Looking at that button panel in the lift that didn’t lead home I felt a knot form in my stomach. submitted by
Why hadn’t Albert appeared, and which button was I supposed to press?
“Where are we going Kat?” Ellie asked; she had stopped crying but every word was heavy with fear. In truth, I didn’t really know the answer to her question. I stared at the panel, taking in every number and noting it’s inclusion of a -9.
“We’re going to see if there’s anyone else around.” I answered.
I didn’t like my chances with whatever might inhabit that
floor. If wherever we were was a reverse of the building then number 9 could be nasty, so I started cautiously, pressing the -2
Mechanics whirred and the large metal doors clapped shut. I wished that I had been behind the real lift’s doors, before it disappeared from sight. The lift that we stood in was as identical to the original as possible, even the shiver it sent up my spine just being inside it felt the same.
I was grateful when it stopped and the doors opened to reveal a relatively normal looking corridor, reminiscent of the ones above in the upper building.
I would’ve believed that I’d imagined the lift falling and was arriving home if it weren’t for the large black -2
painted next to the metal doors, the lack of any windows and an obnoxious, artificial light that I was sure would give me a migraine if I stood there for too long.
I don’t know what I hoped would be behind the red, wooden door that lead to a vast stretch of flats. I didn’t suppose that finding Derek in something that the fake lift had indicated was as large as the building would be that simple but perhaps it would provide some answers.
Albert himself was a possibility. I couldn’t predict his moves, but I had a strong feeling he wouldn’t be able to contain his intellectual gloating at the failure of my plan for long.
“I don’t like it here.” The small voice broke my stream of thoughts.
“Me neither Ellie, hopefully someone will be home and know how we can get back upstairs.” I feebly attempted to smile at my tiny companion, but she was a child, not an idiot. She saw straight through me.
“I don’t think we should go through that door.” Ellie gestured to the red wooden door, separating us from the windowless flats. She planted her feet firmly to the spot and refused to move any further.
“Do you have any better ideas?” I asked, genuinely hopeful.
“I just have a really bad feeling.”
Her words didn’t fill me with a sense of comfort or optimism but I saw little choice. I reached for the handle and pulled at the door. It creaked loudly as it opened, releasing a strong, musky smell, like something that had been shut away for a long time.
I took a tentative step inside alone, leaving Ellie just behind in the corridor, and shouted hello; hoping that if anyone was
in there that visitors were usually scarce and they may come out. Unlike my previous plans this worked flawlessly and within minutes each of the doors were slowly opening.
I counted around ten doors in total as human arms and fingers started to emerge from behind them. The flats were filled with - and I use this term loosely - people.
They weren’t typical, none of them were dressed and they had fleshy limbs and appendages sticking out of all the wrong places. There were elongated necks, multiple arms and spines bent completely backwards, it shocked me that any of them could walk at all.
Each one of them looked like a unique result of intense torture. Torture that should’ve killed them long before they reached the stage they were at. Remembering where I was, I realised that they probably were killed long ago, or they never lived to begin with.
One in particular caught my eye. It had a neck at least three feet long and I couldn’t distinguish it’s gender at all. It’s back was bent in a way that a child might to do the crab and it was balanced on all fours. Instead of two arms and two legs all four limbs were left arms, all facing the same direction.
It’s neck lulled backwards, swinging from side to side a little and struggling to support itself. I inhaled sharply as it’s head lifted slightly into a steadier position and it locked eyes with me.
The scream that came from that... thing... was the single most distressing sound I’ve ever had to listen to. It penetrated my soul and I felt every inch of pain and suffering that laced it. My stomach churned and the shrill pitch burrowed into my brain.
It left me completely immobile as every other person-like creature in the room lifted its head, wherever it balanced, and screamed in unison with the first. Holding my hands to my ears I started to feel a warm liquid trickling from them but I couldn’t take my only protection away to see what it was.
I can’t even begin to describe the pain that I felt. There are no words for a misery that deep. I don’t know how, but I could feel years upon years of torment and unimaginable pain that they’d gone through. The screaming became so overwhelming and all consuming that I started to feel myself getting dizzy.
There was a violent tug at my shirt, forcing me backwards before an almighty hiss, vicious enough to cut through the screams and silence them, echoing through the corridor.
It took seconds for each and every one of the mangled people to shrivel back into their flats, winding limbs clambering in all directions. Leaving Ellie stood there, horn tips gleaming in the artificial light.
“What were they Kat?” I barely heard the muffled sounds she was making that had replaced the heart wrenching screams.
I finally pulled my hands away from my ears to see them covered in blood. Ellie noticed and wrapped her arms around me, nicking me accidentally in the side with a claw. It hurt but I didn’t want to make a fuss, in that moment I knew no pain could measure up to what I’d felt during my short time amongst the mangled people.
“I don’t know... how did you do that?” I could still barely hear the sounds of my own voice, it was like I was wearing a hat pulled over my ears, despite nothing of the sort and my hair being shoved into a bun on top of my head.
“I didn’t do anything, I thought they were going to eat us both!” She replied, hyped on the adrenaline.
“But they all ran away..”
“I guess I’m just extra scary!” She answered, a pride in her voice that only a child could produce. I just looked down at her and ruffled the blonde hair between her horns. She was frightening looking, sure, but she had nothing on those things, or even the creatures in the lift.
I couldn’t understand why such ferocious monsters were so scared of a little girl. Why would they run instantly? It made me uneasy, but I loved the twins, no matter how unusual they were. I just wished that I could be more of a protector for her than it being the other way round.
We stumbled into the corridor and I was again confronted by the metal doors of the fake lift. To the other side of them there was an entrance, presumably to a stairwell if the under tower we were trapped in continued to be a mirror of home. After spending what felt like hours in a lift, the idea of stairs comforted me and I ushered Ellie towards the entrance.
There were no stairs going upwards, back to floor -1
. They only went downwards, the odd artificial light not quite covering the bottom of the set we were at the top of. My ears rung with the sound of the mangled people’s screams.
“Do you think they skip too?” Ellie asked me, looking into the abyss with her own, impossibly deep black voids.
“Let’s find out.” I answered, gripping her hand again as we started to walk towards the darkness.
We reached floor -3
quickly, in one average flight. I considered exploring the corridor of flats that existed on that floor too, but Ellie planted herself firmly to the ground again and insisted we didn’t. I wasn’t about to argue with her, sound still hadn’t returned to normal and I’d learned from my mistake. I couldn’t bare to face anything like the previous floor again.
We climbed down another flight of stairs. The ones we had just descended were still there, leading back up, when we reached the bottom, giving me some comfort that as long as we could reach the lift on floor -2
we should at least be able to get back to the cold, dim but empty basement.
This time, the stairs did skip, giving some sort of semblance of home. The big, black -5
sign was jarring, but missing a floor had allowed me to tell myself that these stairs were just an extension of the proper ones.
More jarring, was the woman. She looked right at us, at my demon sidekick than had terrified everything else... and she didn’t run. In fact, she didn’t move at all, it’s as if she were looking straight through us. Ellie didn’t panic either, she didn’t tell me to get away or hiss at the woman. She just stared back.
Her hair was a mousy brown and her features beautiful, yet average. There was nothing particularly distinct about her, except for how much she reminded me of someone else.
She was a perfect mirror of her counterpart, she had the same vacant yet sad expression that the man on floor 5 always had. I wondered for a moment what her name might be.
“She misses him.” Ellie said.
I looked down at her in confusion.
“How do you know that?” I asked, not bothering to question who she meant.
“I don’t know, I just do.” She shrugged nonchalantly.
I sat on the step next to the standing woman and despaired. This whole place was like a sick joke. There was no sign of Albert, Derek or any way out of the labyrinth we we trapped in so far, and I couldn’t comprehend just how much of an imbecile I’d been.
Between the thoughts of never getting out, how I’d endangered the entire block, how hungry the kittens would get, Jamie and those awful screams my head felt ready to explode. The incessant ringing was only getting worse.
The woman next to me didn’t move a muscle, just stood staring into the open space in front of her. I looked at Ellie, knowing that she was special, and didn’t doubt what she had told me. I could feel for myself that the woman missed the man. I understood how she felt, to lose her love to the building, my heart truly bled for her.
“We need to keep going. There has to be someone here that can talk to us. We need to get you back home to your mum and brother.” I spoke, attempting to stay focused.
I smiled another forced, optimistic smile at Ellie and gestured for her to follow me further down the spiralling, artificially lit stairs. I wasn’t sure what I hoped to find, or even where I was aiming, perhaps floor -9 was my best bet at any sort of answers.
I didn’t get a chance to test that theory. Once we reached the bottom of the flight we were once again faced with the big, black -5
. The woman was stood in the same position, facing forwards.
“Come on.” I grabbed Ellie and tried to repeat the action. The stairs had always skipped. It wasn’t anything unusual. It wasn’t until it was.
By the sixth time we had attempted the stairs Ellie was looking tired and scared. Despite her voids for eyes the rest of her face displayed fear like any normal child.
“It’s ok. We just need to keep trying.” I tried to convince myself as much as her.
“No... She doesn’t want to be alone. That’s why we can’t leave.” She let go of my hand and extended a long clawed finger in the direction of the woman.
She hadn’t moved from her spot and there wasn’t a noticeable chance in facial expression or demeanour, however, something about her felt entirely off. Hostile, even.
I understood grief, and doing everything possible to keep people close that you should let go. I wish that were what I thought the woman’s intentions were, I really do. Instead it felt more literal than that, more like she just really couldn’t bare to be alone again, at any cost.
“Just keep going.”
We ran down the stairs again. Then up them, and down again. Three more times and the terror started to build, each time we arrived in front of the -5
the woman seemed more sinister, more malignant. She wasn’t looking through us anymore. She was looking straight at us.
“My legs hurt Kat.” Ellie whined. Mine did too.
“Do you think... you could scare her?” I felt sick even suggesting it but Ellie had the best chances of getting us away from the stairwell.
Ellie shook on the spot but nodded and took a few steps towards her, she got close to the woman’s face and hissed, claws out. The woman didn’t move, she didn’t blink or flinch at all, she just stayed in her spot. Nothing at first, until she started to move. All that changed was her face, as the corners of her lips curled into a hollow smile.
The comfort I had felt from the familiarity of the woman and the floor number was dead in the water the moment she smiled. Ellie had retreated in an instant, tugging at my shirt again and shuffling closer. I think the fact that she did nothing else at all made it even more disconcerting.
The woman had the upper hand, and she wasn’t going to let us go.
“Please.” I begged. “If there’s anything we can do to help you please tell us.” I fought my fear, doing everything I could to be kind. If she had ever been a person she might somehow pity our plight. “I say hello to your man. I don’t know his name and he’s quiet like you... I think he misses you too. I know he does. I lost someone I love just like you did. I know how you feel.”
A singular tear rolled down her cheek but the smile stayed in place. My chest thumped as my heart pounded against my rib cage... maybe I was getting through to her?
Her eyes were haunting and hypnotic as they made contact with mine. It was like her brain was scrambled and she couldn’t put the pieces back together. Her eyes were more expressive than I had ever seen before on any person, filled with confusion and sadness.
After a few moments of intimate communication with our eyes the woman moved more than I had ever seen her or the man move. She cocked her neck to the side and tilted her head in Ellie’s direction, a few seconds after her neck had turned her eyes followed and she looked intensely at the child, smile plastered on her face and the evaporating trail of the tear still visible in the gleaming light.
Ellie started to cry, terrified, she tried to take a step behind me to use me as some sort of shield. No matter how many monsters she fought she was still a scared kid.
The woman took a laboured step towards her.
It took her a long time to put one foot in front of the other. Standing in one position for so long must do a real number on the muscles, even for those of a supernatural persuasion. Nonetheless, her step was an immediate threat, I could feel that her intentions were malevolent. The sadness in her eyes had developed into a disdain and that single step was a declaration of war.
Me and Ellie started to back away slowly, readying ourselves to break into a sprint down the stairs. I was prepared to run them in an endless loop forever if it meant keeping that little girl away from the woman.
Before we could even reach the first step, there was a voice. A male voice.
“That’s enough now, Angela. I didn’t think you were one to make children cry.”
I turned to the man now standing next to the woman, who had returned to her spot by the stairs, visibly calmed. He had one hand on her upper arm but he didn’t need it there, she wouldn’t dare disobey him.
His kindly eyes and smile, that held real warmth, were arranged beneath a familiar flat cap.
“I wish I could say it were nice to see you Kat, but given the circumstances I better not.” He continued, speaking directly to me this time.
“Who’s he?” Ellie interrupted, tugging the same spot on my shirt, where the material had begun to stretch. I smiled at her for real for the first time since our nightmare began. “Ellie, this is Derek.” The next part
So what's been happening in the Republic these days?
The rest of this series can be found here
Ok, so Old Earth supercapacitors are used by the Republic... In one VERY specific application...
A plath, robed in translucent silken robes, strode down a strange corridor. The walls and floor were made of a slightly moving membrane, shot through with pulsing veins carrying fluids in a rainbow of colors.
A glowing orb, one of many that illuminated the hallway, drifted over to her and started to cuddle. She smiled fondly as she petted it as it made little urgent squeaking sounds.
“Oh, you want a treat?” she asked in a strange language as she reached into a fold of her robe and pulled out a crimson berry.
The orb bounced up and down happily in mid-air as a tiny mouth opened eager to accept the morsel.
The plath laughed as the light-beast gobbled it up. “Beast” wasn’t exactly the right word. It was actually a fruit that had matured on one of the glow-trees in the main garden.
She squeezed it gently as it giggled. It was still quite firm, still a good month before it would be ready for harvesting. It was an exquisite specimen, so clever, and very long lived for its kind! It would make a magnificent feast when its cycle was complete.
She examined it closely, reaching out with her senses as she sang softly. Its seed was forming nicely already wrapped with a healthy layer of fat. Such richness already! Yes, this one,
she thought with great satisfaction. “You shall become a mighty tree, little one,” she crooned at it as it beamed happily (and literally) at her.
The illuminator followed her as she walked down the hall rubbing happily against her. As she walked a row of bulbous growths sprayed oxygen rich beautifully scented air at her. She inhaled deeply, savoring the fragrance. She stooped down and sang at the soil. It parted at her voice moving gently away from the roots. As the illuminator fruit hovered helpfully above her.
Such a good little drupe! She reached up and gave it’s underside tickles. It cooed with delight.
After examining them, the soil closed back with a beautiful song and a wave of her hand. Finally!
she thought with a satisfied smiled. There had been no sign of the blight in months. It appeared that they finally had put it to rest. Everything on the ship in perfect balance,
she thought. If only we were similarly blessed.
She cocked her head slightly. She was being watched again. Now who is that?
she mused. It wasn’t her rivals or the misguided revisionists. Of that she was sure. It was different
, not real but yet was.
She paused at a section of wall and crouched placing her hands on the floor. Nobody had followed her.
She rose and caressed one of the walls, singing softly as she did so.
The wall quivered and started to thin, becoming transparent, revealing a pitch black chamber behind it. Leaving her favorite illuminator behind, she stepped into the thin gelatinous membrane, passing through it with ease. It thickened and became opaque, tough, and leathery just like the rest of the passage in seconds.
The chamber started to gently glow in soft cyan hues with phosphorescent fungi when it recognized her scent. Had she been someone else, her little darlings would have had a much different reaction.
One could never be too careful, especially these days.
She waited, silently, her hands on the bones of the ancient vessel in which they traveled the other realm, crossing the gulf between the stars in mere days.
The ancient cellulose bones whispered to her. They said that nobody followed.
“Thank you old friend,” she said pressing her head against the beams.
She then shrugged off her garments, letting the silken wisps float to the floor. Her graceful form then moved to a small tray, grown into the wall, filled with a nutrient rich broth.
Inside, were a row of small flask gourds in a rainbow of hues. She selected two. She then walked to a small circular pool in the center of the chamber filled with absolutely pure water.
She knelt by the pool and a small pore in the first gourd opened. She placed two drops of purified malporixlorh extract on her tongue. She shivered as the potent drug entered her bloodstream, her mind, her soul, unlocking that which was bound.
After a few minutes of meditation, the second gourd opened, it’s top forming a small lip. She poured a small measure of an oily substance in the water, its surface soon covered with endlessly shifting prismatic colors.
She then closed her eyes. Small ripples spread around their edges as glands secreted a greasy, waxy substance that instantly melted coating a thin, almost invisible membrane.
She opened her eyes… Then she opened them again as the transparent covering slid back revealing her real eyes, the secretions causing colors to dance across their surface.
She stared into the pool, transfixed by the constantly shifting colors. They then started to intensify as time slowed down.
Small creatures living in the lining of the pool started to glow as she extended her senses beyond the walls of the ancient ship, out into the formless, timeless void of the outer realm in which she traveled, peering into the endless shifting tides of the past, present, and future, constantly changing like the colors on the surface of the water.
She smirked. Nothing changed, not really. Their fate was fixed, as it was ever since their terrible “mistake” that really wasn’t one. Try as they might, her fellow plath would not succeed. Every move they made to avoid what they were doomed to become only set it more firmly in the singing strings of reality.
She took a moment to see the struggling lines of probability as the two sides waged their pathetic war. Her sisters were fighting and all too often these days dying to prevent the foolish revisionists from tearing down all that they had built over hundreds of thousand of years. Both sides were fools. Her brothers and sisters were fighting and dying trying to preserve something that didn’t need preserving and the fundamentalists were fighting to stop that which could not be stopped.
They would not stop it. They couldn’t. They could only delay things a little. Fate’s judgment, especially when annoyed, was absolute.
The fate of the plath, and in a more immediate and pressing sense, her own, was sealed, not that it mattered. The past was set. The future was set. The only thing they were free to toy with was the present.
And her present was going to be as pleasant as possible for as long as possible. Then, just like that little glowing drupe, her cycle would end filled with happiness and peace as she rejoined all that is.
She realized that she was being distracted by the brightest colors and cleared her mind, peering deeper, looking for the soul that was caressing her being in the dead of night.
She took another drop of malporixlorh, a risk, but a worthwhile one as her mind expanded further. There!
deep in the timelessness somewhere… somewhen
an individual’s mind was swimming through the void vibrating in time with the strands of fate, their fate.
She smiled and the shifting colors of her eyes synced with the shimmering of the pool. She saw her!
“Hello there,” she sang softly.
Sheloran awoke with a gasp, sitting bolt-upright in bed.
“Murrph?” Craxina muttered as she awoke.
“The dream again?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Sheloran replied. “It was really
freaky this time,” she said as she shuddered. It felt like someone was staring at her.
“You should really stop playing that game,” Craxina said sleepily as she snuggled Sheloran.
“I know… I know,” Sheloran replied. This all started after playing “Submerged!”. It was an older title but there was just something about it. The surreal organic landscapes, and the strange little cult following that still kept the servers running after twenty years, had entranced her from the first second she loaded it.
She literally couldn’t stop playing. She had always scoffed at “gaming addiction”, but she was really starting to wonder.
And the more she played it the more intense the dreams. They terrified her. They weren’t gory or violent, like some of her nightmares, they were just… Weird… Scary weird...
There was no way she was going to sleep again tonight. She started to get out of bed.
“Where you goin’?” Craxina asked.
“I’m just going to sit for awhile,” she said as she wrapped a silken robe, something that she recently bought online, around her night dress.
“You’re going to play aren’t you?” Craxina asked accusingly.
“Not after that last dream,” Sheloran said as she started to make a pot of tea. She really wished she had some Helson Grass or Arenaul Herb. She had taken for granted all of the herbs and plants of her homeworld. The creators had blessed them with such bounty. For the thousandth time that week she wished she had the presence of mind to snatch a few seeds, a clipping or two.
As soon as that pooping border opened back up, she was definitely going to be getting her buddies to go pick up a few hundred different seeds. It was going to be tricky, since they were “sacred” but credits talk and dogma walks. Somebody would be willing to go foraging for a few bucks (or games).
She was getting those fucking seeds… Oops… She was getting those darn seeds, she thought as she corrected herself. What was with her potty mouth these days? The Great Prophet warned about obscenity. It was “dangerous”… for some reason.
She sat down with a book on Terran botany as she sipped her tea. She started unconsciously flipping the pages faster and faster. She suddenly stopped, staring at an organic molecule. That’s close!
she thought excitedly and then blinked. She could work with that! Close to what and what, exactly am I going to do to it?
Oh poop, there was that strange feeling again. She set down her tea and reached for a bottle of absinthe. Absinthe was yummy!
And it certainly took the edge off...
As she took out a box of sugar cubes, Craxina quiet snoring started to fill the room. She smiled. She used to find it so annoying but now, it was really comforting. It was really nice having someone to sleep with. It wasn’t a boyfriend but still, it was nice. Then again, plath, even boyfriends and girlfriends, didn’t sleep together. Heck, even husbands and wives didn’t. She wondered why? It was nice to have someone next to you. Some of the things that the priests said the Great Prophet commanded seemed kinda loopy every now and then. (May the Great Prophet forgive her.)
What was the harm of “sleeping alongside one another”? It wasn’t like they were “doing anything”… (Not that Craxina hadn’t offered… Fortunately, she was fine with the word “no” for once...)
She was starting to think the Great Prophet was just opposed to a good time. No, he meant well. He really did. He was just… misguided... What!?! Great, now I really am a heretic...
Her eyes suddenly looked over at her very nice
She was already awake and just a little Submerged wouldn’t hurt.
She walked over and put on the modified headset and smiled as a shimmering pool filled her vision. She couldn’t wait to see how her little demon/flower hybrids were doing!
The next morning Craxina woke up to an empty bed.
She looked over towards the VR rig. There she was, asleep with the headset on.
“Wake up, junkie,” Craxina said only halfway joking as she nudged Sheloran.
“I’th ras lori’kiah-shun?
” Sheloran mumbled.
“What?” Craxina asked in alarm, her fur standing on end for a second as shivers ran down her spine (and not in a good way).
“Huh?” Sheloran asked hazily as she pulled off the headset. “Sorry, I guess I dozed off.”
“Do you gamers have your own language or something?”
“What?” Sheloran asked in confusion, “No.”
“You just said something really weird. It was like really creepy
“Yeah! It sounded, I don’t know… demonic
“Well, I am the Befouler,” Sheloran joked, “Grr!” She really didn’t want to think about… whatever just happened.
Craxina just laughed along but in all honesty, Sheloran was starting to scare her a little…
And it was getting worse…
Helen Mongrave drank her morning coffee as she accessed a certain dating website.
She smiled. There was a rather filthy message from an “admirer”.
“Oh, Jon,” she laughed fondly. He still had the same sense of humor he had in boarding school.
She loaded up a script and processed the unsolicited dick pic that was attached. At least it wasn’t his dick. She knew for a fact, unless he had a very uncharacteristic growth spurt, he was nowhere nearly that well endowed.
A message slowly started to appear.
He had made it into the Republic and was wanting a list of who he could trust as well as a briefing of the latest developments.
She loaded a rather graphic image that was definitely not to Jon’s taste and encrypted her reply with a chuckle. Let’s see how Jon likes that one!
she chuckled to herself. Jon was a pretty good man, or had grown into one. Yeah, he screwed up royally in the past but she couldn’t help but wonder if maybe, after all this bullshit was finally over, maybe…
Sheloran wiped down the counter and cleaned the espresso machines for the sixth time that morning as she tried not to think about last night.
Maybe she should just uninstall that fuc-… that darn game. The Great Prophet was right!
she thought as she felt something stir inside her. Obscenity is dangerous! That’s it! No more potty-mouth!
“May the Prophet guide my steps, guide my thoughts… May he guide me away from the darkness...” she repeated to herself, a quiet little mantra.
The door opened and a small xeno walked in with fuzzy pale fur and a cute little snout, a garthra? She thought it was a garthra, a Federation species.
“Hi!” Sheloran said brightly. A customer! A lot of her business, both legit and somewhat less so, depended on the Federation trade, something that had been brought to a screeching halt. A lot of the neighborhood was in the same boat. The whole free port zone was for the Feds, not the Empire, and a lot of the businesses in the area were run by Federation emigres just as reliant on the Fed trade as she was.
The whole place had almost shut down. If it wasn’t for her annoyingly profitable den of ill-repute she would definitely be in trouble. “The girls” (and a few boys and other genders) were pretty much what was keeping the door open these days.
“H-hello...” the little female said nervously.
“Can I help you?” Sheloran asked hopefully. “Maybe some media?” God, she hoped it was media. That was the whole reason for this whole goddam-… pooping thing.
“I… I heard… I heard that...” she said as she clutched at her pretty little dress. “I heard that someone could… make some money here? By doing… doing...” she buried her face in her little hands and made a strangled little yelping noise.
Sheloran didn’t know garthras? (she was pretty sure it was a garthra) very well but she knew crying when she heard it!
Poop. She sighed sadly. Unfortunately this was becoming far too common. People were stuck with no way to get home (or couldn’t return for one bullshi-… poopy reason or another) or their business were tanking or their employers were going under. Desperation was setting in and she was filling out way too many union cards for the wrong reasons.
It was… wrong
, she thought as she felt an odd pressure around her eyes. Her eyes had been bugging her here lately. She probably needed some Eyesoothe, that’s what you took when your eyes were hurting like this. It made it go away. Some Restful Palm wouldn’t go amiss either. It really helped with the unsettling dreams and recurrent unpleasant thoughts she’d been having.
Maybe some Void Balm too! What she wouldn’t give for just a few blossoms. Absinthe just wasn’t cutting it anymore, at least in quantities remotely close to advisable.
Not knowing what to do she walked around the counter and started to wrap her arms around the distressed xeno. The poor garthra collapsed into her arms, sobbing inconsolably.
Sheloran squeezed her eyes shut and winced as her orbits ached. Seriously, this was fucked up… Messed up! I meant messed up!… Great Prophet guide my steps...
“It’s… It’s going to be ok,” Sheloran said, not really believing it.
A few minutes later after Sheloran calmed her down and gave her a soothing cup of peppermint tea (She wasn’t sure why but she was definitely certain it would help… And it did!)
“Have you eaten today?” Sheloran asked as Uhrrbet (that was her name) sipped her tea.
She shook her head.
“Did you eat yesterday?”
Uhrrbet’s nose started to run (garthra “tears” were really snotty!) as she shook her head.
“Well that I can help with!” Sheloran said with a smile. “Do you like donuts?”
Uhrrbet’s eyes lit up.
“Come around back,” Sheloran smiled, the pressure in her eyes finally subsiding, “Plonxi damn… I mean darn… Great Prophet guide me!… She darn
near bought out a bakery this morning.”
As Uhrrbet was stuffing herself with yeasty goodness Craxina walked in, robe annoyingly open.
“I tell you,” Craxina exclaimed as she dried herself off (after a shower! Get your head out of the gutter, perv!), “that guy was freaky
! You won’t believe what he wanted me to do!” she laughed. “I thought I’d heard them all but, wow!”
Uhrrbet stiffened up as Craxina started to go into detail.
“Not a good time, Craxi,” Sheloran said urgently making a cutting off motion behind Uhrrbet’s back.
“Oh, it isn’t bad at all!” Craxina said to Uhrrbet. “You don’t even have to try to shove one inside you, if you don’t wanna. You can just play with it or put it in your mouth! Their stuff tastes really good!”
Uhrrbet’s nose started to run.
“Craxi. Go. Away!” Sheloran said as her eyes started to pulse.
“Yessh!” Craxi said, her damp fur trying to stand on end. “Alright! Alright! Jesus!” she yelped as she snatched a donut and scurried off.
“Sorry about that,” Sheloran said to Uhrrbet trying to calm her back down. “Craxi is… well her whole species is… They’re different
from most of us.”
“It’s… ok…” Uhrrbet said between damp sniffles. “I… I guess I need to get… used to...”
She broke down, dripping boogers onto the donuts. I hate my job,
Sheloran thought as she held Uhrrbet. This was supposed to be fun, selling games to Federation delinquents. It wasn’t supposed to be this bullshit.
“Hey… hey...” Sheloran said soothingly, somewhat at a loss. “Look, you don’t have to do this.”
“I do!” Uhrrbet wailed. “I owe the Harkeen money! If I don’t come to work for you, I’ll have to work for them!”
Sheloran snarled as her eyes started killing her. Those… jerkfaced bullies
! She hated them with a passion! They were part of the Threen mafia and were a constant pain. They thought they ran the free port. She already had more than one run-in with those… fucker-… Jerks!
. She had done a couple of “union membership drives” involving some of their “employees”. They liked to growl and spit but they just a bunch of scared little bullies. When the union came calling they always backed down but sooner or later, they were right back at it. Drugs, prostitution, “protection rackets”, stuff like that.
She didn’t have a problem with them because she had the union at her back but so many others had no choice but to pay them off.
And the cops were useless. They didn’t care what happened “down here”. They just broke up fights and if something worse happened they would collect the bodies and make arrests if they could.
She really should start selling weapons… It wouldn’t take much to get a dealer’s license…
But most of the little Feds were too timid to use them anyway. That’s the problem. Everyone ran scared of them.
“Is there anything
else you can do?” Sheloran asked helplessly. “A skill, a trade… anything?”
“I… I can sew,” she said hopefully. “I made this dress!”
“Well that’s something!” Sheloran said cheerfully. “Hand made anything is valuable! If you can sew then there is no reason why you couldn’t make human clothes and sell them!”
“But I don’t have money for fabric or anything,” Uhrrbet said helplessly. “And if I don’t pay them something by tomorrow they say they’ll… they’ll...”
She started crying again. Voiddammit… I mean poop… Great Prophet help me! Please!
“(Sigh)… How much do you owe?” Sheloran asked cursing herself (for real) for asking.
“Fifteen hundred… Sixteen hundred by tomorrow,” she said helplessly.
“Ok,” Sheloran said as she pulled out a transactor. “I’ll front you the cash to pay them off, and you can work here, I still have space. I’ll pay you by the piece and then… I’ll sell it… somehow… I don’t know, I’ll set up a website or something.”
Uhrrbet looked up at her in hopeful disbelief.
“You’d… You’d do that?” Why?
Sheloran implored the universe. Why are you doing this to me?
“Sure, why not?” Sheloran replied. “My ‘normal’ business is in the crapper. Might as well diversify a little. Let’s call it an investment. If it works out then great! If not… then we can talk about a union card.”
“Thank you!” Uhrrbet exclaimed throwing her little arms (and tail) around a somewhat uncomfortable Sheloran. “Thank you! Thank you so much!”
“It’s what I do… apparently.” Sheloran said as she hugged her back. At least my eyes aren’t hurting anymore. That’s worth something.
Helen Mongrave clicked “send” on her naughty little picture with a laugh. Jon was just going to “love” that! Furries were definitely
not his thing!
Hey, that rabbit was pretty cute if she did say so herself!
Chuckling to herself, she shrugged into her shoulder holster, threw on her jacket, and headed out towards her grav-car. It was an older model, but it still worked great. Besides, she loved her old junker!
At least it gave her coworkers an easy target for the ration of shit they liked to throw back and forth. She pretended it bothered her so they would keep at that instead of finding something that really stung.
As she was reaching her car she noted movement out of the corner of her eye.
Two “suits” approached. Cheap ill-fitting suits, obvious bulges from their shoulder-holsters…
Agency. She would bet her life on it. Fuck...
she thought as she unbuttoned her jacket.
“Ms. Mongrave?” a broad-shouldered human with a buzz-cut asked.
“Never heard of her,” Helen replied as she turned to face them and surveyed the area. Two agents visible, probably more.
She was fucked.
“You need to come with us, ma’am,” the man said as he reached into his jacket.
She just smiled and drew her pistol…
And promptly tried to shove it in her mouth. Zap
A heavy-stunner bolt cut her down before she could silence herself.
Helen Mongrave, dropping her pistol, collapsed.
The two agents caught her before she hit the ground as an unmarked van screeched to a halt and the door flew open.
Within seconds, Helen was gone.
Jon burst into laughter as he checked his messages.
“What?” Skippy asked as she walked up and wrapped her arms around him. “Who the fuck is that bitch?” Skippy laughed as she saw the picture. “Making a move on my man? I’ll kill her!”
“I guess the cat’s out of the bag,” Jon laughed as he started decrypting the message. “Can’t keep anything from that woman,” he chuckled, "never could."
He stopped chuckling as he read. It wasn’t good. It went way deeper than he hoped.
“Jesus,” he muttered.
“Worse,” Jon replied. “I don’t know how to fix this.”
Skippy flashed a toothy smile as her blades slowly extended.
“I have an idea...”
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” Jon replied. “The Republic has been though enough… Oh hey!”
“That sounds encouraging.”
“I never thought in a million years I’d say this but I fucking love
Jessica Morgan!” he said as he pointed at the screen.
“Wow...” Skippy replied. “That’s a shitload
“I wonder how loyal her inner circle really is?” he chuckled.
“Why don’t you ask that bitch in the hold?”
“According to her they are like a cult,” Jon replied, “completely unshakable.”
“They thought the same about her, you know,” Skippy grinned. “I wonder how many other ‘unhappy diners’ there are?”
“Dare to dream...” Jon replied as he pulled Skippy onto his lap.
“What?” Skippy asked. “That picture get your motor running?”
“Nah,” Jon said as he pulled her in for a kiss. “I got the real thing right here.”
Skippy giggled as she started to pull off his t-shirt.
Jon’s communicator started to ring.
“Goddammit,” he muttered as Skippy just signed, nuzzled his neck, and started to get dressed.
Jon looked at the screen and frowned. Rasheed was calling? On a live connection?
That wasn’t good.
“Lubricants Unlimited customer service department,” Jon answered. “Your asshole is our asshole!”
“Jon,” Rasheed said grimly, “They got Helen.”
“Grabbed her about an hour ago. They are accusing her of treason and conspiring against the Republic.”
“Isn’t that a bit redundant?” Jon replied.
“This is serious, Jon! She knows everything! If she talks...”
“It’s a lot worse than just serious,” Jon said with a frown, “However, if they are doing this officially, then she’s probably in the system somewhere. Everyone breaks but it’s going to take time to crack her open. Find her. We’ll handle the rest.”
“Ok. We’ll find her,” Rasheed said regaining his composure.
“Don’t be a hero, Rasheed,” Jon said grimly. “If it looks like it’s getting too warm, you guys need to bolt. We don’t need to compound the tragedy.”
“If we run, we lose the agency,” Rasheed replied. “I’m not handing over Republic Intel to that bitch!”
“We might not have a choice,” Jon replied. “If you can’t locate her, go. I’d rather lose the agency than lose the agency and some damn good operatives and analysts.”
Rasheed’s worried face suddenly broke into a wry smile.
“Since we are technically ‘criminals’,” he replied, “Why don’t we call in the big guns?”
“Question,” Rasheed said as his smile grew. “which criminal did you keep a holo of on your desk?”
“I like the idea but they don’t operate in the Republic,” Jon replied.
“Yeah,” Rasheed said with a grin, “about that...”
In a hollowed out asteroid on the outskirts of Sol, Harval Smythe and a motley assortment of humans and xenos all stood anxiously beside it…
Absolute perfection… The single greatest achievement of his life.
A flaxen beauty with the most frightening eyes he had even seen in his life silently walked beside it lightly running her fingers along the hull.
“We worked around the clock, ma’am,” he said nervously, unnerved by her silence.
“I paid for quality, not haste,” she said in a leaden voice. What the hell was she?
he thought as he was filled with dread. Something was seriously wrong with her.
, ma’am,” he stammered as his crew all nodded furiously. “We have all of the NDT results and diagnostics right here,” he said as he handed her a tablet.
Gloria took it and after a few moments she looked up, her eyes flashing with anger.
He flinched. He thought the dead eyes were bad. These were worse!
“These results are not expected. You have deviated from my specifications. I am… displeased
Fear gripped his heart. There was little doubt what that might mean.
“Y-yes… we made some adjustments… Improvements!” he yelped. “Look!” he gestured at the tablet. “We increased power output by fifteen percent and your thrust to weight ratio has increased significantly! And we added safety features!”
“Safety?” she hissed advancing upon him slowly.
“Oh shit,” a large black man muttered as he picked up a communicator, “Shelia?” he said urgently. “You might want to get down here! Gloria is about to go Yellowstone!”
“Fuck,” an annoyed voice replied. “Stop her.”
“No way!” the giant exclaimed. “She’s in her unhappy place!”
“The exposure levels in the cockpit were completely unacceptable!” Harval yelped as he backed away, “We added a modified reactor shielding unit around the cockpit! The increased power levels more than make up for it and it reduces your net signal emissions by two percent! Look! Please for the love of God look!…" he begged as Gloria slowly kept walking towards him with glassy porcelain like eyes. "Look at the specs you stupid bitch!
” He screamed, suddenly enraged. He had created a masterpiece, goddammit!
” a small brunette gasped quietly as she looked away.
Gloria blinked in surprise and looked at the tablet again. There was the briefest flicker of life in her eyes and then with a slow exhale they glazed over again.
“I’m taking it out,” she said after a few moments.
“Yes! Please!” Harval exclaimed.
“Tell T’sunk’al to try to find me,” she said as she climbed inside the sleek black ship.
There was absolutely no sound as it powered up. The hangar doors opened and before they had stopped moving the ship was gone leaving nothing but a small hurricane as it left.
“Fuck!” Jessie screamed as she dove for cover.
Outside the black ship banked, rolled and dived with ever increasing speed.
“We just got pinged.” T’sunk’al said in his trademark unflappable tone. “Range… One-hundred yards?!?
… Hyperspace event! Range… unknown!… She got us again… Range… No way!
” he exclaimed. “Fifty yards?!?
The Paper Tiger
“She just rubbed our shields!” the chief shouted, “Crazy bitch!”
“Hyperspace event!” T’sunk’al yelled. “Close enough to flash our shields!”
The ship shuddered again.
“Fucking stop that!” the chief yelled into the microphone.
“Where the fuck is she?!?” T’sunk’al yelled, his normally unflappable nature thoroughly flapped.
“Hyperspace event!” he shouted. “How the hell is she jumping so fast?”
“She’s fluttering the banks!” the chief said shaking his head, “Recharging them with the surge from the shields as she slams through space time! I’ve heard rumors about this but I’ve never actually seen it done before. It’s suicide!
One fraction of a second off and… boom! It takes a true master to even think about pulling it off and even so, those banks must be made out of unicorn hooves or something! Where is she venting the heat? She can’t be sitting in it, right? Not even she would cook herself, would she?” WHAM
“What the fuck was that?!?” Sheila yelled.
“Direct contact to our shields with the hull of the ship,” the chief shouted angrily. “She missed us by less than a meter!” He grabbed the mic. “Goddammit! If you fry the shields you are the one cleaning the conduits!”
“We just got painted by direct targeting,” T’sunk’al said, “range… Hyperspace event!… We’re painted… From the other side
!… Range… Oh I don’t even fucking care anymore…”
Harval and about a dozen very nervous men and women of several races stood nervously in the shop bay.
Suddenly there was a blast of wind…
And the ship was there, so fast that nobody really saw it pull in.
It landed, and Gloria stepped out, eyes as dead as ever.
She walked up to Harval…
“So… Is it-”
Before he could react Gloria lunged…
And gently kissed him on the lips.
He stared in disbelief.
Her eyes were as dead as ever…
But there were tears running down her cheeks.
Without a word she pulled out a transactor…
“Rerun all diagnostics,” she said without emotion. “Recheck the frame. I’ll pay double for your time.”
“You crazy bit-” the chief started to yell as Gloria entered the Tiger, and then fell silent.
Gloria, the brigand, the psychopath, was gone
It was Gloria, the Ice Queen, Gloria the Undying, Lieutenant Samuels, the Lich Queen, the Angel of Death, who stepped aboard.
“Jessie,” Gloria said in a cold dead voice almost
like the one she always used, “Do you have targets for me?”
“Um… Yeah,” Jessie said quietly just staring at her.
“Lieutenant,” the chief said briskly. “I’ve confirmed the measurements. We can just barely fit your ship in the hold, barely. I would say that it would be impossible to actually land in here but I doubt it will be an issue.”
“How much room for munitions?” Lieutenant Samuels asked calmly.
“We can carry two complete loadouts, at least, maybe more if we install roof racks.”
“Excellent, Chief,” Gloria the Revenant, replied with a faint smile. “Give me a couple of feet. You can have the rest.”
“Yes, ma’am,” the chief said before he caught himself with a wince. He didn’t mean to do that!
“Welcome back, Lieutenant
,” Sheila said with a smile.
There was the briefest flicker in The Lich Queen’s eyes as she simply nodded in reply, then it was gone.
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