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First Contact - Third Wave - Chapter 352 (Girlz Und Lankyz)

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The day was warm, with warm breezes coming in from the coast. The sky was a smooth and comfortable amber, the three moons silently moving across the sky. The bluish grass was waist high on the tallest of the dozen young female humans walking to the top of the hill, the youngest only visible by the top of her head appearing and disappearing in the grass.
The tallest got to the top of the hill and made a motion.
The other girls vanished into the grass.
She lifted up a pair of macro-binoculars, scanning below her.
The spaceships were all damaged. Some were little more than carbonized wreckage, others had only been 'slightly' damaged by being broken in half or their wings snapped off or one end smashed into junk. The plascrete tarmac was pocked and pitted with craters. The terminal windows were all shattered, the control towers had collapsed and burned. Ground cars and hovercars were scattered around, all of them damaged to one degree or another.
She knelt down so she was barely visible, scanning around the spaceport.
The city was heavily damaged. Burned ground cars, crashed hover-vehicles all littered the streets, the parking lots, and smashed into the buildings. Plas-sheets stirred around in the wind, windows were broken open, some buildings had burned, and most of the skyscrapers had collapsed.
The decayed remains of people and invaders were scattered around.
She focused the macro-binoculars on one body, unsure if it was the shadows or a trick of the light.
It was a man in business apparel, missing both legs. As the girl, and she was a young teenage girl, watched the figure lifted itself up and gave a wordless cry of hunger that the girl couldn't hear. The side of his face was charred from a plasma hit, his teeth crooked, his skin yellowish. Blackish fluid leaked from his nose and mouth.
The man collapsed back down on the ground, face first, going still.
"Deaders," the girl said softly.
"Stupid deaders," a girl said. She was dressed in rough homespun pants, a rough shirt, and wearing two different boots. Her hair was held back by a bandanna from her forehead and woven into a braid down her back.
"How many?" a third girl asked. She had on pants, a vest, a backpack, a hat, boots, and a belt-pack pulled around to the front. As she spoke she undid the pressure seal on the belt-pack and opened the pack.
"Not sure. Only see one right now," the tallest girl said. "Wait, I see another one. Stuck under a car. Looks like most of them didn't survive the winter."
The third girl opened the pack far enough for several small doll-like figures to emerge, wings on their back buzzing. They circled her as she sealed the pack again.
"See more deaders than people lately," the bandanna girl said. She looked over at the girl surrounded by the dozen or so little dolls. "How's their charge?"
"OK," the girl said. "I'll send them out to scout the starport."
"Make sure they stay away from Lankys and people. We don't have many left," the oldest girl said.
The one with the pack nodded as the smallest walked up. She had on boots with plas-sheets crumpled up and stuffed inside. "People all gone. Just us and deaders," a young girl said, pulling her thumb out of her mouth. She went back to sucking her thumb, holding onto a leash with her other hand.
"Think there's a working ant hive down there?" another girl asked. She was holding a Great Herd plasma pistol in one hand, the side open with wires sticking out of it.
"Think so. Lots of custom template shops, looks like some vehicle repair shops, plus the starships," the tall girl said. "We might be able to find supplies."
"Well, if it goes sideways, we got Mister Beepy," another girl said, jerking her thumb toward the girl who was sucking her thumb and staring at the grass around her. The thumb sucker nodded.
"All right. Let's go. Keep your eyes open, we don't want to get pushed against the wall like we did in Kumbah Bay," the tall one said. She stood up again, shading her eyes and squinting. "At least this city has power."
"For now," one of the girls grunted, smacking her hands together to knock the dirt off. She stood up, wincing, and limped after the leader.
The girls got up and started down the hill, angling toward the spaceport.
"Just another day," the tallest one said.
"In Paradise," the others answered back.
------------------
The girls spent the day skirting the spaceport, looking down the streets and broken mag-lev tracks for any sign of a threat. When dark came they backed off, climbing inside a cargo truck and shutting the door. The one with the pack gave a sharp whistle and let the little winged fairies return to the pack.
"All of them come back?" the oldest asked.
The girl nodded. She tapped the dataslate hanging from a thong on her belt. "It'll take a while to see what they found. The 'slate's slow."
The eldest girl just nodded.
The one with a limp sat down, leaning against a crate marked 'SUPERSTRING COMPRESSOR BUFFER SPRING SHOCK CLAMPS", and reached into her pocket. She pulled out a small case with the words "Warm Aura Holistic Medical Center' on it. She popped it open, revealing it was half full of quick-poke syringes. She tugged one out, put it in her mouth, and pulled out another.
"Two tonight?" the eldest asked.
The one with the limp nodded, snapping the case closed and putting it back in her pocket. She stripped the caps off each, injecting them into the crook of her elbow, then leaned back, sighing.
"You need to eat, Mimi," the eldest said.
"Leave me alone, Didi. My leg hurts," the girl, Mimi, said, closing her eyes. "I got shot, remember?"
"You can eat or I'll beat you up," Didi said, crossing her arms. "Or I'll stomp on your leg again."
Mimi sighed and looked over to where the thumb sucker was kneeling, a small nutri-forge held tight between her knees. She was pouring water into it.
"I'm tired of forge food," she said. She shuddered and her pupils dialated. "Oh, that's the stuff," she gave a long sigh, her eyelids heavy. "At least Neenee isn't peeing in it so we can eat."
"We were hungry," the thumbsucker snapped, her eyes hard. "You weren't helping, just getting high all the time."
"I got shot," the girl said softly, her head lolling to the side. "Ooh, that's better."
"She's not going to eat," the one with the bandana said, wrinkling her nose.
"Let her sleep," Didi said, looking at the one with the pack. "Do the night fairies still work, Cindi?"
The girl with the pack shook her head. "No. They're still tired. I think the battery is almost dead."
Didi sighed. "All right. Neenee, put Mister Beepy on watch. We'll eat and get some rest."
Neenee pulled her thumb out of her mouth and nodded, climbing out of the back of the cargo lifter.
The little nutri-forge put out small breakfasts, it's internal clock off. The girls ate, then all huddled up, sharing two tattered emergency blankets. They all curled up together in, one of the middle sized ones staying awake, and went to sleep. One by one they woke each other up to stand guard.
When morning came they gathered around the small nutri-forge, attaching a new battery with a faded and scraped case to it. The holographic interface seemed worn and tired as they each ordered up something for breakfast from the lunch menu, since the nano-forges clock was out of synch with the actual time.
Once they had eaten, they peeked outside the truck, then quickly moved from the truck to the grass and vegetation that had sprung up around the ruined suburb that had grown up around the starport. The buildings were flattened, overgrown by grass and shrubs in the time since The End had come.
The littlest girl took her thumb out of her mouth and gave a sharp whistle, shaking a leash. Her pet ran up, frolicking in the morning sun, and waited until she put the leash on it. It obediently followed her into the grass, happy to see her again. The solar collectors on the side were dusty and she took the time to wipe them off.
The sun was high in the sky when the oldest two ran out of the grass, running up to the fence. The younger of the two pulled a hand held plasma cutter out of her pocket, the case marked with the symbol of the Great Herd, and used it to slice an opening through the chain-link fence.
They ran back and hid in the grass.
After a period of time they slowly moved out of the grass, in a cluster where they kept bumping into each other and staggering. It was a strange way to move, as if their joints weren't quite put together right. The oldest held open the chain link fence while the others moved through.
Mister Beepy went last and the oldest one, Didi, reached down and scratched him lightly before waving him through. Mister Beepy beeped happily and hurried to catch up the youngest girl, who held the retractable leash in the hand that wasn't attached to her mouth.
They moved in the weird clustered group, starting to make 'urrr' and 'rawr' noises at odd times, until they reached one of the starships that the engines had been smashed and burned. The one with the fairies, Cindi, opened her pack and the fairies swirled around for a moment before swooping into the wreck.
"They're getting tired, Didi," Cindi said sadly.
"I'm just glad they've lasted as long as they have," Didi said. "We're lucky we found the Hidenseekinbells in that shop."
Cindi nodded. They all huddled up, watching, until the fairies came back. Cindi lifted up the dataslate, watching it slowly go through the data. The little robots were designed to look for children, map rooms, play games, and find things.
They also rarely lasted longer than a few months.
"No power," Cindi said sadly.
"I don't wanna go in a dark ship," one of the girls said quietly.
"We aren't gonna," Didi said. "Let's move on. Keep an eye out for any deaders waking up."
The group moved from ship to ship, the fairies searching inside each time.
On the sixth check Cindi looked up. "This one had power."
"All right. Cindi will give everyone a map. We'll split up in groups of two. Neenee, you stay out here with Mister Beepy," she said.
Mister Beepy barked happily.
The girls moved into the starship, which looked scorched, dented, and battered.
Didi was trying to open the door marked "Galley" when she heard it. The low curious moan of a deader that had seen movement or heard a sound that it hadn't heard before.
Amee put one finger to her lips, her eyes hidden by her mirrorshades, holding up a Confederate Army magac pistol. Her wrists were braced with medical braces that were drawn on with colored markers.
The deader, a crewman in a jumpsuit, staggered around the corner. Amee lowered the pistol, leveling it with the deader's chest, and checked her ammo counter.
6.
She stuck her tongue out and held it between her teeth and pressed the firing stud.
KRA-THWAK!
The entire upper half of the deader exploded into mist, the legs standing up for a moment before folding up and landing on the floor.
The two girls listened closely for any other movement as Amee waved the pistol around, letting the overheated mag-coils cool. The heat shroud around the pistol's barrel smoked, thick black smoke, for a few moments.
"Should be OK," Didi said. She checked her own pistol, a Lanky stun-gun she'd hotwired. It had half a charge and she had one more charge brick in her pocket. She opened the door slowly, looking in.
There were only tables and benches and chairs, all scattered around. The lights popped and hissed, flashing on and off.
"Look, food forge," Amee said.
"I see it. Watch my butt," Didi said. She moved into the room, keeping to the side, watching the corners, watching any openings. She reached the food-forge and pressed her thumb against the menu.
The food forge pinged and the menu popped up.
"Mass tanks are at 90%," Didi said, sagging slightly in relief. "We can eat something besides snacks."
She turned and looked around. "Let's find the others. We'll sweep the ship, turn on the power, and barricade the airlock. Tomorrow we'll search the concourse."
Amee nodded, looking around. Her mirrorshades let her see as if it was daytime.
A half hour later found them at the airlock. Didi did a quick count and sighed.
"Where's Mimi?" she asked. She looked at Hawnee. "You were with her."
"She said she was going to stay on the bridge. It has power," Hawnee said. The lights buzzed and flickered.
"She's probably stoned," one of the girls said.
"Go out and tell Neenee we're going to stay in her tonight and Mister Beepy can come in. We'll plug him in and get his charge back up," Didi said. She oriented herself, checking the map the fairies had made that she had stored in her datalink.
She moved carefully, keeping an eye on the doors and other corridors.
The ship had been searched, but it wouldn't be the first time a deader had come shambling out of the darkness and killed someone even after the area had been searched.
Mimi was sitting slumped in the Captain's chair, her legs straight out. The medpack had fallen off the arm of the chair, spilling the stickers onto the floor. Mimi was breathing slow and steady, her face pale, dark circles around her eyes.
There were three stickers in her lap, empty, and the crook of her elbow was slightly swollen.
Didi put her hand on her shooter, wrapping her long fingers with chipped nails around the butt as she stared at Mimi. Her face hardened and she started to draw the pistol from the holster.
"Is she stoned again?" Winni asked from the hatchway.
Didi let go of the pistol, turning around and shaking her head. "Blasted."
"She's going to overdose, Didi," Winni said. "We'll wake up and she'll have taken a bite out of someone's butt," the eleven year old looked at Didi, her face serious. "You know it, I know it, everyone knows it."
Mimi shifted on the chair slowly and passed gas, not opening her eyes. At least Didi hoped the other girl had just farted. A few times in the last month she'd actually fudged her panties and had been stoned enough she'd just sat in them.
"We'll worry about that when it happens," Didi said. She started walking out, Winni following her.
"You could have shot her, I wouldn't have said anything," Winni said softly.
The thought didn't horrify Didi like it would have a year ago.
"Never mind. Let's get some rest. I want to finish searching the ships by lunch tomorrow."
------------------
Didi walked out of the destroyed freighter. The mass tanks were almost full, in contrast to the mass tanks on the tramp steamer they were hiding in. The tanks on their home were still attached to the hoses they had been using to refill, the other end of the hoses melted and torn from where they had been attached to a refueling truck that had been destroyed.
Neenee was playing with Mister Beepy, throwing a large stick that the robot ran over and picked up then trotted back with.
Pauli moved over next to Didi. "You know, the House might still be spaceworthy," she said. She was twisting the mag-coils on the end of her pistol's barrel, a habit she'd gotten into months ago.
"I know," Didi said. She shaded her eyes, watching Neenee throw the stick again. "Dammit."
"What?" Pauli asked, looking. "She's watching out. See, she saw us."
"I told Mimi to stay with her," Didi said. She sighed. "Come on, it wasn't that hard of a job."
"Neenee and Mimi don't like each other," Pauli reminded Didi unnecessarily.
"I don't care. I told them to stay together," Didi said. She hurried across the plascrete.
A buzzing sound started, getting closer.
All of the girls ran for cover, hiding, crouched down and looking up at the sky.
A drone, the sound baffling long ago ruined, wobbled in the air. The buzzing noise quit and it leveled out.
Didi lifted up her macro-binoculars, staring at the drone.
"Grownups?" Pauli asked, fiddling with the mag-coils on her pistol.
"No. Lanky," Didi said.
The drone shimmered as the camo-system came back on.
"I thought all the Lankys were dead," Pauli said. She lifted up her pistol, staring at where the drone had been. "I see it."
"Take it out. Hopefully they haven't seen much," Didi said. She sighed. "I don't want to leave."
"I want off this planet," Pauli said. She exhaled, relaxed, and tapped the trigger.
The plasma pistol shrieked, the magnetic stabilization coils sparking and screaming. The plasma bolt hit the drone, exploding in a blaze of white and yellow. Pieces of the drone fell from the sky as Pauli blew on the smoking coils.
"They know we're here now," Didi said. She started walking to where Neenee was sitting next to Mister Beepy, petting his long nose. She stopped next to Neenee, who looked up, sucking her thumb.
"How's Mister Beepy?" Didi asked, crouching down.
"Tired," Neenee said, pulling her thumb from her mouth. "He feels better now that we played."
"We might have Lankys here soon," Didi said. She reached out and brushed Neenee's hair away from the girl's datalink.
The case was missing, exposing the electronics.
"How about my Neenee, how is she?" Didi asked.
Neenee smiled. "I'm OK. I want to leave."
"I know, sweetie, I want to leave too," Didi said.
"When we leave, can I get a new Mommy and Daddy?" Neenee asked, her blue eyes wide.
Didi swallowed at the sight that one of the girl's cybereyes was cracked.
"Yes, Neenee. When we're safe, I'll make sure you get a new mommy and daddy," Didi promised, part of her feeling like it was a lie.
They were never going to get off the planet.
Didi leaned down and kissed Neenee's head. "If the Lankys come, can you and Mister Beepy handle it?"
Neenee nodded, sticking her thumb back into her mouth.
Unseen by either girl, up the tail of the tramp hauler, a light blinked steadily.
---------------------
The Lanaktallan APC had seen better days. The plasteel was scraped, discolored, battered, and poorly patched. The graviton pods were howling, two of them blowing sparks everywhere. It crashed through the fence, heading straight for the tramp hauler. One side was opened, showing a half dozen Lanaktallan troops in mismatched armor, all carrying plasma rifles.
It had just passed the collapsed control tower when the driver saw it out of the corner of his eye.
It was a four legged robot, crouched down, a robotic dog head wired sloppily to the frame. It had fake fur, taken from stuffed animals, wrapped around the robotic parts. There was a tiny human girl, a thick datacable running from her temple to the back of the robot, her hands wrapped around the handles on the back and her feet braced against the back legs of the robot.
Mister Beepy went from fast beeps to a steady tone and gave two sharp barks. Neenee bit down on the piece of plastic in her mouth and pressed her little thumbs, one still wet with slobber, on the buttefly plate at the back of Mister Beepy.
The whole robotic frame shuddered as the robot dog head mounted on the top began barking wildly, the synthetic tongue lolling out with excitement.
The driver of the Lanaktallan APC had only a second to realize he'd been ambushed before Neenee hit the trigger.
30mm armor defeating mass reactive anti-matter shells with a battlesteel jacket slammed into the APC, ripping open the entire armored side, blowing through the Lanaktallan inside, and exploding out the other side as Neenee raked the armored vehicle with a long practiced maneuver.
She let off the trigger as the APC heeled over to the side and landed on one side, flames crackling from the gutted armored vehicle.
Neenee sighed and leaned forward, resting her head against the back of the weapon.
"I love you, Mister Beepy," she whispered, petting the warm side of the heavy weapon mobile assault smartgun platform.
The dog's head barked happily.
Didi looked out, then ran to Neenee, kneeling down next to the little girl, who had her eyes closed and was sucking her thumb. Didi wrinkled her nose at the smell of burnt hair, brushing it away from the datalink.
The skin around it was red and blistered and the telltale pinlights inside were all red and amber.
"Are you OK, Neenee?" Didi asked gently, pulling the cable from the side of the girl's head.
Mister Beepy barked and the gun made clacking noises at it went into standby mode. The robotic dog's head took over for the dead smartgun circuitry and the gun lifted up on all fours and danced a little jig as the fins extended from the nanoforge slowly lowered as they cooled.
"I'm OK," Neenee said around her thumb. Her eyes were closed. "Sleepy."
"I know, sweetie," Didi said. She looked around and carried Neenee back into the ship. She looked at Mimi. "You and Cindi keep watch."
Mimi sighed and stood up, her knee buckling. "Fine."
Cindi opened the pouch and let a handful of little fairies flutter out.
Didi carried Neenee into the ship, carrying her to one of the berths.
She laid the little girl down, brushing her hair out of her eyes. Mister Beepy carefully stepped around the debris that the girls hadn't moved out of the way, his robotic legs/outriggers whining as the servos kicked in.
Didi took a rag out of her pocket, brushing Neenee's hair out of the way. She dabbed at the pink fluid that had run from the girl's ear beneath her datalink. Didi could see that the muscle tremors had already started. Small, tiny spasms of different muscles indicating petit-mal seizures.
Didi knew that Neenee would wet the bed.
Once she was sure that the little girl was fully asleep she got up, scratched Mister Beepy's head, and walked out. She moved over by Cindi, who was sitting just inside the ship.
"Where's Mimi?" Didi asked.
"She went to the bathroom. She probably already stickied up," Cindi said. Her voice was cold. "She probably fudge packed her panties already." She looked up at Didi. "She's going to get someone killed, Didi."
"Let me worry about your sister," Didi said. "Are you going to be able to convince any of the night fairies to keep watch tonight?"
Cindi nodded. "Sparkle Bell said she would," Cindi looked sad. "I think it's going to be the last thing she'll do," she looked up. "Can we bury her?"
Didi nodded, not surprised that the younger girl was asking to bury an animatronic doll after all the death and carnage of real people she had seen.
--------------------
Sparkle Bell was an expensive toy. An advanced virtual intelligence that could play games, learn, react to a child, and even keep watch over a child and alert parents to any risks or danger. Like many expensive toys, she required maintenance that she could no longer get.
Which is why she was tired.
She laid on a seam of the hull plates on the starship, her legs straight behind her, her iridescent wings moving slowly, one arm under her head, one arm hanging down. Her outfit was tattered and torn but still sparkled in the moonlight.
Sparkle Bell listened to the song the light above her was playing. It was a new song, it repeated itself, but it was still a new song. She closed her eyes, listened to the song, then opened her eyes again.
She saw three shapes moving toward the hatch. She squinted and the blurry shapes rezzed for a moment before turning into three Lanaktallan in black armor, carrying weapons, slowly creeping up on the open hatch.
Sparkle Bell twitched her nose twice to the sound of a tinkling little bell. Her transmitter spun up, sent the message, and shorted out.
The synthetic nu-flesh on her stomach blackened and split as she closed her eyes, the casing on her high capacity battery cracked and the capacitance gel oozed out.
She sighed, smiled, and closed her eyes.
Inside the ship Didi looked at Cindi, who was nodding. Didi looked at what was in her hand and sighed. It was her last one and she'd been shepherding it for weeks.
Now she was glad she had it, but part of her was loathe to use it.
She pulled the pin and waited.
Cindi and Amee both watched down the sights of their pistols at the bottom of the airlock hatch.
A Lanaktallan helmet lifted up.
Both girls pulled the trigger. Amee's pistol screamed, Cindi's pistol thwacked.
The Lanaktallan's head exploded and it fell out of sight.
Didi tossed the implosion grenade out the hatch.
A Lanaktallan screamed, a loud whinnying noise.
The implogren went off with a sucking sound as Amee and Cindi blew on the barrels of their pistols to cool the coils.
Cindi dug another night fairy, that yawned and stretched, and let it fly outside.
Didi leaned back, staring out at the darkness.
The only light from the ship was on the tail section, burning steadily in the darkness.
-----------------
"Give me one," Cindi commanded, pointing at the box in Mimi's lap.
"No. I'm almost out," Mimi answered.
"You took the stickies from the medbay. Give me one," Cindi said.
"No," Mimi said, backing up, putting her hand over her pocket. "I need them."
"I got shot," both girls said at the same time.
"Neenee needs one. She's really bad," Cindi said.
"I need them," Mimi said.
Cindi slowly drew her pistol. "Give me one."
Mimi shook her head, laughing. "No. You won't shoot me, I'm your sister."
Mimi turned around, walking away. Cindi noticed she had a brown streak on the back of her pants.
"Do you remember what happened to Mommy and Daddy?" Cindi said.
"The deaders got them," Mimi said. She pushed up her sleeve, walking toward the comfortable chair.
"After you shut the door on them," Cindi said softly. "They could have gotten inside, but you let Mommy and Daddy and Tiki get eaten."
"Whatever," Mimi said. "You're just a stupid baby. Go someplace and cry over your toys."
Cindi leveled her pistol at her sister's back, biting her tongue.
Didi put her hand on the barrel of the pistol, pushing it down. When Cindi looked up, Didi shook her head.
Snarling, Cindi followed Didi out of the room.
Mimi put one sticker in her mouth, jabbed the other one on the inside of her elbow.
What does she know, she's just a stupid baby who cries over toys, Mimi thought as she took the second one out of her mouth and popped the cap free.
The meds were cool as they raced up her arm.
-----------
"How many?" Didi asked, sighing.
"Thirty, maybe more. They've got another clanky," Cindi said. "A big one, with a big gun on the front and treads."
"A tank," Didi sighed. "Stupid Lankys."
"Me and Mister Beepy will help," Neenee said. She started to stand up, lost her balance, and fell on the floor. She made a small noise of frustration and pushed herself up. "I can help."
Didi shook her head. "You can't even walk, Neenee," she said.
Cindi looked at her datapad. "They're sneaking through the concourse. Even Mister Beepy can see them."
Neenee scrambled on all fours toward the exit. Didi gave a sharp cry and hurried after her, grabbing one foot and pulling her back.
"I'll carry you," Didi said.
"Stay with me?" Neenee asked.
Didi nodded, carrying the smaller girl to the open cargo hatch. Mister Beepy sat underneath a cargo net. The sun was bright outside as Didi set Neenee down behind the damaged autonomous smartgun. Mister Beepy's dog's head barked happily.
"I'm sorry," Didi said, taking the data cable that normally should have been plugged into a console and plugging it into the socket on the side of the little girl's head.
"It's OK," Neenee said. She braced her feet against the rear legs that were acting as outriggers. She wrapped her hands around the handles.
Didi could see the data reflected in the pupil of Neenee's working cybereye.
"Lanaktallan medium tank, one-hundred fifteen tons, point seven five meters of solid battlesteel armor, nine kilowatt battlescreen, one hundred five millimeter plasma cannon," Neenee said, her voice distant and almost confused.
Mister Beepy barked.
"Thirty light infantry, small arms and non-powered armor," Neenee said.
Didi knelt down next to the girl and stroked her hair. She could smell scorched hair and frying electronics. A little wisp of blue smoke eeked out of the exposed circuitry of the little girl's datalink.
It's a baby's datalink, not an adult's, Didi thought to herself for the thousandth time since it had all started.
The heavy 30mm autocannon started beeping as it went through a function check, cleared, loaded the chamber and fired up the nanoforge.
"ALL CLEAR!" Neenee yelled through Mister Beepy's dog head.
She pressed her little thumbs against the trigger.
The crew served weapon roared, putting out cannon rounds that blew apart the far wall of the concourse, two small aircars, and slammed into the tank. The mass reactive antimatter shells blew craters in the Lanaktallan tank's armor, eating through it like a spray of warm water through snow.
The tank exploded.
Neenee began turning the weapon when she gave a gargling cry, her back arching, her limbs shaking as her feet kicked. She landed on her side, her arms curled, her legs straight out, and she rocked slightly side to side.
Didi yanked the datacable free from the girl's temple and pulled her aside.
Outside, the Lanaktallan charged.
They hadn't known the ship worked.
That there was a working ship anywhere on the planet.
Like the girls, they wanted to go home.
Plasma rounds screamed across the tarmac, crisscrossing as each side fired. Three mag-ac weapons (two pistols and a submachine gun) fired. A jacked up crosswired neural pistol added to the fray.
Mister Beepy barked at the Lanaktallan as they manuevered across the parking lot, the girls getting frustrated as the Lanaktallan quickly galloped back and forth to cover.
Slowly but surely the girl's fire lessened as they ran out of ammo.
Desperate, Didi picked up the datacable and plugged it into her temple.
ANTI-THEFT LOCKOUT appeared just like it had, the dog's head that was providing the RAM and sensors for the smartgun to even operate refusing to recognize anyone but Neenee, who'd gotten it for her birthday the day everything had fallen apart.
"No, no, no, please work," Didi said, pulling the datacable from her head and grabbing the handles. She pressed the trigger.
Nothing happened.
The Lanaktallan started to move forward, fifteen of them marching forward.
This is it. There's no where left to run, Didi thought.
A scream sounded, at first making Didi think one of the girls was screaming. She realized it was coming from outside right before there was the roar of afterburners.
The dropship was heavily armored, its weapons firing. The Lanaktallan tried to flee but the heavy guns on the sides of the dropship cut them down. The dropship settled in place, summoned by the emergency beacon on the tail of the ship.
One of the troop doors opened and a figure was standing in the door. Red marked shirt, black pants, crossed straps on the chest and a heavy rifle in their hands.
A human figure.
Didi pulled Neenee into her arms, holding the smaller girl who was limp but still breathing, and rocked back and forth, weeping with relief as the humans ran forward.
------------------------
CAPTAIN'S PERSONAL LOG
Stardate 8535.215
Enroute to Starbase 19 my Uhuru picked up a distress beacon from one of the earliest attacked Harmonous Cluster worlds. On a hunch I ordered the ship to head for the beacon at Warp-8, arriving within 72 hours.
Scans showed a group of humans taking cover in a damaged freighter facing off against a Lanaktallan strike force. I ordered Riker to escort a security away team to rescue the humans and take one of the Jonestown Class Dropships with him cleared for action.
Once the Lanaktallan were dealt with, my Riker exited the dropship to check on the survivors.
The survivors turned out to be a group of sixteen adolescent and prepubescent girls, all in various stages of health. They were initially leery, but quickly agreed to accompany my Riker back to the Dakota. My Troi had made an excellent suggestion in sending my Riker, his personal charisma was soothing to the girls, all of whom are suffering from extensive deprivation.
Once aboard the ship I had a medical team standing by. I still choose to use dropships and combat shuttles rather than mat-trans. My McCoy immediately took charge, my Nurse Chapel assisting him.
My McCoy has stated that they are all suffering from malnutrition, PTSD, with one case of heavy painkiller addiction and another with bad neural scorching from running a modified smartgun via neural link rather than computerized control.
Talk about last second rescues.
We are currently making for Starbase 19 and should arrive in the next 48 hours.
Admiral Jeff Picark 8873
Addendum: In our cargo hold is a Mark 381 30mm Autonomous Autocannon Smart Gun System attached to a robotic canine companion.
It's name is Mister Beepy.
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submitted by Ralts_Bloodthorne to HFY

6

[Discussion] This week, I experienced a very interesting scenario with a first time author I very harshly reviewed the book of & I'd like to share with you all what happened & hope that at least one person learns from my mistake.

Hello everyone! I am the user who recently posted about GoodReads book giveaways and the relevance of that is that most of this story took place on Goodreads.
One of the books I won a physical copy of was a book titled Identical Geniuses by Thomas Friedrich. The synopsis of the book sounded very interesting to me thus I entered the giveaway and was pretty happy to have won. The synopsis reads:
Kris is a highly accomplished and driven prodigy, a goal-oriented force of nature. Her sole focus is on becoming the world's leading cybersecurity expert. That is, until she meets Max. He melts her heart and changes her entire world. But, a case of mistaken identity threatens to break Kris's heart, and to thwart her one chance at true love. Kris's twin sister Liz carves her own path. Liz is a polymath, good at almost everything, but her lack of focus keeps her in Kris's shadow. Liz blooms later, but will her star shine as bright as Kris's? Or, will the envy that results from Kris's success doom Liz to a tragic and bitter end? In turns, the girls match wits with Dr. Reginald Hammond. Hammond is bitter and vain. He considers himself the smartest man in the room. Any room. And, he may well be. But is he the smartest person in the room? Or, has he met his match in Kris and Liz?
I'm not big into YA novels at this point in my life but occasionally, I will enjoy one. That was not the case with this book and while I don't have an answer for WHY I did what I did next, which was write a very scathing review of only a part of the book. Here is the original review I posted to my Goodreads page and fair warning, it's fairly long, thus the spoiler tag (plus there are actual spoilers of the book there too).
Only into the second chapter and the sentence structure is horrendous. Clearly, Friedrich is not familiar with the oxford comma, how commas are used or what constitutes an actual sentence. This one paragraph alone makes it obvious that this is not a book written by anyone that excelled in Language Arts in school.
"Like her dad, Liz was more curious about life in general than driven to conquer any single aspect of it. Liz read widely - novels, cultural histories, cookbooks, current events. Even philosophy, which pleased her Dad immensely. She was hardly lazy, as her mother seemed to think. Just diffusely focused. Tennis, golf, pottery, cooking, kickboxing, music, theater, travel, architecture, woodworking, gardening, and even welding attracted her interest. Usually in intense phases, that burned out as quickly as they arrived. The fact of her passing interest in those topics blurred the stunning reality of her quick mastery of virtually everything that she tried."
It's standard in any writing that a sentence should make sense on its own. Instead of using commas, colons or semicolons for a continuing statement, he just writes lines that, standing alone, have no context. "Just diffusely focused." "Usually in intense phases…" You get the idea.
I also haven't figured out yet whether Friedrich is referring to a school I'm not familiar with or if Haverd, spelled this way twice so far, was meant to be Harvard.
Finished Chapter 2. He 100% meant Harvard.
There's a whole page, maybe two, where the author is talking about the father character, Fritz the philosophy professor, and goes into this whole thing of vaguely referencing nearly every well known philosopher and a brief, nonsensical reference about what Fritz thinks of them.
Ayn Rand had made some very good points about the connection between effort and outcome, Fritz conceded, but he considered her heartless and cold.
"Fritz thought that John Locke, Jean Jacque Rousseau , and of course Plato and Socrates, all had much to offer."
"But, in Fritz's view, so does the guy behind the counter at the local bowling center, whose critique of the arbitrary abuse of power inherent in local zoning restrictions is spot on. And, Fritz's barber, Joe. His views on confiscation via taxation made Fritz think. As much as anything the esteemed David Hume had to offer. Or, Adam Smith, for that matter."
It goes on like this. Also, it doesn't matter if you're not familiar with the views of any of history's philosophers because as someone who has books by the majority of the ones mentioned and has read a few of them between other books I enjoy, the slight reference to their name and only a vague mention of any of their world views doesn't even make sense IN context.
It's as if the author here is trying to give the character the knowledge he should have as a philosophy professor as well as opinions on them, but read only a brief synopsis of just a few of those he name dropped but without doing any in-depth research reading himself. In my opinion, if you want a character you're writing the thoughts of to be seen as having a fair amount of logic on a particular subject, it's part of your job as the author to spend time reading up on the subject yourself so your character's thoughts and words make sense in context. It's also important if you're going to have a character knowledgeable in a subject like Fritz and philosophy, that your target audience isn't likely to have any familiarity with, that context is important. A reader needs to be able to follow a character's train of thought and only making vague references to one small aspect of, in this case, a well known philosopher's many, many views only causes disconnect.
I've stopped reading at page 33, just a couple of pages into chapter 4 and I cannot finish this book.
The short description on the back of the author, Tom Friedrich, says that he has written for academic and professional journals. I'm having an extremely hard time believing this because the writing is so poor, repetitive and the characters are just so bland. Even as he tries to flesh them out, he repeats details over and over again. He must have repeated at least 6 times in the pages describing the character Max III, that Max's mother had become an alcoholic who had overdosed on pills and booze. He also uses the Roman numeral at every single mention of Max's grandfather, father and several times with the Max we're meant to be following.
The final straw for me was Chapter 4: True Love, page 33. Max and Kris meet briefly in a class they share. They make small talk. Kris agrees to meet Max at a coffee shop on a Sunday.
A little background: While describing the character Kris, her life, her ambitions, her long term goals and such, it's stated, many times of course, that Kris has never paid any attention to boys before this because she basically didn't have any other interests or personality outside of academic excellence, getting into a specific college and path of study. No likes or dislikes, doesn't care about anything on television or movies, never cared about having friends and again, has never had any interest in dating.
So, they meet at the coffee shop and Kris who has never paid any attention to boys or had any crushes or boyfriends, looks at him as he is coming in, before they have had anything resembling a conversation and thinks This doesn't feel like a crush. I think I'm really in love.
I shut the book here. I'm so disappointed because the premise of this book sounded like it could be good and now, I cannot bring myself to even finish it to tell you if there was even a plot, because at the point I stopped, nothing was happening.
So, that's my review. I am always a person who believes in reading and judging for yourself, but I won this one in a GoodReads giveaway and I would recommend not spending your money on this at all.I tried to undo giving the rating even 1 star but I guess it's the lowest you can rate.
I posted this and then didn't give it another thought until I received an Amazon package in the mail that was not another giveaway book I was expecting but a $20 Amazon gift card with this note included with it
As I'm sure you can all imagine, I felt about 3 inches high. Despite having spent ample time in school learning why constructive criticism is important both to an author themselves and to any individual peer editing, etc., I went out of my way to be an asshole with no real reasoning for why. At least no reason I could fathom (then or now).
I had no idea how to go about contacting Mr. Friedrich and I tried looking him up on social media and came up empty. It was after that point that I realized my card had come with a second piece of paper with the scan square or url link you can go to in order to send a thank you note.
Initially, I typed out my long and detailed apology and thankfully, before I could hit send, I realized I was between 2K and 2.5K characters over the limit of this little thank you note. So instead, I left a brief apology & told Mr. Friedrich that I had edited my review and **If he chose to read it, I had included within it the long apology I wanted to offer him. I clicked send and hoped for the best from there.
Here is what my apology said:
Before anyone reads further, I have a message I would like to leave for Mr. Friedrich.
Dear Thomas,
Your gift was very kind & I did not deserve it. The more important gift you gave me was the reminder that there is a big difference in offering constructive criticism & being extremely & unnecessarily rude. As someone who majored in Journalism & minored in Creative Writing in college, I'm admonishing myself for not considering while writing my review that there is a human being, who put their time, energy & heart into the book, on the receiving side. For quite a while after receiving your gift yesterday, I thought on how I would feel if I ever manage to put out a book of my own as I hope to do, if someone disliked my work & felt the need to be so ignorant towards me. While I know there will always be those types of people in the world, I NEVER imagined allowing myself to be one of them. Your kindness in response to my behavior made me realize that not only was I (pardon my french) being an asshole, but that I had taken a book that I received FOR FREE & showed absolutely no appreciation for that at all. I also want to make the point that I know that for many first time authors, any negative response from readers can absolutely affect that author's decision whether to write another or whether they feel so down that they veer away from this path they are typically passionate about. I never, EVER want to be the type of person to dampen or destroy a person's passion for their art. That's exactly what writing is to me; a creative outlet, a form of expression and whom am I to take that away from someone?
I want you to know that I did an edit to my review & reposted it. It would be an insult to your intelligence to pretend that I have completely changed my mind on my feel for your book and as I have been far too disrespectful already, I won't make it worse by lying to you. It's not my cup of tea. However, if you choose to read the edit I made to the review, & I absolutely understand if you choose not to, I did correct some of my comments because my perspective after actually taking the time to think rather than rushing to judgment, did change on some points.
In ending this, I would like to tell you that from the bottom of my heart, I am so truly sorry for being so cruel, judgmental, crass & ignorant. You did not & do not deserve that.
Again, I hope that you and yours are safe, healthy and happy during this horrible time. Thank you for the genuine kindness I did not deserve.
Next is my edited review:
Review Edit: While I can't pretend that I enjoyed this book when I obviously made it clear below that I didn't, I feel a need to add something important here before anyone reads further.
While I don't think constructive criticism is a bad thing, particularly as someone who hopes to write a book herself one day, I have come to realize in writing this that I was unnecessarily rude as opposed to be constructive. I did not consider either that this is Mr. Friedrich's first novel and of course, how people feel about it is going to affect his choice in the future of whether to try again. I never want to be the reason someone feels badly about something they were passionate about or take that away from them.
So, I am going to leave my original review at the bottom of this, not to make Mr. Friedrich feel badly but as a reminder to myself that, while I don't have to pretend to enjoy a book, there is no excuse for forgetting that the author is a human being putting something out there in the hopes that it will be enjoyed. With that in mind, I am going to write a review with more thought in what I am writing.
I found myself frustrated in this book with grammatical errors. However, after having a chat to refresh my memory on certain rules of sentence structure with a friend of mine who is a college English professor, I was reminded that short sentences and phrases don't have to be a full sentence on their own as long as there is context preceding them.
I do think there may have been a misunderstanding on my part as well because I assumed that when the author refers to a school named Haverd that he actually meant Harvard. The more I read, the more convinced I was. However, it is very possible that Mr. Friedrich wanted to hint towards Harvard with it being such a prestigious university but altered the name slightly to allow it to be a fictional school. It would have meant giving the reader the understanding of just HOW prestigious the school was while having it be his own in the story.
I personally would have tried to choose a name that was unique and unrelated to a real school, however, I do understand the purpose of the hint of something the reader is familiar with.
I still feel the descriptions and vague references to various philosophers felt forced. Perhaps, instead of trying to reference several recognizable names into a short couple of pages, Mr. Friedrich could have considered delving deeper into Fritz and allowing himself the pages to flesh out his character.
Maybe something along the lines of 'Professor Fritz, as one would expect from a philosophy professor, had very broad opinions of the famed philosophers he taught young adults about. There were complications in forming opinions on some of the great thinkers more than others. For instance, when considering the words of Socrates, one did not TRULY know if they were dissecting the thoughts of the man himself or if they are, in truth, the thoughts of Plato. Socrates never wrote down any of his thoughts or musings and the only knowledge we have of the Father of Western Philosophy are in the writings mainly recorded by Plato and attributed to his great mentor.
I really did not mean for that to get wordy. I just meant to make an example of how much room there would be to flesh out the character of Fritz as it seemed like Friedrich wanted to but maybe felt like that much depth wasn't needed for that particular character.
I can't help but feel the repetitive nature and overstressed details are what made the book a hard sell for me. I felt like the repeats such as the fact that Max's mother was an alcoholic and that she was dead were used to fill space in the story and that brings me back to the thought that delving into the characters in detail more so there isn't a need to repeat the same handful of traits or facts about them.
I also think Friedrich should have allowed himself the time and space to fill in the story that way so it didn't end up feeling like this sudden new romantic interest for a girl who had never had so much as a crush was rushed so quickly that it didn't make sense.
I love having a lot of detail and I think I would have enjoyed the story if it didn't feel like it needed more guts, for lack of a better word.
To Mr. Friedrich, I hope you have the opportunity to read the updated review here, as the conversation with my professor friend as well as the arrival of your gift today truly made me rethink how I approached writing this review to begin with. Constructive criticism is healthy and helpful. Cruel criticism accomplishes nothing. I apologize for how unthinking I was while reviewing your book to begin with. While I'm leaving it up beneath this as I mentioned, I hope you understand that it's a reminder to myself that it's an example of the kind of person I don't want to be and I am sorry again for allowing myself to be unnecessarily rude in regards to your book.
I continued to feel like a complete dick despite having apologized and genuinely meaning it. When I woke up this morning, I had the following comment and feel much better about how the situation worked out.
Tom Friedrich Hi Angela - Thank you so much for following up. 2020 has been such a rough year for everybody, and I really wanted winning the giveaway to be a positive experience. As the sponsor of the giveaway, I felt an obligation to provide something of value to the winners. Since it was clear that you didn't enjoy the book, I thought that providing for a replacement with a different book might sprinkle a little unexpected sunshine on difficult time. I'm glad that you appreciated the gesture.
Part of being an author means exposing myself to criticism. A negative review can't help but sting a little. I try to reflect on each review and learn what I can from them. You made some good points, and I respect your perspective.
I would imagine that any creative endeavor leaves its creator with a mix of pride and regret. Overall, I was happy with how the book turned out, but happier with some parts than others. You point out some flaws in the second chapter. I struggled with that chapter. It is important to the storyline that we understand the character of Fritz, so that we can better understand his daughters later. Since he's a philosophy professor, his worldview gets filtered through the great philosophers. How do I ground Fritz's worldview in their thinking, without taking the whole story on a fieldtrip about philosophy? That was my struggle. Your thoughts on that section certainly have merit.
With respect to the short declarative sentences, it just felt right use that style. Maybe I overused it? That's an individual preference, which obviously you have every right to not like.
From the feedback that I have received, Chapters 8-14 seem to be the most favorably-received section of the book, and from my viewpoint, it was the most fun to write. I'm not sure whether to wish that you read that far into it, so that you might enjoy the book a little, or to be happy that you hadn't made it that far, so that the most stinging criticism is reserved for the part of the book in which I already had some reservations.
You seem very enthusiastic about books, and your perspective offers a valuable contribution to this forum. You had mentioned that you hope to write a book of your own, and I hope that you do. I'm sure that it will be great. I've had the opportunity to learn some things through the process, and would be happy to share or help in any way that I can. Don't hesitate to ask.
I hope that you have a very happy Thanksgiving, and that you and your loved ones stay safe. - Tom
I wanted to share this with all of you because I have no doubt that some of you likely review books there as well.
Now, there's nothing wrong with disliking book. There isn't even anything wrong with hating a book. But I hope you'll all learn from my, fortunately, one time of being an absolute dick for no reason and remember that the person on the other side of your words is a human being and for no other reason, deserves common decency.
Thanks for allowing me to share!
submitted by Diazepampoovey to books