Original Content Bought and Sold. Chapter 52, Arc 3

MyNameMeansBentNose

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I gotta admit, when there is lots of action, it's harder to write in general, and I've lost my backlog. If I didn't have Monday off, I might have found myself skipping the coming Wednesday post. I'll see if I can get myself situated a little better this weekend so I don't have to skip next Saturday instead. Bear with me guys, I'm not perfect by any means, but I'm workin' at it.

I think for my quality... and my sanity, the next arc and future projects are going to have to be a weekly release, or come with smaller chapters or in chapter parts. B&S is roughly set in it's chapter size, so that'll probably make it a weekly release in the future. I'll try and hold to the two per week schedule until this arc is done though.

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Previous | Beginning | Technology | Wiki | Next
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Chapter 52
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Hather growled in the back of his throat as they encountered another sealed door.

Causing the tower dataspace to crash didn’t have the expected result. Just another problem in a long line of problems.

He still didn’t understand just what problem the Humans had with him in the first place. Why visit this mess upon him?

Complaining aside, he had to slow them down, Wastad was tracking Strider of all people heading up the tower. If the Human was heading for the AI core like Wastad suspected, then that problem would need to be halted.

He considered his small collection. Hather was down the Monos body and his Veprutasian body. The Ytheon body was strong but too slow. The Kashto body was perhaps agile enough, but wouldn’t be able to keep up.

But there was another option that would do nicely. He split his attention, settling his awareness carefully through the dataspace to interface with the avatar. The process seemed to take longer than usual but perhaps he should have expected that with the mess he was dealing with. That portion of his mind settled into the stored body of the black pigmented Leralin.

The hissing of the storage pod reverberated in his ears, but just opening the eyes of the body was harder than expected. He shook his head and cracked those eyes open. The light in the storage room was dim, giving him a chance to adjust. His second instance stepped forward from the standing pod, landing heavily on the ground.

From there he began to stretch and flex his body. Warm up compounds were injected into his bloodstream and the limbs loosened up. He quickly donned the appropriate harness on the wall with the spare plasma rifle mounted limb. There was a twitch in the tendons of his left wing. That was new. Hather flapped his wings heavily, lifting slightly from the ground. The twitch remained. That was going to be annoying.

And then he was forced to stop at the exit of this room too. His real body punched the wall as his anger flared up. He left a small crater where his armoured fist had landed. Silently, he commanded the white Leralin operator… Oriash… it didn’t matter. She would open the doors while he pursued Strider.

That Human may be known well for the length of his stride, but Hather could fly. Given a clear path, the Human wouldn’t get away.

Back in his main body, he could hear Wastad quietly complain, “How can anyone move around like this?”

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Chase
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Chase booked it through the halls.

The only activity on the first level had been the fight he had left behind. Then he’d discovered the lift was disabled. Whether it was sealed or just broken thanks to the mess Otto claimed dataspace was in, he didn’t know.

Hatherkey’s office had been the second from the bottom. There was a ways to go.

He couldn’t even use the lift shaft as a way up. He wanted to test the limits of his Mote!

Then again, with how wide that tunnel looked on the map, that might not be feasible.

But even in space, there were stairs. In this tower, two sets on opposite sides. The map Otto had shared showed the stairwell was broken up, having purposefully not been built as a straight shot through the whole building. He came around another turn in the stairwell, the sixth level.

At the eigth level someone was waiting for him, or rather, something. A large turret stuck out of the wall before the landing that ended this stairwell. A double-barreled gun mounted into a dome waiting for tresspassers like him.

Chase ducked back, barely avoiding an almost solid stream of pulse shots. They didn’t melt their way through the wall behind Chase, but the heavy shuddering of impacts shook his bones even when he was out of sight. It still lit up his field like crazy and drew down his power.

He took a moment to gather himself, the heatsink warm on his chest.

He closed his eyes and asked. The Mote brought up a visualization of the stairwell and the turret waiting on the level just above. Chase ran through the simulation in his mind and planned his actions.

Parkour and Freerunning. It was such a new thing, the definition was blurred such that most people just thought they were the same thing. Maybe it was, but he had different definitions for the pair of them. Simple definitions as well. Parkour was planned, Free Running was not.

When things got dangerous, he much preferred Parkour. Free running was fun, but he wanted to keep running.

At his mental demand, the gun unlatched from his back as he reached up and grabbed it.

He bounced in place a couple times, took a couple deep breaths. Judging himself ready, Chase launched himself forward, the Mote providing an instant boost to speed with the leg augmentation and the boosters on his calves and lower back. Chase blasted up the stairs, taking several steps at a time. He jumped off the last step and hit the wall as the turret started firing again. He hit the wall at just enough angle to keep running along the wall instead of dropping to the stairs. With the improved speed and various booster jets from the Mote’s feet, legs, arms and torso supporting him as he ran, Chase was able to run directly up the side of the wall without having to bounce off to maintain his momentum.

Only the odd pulse shot actually hit his d-field this time, Chase rocketed up faster even than he expected, coming up on the turret even faster than he had expected. Years of practice and the ability to make a plan had his gun exactly where it needed to be, even as the turret spun to try and keep Chase in its sights, his plasma rifle was suddenly in point blank range. Several shots blasted through the body of the turret as Chase continued running around another corner to come out above the emplacement.

With a scattering of power and sparks, small explosions shook the inside of the turret and the barrels dropped. As the gun barrels hit the bottom of their arc, Chase landed in front of the door.

Well, that wasn’t going to be the last turret for sure. And the fight with Hatherkey’s goons and the Kraltnin were going to be right ahead.

He took another deep breath and pushed through the doorway.

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Kukrit
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The Human stumbled. Over nothing and for no reason.

A second Human came to Otto's aid. “You okay man?”

Otto shook his head and put the artificial hand of his on the second man's shoulder. “...Yeah, let's go, I don't know if we can catch up.”

“Gotcha, let's fuckin’ book it.”

The group of them started running.

Umbra waited with his rifle at the ready, but it was unlikely that he would be taking another shot like the one earlier that marked their involvement against Hatherkey’s second body. That fight had been somewhat frightening to watch. Hather had himself some augmented and armoured individuals. It didn’t matter. The Humans had made it through almost untouched.

The thing that had shaken him the most was the way the Human Otto had shifted from dataspace infiltration to combat. He had been doing a very good job at maintaining his territory despite the chaos of the system, even if it had been taking most of his attention. Then the Human switched to combat and the change in focus signalled the end of the engagement.

Kukrit realized he didn’t want to see this creature face to face. He might eventually win over the Human in a dataspace contest, but that didn’t do him any good if the Human could down him with a punch. And Otto was aware of the verbal triggers. This just made Kukrit even less inclined to help the biped realize exactly who he was. And the male most likely had an awareness of him if he had come through the Manifestation like Umbra described.

Just having the worm in the space risked the Human doing some basic addition and finding the correct result.

But if the Human was reviving the ship as Kukrit had been told, then that gave him an option later, there was no need to meet the Human now.

Kukrit pulled his awareness back to get an overview of the tower. The danger of actually meeting Otto aside, things here were really going pretty well for him. Wastad had tried to crash the AI core, and still hadn't quite realized the effort had stalled. With Chase on his way despite the obstacles that problem would soon be removed.

The Kraltnin were pushing further into the structure as well, though one door anyways. A group of Grey Kraltnin with clearly better gear had arrived and supplied the weaponry to force Hatherkey’s weakened guards back.

And as for Hatherkey. Kukrit found himself chuckling again. Every door ahead of the Humans and Chase were open. As long as they didn’t malfunction.

Hather had no such luxury!

The Humans might not be sure if they could catch up, but Kukrit would be surprised if they didn’t.

Kukrit shifted his awareness just in time to see the ‘naturally’ armoured fist of Hather’s true brute body smash into another sealed door.

His two operators quickly went to work. It wasn’t just Hather of course. He had joined up with that red Kraltnin, his Vep operator, the two white Leralin, picked up a female Veprutasian and a scattering of now terrified slaves. One of those slaves, a Ytheon, carried the Hyowean. Quite a find for Hather, that one.

… If Kukrit could steal her, he would. He just needed a chance.

The white birds and the rest of the slaves hadn’t an idea of just what Hather really was it seemed. They still watched him with visible fear.

With both the Leralin and the Veprutasian Operators digging at the door, Kukrit backed off. The largest part of his success thus far was in being unnoticed. The Human could know Kukrit was here, just not who he was. He wanted Otto to succeed after all.

They finished removing Kukrit’s worm from the door and it slid open, clearing the way forward. Until the next door.

Kukrit watched closely. He’d already picked out his next target, but the timing had to be right.

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Chase
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The first thing he saw was a corpse. A blue-furred Kashto, the weasel splayed out with his head bent backwards at a bad angle. The hall was scarred with dents and the odd plasma burn. Light weapons fire seemed to be the weapon of choice for the battle.

Chase tucked his rifle away so it wouldn’t mess up his gait. Again it latched to his back with a click.

He pelted his way around the tower through the curved hallways. Whichever side he went, he was going to be crossing right through the fight. The odd door branched off to one side or the other, one door was forced open and he could hear shouting and the sizzling of projectiles flying back and forth.

He didn’t slow down enough to know any more than that.

Around the bend was the real fight. He came up and the hallways opened up into a lobby of sorts. On his left was a long counter which opened up in two spots to lead further into the center of the tower.

Several of Hatherkey’s goons were lined up with those deployable d-field beacons he didn’t see often and a large collection of weapons. The one that drew his attention first was a Ytheon holding a square-shaped weapon that thumped as it fired. He was using a concusser.

Along the right side was the wide entrance that yawned into the transport tube, or at least it would if the whole area wasn't blocked up. The hover vehicles were parked and piled up in such a way for the passengers to get out in relative safety and then use the mass of all the hovers as cover.

At various points the Kraltnin would pop up and take shots, unwilling to fully jump out and join the bodies already littered across the floor.

Chase hadn’t stopped to look, he was running as fast as he could.

“Strider!” A voice yelled.

“It’s Strider!”

Well, at least he had fans.

Weapons fire from the Kraltnin ceased for a minute. Just as he’d hoped since Chase had angled his way closer to Hatherkey’s thugs on purpose.

A couple of those thugs turned and fired at Chase, revealing their lack of decent aiming packages. Shots flew far and wide, only a couple hitting his field as he closed in.

One Veprutasian panicked and tossed his gun into the air and ducked out of Chase’s way as he approached. He wasn’t looking to hit or hurt anyone here though.

There was a flash of sparks as Chase ran into the field of the beacon. He snatched up the tripod and hucked it at the Kraltnin as he ran. The second beacon he held onto, he had a use for that. The Ytheon with the concusser turned the larger weapon on Chase, only to receive some head trauma in return.

The beacon fizzled and popped, not meant to be used as a club.

He let the smashed beacon go just in time to grab the third, picking it up and throwing it haphazardly towards the Kraltnin again.

The fourth beacon he just took with him as he retreated from the confused and suddenly panicking defenders. He’d just taken away their defence after all.

He was able to discard the beacon shortly, once again running as fast as he could. His stride opened up as he realized there was more to his run with the Mote boosting each step. Chase could hear the subtle puff of flame and atmosphere with every fluid boost. The suit didn’t fire constantly, just adding small little boosts exactly where Chase wanted them.

It felt amazing.

As he ran, Chase realized he was wearing a manic grin.

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Otto
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They had to follow in Chase’s footsteps, the lift was disabled along with the tower space being compromised. In general at least. There was another staircase, but this one was closer.

He had reconnected for a moment to suggest Leeroy vacate the lower level. The old gentleman had backed out and moved to hide in the tunnel for the time being. That made the hover van a potential escape car with the engine running. An escape they all hoped they didn’t have to use.

The reached the stairwell, Mike was first up, followed by Tank. Otto followed, but he couldn’t concentrate.

Otto had never forgotten where Tsury found the means to create a Human body. She might not be related by birth, but thanks to Otto she was now related by blood. But the errant thought that had hit him a minute ago had triggered something deeper.

His sister. His mind was in chaos. Before he couldn’t even remember if it was his sister he’d forgotten, but that detail had wormed its way out. It had triggered memories of someone he still recalled quite clearly.

He still couldn't remember her name, but Otto could remember how she died. It was a fight, a stupid fight where he willingly forced her away and into the hands of her killer.

For all that Otto wished he could forget his father, that was unlikely to ever happen.

What hurt the most, in its ironic sort of way, was that he never got to see. He didn’t see how it happened, there was nothing left to mourn. And the person who was at fault came out of it with some simple scrapes and no further harm.

And no visible improvement to his personality.

“Fuckin’ move it!” Daniel swore from behind. Otto jumped and picked up his pace as they thudded their way up the stairwell. He had to shake his head to try and jar the thoughts that were dragging him down loose. He had other dangerous and more immediate things to worry about.

Around another spiral of stairs, Mike started swearing. “Shit, he’s clearing the way! I thought he didn’t like fightin’!” The brother only paused for a moment though, continuing on his way.

Otto was impressed with the sight as well. The double barrel gun turret had popped out of the wall and the dents Otto had registered as he came up showed it to be a sort of rapid-fire pulse weapon. Baseline pulse weapons hurt, but wouldn’t kill. This one would probably have beaten one of them to a pulp given half a chance.

But it had fared very poorly. Not without trying of course, the impacts on the wall traced something of a line. But the scorch marks from the little Mote boosters told the story. Chase had ran the wall itself, not even touching the stairs as he came around the corner, regular patches of black marked the path all the way around the sidewall approaching the turret up to where he must have jumped off. Chase had shot the turret almost directly from above. ‘Didn’t like to fight,’ the guy said.

Still, there were going to be more turrets.

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Chase
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The second round worked just as well as the first.

He ran his way around the corner and up the wall, arriving above the turret and firing through the body of the emplacement. It popped and fizzled as the components within burned away under the temporary but intense heat of the plasma shot.

The turret at the bottom of the stairwell had been troublesome, not actually popping out until he’d stepped past the thing. And it snapped out damn quick. He’d had to book it around the corner.

Landing on the ground before the door, the gun latched as he settled it into the clamp and holster on his back. Chase then reached for the door… and it opened itself.

Before him stood a black bird. For a moment the sight stunned him. But mostly because it wasn’t a Veprutasian he was looking at. The Veps had a combined arm and wing. This bird had them separate. A Leralin. His taloned hand had reached for the control pad on the side of the door and the other hand held a light rifle with a rounded body that marked it as a plasma rifle as opposed to the blocky square design pulse weapons had. Chase had seen a few Leralin, it was odd seeing the spot on his cheeks as brighter than the rest of his feathers. It was usually the other way around.

The Leralin apparently hadn’t expected Chase either. It also stood stunned as their eyes met.

Chase acted first, but only just barely.

He lashed out with a punch, moments before the Leralin brought up a taloned hand.

The straight punch won out in terms of speed over the arcing slash the Leralin had to use. The armoured fist of the Mote protected Chase’s hand from the impact against the bird’s hooked beak. The simple crest of the Leralin flopped forward as the bird recoiled backwards. Even as he stepped back, his wings snapped outwards as he tried to maintain his balance.

Chase ducked under the left wing and ran before more talons could be put into play. He knew what had put those scars on Otto’s face.

He could hear the sound of stumbling and flapping behind him. “I’ll have you ripped open Strider!”

Chase had enjoyed the luxury of shared space with enforcement, and then for a short moment with Otto and the rest. But just because he was separated, didn’t mean he didn’t have that luxury anymore. It was just to a much smaller degree. He could feel the helmet on his head shift as it retracted from his head and turned to watch.

The share of the Mote first arrived in a vague sort of sensory fog. Chase simply had an awareness of things. The first piece of information to coalesce was the weapon limb the Leralin was using. The second was that weapon being aimed at Chase’s head. Chase zigged left and the weapon followed, he zigged right and it remained trained on him. He repeated the action again and then hesitated before doing it a third time. Instead of moving to the side, he feinted bobbing his upper body slightly in the direction he’d zigged the past two times. A pulse of light and a hissing projectile through that space showed the wisdom of the action.

The Mote didn’t know when the Leralin was going to fire before, but a sudden warning nudged Chase to drop and roll forward. Another plasma bolt flew through where his chest had been a moment before. Coming to his feet with minimal loss of speed, Chase continued running the hallways, coming up on the corner that would lead to the central lift of the tower. His map noted a single stairwell near the lift, spiralling upwards to the top of the tower.

He frowned as the Mote gave him a mental nudge, reminding Chase of his d-field. He still wasn’t fully used to having the gadget to protect himself… Then again, power was a concern. He didn’t know how long he could run both the field and the support boosters…

“Your name will be ‘Booster’,” Chase mentally told his Mote. For a moment Booster’s attention faltered, and Chase could feel a distinct note of pleasure. Then it snapped out another warning.

Chase jumped to the right in response to the little alert. A bolt of plasma zipped past him and melted into the wall.

“How!?” The Leralin shrieked in annoyance.

Chase finally came around the corner, but instead of taking a hard turn he ran up the far wall, the unexpected path throwing off the aim of his pursuer again. The was a squawk of annoyance as the boosters of his Mote pushed him against the wall for longer than he would have been able to carry on normally. When he felt himself about to drop he pushed off and flipped sideways to land heavily on the ground. It took a moment to gather himself before he took off sprinting again.

The Mote was learning Chase realized. And it was sharing its own impressions, if only slightly. The vision of the Mote reached into the thermal and infrared. It could see the barrel of the light plasma rifle heat up when it was firing. And the Mote’s understanding of that sign was near instant.

As for movement, Booster was getting better at reading the moment Chase needed the little extra the jets could provide.

The gun was put away, the bird, unable to turn so quick in the tight space, had hit the wall behind Chase. From there he launched himself off the wall with strong legs and flapped to try and catch up. Now it was a speed contest. Chase lengthened his stride. It wasn’t long until the rifle came out again, bolts of plasma firing his way.

The Leralin began varying his pattern of fire, leading less or more, firing in odd patterns to avoid being predictable. If Chase didn’t have split-second reaction timing, he’d have been perforated by one of the first shots. Instead, he had to keep dancing.

Chase could see the door for the lift ahead of him, and it was open.

The Leralin threw a curve-ball at him.

“[Freeze!] [------]”

Chase didn’t have his audio blocked. He tumbled, falling on his side and rolling as he hit the floor. He ended up rolling sideways and fetching up against the wall. His body was splayed out awkwardly against the wall. Chase was facing away from the ceiling and into the oh so exciting floor. He could hear the pursuer land, then saunter his way over to Chase.

“Ah, that’s better, I will enjoy personally wiping you out of existence, even if this is not my own body.”

The vision of the Mote bloomed into his awareness. It awkwardly tried to move Chase, but the little drone was made to move with him, not for him. The result was little more than awkward flopping and a bit of skidding when the Mote tried to use the boosters to move them. It wasn’t enough and the Bird arrived, standing overtop Chase with his limb mounted rifle resting comfortably on his shoulder, trained on Chase.

“I never did like you Humans, if I-”

“You idiot, turn on your noise cancelling, [Release] [------].”

Chase reflexively did as he was told, turning the noise cancelling trait of the headphones on. Hatherkey wasn’t done talking, but Chase couldn’t hear him anymore. Hather didn’t realize there was anything to worry about until Chase kicked a foot out from under the bird.

Even as he kicked, Chase rolled to his feet. A good plan since the kicked leg simply gave way while the bird’s other foot just pushed off and with a steady flap, the bird was comfortably balanced again. That foot had talons too, Chase didn’t want to be in the range of those knives.

But that wasn’t all, as he came to his feet a couple point blank shots of plasma fired out again, just barely missing Chase thanks to the upsetting of Hatherkey’s posture. Chase could feel a patch of heat on his thigh that was likely burnt. Then he was up and running again.

‘Who was that?’ Chase thought to himself, then his attention shifted again. The lift door was open. The bird chased him again, but Chase needed a few moments to regain his speed. His d-field caught more shots, splashes of plasma arcing around the field into his sight. He was suddenly overcome with gratitude for the defence. His mind quickly moved to the next thing though.

That lift was approaching, the open door yawning before him.

Why was that open?

It didn’t matter. Again he pushed for speed.

The flapping of wings behind him was not falling behind. There was a scream of avian anger though.

Chase asked a question of the Mote riding in the back of his mind and received a nervous confirmation. He would only have one try at this.

He arrived at the center of the tower and jumped into the wide lift tube. Several people could stand arms outstretched, there was enough room. Normally he wouldn’t even consider what he was about to do. Chase jumped from the threshold of the entry door into the empty lift tube. The Mote head confirmed what Chase had thought, the lift had dropped down.

Chase hit the far wall with arms and feet, momentarily sticking to the wall like a spider, but his hands and feet wouldn’t hold him there. He pushed off sideways with a supporting boost from his Mote.

He started running up the lift tube wall. The jets on his Mote kept him attached, his power drained.

He did know something about flying. There were two factors, height and speed. Simply put, they could be traded back and forth, but to ascend without either was a problem.

Hatherkey entered the tube behind him and screeched again.

Shots fired upwards, most zipping past, but more than a few hitting his field from below.

Chase bled speed as he reached up for his own rifle. He almost lost it at that moment, a foot slipped but an extra thrust from a booster mounted in the small of his back kept him stable.

Chase didn’t have time to grab the rifle properly, he’d never be able to aim like this. That wasn’t Chase’s intention. He had another plan. He didn’t even have time tto adjust to a proper grip, he held it by the stock as he continued scaling the lift tube, spiralling upwards, puffs of boosters matching his every step.

Chase’s breath rasped and his legs were straining. He’d never run like this for more than a few moments. It normally wasn’t at all possible for him to scale a wall like this! But because he wasn’t running in a straight line, that bird was going to catch up.

Shots continued to zip past him or splash off the deviation field. If that bird wasn’t using a light rifle to offset the need to fly, He’d be in a lot of trouble right now.

The screeching had stopped, but the flaps were getting close. Chase spared a moment to glance at the bird and decided he was close enough. As he ran the arm holding the rifle curled up and on the backswing he physically threw the gun at Hatherkey.

Mentally, Hatherkey didn’t see it coming. Physically, he saw it all too well. The gun smacked him in the shoulder and fouled the bird’s rise. Hatherkey lost his wing beat and started to spiral and fall.

Chase’s resulting grin was both mean and satisfied.

Hatherkey fell past the entrance, but he didn’t lose his rifle. Hard to lose something attached to a harness Chase mused. The distance was detrimental to the aim of that rifle at least.

Then Chase was given a choice. He wasn’t going to make it quite to the top… unless…

He let the Mote deactivate his d-field module. The door at the top of the tube slid open as he approached.

He hadn’t even considered that problem, and yet it was no problem at all it seemed. It was that voice.

“I will kill you Human!” The Leralin shouted from below. More shots of plasma, still inaccurate with the odd angle, distance and the difficult flapping motion Hatherkey had to use in order to ascend. A shot clipped his left shoulder. Another sizzled across his left foot as he pushed himself along the wall.

His leg was burning now. It was going to feel like jello after this.

The strain and effort started to blur the world around him, all he could see was the door, then just the wall in front of him as he spiralled upwards.

Then the door again.

A bolt of plasma passed by his face, radiating momentary heat like a miniature sun.

His legs, would he make it?

The door again, it was so close!

More plasma, more screeching.

Move those feet.

He almost choked at the last moment, running in a circle he hadn’t accounted for coming at the opening from a side angle. Ideally, and in a more compact environment, he would have leaped across from the opposite side of the tunnel. Instead, he almost lost his footing. He almost fell.

As Chase began to pass the opening an arm caught the far side of the door jamb and he was able to just hold on. He threw his far arm across his body to try and find some purchase.

He was hanging sideways out of this doorway, just barely maintaining his grip, panic lit up in his gut.

One last concerted boost from Booster’s leg jets pushed Chase up and over the threshold. Chase rolled passed the door and flopped onto his back.

The Mote was left with a whisper of power. For all that Chase would never have done that by himself, now he was going to be carrying a burden. For the moment, Chase couldn’t muster the strength to even get up.

Then, like a gift from the heavens, the door slid shut.

He was treated to one last screech from Hatherkey.

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End Chapter
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Previous | Beginning | Technology | Wiki | Next
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