Something was talking in my head. It sounded feminine and damningly calm, despite the situation...except I wasn't hearing it insomuch as I was perceiving these words directly in my brain. It was a total telepathic experience, and it was weird and terrifying, but I guess I would've been more shocked had I not spent the last three weeks in this weird-ass facility and were I not being shot at by all the guns. There's a point of diminishing returns, a level of surprise that really can't be psychologically exceeded, I supposed.
<Unidentified armed belligerents on arkology. Unsanctioned conflict detected near Unidentified Civilian Inhabitant 1 in Section 12-16-39-4.>
<Assessing probability of successful retreat: 7%.>
<Assessing probability of mitigating death or serious bodily harm: 3%.>
Oh, gee, thanks. Great to know.
<Locating nearest armed patrol...FAILED.>
<Contacting nearest emergency response dispatch...FAILED.>
<Contacting Arkology Control...FAILED.>
<Contacting Local Fleet Command...FAILED.>
<Pinging on all channels for response...FAILED.>
Holy shit, that was a lot of failures. Should I've been concerned?
<Activating Contingencies 14, 15, 17, and 21 under Section VI, Article XII. Running Protocols 331-1 to 387-5.>
What was actually really, really weird was that I was not listening to these words in real-time. Or, more specifically, it was not like I was "listening" and "waiting" for this weird feminine voice in my head - speaking with all the deliberate clarity and cadence of an artificial intelligence in sci-fi movies - to get all the words out one-by-one. Rather, it was almost as if the messages themselves were being shoved into my brain, and the speed at which I comprehended the message really only took as long as...well, as long as I needed to comprehend what seemed to be like signals in my brain. Maybe it was just the adrenaline, but I was almost sure everything I'd been "hearing" or "receiving" in my head thus far took only a handful of seconds.
<Unidentified civilian inhabitant, you are currently deemed to be under imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm due to unidentified armed belligerents on this arkology. Relevant official organs are not responding. Under Contingencies 14, 15, 17, and 21 under Section VI, Article XII, you may exercise your right to assume control of defensive emplacements until relevant official organs can respond. Estimated time until response: Unknown.
<Would you like to assume control of defensive emplacements?>
"Yes!" I screamed, barely hearing my voice above the gunfire. Scarlet probably didn't even pay me any attention. I didn't care. I didn't care that there were literally psychic voices in my head and I had no idea what it was trying to say. All I knew was that someone said "defensive emplacements", and I would really, really like them right now.
<Request granted. Transferring control of defensive emplacements to Unidentified Civilian Inhabitant 1...SUCCESS. Please review all technical manuals for relevant emplacement modules, and engage in defensive action responsibly.>
It was at this point that my consciousness was suddenly flooded with this complete perception of the room I was in and the room from which a dozen armed shooters were still coming at us. It wasn't a video feed - nothing like surveillance camera footage popping into the corner of my vision - insomuch as it was this strangely instinctive understanding of these rooms I was caught between, being able to understand the layout the same way I could instinctively imagine what a ball would feel like in my hand. I could perceive everyone around me - Scarlet, the dozen other people - despite not being able to see most of them, given I was hiding behind something like a large computer console. Rather, I felt their existences, their state of being in the space around me. It was almost like how I could feel ants crawling across my skin even if my eyes were closed, except they were crawling across the surface of my consciousness. It was as if I had developed a new sensory organ, one like a radar that perceived space all around me. It was a wholly alien, strange, and terrifying sensation.
But there were other things I could feel too: Machines, hidden away under the panels of the walls and ceiling. I could feel them in the same way I could feel my fingers; I could feel in what direction they were pointed despite not seeing them, could feel that with a mere thought, they could pop out from the walls. I could feel their capacity to turn in any direction I wished, the ability to direct the focus of these machines, the ability to flood any part of these two rooms I wished with hostile intent, directing them through my new spatial understanding of the world around me. I wasn't entirely sure what they'd do, but there was just that instinctive understanding that I could defend myself through this new expanded consciousness.
And let's be honest here, it was almost certainly going to be guns.
So with a thought, I commanded these new minions of mine to counterattack.
Hidden seamlessly into the white metallic walls and ceilings of the corridor we were cowering in, three white circular panels the size of manholes - previously invisible to the naked eye - suddenly popped out, revealing beneath each one menacingly black machines that looked very much like some kind of futuristic machine gun, possessing two barrel-like shapes each, albeit almost rectangular in shape and with slits running down its length. There was a sleek, futuristic quality about them that was at odds with the almost strangely rugged quality of the gear that everyone else carried, something that was only noticeable in contrast; the defensive turrets, like this facility I was trapped in, looked like it was designed by an artist and built by an engineer with laser tools, while the guns that Scarlet and I and all these people shooting at us held felt more like old hand-me-downs from the Cold War, built decades ago out of spare parts in some bleak Soviet factory or something.
More importantly, I could conceptualize where these defensive turrets were. Even in my panic, I could see them, but more pertinently, I could understand their positions relative to everything and everyone else, and in what directions I could make them fire. I could practically feel the guns telling me their predicted lines of fire as vectors converged in my mental map of the my surroundings, focusing on the door through which all the gunfire was coming from. And there was the understanding that I could make them fire.
So I thought that particular thought very hard.
A small group of three shooters had just pushed past the door, rounding the corner in preparation to gun Scarlet and I down, when the three guns that had emerged from the walls swiveled with the silence and speed of a ballerina. With a thought, the guns fired, and even though I didn't watch the guns fire - focused as my eyes were on the people with guns a split-second away from killing all of us - I could somehow perceive the green lines of powerful energy leaving the barrels, smooth and clean beams unlike the jagged, messy that came out of that plasma array. The jetted across the corridor, and then suddenly all three of our assailants were on the ground with smoldering holes in their chests, exactly where I had intended those shots to land.
I barely noticed Scarlet flinching beside me, reacting with alarm to the fact that these guns were suddenly firing, even as she swiveled her aim at the guns that just saved our lives. She didn't fire, at least, insomuch as she was trying to make sure they weren't trying to kill her. But that didn't entirely register in my mind, nor did the fact that I just managed to eliminate three people, because I was already preoccupied with the lingering threat to my bodily integrity and life: The other assholes on the other side of the door with all those guns. Shouts of confusion and shock came from the other room as the remaining nine-or-so shooters realized what was going on, but I wasn't going to give up the initiative. I could feel their presence in the chamber beyond the doors I was hiding behind, just as I could feel the five guns beyond the door, hidden behind the white metallic surfaces of the walls and ceiling.
A thought, again, was enough to activate the guns in those rooms; I couldn't see them, but I could perceive where they were and how they were and where they were aiming. I could hear the panic in the other room as I swiveled the guns - my guns - towards the enemy. I could feel them barely managing this register the presence of the threat to their live, as if they couldn't believe what was happening. And then my guns started firing. Four of them were instantly killed as I directed my guns with lethal intent, energy bolts flying smoothly in clean and straight lines landing in their chests. The others - finally coming to their senses - started running around, diving for cover, firing back. But they were no match for me and my understanding of the spatial dynamic of that chamber they so futilely attempted to ambush in. Some of them sought cover behind furniture, consoles, and pillars from one or two guns, so I simply directed another gun to swivel around and slam energy bolts into their backs. Their bullets bounced harmlessly off the instruments of my vengeance, and seeing how they exposed themselves to my return fire, I was entirely happy to create smoldering holes where their faces used to be.
With almost methodological precision, I focused on each of the shooters, and my will was made manifest as energy surged across the room, dropping our assailants one by one, until the remaining two survivors managed to cut their losses and run, fleeing through the door and out of the range of my expanded consciousness.
Eventually, where there was once an all-encompassing cacophony of gunshots, now there was only silence. Hesitantly, with no small amount of fear and confusion, Scarlet looked out around the door with trepidation, only to eventually relax a little bit as she looked around her, stunned, looking around with a half-dazed expression as if barely managing to comprehend what was happening even as the adrenaline rush began to pass. I myself finally stood up, having been cowering in a corner. I felt pretty good, all things considered, at least for a girl who nearly just pissed herself moments before being shot. Just a moment ago, I had only a three percent chance of surviving. Now, I had turned the tables on the people with guns who had been trying to kill me, and they were dead.
Which was really an abstract concept for me, up until the point where I saw the bodies on the floor. Smelled them. Saw their corpses with terrified expression frozen in time, with slack jaws and empty eyes, with smoldering holes in them, charred wounds where flesh used to be. Dead people where live ones used to be.
I was cutting them down. I was cutting them down.
I crumpled onto my knees and fought the urge to puke my guts out, urgently clasping my hands over my mouth while my eyes glazed over with tears. It hit me all at once, the fact that this was the first time I killed, the first time I turned complete strangers into fatalities, and I didn't even blink until well after the fact. It didn't really matter that they were trying to kill me. That all of them had animal ears and tails didn't matter, and wasn't a subject of intense curiosity like it once was. The full weight of what I had done was...different. Terrifying. A visceral realization that no amount of self-justification could paint over.
I wasn't a cop or a soldier or anyone particularly acquainted with killing or violent death or even shooting; I was an underpaid, underappreciated millennial mechanic. I was not ready for this.
"How did you...?" Scarlet began to ask, sounding amazed and breathless and scared at the same time. As if she could not comprehend what had just happened, which was fair because I could barely comprehend what had just happened. But seeing me on my knees, hyperventilating over the fact that I had just murdered people - in self-defense or otherwise - she seemed to cut her questions short and collect herself. When she spoke next, it was in a soft, comforting voice. "It's alright," she murmured, kneeling down and placing a hand on my shoulder. "They were trying to hurt you. You only reacted in self-defense. It's fine. You're fine."
In that moment, I could've kissed Scarlet. She was a complete stranger, yet acted like the closest, supportive friend I've never had. I tried to control my shaking, my shivering, my trembling, even as Scarlet put a hand on my shoulder as if trying to reassure me that I did the right thing. That I did the only right thing. That this was self-defense, and regardless of my visceral reaction towards dead people that I killed, that I did the right thing.
"I'm alright," I lied, trying to catch my breath. It was funny, in a way; Scarlet was still in shock for one reason or another, but was trying to prioritize my emotional well-being, so here I was, trying to overcome my own current emotional shock so that we could get a move on, just as Scarlet had wanted. "I'm..."
<Automated systems have elevated the current threat assessment to Level 3,> went a voice in my head once more, and although it was still a calm and feminine voice, it was clearly different from the one that had spoken to me earlier and granted me access to the turrets that were now retracting back into the walls until no sign of their existence remained. <As per Section II, Article XII, all civilians are to evacuate immediately to their nearest emergency shelter.>
Again, I wasn't hearing this insomuch as the words were forming in my head, so I couldn't exactly use my sense of hearing to trace it back to the source of a sound that didn't exist. Yet somehow, I was already turning in the direction of the space Roomba behind me, the little bitch having been hiding in the corner with us when we were under fire, and which was now maintaining a healthy ten-foot distance away from me again. For no reason I could ever adequately explain, I somehow just knew it was this little bitch that had been talking to me just now.
If you could talk, I wanted to say, you should've bloody done so earlier. For better or for worse, however, I was too busy staring at it wide-eyed even as I blankly told Scarlet, "It's...trying to tell me to evacuate."
Scarlet, still kneeling beside me where I had crumpled onto the ground, blinked in confusion. "What?" she asked.
I took a deep breath in an attempt to calm myself before explaining, "It's telling me that we need to evacuate to an emergency shelter."
Frowning, Scarlet looked around for whomever "it" might've been, followed my gaze, and stared at the space Roomba. "The servitor?"
"The space R..." I began, before deciding now was probably a decent time to just use terminology she was familiar with. "...Yes."
Scarlet stared at me for a moment, then at the space Roomba. And then that shock and uncertainty was gone, replaced by that cold, blank, single-minded focus in her expression whenever shit was about to get real. "We need to go," she says simply, her voice devoid of emotion, "or we're stuck here, forever, even if we don't die."
I nodded along dumbly.
Unlike before, although she moved with caution as if expecting a second ambush, Scarlet did not check the bodies for weapons or equipment, and instead was largely heading for the door directly on the other side of this large chamber, her submachine gun shouldered and pointed at every possible corner that any of these assholes could be hiding behind, every possible door that they could emerge from. I, too, was following along at a respectable distance, not so close that I would interfere with this foxgirl who was my guarding at this point, but close enough that she could shove me into safety again or something if something went wrong.
As Scarlet passed by every corpse on the ground with sizzling, smoking holes in them, she would stop right beside them and fire two more shots into their chests. It was shocking to see her do that for the first time - to inflict further violence upon someone who was dead, followed shortly afterwards by the realization that she was ensuring that someone who might've survived was truly dead - and that shock wasn't something that had entirely left my psyche even as the surprise passed, even as I resolved to just look away instead of commenting on what felt - to my pampered first world sensitivities, at least - like cold-blooded, excessive cruelty.
Of course, maintaining a ten-foot distance behind me, the space Roomba continued to follow me as all this was happening, and in addition to trying to flash a light into my eyes, it was now talking in my head: <Please follow this servitor to the nearest emergency shelter. Please follow this servitor to the nearest emergency shelter.>
It was fortunate that I was too preoccupied with the whole "get out of this facility before the voidwave thing happens and I end up having my entrails splattered across the wall or whatever" thing to care that much about the space Roomba's continued attempts to annoy the hell out of me. I had bigger things to worry about as we finally reached the double sliding doors on the other side, and were greeted with a family sight.
Once again, we found ourselves in that giant, pier-like expanse that stretched for miles to my left and right, that nexus of platforms and railings and cargo crates, that spot where I saw the starry night sky beyond the familiar sight of that ship Scarlet had been trying so hard to get back to, the Fortune's Wings, the ship sounding like its engines were whirring and increasing in power. I had known, of course, that we were getting close to our escape, but I hadn't quite realized we had been this close. That, once again, I could see the stars, that distant promise of an escape.
The problem, of course, was that the starry night sky was no longer, in fact, a starry night sky. Or at least not entirely. Instead, that black expanse with pinpricks of lights was suddenly saturated with color, going from green to yellow to pink and on and on. It took me a moment to realize that the closest thing I could compare it to was an aurora borealis, like as if clouds of colorful light had come between me and the sky. It was all at once beautiful and at the same time terrifying; defying the appeal it made to my visual aesthetic senses, looking at it somehow filled me with a sense of dread, as if there was some deep, instinctive part of my subconsciousness that told me this was wrong, that the lights I was looking at were somehow an affront to reality as I knew it.
I suspected these were the "voidwaves" that Scarlet was talking about. And I was beginning to understand why she was so concerned about this and so adamant about getting back onto the Fortune's Wings.
Of course, we weren't going to get back on and escape without a fight. The two survivors who had fled from my turrets of wrath had made it back to a ramp that led into the Fortune's Wings, joining about another half dozen of their compatriots who looked alarmed at these escapees screaming warnings at them. This surprise gave Scarlet just enough of a moment to shove me behind a crate, and against we were caught in the middle of a shootout, bullets flying across this pier.
"Can you do what you did back in that corridor again?" Scarlet demanded, even as she popped off two shots around the crate before ducking back to avoid a hail of gunfire in her direction.
"I'll try!" I shouted back at her, even as I tried to think about connecting with things in self-defense. I had no idea how to do this; this was an entirely new sensation that made absolutely no sense to me, and I was trying to take the initiative this time instead of the voice just speaking inside my head first. At this point, however, it wasn't like I had a choice; Scarlet was hell-bent on trying to get back onto the Fortune's Wings, even if that meant putting us in a situation where we were pinned down by something like eight people with guns, because apparently the alternative was worse.
Fortunately, however, fate was working in our favor just a little longer, because a feminine voice spoke in my head again: <Unidentified armed belligerents on arkology. Unsanctioned conflict detected near Unidentified Civilian Inhabitant 1 in Hangar 12-16-3. Under Contingencies 14, 15, 17, and 21 under Section VI, Article XII, you may exercise your right to assume control of defensive emplacements until relevant official organs can respond. Estimated time until response: Unknown. Would you like to assuming control of defensive emplacements?>
"Yes!" I screamed again. In part because I wasn't entirely sure how hard I could think "yes" at this weird voice in my head. But it did the trick; once again, my senses could perceive space around me, and there was a momentary sensation where my mind suddenly felt like it was in free fall, as it struggled to fully comprehend in spatial terms just how large this miles-long pier was around me, as I attempted to grasp its space in more than just visual terms. There was a terrifying sense of vertigo, as if my mind was entirely unmoored and drifting out of my body.
But then I focused on the fact that there were four turrets in the vicinity, hidden above us in the walls. Once again, I could control these guns with my mind as they emerged from invisible seams in the wall, as I registered where the people shooting at us were, as I directed this lethal firepower at them.
And once again, bursts of powerful energy zapped their way across dozens of yards, and screams could be heard as my shots - my shots - found their targets. There was something to be said about not having to look at where I was shooting; there was that psychological, emotional distance - even after my previous episode of panic and hyperventilating - between myself and the fact that I was committing multiple homicide. Plus not exposing myself to gunfire around the crates I hid behind was also quite nice. All I needed to bear was the clear sense of panic amongst the enemy, the screams that escaped their throats as energy zapped at them like a machine gun, burning smouldering holes into them. Survivors were shouting for a retreat, for an evacuation. I mustered the courage to peek around the crate; most of our assailants were dead, but the few that remained - three or four of them - were swiftly fleeing up the ramp and into Fortune's Wings.
Scarlet saw the same, and already she was dashing from the crates, taking advantage of the fact that our enemies were too busy evacuating than shooting at us. But she had made it little more than a quarter of the distance between our starting position and the Fortune's Wings when the last assailant boarded the ship, and the metallic door on its hull slid shut with a hiss and thud. Seconds later, that whirring sound that the ship had been producing from since we stepped through the doors and onto the pier became a full-on roar, and the ship began to drift away from the pier, as if pushing off into the distant seas.
"No, no, no!" Scarlet screamed in equal parts terror and frustration, even as she realized - just as I realized - that the ship was pulling away further than Scarlet could reasonably cover the distant by the time she got to the end of the pier. Certainly, the ship was drifting away with surprising speed for something its size, swiveling around to point in the direction of the night sky, and...were those rockets on its back?
Flaring with heat or some other energy, the rockets on the back of the Fortune's Wings flared with blue light, and then it suddenly accelerated away from us, knocking Scarlet off her feet and sending her flying through the air before she landed on the metallic floor and slid back towards me. It was all I could do to take cover behind the crates and hope the sheer pressure of those rockets didn't just kill me.
It didn't kill Scarlet, though, so it certainly didn't kill me; the redhead seemed a bit dazed, but she managed to pick herself up for a moment, as that slack-jawed shock was replaced with the dawning realization that we may have just missed our only ride out of here, leaving us to the mercy of whatever "voidwaves" were, because at this point, it seemed like nothing was going to surprise me.
Save for the fact that there was more that we were at the mercy of. As the Fortune's Wing cleared the hangar and accelerated away, going from "small tanker" to "size of my thumb" in mere seconds, lines of flickering light suddenly appeared, flying away from the vessel before turning in an arc towards our direction. Given everything I'd seen thus far, it was almost surprising to see something that I maybe recognized, but I still found myself staring at those lines of light approach at startling speed, asking like a complete moron: "Are those...?"
Scarlet didn't let me finish my question, because she suddenly got back onto her feet just to throw herself at me. "Get down!" she yelled, tackling me down to the ground behind the crates I was already hiding against.
A split-second later, those arcing lines of light finally reached us, propelled by streaks of blue flames, slamming into the hangar in sudden explosions, concussive force, deafening sound, and ballooning mansions-sized balls of fire that threw crates and scrap metal into the air, tossed around large metallic containers like they were plastic bricks. The white lights were swiftly overwhelmed by the orange glow of violent flames that threatened to engulf the entire area, even as I shrieked and tried to cover my head with shaking hands.
"Are those missiles!?" I screamed over the blasts, as each missile slammed into the hangar and turned our surroundings into a firestorm with every miss. "Is that ship firing missiles at us!?"
"Yes!" came Scarlet's urgent but otherwise damningly succinct reply, even as her hand continued to press my head against the ground, as if it would provide me even the slightest hint of protection..
Well, then, I figured we're pretty screwed. Although the missiles were going fairly wide, slamming into the general area rather than our specific area, every blast launching hundreds of pieces of large debris at terminal velocities that threatened to crush us or impale us. Fires were beginning to catch on, although the missiles - for all their power - did not actually seem to be doing significant structural damage, did not seem to put any real dent into the walls or the catwalks.
But it didn't really matter. Either the missiles were going to kill us, or the colorful aurora borealis that was already beginning to enveloped this facility was going to melt me into a wall or something equally horrifying, neither of which seemed to be good news for my internal organs. My only source of comfort was a moment where the explosions had somehow flipped the nearby space Roomba onto its side, the little robot spinning helplessly on its cylindrical edge as it made distressed beeps, invoking a barely-noticed sense of smug satisfaction at the stupid space Roomba finally being messed with. It took a while before the force of another explosion finally managed to knock it back down on its side, like a coin that had finally managed to stop spinning.
Still, smug satisfaction or not, we were almost certainly going to die. And it was in that mindset - as I desperately looked for somewhere else to be, somewhere else that wasn't here - that my eyes caught onto one last interesting thing, one last string of hope. I pointed further down the catwalks and shouted, "What's that!?"
"That" was a vessel, docked at the end of a perpendicular pier about a hundred fifty, two hundred yards or more away from us. It was smaller than the Fortune's Wings but still of a respectable size - like a large yacht or a small superyacht that a family could take a vacation in - and pristine where the larger ship looked aged, creaky, and rusted. In fact, the white sheen of its hull matched the rest of this facility so well, it seemed almost logical that the vessel was part of this facility. This being said, it didn't look like a ship. A large ramp led into the vessel in a way entirely similar to how cargo planes loaded cargo through the back hatch. In fact, the vessel seemed to have "wings", albeit not necessarily in the shape of a plane; from behind, the oblique delta-like structure of the vessel had an almost avian look to it, its swooping wings outstretched.
In spite of her reservations towards me, whenever she thought I said something stupid - or whenever I thought she thought I said something stupid - Scarlet would at least do me the courtesy of being patient or at least just guarding her expression really well. But perhaps the prospect of being left behind and being shot at by literal missiles was finally putting a crack in that mask, and although it's mild, she finally gave me the kind of expression that normal people make when you ask a stupid question. "That's an Antecessor ship," she pointed out flatly. "We can't..." she started but quickly trailed off, her eyes suddenly widening as she started thinking exactly what I was thinking. Hesitantly, she whispered, "...Can we?"
For some reason, I had been able to take control of this "arkology's" defensive guns. This was clearly something that Scarlet could not do. And if I could do that, could I take control of a ship? "Only one way to find out," I scowled, even as I began to run down the catwalks towards that ship, Scarlet taking a moment to realize I was moving before easily catching up with every athletic stride of her long legs.
There was a brief lull in the explosions, almost as if the Fortune's Wings was reloading her missiles, even though the sounds and sight of fire continued to consume our surroundings. Blue lines erupted once more from the sides of the ship, seemingly slowing in its shrieking speed as it angled at us instead. I tried not to pay it much mind even as I found safety in the yacht in front of us, dashing up the ramp and into its interior, with Scarlet having caught up at my side and that damned space Roomba still chasing after us, flashing its stupid light and trying to tell me something about how the threat assessment has been increased to Level 4.
Scarlet, meanwhile, had outpaced me, running ahead and leading me towards what I could only guess was going to be the helm. We struggled to keep our balance door after door as the vessel trembled with every explosion rumbling nearby, until the last door brought us to what I assumed to be the helm: A triangular room with seats, computer consoles, and a massive slanted window that looked right outside, returning us to the view of the arkology and the night sky and the flames burning around us.
"Can you take this ship?" Scarlet asked before I even had a chance to acclimate myself to my surroundings. Honestly, although there was a level of familiarity to the helm - just from pop cultural osmosis that surrounds sci-fi and superhero films or whatever - I had absolutely no idea what anything was or what they did.
"I...I'm trying," I said, trying to psychically concentrate as if I knew what psychically concentrating even was. I was much more accustomed to a world that didn't have psychic powers, unfortunately. And the flashing light from the stupid space Roomba that had persistently followed us here was not helping.
"Do you know what you're doing?"
"No," I scowled. "No, I really don't. I have no idea what..."
And of course a voice chose that moment to speak in my head: <Per Regulations 4 and 6 under Article IV, Section V, impounded vessels not reclaimed after a civil investigation for a period longer than fifty standard years will have their registration voided. Would you like to register this vessel to yourself?>
Although the timing was annoying, it was at least convenient. "Yes," I said, even as an explosion went off way too close to the yacht we were on, filling even the window with bright fire, and I screamed and ducked and covered like a complete coward.
<Biometric scan complete. Please state your name for identification and voice recognition.>
"Artemis Chan!" I screamed.
And right at that moment, there was suddenly a mechanical whirl that reverberated through this yacht, as if an industrial power switch had been flicked on, as the dull lights around us swiftly brightened and as blue icons began appearing on what I assumed were computer consoles all around us. "It's starting up!" Scarlet said excitedly, even as another explosion went off and filled the view outside with flames.
"Why the hell are they even shooting at us!?" I screamed, mildly less concerned about whether or not things were turning on compared to all the explosions.
"Whatever you did with the arkology's defense must've caused them to panic!" Then, looking around at the computer consoles that were starting up, Scarlet looked at me and asked, "Can you fly this thing?"
"Are you kidding!?" I shrieked. She may as well have asked me if I knew how to assemble a nuclear bomb. "No, no, of course I can't!"
Wincing, Scarlet took a deep breath before she turned around and settled into one of the chairs, the one that I assumed was the helmsman's seat or whatever. "Alright, let's see if this works," she muttered, looking at all the dials and switches and buttons and things around her, holograms materializing to the left and right, trying to acquaint herself with whatever systems controlled this vessel. "This is the stick. This is...throttle, the throttle. This should be..."
Oh, great. Scarlet wasn't really a pilot either. We were all going to die. Me, her, and that stupid space Roomba. At least that stupid space Roomba would die with us. That was a silver lining in the middle of this horrid two weeks here.
"Alright," Scarlet muttered, flicking a switch, "is this the...?" And a shrill alarm began to sound, causing the redhead to wince and flick that switch back. "No, no, it isn't."
Yup, we're all going to die.
"Here!" Scarlet suddenly exclaimed as she pushed some sort of lever, and there was suddenly a quiet whining sound that reminded me of a plane's turbines reaching takeoff speed. Holograms began popping up all around her with panels and icons and readouts and basically nothing I understood. And just as suddenly, I nearly lost my balance as the floor below me shifted just a bit while the yacht itself abruptly shot forward like a rocket - literally like a rocket, albeit without the actual acceleration as we went from zero to a kajillion instantly, the pristine-albeit-burning surroundings of the arkology disappeared within the blink of an eye - tore through what I had originally thought was a blue glowing window but turned out to merely be light, and shot into the night sky at a speed that I would ten seconds ago never had associated with even a jet ski.
And it was at this point as I looked out the viewport that I realize that the night sky over a tranquil ocean I was looking at - with all those clear stars in the sky and the aurora borealis that I've been told is void waves or whatever - was not actually the night sky over a tranquil ocean after all.
I was looking at outer space.