After an accident, the hero dies before they can face off the villain. It’s all up to the hero’s mentor and sidekick to save the world.
Piloting efficiency at 50%.
The dull letters gleamed at her from the cockpit. She tensed, and they jumped up a few points, then flickered back down to fifty. They stared accusingly at her, little jaded bullet points.
The cockpit still smelled like blood.
Fifty percent was the difference between a balet dancer and a cripple. The great old machine would respond to her, it always had, but she couldn’t make it dance. She couldn’t activate the great engines to full efficiency, she couldn’t use the hyper links to become one with it.
She wasn’t Hiro.
But she’d gotten by before he’d arrived, and she’d get by afterwards. She ran her finger tips over the thin nodules in her skin, making sure the connections were proper, and the great old behemoth curled its fists under her command.
she didn’t turn around. She didn’t want to turn around, it wasn’t time for that, or second chances, or thirds or fourth. For her, she’d gone beyond being saved.
“Calliope, you know we can’t-“
She turned, and shot the boy a glare with her clone stained yellow eyes. She bared her teeth, sharpened from years of genetic degradation, reflecting her status as a veteran of the first wars of succession, and he flinched back.
Then he swallowed and step forward. “Calliope, this isn’t… this is his.”
“It was mine before him,” Calliope said. “And it’ll be mine after.”
“You can’t just leave us like this. We need to build up the defenses again. Go underground.”
Her muscles bulged and she forced the behemoth to take a step forward. The great machine whined, bereft of and satiated by the very same person who was supposed to be where she was standing.
“I refuse,” Calliope said. “The sun suits me far more than the dull glam-lights of your casino palace.”
he walked in front of her and stared. “You got the auto suiter to work?”
“It was never broken,” Calliope said.
“But Hiro always had to-“
“I lied,” Calliope said. “I was tired of fighting the machine for every scrap of power. I was tired of fighting, and I wanted to give it up so he could do it all.”
“I…” Matt shook his head. “I get that.” He leaned back against the console in front of him, where once an entire legion of trained clones, only a slightly different model from Calliope herself, would once monitor and redirect the minutia of energies. “It was easier to do… everything when Hiro was here, wasn’t it?”
Calliope laughed, and forced the great machine to take another step forward. The display in front of her gleamed with fresh power. Days worth, rather than hours.
“How’s it moving?” Matt asked. “I thought we were out after…”
“Hiro’s dead,” Calliope said. “But the machine remembers him, and knows what it did, and he’ll keep us on track until the day the machine dismembers his last memory.”
Matt swallowed. She watched the knot in his throat bob, always so pronounced among that sequence of gene spliced here. Then straightened and spun out a salute.
Calliope hated military matters, but she grinned.
“What’ll you have me do?”
She was broken, suffering from the latter stage of gene rejection and an artifact from before humanity’s fall from heaven.
He was a dull gem plucked out of the face of a gleaming god and set to the side as unworthy.
But they were both angry. They were both furious. They were both hungry, hungry as the machine they commanded.
And that would have to be enough. There was no prophecy to hold them back. There was no king to award them a crown.
But they were flesh, and they were blood, and their friend was oil and he was grease, and he’d keep them on path this one last time.
“Man the console,” Calliope said. “We have a god to kill.”
The machine hummed.