Copyright© 2017 by Dragon Cobolt
Science Fiction Story: Chapter 2 - Dey and Loki are back - and enjoying their vacation. But vacation for a supersoldier and her AI companion in the 22nd century involves more than laying around on the beach and getting a tan. Treasure hunts, terrorist plots, and the threat of global anhillation? All in a day's vacation.
“Is it safe?” Dey asked. A moment later, Loki managed to translate her question, which came out of her cellphone in what the locals sometimes referred to as ‘English’. The muggy heat of the uptown Georgetown was filled with the babble of dozens of human languages and dozens of alien languages and a truly preposterous number of mosquito. Despite the best efforts of mosquito tracking lasers, semi-intelligent electrical webbing, and a few pushes to genetically engineer the pests into extinction, the mosquito thrived in Georgetown. Fortunately, while the bloodsuckers weren’t gone, malaria had been kicked in the head in the seventies.
It still made Dey viciously glad for her implanted force fields.
A mosquito tried to land on her shoulder, crumpled into a tiny spec of carapace and folded wings and she brushed it off onto the grated floor, where it skittered down to land on one of the streets underneath this one.
The man who looked old enough to have survived the Trump administration puffed on his pipe and nodded. He spoke in flowing creole, worlds stumbling together as if they had been partially melted by a glancing nuclear explosion, waving his hand to brush away a mosquito.
He says that if you came this far to insult him, American, at the very least take off your shirt, Loki said.
“Don’t tempt me,” Dey muttered.
Muggy implied something livable. But the near equator had been whacked as hard as everywhere else by the pressure of climate change – and despite the best efforts of shades and cooling devices built throughout the rickety, multi-level scrapology of the city, it remained murderously hot. People here seemed to have adapted. For some meaning of the word adapted.
Dey looked down at the fruit on a stick that she was thinking of spending some of her greenbacks on. The plants looked thick and faintly phallic, and smelled of rosewater even from this distance. More, they were searing pink. Loki had been trying to identify them for the past few hours, but nothing was doing.
“Balla go do me me, ya?” he said, waving his hand.
Balder, I think, Loki said.
“Balder would?” Dey asked.
The man, with amazing dexterity considering the thick knobbiness of his brown fingers, formed his hand into a gun and mimed shooting himself. “Drone ya?” he said.
“Balder doesn’t kill people. He just bans them,” Dey said. Then, sighing, she slapped down a bill with Washington’s smug white face on it. “If this kills me, I go do you, you.”
The man looked quietly dignified – but took the bill and folded it up. Dey picked up the fruit stick. As she walked along the grated walk, she sniffed, then bit down into the fruit. It tasted like chomping into pure sugar, and the fluid that rushed into her mouth started to turn it numb. She paused, her mouth fastened around the fruit, then held very still, ready to spit it out immediately.
Analysis done, you know, you could have just nibbled it, Loki said. It’s safe.
[Well, in my defense, I’m hungry, ] Dey muttered, then bit down on the fruit again. The numbness passed after a bit, leaving her mouth tingling with returning sensation. It was interesting. But the sugar high started to push back the tiredness she was feeling and left her almost bouncing as she came to one of the gravity bridges that connected walkway to walkway while leaving open areas in the scrapology.
Every coastal city in the world had had to deal with melting ice caps in their own ways. Some moved, at great expense. Others built sea walls. Others let the sea come in and reconfigured themselves to deal with it. Georgetown had run into a unique situation that let them deal with the changes in a way few others had. Their fortune – and Dey’s fruit stick – came from the same place: Brazil’s misfortune. It had been before Dey’s time, but she remembered reading about it while going through school programs.
The Brazilians had called it the Praga da Selva. The Jungle Plague. It had happened shortly after first contact, back in the fifties. Like every other nation-state, Brazil had been eager to get their hands on fantastic technologies, alien contacts, and other goodies. They had opened their boarders. Three years later, all the rainforest that their farming had cleared away had been replaced by alien jungles, cattle dead by the billions, their corpses flowering and blooming into fungal growths. The Brazillian government had waged two unsuccessful wars of eradication on the new growths, found the alien tourist responsible for it, and had very successfully managed to get reparations from the Idorian government in the form of technology, heavy metals, and three Idorian warships that still provided the backbone to the Brazillian space fleet.
Right before said government was toppled by a Yahaag backed coup.
And they said humans were unique, huh?
Ever since then, Brazil had clamped down on alien visitation, alien tourism, alien trade, alien anything.
Dey couldn’t really blame them.
Still, the fruits were good. Dey walked over the gravity bridge. Despite the term, the bridge didn’t bob or shudder in the air. It was kept firmly in place by a clever combination of a DeVilbiss emitter and a few spider-thin struts. The DV emitter canceled the bridge’s inertia and created a counter-gravitic field every time someone stepped on it, equal to the amount of weight put onto the bridge. End result was a bridge that could be jammed any old place, without supports and without expensive material.
Awesome example of humanity overcoming the inherent difficulties of their situation?
Dey walked past two Squids arguing with what looked like a mound of eyeballs contained in a floating petri dish. The Squids spoke fluent Portuguese, while the mound of eyeballs kept using its manipulator tentacles to slap at buttons on a cheapo translation and protocol drone some boob had coated in gold paint.
“Please, slow down, sirs,” the drone said, bobbing with every tentacle slap.
So. Brazil had said no aliens. Brazil still wanted alien tech. Aliens wanted to sell alien tech to Brazil. The obvious solution had come shortly after. Every neighboring minor nation – including Guyana – had started enthusiastically welcoming alien visitors. The Brazilians who came got screwed roundly each way coming by the number of bribes that had to be paid, but the trade flowed and kept things in equilibrium.
[So, think that Skylar is done adding the extra engines?] Dey asked.
Should be near about-
Loki was cut off by a gunshot. The bullet pinged off a hovering anti-mosquito device, causing the device to skid crazily through the air. People screamed and dove for cover – all save for the woman that sprang over a cafe table, knocking over a haze of dishes, breads, tiny fruits, and cups filled with liquid. The woman almost ran smack dab into Dey, knocking Dey backwards against a thin railing some polite man or woman had set up to keep people from plunging down into the undercity. Dey found herself looking into a smooth faceplate, which had a glowing series of dots, formed into the shape of an emoticon.
“Please, help me!” The Huntress said, hands on Dey’s shoulders.
“Stop, alien scum!”
Dey looked past the Huntress – harder than it sounded. Despite being shorter than Dey by a head, the alien was clad in a form fitting bodysuit that left very little to the imagination. But it wasn’t her curvy hips or full breasts that distracted Dey. It was the long spikes that emerged from her back and shoulders – each one surrounded by a rippling haze. Those were radiators – keeping the inside of the environmental suit at the negative two hundred and fifty Celsius that Huntresses needed to not have their brains...
Behind the woman, pushing their ways through the cowering crowds, was a motley collection of drones and rough types who had ‘I’m a mercenary’ printed across their chests in neon.
[Why does this happen to me?] Dey asked.
You’re a cool guy who doesn’t afraid of anything?
“Step away from alien!” one of the mercs said. He was holding an off brand AR-15, one that looked like it was primitive enough to still use a normal magazine. To his left was one of the drones, which had clambered up onto a table for a better vantage point, taking advantage of the fact it had been constructed from light materials. It held a hunting rifle. The other two mercs had shotguns and were keeping them lowered. Not aiming them at Dey. The last three drones were flying disks – lightened by DV emitters and armed with machine pistols strapped to their sides by duct tape, bolts and hope.
Loki targeted each and highlighted them in red, so Dey would track them later.
“And if I don’t?” Dey asked. [Loki, I don’t particularly want to start a firefight here. These walls aren’t thick enough to stop a stray round. Let’s start working on a way out.]
Hows this a we thing? I’m the one searching...
[I’ll be buying time!] Dey said, cheerily. [I’m the facegirl!]
“Then we shoot you, roll you into the undercity, and let the squids play with your eyeballs, luv,” the talkative merc said. His blond hair, pale features, and accent said British. English. Whatever the proper designation was.
“You make it sounds so tempting,” Dey said as the Huntress hid behind her, quivering. Shaking. Dey had met one Huntress in her life – and that bitch had cut and run at the first sign of danger. Left a bunch of USAF personal in danger while cowering in an escape pod. Dey wouldn’t have even minded if she hadn’t promised aid before scarpering. Not that Dey had been there for that – but she had heard stories.
“Giving you to the count of one,” the lead merc said, aiming his rifle at her. He held it low, casual, letting it dangle from his shoulder strap. It looked cool. It was a shit way to aim. By now, most people had gotten out of the streets.
“Don’t you mean the count of five?” Dey asked.
The merc looked frustrated.
“Give her over!”
A glowing gold arrow indicated up. Dey didn’t glance up. She just thrust her hand up, fired her grapnel, and felt her body yank upwards. The Huntress squeaked loudly as Dey looped her arm around her waist. A few gunshots went off – and Loki used extra power, channeling it into her DV emitters to stop the bullets dead in their tracks, rather than simply redirecting them. Dey looked up now and saw that Loki had – in his infinite wisdom – redirected an autonomous advertising hovercraft. The vehicle’s engines were already groaning, despite Loki reducing Dey’s weight with her implants.
The hovercraft slewed upwards, dragging them between the high buildings of the scrapology.
“Look out!” the Huntress yelped.
“I am!” Dey snarled as the three flying drones started towards them. Right now, Dey was more focused on the fact that her arm felt like it was going to be yanked from her socket, considering how she was grapnel’d to a hovercraft and holding onto a Huntress with the other arm. It left her little options. The drones whirred around their hovercraft, clearly observing it. Loki managed to get them out and over the top level of Georgetown. The scrapology stretched outwards, a kilometer in every direction, a series of metal canyons and buildings that had been built on top of one another again and again out of every piece of material that could be used.
The drones opened fire.
The hovercraft came apart.
Loki retracted the grapnel.
Dey and the Huntress dropped. Their feet hit the corrugated metal roof of a building and came down inside of a cheap chopshop. The thick stink of iron and disinfectant and the whirring of a bone saw could be heard over the crash of metal, clatter of plaster, and scream of a secretary who looked Indo-Guyanese by way of the films of Delmoro Cruz: Her mostly nude body was covered only by some very carefully placed holographic emitters that very carefully projected an outfit of cloud, steel and synth around her glistening form.
“Holy fuckfuck!” she shouted.
Dey shook herself and scrambled to her feet. She looked down at the Huntress, who came to her feet.
“I’m okay!” she said.
“Good,” Dey said, nodding and looking up at the hole in the ceiling. The three drones were whirring in a holding patern overhead. “Great. They’re coming right for us.”
“Why not kill us now?” The huntress asked – which caused the secretary to run as quickly as she could into the next room over. The sound of the bone saw hadn’t stopped.
“Do they want to kill you?” Dey asked, shaking herself as she patted her pockets, finding her M2 laser pistol. She pulled it out, checked the focusing aperture, then lifted it up and shot one of the drones out of the air. The drones were cheap, civilian shit. An infrared laser pulse, powered by two kilometers of coiled spring, cut through metal like butter. The drones whirred out of sight.
“No,” the Huntress said.
“Well, there you go,” Dey said, shaking her head as she holstered the laser. “What’s your name? We have a few minutes before they get through the sprawl and I want to know why I’m going to get my ass shot off.”
The Huntress nodded. “I’m Xi’Chur N’Xok,” she said, her face plate turning to a polite :). She held her hand out, tentatively. “I was told this is a greeting among humans.”
“Some humans,” Dey said, clasping her hand. She felt warm – which made sense, considering how good the thermal insulation had to be to keep that suit functioning. If she had felt cold, that would have been weird. “Others might just look at you funny. Others may try and kill you. So, what the fuck is going on?”
“Well,” Xi’Chur - Dey immediately started thinking of her as Xee (pronounced Zee) – said, rubbing the back of her neck. “I’m on vacation.”
“Vacation,” Dey said. “And you chose Georgetown, Guyana?”
“Why? Does it make a difference? I just chose it because it was cheap,” Xee said, nodding. “I wanted to see Earth, but, I, don’t make much money from my Artclade- Oh, uh, my translation guide says that the best term would be my ‘Pay ... Tree ... On...” She spoke the word slowly and carefully.
Dey opened her mouth.
“But, I mean, I’ve heard that Earth is quite nice!” Xee said. “I figured I’d swing by, see a few of the sights. Learn about humans.”
“Oh god,” Dey whispered, putting her hands over her face. “Okay. Focus, Dey. Why do the mercs want you?”
She spread her hands. “They just showed up and said to come with them. I ran away, since I didn’t want to go with them. But, I was told that Earth has quite a few policing services – where are they? Where is the United Nations?”
“Jesus Christ.” Dey pinched the bridge of her nose. “Okay. Earth has a population of nine billion, and has almost two hundred and ten independent nation-states. The United Nations? They don’t do jack. The only part of them that actually has any real power is the stellar cartography branch. You’re in a third world fucking country. The local cops don’t give a fuck about aliens – they focus on helping humans!” She shook her head. “Fuck, most American cops wouldn’t know what to do with an alien if they bit them on the butt!”
“ ... oh,” Xee said, slowly.
“Now, if I don’t miss my guess, they want to grab you because you’re wearing a suit whose thermal regulation systems are more advanced than anything humanity’s ever built. Because you are naturally able to produce warp fields! Because, I don’t know, someone thinks your butt looks good in the environmental suit and wants to make you their alien sex slave!” Dey cut herself off, putting her hands on her face. “Okay. Come on.” She turned and focused. Loki used her implants to create a warp field that compacted the space between her and the roof into a single step. She hopped up through the thick air that the compaction created, before turning to see Xee looking up at her with a :O face.
“How did you do that!?”
“You’re a lucky Huntress, Xee,” Dey said, gesturing. “I’m a Devil Trooper. Now get up here.”
“Okay!” Xee focused. And focused. And kept focusing. Then, after groaning, straining, and then whimpering, she leaped forward and appeared beside Dey. She put her hands on her knees, panting heavily. Dey looked at her askance.
Xee held up one hand. “I’m ... a...” she panted. “Sci-fi ... writer...” She looked up. “I’m ... kinda ... out ... of ... shape.” She panted more.
“Oh god, we’re going to die,” Dey whispered.
Seems that way, Loki said.
Three rooftops to the south, a door banged open and one of the mercs with the shotguns came onto the rooftop.
“Found em!” he shouted, then fired off the shotgun. Dey was already starting to run. But the shotgun landed a shell – thick as her thumb – on the rooftop before her. It clattered, then expanded outwards Four jets of white liquid came spraying out. Dey yelped and flung herself aside, twisting as time seemed to slow as Loki kicked her processing of time up a few notches. The shell made it hard by starting to spin like a top, spraying the goop outwards in a rising and falling hemisphere of liquid. But Dey got beyond the area of effect, scrambling back to her feet as the liquid ballooned outwards into thick, foamy cushions.
That’s a gloo shell! Hey, at least they want both of you alive, Loki said.
[Wooo, ] Dey deadpanned as she saw Xee’s arms cartwheeling. She was trying to not go over the edge.
More mercs were on the roof now. More gloo shells were landed around them.
Dey caught the Huntress in the back and took them both down over the edge of the roof. They fell – and then she snapped out a counter-gravitic field. Their progress slowed and they hung in the air between two buildings.
“You’re amazing!” Xee said.
“Thanks,” Dey said, snapping out her arm. Her grapnel went through the window of a building and then she and Xee went tumbling into the living room of a young man whose head was surrounded by a heavy helmet that looked like it was plugged into a modem. The man yanked the helmet off of his head as Dey let her feet settle on the ground.
“Got any K2s?” she asked.
The man gaped at her, then stammered something in the Creole, pointing towards a personal solar power generator/battery combo. Dey fished in her pocket, tossed an Obama at him, then leaned out the window. She chucked the K2 from the generator up and onto the roof of the next building over.
That K2’s still got it’s safeties, Loki said.
[They don’t know that, ] Dey said, grinning. Then she nodded to the man, headed to the front door, opened it, and dragged the still stunned Xee into the corridor beyond. As the door closed, she heard distant shouts of alarm and cries of warning. The narrow corridor beyond was filled with the heat of the day, with several open doors leading into other flats. The scent of cooking food filled the air and an alien vine crawled along the ceiling – the leaves spreading wide. Something about what the plant did actually seemed to keep the air cooler than it should have been.
Then a drone came through the window at the far end. Its machine pistols opened up and Dey lifted her hand. Rubber bullets rebounded into the walls and ceilings as Dey drew her M2 and shot the fucker in the center of mass. But the drone jinked at the last second, darting back around the corner.
“Come on!” Dey said, grabbing Xee’s hand. The two of them sprinted towards the nearest grav-shaft. It was one of the bizarre facts about a world where a lump of room temperature superconductors could warp space time: Elevators required winches, pulleys, weights, counter-weights, and a series of complicated pieces of engineering. A grav-shaft required a DV emitter or two and an empty space in the blueprint.
Course, if an elevator failed, you weren’t going to splat on the ground.
Dey sprang into the shaft. Xee hopped with her. Together, the two started to swarm down the walls of the shaft, Xee panting heavily.
“We just need to get to the port,” Dey said.
“How are we going to get there?” Xee asked.
“Undercity,” Dey said, nodding.
Behind them – above them – the drones came in for the kill. They had been hastily modified. The one with the machine pistols still had machine pistols. But the other one had one of the shotguns literally taped into the side. The shotgun boomed inside of the grav-shaft, the sound reverberating with eardrum rattling loudness. The gloo shot thudded right into Xee’s belly. The Huntress made a low woof noise and coiled around the shell. Dey snapped her hand out and threw the shell back as fast as she could. A snap of a warp field sent it into the shotgun wielding drone. The drone tumbled backwards, taking the gloo-shell out of the grav-shaft before the goop started spraying everywhere.
The other drone opened fire.
Dey kicked off the wall. She and Xee skidded onto the ground of a random floor, Dey’s shins stinging with a series of tiny, bruising impacts.
“Where?” Xee gasped.
“Down,” Dey scrambled up. “Hold still!”
She looked down, then muttered under her breath. She drew her M2 and dialed it to max power. She swung it in a circle around her and Xee. The floor creaked, then slammed down into the next floor down. The floor creaked, groaned, then shattered downwards. This time, they plunged right into water. The water was dark and murky and filled with kicked up debris. Dey shook herself, her pistol in one hand. Her other hand found Xee’s hand. Her lungs started to burn. She kicked up, gasping as she looked around. They had fallen into the building that the apartment building had been built on.
When the tides came in, Georgetown had simply built up. DV emitters and lightweight construction materials, combined with the industrious efforts of the half a million squids who had come to live here after being exiled from Brazil, had created a semi-stable foundation of the city. An undercity, filled with the squids, their culture.
A squid surged from the water and started screeching at Dey in Portuguese. He looked like a maintenance worker, from the harness around his hips, the tools in his tentacles. He had a rebreather slung in one pocket – marked bright white and glowing with LEDs. Probably for use in case he ran into a drowning human.
Dey held up her free hand – having holstered her pistol. “Hold on!” she said, then pulled out her wallet. “Rebeather!” She shook her head. “Mergulho!”
The squid looked at the wallet, then at her. Dey pulled out another Obama.