Liyane Harcourt relaxed hold on the trigger when she saw what Timothy had already done to himself. She relaxed hold of her sense, while molten spray offended the safety, and the shade-blade whirled round her wrist. The pink-and-black bow limbs revolved fast to catch every stray projectile. Liyane took shivering hand to curl fingers against warm collarbone. And the stitches there, smooth as silt. Like tasting her ribbons in a worry, as a girl. Weapon above knobbed wrist joint passed through her, generous.
Congratulations, you have marked a no-point buck! Better luck next time, spaghetti legs.
Only natural, to slam the bright pink plastic torc against the wall and shut it up. Rapport of firebomb outside. Quake. Now, Emperor Sanur Crush was standing directly over her, and he said:
‘The loving Emperor will feast on all dissidents.’
And Timothy still had the horns of the Ungulati though she’d shot his printed face full of holes.
A breath to listen, then Liyane got the whirling pastel device out in front of her again and ran for up the chill corridor.
The place was still clean from the night crew, and even smelled so crisp, like the snow outside. No. That is ash, burning, ending. Ungulates always made places smell like this. Liyane readied, then slammed her shoulder into a stuck door a few times, then slipped against it and fell backward. The door drifted open a beat later, when she tried the knob.
Wak, wak, waaaaaak!
This time, Liyane grimaced dry lips. She faced a two-way mirror beyond her old interrogation table. Yes, this time a dramatic heroine was needed, to smash through it. Liyane took a chair, raised it over her head, fantastic tailored breasts heaving and all, and then the wooden legs rebounded against the dark glass so that they both fell over.
A mirror is not an acceptable target, smartypants. Try Free Me’s pretty princess game. In the land of Happy Sunshine Foreverland, Princess Angelica must stop the evil witch from using a flock of black geese–
“MIRROR MIRROR ON THE WALL, WHO’S THE UGLIEST OF THEM ALL?” Liyane stacked fists, moved them around in a circle, then shouted over the damned game.
A triumphant, You are the ugliest, Queen Evilmeana! Congratulations, you have freed your heart, the poor black geese, and saved the land of Happy Sunshine Foreverland!
One day, one beautiful day, Free Me would get dumped into a real bubbling cauldron. Then, grammar-checked with hot iron rods.
Free Me emitted a ray of black energy that caused the golden glass wall to gain racing silver hairlines, which deepened. Liyane clicked Free Mee back to the shade-blade, raised it, let it whirr and shield her from the sudden burst apart of glass shards. When it all stopped screaming, raining and cutting down, Liyane stepped through the shattered wall and found the station’s XPS7-41 server in the next room.
A crouch, a reach at the solid box and several more artful clicks of Cheery-Cherry-Pink Free Me, Girls Only Edition. Liyane focused beyond that tight bracelet when layers of life’s colors and cold peeled away. The light woman stopped needing to see the spreadsheets and their windows, became entranced by dazzling calculation and linking to here, to here, to here, and deeper, so much deeper, seduced by the thrill knowing everything at heart’s first search. It began to feel as if she were truly reaching her arm deep into the machine, following the pomegranate seed sparks of near-sentience. She would find what could make her laugh and cry. Smart thing, to take technology in a more sensual direction. That was what sold bionic circuits, in the end:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Sustainable IS Sexy.” Was how the voiced used to throb in those commercials. It sifted back to Liyane now. Pressed gently at the corneas of her eyes during the lull of search. We need a result now. No, no. Here comes start of a newsreel of cerulean advertisements. You want to get away from the snow and travel to Bermuda, don’t you? No deer, in Bermuda, dear. Shh, machine. Stop talking to me…
The palm of Liyane’s hand had the double ‘oo’ of stoolpigeon, it was that near to firing synapses, cruel milisecond, before her rigged-up efforts were forced to reveal their worth.
“Prisoner Numeral 47-G, Golga Rothschild, alias Liyane Harcourt. You are hereby under arrest, for crimes against the Milky Way Galactic Empire…” the nasal narration of life returned.
Liyane scrambled away from the crimson server and its smooth vapor. She aimed again through the broken frame of glass, this time, pretending to see. Lasers from enemy sights moved down from her forehead to settle in every place that mattered. One point of red light indicated the woman’s heart, the second wanted a kidney through her bones, and the last pointed ready to render any species sterile.
“Please…” Liyane begged, as she looked desperately for their hooves or antlers. Liyane clicked through all the different cycles of the Free Me: a tennis racket and ball, a guitar, frying pan, skis, until the limbs of the bow flipped up and deadly on either side of her forearm and she reset the game. “It was a long time ago, and I was afraid… How was I supposed to know a stupid smoke-and-skip group would ever manage to overthrow the fucking government?!” One last snorted behest from the soldiers, for her to desist.
Liyane fired several jubilant shots in defiant stead. The shade-colored bolts soared into the air, danced their trajectory and finally spelled out ‘YOU LOSE‘ before white flickered everywhere, pain burst and her mind went stark as a page.
Free Me was a tool for punishing ignorance, and these weren’t deer at all, but bipedal Ungulates. The machine had already warned her. No posters of deer. No half-deer. Only deer. The crossbow game was for animal-hunting only. Innocents learned so much faster that way, under the old regime.
These three armored Ungulates loped over to the Human woman, licking cold snub-noses. They knelt on springy haunches, flicked white tails with at the thought of reward.
That didn’t last long. Firebomb again, rifle plumes and bullets–real ones–burst their tall antlers at the joints. When the Ungulates turned to face the Rebels, the half-animals landed on faces and in triplicate. Chests, dead center. Everyone a kill shot.
A man in a wild orange jacket got down on one of his knees. “Golga. Mother-foyer…”
“Jeremie? Did you see that Tim… how did he get…”
“Him! How did you get—?”
“…San’ur Crush, he knows that we weren’t sleeping. And those yellow eyes… quite… wide awake.”
Real Jeremie, so him after all these years, he held on and helped her to sing the rest. Rich, bloodied hands stained Free Me.
The XPS7-41 server still rose in its whirr, as the real woman bled. It breathed scented light through its fans, at every off. There never was a more self-invested moan, in creation. Which was probably why man had been moved to make it. A her. Who would stand time, weather, and blood pooling over the floor, through revolution and revolution.
One sad swipe of the satin stitch across Liyane’s breast. These pretty, and evil things. What had they all come to? People had decided this? Don’t ever, never make me choose again.
And so a machine’s callous preening swallowed Liyane’s last, reddest reminiscing.
1, OO is for Stoolpigeon :: 2, Whiteblank :: 3, Antler Face :: 4, Orange Planet