Horizon: Rebuilt Ch. 11

Horizon stood up straight and concentrated on her enhanced senses, her augmented brain took in sounds, smells, vibrations, and magnetic signatures and compiled them into a three-dimensional map updated continually in real time. She couldn’t perceive any sign of more SWAT mechs anywhere near the warehouse, there were plenty of people walking about outside, heading back to work after the end of the long night. But they were alone in the warehouse, not one thing breathed in the entire building save for Horizon and Shawn.

Once the vole had healed enough to walk he staggered over to the container full of computers that Qali had shown them. “Oh good, it’s intact,” Shawn bent down to inspect the gold quantum core, right where Horizon had left it. The other machines had not fared so well, shards of plastic and silicon littered the floor and evaporating coolant billowed out of bullet holes.

Horizon fought back the urge to punch Shawn and smash the core, Jenny was gone thanks to this little venture, was that little ball and the data inside really worth everything that had just happened? But there wouldn’t be any point to smashing their prize after all they’d done to get it. She sighed and addressed Shawn, “let’s just go find the power lifters and get that thing out of here.”

“There are two security exo-suits lying unused just a few aisles down,” Samantha whispered to Horizon.

Continue reading “Horizon: Rebuilt Ch. 11”

Horizon: Rebuilt, Ch. 9

Snow was a regular occurrence on Surtr, once a month the frigid moon would slip behind the gas giant Surt and the whole moon would be hidden from the sun for a full day before its orbit would take it back towards the light. When the long night came around, most people spent as little time as possible outdoors, some even slept through the whole rotation, if their jobs allowed. On this particular long night Horizon stalked the streets of Surtr City in her disguise as an arctic fox, wearing a long orange coat over her FedTech jumpsuit. Between the suit and her augmentations the cold was practically meaningless to her, but the coat made her look like any other late-shift worker staggering home through the snow.

As she passed by buildings and alleyways her augmented eyes snapped from side to side, seeing both visible and infrared light and saving images of anything that seemed strange. As she strode on, Sam whispered analyses of the images into her ear. “Oddly shaped trash bag, vagrant in sleeping bag, hopefully hibernating, an after-market heating unit bolted awkwardly to the wall, a garbage fire with two people huddled next to it, another weird garbage bag, wait…” One of the images flashed in Horizon’s vision, a shadowy outline in the rough shape of a parahuman. The view switched to thermal and Horizon paused mid-step, the outline shown as even colder than its surroundings.

Continue reading “Horizon: Rebuilt, Ch. 9”

Horizon: Rebuilt, Ch. 8

Horizon held her hands under a faucet streaming frigid water over the bizarre object that had both caused her immense trouble and saved her life multiple times. She stopped the stream for a moment to examine it again. It was a perfectly smooth metallic sphere with no ports, no indicator lights, nothing to indicate what was inside, even the warning “tell no one!” that had been written on it when she first found it in her pocket had washed away. She held it between thumb and forefinger up to her eyeline and gazed over it again. Are you sure about this?

Samantha appeared in the mirror next to the raccoon’s reflection, she nodded at the sphere she held. “Based on all the data I’ve gathered; I’d say there’s at least an 86% chance that is a custom-built containment unit for a gravitational micro-singularity.”

The raccoon tried to recall the last time she’d seen a container for a microscopic black hole, that time it had been a small disc. She had felt a weight to it then, a literal gravity pulling her towards the device. Horizon imagined she could feel that now, a pit in her stomach and a burn in her throat. She tried to find a seam where the sphere could have been placed around such a disc but found nothing. How did it do those things at the factory? She asked.

Continue reading “Horizon: Rebuilt, Ch. 8”

Horizon: Rebuilt Ch. 7

Horizon ducked just in time for the claw aimed at her visor to graze the top of her helmet instead. The drone tried to pull back the claw for another strike, but it stuck in the helmet’s gel layer and pulled her head with it. Aggravated the raccoon grabbed the clasps holding her helmet on and released them, freeing her head as the drone tried to shake the helmet off. She quickly assessed her situation; her legs were straightened out but still in agonizing pain. Horizon decided that she could ignore the pain if it meant greater mobility and started to rise, only for the drone to raise another spiked leg to strike at her stomach.

Time slowed again as the spike descended, inching closer and closer while her body sluggishly tried to dodge. Horizon felt her stomach sink in terror as the drone’s attack… swerved to her left?

Continue reading “Horizon: Rebuilt Ch. 7”

Horizon: Rebuilt Ch. 6

Three days after the rig explosions Horizon raced through a burning factory complex. One of Surtr’s regular moonquakes had finally overwhelmed the under-maintained safety systems of a fifty-year old chemical plant along the equator. Even with her FedTech environment suit and helmet the fumes from the open chemical vats, heat from the flames, and falling girders would tax her regenerative abilities, the rest of the Friendly Society didn’t dare to come within half a kilometer of the facility. One hoped that was far enough that whatever might be attempting to kill her wouldn’t splash over onto them.

Horizon leapt over a fallen beam blocking her path, glowing red with heat from the fires, and landed on a still-intact wall. Her metallic claws dug into the concrete of the wall as she scrambled up to a catwalk that had thus far escaped the quake and flame. So far, she had found no survivors, just corpses, most of them partially dissolved in spilled chemicals or incinerated by the flames. However, she couldn’t take the chance that there might still be someone still alive and trapped in the building.

Continue reading “Horizon: Rebuilt Ch. 6”

Horizon: Rebuilt Ch. 5

“So,” Jenny thought out loud as she and Horizon left the canteen. “In order to figure out what all is going on in your head, you need to kill an asshole oligarch?”

“No,” Horizon replied. “If he’s still alive I won’t be able to kill him because my implants would recognize him as my commanding officer and stop me.”

The squirrel paused to consider her statement. “Wait, if they won’t allow you to harm your commanding officer than how did you manage to set off that bomb?”

Before Horizon could answer an angry male ermine in a hospital gown rounded a corner and spotted them. “Hey, you!” he shouted and held up a plastic-covered hand towards Horizon. “Look at what you did to me!”

Continue reading “Horizon: Rebuilt Ch. 5”

Horizon: Rebuilt Ch. 4

After two and a half more hours the leukosynths had sufficiently patched up Horizon’s digestive system that her medical systems gave her the all clear to ingest something. It was well after most of the people at the Friendly Society had taken their meals, but that suited her. She usually preferred to eat alone anyways, too many people gave odd looks at the large plates she tended to pile up, especially if they were aware of her augmentations.

Jenny accompanied her to the canteen and started ordering several hot meat pies and cold teas from the vending machines, as well as a mineral shake that Horizon grudgingly accepted after mixing in a large dose of sugar and smokeweed powder. When they sat down Horizon immediately grabbed a pie before the squirrel tried to start a conversation, “so, has Sam said anything else?”

Horizon finished the pie in three large bites before answering her, “not really. I tasked her with analyzing my systems before I went to talk with the coordinators.” It was only a small lie, she told herself. That thing had been inside her long enough that she barely thought of it as anything but another FedTech implant.

Continue reading “Horizon: Rebuilt Ch. 4”

Horizon: Rebuilt Chapter 2

Time slowed almost to a standstill, the drops of blood streaming out of Horizon’s stomach floated idly in the air. The raccoon’s mind raced as she frantically queried every status sensor she could find on the drone carrier, hearing naught for a painful eternity.

Slowly, the queries returned. The carrier’s autopilot had kicked in when the cockpit was breached, holding the aircraft in a holding pattern over the rig and locking the manual controls until the pilot switched them back on. In the cockpit camera’s view Bill’s head leaned to the side, the same spar that punctured Horizon’s abdomen jutted from the tern’s chest. Mercifully his suit’s biofeedback sensors indicated that he still had a heartbeat, but he was fading fast, likely in shock. “Bill!” Horizon shouted, to her own ears it sounded oddly low and elongated.

The carrier’s bodily integrity sensors fed information directly into her augmented brain, showing a diagram of the craft with orange areas where shrapnel and debris had struck and red where they’d broken through the skin. There was a leak in one of the fuel cells, she isolated it before the other cells could drain out through it, and there was a large hole in the cockpit and the pilot’s seat, with a smaller hole in the copilot’s seat behind it of course, but otherwise the craft was still flight worthy.

Continue reading “Horizon: Rebuilt Chapter 2”

Ethane Horizons

This one’s intended as a bit of a standalone story, between the larger arcs of Horizon Book 1 and 2.

Jerald shivered as he climbed into the cabin of his rig. He regretted, once again, that he’d chosen lynx biomods instead of snow leopard with its heavier fur when the Company had offered them upon his emigrating to Surtur. He’d had the impression that hydrocarbon mining would somehow be warmer, but no, the executives weren’t wasting any of the valuable gases on heating up their workers, while they stayed in their well-insulated bunker offices. He let out a misty sigh and slammed the door behind him before slotting the starter chip into the dashboard.

The mining rig began the laborious process of starting up, giving Jerald time to wonder who had driven this rig before. The colossal walkers largely ran themselves, but he hadn’t used this particular rig before, to his trained eye it was subtly different from the others. Usually the Company put a driver on a single rig until either the driver or the rig was taken out of service, however that might happen. His normal rig had gone in for maintenance the day before, and this one had been available. He wondered to himself if its last driver was still with the Company, or if they’d found some way out of the Company’s leonine contracts?

Almost automatically he reached for the throttle and set the rig in motion. Six legs lifted and set themselves back down in alternating pairs as Jerald steered slowly out of the refinery yard. The radio crackled. “Rig 23 be advised, there’s been reports of raider activity in your sector recently.”

Continue reading “Ethane Horizons”

Horizon: Salvaged Heroes, Book 1 Epilogue

Aboard the Resolution a wide variety of constructs skittered and rolled about the ship, delivering parts from the vessel’s printers and installing them with their arrays of integrated drills and welders. One construct in particular, though, which had not arrived with the ship from the Ronkalli system, stood waiting in the medical bay for her master to be decanted.

The transparent aluminum wall of the regeneration tank retracted into the floor and the naked lupine body of Irvine of House Lupus, otherwise known as Princeps, staggered out, dripping residual perfluorocarbon. “Welcome back boss.” Melene Corus, also known by the unwieldy name of EyeInTheSky, held out a towel for him to mop out his fur.

The wolf took it and began to wipe himself off, acting as if she was not even there. “Arch-damned scrappers.” He muttered to himself. “I should have replaced them all with robots.”

“Robotic replicas of individuals are illegal.” Eye reminded him.

“You’re one to talk.” He retorted. “Report.”

Eye would have reminded him that she was a bioprinted parahuman and not a gynoid, but she had been conditioned not to talk back to him. Instead she pulled up the summary she’d compiled and began to recite. “Repairs at 73%. Paladin Lift in stasis following severe tissue damage sustained as a result of acute gravitational stress. Paladin MechRat in stasis following tissue damage sustained as a result of damage inflicted by Paladin Lift.”

“And the pilot?”

Eye shifted topics effortlessly. “Paladin Horizon, status unknown, presumed disintegrated following catastrophic drive failure by the Dustbin in orbit over Surt.”

Princeps rubbed his temples in frustration. “And what was her cyberbrain conversion status at the time of this little mutiny?”

“49%.” The synthetic raven replied. “The conversion process should have continued during her flight to Surt, it’s probable she was near 100% when her ship was destroyed.”

“That rat was nearly 80% when he mutinied, was he not?”

Eye took a few seconds to pull up the data. “Paladin MechRat’s neural matter was 78.8% synthetic at the time, but that was largely due to his exocortex implants. 43% of his original brain tissue remained unconverted.”

The wolf snorted. “Whereas that dumb ox only needed a third of his brain converted to become a good obedient soldier. Explain that, analyst.”

EyeInTheSky took more than a minute to collate the data and present her findings while her master dressed. “Paladin Lift proved easily susceptible to the memetic programming and conversion of key motor functions was prioritized given his strength was deemed his primary asset. Paladin Horizon and Paladin MechRat’s skills with piloting and engineering were deemed important enough to retain intact.”

“Hmmph,” Princeps turned to the door, giving one last set of orders. “I don’t care about this system’s backwards laws. Begin production of robotic replica troops, randomize their cosmetic species and features. If we ever recruit any more paladins make sure they’re 100% converted while still in the tanks.”

“Like yourself sir?”

Princeps paused just inside the door, it seemed like a glimmer of fear passed over his face for a split second before he collected himself and replied. “I’m going to the stasis bays, do not disturb me.”

“Of course boss.” The raven moved into a perching posture as her attention shifted to the ship’s systems.

Princeps took an elevator down to the deck below the medical bay. The whole deck was taken up by aluminum cylinders similar to the regeneration tank above decks, but the microbots in these were different. Rather than rebuilding bodies, these were specialized for maintaining a body in a pristine state for the long voyages between stars, forming microscopic scaffolding within the body’s own cells that held them together against the ravages of time.

The wolf paused in front of one tube, containing the mangled body of what could have once been a fox, his rank insignia in gold. After a quick mental check to make sure the room’s surveillance system had been disabled he spoke, not in his usual rough Logan accent, but in careful Core tones. “My dear cousin,” he said with a glimmer of amusement. “If you had accepted cyberbrain conversion, you might have survived the trip. Good thing I had this backup plan.”

“Princeps” walked past several more Ronkali crew to three that had been empty when the ship arrived in the Tiere system. He studied the crushed opossum, metallic glints of his cybernetic spine showing through his skin. “I have to wonder if this one’s mutiny was a backup plan of your own, though. You were always opposed to Ascension. Did you plan to build up your own empire in this system? Think you could possibly compete with my power?”

His gaze shifted to another tube that held no body, just an exposed brain. “I should have thanked you for this shell,” the self-proclaimed Imperator Ronkall grinned with his stolen lips. “I have to wonder if that primitive servitor of yours would even care if it knew how your brain had been cyber-converted so quickly? I should probably upload your memories anyways, in case I ever need to trick anyone who actually knew you.” Ronkall glanced back at MechRat, “it might be useful to upload you to an isolated system too. Or just stick your head on a life support rig. Perhaps that’ll motivate you to tell me what you gave your raccoon friend.”

He turned to head back up the elevator. “And you had better be dead Ms. Loter. Or I will make you wish you were.”

This might be it for a while, I have a short story showing what Horizon is up to between books but after that it could be a month or more before the next installment is ready.

In the meantime I’ve been slowly recording the series in podcast format on Tales of the Para-Imperium, feel free to go check it out.

If you want updates the first place to go would be my Patreon, where I’ve been posting roughs https://www.patreon.com/Zarpaulus