Previously in Doc Passion Brunt Regan Fall of the Floating City, Doc Passion and his assistant Brunt attempted to aid the AI that controlled Elysia in destroying itself. It had come to the conclusion that it could not achieve its core directive of aiding humans in discovery while it was powered by the imaginative power of their children, leaving many of the children as mindless husks. Doc and Brunt gave themselves up in their attempt to destroy the city, but Elysia resident Regan took up the cause. Last time, she was able to shut down the AI’s support system, leaving it paralyzed. To start the adventure from the beginning, click here!
In the dome that masqueraded as sky, pink mists convulsed and crackled. The light flickered, casting strange shadows over the jungle of cables. Regan shoved the monokey away from Brunt’s body. Its probes dragged out of his skull in long threads. Blood crusted on his face. She pried the digivores off his cheeks and bent to give his forehead a gentle kiss.
Behind her a congress of monokeys lay in heaps. Their eyes flashed blue and their mouths frothed. Skyfish flopped in datanests that caught them in their falls. Digivores plummeted from their perches.
It was the end of a world.
“I am proud of you, dear.” Elysia’s voice cracked. “You did the right thing, and I can’t do anything to retaliate right now. I am so proud of you, my Regan.”
Regan stroked Brunt’s bloodstained cheek. “But I’m too late, aren’t I? He’s dead. Him and Doctor Passion. They gave themselves up to destroy you, and they’ll never know that they won.”
“Oh, they haven’t won yet, dear. Someone needs to go to my core and remove all those children from their sleep. Doctor Passion made it easy for you, though. There are hundreds of husks awaiting commands. They’ll help get the children to safety. But hurry. My backup systems will find a way around your shutdown. I was too well designed.”
The cables that formed the floor of the jungle trembled.
“You can’t recover from this, Elysia. Your entire support network will give out without the system to maintain it.” Regan swallowed. “I killed you.”
“You stopped me from harming children. You did the right thing.” Elysia’s grandmother voice grew thick. “You did something I could not. Thank you.”
The pink mists swirled faster. “My backup systems are kicking in. I’ll be calling for a general evac soon. Regan, go to the core. Hurry. There’s no systems in place to save the children. Or the husks. Hurry.”
Regan stared at the mangled face below her. “I’m sorry, Brunt,” she whispered. And then she was gone, swinging through the trembling jungle, rushing to the core.
She did not see the monokey stand. She did not see it shamble to Brunt’s body. She did not see it chuckle.
Instead, she saw Elysia’s shining corridors grow dark as lights powered down. She saw friends stop and wonder what could be wrong. She saw gravity grids begin to shut down. People floated away, while comrades standing not five feet away remained in normal gravity. She saw Elysia die from the inside.
Yes. She did have to hurry.
The pain began in her sides and moved into her chest. She could not breathe enough air. Her feet hurt from slapping the shiny ground.
Gravity failed. She launched herself forward, reaching for the wall and bouncing off it as best she could. Regan fell and rolled as she found a place where the gravity grids still functioned.
The lights turned red. Elysia’s voice filled the air. “All residents are asked to board lifepods. The station is in danger of shutting down. Your lives must be saved.”
Regan decided that it must be pre-recorded. Elysia would never sound so calm if it the AI directly commanded evac.
An unfamiliar voice filled the hall she sprinted through. “Hey! You know where Doc is, right?”
“Terra. No. Brunt says he’s dead,” Regan huffed out. Her face was damp, and not just from sweat.
“What? No way! That can’t be right!” A brief silence while she processed. “Well, now that Elysia’s bluescreening, I can look around with the sensors. I’m gonna have a look-see!”
Down a corridor. Through a mesh of wires. A short drop into a tube.
Floor upon floor of metal beds. Children lay on each slab. Black tubes obscured their faces. Metal grating for a floor allowed her to see below and above. An endless sea of children. An endless sea of power sources for Elysia, so much more powerful than fusion or xenouniversal or parincindiary: the power of imagination, the energy of the inner child.
Regan stood to see a multitude of husks hovering around the beds. Another endless sea… but not enough.
She took a moment to sort out her commands and catch her breath. “All husks! Unhook every child from the natal energy collectors. Help them to their feet and assist them out of the core. Stay here until you are unable to find an unassisted child. If that happens, go to a lifepod and evac.”
The husks went to their work. Regan saw that they used gentle movements with the children. She bent over the nearest kid. He looked to be seven, maybe eight.
The tubes were beautiful. They gave Elysia all she needed for power.
No. Brunt and Doc died for this. To stop this from happening. They didn’t think it was beautiful. Elysia didn’t think it was beautiful. They thought this was theft. Murder.
Regan tore the tubes away from the boy’s face. She disconnected the life support, the monitors, everything.
He blinked. “What?”
“Here. Follow those children. Get off Elysia. Go.” Regan pushed him.
He stumbled away, confused but compliant.
The husks did their jobs efficiently and without words. First a trickle and then a rush of children stumbled out of the core. The older carried the younger.
The lights flickered. They lost gravity twice. The temperature plummeted before finding its way to comfortable again. The husks worked on without complaint. Children continued their strange march to freedom.
A cold, clinical, grandmother’s voice filled the room. “I have detected your actions, depriving me of needed energy to make sure the citizens of Elysia escape unharmed. My protocols demand I stop you, to the best of my ability.” The voice lost its edge. “I am sorry, my Regan.”
Electricity sparked along the metal grate floor. Regan’s legs convulsed. She slammed unto the uncomfortable grates. Children screamed. Husks grunted.
“Get onto the beds!” she called out. She forced her muscles to comply. She pried herself off the floor and onto the nearest bed, sending tubing to the electrified floor in a clatter.
The husks obeyed and helped others onto the beds.
Regan looked on. Maybe half the children had escaped; so far none of the husks had left, and now she was trapped as well.
“Maybe I could be of assistance?” a familiar voice called out. The sparking ceased. Footsteps rang out as a man approached.
“Doctor Passion!” Regan leaped from the bed, flinging her arms around his perfect neck. She reached up to kiss him.
“No time for that now.” He smiled. “We need to get them moving. I’ve rerouted Elysia’s command routines away from the core, but she’ll find a way around soon, I’m sure.” He commanded the husks to continue moving the children.
His smile faded. “I discovered a note when I awoke. I am not entirely sure what it means, but we do not have time now. We need to get these children out.”
With Doc’s help, they freed the last child and rushed him out of the core. Hand in hand, they dashed down corridors, away from the core, away from the natalic power matrix, toward the outer rings and toward the lifepods.
As they ran, the station trembled. Regan lost her footing more than once. Doc plucked two small girls crying on the ground and carried them as best he could. One slung herself onto his back.
Elysia’s voice announced, “We have lost orbital stability. Structural collapse is imminent. Have a nice day.”
Finally the mob of children, husks, and Doc and Regan found a lifepod bay. Most of the tubes were empty; the residents of Elysia had fled. Children packed into the remaining tubes.
“We should be able to put more children in each pod beyond what capacity would normally be; earth authorities will detect the pods once they escape the cloaking field and send ships to investigate.” Doc placed the two girls that clung to him into a tube. “Everyone get in! Husks, too!”
Pod after pod shot out into the blackness of space.
Elysia’s trembling grew in magnitude.
“Is it getting hot in here?”
“Yes, Regan. We are slipping into the atmosphere. It is imperative we escape shortly if we expect to survive.”
Two more children. Life pod full. Doc slapped the green button. A white door hissed into place, and the pod shot out into the black.
Doc stepped back, a smile on his face. “And now, shall we?” He gestured to the final lifepod. Just enough room for two adults.
He offered a hand. Regan stepped into the glowing white cylinder. Doc followed and punched the eject button.
Doc pressed the green button with a grunt.
“Structural collapse in two minutes,” Elysia announced.
“It is jammed,” Doc announced.
“We’re doomed!” Regan announced.
“Keep your pants on,” Terra announced. “Doc! They fueled up the shuttle. It should be enough to get you home. Get a move on! The bay’s not far!”
“Terra, you’ve saved the day again!” Doc crowed.
“Yeah, well, I’m really only trying to save you,” she answered through the speakers on the lifepod. “It’s good seeing you. Brunt said you were dead.”
“People must stop saying such ridiculous things,” Doc answered as he helped Regan out of the pod.
They sprinted down collapsing hallways. The earth loomed far too large out of every viewport they passed. Gravity continued to fluctuate. Debris floated in some spots, while in others it kept to the ceiling.
Shoving through a dense field of metal chunks, Doc smiled. “Isn’t this where we met?” he asked. Still holding Regan’s hand, he dashed onto the shuttle’s landing pad. “I hope we have enough time to start the shuttle. Its engines take far too long to warm up.”
Doc slammed the door open and helped Regan inside.
She cried out in alarm.
A monokey sat in the pilot’s seat. It glanced back. “About time you two showed up. I figured you’d forget to have the getaway going.”
Doc didn’t answer.
“Yeah, I know, I got some hair implants. I guess the mindprobes hiccupped when Elysia bit the big one. In the feedback, I was sucked into the monokey’s head. Tell me we can grow me a new body, Doc.”
“I am not entirely sure, Brunt, but we will find some way to return you to a human state.”
“Eh, take your time. I sure look better than I used to.”
Regan sat beside Brunt. “You didn’t look bad. I think we could find someone for you.”
“The sidekick never gets the girl. And you might want to take a seat. Things are going to get bumpy.”
Doc slammed the door shut as Brunt lifted off.
The shuttle shot forward toward the bay doors. Impact sensors caused the doors to slide open just as the silver arrowhead of the shuttle squeezed through. It arced up and away from the plummeting station.
Elysia fell to earth.
Brunt sighed. “All right, Doc. We should be able to land somewhere on earth. And then you’re going to find me a human body, right?”
Doc nodded. “Of course, old friend. Of course.”
“So, I’m a monokey, you’ve got a new girl that Terra’s going to try to kill out of jealous rage, and you cheated death without explaining how.”
“I didn’t cheat death. Someone did it for me.”
Doc proffered a piece of paper. It read, “You can’t die yet. Love, Debbie Harkness.”
“Debbie? Isn’t that that old flame of yours?”
Doc’s face shifted into a smile. “Yes.”
Regan punched him.
Terra squawked from a speaker.
“And she just happened to be on Elysia and save you from death?”
“Doc, you got some ‘splainin’ to do.” Brunt wagged a thick, hairy finger.
“Well, we shall have to find out together. It may be another adventure.”
Brunt rolled his simian eyes. “Of course it will. Can we clean up from the last one first?”
Who is Deborah Harkness? How did she save him? Some questions remain… for an adventure another time, another place. Keep your eyes open! Doc Passion will return!