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Cosmic Powers : a Saga Anthology of Far-Away Galaxies

by Adams, John Joseph

Cosmic Powers : A Saga Anthology of Far-Away Galaxies cover
  • ISBN: 9781481435017
  • ISBN10: 1481435019

Cosmic Powers : a Saga Anthology of Far-Away Galaxies

by Adams, John Joseph

  • List Price: $16.99
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publish date: 04/18/2017
  • ISBN: 9781481435017
  • ISBN10: 1481435019
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Description: Cosmic Powers A TEMPORARY EMBARRASSMENT IN SPACETIME CHARLIE JANE ANDERS 1. Sharon''s head itched from all the fake brain implants, and the massive cybernetic headdress was giving her a cramp in her neck. But the worst discomfort of all was having to pretend to be the loyal servant of a giant space blob. Pretending to be a thing instead of a person. This was bringing back all sorts of ugly memories from her childhood. The Vastness was a ball of flesh in space, half the size of a regular solar system, peering out into the void with its billions of slimy eyemouths. It orbited a blue giant sun, Naxos, which used to have a dozen planets before The Vastness ate them all. That ring around The Vastness wasn''t actually a ring of ice or dust, like you''d see around a regular planet. Nope--it was tens of thousands of spaceships that were all docked together by scuzzy umbilicals, and they swarmed with humans and other people, who all lived to serve The Vastness. The Vastness didn''t really talk much, except to bellow "I am everything!" into every listening device for a few light-years in any direction, and also directly into the minds of its human acolytes. After five days, Sharon was getting mighty sick of hearing that voice yelling in her ear. "I am everything!" The Vastness roared. "You are everything!" Sharon shouted back, which was the standard response. Sharon really needed a shower--bathing wasn''t a big priority among the devotees of The Vastness--and she was getting creeped out from staring into the eyes of people who hadn''t slept in forever. (The Vastness didn''t sleep, so why should its servants?) "We''re finally good to go," said Kango''s voice in Sharon''s earpiece, under the knobby black cone she was wearing over her cranium. "Thank Hall and Oates," Sharon subvocalized back. She was standing in a big orange antechamber aboard one of the large tributary vessels in the ring around The Vastness, and she was surrounded by other people wearing the same kind of headgear. Except that their headgear was real, and they really were getting messages from The Vastness, and they would probably not be thrilled to know that her fake headgear actually contained the ship''s hypernautic synchrotrix, which she''d stolen hours earlier. Sharon and Kango had a client back on Earthhub Seven who would pay enough chits for that synchrotrix to cover six months'' worth of supplies. Plus some badly needed upgrades to their ship, the Spicy Meatball. If she could only smuggle it out of here without the rest of these yo-yos noticing. Kango had finally spoofed The Vastness''s embarkation catechism, so the Meatball could separate from the ring without being instantly blown up. Sharon started edging toward the door. "I am everything!" The Vastness shouted through every speaker and every telepathic implant on the tributary ship, including Sharon''s earpiece. "You are everything!" Sharon shouted . . . just a split second later than everyone else in the room. She was halfway to the door, which led to an airlock, which led to a long interstitial passageway, which led to a junction, which led to a set of other ships'' antechambers, beyond which was the airlock to the Meatball, which they''d disguised to look just like another one of these tributary ships. Sharon tried to look as though she was just checking the readings on one of the control panels closer to the exit to this tributary ship. The synchrotrix was rattling around inside her big headdress, and she had to be careful not to damage it, since it was some incredibly advanced design that nobody else in the galaxy had. Sharon was so close to the exit. If she could just . . . "Sister," a voice behind her said. "What are you doing over there? How do your actions serve The Vastness?" She turned to see a man with pale skin and a square face that looked ridiculous under his big cybernetic Pope hat, staring at her. Behind him, two other acolytes were also staring. "Brother, I . . ." Sharon groped around on the control table behind her. Her hand landed on a cup of the nutritious gruel that the servants of The Vastness lived on. "I, uh, I was just making sure these neutron actuator readings were aligned with, uh, the--" "That screen you are looking at is the latrine maintenance schedule," the man said. "Right. Right! I was concerned that The Vastness wouldn''t want us to have a faulty latrine, because, um . . ." "I am everything!" The Vastness shouted. "Because, I mean, if we had to wear diapers--you are everything!--then I mean, we wouldn''t be able to walk as quickly if The Vastness might require when it summons . . ." Now everybody was staring at Sharon. She was so damn close to the door. "Why did you not make your response to the Call of The Vastness immediately?" "I was just, uh, so overcome with love for The Vastness, I was momentarily speechless." Sharon kept looking at the man while groping her way to the door. The man pulled out a gun--a Peacebreaker 5000, a nice model, which would have been worth some chits back on Earthhub Seven--and aimed it at her. "Sister," he said. "I must restrain you and deliver you to the Head Acolyte for this sector, who will determine whether you--" Sharon did the only thing she could think of. She shouted, "I am everything!" The man blinked as she spoke the words reserved only for The Vastness. For a second, his mind couldn''t even process what he had just heard--and then the cupful of cold gruel hit him in the face. The man lowered his gun just long enough for Sharon to make a lunge for it. Her headdress cracked, and the synchrotrix fell out. She caught it with her left hand while she grabbed for the gun with her right hand. The man was trying to aim the gun at her again, and she head-butted him. The gun went off, hitting one of the walls of the ship and causing a tiny crack to appear. Both of the women had jumped on Sharon and the man, and now there were three acolytes trying to restrain her and pry the gun and synchrotrix from her hands. She bit one of the women, but the other one had a chokehold on her. "I am everything!" shouted The Vastness. "You are everything!" responded everyone except Sharon. By the time they''d finished giving the ritual response, Sharon had a firm grip on the gun, and it was aimed at the head of the shorter of the two women. "I''m leaving here," Sharon said. "Don''t try to stop me." "My life means nothing," the woman said, with the gun right against her cone-head. "Only The Vastness has meaning." "I''ll shoot the other two after I shoot you," said Sharon. She had reached the door. She shoved the woman into the antechamber, leapt through the doorway, and pushed the button to close the door behind her. The door didn''t close. "Crap," Sharon said. "The overrides are on already. You won''t escape," the woman Sharon had threatened at gunpoint gloated. "Praise The Vastness!" "Screw The Vastness," said Sharon, aiming at the crack in the ship''s hull and pulling the trigger on the Peacebreaker 5000. Then she took off running. 2. "You took your time." Kango was already removing his own fake headdress and all the other ugly adornments that had disguised him as one of The Vastness''s followers. "Did anybody see you slip away?" "You could say that." Sharon ran into the Spicy Meatball''s control area and strapped herself into the copilot seat. "We have to leave. Now." She felt the usual pang of gladness at seeing Kango again--even if they got blown up, they were going to get blown up together. Just then, The Vastness howled, "I have been robbed! I am everything, and someone has stolen from Me!" "I thought you were the stealthy one." Kango punched the ship''s thrusters and they pushed away from The Vastness''s ring at two times escape velocity. "You''re always telling me that I make too much noise, I''m too prone to spontaneous dance numbers, I''m too--what''s the word--irrepressible, and you''re the one who knows how to just get in and get out. Or did I misinterpret your whole ''I''m a master of stealth, I live in the shadows'' speech the other day?" "Just drive," Sharon hissed. "You just think you''re better than me because I''m a single-celled organism, and you''re all multicellular," said Kango, who looked to all outside appearances like an incredibly beautiful young human male with golden skin and a wicked smile. "You''re a cellist. Wait, is that the word? What do you call someone who discriminates against other people based on the number of cells in their body?" They were already point three light-years away from The Vastness, and there was no sign of pursuit. Sharon let out a breath. She looked at the big ugly blob of scar tissue, with all of its eyemouths winking at her one by one, and at the huge metallic ring around its middle. The whole thing looked kind of beautiful in the light of Naxos, especially when you were heading in the opposite direction at top speed. "You know perfectly well that I don''t hold your monocellularity against you," Sharon told Kango in a soothing tone. "And next time, I will be happy to let you be the one to go into the heart of the monster and pull out its tooth, and yes, I know that''s a mixed metaphor, but . . ."
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