Also included this week:
A Story Across Years: Chapter three. "Tradition, of course. I wonder when it started."
Secret Life: Chapters three and four. Sci-fi horror. "He is afraid. Afraid that he knows why he is here."
Graphic violence warning.Her Body Moves
Two minutes, forty-five seconds.
She moves outside. "What's the situation?"
He turns to her as he draws a small box out of his coat pocket. "They're abandoning the sphere. The timer is running down and when their hold phases out so will the sphere. And everything that was written on it."
He opens up the box. Inside there is a syringe. The fluid inside is a swirling mixture of purples and blues. "We'll have to give all of it to you."
"You know what that means."
She rolls up her sleeve and waits for the sting of the needle.
She thinks. And her body moves.
Magic. Or near enough as makes no difference.
The fluid is a byproduct of some kind of bacterium. Highly unstable. Ninety-nine out of a hundred microliters of the stuff simply falls apart. The rest must be processed of impurities. Out of a gallon of the stable fluid comes only a few pure drops.
Seventy-five billion dollars and eight months of careful processing are hurtling her, faster than a bullet, faster than a wildfire, through a world of frozen images and still raindrops. Moving like a storm of winds, pressure waves following in her wake.
The fluid is a conductor. A channel. Out there, beyond the world of light and sound and touch, there is something else. Something perhaps not unlike Plato's world of Ideal Forms. A place of motion and change. And the fluid is the gate and the way to the gate.
She has become lightning- she has become thought- and so her body moves.
Ahead of her there is an opening door. She slips through, moves into a war zone. Spins, dances between bullets hanging in the air. And they fly away. Blown to shrapnel or disintegrated entirely.
How many times has she had drops or even centiliters of the stuff? Oh, but it is nothing as compared to this.
Now, as her flesh burns away with every lightning step, only now does she know what speed really is.
She races down the stairs. Into the bowels of the hold. There is a door there. Heavy. Inches thick, no doubt. Harder than steel, no doubt. Eight different keys, codes, and physical identity checks.
There is a place that is elsewhere. Of dynamism. She knows the gate. She has become the gate.
There is no human door that will keep her out. Not now.
She does not think. She already knows what to do.
Her body moves. Slams into the door, shoulder-first. Faster than sound. Faster than a cracking whip. She breaks through the door like a cruise missile, the irresistible force. And the door is far from immovable.
The fluid is a part of her. Has been so since the instant that it entered her body. Will be so until she releases it.
It is the gate. She is the gate. And the way through. To energy.
Her body, battered, broken, mangled, knits itself together. Her powdered shoulder reforms. The barest hint of an arm takes shape, fills out. Develops fingers in enough time to rip a piece of metal from the door and slash it through the man that is standing in her way.
Faster than moving to the side.
Key? She's the only key that she needs.
She is whole again a second after she breaks through the vault door.
Her body shivers. Her hold on the fluid is unbreakable, but her body is strained. It won't be recovering from this much fluid. This is her last run.
But for now she is whole. Whole and ebullience.
Her body moves through the catacombs of the hold.
He is a flash of motion, a series of photographic stills blending into each other, a stream of action.
He throws her into the wall, tears away her arm from her simply from touching her.
He's faster than her.
She ducks beneath his next punch. Sweeps his legs from under him.
But he's not smarter.
He's aiming where she is. Not where she will be.
Achilles losing to the tortoise.
She examines him. Weaves away, slides into a different strike.
Her lower jaw grows back before she registers its loss.
So that's how it is.
Her body moves to the beat of its heart. Stops. Ducks.
Bullets are no good in this realm of battle. Nothing that moves that sluggishly. But at these speeds it seems like there is nothing that is not sluggish. Nothing save herself.
Her body moves. Thrusts forward. And the knives that she has drawn, is wielding like an extension of herself, thrust with her.
Her body moves, steel and flesh together. Blood drifts in the air. Metal breaks under the force.
She draws more. Drops some, throws others, lets them hang.
Continues to unstrap her knives from where they rest on her body.
Only she is calculating the path of every knife that she has dropped. Only she, she is sure, is thinking two entire seconds ahead.
Her body moves, a flurry of sharp edges. They dance together like a movement of storm winds.
She flies through a wall. Let herself get grazed by a finger, get nudged.
He is a beam. A laser pointed down her throat moving too fast for her to distinguish fingers and facial features.
She stalls. Prepares. Tenses. At the last possible moment, her body kicks.
She follows back. Sees him flow into like a river of bodies into knives. She walks past the lower half of his body, separated by the force of her kick.
By the time that she reaches him he's already come back.
She is a sonic boom and he is the jet that makes it. She is lightning and he is the charge before the strike. Response and stimulus.
But the lightning never anticipated before today.
She turns her run into a slide. Swings at him for the sole purpose of moving. Moving him.
He backs into another knife.
A knife that he should have dodged.
His first blow destroys a hand. His next breaks her spine.
Her body moves. Retreats.
Perceives a hairline difference of speed between now and the very beginning.
Thesis. Antithesis. Synthesis.
Her body moves. Running. Cat and mouse.
He pursues. Breaks through walls. Through the frozen bodies of his comrades. Through floors when necessary.
Such a small difference that she never could have perceived it were these nanoseconds not of such unparalleled importance to the both of them.
Does he notice?
Thesis. Antithesis. Synthesis.
She barrels forward. Doubles back. Tries to keep him guessing.
Reaches his arm. Snaps it off. Dodges his counterstrike.
Misses like he shouldn't have missed.
Slower. But the fluid doesn't burn out. Is only released after it is relinquished.
A twinge of pain passes through her.
Or after her body burns out.
Thesis. Antithesis. Synthesis.
She knows what to do.
And her body moves.
Forward. On the offensive.
And her jaws close on flesh.
Her body moves away. Back. Away.
Rips at him. Leaps away. Bobbing, weaving, spinning, severing.
Blood coats her mouth.
And she feels faster.
Foreign fluid is assimilated into her body.
She picks up handfuls of torn-off meat from the floor.
Present and future blend together under the fluid's influence. Existence and prediction moving together, compounded as she pushes further than she ever has before. Her past his future.
And she pushes beyond him. Faster. Faster.
Tears him apart like a cannibal demon of motion.
Where she treads, only he can see. And not for long.
Agony pulses through her body as she takes another bite.
She swallows and bites again before his shoulder has time to heal.
Again. Again. Faster. Faster.
Takes his face off.
His screaming reaches her ears at last. Just as he finally dies. A wreckage of torn flesh and shattered bones.
She continues to eat.
When she's done there are not even bones remaining.
She examines her surroundings. Walls ripped to pieces. Bodies strewn around her, frozen in time and frozen in death. Often in pieces, shields and weapons in her thirteen-second battle with their comrade.
A good death. A worthy one, consumed to protect the sphere. She would tip her hat if she had one.
She resumes moving instead.
Goes down one more level. Destroys the last door between her and the sphere.
Inside the room are three men. Syringes are at their arms. One of them, his eyes pointed at the door, has the needle pressed against his arm. In another second it will penetrate and release the fluid in its barrel.
It's a pity that he doesn't have a second left.
The men die.
Before her is the sphere, a little larger than a baseball in size. It shimmers like translucent glass. She picks it up gently and turns it over in her hands. There appears to be nothing at all on it. Nor, save the same material with which it is made, anything inside it.
But appearances can be deceiving. It is layered like an onion. Or perhaps a matryoshka doll with five thousand shells. And every cubic micron of it was filled with writing.
She didn't know what it said. Nobody did. But the barest fragment of something like it, a green shard comparable in size to a hair half an inch long, had revealed the fluid.
She smiled. She had it. Finally had it.
She had two minutes and three seconds left. Plenty of time.
Her body moves. Convulses under the strain of the fluid.
She estimates fifteen seconds before her body gives out. Fifteen seconds of objective time.
That's enough. She can do that.
And then she can stop moving. Forever.
Notes for this story