isbn 1894953282 (ebook) 1894953401 (chapbook)
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Can one woman escape her past?
Not if she is one of the greatest combat programmers in history.
Caught between two powerful warlords in the far future, and trapped by the memory of the man she couldn't save, Tomi must face the ghosts from her own past, and hide from a world that counts her among its most heinous criminals. Add to this challenge her rapidly deteriorating cloned body, falling apart just in time to meet a new invasion from an old friend, but not quite time enough to replace, and you have the makings of an all around bad day...
"Star Wars is over. Star Trek is dead. In Spherical Tomi, Jack Mangan has opened up a new frontier."--Ernest Hogan, author of Smoking Mirror Blues
Distant explosions dotted incessantly across the screen of stars, each light momentarily altering the surrounding constellations. Wave upon wave of humanoid samurai- doh launched from the platforms of the Musashi, rushing across the void toward the Hades IV, only to be challenged halfway by the extra-humanoid itai of the Cerberan soldiers.
A 2-D screen floated inside of Tomi's Spherical, monitoring the deep-space no-man's land between Greatships. The lights of the stars and the destroyed clone bodies shone like fields of shimmering tears. Her fit of weeping had finally abated, replaced now by a state of numb emptiness. Tomi looked beyond the layers of her Spherical at the rooms of their apartment, saw some of Nez's things left carelessly out-of-place, awaiting his return. She closed her eyes, which were still numb from the attack.
Nez was among the legions of Tokugawa Samurai at the military compound outside of Musashi's capital city, all neural-logged into their itai consoles. Each samurai remotely controlled an itai clone body, wielding it through its launch across the deep-space combat zone. The samurai lived these bodies' brief, surrogate lives until their inevitable, violent deaths ejected the conscious host minds back into their bodies. No true death would ever touch a soldier riding in an itai doh, only destruction of the mindless clones they temporarily inhabited.
She suddenly became aware of a comm. window initializing within her Spherical. It was not a secretary - but the Shogun Ryogi himself on the screen, ordering her to accept his call.
She activated the screen but said nothing.
Ryogi spoke immediately, "Tomi, your subordinate combat programmers have informed me that you've become unresponsive, and that your programming activities have ceased?" She said nothing. "Dammit, this is a critical moment in the campaign. Matahachi is swamped, doing his job and yours. We need you! What has happened?"
"I hijacked Nez into one of the Cerberan itai, before it could even launch out of the Hades IV," she said softly. "He managed to sneak the pirated body deep into secure areas of the Greatship and plug himself directly into the hardware that houses Hades' internal, isolated network. Not the shell systems that I can hack from here, mind you; he physically connected the itai into the hardware that manages vital ship function applications, completely unreachable via standard data channels, public or secure."
Ryogi's face lit up with hope and questions, but she continued.
"It seemed a great victory, yes. I was about to send a barrage of severe strikes into their ship's core through the bridge Nez had spliced with the hijacked itai, when the Cerberans struck back at us. I'd forgotten that President Sterling was personally running the Hades' combat programming defense. He… his routines and their shells were too quick for me. We traded and parried attacks for a few minutes, until Sterling burrowed a 2.92Flashbomb into my own Spherical that temporarily blinded me. While I was incapacitated, he reached through the itai bridge and sent deadly signals directly into Nez's cerebrum, via his console link. I couldn't… I lost him." A fresh wave of tears spilled from her new eyes. "Nez is dead."