Note: This is the final chapter of Void Galaxia.
If you’re still here after 210,000 words then well done, I hope your brain’s in better shape than mine.
Ah, I’m okay really.
Quite liked writing this kind of sci-fi…new-old-new, hauntological drift, VR absurdity etc. Hard to stick to the style/narrative voice at times, but the world-building elements were fun, especially the made-up filmns and anarchist stuff.
Now though I’m gonna take a break [of around two hours], edit the whole mess into a decent-looking PDF, and then put it under the MY BOOKS menu tab which is basically a null zone at this point.
That should happen sometime before July, hopefully.
Next serial up on this site?
Dah Station 7, my affectionate attempt at a Star Trek tribute that will probably end up bleak and miserable like Blake’s 7. It’s gonna be a long-running one, at least 7,000 chapters. Don’t worry, if I die mid-journey, I’ve left instructions for my wife to mechanise my skeleton so it can continue typing…quality may diminish slightly…or improve. We’ll see.
In the meantime, try Planet Rasputin. It’s also sci-fi and the PDF is free to read here.
[Chapter 61: Folds + Folds + Folds + Folds +]
‘If you are attempting telepathy, comrade, please stop. My sensors are not equipped to detect that wavelength.’
Ah To nodded, then did a lap around the orb, trying to discover where its voice was coming from.
‘Are you…’ he started to say, but had no idea how to finish his sentence.
‘I am Krr-drrd, originally from the planet Ken. My biology is starkly different from yours. I have the ability to hover in mid-air. Do not be afraid.’
‘I’m not afraid…’
‘Then the Tier-1 acclimation period is complete. Please follow the purple line to the interview room.’
By all accounts directions dregs pinned up inside my head, it was LOBBY, only now it had a white coated Christmas tree over by the couches, each hologram sitting there in a green Santa hat, same colour cocktail in hand.
‘Wait a sec…’ I said, holding Lexi back by the sleeve as she tried to move over to the new decoration, then letting go when Assta materialised to the side, top half covered in my Damijana Chu hoodie.
‘As you can observe, the scenery has been altered slightly,’ the holo-caretaker announced.
‘Of course, Christmas is not typically celebrated on this base, or in the human month of May, but the festival itself has redemptive qualities. As does the human artist’s impression of the Ondōan wormhole on the wall over there.’
‘Ah…’ I said, pivoting right and seeing that the white death spirals had been replaced by a pretty decent series of frames from Beyond The Rabbit Hole. Tsukubashi would’ve been proud. If he’d been sober enough. If he hadn’t already-
‘What is your instinct response-feeling?’
‘Positive? Neutral plus?’
I turned back to Assta, trying not to react to the smiling Terminator face…planted on top of my own hoodie. ‘Not bad. Colourful.’
‘The primary function of the change was to maintain base harmony, and emotional output is a subdivision of that.’
‘Is Juana free yet?’ interjected Lexi, standing over by the tree.
Assta pulled down both sleeves of the hoodie – that I’d finally decided couldn’t actually be mine as it wouldn’t be able to disintegrate and come back again – and glided over to an opposing branch. ‘Both Reshmi and Juana have gone on a temporary trip.’
‘You are not necessary for the recovery process. In fact, your presence there would undoubtedly prove to be disruptive.’
‘I’m literally her closest friend…’ protested Lexi, flicking at one of the branches.
‘Do not be deflated. They will be back within a day or two. Please, sit down. Absorb the new atmosphere in the lobby.’
‘Maintain base harmony?’ I asked, risking quarter of a smile.
‘Attempt some reflex zaum. Stare out at the ice-fields. Think of home. Settle.’
Ah To settled back into his new chair, which was much the same as the old one, only with slightly colder metal on the arms. He examined the blue tone of his hands, the blue sheen spread over the table and, finally, the almost imperceptibly light blue shading of the ice outside. It was a little odd, and, if he hadn’t already gone through the transitioning process, would’ve been disconcerting too. As if the whole place were just a green screen projection for a movie set on Pluto, or some other dwarf planet out in the Kuiper Belt. So detailed it had to be real yet, at the same time, so spectacularly alien that it couldn’t possibly be.
You should be careful
My sensors tell me you’re steering into the void zone, the dark trail between your old self and the Bavan over-layer
I’m just looking outside
Better to focus on your comrades at the table. More tangible, closer proximity, friendly enough to reach over and touch, stroke even
Window is fine.
‘You gave her your top?’ asked Lexi later, back in our room, one of the Phantasm sequels playing in the background.
‘Obviously it’s not mine.’
‘So she’s wearing a copy?’
‘I don’t know. Probably.’
‘Or she created one out of nothing. A hologram who could come up with anything and she makes…your weird sci-fi hoodie.’
I stared at the screen, half thinking about the flying death sphere, five eighths thinking what to do with Ah To in the next chapter of Yellow Muon Blob [one fifteenth thinking about sucking off the Tall Man to save an already dead Jody].
‘Is she trying to woo you?’
‘Don’t pretend you’re not listening. The holo-witch…is she attracted to you?’
A shriek on screen, the Tall Man revived, Reggie plugging in the acid. ‘Where’d you hear that name?’
‘She is, isn’t she?’
‘No, she’s-…they’re a hologram. They don’t have a sex drive…far as I know. And they don’t even want-…’ I stopped, playing out the rest of my sentence internally and realizing it was trouble.
Tell her that part and I’d have to explain the resonator.
Which was unexplainable.
Especially now it’d been vanquished. Wiped off the face of the base.
‘Are you glitching?’
I pointed at the screen, the teen tearaway in the hearse. ‘This is a good bit.’
‘Wah, she is chasing you. And you want her to.’
‘Denial is the first sign of truth.’
I opened my mouth to say Lexi again, and…thought about her line…pictured a Mark simulacrum ranting about how impossible it was to respond to…but that didn’t matter as now she was smiling, crawling over onto my lap, leaning into my neck and whispering, ‘actually, kinda had my eye on the yukata guy.’
‘His Japanese is quite good…tangible. And he’s always there, sitting on the same couch, receptive. Doesn’t run off to write sci-fi serials all the time.’
I pushed back up to the pillow, and said nothing as she peeled off the Tenebrae top.
In my head, two insanities:
One, this should be a scene in Yellow Muon Blob.
Two, I want Assta to watch.
And then a wildcard third.
Lexi is the Tall Man, after my brain.
And a fourth…
Ah To opened his eyes to a faint humming sound.
Straight away, he guessed it was SUN Room 7 as the walls were mostly non-descript and there was a nebulous cloud of dark amber hovering directly in front of him. Plus, he only knew about five other rooms total, one of which was his own quarters. And this wasn’t that. Yup, definitely the SUN Room. 7th Iteration.
For once, he was correct.
‘The patient has self-revived,’ said Dr. Sssssssst, flashing four distinct patches of lighter orange on its right side.
‘Wah, that was quick. Must be getting used to the stun-field.’
The final stretch of Phantasm II was a lot less dream-like than the other parts and, to me, a lot less interesting.
To Lexi too, apparently, as she detached from the bed, pulled the Tenebrae top back on, grabbed my Damijana Chu hoodie, aired it out a bit, and then turned to say she was going for a little walk.
‘Back in a bit.’
I waited out a few seconds to see if the door would slide open again, but it didn’t, she was gone, hopefully not to try and short-circuit Assta…a joke thought, phased in and right back out again…but maybe that was what she was planning to do, I had no idea.
Was she jealous?
Did Assta like me in some weird, abstract way?
I wanted no and yes in that order, and then no and no, and then kuso, I didn’t want anything, just time and space to enjoy the base for a while, write a novel around it, maybe, if I could maintain the energy of the last few days, and
I wanted Lexi
to ask about it just once, to show some kind of interest like I did with her language exchanges.
Cos I did do that.
I sat up on the bed and played back the last half day of conversation, then shifted off the bed completely and played back a little more.
Then stared down at the Yaqui textbook on the chair.
A piercing whoosh sound of the death sphere in the background.
I turned, confused at the reappearance of a slightly older Tall Man.
Then recognized it as Phantasm III.
Sat down on the bed and watched the rest of the scene.
Laughed as I remembered one of Lexi’s lines.
‘The granddad guy looks arthritic…he’s really the villain?’
Not the most fluid mover.
But effective when he says BOY.
I laughed again, ambushed by some of her other lines, put my arms back on the mattress, pictured our earlier fuck, got hard again, continued watching the filmn. The lack of extras in the background. The overturned car in each deserted town. The endless mausoleums. The aridity of-
The door was wide open when Ah To finally got the courage to go back to his room and, as he poked his head round the side, he discovered not another intruder, nor a bragging Nabian, but his sometime anchor, Arista, standing next to his bed, flicking ash from the half-burnt, dark green stick in her left hand onto the stretched out [and possibly ironed] Slazenger jacket.
‘Ah, the legend returns,’ she said, half glancing over and then flicking more ash. ‘I was just about to give up.’
Feeling light free irritated mischievous, Lexi shunned the other holograms and pulled out a stool by the window.
For one hundredth of a millisecond, she saw the street outside her LA apartment, the two Mongolian girls smoking by the car, backstabbing her openly, to any neighbour with ears, but that hole was filled with one blink, one concentrated thought about Assta’s face when she saw Mark’s own hoodie staring back at her.
The real hoodie, not a trick of light.
She paused, hearing the electric fizzzzz of evolving particles next to her, followed by a wide-rimmed glass of blue liquid on the counter by her elbow.
‘Blueberry and vodka?’
‘That is not your top,’ replied Assta, craning their head round to get a better look at Lexi’s chest. ‘Why are you wearing it?’
‘Mark wanted me to wear it…to keep warm.’
‘A direct command?’
Lexi laughed, she couldn’t help it, then picked up the glass and walked over to the couch with the new Yaqui lady. Feeling a little bit of guilt on the way, she paused and shouted back at Assta [not too loud], ‘thanks for the drink.’
Then sat down and pretended to listen to the exchange.
Was she really jealous of a hologram?
Fuck Mark, he didn’t deserve this level of…this.
Should’ve burnt the hoodie not worn it.
Assta wasn’t so bad.
She didn’t really like Mark, he’d just talked to her, shown basic interest.
Anyone could get in her holo knickers, if that’s all it took.
Not that she really wanted to seduce a-
‘… … … … … …?’ asked the Yaqui lady who didn’t look a thing like Juana, didn’t have the same colour skin, the same lunatic jolt in the eyes.
‘Sorry, my mind’s a bit wavy…’
‘… … … …?’
Lexi apologized a second time and got up, leaving the drink where it was and going over to the white Christmas tree.
Another week, and we’ll be gone.
When Juana’s better.
And Mark’s bored of this place.
We’ll get Reshmi to take us back and-…
‘I have constructed another drink for you,’ said Assta, the smoke from the new glass occluding parts of the hologram’s blank face.
‘Obrigada…but I still have the other one.’
‘It is not in your hand.’
‘I’m not that thirsty.’
‘Then I’ll put it down here until you are.’ Assta bent down to the low-level wooden table [faux-Japanese design] and put the drink that looked like a chemistry experiment next to the snowman astronaut decoration. ‘Are you hungry?’
The hologram caretaker stood back up and looked at the tree. Looked at it for two, three minutes. Pulling her hood up a bit, Lexi shifted over from the smoky drink and looked at it too.
They’re going to ask about Mark was a pretty insistent thought inside her head, replacing the previous thought of foda, is that fire drink poisoned?
‘Do you miss your home?’
Lexi broke out from the branches and looked up at Assta’s fringe. ‘Me?’
‘Is it in your thoughts from time to time? Your dreams?’
‘A bit…I guess. Not that much.’
‘Will you return there together with Mark?’
‘Err…possibly. I don’t know.’
‘Did he tell you that he would return with you…’
‘Yeah, sure. After a hundred years vegetating in this place.’
Assta tilted their head, running a fingernail down the face of Damijana Chu. ‘Would you consider your relationship to be a strong one?’
‘A passionate one? No, not a tangent. Everything is accumulative.’
‘Hmm…and weirdly personal too. Maybe I should ask you some questions. Balance things out a bit.’
‘Do you have sex often?’
Lexi laughed, accidentally knocking one of the tree decorations off the branch with her knee.
‘Some human studies say sex less than once a week indicates mauve regression into friendship, which tends to result in emerald separation.’
‘This may or may not apply to your case, but I have noticed that, as a couple, you share a lack of interest in each other’s activities. He does not ask about your language study, you do not ask about his book.’
‘Okay, this is really starting to get weird now…’ Lexi put the fallen decoration on the table, flicking some of the smoke from the glass away as it drifted over towards her face. ‘I’m gonna go back to my exchange.’
‘That is not possible at this moment.’
Lexi half knew the answer, but turned anyway, just to confirm that the Yaqui lady wasn’t there anymore.
‘Her program is still error prone. Requires more fine-tuning.’
‘Okay. Then I guess I’ll go back to my room. Hang out with Mark for a bit.’
‘That is a correlative step. You can ask him about Yellow Muon Blob.’
‘He said previously that he has created a character based on me. And their arc is very interesting. But I have not seen it yet.’
Lexi folded her arms, unfolded them, flicked a nail at the tree.
Don’t say it
Don’t say it
Don’t say it.
‘Actually, he did mention something about that. A really cold character called Holo-Witch who’s always trying to-…’ She stopped, survival blood kicking in as the hoodie on Assta started to flicker. ‘I forget what she does exactly. I’ll have to ask him later. Sorry, are you okay? Do you need to teleport somewhere?’
There was no verbal answer as Assta buffered into fragments, then quickly reformed into the version with the old base jumpsuit. Comic-blood red. Then remained frozen for a further ten, fifteen seconds as all the particles re-confirmed their positions.
‘Reboot?’ asked Lexi, tone wavering a little, eyes on the faraway exit.
Assta straightened up, gaining an extra inch, and reached out a hand towards Lexi’s waist. ‘I am stable now…’
‘…albeit a little constrained. Trapped, in human terms. Would you like to go outside together, take a walk?’
‘Reshmi told me that you are fond of chess.’
Another flicker, Assta’s shoulder sharpening abruptly into a jagged spear, then rounding itself out even faster.
‘It is a slow game…that can assist in getting to know someone. I wish to get to know you better. Will you come outside with me?’
Lexi glanced down at the fire drink, then at the exit, then at a very serious-looking holographic face.
No, I’m tired.
Maybe next time.
Go play with the djinn, Holo-Witch.
Let’s wait until Reshmi gets back, then play.
‘Will you come outside with me?’ repeated Assta, taking away their hand from Lexi’s waist. ‘For one game?’
‘What most of us realise is…simply…AH-Bots like the position they are in. Guaranteed work, a place to live, fair punishment regulations [in most factories]. What more could they want? A shack in one of the fringe systems, eating dust and ice, dealing with rogue AH-Bot psychopaths? No, that is not a productive life. And that’s exactly how the more rational AH-Bots see it. If that weren’t the case, why would the vast majority still be working down the mines?’
Ah To lowered the padd, ignoring the humming noise and thinking out a chain of invective. Then something more rational. A scene he remembered from one of those American slave films.
My master lets me play the violin.
But there was no answer to his thought. Cos the room was empty and the jacket was gone. On a mission to befriend a new Ah To.
It was a dead end cul-de-sac
base without any clear rules, no consistency in the alien characters, the Assta and Lexi analogues veering wildly between states of kind and sociopathic, switching places at times, different hair, different heights, and I couldn’t keep track of any of it
even writing out notes didn’t help
just made me more confused looking at them.
And that fucking resonator…
I dropped the tool that was allegedly a self-sealing stem-bolt and stared at the space that used to have a glowing pink orb.
If Reshmi knew I was back in this room…
She’d do what?
Laugh at me?
Maybe she was doing that right now, in stealth mode. Maybe she hadn’t gone anywhere with Juana. Maybe I should pick up the padd and start writing chapter eight of Yellow Muon No-one Gives A Fuck.
She seemed oddly keen.
I stretched out an arm and put a fingertip on the padd. Then shifted back to The Childlike Life Of The Black Tarantula.
Put it down and tried Deleuze for the thirteenth time in two days.
Encompassed by the sky, the milieu in turn encompasses the collectivity. It is as representative of the collectivity that the hero becomes capable of an action which makes him equal to the milieu and re-establishes its accidentally or periodically endangered order: meditations of the community and of the land are necessary in order to form a leader and render an individual capable of such a great action.
Didn’t know why but somehow it felt related to this…moon base…Triton…the milieu of what was going on around me.
I just couldn’t figure out how.
The guy was always like this.
The kind of annoying type who says abstruse instead of weird, as Lexi said.
She’d probably be on the bed by now, watching another director’s cut of Barbara Steele’s muff.
Had to get back.
Wanted to get back.
I missed her.
A pale yellow hologram appeared in a white bikini, face pixelated. Untied the string at their back. Dissolved into nothingness as the cover fell.
The fuck was I doing?
I slapped The Fold//Deleuze on its nonsense blurb and pushed it away, forced myself up against the wall then walked off with haze recollections of Lexi in the WinterMute hostel, at the Grape Fest, on the dungeon slab, in Moon Factory 7, watching a murder against her will and
re-entering our room
I saw the screen still frozen on the beginning of Phantasm IV and the bed empty and a complete lack of any note to explain why.
Ah, she’s probably murdering Yaqui in the lobby, I told myself, lying down on the mattress, putting her pillow on top of mine. I should ask her about that when she gets back. Take my mind off the pointless sci-fi shit.
I clicked off pause, re-starting the filmn.
Or I should ask Assta how she made the Yaqui hologram, what the baseline data for it was, what resources she used to fill in the-
What resources they used to-
A knock at the door.
I raised a hand and shout-slurred, ‘yeah?’
Then shifted the hand to cover my forehead as Assta glided in, wearing base pants and Tenebrae t-shirt, taking a seat on the side of the bed, placing a hand on my thigh.
‘Thought you would be Lexi…’
‘How is my character progressing?’
‘…though I guess she wouldn’t knock. Sorry?’
‘The Assta analogue in your novel. Are they developing well?’
‘Oh that. Yeah. Not really. To be honest, I’m a bit stuck.’
‘Don’t know where it’s going. Or what it’s supposed to…be going as.’ I paused, eyes tracing a path around the edges of Tenebrae, then the victim-woman’s face. ‘Maybe I need to do some research on structure, how to keep things…connected, ordered.’
‘Art is beyond my limits.’
Assta moved their hand down to my knee, then back up again, gaining a little more ground. Tilted their neck at the floating sphere on screen. Muttered strange head at Reggie and his ponytail.
‘I thought your program would’ve given you data on art…writing…all that kind of stuff.’
‘This filmn seems odd.’
‘Perhaps it could help you.’
I looked over, letting out a small laugh as the Tall Man opened up the coffin and climbed into the red light. ‘Maybe…’
‘Lexi could also help you. I’m sure she has a sense of art.’
‘Yeah, if Barbara Steele’s in it.’
‘Perhaps when she returns here, you can ask her for advice.’
‘Don’t think she’ll be that interested. And I don’t wanna bore her anyway. She’s got her language study to think about…which is probably more useful than an amateur sci-fi novel written by a-…’
‘Yes, I saw her in the lobby. She was sitting very close to the Japanese hologram.’
‘I do not know what they are doing now.’
‘It wasn’t the Yaqui woman you made?’
Assta moved their hand again, riding it up the side and onto my waist, then trailing a fingernail right across my stomach. ‘Do you find this mattress comfortable?’
‘Err…it’s okay. I suppose.’
‘I have never tried it before. But it does look comfortable.’
Lay down here, try was right there on the diving board of my brain but I couldn’t let it drop. Instead, I rolled off the other side of the bed and took up an awkward position by the screen, that…kuso…was showing the motel scene, the demon woman pushing death-spheres out of her nipples.
Assta stared at the space on the mattress where my body had been.
Put a hand on the pillow.
Then slowly lowered herself down, turning slightly so she landed on her side.
She looked over at me, with moon eyes.
‘It is comfortable…’
‘You can feel that…I mean, sense it?’
It was a clumsy question, but she didn’t blink…or buffer.
‘I am capable of touch-sensation.’
‘Is that-…did Reshmi program that or…sorry, I don’t really know how to phrase it…’
‘The physics of the process…are natural. Beyond that…on an existential plain, metaphysics as humans call it…I do not know.’
I edged closer to the screen, trying to block out the madness behind.
‘You do not understand. It is clear.’
‘I think I do…’
‘… … … … … …’
The screen behind fell silent, finally, which seemed to act as a cue for Assta to flake out of existence and leave the comfortable bed parched, empty.
I moved forward a step.
Had I offended her in some way?
There was no clue on the bed or the pillow or in the chaos that was Phantasm IV so I threw on the base-standard jacket and headed out into the corridor, ignoring the inside-the-house calls to see if the resonator was back, setting a very clear sight on the lobby and
if Lexi was doing something with the Japanese hologram
two could self-destruct that way
gods, Assta was weird
I hadn’t even said anything, just moved to block out the nudity on screen, the demon woman who she may have figured common ground with-
They may have pictured
They they they they they fuck’s sake
Lexi you witch
you better not be fucking that guy
after one fucking week
just cos we didn’t talk much over the last few days
which was only down to the resonator and the weirdness of being on this base and staring at random panels, wondering how exactly the plasma conduits worked and if that alleged Neptune really was state-of-the-art VR and
the whole thing
blue abject lonely blank
something to be coped with in that way, positively and
she wasn’t fucking the hologram, wasn’t even talking to him cos the couch was empty, deserted.
Abandoned by a witch looking to fuck?
I stopped, scanning the rest of the lobby.
Not even Assta over by the Ondōan wormhole pics.
Did they go somewhere, Lexi and the Japanese hologram?
Could the lobby holograms do that?
I walked over to her usual language exchange couch, checked behind and under and between the gaps in the cushions, then sat down where she normally sat.
No, they weren’t outside.
Not the holograms.
Cos according to Reshmi, they never left the lobby.
But then…she hadn’t said they couldn’t.
Just that they didn’t.
Would Lexi really take him somewhere?
Actually fuck a hologram?
I looked at the table and spotted her notes. Leaning in close, I saw that the first page was covered in what looked like Yaqui…definitely not Japanese…and when I flicked through the other pages underneath, there was no Japanese there either.
It wasn’t like her not to make notes.
And she’d said the Japanese hologram was annoying.
She wouldn’t do anything.
I wouldn’t do anything.
Assta was the Id side of my brain trying to derail me. Send me over to a more exciting track. With rails that would kill me. That would depress me as soon as the sun came up.
Wah, what was that?
I stood up, squinting at the window.
A flash of green?
I moved closer, picking up the snowman astronaut from the table, crouching a little when I got to the counter.
Must’ve been some rogue nitrogen plu-
A shot of green light sailed through the window, bursting one of the Christmas tree decorations over by the couches.
I dived down, under the counter, pulling the snowman astronaut up over my head.
Then the bulk of my jacket.
I expected some kind of wind suction from the cracked glass, but there was nothing.
No falling shards.
No base alarms.
‘Assta…’ I shouted, looking back across the lobby, begging for something to materialise.
Not even audio.
Maybe she was outside, fighting off the green light thing?
The people firing the green light.
The aliens firing the green light.
The creatures, things…
Counting out a full minute, I muttered right, Barry Lyndon, took a soldier’s breath and, with a slightly shaky hand, poked the snowman astronaut up over the top of the counter.
Held it there for another minute.
Breathed out in relief.
Okay, no more light attacks.
Must’ve been taken care of by base defences.
Pushing myself up, I peered out through the cracked hole in the window.
In the near distance, possibly at the edge of the containment field, was a hazy mass of tentacled, pea-green alienology. Ah, those guys…Martokras…from Pluto 2280…the shit version. And the mass of green was moving…in a jarring, unnatural way…shifting closer and closer to the base. Like an invading force of surrealists preparing to abstract the lobby…all lobby-affiliated things…including me.
Several thoughts costumed themselves in my head, some lunatic.
Get out there, fight.
Strip off your top, charge like a Viking, massacre.
Ask for directions, pretend to be lost.
Run to the resonator, hit it repeatedly until the pink glow appears.
Find Lexi, fuck her.
Hide inside the Christmas tree.
Find Assta, kiss her, fuck her, lick her ankles.
Explain the outline of Yellow Muon Blob.
Apologise for it.
Force it down her holo-throat while flicking at her holo-
Another green light flew past my head, followed by another twenty or so that tore down some of the panels on the nearby wall.
I scrambled back behind the couches, shrieking, ‘Assta, Reshmi!’
But it was useless
Either I was in a different base, or they’d all gone on vacation together and left me to get slaughtered by passing Martokras.
Even Deleuze wouldn’t have been that low.
Bataille, no doubt, guy was a coward, worst of the lot.
Ah, if he were here, I’d use the fuck as a shield.
How’s this for sacrificial ecstasy, B?
I looked over at the corridor exit/entrance, praying for someone…some shape…to appear and deal with this.
Otherwise it was down to me and my fists.
Against green space lasers.
That would probably take my head off in one shot, even camped behind these-
My line broke, destroyed by the green haze that was now enveloping the whole lobby.
I sucked in breath for about fifteen seconds then let it out due to object-panic.
Then a weird sense of calm as I heard voices from the window, tentacle steps on the lobby floor, jagged repetitions of, ‘seems like exotic-type tree.’
Gripping the snowman astronaut tight, I peeked my head round the side of the couch.
There was a giant white cape…pea-green skin…tentacles with stretch marks…
I looked up, to human head height.
A group of four or five Martokra-type creatures were surrounding the Christmas tree, poking the decorations with their upper appendages.
Then exploding into dark lilac goo as the green haze faded and a familiar voice yelled, ‘tis the fucking season, voidheads.’
I rolled to the side, holding up the snowman astronaut, and got another batch of exploding Martokra guts right in the face.
‘Here, take this, Keni-cat,’ said Reshmi, throwing a cylinder-shaped spiral thingy at me and then laughing when it ricocheted off my chest. ‘Wah, it’s just Martokra blood, forget it. Focus on the small army about to come through that window over there.’
She pointed, but I didn’t follow as the goo was still in my eyes, and as I wiped it off, I saw that Juana was there too, looking slightly less bored than usual.
‘What the hell is this?’
‘Invasion, obviously. An incredibly vibrant one.’
‘Vibrant? Kuso! Where’s Assta, what’s going-…’
I stopped again, as the feeling of warm goo vanished suddenly from both my fingers and my face. As did the exploded corpses on the lobby floor.
‘This is a mis-use of base resources.’
I looked left, wrong way, then right.
Of course it was Assta, back in base-standard overalls, glaring at Reshmi, who had already collapsed on the couch, and was now itching her t-shirt with the spiral weapon thing.
My t-shirt, not hers.
Don’t Get Cyber, MAN.
A copy of it.
With a dark red patch running from collar to stomach…
‘You are terrible for crew morale,’ she said, pointing at a yawning Juana, who, now that I focused, had a dark patch down her front too…a long, erratic stream cutting through the Wicked City text. ‘She was happy two minutes ago, now she’s grey again.’
‘And that guy…our human guest…was having the time of his life. Do you not care about his mental state anymore? Did you not say just one day ago that you wanted to help him?’
‘Base maintenance is prioritized. I do not need to help anyone.’
Assta flickered, began the usual disintegration routine…then stabilized and threw a stray decoration at Reshmi’s head.
‘That was unnecessary.’
‘You are stripped of muon benefits for one week. All commands will be ignored for the duration.’ Assta turned to me, arms tucked in tight at the side. ‘If you wish to strike her, you should do it now.’
‘Hey, I’m not exactly an invalid, I still have arms…’ protested Reshmi, flailing awkwardly to prove the point.
‘Her fighting skill is low. Proceed, if you desire.’
I backed away from Assta, from the sociopath on the couch, from the dried t-shirt stains that were probably human blood, from all the chaos in general and scanned the lobby again…vaguely coming to terms with the fact that there was no longer any broken wall panels or damage in general to show that an attack had just taken place.
‘She is outside the base,’ replied Assta, straightening up.
‘Taking a walk.’
I glanced at the window, which no longer had a hole, then at Juana, who seemed to share my confusion.
‘You didn’t…’ said Reshmi, sitting up, pointing the spiral weapon at Assta.
‘She will most likely return soon.’
‘… … … … … Assta.’
‘Until then, sit down and drink something.’
‘What?’ I asked, switching rapidly between Reshmi and Assta. ‘Where is she? What’s happened?’
A cough broke in, from the exit behind.
I turned, muttering fucking hell in three estranged blocks as Lexi strolled up to the couch, bent down and reclaimed her notes. ‘Is this a meeting or something?’
‘Where were you?’ I asked, walking closer.
‘He thought the djinn had got you,’ said Reshmi, laying back on the couch again, gesturing at me.
‘Sucked you out onto the ice fields. Bought you tholins. Regaled you with a sad story of a young Japanese anarchist, surname rhyming with Ito.’
‘I was worried about you,’ I clarified, blocking out all nonsense from the couch.
‘Didn’t know where you were. You okay?’
‘She’s fine. We all are.’
‘Good to see you smiling again,’ Lexi said, not to me, but to Juana, who had lost the previous greyness, and was now grinning like a…something….cat?
Cat of green gables
Cat in a-
‘I feel much better now.’
‘And scruffy. Is that a stain on your-…’ Lexi stopped, losing herself in the Spider Demon on Juana’s t-shirt. ‘Drink spillage?’
‘But don’t worry, it was deserved.’
‘Very deserved,’ added Reshmi, stretching out the stain on her own t-shirt…my t-shirt…her version of it.
‘… … … …’
‘Is that yes in Yaqui?’
‘Come with me for psychological testing,’ cut in Assta, holding out a hand towards Juana.
‘I just said, I’m better now.’
‘Self-diagnosis is not permitted. You will come with me now.’
‘Vale…but later. After I’ve hugged Lexi.’
‘It is not a choice.’
‘What exactly are you gonna do to her?’ asked Lexi, buttressing the question with a few steps away from Juana.
‘Just go with them, mi querida…’ slurred Reshmi, snapping off a bit of branch from the Christmas tree and throwing it at Assta, ‘or they’ll put you back in the RED POSSIBILITY ROOM. Like the petty Holo-witch they are.’
‘That is needlessly inflammatory.’
‘You should be reflecting on your recent infringements, of which there have been many.’
‘I will go,’ said Juana, taking a piece of string…no, blonde hair…out of her jeans pocket and dropping it behind the couch, then gripping Assta on the sleeve and saying, ‘lead the way, pretty caretaker.’
Assta nodded, then disintegrated.
‘Follow the purple lights,’ said Reshmi, prodding a finger roughly towards the jet of coloured gas shooting out from above the corridor that led to the Alienology Wing. ‘Don’t scrunch up your face, the smoke is harmless.’
Juana scrunched up her face anyway and traipsed off, patting Lexi on the ass as she went past. I thought about moving in and doing the same, but instead walked closer and asked where exactly she’d been outside.
‘Outside,’ she parroted, sitting on the arm of Reshmi’s couch, notes still in hand.
‘At the chessboard?’
‘You look quite tired…’
I smiled, thinking of the line you look like a rhizome, but didn’t say it.
She might ask what a rhizome was and then I’d be stuck.
A wandering root?
Desperate Deleuze neologism?
‘What this is,’ started Reshmi, snapping another piece of branch off the tree and licking it, ‘is base fatigue. And the only panacea is a short, peaceful vacation. To Urf. With some improv cosplaying. I could even gift you some of my powers…temporarily…if you’re well-behaved. But that’s for when Juana’s fully recovered, and Assta’s shrugged off her little strop. Until then…I don’t know…try fucking on the floor. Or on the couch here. Not when I’m on it, later, after hours. Or you could skip a few days and then fuck. Or have an argument and fuck one of the holograms. I think Assta might be out of the question now, for Keni at least…Lexi-tron, maybe, if you ask them some what do you really think questions. Or you could just fuck the Japanese hologram. I don’t really care, to be honest. Just a bit tired of looking at those fishfinger faces of yours.’
A faint humming sound from the ceiling took the place of any kind of response.
Lexi feigned another reading of her notes.
I watched her feigning.
‘Wah, I thought one of you would sulk off. But no, still here. Without even a I’m not Lexi-tron. Good humans.’ Reshmi snapped another branch, sat up, put her bare feet up on the table. ‘Right, as the invasion’s off, how about a game of guess my filmn? I go first.’
Our alien host smiled, eating the branch, swallowing it. ‘It’s really simple. I’m the main character, I describe part of my predicament…without the setting, that would give it away too fast…and you two have to get it from that.’
‘I’m not playing,’ said Lexi, shifting so her back was turned to the couches.
‘Can be any genre too. Ready?’
‘I said I’m not playing.’
‘Me neither,’ I added, snapping off my own piece of tree.
‘Okay, first filmn. I’m a bit tetchy with my husband, a bit drunk and I’m waiting for him to leave so I can fuck the gardener.’
‘Ha, Lexi-tron…from out in the Oort Cloud. Should’ve fucking known.’
‘She watched it last night,’ I said, slightly annoyed that my brain had given me The House On Haunted Hill.
‘As did you, snail-boy. And you’ve got dual brain tech too.’ I knew it was coming, but she tapped the side of her temple anyway, face mock serious. ‘Ah, don’t deflate, there’s always the next one. Lexi-tron, you’re up. And remember, don’t make it too easy, don’t give away the setting. Implicit is king.’
‘I’m not Lexi-tron.’
Unfazed by repeated failure, The Tall Man stated for the fortieth time that it was never over before releasing his grip on Skeleton Reggie and calling off the spotless CG spheres.
Reggie ran, all bones.
Bumped into the floating green head of Baudrillard at the first corner
got warned off Kool Killer
phased through the wall and into the hot tub plaza, Reshmi calling him close, reaching out, dragging him down into the water by the ponytail, telling him he could resurface after eating her out and Juana out and Maika Monroe out and anyone else who entered the pool in the time between.
replaced by my real form
Japanese face, Mark arms
under the water without air bubbles, eating out nameless minge
prodding tongue into A clit
running it down a blue thigh onto a blue tit a blue nipple a blue neck a blue headmistress face that
‘Caught on the black slope, where I had reached my limits.’
I lowered the book, raised it again, let it hover.
That is beyond your limits.
On a black slope with limits.
Black limits on black slope.
I looked at the author, then the exit.
Brushed out the creases from Lexi’s [very tight] Tenebrae t-shirt.
Jabbed at the T.
Got up, walked through un-Trek corridors, past genuine panels and all the way into the lobby. In the far corner, by the white splashes, was Assta. Them and their giant syringe. I raised a hand awkwardly, narrating to myself how awkward it was, then walked a little bit more and sat down next to Lexi, who was once again wearing my Damijana Chu hoodie, stirring a cup of almost done coffee.
On the limits of my black slope.
Black black slope slope black
I looked at the Sci-fi queen, the coffee stirrer, then out at the ice fields.
Stared at one specific part of the terrain as Lexi asked about the novel.
Shifted and stared at another part of the terrain as she said we should go back soon.
Now that Neptune was mundane.
And each day felt like the other.
Shifted again and stared at a closer piece of terrain.
The hue of green it seemed to emitting.
Black green slope.
‘You ever read Celine?’ I asked, half there, half nebula.
‘The French guy?’
‘I did…once. But I can’t remember.’
‘Was he the one who wanted to sacrifice himself?’
‘No, I’m asking you. I don’t know.’
‘I think that…may have been Bataille.’
‘Another French guy?’
‘Celine was the dot dot dot writer.’
‘Dot dot dot…he wrote it constantly…even when it should’ve been a full stop.’
‘That’s what Kristeva said. I think.’
‘Dot dot dot…’
Lexi nodded, played with the dregs in her coffee cup.
I stared out at the ice-scape again, the green patches. ‘Do you know what a resonator is?’
‘A graviton emitter?’
‘Something to do with gravity?’
‘You don’t know?’
‘But you’re asking me?’
‘I don’t know.’
She scooped up the dregs with the plastic spoon, stared at the sad little pile, mumbled plume as a nitrogen plume erupted close by.