Read Influx Online

Authors: Kynan Waterford

Tags: #Kynan, #Waterford, #Coalition, #Garen, #Jupiter


“This is a bad idea,” Sheeva said as she wrestled with the
steering column.

“Shouldn’t you be concentrating?” Garen asked calmly from the seat behind her.

Sheeva looked up from the holographic pressure map she was using to navigate the storm and glanced out the cockpit window. It was a terrifying view, but nothing she hadn’t seen before.

On the insistence of Kari – Garen’s heavangel mentor – they were currently spiralling up the outside of a particularly wild tornado that was being created beneath the
– one of the Coalition’s city-sized energy sumps. The tornado was artificially created and it allowed the energy sump to hoover up vast swathes of hydrogen, but the turbulence it created was dangerously intense. The
hull creaked with the stress, but by riding the outer layer of the tornado, Sheeva was able to keep the forces in check. Of course, if she lost control, even for a moment, they would be sucked into the deeper, denser areas of hydrogen, and either crushed or simply torn to pieces.

“My concentration is fine,” Sheeva growled, returning her focus to the hologram. “It’s your mental state that needs examining.”

“That would be an interesting study,” Garen admitted, “although I can’t imagine a conclusion that would change my mind.”

Sheeva gritted her teeth in frustration and carefully angled them away from another dangerous pressure exchange that would have snatched them from their slow, spiralling ascent.

“What’s the point of this, anyway?” she asked. “There’s only two of us-”

“Hey!” a high-pitched, electronic voice said from the cockpit’s rear.

“Sorry, Onzo,” Sheeva added, rolling her eyes. “There’s only three of us.”

“Thank you,” Onzo said, spinning his tiny robotic head in pleasure.

“How are you going to take out an energy sump with only three of us?” Sheeva demanded.

“Kari doesn’t know yet,” Garen replied calmly.

“Doesn’t know?” Sheeva roared, looking away from the hologram so she could turn the full force of her glare on him. “What the hell does that mean?”

“It means we have a plan that requires a bit of evolution to succeed,” Garen said with a shrug.

His usual, emotionless manner made Sheeva’s knuckles pop with tension and she quickly turned back to her wrestling match with the tornado.

“I don’t understand why we’re taking such a risk when we’ve been so careful lately,” she growled, ignoring a sudden urge to drive them into oblivion on purpose.

“It was the last mission, wasn’t it?” Onzo said, his big, robotic eyes sparkling with coloured lights. “That nano-tech you stole from the Coalition is some kind of weapon, isn’t it?”

“Yes and no,” Garen replied. “This mission is a direct result of the last, but that nano-tech was no weapon. It’s a catalyst for some kind of biological transformation. You know, Onzo. You helped me study it.”

Sheeva heard several of Onzo’s tiny robotic appendages snick out from his body in pleasure at the acknowledgement.

“I sure did!” Onzo squealed. “And it was advanced, Sheeva. More advanced than anything I’ve ever seen.”

“Or me,” Garen added. “Even Kari seemed to have trouble understanding its purpose.”

“And yet we’re headed straight into the lion’s jaws because of it,” Sheeva grumbled.

“This tech is linked to the Helmsken somehow,” Garen continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “If I can get on board the Golgotha-”

“Huh!” Sheeva grunted in disapproval.

“-then we can study it in-vitro,” Garen finished. “And if Kari can understand it, we might even discover a way to take out an energy sump permanently, rather than just crippling it.”

“So it might be a weapon?” Onzo asked.

“It might,” Garen agreed.

Sheeva wanted to say more, something that would convince Garen to abandon this suicidal mission, but she knew it was useless. When it came to Kari – the heavangel mentor Garen saw almost every time he took Lyquis – there was no reasoning with him.

She noticed a change in the holographic representation that was helping her stay within the tornado’s outer layer and looked out of the cockpit window again. They were now close enough to see the
enormous shadow through the hydrogen clouds above them.

It was enormous, and as it gradually filled the sky, Sheeva felt an ominous sense of dread creep into her stomach.

She didn’t like this kind of fear. It was easy to fight the emotion when she could take matters into her own, powerful hands, but this time Garen was going in alone and it left her feeling both helpless and embarrassed at her impotence.

Turning her gaze back to the curved edge of the tornado, Sheeva followed it up until it disappeared into one of the
giant influx vents.

This isn’t going to end well,
” she predicted solemnly in her mind.

“Are you ready?” Garen asked, directing the question at Onzo.

“As I’ll ever be,” Onzo replied excitedly.

“You be careful,” Sheeva warned the little robot. “They’ll piece-hack you as soon as they notice you.”

“They won’t notice you, Onzo,” Garen assured him. “Just get past the shiv-grid and knock out power to one of those intake pipes. Then flag it for me and get out of there.”

“I could come with you, boss,” Onzo offered, just as Sheeva knew he would.

“I could definitely use the help,” Garen agreed in a kind tone, “but I need you here, buddy. If I come back needing medical attention, you have to be ready.”

“As long as you come back,” Sheeva growled beneath her breath.

“I will,” Garen replied.

Sheeva wished he would say more. In fact, she’d feel a whole lot better if he forcefully spun her round and pulled her into a passionate kiss. But Garen wasn’t like that. He was an emotionless machine with only one purpose in life. And that purpose was dictated by the heavangel mentor he conferred with every time he took Lyquis.

As he left the cockpit with Onzo to prepare for their departure, Sheeva wondered if she would ever meet Kari in person, or if she even wanted to. She’d done some very bad things since she hooked up with Garen and she wasn’t sure she wanted to meet the one responsible for planning it all.

Shaking her head in resignation, Sheeva wished she could at least follow Onzo with her scanners, but even that was impossible. Only Garen could communicate with the little robot now. If either she or Onzo attempted any traditional form of communication, the
would pick it up immediately and they would be discovered.

All she could do now was focus on using the turbulence to mask their approach and stay hidden long enough to get this done.

“Just make it back,” Sheeva growled beneath her breath. “This war will end the wrong way if you do, Garen.”

Garen stood within the confines of a personal skim-ray field inside one of the
open airlocks, staring up at the gaping maw of the influx-vent. It was an impressive sight. The giant concave structure was filled with hundreds of large intake pipes that were responsible for producing the immense tornado beneath them. It was one of these that would provide Garen with an entrance, as long as Onzo did his job.

While he waited to hear from the tiny robot, Garen methodically stretched his limbs so his storm suit would settle more comfortably. Onzo’s tough little body might be capable of manoeuvring through the turbulence beneath the
, but Garen required assistance.

By now, Onzo would have redirected his tiny body through the shiv-grid that prevented Garen from entering one of the pipes and would soon reach a control panel that would allow him to shut down power selectively. After that, Garen was free to take his one-way trip.

Despite getting in this way, he knew he couldn’t get back out again. Not without shutting down an entire influx-vent and turning off the tornado beneath it. But he wasn’t concerned. He had faith in Kari’s plan.

Mission accomplished
,” Onzo’s voice said clearly in his head.

,” Garen replied in his mind. “
Now get back here so you and Sheeva can leave.

I don’t like leaving you here
,” Onzo whined.

You never do,
” Garen replied, “
but that’s the mission.

I get it, boss,
” Onzo said in a sad voice. “
Leaving now.

Certain his tiny robotic friend would find his way back to the
, Garen thought of Sheeva and turned his head slightly.

“I’ll be back soon,” he promised her, aware she wouldn’t hear him.

Then he returned his gaze to the influx-vent. His skimray field was working hard to keep the screaming hydrogen winds at bay and its shifting crimson light marred the view slightly, but when Garen activated his ocular implants, the internal architecture of the influx vent blazed into crystal clarity.

Thanks to Onzo, one of the outermost intake pipes was lit up brighter than the others and when Garen focussed on it, he saw that the shiv grid had been retracted.

Nice work, Onzo
,” he thought.

Then, with a flick of his finger, he deactivated his skimray field.

The pressure around his body changed instantly as the freezing hydrogen rushed in around him, but because the
was already in sync with the tornado being sucked into the
influx vents, Garen wasn’t snatched away immediately. Instead, he merely drifted up from the airlock floor.

Then he opened his arms.

The thin yet tough fabric of his storm suit caught more of the wind screaming around the influx vent and suddenly he was accelarating away from the
. As it fell into darkness behind him, Garen used the webbing on his storm suit to angle his trajectory toward the edge of the influx vent so he could reach the intake pipe Onzo had prepared for him.

He could feel the pressure building as he moved into the giant cavity and imagined the thousands of heavangels that had experienced this sensation before him.

Only they had no chance of survival
,” he thought, imagining Kari saying the words.

Pushing the thought away, Garen did a quick mental calculation and realised he would need to hold his position for one more revolution before he was close enough to snag his target. He held his position precariously, fighting against the turbulence with subtle changes in the way he oriented his storm suit, all the while keeping a firm eye on his destination.

Then it was suddenly in front of him.

In a blur, Garen released the webbing on one side of his body and grasped the edge of the intake pipe with one hand. The manoeuvre caused his body to pivot violently and slam into the inside wall of the intake pipe, but Garen didn’t even acknowledge the pain. The force would have been enough to break the bones of an ordinary man, but Garen simply held his grip firm and looked for the panel he would need to open if he wanted to get inside the

He found it a little deeper in the pipe and immediately began to lower himself toward it. The intake pipe wasn’t made to be scaled in this way, so his progress was slow, but when he eventually got close enough to dislodge the panel, he made sure it didn’t get sucked into the maelstrom rushing past him. He couldn’t risk it causing damage further down the pipe and alerting anyone to his presence.

He quickly crawled inside the claustrophobic space beyond and then secured the panel back into place. He paused for a moment to ensure the stolen technology was still in the pocket at his waist, then he began the painstaking process of squeezing his way through the wall space he’d entered.

It took almost ten minutes to reach one of the inner corridors, but only seconds to remove another panel and quietly drop inside.

First obstacle down
,” Garen thought to himself. “
Now to find what I came for.

As he stealthily made his way through the
sub-levels, Garen came across a few maintenance technicians, but none of them saw him. Along with helping him manoeuvre through Jupiter’s atmosphere, his storm suit was virtually invisible to all forms of surveillance, including human sight. All he had to do was be careful not to make any sound, or accidentally touch anyone as he passed.

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