|Reviews for Integration By Parts|
| Mislav chapter 1 . 2/23
Pretty exciting and action-packed story with an interesting premise. I like the idea of the psychologist transferring his exocortex into a host of synthetic and cloned bodies with varying experimental conditions, creating his "brain children". I also like the idea of them cruising the universe, debunking urban legends and supernatural myths and exposing con artists. It was wise of them to immediately realize the signal was a set-up. The characters' hologramic clones attacking them was also pretty neat. I liked the protagonist's dilemma about whether those were just holograms/robots or their genuine clones, them. The confrontation with the villain and the final battle were especially intense. I didn't expect Rufus Rackham to be the one who was after them. He sounded truly evil. The way you described him was also pretty gruesome. I also liked how the story began and ended with: "We are more than the sum of our parts." My favorite parts (heh) were: "Just as well, since there was no such thing as an unarmed spaceship. The forces that propelled our machines made them capable of great and terrible things. Having been trained in military spaceflight, I was aware of all of them. Our foe, thankfully, had not. I saw the targeting reticle on my display, shifting towards the vessel's ad hoc cannon, and a lesser device I'd missed before: a small laser turret for micro-meteor point defense. It guarded the primary airlock like gargoyles guarded old Adelosian cathedrals.
"Socket, blast the point defense!" I said.
On my display, I saw the dome-like structure explode. Bits of superheated slag silently drifted away, but I had no time to celebrate. The second shot left the supercharged coilgun, and it punched through our light-sail like paper. There was no sound, no explosion, no muzzle flash. Just a hole where there had been a complete sheet a moment ago. Almost immediately, I reconsidered my strategy. Our foe had missed our hull, but it was too accurate for comfort.
I hesitated, realizing how rash I'd been. We learned aggression in Spirelight Squadron, just as ancient fighter pilots had. Our foe likely knew our background. They waited for us near a void-jump point our forebear favored. They'd have prepared for my tactics, since I'd voidcasted about them plenty. I felt the craft betray me, a second skin that sloughed beneath me. The damage to the solar sail made our trajectory unpredictable. I turned the joystick like a frustrated gamer, but the mad spin continued.
"Readjusting tension in carbon nanotube cables," came a robotic voice over the intercom. "Inputting commands to piezoelectric actuators."
Just as suddenly as it started, the erratic jerking ceased. My heart beat like the Mauler used it as a speedbag.
"This unit was successful," Ikto said. "Is flight stability restored?"
"Yup," I said. "Good work, Ikto."
I heard Spot beep happily over the comm channel. I focused on bringing down the enemy. After all, I would not be remembered as the fighter pilot who lost to a space truck. The Utili-Hauler and its main weapon were essentially a space technical, a pickup truck with a heavy weapon mounted on the back. While I appreciated the ingenuity, there was no substitute for experience. I swept the craft around a hundred and eighty degrees in a half-circle, so we faced the front of the Hauler at point blank range. We were in a gunfighter's duel, daring for the other to draw first.
"Now!" I shouted.
Socket knew what to do. The laser searched up to full power. The Amaranthite composite material comprising the light-sail allowed certain wavelengths through without issue. On the other side of the light sail, two beams struck the coil gun. The first was a visible, red beam, a lower resonant frequency of the invisible, but deadly, one. Higher energy beams were invisible to the naked eye, but Amaranthite emitted lower energy resonant beams in parallel with them, working like a tracer bullet. The debris field that had once been the coilgun floated off into space. I breathed a sigh of relief, as I ordered Cal to scan again.
The Hauler's rear thrusters were damaged, and likely, their void drive. They were crippled, cornered, and had nowhere to run. I wanted to just blast them out of the sky, but we needed answers. We had to go in, through whatever dangerous deathtraps they'd prepared for us, and find out who just tried to kill us. After all, that's what our forebear would do."
"It was the sneering, aged face of Rufus Rackham, the man who killed our forebear. He tapped his finger against my visor, and the room melted around me. I felt the void itself call to me, as the siren song of vacuum siphoned my sanity. I saw through the people, the machines, and the ship around me. I was one with them. I was beyond them. I was beyond crude matter, like the fey of ancient tales. Time slowed to a crawl, yet accelerated towards entropy snuffed the suns around me. I felt like I'd taken one of Cal's hallucinogens, without first distilling it in a tub of water. It was not a pleasant sensation. Then it got worse.
I saw the things which plied the void, like the ancient ships that made the perilous voyage to Xianjing. I saw an ancient dreadnaught, a colony ship that bore the name of the brave explorer to make that voyage, a Shang He-class starship drifting lifeless in the void. I saw the short, stumpy cruisers of the Rosilican Navy charge towards the Selginan fleet, like it was the petty pirate fleets they routinely faced. I saw their assault shuttles blasted out of the sky by thousands of drone star-fighters and their ships annihilated from across a solar system by relativistic mass drivers built into the hulls of Commonwealth capital ships. Such an apocalyptic war between galactic powers was unthinkable, yet I saw it as though it was clear as day.
I saw wet navy warships skittishly patrolling past the rancid sprawl of Jetsaw on Sjora. I saw an Amaranthi light-sail luxury spacecraft, with a hull of ruby amaranthite, blown to bits by an unseen foe. The escape pods quickly deployed solar sails, and turned their weapons to avenge their mothership's killer. I saw a Brightwalker organic starship, a cylinder-like organism with a hide like coral and soft bioluminescence like that of deep-sea life, playfully frolic in the upper atmosphere of a gas giant. I saw a cylinder habit, like those that filled a thousand systems, called by some sinister force in the dark between the stars. I saw what had once been a human ship, primarily devoured by spiny, organic growths. I saw these, and more.
Things beyond time called to me. Denton and my memories merged haphazardly, as I recalled myself struck down by Rufus Rackham in a number of agonizing ways. I heard chiming across the void, like the beckoning of starlight roads. I heard the voices of mad gods, beings once human. I heard things that were never human, nor comprehensible kin. I heard the insane, deranged piping of mad Azathoth. I felt space and time warp around me like a wet tongue, as though Yog-Sothoth himself tasted me. I felt even worse things that fed upon the minds, and souls, of all material beings, probing me with a malevolent gaze. These phantasmagoric nightmares dragged on for an eternity. These forces tried eroding me like a storm of supersonic silica, but I remained resolute. To fail myself was to fail my crew.
I came to in a hospital room on New Amaranth. A man with a green coat and badge, a Federal Jadecoat, accompanied my crew into the room. They obviously had much to say, but the law enforcement officer spoke first."
Keep up the great work. I enjoyed reading this.