Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Armageddon Cog

He sat across from her, halfway through his second drink, gesturing for his third. He'd be damned if he was going to handle this thing she had sober. From the look of her, she felt the same way. The problem was, she'd been handling it for the past week.

Her body slung forward in that state of advanced drunkenness where remaining upright was a near-insurmountable challenge. Her head didn't so much weave as swivel and lurch. When she managed to bring her face up, her bleary eyes were a watery blood-red. Her hair was a ragged tangle, and the last vestiges of makeup blended into an ashy ochre smeared down her face. An arm swung wildly to point at him, then flop down on the table. She knocked a double vodka back and dropped the glass on the floor, giggling as it shattered. The giggle became wet sobbing and she tried hard to force words from numb lips.

"You godda take it," she said for the tenth time. "I promissa steal it, but I donwanna keep it. Can't." She shook her head and it dropped to the table with a loud thud. She forced it back up, to stare at him, bleary-eyed. "Didda buncha ninsha shit t'get it. Fuggin badass's me. 'swhat I do. Badass shit an stealing an stuff." She reached into her pocket with a hand burned nearly to the bone and threw it at him. "Take it."

He took it in the hand that wore the specially designed glove, then placed it in the reinforced briefcase. The song of madness had erupted in his brain the moment he touched it, but subsided once the case was closed. He finished his drink, further muffling the dread song. He looked on the sodden mess with new pity. She'd been carrying it around in her pocket. He held out a thick envelope.

"Well, you've earned every penny of this."

She lay sprawled half across the table, not even bothering to look up. "Fugyer munny. Fuck you." He started to put the envelope away and her uninjured hand opened. "Gimme," she said.

He placed the envelope in her hand and left. At the door, he turned and looked back. The kind old man that ran the bar had come to her and, with the help of his round little wife, essentially carried the drunken spy to what he presumed was a back office. Let her sleep it off, then. If she could.

The limousine pulled up in front of the bar as he exited, the back door opening.

"Get in."

He obeyed.

Once seated inside, he immediately handed the briefcase to the thin gentleman with the wispy blond hair. The man did not bother to open it, merely closed his eyes briefly and smiled.

"Well done," he said. "I trust she was sufficiently compensated?"


The thin man clicked sympathetically. "Such a shame. She was the best we had, the only one who could do the job. She knew it would ravage her," he pursed his painted lips thoughtfully, "but I don't believe she really understood how much."

"What happens now?"

Thin shoulders shrugged. "She drinks away all the money you gave her and dies in a gutter somewhere, most likely."

"No, I mean with..." he gestured at the case. He could still feel its pulsing song.

The man laughed. "Oh, that. Yes, well." He patted the case. "I'll put it where it belongs in the machine."

"What machine?"

Another laugh. "Oh, you darling little hominid. This is the final piece of my infernal siege engine, the one I'll use to finally batter down the gates of Heaven." A shrug, then, "It will require fuel, obviously." He smiled, his teeth a foul yellow.

"But that's what all you people are for, isn't it?"

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Waverider

The stars sang to her.

The planets and comets and nebula clusters sang to her too, but it was the voices of the stars she loved listening to most. If she focused, she could pick out individual songs, like the languid ballad of a red giant many light years away. It sang of a long life that was coming to a close, of its brilliant youth and the myriad civilizations it nurtured on its fourth planet. It sang a bittersweet lament of that planet's death and a sad dirge for those who didn't escape it. Then she turned her attention to the sprightly tune of a new yellow sun, full of hope and the promise of life amid the swirling gas and rock of a young solar system. Its song was an anthem, vibrant and infectuous. She nodded her head to its rythmn for a while, smiling.

She pulled her awareness back, so all the songs blended to a single harmonious one. Starsong was beautiful, but to give oneself over to it completely was to ignore one's duties. And the duties of a Waverider, particularly one of the Justice Class, were of the highest importance. Few there were indeed who could master the complexities of the Wave with sufficient clarity to assemble the enigmatic Wavesuit, that near-mystical garment that allowed its wearer to channel the energies of the Universe itself.

The Wave. That omnipresent energy infused everything and everyone. All were aware of it, to the point where it was almost mundane and it did, indeed, serve many mundane functions. The mighty starships of the Galactic Fleet would never have left their home systems without the powerful Wave Engines to bend interstellar space. Even the primitive races knew of the Wave, though most who knew it confused it for some form of deity. Only the Waveriders, however, had that rare quality that allowed a living being to act as conduit for the Wave, bending the Universe to their will to work miracles. To do so required beings of incorruptible integrity possessing an iron will. A dedication to justice and the preservation of life was a Waverider's paramount mission, and in that a Waverider was ever vigilant.

Thus did Kae Starr, Justice Class Waverider, hear the merest whisper of a failing distress call. A passenger liner, traveling too close to a restricted system, ran afoul of a black hole and was being pulled inexorably toward destruction. With nary a second thought, Kae focused her perception to the signal's origin point, bending space about her so all the millions of light-years between them fell away in the span of a single step. As she approached the distressed liner, she felt the black hole's persistent tug. Against all instinct, she dove further into that maelstrom of gravity, grabbing hold of the liner and straining with all her prodigious might against the singularity's pull.

As she felt herself steadily losing ground, she channeled the Wave into a shield of pure force that would hold the sinking ship together. Gritting her teeth, she renewed her efforts. She was a Waverider. She would prevail.

Though a little assistance would not go amiss.