#InTransitMonsters is a #firstdraft #novel about Technology as Messiah. Humanity is about to fall, and is forced to create monsters to save itself. Can these giant monsters succeed, or will humanity's old ambitions damn the species to extinction?
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Foxtrot (H + 1.1 Days)
I popped atop a building, within one of the crumbling egg-domes of Fontana. I could see Uniform, Charlie and Whiskey. The centipede-tentacle things swarmed all three.
"Shit." I spat. "I've got to go... I'm sorry..."
I set the girl and the dog down. The blind girl shuddered as I put her down.
"What?" She glared around at me. "What?!"
"I've got to go..." I hesitated. "I gotta go. I'll be back in a spiff."
"Hey!" The girl yelled at Foxtrot. "Don't leave me here!"
Sorry, I thought, I didn't listen to Charlie, and she'll probably think I did this to her on purpose. Again.
It wasn't fair. I didn't want to dump stuff like this on her. Why couldn't she see how much I liked her? Why did every time we meet, it ends up in a fight when I just want to show how much I want to care?
I popped back to the street. Charlie and the rest fended off the tentacle-centipede-things. They worked together, but the dozen or so things were putting up a fight.
I popped closer to them. I immediately saw why the three were having trouble. The ground wasn't stable.
Then I felt it. It flowed over me like drifting off into a dream. But a waking dream.
Oneiros Protocol Online. Networked with Charlie_BrainSys.
I knew what the other three were thinking. I could see ghostly, translucent images of each of us moving beside our own bodies. Each image moved seconds before they did. Charlie had connected our minds together. At the most root level.
I knew that Whiskey knew to call them Sewer Spawn. Sewer Spawn burrowed all over the place. Charlie realized this meant that each inch of ground around them in Fontana had spawn in it. Uniform, starting with Whiskey, pushed her gnostic tech to speed up our healing. She could get our blood to coagulate faster if we were cut open. That would prevent the lower Martian air pressure from bleeding us each out.
I popped into the middle of our group. Charlie's dream directed me. I followed it.
A thought, not a voice, came to me. The axes!
I knew what Charlie directed me toward. Between them, in the morass of tentacles I popped in. I grabbed the three axes, hugging them tight to my chest.
I popped out again, high above the fray.
Each of us had our own techs and special ways of supporting one another. But what Nasr had drilled into us had nothing to do with those specific parts of our nature. He showed us what made us monsters and not like other humans. He trained us to use what made us monsters.
Humans had a upper limit of strength and speed they could attain. Human bones shattered when pushed hard enough. The Enemy and its troops seemed invincible to all sorts of human methods of warfare. Bulletproof. Human soldiers couldn't resist their tentacles' tightening strength.
We could resist them. Hecate and others had made us that way.
I hurled the axes down as I fell from above. I'd taken an angle from Whiskey's own calculation. Each axe I set spinning at intervals the others had crunched the numbers to time. We formed our own supercomputer. I could see the ghostly image of each axe, putting them into precise motion as I needed to.
Three of the closest sewer spawn exploded in orange-and-black ichor. Each axe hit them with enough force to kill them. I popped back to the ground, rolling myself sideways to absorb the velocity. Uniform caught me. She sent her gnostic healing to steadying my bones. That kept my body from breaking itself apart on impact.
Whiskey took one of the black axes first. She had always been the smallest of us. She took advantage of that. Whiskey wielded her axe in more surgical strikes than I had done. Whiskey didn't kill any with her blows. She just stripped each of their ultra-hard carapaces. That exposed their alien organs to the harsh martian air.
Like us, they didn't do as well in the lower pressure I saw. Nasr had taught us about how the pressure could kill. Pinkish-orange fluid boiled as Whiskey sliced them open.
I recovered in time to see Charlie and her axe fend off the one or two trying to grab Whiskey. The ground around us rumbled. Charlie held her footing. Each of her swings squelched and squished as she hit as hard as any of us could swing.
I turned to see Whiskey moving toward the last pair of the tentacled things. They quivered for a moment, as if they could sense her movement. But they still launched themselves at the Goetic Engineer. Whiskey drew her arms back, covering her face.
I could feel Whiskey's thoughts as she called her Goetic tech up. Blue sparkles took her axe, turning the carbon-black head into two sharp spikes. Each flew toward the running spawn.
They impaled them.
Then we fell out of the dream.
"Whiskey!" Charlie yelled. She tried to reach Whiskey as the hole we had been fighting in drained more and more into Fontana's sewers.
"You okay?" Uniform asked.
"Is-" I couldn't take my eyes off of Charlie. She held Whiskey up, even as the dust cloud enveloped them.
"I don't know."
The dust cloud enveloped us as well. A few minutes past. Then I heard Charlie's coughing.
"Everyone ok?" Her voice called. "I think we caused a cave-in."
"Or those burrowing centipedes just were dragging us down with them." I retorted. "I don't think we can climb out, but-"
"Uniform, you ok?" Charlie's irritated voice cut me off. I winced. Maybe I should've just said I was ok.
"Yes. We're both fine." Uniform gave me a gentle pat.
Then I saw Charlie and Whiskey walking toward us. The sunlight dove in from the hole above. But the sewers around us looked more like deep dark caves. Pitchblack, lightless before us.
"I can get out of here." I pointed out. "But I don't know if I can take two of us. We're... kinda big for my transits."
"Whiskey, you got any ideas?" Charlie turned to the Goetic Engineer.
"Charlie, hey." Words started to stumble out of my mouth. "I can help get us out of here-"
"Don't. Talk." Charlie growled.
"I just want to help-"
"Foxy, don't push it." Uniform warned, her eyes darting between the Charlie and me.
"I told you to wait." Charlie's voice seemed to echo worse in the sewers around us. "I said, wait."
"I thought I could just run in real quick for a look and-"
"And you got into trouble." Charlie shook her helmeted head. "It's always this or that with you. What? You think I want to order you around? You think you just get to disobey orders because you think you should be in charge?"
I froze. That wasn't it at all.
"Charlie, let's get out first." Uniform raised her hands, trying to calm her. "I know Foxy doesn't think sometimes, but she didn't mean that."
"I don't know what to think." Charlie's voice lost a bit of its gravel. "I... Foxtrot, you know I don't want this job, right? Couldn't you give me a bit of a break?"
I felt the urge to cry, even though I knew I didn't have the tear ducts. We never had those.
"Charlie..." I stumbled to find the right words. I could say something. There had to be something to fix this.
"I can make a ladder I think." Whiskey said. She held her side.
Uniform moved over to her. Uniform inspected it. She turned to Charlie.
"She's got a cracked rib. Something in the fall must've hit her." Uniform passed her hands over Whiskey. "I can start a process on it, but... combat would stall that."
Charlie shook her head. "Whiskey, you still up to making a ladder?"
"Charlie, I'm sorry." I blurted. "I know I fucked up here. I know you think I do these things out of spite or something against you, but I don't mean to do that, I really don't and now Whiskey is hurt and this always ends with us fighting or something and I just want to find a way to explain why I always do this to you and the truth is that I really..."
I stopped myself from saying 'love' at the end of my sentence. The three others stared at me. Whiskey tilted her head.
"Wait." Whiskey paused, as if processing something difficult. "You- Charlie you understood that, right?"
"I- that was a such..." Charlie just shook her head. "Uniform, could you translate for those of us who don't speak at the speed of sound?"
Uniform put a hand over her face. "Three words, Foxy. Three words."
"Uh..." My mouth didn't want to move all of a sudden.
"Oh come on. You always go on for hours about it normally." Uniform turned to Charlie. "She's in love with you. Even since she first came out of Chamber."
Charlie's head jerked back as if slapped. "Love?"
"Uniform!" I pursed my lips in annoyance. Of course no one else could see that.
"Oooooh." Whiskey nodded. "It all makes sense now."
"I really don't want to talk about this now." Charlie said. "Let's get out of the hole, then we can worry about whatever awkward feelings people have, ok?"
Whiskey turned to get back to her goetic work. I turned back to the dark sewers around us. I focused on them. I hoped they could make my embarrassment go away.
A long, pinkish-orange tentacle erupted from the dark. My eyes widened. I popped backward. I transited right before Charlie. I could see her eyes through her helmet. Her cheeks looked red and puffy.
"I don't want to hear-"
I grabbed her and turned her head toward the thing emerging from the dark.
A morass of orange and pink tentacles slid up the pile of debris we'd skidded down on. The massive thing had to be bigger than each of us. Tentacles curled away from three massive limbs. Each limb grasped onto the ground in turn, rolling the giant thing like a wheel. A wheel made of tentacles and thin, slimy antennae.
Whiskey and Uniform turned their heads as well. Whiskey let out a low whistle.
Then she added, "oh. Just great. Something bigger."
Oh, dang. Something bigger!
Got to do some serious action. Combat is one of those hard things to articulate I think in writing. I kinda like writing about it, but for the challenge.
This week I sort of dived right and tight on InTransitMonsters. I could lie and say that I didn't plan Foxtrot/Charlie, but that isn't true. Most of the characters in this tale are female because I seriously just wanted to write something with few men in the center of it.
I feel weird saying this, but I've never thought too much on the subject of writing people who aren't white males like I am. As someone game masters a fair deal, I tend to have to play a bunch of different kinds of people all the time. Writing about several people of one gender or another culture seems right.
The platitude is to "not write stereotypes" but write what you know. What I do know is that most women are just as capable as men, especially the ones involved in my own life. The question is whether or not others feel my writing does that, or if I'm just blowing smoke.