“We can’t keep this up,” said Charlie. The Galaxy Zephyr zipped through the empty universe, narrowly evading the Enemy Hurricane’s ten gargantuan missiles.
“We’re almost out of time!” said Daisuke. The missiles tightly tracked the Galaxy Zephyr, relinquishing no leeway.
“Commander Lucille, what do we do?” asked Eisu. The Enemy Hurricane grinned with a thousand salivating mouths as it awaited inevitable victory.
“How much longer must the chain wait?” asked Fumiko. A missile grazed mere light-years from her cockpit.
Lucille grit her teeth. “Bird-thing!” The bird-like pilot of ZAP saluted. “Tell me the instant the chain is ready.”
“Of course, Commander.”
“Jya, Charlie, Daisuke, we’ll take the offensive. Eisu, Fumiko, brace for impact!” Lucille pulled levers to guide the Galaxy Zephyr’s arms.
Charlie squinted his good eye at his monitors. “What are we attacking?”
“The next missile within reach.”
Daisuke clutched his crew-cut. “But it might explode!”
“We can only hope,” said Lucille.
The Galaxy Zephyr swung the Wheel and sliced the nearest missile in two. Both halves detonated. When the explosions rippled the Galaxy Zephyr’s flesh, Eisu and Fumiko blasted steam from the robot’s feet. The Galaxy Zephyr surfed the shock-waves instead of being vaporized.
“Damage report!” called Lucille. As her ten thousand pilots reported in, Lucille saw the whole left side of the Galaxy Zephyr was seared and blistering. Golden blood oozed from its flesh. Six of sixteen wings were singed.
“Incoming!” Charlie pointed the Galaxy Zephyr’s right hand at nine missiles catching up across the cosmos.
“Commander!” squawked the bird-pilot of ZAP. “The chain is ready!”
“Will the new Zephyr save us?” asked Lucille. The bird-pilot shrugged. “While we’re pulling the chain, we can’t dodge or slice another missile.”
“I say we slice,” said Eisu. “Better to take damage on our own terms.”
“We can’t handle that trauma again,” said Fumiko, “on our own terms or not.”
“No time to dodge,” said Charlie.
“Pull the chain!” said Daisuke. “It’s all or nothing!”
Lucille had never heard Daisuke advocating such risk. She cracked her knuckles. “Pull!” The Galaxy Zephyr held the Wheel in its left hand, and pulled the chain with its right.
The Wheel spun so fast, centripetal force lengthened the saw-teeth by light-years.
White powder flowed from the Wheel into the Galaxy Zephyr’s Hurricane Armor. The powder bleached the armor ivory white, and healed its scars and burns.
“Bird-thing, whatever this Zephyr can do, it’d better do quickly!” Lucille watched the missiles approach. “We’ve only got seconds!”
“I can’t watch!” said Eisu.
“Me neither.” Lucille spun her steering wheel. The Galaxy Zephyr pivoted to face the Enemy Hurricane, turning its back to the missiles. “Minah! It’s been an honor leading you.”
Ten thousand pilots nodded.
From the base of the Galaxy Zephyr’s spine, nine colossal cannons protruded.
Each fired a white torpedo, trailing steam.
Each torpedo intercepted a missile and detonated it.
The Galaxy Zephyr was framed by balls of flame.
“Masaka.” Eisu wiped tears from his cheeks. “We’re saved!”
Fumiko just cried.
Charlie slammed his control panel. “Yes! Yes!”
Daisuke watched debris scatter in all directions. “Let’s collect all the mass we can.”
“No need,” said Lucille. “Look.” The steam-trails of the nine white torpedoes engulfed the debris. Then the torpedoes returned to their cannons, and the mass they’d collected merged with the Galaxy Zephyr. It swelled in size by a factor of nine. The Wheel increased in diameter proportionally.
“My god,” said Fumiko. “We’re enormous!”
“Meh.” Lucille shrugged. Her robot was still barely a twentieth the size of the Enemy Hurricane. She was more impressed by the Galaxy Zephyr’s lithe, athletic form. Its face grew subtly pointed, like a canid snout, and its sculpted hair hid triangular ears. Lucille felt like she piloted a wild animal. “What do you think of that?” she shouted, and her Hurricane Armor translated her shouts into eye signals for the Enemy Hurricane to see. “When you think we’re whipped, we’ll whip into shape!”
“Then I’ll scourge you with scorpions!” signaled the Enemy Hurricane. Its body churned and lengthened. Its narrow end sharpened into a stinger. It grew eight legs capped with pincers. Its surface grew a shiny maroon carapace.
“Motherfucker, I’ll scourge your scorpions!” Lucille made the Galaxy Zephyr put its right hand on the chain. “Bird-thing, is another Zephyr lined up?”
“Pull!” yelled the bird-pilot of ZAP.
They pulled the chain again. The Wheel spun so quickly it threatened to shear apart. “What’ll this Zephyr do for us?” asked Lucille.
“Who knows?” This voice came from Nakayama, who flew from the Wheel into the Galaxy Zephyr’s armor. She opened ZAP’s hatch to recombine with the bird-pilot. Professor Akayama was, finally, one solid piece. “But see how fast the Wheel spins?”
“Yeah, it looks like it’ll burst,” said Lucille.
“Our region of accelerated space-time has reached a particularly interesting scale of size and velocity.”
“Spit it out, Professor.”
“We’ve crossed a threshold,” said Akayama. “We expended energy to accelerate space-time to make the Wheel, but now the Wheel is producing energy.”
“Nice!” Lucille watched the Enemy Hurricane crawl through space. “We can use spare energy.”
“Already done,” said Akayama. “I’m converting it directly into mass.”
Lucille grinned. She understood, now, from how the Wheel seemed ready to split at any instant but maintained integrity, that the professor held it at the breaking point to leech its energy. The energy flowed into the Hurricane Armor and congealed into dense, impenetrable mass. “Alright, everyone,” said Lucille to her ten thousand pilots, “just a matter of time ’till we’re too large to lose!”
The Enemy Hurricane snapped its front pincers. Eisu and Fumiko made the Galaxy Zephyr duck under them. “We’re almost too large!” said Fumiko. “We’ve lost our evasiveness.”
The front pincers snapped again. The Galaxy Zephyr evaded the left pincer but was clasped by the right. The Enemy Hurricane brought down its stinger. “But now we have strength!” said Daisuke. He and Charlie braced the elbows of the Galaxy Zephyr against the pincer confining them. With infinite effort, they pried it wide open and slipped away before the stinger stung them.
The left pincer blindsided them with a back-slap, sending the Galaxy Zephyr spinning through space. It tumbled twenty billion light-years before stabilizing.
Lucille’s crew righted themselves just to see the stinging tail descend. Reflexively, they brought forth the Wheel and sliced the tail’s stinging tip.
“Big mistake!” signaled the Enemy Hurricane. From the sliced stinger, yellow acid gushed.
“Who’s mistake?” asked Lucille. The acid flooded over the Galaxy Zephyr. Its Hurricane Armor cracked like sunburnt skin.
The whole Galaxy Zephyr broke open like a cocoon.
Underneath the white Hurricane armor was blue Hurricane Armor. This broke open also, and underneath was purple Hurricane Armor. This broke open also, and underneath was pink Hurricane Armor. This broke open also, and underneath was blackness so dark it made space look luminous.
“You’ve guaranteed our victory,” said Lucille. “You’ve unleashed our final form!”
The blackness kept growing and growing, gaining mass from the Wheel’s energy. It absorbed the oceans of acid. Under the white, blue, purple, and pink faces, a black face glared at the Enemy Hurricane.
“How are you—” The Enemy Hurricane reared and snapped its pincers up at them. “Why are you so large?”
“I’ve always been this large!” said Lucille, “you just didn’t have the sense to see it!” The black mass grew to twice the size of the Enemy Hurricane—twice the size of the observable universe. It had four legs, four arms, and two horns which speared the skins of its former forms and wore them like garlands. The Wheel expanded proportionally.
“Unbelievable.” Daisuke’s hands trembled as he took his controls. His cockpit had moved to where the two left arms conjoined at the shoulder.
“How could we possibly lose?” asked Eisu. His cockpit had moved to where the two right legs conjoined at the hip.
“Don’t let this go to our heads,” said Charlie, at the right shoulder.
“Let’s kick their ass!” said Fumiko, at the left hip.
“One more time,” said Akayama, from the heart.
“Huh?” Lucille looked at Akayama on her main monitor.
“Pull the chain,” said Akayama, “one more time.”
Lucille felt much more resistance in the chain; it took all the Galaxy Zephyr’s strength to pull the first link from the Wheel. That link was in the jaws of a fleshy skull with six empty eye-sockets. Subsequent links were wrapped in the skeletal creature’s ribs. It had twenty arms and twenty legs.
“One last Zephyr for the road?” With Lucille’s direction, the Galaxy Zephyr wrapped the chain around the Wheel’s rim. The skeletal creature’s forty limbs were the Wheel’s new saw-teeth.
The Galaxy Zephyr’s upper pair of arms reached into the Wheel’s green surface, and plucked out Earth’s sun and moon. They staked the moon on their left horn, and the sun on their right horn, to save them for later.
Lucille couldn’t stop laughing. “Let’s wrap this up, shall we?”