Monday, April 29, 2013

Finnegan's Awake, 2 (Seal Team i)

Seal Team i protects the multiverses from threasts both large and small.  And they appear in serialized stories like this one!

Our story so far: The only thing you missed is PART ONE, where Ditto Joyce got killed and mangled and then threatened to take a small planet and make it careen around the universe aimlessly, destroying everything in its path. So Seal Team i is on its way to get him!  Feel like starting at the beginning? Read part one here.

Part Two: Everybody hurts.

Negative Jimmy stared out the window, Ditto's message still playing in his mind, and, no doubt, the rest of the team's, as well.

"Anything yet?" he asked the pilot, who shook his head but didn't say anything.  They watched, together, as the galaxy flowed by, the planets and star systems suddenly winking into existence and then disappearing, this universe in stop-motion animation, their battle cruiser flying by things at a rate faster than their eyes could keep up with, causing the flickering sights.

Negative Jimmy didn't have to tell the pilot to keep him posted.  He knew the man would.  He sat back down, checking the readouts on his battle armor before uploading the latest intel on to his vidscreen and trying to sort out who might really be behind this.  While it was not unheard for Seal Team i members to go insane -- the things they see, the forces they must face, every day!-- it was unheard of for anyone to mangle their bodies as thoroughly as Ditto's had been, leading the team to suspect that Ditto was being used by someone.

But who?

Jimmy flicked through the possibilities sent him by HQ, considering each one.  The readouts on the screen monitored what each of his team was doing, as well. Most of them were doing what he was: preparing for the mission, getting up to speed, checking their suits.

But one.

"Tommy! What's up with your reads?" Negative Jimmy barked into his mike.

There was no answer.  A few flicks of his eyes and he was keyed into what Tommy was watching.

It was a black screen.

"Tommy! Tommy! Report," Negative Jimmy spoke urgently.  When Tommy didn't report on the private channel, Jimmy stood up again from his seat and made his way back to the other half of the troop carrier, through the blast door that separated them, past the four command crew that sat up front with him and the pilot and to the regular shock troops, enlisted men, who made the bulk of this squad.

About 10 of the men looked up at him as he entered, pausing in their preparations.

"Sir," the man nearest said.  Negative Jimmy waved his salute away.

"Sarge," he said, and motioned back to the far left corner, where a man sat slumping, a bit, in his battle armor.

Negative Jimmy flicked his eyes around again, manipulated his finger sensor gloves, and an alert went out ot the three nearest men to him.  Silently, they armed their suits while Negative Jimmy and Sarge walked back to the slumping battle suit.

Tommy, the man in the suit, didn't react to them at all as they approached.  Jimmy's vidscreen in his helmet showed message after message to Tommy's suit and readouts that seemed appropriate -- oxygen okay, pressure okay, and so on -- and about four feet away the two Seals stopped.

"Tommy," Jimmy said into his mike.

No response.

"Take it over," he said on a private link.  Sarge nodded and Jimmy saw a bluish glow on the other man's suit, and a bluish glow on Tommy's suit.

"Not responding," Sarge said.

"Sir," said the pilot over a different private link, as Negative Jimmy and Sarge reached over towards Tommy's suit, together, the bluish glow of the puppet-link dancing between their hands now.  "Sir, there's something," the pilot went on as Jimmy's hand touched Tommy's suit.


Not that far away, as universes go, a seething mass of tentacles shifted, slightly.

The seething mass had grown cramped, a bit, nestled into the absurdly cramped quarters it had chosen.


The ship suddenly rocked off to the left as Negative Jimmy pulled up Tommy's suit and stared into the vid screen.

Tommy's face was there, but slack, blank, white.  His eyes stared dully at Jimmy and Sarge, no comprehension or even reaction in them.

"What the--" Jimmy said but the ship took another evasive maneuver as he did so and the pilot spoke over the general link.

"Comets. And lots of 'em.  Don't understand it.  We're too far from the outer reaches..." he broke off as the ship pulled back and Jimmy heard auto-fired cannons blasting.  He didn't need to give orders; this was standard stuff and everyone knew their jobs. The boots of his battlesuit linked to the floor, letting him stand upright even in G-maneuvers, and he worked his gloves to try to establish direct control of Tommy's suit, which appeared to be offline.

"Sarge, see if you can't," Jimmy said, as the ship banked right and then down, the g-forces pulling and twisting him and Sarge, who both remained rooted, but also heaving Tommy's deadweight body up and into them, the battle suit carrying enough inertia that they both fell and Tommy flew past them, banging against two other Seals who were still strapped in.

Over the general link a few expletives came at the same time as the pilot spoke "Brace!" and the ship shuddered as one of the comets got past the covering fire.  The ship sped up -- Jimmy could feel the engines pulsing, and he turned to the enlisted men.

"Grab him," he said, and the men held Tommy's suit motionless.  Jimmy and Sarge stepped over to it and Jimmy reached down to open the young man's helmet.


"Try..." said a voice that one would ordinarily not associate with a seething mass of tentacles, in that most people do not expect a seething mass of tentacles to have a British accent, "...a solar flare."

The tentacles shifted again, slightly.  They were just flexing themselves, though.  All the work was done by voice command.

And by the tentacles' assistants, who were very well-paid.


"Tommy," Jimmy said into his mike again and the Seal's helmet popped open in response to the electrical charge from the fingertips of Jimmy's gloves.  "Tommy!" Jimmy said again, and leaned down.  Tommy's eyes still did not focus.  All the readouts on his suit read just fine on Jimmy's screen, but Jimmy bent down himself and looked closer.

Then Jimmy said open quietly and his own helmet retracted its visor.  He put his face close to Tommy's.

"He's not breathing," Jimmy said.

"His readings," Sarge muttered.

"I know what they say," Jimmy said.

"OH SHIT!" came on the pilot link.  "SHIELDS UP FULL FRONT."

The ship careened wildly as Jimmy wondered what they were evading now.  The autofire guns stopped and he could feel the body of their troop carrier twisting wildly,  no doubt to avoid the comets, while also speeding up, even more than it had been, the engines throbbing.

Jimmy ignored them.  The pilot could do his job.  He put his face right up next to Tommy's.

"We've got to get this helmet off," he said.  "Get the life support tech gear," and another man leapt up and began opening the small backpack with extra gear.

Jimmy used the electrical chargers again, loosening the helmet.

The ship felt warmer.

"Report," he said, his eyes touching briefly on the pilot icon.

"Solar flare," the pilot's voice said.

"Will we miss it?"


Jimmy concentrated on his task. The helmet was coming off.


"Will it miss them?" the tentacles inquired.

"Yes," the assistant said.

"Good," the tentacles said.


Jimmy got the helmet off, and as he pulled it he realized with a shock that Tommy's head was no longer attached to Tommy's body.  He held up the helmet, with the younger man's head still in it, still staring lifelessly at him, and looked, aghast, for just a second, before his training took over.

"Lockdown" he said.

That's when Tommy's head started screaming.



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