The Beacon, what a silly project. The idea had been with me sometime before I went and sat down and wrote it. It’s been years since I’ve read it but I was always so scared to really do anything with it. I feel that enough time has passed and I’ve grown enough to be able to share it.
Cargo Bay 14 writhes like the stomach of a dead raccoon. Inside each intestine, maggots flourish and churn. Chubby shuttles slide along routine canals and stop at discrete intervals. When back hatches align with the caution lines of the loading docks their doors spring open and remote loaders stuff recycled caff and vital aminos into their gape.
Azul peeps her eyes through an access grate. Servos whine as the remotes shove objects into the holes of the shuttles. She watches the shuttles for a couple time units, eyes trying to zoom and enhance until – there, just behind the grey loader with the chipped caution stripes. She thinks, “Zarrrnnaa.”
Zarrrnnaa moves like wine through a crazy straw. As she is sucked from one robot to another the movement starts wither here head eyes face before twisting down to her shoulders, arms, elbows waist wrists, thighs, calves and feet. The ingrav units in the cargo bay are at less intensity as elsewhere in the ship to make the loading process less of a burden on the machines.
Zarrrnnaa floats to the next loader robot makes some minor adjustments and with a swirling twist dodges the spider whip data cable that spins out of the incoming data shuttle. Zarrrnnaa ensures the line is connected securely to a stack of servers, likely a new batch of SimEnts ready for mass distribution aftermarket testing on Spectacular Deee.
Azul sends a meme to Zarrrnnaa and watches as the supervisor fairly seizes with laughter at the unexpected pairing or bizarre poetry and sense bundle information.
“XD that was too much”
“I’m in your house”
“Right behind your ear…”
Azul knocks on the grate and sends a snapshot video to Zarrrnnaa. Zarrrnnaa looks up towards the grate and places the palm of her hand over her face with a soft smack. She gestures and the grey chipped loader jerkily removes the grate and then drives it back into place after Azul swims out, over, and down to float near Zarrrnnaa.
“Can we :->: :EXIT:?”
Zarrrnnaa floats ahead of Azul and palms an access panel open. They drift inside and the doors sizzle shut behind them as their feet sink back down. A time unit passes as the airlock rinses and cycles. Zarrrnnaa sends death and dying. They step out into a loading maintenance corridor the glows red. Further down service technicians consult work orders and burn holes in the side of their necks with chems.
They can open their mouths to speak now they’re out of vacuum and Azul is the first to blurt, “I want in. I’m down. Fuck the system. I have a plan.”
She leans on the handrail on the steps outside, clings to it like a parasite to host. The railing has supported many, from butts to hanging child forms, to anthropomorphic visitors, and all the custom mods that create the populace of the caravan. This careworn revolutionary is the least of the rail’s burdens. Azul dangles, her lips dry and cracked, her voice hoarse. She scrambles for a lozenge and dryly sucks it into her mouth. It dissolves in a hydrating rush and her pores sigh with relief. Her lips plump, her scalp loosens, and she relaxes once more. As her brain chugs back to regular speed she closes her eyes and thinks back on her vision. She must maintain momentum. She must meet, she must organise, she must campaign, she must overcome and overthrow. Azul realises that to see Geary again she must begin the slow lonely work of revolution.
Geary pours a cup of caff over the green sponge leaves of their newest hab guest. The life-form wriggles orange roots through the neoplastic container that holds a quantity of dark compost tight against its base. “Welcome home,” Geary murmurs as they prepare to pour another serving of caff for their self. “I’ve waited for something like you. Soon enough you’ll be big enough to harvest and then we can both ride the ‘trodes into Night City together.” The sponge fronds’ pores dilate and suck the caff.
Geary flicks the incinerator switch and watches the discrete packaging turn into dust. So simple it is these days: put out some feelers, head down to negotiate a quick favour, print some pamphlets, receive an illegal sentient narco-lifeform and having done that, harvest its organs, join the symbiosis and immerse oneself fully with the SimEnt network and stage a takeover of the entertainment systems, then infiltrate the different ship and fleet subsystems one by one until voila, the caravan becomes one’s arms and legs.
Geary sees themselves connected into every hab, every air duct, every processor. Their vast limbs reaching across the stars. The thousands of ships of the caravan encircling planets, systems, all while the human race blindly continues on a blind and ignorant mess inside.