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The Melancholy of Mackie-Chan
RE: The Melancholy of Mackie-Chan
#76
... I think I missed something here, Dartz? No offense, son of Eire (and I know the fathers side of my family came from there long before I met you) but I am, at the moment, very confused about how the fallout of a certain nuclear Oops ties into Gaige/Mackies story. I hope you choose to tie these threads together in the next installment because I am feeling very 'Vinny Barbarino (AKA "I'M SO CONFUSED!!!") at the moment
Hear that thunder rolling till it seems to rock the sky?
Thats' every ship in Grayson's Navy taking up the cry!
NO QUARTER!

No Quarter by Echo's Children
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RE: The Melancholy of Mackie-Chan
#77
The idea was that both events were happening simultaneously, ramping up the stress. It could probably be edited out at this stage, but it's too late now.


EDIT: I was also trying to give a sense of how Frigga runs - earlier in the story Anika has been sending false data about their reactors which showed Unit 04 still operating - not out of any malice but because the data recording system broke down years ago and it was easier to just radio in the logs rather than fix it. Someone is seen running from a moving train cab to set some points, before running back to the still running training. People duel with actual live sabers.

And the mural very much shows that "We blew a nuclear reactor up and solved it!" level of heroism.

Frigga is probably being dangerously managed - partly because they feel under pressure to achieve results to show up parliament, and partly because any malfunctions or failures they're afraid would be used as a political stick

I love the smell of rotaries in the morning. You know one time, I got to work early, before the rush hour. I walked through the empty carpark, I didn't see one bloody Prius or Golf. And that smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole carpark, smelled like.... ....speed.

One day they're going to ban them.
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RE: The Melancholy of Mackie-Chan
#78
A short piece. About three months work.

------


“Thirty-six microsieverts,” said Shinji. The Patrol watch on Shinji’s wrist chimed a warning, screen flickering a cautious yellow

“What’s going on here?”

They both stood on the ramp of their Bolitho, watching life on Frigga carry on with its usual rhythms. A kilometre away, a diesel locomotive idled, being attended to by its crew. Behind it waited a train of empty ore wagons, low-loaders loaded with machinery and a single passenger coach

An oversized fighter aircraft sat halfway between them and the locomotive, surrounded by tools and equipment. Somebody’d been working on it. A dozen or more assorted shuttlecraft sat parked haphazardly, ignoring the painted markings on the steel deck.

“Nothing, apparently,” said Shinji. He looked around, checking “But there’s always something going on.”

“You’re not chief of security out here, Shinji.”

“But there’s danger,” said Shinji. His eyes narrowed, focusing on a scaffold at the far end of the landing bay. A section of concrete wall had been shored up with foot-thick steel beams capable of supporting a skyscraper.

For a moment Miyuri found herself if maybe he’d been getting too far into the role of security chief. She pondered a moment, before adjusting her glasses. A change in polarisation shone up the cracks in the wall, iridescent ribbons of stress flowing across the concrete

“I’m worried too.” She felt a shiver roll through her body. “I’ve sent a message to Koran about it.”

Shinji looked at her for a moment, then back at the wall. “I wonder if someone’s driving the bus today.”

Miyuri raised an eyebrow “Today?”

Shinji offered her a wan smile. “It stops at the railway tracks.” He took a breath. “Maybe we should’ve landed closer.”

The landing bay stretched for nearly a kilometre in front of them. There was nothing for it but to walk, watching the life of the station churn on. The oily scent of diesel exhaust clung slick-like to the air they breathed, mixed with a parch of dry concrete dust.

Her patrol watch alarmed once more - in a more insistent tone. It begged her to exacuate.

One hundred and five microsieverts per hour.

Higher than.interplanetary background. Around her, people went about their ordinary days. She watched a man work under a disassembled landmate, lying on thick mat laid out on the steel deck. Miyuri watched people walk, work and talk in a radiation field high enough to burn a Stellviacorp employee out for life inside a month.

For a moment, Miyuri felt like she was watching someone lie in nettles. The sensation crawled across her skin, mingling with the unsettling idea that someone had allowed them to work there.

There wasn’t much either of them could do about it.

For a few minutes, she wondered if nobody’d told them - if they’d kept the consequences as big a secret as the cause. When she saw that everyone had some sort of dosimeter with them, she realised they knew.

Miyuri didn’t know if that made it worse or not.

It took her far longer than she expected to reach the end of the landing bay. Shinji beside her quietly logged the radiation readings. She found herself wondering on Anika - whether she knew, or whether it’d affected her in some way.

Even androids could be harmed by enough of a dose of radiation. Sensitive electronics could be damaged as surely sensitive biology.

At the end of the bay waited what amounted to the ceremonial entrance to the settlement proper. A large gateway, wide enough to drive a Space Shuttle through led to a darkened tunnel. A pair of rail-tracks struck two shining white lines ahead into the darkness, curving upwards in the distance.

Beside the gate stood A single blue comet-star, four-pointed with one of the beams trailing, holding the settlement’s name in white capitalised letters.

ELEANOR CITY

At the centre of the starbust, the settlement’s founding year: 2024

Leaning on the sign was a dark-skinned woman in orange overalls, tied half-around her waist. Sweat on her skin shone in the overhead lights. A cool-blue glow from the tablet illuminated the sharp features of her face.

“Excuse me, miss?” Miyuri started. For a moment, the woman seemed to ignore her, before slowly raising her face. Wide brown eyes seemed

“Ah..” Miyuri’s voice caught form “Do you know if the bus is running?”

“Oh.” the woman blinked. “ Yeah, I do,”

She walked off, mind clearly on other things, face buried in the tablet, leaving Miyuri standing bewildered.

--

The sound of a twig snapping, followed by a whisp of blue smoke marked the death of a black microcontroller at the centre of a silver-flecked PCB. The scent of burning electricity tinged the air.

The only light in the crawlspace came from a small torch jammed up between a pair of interface cards. Hard white light shone off silver circuit traces. Cables hung from the shadows above her.

Anika lay on her back, hammed in by circuitry on two sides. She kicked herself forward, deeper into the computer system. Cooling fans howled around her, drawing cold air across her body.

Anika took a breath, waiting for the probe in her hand to recharge.

A light on the grip flashed green.

At the other end of the grip was a pair of silver metal probes. Anika offered them up to a pair of solder bumps on another innocent PCB.

Her thumb pressed a button on the grip. More blue smoke liberated itself from its gallium prison.

An alarm sounded from the tangle of cables, warning of data corruption in the system. She dragged herself out with her heels, scrambling feet-first out through an access hatch into the station’s control room.

She lay on the cold floor for a second, looking up the trouser leg of the man working the console above her. Sweat sparked across his face, beads trickling in rivers.

“That get it?”

He looked down at her and smiled with relief.

“Bank 23-50 crashed - it’d dumping corrupt data to the backups at 40-70 and 80-72.”

She sat herself up, exhaling the breath she didn’t know she’d been holding

“Good.” said Anika. She glanced over her shoulder at the monitors high above her. A dozen indicators flashed red amongst a hundred green. “Now it’ll look like the power surge did it.” She took another breath.

“We didn’t notice because we were too busy with the reactor,” Keisuke finished.

The hardest part about nuking the data, was making it look like it hadn’t been nuked on purpose. She pushed herself to her feet, taking a moment to steady herself.

The reactor panel still showed a circular representation of the reactor and its four tangental neutral beam injectors, along with constellation of indicators flashing red, orange and yellow for sensors which no longer existed. A hundred selsyn gauges indicated the final positions of the fuel throttle valves and diverter plates. The unit control panel panels showed one of the surviving seperator assemblies at vacuum pressure, one of the circulating pumps offline and everything else to do with moving water through the core with no signal. Every flowmeter and gauge remained jammed at their final values.

On the Turbine and Generator console, cup of coffee left over from the accident had turned to sludge. The turbine and generator showed as shutdown - as if nothing more dramatic had happened - with no oil or hydrogen pressure and all valves closed. The power systems were still active, tied in to Unit 03’s busbars to activate the reactor control systems one final time.

Radiation warning lamps shone a dangerous orange, monitor gauges throughout the reactor chamber pegged in the overload position.

On the back wall off the control room, two whiteboards still wore a tangle of semi-permanent marker sketches of the reactor, surrounded by fragments of calculations and a scrawled table of radiation readings.

Reactor Chamber. 175KR/hr

A shiver of unease rolled through her body. It had to happen - she assured herself. She watched Keisuke drum his fingers on the keyboard as the corruption moved like a plague through the system, spreading from cluster to cluster.

He’d done that constantly while the reactor burned. He had the same intense stare in his eyes watching each poisoned cluster flash from green to red

She slipped the probe into a pouch on her hip, before adjusting her skirt and jacket.

“Anika!”

She recognised the voice. A guilty thrill ran up her body, like she’d been caught with her hand in the cake tine

“Miyuri?” she said, not really believing for the heartbeat it took her to turn on her heel. Her body went rigid as she recognised the silhouette in the doorway. A nervous trill ran up her throat. “When’d you get here?”

“An hour ago,” she answered with a bright smile. For a moment, Anika thought Miyuri hadn’t noticed. “Shinji used his personal access key.” There was a pause. “Is everything OK?”

“Ah…” Anika struggled to find the words.

Around her, the annunciators on the panels continued to flash their warnings. She heard Keisuke step in behind her, putting himself between Miyuri and the data screen. He couldn’t hide the whiteboards.

For a single pulse of her heart, Anika thought she might get away with it it. Miyuri wouldn’t notice. Everything would be normal.

“Oh Anika no,”

It was the could disappointment dripping from her voice that stung the most. Anika felt it bite deep inside her, she felt her chest wrench, guilt sparking in every circuit tracing through her body.

“You have to understand. We’d never hear the end of it.”

“There’s radiation in the landing bays!” Miyuri showed her the max reading on her watch. “And you’re covering it up.”

“Nobody was hurt Miyuri, and, you know what people are like.” It sounded to her own ears like she was pleading

“This is a crime Anika.”

“It’s necessary,” said Anika, finding herself on the back foot.

The sense of betrayal crawled up her spin.

Of course Miyuri wouldn’t understand - nobody from Stellvia would understand, they lived in the perfect world where everything worked and things didn’t break down and spare parts didn’t come late because they were Stellvia

“How’s it necessary?”

Miyuri pleaded. It sounded like a plea - that her friend hadn’t gone off the deep end. Anika felt it deep in her core - she felt all the colour drain from her face, pins and needles prickling through every wire and circuit in her body, for a moment reminding of of the instant she’d seen the reactor itself burn. Her mouth outran her mind

“The control system malfunctioned. But nobody’d care about that. They’d use it to destroy us.They’d do it to gloat over us because everything’s perfect in the Crystal Cities and we’re just some outsiders who shouldn’t have been allowed to join and they hate us.”

Those final two words hung in the air, rattling the walls. She could feel tears trickling down her cheeks

Miyuri blinked, her mouth half opening as if she’d planned to say something before the words died in her mouth. She held her hands up, almost like she’d expected an attack

“But….you know the cost of lies?”

Anika stepped forward, her body shaking. He eyes went to her friend, he stood somewhere be shock and anger, then too the floor.

“I’m afraid of the price of truth Miyuri,” she said. “The Parliament will blame us. The company who built the reactor will blame us. Everyone has an interest in it being us and not the reactor and they’re all more powerful than we are.”

“Anika…” Miyuri began after a moment.

“What’s the point in telling the truth when nobody will listen?”

Miyuri took a breath, letting Anika’s words sit for a second.

“Maybe we should talk in private,” she said, after a moment, taking an obvious effort to sound calm.

-----

I love the smell of rotaries in the morning. You know one time, I got to work early, before the rush hour. I walked through the empty carpark, I didn't see one bloody Prius or Golf. And that smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole carpark, smelled like.... ....speed.

One day they're going to ban them.
Reply
RE: The Melancholy of Mackie-Chan
#79
And now, for a year. Wikes.


----

---

The woman in front of him stood well over a hundred and eighty centimetres, tall enough that Shinji’s natural eye level ended up nearly dead centre on the valley between her breasts. His eyes dropped from there.

Her clean, white loetard seemed to be moulded to her chest and clung tight enough to her that some of her muscles to highlight themselves as she breathed. It was cut high on the hips to lengthen her already statuesque legs, pulled taught by the high heels on her thigh-high boots.

“Mackie?” he asked. His breath shook

“Gaige,” she answered.

“That’s……” Shinji’s mouth hinged open. His eyes fixed at the tight spot between her legs, before moving rapidly back up to her chest. “I can’t believe you’re wearing that.”

“Everything else tears,” she said. He couldn’t see the expression on her face, but heard the shame in her voice.

“It looks tight,” he managed to say. He could feel his own clothes tightening in response.

“It is.” said Gaige. “But it’s - it’s Sammiwear so it’s designed to be comfortable. Even if you’re not.”

Shinji finally forced himself to look her in the eye. He couldn’t tell if it was the blush on her cheeks or the pout of her lips, but something about her face seemed that bit more childish than her body - immature when compared to the overmature body that still tugged at his gaze. Part of his mind long for her chest to finally burst free.

The same part of his mind that still refused to believe he was looking at Mackie.

She gazed down at him with glacier blue eyes. He looked up.

“People still draw pictures of me as a girl…” he managed to say. “They always make me feel weird.”

Not as weird as the Nadia drawings, but not far off. Hey Shinji, do you know your basic character design was based off a female character without breasts? Hey Shinji, you know your basic internal chassis was female?

For a heartbeat, he hated everyone who thought they were the first to remind him of that fact.

Looming over him, Mackie glared down with a sour look on her face, her lips pursed up like the sucker on an octopus tentacle.

“Do you want to trade?” she said. Her arms folded on top of her chest for a moment, before she moved them to a more comfortable position beneath the pair.

Her arms pushed them up, deepening the valley between them.

“No…” Shinji shook his head, feeling a hot flush of shame. “Have you been able to order a replacement yet?”

“Ah - no. I’m stuck,” she answered, her body stiffening.

For a moment, Shinji sensed something further beneath that.

“Why?”

She forced herself to give a rueful smile.

“Sis damaged the power regulator on my memory chips so she tied it into a power supply inside the body’s interlink circuit. It can’t be disconnected without erasing my memory.”

She tapped a gloved finger on the side of her temple.

“Sorry,” said Shinji - before realising it sounded far too much like a Shinji he didn’t want to be. “I’m sorry that happened.” he said.

“Thanks.” Mackie breathed. “It’s weird. But it’s better than being in a spaceship. At least I can be independent.”

To prove it, she took a step to the side, then back before placing her hands on her hips.

“Mackie….” Shinji began.

“Gaige,” she smiled. “I go by Gaige Kisaragi now.”

“Gaige,” Shinji repeated.

Gaige didn’t smile again.

They both stood in the doorway to Gaige’s apartment, neither sure what step to take next. Gaige shifted on her heels. Shinji looked at her feet - then again at the point where her leotard tucked into the gap between her thighs - then forced himself to look up at her eyes.

Shinji could see the skin scrawling across her face.

“Maybe we could play a game for a few minutes,” Gaige suggested her arms folded under her chest, tension winding and coiling through her muscles.

“I’d like that,” said Shinj - before realising just how it sounded.

A pink blush heated his cheeks as he followed her across the floor of her apartment, Shinji keenly aware of the quality of A.C. Peter’s handiwork. A small part of his mind struggled to remind his body that he was, in fact, looking at Mackie Jaguar. A large part of his body did its best to ignore it.

She settled into her own couch. Shinji nestled himself into an armchair. Gaige queued up the game while Shinji got his hands comfortable on a cool metal controller.

Streets of Rage. The original version.

For a while, it almost seemed like fun.

Gaige just sat there, one booted leg crossed over the other - an Amazonian beauty with her sculpted body. She leant backward with a controller in her hand, manicured fingers working the buttons in a blur.

Shinji hunched forward, leaning toward the screen. Something still sat wrong in his mind, even as they both tore through the game with contemptuous ease.

After an hour, the words finally came to his mouth. “This feels weird.”

The look on her face told him he wasn’t the only one having the idea.

“It doesn’t feel right,” she said.

Neither of them had said more than those few words for an hour But more than that, Shinji realised, he didn’t feel like he was playing a game with Mackie.

“Maybe we should find the others.”

------

Anika stirred the custard with a spoon

“The reactor blew itself up,” she said.

Miyuri felt her self blink. Anika seemed dead certain. “It blew itself up?” she asked, invited more explanation.

Anika glanced around. The Midoriyah cafe hummed with activity, given life by the dayshift dropping in for lunch and the nightshift having breakfast. Every table was full - a dozen conversations creating enough noise that she could be certain nobody would overhear.

She stirred her custard again, winding it into a tight whorl.

“We were running a test. The reactor overheated. One of the liner panels broke off the core, part of the lithium blanket fast-fissioned and blew a hole in the cooling system.”

Miyuri looked at her, trying to read, trying to allow herself to consider if her friend has actually trying to lie to her.

Her face seemed sincere.

There was no lie in Anika's golden eyes, only a real fear that’d kept her from doing more than picking at the cheesecake on her plate. Normally she would’ve finished the third by now.

“You need to tell the truth about this, Anika,” she said. “If you speak first, you will be heard first.”

Anika dug a fork into the cream of her cake, stirring it up and mingling it with the biscuit, but not making any attempt to eat any of it.

“I… yeah but…” Anika paused, before looking right at her. But you know what fandom’s really like?”

You understand. She hoped Miyuri understood.

“People will understand.”

Anika gave her a look, like she was being asked to jump into a fire.

“We saved everyone on the station. We did amazing things. They’ll still turn us into the villains, Miyuri.”

Her voice had a real pain in it, like something had bitten into her soul.

Miyuri knew she could help.

“Going first, lets you control that narrative - it lets you set the stage. The first version of the story is always the one that lasts.”

Anika’s body screwed up tight as the thing latched to her soul bit deeper.

“.....I’m scared.” she said, her voice retreating back into her throat.

“I’m your friend, Anika, trust me.”

Miyuri placed her hand on Anika’s, letting the heat of Anika’s body soak into hers. Slowly the edges of her lips turned up. Light began glimmer in the back of her eyes - the first flicker of the Anika who Miyuri remembered.

Miyuri pulled her hand back

“...maybe…”Anika said, after a moment. She poked again at her cheesecake with her fork, still not looking too interested in taking a bite. She looked at it like it might poison her. “Everyone has an interest in it being us. The builders, the politicians - even people - the truth won’t matter to them, only a story that gives them a nice cosy villain to blame.” She took a breath. “Fenspace runs on stories, after all, and that’s the most convenient story for the most respectable people.”

“That sounds very cynical.”

It sounded like the sort of self-justification that usually emerged from the darker parts of the system.

“Maybe,” Anika said again. “I covered the explosion up,” she admitted. “I also went into the reactor, to find out what happened to it,”

Miyuri, for a moment, couldn’t find the words. The sense of betrayal lingered in the back of her mind - that Anika hadn’t been the person she’d known, mingling with a building disbelief that Anika had stood in front of a burning fusion reactor.

Nobody could’ve survived that. Even infolife could be crippled by intense radiation. But there she sat, apparently unharmed.

“It’s never too late to do the right thing.” she said, hiding her true feelings.

“We don’t have a choice now.” She finally took a bite from her cheesecake.

Miyuri felt herself smile gently, hiding her true feelings. She found herself wondering just how a tribunal would even begin to approach something like this. Anika took another bite of cake, obviously swallowing her words along with it.

Miyuri wondered at what had clouded over her friend’s mind.

“We’re back,” said Shinji’s voice.

The woman beside him seemed to stand twice his height. Miyuri’s eyes were level with her stomach, her leotard clinging tight to toned muscle in a way that it really shouldn’t have done. The thought occurred to Miyuri, that A.C. could do some stunning work, for those who desired it.

Almost too good.

“You’re wearing that?”, she managed to say, before feeling herself flush.

“Body quirk,” Gaige answered, her lips pursing into an annoyed pout.

Of course, Miyuri realised, considering the maker and the original intent of the first owner of the body. Even if Miyuri remembered Jet wearing things that were far more modest - evidently she hadn’t passed on the trick.

“I know something,” said Anika. “We have hot springs.”

“Hot springs?”Shinji blinked. “You have hot springs?”

Miyuri looked at him for a moment, aghast that he could be so easily distracted when something serious was happening. When Anika had just finished admitting to covering up a nuclear accident

“How do you make hot springs in space?” Shinji asked.

“The rock is heated by the reactor condensers, and we run water through the rock.” Anika explained, visibly grateful for the distraction. “They’re as close to the real thing as you can get.”

Miyuri saw a boyish light go on behind Shinji’s eyes. His one weakness was a good, hot bath. Her eyes gave Anika a dark look, letting her know that she hadn’t entirely gotten away with avoiding the hard questions.

“It has been a long journey, maybe a bath would be nice

After all, if it had managed to crack Shinji’s veneer of cynicism, even if only for a moment. And letting Anika relax for a few moments might tease out the truth

Gaige body went rigid, looking for a moment like a cuckoo that’d realised it didn’t belong in this nest.

“Is that okay?” she asked. “With me?”

Anika caught on immediately.

“If you want to take that body into the men’s side, you’re more than welcome.”

A momentary look of determination passed across the taller woman’s face - before the realisation finally hit her.

---

I love the smell of rotaries in the morning. You know one time, I got to work early, before the rush hour. I walked through the empty carpark, I didn't see one bloody Prius or Golf. And that smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole carpark, smelled like.... ....speed.

One day they're going to ban them.
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RE: The Melancholy of Mackie-Chan
#80
I'm not sure I'd say this was pleasant to read (due to second-hand discomfort), but it was good to see and read, if that makes sense.
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RE: The Melancholy of Mackie-Chan
#81
It conveyed the emotions of the characters really well.
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