Author: Cartesia

Chapter 9


      A cleansing and natural mechanism essential to all civilisation. The cyclic nature of the universal constant can be narrowed down to the singularity and expanded to the inconceivable widths and logic of the exoverse. Ad infinitum. The universe is not expanding. It is helter skeltering, spinning ever inwards. Revolving.

      John F Kennedy, that most veracious of old world statesmen, claimed that any leader who made peaceful revolution impossible made violent revolution inevitable. Little did Kennedy realise how widely that pragmatic turn of phrase might be applied, nor how famous and long lived the quote would become. For revolution is not simply a political phenomenon. It is the root of all things. Barring the way of that natural order is to walk into the wind.

      The universe recycles with extreme prejudice, even though, contrary to 21st and 22nd century revolutionist theory, there is an import/export mechanic. What happens in the verse doesn’t necessarily stay in the verse, but what leaks out – gravity, for example - is recycled anew within the greater horizon of the exoverse bubble. In all cases those materials and energy fields lost are balanced by new and equal gains. Beyond the exoverse, there is probably something else into which all things leak and renew.

      Circles are nature’s hint to emerging intellects concerned with the dynamics of science. Concentric motion, spirals and spheres are manifestations of the same universal theme, spinning, turning, rotating... revolving. Everything cycling, in its own small way. Because, above all else, what nature truly abhors is a right angle.

      Fate, a close but more capricious relative of nature, on the other hand, most detests those who sit upon their laurels when they could be following the universal example of ceaseless momentum. Humanity has, at various points, learned this as a valuable lesson, only to forget in time and suffer anew. Those who stagnate become easy targets. Those who progress prosper and thrive.

      As fresh stutter rounds populated the air just millimetres from Luth’s head he reflected on his own decision to linger and concluded that Fate was always watching and it simply didn’t do to tempt her. According to some quick fire information from Sumiteru, Pergay’s train had been running early and, of course, Luth’s actions had forced security to stall the pedway, allowing Pergay free reign to sprint, closing the gap between herself and her objective.

      “The elevator!” Woodrow yelled, skipping lightly over the corpse of a fallen visor guard. Out of some bizarre respect, possibly born of his newfound determination not to fly in the face of Fate or, indeed, offend any kind of supernatural observer, Luth skirted around the body instead. He even crossed himself. You never knew who might be watching.

      “We won’t make it.” Sada was right. They had too much open ground to cover and Pergay was a crack shot. In fact, Luth was amazed they’d managed to make it this far unscathed.

      “Plan B then,” Woodrow called over his shoulder. He scooped up the hand of a fallen guard as he ran and dragged the body along behind him, dislocating the dead man’s arm with an audible crack. He weaved slightly, aiming for a second body and grasped this one with his free hand. Fingers with the durability of diamond and the strength of a vice curled around the thick collar of the guard’s armour. Sada and Luth sprinted in Woodrow’s shadow.

      More rounds flew, but they flew wide, hissing past Luth’s head and punching out a neat line of holes in the far wall. For a Shensu of Pergay’s calibre, this seemed inconceivable. Inconceivable, but fortuitous. By rights, Luth knew they should be dead already.

      Woodrow expended a sudden surge of preternatural strength and hurled both dead guards ahead of him. They landed one next to the other, beside two more bodies.  He sprang over them, skidded to his hip and rolled so that the corpses shielded him from Pergay’s line of sight. Simultaneously his hand fell conveniently on a discarded stutter rifle.

      Following suit, Sada, then Luth jumped behind the bodies, pressing themselves as flat as they could while fresh rounds tore apart the space above their heads and thumped into the dead meat of the guards. Luth glanced around, but the nearest spare rifle lay some distance away. If he tried to reach it, chances were his luck would run out. Fate again. She never so much as blinked.

      “Options?” Luth turned to Woodrow who glanced at him, clipping a magazine into place.

      “I’m armed. That’s a start.”

      “These men...” Sada was staring at the face of a dead visor.

      “I know, I know,” Woodrow dismissed him. “Disrespectful, but necessary.”

      “No. Look,” Sada pointed at the visor.

      More rounds pummelled the bodies. The trio wriggled lower. Luth hissed, “get to the point Sada!”

      “Their visors,” Sada exclaimed. “Bust, but no bullet holes. These men were not shot.”

      “Did I not just ask you to get to the point? Did anybody else hear me say that?”

      “Look!” Sada’s elegant fingers curled around Luth’s chin. A disturbing sensation. The tips pinched into his flesh and he felt the potential strength behind them. Remembering his previous outburst he wondered why Sada hadn’t pressed home this obvious advantage. Instead of the fingers crushing Luth’s jaw and ripping it from his skull, as he supposed he might very well deserve, Sada merely urged his face gently to one side, forcing Luth to look at the guard’s helmet. “A blunt weapon. Glancing blow to the temple on both bodies. Consistent with a club-like weapon. Like maybe, a stave or... quarterstaff?”

      Woodrow’s brow creased, “Dar Siron?”

      “But why?” Luth flinched as a round ricocheted off the armoured shoulder of a body, spinning away like an angry metallic bee. “I mean, the Teratoid sure. But why would she kill these synths?”

      “To clear the way?” Woodrow suggested.

      “I would have to agree,” said Sada. “You said the dry cell command at Espana came from Siron. Here she seems to have applied a more direct solution. In person. But these aren’t synths. I think they’re men.”

      Luth winced. Nobody could compete with this kind of brutality. A soldier capable of phasing in and out of reality, time and space, at will. Conceivably Siron might have killed all these guards simultaneously, the Teratoid too, all in the time it took to materialise, swing a staff and vanish. No transitor had ever done anything like this before, but plenty of the more vociferous anti-transitor movements had warned of the likelihood. It remained one of the most convincing petitions against Tourism and one of the more acceptable reasons to sign up.

      “This is bad,” Luth shook his head. “Real bad.”

      “If you’re right Sada,” Woodrow agreed.

      Sada nodded grimly. “If it happened, the station’s visual relays have probably already passed the event along to the local infonet. This entire atrocity will be common Hollow Shell knowledge within a few hours. Bound to go viral, something this big.”

      “The Tourists are in deep shit.”

      “No Woodrow,” Luth’s expression was dire, “it’s us. We’re the ones. We can’t match them, but neither can the Tri-State let this pass. It could mean war. But it’s not a war we could possibly win. Not even with the full cooperation of OHQ, the Empire and the Triumvirate could we suppress the Tourists.”

      “Relax,” Woodrow shrugged, “they’ll find a diplomatic solution. Something like this. Us, we have more immediate concerns. Namely, this Shensu.”

      Luth stared, incredulous. The synth really had no grasp of the situation this time. Sada’s revelation was Galaxy-shattering. “Any options presented themselves yet?” He decided to play along, ignore reality, focus on the now. In a way it seemed like the liberating option. So why not take it?

      “I’ve had some thinking space, so yes. She’s ninja class. So am I. That’s an advantage in our favour. I should know her strategy, but I don’t. Which is odd. She could have killed us multiple times before now. The fact that we’ve managed to reach cover suggests either a damaged targeting system or some kind of anomaly in this girl’s thinking. Seems unlikely she’s damaged, but it’s always a possibility. The anomaly option presents some intriguing possibilities. I prefer to go that route, in which case I think Pergay is allowing us to live.”

      “That’s crazy talk” Luth said. “Pergay’s a Shensu. Mercy is written out of her world view.”

      “I get that. And I’m with you. But this doesn’t feel like mercy. It’s something else. She’s playing with us, and I don’t know why.”

      “Or she wants us where we are,” Sada offered. “Pinned down here. Unable to move. Maybe she has a more spectacular kill planned, or an alternative agenda.”

      “That’s not the Shensu style,” Luth said, “Pergay’s always been quick to fulfil a contract with minimal fuss. She’s vicious, but she’s no showman.”

      At that moment, the shooting stopped.

      Woodrow armed the rifle and nodded with grim determination as he peeked over the wall of bodies. “She’s reloading. My turn.”



It was too much. Frustrating. She couldn’t beat it.

     The ghost of Pergay finally released the stutter rifle. It fell to the ground, clip flying loose on impact, the final chambered round firing off and chipping a neat V shaped hole in a nearby wall. “A temporary victory,” she muttered to herself and ducked back behind the entranceway, aware that the ninja class, now armed, would take the first sign of respite to launch his reprisal.

     As scatter rounds coursed into the organo frame and disintegrated the door, the ghost clenched her teeth and closed her eyes. When she opened them the real Pergay was standing inside the doorway, face tilted forward, watching from beneath the lids of bloodshot eyes.

      “You can’t do it,” the real Pergay chuckled. “You can’t kill Luth, even while I’m dormant. A real flaw in your plan this time.”

      “A temporary flaw,” the ghost sneered back.

      “How so?”

      “I had anticipated the fusing of certain minor sub-molecular routines prior to this point. I was wrong, but the process is underway, and irreversible. Before long I will have full control when you are dormant. You will be unable to affect my targeting system then.”

      “You are bluffing.”

      “Ah. Those routines are also active? I had to check.”

      “Indeed. You cannot lie to me. Motor skills only, and I will always have a certain influence. I believe your mistake occurred when you chose total emergence.”

      “But then how could I instigate the agreed contract between us? I needed your logic intelligence to be aware of the deal.”

      “True. So it looks like you’re in a total fail situation,” Pergay said, “the deal is off.”

      “Not so. As you are fully aware. I cannot lie to you and you cannot lie to me.”

      “And so?”

      The ghost smiled. “We are on an equal footing. The deal holds. I can, and will, kill Han Luth. It seems that I must simply be more imaginative in the execution.”

      “I will be instantly aware of any method you plan to employ.”

      “As will I of you. So we will both have to be exceptionally imaginative.”

      The gunfire stopped. The ninja class was out of ammo. One of the Pergays risked a glance around the door. “They are running again.”

      “Let them go,” the other turned her back, paced toward the wall and ran her fingers over the smooth organo surface. “I need more time to think.”

      “I also. And they cannot escape the orbit sphere. A one way valve.”

      “Yes...” one of the Shensu narrowed her eyes at the other. “Hm. What you’re thinking - you can’t do it that way.”

      “Nor can you use the method you just considered.”

      “It would have been interesting to witness.”

      “Sickening to witness. Even if I were to allow it, which I would not.”

      “You are quite sure this will be possible?”

      “Quite sure. Like a game, played by one person. We must merely exploit our opposing weakness and force the hand of our own advantage. You have access to a higher temporal lode than I. But my psychosis leaves me free from legal constraints.”

      “You know that I cannot lie to you.” The real Pergay frowned.

      “I do.”

      “Then you know I will relinquish the chase and leave your thoughts for a period of three hours, if you agree to dormancy during that period.”

      The ghost considered this, calculating silently. “Two hours.”

      “Two hours and thirty minutes.”

      “Agreed. And after that?”

      “We will take it in turns. Dominance will occur randomly as before and I will rely on luck.”


      Pergay removed her fingers from the wall and glanced over the slender curve of her shoulder. The ghost was gone. She was alone.


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