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author: hazard_us ([livejournal.com profile] hazard_us)
email: scorpio_kaur [at] yahoo.com

"Orion Guard! Stand aside!" Doria yelled. The translator in her throat groaned under the strain of getting her words out properly. "Get out of the way!"

Pirda was just ahead of her, leaping over Eoihjfeun civilians and soldiers, trying to get to the shaft. She'd dropped the mimicry of the bipedal natives and was now in her true form, all legs and arms, with joints akimbo, like a spider drawn by a drugged out artist.

Two very keen Eoihjfeun enforcers got eviscerated for their troubles when they got in Pirda's way.

Doria pulled out her kinetic pistols at hip-height and squeezed the triggers, hoping she'd been on planet long enough for the technology to adjust to the gravity. The kinetic beam caught the soldiers around the waist and with one smooth wrist movement, she tossed them aside. They were thrown into the air, like bugs being flicked off an arm. They weren't going to feel good tomorrow, but their insides would remain inside.

Without the guards, though, Pirda had the opening she needed. The Xalaxian leapt into her goal, the shaft, that floated three feet in the air, seemingly unsupported by anything. Her limbs lengthened behind her like a squid, her claws the last to disappear into the black. Doria ran faster and jumped headfirst after her quarry.

Jumping headfirst into anything was not recommended by the medical community at large, with 'at large' including most of the known universe. Unfortunately, humanity (that is the humanity that issued from the Leeward 09 solar system, third planet from the sun) found jumping headfirst into and at things remarkably easy. It was considered a design flaw in their biological makeup by the rest of the sentient creatures who were born with their nerve clusters surrounded by numerous cushiony appendages or were at least smart enough to grow chitinous armor around them.

Yet Doria jumped headfirst into the black hole anyway, as she didn't have the time to waste. Her quarry had made the plunge half a second before her, but depending on the vagaries of shaft-travel, Pirda might exit the shaft hours ahead of her. With that kind of lead time, Pirda would go to ground for good and her shape-mimicking abilities would make her nigh-invisible in the universe. Doria might never find her quarry again.

It was pitch-dark and somewhere behind her, the planet Eoihjfeu disappeared. In the black, Doria felt the strange push-pull of the shaft compensator as it eased her into the actual shaft that would rocket her across the universe. Going from moving very slowly to the speed of light would tear atoms apart, and so the compensator was invented; just another level of innovation that had to be thought up after a few very messy shaft experiments.

Doria felt like she was being wheeled through a room of dark plasma, or jello, on a gurney. Then the darkness faded to grays and purples and lavenders, spiralling around her. It looked like she was traveling down a drain in a dark, black-lit bathtub, though it felt like she was sitting in a breezy, but temperature comfortable room. Or laying in one, as she was.

She wondered briefly what other sentients saw and felt when they were in the shaft. What did Herrans call the sensation of going down a drain when they didn’t have any drains (or liquid for that matter) on their planet? And what did the Qwerfyians see when they saw in smell and taste and two other senses no one else could quite categorize?

But then again, those species probably wouldn’t be caught dead in a shaft, unless absolutely necessary. In order to compensate for the fastest way to travel across the galaxies, time had to be longer - somewhere. So scientists put the time in the traveler’s genes, as it were. Biologically, sentients arrived at their destination no older than when they entered, but for the half-second while their brain and body caught up, it felt like billions of years of evolution all at once, from the pulling oneself out of the quagmire of creation all the way to falling out of the first tree and into a cave. It was why planets hadn't conquered planets - it was hard to subjugate a population when you couldn’t stand up from the pain.

Most lifeforms agreed that only the jumped up mammals from the blue marble were really equipped to handle the travel, seeing as they were still on the potty stool of evolution.

That's what Doria had going for her. Pirda would pull your heart out through your chest before you'd had a chance to introduce yourself, but she was deliciously evolved. The shaft migraine was going to make Pirda wish she'd stayed on Penitentiary Planet 88 like a good little criminally insane Xalaxanian and so long as Doria came out within a minute or two after her escapee, she'd have this one bagged and tagged and back on the Black Planet by the next lunar cycle.

But she'd known since donning the uniform, there was no such thing as the easy way. Criminals always liked to make things difficult, painful, and full of collateral civilian damage.

She tried to keep her end plan in mind, going over what she would do if the shaft were to dump her on her head or on her side, to the left of Pirda or to the right. What would she do if Pirda were at the end of the pain or already running? How would she move and who would she notify? At all costs, she had to identify herself. She never wore a sanctioned uniform except for formal occasions, though she had a feeling she was going to really miss her helmet when she came out the other end. She'd left Eoihjfeu in chaos, so they might not have signaled ahead, and some backwater planets would deal with two unannounced visitors falling out of a shaft by liquefying first and asking questions.

Doria kept this all in her mind. The shaft did not allow her to fidget with her guns, adjust her equipment, write a quick report back to Planet 88 or sleep. The forced inactivity created an itch in her neck that she was unable to scratch.

She wondered if someday, scientists would adjust shaft-travel so that a person could read. She didn't much time to read. She didn't have much time to do anything when she was in real-time, though. It was always running and chasing and tracking and bribing, just so she could bring back some serious troublemaker who hadn't learned that sitting in the metaphorical corner for the appropriate time-out was much less painless for everyone than all this running about.

No doubt the Pan Afr-asian Science Council was too busy fielding requests for shafts to be put on other planets to worry about the comfort of the users. For all their moaning about the cockroaches from the blue planet (and that was the term that always came up in Doria’s translator, no matter the planet or lifeform or if the speaker had even heard of cockroaches), every other sentient council, tyrant and democracy wanted a shaft on their planet and the 'cockroaches' were cagey about their science when it was the only thing they really had going for them. Well, that and their charm. Well, that and their charm and their ability to reproduce about ten times faster than most other sentient lifeforms.

And Doria reminded herself that shaft-travel wasn’t supposed to be about convenience anyway. It was for interplanetary messengers and people like her, who didn't have time to wait for ships and schooners to ferry her across the galaxy.

Still, a book would be nice; not to mention trolley service. She could do with a bowl of isu right now and a cold dosh-em.

The going-down-the-drain feeling slowed. Doria realized she had no idea where the shaft was going to deposit her. If the compensator found her biology unsuitable to the end planet, it was supposed to reverse direction and send her back where she came from, but even so, compensators could malfunction and she could end up deposited in a sea of acid or in a ball of gas or -

It was dark and the sensation of jello was strong again. Now her stomach jumped in anticipation of the pain that there was just no way around.

The exit was abrupt and she was deposited facefirst into organocrete. She felt a scream come out of her throat and her translator thrummed uselessly as an ancient genetic throwback tried use her vocal cords. She pushed her eyes open, forced herself to see, and caught a glimpse of Pirda shifting uncontrollably, her shrieks untranslatable by even Doria’s implant.

Her nano-tranquilizers kicked in, softening the spasm of her muscles as autonomic nervous control took over. Someone had once told her that they found enlightenment in a shaft migraine, but Doria knew that misfiring neurons didn’t care about koans and she screamed again.

Doria forced her hands to her hips, making herself remember that they were not fins, but the kinetic pistol fell out of her fingers that thought they were claws and she was gasping like a fish out of water. Out of the corner of her eye (she focused again and again, it was not a compound eye), she could see Pirda was still writhing on the ground and others were coming, tall hairless and gray on six long limbs. Acterusi. She was on Acterus Kapp IV.

Her hands went to her hips again - hands that her brain recognized as all four fingers and one opposable thumb - and she took out her other pistol, fumbling to hold it steady while the final traces of shaft-time worked itself out of her body, drilling bloody holes behind her eyes.

"Orion," she shouted, the translator grinding in her throat. She prayed someone heard her before she fired.

She squeezed the trigger and caught Pirda around the middle. The Xalaxian's form twisted and turned in the vise-grip of the kinetics and limbs lashed at Acterusi, who leapt out of the way and hung from the ceiling by their stick pads.

Dorias body had stopped fighting with itself. She reached for her bio-cuffs with her free hand while Pirda's body still shifted uncontrollably from shape to shape, trapped by the kinetic beam where she was.

"Orion Guard," Doria said through gritted teeth as Acterusi approached her and Pirda with weapons drawn. She was only starting to feel the organocrete burn on her nose and forehead.

The Acterusi that approached her did so with two stick pads raised, though one of those held a modified disintegrator. "Welcome, Orion Guard. The Eoihjfeu Authority sent us a Kramer communication alerting us to your imminent arrival. Let us secure the prisoner for you."

Doria gratefully handed over her bio-cuffs and waited for the Thixian to cuff her quarry. When the green containment field covered Pirda, Doria's finger dropped from the trigger. She let one of the Acterusi help her to her feet and forced herself to remain tall and not spew her breakfast on the floor. She didn't think vomit was the accepted way to begin diplomatic relations in any part of the universe.

She was still a meter shorter than the average for the Acterusi species, so the guard crouched on four legs so that they might be eye to eye-stalk. "I am High Rank Guard Telkji. Thank you for immoblizing the Xalaxian. What else can we do for you, Orion Guard?" Telkji asked, its tongacles waggling.

"Call me Doria. I need a communication room, whatever necessary medical attention for the prisoner, and two secured passages to the Black Planet," Doria said. The Torture and Unnecessary Cruelty Convention forbade shaft-travel for prisoner transport, but Doria was not going to go near one any sooner than twelve solar cycles if she could help it. "And a dosh-em if you have any."

"Certainly. My subordinates will take you to the appropriate quarters while the others prepare your requests."

A bath. A meal. A bottle of dosh-em. These were a few of Doria’s favorite things.

"And Guard Doria."

Doria paused and looked over her shoulder. Telkji's tongacles waggled and her translator told her that was the equivalent of a smile. "Welcome to Actersus Kappa IV. Next time try not to come with such interesting baggage. Better yet, take the easy way."

And Doria, Orion Guard and representative cockroach from the blue marble, laughed. In her line of work, there were no easy ways, just less painful ones.

the end

Date: 2008-11-17 09:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wordsofastory.livejournal.com
What a cool, fun story! I really like your take on 'travel'- making the literal journey such a fun, interesting part of the story. Also: sci-fi! Cool. There's not too much of that on imaginary_beasts. I really like the world building you did here. I would read more about these characters, or universe. And cockroaches: awesome. *grins*

Date: 2010-04-25 12:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bratfarrar.livejournal.com
Cool! I'd love to see some more of this possible future--and Doria, who seems pretty spiffy.

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