Next: Chapter 46: Midwife.
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The previous novel, Biotech Legacy: Stars Rain Down, is currently available exclusively through Amazon.
Good, now remember to breathe and push…
Amira stepped out onto the Pegasus’ deck, and found Jack standing beside Faulkland’s bodyguard. There was an odd likeness between the two that suddenly struck her, colored in similar patterns, bodies of roughly the same height and build. It was too much to be a coincidence, so she had to assume one of Donovan’s bright souls had already been reverse engineering Jack’s Eireki technology.
She said, “We’re leaving.”
“We’re fine up here,” Jack replied. “Go ahead and get under way.”
“No, no… I mean we’re abandoning the planet.”
Jack nodded. “There isn’t any other choice,” he said with chilly resignation. “What can we do to help?”
She looked at the two superhumans standing on her deck, and she couldn’t figure out a use for them. It was a testament to either the efficiency of her procedures, or a gaping deficit in her imagination. She didn’t have time to decide which. “I’m not sure,” she said.
The instant that last word was out of her mouth, an idea occurred to her. It always seemed to go that way, making her look clumsy and scatterbrained. “Wait,” she said. “You should link up with Amiasha and contact the Eastern Oikeya. Ask them to come with us.”
The bodyguard asked, “Who has primacy among the Eastern Oikeya now?”
Amira had never heard a man speak quite like that, and she couldn’t imagine why he’d want to. “Elkellian,” she said.
The bodyguard looked to Jack. “Elkellian has a warm spirit. He may be receptive to reason.”
“How do you…” She stopped herself mid-sentence. “I don’t want to know. I’ve already got enough junk data rattling around in my head. Jack, just get it done.”
She didn’t need to say another word. The two jumped off the ship and disappeared into the streets.
Amira tapped her comlink. “Tom, let’s get going.”
The Pegasus’ engines began to hum and the ship lifted up into a moist and whipping wind. Amira gripped the guard rail and started doing math in her head as the ship blasted off toward Amiasha’s border.
She had maybe two hundred gunships and a single cruiser. There were another few thousand combat ready Yuon Kwon, her own ship (which had seen better days), and a flying city that moved ponderously slow at low altitudes. Amiasha would need forty-five minutes to reach space, and until then they were sitting ducks.
On the other side, she only counted question marks. The New Union had no large vessels, and their anti-orbital weapons weren’t sophisticated enough to hit targets on the other side of the world. On the other hand, they had small fighters in numbers she couldn’t guess; the Unies had proven to be masters of concealment.
Of the Nefrem, she’d seen only one ship but she had no doubt it was enough. It was smaller than Legacy, but this creature was young and in its prime. It was a purebred weapon, and she couldn’t even put rough numbers to the kind of power driving the thing. Who could guess how many or what type of support it had?
It left her feeling like she’d just logged into a multiplayer game missing half her team, against opponents armed with hacks. It took everything she had not to throw her controller at the wall and ragequit.
The Pegasus accelerated when it reached the outside, and Amira pulled on her goggles. The ship raced out across the frosted desolation, toward the dying serpent in her half-dug grave.
When they were a few hundred meters away, Amira could smell it in the air. It was a scent of rot and decay that was unmistakable if not quite overpowering.
The Pegasus set down and Amira hopped down from her perch. She landed lithely in the snow and padded over to the crew waiting to meet her.
The factory complex towered above her, resting at an odd and canted angle like a broken leg. It was hers once but she’d seen no choice but to abandon it when she finally realized Donovan wouldn’t make tough decisions. He’d left everyone on the Earth to fight for themselves, while waiting for some kind of peace to magically appear.
Amira didn’t believe in magic anymore.
“Miss Saladin,” a bundled-up technician yelled above the crush of the wind. “Glad you came.”
“Someone cashed in their chip,” she said hoarsely. “What am I doing here?”
“Inside. This way, this way,” he said, waving one arm in big arcs toward the nearby iris.
Amira shrugged and hurried along. The iris opened slowly when they got to it, and they entered a smooth tunnel on the other side. When the membrane closed behind them, Amira was taken aback by the sudden and total silence.
“Now,” she said, “why am I here?”
“There’s an emergency with one of our projects, and we needed someone with your particular expertise. I’m Bryce Kinnison with Deep Well Six. I’m a student of your work, Miss Saladin.”
Donovan’s research and development group was only a plan when she left for the Arkangel Compact, and she assumed it’d been rushed to completion once she was gone. If nothing else, Donovan plugged gaps quickly.
Kinnison offered his hand and Amira shook it, then they turned and marched into the tunnel. “Since we’re in the factory, I’ll just assume it’s a ship,” she said.
The tunnel mouth widened ahead of them, and as they stepped through, Amira found herself in the massive cavern that was the heart of Legacy’s factory. It was dim and blue-green inside, and it took a moment for her eyes to adjust.
“Yeah, you could say it’s a ship,” Kinnison said.
Amira could make out a shape filling the center of the complex, stretching for kilometers into the dark and misty distance.
Kinnison flashed a very nerdy smile. “It’s Donovan,” he said.
Amira’s eyes went wide. She pointed. “He’s…”
“A little over five kilometers long and healthy. There are complications though, and he’s not quite complete.”
“Not sure I really understand it myself. Legacy constructed the body, and Donovan was implanted somehow.”
“And what… you want me to finish him?”
“If you think you can,” Kinnison said hopefully. “I understand we’re under some time constraints at the moment.”
That was putting it lightly.
Amira looked around the giant chamber and saw the many resizable docking rings, covered in articulated tools like spider-legs. They subtly tilted in her direction.
She sent out a few test prods, and they swung into motion at her command. She brought on flood lights and the farthest dark corners of the complex came into view.
Donovan’s new form was shaped something half-way between Legacy’s main hull and a broadsword set on its edge, the outside broken into overlapping segments like an insect’s shell. Rather than Legacy’s rich green, he was a subtle blue-grey with silver accents.
And she could plainly see just how incomplete he was. His forward section ended abruptly, with open edges revealing partially formed tissues and superstructure within. Far to the rear, the bulbous housings of his drive organs didn’t appear to be fully connected. He was a mess…
But Amira had spent years rescuing junkers from the scrap heap to renovate and repair them. It was one of the few tasks she could ever rope her father into sharing with her.
She waved goodbye to Kinnison, and in the absence of Legacy’s instinctual response, she commanded the gravity systems to lift her off the ground and fly her to the control deck.
Coming up next is Chapter 47: Epistle, hopefully tonight or maybe tomorrow.
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