Monday, November 30, 2015
Magnum Thrax and the Amusement Park of Doom Chapter Three
Justice and honour.
It was bullshit, but yeah, whatever, thought Thrax.
Seemed to motivate the androids.
Some of them.
“For honour. Home. Civilization. And triple replicator box rations! Listen up, bad-ass babes! I got me a real nice little disintegrator missile here,” declared Thrax, giving the portable launcher a pat, “But if I fire this puppy straight in, it’ll be rendered inert before it penetrates the outer membrane, see?”
The squad, except for Jez and Andromeda, looked at him blankly.
“Lemme make it simple. The squid’s kinetic negation field not only holds it together— things too damn big to exist otherwise—it protects it from kinetic energy attacks. The only place the field is absent is at the centre point, the node—the nanorganic pineal eye itself. Make sense? Shut up. I gotta fire through that hole in the field, which just so happens to lead straight into its brain. Okay. Break into two groups. First section— Andromeda, you take Bambi, Amber, Crystal, Fabius, Don Juan, and Jasmine. You’ll go left, towards the meat smoking pits. Jez, you lead Candy, Ginger, Kitty and the rest and break right. Fan out in a semi-circle around the quid—hit it from all angles, distract it.”
Andromeda nodded. “On my life, we will not fail you.”
“Whatever. Just keep it occupied,” continued Thrax. “That’ll give me a chance to move in from the front. Soon as I have a clear have clear shot, click, bam! Meat market opens.”
Jez smiled wickedly at the prospect.
Thrax bumped fists with her and tensed for action. “Okay, count of ten—Fabius Two- Eighty-Eight! Put that mirror away! Your hair looks fine. Concentrate, freakabots!” He turned back towards the squid.
Its flailing tentacles were making short work of just about everything in the village not made of diamacrete. It shifted towards the dust shrouded grain silos.
No time to waste.
The magnificently built androids, specially designed to run in six-inch high stiletto heels, bolted out of the ditch and sprinted across the dry grass, their fit, haunches pumping legs furiously.
They shot wildly as they ran. The squid was so large they couldn’t miss.
Except Candy, who did.
Jez screamed obscenities at her.
She skittered to a halt and yelled back, “I didn’t miss by much!”
Thrax sighed. Candy was the squad medic, so what could you expect? He cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, “Hold your breath when you shoot!”
He zoomed the view plate in on her and watched as she concentrated, her tongue absentmindedly sticking out, and fired again. A bolt of energy streaked out.
He followed it with his view plate.
“I grazed it! I grazed it!” she yelled triumphantly, pointing at a faint burn mark on its mammoth flank. She smiled from ear to ear and beamed at Thrax.
Thrax lowered the viewer and gave her a thumbs up. He noted all the first team was now peppering the quid with energy bolts, as ordered, so he scanned for the first team.
Team One had reached the smoke pits and jumped into them with the fluidity of expert gymnasts, just moments ahead of an enormous barbed tentacle. Only dust and detritus were disturbed by its passage.
Andromeda poked her head out and gave him a thumbs up signal. Great stuff, thought Thrax.
Jez barked orders that Thrax didn’t catch, but team two started peppering the beast’s air siphons with energy bolts. The outer membrane blistered and the protective slime coating steamed away. A thick gush of fluid spilled out of a black edged gash and began to congeal into an organic heat shield.
One of the putrescent, bulbous black eyes snapped towards them and focused on Jez. A half-dozen tentacles, each a hundred meters long, spun round in the air and came hurtling towards team two from the left, right, and above.
Thrax could hear Jez scream orders. The androids scattered and hit the ground as the tentacles struck.
Ginger the go-go girl was caught in the back by a barb, and sent flying off into the sky, her lustrous, furious pink hair streaming magnificently behind her, never to be seen again.
In an instant, the squad was back up on its feet, running madly for the diamacrete ruins. Thrax didn’t blame them.
But the canny mollusk had anticipated this, and had kept a tentacle poised, in reserve, waiting. Now it snapped earthward. Thrax could hear the howl of air flowing in its wake.
WHAM! The earth heaved. Great gouts of dust shot outward. The bronze skinned Fabius, who had stopped to check his hair, was caught dead centre.
As the barbed tentacle curled back up, Thrax could see a bloody smudge mark of guts and leather straps smeared on the underside.
Action time. Thrax snapped open the safety locks on his weapon, primed the warhead, and sprinted out of the ditch.
Respirovores pumped oxygen at a heightened rate into his bloodstream. Nanite muscle and skeletal enhancers allowed him to exceed human physical limitations.
After building up speed, he leapt and soared fifteen meters, just undershooting the factories’ recessed emergency exit which lay to the fore of the quid.
“Warning,” interjected Darwin, who oddly had a thing for ancient cultural references. “Danger! Danger, Magnum Thrax! There is—”
Then Thrax noticed it: a sudden increase in air pressure behind him. Sneaky squid had slithered a long limb round, behind him, and now...
Instinctively he ducked. Not fast enough.
The tentacle struck him in the upper back, a grazing blow that sent him spinning. Gravity was thrown into abeyance. His vision was a flash of images from bizarre, incongruous angles.
He landed with a thud on the chipped concrete stairs of the emergency exit. It took him a moment to reorient.
Inside his gut, medbots pillaged the chemical sludge that had been his lunch and used the nutrients to repair damaged tissues. In a moment, he was able to stand, and the pain was gone.
The missile launcher lay nearby on the stairs, beeping angrily in protest at the rough
treatment. He picked it up, activated a maintenance sequence, and peaked over the concrete lip that lined the exit top.
That last tentacle was sailing down out of the sky.
Thrax looked ahead of it.
There was Jez, standing her ground, in the open, beamer aimed skyward.
She looked resplendent, even regal, in her buckled black leather bustier and thigh-high boots. A steady column of shimmering energy poured out of her buzzing beamer. She waved it in tight circles.
“Bring it on, you gigantic, tentacled freak!” she bellowed defiantly. “Bring it—”
WHAM! The cephalopod’s limb smacked into the ground. The creature let out a warbling, gurgling cry of dismay and pulled up the sizzling limb, revealing a laughing and very much alive Jez surrounded by a thick, putrid mist.
A circular, charred hole five feet wide had been cut eight feet deep into the limb. Jez had avoided death by blasting a tunnel.
She laughed and her whole body shook, giddy with adrenaline. And something else. She shivered. He could see fear, shock and relief on her face. A second later her patented sneer reappeared.
The squid went brilliant violet. Iridescent waves of outrage in white and purple cascaded over its body.
“You go, girl!” yelled Bambi, pumping a plastic gloved fist in the air.
Equilibrium recovered, Jez headed for cover. That synthelady was all about appearance, thought Thrax. Poise. Status. Counting coup. Confirmation of her legendary prowess accomplished, she’d rejoin the safety of the group to bask in the accolades.
Thrax knew she wanted to be squad sarge, to usurp Andromeda, but in his opinion, she didn’t have the right temperament for command.
But she sure had balls. Great big balls.
He zoomed in on her and found his gaze fixing upon her chest. Her heaving, voluptuous, curvaceous—Concentrate!
The beast bellowed in outrage and frustration. Chromatophores flashed indignation.
Tentacles reared up again and whirled in agitated frenzy, striking one after another at the smoke pit.
Thrax waited for a clear shot. He only had one missile. Had to make it count.
A dozen panicked mutants ran past, their stubby arms waving in the air. Good, thought Thrax. More distractions. More targets.
The dashing Don Juan jumped into view, cape flying, and ran in front of the Squid to take a few shots of his own at the gibbous pineal eye. Trying to compete with Jez, no doubt. Damn stupid androids!
Soon he’d have no squad left.
A tentacle began to unfurl. Seeing the danger, Don Juan bolted, but he misjudged the squid’s speed and with a solid smack, his torso was liquefied. His trunk flopped onto the ground with an undignified splat.
“Juan!” shouted Andromeda, her expression a mixture of horror and disbelief. She charged recklessly out from cover and swept her disruptive nanite sword towards the mollusc. “You shall be avenged!” she bellowed in her majestic voice. “Amazons! To me!”
Aw, great, now everyone would run into the open, thought Thrax. He activated his subvocal communicator: “Back into cover, you lot! Stay put! That’s an order!”
Multiple tentacles slashed madly at the sexbots. They left the squids pineal eye vulnerable, open to attack, much to Thrax’s delight.
Yes! He settled the streamlined missile launcher over his shoulder and angled the barrel at the gibbering horror’s malevolent pineal eye. Lined up the sights.
He squeezed the trigger. There was a sharp retort, and a shimmering missile blasted out and lanced towards the squid’s eye.
It hit dead centre with a loud wet GLOP.
A jet of jelly and fluid spat out of the eyeball, followed a second later by a brilliant flash.
Unimpeded by matter, the disintegration field expanded inside the squid, transforming it into a globe of brilliant shimmering colours, which sparkled and winked out, leaving a cavity where the beast’s brain had been.
The great cephalopod shuddered and its hydrostatic skeleton lost tension. All two-dozen tentacles fell at once to the ground, shaking the earth and knocking Thrax off his feet. There was a crack as his head hit the diamacrete.
Thrax lay still for a moment, dazed. Over the radio he could hear Andromeda haranguing the team. A few raptors had indeed followed the squid into the compound, and now Andromeda was leading a counter-attack. In a few minutes the archosaurs had been driven from the compound. She was very efficient.
The battle to defend the Pleasurepit colony was over. The battle over the meat of the dead squid was about to begin.
Already the megalovultures were landing atop the deflating cephalopod and ripping hunks of flesh out of the carcass.
Kitty turned away from the beast, then bent over and did a victory twerk, her taut buttocks weaving complex patterns in the air like a voluptuous bumblebee.
Thrax pulled out a sleek atomic cigarette, lit the radioisotope fuse and took a deep inhalation of cool hot flavoured radiation. Nothing like a smoke after a good kill. Thrax blew out a cloud of glowing radioactive particles and watched them dissipate slowly into the air.
High above he could see nanite machined and virtually transparent air cleaning cubes, each a mile across, micron thin and buoyed by hydrogen, which would eventually filter out the gamma particles he’d just spewed into the air. Eventually.
Beautiful system the Ancients had set up, he thought.
Pity they’d mucked it all up.
He looked over and caught Andromeda squeezing out a bag of Cleansit on the remains of Juan. The cleaner nanoblob swarmed over the guts, scanned, then snapped up the targeted DNA into a tough skinned bag of guts, blood, and bone fragments, leaving not a single drop of blood on the ground.
She picked it up and headed off to the funerary recycling chute.
“Hey!” shouted Thrax. “We don’t use those on Androids. Humans only.”
Andromeda rolled her eyes, waggled her hips, and gave him the finger over her broad shoulder.
Fuckin’ androids, grumbled Thrax wearily. Such bullshit.
The Andromeda Five Fifteen model got worse every iteration. Required more nerve polyps to build than any other type. Not as bad as Jez, but still annoying.
“Darwin,” he subvocalized, “Notify the council that the witch can send out her swarms to rebuild the wall now. Jez’ll keep it clear of raptors.”
Victoria, often referred to as The Queen, was the colony Technowitch, a human who was compatible with the electrical signals of command and control nanite symbiots that dwelled in the brain stem.
They could direct nanite swarms within broadcast distance, allowing the so-called witches to perform all sorts of feats that uneducated mutants regarded as magic. It was the perfect blend of bottom-up nanite organization and top- down human control.
“Noted and conveyed,” replied his virtual assistant happily. Thrax hated dealing with bureaucracy, and Darwin loved being needed. The virtual being paused for a moment, then added, “My dear fellow, you really shouldn’t smoke those things, you know. I calculate a thirty per cent chance of—”
“Aht,” interrupted Thrax with a harsh thought. “When I want your opinion, Darwin, I’ll ask for it.”
“Very well, understood, it’s your choice. Free will and all that. I would add something else, but... ah, well. If you are not accepting unsolicited information....” Darwin let the sentence hang in the mental ether.
“Oh froog. Don’t sulk. What?”
“There is an item that may be of interest to you deep inside the deceased cephalopod’s belly.”