(A chapter of Akayama DanJay.)
Last time on RuRu no Jikuu-Kasoku!
The Galaxy Zephyr escaped the Hurricane’s bubble, but the Hurricane paid them back for it with a lightning-bolt directly into the Wheel. With the Wheel damaged, can Commander Lucille stand a chance against the cosmic horror which ate the universe and killed her parents? Or will it accomplish its misguided goal of perverted permanence?
On golden wings, the Galaxy Zephyr flew a safe distance from the Hurricane. Lucille surveyed the warped Wheel in her monitors. Where the lightning had struck, the Wheel’s perfect surface had a great green bulge. Near the bulge, the Wheel had no saw-teeth. “Charlie, Dakshi, can you fix it manually?”
In ZAY, Charlie led the Galaxy Zephyr to press the Wheel with its right hand, but the bulge inverted to protrude from the left. In ZAG, Dakshi led the Galaxy Zephyr to press the Wheel with its left hand, but the bulge inverted to protrude from the right. “No dice,” said Charlie. If anything, the bulge was bigger now. The whole Wheel wobbled each revolution.
Lucille crossed her arms. “Professor Bird-Thing!”
“Hai!” In ZAP, Akayama saluted.
“Part of you is inside the Wheel, right? How’s the damage look on your end?”
“My water-world’s slice-of-life is falling apart,” said Akayama, “and my Uzumaki Planet is too windy to process worms!” Through her branched, noodly tail, Akayama shared video of a desert sandstorm. “If you pulled the Chain, centripetal forces would shred the Wheel to pieces!” The Hurricane seemed to know the Wheel was busted, as it swiped tentacles with impunity. To evade, Eisu in ZAR and Fumiko in ZAO led the Galaxy Zephyr’s legs firing steam. “But I’m sure I can fix it. Give me one of the golden wings!”
Lucille pulled a monitor displaying the Galaxy Zephyr’s schematics. “Charlie, Dakshi, Eisu, Fumiko. One of your teams will control three wings instead of four.”
“I volunteer,” said Fumiko.
“Our teams can balance our thrust,” said Eisu.
“Jya.” Lucille tapped the touchscreen. “It’s all yours, Hakase!“
One golden wing recoiled into the Galaxy Zephyr’s spine. It snaked out the left pectoral into the Wheel. “The snowy white powder I added to the Wheel condensed around a helpful slice-of-life character,” said Akayama. “Call them our mascot! I’m putting them to work wrapping the Wheel with the wing, but it will take some time.” A flying white fox popped out of the Wheel pulling the golden wing with its teeth.
“We can’t keep this up forever,” said Dakshi. The Galaxy Zephyr barrel-rolled to avoid ten tentacles converging. “How do we survive without the Wheel?”
“Brass balls,” said Lucille. “Leave it to me.” She sat up in her Commander’s chair. “Oi! You!” The silvery-blue Uzumaki Armor translated her shouts into eye-signals for the Hurricane to see. “Did you know my mother, Princess Lucia? Did you know my father, Commander Bunjiro?”
The Hurricane made a wide palm to smash them while signaling with its own countless eyes. “I might’ve!”
“Not during your pilots’ mortal lives,” said Lucille. Eisu and Fumiko dodged the cosmic slap. The flying white fox wrapped the golden wing around the Wheel to dress the bulge like a bandage. “My parents were born decades after you fled Earth. You’d only know them as pilots of Zephyr-Blue, original protector of the Milky Way!”
The Hurricane growled and grew legs to kick at the Galaxy Zephyr. “That robot murdered hundreds of thousands of my planets!“
“Your planets were homogeneous and identical!” The Galaxy Zephyr deftly dodged each kick. “Does it really matter how many were ‘murdered?’ “
“It’s all that matters! Every tiniest piece of me is the best humanity has to offer! Your parents are the real cosmic horror! I only destroyed Earth after I knew there was nothing left worth assimilating!”
“Sou, sou!” The flying white fox had wrapped the Wheel with three golden wing-spokes. “Were my parents worthy? Are they trapped in your disgusting consciousness?”
The Hurricane grinned disingenuously with a thousand mouths. “They are!“
Dakshi pressed a button to speak to Lucille privately. “It’s lying. Your parents died before they could be assimilated.”
Charlie joined the channel. “Bunjiro self-detonated to protect Lucia, who died soon after on the moon. You know that.”
Lucille ignored them and spoke to the Hurricane. “Hontou? You must’ve claimed my father just before his ship exploded. My mother—well, how’d you nab her?”
The Hurricane thought. “I reassembled her from your father’s memory. Inside me, your parents beg for you to come to your senses and give up the fight!”
“Impossible,” Akayama told Lucille. “If the Hurricane had that capability, I would know!”
Even Uzumaki chimed in. “I’ve synced with the Hurricane a hundred times. If your parents were in our enemy, they’d be in me, too, and I’ll tell you, they’re not!“
“How horrifying,” said Lucille to the Hurricane. She faked a sob while grinning ear to ear. “If you’d release their minds from yours, I’d do anything. I’d even surrender!”
The Hurricane condensed into a blob which smiled almost broadly as Lucille. “Really?”
“You have my word.” Lucille covered her heart with her right hand while crossing fingers with her left. “Eject them for me to inspect. Let me see my parents again!”
“Commander!” said Fumiko.
“You can’t surrender on our behalf!” said Eisu.
“You’ll inspect them alone, you brat.” The Hurricane spat two human bodies from its slobbery maw. “Leave your robots behind!”
“Those are forgeries,” said Akayama. “Uzumaki taught the enemy this trick when it let Hurricane Planets bicker over a false copy of me.”
Lucille flipped switches to disengage Zephyr-Alpha-Blue from the Galaxy Zephyr. When she stomped her pedals, ZAB refused to budge. “This is obviously a trap,” said ZAB.
“Don’t you think I know that? Buying time means letting the Hurricane think it’s two steps ahead!” ZAB reluctantly propelled itself through the Galaxy Zephyr’s silvery-blue Uzumaki Armor into the vacuum of space. Lucille looked back through her windows to see the flying white fox had given the Wheel six golden wing-spokes bandaging the bulge. “Halt.” ZAB stopped a hundred yards from the bodies ejected by the Hurricane. Lucille removed the metal grill above her life-support systems to retrieve an oxygen-mask. “My bodysuit is vacuum-proof, isn’t it? How long could I survive in space?”
“At most two minutes.”
“Collect me in sixty seconds.” She donned the mask. “Pop the hatch.”
ZAB’s skullcap opened. Explosive decompression launched Lucille toward the free-floating bodies. The Hurricane chuckled in the distance, but Lucille didn’t know the language of its eye-signals and didn’t care.
She’d seen photos of Bunjiro and Lucia in history books. The Hurricane had reconstructed them lazily but effectively, covering their faces with oxygen-masks, concealing their bodies with red and blue bodysuits. Bunjiro even had sunglasses, and Lucia her ponytail. Both were unconscious, or feigning it.
Lucille had been launched fast enough to kick off Bunjiro’s head. His neck spurted blood like a person guillotined, but then his body convulsed and decayed like the Hurricane’s severed thumb. His arms and legs turned into tentacles which grappled at Lucille, but they were shriveling, and she kicked herself off his chest like a swimmer starting another lap. As she drifted toward Lucia, her supposed mother peeked and saw Bunjiro deteriorating into purple goo. Lucia panicked and sprouted tentacles, but too late: Lucille tore off her oxygen-mask and bit her neck open. They grappled together, biting each other, until Lucille finally knocked off Lucia’s head by jabbing with her ring of keys. Both imitation parents decomposed.
Lucille wiped blood from her jaw—though her bodysuit was still splattered with it—and again donned her oxygen-mask. ZAB caught her in its open hatch and she fell back into the cockpit. They zoomed back to the Galaxy Zephyr. “That was quite a show,” said ZAB. “The Hurricane looks angrier than ever.”
“Like I give a shit.” Lucille removed her oxygen-mask and spat more blood. They reentered the Galaxy Zephyr and assumed their rightful place in the head. Medical-personnel in flew pink ships to ZAB and came down the hatch to tend to her wounds.
Uzumaki translated the Hurricane’s violent eye-signals. “You ungrateful brat! You just murdered two of my copies, each more human than you or any of your crew!“
“Don’t flatter yourself,” said Lucille. Medical-personnel rubbed alcohol over the Hurricane’s bite-marks on her shoulders. “Even if those really were my parents, I’d kill them to spite you!” The flying white fox totally enveloped the Wheel with the golden wing, compressing the bulge. Soon their weapon would be restored to perfection. “The Wheel reminds us only impermanence is permanent! My parents are dead, I’ll die someday, and by my word, your pilots will die, too!“
“You’ll meet your impermanence face-to-face! Until now I planned to give you and your crew the chance to prove yourselves worthy of assimilation, but you’ve shown you’re not worth the effort!” The Hurricane used tentacles to rip off ten pieces of itself, each larger than the Galaxy Zephyr, and threw them like blood-red projectiles. As the Galaxy Zephyr moved, the projectiles followed. “Even if you’re wearing that traitor like armor, any aspect of me in your Wheel would never join you subhuman scraps!”
Charlie contacted Lucille. “Did your mom taste nice? I don’t know how we’ll dodge these missiles.”
Dakshi agreed. “Unless you learned something from Bunjiro’s blood, we’re not long for this world.”
“Professor Bird-Thing,” said Lucille, “is the Wheel ready for us to pull the Chain again? Are any characters in your slice-of-life eager to join the Galaxy Zephyr, maybe your little fox-mascot?”
“Mada da!” said Akayama. “Not yet, not yet! You can use the Wheel when the golden wing unwraps, but don’t pull the Chain! I’ve got a plan to bring in the rest of the main-cast all at once!”