“Oh?” said Thrax aloud.
He took another long drag.
“A deluxe suit of precision engineered power armour. Expensive. Polyurethane, demron, synthetic silk, diamasteel and utlrafine powders. Combat utility fog emitters! Short range macro-electron field tunneling unit, anti-graviton generator, full load of internal repairbots, deluxe waste disposal system, comm gear, fusion power, functional phased- optics array—which, incidentally, is why you didn’t notice it before—and over 300 built functioning micromotors with over 1 million horsepower. Each.”
“You’ll like this: sonic cannon, foam sprayer, electron blaster, laser cluster, atomic slug jets, smart disintegrator missiles, and an arm-mounted miniature electro-magnetic rail gun. Plus a contact electrical field for close defense.”
“Shut up and take my credit,” said Thrax. This was Christmas. He’d be the envy of every guy in the Pleasurepit. That jerk Ghatz would go plasma-ape. “That it?”
“Titanium dioxide coating.”
“Sweet. Take over the world and look smart doing it,” exhaled Thrax slowly. “Tell all that from here, can you?”
“Yes. I’m in communication with the suits on-board computer. She’s very pleasant.” “No shit. How long?”
“Since before the battle started. When the cephalopod was five clicks away.”
“Bang the Benefactor! Ya little snig! Why didn’t you say so?”
“To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to. You’ve been obnoxious and outright unappreciative of late.”
“Yeah, yeah,” groused Thrax. “Cry me a river. So where is it exactly?”
A light red outline of a man appeared inside the deflating corpse of the Squid. “I’ve highlighted it in your field of vision for easy reference.”
“Thanks.” Thrax strode towards it and past Blossom and Crystal, who were scanning the corpse with viewer sheets.
Blossom let out a squeal of joy. “Captain! Far out! I totally see a—”
“Dibbs! Dibbs!” shouted Thrax quickly, “Dibbs on the power suit! I called it!”
“Power suit!?” replied Blossom, perplexed. “Like, what power suit? Seriously, I was talking about the boat.”
“Do you see a power suit?” asked Crystal, squinting at her viewer as it cycled through the spectrums.
“Yes. And I’m going in to get it,” replied Thrax.
He pulled out his bowie knife and chucked his cigarette stub into a pile of giblets. “Stand back, baby!”
“Hey! Hold up!” said Blossom, running up beside him, “What if it doesn’t, you know, like, fit all nice and snug? Huh? That’d so totally suck, yeah, but then, it’d be a waste, so could I, like, have it?”
“I’m willin’ to negotiate, my dear,” replied Thrax with a smile. “Excuse me a moment...”
Candy prepped her med kit. “There may be someone hurt in there. I should come too.”
His nanite machined knife cut through the Squid’s outer membrane as if it were butter. Clear fluid discharge oozed out of the incision. The rank smell was overwhelming.
‘Activate breathing filters’ thought Thrax. Darwin complied instantly. The foul odour faded and was replaced by the scent of fresh flowers.
“Gah! Don’t over do it,” he subvocalized.
Candy pressed up against his back. Eager to help. “Stay here, I’ll bring it out.”
The interior of the squid was moist, goopy, and thoroughly disgusting. He pushed his way in, soaking his battlefatigues, and moved awkwardly between internal membranes drenched in thick slime. His second skin kept it from coming into direct physical contact with his skin, but it was nevertheless nauseating.
With some effort he hauled himself over and up on top of the squishy stomach.
He progressed slowly on hands and knees over the mushy surface while a blubbery organ pressed on top of him. Fluids trickled down, forming pools in the depressions his knees and hands made.
He could see the humanoid form clearer now.
“One other thing,” noted the disembodied voice of Darwin. “What’s that?” replied Thrax, only half paying attention. Just a few meters now.
“The occupant is still alive.”
“What!? Oh fer love of José.”
“I detect a heart beat. The on-board computer confirms it. Barely detectable. He is in stasis while repair sequences are run. One of the other features of the suit. I believe the on-board computer will be reviving him shortly.”
“Dammit, Darwin! I’ll have you calculating pi for the next month for holding that back. I’ll never get that suit now!”
Darwin chortled. “Well—”
“Shut up! I’m busy!” With a thought, he shut the link down.
Thrax cut into the membrane above the armoured humanoid. Half-digested remains pushed up and slopped out. Using his enhanced muscles he managed to pull the heavy suit and its occupant up onto the surface of the gut, and, slowly, drag it out into the sunshine.
He collapsed exhausted on the dry grass and lay beside the suit of armour. The surface was dotted with streamlined bulges, but there were no seams, openings, apertures, or other features. Just a smooth, unbroken surface. There wasn’t even a faceplate as far as Thrax could see: just the same opaque material that covered the rest of the body. Definitely nano machined.
One of the arms twitched.
Candy’s eyes bulged with wonder. She yelped, “He’s alive!”
“Who says it’s a ‘he’? It could be a mighty female warrior,” said Andromeda, arms crossed. “You don’t know.”
“Please. Hips way too narrow to be a she,” observed Blossom.
“No they aren’t,” said Bambi. “I seen fems that can fit in a man’s armour.”
“It’s gender neutral armour,” said Andromeda. “Adjusts to body type. Look, it’s got tiny feet. No male warrior has such tiny feet.”
There wouldn’t be enough time to get at the occupant and kill him, or her, before he, or she, completely revived. The androids gathered round, their interest and concern peaked.
Killing the occupant now would hurt the team’s morale. Yet another opportunity for status lost.
An armoured hand snapped shut around his right wrist.
“Ow!” snarled Thrax.
“He’s grabbing you!” shouted Candy.
“They are in pain, disoriented,” said Andromeda. “We must help.”
“No shit,” grunted Thrax. “Get some pliers or something!”
“Listen to me—” said a voice. It seemed to come out of the helmet, but there was no obvious speaker. “Listen...”
“It’s a he!” breathed Candy. She grinned at Andromeda. “I knew it!” “So?” huffed Andromeda.
Thrax leaned over the prone figure. “Yeah, what?”
“You... must help me.”
“That’s what I said,” declared Andromeda proudly.
Thrax’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “Say what?”
“You must! The Engines of Creation... amusement park... unhh...”
“Help you, eh? Sure, sure, pal. Just let go of my wrist.” With his free hand he clawed at the fingers of the armoured glove that held his arm. They were immovable. If the suit didn’t let go he’d have to amputate it to get free. “Stupid, stupid, Darwin!” Androids leaned in.
“Help you do what?” Thrax asked. He pulled out his bowie knife again, and tried to pry one of the fingers up. No good. The smooth surface of the suit had no indents or crevices to use for leverage.
“Save the world,” gasped the voice. “You—all humanity, all life on earth—are in... terrible danger.”
“Bullshit. Ow!” exclaimed Thrax. “What the—?!?”
A needle jutted out of his left arm. The bastard had injected him with something. The armoured head fell back and static emitted from the helmet.
The hand let go.
He pulled the needle out.
Well, thought Thrax, didn’t that beat all.
Then he fainted.