I. Sleeping Angel CCXXII
A faint signal drifted through the cosmos.
Sleeping Angel CCXXII’s six meter satellite communications dish was first to detect the trace radio frequency.
The ship’s AI Computation Suite concluded this since it hadn’t received a pass-on confirmation message from any of the thousands of other exoplanetary system skimmers operating in the sector.
The signal was barely discernible against the cosmic background noise. Code in the ship’s communications array flagged the message for refinement and retransmission to all surrounding space vessels.
Reaction wheels attached to the satellite dish spun up, further aligning the dish to point at the source of the signal.
The patterned message was clearer now. The communications array was able to isolate the minute waveforms against the constant onslaught of ever-present cosmic radiation. It sent the raw data to the ship’s AI for interpretation.
The AI Computation Suite meticulously calculated through a detailed analysis of the radio signal. It had all the markings of a colonial distress signal, but it was incredibly underpowered. It should have poured out across multiple sectors, yet this one had barely managed to trickle its way into the outer reaches of its own planetary system.
Based on the message’s telemetry and known outposts in the quadrant, the signal had to have come from New Virga, a tungsten mining colony at the outer reaches of the Commonwealth’s footprint. The AI sent a query to the outworld communications bank at the heart of New Virga’s only registered colonial settlement, Nephele. There was no response.
It tried to communicate directly with the colony three more times over the next six hours but not once did it receive a reply. It passed along this information back to the Communications Array which rebroadcast the original distress message, this time at a significantly stronger power level and spread across multiple waveform spectra.
Along with the processed signal, the Comms Array attached a tag essentially stating, “Sleeping Angel CCXXII (Solar System Skimmer SA-CCXXII) has received the following message: [BLIP. __ BLIP. __ BLIP.BLIP. _ BLIP.BLIP.BLIP. __ BLIP.] and will proceed to investigate. Expect bi-hourly updates on the following frequency bands: 430 MHz, 2.045 GHz, 2.45 GHz.
Julia’s eyes flickered open. The sterile cabin light reflected off of her cerulean irises.
The ship’s AI had brought her out of hibernation mode and activated her systems.
She performed a quick internal query of her chronometer and concluded that she hadn’t been activated outside of her regularly scheduled diagnostic sessions for over 4 years.
Wirelessly tethered to the ship’s AI, Julia scanned through the logs to sort through what was going on.
1. A distress signal had been picked up from New Virga, its strength was troublingly weak. 2. The Comms Suite had broadcast out its findings and confirmed that the Sleeping Angel CCXXII was en route to investigate. 3. The ship’s AI had already adjusted the skimmer’s trajectory and they would be entering into a highly eccentric orbit within the next two hours. 4. The signal had been processed over 18 days ago. She had only been brought online once the ship had hit a targeted proximity distance to the colony.
Julia squirmed as her OS completed its boot-up cycle and she slowly regained sensation through her 1,362 embedded chassis sensory arrays.
She inhaled a simulated breath as her human emulation subroutines kicked on.
Moving through the rest of her system checks with no red flags, Julia noted her activation status with the ship’s AI and pushed herself out of her reclined hibernation chair.
Three sets of cables and two sets of tubes disconnected from ports located along her spine as she took a step forward. The power and data cables quickly retracted back into recessed cutouts in the chair, while the motor lubricant and All-Purpose-Emulation-Fluid tubes slowly snaked down into the floor.
Recognizing their disconnection from the tubes and wires, five skin-colored discs slid into place down the length of Julia’s artificial vertebrae, neatly sealing each connection port closed. Fully activated and free of her hibernation chair’s tethers, Julia stepped up to the full-length mirror at the front of her small cabin.
Appearances were important to Angel-Bots like herself. They often had no idea what situations were going to be like planet-side before dropping in, so their elegantly constructed feminine appearance provided them with a quick avenue of establishing rapport, empathy, and trust with the local colonials. She examined her face. High cheekbones were set upon either side of her small, button nose. Just above sat her large, vibrant eyes. If she focused her vision enough, she could see the camera lens apertures hidden beneath her irises, but damn if they weren’t well-disguised.
A thick mane of red hair hung down, tickling the tops of her shoulders, making a stark contrast against her blemishless fair toned skin.
Her body was supple and lean; just beneath the delicate outlines of her hybrid-alloy collarbones sat two perky breasts which, since her creation, had been handily winning their fight against Earth-standard gravity. Wide hips flared, connecting her athletic stomach and her slender legs. Her toned calves could have been carved of marble. She was curious just how great they’d look in a pair of stiletto heels.
Julia ran her hands up and down her body, meticulously logging each and every sensation of her tactile sensory arrays being stimulated from the delicate touch of her fingertips.
She gently reached a hand down to the intersection of her thighs and traced a finger along the soft contours of her plastic folds. Registering nothing further than the most basic of tactile sensory impressions due to her lack of self-pleasure routines, Julia removed her finger with simulated annoyance.
It sure did feel nice down there; it was a shame she hadn’t been able to fully utilize that hardware outside of self diagnostics.
Most Angel-Bots spent most, if not all, of their operational lifetimes soaring through space, waiting for distress calls to finally bring them out of hibernation, so they could intervene and assist. Inwardly, Julia couldn’t help but to feel a twinge of excitement at finally receiving a distress call that necessitated her presence planet-side faster than any human transport would allow.
Pushing the thought aside, she returned to her regimented set of procedures for readying herself and the ship’s personnel transport, Ascendant, for planet entry.
Julia made her way to a modest closet filled with six bodysuits. Each Exploration Suit, while identical in size and measurements, was uniquely tailored for the conditions of the planet, space station, or cruiser that she would be visiting.
She paused, running a query through the ship’s AI for atmospheric conditions on the planet.
The results came back almost instantly:
Gravity: 1.3 G’s Air Density: 0.85 kg/cm^2 Air Composition: 70.22% nitrogen, 22.30 oxygen, 1.02% argon, water vapor: 6.00% | [remainder --> trace elements] Land Colony / Water Colony: Land Destructive Acids Present in Atmosphere and/or Fauna: N Day / Night Cycle: 22 earth-hours total (11 ea.) Avg. Temp. - Day: 46 C Avg. Temp. - Night: -6 C Radiation: Varying levels of radiation in the planet's atmospheric environment. Conditions change rapidly and seemingly randomly. Conditions are dependent on both activity level of solar storms and local environmental factors.
So, it was going to be quite hot in the day, cold at night, and a bit radioactive. Nothing her all-weather chassis couldn’t handle. Might be nice to have someone to keep her warm though; she blushed then frowned. Latent programming quirks in her emulation package seemed to be triggering responses from her sexual suite when she simulated certain scenarios. She started up a debugger to diagnose the issue.
Other than the wild temperature swings and varying radiation levels, the only characteristic that caught her attention was the amount of gravity. At 1.3Gs she estimated she could still operate near 100% of her rated performance limits. Standard Commonwealth extraction procedure required her to bring a few spare battery packs along. Her current battery should be sufficient enough, were she to need to stay for a bit more than the planned maximum 24 hours. Hopefully the locals would be kind enough to help her carry out a battery swap, if it became necessary for whatever unlikely reason.
She felt a slight tingling in her tight plastic sex at the idea of somebody having their hands inside of her, changing out the component that singlehandedly brought life to her systems.
Submitting all the variables as inputs to a complex algorithm, Julia concluded that her standard Exploration Suit would be appropriate for her visit. She was required to bring a helmet, but with the air composition so similar to Earth standard, there would be no requirement for her to wear it at all times. At least, when radiation levels were nominal.
She cheered inwardly at this minor development. There was some latent programming within her interlinked software packages that relished the chance to show off her pretty facial features to the locals.
Grabbing the bodysuit from its rack, Julia stepped into it one foot at a time and, slowly pulling it up her body, cinched it tight with a magnetic clasp at the back of her neck. It fit her measurements so well it looked as though it had been painted on.
She chuckled as she bounced up and down lightly, the jiggle of her breasts not hindered by her new garment in the slightest.
The bodysuit was ivory white from the neck all the way down through the built in knee-high boots and gloves. There were three large charcoal-gray patches, one stretching up from her pubic bone to her sternum, and the other two spread across her inner thighs. Teal highlights were strategically interspersed throughout the gray and white, adding bursts of color to the suit.
She grabbed her sleek helmet from a nearby shelf, only needed for occasional exposures to radiation. All of the life-support equipment needed for a human had been stripped away.
The ship’s AI informed Julia that their elliptical orbit with New Virga would be reaching its near apsis, roughly 600 kilometers above the surface, in 40 minutes and 22 seconds. At this point, the Sleeping Angel would fire her engines to move into a circular Low Earth Orbit (LEO). As soon as the maneuver was completed and stable orbit of New Virga achieved, the Ascendant would launch towards Nephele.
She was able to assist with the maneuvering of the Ascendant if required, but the piloting software built into the personnel transport's local AI was capable of performing descent and planetary takeoff operations independently.
She opened the doors to the transport and began loading it up with supplies. First in went her helmet and spare power packs. Next, she brought in two pulse rifles, two magna-coil pistols, and two electro-daggers. She was programmed with weapon redundancy in mind. Already packed into the Ascendant were several crates of non-perishable food, water canisters, emergency beacons, first-aid kits, and other survival necessities.
With T-minus 14 minutes until her launch window began, Julia locked the airlock to the transport and took position in the pilot chair. Her eyes widened with delight as Sleeping Angel’s planetside bay door opened, flooding her visual receptors with the bright organic blues, bristling greens, and dark oranges of New Virga’s horizon sitting just beneath her.
John’s makeshift bunk shook as thunder roared outside.
He sat up, his bed sheets tightly gripped in either hand. There were no thunderstorms on New Virga…
Warily, he stood up and popped his head through his shelter’s porthole window. He watched as a shooting star arced through the sky, its fiery orange tail a glowing serpent in the early morning light. As the luminous object grew brighter and brighter; he realized it was coming right towards him.
No mining ship would take such a dangerous approach vector towards a colonial settlement. What the hell was coming his way?
The fiery streak only slowed after cresting the 15 kilometer high Halysis Mountains, which encircled the Nephele settlement. The firing of the ship’s retrorockets, steadily arresting its forward momentum, finally put his mind at ease.
Whatever was approaching him was of human design.
The vessel cut a searing path through the permanent blanket of virga, colloquially referred to as the Shroud, at the mountain's inner edges. The tendril-like vapor clouds glimmered a brilliant emerald green in the early morning light.
Good. The Fallax never ventured near the colony center when the Shroud was that color. The team of now-deceased climate scientists had hypothesized that varying levels of atmospheric ionization caused the drastic color shifts to the low-hanging cloud cover. The brutish Fallax had never been spotted outside of their cave systems when the virga clouds glowed this color.
With a crackling howl, the ship continued braking. Finally, in a shroud of flaming dust kicked up as its rocket engines torched the ground, it settled about half a kilometer from Nephele’s town center.
After several minutes the dust around the landing zone settled. John watched from his shelter’s porthole window as a lone figure descended the ship’s loading ramp and began walking towards the settlement. He couldn’t make out many features of his visitor at his distance away, but one thing was for certain. Whoever was approaching him was distinctly feminine.
“Welcome to Nephele!”
John walked down from his shelter in the central pumping station with bated steps, greeting the new arrival with a friendly facade. He forced the muscles of his jaw into a smile; they hadn’t formed the shape in weeks.
The new arrival turned her head to face him, looking him over with laser focus, “Hello! I am Angel-Bot GEN 2.2, designation ‘Julia’. I hail from the Outer Commonwealth Exoplanetary System Skimmer, Sleeping Angel CCXXII. I am here in response to the distress call received from this colony 18 days, 14 hours, and 22 minutes ago.”
She shifted her weight to one side, allowing her hands to fall to each of her curvy hips. She smiled, her ivory-white teeth gleaming in the soft morning light.
John was awe-struck. The red-headed beauty had a rifle strapped across her back, a pistol holstered to her hip, and a knife of some kind attached beneath the generous swells of her bust. It was too much information to process all at once; he could only manage to run his hands through his hair, muttering incoherently.
Julia tilted her head, looking at him curiously, “What is your name? Was it you who activated the distress beacon?”
John looked up at her and nodded his head, “Yeah. It was me. I’m…I’m John.”
He thrust his hand out to shake the stranger’s hand but she didn’t reciprocate the gesture. He returned his hand to his side and pointed his eyes at the ground.
The servo-actuators behind Julia’s faceplate pulled it into an expression of concern, “Where is the rest of the Nephele’s population? My records indicate there were 3,731 colonists as of the most recent Commonwealth network report.”
John’s gaze dropped even further, “Dead. Everyone’s dead but me. I’ve been here alone since we were attacked...you said you received the distress call 18 days ago...so, yeah I’ve been here alone for the past 21 days then. HA!” He chuckled, sorrow lingering on the edge of his voice.
“HA! To think that I actually lost count...It took me three days to piece together enough components to just barely power up that beacon. I’ve been holed up in the pump station ever since.” He gestured at the two-story cylindrical building just behind him.
“No Fallax have come since that last attack 21 days ago. Thank the heavens.”
Julia took several steps forward and put her hand on John’s shoulder. She gently lifted his chin to look him directly in the eyes, initiating a small handful of protocols aimed at comforting the lone colonist, “I’m so sorry John. You’re safe now. I’m here to protect you and get you to safety.”
John noticed how her eyes seemed to glow a brilliant blue. He exhaled sharply, getting his breathing under control.
“What attacked the colony, John? What is a Fallax? I have no record of this.”
He felt his breathing pick up, “They’re native wildlife. For the first couple of years we only had unconfirmed sightings of them from well outside our shield perimeter, but something changed several months ago. They became more and more aggressive, ripping through a few scouting parties before eventually overrunning the shield wall and making their way into the settlement. They brutalized everyone here. Women, children...it didn’t matter to them. They killed indiscriminately. Destroyed all of our computer systems too. Every piece of equipment with a chip in it was ripped to shreds.”
He buried his gaze in-between his feet, “I’m only here because I hid.”
Julia cocked her head to the side, blinking at John as she absorbed the information he was presenting.
She opted to further comfort him and stepped forward, pulling him in for a hug.
They embraced for several moments before John eventually backed out of the hug and managed to look back up to Julia, his curiosity getting the better of him, “You’re a bot? You look so real though? You sound real too…”
Julia flashed a genuine smile as her circuitry hummed from the praise, “Thanks! All Angel-Bots are designed and programmed with the most cutting edge tech to best emulate human behavior and interaction.” She subtly adjusted her stance, straightening her posture such that her exploration-suit covered breasts were on further display. She logged his eyes lingering on her bosom for a full 2.8 seconds before they looked back up to her eyes.
She stood there, engaging in a pre-programmed idle animation, as she waited for John to respond.
“Well, I can’t tell you how glad I am that you’re here. Can we like…leave now? The sooner we get away from here the better.”
Julia’s facial template smoothly shifted from its smile into a neutral expression, “No John, I’m sorry. The Sleeping Angel, in orbit, has informed me that the wind conditions in the upper atmosphere are too extreme to attempt a takeoff. The transport takes much longer for ascent than descent, and prolonged exposure to these high-altitude winds will exceed acceptable parameters for safe launch. We will have to wait.”
John’s face deflated. Julia, sensing his dejection, queued up her most reassuring vocal synthesis patch.
“My understanding of New Virga is that these atmospheric conditions change frequently? It should only be a matter of hours, at most a day, before the conditions change again and we can attempt a safe ascent to the Sleeping Angel. Do your experiences match this assessment?”
John sighed, bringing his hands up to his face, “Yes. You’re right, but we don’t have time to just hang around and wait. The Fallax stay in their caves when the Shroud is green like this. Usually this happens when there are cluster storms like you just mentioned.
Julia stared at him blankly, her long eyelashes blinking in even, discretized movements.
“...the Shroud is green when the atmosphere is charged with the high levels of ionization energy… Whether it's cosmic radiation or something generated from within the planet, I honestly don’t know. But, when the atmospheric radiation conditions change, the color of the Shroud changes too. That’s when the Fallax have previously come and attacked Nephele. They’re somehow tuned to the planet’s atmosphere and our settlement here disturbs that in some way. The sooner we can get out of here the better.”
Julia again blinked several times as she processed through John’s information-dense statement, “Let me think about this for a second…” She brought her index finger up and tapped it against her cheek several times, as if lost in thought, “...I’m sorry John. We have to wait for the atmospheric conditions to change to attempt takeoff. The odds of a high altitude weather-event induced system failure are too high….”
John interrupted, “Okay. I get it. We have to wait. So be it.”
“You must be starving. My scans indicate you are malnourished and severely dehydrated.”
John blushed, somewhat embarrassed that the Angel-Bot had scanned his body so thoroughly without his knowledge. He knew he was thin. He could feel every one of his ribs when he ran his hands down his torso. The New Virga-adapted muscles on his arms, upper chest, shoulders, and legs still bulged, though, something Julia’s scans hadn’t missed.
She detected a slight increase in the temperature of her robotic sex as subsystems, layers removed from her main processing core, simulated John’s strong arms holding her down on the ground as he thrust himself inside her tight pussy. Her libido control parameters were ramping up quickly; her main processing core took temporary full control over her chassis operation to limit the computational bandwidth they consumed.
“I will return to the Ascendant to acquire supplies for you in addition to an extra set of armaments.”
She turned and began walking away, emphasizing the sway of her hips with each step forward. Sensing his eyes glued to every meticulous wobble of her sporty rear, Julia spun around and called back to John, “You can join me if you’d like.”
John trotted up and began walking alongside her as they made their way to the transport ship.
By this time, the local star, Diluculo, had risen above the encircling mountains, lighting up the lush green prairie-scape. It peaked through the hanging clouds in long glimmering rays.
“Can we stay in the ship tonight? I’d much rather that than having to stay another night in Nephele.”
“No. We need to limit your time spent in the ship. Ascendant is a minimal-mass rescue lander. Prolonged exposure to the radiation of the engine may exceed safe dosage levels. The transport is strictly for ascent and descent to and from the Sleeping Angel.
John rolled his eyes, “Oh. Okay, I see.”
They continued onwards to the ship, John staying several paces behind Julia so as to “covertly” sneak glances at her plastic derriere. He pondered how curious it was that such instincts would remain, even intensify, despite the life-threatening circumstances he currently found himself in.
Julia’s circuitry hummed with positive feedback subroutines. Knowing that John couldn’t help but stare at her chassis instinctively activated several coital software packages within her. She further increased the provocative swaying of her hips.
Halfway to the ship, Julia stopped walking and abruptly pulled up into a neutral standing position. John absentmindedly walked right into her, pushing into the springy softness of her butt with his groin.
He quickly side-stepped and turned to face her, finding her eyes crossed and blinking in quick succession.
After several seconds the blinking stopped and her eyes uncrossed themselves. She continued on walking forward like nothing had happened.
John jogged up beside her, “What was that about? Why did you stop like that?”
Continuing her stride towards the ship, Julia turned her head towards John, her fiery red hair twisting around her shoulders as she did so, “Sorry! I was recalibrating my servo motors to account for the 1.3 G’s on this planet! I was designed for an earth standard single G of force, so my systems just need a little tweaking to optimize my movement!”
She took a playful skip forward after finishing her matter of fact statement, “I have it all sorted now! It’s just a bit more taxing on my batteries than I had originally calculated. It’s a good thing I brought some spares…maybe I’ll have to show you how to change them out later this afternoon?
She finished the statement with a wink.
John’s heart fluttered in his chest and he skipped after Julia, a smile sneaking out from the corners of his mouth.
With the supplies taken from the Ascendant stashed inside the pump station, John and Julia each sat down. Julia watched as John ravenously ate multiple ration-packs and slurped down several hydration gels. He gestured towards her with an unopened packet of food.
She smiled, “Oh. No thank you. I don’t possess the capacity to process food.” She stretched to the side and tapped her spare battery, a slim cuboid six inches long and two inches wide, “I’m fully electric. Spare batteries, like this one, and recharges keep me going.”
Julia tilted her head curiously, blinking her eyes at John, a few strands of red hair falling over her face as she did so, “What’s so funny?”
John choked down the last of his food, “It’s just so odd to hear you speak so matter of factly like that when you act…so…so human.”
Julia blushed, squirming in her seated position, “You really think so?”
John nodded his head in affirmation as he swallowed down several more bites of food, “I would have never guessed you were a bot if you hadn’t told me. I think you’re amazing.”
Instinctively triggering the actuators at the corners of her pink lips, Julia beamed “Well, thanks John. This is actually my first time being activated outside of routine maintenance procedures. I’m glad my emulation capabilities are to your liking.”
John grinned back and shifted his gaze to the open door as he swallowed down a few last hydration gels, “It’s beautiful isn’t it?”
Julia twisted her torso to face the door, her cream-white exploration suit stretching tight against the contours of her body as she did so. Adjusting the lens apertures of her digital camera eyes, Julia zoomed her vision into the distant horizon with impressive resolution.
John gestured to the emerald green Shroud, which still hung, as it always did, as a perfect internal frame of the sharp Halysis mountains. The virga glimmered in Diluculo’s warm, blood-orange rays, “I’ll never tire of this view. The Fallax have taken so much away from me, but they’ll never take this. This is mine.”
He leaned forward, pointing at a distant peak, “See that mountain top way off in the distance there? You can just make it out...” He pushed forward a bit more, “...it’s Mt. Inumbra...Latin for “in the shade” because of the shadow it casts over the prairies...now if you look just to the right of it...”
He lost his balance and fell directly into Julia. With her optics focused on the distant horizon, she hadn’t sensed him falling into her and they both ended up on the ground as his full weight pushed her slender frame over.
John pushed off of Julia to steady himself, his hands firmly pressing into her thigh and waist, “Wow. You feel so...soft!”
Julia frowned as she clasped her hands around John’s wrists, “Is that bad?”
“No! Not at all. I just, you just…you feel really good.”
John blushed, he found himself quickly growing hard from the physical interaction. Weeks alone had made him ultra-sensitive to the touch of another person, especially when that other person was manufactured with supermodel curves and a face to match.
Julia smiled, again blowing a few strands of red hair away from her face. She performed a quick thermal scan and found the temperature around John’s groin measurably hotter. Automatically, her systems reacted to this stimulus trigger by activating her own sexual hardware and software suites.
She bit down on her lip and slowly batted her eyelashes at John. He picked up on her hints and leaned in for a kiss. Her lips felt full and real against his; the way she wrapped her arms around his torso and pulled him down on top of her felt all too natural.
She began gently rocking her hips against his, working her crotch against John’s. The dermal sensor arrays woven into her inner thighs detected his growing hardness and she squeezed him with programmed precision.
“That feels so good. How do I get you out of that suit?”.
Julia cooed and flipped onto her stomach, “There’s a magnetic clasp at the top. Undo that then run it down the small of my back. The fabric will disconnect from itself…yes just like that.”
John worked frantically to peel the suit down Julia’s legs, exposing her smooth thighs to him for the first time. At the intersection of her legs, he could just make out her pink folds glistening with lubricant.
Still laying face down, Julia looked back over her shoulder and spread her legs provocatively, “Fuck me now.”
John’s pants were on the floor in seconds. He was rock hard. Greedily clutching a handful of each plastic cheek in his hands, he rocked Julia forward and buried himself inside of her.
Julia shuddered as she felt John enter her. She meticulously controlled the flowrate through her heated lubricant pump and the expansion and contraction of her artificial muscles around John’s member. The amount of physical stimulus she was experiencing now, as John pounded her slick pussy from behind, was magnitudes greater than anything her chassis had ever experienced. Her processors worked frantically to ensure every hardware component and software subsystem package was operating perfectly to maximize John’s and, by proxy, her own pleasure.
She sighed as he reached his strong hands around her rib cage and latched onto her breasts, which squeaked against the tiled floor each time he thrust into her elasto-polymer vagina.
Julia moaned, the sound escaping from her mouth with several microseconds of latency when compared against the matching movement of her lips. Since John couldn’t see her mouth, her main CPU had cleverly freed up half of the normal processing capacity away from her vocal synthesis generator, allowing it to be utilized elsewhere in aid of the operation of other functions.
She looked back over her shoulder, watching as John pumped in and out of her with ruthless efficiency. Her blue eyes narrowed with simulated passion, her tongue teasing at the edges of her puffy lips, “Do I feel good?”
Grunting, John replied, “You feel so fucking good. You feel fucking perfect.”
Julia sighed and worked the actuators in her hips to further push back against John with greater resistance. She tightened her electrically controlled elastomer-muscles around him, nearly maxing out her settings.
“Mhhmmmm how’s that?!” Julia managed in between convincingly human exhales.
John could only moan, his pumping becoming harder and more urgent, “So good. So good, Julia.”
“Good.” Julia maxed her settings and her processing arrays hiccuped as she detected the onset of John’s orgasm. She could sense his hot cum shooting into her temperature-sensitive elastic folds. This triggered her own orgasm protocols to initiate which nearly crashed her systems outright as they loaded.
Her movements became stilted for several seconds as the deluge of sexual data clogged multiple sub-processing cores. She pneumatically worked her pussy up and down John’s length in meticulously calculated, yet repetitive, movement patterns. She temporarily lost command authority of her lubricant pump’s throttling valve resulting in her squirting out her formulated liquids in time with each of John’s powerful thrusts.
Mouth agape, pinned on her stomach as John continued fucking her relentlessly, Julia experienced her first genuine, non-laboratory-controlled, digital orgasm.
She squirmed against the floor, reaching a set of fingers down to frantically tease at her plastic clit. Maximizing the data pleasure streams that were coursing through her body.
She continued working John’s cock for another 30 seconds or so before the waning throes of her simulated climax finally dissipated. The experience, in 1.3 Gs, had so overwhelmingly engaged her chassis’ systems that she didn’t even notice that 12% of her battery capacity had ticked away during their lovemaking.
Flipping onto her back, she looked up at John with a playful smile. She pulled his head down to meet hers, ensuring their lips touched.
He obliged and they lay there for several minutes lazily making out on the pump station floor, their hands gently wandering over each other’s bodies.
Julia pulled her lips away from John’s and, smiling devilishly, guided one of his hands onto her plastic rear, “Let’s go again?”
John grinned, “Let’s go again.”
A cold breeze woke John up. Opening his eyes slowly, he found that the midday light that had previously poured through the pump station’s door had gone, replaced with the dark oranges and long shadows associated with New Virga dusk.
He whispered to himself, “Fuck. How many times did we…how long was I out?”
Sitting upwards, John craned his neck to catch a view of the sky. In the late evening light he could still just make out the color of the ever-present Shroud. The hanging clouds sparkled in the light a copper-tinged gold.
The atmospheric conditions had changed.
He gave Julia a gentle prod on the thigh, “Hey Julia, I hate to wake you up but it’s time for us to get the fuck out of here. Shroud color shifted. We should be good for a clean takeoff.”
There was no response.
“Julia, we need to leave now. For all we know the Fallax may be heading this way right now.”
Again, no response.
He turned to face Julia who still hadn’t stirred.
Running his finger along her cheek he wondered aloud, “Whatever sleep protocol she’s running must be pretty damn heavy-duty.”
“Julia!” He raised his voice as he shook her firmly on the shoulders.
The Angel-Bot didn’t stir.
“Oh God. What’s wrong.”
He pulled the blanket down, exposing the sculpted curves of her nude body, and flipped her onto her back. He ran his fingers behind her ears and all around her head looking for some kind of switch or button, but he found nothing, “Come on Julia...I really need you to wake up. I don’t know how to activate your ship, much less pilot it...plus I’m sure as hell not leaving you.”
“Wake up!” he force-opened one of her eyelids in desperation, thinking it may activate something within her.
It did not.
Her unpowered eyelid stayed open, her glossy blue eye staring straight ahead.
Unnerved by the look, he gently pulled her eyelid closed.
He sat down, leaning back into his haunches, dejected, “This is not go.....”
A horrifying screeching interrupted his sentence.
Shivers ran down his spine. He shuddered.
He brought his face down into his palms, “This is VERY not good.”
Another screeching sound joined the first. Soon a third and fourth joined in as well, creating a dreadful harmony that resonated violently within his inner ear.
Under his breath he whispered out, “What are you even coming for? She’s not even active. The ship is turned off. What the fuck could you possibly detect?”
He shut the curved metallic door and dropped a steel rod in place to prevent it from opening outwards.
A dozen or so other screeches had started up, creating a cacophony of high pitched shrieking screams that never relented. The volume grew louder and louder as they got closer and closer.
Pacing around the cramped space, John picked up the two pulse rifles, magna-coil pistols, and electro-daggers, readying them next to the door as he continued muttering to himself, “If its these fucking daggers that you’re detecting, I swea......”
He kicked over the box of rations exposing one of Julia’s spare battery packs underneath. Staring at it for several seconds, he took a deep breath in and out.
Before him lay his ticket to salvation.
The screeching was growing louder and louder. The Fallax were getting close.
VII. Time to Go
The door groaned.
The Fallax outside were ripping it from its hinges. The pump station reverberated all around John with the sound of six inch claws digging into his shelter’s metallic walls.
“Come on! Come on, damn it!”
John had lucked into getting Julia’s battery tray to fold out. He had found a dual-set switch cleverly tucked in between two of her hybrid-alloy vertebrae.
Running about four inches down the length of her back, parallel to her artificial spine, the tray was hinged 90 degrees outwards from her smooth synth-skin, exposing the spent battery pack.
Pushing it out from its locking mechanism, John slapped in the replacement power pack and slammed the tray shut. Then he waited, holding Julia’s immobile body in his arms as the Fallax continued their efforts to claw through the shelter.
A small chime emanated from within Julia’s chassis indicating her startup procedure had been initiated. John sighed in relief.
Another muffled chime trickled out from behind her closed lips and her eyes flashed open. Her irises darted left to right a handful of times as she scanned her surroundings. After the process completed, she fixed her focus on John's face, her eyes scanning him intently for several seconds, “My chronometer indicates I’ve been inactive for several hours. What happened?”
She furrowed her brow as her auditory suite began receiving its first batch of sound data, “What is that sound?”
John stood up, pulling Julia up with him, “Your battery died. Luckily there was a spare with the rest of the supplies, so I swapped it in...” He swept his hand around in a circle, “That sound is the Fallax. They’re here. Conditions outside have changed…speaking of which.”
He thrust her cream and gray exploration suit into her hands, “Put this on. I think you’re going to need it.”
Julia immediately got to work dressing herself, stepping into the tight bodysuit one leg at a time. It was cinched closed around her petite shoulders within seconds. She reached for her pistol and dagger.
Now fully clothed himself, John prepared the pulse rifles.
“What’s the status of atmosphere conditions? Are we good for a takeoff?
Julia paused, her eyes flashing several times as she communicated directly with the Sleeping Angel’s weather imaging suite.
She spun her head to face John, “Should be fine. The most high energy storms have decayed enough that the wind speeds are manageable.”
John threw her a pulse rifle, “Suits me. Let’s get out of here.”
VIII. The Run
“Get behind me and stay close!” Julia barked at John.
He did as he was told, the urgency and authority of her order coming through clear in her vocal synthesis patterns.
She holstered the pulse rifle onto two magnetic pads on the back of her exploration suit and, in either hand, clutched the magna-coil pistol and electro-dagger.
She slid the metallic rod that held the door shut out of place and kicked through the door,nearly maxing out her leg’s servo motors. The door exploded outwards straight into a waiting Fallax, knocking it to the ground.
A long tendriled arm reached into the newly opened door and Julia shoved her electro-dagger straight through the rubbery green appendage. The electrically charged blade instantaneously boiled the liquids circulating inside the clawed tendril. It erupted in a visceral flurry of green and maroon chunks.
The creature pulled its mutilated arm back with a horrendous scream. John’s instincts begged him to cover his ears but instead he focused his gaze out the door, firing a burst of four tungsten shells directly into the grounded Fallax who had been hit with the pump station door. Its alien blood geysered upwards as each shell hit its target.
“Now!” Julia shouted and leapt through the doorway. John followed in tow.
Two Fallax immediately flanked Julia from the right, each erratically swiping at her with their claw-tipped tendrils. She dodged one with a well timed slide and wrapped her arm around the other, able to steal its momentum and jump-spin upwards.
Arcing above the Fallax, she managed to put two magna-coil slugs through each of the creature’s scaly heads. She landed in a tuck and roll as each monster slammed down to the ground.
John, following close behind, caught two Fallax now approaching Julia from her left flank. He let loose a flurry of bullets from his pulse rifle, grunting in satisfaction as he made contact with both aliens.
Turning his attention back to Julia, he found her with her pulse rifle drawn, aiming directly at him. His heart rate accelerated and he immediately dropped to the ground. He felt the tungsten projectiles whizz over his head as the sound of Julia’s rifle cracked through the air.
A ear-splitting howl erupted from only a few meters behind him as a Fallax’s chest exploded, its sticky blood splashing onto the back of his colonial uniform. The blood seemed scalding hot but he continued forward, following Julia as she continued her stride towards the transport ship.
The immediate wave of Fallax surrounding the pump station had been dispelled but echoing screeches in the distance made it clear that more were coming.
John caught up to Julia as they continued their run towards the Ascendant, “You were amazing back there!”
“Thanks John. I was built for many purposes. Combat is one of them.” She turned her head and winked at him, “Pleasure is another.”
“Hey...” John’s retort was cut short as three Fallax came into view on their right flank. “Fuck.”
“I’ll handle these three. You keep running.” Julia yelled.
He reluctantly complied and their trajectories diverged.
He watched as Julia sprinted towards the approaching monsters. Her strides were meters long as each step explosively pushed her through the tall grass.
John winced as he saw the three Fallax converge on her simultaneously.
She sprang into the air just as the middle alien struck with its clawed appendage. Julia tucked her head down in midair and planted her boot in the monster’s neck. Her momentum toppled the beast backwards and she rode it down before rolling underneath the left-most Fallax. She ripped open its exposed belly with a burst from her pulse rifle, pushing herself out of the way as it collapsed into a steaming pile of organic mass.
Jumping to her feet, she dodged the remaining set of claws that whipped at her, but her spatial detection suite was a microsecond too slow to react to the creature’s sweeping tail. It crashed into her sternum with a deafening WHACK and sent her tumbling.
A slew of minor hardware errors flashed across Julia’s HUD, but an analysis subroutine concluded that her chassis’ combat effectiveness was only marginally diminished. She sat up and grabbed for her pulse rifle to find only its stock and loading chamber attached to her back, the rest having been sheared in away.
Her programming adapted to this new variable and finished calculating a modified course of action just as the Fallax loomed over her. She ripped the pistol from her holster and put three slugs into the beast’s chest. It staggered backwards and half-turned away from her. Julia sprang to her feet and leapt towards it, dagger in hand. She caught the unsteady alien’s neck between her legs and slit its throat. It screeched in agony and bucked under her as steaming blood gouted from the wound. Julia rode it into the ground, finishing it off by plunging the electro dagger through the back of its head.
John rounded a rubble pile and spied the transport ship in front of him, about 250 meters away. He began sprinting, gulping breath after labored breath to carry his body to safety.
He looked back and saw Julia running towards him with a pack of Fallax close behind.
“Oh fuck! Oh fuck! Oh fuck!” John cried out as he willed his feet to carry him even faster.
Julia intercepted him as they were about 100 meters away from the ship. She wrenched her arm backwards and fired off six quick shots of her magna-coil pistol before throwing it to the side.
“What!? What did you do that for?” John spat out in-between breaths.
There was a harmonized shrieking from behind them; John looked back and saw one Fallax completely immobilized and another limping. The remaining four were still hot in pursuit and they were gaining ground fast.
Julia reached her hand out, “Give me yours. That pistol was out of rounds.”
John thrust the butt of his pistol into her hand as they ran shoulder to shoulder.
“How many shots are left in this one?” Julia asked.
“Didn’t know I was supposed to keep count!”
Julia holstered the weapon, “I’ll need your rifle too. They disabled mine.”
John slowed as he wrestled the long weapon from his back and tossed it to Julia. He began running again instantly. She did the same, albeit while securing the rifle on her exploration suit’s magna-pads with a ballet of movements meticulously choreographed by her main processing unit.
“I need you to startup the ship’s engines and its auto-turret. Both are button activated with green switches just beneath the central console. You can’t miss them.”
John stared at her, his eyes ablaze, “No! You’re coming with me!”
“I have to stay behind to hold off the remaining Fallax or neither of us are getting off this planet.”
She put her hand on his shoulder as they ran, comfortingly pushing her fingers into his muscles. Her voice softened. “I’ll be in right after you, I promise. I need you to do this so that WE can get out of here, okay?”
Frowning, John reluctantly agreed, “Okay.”
They were only 50 meters from the ship now. He could feel the thumping of the Fallax’s hooves behind them. How close he didn’t dare to guess.
“There’s an autopilot feature built into the ship. If I don’t make it aboard, I need you to promise that you’ll use it. It’s located right at the base of the flight stick under the orange switch protector.”
“You’re coming with me!”
“John! I need you to promise me that you’ll take off without me! I’m expendable. You’re no...”
John watched in horror as claws burst through the front of her exploration suit in a shower of fiery orange sparks.
Julia smashed into the ground beneath the Fallax’s hooves with a sickening THUMP.
His savior, his sleeping angel, had been stabbed through the chest.
He didn’t dare look back. He ran. His body was on fire as he strained every last muscle fiber to propel him faster than he had ever ran before.
The telltale sounds of magna-coil slugs and pulse rifle fire erupted behind him as he made his way up the ship’s ramp.
Julia was still fighting back.
Stumbling through the darkened ship, John managed to make his way into the cockpit. Following Julia’s loose description, he quickly found the center console, which was confirmed upon his discovery of the ‘Engine/ACTIVE’ and ‘Auto-Turret/ACTIVE’ switches placed immediately underneath.
He mashed both buttons simultaneously and fell into the console as the machine lurched forward. The familiar sound of turbo-pumps spooling up resonated through the ship. John could feel it coming to life all around him.
At the same time, the center console began to chirp angrily at him.
With keen eyes, John looked on as lines of text populated on the screen:
AUTO-TURRET TARGETING PARAMETERS
\\ I. FOREIGN ORGANIC LIFEFORMS DETECTED // \\ II. HUMANOID ROBOT DETECTED //
A - TARGET/FIRE BOTH I. & II. B - TARGET/FIRE ONLY I. C - TARGET/FIRE ONLY II. D - TARGET/FIRE ELSE I. & II.
John smashed option B, pivoted 180 degrees and began running out towards the back of the ship. He could feel the turret spinning up above him. It roared to life just as he reached the ship’s ramp.
On the ground, he looked up to see a torrent of blinding yellow shots streaking through the air.
The turret pounded its targets with a relentless barrage, kicking up a thick smokescreen of dirt that made it difficult for John to see. The howl of the weapon was deafening. John plugged his ears as he rushed into the dust storm, praying the turret’s sensors were judicious enough to avoid turning him into ground meat.
Entering the dust cloud was like going behind a thick curtain. Sounds faded except for the occasional cracking thud of nearby hits. He could barely see past the ends of his hands. He stumbled and slipped through shredded heaps that had once been Fallax with a strange, stoic calm filling his being.
The sound of the Fallax’s screams was deadened but he could still feel them. His ribcage shook with them as the auto-turret ripped through their bodies.
A fallax lunged at John, trailing streamers from the swirling wall of dust in front of him. Its serpent-like arm whipped towards his chest. But, just as its claws were about to slice into him, the creature slumped to one side and its head exploded in a mist of blood. The claw at the end of the arm whistled past inches from his side and shattered a head-sized stone on the ground.
The explosion wasn’t the result of the turret; John looked down and spotted Julia pinned beneath a different downed Fallax.
Her left arm was kinked awkwardly with the magna-coil pistol still in hand. How she had managed to make that shot he had no idea.
He ran to her as the turret’s fire tore the air all around him.
Julia looked up towards him, a smile forming at the corner of her lips, “John. Wait-wait-wait-wait!”
John didn’t hesitate, immediately working to push the heavy Fallax off of her frame.
His heart sank as soon as he had shifted the body.
Julia’s lower torso and legs were almost completely disconnected from the rest of her body. Only a tangle of cables and her partially crushed synthetic spinal column held the halves together.
Her right arm was in even worse shape, having been completely severed from her shoulder socket. It sat in a puddle of fluid, the frayed wires that poked from the end weakly sparking.
John kneeled down next to Julia and collected her in his arms. Her suit and chest had been torn to shreds, allowing him a deep look into her complex internal electronics, many of which now sparked or were charred.
“John! John! John! J-J-J-J-ohn!”
With her upper and lower halves in his arms, he waddled over to pick up her disconnected arm. Then, he turned towards the ship and shuffled back as fast as he could without dropping her.
The turret never stopped firing. The Fallax never stopped screaming.
Out of the dust cloud his senses returned. He could hear the thumping of Fallax hooves and the screeching of their voices as more approached from every direction. He knew they’d soon be overrun. He had seen it before. The Fallax would keep coming until everyone was dead and everything was destroyed.
At the top of the ramp, John hit the ‘CLOSE DOOR’ button with his shoulder. With a loud hiss, it retracted upwards. Slowly, so slowly!
He walked into the cockpit and, carefully as he could, set Julia down in one of the flight seats. He was able to fasten both her chest and legs tight with one harness, albeit the flexibility required from her would have been impossible for any human.
He wedged her loose arm into a gap in the harness and strapped himself into the pilot’s chair. He flicked up the cover on the ‘Auto-Pilot/SEEK’ switch, again located exactly where Julia had described, and leaned over to kiss her on the cheek.
He watched her eyes trace over his face.
“John...thank-thank-thank-thank you. You saved-saved-sav-sav-saved me.”
Grimacing, John flipped the switch forward and was thrown back into his seat by the engines’ thrust.
“You saved me, Julia,” he shouted over their roar, “You saved me.”