Aurora's Gamble - An Ætherpunk story


Thick with aether, the aerena swelled and rippled. The battle had gone on too long. “Scythe! The right flank is exposed!” Damn their incompetence. Aurora smelled another aether storm generating from the Einstein Scientific Society (ESS) gladiator. As usual, neither of her teammates were in position to counter it. Forget them.

Thrusting her spear into the metallic surface of the aerena, Aurora activated its internal engine and held on. The spear’s full length extended. While nearly ripping her arms out of socket, the stunt vaulted her behind the nearest barrier wall before the storm crackled across the entire quadrant. “Scythe! Thunder?” She pinched her nose against the spent aether and popped her head out for a quick assessment. Tears of God. Nothing remained of her teammates but a wafting blue vapor.
Of all the pathetic…

“Aurora, what the hell game you playing out there?” Aurora turned an icy glare toward Freezer, her aether master. His rickety boat occupied the southern dock of the floating aether rig. The challenging aether master occupied the northern dock less than thirty meters from her position. Freezer’s boat hung low in its restraints. They were losing.

“Stop running and get into the fight! Self-righteous wench, you just let those wankers smoke my best two gladiators.” That was the final straw. Fuming, Aurora slammed her spear into her shoulder harness and fired up its aether portal. Freezer wasn’t going to like her tapping into his reserves. But Freezer was a timid moron and a heathen.

Using her free arm, she swung on top of the wall and located the ESS opponent cowering behind an INCquisition swordsman twenty meters distant. The fools thought they’d be safer together. “God ordains it!” Springing from the wall, Aurora hailed a beam of burning aether from the cannon on Freezer’s boat. Using the portal in her spear, she directed the beam into the swordsman’s chest. His gurgling scream gave way to a cloud of blue mist. As Aurora hit the ground and rolled, the trailing end of the beam blossomed into a broader eruption and consumed the retreating ESS storm-bug as well.

Aurora’s grin fell slack when she realized she’d neglected the third enemy gladiator—a pirate favoring mortar and shield. The whoomp of a shell leaving the tube spurred her forward. After a single stride, the surface of the aerena shook. The square she’d just occupied, flared hot. The shockwave rammed into the base of her spine and thrust her toward the enemy boat. Aurora crashed into the cold surface of the aerena. Numbness set in. All but her sense of sight and smell dissolved. Her sight told her the enemy boat lay only five meters distant. The crackle of aether plugging Aurora’s nostrils told her the dispatched gladiators where regenerating.
I’ll do this myself.

Gripping her spear, Aurora staggered to the edge of the northern dock. Without time for doubt, she launched herself over thin air. The moment her spear splintered the hull of the enemy boat, she unleashed its full extension. The vessel shuttered as her spear tore through the engine room and into the the open air on the far side of the dock. Instantly, Aurora retracted the lance and tumbled back to the aerena’s surface. Dead in the sky, the vessel listed hard to starboard and broke its restraints. The match had ended—the contract granted to the victor.

Yet Aurora felt no sense of glory. Instead of the victor being her beloved Children of God, it was a sniveling aether master known as Freezer. She wiped a smudge of grease from her spear as she strode across the aerena. Freezer stepped from his boat to confront her before she could climb onboard. “I hope you realize your antics today cost me more aether than this contract is worth.”
“If I didn’t have to—” Aurora swallowed her words as the regenerated Scythe and Thunder strode up behind her.

“One more chance, Spear Maiden.” Freezer disappeared inside the boat, yammering as he went. “You’re lucky I don’t cut you loose here and now, of all the shintsu…” After Scythe and Thunder followed Freezer onboard, Aurora shook her head. “There’s no such thing as luck.”

By David Mark Brown

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