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The Melancholy of Mackie-Chan
I wanted a different tone compared to "Look, I have now achieved something else of difficulty triumphantly, or just automatically succeeded."

Doing things like that leave a mark. Jet succeeds by casting from sanity points.
--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?
Speaking of idiots like me ruining the things they like. I'm so wasted right now.


Another nightmare jolted him awake, leaving him sitting, panting, slick with sweat. It took a disorientating moment for his mind to recognise the sensations from her body, then place her square in her own darkened apartment.

Another night's sleep ruined.

No escaping it

That final spiral.

And certain death.

Gaige felt her mind crash, recalling the sensation of her thoughts shattering into thousand pieces as the cockpit imploded around her. Artificial synapses pieced together the wreckage of the moment, a slow motion death as her body tore itself apart, each new agony ripping through her body in one infinite instant, finishing with the sensation of her mind bursting open..

Gaige sat rigid, muscles locked, body frozen in sick terror.

Trying not to scream. Trying not to run. Trying to move before it hit again. Her heart raced in her chest, adrenaline pulsing through her body's veins. Muscles tore at their joints, bulging to run, hands clenching tight until the knuckles bleached.

Her body braced for impact.

Nothing happened.

Only a rattle from distant pipes and the thrumm of an engine broke the silence.

Slowly, her body settled, climbing down from the adrenaline peak. Her body flopped back onto the bed, drained of energy, barely able to breath.

What would Gaige do?

What would her sister do?

Not sleep. Gaige lay in bed,staring at the ceiling. She made another half-hearted attempt at the published 'Welcome to the New Woman' guide, but gave up halfway through the first chapter.

Gaige hated it even more, the second time around. Afraid to go back to sleep, her mind reached out for something to fill the night beyond the obvious.

When you fall of the bike, get right back on. It's what her Sister did, all the time. Right, if her Sister could fight a war, she could get back inside the cockpit.

She dressed herself, getting a little less clumsy with practice. Things found their natural places, even if her chest did struggle to escape from the vinyl jacket. Her feet found a comfortable place inside a pair of riding boots.

Gaige could tell herself it served a practical purpose being so tight. It kept the armour from moving in a crash.

At least, most people would be asleep. And she could avoid seeing herself in the mirror if she focused on the door.

She straddled the motoroid, finding the closest approximation of a comfortable seating position, then finding it even more uncomfortable because of it. A turn of a key activated the machine, a few quick self-checks confirming it to be new and, disappointingly, one of the first with a conventional battery. Less than a tenth of the energy storage.

Bloody federation. It still pulled like the specials when she pulled the throttle.

A few racers remained in the tunnels, pushing old gas-burners to their limits far away from anywhere they could hurt anyone. Gaige let the motoroid run free, loosing herself in the roar of the turbine.

She chased them, sliding the motoroid around the slower traffic. Only the moment remained, the laser concentration required to keep the speedometer pegged north of 400. Lights flicked overhead, merging into three bright streams.

Gaige's eyes focused on the point ahead where they merged into one bright point, and she tweaked the throttle, chasing the vanishing point. For a moment, she could almost feel like himself again, letting the last few days blow off the mind.

A hard bump that made it through the suspension, destroying the illusion.

They couldn't be escaped.

Not just the obvious, but the subtle, the quadrupling of the resolution of her world, the details her old body could never have sensed. The grain of the leather in the glove. The irridescent sheen from the tunnel walls. Even the whine of the motor's inverter drive. Like moving from old DvD to modern 12k streams

How had her sister managed to afford something like this?

Or why?

The fetishes of cybers were something she didn't want to understand.

She stopped the motoroid outside the Asagiri hangar, leaving it parked in the pressurised area away from the rest of motley assortment of shuttlecraft, fencar and light fighters. Standing waiting for the hatchway to cycle, she could feel every set of eyes in the bay gazing at her body. She pushed her mind to other things.

The gantry crane overhead fed a shuttle into one of Lun's missile.

A second glance chilled, showing her something Mackie's eyes never could.

“Why is she being armed?”

She didn't want to know the answer, hurrying inside. The scent of jet fuel and carbon enveloped her, the Kulbit racer waiting, it's wings reaching forward towards her like a black eagle, swooping down to it's prey. It pinned her in place for a moment, forcing her to work up the nerve to move past to the locker room. It took less than a moment to push through, opening the door with the keypad. In her locker, her moulded seat and flight suit neatly folded. A spare pair of boxers a mummified sandwich and the discarded remains of a dozen minor curiosities took up the remaining space.

She peeled her leathers from her body, blushing at striptease she provided for herself in the mirror, before unfolding her flightsuit on the bench beside her. She tried to step into the legs, straining at a polymer that'd become far tighter than expected. She strained, grunting through gritted teeth try to slide her feet in.

It took a moment to realise the problem. It'd been formed for a smaller body.

She'd gone to Mackie's.

A frustrated scream burst from her throat chased by a hard punch that started somewhere deep in the pit of her stomach and finished halfway through a locker door with a hollow clatter. The shock reverberated through her body, leaving her standing there, panting, trying to grab a hold of her sanity.

She stepped back, cols chills crawling up through her feet

The damaged locker stared back at her, buckled inwards like a baseball bad had been driven through it. She gazed down at her fist, skin blushing pink across the knuckles. Gaige opened her hand, closed it again, squeezed until the muscles on her arm popped taught, before releasing.

Just to prove she'd done that.

“Holy shit,” she breathed.

What the hell had her sister been doing to order something like this? She took a breath, letting her mind clear. It all seemed part of the plan. Just stay, and get all these nice benefits....

Gaige stuffed the flightsuit back inside. The broken door refused to close. She left it swinging, struggling back into her clothes, half ready to find something else to fill the night. A glance in the mirror gave her a way out.

One option remained. One flightsuit she knew would fit.

All she had to do was go through the other door. Half-naked,

The similarity between the two rooms left her stunned.

Perfect mirror images. Both had once been used by New Birmingham's reactor engineers. Both had the same plain white tile walls with blue tile floors. Both had the same two rows of empty grey lockers. Both had a mirror on one wall, and a bank of steel-headed showers with a patchy patina of rust.

The scent of decade old machine oil lingered, mingled with old sweat, fresh shampoo and deodorant.

At least that was different - a fuitier scent.

Her sister's locker waited, Jet printed on the door.

Gaige knew the combination for the lock. At least nobody had access to that camera feed, she thought. Nobody could watch her struggle against a flightsuit that seemed even tighter than the one she couldn't put on. Nobody saw her contorted expression as the sanitary connections were made inside. Nobody caught her admiring the reflection in the mirror, wearing a lustful smile for a heartbeat, before her mind caught up with the fact that she'd been enjoying self-service fanservice.

The last thing she did was clasp the polymer armour around her hips, ankles and shoulders, locking them into place.

It almost felt normal – the same constricting pressure compressing her body, forcing her to work hard just to breath. Nothing moved, only a few fading sparks reminding her of the differences between her old body and this one.

Obvious differences aside, it almost felt familiar. As close as she could get to being himself again. From a flightsuit cut to be the incarnation of fanservice, tinted panels accentuating the curves of the wearer. Her hands found her stomach, pushing against taught polymer stretched over firm muscle.

A smile from the woman in the mirror drew thrilling chills through her body, she swallowed a husky breath, grabbed Jet's moulded seat and left, focusing on the Kulbit.

It sat waiting for her, black wings reaching forward to smother. She stopped, staring at it, a mouse staring up at a swooping eagle, a predator ready to hear her apart. It loomed towards her, composite hull shimmering under the harsh hanger lights, shining like dark feathers broken only by scorched and worn sponsor-stickers.

Maybe taking her first flight since the crash in a knife-edge racecraft wasn't such a good idea. She clenched her fists, forcing herself to move forward. One foot in front of the other. One step forwards. One rung up the ladder

Just get in the plane, Mackie. If Shinji could get in the damn robot....

Her heart drummed in her chest, resonating through her body. Her skin prickled inside the flightsuit, ever micron of her body willing her to go back to bed, to leave it for another day. She pushed through.

The seat locked into place.

One deep breath. One leg over the cockpit edge, then another. Two hands on the canopy rails. She eased herself down into the seat, the sensation reminding her of that pair of boots she'd worn a day earlier. Most spacecraft you climbed into, but the Kulbit you strapped on, wearing it like leather jacket.

Clamps on her suit snapped home into the seat, fixing her rigidly in place, traping her in the cockpit. Her hand grasped around the quick-release lever, fingers clenching tight. Pull the lever and she could jump free.

It was that easy.

She sat there, drawing calming breaths. If she gave up now, it'd only be harder the next time. That's how it worked. That's how it got you. It made you give in once, and it got stronger. Each time you gave in, it built itself up, getting stronger and stronger – becoming harder and harder to overcome until eventually, you gave up trying and it beat you down.

The earlier you beat it, the better.

She couldn't beat her body, but she could still beat her mind. She pulled the canopy shut, hard carbon locking into place. Her muscles strained in place, begging her to run. She braced herself in place, letting her body settle in finding its natural place in the cockpit.

Engine Start.

Turbines shrieked to life, a nail of terror driving through her body. The sidestick and throttle creaked under her grip, body screaming for release. She felt it spiral, twisting around her body, auguring in towards the moon.

Her breath came ragged and fast, fighting back.

Slowly, she mastered it as the jet settled itself down to a steady murmur far behind. A direct feed from the life support tanks filled her lungs with oxygen through the pressure breathing mouthpiece. She lowered her helmet visor, lime-green wire-graphics taking a moment to shimmer into view. A few tweaks on the throttles, a few light touches on the pedals, and the jet responded, eager for another race it would never see.

Being a championship winner damned the thing to an easy retirement. A run around the neighbourhood would be an easy jog.

After that, flying came easy.


She forgot herself.

She forgot her body.

She forgot everything except the moment.

She forgot it'd only been filled with half-tanks of fuel for an exhibition.

For the second time in its life, it coasted across the finish line on one engine and fumes. It finally ran dry in the landing bay, winding down to dead silence.

For the first time in days, he felt normal, back to his old self. One lever released the flightsuit and sprung the canopy. Standing on her seat, she stretched stiffened muscles feeling her mind fill out to the fingertips and toes.

The rush of energy carried her back to the locker room, a runner's high fading as she lay on her back, soaking in the depths of the cold. Sweat prickled across her skin as she lay there, arms draped to the floor, staring at the ceiling.

Her heartbeat pulsed through her chest, slow and heavy, feeling larger than her body.

One hand between the legs confirmed it.

“Shit,” she said.

She lay there, letting the body wind down, hands on her stomach, letting the heat soak out. Red hair splayed out behind her, tickling at the back of her neck. Sweat prickled across the inside of the suit. The powerpack on the suit's back pressed into her shoulders.

Her hands went to her breasts.

The door clattered open, footsteps tap-tapping on the floor towards

Daryl stood over her, wearing a flightsuit, a denim jacket, a grin on her face and not much else.


Gaige felt her face turn the same colour as her hair, bolting upright. Dear God's, if Daryl got the wrong idea she'd never hear the end of it. Finally gave in? Finally proved everything everyone thought...

“You went out for a flight?” Daryl asked, not even giving her a second glance as she opened her own locker.

Gaige's mind jerked to a halt, the excuse in her mouth stopping death. She took a breath, her legs crossing themselves as

“Thought it'd be good to get right back in the saddle,” Gaige forced a smile.

“How'd it go?” Daryl slung her jacket into the locker, joining an old Senshi uniform.

“I checked my laptimes,” Gaige said, leaning forward, supporting her body on folded arms.


“Five seconds a lap faster around the course.”

Just a fact. She tried not to take pride in it. The smile on her lips showed how she failed

“Really?” Daryl's eyebrows raised. “Any setup changes?”

“The difference is the flightsuits. It doesn't hurt to pull as much G. Which means carrying more speed through a maneuver.”

“I think the difference is something else then,”

“I didn't want to say that.” Her body screwed itself tight.

“What? Admit that women are better than men?” The grin on Daryl's face cut.

“I didn't realise how heavily the whole thing was optimised around women,” she re-crossed her legs, forcing her mind not to focus on it. “Maybe that's why nobody bought them.”

“I really didn't think it'd be that bad,” said Daryl. You should've said something, she didn't say.

“I thought it'd be as bad for women,” Gaige said, patting herself on the chest. “Especially up top.”

“Guess you just found your one little thing,” Daryl answer with a smirk.

“Don't talk to me about that damn book,” Gaige spat, glaring at her.

“It works.”

“It's ten chapters of fluff trying to convince me to hate myself.”

Daryl stepped back, caught on the back foot. “It's not supposed to be.”

“Well, It's what it feels like.”

Daryl looked down at her, Gaige struggling to gauge her expression. She didn't care either way if she'd hurt her or insulted her or anything at all like that. It didn't matter.

She watched Daryl's body move as the pilot readied her own flying gear, clipping survival p

Desire sparked inside, rising up the back of her through, setting little fires throughout her body. Muscles clenched, fighting back. Her breathing slowed, trying to cool her body off.

The idea that she wore the same sort of skin-tight suit gnawed in the back of her mind. Just as skintight. Just as figure-enhancing.

She stood up, thinking it better to get changed back at her own apartment.

A question flared in her mind and she vascillated on it, wondering if it was worth asking. It didn't matter, Daryl didn't really like her anyway. Nothing she said could make her think worse.



She took a calming breath.

“If you don't mind me asking, why did you keep the suit?”

The pilot drew in a deep breath, extending a hand to steady herself on the locker.

“There were delays in getting the culture done. By the time they would've been ready, the surgery would've run into the start of the season. And I couldn't afford to be out for three races just to get pink skin again.”

That simple. She didn't even look at Gaige as she spoke. Alright. Next question.

“You don't worry that it's just the Wave trying to make you think that it's okay?”

Gaige saw the shudder run up the pilot's spine.

“No. As much as I don't want to look like this for the rest of my life, I don't need to go through with it. It doesn't define who I am.” Red eyes pinned Gaige in place. Natural or not, they burned through the soul. “The person who did this to me doesn't have that Power over me.”

“You got used to it?”

“I'd rather win races right now than be normal.” Daryl said, her voice pulling tight.“That's my one little thing. Don't be afraid of finding something that you don't want to give up. Or you'll spend the next few weeks or months miserable. And,” she turned her head to look at Gaige over her should “,you don't know if it's not a permanent change?”


“Well, your sister's not necessarily known as cybernetics genius. She might've fucked something up without realising it.”

Gaige steadied herself agains the wall with her hand. “Or maybe she did realise it...”

“That depends on how much you trust her.”

Why did everything Daryl said have to sound like an accusation.?

“Something seems wrong with her,” Gaige answered, hoping she'd drop it.


Those red eyes bored, demanding an answer.

“I didn't really want to do this,” she poked herself in the breast, drawing an electric shudder up through her body. “...but I went along with it because I thought she knew better. It seemed like the least-worst option.” She saw the expression on Daryl's face target, a flicker of tension running through the woman's body. “I suppose I did choose to go along with it.”

Daryl shrugged. “So long as it was your choice.”

Gaige answered with a sour look. “Nothing about this feels like my choice.”

“You might still go back to your old body, eventually,” slinging her own pilot's seat over her shoulder. “That's more than most people in your situation can say.”

Daryl stepped past, leaving Gaige standing there struggling to gather her thoughts together.

“One more thing.” Daryl stopped in the door, turning bak “Try to remember that you're getting the highlights of the female experience. You're playing womanhood on easy mode.”

“You should try being a guy, then” Gaige suggested, the edge of her lip turning up. “I'd bet you'd miss every time you were asked to aim.”

“I'd take that as a challenge,” a smirk crawled across Daryl's lips. “So, what name'd you pick anyway?”

“Gaige Kisaragi,”

“Nice to meet you Gaige. I'm Daryl.”

As Gaige watched her leave, it struck her like a brick. Daryl would never have been so candid with Mackie.

Or shook his hand.

--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?
Yeah, a little late, but can probably be inserted at an appropriate point. I decided it was better to write what happened after the phone call, rather than attempt to write the call itself.

The door to the room swooshed open, swooshed closed again, the room filling with light and then going dark again except for the black not-quite glow from the antique PDA lying on the bedside table. Jeph could feel the slight shift of the bed as Nene sat down, shed her pajama pants, and slid in under the covers and nestled herself against his back, then shivered.

"How'd it go?" Jeph asked.

"It... he's a bit of a mess right now," Nene said, her voice low. "Holding it a bit more together, but still freaking out like the first time you shifted in public."

Jeph carefully rolled himself over, and wrapped his arms around Nene, kissing her forehead. "Remind me, that was, what, two days after I'd gotten modded over a clumsy assassination attempt? I think he's kind of justified to some freaking out." She nodded.

"Maybe. Near death, gender flip." She shuddered. "I'm starting to wonder how many more of those I'm going to see."

Jeph kissed her forehead again. "Not that you were complaining about the gender flip thing last weekend." Nene snorted.

"It gets worse, though. Jet's... gone and cribbed him up some sort of false identity so he doesn't have to keep cooped up. It... I'm not sure, maybe my signals are getting a bit mixed because of him being in her puppet, but I think he's a bit afraid of the idea."

Jeph sighed. "I can't begin to wonder why," he commented sarcastically. "That's all he needed."

"You know how parents tell you everything's going to fine, but you know they're lying to make you feel better? Everything's going to be fine." - The Doctor
The why is the tricky part.

Writing Jet's mental state means taking 3 and 4 attempts at everything in order to make the way she's acting seem understandable or relatable.

Right now she's found her 'brother in handwavium' smeared across the moon like a bug on a windshield. She patched up a way to try and access memories from the wreckage - a Grey Area if ever there was one. Then had it blow up again in her face when what she thought were 'remnants' gained consciousness, still thinking on some level that it's Mackie, but she's pretty certain it isn't fully him. It's a ghost. Rather than completely destroy the remnant by telling it outright - because it is still a person and that'd be cruel, she's trying to wean it off the broken remnants by helping it build it's own identity. (That sounds somewhat familiar....)

She doesn't realise that she's succeeded in recovering Mackie intact, partly because she wouldn't naturally think it was possible - or that she'd be capable of pulling it off if it was. The words 'Jet' and 'Skilled cyberneticist' don't usually appear together in the same sentence, not without 'required extensive repairs by a ' somewhere in between. Gone horribly right might almost apply. (From a meta standpoint, she doesn't have enough skillpoints and either succeeded wildly on the roll, or is being punished by a particularly sadistic GM for a failure)

Being charitable, it looks like she's learning a lot of the lessons the rest of the Convention learned 15 years ago - going through a sort of larval stage having finally had the chance to settle down and start exploring - making the same mistakes everyone made years before. There's another explanation, but I'll leave it elsewhere to suggest.

As it is, the planned story arc is a little more than a simple roaring rampage of revenge, and involves Jet somehow coming to her senses, with someone finding out why. And then what looks publically like a roaring rampage of revenge, but is a cover for more.
--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?
With some help from RobKelk


On the one hand, she had far too many things to do for an inspection run. On the other, a priority-one communication couldn't be ignored. She paced through the Ultima's operation's decks to where a secure booth had been set aside in a sound-proofed area.

It set her on edge, a prickle along the back of her neck that refused to go away as the door sighed shut behind her.

The design was straight out of '2001' - a simple chair waited in front of an equally sterile telescreen monitor. Only the Ultima patch gazed back at her, a single flickering icon onscreen pointing to a connection request.

She brushed it with her finger. The logo dissolved into a familiar face, viewing her from behind a desk, hands placed carefully in front of him.

“Mr. Scott.”


“I take it this isn't a social call.”

The expression on his faced said as much as the encryption level. SQUID-44 wasn't used for chit-chat. “No,” the image shook its head. “You're familiar with the Mackie situation?”

“A little.” She had been busy, after all.

“Shinji's put in for leave to travel to Frigga.”

“He and Mackie were friends.”

Obviously. Even in the middle of an inspection run, some compassion was needed.

“Yes,” Noah nodded. “I'd like you to accompany him.”

She sat back. “He's quite capable of looking after himself.” Unsaid, 'I'm busy here with the inspection you wanted rushed.'.

“Jet is going to want to know why Mackie was shot down. Officially you're going to offer to help out, on an unofficial basis.”

“I understand,” she said, feeling vaguely uneasy in a way she couldn't place. Deep in the pit of a simulated stomach, a single butterfly rose up. “And unofficially”

“While you're out there, I need a report on Jet. Her psychology, her mentality. How's she actually handling things.”

Now it made sense.

“You think she might be about to do something... unsound?”

She dangled the reference.

“I think we need to be careful she doesn't go up river,” he chose his words carefully, enough to let her grasp his true mind, without betraying himself to anybody listening in. Things like this had dirty habits of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies if they got out and walls on space-stations had ears. “Her relationship with her brother was...”

When he didn't finish, she offered, “It is an unusual variant of the Moll Flanders glitch.” The only one of this type she knew of.

“It's more than that. I don't know the full details. But she took the oath of Venus shortly after he awakened.”

“Somehow, awakening him affected her self-identity.”

A statement, rather than a question. A hint at a far deeper connection. Something dangerous.

“It's more than that,” he said, again. “Ask Yayoi some time how I felt after we lost Yoriko. This is worse - this isn't wartime. If I were Jet, I'd want revenge. I can only imagine how she feels, if her relationship with him was as strong as I suspect...”

There was sympathy there, but also cruel necessity.

“The temptation might be to take it too far,” she finished. “Have you tried asking A.C.?”

“You know what she'll say.”

A small smile “That depends on how carefully she chooses her words.”

Being able to say everything important, while still saying nothing at all, was a true art form.


“But if you're that concerned?”

Maybe someone better equipped?

“Not... concerned. Not yet,” he shook his head. Something of a lie and she knew it. “Takami is... nervous. Maybe keeping a quiet eye on things now will keep us from having to be concerned in the future.”

She saw the tiredness in his eyes, the weight of the worst case scenario lurking in the back of his mind.

“I understand.”

“Thank you, Miyuri.” He reached for the switch that would end the call, then stopped. “Your friend Annika can't be taking this well.”

“We've already talked by email.” And she wasn't about to tell him what Annika had told her in confidence. “I promised to share a new cheesecake recipe with her.”

“Take some time and share it in person. Shinji is a better cook than any of us, except Yayoi. They'd probably both appreciate it.” He paused for a moment, then continued. “Do whatever you think is best while you're there. And... I love you, Miyuri.”

He'd never said that before.

“I love you too, father.”

The channel closed, leaving her alone with the dreadful feeling she might be laying the first flagstone on a long road to somebody's hell.

She'd wanted a serious mission, and she got one, all right. The sort that had the real risk of leaving her never wanting another one again.

The first thing she did, was grab some chocolate from her private supply. It didn't help.

--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?
On my first day as a woman, I learned that I like:

A blank space in the workbook awaited her answer.

On my first day as a woman, I learned that I will not miss:

A second blank space awaited the same answer.

An entire roadmap had been laid out in the book's appendix, for the days, then weeks, then months and years that followed, the slow dismemberment of one identity followed by the rebuild of another. Nothing could be crueller than the militant kindness of a Senshi who thought she was doing the right thing. Turn that into a plural and you had a recipe for a nightmare.

Gaige lay on her couch, drumming it over in her mind, rapping her fingers on a plastic table.

On a whim, whether optimistic that she could go back, or pessimistic that she'd need it when she did, she searched for the book's distaff counterpart, a Guide for the New Man.


A few self-help groups clustered together in the corners of some websites, with the makings of something useful, but nothing published or lionised as the one true path to a happy unintentional manhood.

Daryl did have a point.

The words 'Jet' and 'Cybernetics expert' didn't usually appear in the same sentence. Not without ' required expensive repairs by a pre-eminent' somewhere in between.

Gaige spent the morning trialling her new clothes, trying to find something that fit mind and body – whatever was least uncomfortable to wear.

Looking at herself in the mirror sent alien shivers up her spine, but she didn't have to look at silk underwear beneath a denim jacket and a pair of jeans that took a few hard tugs and a bounce to get over her hips.

She padded around on the balls of her feet, refusing to bother with shoes despite the tension in her ankles. It felt natural – stable.

She trialled her balance again, cybernetic systems keeping her rock solid on one foot, almost imperceptible twitches of her muscles right up to the point where gravity would no longer be denied.

The body caught itself with automatic grace before Gaige had fully registered the toppling sensation.

She stood, breathing. Gaige stepped backwards. One last thing to try.

One. Two. Three running steps and she pitched forward. He fingers touched the cold concrete floor, pirhouetting her body through the air, to land deftly on the balls of her feet, ankles absorbing the shock.

Her chest bounced once as a reminder.

“Wow,” Gaige breathed, gazing down at her fingers.

Never let it be said that she couldn't at least appreciate the mechanics. The puppet operated on a level far above his own body.

A chime from the door snagged her attention.

She begged the real world to leave her alone with her body.

The door chime insisted once more.

A single breath steeled her will. The door stretched away as she strode towards it, giving her long seconds to reconsider, to feel the eyes beyond the door crawl across her skin.

Her hand grasped the latch, pulling the door open with a squawk.

Her body relaxed the moment she recognised the woman looking up at her,


“Have we met?” she grinned in return.

“Um....” Gaige’s mind backpedalled, grasping for an excuse. “I read about you,” her lips found one before her mind.

“Hopefully it was something good,”Kotono’s grin broadened into a vulpine smirk. “Well, I live down the next passage so I thought I'd drop by and welcome our newest arrival.”

A nudge of her head indicated in the direction. Her eyes remained fixed on a spot over Gaige’s shoulder, betraying her true desires

“Well, ah, come inside and I'll make tea,”

She stepped back. Kotono stepped forward, heels tock-tocking on the concrete floor. Gaige couldn’t help but steal a glance as the woman stepped past, enjoying the perks of a taller vantage point. A shrug of Kotono’s shoulders warned her that she’d been spotted.

Taking a breath, she followed the woman inside. The door squeaked shut behind her, latching locked.

“Now we can drop the act,” Kotono breathed, turning to face. “So, do I call you Gaige, or Mackie?”

Gaige forced a rueful smile, one of her hands finding its way to her hip. “If I'm going to be called Gaige for the next few weeks I better get used to it.”

Her stomach turned. Kotono’s body tensed.

“Alright, Gaige,” she said, trying the name on for size.

Gaige forced a smile. “Tea?” she offered.


Gaige blinked.

“Whatever you have will be fine,”

Kotono made herself comfortable on a couch, bare thighs sliding across each other as she crossed her legs. Gaige felt her own legs rub in sympathy, swallowing the lump rising up her throat.

Had Kotono worn that on purpose?

She tried to suppress the thought, buying herself searching through the open kitchenette for anything that resembled tea. A press door nudged against her breast, drawing a shudder up her spine and a simultaneous giggle from Kotono.

“So, how're you feeling?”

Gaige glared at her.

“Really weird,” she answered. Her hands pressed against her chest. “I didn't realise how much these things would move,”

“We all went through it, said Kotono mildly, just enough to lull Gaige into turning around. “And if you say what I think you're thinking I'll kill you.”

“I didn't say a word.”

“But you thought it.” Kotono glowered down. “You've had them for two days and already you're bullying the naturals.”

Her lips pursed into a thick pout “It's not like I wanted them...”

Silence. Kotono held the stare long enough for the kettle to start boiling.

The mask cracked. Laughter burst out,

Gaige came within a moment of murdering her for it.

“Got you, Gaige”

“Damn it.”

She closed her eyes, letting her forehead rest against the cool steel panelling of the cupboard.

“You need to work on your cattiness,” Kotono advised.

Gaige glanced back at her. “Cattiness?”

“The feminine art of making yourself feel a lot better, by making a lot of other people feel slightly worse,” Kotono explained with a sage-like finger in the air.

“Sounds like bullying to me,”

“It is a little.” She admitted. “So you only do it with your friends because you know where their limits are. That's the art, cattiness without bitchiness.”

Gaige said nothing, focusing herself on the fine arts of making instant tea while not brushing parts of herself with her arms.

“Guys do it to!”

“The difference being guys are both in on the joke,” she snapped, harder than she meant.

“Both women are too. It's a matter of boundaries”

Gaige said nothing, filling two steaming cups with scalding water. Tea brewed along with her temper. Kotono’s gaze never left her back.

“There's no real trick to being a woman or a man, it's just life,” said Kotono. “Find those things that make you feel good about yourself and don't be afraid do them, whatever they are.”

Obviously she didn’t get it. Gaige remained silent.


In a diamond-bullet moment, she remembered all the times the women of her life had given her The Silence. Without ever explaining why or what, it was the moment when you knew she was mad at you and you had to do something to make it up even though you had no idea what so it had to be something big to cover every possibility.

And there she stood, doing it like a master.

Her mind scrambled for something to say, to not be that person….

Kotono beat her to it.

“There's no sense in being miserable just to prove your manhood. Nobody doubts that...”

It cut far harder than she expected. Her tongue snapped.

“But I need to at least try, or people'll think I wanted it or something.”

Kotono’s jaw slacked open. Enlightment had just swooped down and slapped her hard in the face.

“What'd I say?” Gaige wondered.

Kotono’s shoulders fell, the expression on her face into something that could almost fall

“Something more women would understand than you think, Gaige.”

She stood there, secretly grateful that she didn’t. Two cups of fresh tea steamed on the counter beside her. A few short moments and a long breath helped her face the conversation coming.

Gaige crossed the floor, calmly placing both cups on the table. One without milk for Kotono, one with for herself.

“Thanks,” said Kotono, mild surprise passing across her face.

Gaige’s body found it’s natural comfortable position when she sat down, legs sliding over each other, mirroring the woman opposite. Kotono took her cup in both hands, bringing it to her lips.

Gaige allowed hers to steam.

“So how do you feel?” Kotono asked again, her voice softer.

“Weird,” Gaige gave the same answer. “It’s really hard to describe it more than that..”

She felt herself look up, expecting an answer.

“You’re dealing with it very well,” Kotono said. “Better than I think I would.”

“Maybe. It doesn’t feel like I am. I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel, really.”

“Neither do I.” Kotono looked down at the reflection swimming on the surface of her black tea. “But I think, I’d be scared more than anything.”

“A little,” Gaige admitted, feel her body crush down into itself. “Of a lot of things.”

“Like what?”

Her mind mind cracked.

“Like not really being me.” Words seeped from her mouth “Like my Sister might’ve screwed up and doesn’t know. Like I’ll never go back or I might not want to go back or that people will find out it’s really me and….” The seep roared into a torent

She sniffed, her eyes moistening. Her body shook as she spiralled

“Gaige….Mackie.” Hearing his real name stopped him dead, staring at her “You’ve been attacked. You’ve been violated. Your identity’s been torn apart. However you feel, it’s OK to feel that way.”

“They killed me and now….”Gaige’s breath spasmed, her mind crashing to a halt at the moment of impact.

“I can prove you’re still you.”

Kotono’s face carried a sweetling smile, comfortable as plush doll. Soft hands clasped together.

Gaige’s eyes blinked themselves clear. “How,” she breath.

“Daryl told me she saw you in a flight suit earlier. That you took that racer out for a spin,”

The smile mutated into a cheeky smirk.

“Well yeah,” Gaige’s legs tightened together, recalling the sensation of the flightsuit. “If I didn’t get back into the cockpit, I’d be scared of it for the rest of my life. It’d be harder next time, so I had to.”

Kotono leant forward, over her mug. Her eyes gleamed. “It’d beat you.”

Gaige sat up. “Yeah.”

Kotono’s eyes narrowed. “She told me about the flightsuit.”

Her voice slipped down to a whisper, sharing a secret.

Gaige’s arms crossed. “Well, I had to wear it, or I wouldn’t be able to fly?”

Kotono smirked. You just triggered my trap card. Her arms crossed in triumph.

“So, flying is more important to you, than worrying about a few people in the landing bay watch you stroll to the locker room in a skintight flightsuit. It’s more important that worrying about anyone seeing you as a woman.”

Gaige felt her cheeks flush. She looked away, focusing on the wall. “I didn’t think of it like that. I just felt so good, I guess I forgot.”

Hopefully she’d believe that.

Gaige looked up

“The only way this will destroy your identity is if you let it.”Kotono took a breath, struggling to be magnanimous in victory. “If you let it stop you doing the things you want to do, or trying what you want to try, because those are the things that make you who really are.”


Gaige wheeled it around. “What’d you do, if you woke up as a man tomorrow?”

Kotono giggled. “Once I got over the shock? Maybe another woman.”


“Well, yeah.” Her shoulders shrugged laconically. “I’d want to know what guys get out of it.”

And that sounded almost like an accusation. Gaige cringed, her stomach turning.

“You don’t think you’d be creeped out?”

The idea sickened her.

She snorted. “After having a penis inside me, I think I could manage having one outside.”

Gaige’s jaw slacked open.

Kotono help up a single finger, driving the point home with a few short taps against empty space. “And if you think women won’t ever get pervy about men, you’re in for a sharp lesson.”

Gaige scowled at her. “I know what women are like.”

“Oh,” Kotono loomed forward, ready to hoover up the story.

“I live with my sister…”

She decided against telling her of time time she’d walked in on her own sister, straddling herself with empty tins of turtle turtle wax and a buffing wheel.

If only to avoid the next obvious tease.

And the idea churning in the pit of her stomach.

A long gulp of cooling tea swallowed it.

“I see…” said Kotono after a few moments. “Well, after a few years with a body like hers I suppose I’d find it hard too.”

Her smile hid behind a slurp from her mug, draining the last of the tea.

“Now what?” Gaige finally broke the silence.

“Do whatever you want.” Kotono answered, placing the cup on the table in front of her.

Gaige gazed down at her own reflection swimming in the dark tea.

“Easier said,” she breathed. The weight on her chest hung heavy.

“I get it.” Said Kotono, taking a moment to gather thoughts. “Look. This has happened to you, you can’t change that. This violated you. And you’re scared and frightened and it’s looming in your head and you don’t want to loose what little bit of yourself you have left.”

She took a breath. Gaighe opened her mouth to try and interrupt. Kotono leant forward, closing her down.

“But you can still beat it, by not letting it rule you. Don’t let it change your mind, don’t let it deny you the things you enjoy, and don’t let it keep you from trying new things, or discovering new things to like about yourself.”

“Am…” Gaige managed.

Kotono glared, eyes turning hard. “You win by moving forward and not letting it hold you down, you lose a little every time you turn away until you find yourself months down the line still curled into a ball hoping it’ll go away while instead it, and whoever did it, sit gloating in the back of your mind.”

Turned her own personal success against her. How cruel. “That’s nasty,” Gaige said to her tea.

“But it’s true.” Kotono took a breath. “Thanks for the tea.”


The suit made a deliberate effort to become as tight as possible, finding its way into every uncomfortable crevice. She ignored it as she crossed the hangar, letting her long stride carry her inexorably forward.

Eyes stared.

Every gaze crawled across her body, eyes like thousand of legs skittering across her skin. Whispers whirled around. It gnawed inside her. Maybe this wasn’t exactly what Kotono meant.

Her Sister stared straight through her with a look like they’d never met before in their life.

“I’m a Pilot,” Gaige declared, silencing everyone.

Nobody dared dispute that. This is who I am still.

“That’s why you got the job,” Jet answered.

--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?
Fenspace may be dead, but I'll keep something going. Even if it's hard to keep it consistent.

In the battle between the War and the delta-inducer, there could be only one winner. She's awake with a yell and a clatter, equipment snapping from her back as she stumbled forwards. Warnings blare in her mind disorientating as scanners reach out.

She's ready to fight, braced for the attack, blood on fire cresting an adrenaline rush. A moment later it turns hollow, sensors confirming what she already suspected.

Another bloody nightmare.

Her body stood crackling like thundercloud charged up with energy, and no ground to dump it through. Every nerve screamed to fight, begging for action. They don't shut up. Her mind reaches out through the architecture of the house, fingering down through the rock itself, grounding in the familiar signals of home and her native network.

It's been ten years, she tried to tell herself.

The walls crush in, pinning her in place. Tracers flicker at the edge of her awareness, coded message darting through back of her mind, flickering all around, hunting.

A cold shower doesn't cool her mind. It leaves her staring at herself in the mirror, wet hair forming into streaks of dark blood down her face. The smile mutates. Sinister. Violent. Deep in a world of shit but glad to be alive. Shaded with a battlefield’s worth of dirt.

A dash of cold water can’t wash the shadows from the overhead lights away.

She trims her hair back. Toothpaste banishes the bloody taste of metal from her mouth. A vacuum syringe draws a vial of blood from her neck. A crimson galaxy of sparks swirls within. She feeds it to a modified taster.

The machine chirps back an answer, followed by a formula to re-centre her body’s mix.

She draws a small sample from each of a dozen vials of wave in her personal cabinet, letting it mingle with the blood before pressing the syringe to her neck.

It hits like bullet, rushing through her body, the hot lights of the stage on her face and the thrill of the crowd. City neon strobes by with the roar of the wind and the staccato bark of machinegun fire ricocheting in her body that stops her dead, standing in a cold tunnel.

It dies with a cold chill, answered by a stark, slack-jawed, extra-galactic stare back from the mirror.

The muse humms in the back of her mind, interpolating intent and desire into impulse. A thoughtless whim earns an answer. An old pack of broadleaf tea lurking in the back of a kitchen cabinet.

Nobody could ever understand how she liked the taste, but it doesn't matter. Warm ginger uncoils the springs in her mind, clearing her head.

The adrenaline fades. The edge comes off.

Fatigue remains. Reflecting in the kitchen window, the face that had been forever nineteen gained ten years in a blink. A body, hollowed out inside. The bars of the dome reach up, separating her from the black beyond.

She considers trying to get some rest, but her dayplanner resists, coming to life, ready to stuff. Now that you're awake, you might aswell tackle some of these.

There’s so much normal to be done.

A three hour training session awaits, followed by a sponsor call for the racing team, a promised sale's call to try get a Kulbit to a race team, followed by parliamentarian crap – a ministers question, a vote, Stingray paperwork, all that PEPPER bollocks to keep the bureaurats with nothing better to do happy, and two open troubleshooter cases still simmering on the back burner waiting for results.

36 hours of tasks for a 24 hour day.

The price trying to shift up to something bigger. Grinding gears for three years.

A dozen or more well-wishers enquiring about her dead brother clutter her inbox. She can't bring herself to read them. Her muse punishes her with the salient points anyway. Others are rushing to help. Great. Gaige has a chance of becoming a decent person at least, one good thing.

Another comm request breaks her concentration.

“Hey, uh, Jet, we got a few sensors giving a high radiation reading in the power shaft,”

Only an extension number accompanies the man’s voice. No other identification.

“It's a probably bad sensor,” she answers. The artificial voice of her mind comes back sharp.

“Yeah, but that's 3.6 roentgen an hour.”

“3.6 is offscale high for those sensors. What’re the other two beside?”


“Great. It’s a broken sensor. Schedule it in DCAMS.”


Only after the line goes dead does she realise she might’ve snapped someone’s head off. So what? Bothering her over a sensor glitch when there’re more important things to worry about?

The first preliminary report from the KCPD filters into her personal inbox, by roundabout of Sylia and the Knight Sabers. Troubleshooter Jet had been cut out, for being too close. Those were the rules.

To hell with them.

The muse skims the details filtering out the salient points.

One launch point. One discarded SAM body.

Footprints. Two sets.

Vehicle tracks. Something tyred. 4-wheeled. Skid-steer – like an Electrocat. It's already comparing prints against records, offering up potential models of each. It searches out into the wider web, pulling the details on it's own.

Definitely an Electrocat. Short wheelbase model. 2 hour range – about 40km at most on the moon, just within range of Kandor. Hankook mesh-tyres. Probably a rental, she suggests to herself. The muse pings a request to some agencies, routing in through GJ channels, giving it the official stamp. It asks for surveillance footage of the Kandor city airlocks.

Responses are slow. She sets it to check registration, then follow back to the company, the date and hopefully to a driver or a photograph. With luck, it’d beat the KCPD who had to give a shit about warrants and due process.

In the meantime, the formality of training calmed. It gave her mind something else to focus on. Her mind vanishes into the forms, the world outside the moment receding away. Just the two of them – master and apprentice. Teacher and student.

“You did well today,”

The wave had already begun to knit the bloody split on her jaw shut, offering proof.

Maki could split an engine block, and still managed to look ashamed. “I think you were distracted.”


“Your ausbildung-stil felt different.”

“I got some bad news,” she says.

Like Noah Scott is a little fucking rich.

Maki smiles.

How someone who could split an engine block could look like the personification of Moe, Jet didn’t know. An artificially human face on an armoured body. Cybers did tend to exaggerate their humanistic qualities.

Together they clean up, repacking and re-oiling equipment, Jet waiting afterwards to work on her own.

Her blades live in a steel case, swaddled in oiled blankets, along with a bone-carved statue of Santa Muerte, and a few other Boskone artifacts. An original SS knife. A catgirl collar. A pair of glasses. Jesus Malverde with a bullet. Thionite vials. Rosebottom’s short-slide original-production CZ-75

The butterfly-blade that killed him hangs above the door with a brand new handle set and the original owner’s name on a brass plate.

She remembers, standing vacant. Her body traces the movements, dancing through the moment. Her comm interrupts the final strike. Priority One, from Command. A rescue signal?

“Hey yeah, we’ve a problem with that broken sensor.”
Mundane. From a moron.

“What is it?”

“Yeah, DCAMS stuck it at priority 1, but the exocomps won’t go in there."

“Fix it yourself!”

Snap. Channel closed. Her voice echoes back off the timber walls. A broken doorhandle hangs in her hand.

The next item on her dayplanner pinged up, begging for her attention. More shit to do.

Baron fucking Frigga.

4 Votes missed.
A few proposals, requests for support on various initiatives, gargoyle’s demanding comment on the crash. Letters to be written. Proposals. Comments. 4 questions to be asked of 4 ministers about 4 separate inane things.

The alternate means of war had nothing on the excitement of the real thing. A precession of paperwork, smiles, smoke and daggers.

The muse filters and cleans, simmering the order of business down to the salient points, parcelling out the things it thinks she needs to actually care about.

She works as she walks. Negotiating. Keeping her face up. Getting things done.

Just not bothering just wasn’t an option.

Life had to go on. Shit still needed to be done. it fell to her, want it or not. Nobody could see anything else but her getting on with it. Or the whispers would start. Everyone would talk.

Ford called.

Burned out from the investigation back home, half asleep already. Both of them needing support, both of them able to provide it.

Jet ached to be with her. But that had passed. They were still friends.

Ford slept. Jet worked. Now down to the hangar, to meet her new pilot. She steeled herself. Gaige was a new person.

Waiting with Daryl, wearing Jet’s own face on top of her skintight flightsuit. Transparent panels and all. Jet saw the little differences that marked the face as one of AC’s, the sharped eyes and nose, the deeper blue. On the one hand, eyes darted, taking in every single eye glancing at her. A friendly, innocent blue.

Already, Gaige wore her hair differently. Rougher, more natural.

And she stood. Ignoring them all. Her chest swelled as she drew down a deep breath.

“I’m a pilot,” she declared, answering the unasked question.

Weird as it was to see her own face looking back at her, it still comforted. Already, Gaige felt. confident enough in herself to wear that skintight flightsuit in public. Soon she’d grow and become her own person, finding herself somewhere between the remains of Mackie and the person she wanted to be.

Jet slipped into the role, banishing the thoughts of her brother. Let the dead rest.

“That’s why I hired you,” she said.

Jet’s muse cut her off before she could say anymore.

It’d found her a name.

It’d found her a real mission. Her muse offers official papers, an address, an employer, a photograph, even a GJ service record from ten years ago. A man who’d been to Jusenkyou too.

Her mind falls back and she finds herself wearing a savage grin as she briefly considers bringing him back.

Time to go.


Marco’s fate isn’t yet sealed when he discards the dead Geiger counter. He places it back in the equipment locker, dead batteries and all, right beside the warning label advising people not to go into rad-hazard areas without one.

It doesn’t matter. Two sensors read zero, so he knows it's safe.

Fucking arrogant Mary-Sues snapping off at him. Of course he could fix it. But he had better things to do.

Two exocomps wait outside the powershaft hatch. DCAMS assigned the little shits to do the repair, but neither of them bothered.

Silly robots. Their tools chatter in response.

He doesnn’t die when he opens the hatch, wearing only a facemask and boiler suit. His lifetime risk of cancer increases by five percent, as he steps across the threshold, carrying a brand new sensor and a toolbag. He doesn’t die when the overhead lights burned out, fuse on the wall popping, With a curse, he switches on his headlamp.

Everything breaks down.

Blue light flashes off steel, concrete and something that might’ve been glass.

The hatch seals him in the darkness, a faint blue glow simmering at the edge of his vision from the lnmp. Each breath feels normal. Damp. Cool. Each step carries him forward, closer to death. Metal dances on his tongue.

Old iron rock and new steel pipework.

He follows the conduits on the ceiling to the broken sensor, hung from a wall. B-24-A, in a steel enclosure.

Around his booted feet, a cool pool of water. Some part of his mind wonders where the water had come from. It couldn’t be reactor water. A leak would’ve been noticed. The other two sensors would’ve gone crazy.

It’d probably come from the fire system. A leaking fitting or an old valve had to have let go when Unit-4 caught fire. A black, coal-like stain traced the leak-path up to the cable tracks and pipework overhead. It disappeared into the tangle. He called it in.

No big deal.

His body tingles. He sets to work. By now, he’ll be sick for a week, with a ten percent chance of cancer.

Control confirms the cable is good. Disconnecting the sensor triggers a broken wire alarm. Jumping the terminals confirms a short. Definitely a dead sensor.

It takes another ten minutes to get the new unit mounted and switched on. He now has a fifty percent chance of surviving the next month.

Control report another offscale high reading. But not a wire-break.

And he thinks, what the hell?

He wonders.

Two bad sensors?
Short circuit in the terminal block.

He tests the sensor by covering the aperture with a steel plate.

No reduction.

He checks the connections. Once. Twice. Three times. His multimeter puts power into the sensor itself. Current flows at the full 24 milliamps. The maximum value it can, but not a short circuit.

By the time he closes the cover on the sensor, he’s already dead. He just doesn’t know it yet.

His feet slosh through water to find the next sensor, tracing conduits above. It takes another few minutes to find it. To find where it had been.

The cover stands, propped open. Inside it, nothing. Only enough of a resistance across to keep the system from tripping on a broken or short circuit warning and enough dust to tell him it'd been done years before.

Dread sinks in.

He pulls the resistor.

Control reports the wire break.

He runs to the hatch, screaming to seal the compartment off, for a medic, for something to save him. Offscale high could mean anything, couldn’t it? It might just be 3.6 roentgen an hour. It could be fucking anything. It might still be low. It’d only been a half hour. He's sweating.

He's drenched in it. Back in the light, the hatch slams shut behind him. Already, he feels sick. From the run or radiation, he doesn’t know. He fumbles in his pocket for the dosimeter, and stares at the dial, hands shaking.

Both Exocomps slide away from him, as if they could sense the contagion on his body.

A single red needle stands hard against the rightmost limit of the dial.

He knows the meter has no need to read any higher. Recording doses above 600 roentgen is good only for bragging rights.

That arrogant cyber bitch killed him. Slowly and horribly.

Already rotting alive.


Minor notes:
I need to change a few earlier things. Jet's locked into a certain mindset, and trying to do the best. I'm also trying - and maybe failing to do it right - to show the lingering wounds from the Boskone war.

Radioactive man is, well, it might be foreshadowing, it might be a glimpse into the culture that's developed. It might be a comment on arrogance and self-destruction.
--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?
To hell with it. Let's push boundaries.

The door latched behind him, sealing away the world outside. Safely home. Another day over.

No more looking over the shoulder.

No more panicking at every stranger who followed him around a corner.

No more sparking in his body at every loud noise.

No more wondering if that woman staring at him from across the street was the one….

Thank Christ. He leant back against cool steel, soaking the tension from his body. His boots found their home beside the wooden step. The familiar scents of home embraced him whole. Cedar wood, fresh miso and…


Hs body chilled. His hand went to his hip, fingers silently working the clasp to a heavy holster.


A voice. A woman. Somewhere to his right. Pop! The button came free. Fingers grasped the grip of the Berretta.

“It was just a matter of time, I suppose….”

His voice pulled taught, despite his best efforts.

“I want to know who. And why.”

To his left. His head snapped. Shit! Thermoptics. It had to be.

“You work for….” He snarled.

“Nobody,” A figure loomed, coalescing out of the light into something solid, right in front of him standing in the living room door. His hand snatched at the pistol, pulling it on target. Finger on trigger. Dead to rights.

The impact knocked the breath clean out of his lungs, chased by the rushe. A blade, iridescent under the hallway lights. Razor sharp, cold against his neck. Solid steell pinned him to the wall, crushing his chest. Turbines spooled down, enegy tingling across his skin.

The pistol thumped to the ground, unfired. His awareness came into focus.

Cold steel. Glacier eyes. Bloody hair. Gunpowder moondust. Lavender perfume. Unstoppable force.

A strange relief in recognition. Not her. Not them. Until he realised why she’d come.

“If I wanted you dead, you wouldn’t even have noticed,” she assured with calm certainty.

Those eyes bored.

“So what do you want?”

The pressure eased. His bare feet found soft tatami as she stepped back, giving him room to breath. Both blades relaxed, still gleaming to a fine point.

“You’re going to tell me who. And why.”

His fingers brushed at his neck, checking. No blood. Inhumanely quick. Machine precise. Sweat prickled. “And if I don’t?”

The pistol sat on the floor, far too far out of reach. He looked to her.

“I walk away,” she said, matter-of-factly. Her eyes went to the gun, then back to him. She’d notice.

The hair on his neck prickled. “I think you’ve got that backwards.”

Her arms folded. “I’m a killer, but I amn’t a murderer,” she breathed. The word accused. “The people who told you to shoot my brother down on the other hand. Can you imagine trying to convince them you didn’t talk if I just leave you be?”

She smiled. It wasn’t a nice smile.

“Can I at least sit down?”

Before he collapsed.

“Your apartment,”

She stepped aside, letting him pass. He never even heard the footstep on the tatami.

He took a moment to soak himself in soft vinyl, closing his eyes. The television slept. An old turntable waited for the new Bebop soundtrack still in its cellophane. A simple wooden bookshelf carried a few dozen books. Already, he wished he’d gotten around to reading more than he did. A Bonzai remained un-pruned. One of the tatami mats had torn at the corner. Outside, the city bustled past, four stories below.

The cyber stood in the door, one shoulder leant against the creaking frame, unconcerned about any attempt he might make at escape. Anything he might try would be beyond futile. The thought occurred to him that maybe, just maybe, it might all be an act – being so relaxed and self-assured to hide a true weakness. It seemed ridiculous.

He looked at her, then down at his own clasped hands. No such luck and he knew it.

“Alright. Look. I didn’t shoot. Denon did. And they chipped her for it.”

“Chipped her?”

She stepped into the room. His hands gripped.

“We were told to bring him in alive, but make it look like an accident. We thought it was just a mission. Some Boskone agent we had to bring in without them realising we had him…”

“What…” she breathed, blindsided. “Boskone?”

A small victory. She really didn’t know who he worked for.

“Yeah. They burned me.” He shot her a rueful grin, skin turning pale. “Said it was reserve activation for a special mission since we were both anti-spacecraft experts. Everything looked official. All the right stamps. I thought you were here to tie up the remaining loose end.” The laughter escaped, harsh and cynical. “Can you believe? During the war, all I wanted was peace. And then I jumped at the chance to go the war again. How fucked up is that?”

He swore he saw sympathy in her eyes.

“I wanted a new mission, and for my sins they gave me this one.”

They shared a smile. Faint joy from a shared misery. A moment’s understanding. No hatred. No intent. Just a fucked up situation. It could’ve happened to you.

Her posture relaxed, becoming more human, more natural. She wouldn’t kill him. In another place, maybe they might’ve shared a drink.

He calmed himself with another breath. His shaking hands betrayed him. She wouldn’t kill him.

“Look, you’re a warrior. I get that. But let me tell you right now. Whoever you’re dealing with, they’ve a mole in SHIELD capable of pulling something like this off. You can fight someone in front of you. But you can’t fight someone capable of turning the most respected law enforcement agency in Fenspace against you with a finger-click. You want to face the Scarlet Angel?”

Maybe, he thought, he could talk his way out. She listened. She thought. She smirked.

“She knows my capabilities, intimately. My records. My training. Even what I normally eat for breakfast.” Amusement lit up behind her eyes. “But I know how to make klaatchian coffee liqueur cheesecake.”

“Hah!” It barked back off the wooden panelling on the walls.

“Trust me. She isn’t something I need to worry about. She works with SHIELD, I don’t.”

He caught it immediately.

“So that’s how it is?”

“You can think whatever you want,” she shrugged her shoulders. He wondered how the suit managed it. “But I’m going to find who wanted my brother, and I’m going to find out why. I just need to know who gave the order.”

That glacier gaze made it a cold certainty.

“I might be a fool, but not an idiot. I kept it all on a memory card, just in case.”On the phone, she called herself ‘Green Grass’.”

She tossed the phone to her. One steel hand silently caught it. The other worked the card free. Her eyes never even left him.

“And Denon?”

His whole body shuddered. That scream. The look in her eyes. Betrayed by her own body, silently begging it to stop, but compelled nonetheless.

His teeth clenched. “Sent me a video file, showing what happened to her. Told me to be quiet if I didn’t want a chip of my own. I’ve been waiting on the other shoe to drop, ever since.”

It struck him cold. It struck both of them.

“I came on my own. Nobody knows I’m here.”

It might not. He knew the game too well to believe that.

“I understand. I guess.” He tried to sound nonchalant, to put up the brave face. It came out sick, twisted, a bad imitation at best and a blatant tell at worse. “The least I can do is give you the best chance.”

His eyes went to the pistol again. She caught his intent, immediately.

“It’s not your fault.”

Her voice clipped through it.

“But it’s my duty.” He swallowed it, dead set. Better that, than Denon. He looked to her, meeting her gaze. “It can only end one way. For what it’s worth, I really am sorry.”

“Thank you,” she nodded. Her lips firmed up. “…And me too.”

His eyes fell to the floor. She wouldn’t try stop him.

A sick relief.

“Try and get me out, and they know you’re coming. Kill me yourself, and they know you’re coming. But another veteran suicide? Nobody ever notices them these days.” His whole body shook against it, begging him not to, even as he tried to convince himself by rounding it out loud. “Just promise me you’ll tell ‘em I wasn’t a traitor.”

Tears on his cheeks betrayed him. Funny that. Try to be stoic. To stand up. He forced himself to stare. His lip quivered. Force of will stiffened.

“I will. I promise.”

“Thanks,” his voice stretched out.

Nothing more needed to be said. She left him wordlessly, as silently as she’d entered. He wondered if she’d even been there, or been a figment of his conscience.

The pistol still waited on the floor. It waited another hour until after the record he bought finished playing.

See you space cowboy.
--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?

That is all.
Too far?

It's always a bit of a touchy subject.

And I wanted something different that the usual Boskone enemy. It's a hook out there, depending, which is being foreshadowed here in some way.....
--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?
Not too far, in my opinion. Fenspace is not a dystopia or a utopia.
Rob Kelk
"Governments have no right to question the loyalty of those who oppose
them. Adversaries remain citizens of the same state, common subjects of
the same sovereign, servants of the same law."

- Michael Ignatieff, addressing Stanford University in 2012
Agreed, not to far, just heavy
(One of my characters has appeared in a few scenes here. Let's see what's she's doing.)

"This is your ship. Why do you want me to fly it?"

Miyuri looked up from her tablet to see Shinji's worried face, and decided not to say that it was an order. "Technically, it's the station commander's ship, not my ship. More importantly, you're a better pilot than I am. I'll give you the course."

The plan was simple - skirt the edge of the Limit until they were at the closest point they could reach at FTL to where 77 Frigga would be if they made a straight-line drive toward Sol, then make that straight-line drive. If the calculations and piloting were exact, they'd reach the point in Frigga's orbit where Frigga would actually be.

Flying so close to the Limit was always tricky. One wrong vector and the ship was either going on an impromptu trip into the Black or going substantially more slowly than expected - either way, it meant added time. And time was something in very short supply.

However, Miyuri Akisato was both one of the three best astronomers studying the Limit and one of the five best sensor operators in StellviaCorp. If anyone knew how to read how the Limit was acting, it was Miyuri.

Putting that knowledge into practice was the responsibility of Shinji Ikari. He wasn't the greatest pilot in space - in fact, he was barely average - but he did have experience operating a vehicle in high-stress situations. Not for the first time, Shinji thanked Jet for giving him the personality and memories that she had when she built him.

"I know you know what you're doing, Commander. I hope I know what I'm doing."

Miyuri mock-glared at Shinji. "You know what happens when you call me Commander." She put her elbows on her armrests and crossed her hands in front of her face, obscuring her mouth. "I have to talk like this for the rest of the meeting."

They both laughed, breaking the tension in the air.

Miyuri uncrossed her hands. "Seriously, Shinji, I trust you to get it right. Not just because you're my security chief, but because Anika's expecting us."

Shinji nodded. "I'd do anything for my sister. Let's do this."

* * *

A half-hour later, they were within the Limit and diving Sunward, on course to where Frigga would be when they got there.

"We're committed to this course, ma'am."

"Shinji, 'ma'am' is only slightly better than 'Commander'. Why can't you call me Miyuri?"

"I'd rather not while we're working, ma'am. Would you take the controls, please?"

"Sure. Is there something else you need to do?"

Shinji reached into his bag and withdrew a weapon case. "I am your security chief, and Jet does have a well-earned reputation for getting into combat. I need to make sure this is in perfect working order." He opened the case, pulled out a Minebea PM-9 and its cleaning kit, and started cleaning the machine pistol.

"Good idea. When you're finished, you can take the controls again and I'll make sure my AMT Backup is in just as good condition."

Shinji's eyebrows rose. "You're armed?"

"Haven't you seen the anime that Noah took my personality template from?" Shinji shook his head, and Miyuri continued, "Everybody knows that the character I'm based on was an astronomer and a sensor operator. Most people forget she was also a military cadet. Of course I'm armed."

"Oh." After a few minutes, Shinji added, "Is your Backup chambered for 9x19mm NATO rounds?"

"Yes, and before you ask, yes, that is where your ammo has been disappearing to."

Shinji sighed. "Some security chief I am."

* * *


"Yes, Shinji?"

"Does Jet know we're coming?"

"I don't know. Did Anika tell him?"
Rob Kelk
"Governments have no right to question the loyalty of those who oppose
them. Adversaries remain citizens of the same state, common subjects of
the same sovereign, servants of the same law."

- Michael Ignatieff, addressing Stanford University in 2012
I can use that.

Might have to make a slight change, but I can work with it. I'd a similar scene planned, just slightly different to tie into the sort of Heart of Darkness/Apocalypse Now riff we have going on.
--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?
Including a Scene from Cobalt Greywalker (Originally received a long time ago), and a slightly doctored version of the above.


Fawn had been A.C.’s self-appointed admin assistant for a while now, and in that time she’d gotten to know her boss’ moods fairly well.

Kasumi had pulled her aside as she’d come up to the dojo. This rarely happed, mostly because the android was sparing with the cyborg instead.

“This is not the best time.” The independent ninja told her. The lack of the android’s verbal tick put this into perspective. It took a significant force of will and a pinch from the kunoichi to prevent the flashback taking hold.

“Still need this signed off.” Fawn held up the PADD.

Kasumi considered this, then escorted her to the heavy powered doors leading to the dojo. The whirr-clunk of the Starfleet actuators seemed louder than normal, and once the dark-skinned woman walked in her fears were justified.

A.C. stood on the middle of the triangle of wing-chun training dummies made of battlesteel, the muscles normally hidden in her body now standing out as she blocked and countered in three dif-ferent directions.

“Oh my, she’s still angry.” Kasumi muttered.

Fawn blinked, as the sounds of flesh hitting pad flowed throughout the room. The dents in the pads were rather prominent, which from her own exercises she knew needed a lot of work to do. A quick flurry of movements happened, A.C. cancelling the dummies’ momentum and stepping out from the triangle. The sight of her muscles faded, once again reminding Fawn of her intrigue about why a cyborg like A.C. HAD muscles and putting it down to bio-mimetics (even if that never truly worked). That and the sheen of sweat (another bio-mimetic feature that she’d not really figured out).

“How bad’s the paperwork if you need to get it to me early?” A.C. asked lightly, taking the towel Fawn hadn’t seen Kasumi pick up.

“Just wanted to get this out of the way.” The lush-figured African replied, making a mental note to check over her own combat gear with how attracted to A.C. she was feeling as she handed over the PADD.

“Hum…” A.C. flicked though the various forms at a rate only an A.I. would match, right thumb in the right spot to confirm the forms. It was the work of seconds for the cyberneticist to page and confirm the various forms. “We’re still short on the order from Transys on Luna, so you’ll have to follow up on that.”

“Yes ma’am,” Fawn nodded, taking the PADD back before turning to leave. She’d need to coordi-nate with Eddie on munitions stocks they couldn’t make themselves. “But there’s one more thing.”

“Yes dear?” A.C’s eyebrow raised.

“She’s coming here. She didn’t say why. Only two words. She said you’d understand.”

“Which two?”

“Green Grass,”

“Thank you, Fawn,” A.C. said, her voice carrying a deliberate, unnerving evenness. “That’ll be all.”

“Kasumi, how’s the danger room looking?” A.C. asked as Fawn left the dojo.

Fawn knew she’d need to get Eddie and Libbie to check their stores, focussing on putting Green Grass out of her mind for the time being. If it’d gotten that sort of reaction for A.C., it wasn’t going to be pretty.

Gaige gazed at her reflection in the mirror bolted to the back of her locker. The woman in the mirror stared back, ignoring the red flush spreading across her face. Slow, steady breaths fought the buzzing back down, clearing her body and mind.

Building up the nerve to get out of the flight suit took time, the war between that slimy, sweaty feel on her skin and the tingly, buzzy feel on her chest coming to a slow but steady halt.

Footsteps approached from behind her, the soft strike of rubberised heel on tile betraying the owner

“If you tell me it’s okay to feel this way I’m going to hit you,”

Daryl’s locker door squawked a she pulled it open

“I was about to say we got a lot of good work done today, actually.”

Tension drained from Gaige’s body.

“I need to sit down and work it into the FM,” she said. “We might get another second off the lap-time.”

A genuine smile came to her lips


Daryl’s head emerged from behind her locked door, towel already wrapped around her hair.

Gaige gave her a single thumbs up. “It won’t be a problem.”

The other pilot thought for a moment. “If we can get that transition issue sorted, that might give us an edge.”

“I hope,” Gaige breathed.

“You want the shower first?”

Gaihe cooled herself with a long breath.

“I can’t remember what part of my fantasies of being naked in a shower with a hot woman, involved me being alone at the time.” Her voice shook. “Beside,” she looked to Daryl. “I thought you didn’t sweat.”

“My face.” The pilot pointed at her nose. “My hair.” She pinched a few silver strands between black polymer fingers. “And just because I don’t need to doesn’t mean I don’t like doing it anyway.”

“Hmmm,” Gaige looked at herself in the mirror. “It’ll take me time to get out of this thing anyway.”

“Gimme five then.”

Five minutes gave her time to think, time to work up the nerve, and time to start peeling the polymer suit off bare skin, cold air tickling its way into every crevice in her body. Soft fingers drew themselves over taught, tanned skin, pressing against firm muscle.

Her hands clasped around the curve between her legs, confirming once and for all that she really was looking at herself in the mirror, bedraggled, sweat-slick hair and all. Slowly, the tension drained from her body, hands relaxing to her sides.

“Gaige Kisaragi,” she said. “Nice to meet you,”

Her posture relaxed, her eyes wandering across the reflection in the mirror, mind half astonished how the woman always seemed to mirror her actions.

Alright. Time to deal with it.

A faint mile crossed her lips, catching a glimmer of a memory in the reflection. If the hair had been darker and the eyes a different colour – maybe if she pouted her lips a little.

“You’re smiling?”

Daryl stood there, patting the beads of moisture off her own body. Gaige blinked, tension flickering through her body, mind taking a moment to catch up and realise she wasn’t being a accused of anything,

“I was just thinking…” she said.

“About what?”

Daryl questioning lingered for a moment

“How much I look like my Sister…” she answered

“Well, it’s her puppet,” Daryl shoulders gave a light shrug.

“Not the puppet…. The body.” Both of Gaige’s hands placed themselves on her stomach. “She built the original hardsuit to fit her body. And then built the puppet to look like it almost fit the hardsuit.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“She had this amazing body. I mean, really, like something airbrushed in a magazine. “

“So you’re just feeling Hot for Sister?”

A dozen rats ran up Gaige’s spine. She didn’t dare admit that. A soft breath damped the rush, calming her down.

“Worried, really,” she said.

Daryl’s eyes dropped just enough to spot the evidence of the lie. She turned her head towards own locker, stuffing a damp towel in on top of an old gym bag.

“I don’t know what it feels like to lose a brother, but, I know what it’s like to loose someone important.”

“Yeah, but I amn’t dead,” Gaige answered.

Her hands found her hips for a second, before she realised what she’d just done. They sprang back, fingers grasping at empty air.

“Look at it from her perspective.” Daryl breathed.“She found your body on the moon. And she had all that time to mentally get into the space that you’re dead and she had to find out why.”

Daryl stood, looking through her. Yes, this is your fault for not understanding some obscure feeling-related thing that should’ve been obvious.

“I guess,” Gaige sighed, swallowing the words in her throat. “I expected her to be more excited about me being alive and that she managed to save my life, but she’s been so detached lately.”

She looked to Daryl, eyes reaching for an explanation.

“You were killed, and then she found out someone murdered you,” Daryl said, packing her towel away into her locker. “It might just take her time to get out of that headspace.”

As if it would be the perfectly normal reaction.

Gaige’s eyes lingered on the other woman for a moment, before turning herself towards the reflection in the mirror.

“I hope so,” it said after a few moments.


A stream of hot water imposed her body on her mind, intimately finginering its way across her skin. Damp hair weighed heavily on her neck, pulling her head back.

Still alive, she thought.

And coping.

“Because I can cope,” she told herself.

She could cope with washing herself, dressing herself. She coped with the crowd outside and the eyes tracking her across the landing bay. She coped with the whispers as she straddled her own motoroid.

She felt a thrill through her body as the machine’s turbine shrieked to life.

Her heart raced through dimly lit tunnels, chasing the point where the overhead lights met the road ahead. Her finger nudged the throttle, pushing the speed higher – far past the official speed limit.

Just like everyone else.

Catgirls on exocomps sped backwards, surprised by a half-ton motorcycle splitting between them.

Gaige whooped as they receded behind, urging their mounts to speeds their mounts had too much sense to attempt.

She smiled as she left the machine parked outside her apartment, her gaze lingering longingly on the red paint and liquid chrome reflections.

Mine, she thought.

A brass key unlocked her apartment, allowing her into her own private space against the universe. The door snicked shut behind her.

And she could cope with it to.

The peace. The quiet. The ability to be her own self in her own mind, despite what the world saw on the outside, sealed away in a private sanctuary which none could enter.

The freedom to luxuriate out on the couch in a scarlet silk bathrobe that’d probably have blown a blood vessel in Mackie’s mind if he’d seen his Sister wearing it.

Nobody to assure her it was okay to go a little native, and probably a healthy thing.
Nobody to look down on her for showing that much up top, as if that’s what men thought all women should dress like.

Just herself, a cheap dinner, and Star Thunder with the mic turned off.

She’d give the body back in a heartbeat. But the apartment wouldn’t go without a fight.

A buzz from her communicator interrupted the thought. A chiming ringtone demanded her attention. She flicked it open, and pinned it between her ear and her shoulder


“Gaige,” said her sister’s voice. Tinny, distant, impassive – obviously through her own internal comm’s rather than a separate system. “How long would it take to get Becky flying?


Gaige bolted upright, grabbing the communicator in her hand to keep it from falling.

“I pulled in a favour to get it through type acceptance. She’s to be armed on the Forge. I need you to get it flying and get it out there. “

Oh Skuld.


“So, how is he?” Anika asked.

She settled herself into her operator’s chair. Golden eyes stared, not looking at anyone. Electric green and burning orange hues reflected on her skin, mirroring the monitors screens surrounding her.

“It’s a fatal dose.” Tilly, the reactor operator, had turned white, shrinking down into her seat. Black hair clung to her face, sweat-sheened skin shining multicolour with the reflection from her screen.

“No,” said Anika. Her body seemed to shrink into the chair. “Why didn’t he bring a dosimeter?”

She looked for blame.

“Dunno.” Keisuke shrugged his shoulders inside his greasy overalls . “Not that it matters now.” The man glanced at the two women, adjusted his jacket, then sighed, returning his gaze to the plant diagram.

“So where’d it come from?” asked Anika.

“It’s the bubbler pool for Unit Four, probably through the cable shaft.” Tilly’s finger traced the route on the plant diagram on the screen. Static crackled at her touch, glass screen fizzing beneath her fingers. “ The level’s dropped by five centimetres.”

Anika blinked, caught for a moment. “That’s nearly ten thousand litres.”

“And it’s got all that graphite from the reactor liner in it and that’s just fizzing with radioactivity,” Keisuke added.

The three of them stood for a moment, letting the reality of the situation sink in. Dozens of gauges and text readouts hummed, dutifully read out the details of Frigga’s reactors. A dozen or more red and orange indicator lamps flagged up the systems that’d broken, failed, been disabled or otherwise bypassed to keep the whole edifice from crumbling.

Reams of text printed onscreen logged the operating state of the plant, second by second.

Most of them logged up error codes. Failed sensors, lost signals, or overflow levels. A row of six switches had been left in the manual override position for so long, the normal position had gathered dust.

Anika tapped at her keyboard, logs flickering in front of her eyes. Tilly couldn’t help but wonder how the other girl could stare like that – her eyes almost like glass. Her gaze fixed, inhuman, her expression morphing from vague concern, to something resembling what Tilly thought a seal pup would wear as it saw the club come down.

“Um. ,” she began, her voice shrinking down her throat. “The Active Reactor Safety Exam logs we’ve been sending to the Patrol? I never fixed the program so it wouldn’t generate data for Unit 4.”

Tilly swallow a sick lump, finding herself starin

“If they figure out we’ve been radioing it in, everyone here’s fucked.” She glanced between the pair of them, pulling them in to the conspiracy.

“Well it’s not our fault the system’s so fucking decrepid,” Keisuke cut back. “It should’ve been replaced years ago!”

No, I amn’t going to prison for this.

Anika glared. He glared back. Her expression softened Yeah, I fucked up. The vortex threatened to swirl. The world threatened to end. Faced with a threat, with disaster, the gears in her mind had begun to turn to snatch them all away from it.

“Alright,” Anika breathed. “Do we have the live data from the original accident?”

Tilly glanced at her screen. A few keypresses brought up the traces.

“I think so?”

“Good. Add it to today’s packet. Send a warning to all ships advising them of a reactor problem. Then an update saying it’s under control, with one radiation casualty.”

There. That’s the start of a solution.

“That’s….” Keisuke’s’s jaw hinged open.

Tilly glared. In for a penny. “It might save everyone if we get it under control before they decide to look.”

“So how do we get it under control then?”

“The radiation levels are so high they’re frying electronics. The Exocomps detected that,” Anika answered. Her hand grasped tight shut.

Kesuke folded his arms. “We need to seal that leak before it reaches the core melt. When all that water hits what’s left of the lithium…” Keisuke didn’t feel the need finish the sentence.

“And we’re back at a thermal explosion that’ll poison everyone,” added Tilly.., her voice softening. “If we start now, it’ll take at least a day to evacuate,”

“At this rate we’ll hit the melt in eight hours.”

“But we can’t get anything electronic in there,” said Anika. So, no Exocomps. No robots. Nothing automated could go in there and come out. She glanced between the pair, begging for an answer.

The idea came to Tilly’s mind and she hated herself for it. She detested every spark in her thoughts that proposed it. She detested every whisper that agreed

“Liquidators,” she said. “We send teams in to do it. Keep the dose low.”

Nobody said a word after that.


"This is your ship. Why do you want me to fly it?"

Miyuri looked up from her tablet to see Shinji's worried face, and decided not to say that it was an order. "Technically, it's the station commander's ship, not my ship. More importantly, you're a better pilot than I am. I'll give you the course."

The plan was simple - skirt the edge of the Limit until they were at the closest point they could reach at FTL to where 77 Frigga would be if they made a straight-line drive toward Sol, then make that straight-line drive. If the calculations and piloting were exact, they'd reach the point in Frigga's orbit where Frigga would actually be.

Flying so close to the Limit was always tricky. One wrong vector and the ship was either going on an impromptu trip into the Black or going substantially more slowly than expected - either way, it meant added time. And time was something in very short supply.

However, Miyuri Akisato was both one of the three best astronomers studying the Limit and one of the five best sensor operators in StellviaCorp. If anyone knew how to read how the Limit was act-ing, it was Miyuri.

Putting that knowledge into practice was the responsibility of Shinji Ikari. He wasn't the greatest pilot in space - in fact, he was barely average - but he did have experience operating a vehicle in high-stress situations. Not for the first time, Shinji thanked Jet for giving him the personality and memories that she had when she built him.

"I know you know what you're doing, Commander. I hope I know what I'm doing."

Miyuri mock-glared at Shinji. "You know what happens when you call me Commander." She put her elbows on her armrests and crossed her hands in front of her face, obscuring her mouth. "I have to talk like this for the rest of the meeting."

They both laughed, breaking the tension in the air.

Miyuri uncrossed her hands. "Seriously, Shinji, I trust you to get it right. Not just because you're my security chief, but because Anika's expecting us."

Shinji nodded. "I'd do anything for my sister. Let's do this."

* * *

She gazed into her father’s face through the monitor.

“And what am I supposed to do, Mr Scott?”

“Use your judgement, Miyuri.”

Her shoulders fell. “I was afraid you’d say that.”

Scott’s eyes closed for a moment as he drew a deep breath. “When you wear a uniform and take orders, you’re an errand girl. You have the luxury of being able to tell yourself that it’s not your fault, whatever the consequences. You completed your mission.”

There was one, obvious flaw with that.

“But, I was just following orders….”

….was no excuse at all.

“Assuming they’re lawful orders, of course,” he conceded. “The point is, you don’t have the full picture, just a task to complete.”

She felt herself look at the compartment door, hoping Shinji would arrive.

“But if you want to be a Troubleshooter, there are no orders. It’s up to you to make that decision for yourself, and the consequences of that decision will be your own to bare, on your conscience or otherwise.”

“And if we’re wrong?” she said, her voice small.

“We live with it, Miyuri.”

The weight of those words hung on his voice. She saw it in his eyes, which had seen many things she found herself wishing she’d never see herself.

“Thank you, Mister Scott,” she said after a few moments.

“I wouldn’t have sent you on this mission if I thought there was a chance you’d make the wrong decision when the time came,” he said, his expression softening just a little. “And you know everyone out there far better than I do. I trust your judgement Miyuri.”

“Thank you, Mister Scott,” she said, again. Her mouth couldn’t find anything more.

“Check in when you arrive. And please convey my condolences, if she hasn’t received the message.”

“I will, Mister Scott.”

The channel went dead, leaving her along in the aft compartment, with a collection of files on a datapad and the enclosing hum from the drives for company.

She lasted five minutes

“Problem ma’am?

She sighed. “I wanted a mission. And for my sins, they gave me one.”

Why couldn’t it have been one she wanted?

"We're committed to this course, ma'am."

She frowned, slipping into the seat beside him. "Shinji, 'ma'am' is only slightly better than 'Com-mander'. Why can't you call me Miyuri?"

"I'd rather not while we're working, ma'am. Would you take the controls, please?"

"Sure. Is there something else you need to do?"

Shinji reached into his bag and withdrew a weapon case. "I am your security chief, and Jet does have a well-earned reputation for getting into combat. I need to make sure this is in perfect working order." He opened the case, pulled out a Minebea PM-9 and its cleaning kit, and started cleaning the machine pistol.

"Good idea. When you're finished, you can take the controls again and I'll make sure my AMT Backup is in just as good condition."

Shinji's eyebrows rose. "You're armed?"

"Haven't you seen the anime that Noah took my personality template from?" Shinji shook his head, and Miyuri continued, "Everybody knows that the character I'm based on was an astronomer and a sensor operator. Most people forget she was also a military cadet. Of course I'm armed."

"Oh." After a few minutes, Shinji added, "Is your Backup chambered for 9x19mm NATO rounds?"

"Yes, and before you ask, yes, that is where your ammo has been disappearing to."

Shinji sighed. "Some security chief I am."

She felt herself giggled for what seemed like the first time in hours.

* * *


"Yes, Shinji?"

"Does Jet know we're coming?"

"I don't know. Did Anika tell her?"

“I’ll ask….”

She keyed open a comm channel on her panel. A burst message filled the screen. She blinked, recoiling from the warning on her panel.

“What is it?”

Genuine concern hung from his face.

“Red navigation advisory.” she read. “Minor radiation incident in progress. No landings will be permitted until further notice.

They both shared a look, processing all possibilities, from the monstrous to the mundane.

“What in the name?” she breathed.

Shinji forced a smirk. “At least we know Mackie’s okay.”


C: 26/04/01
R: 26/04/02
A: Hugh Mann. Stel-Oil Liason.


Frigga feels like an old con, that’s been run by the same group of people for ten years – whether they like it or not.

You’ve a whole load of people who love things the way they are and are quite happy to live with that, but either want no part in keeping them that way, or are dangerously incapable of keeping them that way.
You have the committee, who hate things the way they are, but are forced to keep the aspidistra flying by the first group because they just can’t bare to see it end or fall into the hands of people who will probably destroy it.
While the few people who desperately want to run the thing, and are certain they'll do a spiffing job of it for Venus, are the ones nobody wants involved in the show

Baron(ess) Frigga being the epitome – one who hates her duties with a passion, and would clearly rather be anywhere else but a VTP investigation committee but by all accounts is proving to be at least a ‘competent’ politician on the Venusian stage.

And yet, it has the well-polished edge of familiarity. Everyone involved knows what’s happening. The local form of adhocratic democracy sort of works. Jobs get done as needed. The power and water stay on inspite of the aging infrastructure. Delivery quotas are made, and a punitively meagre budget is creatively stretched beyond breaking point. Bureaucratic plumage gets treated the same way the internet treats damage, and the whole show rumbles on regardless.

Events such as MotorCon give a growing vibrancy, and the actual working Diesel Railway attracts visitors. The local economy is coming to life, with the first few bars, shops and workshops opening. The mine is working to feed Bristol with raw material. More than just the Millenium misfits are starting to move there.

Frigga shows all the signs of becoming a major station in the belt. If the ruling committee don’t burn out and blow it first.

--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?
RE: The Melancholy of Mackie-Chan
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?For all you new women out there.
In: Boards ? Social ? Biomods ? Gender
The All Seeing Eye (Guiding Hand) (Original Poster)
Posted on April 4th, 2013:


Since the Senshi medkits got adopted throughout GJ more and more guys are waking up to discover that they’re now very much gals. There’s plenty of tg stuff online sure, but all of it sort of assumes a little bit of familiarity with the feminine condition, and some pre-transformation preparation,

While us guys sort of get dumped in at the deep end and expected to get on with it.

So, lets get on with it.

The Haynes Manual for Women: Basic hygiene. Basic biology. Basically how to keep yourself in good health – and the important differences which might catch you out.
To hell with fashion: How to find clothes that actual fit and will actually be comfortable to wear. How women’s sizes actually work, or are supposed to anyway. And Lingerie. With plenty of photographic accompaniment to a visual glossary.  
Sex and sexuality: With yourself? With women? With men? With toys. A quick how to primer of how everything down there and up here is supposed to actually work. And how not to hurt yourself.
Dealing with friends and colleagues: Some anecdotal advice for dealing with family, friends and coworkers. Some stories. Some good. Some bad. Some funny.
We’ll make a woman out of you: The Oath of Venus, prerequisites, how the ceremony works and how to choose if it’s right for you.
Identity issues: How to get the correct ID card printed actually identify yourself according to the standard metric and what effects this can have on your privilege rating and annual dues. It’s a complex minefield (Millenium focused) that can cost you a lot of money if you get it wrong.

The P-word: Unwanted or unplanned, or otherwise. What normally happens, and your options going forward. Note: Discussions on termination require mod approval after one too many idiots. But yeah, it’s your choice and only your choice on this one. There’s no right or wrong.

Help Directory: Please. If you get into trouble, talk to someone here. Anyone.

The unspeakable: The statistics on this are becoming disturbing lately, even in the Crystal Cities. How to take precautions, and advice on staying safe out there. Self-defense classes

Originally by LongKnight98

1) This is Your Body. The only person who’s permission you need to try anything, wear anything or do anything is your own. You don’t need to ask anyone else. If it feels right, do it. It is your decision.
2) Don’t be afraid to try new things. Really. You’ve gone through a big change and now you’ve got a chance to step out and actually try all those things you promised yourself…. Or whatever makes you curious. Yes, those silk Chinese dresses feel great. Don’t wall up. You’ll be miserable.
3) Things will matter more. Things might seem awful. Or they might be amazing. It can be a wild ride. Don’t be afraid of showing it. It feels better to let it out. Guys hold it in far too much.
4) You can do it. Always remember, that 50% of all human beings ever born have managed to live full and happy lives with this condition. Anything you ever wanted to do, you still can. Nobody’s going to stop you.
5) Trust your feelings Your relationships with your friends and family will be in flux. Old friends might suddenly feel awkward to be around, and distant relatives might turn into close confidents. Friends might become lovers, lovers might become friends. Trust your feelings – they’ll probably be right.
6) Trust your instincts too. They’ll probably be right too.  If you get a bad feeling around someone, make your excuses and leave. Or call for help from a friend. I hate to say it, but there’re plenty of guys out there who’ll want to be more than friends…. If something feels wrong, it definitely is.
7) Always carry spare tampons. Always share if asked. There is a special place in hell reserved for people who don’t. Even your worst enemy will help you on this, so never be afraid to ask if you get stuck.
8) Hygiene is your god. No matter how bad or awkward it feels, take some time every day to take care of yourself. Don’t just slob out in misery A good shower daily and a regular shave will make you feel a lot better about yourself day to day(Of course, you did these anyway, right?).
9) But otherwise, don’t worry about passing – you won’t. If you want to go in heel-boots and all, be my guest. Attitudes towards the ‘New’ women vary. Most people are kind, but some can get very militant. Watch out for idiots who’ll forever see you as ‘tainted by male privilege’….. they give trans people a problem too.
10) You have the right to be happy. If something feels right to you, and it makes you feel better about yourself and who you are Nobody has the right to
11) You always have options. There will be bad days when it really hits you and you want to tear yourself apart. There will be good days too, when everything feels perfect in a way you can’t place.  Please, call someone if the bad starts to gain on you.

EDIT 3: Catgirls now have their own forum here.

(Showing Page 441 of 441)

? Herriot  
Replied on Jan 02, 2025:

Look. All I see are a bunch of wannabees in their hugbox trying to prove that something awful happened to you.

None of you have ever had to actually prove yourselves to anyone? Nobody’s ever questioned that something happened to you.

Sure what you see in the mirror feels wrong, but you know why…. So quite pretending we’re the same.

? Stocious_One  (Moderator)
Replied on Jan 02, 2025:

And Locked after two pages. That’s far enough.

EDIT (And back after 1 weeks.)

? Habufan_87  
Replied on Jan 08, 2025:
It’s been nearly six months since I got out

There’ve been good days and bad days.

Some days I can almost feel normal. Somedays I feel like I’m playing the biggest prank possible on everyone around me and they don’t even notice. They just smile and I’m like a cookoo in the nest.

I go to work. I fly. I shop for underwear. I’ve cosplayed and that was a great weekend. I can get through that time of the month and it almost feels ordinary – like a funny nosebleed. I do the shit I used to like. I do some different things. I begin think I’ve beaten it.

And then something happens – maybe I catch a tit with the inside of my arm without expecting it, or I’m under the shower and something just feels wrong.

And then it just hits like a punch to the face and it all the progress from the last few years just collapses and it’s like I’m lying on that hospital bed again all over again bawling my eyes out.

? LongKnight98  (Contributor)
Replied on Jan 08th, 2025:

The good days outnumber the bad.  That’s the main thing. Always remember that

? Habufan_87  
Replied on Jan 08th, 2025
True. Dat.

But some days it’s harder to remember than other.

? Blacksun_Patron  
Replied on Jan 09th, 2025

So, to get back to where we were before. In the end the decision was made for me.

I’m all ready and lined up to tell everyone that, yeah, I’d much rather just go through with it and get some resemblance of myself back again and everyone’s all supporting me and agreeing that hey, it’s for the best.

Except for 2 year old Becky who wandered up and put on her most innocent smile.

“Is there something wrong with being a girl?”

And now, I’m standing in front of her mother, her aunt, her sister, and they’re staring. It’s that stare that just warns you to be careful what you say. God it was good to feel like that again

“Oh, no sweetie.”

And this is the right answer and it’s good an correct and I’m released from the evil stares.

“So, why do you want to be a man again?”

And now, I can try and explain the whole concept of self identity to a two year old girl and hope she understands it well enough. Or I just spin a little wad of bullshit and hope.

“Because I don’t know how to be a girl and I’m a bad one,”

Becky seals my fate with a smirk. “That’s fine, I’ll show you how”

And while her parents are trying to explain it’s not the sort of thing you can be shown and it’s breaking her heart, I can’t help but say yes, just to make the poor thing feel better about herself.

So, now anytime I see her she insists on giving me lessons on the things she thinks I’m doing wrong, and how a real princess should do it, and this is a tea ceremony.

It is utterly hateful.

But I love her to bits. I just can’t help it. And I’ve secretely been taking her out to my favourite things to…..   Beckey’s quite happy to muck in on the tools and gets a kick out of doing ‘mens’ work.

The rest of the family are being supportive – like, really. No you’re one of ‘us’, like I passed some secret test.

And in a weird way, I feel better about this than I have for a long time. Do it for her, I guess.

? Habufan_87  
Replied on Jan 09th, 2025

Dude, that is actually badass. Like, properly. Nothing is more manly…..

? [PONY] Geigermatic  
Replied on Jan 09th, 2025

Or more maternal…..

? Blacksun_Patron  
Replied on Jan 09th, 2025

Oh shut up.

? [PONY] Geigermatic  
Replied on Jan 10th, 2025

Join ussssss…..

It’s really not so bad. For the first few months anyway. Then the sickness starts as the parasite grows, expanding inside and robbing you of your very dignity and continence, until finally, it decides to emerge from its gestation screaming and covered in blood after breaking your back and leaving you in agony.

And you just can’t help but love the poor thing.

The screaming, mewling, shit-stinking, suckling little gentle ball of…

….you got sick on my nipple.

? Ork_Lives_Matter  (Shadowrunner)
Replied on Jan 10th, 2025


The idea still gives me nightmare… it’s like my entire stomach turns just thinking about it.

? [PONY] Geigermatic  
Replied on Jan 10th, 2025

Used to be the same tbh,

It’s part of the deal. Nether of us really wanted it to happen but we’d just sort of both gotten out of therapy together and we’d been friends for a while and the whole relationship sort of started out of shared misery of being in someone else’s body and a little curiosity and then went from there.

FYI, my significant he used to be a she…… so I had a lot more support than I expected.

If you want the gory details, click here... Remarkable helpful response, all told. Better than my 'husband' got.

? Steel_Eye_Blackbird  (Animo et Fides)
Replied on Jan 10th, 2025

I still remember when my grampa found out what happened. And he’s a complete died-in-the-wool, anyone born after 1950 is a moron generation conservative type and we have to break it to him gently. Now, he’s the sort of old white guy who’ll ask for a nigger-brown coat in a Fubu.

“So, when are you giving me great-grandchildren?”

Basically, everyone just turns on him as they usually do and I’m just standing there thinking, wait, what, I can do that and they’re like, well, d’uh, we just showed you how to use a pad, so either you cut yourself honey or you’re good to go…..

I probably never will. I can barely handle mornings, let alone kids.

Fortunately, it’s unlikely my girlfriend will ever get me pregnant.

? Blacksun_Patron  
Replied on Jan 10th, 2025

Congratulations, Geigermatic.

I guess.

? [PONY] Geigermatic  
Replied on Jan 10th, 2025

Thanks dude.

? XVR_Traveller  
Replied on Feb 18th, 2025

Tomorrow I take the Oath.

It's only taken five years.

? Blacksun_Patron  
Replied on Feb 18th, 2025

Another one lost from our proud Frarority

? Checkride-chan  
Replied on Feb 18th, 2025

This isn’t the end.

I got ‘lucky’. I got the whole hog. I woke up that morning and didn’t even realise I had a problem when I looked in the mirror. Yep, that’s me, red hair and all.

My wardrobe was the first clue. My friend’s reaction was the next.

I’ve had boyfriends happily. I know what I am when I look at myself in the mirror. I feel all perfectly fine and normal. I get on with the girls at work and I can almost feel like I’m one of them. I took the oath. As far as Venus is concerned, I’ve been female since birth.

Until they start talking about things that happened when they were teenagers or kids and I don’t have anything. It’s like I missed out on all of that…

I can get everything but I just can’t be one of them.

I don’t know if that makes it harder or not.

No matter how far we go, we’ll never be one of them.

? TheSecondKnight  
Replied on Feb 18th, 2025

Trust me. After spending the last 4 years aged fifteen.

You’re not missing out on much.

Also. Teenaged crushes really, really screw with office politics.

My ID card says 40.

But nobody ever feels comfortable with it. And I don’t really feel comfortable with the ones who do.

? Steel_Eye_Blackbird  (Animo et Fides)
Replied on Feb 19th, 2025

That must get incredibly frustrating.

? TheSecondKnight  
Replied on Feb 20th, 2025

I can deal.

One good thing about being fifteen. It’s harder to feel ashamed about acting on your frustrations. It’s just a thing you need to do.

? Steel_Eye_Blackbird  (Animo et Fides)
Replied on Feb 20th, 2025

Oh I stopped feeling ashamed a long time ago.

Whether it feels like it or not. It’s my body. I’ll take whatever enjoyment I can out of it

? XVR_Traveller  
Replied on Feb 18th, 2025

>>I’ve had boyfriends happily.

I’m not sure whether to be frightened of this or not. It's taken this long to sort my feelings out about myself.

But it is done. G:F-F. 

? [PONY] Geigermatic  
Replied on Jan 10, 2025

Technically by the standard metric I’m Bi, I guess. You see my post above. ;P It weirded me out at first but then I was like, ‘Ooh, that’s what that was….” Once I figured it out, it just took a little nerve and someone in the same situation….

Inspite of the results. I don’t regret it.

If it feels good, it probably is good.

? Steel_Eye_Blackbird  (Animo et Fides)
Replied on Jan 20, 2025

That’s the justification I use when I masturbate to the woman in lingerie in the mirror masturbating….

….and if anybody says they haven’t done it they’re a damned liar.  

Edit: After 2 days, no takers?? Jesus I killed it again.

? XVR_Traveller  
Replied on Feb 23th, 2025

She isn’t always wearing Lingerie….

? Nexus_Origins  
Replied on Mar 28th, 2025

When it comes to things like that I’ve gotten into the habit of slipping into KoFen anytime that hits me, just the ground myself in who I used to be like

? LongKnight98  (Contributor)
Replied on Mar 28th, 2025:

That’s really not recommended dude. Even the tg people say not to do it too often because it can make the dysphoria much worse by jumping like that…..

? Chinese Roomate (AGZ: Genaros)  
Replied on Mar 28th, 2025

The biggest mistake I made was keeping my old avatar on the metaverse because, at the end of the day I could just sort of slip back into myself again and feel normal. It got to the point where work was just the part I played during the day so I could become myself later.

Eventually it sort of screwed my job and I lost it so I just dived permanently into it and lived there as myself like, right up until my savings ran out and I lost my premium subscription….

To cut a long story short I did something dumb to pay for it, spent some time behind bars and, well…..

A year in prison does clear the head, and they did have a program to help.

I’m still seeing a therapist for it.

But I’m doing better. I get it really bad, but I’m ok.

? Nexus_Origins  
Replied on Mar 28th, 2025
There is a surgical option. They not offer that?

? Chinese Roomate (AGZ: Genaros)  
Replied on Mar 28th, 2025

My homeostasis is so bad I can’t even trim my nails or cut my hair. I’m stuck as fuck.

? Steel_Eye_Blackbird  (Animo et Fides)
Replied on Mar 28th, 2025

Keep you head up man…. I saw you at the last meet and you were looking so well. I knew you found it hard but I’d no idea you were that bad. You should’ve said something….

? Chinese Roomate (AGZ: Genaros)  
Replied on Mar 29th, 2025
I’m pulling myself together. Just started a job in rainwater maintenance. Must be the only person on Genaros without a metaverse account. I got my exercises for dealing with it.

And you know how it is, asking for help.

? LongKnight98  (Contributor)
Replied on Mar 29th
Look, we’re here for you if you need it. There’s the help directory in OP.

? Chinese Roomate (AGZ: Genaros)  
Replied on Mar 31th, 2025

Thanks mate.

? TheNewKidofSpeed  (New User)
Replied on Apr 8th, 2025
Thanks for OP.

It’s been less than a week for me and I’m sitting here and reading something that, at last, isn’t trying to convince me to hate myself and actually gives practical advice…

? Steel_Eye_Blackbird  (Animo et Fides)
Replied on Apr 8th, 2025

> convince me to hate myself
Today I learned I used to hate X about myself. Today I learned I like X about how I am now.

Ah, the official guidebook. Carefully produced by a committee to provide firm, but gentle guiding hand towards a Stepford happiness.  

Welcome to the club. Also. Send Nudes.
--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?
Re: The Melancholy of Mackie-Chan
"Why do I have to wear this stuff?"

"Because all the marketing work I planned to do, now you need to...."
--m(^0^)m-- Wot, no sig?
Re: The Melancholy of Mackie-Chan
What, that's not her usual fashion sense at work? Tongue
Re: The Melancholy of Mackie-Chan
Sometimes she's a hotshot pilot, sometimes she's an armored mercenary...
Rob Kelk
"Governments have no right to question the loyalty of those who oppose
them. Adversaries remain citizens of the same state, common subjects of
the same sovereign, servants of the same law."

- Michael Ignatieff, addressing Stanford University in 2012
RE: The Melancholy of Mackie-Chan
Lets move forward.

Slowly. Inexorably. My own mood is bleeding through. But lets go.


It took Jet far longer than she expected to open the green infirmary fire-door. She knew she’d slept. She still felt like she’d been awake for days. Her mind drifted in a sort of fuge, the muse revealing the information it’d learned in her absence.

Acute radiation syndrome. Known cases. Hisashi Ouichi. Lived for 83 days. He wished he didn’t. It made her look at the image of a human body, rotting alive down to it’s bones, one leg already reduced to a stump, screaming soundlessly as it hung from a cradle.

After a breath to work up the courage, she pushed the door open.

In the centre of a sterile, white-painted room, a man lay in a hospital bed under a clean, white sheet, cables and driplines tying him to a dozen humming machines, isolated from the rest of the room by a plastic curtain. Dinsinfectant stung at the inside of her nostrils, a hollow roar from the ventilators above pulling cold air up the back of her neck.

Overhead lights sizzling blue with ultraviolet, banishings all shadows from the room.

The door locked shut behind her with a metallic click. She stopped after a few steps, aware that she carried the dirt of the station on her armour. He turned his head to look at her. Still with short-cut, black hair. Still with the same Italian summer tan. Still with clear, hazelnut eyes and a strong roman nose. He could be called handsome, even attractive if Jet had thought that way.

Apparently unharmed, but already terminal. His body’s own defence mechanisms had already begun to rot him alive from the inside out.

“Marco,” she said.

Marco managed a weak smile. “Stopped getting sick.”

Jet stiffened her lip. “Seventeen hundred. There’s nothing medical we can do,” she said. Better to be straight out about it.

He shifted in bed, working has hands under the sheets. He turned away, drawing a slow breath.

“Larissa told me. If I’m lucky I shit myself to death in a week – otherwise, a few weeks after that. Wave, biotech, nothing works on this much radiation.”

His feet shuffled under the woollen bedsheet. His head rolled to one side, eyes focusing on the glass window, and the absolute darkness beyond.

Jet stood, trying to place himself into his shoes. How would she feel. Afraid? Resigned? Angry? Her finger tapped on the metal of her hip. She crossed her arms to keep herself from doing it.

She’d come to ask him one question.

“Why’d you come here?”

That wasn’t it. But it filled the silence.

“Because I went to fix a radiation sensor and didn’t bring a Geiger counter,”

His voice had a hard edge to it, stiffened by regret. His gaze turned back to her. Blaming me, Jet wondered.

“To Frigga,” Jet said, her softening. “To Space,”

He took another slow breath, rolling his head back to the window.

“I wanted to look out at the stars rather than look up at them,”

Jet felt herself exhale slowly, her breath tickling on her lips. A faint smile. It proved this was the right thing to do.

“There’s one more option,” she said. “But it’s tough.”

His mouth opened.

“I could call in a scramble nine.”

“Scramble nine?” he repeated back to her.

“Emergency medical cybernetics - the Panzer Kunst will cover the cost . In return, you sign up for the Gruppe,”

Hope? Confusion? His eyes tracked across her body, from her feet, across her chest and right up to her eyes.

Is that what you’re going to do to me?

“Whatever needs to be done to save your life,” she confirmed for him. Jet paused a moment. “Probably a total replacement.”

He drew a breath. His feet shuffled under the blankets.

“If it’s a choice between life and death, why’re you asking?”

She heard the quiver in his voice. Scared of the result. Or what?

“I know exactly two other people who had the chance to make that choice,” she said. “I know what cybernetics can really do to a person.” She could recall each and every one of her students, and how every single one of them had struggled in their own ways. “ It’s not like putting on a suit of armour. It’s not like a biomod, or a spin in the catgirl machine. You really will be something other than human.”

She made a point of shower the fingers on her right hand to him to him, Holding them in front of her face, curling each one in turn.

He sat up. His arms slipped out from under the bedsheets, before clasping on his lap. He looked to the window. He looked to the far wall - nothing but blank white-painted concrete

The idea turned over in his mind. She saw the tension roll through his body, his humanity revolting at the idea of being something else. Finally, he looked right at her

“What would you do?”

The question hung in her mind, catching her by surprise. For a moment, her thoughts returned right back to that instant when she’d first woken up on that concrete floor and felt the machinery inside her awaken, like lighting in her mind.

Those first moments of absolutely, existential terror that she could taste on her tongue. The feeling echoed inside her for a heartbeat. She closed her eyes, letting it fade before opening them again.

“I’d think about it. Real hard,” she said. “It’s another form of death. With a different kind of afterlife.”

Marco nodded weakly, looking ready to throw up.

“I’m already dead.” he managed to say. “The cells in my body just haven’t realised it yet. I’d rather not go through it.”

Jet had another thought, something that could either be a cruelty or a mercy, depending on who she asked.

“I don’t want to die,” he said, looking right at her. He gulped a breath. “I don’t want to die like this. I didn’t come up here to die like this.”

She saw the plea in his eyes. Anything would be better than rotting alive.

“I need you to make it explicit,” said Jet, more like she was pronouncing death.

His lips stiffened. He stared

“Do it,”

Her wings spread with a hard, metallic sound like a shotgun cocking. Vanes adjusted for best signal The call went out through her own transmitters, broadcast to half a dozen

It took seconds for the first answer to come back.


Marco blinked, his mouth opening. Nothing came out.

“You’re going to Mars tomorrow,” Jet said, feeling the edges of her lips turn up just a little.. “Ares will do the work,”

He sat and stared, before turning his eyes down to his own hands. He flexed his fingers.

Jet waited, before deciding to leave him alone with the gravitas of the decision. Her wings latched back into place as she turned on the heel ,

“What’s it like?”

She turned back. Marco’s question hung in the air while she searched for the right words. He sat, waiting for her answer with his hands still in his lap.

“Like….” she glanced back at the window and the darkness beyond. “Like being among the stars, rather than looking out at them,”


Gaige felt the seam pop as she stretched her leg over the motorcycle’s saddle. Bare skin brushing cool leather confirmed the worst.

It took her twenty minutes to struggle out of her riding gear, before donning a new pair of jeans.

She made it to Becky an hour after she meant to start.


The arm split from her t-shirt as she reached up to open the hydraulic access panel on the aircraft’s belly.

It took another hour to get another one.


Gaige kept her legs together as she eased herself into the cockpit of the jet.

Her second pair of jeans tore between the legs anyway.

“Fuck sake,” she growled.

It hadn’t even stretched.

Kotono saw the Bobcat first, slabs of concrete strapped to its back to keep it from tipping. Then she saw the turbine-engine; tons of metal, cradled in a pair of thick straps hung from the bobcat’s forklift.

Slowly, the driver lowered the engine into the open fuselage of the parked Rebecca Brown, Bobcat teetering on its front wheels each time the engine stopped. The machine creaked as the forks reached forward, creeping the engine into its proper place.
It teetered. It tottered.

Kotono stood and smirked, anticipating the expensive ‘I told you so’. Her body fizzled in giddy anticipation. One. Expensive. Smash.

The bobcat’s engine growled as the driver tweaked at the levers, easing the engine into with millimetre precision. A quick panic slap from his hand on the concrete counterweight kept the machine from tipping.

A deep breath of relief.

Disappointment stung her to the bone as he the harnesses went slack, the operator backing the machine free. No hilarious viral accidents for fentube today.

The grin returned as a single scarlet heelboot emerged from an open hatch, followed quickly by another. Who? wondered Kotono.

A lithe body wriggled through an opening barely large enough to fit, taught senshi fabric stretching across firm muscle. A pained groan emerged from the exhausts as the body struggled to slip through a hatch just a few centimetres too small for a bust just a few centimetres too large.

Kotono swore she heard the ‘pop!’ as the bust came free, dropping the body to a deft gymnasts’ landing. She stood, stretched herself into a yawn, and drew every single eye in hanger to herself in the process.

Gaige Kisaragi stood oblivious, wearing an oil-stained senshi leotard, toolbelts and scarlet heelboots.

“Damn,” Kotono breathed.

A little pang of jealousy cut deep. Kotono swallowed it, sensing a chance to tease. Something had to have pushed Gaige into that leotard. She marched over, savouring the smirk on her lips

“So, you felt like trying on something interesting? Gaige.”

Gaige stopped, swallowing a lump, placing a hand on her stomach, before moving them down to her belt.

“I tore every pair of jeans I had except my last, two t-shirts, and a pair of worker overalls,” Her fingers plucked at a strap fixing her boot to her belt. “I don’t know how my Sister ever wore plain stuff with a quirk like this….”

It clapped back against the firm skin of her thigh.

“Oh that’s cruel,” answered Kotono with feigned kindness. “And here I thought she was just into sexy lingerie,”

“She used to be,” said Gaige, not catching her true intent. “Before she got stuck in the suit she was always wearing something, but she always had the body for it too,”

Kotono blinked, her eyes taking a moment to crawl across Gaige’s body, and how the leotard clung unnaturally tight across her stomach and chest.

“Really?” Kotono’s eyes widened. “What did she look like?”

Gaige actually smiled, drifting back into the memory.

“She took after our mother, with grey eyes, and grey hair. But this is her body,” A single finger pointed towards a dimple that absolutely had to have been formed into the leotard, right where the bellybutton would’ve been.

Kotono’s eyes looked down “There’s no way anyone had natural legs like those.”

And other parts, she didn’t say. Nothing about Gaige’s body shape had come from nature.

“It’s what we remember,” Gaige said, looking away into the distance. Her shoulders dropped, a soft sigh escaping her lips.

“Well, you look like you could use a break,” said Kotono. She moved her hand, thinking to place it on Gaiges shoulder in that warm and friendly manner, before deciding that maybe, Gaige could’ve done without the reminder that she was wearing something completely strapless.

“I’ve three days to get the ship flying,” Gaige nodded her head towards the waiting Mig. She swallowed a moment, shifting her feet.

“You don’t want to go?”

Such awful discomfort just didn’t suit the figure wearing it. The body that should’ve stood proud and confident instead looked ready to curl up inside itself.

“Ask me a month ago if I wanted to go to the Forge and I’d have begged to get five minutes,” Gaige said, taking a deep breath. She looked up at Kotono, then down at her own feet to hide the shame on her face. “I just don’t feel comfortable with being there.

Kotono took a step forward, pausing when Gaige stepped away.

“I don’t think your Sister would let you go if she didn’t trust everyone there.”

Gaige blushed, clasping her hands together. Her lips pursed. She glanced over each of her shoulders in turn, checking to make sure nobody else might possible hear.

“I might….. do something I don’t really want to agree to.”

The words crawled from her mouth.

“Something?”Kotono’s eyebrow raised. One glance at Gaige, and the way her legs had tightened themselves together told her everything. “Oh….”

A mental image worthy of the seediest corners of the interwave destroyed any sympathy Kotono might’ve had for the innocent Gaige.

“Because it’s hilarious isn’t it?” Gaige snapped at her, before turning on a heel and marching away. The steel floor rang under her feet.

Kotono’s jaw slacked open a moment, caught by surprise by the swing. She stood, feeling naked in front of an entire hanger. For a moment, she flushed with anger. Kotono swallowed it, letting common sense take over.

“Wait…” she began

Gaige stopped. For a moment, Kotono thought she’d listen.

“I’ve work to do,”

Gaige didn’t even look at her as she strode past.


Another veteran suicide, nobody notices those anymore.

It took just over six hours for Tanaka to be proved wrong. Maico’s message arrived first, followed by a dozen other journalists and bloggers, flooding her personal inbox begging for any form of comment. That actual story flagged up a few moments later

KCPD investigating death of Shinji Tanaka. Former SHIELD. Jusenkyou veteran. Suspect in Mackie Jaguar shootdown. Possible self-inflicted gunshot.

They’d already started calling him a traitor. Jet hated that. Jet understood why it had to be - at least in the short term.

It still hung heavy from her shoulders.

She escaped to her own private tinkerspace, secured behind an armoured door that weighed at least as much as she did.

Perfect, absolute darkness, closed in around her as the door slammed home, giving a few moments peace to savour the familiar scents of oil, steel, rust and electric ozone.

The computers reached out and pinged her for her personal I.D. She answered after a moment more.

A pair of striplights flooded the room with a mixture of harsh white highlights and deep black shadow, revealing a chaos of technology and tools, salvaged from a dozen different places to make something approaching a workshop. The wreckage of a half-dozen unfinished projects surrounded her on three sides, filling two of three workbenches with the shrapnel of her own attempts at work- little tinkerings that’d petered out along with the inspiration that’d propelled them.

They teased her.

Others begged for time, waiting to be finished. A custom motoroid she’d been building for Daisuke ever since he’d joined the club towered over her , a training partner puppet lay in parts on a central bench, while a purple hardsuit that still waited a final fitting hung from a stand in the corner.

A bank of glass-screen monitors on the fourth wall fizzed to life, reading out in hues of blue, green, red and yellow. She passed most of her background processes through her muse and onto the screens,

Frigga begged for her attention across half a dozen hummings screens reading out new breakdowns while reporting on old problems. The MAGI kept most of it under control, prioritising the worst of it, escalating what needed to be escalated from the ground to where it could be actioned, then scheduling the work, letting Frigga govern itself as automatically as possible. Flagged in red were the petty items people insisted she take care of herself, now, as absolute priority, because MAGI had asked them to wait a week

She left them ticking through on the screen to keep them out of her mind.

Another monitor carried the Tanaka investigation. Another, a wiring diagram for a Prometheus puppet interface. In the top corner, details on the Patrol’s upcoming investigation of the Frigga accident along with Anika’s attempt to gundeck the records and unfuck the dog before they figured it out. One more stood blank, waiting for a security key.

Jet let them all run on their own, casting a softer, green light on the room around her..

The third bench in the room had been stacked with circuit-boards trailing ribbons of cable, joining up a couple of signal conditioners, an old glass-tube oscilloscope, a motoroid battery to provide power, and a metallic skull at the centre of it all.

A single coltan skull, battered and buckled but still bearing shreds of artificial muscle, skin and hair. It stared back at her


Her blood turned cold, every cell in her body at once revolting at the memory of her fingers tearing what’d remained of his face off, sinews and fibres snapping as the glove of skin pulled free. The sensation stuck to her hand, echoing in waves up and down the synapses of her arm.

Jet’d used an angle grinder to rip through the back of the skull to get to the cyberchip inside.

Then, it just had to be done. Now she stood, staring breathless at it, the scream unable leave her throat. The skull stared lifelessly back.

The angle grinder sat beside it.

She steadied herself with, shivering inside her armour, muscles drowning The taste of fresh bile rose into her mouth, coating the back of her throat. If her last meal hadn’t come from a spaceflight pack it would’ve ended up on the floor.

The walls closed down around her and she begged for the ceiling to open and let her Fly. Her drive’s charged with energy, coils winding up for the launch.

A ping from her comm systems asked for her attention.

She drifted weightless for a moment.

The ping insisted, demanding a channel encrypted with her personal private key.

Not now Jet, Gotta get on with this. Needs must. What was left of her mind grabbed the feeling and crushed it down, pushing it out of the way. It could sit and fester until later.

With a thought, she diverted the comm-stream to the spare monitor, if only to have her head clear.

Green eyes formed on the monitor, framed by slick, jet-black hair, and a woman’s smiling face. The woman’s expression darkened. The dread sense that she’d been caught fluttered through Jet’s body.

“A radiation accident and a scramble nine?” A.C.’s eyes sparked with amusement. “What are you doing out there?”

Jet bit her lip.

“Drowning,” she said, forcing a thing smirk to hide the truth of it “And Ares already picked it up,”

A.C. feigned her disappointment. “And I had some interesting things I wanted to try and all,”

“Maybe next time,” Jet said, thoughtlessly.

A.C actually blinked. Jet found herself wondering if that had been the clue that gave the game away.

“Anyway I’ve checked the reference number Sergeant Tanaka gave,” A.C continued, calmly reverting to her professional self. Jet’s gaze focused hard on the image on screen. “His orders were legal and legitimate, as far as he could tell. So were Corporal Broadin’s. They requisitioned their equipment from the armory with that reference, and returned it an hour after shooting your brother down. They’re victims.”

Just following orders. The same as anyone else in their position. There’s a bad guy coming through, shoot him down, take him alive. A legitimate, lawful order. No red flag waving above it.

Which meant one thing.

“There’s a name on the orders?”

Jet felt herself grin. The thought of having a face to confront thrilled the savage part of her heart.

“Somebody who wasn’t on the moon, but was on Earth at the time. They’re innocent in the affair too.” A.C. sighed. As if she almost thought they would be that careless. “But I do have the terminal where the orders were logged. And a list of ten people in that room at the same time. One of whom, you might recognise,”

The names arrived as a databurts, reading out through her mind.

“Jordan Waide,” she said. “She was head of the Foxhound program.”

Jet looked to the monitor for a moment.

“And under investigation by Internal Affairs, for espionage.” A.C. said, mildly.

“Oh what the fuck?” Jets voice rang back at her off the walls. She stepped back from the monitor, like it’d given her a physical electric shock. “What?”

“Internal affairs have a suspicion, which is why she was reassigned and the program closed.” “They had no evidence otherwise.”

“Fuck me,” Jet breathed. She placed her hands on her face, taking slow, deliberate breaths, before placing the on the bench in front of her. The steal groaned as her fingers tightened. Her eyes scanned around the room, moving from the kipple of tools and equipment, back to that single, staring steel skull, and the simple fact that Mackie had been wanted alive. It ”This…. I know what this is about - if it’s Waide”

“If…” A.C. said.

“SHIELD’s compartment for the Foxhound was Iron Crone.” The words raced from Jet’s mouth. “The a sub-compartment for the engine design was called Iron Crone Snap. ”

Given her position, naturally the Scarlet Angel would have access.

“Restricted,” A.C answered after a few seconds.

Jet felt herself blink. “You can’t access it?”

“Contrary to popular belief, I can’t access everything in SHIELD’s database on demand. But…” “It only shows Special Access Required, with no qualification or...”

“I thought you’d be able to see it,”

“There’re many files I don’t have access to. But very few which won’t tell me why.”

With a half-second’s hindsight, Jet knew why. Listing the reason, defeated the purpose. The one secret that went beyond need to know.

A.C needed to know, whatever the cost.

“That….” Jet sighed. “That might be because it’s secured under the Khan Directive.”

A.C.’s hands clasped in front of her face. Jet caught the subtle shift immediately - the hardening of the shadows on her cheeks, the sharpening at the edge of those green eyes.

Darkeyes. Jet felt the shift run through her spine.

“What are you doing out there?” A.C’s voice carried with a darker, harder edge. Her green-eyed gaze penetrated the screen. “Did Mackie come across something technically sweet?”

The accusation stung, catching on her breath with a hot twinge of anger drawn by the subtle betrayal - the idea that A.C. could even think she’d do something like that on purpose. The sensation mingled with the momentary fear that things would get rapidly out of hand if anyone jumped to conclusion. She stepped back, for a moment expecting something to reach through the screen.

It passed in a heartbeat, Jet’s own self control taking over again. She pushed herself to meet the gaze coming through the monitor, if only to prove she had nothing to hide that didn’t have a bloody good reason for being hidden.

I haven’t done anything wrong.

“It was an accident, like a software bug.” she said, trying to keep her voice as deliberate as possible, despite the tension in her throat. “ We found it, and built an engine that made it impossible to exploit,” she said, taking another beath. “The details aren’t in Snap, just that the Directive is why we built the engine the way we did,”

A.C’s expression softened as she shrank away in the monitor. No tragic superhero misunderstandings today.

“It was an accident?” A.C. asked.

“As much as physics can be,” said Jet, with a breath of relief. “There’s a group that’s been working on patching it for years. But it’s another five years at least for natural wear and tear to run its course, and even then there’ll be a few survivors for a long time.”

“Hardware related?” A.C. asked, voice picking up speed. “How bad is it?”

Jet allowed herself a moment to gather her words, closing her eyes to read her own thoughts back to herself, to make sure there wouldn’t be a misunderstanding.

“The physics version of that Crashdown bug. The hardware is common. It’s difficult to patch. Impossible to patch without revealing what the bug is. Trivial to fully exploit by someone in the know.”

“How trivial?” The unease in her voice was clear.

“A week.” Jet said.

The rest of the jigsaw came together in A.C’s mind. Jet watched it come together, written across her face one little realisation at a time. Only one source of transuranics could be that common, and that hard to clean up without giving the game away.

A.C settled back into her chair, letting the idea fester and the full implications take hold. Her eyes turned to a point somewhere off-screen.

“Oh. Oh God.”

The fact that she’d had the same reaction herself, three years beforehand, came as little comfort to Jet.

“Yeah,” she filled the silence that fell. Both knew what it meant. Jet still felt the need to say so. “Either I get to the end of this and find out where this secret has gotten to, or. Mackie stays dead.” The next part choked in her throat. “And Gaige prioritised for immediate effect if under threat of capture,”

Don’t let them take her alive.

Jet already knew it’d cost her soul to do it. Even the idea of it burned a mark.

“I can help,”

“No”, Jet shook her head slowly, side to side. “It should be me if it comes to that,”

Her voice was lost in her throat, barely making it past her lips.

“It shouldn’t.” A.C. assured. “The Forge is secure. Gaige can stay here for as long as needed. And I can definitely help her with her other problems. I do have relevant experience,”

The screen zoomed back to frame A.C’s body, sitting in a leather chair with her legs tightly crossed, a black carbon riding crop sitting on her lap. A black leather corset compressed her breasts just tight enough to allow for the appropriate quantity of spillage, covered by both her hands.

She pushed them together, deepening darkness in the valley between them, an impish grin

Jet felt herself smile again. Jet found herself aware of the body inside her armour for the first time in months, pressing against the metal. She tried to strike a pose, liquid light flowing across the polished curves of her armour.

“Thanks,” she breathed.

Amusement sparked in A.C.’s green eyes for a moment, before the frame of the screen zoomed in to her face.

“We still need absolute proof it’s Waide, not just circumstance,” she said. “If Alexandria flight is attacked, the location will confirm the identity of our mole. If not, I have sources I can call on.”

A.C’s gaze shifted off-screen, to another monitor or notepad. Her lips pursed together.

“And she still needs to disappear without tipping off her handlers.”

Jet thought a moment. Her eyes closed, looking inside her own mind.

“I might have an idea.”

Shinji’d given it to 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.
RE: The Melancholy of Mackie-Chan

A Prologue. 4 years late....


January 2nd, 2023. 1 Light Hour from Ultima Station.

“Thanks for coming out here, sis.”

“No problem,” Jet answered. She tried her best not to look at Mackie’s excited grin, instead turning her thoughts to a dozen other things she could’ve been doing aside from sitting in what should’ve been the Pilot’s seat watching her brother run through engine tests.

Just the two of them, brother and sister alone in dark territory halfway to Ultima, with nobody around in case anything went wrong. Jet felt herself sigh, struggling to find a place in the chair that fit her body.

She looked forward, through the windows far ahead of her past her brother. With the bridge lights up at maximum, all she could see was a reflection of the pair of them and the glowing screens around them.

She found herself musing on the difference between a ‘Bridge’ and a ‘Cockpit’, and decided she preferred the latter. For a ship the size of the Dragon Wagon II, have a full scale Bridge seemed just a little pretentious and extravagant

“Okay, last test,” Mackie said. “Fusion initiator is stable. Injector neutron flux is stable at idle. Opening core gate. Reflectors to cruise configuration.”

The console in front of her chirped as engine four came alone, spooling through its startup. Gauges on the glass screens around her lit up green. Her fingers worked switches, focusing the information display on the ship’s engines.

“Everything looks alright,” she said. “Engine two stable at idle power,”

“Okay, set ten percent.”

“Ten percent,” Jet answer. Her hand advanced the throttles for all four engines. Gauges answered, green bars sweeping around red dials. Her own guidance told her she had begun to move, even if everything aboard the ship remained still. No sense of acceleration. No sound from the engines - only a dull gaseous rumble from the ventilation and a humm from the instruments.

“There’s the spike again” Mackie said, sounding more curious “There’s a positive feedback in the system. But it catches itself. This is weird,”

He studied his instruments. Jet glanced at hers. The ship flew as it always did.

She found herself wishing to be anywhere else, with something to do - something physical - something active - something interesting. She felt her body charge up, begging to race. She promised herself she’d race Mackie home once they were done - maybe making a stop at Ultima to give him a chance.

“Hey sis. Give me fifty percent,” Mackie interrupted her thoughts.

“Fifty percent,”

The second engine came up faster than the others, nudging the nose of the ship downward. Only the instruments warned of any change in direction. Jet held it it level until the other three caught up.

The Dragon Wagon II hurtled through open space at speeds approaching a tenth the speed of light, aimed directly at Ultima station eleven hours away.

She watched the gauges settled down. All apparently normal, apart from the surge. The Wagon sliced through space.

Mackie at his console spoke to himself, churning the ideas through his mind

“There’s  reactivity in the shielded section. The injector throttles back… then it stabilises at the setting.” He paused a second, rechecked his instruments, then offered himself a suggestion.  “The flux is so high maybe we’re getting some reflection into the back of the core?”

Jet focused on keeping the ship under control, damping out the oscillations caused by the engine’s surging.

After four tests, she concluded that she’d gotten bored with it all. The engine worked as well as it needed to..

“Hey sis, can I have full power now,” Mackie asked. “I need to know why this is happening.”

“Right, full power.”

Jet pushed all four throttles forward to their stops. The Dragon Wagon sliced forward, a faint vibration rising as ether drag built against the space frame.

“There it is! There it is!” Mackie shouted, pointing at the screen. “Something’s giving us some extra reactivity in core.”

Something new. Something discovered. Something that should be interesting. She felt her curiosity spark for the first time.

“I’m at max,” Jet said.

“It’s still increasing. It’s throttling back the injector. It’s still…” his expression changed in a heartbeat, flashing from the bright-eyed excitement of discovery to disappointment - the realisation that he’d failed his tests.  “I’m shutting it down. Closing the gate.”

Mackie’s finger pushed a single button. Jet heard it click and make contact.

Jet glanced at the power meter. In green segmented LEDs it read:

455 MW

A shave above the maximum rated.

The power gauge flashed orange for a shake, then filled an angry, dangerous red. Her eyes moved to the power meter beside it.

5.52 GW

“Whoa,” she managed to say, moments before the alarms sounded. She’d just begun to feel a pang of concern.

A hot flash of energy washed over her, the black space beyond the windows flaring a bright, magnesium white, followed by a hard shock like the ship had struck a pothole in space.

The ship's nose snapped up, pitching her violently forward her her seat. She caught herself an instant later, resisting the pull. Mackie tumbled to the deck from his chair with a clatter, and single grasping for the console. Everything not secured in the cockpit followed him, crashing to the deck.

Jets left hand pushed the control stick forward while her right closed all throttles. Her eyes scanned the screens in front of her, dozens of annunciators flashing out their warnings, each one with its own chime, bong or beep.

She ignored the cacophony, focusing only on her own senses and sensors. First Fly, then Fix. Her instinct was to right herself. She concentrated on translating her instincts through the ships controls, encouraging it to come back.

Her feet worked the rudders while her hand controlled the pitch.

The ship stopped dead with a lurch as the drives stopped dead, sending everything on the floor hurtling against the ceiling. Mackie hit the roof with a thud and a yelp. Mackie landed on the deck with a thump.

Jet stood, ready to rush to him.

“Ow,” he managed, pushing himself up with his hands. Jet watched, feeling her heart still racing in her chest. Adrenaline charged in her veins, still begging for her to run.

Mackie sat himself on the deck.  “I’m okay.” he said, raising his hand. “I’m fine.”

Jet gathered her thoughts. Ship stable. Nobody hurt. What the hell happened?

For the first time, she worked at sorting through the alarms on the screens around her.

“Two’s dead,” she said. All gauges at zero.  “All others okay.”

Mackie hauled himself back into his chair, hands working at his consoles. She watched his expression change from confusion, to concern, to white-faced terror.

“Two’s gone.” he said, his voice barely above a whisper.

Jet glanced at the datalogger. The skin on the back of her neck bristled. It’d recorded exactly four frames of data - less than a tenth of a second’s worth. The final recorded value still shone on the gauge.

49.99 GW

Off-scale high. The instruments couldn’t measure higher. She found herself wondering why the gauge even needed to go that high when the engine had been rated at 450 Megawatts.

“Overload?” she asked, almost frightened of the answer.

“I thought I had an injector leak, so I closed the gate,” he said. He swallowed something. He took a breath. “The power surged when it closed.” He checked again. He took a breath.  “The gate’s a reflector, and with the other reflectors still set...” he said, his voice quivering. He looked right at her, shaking in his seat.  

Jet knew what that meant.

“Closing the gate made the core go prompt critical.” Mackie continued, mouth working on automatic. “That was nuclear, sis..”

He  looked to her for an explanation, for what to do next. She had to know. Jet knew what a runaway criticality meant. It settled deep inside her bones, even as her mind tried to deny it.

“That’s not possible,” she heard herself say. It shouldn’t be possible. The core couldn’t reach criticality. It needed an external neutron source - a pilot light to keep the reaction burning, to keep it throttled and secure.  “What’d you do Mackie?” she asked, keeping her breath slow and deliberate. “How’d you do that?”

It didn’t sound like an accusation.

“I really don’t know,” Mackie answered.

She’d been afraid of that.


“Commander Akisato  to the command centre. Commander Akisato to the command centre. Urgent.”

Miyuri looked away from her telescope, feeling a faint pang of aggravation that her observations had been interrupted. It took a few seconds for her groping hand to find her glasses before she could settle them on her face.

Darkness surrounded her, only starlight illuminating her cabin. A single switch turned all the lights on. Cybernetic eyes adjusted to the sudden light in an instant. After three years, her cabin with it’s calming pastel colours and pine wood trim had finally started to feel like home.

Resigned to her fate, she pushed the ‘answer’ button on the comm-link.

“This is Akisato, What happened?”

“This is Drury. You need to come up here ma’am. I can’t explain it.”

“I’ll be there in a minute.” she said. Her observations would have to wait, A station commander was never off duty.

Miyuri found her uniform jacket and did her level best to make herself look as presentable as possible in the few seconds she had. She cleared her hair from her face and took a moment to gather her thoughts, before hurrying her way to the command centre.

It was late into the nightshift. Most of the station had gone to sleep. Save for a few night-owls and stargazers, the corridors were effectively empty.

It took her less than two minutes to make it from her cabin, to the command centre. The doors read her personal comm-link and opened with a sharp hiss, letting the noise of the command centre envelope her as she stepped inside.

“I’m here. Report.”

She looked to each one of the five crewmembers who made up the nightshift, acknowledging their presence, before turning her attention to the officer of the deck.

Jamie Drury. Station Security officer. Young, worried and struggling with his job. It took him a few moments to gather himself and realise he was the one who had to answer. He’d been sitting at the Sensors console, rather than on the commander’s chair.

“We picked up what looked like a radiation pulse, but, then this came up on screen when we tried to review it.”

His finger pointed to three words, picked out in white writing on black.

For Commanders Eyes Only

A shiver of unease went through her body.

“Send it to my private office,” she ordered.

“Yes ma’am,” he said, audibly relieved to be freed from whatever it had been..

Miyuri was already moving towards the door to her private office. She heard a murmur behind her, voices wondering what could be this serious, this far out. Her own thoughts mirrored theirs even if she couldn’t show it.

The door closed behind her and she finally allowed herself to feel just as concerned as everyone else. She felt it shiver through her body even as she moved to her desk.

Her ready-room mirrored her quarters, with the same attention to calming details. Green-leaf plants freshened the air in a way the station’s own systems never could.

She dropped herself into her own chair, her private computer taking moments too long to start. She urged it along.

After long seconds it came online, already showing the message onscreen.

For Commanders Eyes Only

She tapped it with her finger. It demanded her personal authorisation code. Long form, with two factor confirmation. She felt her mouth go dry.

Few things would demand such absolute security. In the seconds it took for the system to check She found herself imagining all possibilities - each worse than the other.

The system chirped once, advising her that she would be permitted to read the message. It offered her the subject line:

Great Justice Top Secret. Khan Directive

After a moment’s unease. She clicked through.

It carried only four absolute instructions. Nothing more. No explanations. No details. No intentions. Just instructions- absolute orders that had to be followed. 

Automated orders from Great Justice, triggered by some automatic system buried deep in the stations computers that'd recognised the threat. She took time to gather her thoughts, to wonder what could possibly demand such a level of absolute orders, and such a determined response.

It seemed so strange, so unusual.  Miyuri still had her orders. They didn't seem wrong.. Just, irregular. She pressed the button for the intercom

“Ma’am?” Drury answered.

She took a breath.

“Open a Direct link to Arisia station. One-time encryption only. Transmit all our sensor data. Then erase all logs of this incident and secure delete.”

The order hung for a second.

“Ma’am?” Drury questioned “Erase our logs?”

Even Drury felt the discomfort.

“Those are the orders. Secure delete everything from the last hour.” she confirmed. “Nobody here is to speak of this. Classification is Great Justice Black Notice.”


“That’s what it is. This never happened.”

That’s what the Directive told her.

“Aye Ma’am. Direct link to Arisia. One Time Encryption. Transmit logs then delete.”

She closed the channel, letting the silence sit uneasy for a few seconds before she logged into the corporate intranet. She had to know. If Stellviacorp had encountered this before, it’d be on the intranet.

The app came to life after a few long moments, asking for her personal security codes and clearances. She waited for it confirm she was who she told it she was, giving her enough of a moment to wonder if maybe Patty on Odyssey might’ve heard of it.

An off the record question might earn a frank answer.

With a chirp, it recognised her. Her fingers worked at the keyboard.

Search: Khan Directive.

Zero records found.

Search: Khan

One hundred and seventy-three records found. Miyuri set her console to download every single one, then sat back and waited. Her fingers tapped on on the veener of her desk. Halcyon could be fast. Her mind worked faster. Fast enough to run through every possibility, each worse than the previous.

Her private comm chimed - a message coming back from the Halcyon. Secure channel. Absolute secure channel. Voice only. At that distance, the lag on comms made video awkward She paused a moment before answering, getting the sense she’d poked something she really shouldn’t. It chimed again, begging her to answer.

She pushed the button to accept the call.

“Miyuri,” the monitor said.

Miyuri recognised the voice immediately.

“Mister Scott,” she said. “You’re up late,”

She could hear it in his voice. He’d just been woken.

“I received a notification,” he said. “What happened?”

Her mind slipped into military mode.

“We detected something out here. The computers locked us out from our sensor records - something called the Khan Directive. I received a message instructing me to transmit our records to Arisia and delete everything.”

A moment. She felt herself plead inside for an explanation.
“Did you follow your orders?”

Not an accusation. Not a suggestion that she wouldn’t. She still felt the unease at the idea. Just following orders didn’t sit right.

“Yes but….  I’d like to know why? What is the Khan Directive?”              

Another moment. Enough to tell her Noah knew the answer. She felt it squirm inside her.

“Something that doesn’t exist. Something that you can’t know exists.” He paused, letting the weight of it settle on her shoulders. “Whatever happened out there, Miyuri, if you followed your orders, you’ve done all that you can do for now.”

“You know what it is?”

“I do,” he confirmed. “And I need you to trust me when I tell you, it’s best if you never mention it to anyone,”

“I don’t just follow orders. I can’t do that - not without knowing why.”

“I’d expect nothing less.” She almost heard the smile on his lips.  “You should know. You might’ve just saved Fenspace from the worst disaster imaginable. You might’ve just saved a million innocent lives. You might’ve just kept an error from being repeated.”

She felt herself blink. “Error?”

“I can’t tell you anything else,”

So he had told her something.

“I understand,” she said,

“Goodnight, Miyuri,”

“Goodnight, Mister Scott”

She sat for a second, staring at her screen, wondering just what he’d been trying to to tell her. It wouldn’t be in the corporate intranet - maybe the wider.

Search: Error Repeated.

She scanned. Nothing obviously relevant

Search: Repeated Error.

She scanned. Nothing obviously relevant.

Miyuri tried half a dozen variants on the same phrase, each one turning up negative.She found herself wondering if maybe she’d been grasping at straws, and if Noah really hadn’t been trying to tell her something.

She buried her face in her hands, offering a silent prayer for an answer.

She opened them again to see Mana from Google. One last variant offered to her..

Repeat this Error.

She clicked, hoping she’d found the end. It offered her an image of a stone inscription in her native language. She recognised it immediately.

Please rest in peace for we shall not repeat the error.

Her breath caught for a moment as the idea formed inside her mind. The radiation. The secrecy.

“Oh. Oh my….”

A nuclear explosion had been detected. Another nuclear weapon in Fenspace. It explained the secrecy, for a start. She closed the screen down, letting herself sit and feel the weight of the possibility settle on her shoulders.

She found herself hoping she’d never hear about it again.


Things that multiply exponentially on 10ns intervals are fun. Another shake or two - and there'd be no Dragon Wagon - just debris. Fortunately, without anything to hold them together, criticality accidents tend to self-dissasemble.
It explains why the Dragon Wagon II was 'damaged' at the start of the Shinji Ikari Raising Project.
It explains what Jet's really been doing for the last 3 years.

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.
RE: The Melancholy of Mackie-Chan
Work centred the mind.

Pull a cable. Connect a terminal. Check continuity


Test a hydraulic line. Patch the leak from a faulty seal. Retest.


Gaige worked for hours. Gaige almost forgot about her body until a breast brushed against her arm, or until she caught herself straddingling a piece of metal in a way that should’ve been just as uncomfortable - but in a completely different way.

Gaige worked through it. She had more important things to worry about.

She finished her work after well over twelve hours. Long enough to almost forget about Kotono. Long enough for the anger to simmer and reduce into something bitter that sat in the back of her mouth.

It crawled across her skin, creeping in under her breasts and between her legs,

Gaige forced herself to keep going.

First to make up for the time lost to torn clothes. Then to keep her mind off her situation.

She fished another cable through the spaceframe, working up into the cockpit behind the pilot’s instrument panel. Slender fingers, and longer arms helped simplify the job. Her legs made getting her body into the cockpit just that little bit harder.

She fit herself into the pilot’s seat to fit the gauges, wiring each one before locking it into place. Empty spaces still remained, but they’d only be filled at the Forge.

Alexandria had enough to fly, navigate and fire the main cannons. That’s all that could be fitted.

The last thing she fitted was a basic gyro-sight for the cannons, setting it on top of the instrument panel where the heads up display should’ve gone. Gaige didn’t expect they’d see actual combat - even as she wondered if giving shape to that idea in her mind didn’t all but guarantee it. A pair of 30mm gas-driven gatling cannons could bring a lot of hurt - enough to embarrass even a Hog.

She switched the circuit breakers to test the jet’s power systems.

Instruments hummed to life, flashing up dozens of warning messages for systems not yet fitted, filling the cockpit with glimmering oranges, yellows, reds and greens.

Gaige allowed herself to settle back into the Pilot’s seat bathing herself in the glow, closing her eyes for a single heartbeat.

She opened them, to be met by a pair of grey eyes at the centre of a broad, curious face. Grease and sweat shimmered on pale skin and gaige. A week’s worth of stubble framed pursed lips.

His eyes had focused on a point somewhere below her chin

A moment of mutual understanding passed between the pair. He blinked. She blinked.

“Shit!” Gaige yelped.

He sprang back, pushing off from the canopy.

“Shit! I thought you’d passed out,”

His body went rigid on locked arms. The eyes never raised above her neck. Her skin crawled beneath her clothes, her body begging to hide. Her arms crossed her chest

“If you like them so much , there’s some pink wave in the infirmary,” she said, biting her lip “But they’re not what they’re cut out to be,”

“Sorry,” The eyes didn’t move. Gaige felt herself glare. His eyes turned to the floor. “I thought you’d had an accident or something,”

The sense of exposure lingered, warring with the idea somewhere in the back of her mind that maybe he’d been telling the truth.

Hadn’t Mackie been in the exact same situation, more than once

“Just leave me alone.”

“You sure?”


She waited for him to clamber down, looking at her legs disappearing under the pilot’s console. Gaige curled her toes in her boots to prove they were still attached, waiting until his footsteps had disappeared into the background noise of industry.

She looked out after taking a few moments to build up her nerve, just to make sure nobody was watching.

Outside Frigga’s industry rumbled on. People worked at their own vehicles. The Starlight Express thrummed from a side tunnel, steel wheels squealing as the locomotive it turned on its rails. The driver jumped from the cab, running forward to set the points to divert to the tunnel up to accommodation deck, sprinting back to the locomotive before it’d accelerated away from him.

He barely made it.

Above, Lun rained sparks as a welding crew got to work on one of the missile tubes, voices shouting at each other. Gaige saw someone straddle a girder, shuffling forward to fix one of the missile tube doors in place.

Some catgirls congregated at the back end of a Bolitho parked beside a pallet loaded with exocomp shells, chattering with each other. They’d dressed themselves in the same loose full-body work uniform. All three had the same tanned fur - only a single coloured band wrapped just short of the tips of their tails told them apart.

Gaige found herself wondering if any of them had ever been men at some stage in their life, before meeting the catgirl machine. She wondered how they dealt with it at the time,and how they still dealt with it.

They seemed happy.

She wondered if she could be that happy.

Gaige felt her fingers drum on the metal of the console. She thought about the group she’d joined up with on fenboards, and felt herself smile.

No matter.

She glanced at the screens in front of her, flickering with the expected failed tests from systems not yet fitted. A dozen red x’s listed out on the screen her jobs for the next two days. Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew she could blitz the lot of them in half the time, if she didn’t sleep.

Gaige decided to sleep anyway, if only to get a break from her body.

Dozens of eyes crawled across her skin as she clambered down from the jet. The body’s natural stride carried her across the steel floor to her parked motoroid with an artificial, hollow confidence.

Gaige felt her soul rattle around inside with every step.

She sighed, then settled herself onto her motoroid, fidgeting as she felt herself press up against it in ways that shouldn’t have been possible. She shifted forward and back in the saddle, before finally given up and finding some position that took the strain out of her arms and legs.

The discomfort elsewhere would just have to be dealt with..

She thought for a moment - discomfort would be the wrong word. It was more that it shouldn’t have been comfortable.

The ride back cleared her mind, her electric bike racing past what traffic remained in Frigga’s tunnels. She parked it up in a small enclave beside her apartment door, setting it out of the way of general traffic in the depths of a hard shadow.

Striplights overhead fizzed, casting the concrete walls in a green winter light. She felt the chill embrace her body, wrapping up under her breasts, making her feel her body once again.

A single door painted a night-sky shade of blue waited. A painted label on the wall identified it as 410-A. A single smoked-glass panel above the door shone with her name picked out in green LED segments.

Gaige Kisaragi.

The door opened with her key - a heavy mechanical lock rather than the fashionable - hackable - electronic types. It squawked as it opened, then followed her shut as she stepped through it.

The apartment door locked with a clunk, sealing her inside her own private space. Nothing, or no-one, could open the door without her permission.

She spun the barrel-key on its ring around her finger. When everything ended, she wondered if she’d be allowed to keep the apartment at least.

The lights flickered on, glass windows opposite her flashing from the black of space, to a mirror the whole apartment with the image of a woman standing in the doorway. It took a moment to realise that was her, looking back at herself.

She sighed, stepping inside. The hard heels of her boots clicked on the concrete floor, echoing off the walls around her. Her bed on the mezzanine overhead beckoned.Gage answered, climbing the stairs to meet it.

She slipped off her boots and stockings, then swallowed, pulled up her courage and peeled herself out of the bodysuit, leaving her body standing naked in cool air with the still unmade bed in front of her.

Every nerve ending on her body flared in the cold, intruding again into her mind. A shiver of cold crawled up her spine once again, to fill her chest.

A momentary terror that she’d been caught flashed inside

No, just the doorbell.

She slipped into her bathrobe, not sure whether it would be better if it was someone she knew, or someone she didn’t.

The bell chimed a second time and she hurried down the stairs, padding on the balls of her feet across the floor to the door. Gaige tried to viewscreen on the wall beside the door.

No Signal.

She cursed it, resigning herself to the surprise. Her hand unlucked

Blue eyes met blue, dead on. For a moment, she thought someone had set up a mirror as a prank. She cought the differences in the hair - cut short and left rough, followed by the polymer covers on the ears and hard look on her face.

“Sis…” she managed.

“You mind if I step inside?”

Jet’d treid to sound warm. She failed. Gaige felt the chill in her tone crawl up her back. Whatever Jet had to say, she didn’t want to hear it.

“I was going to bed,” she offered quickly

“I only need a minute,” Jet assured.

Gaige felt herself step back involuntarily, her breath catching up in her throat. Her stomach sank to her feet, the dread crawling over her body.

She couldn’t escape.

“Alright,” she relented, stepping aside.

Jet stepped forward with a distinct tak-tak from her heels. Gaige felt the heat radiating from her body, a flux of energy that washed over her and soaked her to the bone.

Gaige regretted it the moment that door closed.

Jet stepped around, taking a moment to check the apartment.

“So, is it getting better?”

Gaige followed, the feeling in her stomach twisting itself over. She took a breath, centering herself,

“It’s like trying to carry a steel ball floating in a steel box and every time it hits the side I get an electric shock,”

Jet offered a smile that “Eventually the ball gets smaller,”

“I don’t know,” Gaige placed her hands on her breasts, pressing them together. “These are huge, and everything rubs and it’s always the first time.”

“After years getting used to this body, my first day wearing that one was pretty intense,” she smirked. “That night with Ford was really intense.” Jet’s eyes sparked. “You haven’t tried that yet?”

Gaige felt the flush rush from her face to a point deep within her body. Her knees pressed themselves together

“No,” she answered, her voice pulling tight

“You should,” Jet assured her.

“You didn’t come here to see if I’d masturbated yet?”

“No,” Jet shook her head, the light in her eyes going out as that hard look came back.

“Then why?”

“I know why you were shot down,”


Gaige felt it descend on her like a dark fog

“They wanted you alive,” Jet said. “They know about the Foxhound’s engines. Which means they know about the plutonium, and why they were built that way.”


The conclusion formed in a moment, growing fat in seconds. She felt it rise through her throat and form on her lips.

“I didn’t think it happen this quick,”

The words emerged with a squeak, her body tightening up into itself, winding

Her mouth opened one more time. Her throat caught. Tears welled up, her lips shivering as she pulled back. She looked away from her sister, she felt herself chase it, to try swallow it back. , ashamed in the moment at even being seen.

She swallowed. She felt her heart stop. She opened her mouth to speak, to beg Jet to leave.

It emerged with a scream. She tried to swallow. She felt herself scream again, a wreaking sob that rattled from her throat and filled the room. She glanced at Jet, the image of the cyber swimming in her vision. Her legs buckled under and she felt herself drop

Hard metal hands caught her, soaking up the heat of her body. She looked up, to her sister’s face set hard. Glass-blue eyes stared through her with absolute certainty.

“I’ve a mission for you,” she said. Gaige felt herselft swallow, another shiver running through her body. She felt herself swallow another sob. “Your mission is to hold it together. For as long as you can. “

Gaige found a single breath

“Every day you hold this together is a day the enemy doesn’t know who you are,
Which is one more day they don’t get the secret and one more day for me to find them.”

Gaige felt herself whimper, her mouth goldfishing open and closed, searching for words.

“No matter how bad you feel - every day you make it through this is another day you win and they lose.”

She gasped. She hiccuped. Her heart drummed in her chest . She felt every beat reverberate in her breasts. She gasped again, and she found her voice.

“And if it fails then what?” Another gasp “This is me forever!”

“If we fail….AC will look after you,” said Jet, her voice direct, but calm, with a certainty that made it impossible for Gaige to say no. “She’ll give you a safe space to stay if it ever comes to that, Somewhere you’ll be comfortable”

“I…. she started. Her voice caught. Something sat wrong on her skin, but she couldn’t tell what.

“Get a bath,” said Jet, interrupting the thought. “Go to bed. Get up in the morning and complete your part of the mission. I’ll talk to you in the morning”

“Sis…” Gaige managed. The vice-grip from the metal hands on her shoulder relaxed and she felt herself sway on her feet for a moment

“I’ll see tomorrow,”

Gaige felt herself nod, still shaking inside her own skin. Something inside her urged her to beg for an alternative, another option.

But the mission.

It had to happen.

She watched Jet leave and waited for the door to latch shut, sealing her in. Her breathing came rapid, begging her to run.

It faded after a few moments, leaving her alone with tears still streaming down her cheeks, with cold air nipping beneath the fabric of her robe

Her voice emerged as the smallest of whines “No…”


Jet waited for for the door to lock behind her before exhaling the breath she’d been holding. A parked motoroid stood waiting for her. She locked herself into the saddle, allower her mind to flow through the motoroid’s data connections. She unhooked her helmet from the handlebar, then slipped it over her head, letting the visor seal her in with her own thoughts.

She felt her shoulders sink under an invisible weight, like the entire system had settled onto her back.

“And I’ve just jammed my brother into a closet for the rest of his life”

She said it to herself.

Her own comm-link sparked in the back of her mind, accompanied by an identity token that formed in the shape of a grinning kitten

“Anika?”, she answered with her mind’s cybernetic voice.

“The ARSC are coming here!”

Even in synthesised voice, the panic ran clear. It sparked through in a microsecond.

“Well, they can fuck off!”

Jet heard her voice before she realised she’d spoken, a hot flash of anger lighting off in her veins.

There was a pause on the comm, an echo of a flinch from the other end.

“What?” Anika responded.

“Tell ‘em to fuck off. Tell ‘em from me!” Jet caught her breath.“I could do without some bored fucking mandarins looking to justify their worth to this year’s budget by fucking things up on me,”


The line closed, leaving Jet simmering alone in her own mind.

“Fucking hell” she breathed. “Fuck me for doing this. This’ll fuck it all up”

“We have a Stel-Oil on the station,”

Miyuri hadn’t realised she’d dozed off until Shinji’s voice snapped her out of it. It took a microsecond for her cybernetic mind to orient herself in the pastel colours of the shuttle interior. Shinji, still in his security uniformed.

“We could ask them what’s going on,” he suggested.

Miyuri settled back into the navigator’s chair, glancing at the flat-panel consoles around her. A NOTAN from Friggn flashed up in red

Radiation hazard. Reactor core on fire.

“You’re worried about your family?”

Shinji looked away a moment to hide his expression. “They’re not really my family,” he said quickly, before catching Miyuri’s expression. “I don’t hate them. But I don’t really fit in with them either, that’s all.”

Miyuri pondered a moment, trying to gauge Shinji’s true feelings. His discomfort filled the cabin, settling on her skin and soaking through to her bones.

“I’m worried about Mackie, but Frigga’s not a comfortable place for me.”

Not a place, but people. Not for the first time Miyuri found herself wondering if it hadn’t been something more ‘baked in’.

Miyuri let the idea die. It took her a few moments to find the address for the direct connection to the Stel-oil outpost. She keyed it in, finding herself hoping that somebody would answer. Those few moments of silence gave her mind time to run through all of the awful possibilities.

The face of a chinese man in his mid-40’s flashed up on screen, looking vaguely surprised at the sudden call. A smear of engine oil marked the point on his cheek where he’d recently been bothered by an itch.

Maybe he’d been disturbed from some basic maintenance. Nothing that’d be out of the ordinary.


He did seem harried, worried or otherwise concerned - except by the usual concern that followed having someone of Command rank call up your quiet outpost out of the blue

“What’s the situation out there?” she asked, the words coming quicker than she would’ve like “We’re on our way for a social call, and we just got a NOTAN about a reactor fire,”

The face on the screen gave her a quizzical look, as if she’d grown a seperate head on her shoulder.

“That was...six months ago, ma’am.”

Miyuri felt something crawl across her artificial skin. Shinji behind her shifted position in the seat.

“Six months ago?

“It was in our log to corporate.” He stated. Obviously.

“You didn’t do anything else?”

It almost sounded like an accusation.

“You know we can’t take a position on behalf of corporate,” he said, a trickle of sweat glimmering on his forehead. “We reported it to our region manager - that’s all we can do. We’ve had no instructions back otherwise.”


Following procedure. Doing what was expected. Letting the company decide how to handle a disaster with potential political ramifications. Somebody with more than an attendant’s viewpoint needed to make the call.

“You’re only getting this now?”

“Yes. Today’s date.” she confirmed.

He thought for a moment, taking a glance to see if anyone was listening behind him

“There’s a rumour going around that a few engineers were contaminated by a leak earlier ”

“A rumour?” she pushed.

“I’ll see what I can confirm,”

“Thanks,” Miyuri nodded, uneasy in her seat. An idea sparked in the back of your mind.“Can you send me through a copy of your logbooks?”

The sound of a quick burst of keypresses carried across the comm-link.


“Thanks for your help.”

“Not a problem,” he smiled. Whatever had happened, he wouldn’t be found responsible - of that he had reassured himself.

The channel cut

“I’ve got it,” Shinji said. Direct download through his wrist-com, then scanned through his mind in a microsecond. “Station critical alert. Reactor core exploded during system test. No injuries to or involvement of Stellviacorp personnel. ”

“Exploded?” Miyuri looked to Shinji for an answer. “How does a fusion reactor explode?”

“I don’t know.” he said, looking out at the stars for a moment. She got the sense he was searching for the answer. Not even the interwave could give something quick

“That has to be an exaggeration.” Miyuri grasped for the obvious Frigga would be a tomb if one of their reactors exploded. But why keep it quiet?”

“Embarrassment,” said Shinji. “But now something’s happened that can’t be hidden”

He settled back into the pilot’s seat, exhaling a sigh, looking for a moment like he wanted to say something else


His shoulders sank. He drew a deep breath, looking to Miyuri for a moment.

“NERV was a lot like that. People were afraid to own up to mistakes. Things were hidden until they couldn’t be.” Shinji paused a moment. “Jet’s a lot like that - she doesn’t take responsibility.”


A picture of every single desire Mackie had ever had, rolled up into one borderline unnatural form stared back at her through the condensation on the bathroom mirror. Gaige couldn’t help but stare, raw desire fizzing beneath her skin and up the back of her throat.

Gaige watched the woman in the mirror, her chest rising and falling in time with Gaige’s own breath and ached to just reach in and touch. Her arm reached out, mirroring the woman in front of her. Their fingers met on the wet glass. Gaige placed a warm hand on her own damp skin, pressing with the palm against her chest.

Of course it felt uncomfortable.

“Hold it together,” she breathed.

The inescapable truth; Mackie knew The Secret. Mackie, if he survived, would always have a target on his back. So The Secret died with Mackie.

Gaige knew nothing.

Gaige would be a safe place to hide. Not a comfortable one. Gaige would be the last place anyone would look for Mackie.

She finished drying herself, tying a white towel around her waist. She padded through her apartment, climbing the stairs, her hair leaving a trail of water droplets on the ground behind her.

Gaige stood by her bed, tenderly patting down the rest of her body, before finally drying her hair.She sat herself on her bed, feeling it creak beneath her. Being a full fifty centimetres taller, and having most of that below the waist, added a tint of strangeness even to something as simple as sitting.

She took a breath, taking a moment to gather her thoughts.

The laptop on her desk interrupted with a chime, a single notification flashing up onscreen.

Prometheus Forge guest security details and access codes. Expected arrival in two days.

At least the work would keep her mind off it.

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.
RE: The Melancholy of Mackie-Chan
Rob Kelk

Sticks and stones can break your bones,
But words can break your heart.
- unknown
RE: The Melancholy of Mackie-Chan
Jet's been getting herself to a certain level of stress/despair and it's starting to show.

Mackie/Gaige is getting a lot more support - and will get support.

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.
RE: The Melancholy of Mackie-Chan
He stood beneath a mosaic mural, recently finished. A radiant nucleus shone a hot yellow like a star, wreathed in atomic rings of gas, set against abstract steel bands machinery. A firefighter, a miner and an engineer formed a trefoil around it, keeping the energy at bay with dispassionate faces and strong arms.

A monument to the defeat of the reactor, and those who’d beaten it. Lun’s fellow travellers had put it together.

All those who’d worked on the reactor, had their names added to the wall. The heroes who risked the cruellest of deaths to save the station.

He could see his own name, along with his engineering team. He could remember the heat from the shield of Unit 2 soaking through his boots as he manually cranked valves the computer systems wouldn’t unlock.

He’d taken enough rads to burn him out for life, according to international best practice. He’d gone back to work a month later, as if nothing had happened.

Going into a room without a geiger counter had earned him that cruellest of deaths.

A simple mistake.

I am already dead.

The words swam inside Marco’s mind, even as his body insisted otherwise. He’d stopped throwing up, leaving only a vague emptiness inside and the sense of his stomach turning with the echo of a headache in behind his eyes.

Like the Monday morning after a weekend-long party.

But not dead.

Some of the other fitters were still getting sick. All of them would get better. Of course, the medic had gone into excruciating detail of how dead he already was. His body had already begun to die - within a few days it would catch up. Not more than a week.

Already he thought he could feel his feet itch in his boots.

He’d snuck out of the infirmary, not wanting to spend the next few days lying in that room when he had other places to be. He thought about saying goodbye to his crew. He thought about writing his last letters home, but couldn’t conceive of anything to say. He thought about a will, about what’d happen to his apartment, his things, the small twin-engined speeder he’d bought.

Again the thought rang in his mind.

I am already dead.

Dead man walking.

A zombie. A walking ghost.

People said hello and didn’t know. He kept to himself, not really feeling the need to explain. The rumour mill would inform them soon enough. Yes - I took a thousand rads and am going to rot to death but I’m OK for now.

He didn’t feel dead. He could keep down a bottle of water. He could run. He felt strong enough. He helped someone push-start a car.

He met a friend, Armin from team four. Oh hey, they let you out of the infirmary. Yeah, for a short while anyway. Hope you feel better soon then man.

Not fucking likely.

His feet carried him to the main concourse with its lurid electric signs hung from the concrete and steel pipework above speaking in a strange hybrid of the Crystal Ohtori and the Neon Genaros. Steam drifted from the foodstalls under the mezzanine, readying breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next shift-change.. Scents of Chinese, Indian, Italian and Texan cuisine drifted through his nose, carrying him forward, mingling with heavy smell of machine oil, ozone and metal from an engineer’s workshop.

A draft of heat from inside the shop carried the distinctive rose-perfume of two duellists. The pair stood in their androgynous gold-trimmed uniforms, trying on new foils for size. He watched one of them draw a few graceful curves in their air with the blade, polished steel iridescent under the neon.

He stopped outside the Midoriyah - a cafe where he’d lunched a hundred times or rmore and realise that, despite having not having eaten anything for two days, and with the smell of fresh baking drifting on the air.

He just couldn’t bring himself to feel hungry.

Marco walked on. The botanist - Emi - and her small selection of flowers brought a small patch of green life to the concrete, steel and neon. He saw one of the founders, Kotono he thought her name was, buying a fairly elaborate selection.

She glanced at him, flashing a momentary smile.

He smiled back. Maybe they’d flirt - have a night together and then…

He’d rot alive in bed within a week. First would come the burns, on his skin, on his feet. Inside his stomach. Inside his bones. Dead skin would blacken and burst open. Dead muscle split from the bone like cooked meat. Dead eyes turn white and blind. He would choke on his own stomach while his insides rotted into human soup.

And through it all he would feel every single moment, right up until the last.

In a moment, he felt sick all over again . He ran to the public toilet, shouldering open the door to the one unlocked stall. His knees cracked down onto hard white tiles, his arms bracing against cold white porcelain.

His body retched, barbed- wire coiling around his stomach. A chimy mix of water, bile and blood boiled up from inside him, burning up the back of his throat while his insides coiled themselves into a knot, convulsing against a poison that didn’t really exist.

He gasped for breath, cursing, sweat dripping down his face. Another, coiling retch drew a zombie-like moan from his throat and nothing but foul, brown slime.

It left him shivering, his body turned to jelly, melting inside

A voice carried across the stall wall. “You okay man? Sounds like you’re dying in there?”

A groan emerged from his own lips.

“You don’t know how right you are.”

The pain dulled down, muting as the coils unwound themselves, leaving him drained of energy, supporting himself on quivering arms.

Maybe staying in the infirmary would’ve been a better idea.

After a few minutes, he found the strength to push himself to his feet. He swayed on his feet, flushed the toilet clear, and took another deep breath. Some fresh water from one of the wash-hand basins washed the taste out of his mouth.

He left the bathroom and kept walking.

The station general store carried the basic necessities of life - base foods that could be grown in the hydroponics bay, clothes, and general necessities and appliances that could be planned in on weekly shuttle. His station account had gone so far into the red he wondered if it’d follow him to the grave.

On the plus side - it didn’t get accounted for his annual dues. It didn’t account as income - just a benefit.

Beside it, a meticulously recreated Intershop carried more, and could order more specialised items from the rest of the system - but it needed hard Credits rather than the scrip the Station handed out. Those who wanted things quick, picked up a side-hustle or two.

The drawbacks of being at the tail-end of a long supply-chain.

Everyone else would take either, at whatever exchange-rate suited them - but the scrip would always be worth less unless someone had a serious tax issue.

The two constants in the universe. Death and taxes. He faced both.

Children’s classes had finished for the day in school block. Adult classes had begun - on everything from dancing, to sabre duelling. Beside it, The Rock and Hard Place had just started to wake, a building humm of conversation and the thrumming beat of the music spilling out into the tunnel outside.

A single exocomp stopped on its way to some menial task, the machine taking its time to investigate him with its implements. It stopped for a half second, checked one more time to be sure, before spinning like a top and accelerating away with a crack from its thrusters.

Of course it detected the radiation in his body and panicked - the reactor had fried at least a dozen of them.

He kept walking. At the end of the passage, away from the general flow of the crowd, waited a room that’d once been used as a small lecture hall. It’d been sealed with an armoured bulkhead

A sentence had been stenciled onto the door in white paint.

Blitzkrieg Panzer Kunst.

He paused, not quite sure what he’d been expecting himself to do when he’d gotten there, or why he’d bothered to make the effort.

A concrete room - converted into an oversized airlock, with a space-door opposite. On the wall to his right, an oversized Balisong, large enough that he’d struggle to lift it. Beside it, a sniper rifle that’d been a starship cannon. Other weapons he couldn’t identify.

At the centre of the room, Jet herself. For a heartbeat, he saw her face, blue eyes staring through him, before she vanished into a blur

Barely visible at the speed she was moving, his eyes unable to keep up as she swept across the floor with a turbine shriek, dancing between drones striking for her body. Her hands cracked off the concrete floor. Her feet cracked off the concrete ceiling.

She landed with a third crack, barely a meter in front of him, turbines in her body winding down, wings spread wide, twin blades on her forearms sparking in the light. The drones furled their own wings, before latching onto hers

But, of course, he wasn’t going to die. Only his body. His future stood in front of him in cybernetic armour. That’s what they’re going to do to you.

Her eyes closed and tension clamped down on her body. A forced smile crossed her lips. Her eyes still looked tired. Marco found himself wondering momentarily if she’d slept - or if she even needed it..

“They let you out of the infirmary?”

“No,” he admitted. His eyes fail to the blades clamped to her forearms and the dark patterns in the steel, flowing like waves of dark oil. “But I just didn’t want to lie there and wait”

Her smile softened, becoming a little more honest. She stepped aside, letting him in - making a point

Marco’s eyes followed her around the room. He picked out the photographs on the wall, the certificates, the awards from Great Justice. He watched her detach both

“So, what brings you here Marco?”

“I don’t know.” he said, quickly. “You know anything about the others?”

She look at him for a second, just long enough to to make him think she didn’t know the answer. One of the fins on her back adjusted its position. “I’m told two hundred rads was the worst. They’ll recover”

That amount of radiation would still leave a mark.

“And I got a over a thousand,” he heard himself say,

The weight of it settled on his body. For a moment, he thought he’d throw up. A small part of him begged to burst out in tears, but that wasn’t who he was.

“Having second thoughts?” Jet’s voice interrupted. He thought he saw a glimmer of sympathy in those sapphire eyes

“It’s a lot to take in. What you are.” He found himself eyeing her body - picking out the little details that proved she wasn’t just a human in a suit. A data-drive hung from the plastic cover over her ear. A small pouch on her hip pumped a tan liquid into a port in the side of her torso.

“Even what I’m going to be,” he said. “Looking at you I can’t even imagine it. I can’t even imagine that I’m dying - I know it, but I don’t feel it.” Aside from the itching in his boots. “Not yet anyway.”

A rueful smile crossed his lips.

“I can’t imagine being human anymore.”

“But I was thinking about something you said? Being among the stars, rather than looking out at them? I do want to know what that’s like.” He felt a shiver run through his body, a grin turning the edges of his lips up. “I’m actually excited”


Gaige didn’t know whether to call it acceptance, resignation or silken underwear. At least it meant a good, solid night’s sleep for the first time. She lingered in her bed curling her toes on the bedsheets finding one momentary scrap of comfort, before resigning herself to facing another day.

She rolled to her side, grasping for the workbook left on the table beside. A clasp across it unlocked with her thumb-print. It hinged open to show a flexible screen

Hi _Gaige_

Good Morning and Welcome to day three of your workbook. We hope you’re feeling a little better. The steps may be small, but all progress is good progress. So, tell me, how did you sleep last night? Did anything keep you awake?

She added the answers expected. The mind in the workbook answered back with its suggestions. Things to try, things that’d make tomorrow that little more comfortable

Gaige started with the shower, all the while wondering why someone would want a body that got that sticky with sweat. She toweled herself off, taking a little care around the tender parts of her body.

She dressed herself, taking note that she’d reached her final leotard. Everything else that’d been given to her, had either been torn by quirk, or covered little to nothing at all. She held one black item against herself, just out of curiosity

Gaige didn’t really know what to call it. A single piece strapless dress that left little to the imagination and guaranteed someone would get a good view of her underwear. It didn’t look like it’d fit. She’d seen her sister wear it once or twice.

Gaige set it aside, with the rest.

She nestled herself into the leotard, slipped her feet into a pair of thighboots that’d become almost welcoming. Two small straps clipped her boots to a belt, and kept everything together.

All ready for another day’s work. She felt herself sigh. It had to happen.

The doorball chimed. She sighed again.

Gaige considered just letting whomever it was get bored and go away. A second chime told her that wouldn’t happen. She crossed the floor, mustering up the energy to tell whomever it was to fuck off.

Reluctantly, she opened the door. A bunch of colour answered on the other side. Reds, whites, yellows and luscious freshly cut greens with scents of fresh cut grasses and succulent nectars.

Gaige blinked, the words in her mouth dissolving as her jaw hinged open.

“Flowers?” she managed to say.

Oh no, she thought, it’s been three days and already I’ve got a bloody admirer.

Kotono’s face emerged from behind the bunch.

“I didn’t know what else to get you, and this place could use a little colour,” she smiled. “It’s my way of saying sorry for yesterday. ” Her arms extended, offering the bushel to her. Kotono bowed deeply. “Please accept my apology, Gaige Kisaragi”

Gaige felt her breathing stop for a heartbeat. Even wrapped in pink plastic, the green, living blossoms felt cold and fresh in her hands, beads of condensation running down the cellophane film that held them tight.

“Thanks…..I…..” Gaige trailed off, a creeping unease crawling up her body that something evil would happen if she took them. She looked to Kotono. “What do I do with these?”

Kotono smiled. “Normally, you put them in water.”

Gaige rotated them in her hand, gazing into the depths of the blossoms. The sweet scent of nectar tingled inside her nostrils, a smile crawling across her lips.

“Nobody’s ever given me flowers before.”

“I should’ve known you wouldn’t have a vase,” Kotono glanced around, placing a hand under her chin

Gaige thought a moment. “Wait!. I’ve an idea.” She ran back into her apartment.

Kotono stepped in behind her, a bemused look on her face letting the door finally close behind her. She watched Gaige run up the stairs to her bed on the mezzanine, still holding the bunch in her left hand.

Gaige returned after a minute, holding a mirror-polished black leather ballet boot with a toe that came to a point. The front side went well past the knee. The backside stopped most of the way up the calf, a trio of buckled straps holding the boot tight to the leg.

Kotono blinked, eyeballing her own reflection in the leather. “You know what your sister paid for those,”

“I know it’s uncomfortable,” said Gaige. “It looks uncomfortable.”

Kotono settled herself into the couch, content to watch while Gaige fumbled to fill a boot with water from the kitchenette tap, before settling the blossoms into place, tying them securely.

Proud of herself, she placed the boot on the coffee coffee table, right in front of Kotono

“That actually…….That looks really nice.” Kotono almost sounded surprised to Gaige’s ear.

The boot stood on its own on the table, blossoms cresting the tongue, green stems held tightly in place by loops in the straps.

“Thanks,” Gaige said,picking an armchair for herself. She settled herself down into an armchair, her body’s legs crossing themselves tightly. For a moment, it seemed like she resisted, tension rippling through her body, before she relaxed into it relenting to the body’s own programming.

“You’re looking better today,” said Kotono. “More relaxed.”

Gaige breathed, shifting in her chair, any hint of relaxation leaving her body in that moment.

“Resigned, I think,” she answered.


Gaige looked away, taking a moment to gather for feelings. Something caught in her throat, an echo of last night. She felt the sob in her throat, the pressure rising

“Jet told me why I was shot down last night”

Kotono stirred, before settling herself back. She inhaled a breath, setting both of her hands patiently on her lap, , giving Gaige the space to speak or not.

“They wanted me alive,” Gaige said, after a few moments. Her eyes went to her feet.. “They wanted Mackie alive. They still want Mackie.”

She breathed, looking up to Kotono for something sooth.

“....I’m sorry.” Kotono managed to say, at a loss for anything else.

“So, either I spend the rest of my life like this,” she pressed bother her hands against her chest. “Or I spend the rest of my life in secure protective custody.” She sat forward, with her elbows on her lap, still looking at the floor. “I don’t even know how to begin to deal with that.”

Kotono thought a moment, before sitting herself forward with a smile on her face.

“Well, the first way is the traditional way.” she said, almost as if she was s It’s the plot your sister follows. You get changed, or something happens and you have to gain strength to overcome it. You gain your power by overcoming and you finish stronger because of your journey.”

Gaige looked up.

“Or,” Kotono held up a single finger. “You can take a different approach.You already have your power. You’re already strong, and what’s happened to you, and what anyone did to you, doesn’t take that away. Who you already are, is strong enough.”

“I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life like this.” said Gaige, looking down at her body.. “But I can’t imagine spending the rest of my life in a box either.”

“Honestly,” Kotono said, settling back into her chair again “I can’t imagine trying to make that choice.”

“I hated being the Knightwing.” Gaige said. Her body visibly tensed.

“Does that help you choose?”

“If ‘sis finds the people who shot me down, then I don’t have to,” she said “I need to finish the jet to help with that.”

“And if she can’t,”

“I need to finish the jet.” Gaige said, her gaze hardening with determination.

“Because you’re a pilot?”asked Kotono. A moment later, her mind caught up to what her mouth an already realised, her face lighting up with surprise at her own genius. “That’s the very first thing you did, wasn’t it?

Gaige’s jaw fell open, the words dying in her mouth when she realised what she was about to say. For one brief moment, Gaige’s heart knew what it wanted.

“...Ah No.”

“What?” Kotono loomed forward, wearing a cat-like smirk, waiting to hear the words.

Gaige settled back, crossing her arms again, refusing to say what’d “I think Jet’s going to find them.”

“Hmmmm…” a momentary chuckle escaped her lips.

Gaige sat there, unable to keep herself from smiling, despite herself.

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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