P. The Robot the Size of the Galaxy

All around Akayama, the Hurricane churned. “Give her to us.”

Her planet hid her by cradling the Mountain in a circle of dunes. “If I don’t, will you assimilate me?”

“We’ll assimilate you anyway. If you don’t relinquish her, we’ll make it painful.”

Her planet thought. “Which of you is taking her?”

“It doesn’t matter. We’ll assimilate her and share her.”

“She’s a tricky one,” said her planet. “Whoever assimilates her first will surely be the most powerful among us, even if only for an instant.”

“Don’t stall. Give her to me.” One planet reached with a tentacle.

“Hold on.” Another planet blocked that tentacle with its own. “I’m larger than you; surely I have precedence.”

“I see this will be difficult,” said her Hurricane Planet. “Let me toss her and you can decide among yourselves.”

Akayama’s blood curdled as the Mountain shook under her.

Something erupted from the peak. It had blue feathers and a stained lab coat—it was an exact copy of Akayama, complete with compound emerald eyes. Her copy shot into space, where the other Hurricane Planets fought over it.

A mouth opened in the Mountain beside her. “Quick, hop in.” It stuck out its tongue.

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She hopped in the mouth and was instantly assimilated. She communicated with her planet at the speed of thought. “You gave them a forgery?”

“We’ve got to escape,” the planet thought back. “They’ll destroy me, or assimilate me, and either way there won’t be anything called me anymore. And you’re part of me now, so that goes for you, too.”

“This is indeed a pickle.” Akayama’s consciousness spread through the sun-sized object. “Will you do everything I say?”

“Yes!”

“May I totally control our form and function?”

“Yes! Yes!”

Above them a planet the size of Mars snatched the copy of Akayama and absorbed it. “Hey.” The planet spawned eyes all over its surface to announce the treachery. “This isn’t Akayama! They’re trying to trick us!”

“Oh, really?” asked another planet. “You’re lying to keep Akayama for yourself!”

“I’m not! I swear!”

A planet the size of Jupiter swallowed the Martian one. It confirmed: “That wasn’t Akayama. It was a forgery.”

“Oh, really?” asked another planet. “You’re lying to keep Akayama for yourself!”

“I’m not! I swear!”

A planet the size of the sun swallowed the Jovian one. It confirmed: “It was a forgery, and if you don’t believe me, eat the planet which brought her here.”

All planets advanced on Akayama’s.

“I’ve got a plan,” thought Akayama. “You won’t like it. I certainly don’t.”

“Do it! Do it! Do it!” Akayama disabled her virus. Her planet split into a million Earth-sized spheres. They blasted off in different directions trailing white clouds.

Of these million: nine hundred and ninety nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine were captured by the Hurricane. The lone survivor escaped the Dance of the Spheres unscathed.

“Oh, no, no, no.” Akayama’s planet bristled with panicky teeth. “You just subjected a million of our copies to assimilation!”

“I said you wouldn’t like it.” Akayama calmed the teeth and replaced them with engines. The rest of the Hurricane couldn’t keep up. “But if our copies were assimilated, the rest of the Hurricane would make Zephyr engines like ours, see? They’re stuck with old-fashioned turbines. When our copies were caught they deleted themselves and let the Hurricane eat their useless corpses.” They sped so much faster than light that quantifying their velocity would be pointless. They neared the Milky Way. “I need you to absorb the galaxy. All of it.”

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“May I?” asked her planet. 

“When we first merged I learned the Hurricane never encountered alien life while eating the universe,” thought Akayama, “so with Earth gone it’s improbable there are life-forms remaining. Eat with impunity. Meet me on Earth’s moon, and bring the water world we made.”

Akayama fired her body from the Mountain. As she shot through space, she watched her planet swallow a star and convert the mass into Hurricane flesh. The mass divided into a million more planets, each of which shot to another star to repeat the process.  

She blasted fog from her lab coat to rocket toward Earth’s moon. She had hoped her moon-base had survived, but its condition was beyond her wildest dreams.

Ten thousand robot-pilots maneuvered their Zephyrs in zero-g. “Yah! Yah!” shouted Lucille from ZAB, “Almost done!” Zephyr Purple wore a pile of robots like pants. It pulled more robots over its shoulders like a shirt. The whole moon-base floated as one, in a humanoid spaceship a kilometer tall. “Areh? What’s that?”

Akayama let the combined Zephyr nab her with its left arm. “It’s a bird,” said Daisuke.

“It’s wearing robes,” said Charlie.

Akayama poked feathers through her lab coat to lable herself with the kanji of her own name. Charlie and Daisuke gasped. Lucille brought Akayama close to ZAB. The exhaust they both exuded provided medium for sound, so Akayama shouted. “Princess Lucia? Is that you?”

Lucille studied the creature in her monitor. “My name’s Lucille and I’m no princess. My mom died twenty years ago, the same day as my father.” The words sunk into Akayama slowly. At last she doubled over in anguish and howled. “What happened, Hakase? You look different than in history books.”

“Commander,” said Daisuke, “show some respect.”

“But really,” asked Charlie, “what happened?”

“Don’t worry, Professor,” said ZAB, “I’ve told them all I know.”

Pressure lifted from Akayama’s shoulders. “You know I built the Hurricane?” All ten thousand pilots of the combined Zephyr nodded. “Then you know it’s a machine which merges minds. The planet I merged with seems allied with me now, while the rest of the Hurricane decides the end is at hand.”

“Is that your new friend?” Lucille directed the combined Zephyr to point at stars which winked red and disappeared. “I was about to obliterate it with my fists, da zo.” 

“That’s it,” confirmed Akayama. “With Earth destroyed there’s no reason not to pool our resources.”

“Good thinking. Hop in.” The combined Zephyr ripped open its chest at the sternum. There, Zephyr Purple popped the hatch on its head. “We saved you a seat.”

Akayama climbed into Zephyr-Alpha-Purple. She felt at home in the head, though the cockpit was cramped. Eisu, Feito, and all the purple pilots appeared on her monitors at attention. Akayama saluted them with her right wing. “Did anyone survive Earth’s destruction?”

“No,” said Daisuke. “Even the bacteria are dead.”

“Is anyone left on the moon?”

“Nope,” said Charlie, “we’re all in here.”

“Good.” Her Hurricane swarmed the moon and ate it in milliseconds. One Hurricane Planet lingered, and the combined Zephyr fell toward its gravitational pull. Eisu and Feito maintained distance by firing steam from the combined Zephyr’s feet. “Stop!” said Akayama, “let us fall.”

The instant before impact, the planet opened a mouth and the combined Zephyr fell through its throat to the core. 

“Split your Zephyr robots,” said Akayama. 

“But we just assembled,” Daisuke complained.

“You heard her!” ordered Lucille, “Everyone split up!” When the combined Zephyr split, the gaps filled with Hurricane flesh which pushed the robots apart to uniformly fill the planet. The planet opened eyes to signal the rest of Akayama’s Hurricane to join. Hurricane Planets collided like globs of jam, and the total mass morphed into a human shape. 

Suddenly Lucille commanded a Zephyr with the mass of the Milky Way, larger than half a trillion suns.

Lucille turned ZAB’s steering wheel and colossal gears squealed like violins to turn the Galaxy Zephyr’s head. “Charlie, Daisuke, Eisu, Feito. Test your extremities.” The Galaxy Zephyr wiggled its fingers and toes. Lucille couldn’t stop beaming ear-to-ear and chuckling like a psychopath. “Hontou ni. Such incalculable power.”

Only now did the rest of the Hurricane arrive from the Dance of the Spheres. It beamed information from its countless planets’ countless eyes, which the Galaxy Zephyr’s Hurricane Armor translated into audio for Lucille’s ten thousand pilots. “Aw, that’s cute. You’ve grown a little.”

Omae wa—” Lucille pulled levers and the Galaxy Zephyr settled into battle-stance. Their Hurricane Armor translated her shouts into vigorous eye-movements. “We’re bigger than any of you!”

“But not all of us.” The Enemy Hurricane merged its planets into a single blob with the mass of the observable universe. Then, as if to mock, it deformed into a humanoid and sat cross-legged. Its face grew two eyes. “In this form, your robot is smaller than even my eyelashes.”

KEE-SAA-MAA YAA-ROH!” Lucille yawped each syllable like a barbarian. “In a robot smaller than my own eyelashes I’d fight you, and I only ever fight to win!”

“I could crush you with my thumb.” The Enemy Hurricane raised an arm to do so.  

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