From Above

by

Jeremy Robinson




When my arm came off, I knew something wasnít right. It wasnít the pain, because there wasnít any, it was the way it detached from my body -- as though a small portion of the world was suddenly freed from the pull of Earthís gravity. My arm rose up, cut clean, still clinging to my C130 Magnum, and disintegrated, piece by piece until nothing was left. But not just my arm; a perfect circle of the warehouse was carved out as if by a giant, invisible cookie cutter. Everything within the warehouse and the earth beneath that was inside the affected radius simply floated free and then disappeared -- atomized. There was no explosion, no twisting of metal or bursting of pipes, it happened as silent as a mouse fart and was over in seconds.

As far as I could tell, I was standing at the edge of ground zero. Another foot forward and I would have joined the three perps I had cornered in the warehouse. Poor bastards were either in deeper than The Authority thought or did something to really piss off God.

I looked up and saw the sky; at least it looked clear during the day. A hole fifty feet wide had been carved into the roof of the warehouse, one of several warehouses which I had been checking for Dretch production. Being a narc wasnít my idea of important police work, but some of the hot shots up-town didnít like my style. Of course, that would all change now.

Peering down into the hole, created by whatever invisible force was at work, I came to the realization that this was going to be a big case, maybe the biggest ever. And with me as the only survivor, Iíd be back in business.

A tingling in my arm tore my attention away from the gaping hole and thoughts of the future. A stump wiggled below my shoulder. I swore I could still feel my arm moving, but the smell of burnt flesh confirmed my suspicions. Whatever had taken my arm had also cauterized the wound, and it happened so fast that my nervous system didnít even register the catastrophic wound. What was worse, my leathers were ruined.

I decided that Iíd find out who took my arm and make sure they paid for what they did. At the very least, they could buy me a new tact-suit.

####

That was a year ago. Shit.

Sure, Iím up-town. Iíve got a new synthetic limb that puts my old arm to shame. But I had to buy my own damn new tact-suit and Iím no closer to finding out who put a mile-deep hole in the earth. The tech-boys tell me it came from an object in orbit, which makes finding the source near impossible. Back in the twentieth century the human race started putting things in space. Three thousand years later and we havenít stopped. At night itís impossible to tell whatís a star and whatís some yuppieís space-winni.

A layer of crap, a half mile thick, surrounds the earth on all sides and bulges at the middle, like the rings of Saturn. And with almost as many people living up there as there are down here, finding out who or what owes me a refund for this tact-suit is near impossible. The fact that only three wanted felons and my arm were taken makes this case a low priority. Until someone decides to take another pot shot at the earth again, Iím grounded. Not that Iím complaining. My new partner is a fox.

"You on dretch or something, Priest? Watch the freakin' lanes."

Rehna has a way with words that I always enjoy.

I twist the wheel and dodge some old lady driving way too slow for air-trans. She should have stayed on the ground with the rest of the simps. Damn people, afraid of technology. When the human race took to the skies en masse it gave us room to breathe and new freedoms that led to a technological renaissance that lasted for thousands of years. Cities grew up, thousands of feet tall. Vehicles took to the air, traveling faster, safer. Life sped up. Got better.

But not everyone took to the air. Some, afraid of change, stayed on the ground -- living slow, unproductive lives; hugging trees, driving cars with wheels and sniffing the damn daisies. Arenít many simps left now-a-days. Good thing too.

"Daydreaming again?" Rehna asks me with a smirk.

"Not about you, so donít get your hopes up." Sheís gonna love that.

"Do you want me to land and beat you like a school girl?" Her face is turning red. Sheís either embarrassed or about to shoot me. I decide to find out.

"Keep talking. I think Iím fallin' in love."

"Thatís it." I see Rehna take the wheel but it doesnít quite register in time. Weíre hurtling straight for the ground. My instincts tell me to take the wheel, to scream, but I know Rehna. Sheís not suicidal.

Our air-trans mobile unit comes to a stop five feet above the ground, face down. If it were a civilian unit weíd be a smudge on the pavement, but these sleek new mobile units can stop on a dime and cruise at nearly the speed of sound. Itís sleek and smooth, the way I like my women, but I canít say I like the light blue color. Kind of Nancy if you ask me.

The hatch opens and I fall five feet onto the pavement. She knew I wouldnít be wearing my belt. I hear Rehnaís boots hit the pavement behind me. A second later I here the hum of her C130 warming up. We have a winner. Sheís gonna shoot me. Now I know Iím falling in love.

"On your feet," Rehna tells me.

I stand and turn to face her; damn she looks hot in a tact-suit. I gotta remember to thank the man who designed them. Theyíre projectile proof, which is nice, as most perps canít afford C130s. But the hot laser Rehnaís packing will cut through me like a slab of lard. I admire the curves of her body which are accentuated by the tightness of the black tact-suit. Her belt hangs loose on her hip ... My eyes linger.

"Ugh. Thatís it," Rehna says. Sheís losing patience with me. Her C130 falls to the ground. Her belt falls next. This is getting interesting.

Rehna swings high and then low, missing both times. Sheís fast, Iíll give her that. But Iíve got ten years experience on her and can scan her like an unsecured porn server.

"This is stupid," I say, but I donít think it goes through.

I duck two more swings and a third catches my arm. Too bad for her, she picked the wrong arm. Cling! My synthetic arm is hard as steel and she hit it with enough force to knock out a Rhino. Her thick glove keeps her fingers from shattering and she lets out little more the a stifled grunt. Sheís tougher than I thought, coming at me from the other side. I feel the breeze of her fist nearly miss my face. Too close.

I step back and prepare to end a fight that should have never begun. I told The Authority adding women to up-town was a bad idea. Of course, they didnít listen and now I have to teach Rehna a lesson. One punch to the side should do, donít want to ruin her pretty face.

As I clench the fist in my human arm a slight aberration in my vision catches my attention. My memory surges back to the warehouse. I saw the same distortion right before I lost my arm. My eyes track up. A wavering visual phenomenon, like heat rising from hot pavement, cuts straight through the center of a ten thousand foot behemoth, constructed a thousand years ago.

Whack! My check burns with pain after Rehnaís punch connects. But my eyes donít leave the sky. Rehna must have noticed because I donít feel a second punch -- good thing too, the first almost broke my jaw. What a woman.

Then it happens. Just like before. Gravity ceases to exist. Half of the behemoth and what looks like miles of other buildings come loose and float toward the sky, turning to dust as they move. Then itís over.

Down the street I see a hole like the Grand Canyon, but I canít see the other side. Itís beyond the horizon. Then I hear the screams; folks panicking, shrieking in fear. We kick into gear and head for the mobile unit. Rehnaís in and buckled up in seconds, but two nearby noises catch my attention. Both are whiny, one from above, one from below. I turn to the second and see a little girl, the daughter of some simp probably, but still just a kid.

"Priest, move it! The whole thingís comin down!" Rehna sounds panicked. Thatís not good.

I look up and see what remains of the behemoth begin to crumble. I run for the girl, arms stretched out. The mobile unitís engines are loud behind me. Rehnaís on the ball.

The girl must sense my urgency because sheís running for me now. I scoop her up like a football and look over my shoulder. Rehnaís coming on fast. Thank god she left the hatch open. This is going to be close.

I toss the girl back and she lands hard in my seat. Probably hurt like hell, but at least sheíll live. Canít say the same for me though. Letís hope Rehnaís reading my mind and doesnít want to kill me.

The mobile unit is on my heels when I jump into the air. I feel the closed hatch sliding beneath me, then the hard metal of the rear casing. I dig my mechanical fingers into the metallic roof and feel a tug as Rehna hits the accelerator, making a B-line for the edge of the city.

Like a falling redwood, the solid building begins to topple above my head, its shadow looming and blocking out the sun. My face begins to sting as dust moving past at one hundred fifty miles-per-hour scours my skin. Rehna must be able to see what Iím seeing. We have ten thousand feet of twisting metal and cement to outrun. As we hit the two hundred mile an hour mark I think about how much of a bitch paper work for today is going to be back up up-town. Then I remember there may not be an up-town left.

We hit four hundred miles an hour and Iím not thinking anything. My face is burning like its being held against an open flame and the skin stitched to my sinth-arm feels like itís going to tear off. The wind is so loud in my ears I donít hear the explosion as the building hits the ground behind us, leveling miles of city blocks and destroying several other buildings.

The mobile unit slows to a stop somewhere outside of the city. I donít know where, wasnít really paying attention. My forward momentum carries me over the roof and I slide across the hatch, landing on the pavement.

I look up and see Rehna leaning down above me. "You still alive, Priest?"

"Been worse. Help me up."

I stand to my feet and see my reflection in the mobile unitís slick paint job. "Damn."

"What is it?" Rehna asks me.

I look at my tact-suit, torn and shredded on my body, hanging like a limp corpse. "Now they owe me two tact-suits."

Rehna smiles.

####

With most of up-town reduced to atoms there isnít anyone left to report to. Hell, I might be the highest ranking cop in town. All city bound lines of communication are inoperable, so I turn to the next best source of information. The dashboard sat-link blinks on and is instantly filled with the image of a screaming woman. She appears to be reporting on the wave of destruction that just ravaged my city, but sheís incoherent. Useless.

"Channels one through fifty, news filter priority one." The sat-link responds to my voice like an obedient dog, filling the screen with twenty three thumbnail feeds. I scan the images and listen to the mix of voices.

"English only." One by one, images disappear. Only five remain when itís done. Three show women reporters crying their guts out. Another displays a man wailing like a stuck pig -- embarrassing. The fifth shows an aerial shot of the carnage. Something had carved a clean, perfectly round hole in the center of the city, miles wide and countless fathoms deep. Millions of lives have been lost.

Rehna gasps. "My God."

Women ...

The kid is sitting in Rehnaís lap, staring intently at the screen, eyes wide. Kidís taking it all in stride. Probably not old enough to be an emotional wreck yet.

"Track five, audio only. Enlarge." The image of the destruction fills the screen.

The voice of a reporter speaks calmly over the feed. "Once again, as it did a year ago, a sinister force from orbit has struck the earth. The source of the devastation is still unknown and with The Authority headquarters destroyed, chances are, we will never know where and when this evil force might strike again. Scientists studying the clean cut hole of last yearís attack could not identify what kind of weapon was used, only that is far more advanced than anything in the World Districtís arsenal. Could technology finally be turning on -- "

Before I have time to react the kid reaches out and messes with the sat-link controls, losing the feed.

"What the hell, kid? Donít touch this shit," I say briskly while attempting to readjust the controls.

"Move your damn hand," the kid barks at me.

I stop and give her the coldest stare I can muster -- sends most mutts running scared. But the kid just gives it back to me.

"Whatís your name, kid?"

"Well, it ainít kid."

I wait.

"Gawyn."

"Well, Gawyn. I ainít letting no simp mess with my mobile unit."

"Good. Cause I ainít no simp, old man."

Old man? Kidís looking to get a close up look at my knuckles talking like that. I clench my left fist. Then I feel a squeeze on my shoulder. Rehnaís glaring at me. "Let her play with the freakin' sat-link, Priest."

I smile. "There you go talking dirty to me again."

Gawyn goes to work. Her fingers are a blur on the screen, working the controls masterfully, faster then I could even with the synth-arm. My eyes widen with every half second, cause thatís all it takes for her to access The Authorities satellite mainframe. Sheís no simp. Sheís a damn cyber-genius.

"What are you doin, kid?"

"The anti-matter pulse came from orbit."

"Anti-matter pulse?" Rehnaís as confused as I am.

"Thatís just what I call it. I detected its energy field twenty minutes before the pulse. Thatís how I got out of the target area in time, but just barely."

"You can detect it?" I ask, knowing itís a dumb question.

"Duh. Any kid with a old 40Gig system and a sat-link could detect it. But you have to look for it. Auto detection wonít pick it up as more than a temporary heat-spike."

"And you were looking for it?"

"Since last year." The kidís fingers continue across the controls. She breaches several protected servers and accesses classified surveillance systems. "Itís the most kick-ass weapon since the history of time."

The kid looks me in the eyes. "Youíre must be lucky or something. Missed you twice now."

Rehna and I look at each other. "You know who I am?"

"Who doesnít. Your wrinkly face was pasted to every sat-link transmission for a month .... Of course, not everyone has been tracking you for the last year. You know, for all your research, you didnít find much."

I look the kid in the eyes and try not to blink. "Youíve been spying on me for a year?"

"Itís not like itís hard, you know." The kid smiles. I had one of the most secure systems in the city and she probably sees it as a playground. Damn kids today. "Youíve been trying to find out what happened that day ... what took your arm, and your tact-suit, youíre obsessed with tact-suits."

Iím losing patience. "Get to the point."

"When I detected the heat spike I came to find you. The anti-matter pulse cut the engines off my hyper-scooter, almost got me too, and I crashed just outside the target area. Thatís when I found you. I knew that you, more than anyone else, would take action once I told you what I know."

I raise an eyebrow. Itís all Iím willing to give.

Gawyn taps one last button on the sat-link. A diagram of earth orbit and every piece of space junk currently above the city blinks onto the screen. One of the objects is highlighted with a red circle.

"And this is?"

"Howíd you ever become a cop?"

Kidís a wise ass. I like her.

Gawyn rolls her neck and speaks quickly. "I figured that if the antimatter pulse fired on this city again that it was probably in a geosynchronous orbit above us."

"Okay ..."

"This cuts out bazillions of other possible suspect satellites."

Rehna leans forward. "Meaning weíre left with the millions of orbiting objects currently over the city.

"Right, but not everything up there is geosynchronous and the fact that nothing in orbit was destroyed means that what weíre looking for is on the bottom layer of a half mile of junk."

Damn kid is smart. Not even the tech-boys could have figured this out. Good thing too, now that theyíre all dead.

"Now weíre left with only a few thousand targets."

"And youíve narrowed it down to one?" Rehna asks.

Gawyn nods.

"How?"

"Itís hot," I say, finally catching up with the kid.

"Right, but not for long. Itís already cooling off."

I activate the hatch and it seals down over us. "What are you doing?" Rehna asks.

"Buckle up," I tell them.

Gawyn looks nervous. "I donít have a seatbelt!"

I smile. "Better double up then."

Rehana and Gawyn wrap a belt around the two of them and I gun the throttle to the max, pulling more Gís than a Disney Universe shuttle pod. I aim for the sky, swerving in and out of airborne traffic, most of it fleeing the city. Three minutes later, we clear ten thousand feet and leave most of the traffic behind.

"Priest, what are you planning to do?" Rehna asks. I can tell sheís afraid of the answer. I try to go easy on her.

"Even been in space?" I ask.

Rehna and Gawyn stare at me blankly. The kid explodes, "Bring me back! Bring me back down!"

"I canít" I say as calmly as possible.

"Why not?" Gawyn shouts.

"Cause, kid, I might need you."

Gawyn stares at me. I can feel her trying to gauge my seriousness. Her eyes narrow. "Youíre right, old man. You do need me."

"I hate to break it to you, Priest, but mobile units arenít rated for space travel." Rehna is trying to remain calm. Iím pretty sure that if the kid werenít on her lap she might fight me for the controls.

"Actually, thatís not entirely true. Up-town may not have let me change the color, but they did let me make a few modifications." I canít help but smile.

"Priest ...What modifications?"

I respond by opening a panel next to my right knee. After flipping a switch, the mobile unit beings to shake as loud whirs and clacks emanate from the back. Sounds like weíre falling to pieces, but I know better. Rehna screams as we lose power and our ascent slows.

Just as our forward momentum ceases and gravity reclaims its pull on our mobile unit at twenty-five thousand feet, the secondary propulsion unit kicks in, slowly at first, but building in power with each passing nano-second. Suddenly with a burst of speed, weíre flattened against our seats, skin stretching back as we enter Earthís crowded orbit.

####

For the first time since Iíve joined the force, Iím wearing my seatbelt. Hard to drive in zero grav when you keep floating off the seat. Kidsí having too much fun, working the sat-link upside down, drifting in the cabin. Rehna just looks mortified ...or is it pissed? Kind of hard to tell with Gawyn spinning around between us.

"Which way, kid?"

"Gawyn. My name is Gawyn, old man."

"Fine ...Gawyn. Which way?"

"Well, Priest, straight-a-freekin-head."

Through the windshield is a mass of floating objects. Some are satellites, serving some purpose to someone. Some are space-decks, orbiting apartment units for people afraid of gravity. The rest is crap, trash tossed into space by folks in the late twentieth century when they ran out of room for their trash. They figured it would all just float aimlessly through space for all eternity. Dumb bastards didnít count on picking it all back up a year later when they caught up with their own shit. The thought that this is only a yearís worth of trash makes me sick.

"Heat signature is faint, but weíre within fifty meters," Gawyn says.

All eyes scan the debris field. Some of the trash separates and we enter a clearing, twenty meters wide, twenty tall. Strange.

I cut the gas and we drift forward, toward the center of the clearing, where a satellite floats alone. Itís big, the size of an air-bus. At its base, pointed toward the Earth is what appears to be a satellite dish attached to three metallic coils extending out like a solidified DNA sequence.

Fwang! A series of laser blasts ricochet off the mobile unitís hull. The kid jumps back, away from the windshield, but thereís nothing to get cranky about. "Ratchet down, Gawyn. Lasers barely left a scratch."

Rehna looks at me, more relaxed now that weíre seeing action. "Maybe theyíll let you change the paint color now?"

The smile on my face must tell all because Rehna looks away quickly. Never in my life has a woman remembered something Iíve said unless it was an insult. Of course, now might not be the best time to think about it, weíre under attack.

Fwang! Fwang! Lasers barrage the outside of the mobile unit doing nothing more than providing a cheesy lightshow. "Must be low yield," I say.

"Probably to deflect space junk," Rehna adds.

I steer us toward the satellite and pull up close next to what looks like a maintenance hatch. Then it occurs to me, this might not just be a satellite ...maybe itís a space station. Someone might be alive inside this thing.

As we come within inches of the orbiting beastís hull, the laser fire dies off. Gives me a chance to inspect the outer surface for clues as to who owes me money. "Shit," I say, now knowing Iíll never get reimbursed for my tact-suit.

"What is it?" Rehna asks.

"Mooners," Gawyn spits out. "Dirty Mooners."

Fifteen hundred years ago a moon colony was established and its population grew. Low grav made them multiply like rabbits on dretch. But their advance in everything techie grew just a fast and they quickly adapted to supporting a massive population. It was one of the most modern facilities ever built and larger than any earth city at the time. Damn toilets probably wiped their asses for them.

Millions were thriving when Albin was born. The bastard rose to power two hundred years after the colony was formed. He was some kind of religious zealot and fancied himself as Godís divine prophet. And the Mooners, ungrateful little whelps, whining about being controlled by us Earthers, staged a brutal and savage revolt. Under Albinís direction, a series of hit and run attacks on Earth cities were carried out. The cowards couldnít stand toe to toe with us so they took aim at normal people, the simps, the young, the yuppies, people who never see the inside of a Mobile Unit. Killed thousands. They forced Earth to retaliate. Rather than wipe the Mooners clean from the moon with nukes, like I would have done, the government at the time opted to carry out a strategic strike aimed at Albin himself.

A single Earth agent managed to infiltrate Albinís organization and rose to power from within as a trusted General. Too bad for Albin; he lost his head while taking a crap. A single, high caliber bullet splattered his brains against the bathroom wall. Got what he deserved too. But he died a martyr. The Mooners continued to piss and moan and soon gained their independence. Not much has been heard from them since. The colony hasnít grown in size. No new construction has been reported -- but from the insignia on the outside of this satellite, I now know that theyíve kept busy over the years.

I attach the docking seal to the side of the satellite, another modification. The sat-link gives the OK and I unbuckle myself and float through the tight opening into the mobile unitís backside. With my new C130 tight in my hand I head for the hatch.

"Wait for me." Gawyn says.

I donít even look back. "Sit your ass back down. No one moves until I say so." I can hear her fold her arms. Must not be used to being told what to do. From what Iíve seen her do with a computer this far leads me to believe she hasnít had much parental supervision. Not that parents are any good for anything other than feeding you.

I open the docking hatch and a burst of stale air surges into the mobile unit. "Ugh, smells like old farts."

Gawynís right. Something either died in here or they got a miniature cow farm tucked inside. At least the air is breathable. "Stay here," I say as I float forward, into the belly of a beast capable of wiping out entire cities.

####

Floating inside an orbiting super weapon isnít something I tend to do often. And the smells got me spooked -- so I lead with my C130 aimed high. Itís cramped inside, like a soda can just big enough for a human. I float through the entrance tube into what must be a cockpit and -- holy shit!

I fire my weapon three time with deadly accuracy; two to the chest, one to the head. Too bad the bastard is already dead, shots that precise and that quick wouldía gave me braggin' rights. But this guy is a rotting heap. He skin is tight and dry, wrapped around his skull like a facelift for the dead. Heís probably been here for years, maybe hundreds, with nothing to break down his flesh. Nothing but a human sized stick of jerky now.

For a dead guy, he packs a lot of attitude. His dried lips are frozen in a sinister grin and his two middle fingers are extended toward the entrance hatch. This guy died knowing he would eventually be found. Definitely Mooners. No one else is this fanatic, to deliver a message hundreds of years after his death. A thought occurs to me; if this guy is dead, who is picking targets and firing this hunk of junk?

"Out of the way, asshole." I take the dead guy by his grey flight suit and toss him to the back of the inner cabin. I hear him hit the wall with a crack. Kind of gives me the creeps, defiling the dead like that, but Iím sure he deserves it.

My body fits in the single cockpit chair nicely. This boat was designed for a single occupant. After scanning the array of controls spread out across three separate panels I decide Iím screwed. Everything is labeled in some language Iíve never seen before. So I decide to take a chance and start pushing buttons. The first three do nothing, but the forth opens a front panel, revealing a large windshield and a stunning view of earth below. Few people ever get to see the Earth like this, with all the garbage floating in orbit, real estate on the lower levels is near impossible to find. Of course, this view has a flaw. Even from this far away, the clean cut hole in the Earth, through the heart of my city, can be seen clearly. Gonna make the bastards pay for that.

I reach for another button. "Donít touch that, you idiot!"

I canít remember ever jumping in fright, not even once in my life, but in zero grav I launch out of the seat and hit my head on the ceiling. Embarrassment keeps me from getting angry as I float above the control panels, looking down at Gawyn. Kids taking my seat at the controls, probably a good thing too, I might have ended up putting another hole in the Earth.

Rehna floats in through the entrance tunnel. "Sorry, Priest. I tried to stop her."

Gawyn looks up at me. "Can you read Mooner?"

"No."

"Really? No kidding." Gawyn brims with sarcasm. "Cause I couldía sworn you wanted to kill us all."

I donít argue.

Gawyn starts with the magic fingers again. Screens blink to life. The power comes online in full. The air is purified, thank God. I push down from the ceiling to get a closer look at the display screens. Images flash past quickly as Gawyn tears through the complex computer system. Then she stops and looks up at me, floating above her.

"Iím in," she says.

"In where?"

"Mooner city. Their database."

"Kid, you want a job with The Authority, you got it." She smiles and for the first time I notice sheís cute. Not that I go around calling kids cute that often, most of them are about as pleasant looking as an over used snot rag. But Gawyn, she manages to serve a purpose and ainít bad to look at at the same time.

I get lost in my thoughts and fail to notice the changes on the screen. "Priest, are you seeing this?" Rehna asks me.

The screen displays text and images: war machines, tactical gear, a diagram of Earth with hundreds of orbiting satellites lit up in green. "What the hell?"

Gawyn reads my mind and digs deeper on the satellites. She brings up a detailed schematic and tactical information. "Move over," Rehna says, and I push to the side. Rehna can read faster than lightning. One of her eyes was shot out two year back, before I knew her, and she got some new-fangled eye. Lets her scan pages of information like a robot taking snapshots. Rehna scrolls through the information and even the kid canít keep up.

"Holy ..." Iíve never seen Rehna look so stunned. She looks me in the eyes, but the connection Iíve felt between us is buried deep beneath a sense of dread. "Weíve got an hour before three hundred of these satellites open fire on the rest of Earthís major cities. Priest, theyíve been planning this for the last twenty five hundred years"

I roll with the biggest mental punch Iíve ever received. "The last legacy of Albin. And then what?"

"Invasion."

"So they turn the Earth to Swiss cheese and then invade," I say. "Doesnít sound like the Earth will be worth keeping around."

"It wonít be," says Rehna as plain as day.

My eyes widen with the realization that the Mooners donít mean to take over Earth, they mean to destroy it ...or at least everyone living on it.

I blink and the kidís back to work, flying her fingers across the consoles, working the keys. "What are you doing?" I ask.

"I ainít letting no Mooners take out my planet," Gawyn replies. "I got friends down there you know."

A loud hummm emanates from the rear of the satellite and the walls begin moving around my floating body. Sheís turning the satellite, aiming at a different target ...aiming at the moon. I canít help but smile. This kidís a fighter, but I canít let her be a killer.

"Out of the seat, Gawyn, Iíll take it from here."

"But ..."

"Now."

Gawyn huffs and floats out of the seat. I resume my place behind the controls. "Okay, now tell me what to do."

Gawyn talks as fast as she types and I do my best to keep up. Within minutes we have the weapon powered up and aimed straight at Mooner central, which Rehna thinks contains the majority of their control centers, population and army, awaiting orders to begin the invasion of Earth. If weíre lucky we can take them all out in one shot.

"Increase the target radius," Gawyn instructs me. "We can take them out in one shot." There she goes, reading my mind again.

As I increase the target radius, a blue bar races across the screen, turning green, yellow, orange and then red. Rehna looks over my shoulder. "Taking a shot that big is going to overload the system. Iíd rather not die up here if itís all the same to you."

"If we leave even one control system intact they could still plug the Earth full of holes. Iím not gonna let that happen, even if it kills us all." Rehna doesnít argue, neither does Gawyn. Figures, Iím minutes away from dying and Iíve finally found a family I could used to. Oh well.

A vibration tickles my ass beneath the seat as the weapon reaches full charge. I can feel the raw power being built up. Before I can finish my thoughts on how the Mooners were able to leap ahead of us technologically, I see movement in the debris field between us and the moon. Four men in space suits with rocket packs come at us like laser rounds. "We got company," I say plainly.

"Who are they?" Gawyn asks.

"Doesnít matter." I look at their weapons. They look powerful enough to destroy the satellite before we can get a shot off. "Can we set this thing on a timer?"

"I donít know!" Gawynís starting to panic.

I take her by the shoulders. "You stay here. Set a timer on this thing." I look at Rehna. "Stay with her."

Rehna takes my shoulder as I head for the exit. "Be careful," she says.

Whatís this mushy stuff? Weíre trying to save the world from Mooner terrorists and my partner is about to cry over my freakin' life, which I have yet to lose and donít intend to lose. Ahh, screw it. Iím growing tired of being the rude, manly hero anyway. I take Rehna by the waist and pull her toward me, an easy feat in zero grav, and plant a wet one on her lips. I feel my normal stew of negative feelings cool to a light simmer before I pull away. Rehna floats away from me, looking stunned -- and stunning. Now I know I love her.

Before Rehna can say something to change my mind, I launch through the docking seal and back into the mobile unit. I fire up the engines and prep the weapons systems. No way Iím gonna let these punks kill my girls.

####

The assailants pause at the sight of me bearing down on them in a fully armed mobile unit. I donít give them time to figure out what to do. I take aim at the two closest to one another and open up with a lase-sweep. The solid beam of red hot energy slices through space, cutting the two men in half like meat on the butchers block. The other two rocket away, weaving in and out of the debris field.

They think theyíre getting away. Theyíre wrong. Obviously, these jokers have never seen what a mobile unit is capable of, or they wouldnít be fleeing in a fairly straight line. Probably think all the junk between me and them will slow me down. Heh, this is going to be fun.

I switch on the mobile unitís auto defense system and step on the gas. My cannons open up on all sides and unleash Hades. Every hunk of crap within twenty feet is turned into space dust. Anything missed by the cannons, I just plow through. Good thing thereís no sound in space or these jokers would hear me coming, like angry avalanche ...with guns. Too much fun.

I lock on to one with an intelrocket. This is gonna scare the crap out of that last guy. The rocket flings through space, dodging debris with incredible agility. Aside from teleporting, thereís no way to escape an intelrocket once itís locked on. Two seconds later, the third man explodes in a silent splash of guts, leaving just one more.

He must have seen bits of his friend fly past because his movements become erratic. Hasnít he learned that shaking me is impossible? The man takes a ninety degree turn and I follow with ease, clearing a wide path for myself the whole way. I lose sight with the man and suddenly burst free of the debris and into a clearing.

Shit! Shit, shit, shit. I should have seen this coming. At the center of the clearing is, what appear to be, three Mooner versions of my mobile unit. They open fire with everything theyíve got.

I turn hard right and take two hits to my left side. Shakes me up, but Iím otherwise unscathed. After turning off the defense systems, I launch into the debris field, weaving in and out of old satellites and garbage cans. I know I can lose them, but it might buy me some time ...but for what.

I turn on the com system and try Rehna. "Rehna, this is Priest. You copy?"

"Roger, Priest. We copy. Where the hell are you?"

"Got some unwelcome guests on my tail. How close are you to pulling the trigger?"

"Ready when you are."

Fwash! A laser skims off the hull. Getting closer.

"I want you to wait until Iím in your sights. Then fire that thing, full power."

I hear the kid grab the line. "You canít! Thatís crazy!"

"Shut-up, kid." No time to play wet-nurse. "Pull the trigger or Iím gonna die anyway." I hang up, not in the mood for goodbyes.

After entering the path I carved earlier I floor it, pouring on the speed like a cybernetic cheetah. Theyíre right on my ass. Fast little bastards. I make a B-line for the Mooner weaponís attack zone and set the controls: straight ahead, full speed. I take my biohazard mask from its compartment and strap it to my head, might help me survive.

I pick up the com. "Rehna?"

"Weíre ready, Priest," she replies, voice wavery.

"I need you to go ahead and open the outer airlock doors."

She responds just the way I like it. "Done."

"Be ready to seal the airlock on my signal."

"What signal?"

"Youíll know."

Bachoom! A shot hits me directly in the rear. Then another and another. Better make this quick.

"Priest, you got five seconds before we fire."

I pop the hatch and it floats away at five hundred miles per hour. I push of the floor and float out of the cab at the same speed as I enter the target area. The three Mooner ships continue after the ship, guns blazing. Probably thought I was a piece of shrapnel they blew off. Their mistake, my salvation.

Reaching out with my synth-arm, I wield a grappling hook, which I launch toward the Mooners satellite. It finds it home, imbedded in the metal hull and catches tight. At five hundred miles per hour, even in space the pull is incredible. It takes all of my cybernetic strength to hold on as I swing wide, out of range. A second later, my vision blurs as the weapon fires and the three Mooner ships cease to exist, along with my mobile unit.

My chest begins to burn as I long to take a breath, but I know if I do, Iíll just suck in the cold of space. The face mask over my eyes holds nicely and gives me the ability to aim where Iím going, spinning around the satellite, over and over again like a wild tetherball getting closer and closer to the pole. My speed slowed at first, but has picked back up with every revolution. This is gonna hurt.

On my last revolution, I can tell that my aim was true. Instead of slamming into the outer hull, Iím about to be flung inside the open airlock. I lead with my synth-arm, letting it take the majority of the impact and using it to slow the rest of my body before I slam into the airlock doors.

The impact knocks the wind out of me and I feel desperate to suck in air. But I know if I do, Iím dead. My vision starts going black and I concentrate on keeping my mouth shut, clenching my jaw. I feel hands grab my shoulders and pull, but itís the last thing I sense.

####

I wake up ten minutes later to the sound of Gawyn yelling up a blue streak. "What are we gonna do! Weíre gonna be splattered!"

After opening my eyes, I quickly survey the situation. Through the windshield I see the Earth spinning below and coming up quick. I must have knocked the satellite out of orbit when I hit. Better lay off the cheese burgers.

My stomach turns as I feel gravity begin to take control. A sudden jerk pulls me off the floor and I fall down the now vertical satellite. I fall past Gawyn and Rehna, and slam onto the windshield, face down. I open my eyes to a close up view of Earthís surface. But now itís approaching more slowly.

I roll over onto my back and face Gawyn and Rehna, their eyes wide. "I think itís safe to say this thing has a parachute."

"And hard freakin' glass," Gawyn says with a smile.

I smile back. Kidís making me all warm and freakin' fuzzy. Maybe Iíll retire.

####

After twenty minutes of floating through the sky, we land back in the city, on the top of one of the few remaining ten thousand foot buildings. Popping the hatch proves a challenge for my weary and burning muscles, but my synth-arm is still up to the task. Weíre greeted by the cool night air, kept clean and breathable by air scrubbers running up the sides of every building in town. I suck the air in like a siphon.

The girls climb down the side of the satellite one at a time, both refusing my help. Iím just shocked that I offered to begin with. As I roll my neck back, letting the bones crack back into place I notice how bright the stars are. Stars ... I laugh as I realize that when the weapon was fired it cleared a clean hole over the city. Probably killed a bunch of civies in the process, but you know what they say about breaking a few eggs.

My vision follows the stars to a bright object floating in space that Iíve only seen in books. The moon. With all the crap orbiting the planet, no one on the surface has seen the moon for a thousand years. Probably just the way they liked it, being able to move in concealment, like sneaking up on a scared kid hiding under the blankets. Too bad for them, this scared kid got hold of a big gun.

A perfectly round hole the size of Maine stares back from the Moonís surface -- evidence that any threat from the moon has been wiped out. Any Mooner force remaining are probably scattering in a confused daze, unsure where to run. Rehna and Gawyn stand next to me, staring up in silence. Hard to believe we did that." Rehna says.

I look her in the eyes. "Think theyíll let me go back up there and turn it into a smiley face?"

She just smiles back and takes my hand. Feels funny, but I let it linger. A pressure on my finger brings my eyes back down and I see Gawyn holding onto my index finger. My muscles tense and I fight the urge to shrug them both off, but after wiping out an entire civilization, Iíve destroyed enough lives for one day. I pick the kid up and throw her over my shoulders. With my arm around Rehna, I head for the roof stairwell, thinking about starting a new life. Maybe Iíll get a dog too.

Heh, Iím all freakin' heart.

THE END



© 2005 by Jeremy Robinson

Jeremy Robinson says "I am the author of The Screenplay Workbook and the Barnes&Noble.com bestselling novel, The Didymus Contingency. I have also had a few short stories published as well as the article: The Difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy (in Script Magazine). Before writing novels and short stories I wrote screenplays (14 of them) some of which were optioned and produced." Visit Jeremy Robinson Author for details and reviews of his work.

E-mail: Jeremy Robinson

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