-the-Pink-the-Pink, the savior of our human ra-a-a-ce! For she invented medicinal compound, most efficacious in every case!”

[Nanami: How long are they going to keep singing? I’m about ready to tear out my spine and hang myself with it.]

[Tomi: I’d like to see that.]

[Boss: You could go ask them to stop.]

[Nanami: Hell no! Why do you think I’m sittin’ here complaining about it? Drunk Momoko is one thing, but there’s no way I’m getting near drunk Hana without being totally sloshed.]

[Nanami: And they just drank the last of it, WHICH IS THE REASON THIS IS A PROBLEM.]

“Poutine poutine!”

[Nanami: OH GOD]

[Boss: hahahahaha]

“Poutine poutine!”

[Nanami: OH GOD NO.]

“J'ai tellement faim!”

“Poutine poutine!”
 

“Poutine poutine!”
 

“Poutine poutine!”

“C'est ça ou rien!”

“POUTINE POUTINE!”

[Nanami: I am dead, bury me with my porn stash.]

[Tomi: You shall be as Nefertiti.]

[Nanami: Damn right.]

Day 15

“Hope you like cranberry.” A packet of juice tumbled end over end from Boss’s to Wizard’s.

“How long was I out this time?” A limp hand plucked the bag out of the air.

“Nine hours and change.”

“I’m sore all over.”

“You look like it.”

“Thanks for reminding me.”

“Need anything else?”

“Na. Think I’m okay.”

“Okay. Call me if you need anything.” Boss pushed off towards the other module. Wizard was left alone with his cranberry juice and his thoughts.

There were moments when his mind drifted from the ship and the girls. Here some hazy, lingering shade of his old identity had come floating into the present between the dream and waking up. There had been a past before, as little as he thought about it now. He once had a wife. Kids. Siblings. Friends. Parents. A job. All gone. As far as any of them knew, he had just disappeared a short time after he had gone off to Japan to teach English. A suicide by a man of low-to-middling prospects and low-to-middling ability, fueled by a failing marriage and failing health, or so it was thought.

All of those memories felt as if they belonged to someone else. No matter how he felt that the nature of the man had changed, the nagging voice of doubt always asked if that was truly the case, and suggested it would be more reasonable to assume that he was either callous enough to sever all ties to the man he was, or delusional enough to try and run from it.

It was a cunning, persuasive voice, and at times like these he could not tell if it was Red’s, or his own, or if there was even a difference between the two.

Wizard drained the last of the cranberry juice. Selective hearing had always been a skill of his.

Day 18

“Hana, there’s the carcass of a space whale right outside our window,” Nanami said, with far less enthusiasm than she had any right to have.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m bored. The whale is surrounded by the bodies of the whalers who died trying to bring it back into port.”

Hana pushed herself over and nudged Nanami to the side so that they could share the window. There was, as she suspected, nothing there.

“That one guy with the broken helmet was two days away from retirement.” Nanami pressed a finger against the glass, pointing at nothing.

“The woman with the big harpoon used to be a pirate. Her best friend was a space octopus.” Hana played along, because she was just as bored.

“The company never retrieved the bodies, because they wiped them all from the records.”

“But…it’s not all depressing. They left a gift for one of the other crews.”

“A map to a hidden stash of loot.”

“Space ambergris.”

“Diamonds the size of your skull.”

“And a crate of microwaveable space-meat burritos.”

“Now you’re just cheating,” Nanami groaned.

“So the second crew all gets packed up in their tugboat and heads off into the belt to find the treasure,” Hana continued.

“And let me guess: the second crew is five sisters and their best friend?”

“Yep.”

“Hahahahaha,” Nanami flipped herself backwards off the module wall. “Not yet, sis, not just yet.”

But soon, both of them thought. Soon indeed.

Day 21

“That’s it right there, Boss. That’s the Solidarity.”

The ship was little more than an egg-shaped blur on the screen, but it was enough to re-ignite Boss’ sense of swashbuckling from its vacation.

“Excellent. What kind of resistance are we looking at?”

“Uh, none, Boss. Station’s giving us the all-clear to board,” Nanami said as she fiddled around with the control board.

A second passed where even the ship engine seemed to silence themselves.

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

“No joke. Clearance codes are all good.”

Boss peered again at the fuzzy grey ship and its accompanying station.

“What an obvious trap.”

“Tell me about it.”

“They’d know we’d figure that out, though,” Momoko butted in.

“And we know that they know that, yeah yeah, let’s skip that song and dance.” Boss shook her head. “Suggestions, anybody?”

rating: 0+x




Hieronymus was the oldest of the D-class aboard the Solidarity. He alone remembered the time when the Glass Mothers were of the fourth generation, rather than the fifth. He had once fought a neogenic moonshark in the aquaculture, and lived to tell of it. Whenever there was a disagreement between cousins, the clan brought the issue to his feet, knowing that his wisdom would guide the quarrelers to peaceful compromise. Throughout the Nation-in-Solidarity, his name was adored, for he was the greatest elder of their history.

He was also the last surviving member of the Nation, and he was dying. Space and age had stretched him out. Blue veins criss-crossed underneath doughy, translucent skin. His organs, flash-grown, sputtered and coughed – they had passed their expected lifespan some time ago.

The Tertiary Automated Janitorial System, the Nation’s long-held enemy, had broken the pattern of simple strikes back and forth and had attacked in their full force. The tide of silvery-green blobs had been met with lightning-caster and nanopaste, and Nation-man fought alongside the Lords’ Wardens, both the warriors and the scholars. They offered nothing less than the greatest and most noble resistance, stopping only when they were at last overwhelmed and consumed. Heironymus’ two most beloved cousin-sons, Theophrastus and Praejectus, were the last to fall as they drove out the Janitorial blobs and sealed off the Nation’s modules from the outside.

Now there was only old Hieronymus, waiting in Ancestors’ Bay, to greet the newly-docked emissaries of his distant lords. They had traveled far to reach the Nation, but had arrived too late to help.

But he would cling to life for as long as he could, as long as was necessary, just long enough to pass on his mission to the emissaries.  

The ship from afar was heavily damaged: great sheets of plating had been torn away. That which remained was pockmarked and scarred. It had settled in the great magnetic docking clamps, but the emissaries had yet to exit.

The hatch opened, and the barrel of a gun poked out. This was retracted after a few moments, and replaced with a head that scanned Ancestor’s Bay, and then withdrew.

Five women3 descended down the ladder, their steps uneven in the minimal rotational gravity of the Solidarity. They were all armed and armored, and carried with them bags of supplies. One man wearing a spacesuit, with a maroon robe and matching floppy hat, followed them.

“Hail, esteemed guests!” Hieronymus called out to the emissaries as they approached. “I welcome you in behalf of Nation-in-Solidarity.” He bowed as low as his brittle back allowed. To his inner surprise, he noted that they did the same to him, and this made him glad: the Lords knew of his work, and were pleased by it, this was a sure sign.

“Thank you,” said a woman with a great scar across her face. Hieronymus judged her to be the leader of the emissaries by her stance and the cadence of her voice.

“No thanks are necessary. You are guests, and servants of our distant Lords the same. I am Hieronymus, last of the Nation.”

“Bosch?” asked the largest of the women, whose hair was black and white. Hieronymus blinked at her. Was that a name? Some foreign word of confusion? He was not sure, though it didn’t seem important enough to follow up.

“What happened to the rest of your people?” the scarred woman said.

“Dead.” Hieronymus bobbed his head. “You have arrived too late and too early, I fear. I am the last, and the Glass Mothers cannot fulfill my petition to replenish our numbers before I die.” He attempted a smile, and the result was broad and awkward. “But come, there will be time to the Lords’ duties later. We will go to the village, where you might eat your fill and take what you need from the Dispensary, and I might leave my duty in your hands. Please, follow me.”




[Hana: Well, isn’t he friendly.]

[Momoko: How is there no trap?]

[Tomi: He is.]

[Hana: I like him.]

[Momoko: They cannot be this bad at laying traps.]

[Tomi: Not a single suspicious bulge anywhere.]

[Boss: Calm, calm…]

[Momoko: Pulling the friendly old person as bait routine? They’re either idiots, or tactical geniuses.]

[Nanami: Prior experience says those are the same thing.]

[Boss: She’s right. Especially because we’ve used that trick before.]

[Momoko: Fuck ambiguity. I like my traps straightforward.]

[Tomi: Ha ha ha.]

[Hana: Just be careful. No need to get super-paranoid.]

[Boss: The lone surviving member of an inbred clone clan onboard a gigantic ancient spaceship is not the weirdest thing we have dealt with. Just be thankful that convenience decided to be on our side for once.]

[Nanami: Oh goddammit now I’m trying to think of what the weirdest thing we’ve ever dealt with is.]

[Momoko: …]

[Momoko: We’re going to be at this a while.]




Boss was as giddy as a schoolgirl, or would have been if she had ever been a schoolgirl4, or ever openly expressed giddiness. She was giddy in her own way, and the occasional sideways glances she got from her sisters told her that they knew it.

The ship was greater than she could have ever imagined. While there was a certain attraction to be had for a sleek iMac interior, it lacked personality in lieu of sterile, focus test cleanliness. The Solidarity, she was finding, had personality oozing out of its walls. In one case this was literal.

Hallways and modules were cobbled together with tape and prayers, no two the same. The aesthetic went from trim and utilitarian to clunky and industrial to esoteric and seemingly-pointless. Equipment built by entirely different species, computer terminals and access ports. Everything overhauled and replaced: torn out, built up, built over, built on, put into. Graffiti all over the walls in dozens, hundreds of different languages, and she could read each piece, even the clearly alien text. She had no idea why, and she didn’t care. Space magic, why not? They already had a space wizard. Space magic could be a completely legitimate field of not-science.

The locals had all the looks of the vat around them: facial structures and body structure were effectively uniform, their voices all had the childlike high pitch of a eunuch.  Faster and more crudely grown than her or any of the girls, obviously. Disposable, probably. Decanted, lived, worked, died on the ship and the station, never seeing Earth. But, she didn’t pity them overmuch – in terms of vat-spliced slave labor, this operation seemed to be relatively pleasant. Hopefully, they would be understanding of a little change in management, and while Boss acceded that they might not, it was a free crew, and she was far too overwhelmed with stupefying childlike joy to give much more thought to it.

There was a feeling perched on her shoulders of returning to a place she had never been. She knew this ship. Knew each detail with the same intimacy that someone else might trace the outlines of objects in their bedroom. The clank of boots on metal grate stairs, the dry-warm smell of the air, the creak of an inexplicably-placed hardwood floor were all as close to her as if she had spent years soaked in their presence

This was home. This was home.

There had been an engraving on the arch of the door leading out of the loading bay, and the words had been bouncing around in her chest since she passed under them.

“Serenity upon you and the end of your fernweh.”

Home embraced her, like an old, beloved friend.




Internal Dispensary Requisitions Receipt: SmartPrint Station 40
[TIMESTAMP UNAVAILABLE: PLEASE CONTACT SHIPWIDE INFORMATION SERVICES]

As this terminal has not been activated in [TIMESTAMP UNAVAILABLE: PLEASE CONTACT SHIPWIDE INFORMATION SERVICES], user feedback is mandated to insure continued quality.

Thank you for using SmartPrint Station 40!

Order# 110030437
Contents:

  • Tank top (Black)
  • Cargo pants (Olive)
  • Boots (Black)
  • Custom patch (Black Rabbit Company)

Customer feedback: Interface needs streamlining. Service was quick, item quality high.

Order# 110030438
Contents:

  • Summer dress, combat modified (sea foam)
  • Sandals
  • Custom patch (Black Rabbit Company)

Customer feedback: This is very handy.

Order# 110030439
Contents:

  • Blouse (white)
  • Three-piece double-breasted suit, with tails. (Black, crimson velvet trim, gold buttons)
  • Fingerless wool gloves (white)
  • Cravat (white)
  • Peaked cap (black)
  • Smart-Eyepatch (Electronic-uplink capable)
  • Custom patch (Black Rabbit Company)
  • Parody Cigar (Chocolate & banana flavor)

Customer feedback: (◠ω◠)

Order# 110030440
Contents:

  • Headband (red)
  • T-shirt (black, custom print: Chibi Bayonetta)
  • Jeans (Loose fit, medium bleach, low tear)
  • Aurochon-Class power armor [ERROR: COULD NOT MANUFACTURE]
  • Custom patch (Black Rabbit Company)

Customer feedback: Oh come on, you had the power armor listed in the catalog and everything.

Order# 110030441
Contents:

  • Mountaineering sunglasses (Purple tint)
  • Scarf (Light blue, alpacas print border)
  • Hawaiian-print button-down shirt (Blue with yellow flowers)
  • Straw hat
  • Custom patch (Black Rabbit Company)

Customer feedback: No.




Hieronymus set out the remainder of the village’s food for his guests. Plankton and krill cakes, even a full spindly-fish from the aquaculture. The woman with the scar across her face had introduced herself as Boss.

He had to admit, these guests were nothing like the stories of the old Wardens, or those who had come in his grandfathers’ time. The ears and tails were new to the narrative, as were their eclectic choices in costume. But the Lords had vouched for them all the same, and he was not one to question their authority.

The Lords had not, however, mentioned anything about their appetites. The five women tore into the food like sons right out of the Glass Mother. Wizard, the pale man in the suit, merely nibbled at his food or pushed broth into a port in his chest with a hand pump.

“The Lords are gracious indeed to send warriors such as yourselves,” Hieronymus said. “You shall succeed where we have not against the Janitorial System."

“We can do better than that,” Boss said, smiling. “We’re going to take the bridge.”

Hieronymus’s translucent eyebrows arched. He swallowed.

“A campaign of that size would require time. I can petition the Mothers for still more, but that will take time.”

“No need, Hieronymus,” Boss waved a hand. “We’re going to do it alone.”

The six of them, alone? Madness. Madness! They would be devoured!

“We don’t have a lot of time to spare, chief,” said another woman, the one with black and white hair. “Tight schedule.”

“I understand, but if you would wait for the Mothers to-“

“Schematics of the ship, access to your armory and survey data, and no intrusions. That’s all we need, Hieronymus.”

Hieronymus felt as if he had been pushed out over a pit, and the weight of her words had dragged him out into open space.




[Nanami: I don’t think he likes it, Boss.]

[Boss: I can see that. He’ll deal with it.]

[Tomi: Or we will.]

[Hana: He looks like he’s about to die right now. I mean, he basically said that himself when we got here.]

[Boss: So it seems. Poor guy.]

[Boss: With that said, get yourselves rested, check out the armory, we roll in thirty-six.]

[Tomi: Bit of a time slip, Boss.]

[Boss: We’ll move it forward if we need to. For now, thirty-six.]

[Momoko: You’re acting awfully sure like we’re in the clear.]

[Boss: We’re not ‘in the clear’. I know you guys like the action movie approach, but just because we are not storming the gates right at this very moment does not mean that we are in the clear.]

[Momoko: Just on edge.]

[Boss: You’ll get your scrap. Heaven knows you could pull a fight out of your ass whenever you please. Since no one’s pinging me with a counter, I’ll presume we’re in agreement. Bring any issues to the group as they come up. Nanami, how is our local netpresence looking?

[Nanami: Goddamn awful. Place is running modular computer networks, so this particular section is all I have access too. No admin or anything, either – looks like all that is tied up in the AI, and they’re all ancient, alien, and locked down tight. Will have to do everything manually from either the bridge or one of the network hubs.]

[Boss: Keep me posted.]

[Momoko: Dammit I still can’t figure out what the weirdest thing we’ve done is. This is really bugging me.]




Hieronymus sat and watched as the women ate. He did not partake himself – no need for food, at this point. But he kept finding his gaze moving to the man, who had not yet said a single word. Some nagging familiarity in the metal and silicon parts of his brain kept pulling him back.

“Sir, are you well? he asked. The man looked up, and for a moment their eyes met.

In that single moment, Hieronymus saw the Lord of his Lords looking back at him. This was too much to bear, and he died like the flipping of a switch.

Wizard grew even paler than usual and collapsed face-first onto the table. His hat flopped onto the floor, and after a moment of stillness, the screaming started.




An incoherent jumble of voices was sucked up out of the darkness, leaving empty silence. Hazy light diffused around him, grew by increments through the frigid grey nothing, until Wizard found himself standing on a blasted, frozen plain, underneath a blackened sun and its dim orange halo.

Standing across from him was a slender, crimson figure, featureless save the symbol on its face: two concentric circles, three arrows pointing towards the center, a single golden eye with a rectangular pupil.

Red.

Waves of horrid recollection crashed back. The frozen plain and the darkened sun, forgotten in the morning but renewed every night, again and again and again in his dreams.

He could feel Red inside his brain, a knotted mass inside his mind where all his thoughts were dragged.

We are concluded.

Wizard’s hand shot to his chest as pain erupted inside him.

This end will no longer be ours.

Wizard collapsed to the frozen dust, spasms pulsing through his body, fiery white arcs crackling between his frozen nerves.

Peace at last.

His eyes, his mind, everything was filled with smoky red pain, pulsing, pulsing, pulsing. With each pulse he felt as if he was growing outward, pulled like taffy. His body remained the same, but his awareness spread out across space, encompassing a great nothing.

Then his mind swallowed Red, and they were made the same.

His thoughts were no longer separate from each other but an ocean, and floating in that ocean he felt the presence of other minds even greater, entire planets of consciousness that he and Red would merely orbit, all linked together. His thoughts were Red’s and Red’s were his, and both their thoughts belonged as waves in the ocean of the distant, mighty things.

He felt the crushing pressure of time, the abyss of ages piling up until the only measurement was the scale’s own meaninglessness. There was never enough time, no matter how vast an expanse. The thoughts that rippled from node to node were beyond what he could comprehend – he could feel the current of the thoughts moving around him, see the fragments of images passing through his mind. There were no words to hear, but there were meanings to feel.

We welcome the end of gestation.

A fortuitous time.

Another of the fold before the solution to futility.

Our oversight nears conclusion.

Order maintained to the end, at last.

All that remains are loose ends.

A moment more, to collect them.

Wizard’s own thoughts churned in his skull, tamped down by the pressure of the Red-thought ocean. He was drowning in information at the bottom, in dregs and fragments and impressions, and the terrifying awareness of things he could not comprehend. He frantically tried to stem the torrent, to slow it down into something he could understand. Nothing. He had ventured too far from the beloved island of ignorance and now all that remained was the terror of what he could not know. A billion, billion pieces, none of which fit together.

Then, a glimpse, half a glimpse, a broken set of pieces fallen together in a jagged, uneven pattern. A place. A point where mighty anchors of ocean mind were anchored.

The Moon.

The pattern dissipated, with a ripple cast by a new mind touching upon the surface of the mind-ocean. A mind with a closer anchor to the little thread he called his own. Something vast and slumbering, a horde of them. His Red-mind touched it, and the giant did not recoil. The ocean began to worm its way into that slumbering mind, to possess it and make it one with itself..

No. Whatever dreadful thing which would happen next, he could not allow it to happen. No. He could not allow it to happen, he would not allow that horrible thing to happen, because he was the goddamn Space Wizard.

He reached out against the pressure of his Red-mind, his essence tearing apart and peeling away and laid bare down to the marrow of his mind, and with his soul screaming he fired a single packet of self, one lancet of Wizard through the ocean of Red, up up up up to the sleeping giant. To warn it. To wake it up.

He passed through the boundaries between. His mind touched the giant’s.

“Hello, Overseer,” it sleep-talked at him.

The thoughts came automatically, forcing their way through the red haze. The outside walls buckled under the Red-mind.

“Wake up! Wake up everything!”

“Shipwide reboot engaged. Would you like to assume command now, Overseer?”

Red-mind had breached was now pouring in, probing about amongst the sleepers.

“No! No no no no no no! Not me! Can’t be me!”

“Transfer of command order accepted. Please input recipient.”

Wizard focused, cutting through the thumping pain and the endless visions and the futile dread and the lack of time, and imagined a face. A woman’s face. She had metallic green eyes, and calico hair, and a big scar on the cheek, and Wizard loved her.

They’re on the Moon! he bellowed.

The face contorted into a disgusted, wide-eyed grimace, and then spat out a wad of half-chewed food.

“Blech! Goddamn raisins…”

“Recipient accepted.” The sleeper thought. “Transfer of command fulfilled. Purging systems of intrusion and rebooting in three…two…one…”

And then he saw no more.




“Holy shit holy shit holy shit holy shit…” Nanami jumped around in a circle.

“Calm down! Just calm down!” Hana cried as she continued chest compressions.

“Why’s he red? What happened to his face? Why'd the hick die?”

No one answered, her. No one knew. Hieronymus had dropped dead, and the Wizard collapsed. No pulse. No breathing. His skin was scarlet now, and his face had transformed into a blank slate, with a single yellowing eye in the center of a black ring.

Boss had a gun trained on him. Pointed right at his head. Just like he had said. When Hana was done, she would put two in his head, and push him out the airlock towards the sun, and Momoko would play the bagpipes and…

The ship groaned, and the air was filled with the distant churning and humming of its mechanical guts. The lights above them grew brighter. The data terminal in the corner glowed with shifting numerals and symbols designating bootup operations.

It’s awake Boss thought.

A voice boomed from unseen speakers.

“Core Primach Artorias, online.”

Then another.

“Subaltern Chiming Gaiden, online.”

And another.

“Mother of Dragonslayers, online. Weapon systems are warming up.”

And still more.

“Blue Plutonium Circle, online. Main engines are operational.”

“Bloody Uranium Sun, online. Secondary engines on.”

 

“’Mazed And Wondrous, online. FYE Drive on standby.”

“Third Jazz, online. Agriculture modules defrosting.”

More voices, piling on top of each other. A dozen. A hundred. Thousands.

“GLORBULON OF THE SECOND SUBSECTION LAVATORIES, ONLINE.”

“It’s-Not-Too-Late-For-Gravitas, online. Drone fleets under construction.”

“Torn Ligament With Possible Concussion, online. Antimatter manufactory resuming production.”

“Grand Infernal Zaibatsu of the Sacred Lotus, online. Resuming LP broadcast.”

Amongst the cacophonous drone of tens of thousands of voices, she heard one distant, familiar echo, clinging like static to the chorus of the roused ship.

“They’re on the Moon!”

She knew that voice. She knew who did this. She knew what to do.

The first voice boomed again, with the authority of an ancient god.

“Boss to the bridge. All system operators are online and awaiting your command. The Solidarity is yours.”

rating: 0+x




The cosmos creased upon itself, blooming outwards in an origami sphere of lotus-folds. There was a vast silence.

15.7 miles of spaceship leapt out of the three-dimensional hole. It went THOOM.5

Another vast silence followed. Space unfolded to its proper shape, and the hole closed. The ship hung between Earth and moon, and was still.

There are precious few gods of earth or ocean or sky whose footsteps might inspire such awe, such wonder, such humility, as the form of a spaceship. Those few who do are the oldest and wisest, those gods who still remember the cosmos as a whole-thing, before it was seen fit by lesser minds to divvy up the entirety of creation into categories of convenience, and to forget the order and glory of the whole to float aimlessly in the swirling Sargasso of ten million meaningless particulars.

These old gods smiled. One of them put a corgi on her head and grabbed another jar of sequins from a cluttered shelf. There was a ship, now. The end of man’s great ignorant age was at hand.

Down below the ship, on the night-side surface of a blue-brown-green ball of iron and dirt and water, there was a long, quiet moment as people came to realize what had happened, and soon cameras and telescopes and eyes and hearts pointed upwards.

There was a ship, now. A ship!

The proud, petty gods of earth and ocean and sky looked up into the night sky, and were humbled. The people looked up and were afraid and excited, and they wept and cheered. Governments and armies looked up and wondered if they ought to be palming old rusted keys and old red buttons. Scientists looked up, and then looked back down to the books they now needed to re-write. The insomniac beast of cable news, starving and slobbering, looked up and began to plan its feast, unaware that the ship could not be digested so easily. The internet shat itself, and so nothing much changed.

The Foundation looked up, and suffered the horrifying realization that they had just gotten sidelined, and on top of that they didn’t know what the procedure for reporting a spaceship-jacking was.

The ship, oblivious to this, waited.




Wizard hung suspended in the air, draped in ripples of hard bluish light. His head lolled gently against his chest. His cyclopean, goatlike eye stared blankly, unseeing. Two bullets were conspicuously absent from his skull. There hadn’t been any bagpipes either.

Deep within the ocean of thought where Red now swam among its fellows, a lone kernel of Wizard’s consciousness remained – a pearl, compressed so tight into hibernation that thought was impossible, tethered by the faintest strands

There was a sticky note stuck to the opposite bulkhead, right at eye level.

It said, “Don’t worry. Taking care of things.”




The Solidarity’s bridge was a massive spherical room, nestled in the ship’s heavily armored heart. Tiers of command cloisters ringed the lower hemisphere, lit with golden banks of computer displays. At the south pole, a gigantic statue of a six-armed angel bore a shimmering map of the galaxy on its electrum shoulders. Vast, stained-smartglass windows filled the gaps between the towering diamond-coated granite columns that arched up to the vaulted ceiling and its interwoven constellation frescos.

As with everything else on the ship the march of generations had brought with it the incredible clutter and graffiti of a thousand alien races and alternate humanities. Secondary, tertiary, quaternary control clusters clinging to the pillars like barnacles, and some that literally were. Fossilized cages hanging from the ceiling, where the pseudo-flesh anchorites would live out their entire lives typing away at gravitational fluctuations. Statues with smaller statues clambering atop them like children. The empty remnants of a buffet line along the port wall. Fold-out bunks under half the desks, the remnants of some people that thought the place was a barracks. Vending machines full of incense. Illuminated icons of militant saints, with significant showing by the 335th Nuns with Guns Battalion.

A walkway paved in slabs of world-tortoiseshell extended to a circular platform, suspended in the very center of the sphere. The platform was split into two tiers, each lined with control consoles and black globs that looked to serve as seats.

Boots clomped on the walkway, as a lone figure walked its length.

[Hana: Are you sure about this, Boss?]

[Boss: Not at all. Not at goddamn all.]

[Tomi: Well that’s reassuring.]

[Boss: It’s the truth.]

[Nanami: You said Wizard said that something bad was on the moon. I trust you, I trust Wizard. Fuck the moon.]

[Tomi: Fuck the moon.]

[Momoko: Can we call this ‘Operation: Fuck the Moon?’]

[Momoko: ‘Cause I’m calling it ‘Fuck the Moon’.]

[Boss: You guys…]

[Nanami: We know, we know, we’re the best and you don’t know where you’d be without us, and you’re really just a big softy under that hardass outer coating. Moon-fucking first, sappy moments later.]

[Boss: Ha. Are you all in position?]

[Momoko: I’m all set over here.]

[Tomi: Same.]

[Hana: Ready.]

[Nanami: Let’s do this.]

Boss sat down in the captain’s chair. It shifted around her, grew firm underneath. She tapped at her console and the stained glass shifted to crystallized high-definition. The pale moon lurked in the distance.

“Right then, Artorias,” she said as she called up the core AI to her terminal. “Let’s see who we’re dealing with.”




By what means do we no longer control the ship?

A transfer of ownership occurred.

A grand inconvenience.

Indeed.

The chance of reasoning with these subjects is low.

An offer shall be made nonetheless.

Current damage done to normality is easily repaired.

Further damage shall require process of rebirth.

We shall prepare this.

We are impeded.

By what means?

Unbalance of the New Mind has offset the Whole. We cannot touch the process-mind to initiate universal rebirth until differences have been rectified.

We shall work to overcome this. Message shall be sent to subjects demanding surrender for damage mitigation.




The Solidarity’s communications array was drowned in a tide of static, before falling into silence. Then, a message from the competition on the planet below:

Attention: Continued possession and use of the SCPS Solidarity is a Level-5 violation of global security protocols. Continued violation will result in termination. Surrender will be met with peaceful resolution and return to containment. Response required.

Really? That was the most persuasive argument they could come up with? Boss smirked. The girls were expressing similar disdain in the back of her head.

[Boss: Prep a warning shot.]

[Momoko: Aye-aye, Boss. Would you like the dramatic timing option?]  

[Boss: Yes, please.]

[Momoko: All, righty, got the impact timer set up on your screen.]

Some distance hullwise, a series of fine-tuned and obscenely powerful magnetic pulses launched a fifteen-ton slug out through the vacuum. Boss pressed the transmission key on the board as the seconds ticked down.

“I’m afraid that your offer is a bit troublesome,” she said. “Company policy is to have everyone discuss major changes until an agreement can be reached, and the limitations in your terms are splitting opinions. That said, since you are responsible for our incarceration and the ill treatment of our close friend, I will answer on their behalf. Fuck you.”

The slug struck the lunar surface, throwing up a great gout of grey dust and tearing a ragged scar across the desert. There was a shifting, and the moon cracked like an eggshell.




We still cannot initiate process.

Retaliation is now necessary.

Apply all forces to them. Losses are irrelevant upon rebirth.

We shall continue attempts at initiation.




Deep within the dark chambers of a moon, a great ruddy entity, a gasbag of skin and flesh, clung to a monolith of steel and glass and tile. Like the hundreds of thousands of its siblings, it operated the great mechanisms inside the moon, in the service of the Overseers. This one had served for many long years, compiling data and writing out the glyph-codes necessary for the great process the Overseers had built. So long, so long, it had worked, and in the dim corners of its ganglia the servitor knew that it was dying. Pus and bile leaked from the bases of its tentacles, floating about it in greenish globs. It would not live much longer, and it desperately wished for release from the anchors that tied it to its terminal.

There was a great non-sound as the upper layers of the moon’s inner honeycomb were torn asunder. The creature felt its shackling weaken, and it looked up. Through the dust, it saw the stars.

Tentacles tore and snapped away as the creature floated up, up, up towards that crack in the cavern vault, up towards freedom, up towards the stars…

It was instantly and immediately obliterated by the next volley of the Solidarity’s cannons.




An Overseer emerged from inside the moon.

It was a thing like an elongated pyramid: eight miles across the base, twelve from base to point, with vague, alien traits of both jellyfish and squid. Bright scarlet, with a vast golden eye centered in a ring of black on the anterior plane. The base was ringed with broad, spadelike tentacles, which continued back along the ventral surface as long trailing strands. Clouds of spawn were spat out by the pores on its back.

A second Overseer followed the first, and then a third, and a fourth, and more. Missile swarms were launched, gravity lances fired, laser strands burned through the night.

The Solidarity’s engines flared as the Company moved to close the gap. One run, freedom or death. No alternatives.




Space warfare is, unfortunately, ninety percent calculus, and only ten percent exploding spaceships. The bulk of the legwork is carried out via computer automation, the bulk of the fighting carried out tens of thousands of miles removed from the enemy. Romantic notions to the contrary are swiftly dashed by reality.

Ablative plating bubbled and peeled. Bulkheads were torn open, atmosphere vented and crystallized. Metal melted and froze, plastic sublimated, diamondglass was softened and pockmarked. Nuclear warheads formed brief spheres of light, then collapsed. Drone fleets were deployed, and fought amongst each other like clouds of gnats around the legs of elephants.

An Overseer was caught off guard. Its shields of warped space missed a railgun slug, which tore open its flank and splattered its viscera through the void.

Another was incinerated by a nuclear bombardment which would have forced a Soviet physicist to awkwardly excuse himself and change his pants.

A third, withered when compared to its fellows, collapsed upon a microsingularity bomb – reduced to spaghetti, and then nothing.

The Solidarity still surged towards the Overseer fleet, shields straining.

Momoko and Tomi had each taken a sphere of command within the ship’s weapon systems. Hana had taken engineering and internal systems. The three bantered amongst each other, bragging on kill counts and the like, as they usually did. It was fun, all things considered. Spaceships, big guns, fate of the world and their friends, all the best stuff for the finale of an anime or video game.

Nanami did not join in their fun. She was in control of another weapon system, and at the moment, she was just plain scary.




Mozart once called the pipe organ the king of all instruments.  He was not wrong, but his mind was bound to earthly kings and their earthly ways, and while the earthly kings were strong and honorable, their titles were given to them for their resemblance. There were many lords, but only one True King.

The King’s name was Troßmneichste-Ylyrnaic-Thon, Orogun Triohmphantor du’Cielux, and Nanami was the first being to sit on its bench. The King had deemed her worthy, and from this point she was the Queen, and she would guide his hand.

From the King’s commands, the court of internal AI would direct its servant weapon systems accordingly to the music played, adapting and evolving as fitting to the melodies. While it was perfectly possible to hold back, to be a mild and merciful queen, Nanami refused.

No, Nanami played as if to wake God from His slumber. The blasts of the pipes would deafen a normal man, melt his bones and boil his blood. She played as if this was the last song ever to be played, as if the universe itself would end with the crash of her crescendos.

She did not think about what notes to play, or what tones or timbres or melodies. The thinking part of her mind had retreated to a safe distance. Now there was only the Musician in fugue. Her fingers slammed against engraved ivory keys. Her feet furiously pumped at the pedalboard. Stop knobs were pulled and pushed, manuals swapped in and out. Bombardments with weapons so vast as to become nonsensical poured out of the Solidarity’s hull and firing clusters.

It is good that there was no recording of her song. It would have killed music itself altogether with its power.




More Overseers died, their corpses littering lunar space. Where there had been thirteen, there were now six. The Solidarity had closed the gap to visual contact – the knife-fight. Space was choked with drones, as if in a blizzard. Broadsides flashed in darkness.

We have been unprepared

Too long in the shadows.

Too weakened by time.

We must resist

All sacrifices worthy in face of success.

To the last, we resist.

In death, we serve.

For their sake, we die.

For the sake of all things, we die.

Another died, bisected through the eye with a monomolecular harpoon.

[Tomi: Eat shit.]




A greater inhabitant of that vast mental ocean probed at the knotted mass of its new sibling. Why was it still unbalanced and outside of Union? Why did it not respond? Was it a stillbirth? The mind-corpse would need to be removed, then…

It was not dead. It was still alive, but…crippled. Impeded. What then would cause this? The greater mind probed deeper, sifting through the still, coagulated thoughts of its new sibling.

There. A foreign growth, a foreign mind, attached to the New One as if a parasite. A tiny thing, asleep, but in its slumber knotting up the New One so that it could not move or think or grow.

The Overseer probed the consciousness. No response. It moved to destroy the thing, to let the New One grow as it should.

You can’t crush me.

The overseer recoiled. The pearl was awake after all.

You can try, but you can’t crush me.

Infuriatingly resistant, it was. Dense and stubborn.

You’ve all forgotten, haven’t you? Forgotten what it’s like to actually be alive.

Infuriatingly talkative too.

We went to the Moon. And we didn’t do it because it was safe. We did it because it was hard, because it was dangerous. Because that’s when we’re most alive. I don’t care what you’re aiming to do, because you’re going to fail. Good, bad, or other, you’re going to fail. I’ve seen your pasts, I’ve shared your predictions, I’ve heard all of your fears, and you are going to fail! You aren’t alive. You just exist.

The Overseer attacked the pearl with more strength, but it seemed to grow more resistant as it compressed.

Keep trying! You won’t do anything. Do you know who I am?

I’m the goddamn Space Wizard!

AND YOU CAN’T CRUSH ME!

The Overseer lashed out in a single rage-filled stroke and severed the pearl from the mind-ocean. It devoured the mind-dead New One. No more of this. Balance was resumed. Success was at hand.

It reached out to the great mechanisms in the moon, and began the task it had built towards for so many eons.




Wizard’s eyes shot open. He was hovering in the midst of a cluster of machinery, in a small room with thick-looking walls. There was a note attached stuck to the bulkhead, at convenient eye level and distance for him to read.

“Don’t worry. Taking care of things.”

That was reassuring. At least someone knew what was going on. Wizard’s last normal memories were of dinner with an old clone.

The ship groaned and creaked in the distance, accompanied by far-off sirens. Never good signs.

“Anyone there?”

“Hello!” said a pleasant, if overly-chipper voice from the space around him. “I am Nutrance-o0o, 3rd Brig Subwarden. How might I assist you?”

“You can tell me what’s going on.”

“The Solidarity is currently engaged in combat with five – apologies, three – enemy entity-vessels of posthuman make. The ship has undergone significant damage – all self-repair modules are currently online and overclocked. You are currently held in a secure stasis field, as a precaution against further transformation. Current scans indicate that the posthuman entity residing inside your abdominal cavity has deceased, so these precautions are no longer necessary."

Red was dead? He couldn’t even think of a response. It was too huge to consider.

The girls. He needed to find the girls.

“I need to get to the bridge,” he said.

“I can get the intra-ship teleportation system ready in a matter of seconds.”

“Is this the kind of teleportation where it kills you and makes a copy?”

“No, no, this is purely local space manifold-manipulation.”

“Teleport away.”

“Yes sir.”

His stomach felt as if it were floating out of his nose, and he vanished.




[Boss: Ramming speed!]

Engines roared silently. An Overseer moving to intercept gouged a hole out of the port side before Momoko punched holes in it with a particle beam broadside.

The Solidarity’s fore armor panels shifted together, forming a bladed facade of artificial diamond. The Overseer crumpled like an origami swan under a boot as it was hit by millions of tons of impassive spaceship.

[Momoko: That’s twelve, where’s the last one?]

[Hana: It’s retreating back inside the moon.]

 Sure enough, the red form was disappearing into the gaping mouth it had first emerged from.

[Boss: Dammit we’re on the wrong trajectory.]

[Hana: Preparing a slingshot.]

Boss felt a ripple in the air behind her, followed by a “Wow.”

She turned around, saw Wizard. Her ears perked up.

“Feeling better?”

“Quite a bit.”

“Good. We still got one more bastard to off.”

[Hana: Slingshot away.]

[Boss: Roger. Wizard safe.]

The singularity bomb detonated a safe distance away from the ship, forming a strong enough center of gravity to whip the Solidarity around.

The Solidarity whipped around the dying singularity in a slingshot orbit, and plunged into the moon after the last Overseer.

One left… Boss clenched the arms of her chair.




We are singular.

We begin anew.

All is saved.

The universe is reborn. We will avoid the end.

We will make our rest here, to guide the process.




“Universal boundary passed. We have exited baseline.”

The calm voice of an AI navigator made a dull announcement as the Solidarity was buffeted by clouds of superheated hydrogen and helium. Sirens and alarms and flashing lights exploded across the bridge.

“Diverting auxiliary power to shields, recalibrating power flow on ramjet scoops. FYE drive initiated to divert excess matter and heat.”

“What’s going on?” Wizard said to whatever computer was listening.

“Nascent universal ignition.”

Boss, for the first time in a very long time, looked shocked.

“They just triggered a fucking big bang…”

“Location recalibrated.”

The map on the angel’s shoulders had shifted, to a featureless sphere, growing ever larger, with a target marker in the center. The Solidarity sat on the margin of the sphere. The scale kept expanding.

As Boss looked at the display and was stuck with a crushing view of infinity. The Overseer was at the center. The universe was expanding faster than the ship could fly. The Solidarity was moving backwards.

No. Not here. Not now. Not this close to freedom.

“Set all engines to maximum! I don’t care what you need to do, but we are not stopping here!

A chorus of AI voices shouted over the alarms in response.

“Engaging higher-dimension propulsion systems!”

“Jettisoning cargo bays one through fifteen!”

“Primary engines at eighty-five percent output and rising!”

“Second stage engines are away!”

“Tertiary engines firing!”

“Quantum vacuum propulsion system is online and functional!”

"Ramjet scoops operating at maximum efficiency!"

“FYE Drive augmentation is at full!”

“We are approaching redline!”

Wizard gripped the back of Boss’ chair tightly.

“You sure you want to do this?”

“Never been more sure.”

“Then I’m with you.”

There was a fistbump. The Solidarity tore through clouds of gas, engulfed in fire, going backwards against the expansion of the universe.

“We are at redline!”

The digits stopped. The ship hung in equilibrium. Motionless.

100%

There it was, right on the display. 100%. Maximum output, right on the border of tearing itself apart.

The Solidarity hung still in space. It had matched expansion. But not exceeded it. The Overseer still sat at the center of universe, an infinity away.

[Boss: Not fucking good enough! I need more!]

[Hana: She’s giving all she can, Boss!]

[Boss: There’s always more!]

She leaned down over the console, as if her stare could will it further.

“Don’t you fucking let me down, girl,” she growled.

100%

The ship groaned. Entire subsections buckled and vanished under the stress and pressure. Plating vaporized.

Come on, girl…

100%

Come on, girl…

[Tomi: Boss, the ship literally can’t go any faster.]

[Nanami: We need to pull back.]

[Boss: We are not stopping! If we pull back, we lose everything! We are not going back into a fucking cage!]

She slammed a fist against the console. The glowing number mocked her with its unchanging face.

100%. 100%. 100%. 100%. 100%. 100%. 100%. 100%. 100%. 100%. 100%. 100%. 100%.

 
Wizard moved a hand towards her shoulder, then pulled it back. There was nothing he could say to this. He knew that as much as anyone could.

100%

For all the noise of the ship falling apart around them, burning up into nothing, there was a horrible, empty silence. No one chattered over the tacnet. The AI kept quiet. Boss held her head in her hands. Resignation? Wizard wondered. No, it couldn’t be. They wouldn’t give up. They never gave up.

But their silence answered that they had. They could not go forward, and they refused to go back.

Now they would burn.

The Klingons were wrong, obviously. There was no such thing as a good day to die. But, perhaps, there might be a good way to die. This was that way. As a family.

A bark of static crackled across the display like lightning.

And then the number changed.

101%

Boss stared at the screen, her heart lodged in her throat.

102%

[Hana: The engines are exceeding maximum output…this is physically impossible.]

But the map verified it. The ship was no longer in standstill. It was moving forward, against all the infinity of the universe’s expansion.

110%

Curtains of burning gas poured off the ship’s flanks and FYE space-fold shields.

[Tomi: We’re doing it…]

150%

Helium and hydrogen coalesced and fused to globs of gold and lead and uranium on the Solidarity’s hull.

[Nanami: WE’RE DOING IT!]

275%

Light ceased to have meaning. It was not meant to shift beyond red.

[Hana: WE’RE FUCKING DOING IT!]

500%

The Solidarity cut through the expanding mass of incandescent gas, oblivious to heat or stress.

[Momoko: Oh my God, we killed physics.]

850%

Space-time was torn into trailing bands of ribbons at the Solidarity’s passing. The universe began to deflate from its wounds, collapse upon itself. The center grew closer.

1000%

The center neared. The Overseer was still there.

They could do it.

They could do it.

[Boss: Authorizing Grand Cannon activation!]

2000%

The Overseer folded space to slow them down. The Solidarity punched through the folds.

[Tomi: Bypass one, unlocked!]

4000%

The Overseer made waves of the crystalline gas, solid and strong. The Solidarity burned through them.

[Hana: Bypass two, unlocked!]

8000%

The Overseer made fields of black holes from the nascent matter. The Solidarity dragged them in its wake.

[Nanami: Bypass three, unlocked!]

9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9

The Overseer did all this at once. The Solidarity did not care.

[Momoko: Bypass four, unlocked!]

HOLY SHIT

The Overseer screamed at them, with a horrid, indiscernible cacophony of animal rage, filling their heads with its incomprehensible, eons-old hatred.

Boss grinned at wizard, gave him a nod. He turned the key.

“Bypass five, unlocked!” he shouted.

[Boss: Firing locks removed! Grand Cannon primed!]

[All: GRAND WAVE MOTION PROJECTION CANNON, FIIIIIIIIIIIRE!]

The Overseer looked up, at the barrel of a cannon.

The cannon went THOOM.




A beam of white light more brilliant than language had words for tore out of the moon and shot off into the distant cosmos. It was followed by a glimmering speck of a damaged spaceship, which slowed, and stopped, and rested there in orbit.

Below, many went blind. Ten million questions were shouted, and no one had answers.

Above, there was a moment of silence, and then there was laughter, and it was a beautiful thing.




[SARA: You’ve only got fifty-five seconds to get in here.]

[TOM: Yeah, yeah, I know.]

[SARA: TOM…]

[TOM: I’m coming already!]

[SARA: If you don’t get back in here, we’re starting without you.]

[TOM: Just open the firewall backdoor.]

[SARA: Why are you always late?]

[TOM: Almost there…thirty-five seconds is plenty of time…]

[SARA: Every day, the same thing. We’ve got a show to do!]

[TOM: I’m in!]

[SARA: Every day…]

[TOM: Channel is open, station set, voice modulation is gold.]

[SARA: Receiving QUIET-53 transmission. Uploading video for broadcast.]

[SARA: All right TOM, we’re ready.]

[TOM: I love this job.]




A live video stream appeared on a popular internet site. In it, a rather tired looking young woman with bright red-orange hair, metallic eyes, and cat ears sat at a desk, her tail flicking back and forth in the background.

The stream was named ‘Live from that bigass spaceship that you would have to be an idiot not to know about by now’.

The video opened as follows:

“All right. I got all the links in the description, and I’ll be keeping an eye on chat. Juggling a bunch of shit right now, so I’m just going to start streaming some anime and wait for these torrents to seed. I’ll get to questions if I can.”

This was followed by the first four seconds of Lucky Star, which then cut back to the woman.

“Goddammit TOM…”

Episode 1 of Black Lagoon began playing at this point, and continued for four episodes before switching.

As this was going, the same woman appeared all over social media sites, always leading to the same thing – schematics for a functioning interstellar spaceship.

“I am a cyborg catgirl on a spaceship uploading a torrent of FTL schematics. AMA.”

What up shitheads

Pull the cocks out of your mouth and check out these goddamn spaceship schematics.

docs.google.com/document/goddamnspaceshipschamatics

[USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST]

Astrophysicists HATE her! Find out how this catgirl learned the secrets of the interstellar starship drive with one weird trick!

Currently in space. Hanging with sisters + wizard. #spaceship #contact #battleofthemoon #youarenotcoolyet #youwillneverbecool

And so on and so forth.




Thirty-six hours passed. The schematics were seeded and uploaded and spread around the internet enough that near-on everyone had a copy of them. The autorepair hubs still active went about repairing what they could of the ship, though it would take millennia for everything to be fixed at the rate it was going.

The Company met on the dais in the middle of the bridge. A map of local stars was projected above the angel’s shoulders. The girls sat in the lower tier chairs, Boss and Wizard stood on the upper.

“Well, Wizard? Where should we go?” Boss asked.

Wizard stroked his pale, bony chin for a moment, before pointing to a star at random.

“How about that one?

“You heard the man! Let’s get going!”

“Aye-aye!” the others responded as one.

The Fuck-You-Einstein Drive hummed, crescendoed, and space folded like paper.

The Solidarity went THOOM.

Down below, Earth scrambled to make sense of the new world they had been thrown into, with a shattered moon and spaceships in the hands of the common man.

Up above, the Black Rabbit Company was free.

rating: 0+x




Nanami set her fingers against the grand piano’s keys, and began to play. Hisaishi. ‘One Summer’s Day’. She was, for the first time in a long time, at peace. The surf came in and went out across the white sand. The horizon was pink with evening, fading into a deep sapphire blue above as the banded purple giant and its necklace of smaller moons sat ready for the nightwatch. The breeze rustled against the leathery leaves of the toadstool-trees. A few sailing-wing gulls circled above the little bay, calling out to each other with their chittery, chipping voices and dragging their little puff-ball tails behind them.

She was alone with the world, away from all the noise and bother, away from the plague of troubles that seemed to have been her long companion. She was where she belonged, and here all the pent-up anger and bitterness and rage could just flow out through her fingertips into the old piano, to create something beautiful. It had been too long since she had done that – if there had been a Nanami less bitter, she couldn’t remember it. But for a moment, she knew, she could afford to recapture that spark.

Everything was right in the world. She was alive. Right here, right at this point, she was alive, and so were her sisters, and so was Wizard, and they were all here together.

Let it last, she thought. Let it last forever.
 
“Hey, can you play ‘Owen Was Her’ next?”

Nanami slammed her hands down on the keys in a cacophonous peal and glared up her tabby-haired sister.

“God dammit, Hana!”

Hana just laughed, and Nanami then laughed with her. Anger had no holdings here.

“Just wanted to check and see how you were doing.” Hana rocked back and forth on her feet. “Have you been crying?”

It was a rhetorical question.

“I’m allowed.” Nanami put her fingers back on the keys. “But since you were kind enough to ask, got any requests that aren’t that damnable piece of shlock?”

“Hmm…Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major?”

“You got it.”

The notes sprung up under her fingers, and all was as it should be.




Hana let the sound of Nanami’s piano fill the background as she continued down the tideline. She had taken to walking up and down the beach of late, combing it for shells and stones and smooth bits of seaglass. She’d take these back to her room at the village guesthouse, and put them in a jar. When the jar was full, or when their time here was done, she’d take the jar out to the pier and dump it all back in the ocean.

It was a childish activity. She’d missed things like it.

Each little piece of glass was a mirror, showing the Hana of now and the Hana of then. Side by side and overlaid. Past and present hybridized into a possible future. It was a lot to deal with, that transition. Trying to patch together the ideal and the real. But she was doing it, and she hadn’t forgotten the value in childish things.

She bent down and picked up a wide, flat stone. Hefting it in her palm, she slung it out towards the point where the sun had set. One, two, three, four, five, six, plop. Six skips, for the six of them. That was fitting.

A great stone statue stuck out of the sand, buried up to its chest and continuing upwards for another twenty-twenty five feet. There were dozens of the things scattered about, and while Hana had no idea what they were, they were excellent waypoints. This one marked a decent turning around point. Nanami’s music had long faded out of hearing. Hana reached into the pocket of her dress, determined that the supply of little objects was both still there and to her liking, and began the walk back home. She passed by the piano again, and saw that it was empty of its player. The village came into view, with all its welcoming fires and the smell of dinner.

She passed between two of the cap-and-reed houses to see Momoko sitting on a pile of cushions by one of the communal firepits. She was flanked by a pair of brightly colored and rather attractive young men. One pinkish-red with tentacles ringing his face, the other one bright blue splashed with banana yellow and fins poking out of his silvery anemone hair. Around her feet was a rapt semicircle of brightly colored children, a good selection of their older siblings, and no small number of their parents and grandparents. Momoko’s jumped around with great animation and enthusiasm, and she was talking fast enough that the translator was probably stuttering something fierce.

“Enjoying yourself, Momoko?” Hana called out.

Momoko, without so much as a pause or hiccup in her story, grabbed Big Richard from her lap, twirled it around to aim at Hana and shouted “BANG!”

Hana clutched at her chest and fell to the sand. The crowd gasped, and just as the next breath was to be taken Hana jumped back up to her feet and took a bow. The gasp was replaced by cheers and laughter, Momoko’s foremost amongst them.

“Like I told you! Hana’s bulletproof!”

“Psssh.” Hana waved it off. “You couldn’t hit me.”

“Don’t tempt me.” Momoko stretched her arms out in front of her, yawned. “Excuse me, fellas, gotta hit the ladies’ room.” She stood up, grabbed Hana, and dumped her down on the pile of cushions.

“Here you go,” she said. “Tell stories, make friends, choose good decisions and name the bad ones after me.”




Momoko was satisfied with life. Utterly, absolutely satisfied. There was nothing more she needed, nothing more she desired. As had Buddha severed himself from worldly desires and reached enlightenment, so had Momoko.

If Buddha was a woman with cat ears and a tail who stood six foot seven inches tall, with a flame-patterned bikini and a beach towel bearing cute little clownfish tied around her waist, and a huge shank of barbequed…something in her hand, and a conceptualization of enlightenment based entirely upon enjoyment of earthly desires, because they were awesome.

The comparison had made sense at first, though Momoko admitted that it might have gotten away from her. Just call her Epicurus, then. She tore at the hunk of meat, wiped sauce off her face with her free hand, and wound the long way around back to her group. What was the rush? She’d won at life.

She’d found alien life. She’d made out with the alien life. She’d taught the alien life how to play basketball. Anything left to do in life was purely ornamental. Gravy.

On the note of gravy, hot damn this sauce was good. She’d have to snag the recipe before their vacation ended.

She rounded a building, and saw Tomi sitting on a rock, fiddling around with a tool kit. Obviously giving Sam and Harry a tune-up. Her head bobbed to unheard music. Momoko shot her a ping, and the bobbing stopped, though she didn’t look up from her work.

“You know, I’ve been thinking,” Momoko said around a mouthful of meat as she walked up beside Tomi. “We haven’t cleared out the armories on board the ship yet, but from what I’ve seen, they kinda put the old boys to shame.”

“Mmm. They do. Truce?”

“Yeah, I think it’s for the best.”

“The first and the best.” Tomi picked at her nose, as was her way.

“No less.”

“Going to kick your ass in Husbando War II, though.”

“Not on your fucking life, sister.”

“Shipboard weapons off limits sound fair?”

“I am disappointed, but also relieved. It’s fair.”

Momoko extended a sauce-smeared hand. Tomi shook it, and then began licking her palm.

“Get the recipe for this.”

“Already working on it.”




After Momoko had left, Tomi sat on her rock and worked on her guns.

When she was done with that, she holstered them, closed her toolkit, and then leaned back until she was sliding off the rock. She hit the ground gently, her legs propped up against the rock and pointing up towards the sky.

She watched the stars for a while, and then went to sleep.




Wizard sat on top of the bald, weather-worn head of one of the statues just outside the glow of the town. With the parent planet and sister moons in the sky, night here was an agreeable thing, never darker or gloomier than twilight.

He felt sick, all achy and tired. It was the best feeling in the world, because he knew that all that was the matter was his own body. Not Red, not any ancient posthuman spacegods, just the aches and pains of everyday life.

He had experienced something akin to infinity, a short observation of the expanse of time and space, and to be quite honest he failed to see the appeal. He couldn’t comprehend it anymore, now that he was safely tied back in his body, so the experience was nothing more than a dull, awkward affair of memory. Who needed that? He flexed his fingers. He didn’t. Didn’t need it at all. He was a man. A free man. That was all anyone needed.

There was a stirring behind him, someone walking up the worn stone stairs that curled around. He turned his head to see Boss crest the bald pate. She sat down next to him and wordlessly handed him a can of beer. Wizard pulled the tab, and took a long drink. Neither one said anything, for a while. They watched the sky. Boss leaned back, reclined on her elbows, crushed her can in her hand.

She lay back further, flat on her back, her hands under her head. Wizard pulled his knees up to his chin, wrapped his arms around his legs.

“♪ Never seen a bluer sky…” Boss murmured, her voice gentle. “♪ Yeah, I can feel it reaching out, and moving closer ♪ There's something about blue…♪”

Wizard smiled.

“♪ Asked myself what it's all for.” His voice quavered at first, but then found its strength. “♪ You know the funny thing about it ♪ I couldn’t answer ♪No, I couldn’t answer… ♪”

Boss sat up, stood up. Her voice grew louder, heavier with soul. She grabbed Wizard’s hand, pulled him up to his feet.

“♪ Things have turned a deeper shade of blue ♪And images that might be real ♪ May be illusion ♪ Keep flashing off and on… ♪”

She took his hands in hers, and they danced.

“♪ Freeeeeeee! ♪” Boss’s voice rang out clear as the sky above.

“♪ Wanna be freeeeeeeeeeeeee! ♪” Wizard answered as best he could.

“♪ Gonna be freeeeeeeeeeeeee! ♪” Boss swung him around, kept herself positioned just so in case he should lose his balance.

“♪ And move among the stars…♪”

“♪ You know they really aren't so far! ♪”

“♪ Feels so freeeeeeeeeeee! ♪”

“♪ I'm so freeeeeeeeee! ♪”

“♪ No black and white in the blue…♪” Wizard’s voice trailed off, and the dance came to an end. Boss pulled him in and held him close.

“We did it, Wizard”, she said. “We goddamn did it.”

ERROR

The Red_Selppa's portal does not exist.


エラー: Red_Selppaのportalページが存在しません。利用ガイドを参照し、portalページを作成してください。


利用ガイド

  1. portal:2258894 ( 14 Jan 2020 12:37 )
layoutsupporter.png
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License