Long Fall — Chapter 39

The hits keep coming! The next installment of Biotech Legacy: Long Fall here today is Chapter 39: Recoil.

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.

Watch out… this one’s got a kick!


Chapter 39
Recoil

The Pegasus came in low through the driving blizzard, with its awkward shape splashing a rooster-tail in the air behind it. One of the forward crew repeated into his microphone, “Arkangel Compact, this is Pegasus. Please respond. Arkangel Compact…”

Amira Saladin had run fresh out of patience. She’d watched Legacy burn down through the sky, feeling her own heart drop at the same time. She was returning to a world filled with madness, and had no damn idea what was going on in her own backyard.

“Head for the Northern ramp,” she said, and the pilots brought the ugly ship around to the new heading. The Pegasus flew blind through pouring snow using sensors alone, until it burst suddenly into Amiasha’s faded light.

The Yuon Kwon wasn’t well, but Amira couldn’t tell if he’d been hurt by Legacy’s crash landing or something else. The streets below were all quiet, and everyone was safely battened down under emergency protocols. At least that was as Amira would’ve hoped.

As The Pegasus zoomed out above the quiet city, she said, “Take us to the cortex. I’ll be outside getting some air.”

Tom gave her a nod and she walked purposefully to the rear of the bridge. There she ducked into an access tunnel, then stepped into a tube which automatically brought her to the top of the ship.

The observation deck was open to the air and had a guard-rail, modeled on some yachts Amira had seen in videos. The wind whipped violently and tossed her ponytail about, and she quickly flipped her goggles on to cure the squinting.

The air smelled a bit off. A little sour, a little acrid. She could tell that Amiasha had been fighting an infection, but could only wonder at what it was. The absolute radio silence may have been a symptom, but if it was, it didn’t being her any closer to an answer.

When they neared the thick central stalk, she caught sight of another clue: an open lesion in the chitin-encased street, surrounded by members of a dozen species.

Tom’s voice crackled over her radio. “Should we take a detour, Chief?”

“No,” Amira replied. “I need to speak with Amiasha.”

“Aye, aye.”

The Pegasus arrived at the central stalk and linked up to a human-built docking platform which hung about it like a gasket. Then Amira jumped six meters down to the gangplank and landed firmly, no hop.

During their slow trek across the jungle, she’d continued to upgrade herself in bits and pieces and it amazed her how quickly she’d gotten used to the changes. But what she’d done had basically dragged her own body closer to being a MASPEC suit, and that was something she had plenty of practice with.

Amira jogged from there into the wide entry tunnel, and followed the circuitous path to the throne room. There was never any security inside, so it didn’t surprise her to find it empty; Amiasha provided his own defenses, and they were more powerful and vigilant than anything his residents could possibly muster.

But when she entered the chamber, she stopped dead in her tracks. At the center of the circular room that shimmered like pearl, beyond the ring of structures shaped like sloped solar cells, some unknown creature sat within Amiasha’s cradle.

Amira snapped the lancer pistol from her hip and aimed it at the creature. “Who the Hell are you?!” she shouted.

The cradle released the creature with a gasp, and steam wafted up from where the two had touched. The thing stood slowly and turned to face Amira, and she couldn’t begin to guess what it was.

It looked something like a human-shaped Yuon Kwon, with skin covered in shiny panels which folded rather like her newest dragonscale designs. The surface reminded her of old fashioned firesuits still in use on Mars, but colored dark blue and white, with a single hand in bold red.

It walked across the floor as if it hadn’t a care in the world.

“Stop there!”

It stopped.

Amira bared her teeth. “I told you to identify yourself.”

Something twitched on either side of its sharp cheekbones, and the face armor retracted. Jack Hernandez’s face was inside with an expression full of caution.

“Jack? How is it always you?”

He shrugged. “Pretty sure I was conceived in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just never shook the habit.”

“But what…”

Before she could finish the sentence, Jack did something so strange that the rest of her words scattered away. He brought his hands to his chest and tugged, and the artificial flesh folded away to reveal a hollow-drive.

“The fuck?”

He released it and his chest closed, becoming seamless and complete again. “The drive is symbiotic. We’re fused together.”

She initially thought it was some kind of armor like her MASPECs, but Jack’s little show left her dumbstruck. It should’ve been clear, though. His body was oddly elongated, accentuated in ways that would be anatomically impossible for a human being; waist too slim, hip bones too pronounced, and shoulder span wide and arched like a longbow. He was human-like, but most definitely not human.

There came a flicker of cyan light behind his eyes. “You’re a bit different yourself,” he said, and a crooked smirk graced his lips.

“Field repairs,” she said flatly.

“You do what ya gotta do. Hey,” he said, “do you know what brought Legacy down?”

“No idea,” she replied. “I was hoping you’d know.”

He shook his head. “I’m a mess. This process was… insane. I couldn’t describe it. Like the weirdest dreams I’ve ever had, and then I woke up in the snow. I didn’t even realize Legacy was on the ground until I linked with Amiasha.”

Amira was getting a stress headache. She touched her headset and triggered a dose of anti-inflammatories. “How about the wound… know anything about that?” she asked.

“Terrorist attack. Eireki omnibodies reprogrammed to eat everything in sight.”

“Shit,” Amira said. She’d imagined a weapon like that once, but realized it would be too indiscriminate, too vile, and too effective. “What stopped it? This should all be gone.”

“Charlie…” he said, and shook his head with a dour expression on his face. “And Donovan,” he added.

“Charlie, is he…”

“Yeah,” Jack said without a voice, then nodded his head somberly. He looked to the side, maybe trying to find himself again, and then looked back to Amira with grave determination in his eyes. “We’ve got other problems,” he said. “The Union is about to get ahold of something back in Mexico.”

“Fuck that place,” Amira groaned. Her vacation to the Yucatan hadn’t gone as swimmingly as she’d planned.

Jack said, “That thing I found down there could be turned into a bio-weapon with a little ingenuity… and judging by the New Union’s recent work, they’ve got that in spades.”

“So I’m headed back to Mexico?” Amira asked. She tried to keep the annoyance from her voice, but doubted she’d been successful.

“I just need a ride,” he said. “Airdrop me and I’ll do the job.”

“I just drove out of Hell’s barking jaws, and you think you can simply drop in and blow something up? Maybe stop for a cup of coffee, shoot the shit with the locals while you’re at it?”

“Yeah,” Jack said.

Amira had always known him to be willful but not delusional, and it dawned on her what sort of power he must be wielding. With a hollow-drive at his core, energy would be virtually limitless. His only practical concern would be wattage. Just how much energy could he transfer at once using that things? She tried to do the math, but the scale confounded her.

Overcome with curiosity, she stepped forward and began to examine him. She craned in to look at his new skin, flicked on her headset and zoomed. She rapped on his pectoral mass with a knuckle. “Ever seen a human cannonball at the circus?” she asked.

“Never been to the circus, thank Christ,” he said. “Uh… Why do you ask?”

It was a silly idea, but her quick readings showed it should be possible. “We could shoot you,” she said. “You know, out.” She made a gun with her finger, pointed into the distance and said, “Ba-tooom!”

“Really?” he said.

She looked to the ceiling. “Amiasha has orbital artillery up top. You’re what… a hundred-ten kilos?”

“No idea,” he said.

“Small payload. You go up, make a big arc around the planet, and bam!”

“You’re awfully full of sound effects today,” he said.

“Yeah, I feel it helps get across the explodey, shooty, zoom-around-the-world aspects of the concept. I’d hate to undersell them.”

“Right. You could shoot me,” Jack said with the mock-enthusiasm of a detergent commercial. “And I survive this somehow, right?”

Amira bobbed her head up and down excitedly. “If I carried the two correctly, then yeah. You’re made of tough shit. You’ll only be going a couple kilometers a second.”

“I feel like I missed something… did I agree to this already?”

“You will,” she said confidently. “It’s exactly the stupid thing you’d do.”

“When I say things like that, it’s complimentary,” Jack said. “When you say them… not so much.”

She nodded and smiled mischevously. “Shall we get going?”

With a sigh, he said, “Yeah,” and his mask snapped back into place.

They turned together and jogged out of the cortex, then leapt to the top of The Pegasus. Amira relayed their destination over comms, and the ship spiraled up around the central stalk until it came to a domed structure that hung from the ceiling like water-damaged tile. The Pegasus docked at a thin metal slip in front of the main entrance, and once it was at a complete stop, Amira and Jack hopped down and headed inside.

They came to the loading bay quickly, where a series of large tubes stood in a line in front of them. Their surfaces were lightly cracked in matching patterns; Amira knew the cracks to be soft tolerances, spaces that compressed to absorb shock when the cannons fired, something like the sutures of a human skull.

She waved toward the nearest one and a compartment opened in its side. “Step inside,” she said ghoulishly.

Jack dipped his head and climbed in.

She peaked inside and saw he was all snug and secure inside the chamber. “I’ll see you in a bit,” she said. Then she closed the door and patted the boney shell.

Amiasha burped loudly and Jack was away, flung into the edge between air and space. She hoped he knew how to land on the other side… seemed like perhaps a key piece of information they should have covered.

Then she headed back to The Pegasus to prepare.


Coming next will be Chapter 40: Trajectory, which is starkly different than the previous two chapters in that its title doesn’t start with the letters reco. Gotta give you a little variety, right?

~Chris

Copyright 2013. All rights (currently) reserved.

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