Snow Angel: Chapter 14

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Chapter 14: Warm Welcome

Snow's whole life changes when the winter solstice arrives.

 

-= What in the hell is that?! Shit! We’re going in hot, girls! =-

 


 
Author's Note: Here is chapter 14 of Snow Angel. I wanted to post Friday but I had such a busy week. Thanks to Big Closet and to all my readers for your support. I hope you all enjoy. Further chapters are available on Patreon.~Amethyst.
 


 
Chapter 14: Warm Welcome

Fortunately, we didn’t have to prepare much before leaving. Our new duffel bags were packed with the new clothes that we had made in the boutique booth and Sira had anticipated the need for more ammunition for my grandmother, Heather, and Lisbet after I had reported in. So once the AI had showed us to the veetol that Raven was piloting, she gestured to one of the Tinkers who was waiting and he handed over a couple of full ammo pouches for the snipers and a satchel with various grenades for Lisbet.

“Well, that’s a relief,” Lisbet said as she shouldered the satchel and we all got aboard the veetol and went to get strapped in. “I mean, yeah, the bullets are simple enough that they could have been easily reproduced by the nano-weave factory with enough suitable magnetic metal but the grenades would have been a lot more complicated. From the info I got when Sira issued my weapon, they take a lot of work to make, even with help from the nano-weave factories. It’s why I was told to use them sparingly.”

“I like my weapons, they’re easy to use, not overly complicated, and I don’t have to worry about ammunition,” Karina pointed out as we buckled in.

“Actually, I’m super excited about the possibility of scanning all of the component parts and explosive materials with that scanner thing. Then I could just replicate them and put them together in the field with one of the food dispensers,” the Harekin admitted with a huge grin on her face.

“Why?” Risha asked, tilting her head with a slightly confused expression as she regarded Lisbet and fastened her straps. “The dispensers should be able to reproduce completely functional grenades since they are not overly complex and there are no constantly moving parts that might give the molecular scanner issues. Simple ammunition for the rifles might be tedious though unless you scan them in bulk.”

Lisbet’s eyes and the grin on her face both widened. “What?! Really?! No way!”

“Yes,” the android confirmed with a nod. “In a lot of ways, the food dispensers are far superior to the nano-weave factories that you have been using until now, except for their size limitation. With the factories, you have to have the right type of materials in the reservoir, but with these dispensers, you could fill the reservoir with anything as a base material; rocks, water, or even chunks of Demon that need to be disposed of. No matter what you use it would create whatever programmed option you selected just as it was when scanned, right down to the molecular level.”

“This could make things so much easier out in the field for long-term missions. I’ll be suggesting that one of the portable ones goes to your team,” my grandmother put in. “Risha, I’d like you to transfer the blueprints and any other related material to Lisbet’s NCI so she can familiarize herself with them in case she needs to do repairs or something.”

“Affirmative, Wingleader,” Risha replied, then there was a briefly a blank expression on her face before she turned to our team’s Tinker. “There you go, Lisbet. If you have any trouble with the more technical aspects, just let me know and I will be happy to explain them.”

Thinking about the food dispenser technology got me thinking about something else though. “You know; I don’t think that the dispensers are the only things in Kiley’s home to use such technology. With that boutique booth, we were just shoving whatever clothes Kiley still had in there but we got clothes made from some very specific materials. This jacket I’m wearing is certainly not something that we have available today and Risha said that Kiley preferred natural materials.”

Risha seemed surprised for an instant before nodding to confirm my guess. “It was a research complex after all and Kiley was, for all intents and purposes, a test subject. A lot of what they created was meant for public use, to raise funds for the really important stuff. The boutique booth in Kiley’s room was one such product. Who better to test such a device than a teenage girl who also happened to be a test subject?”

“You said it was high-end though. I thought that you meant that it was just really expensive,” Autumn said with a frown.

“It was high-end,” the AI confirmed. “Expensive too, if you count all of the research funds that were used to create it. They devised two different versions of the device to sell to the public, but that one had all of the bells and whistles. The booths used a prototype version of the technology that would later be used to create the food dispensers and they were the first real progress that the researchers made in attempting to imitate Kiley’s power. The scanner that they used for the booth was even more limited than what they later came up with for the food dispensers though.”

“How limited?” I asked in interest.

“It could only scan materials not shape and form,” Risha replied with a shrug. “They ended up scanning every fabric, button, zipper, and other clothing-related items that they could get their hands on. Then they integrated that library and a library of various fashions with the body scanning system that they originally attempted to use for teleportation, since that was only ever good for scanning surface measurements anyway, and a nano-weave factory to produce the required shape of the finished products with the proper measurements and materials. In their defense, it was a popular item when there were still enough people around to buy them and brought in nearly as much research money as the food dispensers did later.”

Now that we were all strapped in, I had Connie turn on comms for the team and connect to the pilot’s frequency. “We’re ready to go back here, Raven. Risha will be sending you the coordinates of our destination.”

“And… sent,” Risha reported.

Things were quiet for a few minutes after that, unless you count the sound of the turbines as the veetol took off and headed in the direction of our destination. After several minutes though our pilot asked, -= Are you sure this is the place that you want to go? =-

“They are the coordinates of the base,” the android confirmed. “Though I have never been there myself to confirm its presence. That is part of why we are going there.”

-= It’s just… I grew up in a town south of these ruins and, if these coordinates are right, the place that you’re looking for is not far from the ruins, to the southeast. Most people from down south there won’t go near these ruins but they avoid that area even more. There are stories. With the Twin City ruins some of the more adventurous folk may come here and explore the edges, and a few even come back with horror stories of what dwells within. But this place, everybody gives that area a wide berth because people who go there don’t ever come back, ever, =- Raven’s voice explained with grim finality.

“Well, that’s vaguely alarming,” my grandmother muttered. “That could just mean that it’s the right place though. Or it could mean that there’s some major Demon activity there. I’ve never been there in all my years as an Angel but it is close to major old-world ruins and we decided early on that we didn’t have the manpower to completely sanitize the ruins of the old cities. To be honest, we’ve had our hands pretty full just dealing with the odd seed-storms or Demons leaving ruins in search of prey. That last one happens pretty often.”

-= Not to mention all of the false alarms that we get radioed in, =- our pilot added bitterly.

“Do you think that the AI in charge would respond if we tried to radio this base? It was a military base as well so shouldn’t it be on the same frequency that we use?” Lisbet asked after a moment of thought.

-= Probably not, =- Raven’s voice replied. -= There’s a reason that Sira has Tinkers monitoring the radio communications room. She says that it goes against her programming. That’s probably why you’re being sent in, in case it’s only the AI there. =-

Risha quickly explained, “The military did not have a lot of trust in AI’s. You should see the number of movies in the old world about AI’s becoming self-aware and going crazy. They insisted that safeguards be put into place to limit any damage in case we did. In addition to not being allowed to alter our own base programming, we were not allowed to connect to the internet under any circumstances, or any sort of external communications devices without a human watching over us. The only reason that I know much about the old world is because I spent most of my time hanging out with Mistress Kiley and she had access to television, the internet, and about anything else that she could want. When my father upgraded me with the Angel nanites he removed that last limitation from me because of the on-board FTL communications package.”

“That doesn’t make sense though, I’ve talked with Sira through my NCI,” I said in confusion.

“Oooh, my sneaky little sister. I think that I might know how she did that, and I like it,” Risha said with a grin. “A private and dedicated FTL communication network like what the Angel nanites are supposed to use would need to be hosted and managed through a computer. If she is running the Angels’ communication network on her own AI core then it is not an external communications device, it is internal. It wouldn’t require any modifications to her core programming either.”

~o~O~o~

-= I think we may have found the place, that circle of obliterated landscape up ahead looks very familiar, though much larger than around the place where I picked you up, =- Raven’s voice said over comms, sometime later. Then a few moments afterward she shouted, -= What in the hell is that?! Shit! We’re going in hot, girls! =-

“We’re being attacked,” our trainer explained with a frown.

-= It’s some sort of weapon placements, and there are a lot of them. Looks like much larger versions of plasma rifles, I won’t be able to avoid all of them for long. I need to try to put us down somewhere safe, =- Raven added.

“Plasma turrets, just like at the research complex,” Risha said thoughtfully before turning to the rest of us. “They probably have surveillance drones too; one must have spotted us making our approach. If I can get ahold of one, I should be able to piggyback its signal back to the AI controlling them. Maybe I can convince her that we’re allies.”

“Leave it to me,” Karina offered, giving the android a thumbs-up. She quickly unbuckled herself and made for the door, sliding it open and jumping outside without hesitation.

The veetol lurched wildly and finally shuddered from what felt like an impact on the right and our pilot’s voice was flustered as she called out, -= Dammit! We’ve lost a turbine, we’re going down! =-

Suddenly, Autumn was unbuckled and holding her hands against the wall of the veetol with a look of intense concentration on her face. “I… think that I can slow our fall by lowering our gravity but I’ve never tried extending my abilities to something this big before.”

-= I can’t maneuver like this! We’re a big fat target up here! =- Raven called out as Karina appeared and shoved a drone into Risha’s hands.

“Will that do?” the Devilkin asked Risha.

I was barely listening and didn’t hear Risha’s reply as I began to unbuckle myself and grabbed my Goliath to head toward the pilot’s compartment. I was hoping that I might be able to take some of the heat off of us with my weapon’s hardlight shield mode. As soon as I saw what was ahead of us I muttered, “By the spirits.”

Below us was a huge circle of devastation, much like the one around the research center where we had found Risha, but it was much bigger. The source of the plasma blasts was huge, way bigger than the house that Risha and Kiley had lived in, probably the size of a small town and it was completely covered in a dome of golden light that resembled the hardlight shield of my Goliath. I was just about to thrust my sword through the glass at the front of the pilot’s compartment to activate that mode when the golden light vanished and the plasma fire ceased, just as Risha called out, -= Got it! =-

We were falling slowly but, despite Autumn’s efforts, the ground was approaching faster than I would have liked. I quickly turned to the woman in the pilot’s seat, she was wearing some kind of skin-tight outfit, sunglasses, and a helmet with a mask that almost completely covered her face. “Grab anything that you might need, Raven. I don’t think Autumn can keep this up for long. Autumn, do you think that you can keep us still for two minutes?”

-= I’ll do my best, Snowy. =- It sounded like she was responding through gritted teeth but I knew that she’d do her best to give me the time that I needed.

I turned to Raven. “You have two minutes to get whatever you need.” Then I was back out of the pilot’s compartment and heading toward the opened door. We were still pretty high up, too high to jump safely. There was a lot of ice and snow down there though.

I had never tried anything this big with my gift before but Autumn was giving her all and I couldn’t do any less. I stretched out my senses as far as I could, reaching out for all of that frozen moisture beneath me and pulling it toward me. I didn’t have time to do this gradually, I was going to have to put every bit of power and concentration into forcing it into the shape that I wanted as fast as possible. I did it though and a curved slide of ice stretched from the door of the veetol down to the ground with lips on the side to keep anyone from falling off.

Damn, and I thought the hardlight shield sucked up my energy fast. That took every bit of energy and power that I had for my seed-borne gift. I was mentally exhausted and could barely stand as I called out to the others. “Move it, everyone! Autumn can’t hold us here for long! Karina, be ready to grab anyone if they go over the side!”

One by one, everyone made their way out the door and down the slide until it was just me and Autumn left. My Fay girlfriend looked ready to collapse as I grabbed her in my arms and jumped for the slide as the veetol once again fell under the influence of normal gravity. Making our way down was an adrenaline rush and I was afraid we might fall off a couple of times as cold wind whipped against us and I kept Autumn held close to me. Finally, we plowed into the big pile of snow at the bottom to slow our speed.

I didn’t want to get up but, as tired as I was, I still had a job to do. I got shakily to my feet and looked around as I asked, “Is everyone okay?”

“I am fully functional,” Risha assured me.

“I’m better than you and Autumn look,” Heather said as she looked at us with what appeared to be a concerned expression.

“I’m fine,” Karina quickly added. “That was some quick thinking by both of you there.”

Lisbet was sitting off the side. “I’m good too, just waiting for my heart to stop racing from that trip down.”

“Tell me about it,” Raven agreed as she removed her helmet to reveal a Human woman with dark brown skin that was nearly black and long and tightly curled black hair. “My baby is done for though and we can’t afford to lose a veetol.”

“Let’s hope that there’s something worthwhile in that base then, and at least we all came out of it okay,” my grandmother said with a nod toward the complex in the distance. “Good job, everyone. I assume that we can approach the complex now without the AI trying to kill us?” she asked Risha.

Our own AI was frowning but nodded. “Yeah, we shouldn’t be shot at anymore but if there is an AI in there, she is likely in her avatar body. I did not catch a hint of consciousness within the AI core of the complex. Everything has been set to automated mode: Defense systems, reconnaissance drones, maintenance and repair nanites, and even feeding the main reactor. That is a backup system that only kicks in if the home AI has been either purged or has downloaded their programming into their avatar and will possibly be away from the base for a while.”

“Is there any way to tell which, Risha?” I asked.

She shook her head sadly. “Not by piggybacking this drone’s signal. I would need to find the AI’s avatar or secure backup drive for that. Or maybe the main computer wherever their central lab is. I can at least get us inside though.”

“Well that’s a good start,” I agreed as I looked toward the walled complex in the distance. “There was a dome of light there before you shut the turrets down…”

“Yeah, it just appeared at the same time that we came under fire,” Raven confirmed. “What on earth was that?”

“One of the defense systems that I shut down was a hardlight dome. I am not sure how they are getting enough power to generate one so big though, let alone all those turrets. The ones at the lab used up a lot of power and there must be at least ten times as many around that place. A normal fusion core would not be able to generate that much energy,” Risha explained.

“Well, I guess that we should go find out,” I said with a sigh.

“Not yet,” my grandmother said, casting a serious look toward me. “You and Autumn are both exhausted. We’ll rest here for a bit and eat something before moving onward. It’s waited this long to be explored, it can wait another hour for us to eat lunch and for the two of you to rest. You’ll both just be a danger to yourselves and everyone else if we have to fight while you’re in that condition.”

I didn’t bother arguing, I just happily slumped back down to the ground beside Autumn to snuggle up to her and whisper, “You did great, Autumn. You saved our asses back there.”

“As did you, Snowy. We’re all friends, and you are my sexy little kitten. I will always do what I can to keep you all safe,” the redheaded Fay replied as she pulled me close and kissed me.

Thankfully, it was several minutes before anyone decided to interrupt our intimate embrace and attempts to suck one another’s lungs out. “Looks like I have some competition after all,” Risha said with a human-like sigh as she sat down in front of us.

“Who says there needs to be a competition?” Autumn asked with a giddy yet tired smile as she broke off our kiss. “You could join us. Fay do not believe in monogamy. We choose our mates from those we love, and it is silly to think that you can only develop feelings of love and attraction for just one person. Snowy and I do not know you very well yet but if we do find that we are all compatible, nothing is stopping us from bringing another person who we are attracted to and care for into our relationship.” She turned to look pointedly at Heather with a smile.

Heather, for her part, turned bright red and became suddenly interested in searching through her duffel bag for her canteen and rations. Risha though looked surprised and seemed to be considering the offer. “The people of my time did not think that way, at least none that I knew. What do you think about this, Snow?”

“I’m trying to keep an open mind,” I admitted with only a slight blush. “A lot of what Autumn has told me about her people is very appealing to me. If I really care about her I shouldn’t try to change her and, having some time to consider it, I wouldn’t be against getting to know you or Heather better to see if we are compatible. You’re both attractive and maybe once we all get to know each other we’ll find that being together could make us all happy. If we could all be happy that way, it would be stupid not to embrace it, I think.”

“Hey! I’m right here! And I haven’t agreed to anything yet!” Heather huffed as she turned an even darker shade of red.

“You will,” Autumn shot back with a confident smile, even as tired as she obviously was. “I’ve seen the way that you’ve been looking at me and Snowy when you think we’re not looking, little flower. And you haven’t asked us to stop flirting yet.”

“Well… that’s because I… umm…” She stumbled over the words and apparently couldn’t think of any valid reason other than the obvious one as she turned away and muttered under her breath, “Dammit.”

To everyone’s surprise, Risha started laughing. “You three are so cute, I just want to pull you all into a group hug. Kiley would have liked you. I would be happy to get to know you all better.”

“Especially Autumn,” Heather snarked almost playfully as she tried to regain her composure.

The android looked away before replying, “Yes, I will admit that her resemblance to Kiley is part of my attraction for Autumn. I know that that is not something that a relationship could be built on though. She is not Kiley, she is her own person and I would like to get to know that person better. I have not considered a polycule relationship before but it is not like it is against my programming. If in the course of getting to know my new teammates, we discover that some of us are attracted to and feel more than friendship for one another then it would be only logical to pursue such a relationship.”

“You’re all so sappy, even the avatar,” Heather said with a roll of her eyes. “I… we should all probably get to know each other better… since we’re teammates and all. I’m not saying that I agree with this crazy idea or yours, Autumn, just… it’ll probably improve our teamwork.”

“Sure, little flower, anything you say,” Autumn replied, looking very pleased with herself. “Why don’t you come a little closer so we can all talk and snuggle while we eat and work on our teamwork. You still need practice snuggling and being close to people if anyone is ever going to believe that you’re Fay.”

Heather reluctantly agreed, insisting that it was only to improve her “Fayness” and we all snuggled and talked while we ate rations and drank some of the water from our canteens. Lisbet and Karina joined us to chat but they didn’t get in on the whole snuggling thing. Lisbet was uncomfortable doing that with other girls and Karina looked tempted but I thought that since she wasn’t really interested in a relationship of any sort at the moment that she was trying to make sure that Lisbet didn’t feel alone.

Meanwhile, my grandmother and Raven were a short distance away talking and watching the base for any signs of movement. I thought that there may have been more to it than that though since sometimes their hands would drift toward one another. Either way, neither seemed to see anything concerning or had to reach for their weapons.

My grandmother of course had her Shadowstrike but Raven had a pulse pistol that she grabbed along with a duffel bag with some rations and survival gear. It seemed that every pilot kept a bolt bag and a holdout weapon just in case of circumstances like these. Raven’s weapon was a pulse pistol, though since she wasn’t an Angel she had to use small hydrogen fuel cells for her model. She only had three of the fuel cells though and if she needed to use the weapon at full power, she would only get seven shots per fuel cell.

I was pretty sure that it was more than an hour before Autumn and I felt energetic enough to get going again and we began to walk toward the base. It took longer than I thought to get there but at least we weren’t under fire. Once we got there, I noticed that the walls were much higher than the ones around Kiley’s home, probably thirty feet tall. They were also completely made of a metal that caught Lisbet’s eye as we walked around to look for an entrance, so much so that she put on her goggles to examine it closer.

“Hey, Snow, can I take a look at your Goliath for a moment?” the Harekin asked. I shrugged and drew my sword for her to examine and after a moment she emitted a sound of surprise. “Huh. How did they get enough Razorwing feathers to make a wall this big? And how did they manage to melt them down to do it? Sira told me that she hasn’t even discovered what their melting point is yet.”

“I’m not sure what a Razorwing is, but they probably used construction nanites to just redistribute the matter in the form that they wanted. It is probably the same way that Snow’s weapon was made if my little sister was the one to do it. They would have needed a lot of material though, even if they were just coating a steel wall in the stuff,” Risha offered.

We tried to shrug it off, hoping to find answers inside as we continued on our way. Eventually, we found a massive pair of doors that seemed to be either made from or coated with the same metal. There were no obvious ways to open them until Risha found something that she called a keypad and interfaced with it to override the doors. Once the doors were opened, we all stepped inside but ended up stopping just inside to stare at the scene before us.

© 2021-2022 Amethyst Gibbs
All Rights Reserved

Further chapters are available to the public on my Patreon page.

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Comments

cuddle pile!

giggles. I'm super jelly of Snow and her friends!

DogSig.png

A good cuddle pile

Amethyst's picture

is worth it's weight in gold ;)

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

VEETOL alternative

You would think there had been something stealthier than a VEETOL that had survived so maybe they can just parachute in instead. Or they could've come in treetop height and deploy further away given the defenses already shown at the 'family home'.

I guess time pressure is preventing sensible options like sending in a reconnaissance drone or person before sending in a major asset and team ?

remember Eden base was

remember Eden base was primarily a smallish research outpost, the vehicles it had would primarily be for logistical support and some local defense, as for approach you avoid leaving exact coordinates for military bases anywhere that might get compromised and using jet turbines for propulsion (shrouded rotors) means the exhaust gas is necessarily hotter and they can't fly too low without risking setting the trees alight. Flying at the VTOLs' altitude ceiling just means getting shot at earlier. There's also no way Risha would know what the keep out radius for the base was. Scouts would face the same issue, Raven mentioned that the people who venture near never come back, so without the ability to capture and send a "friendly" signal through the base's surveillance drones, they'd be targeted too. Risha at minimum would have to be part of the mission either way, this was their only option.

Yep

Amethyst's picture

With them being in a rush this was really the only sensible option that they had and Risha didn't know exactly what their defenses were, let alone that they were active and set to shoot at anything that moved.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Not really

Amethyst's picture

Eden base didn't really have anything like drones and while Kiley's home did they were programmed for surveillance not scouting, and one would have had to be reprogrammed and repurposed which would take time. People would have been obliterated before they could get close, and parachutes would have been blown out of the sky just as the veetol was. Risha may have something that could have worked but they didn't know what they might be facing or when such things should have been deployed. By the time they did know they were being shot at because the base's defense radius was far larger than they were expecting.
Time was very much a factor here and political pressure has made them move on this far quicker than they would have liked.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

also the sooner they can cut

also the sooner they can cut their dependency on the capital (would say more on this but won't because of River Song's favorite word) the fewer strings the Queen has to pull in response to malicious compliance. The rich want them out of sight except when protecting them or possibly buying from them, it's best to try and give them that before they realize what they wished for.

Chapter by chapter this just

Chapter by chapter this just keeps on entertaining the reader. The whole “cliff hanger endings serial” format is well done. The chapters flow into the next without feeling contrived to get to the lead in for the next episode.

Aww thanks

Amethyst's picture

I aim to please and cliffhangers are kinda my thing ;)

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

HAL

Are you there? Don't make us disconnect you.

Risha...

...would probably get the reference.

Eric

Yup

Amethyst's picture

Risha would definitely get it. And she'd probably make bad Space Odyssey jokes too.

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Base

That’s one’s nice base it should probably give the Angels negotiating power with the queen if they still want angels to protect everyone.

hugs :)
Michelle SidheElf Amaianna