Jenny Barrister could barely contain herself. She was going down in history. They were already talking about a Nobel for her work exposing the Biocorp hunter/killer program and their work on the Delta Units.
But every image could always use a little bit of tweaking and she had a perfect human interest story that would cement her image. Caprice Parker, reunited with the son she couldn’t remember. And a son, reunited with the mother he never met.
It was perfect.
As if on cue, the gate came to life in front of Jenny. The polished steel supports began humming and the green swirling gases under the glass floor froze. Inside the gravitational field contained by the gate, reality began to bend. It was folding, breaking down. The gateway functioned by folding space-time, putting one location directly on top of another that was millions of light years away. The visual appearance of two locations sharing the same space was something to behold.
A young man came into focus. He was tall with gently curling blond hair and square glasses. He was thin and gangly, a consequence of teenage hormones run amok.
“Ian Parker?” Jenny asked.
The young man staggered and stumbled out of the gate, “Yeah … I … whoa!”
Jenny caught him and laughed, “Your first time through is a little wild huh?”
“Yeah,” the boy laughed with her, “Hey, so where’s my mom?”
Jenny nodded. Perfect.
“Now keep in mind,” she took him by the hand, “You’re mom is what they call a Beta Unit. Even though she generally looks like she did on Earth, her body has changed quite a bit.”
Ian patted her on the back, “I don’t remember my mom so I guess I won’t be surprised,” he smiled.
“Then let’s go find her,” Jenny offered.
* * *
“Shoot him!” Caprice yelled from the back of the warpig. “Just shoot!”
It was her worst fear, instead of adapting and finding a way to kill the warpig, the soldiers were just relying on her to do it all. Just because their plasma weapons didn’t work didn’t mean they didn’t have other options!
But there she was, gored twice by the monsters huge tusks, bleeding out of her mouth and stuck riding on the back of the giant boar. At least it was outside the city.
Hearing the baying of the gorehounds on the hill behind her, Caprice was able to grab her wakazashi. She had to stop the damn thing from crashing back through the gates of the city. It would kill too many civilians if it got back in.
Holding onto the back of the boar with her legs, she grabbed one tusk. Her breathing was coming in short, excruciating gasps and more blood poured out of her mouth. At the very least her ribs were broken, more likely she had a punctured and collapsed lung.
As the creature charged the gates, Caprice actually thanked the Bardo. When it had come, the skin had peeled off the monster and she could see its vertebrae underneath the muscle tissue. All she needed to do … was …
The blade bounced off the bone of the beast’s spine. Her damn hands were still shaking! Just one more time! One time dammit!
Kicking the creature, Caprice dug her heels into its sides. The warpig kicked its front legs out, skidding to a stop and throwing the platinum blond over its head.
“She’s clear!” she heard the soldiers start yelling.
Just one more …
The wakazashi struck true! She slipped the blade between the armored boar’s vertebrae and felt the satisfying tug as the edge sliced through its spinal cord. The monster’s head instantly collapsed to the dirt and Caprice tumbled through the air.
Slamming back-first into the gates, Caprice heard a sickening crunch issue from her spine and any remaining breath left her body. Crumpling to the ground, her head hit the dirt and more blood poured out of her mouth. Only yards away, the warpig tried to gasp for breath, it stared at her in confusion. It didn’t understand how she had beat it, it didn’t understand what she had done to it. It didn’t understand why she wasn’t dead.
That was it! A wave a relief rolled through Caprice. The moment of clarity draped a blanket of understanding over her, warming and calming her.
Death had been there for her the whole time! Charon was death, it wasn’t denying her. She was denying it! All those years, all that time, she thought she’d been lucky (or unlucky) enough to stay alive. She had fought and fought and fought.
Once the soldiers’ plasma rifles didn’t work, they gave up. The civilians wouldn’t fight. Like always, it was up to her.
Why? Because Charon wanted her! It had always wanted her and even though she wanted the fight to end, she wouldn’t stop fighting.
Pushing herself to her feet, she started staggering toward the paralyzed boar. She couldn’t hear the shouts of the soldiers, didn’t want to. Gorehounds loved to follow warpigs, feeding on the scraps left by the bulldozer-like monsters and they were singing to her on the hill.
Their baying was her requiem.
Stopping by the warpig, she drove her sword into its skull, extinguishing the remaining life in the beast. Continuing her practice of following the ancient rituals, she punched her hand into the pommel of the katana, breaking the blade. The sword had been made for her and she would be the only person to ever use it.
Her weapons were all used up and her armor was destroyed.
* * *
“Come on!” Jenny yelled.
Caprice was just on the other side of the gates. The floodlights were shining down and Jenny would have her human-interest piece.
Ian followed after her, panting, “She, she’s okay? Right?”
“Your mom’s as tough as anyone I’ve ever seen!” Jenny yelled as the gates opened, but the light wasn’t going to be on her this time.
Caprice held her hands out to the sides, blood dripping from her fingertips. She couldn’t breathe, but it didn’t matter. She wouldn’t have to for long. They could see she was unarmed. The gorehounds wouldn’t hesitate.
Her hands didn’t shake. Her muscles weren’t tense. The platinum woman who had trained so many killers, slaughtered so many monsters, was completely at ease. She wasn’t afraid.
“M … Mom?” Ian stammered.
Caprice smiled as the creatures fell on her. It wasn’t pain that she was feeling, it was contentment. She was getting to meet an old friend for the first time. The animals tore and ripped at her and her body gave out. She fell to the ground, smiling as skinless hounds the size of cougars tore the flesh from her bones.
“MOM!” Ian tried to rush forward, but Jenny grabbed him.
“No Ian! No! They’ll kill you too!” Jenny yelled. She was losing it! Losing everything. This was supposed to be her big moment!
Caprice closed her eyes and sighed one last time. Darkness embraced her, her body faded away, feeling faded away, sound was gone. Then there were colors, red and then smoke. But then the smoke was driven away by a brilliant white light.
The light was peaceful. The light was understanding. Caprice was happy. No, she was joyful. No, that wasn’t it either.
Bliss. Caprice reached out without hands and touched bliss.
It was over.