Leigh & Kirby (and the End of Everything Else)
When her girlfriend of four years asks Kirby to go away with her on their first adult vacation, Kirby eagerly agrees. It's the perfect bridge between the high school life they just finished, and the lucrative jobs awaiting them—and the perfect cover to gather the pieces she needs for a machine that will stop the end of the world.
But her world-saving goal is a long-kept secret, and secrets don't combine well with love and life—especially when danger is added to the mix.
Kirby stared at her monitor.
The rest of the advanced research laboratory―its ultronic super-computers, the bubbling cooling towers, the spidery sorting droids in the shielded drive vault, and a multitude of noises around her―did not exist, and had not for the last nine hours.
Her fingers danced in the light of the laser-interface. Bright red and yellow intersected to form swells of orange around her silently-tapping digits.
She pulled her hand away for a moment to brush aside the tousled brown hair that had fallen over her eyes.
A series of centuries-old documents, galactic maps, and tech diagrams were overlaid in front of her. It had taken hours to find the files within the GSI archives, and another hour to build the new program.
She entered the information into the program, and activated it with a final tap.
It would take a minute to compile.
She exhaled deeply and pushed from her terminal, rolling along in her chair.
“I don’t have time for this,” she said. “Not anymore, thanks!”
Kirby wiped the sweat from her brow and rested her hands on her lap, exhausted from the hours of non-stop work. She glanced to the adjacent monitor showing an elaborate star chart, with red swelling across it at a constant, until the entire screen was crimson.
A word flashed on the screen: TERMINATION
It reset and the nine-day scenario repeated. She didn’t need the reminder, though. It had haunted her since she discovered it this morning, only minutes into the day.
“Rotten galaxy.” Kirby scoffed. “What’d you ever do for us working-class stiffs?”
The program completed. The VR-generated pieces were assembled, and the math checked out. If positioned correctly, the device would work.
A faint smile played at the corner of her lips in relief, but quickly faded. She had known in the back of her mind what it would mean if her designs worked, but she hadn’t given it any consideration. There hadn’t been any time for it, and the notion was too unpleasant.
The time had come to face it, though.
Kirby took the purple VE Rod from her jeans pocket. She gripped the sides and pulled the twin handles apart with a click. Between its handles, connected by telescoping brackets, the space filled with white light. The pixilated VectroElectrix logo appeared, then the icons for her apps over a frame of a sandy beach and single tree.
It was her fantasy getaway. Now, it was a cruel sight.
She tapped into the light, at the messenger app. The program loaded, and she typed at the holo-keypad quickly with one hand.
*meet u @ boardwalk?
Kirby sighed, dreading the response from the only person she ever texted, but it came almost instantly, as she had expected.
*Done in 5!
*Meet you in 10!
Any other day, such a response would have made the faint curl at the end of her lips linger even longer than usual.
But not today.
She glanced away from the light-deck to the completed designs, then the star map projection flashing red. There really was no other choice, and she cursed the multitude of gods for it.
“You could’ve given us two weeks, at least.” Her eyes rolled. “And then you’d be like, we did. Two weeks ago.”
Kirby snapped her Rod closed, and slipped it back into her pocket as she stood. She took off her white lab coat, revealing a black concert tee with a neon pink logo and faux paint splatter over it, nicely accentuating her curvy form. Over her right wrist were black and pink silicone bracelets, her nails on her right hand painted pink.
She swept away the curly brown locks falling over her eye again, logged out from the terminal, and left the institute, potentially for the last time.