Epilogue: Laser Boy: Going Out Slowly In A Haunted Land

Laser Boy stepped on to the crowded public transport cart. He pulled his hood down lower over his face. He was wearing the new clothes he’d acquired in Kay’s permapt. It was mostly vertical patches of alternating white and dark gray. It had long sleeves and pants that fit loose like a karate gi. The outfit included soft-soled shoes with a rough gripping surface on the soles. The arm wings and dorsal stabilizing fin were top of the line with reactive ribs that could be flexible or stiff for better zero g flight control.

Laser Boy was scanning the throng of people. To look at him you would think he was just idly daydreaming, but his awareness was split five ways now, parallel processing a massive amount of data. His HUD was overlaying data on each person around him. He could also see ghosts. Thousands and thousands of ghosts superimposed on top of the physically present people as well as each other. His tech had fully integrated into his mind, and fully immersed itself and him in the near infinite data base that was the station’s nano-computer.

Everything that had ever happened on the station was saved as probabilistic wavelengths in the quantum spaces between the tiny robotic urchins that saturated the air, always replicating, always evolving.

When Laser Boy opened his tech to the field of data, he became god like in his apprehension, at least in the sense of capturing and accessing the data. His understanding was far more limited.

Translucent swirls of pale color coated holographic overlays piled up around him. By shifting his focus slightly, he was watching the events of 50 years ago, when everyone wanted tall children with large eyes, and everyone looked like strange aliens, then 250 years ago, when militaristic angles and polished buttons were in style. Then 132 years ago, when there was a massive public riot right in this very tunnel. He focused briefly on a small man crushing the head of another man with a long pipe. Then he let the image fade back into the swarm of overlapping images.

What ever else he briefly focused upon, a pair of ghosts from about fifteen years ago was highlighted brightly, per explicit instructions. He was following them. A well off, kind looking man, smiling and chatting with everybody around him, holding the hand of a two year old boy. The boy looked unhappy and confused. The man chucked him on the chin from time to time, told him to cheer up and enjoy the day.

Laser Boy had been following this pair for about twenty minutes. The man had sat near the boy on a playground and started chatting cordially. Then, when the boy came near, he had taken his hand and led him off the playground and eventually onto this transport cart. The boy’s parents were looking around for him desperately on the playground, but nobody could remember seeing the boy leave. Vince could see how desperate the parents were, even at this distance; his tech split screened his experience. He rewound them and saw again how they were both well off and respectable merchants, but they were both born unaltered. The subculture they came from was against transhumanism. They fell in love, got married and had a child the old fashioned way. He was born healthy and beautiful. And then this man took him away from his parents.

Laser Boy cleared away the parents and focused on the abductor. He followed the ghosts when they exited the transport in the Copper Sphere. They led him to a dingy urban looking area, under a small footbridge and into an abandoned warehouse. The front looked old and unused, but through a door at the back of the room was a series of rooms filled with small children. Several adult guards with guns stood around. All of this was ghost imagery. The warehouse was gone now and a Leper Cheese franchise was there now and already looking run down, ready for demolition in its own right. Laser Boy watched the child until the first time he got smacked down by the abductor. Then he fast-forwarded the images, smiling when, two years later, the boy escaped, taking a small group of others with him. No slavery for these kids. Poverty maybe, but not slavery. He focused on the abductor. He tired of watching his sins. He ran the ghosts trail forward to present times. It was almost piteous how small and repetitive the man’s trail was over the past fifteen years. How boring and predictable. How lazily destructive. He was in the Copper Sphere right now. Not too far.

The conapt Laser Boy found the man in was new and sparsely furnished. When Laser Boy blasted the door open, the man, somewhat older now, jumped up with a bullet gun in his hand.

“You picked the wrong John hoody boy.”

Three bullets hit Laser Boy, with no effect. They stopped dead at his skin, no ricochet, no impact sound. Vince scanned the man. Good. Tech. Vince sent a carnivorous UNO into the man’s brainware. He was bombarded with images and feelings associated with his abuse of young Black Elvis.

The man spasmed and jerked around, suffering a major seizure of his nervous system. Laser Boy let it ride for a minute then shut down the UNO. The man fell back into his soft chair, coughing and spitting out blood where he had bitten the inside of his cheek.

“What the vent you want hoody boy? Whad you do da me?”

Laser Boy pulled down his hood.

“I’m Laser Boy. But to you I’m the God of Vengance.”

“What?”

Laser Boy shot a dime sized hole through the man’s heart and watched him struggle for a moment, then seize up and die. He turned and, in large jagged slanting letters burned “Laser Boy Kills” into the wall. He turned and walked out.

He was already scanning for the place where Zombie Lisa was born, ready to track down any of her tormenters, when he was startled by a resonant, strangely accented voice behind his ear.

“Excuse me.”

Laser Boy spun around but nobody was near. Several people adjusted their walks to gain some distance from him. He was looking around wildly.

“It is okay,” again. The voice was right behind him. He spun around. Several people were pointing at him.

“Where the vent are you?”

“I am right here. It is me.”

“Venting who?!”

“I am your gun. We should have a conversation.”

 

Laser Boy will return in: Book 2: Haunting Season

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3.27: Zombie Lisa: Space Birds

Lisa was early for her meeting. The grass was growing tall and wild here, the mildest fan driven wind caused subtle waves to frolic through the field. The bugs weren’t back in force yet, but she had a few skeeter bites on her neck and arms. She saw her two kras mates approaching. She had not told Syrge and Scroot about this meeting. Kay must have called them separately.

Lisa sat in the grass and watched them approach. The reeds almost hid her completely. Syrge sat next to her. Scroot remained standing.

“Do you still remember the venting? And Elvis and Vince?” asked Syrge.

“Yes. Stop asking.”

“Well, I worry. Nano tech invading our minds and erasing memories is a pretty big deal, even on this station.”

“Kay said it was easy to override, just that people didn’t know they needed to. Since we knew it was coming, her tech kept our brains intact.”

“She told you to meet her here too obviously.”

“Obviously.”

“Some more people moved in near the six o’clock passage.”

“I saw smoke from their fires.”

“Are you still with Marion’s group?”

“Yes.”

“You’re not going to be a…?”

“A whore? No. Even if I was so inclined, I’m not sure my condition would allow it.”

“That’s… I didn’t think of that.”

“Smart guy.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes. The slum sphere population was currently at around two hundred. Kria and Marion had gotten several dozen people out into the core passages. When the decompression occurred, automatic seals had slammed into place to protect the rest of the station. The wide-open area of the slum sphere had been emptied of everything not connected to the station. Robotic repair crews had resealed the sphere, and nano swarms had been fed through the ventilation system editing the memories of the populace that was aware of the events. A surprisingly small number of people due to diligent work by the Media President’s Drones. A week later the doors had reopened and the poor and downtrodden had begun making their way back. It was the only place to go when you couldn’t hack it in the Darwinian social jungle of the station.

Syrge pointed across the sward.

“Here she comes. She turned out to be an okay person huh? Thought at first she was just slumming with us for kicks.”

“Yeah. She’s okay.”

Blue Kay was walking slowly toward them. They stood up so she would be able to see them. Lisa stretched her arms toward the core, twisting lightly to work out the kinks in her muscles.

“Hey Zombie Lisa, Lysergic Adam.”

“Bird Girl.”

“Kay,”

Lisa and Kay held each other’s gazes for a moment. Kay blinked slowly and looked down. She breathed in slowly.

“This place doesn’t smell as bad as it used to.”

“Give it a year.”

“… I talked to Vince.”

Lisa inhaled sharply and then forced herself calm.

“So he’s alive.”

“Yeah. He said that Elvis was… that he didn’t make it.”

“Oh.”

Syrge sat down hard on the ground and put his face in his hands. Scroot walked over and sat next to him.

“So where’s Vince,” asked Lisa, not completely keeping the pain out of her voice.”

“I don’t know. He accepted my UNO and sent an INO. There was so much pain in it. Then he blocked me.”

Lisa’s body deflated slightly, she wondered for a second why she ever bothered moving her arms at all. They were just hanging there now, fine on their own, dangling still and numb.

“Oh man. He’s not dead,” her voice cracked and reached a little girl high pitch, “I’ve been all watery inside for weeks!” her laughter turned into a sob. Blue Kay covered her face with her hands. Her shoulders were shaking. Syrge went up and buried his face in her side. She put her arm around him and they stood that way for a timeless moment.

Kay finally pulled her face out of her hands and smiled garishly, tears streaming down her face. Her plumage was dull with fluttery colors.

“I was going to… I was going to get him some tech… Work with him to make this a better… place. I… thought… hhh… maybe… we’d be immortal… huc… together. I could imagine it with him.”

Kay was letting her emotions out. She had been chemically tamping them down. Part of her felt like she was showing off, another part of her was just a raw and screaming naked nerve.

Lisa was torn up by her sense of relief that Vince was alive and the finality of the fact that Elvis was dead. And she started to get angry too. Kay slumped to the ground and rested back on her arms, her face raised. She wiped away the salt water from her face. She forced some balance in herself without using her tech.

“So. Sorgit. Never lost someone close… I mean died, never died… had some one I… someone I cared about died. It makes me feel poor…”

Lisa’s burning, teary, shaking turned to a laugh, and back to a sob. Kay wiped her face again and looked up at Lisa.

“I’m still part of this kras though. I want you all to come live with me. My parents have already chastised me and moved on to something else. I just say you’re working for me. We can carry on Elvis’s dreams.”

Syrge used his shirt to wipe snot from his face and looked wide-eyed at Kay.

“Moving to the Diamond Sphere?”

Scroot stopped clacking away at his keyboard and looked over as well. Syrge laughed.

“Scroot’s a tech whore. He can’t wait to get a weirld rig!”

Kay raised her upper lip in nearly a smile and looked at Lisa. Lisa was breathing slow with her eyes closed.

“I’m not leaving. I’m going to rebuild Paisleyville. Better this time. We need to make it work from in here. It’s a horrible chance to start over. I may hit you up for resources sometime. As payback. For teaching you how to hunt. You know.”

Kay stood up and hugged Lisa to her tightly. Lisa stiffened a little but just let her.

“I’m going to leave you some things. Do you want to get some implants or…”

“No thanks. I’ve been tampered with enough. Before I was even born. I guess some terminals and nano cards would be great. Maybe some IDs for other parts of the station.”

Lisa pushed her self out of Kay’s embrace and turned on Syrge and Scroot.

“What about you two? You’re going with her?”

Syrge looked sheepish and rubbed the back of his neck.

“Yesssss. Ever since I found Scroot, I’ve been working to better our position. Take care of us. This is too much of an opportunity.”

“What about that purple cop guy? Guys?”

Kay interrupted.

“Roman can keep him safe. I expect these guys will prove very useful to The Herald Dynasty, but uh… yeah… We will have to watch out for that guy. He seems to have some kind of hard on for Syrge here, but only because he thinks he is Scroot.”

Syrge crossed his arms and huffed.

“I’ll kick him in the shins!”

Kay looked down at Lisa with a worried look on her face.

“Are you going to be okay here? I mean… you’re only thirteen.”

“ACK-tually. I think I’m fourteen now. Not sure when my birthday is, but I always said it was in seventh month. So. Give me presents.”

“I actually do have presents. I knew you wouldn’t come with me.”

She handed her a pouch full of nano cards. A piece of tech somewhere on Kay’s person chose that moment to start buzzing. Kay perked up, held out her hands with her fingers spread wide.

“Hey! I got a call from The Custodian too! Look up there!”

The children turned to look at a round vent high on the gray side slope, in an area with no working black walls. They had to squint against the bright glow of the core.

“There!” shouted Kick Herald, The Fabulous Blue Kay.

At first they were just black specks spreading out slowly into the air, but within seconds the light began to reflect a rainbow of colors at the gaping faces of the kras.

“Birds!” exhaled Zombie Lisa.

“Wow!” from Syrge.

They came in a wide variety, spiraling and waving through the space overhead. Red ones, blue ones, brightest yellow and orange ones, black with flashes of white, iridescent purple, large and small. The air filled with the sound of the thousands of wings and a whistling frenzy.

Lisa held her arms out and started spinning slowly, looking up into the maelstrom of new station creatures.

“How come we never had birds on the station before?” she shouted.

Kay laughed and imitated Lisa’s spin. A great blue heron landed near the group and Syrge ran at it, causing it to take of in a flurry of panic. Lisa laughed and ran after him, Blue Kay followed run/gliding with her wings spread. She yelled at Lisa.

“Hey! I just realized I haven’t heard you cuss once today!”

Lisa glared at her over her shoulder.

“Trying to act more mature. But you fucking ruined that didn’t you?!”

As the children dance madly through the empty swaying verdant field, we pull back into the bird filled sky on a Rube Goldbergesque rigging, the sounds of laughter and swooshing wings fades, and we can just make out a small simian shape pacing the group through the tall blades.

End of Book 1.

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3.26: Laser Boy: Subconscious Action

Vince pulled Elvis into the airlock and keyed his pressure suit on for him. The water began to fill the chamber. Vince adjusted his brain so that he could function. The whole sphere was gone. All those kids and… he looked at Black Elvis. His jaw was clenched and his hands were shaking. When the water finished equalizing the pressure, they went into the tank. They both swam over to the space wall. From here they could make out the shapes of bodies. Hundreds of bodies, slowly rotating and drifting into the void.

The airlock opened and three The Comptrollers swam into the room. Only their heads were covered with energy shields. They started shooting as soon as they came in. The airlock started recycling to admit the rest of them. Vince’s tech shot out a blinding array of beams that refracted wildly through the water. He saw Elvis swimming toward the passage that led to the cthulhus. He saw a beam from one of The Comptroller’s guns hit his leg. The energy armor there was flickering bright and dim bright and dim. Too much was happening.

Vince’s tech took over and chemicals rushed into his brain slowing down events.

Cthulhu tentacles shot out of the passage. One of them wrapped around Elvis.

Three The Comptrollers spread out and continued shooting. Several beams hit Vince, but seemed to have no effect. Like in the video he’d watched of him massacring PIGS in the core.

The airlock opened and three more tall purple men swam in.

All the while Vince’s tech was blasting at The Comptrollers. They were tough and shielded well, one of them was missing a leg, but he continued to fire at Vince.

Elvis was hacking wildly at the tentacles. Black blood was filling the water again.

A small cthulhu, it’s pathetic limp bat wings fluttering in the whirly eddies, shot past and into the middle of three of the lanky purple men. The tentacles flashed and lashed about, catching and tearing, pulling purple chunks of meat into it’s mouth.

For a second Syrge’s voice came through.

“…ambled up. Can you hear me? It’s all gone to…”

Then he was gone again.

Elvis cut his way free of the cthulhu that was holding him and started swimming toward the nearest The Comptroller. The purple man’s multi jointed limbs were contorted and skittering through the water like a spindly insect.

One of Vince’s guns kept shooting at the other The Comptrollers, and his other hands kept the cthulhus away from Elvis.

When he reached The Comptroller, Elvis jabbed his machete into the front of his face. The Comptrollers guns continued blasting at Elvis as the body floated up toward the space wall.

Vince saw the flickering of Elvis’s pressure suit grown dimmer and die out. He was holding his breath now. Vince thought he should shoot out the metalastic wall to the spectator area. Dangerous, but Elvis was certain to die here otherwise. He pointed his gun and his view was suddenly cut off by a tremendous toothy mass of coppery brown flesh. The cthulhu wrapped itself around him and started spinning.

He could not keep his bearings. His overlay map was lagging behind reality. He blasted a few times into the thing, but there seemed to be no effect. How much longer did Elvis have? Did he even get a breath before his armor cut out?

Vince watched the tank spinning by him. Space, catwalk, cthulhus, space, catwalk, cthulhus… He set his gun on maximum and… If he timed it just right…

He fired.

The beam hit the metalistic wall that looked out into space.

A spiderweb of cracks appeared. Everything seemed to go still for a breath, then the wall fractured and water, beasts, and men blew out into space.

Vince felt himself slam into a jagged piece of the wall and spin out into space. The water surrounding him quickly turned to a heavy dusting of ice, dispersing into the vacuum. He was still wrapped in a large group of tentacles, but they began to stiffen and break away. The HUD was flashing messages and screaming at him. He kept trying to clear it away and find Elvis. One of the purple men shot past him reaching out, grabbing for his arm. Vince blasted him in the face. An aerosol spray of bright red particles exploded outward. Vince grabbed the body and braced his feet against it. He finally saw Elvis and pushed off towards him.

He shot through the thinning snow and lumps of mollusk meat and frozen The Comptrollers. He hit Elvis and wrapped his arms around him. He was already frozen. His wide staring eyes were ruptured and red. Vince was staring into his face and screaming something. His HUD kept jumping between him and Elvis. He kept clearing it away. Finally, some small rockets emerged from his ankles and propelled him back to the hole in the tank. They were ejecting mass from his body and it hurt a great deal. He held onto Black Elvis’s stiff body. He was still screaming something.

By the time he got into the tank, he was able to think enough to go for the airlock. It functioned just as well for a space lock as it did for a water lock. He got Elvis into the maintenance room and collapsed unconscious on the floor.

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3.25: The Three Primes: Suicide Is Painful But Temporary

Twenty minutes earlier, the primes were wearing shades that made them appear to be dirty unwashed slum rats. They made their way to the edge of the simulated gravity ring and started climbing toward the ventilation doors. No one even noticed them. On the way in they passed a large group moving toward one of the exits. No matter though, you could never kill all the scum at once. Some one had to serve and work the fields. When they reached the large doors, they uploaded their memories into the nano-computer and carded a set of large hydraulic prying spears into being and jammed them into the seam. Once the seal was broken air started moving quickly into space. One of the primes was pushed into the small hole, blocking it. The prying arms continued moving until the hole got just big enough for him to scrape through. His flesh peeled away as it caught on the jagged edges. He screamed until there was no more air to carry his voice. The other two primes followed him quickly. Then the denizens of the slums started to shoot through. By the dozens, then the hundreds. Then by the thousands: The sorry losers of the station’s hierarchy, victimized one final time, freezing and bleeding, surrounded by clouds of dirt and scrap. The primes all woke up back in their barracks and went out for drinks.

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3.24: Black Elvis: Surrounded By Monsters

Elvis was breathing hard, but he felt good. He really wanted to turn and chop that venters face off, but they had to give time for the girls to get away with the birds. Syrge’s voice came into his ears.

“Go back into the zoo. I’ve already got detailed schematics pulled up and I’ll have video again.”

Vince must have heard it too, because he turned sharply and made for the iron gate. He laced his fingers into a hammock and held it out for Elvis. Once Elvis was atop the gate, he reached down for Vince and pulled him over. He could see their pursuers coming around the curve of the corridor. That Fact Checker or Comptroller guy was purple now… And it appeared that there was more than one of him. One by one eight The Comptrollers came into sight and started firing as they ran toward them. A blast hit the floor just beneath the gate and shrapnel exploded outward. A piece caught Elvis over his right eye.

“Venting Hamlet!” He roared.

He and Vince turned and ran deeper into the zoo. They could hear the voice of one of the tall purple freaks behind them.

“Keep running boys! It adds so much flavor when I catch you and eat you!”

Vince fired a blast over his shoulder. A weak scream followed and Elvis smiled. Vince drew to a stop near the service entrance that would take them back into the area behind the cthulhu tank. He got behind an outcropping of simulated plant monster and lay down some fire. The pursuers stopped outside the entrance to the R’lyeh exhibit.

Vince slowed his breathing enough to talk.

“You think we should lead them into the tank? Then double back and out? Seal them in?”

A blast of laser fire hit near Vince’s head.

“Leper Vent!

Elvis keyed open the service hatch and he and Vince went back into the backstage of the tank. Elvis was breathing fast through his partly open mouth.

“Krasy. I knew we got out of there too easy. This is a terrible plan. My uzi won’t work under water.”

“You could have got a beamer.”

“I like bullets man.”

“You can use your uzi to cover the door while I get this airlock cycled up.”

Vince started the sequence and keyed his shade off and his pressure suit on.

The entrance opened and a The Comptroller’s face peeked around the corner.

“Out of space to run boys. Last Stand for Laser Boy and Black Elvis. Don’t worry though. If you believe in an afterlife, all your friends will be there too. Look.”

He stepped full into the room and keyed the wall to transparent. He pointed through the tank out into space. He smiled.

“You can just make them out right there.”

Elvis and Vince looked through the water that was clearing up too fast to be natural. At the very edge of the view they could see a swarm of asteroids or… something. Syrge’s voice came into their ears.

“Oh hell. It’s true. The slum sphere has just been vented,” his young voice broke and then the signal disconnected.

Elvis screamed and sprayed bullets at the thing by the door. His frame jumped and danced before falling to the floor. Another one, identical, stepped into his spot, holding two beamers, blasting and talking.

“I wasn’t going to leave anything to chance with you all. If your little hacker is listening, he should know I’ve got some special ideas in mind for him.”

Elvis collapsed to the floor near the airlock. The sound of energy blasts filled his ears.

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3.23: Blue Kay: The Moment Of The Disappeared

Kay watched Elvis, Laser Boy and those tall purple guys disappear behind them. Lisa was gripping her shoulder hard. She took her hand in hers and moved it off of her shoulder. Lisa breathed again.

“Sorry… Are they going to be okay? That was that Fact Checker guy, but he was purple…”

“I don’t know sweetie. We have to keep going though. Elvis… They would want us to get this part done. They’re tough.”

“Not really all that tough.”

“Yeah. Not so tough.”

The cart tore through the Science Wheel and onto a fast tube in the axel. Kay tried to open a channel to Syrge, but he told her he was busy and he’d call her back. Kay sat down in the pilot seat and looked down at Lisa, sitting on the floor with her knees pulled up and her arms wrapped around them. Kay put her hand on top of her head and lightly caressed her scalp.

“If we went back… They would be really mad…” said Kay.

“Don’t go back. Those fuckers will kick his ass.”

“Yeah. They will.

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3.22: Lysergic Adam: Cheese It! It’s The Police!

Syrge spit out a mouthful of salty bread he had been eating. The bastards had gotten past his monitors. He looked at Scroot, typing away and keyed up his own controls.

“You guys need to scatter! It looks like eight bogies!”

Vince was already laying down a barrage of lethal blasts, but the bogies were not going down. Syrge sent a signal to Lisa and Kay, directing them onto the cart and away at top speed. He signaled Elvis and Vince to run in the opposite direction.

When they cart took off, two of the hostiles ran after them a few steps and stopped and rejoined the other six chasing Elvis and Vince. Syrge didn’t have video linkup, but he could tell these were not turtles. They were not big enough. They all looked identical on the readout, but he was not sure what they were. He could not ask Elvis and Vince, he could tell by listening that they were using all their breath for running.

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