EP 42: ATMOSPHERIC CONTROL UNIT


“Hold on!” yelled the pilot, Adreso. The feathered woman turned her entire body in her cockpit and inverted the saucer with the effort. If we weren’t streaming so quickly, maybe I’d have felt my stomach go upside down. Below the dome-shaped cockpit of the flying saucer, as if staring down into the depths of a vast ocean, a vibrant enormous jellyfish hovered above a blackened city.

The sun set a vicious crimson, and the city’s power outage left every window of every sky-scraper burning in red reflections.

As Adreso flew over the jellyfish, the enormous monster’s bioluminescence combatted the red sky’s reflections. The people in those buildings were bathed in the very light of their destroyer as the creature poured septic acid from her tentacles. A building collapsed to the ground, eroded to pulp. The world shook even from the sky.

“You use these to warp weather?” I asked as Adreso turned the saucer back upright and slowed to a hover above the scene below. Another two dozen saucers came into formation around the jellyfish. I said, “Why use that when you could make a satellite?”

“Satellite?” Her feathered brow raised, “Moons or comets?”

Interesting that their flight technology was advanced when they still communicated without satellite feeds.

“Nevermind. When should I drop?”

She giggled in a coo-like rhythm. “You’re crazy, my furry friend.”

“When?”

“Countdown to twenty eight, seven, six. . .” and on she went.

The cockpit slid open. The hot wind rose from around the floating titanic jellyfish and brushed back my ears and fur.

“. . . fifteen, fourteen. . .”

Which helmet?

Not the new one—not sure it was built for this kind of combat, merely hot sun. So I grasped the edges of the golden Kaihan helm, folded my ears into the horns, and shut the draconic-jaw visor.

My body came alight with the power of my old kingdom. Kaihanas. That Time.

This felt like those days, strangely. Heroics in the simplest fashion. I stared down the behemoth beneath me, and drew my starspear. The glowing crystal-white lance weighed fifteen kilograms. In my arms, enhanced with sorcery, it felt like a wooden pike.

Could I really hurt this thing? I suppose I’d have to trust the briefing. They’d done this sort of thing before, supposedly.

“. . . seven, six, five. . .”

The screaming of jet fuel cried out with the crumbling buildings. Each of the other saucers lit with blue lights. I grabbed my star spear in both hands, closed my eyes, and waited.

“. . . two, one.”

A pair of blue missiles shot from each of the saucers, haloing towards their target: the ACU.

Atmospheric Control Unit, or ACU (ace-oo), is the name of the jellyfish.

The hundred meters tall jellyfish that, just as the missiles erupted into its side, I leapt from the saucer and barreled towards. I flew through smoke and fire and burning gas. The faint screams of dying citizens were drowned by missile fire and the ACU’s charging bellows.

With Force I countered the weight of my fall and landed on the soft, balloon-like surface of the beast’s dome head. It “swam” through the air, the angle of its crown making it so that I could barely stand. The beast tried to flee the attacks. I let myself slide down the crown and found a missile hole being repaired with new cells.

I snuck into the flesh and superheated my starspear with sorcery, using burnt meat I had for breakfast and smoke I’d inhaled on the way down to burn fire in my Aura. The spear kept the replenished cells from suffocating me, and the Kaihan helm fed me good, clean air.

“Let’s see,” I said, eyeing a small map attached to my wrist. A digital watch-like device which showed me the interior of the animal’s internal functions. The ACU’s had symmetrical biology. I needed to find a large neural pathway. The nerves were smaller and fractured at the ends of the dome. But deep inside the flesh—twenty meters or so—thick lines of nerves were laid to allow the brain its functions.

Giant monsters bred to mist arid mountains? Terrible idea.

I wasn’t here to judge, though, only plant a bomb on a nerve or the brain if possible. Another dozen skydivers like me were currently inside the ACU. My wrist-plate also fed me that information. They wouldn’t make it faster than me. I had my star spear. I sliced through the flesh quickly, and came upon a new color and texture. A thick, less bioluminescent jelly. The solid reddish flesh recoiled as I speared my pathway. Then came yellow chord. Thick as the lines of a sailing vessel. Webs of it spanned in all directions.

“Sorry,” I said to the giant weather beast. I took the explosive from my bag and flicked the switch to “ARMED”. I stuck the bomb inside and switched my wrist-plate to warn the others.

Then, I sliced my way out as quick as possible.

Wasn’t quick enough.

BOOM, BOOM, BOOM.

Three thunderous explosions from inside the ACU. While still trapped in its flesh, my bomb and two others went off, stunning the creature’s nervous system, effectively killing it. I felt my sense of gravity flip. I was suddenly perpendicular to the ground, then upside down. The slit in the ACU’s flesh I’d carved was only as much to walk, meaning that while the animal turned in the air on its way to the ground, I flipped with it. I shuffled to try and brace for the impact.

Tearing, ripping, shredding.

Through the translucent flesh I saw skyscraper windows sheer through the ACU. One meter nearer and I would have been pinned against that building, or pierced, or smashed.

Without hesitation, I carved towards the exterior. I was upside down and maneuvered my way through. Bioluminescent gunk poured with plasma around the creature’s injuries. I came to the window and broke it, letting glass and gunk fling inside. Inside, a few of the native feathered folk cowered behind office supplies and strange hanging desks. An avian business place? Interesting.

“Here to help!” I said, unlatching my visor and showing my face. I showed them the wrist-plate, whose insignia matched their government officials’.

Hesitant at first, I plowed through the room and found an exit. Not stairs, but a cylinder of perches and fans that took the place of stairwells and elevators. The fans were shut down, naturally.

“Fly down!” I said.

Some looked up, confused.

“Get to the bottom level of the building! Now. The ACU seems to be speared. If the weight stays trapped here, it could rip these upper stories straight out of the ground.”

One female took off. The moment she did, a male followed and then the remainder of the crowd. I spent the rest of the night aiding in evacuations from that building and the neighboring one.

By morning, my prediction was correct, both buildings snapped beneath the weight of the ACU and slumped parallel to the ground as the beast rolled over.

The streets bathed in neon-bioluminescent plasma as it poured down every alley and sewer line from the corpse. The mountains in the distance, vibrant with orange and blue plant life, spoke of this ACU’s duty finished. Before going mad, the genetically engineered weather unit seemed to have done a fairly decent job.

When the battle was done, I did not wish to linger. There was a party,— which I found odd due to the creature’s malfunctioning being the issue on part of the same organization which killed it—which I did not attend. The city was swept in disaster. I took off my helm and threw a cowl over my ears and face, then went to work helping the refugees to safety.

That made me feel better. As selfish as it is, sometimes the most heroic moments came in the quietest times. When the smoke settled and the suffering just began, a helping hand is perhaps the most meaningful moment. Leaping from flying saucers and purging titanic weather-control beasts is thrilling, but thrills don’t keep people safe and happy, compassion does.

I just hoped maybe someday they’d get satellites instead of hundred-meter tall jellyfish to mist their mountains. But that wasn’t my suggestions to have.

END