This whole “under the radar” schtick has really been getting to me. I had a dream where I was in a cubicle. Not the good kind of dream, either, where I’m choking a man in suspenders and stapling his face to his desk. It was the bad type of dream. I was working there.
First thing’s first. I got up and sold my stock as low as I could get it. Well, second thing’s second. First thing, I lit my bed on fire, then went to town on it with an axe. A fire axe. It seemed appropriate. It was a water bed, though, so that put out the fire and I had to resort to beating it with an ice cube tray and stabbing it with an apple.
Hey, don’t talk to me about how sharp fruits are. I know all about fruits. You think an apple is bad? I won’t even stab something with a peach. You agree with me on that, don’t you? Yeah, I thought so. It’s because deep down in their core, you know peaches are the pits.
The fuck am I doing, playing nice like this? Playing the stock market? I’m the guy who blew up half the city! Nope, if I’m getting money, I need to do it by my own efforts and for my own reasons. What am I doing, moving around money just to make money? How disgustingly lazy, how feebleminded, how utterly devoid of purpose is that?!
Ugh, I might as well be a hamster running on a never-ending wheel of money.
I was so disgusted, I finished off my bed by clamping a car battery to it. After picking myself up off the floor about a wookie’s height away and trying to flatten my hair, I called in Carl.
“You rang, boss?”
I patted him on the shoulder with one hand and drew his mini-pistol with the other, firing back into the battery, bed, and the jumper cables. When it was empty, which didn’t take long, I handed it back to him and gave the battery a kick away. All clear.
Third thing’s third. I should give an update about the baby. After all, Carl was there and he’s the one who wanted the tests done in the first place. I gave Carl the rundown, starting with “First off, your suspicions are correct. That baby’s growing more than usual.”
I explained that this kid, Matatoa, is quite unusual after all. No sign of disease or illness at all, but I couldn’t tell on the genetic level because something about this kid messed with any sort of DNA analysis to check for syndromes or genetic diseases. About the best I could do was extrapolate future physiological problems from the phenotype. I didn’t see anything off from that model, but that wasn’t going to tell me very much anyway unless he had some bone issues already.
As far as the immune system goes, he shows no sign of illness despite a lack of antibodies.
Little Matatoa here is not a baseline human, but I can’t determine just how off the baseline he is. Some of this suggests a certain resistance, possibly even some invulnerability, that means we probably were supposed to get him when we followed the Christmas card’s instructions. The resistance also means that the crap we’ve been feeding this kid hasn’t screwed him up. That’s a plus.
We’re not exactly the best cooks around here. Carl’s more of a beer and burgers guy, with it turning into more of a beer burger if he’s already had a few. I cook a mean basil teriyaki pork chop myself. Moai’s specialty is known as “Chicken Under a Brick”. Despite that diversity of skill, there’s not a damn thing we’ve fixed that this kid will eat. I caught Moai trying to waterboard him with chicken noodle soup the other day. Despite not hardly eating, the kid still runs around like he’s on cocaine.
Carl didn’t quite grasp everything about it, but he got the important parts. He was also relieved to hear that Mat hasn’t gotten hurt by anything we’ve done. “He stole some of that beer I had that time and I got to chasing him and then he slipped and hit that cabinet.”
“Well, it’s probably ok not to worry about it quite as much. We know the kid’s special. Now we just have to find out why we are the ones taking care of him. Speaking of which, where is he right now, and why do I hear a saw?”
“Oh shit!” Carl said, rushing out of the room.
There’s nothing like the sounds of saws, gunfire, and children’s laughter.
Fourth thing, and I’m probably going to forget about this list any moment now, I dumped the bed, battery, and jumper cables into a shower in the back and gave it all an acid bath. I didn’t feel like taking the time for cement shoes. You think I have all day to spend on that? As for the showers in this former goth club…hell if I know. Maybe it was for employees, maybe it wasn’t always a club, maybe the guy who owned it last liked to use it to smear his makeup so he looked like he’d been crying.
At last that gave me some time to look over my armor. That kid has been acting up a lot more the past week or so, and it has been slowing me down with working on the new design. I stepped past a pair of curtains I had strung up around the workplace area. Kids, much like evil geniuses, will want to play with whatever rays and doodads and gadgets you’ve got so long as they are in sight. I’ve been jonesing to check on it since I woke up in a mood to wreck some shit.
It is nearly ready. I have to settle for a few smaller patches of the nanite-quilting for now, but I can expand coverage when I get a better idea how that idea’s working out. See, that’s how you solve a problem. You throw brains at it, try stuff, and you drop the stuff that doesn’t work in favor of stuff that does. It’s all very scientific, right down to rewarding the most brilliant scientist with a VIP card to a Nevadan brothel. That’s “Very Important Pussy” as first discovered by physicist Richard Feynman.
Another idea I had needed to be dismissed out of hand. Self-repairing armor. Might as well cover myself with nanites. Little buggers are good at healing me, but they can’t take a punch very well, which is the point. It’s why you don’t liquefy the metal to forge a sword. You have something like that which is made to change shape, and it’ll be inherently weaker. Plus, I really don’t want to lose all of my armor just because someone shot me a few times in the chest. That’s really counterproductive.
I lifted the helmet up. It was completed at least. It was sleeker. Less bulky, in part from the fastenings no longer showing on the outside and in part because of the two elongations that arched out high on the back of the armor like I had to fit sylvan ears in them or something. A minor reference to my idea of wearing something more akin to a jester suit.
The front breather was also altered. It looks less like a SCUBA diver. The hoses are no longer round, but ovals. They fit better against the armor and aid to it looking smaller but faster. I was nearly tempted to paint flames on them they looked so fast.
I heard the curtain rustle as someone entered and I spoke aloud, “The Version 26 marks a departure in my design aesthetics, which ought to throw off those who may think I’m a copycat Psycho Gecko upon my public reappearance. Also, and I don’t say this lightly, it looks cool as shit.”
I turned toward my audience. It was a clunker. Yay, some shit to wreck! A copper and bronze steampunk robot in copper and leather armor. “Catch,” I told it and tossed the helmet. It did so with a hiss of steam that shot upward from the back of its neck. I grabbed a remote out of my pocket and armed the traps. The clunker dropped the helmet and lunged for me, but I slipped around him, Victorian-era robot technology being notoriously slow and stupid, and grabbed my helmet off the ground. It was in mid turn when I knocked its head off with my helmet. The head flopped against the curtain, then fell against the floor and rolled. The body just stood there, water gushing out of the unbroken, but now quite disconnected, pipe that had terminated in the thing’s head.
Another yanked the curtain away behind me, so I grabbed the first by the arm and threw it into the second. I took the opportunity at that point to slip out of my pants, a wise decision as I was forced to pull them down over the head of a third clunker. The second clunker came at me again, but I pushed the third one into it now.
It stood up again, but by this point I just kicked its shin out from under it, sending it to its knees. It threw a weak punch, but steam shot from its knuckles. I grabbed it by the bicep, put my boot on its back to force it down, and wrenched the arm. The hydraulic pipes were metal, so I couldn’t just rip those off unaided, but that arm wouldn’t be doing anything anytime soon.
I saw the third one, the one I’d blinded by taking my pants off, stand as well. It reached up and slowly tore them apart. I turned, jumped onto the table my armor was being assembled on, and jumped off into a backflip toward the steam meanie. When I landed, it was with my foot on his chest and then flattening a part of its chest as we both hit the ground. I was still standing. It was grinding on itself against the floor and slowly stopped moving.
I remember thinking there were probably more beyond this curtained area. Probably surrounding me. I needed more than just my bare hands for this one, and without my pants, there was only one option left to me. I charged out of there with my boxers in one hand, yelling, “For silicon!” only to find the situation well in hand. Carl stood over a few clunkers that he’d shot up, with Matatoa under one arm. Matatoa, for his part, was spilling juice from his cup onto one of them.
Moai was dressed in a karate gi. From the looks of the crushed and disassembled clunkers surrounding them, he must have been kung fu fighting. When he’s in the mood, those hits are fast as lightning.
“Hiya,” I said, with a wave of my underpants. “Where’s the rest?”
The sounds of falling objects and grinding clunkers helped us figure that out. Over near the entrance a group of clunkers tried to retreat, but a small cannon was firing banana peels onto the floor. The clunkers’ legs flew out from under them, which was ill-timed for them. A pair of circular saw blades half a man tall rose and paced along their track. They threw off sparks as they cut through the clunkers.
“Looks like they made like a banana and split,” I said while pulling my boxers back on.
A good look revealed more clunkers caught in the traps. A pair near the rear entry had crows embedded in the metal and shot into their inner workings. Moai hopped over, looked down at the pair, looked at the contraption that fired them, and then looked up to me.
I just shrugged. “I shouldn’t have to explain, but clearly this trap was meant to murder someone.”
“What the fuck?!” said Carl. I hopped on Moai’s back and urged my mount to the source of the problem.
“Hi ho, sculpture, away!” He crashed us through the wall to where Carl had been surprised by something. He was pistolwhipping a clunker that tried to steampunch him. It was two clunkers and a man in a Napoleonic uniform, with a big hat and massive backpack with its own smoke stack. I jumped off Moai’s back and let him charge into the clunker, slamming him through another wall. The remaining clunker was still going for Carl and Mat, so I turned my attention to the man, who had a Napoleonic-era looking pistol he had pulled on Carl.
He tried to adjust his aim from Carl to me, but I dove in front of the remaining clunker. With a whirring and a grinding, the clunker, now with a hole through its back, dropped to its knees and then the ground.
That left the poor fellow facing down Carl, a returning Moai, and me. He chose to run for it. He just didn’t get very far. He tried to escape out the back door, but a frozen turkey fell on his head and knocked him out cold.
“Boys, it seems we got ourselves a prisoner.”
“Hey, what about the one without all the metal and stuff?” asked Carl.
I grabbed a broken length of wood from the wall. “There was another one of these guys in here?”
He and lil Mat, who was in his arms, both nodded. “This guy was after Matty when it all started. That’s why he had that saw. Cut a finger off ‘em.” Carl reached into the pocket of his camo cargo pants and pulled out a brown, furry digit. Looked to me like something from around a spider’s mouth.
“That’s interesting, and maybe why we got Mat at all. I look forward to finding out more.” Then I nodded to the guy with the backpack and the steampunk uniform. “Bring him in before he catches his death of cold. When it comes to this heinous attack on us, I suspect fowl play.”