FHD Remix Chapter 39
Previous: FHD Remix Chapter 38: Flashover!
Chapter 39: Return to Humanity
18 November 2145
Tatakai returns from the First Battle of Mars. The ship docks at a high-rise platform. It was originally designed for jet and rocket powered vehicles, and thus has a large flame deflector below its landing platform. She still holds the Soul Cube, which is totally shut down except for a scratched and otherwise barely audible echo of the radio transmissions it is intercepting and decrypting. She is in a blue duty jumpsuit, shackled and cuffed with the bracelets on her wrists chained to her feet so that her hands can't be raised above her ribs when she's standing. What has her really bothered is the chain mail corset they wrapped around her torso early in the trip. Someone able to give orders to these Marines, directly or indirectly, knows of the featherwings and at least suspects that she is one. Right now, deploying her wings would kill her instantly.
<Minister, based on the propulsion performance of the transport, the mass of the Soul Cube is two hundred kilograms.>
<That's impossible,> comes the exasperated answer, <According to the numbers by Betruger and McCormick, the thing couldn't be more than eighty.>
Tatakai tilts it a bit for a feel, figures it's pretending to weigh about two kilograms right now. She knows from reports that experiments produced highly variable results, with early ones indicating as high as 1200kg to as low as none at all. As experiments progressed, the numbers stabilized to the 20kg ballpark, which is about what you'd expect if it were made of curling-stone granite.
During the trip, the Soul Cube emulated having no mass at all. The two hundred kilograms was Jack Campbell and a collection of weapons, tools, and armor, stowed away. He is invisible, already flying away, and presumed dead like hundreds of other missing bodies.
A man walks up to her, dressed in a black jacket with a white shirt underneath, and a blue tie. Very, very old fashioned. He tightens up the tie and says, "I'm the only government official who wears one of these. They were normal business attire a hundred years ago."
"And corsets were normal less than three hundred years ago," she says. "Unlike you, it's not like I had a choice."
"Allow me to introduce myself," he says in a nasal, condescending tone, "I'm Gordon Atlas, Minister of Intelligence for the United Earth Government, whose responsibilities include, among other things, counter-terrorism." He points a finger gently at her, "You, Devon Greenborough, are a terrorist," he says conclusively, then adds as though it is an option for her to choose, "Or at least someone who's extraordinarily negligent in tampering with the Delta 4 Teleportal and causing the deaths of over seven thousand people, mostly UAC employees."
"Fascinating," she says in scratch, "and what evidence do you have of this?"
Gordon, to her surprise, shows no reaction at all. She inhales and suddenly, very quickly lets out a huff, as though she was going to say something and then changed her mind.
"Not so tough now, huh?" Gordon says.
< I don't believe it, he didn't even flinch,> she thinks, trying not to show her surprise. Jack, circling invisibly five hundred metres above, heard her sudden and extremely loud yell . He's glad he wasn't still on the platform.
"Surprised that someone at my level would pay you a visit, perhaps?" Gordon asks.
"Actually, yes," Tatakai says. "Patricia Nobell, UEG's head of state, would never take such a risk, but the guy who's pulling all the puppet strings and really in charge of the UEG, standing this close to the only interplanetary terrorist known to exist? Yeah, I'm a little surprised."
"Jack Campbell shared his wings with you, didn't he?" he asks, "After all, you introduced yourselves to your former colleages," indicating the Marine squad behind her, "as Devon Campbell."
"Wings? What the heck are you talking about?" she says as though the notion is utterly rediculous. "If by wings you mean some electrogravitic backpack, then of course. I'm a Special Operations Marine and he was my instructor."
"Oh, pull-eeeeeease," he gripes, "You have know idea who you're dealing with. I know you've been sending secret messages to Hogosho Kurato, former Director of Science Operations, Union Aerospace Corporation. Something all looney about hellspawn and demons, and whatnot. I received your transmissions as well." Then he whispers, "I used to be a featherwing, and you know what I learned? Monogamy sucks. I'd rather stay on the ground and screw whoever I damn well please, just like everyone else except the featherwings and Saviour-spawn. I know you're one of those, too. Now give me the Soul Cube," he orders.
"Let me have my turn first," she quietly asks. "You said Kurato was the former UAC Director of Science Operations. Why is that?"
"Kind of hard to fulfill such duties when you're dead," he growls, "He got in an unfortunate accident with his Skyvan early this morning. Death is a fate you'll share in about one minute if you don't hand me that alien device."
She slumps her shoulders, seems very resigned as she says in scratch the exact opposite, "I got over three hundred kills on Mars, including a four story fusion powered thing that could fire three anti-tank missiles every second. I could kill you at any moment, doesn't that scare you?"
"Listen, Devon," he says, "Your life is in my hands, and the only way you're going to survive, let alone live comfortably, is if you do what I tell you."
The one on his right pulls a mean looking handgun from a hidden holster.
Tatakai looks up at him, locking eyes, "Jack is in the air above us, Gordon, and you know nothing of the Soul Cube's capabilities," she says, still in scratch, "You probably don't realize it, but it is I who is in the position to dictate terms. Can you hear me?"
Still in his proud nasal speech, Gordon continues, "You have ten seconds to give me the Soul Cube, or my bodyguards here will react as though you are attacking me." It is obvious that Gordon did not hear a word she said.
"Gordon, what have you done?" she sobs out of scratch, "You've become so depraved and so evil that you can't even hear our secret voice anymore, the one that I've been speaking to you with for the last minute."
His eyes widen, this is news to him.
"Hogosho scratched you before you died," Tatakai says, "He sent me a message to that effect, you don't remember what your wings looked like. What colors were they, huh?"
Gordon holds up a hand to order his bodyguard not to raise his gun.
"You know you just saved his life? Did you hear me tell you why, not even a minute ago?" she asks, tears spilling onto her cheeks.
This has him shocked. He was expecting her to be surprised and distraught at the news of Hogosho's death only a few hours before she landed. She was kept in solitary confinement during the trip, so it shouldn't be possible for her to know. She was supposed to be melting like a fine chocolate in his hands with her world crashing down around her. Not like this.
"If you, or anyone in your intelligence apparatus could detect scratch," she explains, "then you would know that he sent a very powerful distress signal saying that he was being chased and was not expecting to survive.
"Gordon Atlas, we used to be in the same Brotherhood Chapter," she bawls, "Have you become so depraved, so selfish that you have lost every last vestige of your wings? You don't even remember me do you? I shared my wings with Jack, I thought you were kidding me."
"You've had your turn," he growls, "Now give me the Soul Cube."
She holds it out, offering it to him, but says as he puts his hands upon it, "It'll be hard to command your marrionette puppets..." she lets go of it, leaving it in his hands as she finishes, "...without any fingers."
Suddenly, his fingers go flying, her handcuffs come loose and a perfect hairline cut divides the front of her jumpsuit. Gordon can hear the tinkle of the loosening corset underneath. The Soul Cube showed no change, its blades invisible.
"I can't believe I'm letting you live," she sobs as the Soul Cube falls from his palms, blood spewing from his knuckles.
It hits the deck with a loud bang, rending the floor with an unbearable screech. As Tatakai vanishes into thin air, the sound of tearing cloth fills the air. Her jumpsuit explodes, apparently without her in it any more. Gordon Atlas jumps backwards, stumbles, falls on his backside on the sloping floor, air blowing around him. The Soul Cube has apparently snagged on the beam it landed on and bends it to open the floor under where Tatakai stood.
Gordon's left hand bodyguard grabs him, saving him from sharing the same fate as her shackles, corset and jumpsuit as they fall into the hole, clattering and jingling when they hit the sloped flame trench and slide away to the guardrail at the edge, placed there to prevent such dropped debris from falling into the streets of the metropolis eight hundred metres below. Gordon is screaming, the grille he stands on pushing the flesh from the remaining bones in his hands as he tries to support himself.
The bodyguard goes around to the side of the hole and fires several rounds through it. They hit nothing, even after bouncing off the flame trench. Tatakai and the Soul Cube are gone.
Next: FHD Remix Chapter 40: Kurai's Bird