This is the first entry in the Collision series. You can read Part Two here.
BE-11-NA woke up in the lab, just like she did after every mission. Her memory of the last week was wiped, so whatever mission her Maker sent her on must have been successful. The Minister of the Tylian system must be dead.
But if she remembered who her target was, that must mean…
The lights snapped on; BE’s photo sensors took only a microsecond to adjust to their glow. This lab was a sterile beige draped in orange, nothing like the blue-lit black of her Maker’s. BE knew she’d been captured.
She jerked her head, getting the wires plugged into the back of it free. Thankfully, BE’s captors had only plugged the wires into her auxiliary ports, leaving her interior functions untouched; she doubted her captors were even aware of their existence.
She turned off the cooling systems in her arms, with the heat radiating from the entwined mess of wires, processors, and servos soon generating enough heat to melt the frigid metal of her restraints. She used her now-free hands to rip the rather more substantial electro-shackles off her legs.
Alarms blared as BE ran her fingers across her knuckles, activating the magnets in her hands that would bring her Exo-Suit back towards her; BE had only been conscious for thirty seconds, but she already missed it. She figured whoever captured her wouldn’t be smart enough to destroy the Suit, if they even could. Turning up her sonic sensors, BE heard crash after crash through the walls of the lab, the thudding getting louder as it came home to her.
Before the Suit could arrive, auto-turrets deployed from the ceiling. The first was a circular emitter that fired an EMP blast, deadening BE’s left arm. She grimaced and used her right arm to throw the lab chair she’d been locked in at the turret, sending shards of metal raining down in the room. Detecting possible targets, the twin-barreled bolt casters let loose blasts of electricity, vaporizing the scrap.
Battle. Finally. This is what BE was made for, not petty assassinations. Ducking through the arcs of energy, she dug her fingers into the first turret, hurling it at the second. The heat from the explosion scrambled the sensors of the two remaining turrets, and they were torn to pieces in short order before their targeting systems got re-oriented.
The doors to the lab opened, and BE didn’t even need to enable her infrared sensors to know there were soldiers at the door. She flew towards it, hoping to break through the door and reach her captors, but before she could get there it slammed in her face, denting her nose.
“Look fellas. The ‘Goddess of War.’ Let’s teach her a lesson.” BE quickly reoriented herself and blocked the incoming nightstick with her forearm, kicking out at her assailant’s knee. She heard the crack of the joint breaking before it snapped back into place. Enhanced. Of course. The android rolled her eyes.
BE sensed another nightstick flashing behind her. She ducked inside its reach and sent an elbow into her second attacker’s gut, staggering her. It was too dark to tell, but BE was pretty sure she had blood in her burnt sienna hair.
Her third attacker was smarter than the first two. He fired his wrist gauntlets, sending a hail of molten projectiles at BE. She got on one knee, forearms covering her face, trying to protect it from the torrent of plasma headed right for her skull. But the blast never came.
Instead, BE’s Suit finally arrived, an amorphous savior in jet black. It flew in front of the blast, fully protecting BE before wrapping around her body in an instant, covering her, changing her.
Liquid black metal instantly solidified, forming a cuirass, greaves, gauntlets, and shoulder pauldrons, both of which were piped with gold. The entire Suit was a weapon, and every contour was a sharp edge.
At last, BE, no, Bellona was ready for war. At last, she was whole. She couldn’t help but smirk as her purple eyes lit up.
Her Suit’s left gauntlet expanded into a blade, cutting the third soldier’s gauntlets, and forearms, in half as she slashed down on them. He crumpled, screaming as Bellona turned towards her initial attackers. She held out her right hand towards her opponents as they swung their nightsticks at her again; she didn’t even bother trying to dodge the attacks as electricity arced out from her hand, immediately paralyzing them both mid-swing. Their bodies hit the floor before their weapons did. She picked up a pistol from the first attacker and put the lot of them out of their misery before heading to the door.
She flexed the fingers in her left hand; her Suit obliged, with two stiletto blades unsheathing. Digging them between the door and the wall, Bellona cut the door out, kicking it down. Sensing some heat signatures to her left, she headed to what she assumed was the control room. She turned up her aural sensors.
“Tallus, it’s been a pleasure working with you.” A woman said, her voice containing almost as much steel as Bellona’s Suit. She’d already made peace with her fate.
“It doesn’t have to be like this Najia. There’s still one more protocol.”
Bellona broke into a sprint on hearing this, with the door a bit more than a hundred yards away. She didn’t even bother to look into the side chambers.
“Tallus, that’s months away from being safe.” Bellona was close enough to see their heat signatures, with the older scientist trying to block off her younger companion from a control panel.
“I don’t care if it’s not ready yet! Eject her now!” The young scientist knocked away his companion and smashed a button.
And then everything fell away. The door Bellona tried to reach took off, with black-specked gray smoke from its attached rockets tumbling through the space it had just occupied. But instead of being sucked into the vacuum of space, Bellona was flung towards the other end of the hallway.
Towards the black hole.
Bellona tried to activiate the ion jets in her boots, but unfortunately, her captors, whoever they were, had managed to drain their xenon reserves, rendering them effectively useless. A few stray atoms of xenon in the vacuum gave a second’s worth of power to her boots, but that merely delayed her fate. She began to feel her wires and gears stretch as she continued to struggle.
Though her jets were useless, the rest of the Suit was not. It wrapped itself around her as she was pulled into the singularity. Bellona felt the stretching stop right as the sound waves and photons stopped escaping.
And then, an instant later, she felt the heat as she was ejected at near lightspeed into, well, somewhere. She saw the cracks in the shell forming; they filled with purple flames as the Suit began to spin out of control. Bellona dug her fingers into her palms, calling the Suit back to her as she tumbled out of the beam of light.
The boots were first, and they seemed to be not only in good condition, but reinforced; the Suit must’ve understood the need for travel. The rest of her armor was in considerably worse shape. The greaves that covered her legs still wrapped around her shins, but stopped immediately above the knee. Her cuirass was flimsy, with maybe 1/5 of the layers it previously had, and none of the ornamentation. While the gloves still seemed to be in fine condition, the gauntlets certainly were not, with one permanently stretched into a broadsword with a golden eagle as a hilt, and the other into an ovular shield. She was also down to only one shoulder pauldron.
Besides some of its material being stretched beyond any good use, the Suit had put so much of itself into making her a helmet. The helmet itself had ornamentation the suit lacked, being covered in images from the ancient empire who worshiped Bellona’s namesake. Men riding beasts and throwing spears while others fought with short blades and massive rectangular shields. It also had a gleaming silver wreath of faux olive branches around its crown. She pulled the helm over her face, covering everything but a few locks of hair and her glowing purple eyes.
With her Suit reassembled, at least as best as it could be, Bellona looked back to where she emerged from; the White Fountain, to be more specific. She’d heard that they were the inverse to black holes, and that every black hole had a corresponding white fountain, but proof of them was notoriously elusive, even after centuries of searching. That evidence would continue to be elusive if she didn’t get back. Bellona bolted towards it, her boots filled with xenon from the nebula’s gas cloud.
Bellona darted her way through twisted, stretched, and molten metal, with the force of the singularity constantly trying to push her away. She took the remnants of a support column to the face, denting her helmet over her left cheek. Throwing the column aside, she started to flounder against the anti-gravity, narrowly dodging what was left of a freighter docked at the station.
A few more ships flew by, with Bellona dodging cockpits and cargo bays as she inched closer to the singularity; for whatever reason its anti-gravity was weakening. Once Bellona dodged the last remaining debris, she realized why. The singularity was closing. Her captors must’ve been smarter than she thought.
Bellona gave everything she had to get back through it, but there was no closing this gap. The fountain closed exponentially faster than she could fly, even with the Suit upgrading her ion boots. It wasn’t even a minute from when Bellona first approached it that the fountain completely disappeared.
Bellona was stuck. Quite possibly forever.
She didn’t even know which galaxy she was in. Hell, she didn’t even know which dimension she was in, as white fountains were supposedly gateways to billions of other universes.
Still, wherever she was seemed to have roughly the same laws of physics as the place she left, as well as similar stellar structures, so there were worse possible fates. Probably not many of them.
But Bellona hadn’t been programmed to be miserable. She’d been programmed to fight. And now, she’d have to fight tooth and nail just to learn where she even was, let alone get home.
Thankfully, Bellona had experience in similar situations. Her Maker often warned Bellona that she’d be left to fend for herself and find her way home if her ship were destroyed in a space battle. With that scenario in mind, her Maker had dropped Bellona off in various sectors of the galaxy half a dozen times. After the second attempt, Bellona always made it home with barely a sweat.
Settling herself, Bellona ran her left index finger across her right palm, activating the long-range energy sensors contained within. She found a signature a few light years away and locked onto it. She’d done this so many times that the process actually felt natural to her, even in what seemed to be another universe.
Natural. Bellona laughed to herself. There was nothing about her that was natural. Nothing, that is, except her desire to survive.
Freddie Bastiat is a law student whose real name you’ll find out once Andrew Kaczynski doxxes him. He’s a fan of Yoko Taro games, college football, and the restoration of the Byzantine and Achaemenid Empires. You can find him on Twitter @Tht_Fat_Bastiat.