Hello dear reader! Welcome to a Skip Beat Sci-Fi adventure and my first chapter fanfic. A Warning: expect adult themes, lots of sciencing and lame jokes. If this is not your cup of tea, no hard feelings, we can still be friends.
I want to send a special kiss to Teal, Unicorn, Aikori, Erin, Blushweaver, Kikoune, Cel and JSMMM. Y'all are my muses.
Enjoy your reading!
Chapter 1: In which I try to seduce you, Dear Reader
The sun shone, having no other alternative, on the immense, shimmering structure. Everything was still there but the girl outside moving forward, breathless.
"So… uuuuh, how is life?"
"Life? After this blackout, almost gone from this station, sir."
She meant it. Even working there for almost two years now and surviving a few threats, never had she ever witnessed a bigger mess. Everything was still, no signal lights, no drones, no humans; just an eerie silence covering the usual life-buzzing place. If she hadn't been outside collecting samples, she would be one more body floating in the dark quarters.
"No, I mean before that, before the incident. How were things up there?" The static voice pressed on in her helmet.
She took a moment from her hard but monotonous task of connecting a hook to a line of rims and stared annoyed at a glass window.
"With all due respect, sir, I don't see why this is important."
It wasn't. She wasn't in the mood to share with a stranger how she trimmed her hair short every two weeks to try to look like someone else. How she hid behind a hoodie on all obligatory meetings to avoid recognition, or how she feared impromptu contact with anyone on their communal spaces for food and for workouts. Especially, she was not in the mood to share this with her boss.
"Look, miss, it's imperative that I know if you did or did not pass out in space," the crackling voice replied in a bored tone while she worked her way through the outside railing. "We sent a help signal to LMC, the nearest base on this quadrant. You should know that the feedback was positive; they are coming, but aren't expected to arrive until T-110 minutes from now. We need to test your mental state."
"I see. To convince you, I'll say a word in intervals of ten seconds, Mister Hizuri." She responded coldly, the finality in her tone signaling that the topic was closed.
It was the end of the railing, so she secured the next loop with a hand, unconnected her belt hook with the other and restarted her slow but secure spacewalk on a new section. One could never be careful enough with these things.
"Kuon." Came the reply after a brief pause.
"Corn? You want me to say corn every 10 seconds?" She exclaimed and paused incredulously; that was a weird new procedure.
A sudden, bright noise rang in her helmet, making her flinch. He was laughing. Laughing at her.
"No, that's my first name, k-u-o-n. Call me Kuon; it is Japanese."
"Mogami to moushimasu. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu, Kuon-san." she offered back trying to be polite.
"What was that?"
"Ah, I thought you spoke Japanese. Sorry, sir." She let out a little nervous apology. Of course, she knew who he was. Another dumb mistake. He was Kuon Hizuri, son of Kuu Hizuri, the next big science head of their time who discovered how to meddle with dark matter. His son was her boss, not a direct one, but the Head of Science Division for the entire company. "My oxygen reached critical levels. Can I blame that for thinking your name was a vegetable code?"
"Of course." She could hear his smile through the static. Sounded like the smile of a pampered, pretty boy. "So I guess you said your name to me, in Japanese I mean."
"Correct, sir. My name is Mogami." Anxiety bled into her voice as she got into position for a short oxygen acceleration jump. She only had a little air left, but there was no other way to cross the chasm between the south and west wings.
"That I already knew, Officer Mogami. Due to the unexpected nature of the situation, your emergency call reached me at my summer home. I don't have your files here, I just know what you tell me. So, enlighten me, what is your first name? "
"Is that information essential, sir?" She exclaimed a little out of air due to the effort to hug the new railing with all her forces. Jump successful.
"Obviously not. We're just having a friendly talk to pass the time, Officer." He'd gone back to serious tone now, no more smiling.
She sighed, smelling the burned metal, and concentrated on the path forward. Talking with him, what harm could it be?
"Call me K."
"Is that what your friends call you, K?
Like she had any. Better to stir the conversation somewhere more comfortable than her personal life, since the man insisted on small talk.
"Yeah, you could say that... Mister Kuon, I reached the west wing now, and I'm continuing forward."
"Noted... According to your progress, it should take five more minutes until you reach the life support station. What are your oxygen levels?
"Thirteen percent, sir."
"Alright." She heard the sound of typing through the static. "My estimate puts you at eight percent on arrival, giving you a three minute window for the repair, and five minutes to get back inside safely. There's no need to play the hero and take any unnecessary risks. We received confirmation from the China base, LMC. Aid is coming in T-105 minutes. Is that clear?"
Almost two hours, a tight window to save everyone. She looked inside the station and inspected her anonymous floating coworkers. She wasn't sure if they would have a full recovery if life support wouldn't come back for T-105 minutes. She ignored her shortness of breath, signs of mild hypoxia, and pressed on.
"So... uh... Are you a mechanic, then?"
Right, small talk.
"No sir, I'm on your team, as an astrobiologist." She recited dutifully while hooking a new railing and floating forward. "Our team quarterly project is to create a guideline for growing crops in zero gravity for industrial purposes reaching outstanding monetary outcomes. My assigned species is coffee." She was out of breath.
"Oh, so I'm… What does your country call it? I'm your senpai, is that right, K?"
"Something like that." She breathed out.
"So, not aliens." He crackled back in her helmet.
"Excuse me, sir?" She frowned trying to catch up.
"You are an astrobiologist that doesn't focus on aliens, but coffee."
"That is... correct." She concentrated on her breathing, short, deliberate breaths, and continued floating.
"Sir, it's okay to say it's boring." She yawned attaching her hook to the next section, a ladder like structure. Focus. Connect. Step. Disconnect, connect.
"It's indeed very dull, Officer. I can see why I'm putting you to sleep. We need to keep your brain active... How about you recite the Fibonacci sequence for me?"
"Sir, I'm an astrobiologist, not a mathematician." Disconnect, connect, step.
"Right. Ok. Hmm." His voice quietened and the streaming came to a halt for the first time since the beginning of this quest.
The pause gave an opportunity for her anxious thoughts to resurface. Something was bothering her; more than the burned metal smell of space and the deadly walk. Her eyes sought the familiar shape of her home planet and understanding dawned as she gazed at it in its current position. Earth was blocking the sun, the only visible things now were emergency lights and the uncanny, dooming, void, empty space; the eerie blackness gave her chills. Mogami shook her head and tried to focus on the shining metal ladder ahead.
He buzzed back in her helmet after a minute. "What about some puzzles?"
"Puzzles?" Step. Disconnect. Connect.
"Yes. Since you are an astrobiologist, tell me, what's the protocol for encountering a green alien?"
She paused a second to think. Even with the new scientific discoveries of his father and contemporary science theories no contact had yet been made with other sentient species yet. It was not an absurd topic, but not necessarily a realistic one either. Well, she thought, making a conscious effort to breathe slowly, with space exploration booming, it wasn't such far-fetched question.
"Aaahn... There's no law or policy that I know of... But I would assume reporting back to my superiors?" That sounded more like a question than an answer.
"No Officer, if you see a green alien, you wait until it's ripe." He replied seriously.
She paused again.
"Oh my god." She laughed. And she laughed again. She consumed so much oxygen laughing at the silly joke that she was sure she lost two entire minutes. "That's the worst alien joke I've ever heard, Mister Hizuri."
"Hey, you're already more alert now, so it served its purpose." He sounded amused with himself. "And it's just Kuon."
"Right." She wished she could clean the tears from her eyes. She hadn't laughed like that in forever, well not since the good days with Shotaro. That thought caused the laugh to die on her lips.
"It's true. You need to be ready for anything out there in space. We have been getting weird reports lately."
"How so... Kuon?" The ladder ended and she could see the life support pod now. Also, as expected, her chest started to hurt. Severe hypoxia was setting in.
"Do you hear sounds outside the hull? Or even when you are out, walking among the stars?" He lowered his voice in a conspiratorial way. "Sounds like hushed whispers, almost like they're inviting you out into open space."
Actually she did, but she kept quiet about it. It was just metal. She kept floating forwards, slow but steady.
"Someone from my team decided to investigate, and got some interesting readings. We were able to pinpoint the source."
"What was it?" She asked, taking the bait.
"Starmaids, luring astronauts out into the vacuum."
She almost lost her balance with that.
"Hey language! It was supposed to be another joke, not meant to startle you." His annoyed voice crackled back in her helmet.
"I almost drifted away! And I thought you didn't know Japanese, sir."
"I don't, but in the business world it's useful to know when someone is swearing at you."
"Can't argue with that." She sighed and stopped. "Kuon, I've reached the life support pod."
"Tell me exactly what you see." His voice morphed into something else, business-like and urgent, letting out the fear he masked during their long walk.
She quickly but thoroughly examined the surroundings. Contrary to popular believe, spacewalks were rare and expensive things; one didn't just hop into an EVA suit and float around admiring the station's architecture. This was all new for her. The life support pod consisted of a cylindrical structure bigger than herself, and made of the same chromed steel as everything else at the base. She ignored the redundant systems pinned on a panel outside and pressed the correct sequence of buttons.
"I'm opening the pod. Emergency lights are on. There is a... Hold on. It looks like some meteoroids cut some cables... But this doesn't make any sense."
"Why?" She could hear his critical mind at work. "I know our sensors and shields should have caught any debris. The fact that they didn't is a catastrophic project failure, considering I designed this, but it's not uncommon to..."
"Sir," Her sluggish brain couldn't take any discussions right now, and her chest hurt. "There are no indentations, no scratches; no clue if it came from inside or outside, since the walls are undamaged and there's no sign of how the meteoroid got in here. It looks like someone built the wall with stones inside!"
A short silence followed her explanation.
"Officer K, you are apparently under effects of hypoxia. Your cognitive processes are not functioning as they should. Go back inside the station now and wait with the others for the arrival of the LMC team. They will be there in T-85 minutes."
"No." She shook her head and argued once more with the voice in her helmet. It was becoming a habit. "I can fix this; just the power lines were damaged."
"Even if that's true, you would need extra cables and knowledge of how to repair them. I can't assist you properly over the radio if your brain functions are affected, so I command you to head back inside."
"I'm positive I know how to do it. It's basic power management." She said quietly saving breath. Speaking hurt at this point.
Carefully, she bounced out to the backup system outside, detached some cables, and returned to the pod while hearing his pitty arguments.
"Officer, don't be stubborn. Your Botanics background doesn't cover this."
"Shut up Kuon." She blurted out, annoyed. "I used to build androids capable of quantum computing with my boyfriend. I know how to plug some cables."
"Officer Mogami, if you don't head back now you will be fir..."
She turned off the radio.
Ah, if she survived she would have to do this more times; it was so good to speak her mind for once. She would deal with him later, if she had to.
Cut, transport, clear, connect, secure, repeat. She never thought a day would come that she'd use those skills again, that part of her brain long since dormant now. After Sho's betrayal, everything involving computers and robotics made her anxious, causing panic attacks and a terrible headache after. That's why she decided to work with organic matter, and leave synthetics as far behind her as possible. But now, now it was different. She wouldn't be able to live with herself if the entire Eurasia base perished because of her anxiety. No one would die if she could just connect red with blue, and leave the green cables alone.
And if she got fired after that, it didn't matter.
Cut, transport, clear, connect, secure, repeat. The absence of the chatty Kuon Hizuri in her head made things surprisingly tricky. His small talk left her uncomfortable, intrigued, amused, and most importantly, awake. He made the effort that was consciousness easier. She bit hard on her bottom lip to concentrate. Pain helped too.
Cut, transport, clear, connect, secure, repeat. After three minutes of this routine suffering from tunnel vision, seven relocated cables, countless discarded hunks of meteoroid and a bleeding lip, something happened.
Green lights popped up, several beeps came from the station, and the panel in front of her came back to life again.
"You... you did it. I can see you in the video streams."
A clear voice came from her left. She recognized it and smiled softly. Everything was done. Everyone was saved.
"Yup... I think... You feed communications and life support systems through the same lines... Should change that..." Her voice was tiny, and her chest hurt so much. If she could just rest a little...
"I would like to hear more of your ideas for improvements."
She frowned, remembering their talk.
"Am I not fired?"
"Not if you manage to get into the station in the next 80 seconds."
"Oh yeah... Oxygen..."
She floated to the station's nearest hatch, connected her hook and pressed the right sequence. Ever so slowly, the hatch opened. She floated inside and concentrated on not sleeping, while the room recompressed.
As fast as her aching chest allowed, she opened the second hatch, took off her helmet, unfastened the impossibly bright pink jacket, and exposed her herself to the oxygen rich room.
She inhaled a long, deep breath free of burned metal smell.
It was fine.
Everything was fine.
Around her, officers from the life support team and the one girl she knew, Aanya, were waking up, spinning around, and looking confused. She laughed out and breathed hard again. Her tank top was nasty, sweat floated around her in disgusting little pools, what little hair she had was plastered to her head, and blood from her lips gathered in front of her eyes. It didn't matter; she was alive and everyone else was too.
Take that, meteoroids.
The meteoroids! She floated back to her bright pink jacket in search of sample that her sluggish mind somehow remembered to gather. This rock, it was strange. She was no geologist, but she didn't know what type of environmental conditions allowed the glassy black and white rock to grow in such an unusual pattern. As she brought it closer to her face, it vibrated softly, emitting an odd noise.
Almost like humming.
A screen she didn't notice before popped up in front of her. On it, a handsome, blonde man with green eyes looked down. He was sitting in a luxurious apartment, she could tell by the paintings in the large room, and if not by the horrible handmade scarf, he looked every bit like the perfect son of a world famous celebrity. Not a Head of Science Division. As he looked at her, there was no recognition in his eyes, just a calm smile. This was the signal she was looking for. She allowed herself to relax a little more.
"Officer Mogami, you did it." It was so weird to connect that crackling static voice to a normal head and body.
"Mister Hizuri, I suppose I did." She replied, smiling.
"Is that the meteoroid?" He tilted his head and nodded in her direction.
"Yeah, it's a weird one. You can ask LMC to take pictures and run a full report on the panel. I just removed the ones that were interfering with power."
"I'll see that it gets done." He looked to his left, and she caught a glimpse of another figure, passing by with a phone in his hands. "What do you think it is?" His smart eyes inquired of her. She felt uncomfortable.
"I don't know." She looked back at her hands and brought the rock to her ears. "It almost sounds... it almost sounds like it's humming."
"Well, that settles it." He got up and clapped his hands." My forced vacation is over. I'm going up to investigate this."
Her smile got wider and she gave out a small chuckle. She could spot a fellow workaholic when she saw one.
"So I'll begin the examination myself and have a preliminary report ready for you, Mister Hizuri." She saluted to the screen.
"I'll make sure to contact you regarding that. And it is Kuon, I told you before." He smiled, a flashy and pretty thing that almost broke her heart on the spot. "You better remember my first name when I run a quality test on your coffee crops, Officer."
She nodded, spun around and started to float towards her station. What a dangerous thing; he could kill someone with that pretty smile. In the future, she would make sure to take his calls on voice mode only.
That's it for the first chapter, hope to see y'all around for the next one!
Science Corner: Apparently many people perceive the smell of space differently. While most agree that it is something sweet, my favorite description came from astronaut Scott Kelly: "Space itself has a very unique smell, kind of like burning metal. When a volume was previously at vacuum, like after a spacewalk or a resupply ship arriving, when you open the hatch you can smell it." he wrote.