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Call a dog and they come, call
a cat and they take a message
and get back to you later.
Oldwrench, chat 13th Apr


Firefox 3
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Crimson Star

by crawfsh

The following will contain a story about vengeance and forgiveness, love and war, comedy and agony. In short, it will be a story for modern times, nay, futuristic even. And ideas we may have only dreamed about, will be brought to life...


Akari-chan looked out over the horizon, taking in the sights and sounds of a hustling populace. The sun was just setting over the city of Bluemaroo, casting a dazzling mix of purplish and reddish hues across the sky. Bluemaroo was the capitol of Indigo Haven, the only class 4 terraformed world out on the frontier of Federation territory. With a population of roughly 3,600,000 as of the last galactic census 3 years ago, the city was perhaps the largest of all within 50 lightyears.


She felt very awake, despite having foregone sleep all of last night. No matter though, her two decades of training had conditioned her to go without food and rest for weeks at a time. Surely she was no normal woman, and this was hinted as well in her appearance. Ah yes, her appearance even rivaled her extraordinary physical training. Few men had ever seen her and lived afterwards. But all of her targets had smiled, awestruck by her beauty.....even as she sent them on to the next world.


Her target this time was codenamed "Enchant". Known for his ability to put women into a trance with but his gaze and words, all agreed he was the most vilified outlaw on the planet. No one knows what happened to his victims. All that is known is that they never were seen again. But on certain nights, the sound of women sobbing would echo hauntingly throughout the underground transit tunnels.


But Akari-chan had a personal reason for punishing the monster (on top of the bounty of 15000 credits). A few weeks ago, rumor on the space net had said Enchant, in a drunken rage, had called Akari a scared little BOY, too frightened to face him let alone take him down. Hahah, well, in a few minutes she would see about that...


Slowly the sunlight waned and then, went out completely. Akari waited ten seconds, and then jumped across the gap between the building she was crouching on and the one across the street. Fortunately none of the passersby looked up at that moment, and Akari was able to make her way down the building's ventilation chute. She tapped once on her right bracelet and a beam of highly focused light broke through the blackness surrounding her. Proceeding forward, Akari heard nothing but the light shuffling she made as she crawled, and the occassional rat squeaking in the distance. "Rats," she mused, laughing inwardly at the double meaning of her word. "Why is it that even the newest skyplex (where only the famous and wealth lived) had a rat infestation?" "For 20 million credits per apartment, the building management ought to have enough to hire exterminators". Musing on how much exterminators cost, Akari-chan took the second right branch in the myriad of tunnels, and then dropped down an air column, extending suction pads on her gloves to stop her fall a few feet above the whirling fan below. A recessed grill covered an obscure opening above and to the right of her head. With an imperceptible flick of the wrist, two inch blades snapped out at her fingertips, making quick work of ripping out the grating. Thinking back on the information she'd extracted from the building architect, she knew that 50 yards down the opening was Enchant's secluded lair. Turning on her infrared goggles, Akari peered into the opening. Surprisingly, there were no infrared beams at all. "Hmm, he must have gotten complacent with his success. No matter, he's deadmeat now." Akari quickly crawled to the end of the tunnel and looked out upon Enchant's lair. And behold, there the criminal mastermind lay, in a drunken stupor. Beside him, ten bottles of NSV 2021 Reserve Vintage (North Star Wineries most expensive and renowned wine).

And on his right, a beautiful blonde bombshell, completely naked, and apparently in the middle of being absorbed into Enchant without the slightest awareness. Horrified at the scene, it took Akari a moment to gather her wits about her, after which, she kicked open the grate in front of her and dropped 15 feet into the room. The noise awoke the groggy Enchant, and with a sickening slurping sound, the girl next to him dropped out and completely away from his body...


Enchant yawned loudly and rubbed his eyes. Seeing Akari, he stopped in the middle of scratching his belly. "Well if it isn't the little brat who's been out making a nuisance of herself." "How've ya been boy? Getting into trouble lately?" Enfuriated at his snide remarks, Akari whipped out her katana with one hand while surreptitiously removing two fragmentation grenades from behind her belt. "Oooh, that big sword's too big for you hon. Lemme take care of it for you." And as suddenly as his words had stopped, Enchant seemed to awaken completely and hurled one arm straight at Akari's head. Akari was about just block the punch when she noticed the arm had shape-shifted into a cruely sharp scythe. "Ohhhhh crap..." thought Akari, a split second before she jumped out of the way, two split seconds before the scythe smashed into the floor and ripped out a chunk of wood and tile.


Looking around to get her bearings, Akari could see no other entrance to the lair other than the vent she had jumped down from. Unfortunately, she did not see the girl who had formerly been attached to Enchant slowly get up and head towards her. By now, Enchant had retracted his arm and was now charging at Akari again. Smiling at the foolishness, Akari tossed the two grenades in her hand at Enchant's head and crotch. Poor monster.... Both grenades exploded on target and just millimeters from Enchant's body. Chunks of gooey clay-like flesh splattered across the room, probably forever staining the walls. Arms and legs flew apart and the torso skidded down to the opposite wall. Akari looked at the mess for a minute, trying to make sure the parts didn't somehow crawl together and Enchant come back from the dead.


Finally, satisfied that her task was complete, Akari sheathed her katana and turned towards the vent. She had walked but a few steps when something heavy and cold walloped the back of her skull. Stumbling, blinded with pain and stars, Akari collapsed to the floor. Managing to catch a glimpse over her shoulder, she managed to mouth the word "Why?" before losing consciousness.


The world slowly reappeared in a hazy glow of confusion. Akari opened one eye, and then the other. Everything was dark around her, but she could hear the distinct whine of an engine. Just then, she felt her stomach drop out from under her, and she realized... she was on some sort of plane! Akari instinctively tried moving her arms and legs and found them, surprisingly, without any restraints. She still felt rather sore on the back of her head, and as she reached up to massage the area, her hand brushed up against a smooth collar around her neck. "What the heck is this?" wondered Akari. Feeling around it, she couldnt find any place where it snapped closed. Tugging really hard at it, she was rewarded with a shock, literally. The collar zapped her, not too much, but enough to sting. "Oww!" Gingerly massaging the zapped area, Akari wondered she was being taken. Her eyes had adjusted by now to the darkness around her, she could just make out a shade drawn down to her right. Reaching over, she lifted it up and peered out the window. It was late at night for sure. The full moon shone over a bed of fluffy grayish white clouds below. Some were bunched up into big balls that made her want to reach out and pluck them, like cotton balls off the plant. Looking out over the clear horizon, the pale moonlight illuminating the plane wing and forest of cotton below, Akari wished she could relax. She still remembered that she'd been knocked unconscious, collared, and was now aboard a plane to somewhere she was sure she'd rather not be...


The ZX-790 I-class jet cruised along at 15000 ft, lightly skimming the clouds at mach 2.5. The speed was comfortably maintained by four Galactic Electric (descendant of the 20th century ubiquitous General Electric) ionstream turbo thrusters outputting a mere 10% of their maximum rated thrust. Akari felt the plane bank gently to the right, and then slowly begin a descent pattern. She peered out the window and began to see shapes and lights emerge as the jet descended through the last cloud layer.


A single landing strip stretched out before her, lit with bright blue beacons that repeatedly flared in a pattern beckoning inland. To the left of the strip, she spotted a lighthouse, and followed its beam out onto a section of jagged rocks onto which 10 foot waves broke with breathtaking force. As the light swept around, she could see the coast line extend for miles around. All of it looked dangerous, strewn with rocks twice the size of her body, slippery and cutting with the crash of the waves. On shore, she could make out a large spaceport, well capable of servicing galaxy class cruisers, but strangely her flight seemed to be the only one incoming. Normally, there'd be a constant stream of arrivals and departures, and the entire place would be ablaze with thruster signatures and landing lights directing the flights. But only one terminal was lit at the moment, and since there were no other craft around, she presumed it must be for her flight.


The jet veered for the runway, and lit up its landing lights. Akari felt the jet's reverse thrusters kick in, the landing skids extend, and slowly the world ground to a halt around her. The cabin lights lit up and akari could see the cockpit door and side exits clearly. As she decided between trying to make a break for it, or trying to commandeer the plane that had kidnapped her, the right door slid up with a hiss. Akari stood, and braced herself. She was almost sure that whatever entered, she wouldn't like it one bit.


The year is now 3056. A millenium has passed since the time people the world over stockpiled food and arms in anticipation of something called the "millenium bug" or "y2k problem". At that time, the majority of computerized systems around the world stored dates in 6 digit format. Two digits each were reserved for the month, day, and year. For the vast part of the 20th century, such a method of keeping date sufficed. But suddenly, people began to realize that when the year 2000 came, the two digit year stored by computers would roll from "99" to "00", and thus the years 1900 and 2000 would BOTH be represented the same way! Electronic billing systems would think that a phone call initiated a few minutes before New Years Day of 2000, and ending after the new year arrived, had lasted over 100 years. Savings accounts would be credited with 100 years worth of interest. And the list of potential problems continued. A large number of computer consulting companies sprang up, offering their services to upgrade any system to be "millenium proof", or so they said. Of these companies, one in particular stands out. Its name was "nVerse Corporation". Founded by a group of U.C. Berkeley graduate students, the company initially earned revenue solely from the consultation it did on the y2k problem. Six months after its founding, the company went public in a massive initial public offering underwritten by Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. In less than one day, the fledgling company found its market capitalization shoot from nothing to a touch over 1.5 billion dollars. Using its stock value as leverage, nVerse expanded its consultation services, bought out a private semiconductor company, and in a few months, began shipping something called the y2k chip. The chip came in several formfactors to fit the various motherboards used in computer systems, and would automatically convert dates from the 6 digit format to the 8 digit format on the fly.

Computer programs had their date information seamless changed without the slightest problem. Investors went wild when they heard of nVerse's invention, and quickly rallied the stock price up past split after split after split to 238 dollars per share. nVerse's market cap was now a staggering 100 billion dollars. But then, the executives of nVerse did something wholly unexpected. They had nVerse buy out an unknown privately held biotech company named EnGene. Investors questioned this drastic move and knocked the stock price down to 200 dollars per share. There, the stock hovered for about a week and a half. And then, out of the blue, EnGene announced a ground-breaking discovery. They had successfully tested a vaccine for AIDS in phase I and II clinical trials. Now the company was seeking FDA approval for phase III clinical trials, human testing. Investors wondered if this was merely fortuitous for nVerse, or if insiders had known all along. But regardless, nVerse stock shot through the $300 roof.


Over the years, nVerse corporation became as prolific in expansion into new territories as Stephen King was with writing his famous horror stories. The fuel for the expansion came from a continuous chain fortuitous purchases. Every buy-out and takeover brought in new revenue to further feed the shopping spree. Oftentimes, newly acquired companies stumbled upon gigantic breakthroughs within months after being taken over. Such breakthroughs gave nVerse 100X returns on its investment. Investors were initially skeptical of the continued success of the company through such a torrid rate of expansion. But after a year of constantly proving the short sellers wrong, the overall stock market gained nearly complete faith in the corporation's management.


Perhaps it is due to the multifacetedness of nVerse that allowed it to survive along with a few other conglomerates, through the third millenium A.D., and into an age where 21st century science fiction has become breathtaking reality. The largest shareholders of nVerse stock as of date are, remarkably, still the descendants of the founders who helped create the company so many centuries ago. One of the founding families was the Kamigishi clan. Toshi Kamigishi, the only son of businessman Kentaro Kamigishi and school teacher Sakura Kamigishi, never did finish his masters degree at Berkeley. After making billions from cofounding nVerse, he cashed out a small portion of stock, netting millions, and returned to Japan to pursue his hobby of real estate investment. In a few years, he met a lovely and intelligent woman from Toudai University named Meiko. They fell madly in love, and married about a year later. Together they had three beautiful children together: Hiro, Masaki, and Akari. Life was good for Toshi and his family. His children grew up athletic and brilliant, which was to be expected of course since they wanted for nothing and had the best private teachers money could buy. Whereas Hiro and Masaki took to more common sports such as tennis and baseball, Akari found her love in Kendo and karate. But kendo didn't involve the energy of karate, and karate lacked the fun of dueling with swords. So she developed her own technique of fighting and honing both physical moves and sword prowess.


However, one fateful day, as Akari drove her S55 along the busy Tokyo streets, she was blindsided by a garbage truck whose driver hadn't been looking ahead on the road. The Mercedes was badly smashed in on the drivers side. Though front, side and bottom airbags had instantly deployed in the car, Akari suffered a serious head injury. Despite the efforts of Japan's top neurosurgeons, she fell into a coma. CAT scans showed a blood clot the size of a walnut pressing in on the right side of the brain. But it was inoperable because it was embedded inside a region of the brain governing speech. There was no telling how long Akari would sleep. It might be as soon as two months, or as long as twenty years. However there was a 70% chance of permanent brain damage if the clot remained for long. The doctors gave Toshi and Meiko a radical option. Tokyo university had long been researching cryogenic preservation, and in fact, had secretly preserved a human test subject and restored him to full health without any sideeffects. Theoretically it would be possible to preserve Akari for as long as necessary until medical science could develop a way to heal her.


Meiko wouldn't stop sobbing. Toshi could only stand there and hold her close, as if somehow, if he hugged her tightly enough, everything would be better. And as much as he wanted to say something to comfort her, no words would form in his mouth. He was still looping the doctor's last words over and over in his head. "You might not live long enough to see your daughter awaken."


"Oh God." he thought. "Is this the last way I'll see my precious daughter? I didn't even get to tell her I love her. Why.... WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?!"


"My daughter." thought Meiko. "Please don't take away my daughter. Not yet. Its too soon. She still has so much to live for!"


Hiro and Masaki could only look on as their parents grieved. They'd been paged on their cell phones during classes and had immediately excused themselves to call back and find out what was so urgent. The news completely numbed them. The brothers had immediately taken the subway over and upon arrival, were escorted to the room where their Akari lay.


Her hospital room was actually a suite, with its own bathroom and separate nook with a spare bed for visitors to sleep over. Indeed, the staff had known just who's daughter their patient was, and had made sure the best was afforded her and her family. Hiro and Masaki tentatively held back, not wishing to interrupt their parent's grieving, but desperately wanting to comfort them. And yet, the brothers were barely holding themselves together. As they looked sadly upon their older sister, her body connected to at least half a dozen monitors and injection systems, her face covered with an oxygen mask, and huge swathes of bandaging over her stomach, arms, neck and head, it was all the two boys could do to keep from falling to their knees and crying.


The scene was surreal. A dozen cylindrical chambers lined the wall in front of them. Each chamber had some sort of console in front with a myriad of cables connecting them. The consoles were then connected to a primary control panel in a separate room behind a airtight partition on the far end. Coolant feeds came down from the ceiling in enormous tubes insulated with a silver material, feeding each chamber with enough liquid nitrogen to completely freeze anything, or rather anyone, inside. But of course, directly immersing anyone in a vat of liquid nitrogen would kill them instead of preserving them, so there were also sturdy environment suits arranged on the right wall, fashioned from space age synthetics to comletely enclose the patients from the surrouding sea of nitrogen. As Akari was placed into a suit and wheeled to chamber number two, Meiko quietly cried while Toshi kept blinking to keep back tears. They had decided the moment would be too traumatic for their sons, and perhaps this was the best choice. The whole act of "preservation" seemed more like entombment to Akari's parents, and seeing Akari sealed away for God knows how long was even more painful than seeing her comatose on a hospital bed.


As Akari was gently lifted and placed inside chamber two, Meiko burst into another round of tears and turned her face away from the sight, crying deeply into Toshi's shirt. Slowly, Toshi let his head rest atop Meiko's head, and shut his eyes tightly. He refused to say goodbye to his daughter, fearing it would mark the end of his daughter.


As the technician entered a command sequence into the primary console, the cover of Akari's chamber slowly lowered shut, closing with final hiss of the airtight seals creating a secure pressure lock. Numerous remote sensors placed inside the suit began monitoring Akari's vital signs. These were relayed to a receiver wrapped around the bottom of the chamber, and then relayed to the secondary consoles, and finally, the primary console. As the liquid nitrogen began pumping in, core temperature readings slowly began dropping, matching the pulse rate's descent. At approximately 2:00 PM, in Tokyo, Japan, Akari was pronounced clinically dead.


To her surprise, a normal looking man stepped through the doorway, ducking his head slightly under the frame, and came to stand a few feet away in front of her to the right side of the aisleway. Despite the lack of any visible weapon, Akari reflexively backed up in her seat.


"I apologize for the harsh treatment Miss Kamigishi. We weren't sure you would have come of your own free will, but we couldn't risk losing track of you again."


Akari blinked, and stared at this man before her, who had now bent down on one knee and bowed his head. He might as well have spoken Greek to her, for she hardly understood what he meant by not losing her again. As far as she knew, she'd been orphaned at birth on Promixa Seven, a trade hub in the Alpha Quadrant of Sector 732. A middle-aged man in an expensive looking suit had come by one day, accompanied by a social worker from the CWA (Child Welfare Association) and together they'd interviewed all of the children there. Akari didn't know it at that point, but the man had wanted to adopt her the minute he saw her. Within a week, the social worker had returned, to take Akari off to a better and brighter life. Together they drove off towards the country side, passing by suburbs, and eventually, farmland. Then, off in the distance, looming on their left, appeared a huge mansion. As the car pulled up to the gate entrance, Akari took a closer look at the house. Built of pearl white marble with streaks of slate gray, it towered upwards for three stories while spreading outwards in an arc, enclosing a massive red brick courtyard with a magnificent centerpiece adorning a crystal blue water fountain. A stretch limousine sat parked in front of the entrance, the chauffeur louging against a fender, reading the a newspaper. Along the right wing of the mansion, an entire row of expensive-looking race cars sat parked underneath the arches of several open garage doors. By now, their car had pulled up behind the limousine, and the social worker was getting out. A butler had come to the front doorway to greet them, and quickly ushered the two of them into the foyer.


to be continued...

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