I Won!

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“I think we should pimp you out, honey. Those Japanese guys I mentioned, they’d pay you fistfuls of filthy lucre just to watch you and me get it on. Then there’s the women who’d kill for half an hour with you. Oh and then there’s the men. You’d be set for life, and then some. That’s even before you start talking about floor shows and interviews and guest appearances –”

“Glory, I just want to spend time with you and do some research.” He cradled her to him in the single cabin of the small ship. They were still undecided on a name for it; this topic proved to be the source of their first full scale quarrel. If she could have made him sleep on a sofa, she would have, but mixing gas giant inhabitants with zero gee and the lack of sofas kind of put a damper on that idea.

“I know, sweetie, but it’s fun to think about.” She rolled over and let her back snuggle into his blazing heat. It was bliss having a furnace for a boyfriend, even though it meant wearing a sweater whenever not snuggling. “I guess interstellar trade and transport will have to be good enough.”

“Good enough? Glory, the possibilities! On every journey we’ll get to run a whole new survey on the intervening interlacing magnetic fields. And the observations I could do with respect to gravity! Oh, but Glory, even without that, I could study the stars forever. Over and over, every trip, mapping them out and getting their spectrums and plotting their courses … it would be bliss.”

“You are so funny. Astronomy isn’t your field.”

“On my world, astronomy wasn’t anyone’s field. We couldn’t see the stars. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. Would you really want me to waste that lifetime in studios and hotel rooms making pornographic three-vees and being ‘pimped out’?”

“No, sweetie. I said I was kidding. But I can’t help it if I’m proud of you.”

“As your sex slave.”

“As my scientist! As my hero! Francis, you saved the world!”

“Oh no, Glory. You saved the world. I just came to pick up my girlfriend.”

“You smooth talker.”

“State of the art; made in Japan.”

“You know that’s not what I mean. Come on to bed.”

“There is no bed.”

“You know that’s not what I mean.” She scritched him delightfully along the top of his tentacle skirt, and he started to hum.

“Oh, yes. Let’s!”

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Dateline Nueva York

The nation continues in turmoil today in the wake of a bizarre occurrence some are calling an attack that is nothing short of mass assassination. Millions of officials at every level of government were suddenly stricken with severe seizures, each resulting in death. This same mystery affliction heavily impacted the private sector as well; an uncounted number of top businesspeople, investors, and regulators were also stricken. The estimated death toll is well into the millions.

Around the world, some of who are considered the more extreme religious leaders in the world today took to the airwaves to declare the beginning of Armageddon, while
other groups spoke out regarding the increased need for local communities to organize themselves to maintain order. One member of a major environmentalist movement commented that today heralds the beginning of Planet Earth’s healing process.

More than one commentator has remarked on a perceived correlation between suspicions or allegations of corruption and incidence of the illness. No fewer than twenty terror organizations are claiming responsibility, though none have been substantiated.

So far there have been no reports of looting in major urban areas. Although some of the top officials in the big city police forces did succumb to the illness, plenty of low-level officers remain. They are even now reorganizing their leadership, and in many precincts are voluntarily lengthening their hours to keep an eye on at-risk neighborhoods.

The World Health Organization, formerly of the United Nations but currently an independent organization advising the executive branch of the Free World, suffered its own losses in the onslaught. A spokesperson for the WHO said that their scientists are stumped. They have been trying to isolate whatever microbe is responsible, but so far have found no evidence of infection whatsoever. All of the fallen who have been examined so far have been determined to have died of heart failure or stroke after having experienced massive seizures.

There is no way to tell at this time what the ultimate effects this attack may have on the nation, and on the world at large. At every level, power structures in this country will need to undergo a complete overhaul, and some legislators are even now proposing that now is the time to change policies and procedures that most parties agree hinder progress rather than fueling it. Business as usual may no longer be usual, as the Free World struggles to redefine itself. On the back of tragedy may come a new age, for the Free World, and for Planet Earth as well.

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There was a great deal of commotion in the house. People were cleaning up the bedroom, and doing something in the laundry room besides. Lionel told her something about genetic evidence, but she wasn’t really listening.

Everything was happening too fast. It was like that first time that Grimface came to see her in the hospital, to make these demands about her work and to assert who owns her crap. Which reminded her …

“We’re getting out of here, right?” she asked Karina. “I need the vat upstairs –”

“We have biomass vats, it’s okay. You’re not going to starve,” she said with a smile.

“You knew! You knew all along, didn’t you?”

“Of course. We’re good at this. Time to hustle.” She had hold of Glory’s elbow, and was packing her swiftly into an unmarked white cargo van in the driveway. Within seconds they were in and off down the street.

“So, where are we going?”

“First we change cars lots of times. Then we head to a safe house. You shower and eat, and I scrounge you some clothes. We chill out and see what kind of repercussions we get over the next couple of hours. I recommend a nap. Then we get on the subway.”

“I kind of had the impression we were leaving the city.”

“We are. Different subway. This one goes to our secret base, which I’m not going to talk about just now. It’s a long ride. Heh, it’s a long tunnel. You wouldn’t believe how long it took to dig that sucker out, even with intel from the inside as to soil density and the like.”

“And is this secret base our point of, er, planetary departure?”

“No, that’s actually another base, but we have strategy to form. And those of us sensitive to the Source need to consult. We all need to bring each other up to speed and work any kinks out of our plan.”

“But there is a plan.”

“It’s sketchy and it’s got holes, but yes, there is a plan.”

Thank Heaven for small favors, Glory thought.

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Fighters weren’t usually used for boarding, but sometimes it was necessary. Sometimes also it was necessary to keep one attached to an airlock in readiness for sudden action – more costly than a bay, but more readily deployable, too. Very good for sentry duty.

As such, the entry hatch of the fighter contained a collapsed entry tube that not only functioned as airlock and entry passage, but also expanded and contracted as needed to fit a variety of hatches. This came in terribly handy as they began to transfer Glory to the courier ship.

The whole maneuver was risky. Everyone had heard their plan broadcast in the clear, which made the enemy more eager to attack during this delicate moment, and made the defenders more attentive. The defenders swore a lot more, too. Their jobs got a lot harder.

Managing the hatchway from the inside of the wrecked shuttle took some doing. The damaged craft was warped and twisted in places, and the hatch didn’t especially want to give. Francis did what he could from his side, but for the most part it was sheer shoving from the inside that was required.

Shoving is hard in zero gee.

Tom and Emily took a pause to breathe after they got the hatch open. That’s what they said anyway, huffing and puffing as they did so. They really took a pause to get a load of Francis. He was a huge pink balloon with a skirtful of tentacles like a squid, but also with two rows of tentacles, one running up each side of him. These were smaller and more agile. Above his tentacle skirt he also had a row of fringes running in a ring around his middle. They didn’t look useful for much of anything. Sprouting off the top of him were a pair of eyestalks tipped with red-irised eyes, all iris and pupil, from what they could tell.

My god, thought Tom, he’s a strawberry nightmare.

“Uh, hi,” said Francis, or rather his voder. It translated the graceful wiggle of his tentacles, apparently, because he did a fluid sort of dance as he spoke. “You might better let me haul her. I’m rather well adapted to do without gravity.”

Tom nodded, and he and Emily handed Glory over. It might just be that he knew these two were lovers, and that colored his vision, but it seemed to him that Francis gathered her up gently and lovingly, cradling her sweetly against his ballooning form as he began to pedal back toward the fighter.

Glory screamed. Her back suddenly arched as she went into convulsions, thrashing madly in his gentle nest of arms. Her mouth was foaming, and her eyes rolled back in her head.

“What’s going on?” Tom was already flinging himself through the hatchway.

“I do not know,” said Francis, flowing Glory’s body closer to Tom so that he could see what to do. “She screamed and then began doing this. I don’t understand. Did I frighten her? How could I?”

“No,” said Tom, as he swiftly ran down the vitals. He tried to get a look at her pupils, but she was thrashing too much. “She’s having a seizure. Has she ever had one before that you know about? Did she say anything?”

“No, she never has! Will she be all right?”

“Probably. It’s too soon to tell. If she doesn’t have a history of seizures, something weird could be going on.” He thought, everything weird has been going on, so what’s he saying? “The main thing is to watch out that she doesn’t swallow her tongue. Usually we put something soft there that the person can’t choke on to keep the tongue forward and engaged.”

Francis stiffened oddly. “I, uhm,” the emotionless voice almost actually sounded embarrassed, “well, I’ve done something similar …” Caressing her face with several tentacles, he carefully placed one into her mouth, flattening the end of it, insomuch as it could be flattened. He felt a brisk rush of arousal, remembering the night she taught him some of the things that she liked, but quickly moved his mind to the matter of checking that her tongue was staying in her mouth and out of her throat.

“Look!” Emily had come into the hatchway too, and was now pointing at the fighters all about. About half were still zooming around, trying to get good shots, but the other half had begun acting crazy. Some of them had come to a halt. Some had gone into crazy spins. Some crashed into each other. Some dived straight down toward the planet at maximum speed. They were doing all different things, none of which was actually engaging in combat.

Further out, the transmission ship was beginning to twinkle, as though dusted in gold glitter. Starting at the middle, what looked like a spider’s cocoon of flashing yellow began spinning tendrils round and round the ship, over and under and around the middle. Sparkling like diamond facets, the threads kept winding themselves around and around.

Soon the entire ship was cocooned this way, and the threading process was getting faster and faster, making it look as though the ship were expanding like a balloon. The twinkles became brighter, hotter, painful to look at. What looked like a ball of jeweled thread soon apparently became what it had been all along – a ball of interlayered energies, layer upon layer of complexity adding to the whole.

Brighter and brighter the ball got as it grew. Soon it was like a miniature sun, glowing hotly and sending off flares in every direction. Then, with a skull-splitting flash, it shrank to something that looked like a tennis ball, from their position, still glowing, but rapidly dimming.

“Tom! Her heart!” Francis had several tentacles across her chest and could tell that her heart had stopped. Tom took a position with his feet against the side of the tube, immediately checking her airway and starting CPR, or trying to, anyway. Francis saw the problem immediately and braced some tentacles under his feet, using the tube walls and the side of the courier ship for leverage.

“Actually … if I can … get in a … chair shape …” Francis moved quickly to curl Tom up and brace him better. He worked hard, massaging her heart, breathing for her. Francis watched, fearing she might die now, when it appeared that all might be won after all.

“Ah, wait, here we go. We’ve got a pulse.” His head was near her mouth. “She’s breathing again, too. Oh, thank God.” He hung limply, entangled in Francis, and shared the other’s relief.

The enemy fighters around them continued to behave irrationally, and the mopping up didn’t take long. Emily popped back into the shuttle when a squawking from within called her attention. The ally fighters were now communicating in the clear, and some of them wanted to know what was going on over here.

Where could she begin?

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