Monday, December 28, 2015

Chapter 7 of Magnum Thrax and the Amusement Park of Doom

Happy Boxing Day! 

Get a hot cup of cocoa, a flaky pastry, and then sit back in your comfiest chair and read some Maximum Magnum-Odd-Awesomeness:

“I’ve analyzed the android,” said Doc Helen Meddep’s disembodied voice over the speaker system. “It’s a modified military model. Probably a GI5 or GI7. Substantial changes to neural network, greater autonomy, deprecated control grams, nanoprocessor enhanced. Formidable military knowledge and capabilities programmed in on the subconscious level.”

“GI5. Thought they were extinct,” rumbled a deep, resonant voice. It echoed in the vast, domed chamber of the Grand Council Room of Pleasurepit Five.

Doctor Helen stepped into the spotlight. “So did everyone, Speaker.”

The ceiling was decorated with a simulation of the night sky, the stars inevitably connected together by delicate erotic images. Below, two comely nurses maneuvered a floating bed bearing the injured android, his body still encased in the glowing stasis cocoon, onto centre stage and into a circle of light. Only his placid face was visible. The Council members sat high above in a semicircle, behind crests of long dead shareholders.

“Hrm,” said the voice again. It belonged to a tall, bearded man named Kendee Cowding. His features wrinkled around kind, weary eyes. “How long?”

Helen shrugged. “A functioning top level military android hasn’t been seen in over nine hundred orbits.”

“That’s not what I’m asking. How long does it have to live?” asked Kendee, drumming spider-like fingers on his info-display.

“A week. At most.”

The councilors murmured to each other with concern.

“The programmers will be pleased,” said Selibe Joy of the Humres, a thin older woman with a nose as sharp as her wit. Her poise gave her a regal air. “But I’m more interested in the android.”

“Forget it. His mind is protected,” said Councilor Job Eyetee, a mousy, slightly built man with wild, unruly shoulder length hair and a baldpate. “High level encryption.” Everyone knew he was eager to return to the virtual realm.

Doc Helen knew fleshtime was slow and boring for his type.

“Is this going to take long?” Job groused. “I’ve got a fabulous new subroutine that will increase the efficiency of resource gathering in Kick-Ass Kingdoms.”

Doc Helen shook her head. Most of the programming staff was addicted to the virtual reality game, crippling real world research efforts. She’d tried to treat the condition to no avail. Reality was always shifting about in meaningless, messy ways, while Kick-Ass Kingdoms was eternal. And it made a lot more sense. Perhaps, thought Helen, they had a point.

“Can it talk?” sniffed Selibe.

Helen shook her head. “He’s in a medically induced coma.”

“Where is Victoria?” demanded Buchanan. “This is her area of expertise.”

“Repairs,” said Selibe.

“Get her down here.”

Selibe shifted uncomfortably. “That... may be a problem.”

“Solve it.”

“You try and push around a Technowitch,” Selibe shot back. “She could crush us all like bugs. She’s been in bit of a mood of late.”

“She’s two hundred and seventy-five, for Chrissake,” exploded Buchanan. “We’ve got a kill switch in her head.”

“Jesus, Frank. She might be listening.”

Buchanan was about to spit something back, but didn’t. He picked some wax out of his ear, looked at it. “Fucking technology,” he muttered, flicking it away.

Doc Helen knew Victoria best; knew her moods, her proclivities. Kept alive in a vat, Victoria, their last and only technowitch, had been dotty of late. Seriously senile, always wanting to engage her in virtual tea parties with that rabbit and mad hatter. Helen cleared her throat. “We have no idea what’s wrong with the android on a genetic level. My care is purely palliative.”

“No choice then. Wake him up,” demanded Buchanan. Doc Helen tapped air. “Done.”

“I don’t know,” Selibe frowned, and picked nervously at a radiation scab on the back of her hand. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

Kendee leaned forward. “Well?” Helen felt serene. “Now... we wait.”


Thrax rushed through the round, battleship grey hatch into the main quarters of Klenstaf Clan, heading back to his family’s unit. Mom had signaled. Probably just another plugged pipe. The usual nonsense.

Cooking smells, mixed with human sweat, hung in the air that even the atmo-scrubbers couldn’t pump out. Dozens of kids sat on the floor playing games on plastic datasheets. Some wore glasses, others neural taps. Entertainment from multiple eras. Oblivious to both Thrax and each other. Probably had HappyTime filters on, too, which coated perception with a thick slathering of wishfull thinking sugar. Axe murderer rapists would appear as joyous troubadours, bullets as butterflies, flames as rainbows. Thrax hated that stupid filter. All it did was trick people into accepting shitty circumstances and blind them to real threats.

As he neared his family’s unit, he heard a little girl’s high pitched scream. He recognized it instantly: his little sister, Sally.

He began to run.


“Let go of her!” shouted Megan, Thrax’s mom. She beat her fists on the back of Barton, an ugly, burly man wearing a tuxedo. He was hauling her daughter, Sally, out of the domicile.

Sally grabbed desperately at furniture and door frames to no avail. Barton roughly flung her into the hall.

Sally slid, spinning, across the gleaming floor, stopping in front of Assistant Chief Guardian Ghatz. Ghatz was blandly handsome man and had an athletic if unremarkable build of which he was inordinately proud of. He wore a perfectly fit tuxedo. A gleaming necklace of bronze medallions hung round his neck, which is constantly adjusted.

He raised an eyebrow as Megan tried to slip out into the hall, past Barton. The obese bouncer leaned back and gently pinned her to the wall with his bulk.

“Leave Sally alone, Ghatz!” Megan yelled.

Ghatz’s small mouth slipped into its usual offset, smug smile as he contemplated the terrified girl that crouched before him. Shivering and afraid. That’s how Ghatz liked people.

“I know exactly what I’m getting into,” he sniffed airily. “We’re here to enforce the Genetic Quality Laws.” He pointed down at Sally’s deformed face. “This is a clear violation.”

Megan squirmed, struggling to breathe. “Ghatz, please. Don’t do this. Not my baby. Ask Lacus.”

“Oh, I already talked to Senator Lacus,” said Ghatz. He snapped his fingers and two goons stepped forward out of a gloomy alcove. “Gentlemen.”

“Mr. Ghatz,” said Bouncer Don. He smacked an electric cattle prod into his open palm. His face bore the brutal features of an excessive testosterone user. “Want me hit?”

“No, Don,” said Ghatz calmly. “Not yet. All in good time. Just hold her, for now.”

“Okay, Mr. Ghatz.” The thugs grabbed Sally by the arms. She bit their fingers and arms to no effect.

Megan began to cry. “Ghatz, please! I’ll do anything!”

Ghatz ignored her pleas and stared down at Sally. “This creature should have been killed at birth. Just basic best practices. Truly, Megan, I don’t understand how you managed to avoid that. Or kept her hidden for so long. Fortunately, you have vigilant neighbours, who have the greater good in mind.”

A look of realization flooded over Megan’s soft, Asian features. She glared at the sealed door across the hall. Elven B. “Trill? Trill you sellout!” she shouted. “I’ll get you for this!”

Ghatz held up a finger. “Tut tut. Trill is a patriot, and will be rewarded as such. This entire matter saddens me, truly it does, but we have rules. Think of the big picture. The food supply is limited. So is space. There’s no room for such dross. Take ownership of your sins, Megan.”

“Bastard!” spat Megan. “You’re doing this because of Thrax. You’re jealous. You’re sick!”

Incensed, Ghatz lunged forward, thrusting his face within an inch of hers.

“I’m sick? I’m sick? Your so-called ‘son’ is a crime!” seethed Ghatz. “An abomination, an abuse of every law we have. A sick and selfish ‘dream child’ made manifest. You robbed from the resources of this too loving colony. And I’m going to prove it. And when I do, your family will be thrown out onto the plains for the raptors to feast on, your existence erased. Damnatio memoriae!”

Barton’s ears perked up at that. “That a spell, boss?” Ghatz groaned. “No, you blithering idiot. It’s Latin.”

“Oh. Cause it sounded like... hey, look,” Barton gestured down the hall as Thrax rounded the corner. “Trouble.”

Ghatz swore. “He’s supposed to be in the medical bay!... Damn degenerate doctor.” Ghatz tapped Don and Hammer on their washboard stomachs. “Let him strike first. For the cameras. Barton!” He waved a hand at Barton, the well dressed mountain. “Lock Megan in her domicile. Hang back.”

Ghatz theatrically stepped out into the middle of the hall, folding his arms behind his back, tilting his chin up, and turning to face Thrax. “Citizen! I order you to stop where you are.”

Thrax ignored him and kept coming.

“Ah” said Darwin inside Thrax’s head, “Ghatz filed a warrant to search your family unit two minutes after you were confined to the med bay for observation.”

“That bastard,” muttered Thrax. “Sally! You alright?”

Sally shook her head. “They want to take me away, Thrax!”

Thrax’s eyes locked on Ghatz. “Over my dead body!” And he charged.

The bouncers stepped protectively in front of Ghatz, clacking their prods together. Their flexed muscles rippled, their bodies shaking with roid rage.

Thrax jumped the last half dozen feet, grabbing the two bouncer’s heads as he soared, smacking them together like overripe coconuts. They flopped to the floor. Thrax landed in front of Ghatz, and propelled an open palmed fist at Ghatz’s pretty pink nose, only to have it deftly batted aside.

Ghatz had reflexes only a Guardian could buy. Undeterred, Thrax unleashed a ferocious blizzard of blows, any one of which would have been deadly had it connected.

Ghatz looked down at his own fast moving arms as if they were alien, independent of his will, defending him while his brain was paralyzed with fear.

On the floor, Don and Jack Hammer’s medbots pushed out their caved in skull’s blood soaked shells. It sounded like milk hitting a breakfast cereal, popping and snapping.

Their eyes focused. Together they grabbed Thrax from behind, pinning his arms.

Ghatz belted Thrax in head over and over again, breaking Thrax’s jaw and stunning him. Satisfied, Ghatz relaxed and carefully adjusted his medallion. Cleaned off a spot of blood. “Attacking a Guardian is a capital offence, citizen.” He leaned in close to Thrax’s ear. “No way out this time, Thrax. Mommie can’t save you. Big brother’s long gone. But you caused his death anyway, didn’t you? Who the fuck even knows who your dad was. This is it. End of the day. Game, as they say, over.”

He and his goons were all focused on Thrax. Sally, ignored by everyone in the confusion, picked up the abandoned cattle prods and slowly walked over behind the bouncers.

Ghatz continued to pontificate. “You know, I don’t think we’ll bother with a trial,” Ghatz mused. “Straight to the recycling tank instead. The grinders are not a quick way to die. Ever seen it? They scream until the very end. Their skulls and jaws are crushed into little bloody chunks. But don’t fret. Your organs will contribute to the colony. None of you will go to waste.”

Sally listened to Ghatz’s speech, her scarred face impassive. She looked down at the cattle prods, hefted them, testing their weight.

“Hey,” said Sally softly.

Jack Hammer looked over his shoulder. Saw no one. Then glanced down. “Eh?”

Sally rammed the cattle prod into the crook of his back and hit the power stud. A second later she pressed the other into Don’s spine and did the same. The bouncers screamed, writhing in agony as thousands of volts of electricity coursed through them. They collapsed, quivering and sizzling, to the floor.

Thrax slumped to his knees, half-conscious. Sally pressed an elbow up against his back to keep him from falling backward.

Ghatz gaped at his flunkies, twitching on the floor, then focused on Sally, his expression a mixture of horror, revulsion, and grudging respect. “You little fucking monster.”

Her ice cold blue eyes met his. “My big brother’s been teaching me how to fight.” She stepped in front of Thrax and settled into a combat stance, left leg bent, right extended forward, prods angled at Ghatz. “Let’s go.”

Megan, still pinned behind Barton, grinned from ear to ear. “Kick his ass, baby, kick his ass!” She patted her hands against Barton’s suit.

Thrax started to get up.

Ghatz took a step back and licked his lips.

“Whatcha gonna do, Ghatz?” taunted Megan. “Not so brave without your thugs, are you? Didn’t you bring a gun?”

Ghatz shot Megan a venomous look. He snapped his fingers at Barton, then turned and fled down the hallway. Barton released Megan and waddled over to Don and Jack. He grabbed them by their hair and dragged them away, after Ghatz.

Megan rushed out and embraced Sally.

“Mom!” Sally protested, trying to maintain her balance.

“Oh God, you okay, baby?” Megan checked Sally for injuries.

“Mom! I’m fine. Don’t crimp my style.” She maintained her limber, martial pose, prods leveled, one held above her head, the other out in front. Her eyes were fixed on Ghatz and Barton.

Ghatz stopped inside the lift at the end of the hall. He stuck out a hand as the doors began to shut, and pointed at Sally, his eyes dark pools. “This isn’t over, freak. I’ll be back with death warrants for the whole family.”

Barton chucked the bodies into the lift and stood beside his master. The doors slid shut.

Sally relaxed. “Yeah. You run, you putz.”