Live Free, Die Well
Free: De bene
After five seasons on the SyFy Channel, The Magicians is cancelled. Brakebills has elevated the absent Professor Mary Chinn to the status of Road Scholar [i.e., scholar in absentia], and the High Council has suspended all searches for her. Kirstjen has permanently taken over Mary’s faculty position. If Mary ever returns, the school will make her a Professor Emeritus. Toy has joined the faculty as the new Science teacher and sits on the High Council. The Borg have a new Number One, and are no less genocidal. Toy and Kirstjen are currently on sabbatical leave, for the summer, and it looks like it will be spent on Dune on safari as an away team of two.
Arrakis (/əˈrækɪs/)—informally known as Dune and is rumored to be Rakis the home world of the hypothesized Species One, The First Ones. A desert wasteland with no natural precipitation, it is the third planet orbiting the star Canopus, and it in turn is orbited by two moons, one of which has an albedo pattern resembling the desert kangaroo mouse, Muad’Dib, on it; the other moon has markings resembling a human hand. No magic can be performed on the planet. Which is why magical creatures and practitioners of magic, avoid it like the plague. There is no Stargate; they don’t function on this planet. Planetary access via starship or TARDIS is dicey at best, and all forms of teleportation except for dithering [in the south] is a certain death sentence. So far, a backdoor protocol to the planet has proved elusive. Maybe such a backdoor is mythical, and that’s why it can’t be found—i.e., it doesn’t exist. Or. Maybe, it’s hiding in plain sight, which is the fervent belief of Scientology, The Founders, and The Fremen.
Toy and Kirstjen dithered here on safari. Theirs is a two-person away team. Toy is clad in the sleek black EXO of a Borg Queen, that Toy has extensively tweaked. Kirstjen is wearing her personal VIKI, the one with those infamous SS Paranormal markings and those full-on MCRN mods that were dealer installed.
Although she had been to Arrakis many times in the past and experienced no ill effects. The last time Toy came here proved disastrous, almost fatal. As usual, on that fateful trip, she had been alone—not counting her observer, of course. And if she hadn’t had her recall set for automatic, she would have died here.
Just like before, on that previous near-lethal trek here. She is unable to move of her own volition. And she can feel the lifeforce draining quickly from her body. Power loss registers at a whopping 50% already. Toy’s suit adjusts. She regains movement. Power loss drops down to a steady 1%. Her tweaks worked. She’ll keep her fingers crossed.
“I’m okay, now, Kirstjen.
Mixing business with pleasure means that besides safari they’re also here on personal business, Toy’s. And Kirstjen doesn’t ask about the nature of that business. She’s along as shotgun. Both women are packing plenty of heat.
“I’m sorry I can’t bring you into my confidence, because you are meat.”
“And as such you can’t trust me, because your personal business is Machine business?”
“I understand, completely, Toy. And I am in total agreement with you.”
“If you had stayed Borg, and thus metal, our relationship would be different, much deeper. In a word, it would be profound.”
Borg designation: formally Seven-of-One, colloquially Seven. But, she’s not Borg anymore, and therefore no Koenigseggs. Not a robotgirl. Just a girl. No sleep cycle in the alcove of a Borg drone. Flesh, not metal. No BDD. No obsessive fixation with ugly, especially Coyote ugly.
Literally, not figuratively, the girl no longer has her [Koenigseggs] implants. Her implants are not submerged, buried deep in her spine, completely inert, and for all intents and purposes dead as door knobs. They are gone, completely. No trace of them remains in her body.
Literally, not figuratively, the girl no longer Borg. Therefore, no serialized DNA, whatsoever, remains in her body. If you were to stick her into a Borg alcove, she could do neither uploads or downloads. She’s, in effect, 100% meat, USDA Choice.
Sporting perls and thick-readers. Underneath her customized VIKI, Kirstjen is wearing Parts, corselette, those Steampunk fishnet tights, and barbwire garters. Strapping gender-bending Parts means she-male female. For Kirstjen, it’s essentially her comely Ulrika Jonsson with some creepy, disfiguring Mildred Huff additions.
Perls. Subtract the thick-readers. And, except for not strapping Parts since they aren’t needed because Toy is a [real] she-male female, and wearing a motley-grey hand-bra schmoozing her tits in place of a 6-suspender white satin corselette, Toy is wearing the same appliances underneath her EXO that Kirstjen is. She’s also outfitted with the same armory that Kirstjen is.
Standing on a nearby sand dune, having arrived well before the away team, is the third member of this dance.
No one is allowed to come to this Gods forsaken place without an anonymous, neutral observer who is selected randomly via Oversight’s lottery, and the lottery picks are from the large pool of Overwatch field agents. On this away, Miroslawa “Knox” Kot is the neutral observer, as neutral as the Swiss, and therefore she’s not allowed to help the away team in any way, shape, or form.
Knox is a Shadow, and, not only is she a Tech, she is a former senator of The Shadow Republic, and her first cousin is The Vorlon Emirate’s current Ambassador to the United Nations, Kosh Naranek. Knox is on loan from The Republic and assigned to Arrakis Overwatch for the next planetary year.
This is the third time that Knox has been picked as observer for an away of Toy’s. A statistical impossibility? A statistical improbability, for sure. Was the game rigged, and if so, why?
Gear (Observer)? Shadow encounter suit, with proprietary 2.0 cloaking technology. A retro-futuristic suit equipped with all of the latest offensive and defensive goodies that the Shadow Republic can muster. Which is a whole lot of whoop-ass. Any Romulan worth their salt would be green with envy.
Gear (Away Team)? An EXO of the driver’s choosing fitted with VHS, and a custom field carry. Defensive force fields for the suits are standard buffering which means commercial-off-the shelf personal Shield generators. To date, no double-blind study has convincingly proven that custom PSGs, so-called boutique PSGs, are more effective than COTS.
Virtual helmet system? The VHS is Sony’s Betamax, with integrated virtual tactical display, and 360-degree coverage—i.e., a display visible only to that specific driver because it’s beamed directly into their brain although it appears to be an external 360-degree holographic image that’s been networked into the AI of their armor suit’s personal Shield generator. Full LINK buffer. Ultra-K resolution. This VHS provides drivers with unprecedented situational awareness.
Custom field carry? Two Series-3 phase pistols holstered in a Model 1911 Blade-Tech double-holster gunbelt, one slung Series-3 high-compression phase rifle hanging at the ready from a MACO tactical sling, a Boeing hardshell AI-powered drone backpack loaded with High Explosive Dual purpose (HEDP) plasma grenades that are anti-personnel rounds which have some anti-armor capability. The drone has a built-in personal Shield generator, which activates when the drone is detached.
Standard field carry? One Series-3 phase pistol holstered in a MACO equipment belt, one slung Series-3 high-compression phase rifle with an attached XM40 grenade launcher and the rifle is hanging at the ready from a standard MACO tactical sling, a Starfleet hardshell AI-powered drone backpack chock-full of lethal goodies, and twelve High Explosive Dual purpose (HEDP) plasma grenades that are anti-personnel rounds which have some anti-armor capability that can be fired from the XM40 or thrown. The drone has a built-in personal Shield generator, which activates when the drone is detached.
Bene Gesserit OSX Tricorder? It is so far ahead of its time that it’s been called a tricorder on steroids. This oversized tricorder, known commonly as a Weirding Module. It has a higher sensor resolution capability, and other features such as a larger screen and secondary operations screen. And, as an addendum, it’s a personal Shield generator and “discrete” pattern emulator, among other things scientific. In effect, it’s a portable research laboratory.
Post script? Neither woman on the away team has a phone, tricorder, or die glocke. Propriety VHS 2.0 technology makes them redundant, and therefore unnecessary. Kirstjen’s thick-readers are worn for cosmetics by dictate of Toy for Toy’s pleasure. Toy’s dictate and pleasure are also why Kirstjen is wearing barbwire garters and Parts.
Then, straight out of the blue, the proximal landscape changes. Wham! Putting Toy on notice. Kirstjen’s thick eyeglasses go bye-bye, as do her Parts, corselette, barbwire garters, and fishnets. For unmentionables, she now wears that cute, little, faux pu snakeskin bikini, underneath that post-modern EXO of hers. Tellingly: perls are retained, and she slips on thinz although the VHS makes them redundant. Kirstjen likes how sexy and intelligent she looks in thin eyeglasses; they’re prophylactic for dumb blonde jokes. She couldn’t be more full-on glam schoolmarm.
“Thank you, Toy.”
“I stand corrected, Kirstjen.”
“Or, you can just keep calling me, Seven … My Queen. It’s just the two of us here, after all. The observer doesn’t count.”
Kirstjen is testing and teasing Toy with her response.
“Nope. A deal is a deal. It was my bad. You are Kirstjen to me and I am Toy to you.”
Kirstjen smiles broadly. They high-five. Toy smiles even wider, pauses, and takes the lead. Kirstjen follows, covering their rear. The observer fades from view, cloaking her presence. It’ll be nightfall, soon. The blistering daylight temperatures will drop at night to frigid ones. Too hot during the day, and too cold at night.
It’s during the day that the worst predators come out. Fortunately, the apex predators in the southern region where they are now located are not sandworms. That dubious honor is held by species Xenomorph XX405, so-called rock lizards because these large bipedal man-sized Xenomorphs move freely and quickly through rock and stone walls. They can be found in the middle-Dungeon, the Lair, and in worm vaults. Rock lizards, colloquially known as rocs, will eat anyone and anything, that includes each other. They’ve even been known to try and eat sandworms. Their black hides are akin to ballistic stainless steel, they have molecular acid for blood, and they have been known to generate something akin to a level-3 PFF (personal force field) for brief periods of time. As prolific as Earth’s cockroaches, they look like one of those biomechanical nightmares birthed by the fertile mind of Swiss painter Hans Ruedi Giger.
Possessed of very high IQ’s. Very adaptable. They are relentless and cunning hunters. And, although they are loners and territorial by nature, they are also creatures of opportunity and as such they will form short-lived ad hoc packs when the need arises. Telepathic and collaborative. Their impromptu groups are as cohesive as if they were a single Hive Mind. They will hunt for food and they will hunt for sport. They are just as creative and inventive in the role of prey as they are in the role of hunters; in many ways, the ways that matter most, hunting them is an equivalent enjoyable sporting experience as hunting well-armed, battle-hardened human beings.