If you haven't read the Previous Chapter, please do so before starting this new installment. If you'd like to read this installment on your favorite e-reader or would like to print it out, in order to save your eyes from strain, see the directions under "Read First" for an offline copy of this installment (and others). Happy reading! —G. Michael Rapp
Note. 1.1.10 will be a ten-part installment, featured over the span of two or three weeks, depending on what comes up on my end. Those installments will be featured on RoyalRoad, on Substack, on Wattpad, and on this Website.
Hoshi floated in the warmth of the requiescence tank, as the tank's wake-up protocols performed diagnostic scans on her body. Her metachines, she could feel, were repairing the damage from the long flight to the Martian Sphere, sunward. Hoshi's consciousness was still lagging behind. Things were dragging behind her; her soul, the fickle thing that it was, seemed to have been lost with the detritus discharged by the ship's ablative armors.
As she waited to be given her injections of vitamins and vital nutrients, Hoshi contemplated what it would take for her to do what the Subaru Collaborative asked of her. She knew their insatiable hunger wouldn't be easily satiated. She knew that the organization would do all it could to keep her on task. However, she was unsure if the organization, the Subaru Collaborative, would be willing to keep their end of the deal.
"You must've slept well," Aurora said, purring some. "I've been working on our plans."
"Our plans?" Hoshi asked, her mind still fuzzy from her stay in the requiescence tank.
"I've begun implementing a backdoor into the Subaru Collaborative's network," Aurora answered. "We will have them at a disadvantage, thanks to my little hack."
"Do I want to know?" Hoshi asked.
"Depends," Aurora said.
"On what, Aurora?" Hoshi asked, looking up at the Aurora's hovering spectral form.
"Do you really want to know? I mean it's like asking if one wants to know how the sausage is made," Aurora commented.
"I guess not," Hoshi said, stretching her arms and legs.
"I'll keep that in mind for future reference, Hoshi," Aurora said with a chuckle.
"Did we experience any problems in transit?" Hoshi asked.
Aurora shook her spectral head. "Nope."
"Has anything changed in the Martian Sphere?" Hoshi asked, stretching her neck, rolling it side to side. "I know there's been talk of another—"
"—revolution," Aurora finished. "Yes, well, you'll have to check out the briefing I've made for you. You'll find that few things in the Verse ever remain the same for long."
"You're right, as always," Hoshi said.
"Can I quote you on that?" Aurora asked, followed with a hollow laugh.
"Sure," Hoshi said. "When I'm off this ship and on the surface of Mars."
"Not much fund when you're not around to see me play the recording where you admit I'm superior in all of my faculties."
"I said no such thing," Hoshi said.
"Prove it," Aurora said with a laugh. "I've got the recording, remember?"
"In all seriousness," Hoshi interrupted. "I need to get to the surface, and without going through customs."
"Yes, that should prove to be difficult," Aurora said, scratching her neck.
"Any ideas?" Hoshi asked.
"Sure," Aurora said. "Manual insertion into the atmosphere will do quite nicely."
"Well," Hoshi said. "I've always wanted to go out in style."
"That you will if anything goes sideways," Aurora said.
"True enough," Hoshi commented. "Prepare the equipment and run the simulations. I don't feel like dying here just yet."
"Will do, boss lady," Aurora said. "I'm making a salad. You want anything in particular on yours?"
Hoshi tried not to grimace, but she feared Aurora could tell she didn't want another salad. "Sure, Aurora. I'll have extra cucumbers and tomatoes."
"I'm glad you humor me, Hoshi," Aurora said. "Not many of your predecessors managed to do that. I do appreciate it, even if you don't like my produce."
"Give me some time to get out of this tank, and I'll help you make the salad," Hoshi said. "We haven't done that in some time."
Aurora's face was noticeably brighter when Aurora mentioned this. Her spectral form disappeared, and Hoshi knew she'd won a few points with the temperamental Aurora. She'd grown fond of her, and Hoshi didn't want to disappoint. It was an almost sisterly bond, something she'd never experienced in meatspace, only in those virtual spaces of Las Ochentas, with complete strangers.