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Zofia

Discussion in 'Unreal' started by dinwitty, Jan 2, 2017.

  1. dinwitty

    dinwitty DeRegistered User

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    I am only posting this for archiving purposes, but feel free to comment. Its from Hard Crash the Unreal novel.
    .................................

    1

    Second Occupation
    Handballs do some amazing tricks in zero-gee. Zofia had learned them all in her
    eighteen days of solitary confinement aboard the Vortex Rikers. She practiced them
    for hours at a time, until the constant thump, thump, thump drove the people in the
    cells around her into fits of fist-pounding rage. She didn't care. The walls of her
    cubicle were solid metal, except for the one blocked with the energy barrier. The
    other prisoners couldn't get to her, and if they could have she would have welcomed
    the fight just for the human contact. As it was, driving them crazy was the only thing
    that kept her sane.

    There had been that one moment of human contact on the first day, the three or four
    minutes during which she had purchased the handball from one of the guards, using
    the only thing of value she had left to give. At the time she had been repulsed, but
    already desperate. Later, when it had become apparent that he wasn't going to come
    back for more, she had been glad and disappointed at the same time.

    Now she just was. The ball and the cell were her world.

    She couldn't decide which maneuver she liked best. She admired the simplicity of
    the triple-wall corner bounce that sent the ball straight back into her hand. She could
    do that one with her eyes closed now. But then there was the HAZER, or Handball
    Amplification by Zofia's Exhalation on Rubber.

    To do that trick she would float in the middle of the cell, the handball adrift before her
    face, and give it a gentle puff of breath. From the center of the cell, the end walls
    were four feet away. The ball would drift ever so slowly toward one of them, bounce
    off, and return. When it drew close to her face again--a process of about six minutes
    on the first bounce, if she was gentle enough--she would move her head aside for it
    to pass, then move back in behind it and give it another puff of air. It would hit the
    opposite wall and come back in about three minutes.

    Another puff, another two minutes (she was surprised that it wasn't a minute and a
    half, until she did the math in her head while she waited), and so on cutting the time
    down with each pass until the ball became a blur and it was all Zofia could do to
    twist her head in and out of the ball's path in time for it to clear her face. The game
    usually ended with a handball in the eye, but Zofia didn't care about that, either. The
    sting helped keep her sane just as much as the muffled thumps and curses of her
    fellow prisoners.

    Of course a person could debate whether or not Zofia had been sane to start with.
    She'd been placed in her cell, alongside hundreds of others in similar cells on board
    the Rikers, because she'd killed fourteen security guards during a break-in at the
    Inuit Engineering Corporation's starship design center. The fact that she vehemently
    denied the killings argued in her favor, but the fact that she had been caught literally
    red-handed with the plans for a top-secret new starship in her blood-stained pockets
    argued otherwise.

    Zofia herself couldn't remember whether or not she had done it. The interrogation at
    Inuit's hands before they turned her over to the cops had involved the usual
    humiliating physical torture, but her captors had also used several unpleasant
    psychoactive drugs and subliminal coaching. After she came down, she wasn't even
    sure about her own name anymore.

    The authorities didn't care. They had all the evidence they needed to convict her and
    sentence her to death by slow torture on the prison moon of Kira. The interrogation
    had merely been a little intermediate fun for the Corporation goons and their police
    buddies on the take, a time-honored bonding ritual performed on a captive who was
    already a corpse in their eyes.

    Zofia wondered if they thought of themselves as necrophiliacs, then.
     
  2. dinwitty

    dinwitty DeRegistered User

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    She kissed the handball to steady it, aimed straight for a wall, then puffed it away.
    The tiny mark where the rubber had been injected into the mold rotated slowly from
    pole to pole as the ball receded. It bounced, came rotating back just as slowly. Zofia
    turned aside to let it go past, but just as she moved back into position, the back wall
    of her cell made a sudden lunge for both the ball and her face.

    She twisted in mid-air and managed to get her shoulder forward so it took most of
    the impact. She rolled with the blow, tumbling completely over and slapping what
    was now the floor with her hands to kill the energy of her fall.

    Bastards. They could have warned their passengers that they were going to
    decelerate. But no, that would require thinking of them as human. Couldn't have that.

    Her bunk was the only thing to hang onto in her cell. The energy bars looked like
    they might provide a good grip, but Zofia had learned the hard way to stay away from
    those. The room's only light was a flush-mounted oblong in the ceiling, and the toilet
    was just a hole in the deck a butt's-width out from one corner. Zofia supposed she
    could go sit on it and turn the vacuum all the way up, and maybe it would hold her in
    place, but right now the toilet was in an upper corner and she didn't like the idea of
    dangling from the ceiling with her prison blues down around her ankles.

    The walls were eight feet apart--too far to allow her to brace herself against them.
    She grabbed the bunk and wedged herself as best she could into the corner next to
    it. For the first time since she had been thrown in there, she was glad to be barefoot.
    Skin against bare metal gave her a pretty good grip, even without vacuum assist, and
    there was bound to be more maneuvering.

    It wasn't long in coming. The impromptu floor suddenly became a wall, then a ceiling
    as the ship's pilots fired thrusters in all three dimensions. Zofia tumbled free, flipped
    in mid-air, and landed on her feet again. What kind of crappy landing was this,
    anyway? She could have done better when she was seven. The pilots must have
    come in way off their vector to be correcting this much on preliminary approach.

    If they kept it up, they would put the ship into a tumble. Wouldn't that be rich?
    Spared Kira's torture chambers only to die in a crashlanding. She should be so
    lucky.

    The handball hit the floor behind her and bounced off the wall beside her head. She
    snagged it with her left hand and stuffed it down her shirt, wedging it into her
    cleavage where it would stay put. She didn't want it bouncing out through the bars, or
    distracting her while she was trying to keep from getting her face smashed.

    A deep vibration ran through the ship. The direction of down changed by about thirty
    degrees. Zofia skidded down to the lowermost corner of her cell, careful to keep her
    foot out of the glory hole now that it was on the bottom again. Maybe she should sit
    down and turn on the vacuum, only she suspected vacuum would be in short supply
    pretty soon. The force holding her to the floor fluctuated between nothing and a
    couple of gravities in random jolts; that felt like the ship hitting the first ragged edges
    of atmosphere.

    Sure enough, the force grew stronger. The ship groaned under the stress and began
    to vibrate like a car with a turbine blade missing. It slewed around from side to side,
    clearly unstable against this force that hit from the wrong angle. Ships like the
    Rikers were designed to come in backward under thrust, not forward under
    aerobraking. The hull would be glowing red by now from air friction, anything that
    projected from it vaporizing and streaming out behind the ship in a fiery plasma trail.

    The slant of the floor meant that the ship was coming in at an angle; that was good.
    It would keep the nose from taking the brunt of the heat. If the pilots were smart they
    would also try to rotate the ship along its long axis, so no one side would be more
    exposed than the others. It might even survive its atmospheric plunge if they did that.
    Zofia braced for the maneuver, but it didn't come. So they weren't smart.
     
  3. dinwitty

    dinwitty DeRegistered User

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    That meant she was dead. The moment the hull burned through, everyone on board
    would be sprayed with 5,000-degree plasma. The ship would break up a few seconds
    after that, the crew quarters and cell blocks becoming individual meteors in the sky
    of whatever planet they were about to crashland on.

    Planet, Zofia thought. They had been headed for a moon. An airless prison moon.
    They were really off course.

    And now that death was imminent, Zofia realized that she didn't want to die, not even
    to escape the torture they had planned for her on Kira.

    The ship lurched violently upward, then rolled on its axis. The pilots were finally
    trying to keep it from burning through. Zofia let herself slide down the tilted floor to
    the wall, waited until that became a floor, then got to her knees and crawled across
    that until it too became a wall.

    "Don't overdo it, you bastards!" she shouted. Her voice, never soft, echoed in the
    bare cubicle. The roll stopped --coincidentally, she was sure, but at least the pilots
    had bought more time.

    Time for what, though? Unless they could flip the ship end-for-end and fire the
    engines, it would still plow into the ground at terminal velocity. And even if they could
    flip it, the outside sensors would all be burned away by now. They would be flying
    blind.

    "We're dead," Zofia said. She sat down on the floor and pulled her knees up to her
    chest. Any second now. She didn't know if it would be the fiery hot torch of
    burn-through or the instantaneous nothingness of a high-velocity smash, but dead
    was dead. She screamed once, an inarticulate howl of pure emotion, just to see if
    that was the way she wanted to go out, but she ran out of breath and she didn't
    scream again after she'd drawn in another lungfull.

    Should she curse the cruel fate that had led her here? Where should she start? She
    ran back through the major events of her life, trying to find the one pivotal moment
    that had led her to this point, but she reluctantly admitted she had been aimed here
    since birth. She'd never known her father, she'd hardly seen her mother even though
    she technically lived at home; she'd been in trouble with the law since she was
    eleven, at first for petty stuff like shoplifting, but eventually she'd wound up doing
    time. Even after she'd gotten out, it had been a steady progression to this point.

    The ship groaned again. Three sharp jolts hammered Zofia down, then changing
    gravity dropped her screaming through the air to smack against the other side. She
    shielded her head with her arms, but she still hit hard enough to make her ears ring.
    Blood dripped from her nose.

    But the pilots had turned the ship.

    "Come on, light the engines!" Zofia screamed. "Get us back into space!"

    Long seconds passed with only the uneven buffeting of the atmosphere, then the
    engines roared to life and five or six gees of thrust shoved Zofia flat to the floor.
    "Yes!" she screamed, the only word she could force out before the thrust increased
    and gravity flattened her lungs.

    She wished she knew if the ship had cancelled its fall yet or if it was still going
    backwards, but at least the idiot pilots were trying to haul it back out of the planet's
    grip. She gasped for breath, waiting for the end to the buffeting that would signal their
    return to space, or the roar of crumpling metal that would signal her instantaneous
    death on the ground.

    She got neither. The ship shuddered and lurched sideways, throwing her against the
    energy barrier, which crackled and blew her backwards, then there were a couple
    seconds of free fall during which her life began to scroll past before her eyes, but she
    only got as far as the moment the autodoc lasered her umbilical cord before another
    lurch interrupted her. She smacked the momentary floor before another second of
    free fall sent her drifting again. That could only mean one thing: they were bouncing.

    Then came the roar of crumpling metal, plus a deep rumble that rattled her teeth, as
    if a million elephants were stampeding across a million empty soup cans. The light
    in her cell failed, plunging her into total darkness just as she felt a pulsating slam
    slam slam slam that could only be individual prison cells being crushed one by one
    as the ship plowed its way into bedrock.

    She ducked her head down to her chest and wrapped her arms around her skull, but
    she knew it was a futile gesture.

    Out of the darkness, Oblivion came knocking...with a fist.



    Titillating, huh? Find out what happens to Zofia on the nightmarish
    world of Na Pali in Ryan Hughes' Unreal: Hard Crash and Dean Wesley
    Smith's Unreal: Prophet's Power available today from Pocket Books at
    your local bookstore.




    All files © 1997 GT Interactive Software.
    For questions and comments about this site, contact the Webmaster.
     
  4. Leo(T.C.K.)

    Leo(T.C.K.) Well-Known Member

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    About this site? Where did you get it from? This exerpt

    I do have the books though.
     
  5. dinwitty

    dinwitty DeRegistered User

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    I have been digging and digging to find this, I found it on one of my systems, I figgerred to save it, but it was on some site promoting the books and talked about the page miscues. Grinding the internet archive has been almost useless.
     
  6. Manticore

    Manticore Official BUF Birthday Spammer

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    Shame as I'd like to read the rest.
     
  7. Leo(T.C.K.)

    Leo(T.C.K.) Well-Known Member

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    Then get the books from ebay/amazon. I have them.
     

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