"Let machinery fake my place, who has time to chase. Digital is where it is. Love can always be replaced. Welcome to my consciousness. Welcome to our race. Everything is never quite enough."
Everything (is never quite enough) – Diop, Wasis
"She calls *this* a clothing choice?"
"Just put it on, we have less than 10 minutes now."
I sighed, picking up the only garment lying on the bed. It was a black bodysuit akin to the kind worn in VR, small dark blue stripes running up the sides to show where the magnetics closed it. I stripped and slid into it, finding it familiar and almost comforting. They'd even managed to put a pair of slits in the back for my wings. Then I blinked and shook my head, when would they have had the time?
Heero was dressed in a matching suit, the only difference the color of stripe running up his sides. His wings poked out the back as well, silver against the black of the suit. My eyes trailed upwards, clashing with his.
"Are you ready yet?" He crossed his arms, affecting impatience, though only moments beforehand had he himself finished dressing.
"What about shoes?" I asked, peering at the bunk beds in case I'd somehow missed them. Heero cleared his throat, waving a pair of black, knee length boots below my nose. "Oh." I shrugged, slipping the boots on and discovering they fit as well as the suit had, which was surprisingly well, all things considered. "Ok, now I'm ready."
I still wasn't sure how we would descend to the planet, the strange ship that was Khali; different from any ship I'd ever before been on. But I had a feeling whatever it was that got us planetside, would be interesting. I eyed Heero's back as he turned and marched through the doorway ahead of me. His suit had been cut lower in the back than my own, a hasty addition perhaps.
What interested me, was that I could just see the upper curve of his rear, the inserts that ran beside his spine visible and compelling in their oddity. I bit back the urge to comment and sped up my pace, walking beside him down the hallway.
A small yell attracted our attention as we traversed through the curving corridor; I managed to spot 138 just poking its head out of a doorway. "This way, the bubble is... warming up."
"Bubble?" I asked, stepping inside the room and freezing. Before me was a large area, on the floor lay what looked like a ball that had been split open and laid out flat. In the center of the ball, chairs were not bolted, but actually formed from the material itself, looking almost like natural formations of the metal.
"Actually we like to call it the golden ball, but bubble works." Treize quipped, meeting us at the doorway and running his eyes over our suits. He wore something similar, though it had many extra holes and additions to accommodate his body. I glanced around and spotted Milyardo a few feet away, examining one of the pieces of the bubble that lay on the floor. He too had on a black, form-fitting suit, though, now I suddenly knew why there had been built-in gaps on the back of ours.
On the blond man's back were two skeletal metallic arms, rising from his shoulder blades like something dying to escape. A soft gasp from Heero drew my attention away from the sight.
"That's Steelshift." He said accusingly, moving to the kneeling man and extending his hand to touch one of the skeletal arms. It twitched, smoothly grasping Heero's hand and twisting it.
"Don't touch." Peacecrafto growled, turning around and staring pointedly at the long fingered hand that still grasped Heero. "It doesn't like to be touched." He said softly, the silvery hand slowly releasing Heero and folding itself back into place.
"That's why your shirt looked so bizarre." I muttered, my eyes returning to the neatly folded arms that rested against his back. "But why... why do you have them?"
"Call it rebellion." He snapped, turning back to his examination of the slice of bubble on the floor. "It's almost ready by the way, so I would suggest taking a seat." He gestured at the center portion of the ball, where 138 already sat, waiting for us.
"Why do you call it the golden ball?" I asked curiously as I took a seat, not noting anything gold that would give a clue to such a name.
"Milyardo named it, after some old story that his family would tell. Apparently, there was a female governmental figure... " The Raskuda paused, glancing towards his partner. "What was that called again?"
"A princess." The blond man mumbled, standing up and joining us where we sat.
"Right, well there was once a princess who owned a ball of gold." Treize continued, sitting beside Heero and fiddling with something beneath his feet.
"Why would anyone want to own such a thing, when Gold is worth nothing?" Heero asked, his eyes following Milyardo's movements, watching those skeletal arms closely.
"I'm not really sure, but the princess owned one. At any rate, one day she was playing near a small water source, when she became graceless and lost the ball. It rolled into the water source and disappeared from sight." He shifted his feet, gesturing at Peacecrafto who pressed a small indentation and nodded.
The floor hummed, the parted pieces of the bubble rising slowly up from it and closing in around us. Both men seemed unfazed as the Raskuda went on with his tale. "She was unhappy with this and water fell from her eyes. Then a small, green amphibian appeared beside her and made a deal with her."
The pieces connected, falling together and merging seamlessly. We now sat inside a ball, the walls of it clear and a faintly tinted gold. Treize slid his feet forward and the wall surrounding us split, so that we were enclosed by two balls, one within the other. "The amphibian said it would retrieve the ball of gold, if the princess would in return let it stay with her for the night, share her food, and treat it as an equal."
"This a really strange story," I said shakily, as the outer bubble began to spin, the inner ball remaining motionless within it. I put my hands down, clutching at the seat.
"It gets stranger. The princess agreed to these terms, and the amphibian retrieved her lost ball. But when he gave it to her, she broke the contract and ran back home." Treize shook his head, as if unable to believe someone would break a contract like that. Despite myself, I found I agreed with him. It was not good form to break a contract; it showed that you could not be trusted, ever.
"Hang on." He said, shifting once more and tapping his feet along the floor, it broke apart and 4 smooth plates lifted up from it, also looking seamless and naturally formed.
"The princess pretended she had never made a deal with the amphibian and did not tell her genetic producers of the incident. But later that night, the amphibian showed up, and told the whole story. No one could believe that the princess would break a contract as she did. And to make up for it, they forced the princess to complete the deal."
Treize's feet slid back and forth on the plates, the ship gliding slowly towards one wall. I felt the urge to close my eyes; positive we would crash into it, when it slid aside, the stark blackness of space opening to us. The stars were beams of gentle light, solar systems whirling within their limits, milky strands indicating galaxies. It was stunning, the feeling of being enveloped by darkness and light, and when I reached out my hand to touch the wall of the bubble, it was warm to my touch. Perhaps, this was the embrace that only space could give.
"As the evening wore on, the princess became very angry. She was a willful, controlling girl, and did not like to share anything with anyone. By the end of the evening, when the amphibian said that now it would sleep in her bed as well. The princess was half mad, so she picked it up and threw it against the wall."
"That wasn't nice." 138 whispered, shivering at the thought. I reached over, laying a comforting finger on its head and stroking it gently. Of course, it would fear something that could so easily happen to itself.
"No, of course it wasn't, but the princess did not care. The funny thing is you think a war would have broken out at that point, but it didn't. Apparently the princess's anger actaully broke a ... Milyardo?"
"Yes, a curse on the amphibian, and it turned into a life mate for the girl. They were married, and lived happily after that." He concluded, frowning at the view of the planet. "Is it actually still moving closer?"
"I think so. But Khushrenada, I wonder only one thing about that story... " Heero said softly, both of them gazing out the side of the bubble. "Whatever happened to the golden ball?"
"Aha!" The Raskuda held up a finger, grinning around at us. "That was what I asked when I heard the story. After all, that was the whole point wasn't it? And yet she forgot about the ball almost immediately. I think, it says something about humanity myself." He smirked, the feet he rested upon the four plates within the floor, sliding. After a few seconds, I realized he was steering us, maneuvering us towards the planet.
It grew steadily larger as we approached, white clouds swirling across the jeweled tones of green and blue. It spun lazily in the void of night like some perfect orb; a sphere made up of life.
"This golden ball can conform to any gravitational aura, matching it and breaking through easily. In a few moments it will duplicate the gravitation of the planet, you may find yourself growing somewhat lighter." Milyardo stated, as he turned to watch the approach of the planet through the walls of gold.
The entirety of space seemed to be toned in golden hues, a cast of it coloring the stars in the distance, seeming to bring warmth to the coldness. My hand still rested against the wall, warmed perhaps by the air that had been trapped between the separate bubbles. 138 inched up my other hand, crawling carefully over my wrist and up my arm. It snuggled down against my neck, claws firmly hooked inside my hair. "Everything is so much bigger than I am." It said in a soft, awed tone of voice.
"It doesn't matter 138, your size has more advantages, be happy with that." Milyardo said from nearby, casting a soothing glance at the small Youlin.
The planet seemed to meet us, a crackling emanating from all around as we slid through its atmosphere. Below, spread out like a far away map, lay land and water, the green barely detectable as fields and forests. I'd never been to such a place; all the planets I'd seen were cold and desolate by comparison. It was hard to believe there were no major lifeforms here, except now, there was us.
We slid down, peacefully turning as we settled towards a large clearing of greenery. With a sound that almost resembled an exhalation, we landed, the golden ball humming gently before it sighed to a stop.
The Raskuda tapped his feet and the plates beneath them slid once more into the floor, invisible again. The ball split, gradually opening like a flower to let in the cool, crisp air of the planet. I could smell grasses, and water, and strange aromas that I was sure had never been smelled before. We all stood slowly, turning in place to glance about at the restful and waving grasses, there were what looked to be trees in the near distance.
"We have about 4 hours until complete nightfall, according to Khali. I suggest we explore, then return here and make camp." Peacecrafto said calmly, his voice barely carrying over the ripples of wind that washed over us.
"Good," Heero muttered, turning towards the pirates, "There's something I need to teach Duo, 4 hours should be long enough to accomplish it."
I started in surprise, glancing at him, wondering what he could possibly need to teach me. He met my questioning look, smiling slightly.
"You do want to learn to fly, don't you?"
Easier said than done. Flying was not at all what I thought it would be. It was, in that it was exhilarating, pulse racing, pure excitement. But since I lacked any skill in it, and landed badly more times than not. I soon found my body covered in bruises.
For what seemed like the millionth time in the last 3 hours I sat on the grass, this time rubbing my knee as it throbbed in pain. Heero was still far above me, his shadow occasionally passing over. I glanced up, catching sight of him again, his wings extended fully, glinting in the eternal twilight. He looked like a bird, or a butterfly, the black suit incased form of his body standing out against his wings in contrast.
Circling slowly above me, he gradually came in for a landing; walking over to where I sat and bending down to meet my eyes. I blinked up at him, still vacantly rubbing my knee. "How come you make it look so easy?" I grumbled, taking the hand he offered and levering myself up.
"Because I was born with wings and you were not?" He said calmly, picking a piece of grass from my hair. "Perhaps we should try this in another fashion." He mused, taking my arm and pulling me against his chest. "I want you to wrap your arms around me."
I did, smiling slightly at the command. As if I wouldn't want to obey such an order? His back felt smooth beneath my hands, one of my fingers brushing a steelshift column. "Now what?"
"Now hang on, I'm going to take you up, and keep you there." His knees bent slightly, wings flexing, and then he leapt high, dragging me along with him into the sky. "You seem to be able to take off well enough," he murmured against my ear. "But I have noticed your landings are rather rough. All you have to do is remember that in the landing, you will make almost the same movements you did in take off."
I glanced down, realizing just how far below the ground was, and that there was nothing to protect me if I fell. One of Heero's hands brushed my wings, and I finally began to understand that now, there was something that could save me. I had wings, I may not have had Fina, or the comfort in knowing I could exit the program at any time, but I had wings and myself.
"I'm going to let you go, when I do, spread your wings wide, and catch the air current."
My hands clenched involuntarily on his back as he said this. But I nodded never the less, willing to try. And then I was alone, crystal wings spreading and opening, casting a pale blue glow along my outstretched body, as I caught the wind and lifted high.
I'd managed to do this earlier, but suddenly my fears of it seemed to be gone, and I reveled in the breeze brushing my hair back and tearing my eyes. I looked to the side and saw Heero nearby, smiling openly at my joy.
"When you land remember that *you* are the one controlling the movement!" He yelled across the space between us.
I nodded and grinned as I practiced a dive. The wind shrieked in my ears as I plummeted straight down, and I could barely see through the narrow slits my eyes had become. Deciding to be daring I swooped down over the grasses, laughing as I brushed them with my fingertips before climbing back upwards with a few hard flaps. I circled lazily for a few moments more and then went for it, I was going to land this time, and I was going to do it without gaining yet another bruise.
Then something below caught my eyes, I flew towards it, sweeping slowly down and trying to figure out what it was. "Heero!" I pointed at the oddity in the landscape below and went into a shallow dive, Heero following on my heels.
Below lay a strangely shimmering piece of land; almost liquid in it's shifting. It pulsed and roiled like a boiling ocean, gel-like and a light pinkish in color. As I came closer to it, I could see it lap gently against its banks, and that it was glowing deep down inside, a whitish light hidden beneath it. I barely noticed that I landed perfectly, wings supporting me right until my feet touched down, knees bending automatically to balance.
"What is it?" I asked Heero, who'd landed a few seconds behind me.
"I'm not sure, it is certainly interesting though, isn't it?"
"I'll say... we'd better tell the pirates about this."
"Alright, by the way, that was a perfect landing Duo."
I turned, grinning like a fool. "I know."
"Any idea what it is?"
Milyardo shook his head; "All I can tell is that it's an extremely strong energy source." He was kneeling beside the veritable ocean of pink ooze, holding a scanner out over it. Khali was able to verify what various items were through the scanner, explaining whether it was usable, useful, or just odd.
After a brief pause, her voice carried out to us through the scanner. "Source of liquid, unknown. Varying elements, changeable formations, atomic, nutrionic and energy levels beyond one million."
"Could you explain that in English Khali?" I asked with a wince.
"Certainly Duo, you know I love you!" She squealed in her normal tone of hyperactivity.
"Basically, this liquid is something like primordial soup, it contains the life force, right amount of elements, random energy, and chaotic instability. The only thing that is perhaps odd about it is that it has not created a life form yet. Apparently, something isn't right with it, it lacks something important." She went on in a more serious tone. "As for why the planet is self propellant, this muck you're standing near might be the key. So much life force with no life form could very well make the planet itself become alive in a sense that has nothing to do with trees and grasses."
"So, basically, the planet is alive as long as it, for reasons we cannot say, is unable to propagate life? But how is it able to have plant life? Wouldn't there have to be insects or other small life forms?" I asked, leaning out over the ooze, tempted to dip a finger in just to see what would happen.
"In a case such as this? No, it would need nothing like that. The chain of life is shortened so that it can actually produce plant life without any other forms to tend to it. Such a mass amount of energy is also what makes this planet have a permanent sheen of light. Didn't you wonder how there could be light without a sun? By the way, in a few hours you'll even get a sort of moon glow." Khali responded, "Wish I could be there with you... " She said softly after a few moments.
"Some day, maybe you will be." Treize said just as softly, and then he turned towards us, his normal grin in place. "So let's go make a camp!" He clapped all four hands briskly, stomping off towards where the golden ball resided.
Milyardo watched him go, his head gently shaking back and forth, a small frown on his features. When I caught his eye, he merely turned his head away, shaking himself slightly. "Let's go, Treize has an innate ability to make a mess of such things."
I was resting with my head on Heero's lap, idly petting the soft fur of 138 who lay curled up on my forearm. A small ball of energy lay in front of us, the pirates sitting to our left and half asleep in the darkness. Khali had been right about the false moon glow, the field of grass we were in lit up by a soft golden glow, though no moon was in sight. The faraway stars mixing with the gold to cast silvery shadows in the grass.
I eased 138 off my arm and onto Heero's thigh, wobbling to my feet. "Private matter to attend to," I said softly to Heero. He nodded, shifting to lie back and moving the small sleeping Youlin to his chest.
There was nothing to fear in the vague darkness that surrounded us, after all, there were no life-forms at all on this planet, only the trees, grass, and waters. So I wandered a few yards off, and turned my back. After a few moments, I realized that there was no opening on the front of my suit for what I needed to do. Releasing the magnetics down to my waist, I was finally able to relieve the increasing pressure on my bladder.
I finished quickly, closing the suit and staring up at the night sky, the stars and constellations completely unrecognizable. It wasn't until I tried to walk, that I noticed something definitely wrong with the ground beneath my feet. I was frozen to the spot, something holding me down.
With a small quake of fear, I looked at the ground. The grasses held me in place, wrapping around my booted feet and even as I watched slithering up my legs. I let out a gasp, wondering what I should do. Call for help? Try to get out of it myself?
I soon discovered I didn't have that many choices. For even as I thought to open my mouth and scream for help, the ground trembled. The earth seeming to drag me down with a sudden excess amount of gravity. My palms hit the soil, more grass wrapping around my hands and sliding up my arms.
Stark terror began taking hold of me, as with another shudder the ground seemed to vomit up that viscous pink fluid, now stained dark in the low light. It shot up around me, forming a cylinder about my body where I knelt until even the stars were hidden from view. The last thing I heard before the gravitational pull sank me into unconsciousness was a faraway voice, calling for me.
Transpod: A dimensional traveling device. The transpod will transport human mass within any area that contains another transpod. The time taken for each journey will always be exactly 10 nanoseconds, as time is folded as well as matter to create no ripple within the dimensions.
Slosta: A drink created from organic matter grown on Jilad, the Slosta is filled with nutrients that heighten awareness and energize.
CR chips: Two microchips implanted behind the ears, the connectors that allow a direct linkage to the VR modules.
Shinalp: A form of cursing, Shinalp is somewhat akin to saying "shit" or "ah shit"
Kajacrap: The Kaja is a life form located on the planet Neskin, a large beast known to produce huge amounts of feces. The phrase kajacrap is akin to saying "Bullshit"
Fliogan Warriors: The Fliogan is a race that attaches metallic wings to their young while they are still being formed within the incubators. The wings are partially organic, fusing with the young so as to become part of their bodies. This warrior race is known to be extremely high tech, and very vicious, most normal humans will not go near them, as they are known to kill without reason. Very little is known of the Fliogan or their ways.
Feed Tubes: Connectors that feed information and nutrients to any life form connected to any long-term device.
Lavablue 6: The planet on which the society of Fliogan reside at this time.
Levels: Technological knowledge is rated by level; most societies only have an average of 30 levels. The common level of most humans is 5, techmaster levels tend to be higher and in the upper ranges.
Steelshift: 1 of over a million different charted elements, Steelshift is partially organic, allowing it to be integrated with human DNA, testing is still in experimental stages, most distinguished users of this element are the Fliogan.
Slipshot Diskwings: A style of wing known to be common among the Fliogan, Slipshot defines the integration of movable parts, Diskwing is the style of the small circular patterns of metal that form the wings of Fliogan.
Contract: A contract is a more binding way to say, "Promise or swear?"
Optilenses: Cyber optic lenses, which can be used during a VR program only.
Creos: The original form of the name Christ has changed with the passage of time, modern form of the word when used as a curse is Creos.
Orstras: A plant matter grown in dark caves on the planet of Trinition, considered a delicacy on most planets, the plant is dark purple with small white bells that can be plucked and cooked. The taste is said to be sweet and delicate.
Realtime Call: The difference between a realtime call and a regular call is in the distance, all realtime calls infer off planet residence of the caller, communications run at high speeds, face to face talking is still difficult between planets.
What is your task: This is the way most people will ask what your job is, what career you're in.
Crèche Technician: Most people are born to the incubators and raised in crèches, the technicians help care for the many children being raised in such places.
Grower: The still forming body of a child within the incubator, a delicate time that must be carefully overseen to prevent accidents. A grower is usually designated as a child in a womb-like state. Between –1 to –9 months, or the time a child would be inside of a mother's body.
Youlin: I manmade mammalian life form, these animals are specifically created to improve the technology behind cloning. Most tests are performed with a small VR module; with which the creatures are filled with the only knowledge they know, as the Youlin is created with a blank slate for a mind.
A Set: A group of Growers that have reached maturity.
Trance state: Every few months of a citizen's life is recorded during REM cycles, the consciousness is stored within a neural processor called a memory chip. Occasionally when one wishes to know another, an exchange of such chips may occur.
Wetwiring: circuitry and modifications that can be installed within the human body without harming it.
The System: There are 3 levels of the system. The first is that which take cares of the minor systems such as basic maintenance, the second level controls techmaster training, medical facilities, and knowledge. The final level of the system controls all other functions between worlds, each detail is observed, and stored within it.
Klishana: A crystal found during an expedition of exploration, it is not only organic, but sentient as well.
Pinalr: A vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked, it is said to be an acquired taste due to its strange fleshy texture and nutty flavor.
Guplit: A type of fruit grown on many planets, it is small and covered in tiny spikes which make it needful to be carefully eaten. It is said to taste rather sour, with a hint of sweetness.
Fermented Hisle Juice: A type of fruit also grown on many planets, it can be juiced and distilled to form a mild form of alcoholic beverage.
If you would like a definition for something not listed here just ask! ^_^