After Eun had clicked the gearshift into MUSHROOM, the Bite Mobile had transformed into a fungus-headed mecha. Peter and Eun were now inside a saucer-shaped cockpit lined with sci-fi crags and mechanical jags, hearkening back to the OG Star Wars style of design. Below the cockpit, the “stem” of the mushroom tapered into a v-shaped torso, which sported a pair of gun-arms and multi-jointed thruster-legs.
As cool as that was, it didn’t hold a candle to where they were going.
“Oh FUUUUUUUUCCCKKK!!!” Peter screamed.
Colorless tines shone at the edges of their windshield, prickling in and out of the center of their view…then they were speeding through a tunnel of brilliant rainbow whorls.
The Bite Mobile spoke to them with the voice of Optimus Prime: “CLOSE YOUR EYES. I WILL OUTFIT YOUR PSYCHES WITH A NEURO-KINETIC FILTER. IT WILL DULL THE INFORMATION OUTSIDE THE CRAFT, AND CONSEQUENTLY, PRESERVE YOUR SANITY.”
Peter and Eun closed their eyes and felt the slight swish of wind on their skin; the Bite Mobile was doing something in front of their faces.
“GO AHEAD AND LOOK.”
“Whoa…” Peter whispered. A lime green, holographic visor was floating in front of his face: the equivalent of an extradimensional heads-up display. Tiny streams of alien symbols ran down the left edge of his vision, forming into colorful chains that glimmered and sparkled. He looked at Eun; she had a matching visor.
“So cool!” She grinned. “If we didn’t have these, then—”
“YOUR MINDS WOULD BE COMPLETELY UNDONE,” the Bite Mobile intoned. “WE ARE CURRENTLY TRAVELING AT THE SPEED OF INTENTION. THE EXISTENTIAL DISTORTION IS FAR TOO MUCH FOR YOUR LINEAR PERCEPTION.”
“ ‘Linear perception,’ ” Peter murmured. He stared at the multi-windowed cockpit, watching a stream of icons passing by. “You’ve filtered the environment into a human-friendly narrative, hewing to the bounds of time and space.” He studied the center of their greatly expanded dashboard (it was twice as big as their automobile version, and was now almost entirely made of light). Bitefighter was still standing on his personal holopad. The six-inch rascal gave Peter a double-thumbs up, along with an extra-toothy grin.
“THAT IS CORRECT.”
“Dissona,” Eun reminded. “We still need to stop her.” She glanced at Bitefighter. “Weapons?”
He pointed to her right, at a pull-down grip hanging from the Bite Mobile’s ceiling. She reached up, grasped it, and yanked it toward her. Ker-CLANK. Her seat began lowering down, into the mech’s torso. Peter’s chair began moving right and settled in the center of the upper-deck cockpit. He was now in control of the ship’s piloting functions. Eun was back down in a reconfigured gunner’s pod. Two haptic sheaths (they looked like mechanized gauntlets that extended up to the elbow) were mounted in front of her. She stuck her hands into the gauntlets. The backs of their knuckles lit with cool blue light and began to glow in steady, pulsing time.
“DYADIC ORDNANCE IS ARMED AND READY.”
Light-woven targeting reticles appeared before her visor, one for each eye. They narrowed into tic-lined circles, tracking Dissona as she banked and flitted through the extradimensional aether. Eun pressed the triggers on her holographic grips, causing the mech’s craggy-muzzled arms to chatter and blaze. The Pain Lord looked over her shoulder—her face had morphed into a reptilian simile of her human countenance—and responded with loud, shrieking laughter. Nearby thought-forms screamed in pain; her unholy mirth was tearing them to shreds.
It was also vaporizing Eun’s ordnance. “Peter!” she shouted. “My rounds are falling short!”
Peter clenched his teeth, watching as a long string of sentential logic fell apart and withered away. “Keep trying.”
“Goes without saying.” Eun fired again. This time, solidified music—it looked like a rainbow spiral of concentrated hues—shot from her barrels.
Dee accelerated. Phantom duplicates of her gross-ass wasp-form trailed behind her, leaving a wave of shadow-copies in her wake. The weaponized music hit her doppelgangers, blasting them apart into smoke-trail fragments.
“She’s deflecting my rounds with quixotic chaff!” Eun kept firing. “I can’t hit her!”
“Fuck,” Peter hissed. “Gotta be something we can—”
On the dashboard’s central holopad, Bitefighter waved his arms. He got down on one knee and started writing on his whiteboard.
“Huh?” Peter’s eyes darted to Bitefighter, then back up at the holo-lit windshields. “What are you—”
Bitefighter held up his whiteboard. Drink the Fuckrising and Eject from the ship! Fight Dissona mind to mind!
“What?” Peter sputtered. “Are you crazy?”
Bitefighter expressed an adorably tiny growl of frustration, and wrote another message on his board: It’s the only way! You were born for this, Peter! Designed for it!
Their environment shifted. Bat-winged demons with question marks for heads were flying by, taking swipes at the Bite Mobile with three-taloned claws. Peter jerked the wheel left-right left-right to evade their strikes.
“Peter!” Eun shouted. “There’s too many of them!” The Bite Mobile’s weapon-arms worked in ultra-fast flickers, blasting apart gargoyles helter skelter.
Peter cast a frantic glance down at Bitefighter. “What do you mean, I was designed for this? Are you saying that—”
The little guy gave him a steady look (despite his cartoonish appearance, he managed to convey a sense of gravitas) and wrote on his board again. The new message read: Before you were born, you agreed to be here. You agreed to stop her.
“The fuck I did!” Peter spat. “I didn’t agree to jack fucking shit!”
You don’t remember because you chose not to.
“The fuck are you talking about? Why wouldn’t I—”
The board read: It’s more fun this way! Just accept it!
Peter searched the air with his gaze. “I…I…”
An ancient glimmer of timeless amusement—one of the truest things he’d ever felt—flashed through him. “Okay,” he said. “Okay.” His voice steadied. “I’ll do it.”
BF threw him a double-thumbs up. And, of course, a big-ass grin.
“Retract belt,” Peter declared. “Prepare to eject.”
His belt went back into its sheath. Click-click-click.
“Peter!” Eun looked up at the cockpit. “What are you doing???”
Peter rummaged in his pocket, grasped the Fuckrising, and held the green-glowing vial up before him.
The Bite Mobile boomed, “I WILL LINK YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS WITH MY PILOTING FUNCTIONS. DO NOT WORRY, EUN YIN—YOU’LL BE ABLE TO STEER AND FIGHT AT THE SAME TIME. DUE TO YOUR CAUSAL CIRCUITRY, YOU ARE UNIQUELY SUITED FOR THIS PARTICULAR TASK.”
Eun’s brow wrinkled in confusion. “I’m designed to pilot and shoot a psychedelic vehicle? Is that what you’re saying?”
“YOU ARE DESIGNED TO BECOME WHATEVER IS NEEDED UNDER ANY SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES.”
“But I haven’t trained for this! I haven’t—”
“THAT IS OF NO CONSEQUENCE. YOU WERE BORN FOR THIS, EUN, JUST AS PETER WAS BORN TO DRINK THE FUCKRISING AND FACE DISSONA BY HIMSELF.”
“Say what?” Eun gasped.
“DRINK THE FUCKIRISING AND EJECT FROM THE CRAFT. HE WILL. HE MUST.”
For a long moment Eun was silent. Vivid light reflected off her pupils.
“Eun,” Peter said.
She gazed at the holographic square of light that served as their video-link, locking eyes with his image.
“Remember in Star Wars, when Luke’s about to fire on the Death Star? Ben Kenobi tells him to—”
“Use the Force. To let go.” Eun rolled her eyes. “Yeah, Peter—everyone’s seen it. ‘Trust your feelings.’ ”
“Well I need you to do it. Right here, right now.”
The speakers began playing the musical score from Luke’s Death Star run. Eun cracked a smile; she couldn’t help it. All along I’ve been trying to guide Peter, keep him from doing something stupid. But now, he’s guiding me.
“Yeah, okay.” The last vestiges of resistance fell away. “Bitefighter, jack my psyche into your mainframe.”
Peter uncorked the Fuckrising and gulped its contents. Down the hatch it went.
A storm of emotions arose on Eun’s face. She’d protected Peter from his own stupidity his entire life, but now she had to let him go. “Peter…” The angst carried through across their vid-link.
“I know, Eun—I know.” Peter smiled.
The top half of the cockpit hinged open. A rush of synesthetic feeling swept over Peter; the outer environment wasn’t just comprised of wind and atmosphere, but emotion and sentiment as well. His mind was buffeted by random urges and nonsense impulses. But even though he was nudged and tugged, pushed and pulled, he kept himself steady. Dissona was out there. He needed to stop her.
Eun’s next words were steady and sure. “Good luck, Peter. Whatever happens…it’s been an honor.”
Peter was touched. His voice almost cracked. “Same, Eun—same.”
Then his eyes steeled over. “Launch me.”
“AS YOU WISH.”
Peter blasted out from the mushroom-shaped craft, flying through the aether at the speed of thought.