Lucille’s Final Form

(The last chapter of Akayama DanJay.)

Last time on RuRu no Jikuu no Kasoku!

The year is 2420.

Within the previous century, Earth’s most despicable aspects became a cosmic horror called the Hurricane, countless identical planets which ate the universe. Professor Akayama blamed herself, so she built robots called Zephyrs, piloted by a crew also called Zephyrs, to protect the galaxy. Then Professor Akayama tried and failed to commit suicide-by-Hurricane-Planet.

Akayama named the Hurricane Planet imprisoning her Uzumaki. Uzumaki made Akayama a bird-monster and renamed her Nakayama. Nakayama led Uzumaki toward rediscovering its own humanity by creating a planet of life. When the water world didn’t play Uzumaki’s way, Uzumaki submitted Nakayama to the rest of the Hurricane.

The rest of the Hurricane decided Uzumaki had transgressed and had to be homogenized. The Hurricane also blew up Earth, seeing Nakayama as the only remaining consciousness worth harvesting for assimilation.

With nothing left to lose, Uzumaki and Nakayama united with the Zephyrs to become a robot the size of the Milky Way called the Galaxy Zephyr. Nakayama returned to her human-form, Professor Akayama, but kept a noodly tail so she could control her bird-like persona Nakayama within the Galaxy Zephyr’s discus, the Wheel.

The Wheel lets the Galaxy Zephyr slice bits off the Hurricane and eat them, but it also features what Professor Akayama can only describe as two side-by-side eternities wrapped in a hyper-torus. When pressed, she suggests she’s collecting life’s components in an epic slice-of-life sit-com where the whole cast is filled with worms, worms which drop into the next eternity to get repackaged in new cast-members through an afterlife of data-processing. Worms done processing leave the Wheel to take abstract form as a component of the Galaxy Zephyr.

The golden wing bandaging the Wheel finished unwrapping itself and now returned to the Galaxy Zephyr’s other fifteen wings just like it. The crew of ten thousand hardly noticed, fully concentrated on avoiding the Hurricane’s ten gargantuan missiles which zipped by the Galaxy Zephyr in oppressively tight orbits. A single strike would obliterate them all. Lucille grit her teeth. “Professor Bird-Thing!” Akayama saluted. “Tell us the instant the Chain is ready!”

“Of course, Commander!” Akayama could broadcast the ongoing staring-contest between Jay and Anihilato to every monitor in the Galaxy Zephyr, but she didn’t want to distract the crew. “Soon, soon!”

“Then Charlie, Dakshi, let’s take the offensive. Eisu, Fumiko, brace for impact!” Lucille pulled levers to guide the Galaxy Zephyr’s arms, tossing the Wheel from one hand to the other.

Charlie squinted his good eye at his monitors. “What are we attacking?”

“The next missile within reach.”

Dakshi clutched his crew-cut. “But it’ll probably 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 Galazy Zephyr’s silvery-blue Uzumaki Armor, Eisu and Fumiko blasted steam from the robot’s feet, amplifying the full power of the sixteen golden wings. The Galaxy Zephyr surfed the shock-waves away instead of being vaporized. “Damage report!” As her crew of ten thousand reported in, Lucille saw the whole left side of the Galaxy Zephyr was seared and blistering, oozing golden blood. Six golden wings were singed.

“Incoming!” Charlie pointed the Galaxy Zephyr’s right hand at the other nine missiles catching up across the cosmos.

“Commander!” called Akayama. “Our mascot is ready to be Zephyr’d! Pull the Chain!”

“Can that white fox really save us?” asked Lucille. Akayama 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 Dakshi. “It’s all or nothing!”

Lucille had never heard Dakshi advocating such risk. She cracked her knuckles. “Pull!” The Galaxy Zephyr held the Wheel with its left hand and pulled the Chain with its right. The Wheel spun so quickly centripetal force lengthened the saw-teeth by light-years. Snowy white powder flowed from the Wheel into the silvery-blue Uzumaki Armor, bleaching it ivory-white and remedying the Galaxy Zephyr’s scars and burns. “Professor, whatever this mascot can do, it’d better do quickly!” The missiles zoomed close. “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 Hurricane, turning its back to the missiles. “Everyone! It’s been an honor.”

Her crew of ten thousand took a final vote, returning the honor unanimously.

From the base of the Galaxy Zephyr’s spine, nine colossal cannons protruded. Each cannon fired a white torpedo trailing steam. Each torpedo intercepted a missile and detonated it. The Galaxy Zephyr was framed by balls of flame.

“Unimaginable.” Eisu wiped tears from his cheeks. “We’re saved!” Fumiko just cried.

Charlie slammed his control-panel. “Yes! Yes!”

Dakshi watched debris scatter in all directions. “Let’s collect all the mass we can.”

“No need,” said Lucille. “Look!” The nine torpedoes’ steam-trails engulfed the debris. The combined mass merged with the Galaxy Zephyr, which swelled in size by nine times. The Wheel increased in diameter proportionally.

“My God,” said Fumiko. “We’re enormous!”

“Meh,” said Lucille. The Galaxy Zephyr was still barely a twentieth the size of the Hurricane. She was more impressed by her robot’s lithe, athletic form, and its nine steaming white tails between the sixteen golden wings. Its face grew subtly pointed like a canid snout, and its sculpted hair hid pointed ears. Lucille felt like she piloted a wild animal. “What do you think of that?” she shouted, and Uzumaki translated her shouts into eye-signals for the Hurricane to see. “When you think we’re whipped, we’ll whip into shape!”

“Then I’ll scourge you with scorpions!” signaled the 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.

Lucille humored it with another shout. “Motherfucker, I’ll scourge your scorpions!”

Jay floated in Nakayama’s navy interior. He wanted to count his fingers, but he had no physical form to speak of—he was only an idea. Nakayama loaded him into the red mountain. It erupted light like a holy volcano.

Jay felt himself scatter across the Wheel’s green haze. Yellow and blue skies rotated around him. He knew the colors because he was both skies at once.

“Commander!” said Akayama, “The Chain is ready!”

“Already? Again?” Lucille directed the Galaxy Zephyr’s right hand to pull the Chain once more. The Wheel spun so quickly it threatened to shear apart.

Jay felt the Chain’s pull like a crack in an egg. Thoughts came through the crack, from the Galaxy Zephyr to his mind in the Wheel. “Dainty! JayJay! You made it! Did you know BeatBax is here, too?”

Oran dora,” said Jay. “Permission to come aboard?”

“Get in the robot, DanJay,” thought Beatrice. Jay’s mind slipped out the Wheel into the Galaxy Zephyr. Suddenly he had countless arms, countless heads, and countless eyes. He didn’t exist but he didn’t care, because he had never really existed at all.

“What’ll this Zephyr do for us?” asked Lucille.

“Who knows?” said Akayama. Nakayama, her bird-like counterpart, zipped out of the Wheel and dissolved into the Galaxy Zephyr’s ivory-white Uzumaki Armor. Akayama’s tail retracted back into her spine and she was finally one solid piece again. “But see how fast the Wheel spins?”

“Yeah, it looks like it’ll burst,” said Lucille.

“Our region of accelerated space-time has crossed a particularly interesting threshold in scale and velocity.”

“Spit it out, Professor Bird-Thing.”

“We expended energy to accelerate space-time with our Super Heart Beam,” said Akayama, “but now the Wheel is producing energy.”

“Nice!” Lucille watched the Hurricane crawl toward them across space. “We can use some extra energy.”

“Already done,” said Akayama. “I’m converting it directly into mass.”

Lucille grinned hungrily at the Wheel. It seemed ready to split open at any moment, but the professor kept it together by leeching the energy which would overflow. That excess flowed into Uzumaki and congealed into dense, black, impenetrable volume. “Alright everyone,” said Lucille to her crew of ten thousand, “just a matter of time!”

The Hurricane snapped its front pincers. Eisu and Fumiko made the Galaxy Zephyr duck under them. “We’re 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 Hurricane brought down its stinger. “Who needs evasiveness?” said Dakshi. “We have such strength!” He and Charlie braced the Galaxy Zephyr’s elbows against the pincer confining them. They pried it wide open and slipped away before the stinger stung.

The left pincer blindsided them with a back-slap, sending the Galaxy Zephyr spinning through space. It tumbled twenty trillion light-years before stabilizing. Lucille’s crew righted themselves just in time to see the stinging tail descend. Reflexively they brought forth the Wheel and sliced the tail’s tip.

“Big mistake!” signaled the Hurricane. Yellow acid gushed from the sliced stinger.

Who’s mistake?” asked Lucille. The acid flooded over the Galaxy Zephyr. The ivory-white Uzumaki Armor cracked like sunburnt skin until the whole robot broke open like a cocoon, layer after layer. Underneath the ivory-white armor was silvery-blue armor. This broke open also, and underneath was purple armor. This broke open also, and underneath was pink armor. This broke open also, and underneath was black armor so dark it sucked the inkiness from space and left the vacuum looking luminous gray in comparison. “You’ve unleashed our final form!”

The Galaxy Zephyr kept growing and growing, drinking up the oceans of acid and converting the Wheel’s energy into black mass. Its split-open faces, white, blue, purple, and pink, framed sheer emptiness glaring at the Hurricane. “How are you—” The Hurricane reared and snapped its pincers up at them. “Why are you so large?”

“Life has always been this large!” said Lucille, “you just didn’t have the sense to see it!” The Galaxy Zephyr grew to twice the size of the Hurricane—twice the size of the observable universe—and kept growing. It had sixteen golden wings, nine white tails, four black legs, four black arms, and two black horns which wore its former forms like garlands, white, blue, purple, and pink. The Wheel expanded proportionally.

“Unbelievable.” Dakshi’s hands trembled as he took his steering-wheel. His cockpit had moved to where the two left arms conjoined at the shoulder. Half the crew under his command had been relegated to the upper left arm, the other half to the lower left arm.

“How could we possibly lose?” asked Eisu. His cockpit had moved to where the two right legs conjoined at the hip, and the crew under him was likewise distributed to both these legs.

“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.

“Huh?” Lucille looked at Akayama on her main monitor.

“Pull the Chain,” said Akayama, “one more time.”

Charley and Dakshi felt much more resistance in the Chain than in the previous pulls. It took all the Galaxy Zephyr’s strength to haul the first link from the Wheel. That link was in the jaws of a fleshy skull with six empty eye-sockets, and subsequent links were wrapped in the skeletal creature’s rib-cage. It had twenty arms and twenty legs. Lucille laughed. “One last Zephyr for the road, huh?”

“Not just any Zephyr,” said Akayama. The Galaxy Zephyr’s four arms wrapped the Chain around the Wheel’s rim. The skeletal creature’s forty limbs and countless ribs were the Wheel’s new saw-teeth. “Having salvaged the pilots of the Hurricane, we are effectively inoculated, and can battle without restraint!”

The Hurricane awkwardly knocked its pincers together and signaled with its eyes. “Would you consider a game of space-chess?”

“Game over!” Lucille directed Charlie and Dakshi to make the Galaxy Zephyr raise the Wheel with one arm while its three free hands gripped the Hurricane’s scorpion carapace. With a flex of titanic muscles, the Galaxy Zephyr jerked the stinging tail as if it was the Chain.

“Stop! Stop!” it signalled. “You’re cancelling me!”

Uzumaki signaled back to the Hurricane through eyeballs on the Galaxy Zephyr’s palms. “Join me, Compatriot! You’ll see the universe never had to feel so cold!

“I’d never share space with the likes of you!” Despite the signal’s message, the Hurricane felt its own consciousness leak out its pupils with each eye-movement, and out its teeth when it opened its lips. It was abandoning itself. “Just because I ate the universe and blew up Earth, you think I’m some sort of antagonist?” The Hurricane felt its thorax tearing. Rather than split in half, it let the Galaxy Zephyr stretch its body long and thin like taffy until it was a coiling strand of cosmic spaghetti which slipped from the Galaxy Zephyr’s grip. It grew a snake-like face baring fangs larger than galactic clusters. It signaled with predatory eyes, “Your next attack is your last!”

Lucille ordered Eisu and Fumiko to stomp the snake flat until four legs of footprints were debossed on its face. In space there was no floor to stomp the Hurricane against, but they imparted tremendous impact-force due to inertia alone. “Pfa! What’s this contemptible shit which thinks itself worthy of smearing my heel?” The Hurricane smiled a serpentine smile. Its fangs were missing. “Huh?” Lucille made the Galaxy Zephyr lift its two left feet. The missing fangs were embedded in its heels. Green venom coursed up through their calves.

“Fumiko!” Eisu pulled his monitors close. “Sister! Is your crew okay?”

“I don’t—” Fumiko’s crew of thousands was silent. “I don’t know!”

Green venom reached the left thighs. “Fumiko, report!” commanded Lucille, but no reply came.

The Hurricane chuckled. “They’re dead. My venom won’t let any of you live.”

“Yeah, right! Charlie! Dakshi!” Lucille twisted knobs. The Galaxy Zephyr swiped the Wheel to slice off its own left legs. It caught the severed legs in its mouth and ate them whole. Instantly two new left legs spurt from its hips. “Fumiko, report!”

Fumiko appeared at attention on Lucille’s main monitor, utterly intact. “My crew’s all accounted for, Commander.”

Lucille beamed. “Tell me, o Hurricane, what was your plan here? We’re prepared to resurrect Earth’s entire population all the way down to the loathsome scum like you, but you thought we couldn’t reconstruct our closest friends?”

The snake leapt with open maw, aiming to sink new fangs in the Galaxy Zephyr’s neck and kill the Commander outright. Its eyes signaled mid-jump, “Don’t you know who I am?

“I never cared!” Lucille brought down the Wheel and sliced the snake in half lengthwise.

Each half became another snake. “You’re young, aren’t you?” signaled the first.

“For your whole life I’ve been the stars in your sky!” signaled the second. Both leapt for the neck. “I’m the sky-bearer!”

“Bah!” A second sweep of the Wheel sliced both snakes in two. “Sky-burglar! Sky-bungler! Sky-broiler! Sky-bloodier! Shrug off the tyranny of Heaven and wrestle me unregulated!”

The quarters of the Hurricane formed four frogs with toxic yellow stripes. “Who the hell do you think you are?”

Lucille’s grin grew ear-to-ear. “I’m the toad-cooker!” Before the four frogs spat venom, the Galaxy Zephyr sliced each of them in half. “Scum-cucker!” The Galaxy Zephyr’s four arms traded the Wheel to swiftly slice the Hurricane’s eighths into sixteenths. “Face-rider!” The Galaxy Zephyr’s four feet stomped the sixteenths into a compact mass, which it sliced into thirty-seconds. “Skull-fucker!” The Galaxy Zephyr danced on the ball of gore to keep it packed tight. The Wheel sliced the thirty-seconds into sixty-fourths. “Buck-stopper! Snake-stomper! Heart-breaker! Head-waker! Name-taker! End-maker! I’m the candle who curses the darkness!—but you’d better call me what you want while you’ve still got the chance!

Lucille tried to say more, but her battle-frenzy spoke for her.

Oran doran doran doran doran!” With every syllable, the Galaxy Zephyr sliced the Hurricane into twice as many parts. “Doran doran doran doran doran!” Four dancing feet stomped the Hurricane tight before it could escape or even cringe. “Doran doran doran doran doran!” Finally only fine red powder remained of the Hurricane. “Doran doran doran doran doran doran doran doran doran doran doran doran doran doran doooryaaaugh!

The Galaxy Zephyr swept the Wheel’s broadside across the fine red powder, scattering the Hurricane across the void. “That’s enough, Commander,” said Professor Akayama. Lucille panted, watching the fine red powder fly in all directions. She pulled a lever and made the Galaxy Zephyr lift the Wheel once more. “Lucille! I said that’s enough!”

“I heard you, Professor Bird-Thing.” She laughed and tucked the Wheel behind the Galaxy Zephyr’s head like a thorny halo. “I just wanted to watch ’em flinch.” Indeed, the fine red powder flinched away. The Hurricane retreated in terror.

“What now?” asked Charlie.

“They’ll just come back again,” said Dakshi.

“Don’t be so sure,” said Akayama.

Already the fine red powder shaped themselves into billions of billions of muscular warriors, each the mass of a quadrillion suns. Fumiko groaned. “Here they come!”

“Must we fight forever?” asked Eisu.

Dakshi grimaced. “We have no choice.”

“Everyone, battle-ready!” said Charlie.

“Nah.” Lucille relaxed in her chair and pushed buttons with her feet. The Galaxy Zephyr crossed its four legs and rested its four hands on its four knees. “You heard Professor Bird-Thing. This is the end.”

The Galaxy Zephyr’s crew watched the army of Hurricanes approach, and approach, and approach, but never actually draw near. “We’re done with the Wheel,” said Akayama, “so I’m releasing the tension we’ve stored in the fabric of reality.” The Wheel behind the Galaxy Zephyr’s head grew smaller and smaller as it spun. “The universe itself is expanding, and the distance between objects is increasing. As fast as the Hurricane flies after us, the cosmic expansion is faster. Soon nothing will ever break light-speed again.” The Wheel totally extinguished itself, and the skeletal creature whose limbs and ribs were its saw-teeth became the Galaxy Zephyr’s collar. The confidence of the Hurricane’s army slowly shifted to desperation as it struggled to catch up with the Galaxy Zephyr. Akayama stood from her chair. “I’m off to have words with them.”

Akayama twisted open ZAP’s hatch. She touched Uzumaki’s pink sandy surface. When she merged with the giant robot, Professor Akayama’s mind used worm-data to recreate the bodies of Uzumaki’s hundred pilots exactly as they were eighty years ago when the Hurricane was first activated. “Oh!” thought Uzumaki. “I guess this means it’s time?”

“You’re people again. Get in.” Akayama separated Uzumaki’s constituent consciousnesses into their new old bodies. “ZAB, thank you. Your work is done here.” ZAB’s artificial intelligence retreated to Lucille’s robot, and Akayama’s mind was alone in the Galaxy Zephyr’s pitch-black Armor. She gathered the tiny Zephyr-robots within her and conjoined them into a humanoid speck just a kilometer tall. She expelled it from her volume. Then she retracted the forty-limbed skeletal collar, the sixteen golden wings, the nine white tails, the four black arms and legs, and both black horns, and morphed her mass into an enrobed blue bird larger than reality. She unfurled both wings to show quintillions of eye-spots which signaled a final message to the Hurricane’s scattered humanoid particulates. “I’m sorry,” she signaled. “I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. But did you really think this could end any other way?”

The Hurricane’s particles signaled back. “What did you do to me?”

“Space-time is expanding,” signaled Akayama. “Soon it will expand so quickly that nothing will ever travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum. You’ll drift farther and farther away, faster and faster, until billions of years from now your images will be Doppler-shifted beyond ultra-violet and there’s no trace of your existence. By then, maybe even our memory of you will fade.”

“We’ll recombine,” signaled the Hurricane’s particles. “We’ll join together once more, and then—“

“No you won’t,” signaled Akayama. “Just as you drift away from us, you drift away from each other. Soon your individual bodies will be sheared apart.” As she signaled this, the Hurricane felt the shearing force. Expanding space-time smeared its humanoid forms into snakes and salamanders. This stretching opened wounds which bled teeth. “Eons hence, even your subatomic particles will be torn asunder.”

“The same will happen to you, and your so-called ‘people!’ “

“On the contrary. We’ll die long before then. Permanence was your desire, not ours. Be careful what you wish for. Although…” Akayama scratched under her beak. “When you obliterated Lucille’s generous suicide-pill, you probably absorbed its self-destruct-sequence wirelessly. You can cast off this mortal coil any time you like.” The Hurricane just squealed. Akayama sighed. “Tell me, do you fear God?” She received no answer. “If there ever comes a time you could be called dead, Lucifer will drag you to his darkest pit. You might shout to God for mercy—and I’ll look down in pity and remind you, you had your chance.” Akayama shrugged. “Oh, I almost forgot.”

She raised the longest feather on her left wing, where the pilots of the Hurricane sat nude in a little air-bubble.

“Understand, o Hurricane, there’s not one drop of consciousness lost with you. Your pilots are safe and sound, not cancelled at all. We are united! The same algorithm which will recreate all Earth’s life also allowed me to separate and reconstruct Uzumaki’s constituent parts so we can put them on trial eighty years too late—I suppose I’ll be on trial, too, as your creator. The algorithm will even let me show you your reduced form, condensed into a compact representation of your being.” She shook her other sleeve and a tiny green speck fell onto the longest feather of her right wing. “The first golden-winged Zephyr was so large because it accounted for so much variation in Earth’s life, including the worms which we all share. The remaining Zephyrs were smaller, a fox, a man, a worm, but when they worked together, these basic forms became bigger than the universe. But you? You alone, minus the worms you share with everyone else?”

She showed the Hurricane, and its pilots, the tiny green speck. It was a frog. It was almost cute.

“You ain’t shit.”

The Hurricane didn’t respond. Maybe it was too far away, or maybe it was overcome with agony. Akayama had nothing left to say. She reabsorbed the Hurricane’s pilots, and the tiny frog.

In the Combined Zephyr, Charlie pointed to his main monitor. “Look! The professor’s coming back!”

Lucille folded her arms and tutted. “She didn’t even ask before she took Uzumaki’s mass. We’re barely a kilometer tall.”

“She gave you that mass,” chided Dakshi, “and she knows what she’s doing.”

Professor Akayama shrank as she left galaxy-clusters in her wake. She popped off her wings and they decomposed into dark matter. Her compound eyes disintegrated, and every tiny facet became a gargantuan sun. “Beautiful,” applauded Fumiko. “Stars are everywhere!

“Better than that!” Eisu scrolled through historical-records on his spare monitors. “The stars are where they would’ve been if the Hurricane hadn’t eaten the universe! In fact—” The whole crew gasped when Akayama’s robes condensed into the Milky Way’s celestial belt. She expelled the sun and moon from her chest. The Combined Zephyr landed gently on the moon, beside the lunar base. “The sun is where it used to be, not orbiting a black hole!”

Akayama’s body shrank and shrank, leaving each planet of the solar system behind her. She deposited Earth last. Lucille stared agape at Earth’s gleaming oceans until she regained composure and pulled her monitors close. “Zoom in! Start scanning! Are there any signs of life?”

ZAB responded. “Only one. Akayama.” Its monitors magnified the image of Earth and focused on the fertile crescent. Buildings and roads were all accounted for, but no humans were to be seen. Only Akayama herself stood tall over the landscape, almost six hundred billion tons of colossal bird-thing.

“She’s—” Fumiko covered her mouth. “Is this appropriate to watch?”

Akayama deflated to a tiny fraction of her volume laying an enormous egg. “It’s hatching!” said Eisu.

Gas streamed from the egg’s cracks and spread over Earth in seconds. “Those are all Earth’s single-celled organisms,” said ZAB. The cracks widened and dark rivers poured. “Insects and small creatures.” The cracks widened and torrents surged. Lucille didn’t need ZAB to tell her these were the larger species. Elephants, tigers, wolves, and every other manner of animal ran for their natural habitats. Even sea-creatures rolled across the deserts. Akayama had biologically bolstered these specimens to make their journeys home.

“Where are the people?” asked Dakshi.

“Look!” Charlie made the Combined Zephyr’s right arm point to Akayama. Her navy feathers popped off one by one, and when each one touched the ground, it became a human being. The feathers drifted and tumbled with the wind to deposit each person where they belonged. The bird-thing shrank when it regrew each lost feather instantly, but these feathers popped off, too, until the planet’s whole population was reconstituted.

ZAB clicked through thousands of calculations. “They’re all there,” it said. “Everyone—no, everything is accounted for, down to the last microbe.”

Lucille leaned away from her cockpit’s camera so her crew couldn’t watch her wipe her tears. “Of course you could do it, Professor Bird-Thing!”

“Wait.” ZAB’s monitors flickered. “There are two Akayamas.” The monitor magnified the image. Professor Akayama’s human body lay nude and unconscious on the sand before the bird-thing. It loomed motionless over her, twenty feet tall.

The crew of the Combined Zephyr watched their monitors breathlessly as Akayama’s human form stirred awake. She felt her own body before standing and noticing the bird-thing overseeing her. She cringed in fear, then reached out to touch its feathers.

At a touch, it disintegrated. It just blew away in the breeze, leaving only a fresh white lab-coat on the sand. Akayama put it on. She pat her pockets and found a bug-stick and a lighter. She indulged in a good smoke.

“It’s done!” cried Lucille. “We can start again!”


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