PHALANX FITNESS CENTER
The Fitness Center in Dreamlight never closed, and it was never empty. Today, it was close, but several troops went through methodical, repeat motions in frictional exercise machines. One trooper stood out; a muscular, tall, broad-shouldered woman in her mid-twenties with a colorful soft mohawk and an even more colorful warmup outfit. She was in a clear cylindrical tube, bounding off the walls in a rainbow-hued streak.
Another figure that stood out was the pink alien lady in the silver uniform. She’d taken off her jacket and cape. Cape? And what looked like a sword and buckler belt and and laying it at a practice dummy barehanded. And in thigh high boots.
Meanwhile, across the room, walking out of the bathroom was a shirtless figure that appeared to be made completely out of obsidian filled with stardust. Also baggy grey workout shorts. He placed his hands on his hips and examined the entirety of the workout room with a curved featureless head, aside from the galaxy floating within. His hips made some cracking noises as he stretched them, and his arms popped multiple times as he stretched those too. It had been literally years since he had worked out. “Ok Summer you got me here, now what?” He asked as he approached her.
Summer finished her set with a spin kick that would have made someone’s day worse and jogged on over. She gave the obsidian man a critical look. “Let’s start with some stretches. Let me see how well you can touch your toes.”
“Ok. Right.” He pointed two hand downward. Then leaned with his back until there was an audible crack. “Ahhhhh jeeez that hurt then felt good.” He said, voice strained as he reached further. His fingertips were only able to get down to his ankles.
It gradually became apparent that they had an audience. The jacked woman in the clear plastic tube had ceased her focused bounding, and was staring, fascinated, at the two aliens(?). People. Interesting looking… bipeds.
“That’s good, better than I expected!” Summer clapped her hands, then she waved at the woman in the tube. She returned the wave immediately, beaming. Summer turned back to Shane. “Let’s go through a few more stretches then we’ll go on the running machine things.”
The colorful woman resumed her exercise, though she kept glancing over to the cool looking people across the room in the process.
Shane glanced back a few times, though it was hard to tell because well, he had no eyes. “Alright alright more stretches more stretches.” He sat on the floor and attempted to get his foot behind his head and was surprisingly quite successful at doing so, though it was preceded by a series of sharp popping noises until it came into rest. “Oooooooh there’s the spot….” Apparently he had a lot of practice doing this one before.
“That is good! You’ve done -” and here her translator split into three voices as opposed to the normal two. One, the word she used, xi’latie’s. Two, an extended explanation of the term. Three, a simple Earth term, yoga. Summer paused, looking annoyed as she tapped what appeared to be an ornate hairclip. “I’m sorry, it’s still adjusting. What was that word you know? Yo-ga? You’ve done such stretch and breathing exercises before?”
The slamming noises from the plastic tube resumed. The woman was once again sending herself in a controlled ricochet from one end of the tube to the other, turning in midair so her sneakered feet always hit a different place on the wall. She was very fast for a human, though she certainly didn’t seem to be faster than baseline.
“Oh yeah I have liked weirding people out with stuff like this since I was a kid.” Shane chuckled as he slowly pulled his foot back down, making noises that could only be described as wincing. “Though it hurts a lot more to do it now days. Yeouch.” He slowly brought himself back up to his feet with a groan. “Hey. We should try those grav tube exercises. Looks fun.”
Summer nodded. “They certainly look like they’ll give you a full body workout. I’ve not tried these yet. There’s a few empty ones…yes, there are.” She led the way to them.
The woman finished a circuit and then braced herself at the end of the tube, sweaty limbs splayed and watching the other two. “Tastemaker!” She told herself with a toothy grin.
Shane walks up to it, tapping it on the glass. “Hmmmm. I really should know how to work one of these.” He flicks a few switches on the side. “Ah. There we go.” He puts it up to high weight gravity, stepping inside with thunks so loud one would assume he is made out of solid iron. “Well I’ll be damned, the techs they had working on this did a great job.” He slowly fought against it, feeling the weight on his body. “Feels just like when I jump in the Map.”
Summer looked at the setting Shane set it as and her jaw dropped in protest. “But….” Then stared. “Ah, I see. But perhaps you should start at a lower setting. You have not worked out in a long time and your muscles will protest tomorrow.” Somethings were basically universal.
“No way I need to feel the burn!” Shane replied as he forces his arms up in the air defiantly. Perhaps some of Dr. Lydes serotonin experiments had longer lasting side effects than intended. “Why don’t you give it a try?”
Summer gives an indelicate and unladylike snort. “Oh no. You can’t fool me like that.” She crossed her arms, looking amused. “Why don’t you try a few…” she paused, looking for a word. “Squats? Yes, squats.”
“Fine fine sure.” He took a wide stance, his body crackling under the weight as he went into his first squat. Man baggy pants looked weird under high gravity. Shane appeared to be stuck in his squatting position, making straining sounds as he tried to come back up. He did not ask for help.
Summer gave it anyway, adjusting the gravity settings to something more comfortable while still being a challenge. “You need to start small before you can do big things,” she said gently.
“I totally had that Summer.” Shane assured, though it was in a joking way. “I just don’t get out much. Probably won’t have much time to build up enough small to do big anyways.” He sighs, pulling his elbow in yet another stretch.
The tube in which the colorful lady had been exercising was no longer visible from their current vantage point. After a few minutes, purely coincidentally, she left the grav tube and walked over to a tension pull machine across from them. She set the weights– high, for her size, but certainly very human– and clambered into the machine.
“You don’t have time to hurt yourself by starting big. And perhaps you can schedule breaks into your shift?”
“No can do, I need to be at my post as often as possible. I am instrumental to the expansion of earth settlements in this system and keeping an eye out on other civilized planets. Not to mention every hour I have off I spend in the labs working on Wheird and Catalysium physics.” He looks up dreamily. “I could be in the labs right now.”
“So do exercises at your post!” The woman in the tension machine blurted in an enthusiastic and husky alto. In the silence that followed, she realized that she had committed a gaffe, and hurriedly added something to save face. “….nerd!”
Shane looked over at Buster. He stared. He stormed right up to her. “Do you even know who I am?” He leaned his head in close to hers. She reared back a little. She probably wasn’t supposed to punch him, so rearing back seemed good. “I’m the biggest fucking nerd.” And then he leaned back. “Thanks for the advise. Sorry if that was a bit weird. Let someone mess with my brain a bit earlier.” He scratched the back of his head a little more, turning to look at Summer. He shrugged.
Summer shrugged back, bemused. “That is very good advice. There are a great deal of exercises that you can perform at your station.” She wandered on over.
“It weirds me out that more people up here aren’t weird! We on the moon, people! You’re all right. Are you two from offworld or what?”
“I am,” she nodded. “I am Summer of the Gi’ia’n Star Empire.” Her tone was friendly to match her smile.
“I have no idea what that is!” Buster said cheerfully. “I’m Buster! I drive the Cestus.”
“Human born and raised here.” “Huh.” “Oh!” Shane said calmly, readjusting himself as the strange serotonin surge died down. “Shane, or Astral. Nice to meet you. The Cestus huh? That’s a good one. I worked on the Ether Chalk and Phase Cascades designed for that. It’s treating you well?” A lab coat materialized out of cosmic dust around him as he said this.
“Oh for real? Fuck yes! I love my baby. Run drills every other day, and we’ve been on a dozen-ish sorties. Best tank I’ve driven yet.”
“Fantastic. I will be sure to let the techs know their driver is satisfied.” Shane nodded, sounding pretty pleased himself. “Summer is from another solar system, more advanced than us.” He clarified with a motion of his hand. “It’s very impressive.”
“Hell yeah! I’m mad impressed! I’m also impressed that you’re human-born but obviously way fuckin cooler than most humans!”
“Heh, thank you. I personally agree with you but….you do have to be a bit careful who you say that around.” He said it a bit softly. “There are others who have a similar condition and it isn’t exactly something that happens by choice. They get treatments and can remain, for the most part human but…yeah. Some folks get rather touchy about it.”
“Right. Sure. Cool. I’m still kinda learning this uh offworld diplomacy thing. I was real sheltered before I joined Phalanx to be honest.”
Shane did a small wave in dismissal “Oh it’s fine, don’t worry about it too much, I think we are good here. But, ah, yeah. The Cestus? One of it’s main functions is to keep anyone who doesn’t want to become this-” He gestures to his body “From becoming it once they enter the Cat zone on the other side of the moon.”
“Ohhhh. Yeah. I’d be four kinds of dead and even more kinds of messed up without it by now.”
Shane nods. “Yeah I was one of the lucky ones. Was a really messy business when all that went down. Anyways….how are you enjoying the moon so far? I know it’s not exactly the ideal place to live but….we are trying.” He kind of sounded like one of those door to door surveyors.
Shrug. “I don’t have much of a basis of comparison. I applied for my Phalanx scholarship the day after I moved out of my parents’ place, so it’s been, uh. Dorms dorms dorms.”
“Yeah I can’t really say much either. I basically like in my lab. And the observatory.” He sighed. “Nice to hear that the scholarship is bringing in smart talent though. Not anyone can handle machinery like the Cestus. That was a good decision.” He looked around. “Our gyms beat the shit out of earth ones though am I right?”
Buster beamed at the praise. “Hey, thanks, that’s right nice of ya. Not for nothing, neither. I’ve got the highest recorded scores on the CLAMORs since they were implemented. And yeah! This gym is the best I’ve ever worked out in. I spend more time in here than I spend video calling my bro.”
Summer had stepped to the side, taking a call. “I’m sorry,” she said to Shane. “I’m being called away. I do hope this has helped you.” She nodded at Buster. “It’s been good meeting you.” She gathered her things and left in a hurry.
“Bye cool name lady!”
“Find a job you love and you won’t work a day right?” Shane said in response to Buster’s fantastic test scores. “Bye Summer, keep looking for that masseuse for me will you?” He chuckled after her as she left. “Ah, so a brother on the surface then?”
“Yeh. Benny, my identical twin. Kinda shy, but he’s a mensch. Miss ‘im. Tried to convince him to join up too, but couldn’t convince him. He works some shit job and lives in a matchbox under Rock City.” She pauses for a moment, then frowns. “I worry about ‘im.”
Shane placed a hand on his chin, thinking for a bit. Hell. He was in a good mood. Why not. “Would you like to check up on him?” He asked with some curious mischief in his voice.
“I check up on ‘im like four times a week,” Buster replied, audibly confused. She wasn’t connecting the dots.
“Right. He is working right now though right?”Shane said patiently. “I think it’s normal business hours down there at the moment.”
“Uhm… yeah I guess he does have a shift right now. He’s a barista, so his hours are kinda weird, but he keeps me up to date on his schedule week to week.”
“Now what if I told you we could send a hologram of you down there right now into his shop and have a conversation with him?”
“Yooooooooo,” Buster whispered.
“Want to give it a shot?” Shane asked, pretty amused at the moment.
“Yeah let’s do it,” she squeaked, “he is gonna fliiiip.”
“Awesome.” Shane says, the hype real. He sets a hand on Busters shoulder, and slowly the Gym and Luna fade out. They are floating in space, but it doesn’t feel like space. Just looks that way, and the earth’s massive orb is resting in front of them. “Now don’t worry too much, this is just how my power works. It’s a bit weird at first, but if at any point you feel uncomfortable all you need to do is take a step back and I will let go.” And it was true, he had no real grip on her shoulder. “Rock City right?”
“Yeah. Route 1, exit 13, transit level, at the Bean Sidhe coffee shop.” Buster bounced on the balls of her feet, excited.
“Alright, hold on to your lunch.” Shane said, raising an outstretched hand to the earth , slowly pulling it to the side, causing it to rotate until they were looking directly at Rock city. He strained his obsidian muscle and squeezed his hand into a fist and the sky split before them as they rocketed down, down, down till they floated in the skies above Rock City. Buster whooped in delight. “Route 1, exit 13” Shane said ponderously as he moved the earth beneath him, or rather, moved their own position rather quickly. Soon they found themselves right above the Bean Sidhe, slowly floating down to the ground. “This the place?” Shane asked with a bit of pride in his work. He very rarely projected towards the earth, and honestly his memory of it’s landscape was quite weak.
Buster looked down at the pavement, and up at the girders and the ceiling of Rock City’s transit level, then over at the populated parking lot and the rush of cars on the other side of the lanes. Every surface was painted a harsh yellow from the rest stop’s sodium lighting.
“Yup, this is the shithole.”
Shane chortled. “Ha, I dunno. It’s kind of quaint. Cute little shop.” He shrugged, taking his hand off Busters shoulder. “We’re invisible right now…we should wait till we get inside. Really spook him.” His voice was all mischief as he began walking up to the Bean Sidhe’s door, phasing right through it.
Buster scampered past him and ahead, then pointed at a dishwater-blond boy behind the counter. “That’s Benny,” she tittered. The resemblance was obvious the moment he lifted his head; other than Buster’s slightly fuller lips and softer face shape, the two were identical right down to the freckles. They probably had the same hair color when Buster’s wasn’t dyed in the colors of the trans flag. Their bodies couldn’t have been more different, though; Benny lacked Buster’s breasts, hips, and musculature. He had broad shoulders too, but little muscle to speak of and a fair bit of pudge in its place.
At the moment, he was the only barista on the floor. The shop was nearly empty, save for two customers sitting in corner seats.
Shane walked behind the counter. “So this is Benny! He seems to be doing alright for himself.” He then looked right back up at Buster. “How should we scare the shit out of him?”
Buster squinted, then grinned. “See how mechanical his motions are right now?” She whispered, even though Benny couldn’t hear her. “He’s using his time dilation powers right now to make a boring task less boring. That means he’s slow to react and spacey. Perfect time to imitate one of his supervisors.”
She scampered through the counter, taking a position just behind Benny and to his right. She gave an exaggerated ‘okay’ symbol and a wink to Shane.
Shane returned it with a thumbs up and Buster slowly began to fade into existence, only slightly retaining a wispy see through quality. She could see it herself when looking down at her hands. Shane then gave her an okay symbol back, letting her know she was all ready!
“SCHUSTER!” Buster bellowed, her voice suddenly a perfect natural baritone. “Whaaaaaat did you dooooooo!!!”
Benny startled so hard that a spray of coffee grounds flew upward into his face. “What! I didn’t– what– WHAT??” His confusion only deepened as he turned to see his spectral sister, laughing too hard to speak.
Shane appeared behind him. “I was supposed to reap her soul, but your sister decided she would rather haunt you for eternity instead.” His voice was deadpan and flat.
“Oh my god what? What??” Benny’s eyes were wild, and he reared back at the sight of Shane.
“Say what again, motherfucker!” Buster quoted, imitating Samuel L. Jackson’s voice nigh-perfectly.
Shane was cracking the fuck up at that. “Don’t say it man she will go poltergeist on your ass.”
“Bennyyyyyy. I didn’t aaaaaalmost die this time,” Buster said in a spooky ghost voice. “I died for reeeeeaaaallll!!”
“You’re such a fucking asshole,” Benny scowled at her, “and I don’t know why PHALANX lets you use expensive equipment.” There was no venom in the assertion; he was just cranky about being pranked so hard.
“You should have seen your face, dude,” Buster said, and twisted hers into an imitation of it.
“Are you gonna introduce me to your friend the grim reaper, or what,” Benny brushed coffee grounds off the front of his apron.
“Oh yeah. This is Shane. Shane, Benny.”
“Hi there.” Shane gave a small wave. “I do holograms and projections along with a bunch of other stuff up on the moon.” He was still shaking the laughs out of his voice. “And yeah, your face was pretty sweet.”
“Yeah, leave it to Buster to make a friend with a cool power and then use it to punk me right away,” Benny made a face. “Well uh. Nice to meet you, and welcome to the Bean Sidhe. So to speak.”
“To be fair, it might’ve been my idea.” Shane says, only a little apologetically. “Don’t get to do this stuff very often, so I saw my opportunity and took it.” He chuckled a little bit. “Nice place you have here.”
“Oh,” Benny replied, looking around, “is it?”
“No,” Buster replied.
“That’s what I thought. But it’s a living, right?”
“No,” Buster replied.
Benny glared the glare of someone who agreed but was mad about it.
“You want to work for Phalanx?” Shane said, giving Buster a look that said…well. Something. No face. Was kind of hard to tell.
“I kind of don’t, to be honest,” Benny shrugged apologetically, “I was still living with Buster when she went through basic, and that nonsense is brutal. Also it’s way dangerous. I’m not thrilled that she’s doing something so risky.”
“Oh. Well like. I meant you could be a space barista. But yeah it’s hard to make drinks at zero G too. Super dangerous. Could burn yourself.” Shane nodded in understanding. “But your sis is going to be fine. She drives the Cestus. That’s like….well. It’s as close as we can get to making one person into a full sized tank. It’s pretty dang cool.” He turned to Buster “You’ve shown him the Cestus right?”
“She’s described it,” Benny said, “in lurid detail.”
“Nathanyul Craaaawss,” Buster elaborated via whining, “says that I’m not supposed to distribute images of it because it’s claaaaaaassified.”
“Oh yeah that guy’s a dick.” Shane nods. “Well when it’s unclassified you should drive it over for Benny to see. It is a MARVEL of modern technology.” Shane was hyping it up big time.
Benny smiled knowingly. “You worked on it, huh.”
“Well, yeah. A bit. Valkyrie also helped. It is SO cool.”
“Gotcha,” Benny said. “Well, I really oughta get back to work. Nice to meet you, Shane.”
“Talk to you tonight?” Buster shot twin finger guns at her brother.
“Nice to meet you too!” And with that, they were suddenly and immediately back in the gym, Shanes hand still on Busters shoulder. “So that was pretty cool right?”
“That was so cool,” Buster clenched both fists and bobbed up and down. “Thank you so much! I haven’t been in that awful coffee shop in almost a year!”
Shane grinned. “Glad I could help. Now i’ve only got about 15 minutes before my next shift starts….” He checked a watch weirdly attached over the sleeve of his lab coat. “Need a spotter?” ((Tag/endscene? Gonna have to shower n then go to work soon))((sounds good! Thanks! 🙂 ))((I had a lot of fun! Thank you too!))