Well, my villainous takeover of the recovery efforts hit a small snag today over in California. Most people know of a couple cities there, but a good chunk of the state is still rural. Two had been left without any rockets, but could still work tirelessly all the time without a need to eat or use the bathroom. The same couldn’t be said of me, and though I’ve found a local bunch of penguins, I have not yet managed to catch them and train them as waiters.
All of the Electric Eye bots are working and slowly gaining people’s trust, and Two is a good example of that. A bit of search and rescue, a little bit of stopping people from stealing television sets, and maybe a few compromising photos of celebrities while going door-to-door asking them to give up a little bit of food and living space. Russel Crowe didn’t need all those Twinkies anyway, and Bill Murray’s treating the displaced to free showings of Ghostbusters in his private theater. After that, this one disaster relief coordinator decided to ask for Two’s help looking into a communications blackout from a smaller town a couple hours away.
Manpower was limited, after all. That’s why the villainous schemes of the future will rely more and more on robotpower. That, and robots are more trustworthy, up until you make them too smart. Then, they’re like people. I know most people suspect that inevitably leads to a malevolent AI attempting to kill lots of people and take over the world, but how’s that any different from what I pull? I know I’m taking pity on the folks of this Earth, giving them some breathing space, but what’s it say about them that their first instinct on hearing something has become like a human is to suspect it wants to kill them? Then out comes the torches and pitchforks to kill it before it can kill them.
There I go again, off on a tangent. So while stranded in the Antarctic, I used some of my spare time to send a robot I built on a whim off to go see what’s up in some town out in California’s asscrack country. I did arm him first: grenades, retractable metal claws, and this neat laser idea using a clear visor. It didn’t look any more armed before, either, especially once I fixed some of the Kevlar to it.
According to the sign leading into the place, what I’m calling Asscrack, California had a population of at least 6,000 the last time anyone made that sign. I don’t know about interior decorators, but the exterior decorator clearly went through a brown and tan phase. This was the sort of place the army designed desert camo from. And, from the look of some sign they had up commemorating one of those some guy who died trying to take over a Federal wildlife reserve, quite possibly the kind of place the army designs that camo for.
Aside from looking like desert, it appeared to be deserted. Two drove the only car on the street, which just doesn’t happen. There may be places where people walk, ride bikes, and even get around on tractors, but it’s pretty damn hard to find a town where nobody’s driving. Even in an emergency; especially in an emergency. Emergencies affect food, water, media, all of which drives people out and about. Plus, with gas prices jumping up, it always leads to people driving around looking for gas.
I’ve been in the middle of my fair share of disasters, sometimes not as the cause.
Two stopped outside a sheriff’s station with a parking lot full of patrol cars. An impact registered almost immediately and knocked Two off its feet. Another one knocked a hole through the front of the car and the radio. A quick diagnostic turned up that the damage was livable, insofar as anything Two did counted as living. I let it lay there and pretend to have been put out of commission in order to draw someone out.
The someone in question appeared to be a young man with a beard carrying a gun a bit outside the civilian range of sizes. At least a .50 caliber. He took one look at Two and pulled out a walky-talky. “Call Vernon. Tell him the great enemy has sent a scout without the light. I don’t think it’s a person, but I have shot it dead. Hallelujah.”
Oh, wonderful. Religious fanatics. Mentally, I spun the Wheel of Cults to guess what kind of group was causing trouble. I hoped for one of the underdogs this time. I could see the Buddhists shooting up a hospital because all existence is suffering, or maybe crazy Hindus blowing up some slaughterhouses and stampeding cattle through a town or two. Maybe some Shinto or Native Americans pissed about the Black Hills.
Way too many religions to think about aside from that. Ancestor worship, Kim family worship, all sorts of pantheons. I know I’m controlling several robots, but thinking up potential terrorist actions of fundamentalist Pastafarians almost cooked my noodle.
It took about forty-five minutes for a small crowd of men to gather around, all of them bearded. Then they parted to reveal a man with the longest beard of the group: clearly their leader. The facial hair was a dead giveaway. That, and the crowd of females he brought with him. I’d normally use either the word “girls” or “women” but he had a bit of Column A and a bit of Column B with him, all of them wearing wedding rings. I checked. The Bearded One stepped away from his brides and approached. “Behold, the Great Enemy has sent a false man to be his messenger. The time of Tribulation is upon us!”
The group as a whole gave an “Amen.”
I spoke up through Two, “Have you killed the entire town?”
That made ’em all jump. The Bearded One recovered quickest, though. “I did not kill anyone. The Lord has passed judgment upon them through me, his most faithful of servants.”
“I suppose you’re also the most humble son of a bitch anyone’s ever met in their life, right?”
“Who are but a servant of the greatest evil?” asked Beardy. Damn, how’d he know that’s what Two was? Oh, right, lucky guess.
“My designation is Two. After completing my latest rounds of food deliveries for the hungry and helping provide medical attention to the sick, I was asked by Jesus Christ to look in on this town. He told me a darkness from the pit of hell obscured this place and kept him from seeing innocent men, women, and children who lived here, and bade me beware of false prophets. How are you doing today?”
“Lies from the mouth of the Great Enemy!” said the Bearded One, whirling on his crowd. “He is the servant of evil, whereas we are destined to bring the Lord’s love and mercy. We will shine His light upon the world.”
Right. Sure ya are, buddy. For all my faults, at least I’m not going around pretending to be a lovey dovey religious type who can just make the world a better place if the people I personally hate aren’t in it? I own up to my personal hate.
“Oh? You do not believe the Day of Judgment is upon us then?” I asked, making sure my chuckling didn’t go through the connection.
“Of course they do,” Beardo answered. “But they will never believe you, consorter!”
“How dare you suggest that Jesus is an evil power! I’m beginning to think you don’t know anything about him or his good news.”
I thought I was getting to them, but then one of them raised a gun and took a potshot at the downed Two. Quicker than the shooter could shit his pants, I jumped Two up and drove its hand through the man’s chest, removing the heart. Two jammed it into into the barrel of another rifle hard enough to stuff some of the organ in there, then took the gun and threw it at others, knocking a couple weapons free. It stared at another armed man and the eyes fired their individual lasers. They reflected off mirrored sections of the robot’s visor until the beams combined into one that shot forth from the center of the visor to burn a neat hole in the man’s forehead. One shake of the robot’s neck sent the top of the man’s head splatting to the walkway. “When will people learn to stop killing each other so senselessly?” Two spoke, even as it tried fry them with its eye lasers.
The cultists fled. Two followed, absorbing shots and firing back, taking down the odd cultist and following them back to wherever they meant to go in a panic. That turned out to be a town records office, which looked to be full of even more of this bunch. The building didn’t look like it could hold off a determined paperboy, let alone an unstoppable killing machine. Bright yellow stucco with white-painted wood.
The Bearded one called out from where he hid in the shadows of the entryway. “Don’t come any closer, spawn of Satan! We have inundated our new home with lamp gas! You step in here and I will burn us all alive.”
A voice spoke up from inside, presumably one of the cultists. “What, if you’re threatening to kill us and he’s the one that’s concerned for our well-being, who is the evil one here?”
Me, unfortunately for them. Two fired its laser into the entryway, sparking a fire that soon spread throughout the records office. Two made sure none survived, then reported back about the cult that killed everyone and and then suicided by fire.
In other news, I’ve stuck Three with Empyreal City and am shipping off the other ten robots to other countries, ready to provide medical aid, including taking loads of Long Life nanites to needy folks who are sick, injured, worried about leftover alien infiltration efforts, or just plain worried.
Meanwhile, I’ve taken advantage of some of the mixes in the liquor cabinet at my private Antarctic weather station resort to mix some adult snow cones. Brain freeze takes the edge off the controlling headache, but I’m getting better. Between being Electric Eye and trying to hold non-antagonistic conversations with Venus, I’ve been unable to embark as a diplomat to meet with the penguin clans. I don’t have much to offer them, anyway.
“What would you offer penguins for an alliance anyway?” asked Venus in one of our calls.
I shrugged. “Fish would be one possibility. Or maybe a network of slide-style roads created through careful grading of the ice. Perhaps an offer to help combat climate change, even reverse it. Hmm. Perhaps some sort of self-repairing heat shield set to orbit the sun at the same rate as the earth in such a way as to constantly cause an eclipse…” I began thinking over the problem, but Venus didn’t let me go too far before snapping me out of it.
“Hey, stop trying to think up ways to destroy the world over there. And thanks again for agreeing to at least start talking things through. It’s not about punishment, it’s about redemption and letting out that good person you hide inside.”
“Oh you poor, sweet, naive girl. Hey, shouldn’t I qualify for some sort of pardon? I just bring it up because it’ll get out sometime that I’m still alive, and there aren’t a whole lot of places if enough folks and/or missiles come looking for me. Which is the point. Keeping me here is about safety, I understand. But, and I say this out of the most frustrated part of my heart, I’m really tired of y’all screwing me over just because I’m evil, genocidal, and capable of destroying the world. Am I not human? If you cut me, do I not make you bleed?” I reached for my bowl of food. Ramen noodles, strained, no seasoning packet, but with a little soy sauce poured in once it was dry. Also, a sliced-up chicken thigh and some mushrooms mixed in. Cheap, yummy, and available even in the middle of Antarctica thanks to modern preservation. Hell, I might as well keep the food outside. It’s warmer in the fridge.
“I’m going to clear something up now, and I know you think I’m stupid. What we discussed that day when I used that truth serum on you…you wouldn’t have said that if you didn’t think it was true. You are aware of what you’ve done and that you think you need to die for it. That person is still inside you. I am not a hero to only fight criminals, but to save people. You can be saved. It won’t be easy, but I believe we can do it if you want. I know you are capable of stopping the killing and even of saving lives. In spite of everything, I believe in you.”
Stupid, in spite of everything. It’s like the cape cuts off the blood flow to their brains, even if they don’t wear one.
Just stupid, that’s all she is. I mean, hell, I only recently cleaned out the bodies of the people I killed here. They were good material for the snowmen guarding my ice fortress, especially this really big one with two skulls for eyes and a severed arm for a nose. I’m thinking of naming that one “Holocausty the Snowman”.
“What’s it going to take to make you give that shit up?” I asked her. “You left me out in the snow tonight, not a person to be seen. A kingdom of isolation, and it looks like I’m the king. The wind is howling like this villainous intent inside. Can barely keep it in, heaven knows I’ve tried.”
“Are you singing?” she asked.
Ignoring her, I continued. “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see. Be the killer you always have to be. Don’t feel, just kill. Don’t let them gooooo. Well, now they know! Let it go! Let it go! Can’t hold me back anymore! Let it go! Let it go! Turn away and slam the door! I don’t care what they’re going to say. Let the storm rage on, I’ll put a boot in dumbasses anyway.”
On top of being a wonderful villain song, it’s not a half bad way to end a phonecall.