Author : David Botticello

Deep in the heart of the jungle, Mark waited. The party had approached her position with seemingly endless fortitude; rafting rivers, rappelling cliffs, and wading through the darkest mires of Boudicca III’s surface.

Renewed energy seemed to course through their veins as they emerged into her clearing. They rushed toward the ship, crash-landed here three generations past, with shouts of joy. Mark had waited this long, her Adaptive circuits preserving synapse integrity long after her ship had lost power. The Infiltrator class vessel Fawkes had succumbed to pilot error and a Carrier broadside. Its eight member specialist team had perished from uncontrolled atmospheric entry. Thirteen breaches and a smoldering stabilizer will do that to a ship.

“This is it!” they rejoiced. “This is really it!” The door, inexplicably, still worked. Mark had meant to get to that eventually, but it was just such a small source of power; hardly worth the effort. They invaded her control center, poring curiously over an interface system alien to anyone of their generation. The Tinkerer’s primitive sensor devices blinked, failing to understand her system’s complexity. “It’s…it’s still powered,” commented their Tinkerer in dumfounded surprise. “Maybe some kind of troop transport?”

“No,” responded an older, mustachioed man entering next to last, “it’s too small. I think more like a commando team. Covert Ops, that sort of thing.” Moving toward the rear hatchway, the historian first set his eyes on Mark, fused to the Powersuit of one Sgt. Miller. “By the Cohort, they were wearing combat suits. Dominion class?…he trailed off”

Mark blushed with pride—her new host had been the ultimate weapon of the Cohort—peerless in its survivability. She smiled inwardly when their eyes settled on her original body, fused into the Powersuit’s central systems.

“A ballistic symbiote, I think,” noted the Tinkerer, “Interesting. Adaptive circuitry of course. They kept it powered all this time. But I would never have expected it to be this…tenacious.”

When Mark, F-Series ‘Shieldbreaker’ ballistic munition, had crashed through the hull of the Fawkes, she had thought her mission complete. But instead of a blissful explosion, the ship had survived, and so had Mark. It wasn’t her fault, she was programmed to adapt, survive, and when the tendrils of the Powersuit had reached out for a new living host, they had found her instead. Evidently, the Powersuit wasn’t feeling too picky that day. And so Mark had lived, integrating herself into the suit, draining the ship’s power to fulfill her instinctive imperative, to survive.

The Tinkerer—named Janna, apparently—began to prod Mark’s Powersuit with interest. Ordinarily a ‘Suit’ couldn’t integrate with a human against its will, but Mark was made to break through barriers, and this human, well, it would make an excellent, sustainable energy source. She would just have to share a few synapses. Mark found it a fair trade.

The explorers stood paralyzed as Tinkerer Janna was enveloped by the broken armor. And then she stood, armored in an alloy stronger than steel, able to survive a direct hit from all but the finest weapons, even skip along the corona of a star if necessary.

She arose out of the blast-marked ship, ascending in glory. Her former colleagues fell to the ground, partly in awe, but mostly pushed by the tangible pulses of her gravitic drive. This new creature, a fusion of metal, man, and machine survival instinct, scanned her new environment. The backworld colony of Boudicca III, barely into the Digital Age, had no weapons to stop her; the apotheosis was complete; here, she was a god.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows