Wheel of Fortune

“You heard the bird-thing!” Lucille shouted into her microphone at the ten thousand pilots of her Galaxy Zephyr. “Transfer power to our heart!”

Eisu saluted on Lucille’s main monitor. “Are you sure, Commander?”

Fumiko saluted on the monitor beside her brother. “Without power, we can’t even try to escape the thumb!”

Daisuke saluted above Fumiko. “Commander, I recommend retreat at full speed.”

Beside Daisuke, Charlie lit a cockroach and puffed. “Transferring power.”

The Galaxy Zephyr’s right arm fell limp. The Hurricane flesh it wore like armor turned transparent pink. Its red color soaked into the tiny Zephyr-robots within. Red lightning crackled from robot to robot toward the Galaxy Zephyr’s boiling heart.

“Transferring power,” said the bird-like pilot of Zephyr-Alpha-Purple. The Galaxy Zephyr’s torso and head turned transparent pink. Their red color condensed at its heart and orbited the water world alongside the ashes of Earth. The ashes of Earth kept compiling into earthworms.

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Daisuke watched the worms through the windows of his cockpit. “Transferring power,” he relented. The left arm’s red color joined in orbiting the water world at the Galaxy Zephyr’s boiling heart. The worms tangled at random into wriggling blobs. “Eisu, Fumiko, maintain power. We’ve got more than enough energy for a Super Heart Beam, and if our beam doesn’t disable the descending thumb, we’ll need our legs to flee.”

“Fleeing was never in the cards,” said Lucille. “War’s all I’m good at! Eisu, Fumiko, don’t hold back!”

“Transferring power!” said Eisu and Fumiko. The Galaxy Zephyr’s legs went limp and their red color raced to the chest. The red color enclosed the water world in a spherical shell. The Galaxy Zephyr’s heart roiled so violently that bursting bubbles howled like hounds eager to slip for war.

Jya, bird-thing!” Lucille pulled a monitor displaying the bird-like pilot of ZAP. “Can you fire the beam?”

Dekimasu.” The bird-pilot saluted with its right wing. “I can, Commander, but not yet! We’re still accelerating space-time.”

Lucille nodded uneasily. While the Galaxy Zephyr diverted all power to its heart, the Enemy Hurricane’s thumb filled half the sky. Drawing near, the thumb’s texture chilled Lucille to her core: mouths wider than oceans screamed in rage and washed away, replaced by angry eyes which similarly melted. Was the Hurricane intending to smash them, eat them, or blink them to death? Or would her ten thousand pilots be assimilated?

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“Bird-thing, what do you mean ‘accelerating space-time?’ What’s the plan, exactly?”

Lucille directed audio of the bird-pilot’s explanation to her ten thousand pilots. “We’re recreating Earth’s population using an iterative machine-learning process lasting literal eternities. But, by locally warping the fabric of reality, we can change how time passes.”

“You’re making an eternity?”

“Two in parallel. On my Hurricane Planet, worms made from Earth’s matter will be mixed and matched. On our water world, we’ll turn piles of worms into humans to test them.” As the bird-pilot spoke, the heart’s red shell shrunk, turned blue, and expanded. Then it shrunk again, turned red again, and expanded again, like a pulse. “Our process will be toroidal—a donut shape. Time is linear, so we’re wrapping it in a circle and revolving it—”

“Keep it in your pants, Professor.” Lucille leaned forward in her commander’s chair. “You’re rebuilding the people of Earth?”

“We’re manufacturing principal components. I’ll make orthogonal unit-vectors like colors on a painter’s palette: the better our colors, the more accurately we can combine them into Earth’s original population.”

“Whatever you’re doing, hurry up! The thumb’s coming!” Lucille held a dial, ready to cease diverting power. “You’ve got twenty seconds! Ordinary seconds, ignoring your pseudo-science bologna!”

“Oh, it’ll take more than twenty seconds regardless,” said the bird-pilot, “but I’m prepared to fire our Super Heart Beam.”

Minah! You heard the bird-thing!” All ten thousand pilots reclaimed their engines’ output. The Galaxy Zephyr became opaque pink but its heart shined through, pulsing red and blue. Charlie, Daisuke, Eisu, and Fumiko tested the Galaxy Zephyr’s fingers and toes. It would take time to regain full strength, but they managed to point the Galaxy Zephyr’s chest at the descending thumb. “Bird-thing! Fire!”

Zephyr-Purple’s chest fired a brilliant beam of white-hot light which hit the Galaxy Zephyr’s red-and-blue pulsing heart, heating it yellow and sky-blue. The beam propelled the heart toward the descending thumb, but the heart couldn’t penetrate the Galaxy Zephyr’s chest. “Something’s wrong,” said the bird-pilot. “Our chest-cannon can’t eject the payload!”

Lucille pressed a button to address the bird-pilot privately. “Don’t say something’s wrong!” she shouted, “tell me how to fix it! No time for whining!”

“Do it manually!” said the bird-pilot.

“What does that mean?”

ZAB spoke through Lucille’s monitors. “Take a hands-on approach.”

Lucille squinted. “Charlie, Daisuke, follow my lead!”

The Galaxy Zephyr ripped out its own pulsing heart and pitched it at the descending thumb. The heart entered the thumb, trailing white light.

Lucille made the Galaxy Zephyr grab the light-trail and whip it. The heart’s arcing trail severed the Enemy Hurricane’s thumb. The thumb decayed from red to putrid purple. Pearly pulp gushed from the wound and cordoned the injury with uncountable shrieking teeth.

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The Enemy Hurricane howled silently across the vacuum of space. It signaled with its eyes: “What did you do!”

The Galaxy Zephyr’s Hurricane Armor translated Lucille’s shouts into eye-signals for their enemy to see: “I introduced you to pain! Until now, you just remembered pain secondhand!” The heart’s trail curved in a circle as wide as the Galaxy Zephyr was tall. Lucille caught the pulsing heart on its return and matched it with the trail’s beginning to make a loop. The loop became a perfect disk, sky-blue on one side and yellow on the other. The colors switched sides so quickly the disk appeared green. “This is my wheel of fortune,” she shouted, “and it will teach you every aspect of despair!”

Inside the Wheel, Nakayama floated through haze. Her compound emerald eyes could distinguish between the yellow and sky-blue sides of the Wheel, spinning so quickly they blended into green.

She addressed the Galaxy Zephyr’s Hurricane armor at the speed of thought. “You absorbed Earth’s sun and moon. Rebuild them.” The sun and moon materialized beside her. She willed them to accompany the water world, on which humans would be born from worms. “Do you know how Zephyr engines work?”

“Technically yes, because I have all your knowledge, but I’ve never looked into it. Why?”

“Inventing them required unlocking the secrets of Jupiter’s spot.” Nakayama poured white powder from her lab coat. “From that violent red storm, I summoned calming white powder. It accelerates cyclical reactions.” Her powder diffused through the disk. “It’s working,” she thought. Streaks of light shot from the Wheel’s center to its rim, where they become sharp blades. “Thousands of years pass every instant.”

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“Whoa,” thought her Hurricane, “I hope the reality we’re making is at least comprehensible to its innocent inhabitants.”

Next Chapter

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