“This is it!” said Lucille, at the control-panel of Zephyr-Alpha-Blue. “It’s now or never!”
When Lucille pulled levers, ZAB sent signals to Charlie and Daisuke, who directed the Galaxy Zephyr’s arms wielding the Wheel. When she stomped metal pedals, ZAB sent signals to the bird-like pilot of Zephyr-Alpha-Purple, who relayed them to Eisu and Fumiko to direct the Galaxy Zephyr’s legs into battle-stance. In total, Lucille led ten thousand pilots plus a principle component of Earth’s population which gave her giant robot sixteen wings. The Galaxy Zephyr was countless light-years tall, but it was barely bigger than the Enemy Hurricane’s fist descending over them.
“Bird-thing!” she shouted. “We need another Zephyr from the Wheel for our Hurricane Armor! We need to pull the Chain!”
“We can’t!” said the bird-pilot of ZAP. “Something’s wrong!”
“We don’t have time!” said Lucille. “This is the end, one way or the other! What did you bumble and how do I fix it?”
The bird-pilot stammered. “It’s complicated! My cosmic plan is falling apart! Humanity’s unwillingness to work together just ate humanity’s understanding of reality’s interconnectedness!”
“…And that’s bad, I take it?”
“It was supposed to be the other way around! Nakayama can’t collect the last of humanity like this!”
“…Nakayama?” Lucille tssk’d. “Your cosmic plan was too complicated if you’ve gotta keep making new names and talking in the third-person, Hakase. The buck stops here! If the Chain won’t work, the Galaxy Zephyr will reach into the Wheel and collect the Zephyrs manually.”
Charlie and Daisuke appeared on Lucille’s monitors. “Commander,” said Charlie, “we’ve been slinging this Wheel around for a while, but we’ve got no clue what’s going on inside it!”
“Failure is not an option,” said Daisuke. “Akayama—Rather, Nakayama—Rather, the professor, in whatever form she’s in—has given us a great and complicated tool. We can’t risk damage to it or us by reaching into it out of ignorance.”
The Wheel cracked and stopped spinning. Its hazy green color split into a yellow side and a blue side. Nakayama was ejected from the Wheel into the Galaxy Zephyr’s Hurricane Armor; she deposited herself in Zephyr-Alpha-Purple, reuniting with the bird-pilot. “It’s ruined!” she cried.
“That great and complicated tool just collapsed on itself.” Lucille twisted a dial and Daisuke begrudgingly prepared the Galaxy Zephyr’s left hand to reach into the Wheel. “Let’s loot it for parts.”
“There are pilots in that hand, Lucille,” Charlie chided. “Speak seriously before you send them into a minefield.”
“On your order, Commander,” said Daisuke. Lucille nodded and the Galaxy Zephyr’s left hand entered the Wheel’s side. The Wheel was two-dimensional, but the Galaxy Zephyr somehow inserted its arm deeper than the elbow. “Oh no. Oh, no!”
“What is it?” asked Lucille, but before Daisuke could answer, the left arm was sucked shoulder-deep into the Wheel. The whole Galaxy Zephyr contorted and spun. “What the hell!”
“It’s flipping the Zephyrs inside-out!” said Daisuke. “It’s—”
He couldn’t explain before the entire Galaxy Zephyr was sucked into the Wheel. After much shaking and spinning, all ten-thousand pilots lay bruised and battered on a sandy red desert-planet with a mustard yellow sky. The Galaxy Zephyr itself was gone.
Lucille tried to stand, but couldn’t. Born on the moon, she wasn’t accustomed to such gravity. “Charlie! Daisuke! Professor!” She didn’t see them in her valley between dunes. “Eisu! Fumiko!” No sign. The few pilots around her wore different-colored bodysuits—the Galaxy Zephyr’s multi-colored crew had been thoroughly mixed. Lucille crawled to the most injured pilot near her while activating her bodysuit’s built-in communicator. “Charlie, Daisuke, Professor! Eisu! Fumiko! Report!”
Her comm clicked. It roared like a storm. “Run!” said Charlie.
“It’s too late to run!” said Daisuke. “Cover your mouth!”
“I’m sorry!” said Akayama. “I’m sorry!”
“What are you talking about?” asked Lucille, but she soon knew. The yellow sky melted black and outrageous winds whisked her and her crew miles and miles over the dunes. The swirling sand suffocated her. “Don’t let it separate us!” She wasn’t sure if her shout was audible through the unstoppable typhoon, or even through her communicator, but when her body slammed against another pilot, she grabbed them and they sailed through the air together.
When the wind died down, Lucille and her ten thousand pilots hit the sand rolling. “Aaugh!” Lucille grabbed her arm. Her shoulder had dislocated. “Shit! Are you okay?”
The pilot she’d collided with was a boy in a lime-green bodysuit. He didn’t respond to her; he was agape at the sky.
Lucille flipped on her back. The sky, once yellow and then black, had turned red—the same red as the sand. The Enemy Hurricane was watching over them with too many eyes, grinning with too many mouths. It was holding their Hurricane Planet with too many hands, and when it shook that planet like a snow-globe, the wind restarted. Lucille flew away from the boy in lime-green until the wind stopped and she hit the sand rolling again.
The planet’s thrashing was hellish, but Lucille’s stomach really turned when she considered how survivable it was. She could barely breathe, but she could breathe enough. The sand was soft and deep. The constant winds made pilots roll when they landed. The Enemy Hurricane wasn’t doing this to kill them. It was doing this for fun.
After hours of uncontrollable tumbling, the wind stopped and the pilots hit the sand rolling for a final time. Lucille was surprised by a voice from the sand beside her. “Boo!”
“Whoa!” She scurried from a mouth the size of a manhole-cover which smiled up at her sadistically. “Are—Are you the professor’s Hurricane? The Hurricane which made the Galaxy Zephyr’s armor?”
“That traitorous Hurricane has been assimilated and homogenized,” said the mouth. “You’ll wish you could join it. Your giant robot has been obliterated. You’ll wish you could join it, too.”
Lucille struggled to sit up. “Do your worst.”
She heard screams over the nearest dune. “…Charlie?” She crawled toward the screams quickly as she could. The sand beneath her churned and flowed uphill; the Hurricane was speeding her along to the scream’s source. The mouth followed, giggling gleefully. “Charlie!”
Charlie’s legs were replaced with teeth which chewed his body and each other in high-pitched cacophony. “Huuaaaaugh!” When he tried to shove the teeth away, the teeth ate his arms. Soon his whole body was a ball of screeching teeth.
“Charlie!” Lucille slid down the dune to be with the tooth-ball. “What did you do to him?”
The mouth just smiled. Lucille went pale when she heard another scream over another dune—this one definitely Daisuke. And another scream. And another. And more. “All your friends are screeching teeth now,” said the Enemy Hurricane.
“And I’m next?” Lucille guessed. The mouth chuckled and returned to red sand. “…And I’m next!” she demanded. “You can’t—You can’t torture them but not me! I’m the Commander!” She screamed at the sky. “I’m supposed to face the worst of it!”
The sky’s eyes tilted with joy. Lucille curled into a ball and cried.
“Commander?” Daisuke snapped his fingers over her head. “Commander!”
Lucille opened her eyes. She knew she shouldn’t sleep during important video-calls, but extended time alone in the moonbase with Daisuke left her perpetually beleaguered. She stretched and wiped drool from her chin. “Sorry. What did I miss?”