Today’s episode of Biotech Legacy: Long Fall is a short one, as is reflected in the name… it’s Chapter 30: Little Fugue, which also happens to be the name of one of my favorite pieces of music.
If you’re just joining Biotech Legacy: Long Fall, you can find all of the preceding chapters right here at the Oktopod Blog.
The previous novel, Biotech Legacy: Stars Rain Down, is currently available exclusively through Amazon.
Alright, let’s hit the ground running.
The room was white like a freshly installed toilet. Unlike the toilet though, the walls of the room were so soft, so unimaginably squishy that Jack could throw an egg at them and collect it unbroken from the floor.
He was trapped inside of a cotton swab and it was driving him insane.
Kai looked no worse for wear, sitting still and occasionally glancing around the room the way a hungry lizard might. The two hadn’t spoken in hours, but such things weren’t uncommon in their curious relationship.
Jack grabbed his greasy hair and gave it a tug. “I have to get out of here,” he said.
“I know, Jack. Patience.”
Jack was running decidedly short of anything vaguely resembling patience. He’d spent enough patience in his life to pay for…
Kai hopped to his feet, rushed across the floor and crouched down beside him. The alien said, “Now.”
Kai then lifted him to his feet and gently ushered him to the portal. There, the alien cocked back his arm and struck in a blur. Jack had a vague impression there were two punches, but it could’ve been an illusion.
A multi-ridged shockwave spread through the jelly-like walls, and the two edges of the portal came apart slightly. Kai’s hands were already there, prying them open.
The interrogator said, “Go now.”
Jack was bowled over with amazement, but he didn’t need any more encouragement. He jumped through the hole arms first and slid across the tiled floor on his shoulder. Kai slipped through in the next instant and allowed the slit to shut behind him.
His broad hands once again lifted Jack up off the floor and they hurried around the corner, then ducked inside a supply closet. Footsteps passed by outside without so much as a hitch in their stride.
When they were gone, Kai said, “This is your only opportunity, Jack. Donovan is off ship, and the vessel’s attention is elsewhere. I believe I can mask our presence as long as no one looks too hard. I can get you to Felix, and perhaps your bond with him will shield you during the escape.”
Perhaps wasn’t a very encouraging word.
Kai saw him thinking it over. The interrogator could no doubt read every emotion on his face better than even Jack himself could. “This is it,” he reiterated.
The alien waited a pause, then rushed out of the closet and dragged Jack behind him. He interspersed quick progress with sudden and unpredictable dodges behind cover, always followed a moment later by a nurse or doctor strolling blithely by.
“Do you have a sixth sense or something?” Jack whispered.
“Many more,” was all Kai said, and they rushed off down the next hall.
After zigging and zagging worse than a drunk bee, they approached a T-junction and Kai stopped before they reached it.
“This is where the hospital ends,” the alien said. “Once we step into the outer ring, you’ll no longer be shielded.”
Jack tried to nod, but his head refused to move. “I…” he began to say, but stopped.
Jack’s ribcage convulsed, but words wouldn’t come out. His jaw clenched shut like a sprung trap, and his eyes began to burn.
He took a deep breath. Closed his eyes. Waited to hear his inner voice saying anything at all. Instead, in the silence he found conviction.
He relaxed his jaw and opened his eyes, then nodded to his accomplice. “Alright,” he said.
Kai tapped at his wrist computer and they stepped out together. To Jack’s boundless relief, nothing at all changed.
The alien interrogator then hoisted Jack over his shoulder and jumped into a hole set nearly a story up in the wall. Inside was a tunnel with square segments like plant cells seen under a microscope. Reddish light throbbed in the walls, revealing thin structures like veins, reminiscent of a bat’s wing stretched in front of a bright lamp.
Kai took off running, and Jack didn’t feel anything but a soft rocking and smooth acceleration like the start of an amusement park ride. The walls turned into a blur, while moist wind rushed over him. When Jack didn’t think he could stand the ride any longer, it gradually came to a stop.
Kai set him down. “We’re inside the secondary hull now. Felix should be nearby.”
“How fast were we going?” Jack asked.
Kai shook his head, and his manner said that Jack didn’t really want the answer. Then the interrogator grabbed him about the waist in a way that slightly threatened his masculinity, and they dropped down together through another open portal.
They didn’t land how or where Jack would’ve expected. If he was seeing the angles correctly—and he wasn’t at all sure he was—they were now standing on a wall. It made his head hurt.
A second later, it began to hurt more. He looked up and found himself inside of a giant soup can whose sides were covered in a thicket of mechanical mushrooms with caps shaped like stop-signs. Larger buildings jutted between them, and the sensation of looking up at a skyscraper hanging a kilometer above him made Jack feel really… funny. Not ha-ha funny. Funny like a cockroach under an angry boot.
Embarrassment splashed all over him when he noticed how he was standing. His feet were spread far apart and both arms were out. He was caught somewhere between trying not to fall and needing to escape the city about to crush him, but he wasn’t falling anywhere and the city remained perfectly in place.
He wondered if cockroaches ever realized the angry boot was just someone walking by, and felt embarrassed for a second.
“So…” He let the word stretch out and get comfortable. “Where’s Felix?” He looked up and down the misty length of the chamber, but failed to find any useful clues.
Kai consulted his wrist then pointed into the distance.
“And we get there how?” Jack asked.
Kai visibly tensed. “You’re not gonna like it… but what’s new, right?”
The interrogator once again took hold of him, then turned and jumped further than any creature should be able. Jack’s view became even more disorienting once they were high above the ground. More to the point, there was no ground anymore, only walls in every direction overgrown with strange buildings.
Instead of coming down, they kept flying, and Jack decided the gravity must not extend deep into the chamber’s core. He felt particularly clever for thinking that, rather than thinking his companion had gained new abilities from exposure to Earth’s yellow sun.
After nearly a minute of flight, Kai said simply, “Sorry for this next part. See you in a few seconds.”
Then he threw Jack at the wall, simultaneously flinging himself in the opposite direction.
Jack shot toward the city like a steel BB, and he didn’t have it in him to scream anymore. He just accepted that he’d made some really bad decisions in life, and tried not to piss himself.
And somehow, he set down as softly as a hummingbird on a leaf. The ship had caught him.
He felt a strong urge to piss on someone else. That someone arrived a few seconds later, having run a distance Jack didn’t particularly want to estimate. He settled for giving Kai a particular finger which the alien had already become well acquainted with.
“I didn’t lie to you,” Kai said.
“Doesn’t change the fact you’re a dick.”
“No it doesn’t,” Kai said, already walking and motioning for Jack to follow. “Remember, I was a professional dick,” he added.
Jack followed along, clumsily tripping over his own feet with his heart still racing. “Top of your field,” he said snidely.
Kai headed up a flight of bowed stairs which spiraled around one of the mushrooms’ stalks, and Jack came stumbling behind. They trotted up to the mushroom’s cap, which had a closed canopy unlike the other structures’ flat-tops.
The stairs ran up through the floor into a softly contoured room, dimly lit, warm and humid as the inside of a sleeping bag with the hole drawn shut. A Yuon Kwon cocoon sat in the middle, striped and bulbous like a pillbug’s shell in a shifting rainbow of colors.
“Felix,” Jack said breathlessly. He couldn’t feel the small ship there inside of the cocoon, but it didn’t matter; he knew it in his heart of hearts. His friend had been wounded so badly he’d been forced to moult to recover, and it was all Jack’s fault.
Without thinking, Jack rushed across the ringed floor and placed his hands on the armored surface. Then something happened that he never could have anticipated. A feeling rushed up and over his hand like a swarm of ants. His vision grew blurry and flashed bright like professional photography, while burning sparklers shot out and swam across his eyes.
Felix and he linked.
The flyer’s presence touched him, tired and groggy, having just climbed out of the worst of it. He was on the mend, and Jack felt relieved. Memories flickered by of the people aboard Amira’s ship, and then here on Legacy tending to him and looking after his needs while he wailed and cried. The weariness had come over him, and he tiredly spun a protective shell and went to sleep.
Jack pulled away and the link vanished. He looked at his hands in shock, one water-fat and soft, the other shriveled and covered in scars, and he wondered what the hell just happened.
“Is something wrong?”
“I don’t know,” Jack said. “Either I just linked with Felix somehow, or I’m hallucinating. Think I could be convinced either way.”
He placed both hands back on the shell, and the connection came again like a hundred tendrils climbing up his skin. It came faster than before, but he stepped back before it could complete.
“Yeah,” he said. He flexed the fingers of both hands and tried to process what had just happened. What had just happened twice.
“Could the cocoon act as some kind of telepathic conductor for your kind.”
“It didn’t last time,” Jack said. “I used to wrap my knuckles and drum on on it while waiting for him to finish moulting. He doesn’t like that, by the way.”
Kai stepped forward, removed his glove and took Jack’s hand.
Kai took the other hand and still nothing happened. “Weird,” he said, sounding more than a little dejected.
Whatever this meant, Jack didn’t have time for it right now. He was free of his latest cell, and short of both transportation and time. He couldn’t leave Legacy without Felix; that simply wasn’t going to happen. But what then? Hijack a transport? Find a space-suit and make a break for the Moon’s surface?
He only had a small window of opportunity, and he could feel it swinging shut. He walked wearily to the wall and sat down in the corner. He ran fingers through his hair again and tried like hell to think, but there weren’t any answers lurking inside his thick skull.
He exhaled loudly, placed his palms on the floor, and everything around him vanished.
He shouted, “Hello?” into the darkness, but no one answered. He felt an urge to get up and look around, but something kept him rooted in place. In the distance, he heard something familiar. It was a waiting signal.
Then the sound disappeared and he felt as if the darkness all around him was watching. It kept its distance and studied him as he sat there, totally hollow except for confusion touched by an inescapable taint of despair.
“Who are you?”
The darkness didn’t respond. It sat and watched and waited, resisting the powerful need that crackled throughout its body.
When Jack realized what was going on, who exactly was watching him, it felt as if a terrible burden had just been lifted. He felt only resignation because he’d known this moment was coming. It was what had driven him to try and take his own life.
“Do it,” he said.
And the darkness came.
On Saturday, we’ll take the next step with Chapter 31: Infinite Grace. I’ll see you then!
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