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Author Topic: The Approaching Light  (Read 643 times)

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aabicus (LettuceBacon&Tomato)

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Re: The Approaching Light
« Reply #20 on: March 18, 2019, 07:11:33 PM »
It was completely dark when Aimee regained consciousness. Her head was thudding with a terrible migraine, and she could feel several deep cuts in her scalp that were barely scabbed over. Groaning, she tried to move and found herself bound tightly.

“Oh, you’re awake," she heard Shakila mutter weakly somewhere to her left. Aimee could only groan softly in reply. “Yeah, I got a glimpse of your head. It looked bad, but nothing permanent. You just need some stitches.”

“It...hurts…” Aimee muttered dizzily.

“Yeah, I bet.” Shakila’s tone indicated she wasn’t happy, and Aimee could guess why. “We’re in Shelton’s cellar, in case you were wondering. They hogtied us and dragged us here. I’m not sure where they went after that.”

Aimee closed her eyes; she could still see stars every time she moved her head. “How long has it been…?” she mumbled.

“Dunno, but it’s daytime right now. Look the other way, that square in the ceiling is the entrance.”

Aimee winced as she awkwardly rolled over. There was indeed a rickety ladder leading to a small hatch, and daylight was filtering through the cracks. “Crap...we’re gonna miss the rescue party…”

“We’re gonna miss a lot more than that…” Shakila noted darkly, as the hatch suddenly opened and Aimee saw Rudy climb down.

For several strained seconds, he merely glared at them. Even in the dim light of the cellar, Aimee could tell he was furious. “I’m not sure what I should even say to you…” he growled with barely-repressed rage. “I’m not sure why I’m wasting my time wanting to hear an explanation. Maybe we should have just called the cops immediately.”

He crossed to a work table and grabbed a flashlight, shining it in their eyes and causing Aimee to gasp in pain. “But I need to hear your side of the story,” he demanded. “I want to hear, in your own words, why you came into our house, ate our food, slept under our blankets, and then tried to kill my wife.”

“Where is Emi, anyway?” Shakila asked.

“She’s recovering in bed, but no changing the subject!” Rudy snapped. “She told me everything, about the time travel and being from the future, and I’m not sure how much of it I actually believe. Can you prove to me that all of that is true?”

Aimee bit her lip. “We could, but we promised not to--”

“--Chance Leslie,” Shakila interrupted.

Shelton blinked in surprise. “What?”

“Chance Leslie. He was your best friend in third grade.” Shakila ignored Aimee turning to look at her like she was insane. “He was really poor and his grades sucked. But when your class had a reading contest, that whoever read the most books would win a bike, he really wanted it and worked harder than you’d ever seen to read as many books as he could. But you did even more, just to beat him. You even submitted a few book reports for things you hadn’t even read, just watched the movie. You won the bike and barely used it, and when Chance eventually moved away, you never stopped feeling guilty about cheating to win.”

Shelton gaped like a fish. “How...how could you possibly know that?” he breathed. “I never told anyone about that.”

“Well, you’re gonna tell me. In 2009, while we’re eating lunch in the back of a moving truck.” Shakila spit out some blood. “Or at least, that’s what supposed to happen. But in that timeline, you never met Emi. You stayed in school and later moved to America as a scientist.” She met Rudy’s eyes. “We need that to happen. We need you in America, where you’re supposed to be, by 2009 or we’re both gonna die. That’s why we tried to get you to go back to school...by eliminating the thing that made you drop out.”

Rudy clicked the flashlight off. “But that...that’s ridiculous...” he stammered. “That’s crazy! Are you two insane? You tried to kill her because of this crackpot lunacy? Thinking you’re time travelers?”

“Remember my South Park sweater?” Shakila protested. “That show isn’t gonna exist for another decade, Google it! Or, uh, whatever people do in 1989 to look things up.”

“Quiet!” Rudy dropped the flashlight with a loud bang that brought Aimee’s migraine back with a vengeance. “I don’t care if you really are from the future or if you both fried your brain on drugs…” he growled. “Nothing you think gives you the right to assault my wife like that, and nothing you say is going to make me do anything for you.” He returned to the ladder. “Anything else? Or can I call the police and get this nightmare over with?”

“I gave you really solid evidence, but if you wanna just ignore it, you do you.” Shakila rolled her eyes. “You really aren’t the Shelton we knew.”

Rudy snarled and exited, slamming the cellar shut after him.

“Shakila...I’m not sure you played that right,” Aimee admitted.

“Oh, whatever.” Shakila harrumphed. “Lying and bargaining hasn’t worked out for us anyway. I’m tired of trying to find a solution to this terrible situation we’re in, especially since it’s entirely of our own making.” She sighed. “Maybe we should just go to jail, like we deserve to.”

“Well, you can give up,” Aimee clenched her fists, “but I don’t have the option to live in 1989 as a prisoner for the rest of my life. My cyborg arms are something of a giant giveaway that I’m not from this era.” She tried to rip her arms free, but their captors had used some sort of reinforced wire-threaded ropes, probably anticipating her super strength. “If Shelton comes back, I’m gonna show him my arms and try and scare him into cooperating--”

Abruptly the cellar door opened again, and Aimee experienced a brief panic thinking she’d have to actually put her half-baked plan into action, but then the best possible person dropped down the hatch. “Eric!” she whispered. “Oh thank god, can you get us out?”

“I could,” he answered, and Aimee noticed with trepidation that his voice was lacking the carefree glibness it always had. “I’ve got wire cutters from the ship.”

“Well? Come on!" Shakila protested, slower on the uptake.

“I’m not going to,” he admitted. “I didn’t come to rescue you. I came to say goodbye, and that I think you’re exactly where you deserve to be.”

“What? Eric!” Shakila protested. “You can’t leave us here! You’re going to wait for the rescue party, and then just return to the future without us?”

“No. I’m going to stay here, in 1989.” He shrugged. “The future already has an Eric. I think I’m just going to move to America, buy stock in Apple and Microsoft when they come around, and just lay back and let the world run its own course.”

“Eric, wait,” Aimee pleaded. “I get it. You’re mad we tried to kill Emi. But is this really worth sentencing us to live forever in the wrong time period? In some Earth prison somewhere?”

“Prison is exactly where attempted murderers belong!” Eric snapped.

“Then let us serve our time in the future! Take us to the rescue party, and then return home!” Aimee struggled with her bonds. “Eric, the Spire is currently entrenched in a fight to save the universe. You may think defecting will make you happy, but it’ll eat you up inside. Believe me, I learned the hard way that you’ll regret turning your back on your duties!”

“I don’t think so,” Eric shot back, “because unlike you two, I didn’t join the Spire crew to become a hero!” He teared up. “I did it to make friends. I just wanted to be part of a team. Shakila, you asked me why I was always so happy. How I could possibly maintain my optimism during these last few days. You know how I could survive all these time adventures with a smile on my face? Because I already had what I wanted. Or at least, what I thought I wanted.” He turned away. “But you two took advantage of our friendship. Shakila, you never said a single nice word to me. Aimee, you forced me to help you do something unspeakable, and now…” he wiped his eyes and returned to the hatch. “...now I hope I never see either of you again.”

Neither of them could muster a reply, and after several seconds he climbed back out of the cellar, leaving them once again in darkness.

“Okay, yeah,” Aimee finally admitted. “Maybe we’re screwed.”

But then the cellar door opened a third time, and someone Aimee never expected came creeping down the ladder.

“Is it true?” Lúcia asked, her voice barely a whisper. “Are you two really from the future?” She paced around them, her eyes aglow with barely-restrained wonder. “Are you really from space?” she asked. “Have you been on planets where no man has ever stepped, fought monsters no man has ever seen?”

“Yes to all of that,” Aimee answered.

“Will you take me with you?” Lúcia pleaded. “If I free you. Take me to space. I want to see the stars up close.” She could barely restrain her eagerness.

Aimee and Shakila looked at each other. “Lúcia…” Aimee started. “That’s not a good idea. You don’t really understand what you’re getting into. Here on Earth you’re safe, and the universe is a dangerous place.”

“I can handle it!” the young fox assured. “I’ve been cooped up in this little town my whole life, Mom won’t let me leave. I can’t take it anymore!” She grabbed a heavy chain trimmer from her dad’s workshop. “There’s no time, la policia will be here soon. Promise me I can go, and you’re free.”

Aimee exhaled. “Okay, fine...deal.” She extended her hands, and the young girl wasted no time in cutting them loose. “But we’re gonna have to move fast. Our ride could arrive at any minute, and if we’re not there, it won’t wait around.”
« Last Edit: May 08, 2019, 05:10:30 AM by aabicus (LettuceBacon&Tomato) »

Nick22

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Re: The Approaching Light
« Reply #21 on: March 18, 2019, 07:48:15 PM »
real nice work lbt. i'm really enjoying the story
Winner of these:


Runner up for these:



aabicus (LettuceBacon&Tomato)

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Re: The Approaching Light
« Reply #22 on: March 18, 2019, 10:50:28 PM »
This is the penultimate chapter! I'll be posting the epilogue tomorrow morning!

The sun was high in the sky when the three reached the rocky beach where their shuttlecraft sat. “Lúcia, I hope you’re as good at sneaking aboard ships as your mother was, because that’s the only way you’ll be coming with us,” Aimee noted. “The space police won’t want you there and they aren’t gonna listen to reasons.”

“I can do that,” Lúcia nodded quickly. She’d brought only a small bag with some of her prized possessions. “I’ll hide in the bushes. Just distract them for one minute.”

“We’ll do our best.” Aimee scanned the sky. “Shakila, this is your last chance to to duck out. We’ve still got $400, with it you might be able to escape Spain and settle down somewhere.”

“I’m not a coward like Eric,” Shakila answered coolly. “I’m perfectly willing to atone for my crimes. In fact, I’d have trouble sleeping if we just went home and nobody ever knew what we’d done.”

Aimee shrugged. Shakila had been oddly stoic since leaving the Sheltons’ cellar. Aimee wasn’t sure why, but she certainly preferred it over her old habits of loudly complaining and being contrarian. “There it is. Look scarce, Lúcia.”

Lúcia scampered behind some yucca as a rift opened in the sky and a shimmering cloaked craft appeared. It zeroed in on their position and landed right next to them, uncloaking to reveal a white-and-black painted chassis with blinking police lights.

“Right then, hands where I can see ‘em!” A thick Irish voice demanded, and a well-dressed Cockapoo officer marched out, flanked by three grunts. The leader cleared his throat and checked his clipboard. “Are you two, ahem, ‘Amy’ and ‘Shakeela’?”

“That’s us,” Shakila answered, obeying his demand.

“Splendid. Parker, Gideon, cuff ‘em.” The parrot and the red panda nodded and stepped forward, locking their hands tight. “Hmm…” the officer murmured, checking his clipboard. “There’s a lad missing. Where’s the third one?”

“Eric’s away without leave,” Aimee answered. “He mentioned hoping to become rich by abusing his knowledge of the future.”

“One of ‘em always tries that,” the leader shook his head. Aimee noticed his name, CPL. COLTFOSTERS, in bronze lettering below his badge. “Well, it’s a small planet, he can’t have gone far. Spaulding? Can you pick up his scent?”

The Husky took a big sniff, then grimaced and covered her nose. “Oy, these girls are reeking of spices!” she complained. “Can’t even smell me own whiskers!”

Coltfosters cocked his head at them. “Well, what’s all this about, then?”

“We got into a bar fight,” Shakila explained. “The other guy played dirty.”

“You’re a bloomin' pair of rascals, aren’t ye? Right, then.” Coltfosters sighed. “Bind them fully now. Gideon, keep ‘em company while we sic the straggler. Shouldn’t be more’n a jaunt. Allons-y!”

The parrot took to the skies, the Husky stuck her nose to the ground, and both followed the corporal as he withdrew a spyglass and trotted down the beach. The remaining officer, the grizzled red panda, glanced disinterestedly in them and started observing the bluffs.

By the time the search party had faded from sight, Aimee was already trying to adjust her position for comfort, as they’d been strapped down in a cramped corner of the police craft. “Er, Gideon? Any chance I could scoot just a bit over? There’s something digging into my hip right here.” Gideon glanced at her, rolled his eyes, and ignored her. “Hey!” Aimee snapped. “I may be a prisoner, but I’m still entitled to certain inalienable rights! How hard is it to roll me onto my stomach? I’m in pain here!”

Gideon growled. “Lady, I ain’t touching you til the cap’n gets back, and that’s the end of it!” he finally replied, which gave Lúcia the chance to strike. Pulling a handful of spice out of her bag, the young fox leaped over the bush, splashed him across the eyes, then smacked him in the head with a frying pan when he cried out in agony.

“Where did you and your mother learn to fight anyway?” Aimee asked, wincing in solidarity as Gideon keeled over unconscious.

“Dunno. I think it just comes naturally.” Lúcia beamed, locating the handcuff keys and tossing them to Aimee.

“This is perfect!” Aimee unlocked herself and crossed to the control panel. “This baby’s got a full tank. We can jump right home!” She glanced at her friend, who was trying to hoist herself to her feet without being able to use her arms. “Sorry Shakila, the keys to your cuffs are with the parrot.”

“That’s okay.” Shakila rolled herself into Gideon, pushing him out of the ship.

“Well, strap down, everyone. Next stop, the future!” Aimee announced.

Lúcia cheered and leapt into the passenger seat. Shakila sighed.

“Shakila?” Aimee asked. “What’s wrong?”

“I...I can’t do this,” Shakila admitted. The cat finally had the angle to get herself to her feet, and immediately used it to leave the ship. “I’m not stealing a police barge. You and Lúcia should go, but I need to argue my defense in front of a judge.”

“Shakila, come on.” Aimee offered a hand to help her back inside. “Don’t be melodramatic. We’ll figure out the next step after we jump, it’s what we’ve always done.”

“Our actions have consequences, Aimee.” Shakila looked at the fallen officer. “Emi’s still alive. Shelton will never fight Dragonstorm. That means you and I aren’t Aimee and Shakila anymore, because Aimee and Shakila died.” She choked up. “When the law catches up to us, it’s going to force us to create new identities. It’s gonna register us as blank slates. I want my slate to say ‘She regrets her actions and is actively trying to atone.’”

“Shakila,” Aimee still couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Why are you doing this? I can’t lose you.” She felt tears welling in her eyes. “Just get in the ship. Stop creating hills to die on. Please...just this once. I’ll even fly you right to jail if that’s what you want.”

Shakila shook her head. “You’re a rebel, Aimee. You’re self-sufficient, you’re comfortable being on the run, and I think you’ll make more progress achieving your goals as a lone wolf than you did as a crewman on the Spire.” Rummaging through Gideon’s uniform, she found a radio and turned it on. “Hey, Coltfosters. My companion has your ship and she’s getting away.”

“Shakila!” Aimee’s eyes went wide. It broke her heart what Shakila was forcing her to do, but at the same time, she slowly realized that Shakila sounded more fulfilled than she had since they joined the Spire. Not a trace of the sarcastic, unhappy persona her friend had morphed into was present; perhaps the Spire had never been the right place for her at all.

“Good luck, Aimee,” Shakila bowed her head respectfully. “When I’ve served my time or cleared my name, I’ll come find you.”

Aimee squeezed her eyes shut. “I’ll be waiting…” she finally forced out, pressing a button to lock up the ship. She saw the three officers appear between the rocks on the bluff, sprinting or flapping their wings desperately to reach them in time, but it was too late. Rising into the sky with a wind funnel that sent everyone but Shakila staggering backwards, the ship stabbed into the sky and disappeared with a flash.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2019, 07:20:26 AM by aabicus (LettuceBacon&Tomato) »

aabicus (LettuceBacon&Tomato)

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Re: The Approaching Light
« Reply #23 on: March 19, 2019, 11:18:04 AM »
Aaaaaand...the conclusion! Thanks for riding with me through my first Insane Cafe story, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing :D

Back in the present, another wormhole appeared on Hoolefar and a lone police shuttle popped into existence. It was over the ocean on the far side of the city, not next to the Spire like last time, but that hardly phased the two occupants. Oh man, this ship has a blackout compensator, Aimee noted approvingly. That would have saved us a lot of headaches before.

But she couldn't dwell on what little happiness that should have given her; the pain caused by the expedition's losses couldn't be ignored. She'd screwed up almost every choice on that voyage, and lost both of her teammates, including her best friend Shakila. And there was almost no silver lining, not even her own past survival--

Suddenly a low beeping interrupted her. An incoming transmission? It had no listed sender and was an extremely old, outdated radio frequency. Aimee realized it was automated; someone had waited a long time for her signal to finally reappear.

Aimee--

By the time you read this, I will have died long ago. But you'll be pleased to know, you no longer will share my fate.

I evaded the cops and settled down in America, eventually becoming quite wealthy. I became a notable investor for Trinity Facility, in order to ensure I was present to prevent Trinity from killing you. It pained me to watch you suffer, but I knew it must happen to keep the timeline intact. My sincere apologies.

I also invested in Texas Base, and ensured Shakila's survival during her interrogation. It turns out neither of you needed Shelton after all.

Please don't feel bad about the terms on which we ended our companionship. We were all under a lot of stress, and ultimately everything worked out for me. I don't know what sort of future adventures you'll be going on, and I sometimes wish I could have gone with you and continued exploring the galaxy. But in my old age, I take solace knowing I helped ensure those adventures will happen.

Cheers,
E. Theodore esq.


Lúcia gasped in awe at the magnificent resort city sprawling as far as her eyes could see. “Ay dios mio...” she breathed, leaping out of her seat and pressing her hand against the windshield. “How can that be real…?”

“It gets a lot more unbelievable than this,” Aimee assured with a small smile, closing Eric's farewell message. She shifted to cruise control and sent a hail to the spaceport requesting a landing zone. “And I’m gonna show you all of it. But this is a pretty great place to start. Plenty of fabulous sites, exciting things to do, and it’s one of the safest places the Spire has ever visited--”

Abruptly one of the ships leaving the spaceport whizzed past their ship so closely that alarms went off. “What the hell?” Aimee gasped, grabbing the controls to stabilize. “What the hell is that idiot’s deal?”

The ship came around for another pass, and Aimee dropped urgently to avoid a head-on collision. “Lúcia, sit back down!” she warned. “This person’s suicidal!”

She hit the thrusters, hoping to reach the spaceport where third parties might back her up, and only realized last-second that she’d played right into her assaulter’s hand; they’d been expecting her to try and escape, and swooped to block. Aimee felt a shudder ripple through her craft as the other ship glanced off her roof. Lúcia cried out in terror.

Aimee gritted her teeth and swung around for another pass. “Fine, you want a 1v1?” She flipped a switch and prepared the police ship’s photon torpedos. “Let’s dance!”

But her assailant seemed to have lost control after the collision. As Aimee watched, the craft spiraled feebly downward, crashing into the ocean with a heavy splash.

A few seconds of stunned silence passed. “What the hell was that about--” she muttered, when suddenly someone opened her shuttle door from the outside. Aimee barely had time to turn and look before the newcomer shot both her and Lúcia with a stungun.

“...Holy crap…” the hijacker breathed, looking in surprise at her bounty. “Well, I’ll be!” Sealing the door shut behind her, she grabbed Aimee’s stunned body by the throat and tilted her head so they were seeing eye to eye. “And here I thought I was merely swapping out for a ship with some guns.” Hailey grinned wickedly. “Nice to finally see you again...old friend.”
« Last Edit: March 21, 2019, 11:40:45 PM by aabicus (LettuceBacon&Tomato) »

aabicus (LettuceBacon&Tomato)

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Re: The Approaching Light
« Reply #24 on: March 26, 2019, 02:12:07 PM »
Added a (non-canon) page for this story to the Darwins Soldiers wiki! Also, if you want to follow the plot from here, this post picks up exactly where this story leaves off.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2019, 02:17:17 PM by aabicus (LettuceBacon&Tomato) »