The Thaw:

Rushell “The Huntress” Visanti meets  Aurora “Snow-Angel” Thaiss

Written by Snow Angel and The Huntress

Mood Music – To be listened to when reading

Nothing lasts forever…

All this has happened before… and will happen again…

Rushell “Huntress” Visanti was a perfect example of this. Today was a day like any other day for the Talons. Deep in the bowels of the Talon’s asteroid base, within the encrypted and secure core of their data center, she stood at the MainFrame console. She was already in her Sabrine Flight Suit, helmet off. Piercing Cerulean eyes reflecting the light of the screen before her, her dusky skin just barely visible from the ambient given by the monitor, all her memories, her records, the people that she had known after the first time she had “died”. They all scrolled on by… There. There they were… Demon… Alex…. Nat-brat…. Lauren… Kyria… randomly showing up in the records…  but now they are gone. And with them…. Rushell’s secrets. Once again… exposed, out in the open. Her thumb hovered over the delete and execute worm button on the console. Steady…. taking in one last look at her friends.

She continued to stare as they scrolled by, the rest of the Talons…. Doctor Tallis…. Fox…  Medjaii… Velora… Captain Mac… Lukas…. Xenlist…. Pink…. Jaams….Alfie… Sandman…. Noa… Fiona… Prospect….Z’ek… Terek…Dylan… Evalon… Garrick… Jaerogoth…  Mera…. Jess…. Nathon…. Phoenix….. Pixie…. Vivi…. Gearen…. Sideshow… SiranthaJax….Sonny…. Naade…Verac….Xen….Wayward…..Bones….. All the data…. all of them… exposed…. because of her again.  Her thumb still hovered over the delete and execute worm button.

It was time again… time to start over… time to cut and run… dismantle it all. Take it all down. This was just the start of the process. There would be a new life. A new place.  A new solace. This time… she would compel herself to remain alone. And on the move. She would only speak to others through R.F.O.H.  Her thumb remained hovering over the button. 
All that they have built. All that they had collected. All that they have grown. All that they had nurtured. All that they had shared. All that they had celebrated…. would have to be wiped. And not renewed. It was the only way to be sure that they would not become her next victims. It had to be done to guarantee their safety. To protect and to shield. To shelter and preserve. Her thumb twitched as it hovered over the button…

Mood Music – To Be Listened to while reading on loop until the next music queue

Some Time Later, Microtech, Stanton System: Deep in the bowels below New Babbage

Rushell “Huntress” Visanti dropped in from an open grate in the access crawl tubes above the dark, wet and cold sewers that ran under the data centers of Microtech. She was crouched down, Sabrine Flight Suit, Calva Helmet donned. Gemini S-71 AR with an under-barrel torch, over-barrel holographic scope, at the ready. She rose up from her crouched position, taking steady, slow steps through the dark of the tunnel, ice-water dripping down around her, her breathing slow and steady, respirator hissing her breathes out. With her L86 Side-arm on her hip, she moved through the twisting corridors and maze-like architecture of the sewers that remained hidden from the normal tourists of the technology of the Metropolis. 

She came here in search of a data key that held secrets. Locked behind that key would be what would be protected from her deletion worm. She had to have that key in order for her worm to complete its cronjob. She was close. She opened her Mobi’Glass, checking her GPS position against her intelligence source data. Not far now…. the key was close. 

Closing her ‘Glass, she continued forward. The Calva helmet that obscured her entire face was foretelling. She was no one. Or everyone. Either way, she quietly made her way through those bowels, the dim and uneven light giving her shadows and god-rays to move through with relative ease.

She turned quite a few corners, those GPS coords close now. She made one last turn as she came into what was at one time, a secure alcove. A door stood in her way. She activated her ‘Glass and extended the data cable from her wrist into the input system. In less than 15 seconds the doors encryption was decoded and the door slid open. All without Kati’s help this time. She was getting better at this.

She raised her S-71 up, shining her torch into the darkened room. But it wasn’t needed. She slowly lowered her rifle. Her blank faceguard raised to the light in awe.

The Light of the Stasis tank exposed Rushell in her form, bright light reflecting off her opaque Calva faceguard. Her arms nearly fell to her side barely holding up her rifle. Behind that faceguard, her eyes stared. There she was… older now but almost instantly recognizable. At least to Rushell…. no…. at least to Fanyah.

Seven Years earlier: Elysium System

Fanyah had pursued one of her marks with all of the aggression and intent that Rushell did today with those that threatened her Haven. In that pursuit, her mark used the cover of a transport luxury liner as human shields against Fanyah’s capture. Fanyah was originally hired to wipe out any trace of her target and had been asked to basically obliterate the vessel itself in exchange for a significant life-altering amount of money. At the time, it was an extremely tempting offer, and according to her research, the vessel was primarily full of ultra-rich white-collar criminals beneath contempt. But that is when she saw a young Aurora Thaiss peering through a rear portal.

She now had a choice. Kill her mark and send the luxury liner and it’s innocent inhabitants into oblivion or save the liner but potentially lose track of her mark. Despite her burning need to complete the task, she chose the latter. At this point, she decided to board the ship and kill the guy, who was posing as a member of the ship’s security team. 

The Captain, Crew and passengers, despite her best efforts to save their lives, all deemed her to be a nuisance, a troublemaker bringing the likes of her mark near their cruise experience or worse, saw her as the murderer herself.  All except for one young girl who had given her a simple nod of thanks. Fanyah being Fanyah simply tipped her hat at her “Ma’am.” but had never forgotten that face or those powder-blue eyes that stared back at her

Back under Microtech: Present Day

And there she was… the little girl. No longer quite so little. Now a woman, floating in the amniotic fluid of the stasis chamber. Rush shouldered her rifle, hands reaching up, unlatching her helmet and lifting it off her head, reddish-brown hair tousled, her cerulean blues wide, her mouth open in disbelief. She dropped her helmet and raced to the controls her heart throbbing in some unknown urgency.

She worked the controls of the stasis chamber with furious speed. Her ghost from the past coming back to remind her that some things were not meant to be deleted. The woman still floated in the stasis fluid as Rush worked the controls, nude except for a pair of medical-grade panties and sports bra meant to keep the intimates warm and modest. Rush had only the slightest idea of what she was doing with such equipment. She accidentally released the amniotic fluid first, causing the floor to mix with the slushy ice-water that dripped down from above everywhere along with the bio-fluid, almost making her slip. She pounded the controls as the woman’s body slumped against the glass of the stasis chamber, making her lips contort comically against the clear surface as she was still unconscious.

Rush finally got the plexi-glass front of the stasis chamber to slip to the side. Rush had barely enough time to catch the girl, her body slumped against her flight suit. Nearly falling backwards, sliding in the slush, Rush wrapped her arms around her, holding her up, the girl’s matted wet blonde hair juxtaposed against the reddish-browns of Rush, her body completely limp against her but Rush’s sense of balance, center of gravity and some strength won the day, for now, holding her up, disconnecting her from the IV lines that ran into the unconscious woman’s body.

Rush was uncharacteristically out of breath.

She had not expected to ever see the girl again. Billions of UEE citizens and non-citizens out there. It was a big galaxy. Rush looked different back then but even so, Rush knew that the girl would at least “feel” something about her. Rush held her in amazement and awe. What was she doing here? Why was she here? What happened to her? What were the chances? Her mind was flush with possibilities. Rush steadied her own feet, keeping still, not sure what to do next. She would need the good Doctor Tallis who was in the Cutty Red above the city. But she hesitated, even when she wasn’t looking at her face, Rush just didn’t know what the right decisions were any more. So many potential and actual mistakes Rush may have made.

7 years ago, Luxury Star Liner “Nebula Dancer”, Elysium System

(Mood music: https://youtu.be/qCKHyNENLkw )

Aurora peered out from the viewport, her head against her hands, shielding the reflection of her crystal blue eyes in the glass, blocking the invading light of the ship’s interior. She wiped away the fog of her breath and peered again.

“Aegis Vanguard Sentinel”, she muttered to herself.

Ever since she was little, Aurora had dreamed of being a pilot and now, at the age of 13, had memorized the classification, silhouette, and manufacturer of nearly every starfighter on record over the last 100 years. This one, she knew, was a heavy attack fighter designed to take disable and destroy big ships. She could also tell, from the lack of official markings, that this fighter was not part of any known faction.

Why is it following us?

Indeed the Vanguard Sentinel was barely visible, nearly concealed in the cruise ship’s shadow save for the telltale wing and EMP-missile rack on its port side… which was now actively deployed and ready to fire.

No please don’t…

It was all she could think as she stood frozen in place, paralyzed with fear, her body coldly numb from the realization that she was about to die. She couldn’t even scream.

Aurora was prone to panic attacks and easily startled, the medication her parents fed her had helped somewhat, but it made her thoughts muddled. Often she would be quiet for a majority of the time then randomly insert some bizarre, barely-relevant trivia, or darkly sarcastic quip which few found amusing. Her parents never took her seriously anymore, but in their minds the side-effects of the medication were a small price to pay to quell the hysterical late-night outbursts or the embarrassment she would cause in front of important visitors.

One more time Aurora used the sleeve of her hoodie to wipe the fog from the cold glass. The weapons on the Vanguard… did NOT fire… and after what seemed like an eternity they retracted and, just as suddenly as it had appeared, the ship dipped out of sight.

Aurora turned her back to the glass, her knees giving out and she slid to the floor, heart racing.

Holy shit!

And then to her own surprise she started giggling, which gave way to laughter.

“Holy Shit!” she yelled out loud, bringing the entirety of the dining lounge to a complete quiet.  

The 2 dozen or so passengers at their tables all turned to look at this strange young girl, sitting on the floor, with blonde locks escaping from her white oversized hoodie, and her distinctly savage looking knee-high goth boots with the unnecessary amounts of buckles and fasteners.

Aurora just sat there, playing with and rattling the straps of her boots, giggling away.

Why am I laughing? What’s wrong with me? 

These thoughts were echoed by her mother and father, suddenly upon her and hauling her to her feet, berating her with hisses of scorn under their breath until she finally said, “Can I go to the pool now?”

Her parents blinked at her. Her mother, throwing her hands in the air, and returning to their table, her father saying “Yes dear, you can go to the pool if you promise to behave. You know how much this trip means to your mother, and you mustn’t spoil it for her, okay?”

“Okay, Dad.”

Several minutes later she was in the recreation area which, save for herself, was empty since it was still the dining hour.

She floated on her back in the pool, contemplating what she had just witnessed, looking up at the caustic light patterns cast upon on the intricately tiled roof. Silvers, blues, white, and greens forming a detailed mosaic of a flying fish, the perspective below offering swimmers a view from under the surface of some great imaginary ocean, while the fish glided through the air over the waves above.

Her shoulder-length blonde hair fanned out in the water and waved around her head like a golden halo. Her ears below the waterline, amplifying the bassy clicks and hums of the distant routine machinations of the luxury starliner. She didn’t know as much about larger ships as she did fightercraft, but after a several minutes she knew enough that when the clicks and hums turned into straining metal and concussive thumps, things were perhaps not quite as routine as she had imagined. 

She stood up, chin barely above water, and immediately the ship was buffeted, forcing Aurora to frantically tread water to keep her head above the spontaneous seismic waves sloshing violently across the pool.

“No Splashing!” came the even tone from the automatic lifeguard sensors situated around the pool.

Aurora clambered out of the water in a panic and sat there at the edge of the pool, catching her breath.

What was that? I better find Mom and Dad…

She walked through the drying alcove, squeezing through the high pressure air jets which sent her blonde locks into chaos and drying her almost completely. In the changing booth, with trembling hands, she stripped out of her hydrophobic one-piece and started putting on her underwear.

It’s okay It’s okay It’s okay it could have destroyed us but it’s okay it’s okay!

The emotional blanket of her remaining calm was suddenly slashed to ribbons at the sound of the piercing, ship-wide emergency tone, shrieking and bounding off the walls for a few seconds only to be replaced by her own scream. She held her mouth shut with both hands, rocking on the bench, listening to what remained of the follow up announcement.

“… emergency, for your safety please proceed to the designated refuge area, repeat, all passengers proceed to the designated refuge area in a calm and orderly fashion. Thank you.”

It’s okay it’s okay it’s okay it’s okay…

She frantically fumbled with her boots, plunging her feet into them, chafing her skin having not bothered to put her stockings on first.

Again the alert chime over the intercom, “Attention attention, all passengers, intruder alert! The ship has been boarded with force, all passengers ple-” and then static and nothing, as all the lights went out and, after a few seconds, the dim emergency lighting came on.

“Hurry Up! Fuck!” she hissed to herself, pulling her hoodie on and not bothering with the rest.

And then she sat there unable to move, her thoughts spiraling, threatening to swallow her into utter panic.

Intruder alert?? What does that mean? Is it pirates? Is that why that ship didn’t shoot, so they could rob us and rape us and kill us? Why didn’t Mom and Dad come get me?? Are they dead??

(Mood Music: https://youtu.be/E3Dqv5P3prw )

“Miss? Miss!!” a voice barked from inside the change booth.

Aurora shrieked and covered herself, even though she was already covered, staring in shock at the large man who had barged in with a GUN… and… a uniform… a ship security uniform! 

Aurora sighed in partial relief.

“Hey hey hey, you’re okay you’re okay!”, the man said, reassuringly, holding the sidearm and his free hand up in a gesture of peace. “I’m not going to hurt you, I’m just going to take you somewhere safe, okay?” 

Aurora nodded and sniveled, the reassuring manner of the security officer calmed her somewhat, and she left the rest of her belongings behind and rushed to his side.

“There you go… come on now.” he said as he firmly took hold of her shoulder and ushered her outside of the small changing booth and back to the pool area. She wished he wasn’t so gruff, in fact he was starting to hurt her, and when she felt his muscular arm suddenly curl around her neck and tighten, swinging her forcefully in front of him, with the cold steel of his sidearm to her temple, she could see why.

“Howdy there, Marcus Enright”, said the woman from across the pool, down on one knee, looking down at them through the sight of a menacing looking rifle.

Fuck my life..” the man sighed, then to the woman. “You again! Fanyah, was it? Well back off, bitch!”, the man spat his words back at the woman.

What the fuck! What is even happening right now!

As Aurora tried to assess, she began to notice oddities. The woman was decked out in body armor and, rather than the type of helmet one would expect with such an ensemble, this woman was wearing some kind of old-fashioned cowboy hat.

“Can’t do that, Marcus.”, the woman said in a calm, cool, smooth, southern drawl. “See… I went through a lot of trouble catchin’ up to y’all.”

“Yeah, I recall…” the man said with a laugh, and suddenly, grabbing a handful of Aurora’s hair, he yanked her back, using her as a shield. “Sooo sorry about your friends…” he continued. “… but they were in my way! And you put them there! Now… why don’t you just turn your sweet ass around and get the fuck off this ship… so you don’t have this one’s pretty little face splattered all over your conscience as well.”

At this the woman just sighed… lifting her cerulean blue eyes from the weapon site to shake her head in disappointment, saying “Now don’t be dick, Marcus. I was offered a lot of money…” , she paused to squint and nod her head for emphasis, “… a LOT of money, like… really cozy-for-the-rest-of-your-life money… to blow this whole ship to smithereens! My clients were really particular about wipin’ out any trace of you.”

Marcus began to sidestep along the length of the pool, keeping his hostage between him and Fanyah, pulling and tugging at Aurora’s hair. Most things in her life caused Aurora fear, panic, anxiety, sadness… but if there was one thing that made her actually mad, it was having her hair pulled.

“Let go of my fucking hair!” she shouted, but it was fear that kept her in lockstep with the man who pressed the barrel of a gun to the base of her skull.

“Shut the fuck up you little cunt!” he hissed back at her, yanking at her hair even harder.

Fanyah, keeping the rifle dead steady, continued “… and you know what stopped me, Marcus? Seeing that little darlin’s face is what, looking back out at me through the window, and just as pretty as a button too. So why don’t you act like a gentleman and leave her be?”

Even with the pain and fear and building rage, Aurora noticed the compliment, and in spite of herself a sliver of smile escaped her lips.

How is she so calm?

“Which is why…”, Marcus yelled back, “you’re going to BACK THE FUCK OFF… and let me walk out of here, right?!”

At this, Fanyah stood up, and lowered her rifle. “Well… I guess you got me there, Marcus.”

Marcus yanked Aurora back by the hair, back into him and back into a firm headlock. She growled at this transgression, she hated him! But at least now her tormenter’s gun was now pointed at Fanyah and not at her own head.

Marcus chuckled with contempt, “You crazy bitch, maybe you’re not at dumb as you look after all.”

“Debatable”, Fanyah conceded in good humor, and to Aurora “Hey kid, I like your boots.”

Boots!

Aurora gritted her teeth and lifted her knee and with all her might, she swung her two inch thick heavy boot sole back as hard as she could, straight into Marcus’s upper shin.

A deafening crack though the air stunned her, leaving her ears ringing. Marcus again pushing her forward, faster this time. As his arm fell away from her neck and his body shambled against hers, she side-stepped and watched him fall hard and lifeless on the pool deck. Just his face hitting the water, where a cloud of crimson rapidly spread, contrasted against the clear blue water surrounding it.

She looked up, and there was Fanyah, looking down the scope of her rifle. She lifted her eye from it. “He dead?”, she called out.

Aurora, stunned, looked back down, the man’s head bobbed sickenly in the water, hanging over the edge of the pool. She gulped and prodded his leg with her boot. “Um… he’s not moving?”

Fanyah stood up and winced, holding her side, straining her words “Yep, he dead. Dang it!”. She pulled her hand away, revealing a wet read patch at her side. “Damned bugger winged me.”

Fanyah looked at her Mobiglass as it chirped an alert to her. “Well, little darlin’, there go my security hacks. That’s my cue to exit.”

Fanyah slung her rifle over her shoulder and limped over to Aurora and the dead body. Aurora cautiously stepped back as Fanyah bent down to the corpse with some kind of electronic device, which beeped and in a tinny electronic voice “Enright, Marcus: Identity confirmed. Zero Vitals. Time of Death 18:53 local. Uploading to client.”

As Fanyah straightened, the stabbing pain from her wound caused her to stumble, at which Aurora immediately rushed to Fanyah’s to keep her from falling, surprising them both.

The two shared a brief moment of mutual appreciation. Fanyah grinning at the obviously traumatized teen but who had also shown remarkable bravery; and Aurora, smiled shyly back at her.

With a tip of her hat, Fanyah simply said, “Ma’am.” and as the distant sound of running feet rapidly drew near, Fanyah painfully straightened up, unslung her rifle, and distanced herself from Aurora. 

The security team rushed in, weapons drawn on the Fanyah the armed intruder. “PUT YOUR WEAPON DOWN!”

“Nope…” Fanyah replied. “… and if y’all know what’s good for you’ll let me leave before anyone else gets hurt.”

The guards formed a protective perimeter around Aurora as Fanyah slowly backed away, past a small crowd of overly curious civilians and a couple who appeared to be the girl’s parents. Fanyah motioned at them menacingly with her rifle, though anyone who knew Fanyah would see that it was a somewhat lazy gesture and lacked intent “Git on over there now! No need for anyone else to die today.” she said.

“Murderer!” someone called out.

“That’s prolly fair.” Fanyah replied quietly. She gave one last look at Aurora, who looked back at Fanyah with wide pale blue eyes, silently mouthing the words “Thank you” before being swept away by her parents.

Fanyah smiled, nodding behind her scope, and without any clear line of fire between her and guards, disappeared moments before lighting to this area was restored.

———–

Elysium Space Port: Several hours later.

Mood Music: ( https://youtu.be/08DrP8o2eQM )

As the emotionally exhausted passengers disembarked the Starliner, the authorities were there waiting, processing them into smaller groups for questioning. Aurora’s parents were currently being consoled by 2 sympathetic police officers.

“…well when we caught up with security at the pool area, the criminal had already murdered that poor officer! Lucky we got there when we did or our poor girl would have been next…”

“… no no, I’m afraid she won’t be much use, with the whole ordeal and her.. condition… you understand… oh yes since she was a toddler… yes it’s been very difficult for us.”

Despite her best efforts to overcome her anxiety and interject, Aurora gave up and, as usual, conceded to her parents distorted account of events.

She stood off to one side, back against the wall. The frustration of being dismissed as insignificant caused tears to stream down her face.

“Now hey there…” said a soft female voice, a familiarity to it… but no. “Are you Aurora?”

Looking up at the statuesque woman’s kind eyes, Aurora nodded her head, and wiped her face on the sleeve of her blood spattered white hoodie.

“Hi Aurora..” the woman said, her kind voice comforting and soothing, and knelt down beside her. “That’s a very pretty name!”

“Thanks…”, Aurora sniffled, just grateful for any kindness at this point.

The woman smiled at her. “Aurora, my name is Mirnea, Mirnea Nefiah. I know you’ve been through something very scary, but if you’re up to it, I’d like to hear what happened to you.” the woman said, gently rubbing Aurora’s arm.

Aurora regarded the woman. She wasn’t wearing any kind of uniform. “Are… are you with the police?” Aurora asked.

“No…” the woman replied, and after some pause, “… I’m more of a… counselor. My job is to work with your parents and make sure you’re looked after.”

Aurora shook her head and replied with a contemptuous chuckle, “Whatever. Go ask them what happened. Nobody listens to me anyway.”

“No no, sweetheart…” the woman replied softly, her words supportive and dripping like honey, as she held both of Aurora’s hands in her own. “… I want to hear what you have to say, and trust me Aurora, I’m a very good listener.”

Aurora sniffed and smiled at the kind woman, and squeezed her hands.

—————-

Current day, Microtech, Stanton System: Deep in the bowels below New Babbage

A wash of mental images, chaos, she struggled to recall anything, let alone the last 20 years of her life, but her jumbled memories were slowly clicking back into place. 

Aurora… My name… is Aurora… and I’m supposed to… to… I’m cold! 

Indeed the physical sensation of biting cold snapped her into full consciousness. But unable to move or speak save for opening her eyes and mouth. She looked around, surveying her surroundings… and she realized she was looking at the face in profile of someone, a woman, breathing heavily, flushed, she seemed distracted.

I recognize this face… 

And as the woman’s face turned to look at her with those unmistakable cerulean eyes, which were, at this time, growing wide in surprise, there was no doubt. The shock of recognition gave her back her voice.

“YOU!”, she shouted

Rush’s reverie and the silence was broken as Aurora sprung to life in her arms, still holding the woman up among the slippery amniotic-coated floor. “AAAAAAH!” Rushell straight up panicked, caught off guard in her moment of quiet contemplation. It was an irrational fear of someone from her past giving away her former identity, even though earlier she registered who the unconscious woman was. In that moment of sheer instinct to survive, her combat reflexes kicking in, Rushell, straight up, backhanded the poor girl, clean knocking her out cold but not before both of them tumbled to the floor. 

Rushell landed on her back, her bottom and shoulders making a hard impact and Aurora, out cold, landing right on top of her and knocking the wind out of her. 

At that moment, Rushell felt instant regret and remorse for backhanding her. Rushell struggled and flailed trying to get up and keep Aurora on top of her without dumping the young girl on the side. Her arms and legs formed a sort of amniotic “Snow” angel out of the slippery fluid on the floor. 

While still holding on to Aurora, Rushell was finally about to activate her Mobi’Glass. 

“Doc!….. DOC!……. TALLIS!….   ” she was still panting, “I need you down here… bring the Cutty Red for extraction. One cryo-stasis patient. Doc! Hurry!”

–FIN–