A Tale of The Monsterpocalypse
Fiction by A.G.M.
FROM HERE TO WAURIKA
Keith and Ballantyne took a chance to sleep a couple of hours while they waited for their captors to figure out how best to dispose of them. The reclining position of their chairs was ideal for that purpose as well as keeping them restrained, but did not provided relief for such necessities as going to the bathroom, which Ballantyne shrilly demanded for half an hour before two Women In White arrived to escort her to the toilet facilities adjoining the interview room. When she was escorted back, she had figured her escorts were androids and would not notice her tensing up as she was strapped back in. relaxing gave her slack, but she had to be careful when wriggling free because previous struggles had shown her the bonds would tighten if the couch sensors detected any force being exerted against the straps. Good thing she had learned yoga techniques during her time in Indonesia.
As she loosened her arms, Dr. _01 showed up in his rolling desk from behind the same smiling wall. If Keith didn’t know better, he could have sworn the Good Doctor had been sitting there the whole time.
“I trust you spent a restful early morning! A meal will be served up shortly after which you can tell me of your decisions.”
They were released from the couches by an automatic mechanism, and trays with breakfast were wheeled in by Men in Black. Dr. _01 smilingly informed them that having himself partaken of an early meal, would not be joining them. Then, he informed them that the food contained nanites that would disassemble their personal microtransmitters, since they were no longer UberCorp employees, and could not maintain access to company property for legal reasons. Neither Ballantyne nor Keith believed him and, being famished, ate their meal.
“And now, to the business at hand,” said the doctor brightly. “During your… enquiries here, you may have come into contact with certain -Ahh- elements within our family of employees who are not satisfied with their arrangement with UberCorp, and thus might be conspiring to renege on their contracts with us. We know of the existence of these… Malcontents through anonymous letters of complaint and minor acts of obstructionism bordering on sabotage. We would like you to identify these Malcontents for us as an act of contrition and goodwill towards your rehabilitation as our newest assets!”
“You have a Resistance movement?” asked Ballantyne in disbelief.
“Malcontents.” Smiled Dr. _01.
“Even if we’d had the time, establishing contact with any resistance cell requires contacts and time, neither of which we had in this town. And the work that entails would have taken us off our main goal,” said Keith reasonably.
“Perhaps, but these Malcontents might have contacted you unknowingly. A dissatisfied comment, a bitter critique… all those could come from actual or potential Malcontents! Besides, you could be underestimating Ms. Ballantyne’s talent for locating and persuading people, as her filmwork suggests. Whatever the circumstances, knowingly or unknowingly… these do not matter at present. What we want from you is simply cooperation. Humor Us. This could lead even to your release from further trouble! What do you say?”
Keith shrugged nonchalantly, “I am game.”
“And You, Ms. Ballantyne?”
“What would that cooperation entail?” she asked.
“Just show you some pictures of employees, and you tell us if they interacted with you recently.”
Ballantyne nodded reluctantly.
The Doctor clapped his gloved hands enthusiastically. “Splendid! Let’s begin then!”
The rest of the day was spent poring over employee files as they came up on a wall screen, with Ballantyne and Keith being asked to point out if they had been approached by any of those. When the four that had asked them for asylum came up on the screen, Keith quickly pointed them out, while Ballantyne had to suppress the urge to nudge him in the ribs. If she didn’t know better, she could swear Keith wasn’t just pretending.
There was a break for lunch, and as dinnertime approached, Dr. _01 excused himself, saying he had to supervise the Malcontents as they were brought in, and to enjoy dinner. Due to their cooperation, they would not be restrained, but would be limited to this room.
It was all Ballantyne could do not to strangle Keith, who studiously ignored her as he ate dinner. No conversation could be held between the two captives under the assumption any incriminating talk would reveal them to their captors, even if Ballantyne felt she would go insane from doubt of Keith’s loyalties. She wondered for the billionth time if the Crew would effect a rescue, or whether they had been abandoned to the mercy of the Mega-Corp. ‘No’ she decided. ‘Gordon wouldn’t do that. He couldn’t! Not after all we’ve been through! Keith seems confident enough. But then… taking on a whole company from the Fortune’s 500 seems a foolish risk to take just for me and an alleged friend! Maybe Keith has already figured that out and is covering himself in case the crew has abandoned us!’
As she tormented herself with these and other doubts, another thought occurred to Ballantyne that maybe THIS waiting game was part of the interrogation, creating anxiety and doubt in the suspects… making them careless enough that confessions and information unwittingly slipped out. If that was the case, it was working on her.
Couple of hours after dinner, Dr. _01 showed in the same fashion, immensely pleased to inform them that their help had been very useful and six suspected Malcontents with their families and known associates were being brought in for questioning.
Ballantyne resisted the powerful impulse to jump on Keith and throttle him.
“Now that we have an understanding,” said the Doctor, “We can begin working on your integration into Our Company! But first, let us get something out of the way before getting down to business. A minor detail concerning Ms. Ballantyne’s known affiliation with the Green Fury Organization-“
At that very moment, the whole building shook as if under the force of an earthquake. The lights flickered off as the room shook, and the violent upheaval seemed to stun momentarily Dr. _01, who slumped over his desk.
The temblor was so violent, Keith and Ballantyne fell off their seats while dust and concrete flakes peppered them from above. A few tense moments passed as emergency lights went on and the muted sounds of alarms resounded through the walls. Both captives recovered, carefully looking around wide-eyed until their gazes locked.
“What the hell were you playing at?!” she asked.
“Just buying us some time!”
“And did you have to sell out my friends for that?”
“No. I needed them All in one safe place when Cletus showed up and in case he released the Specimen! The security block’s underground and has very thick, very strong walls!”
“What if the Crew doesn’t show up? Those people would’ve gone to jail, or worse!”
“What? Craghill leave behind his hot date? Please!” scoffed Keith. “You think that quake was just coincidence?”
“Fine! Now all those people have to worry about is being buried alive alongside us!”
“There’s no pleasing you!”
Unexpectedly, the lights came back on and the Doctor revived: “Aah! Good. Still here! Then you won’t miss the show!”
The whole opposite wall, in front of Dr _01, behind Keith and Ballantyne lit up with a number of TV screens on what at first glance had appeared to be a blank concrete wall. “Those are images from Our surveillance cameras from all over town. As you can see, a number of explosions have detonated on a section of the security perimeter. I take it those are your friends come to pay us a visit!”
As they watched, one of the views enlarged to catch as herds of saurian beasts poured through the gap in the minefield blasted by the initial explosions. “I believe those are called ‘Carnidons’. Someone has also taken over one of the guard stations and put some strange music in its loudspeakers. Can you tell me what song is this, Mr. De Rose?”
“I think that’s ‘Undercover’ by the Stones.”
For the first time, the Doctor looked concerned. “Most grave! That’s on the prohibited list! Your allies were most clever, infiltrating some saboteurs by somehow faking our ID system long enough to put a series of blast charges and setting off the simultaneously all mines in that section! I believe that’s the original quake. Uncanny, the nerve of whomever dreamed up this attack.”
As they watched, the enraged herds of Carnidons clashed with security vehicles, both from Mercs and Syndicate as flocks of Pteradactix flew unchallenged overhead.
“Amazing! I believe the music carries some sort of signal that enrages the Terrasaurs. I wonder when your friends will show up?” The Doctor appeared to be enjoying the spectacle as he commented on the unfolding disaster on the screens, but the play-by-play narrative was grinding on Ballantyne’s nerves as she both dreaded and hoped for the Crew’s four, massive trucks to lumber in any minute now.
“The main players ride in to the rescue. Observe!” pointed the Doctor, as a camera zoomed in to a distance of some thirty meters on four gigantic trucks, roaring through the torn-up minefield. A few laser beams flashed the monster vehicles ineffectually. “Hum. Apparently the wattage is too low in that section to power the beams up.” Observed the Doctor.
Ballantyne’s heart did a somersault when she spied the Fox JAW blaze away with its rocket launchers at some unseen target. In the wake of the trucks followed the rest of the Green Fury vehicles, like mice in the tracks of four, huge, angry boars, all firing their cannons and machine guns at anything that moved and wasn’t a Terrasaur. A minute later, they felt in the room the tremors of the detonations from Fox JAW’s rockets.
“Very impressive, but ultimately pointless. As you can see, evacuations are proceeding nicely.” Dr _01 enlarged another view, showing the top of the luxury buildings, where helicopters were landing and taking off continuously.
“You’re evacuating only that building,” observed Ballantyne with a smirk.
“Upper Management actually. Nonessential personnel come next,” clarified the Doctor.
“You mean, everybody else. What about us?” asked Keith.
“In due time. We have to prioritize first.”
“How are scientists and technicians ‘Nonessential’ compared to Ivy League executives?” asked Ballantyne.
“We measure Our personnel by their degree of proven loyalty to The Company. We at UberCorp value that commodity above all others. Executive personnel are promoted according to their proven loyalty. Highly educated and specialized personnel think of themselves as above The Company and therefore are considered… unreliable assets at best, and easily replaced. They are also difficult to manage, so why spent time and money on such fickle resources? But Loyalty? You can’t put a price on that!”
“Aren’t your bosses worried you might also be crushed down here?” she asked.
“They understand I am loyal enough to trust them with my safety. But if it comes to giving my life for this Company, I am perfectly willing and able to do so!” said Dr. _01, smiling beatifically.
Keith’s apparent pretense at collaborating was quickly vanishing. “That’s insane! You’re throwing your life away over a salary and some benefits you MIGHT get?!”
The ground shook again as cracks began to appear on the ceiling. ‘Gordon’s really pounding the Hell out of this place. I hope he quits on time,’ thought Ballantyne worriedly.
The Doctor frowned for the first time. “Everything I am I owe to this Company!”
A larger tremor shook the room as chunks of masonry came off the ceiling. “You’re nuts and this company SUCKS!” Cried Keith ducking a piece of concrete.
“I am disappointed in you, Mr. De Rose, specially in this moment of truth! Behold! Cyber-Khan!” said the Doctor with a flourish. One of the screens enlarged to show a large section of ground on a field north of Waurika slide aside to reveal the steel-lining of a vertical tunnel. Strobe lights flashed and horns blared as something gradually came up via elevators. First came a head with glowing, yellow lights for eyes and skin painted a blazing, pearly white, warning red lights spun off the top of its sloping, reptilian skull, and its face was elongated into a reptilian muzzle with metallic teeth, topped with a glowing horn of yellow glass. This was followed by a gross neck made of black, spiked segments, mounted on a colossal set of shoulders of the same Pearly material. Two titanic cannons were mounted on these shoulders, which were attached to two thick arms ending in paws with missile-tipped claws. The arms flanked a barrel chest set in its center with a round, glowing lens, and flaring into an abdomen so vast it barely squeezed past the tunnel exit. The only way its gargantuan legs could be fitted into the robot’s enormous mass with just enough room to fit its thick, buzz saw-tipped tail.
As soon as the elevator stopped, flush to the ground, Cyber-Khan’s lights blazed even brighter, and a screeching siren/ roar announced its activation and as a warning to all ground units and bystanders. Immediately, booster rockets on clawed feet and flanks lit up burning to a crisp hundreds of square meters around the machine as it vaulted into the air, knocking down or destroying dozens of friendly units along with some hostiles. As soon as the monster was airborne, dozens of Pteradactix set upon it with frenzied gusto, obscuring its sensors and disrupting its flight pattern. The robot soon lost its balance in mid-flight due to the clouds of fluttering reptiles, and crash-landed while plowing a huge furrow down main street. Its plow ended by ramming into two buildings, which collapsed under the impact.
Ballantyne could clearly see the people-filled windows as the buildings quickly shattered into clouds of debris and dust. “Oh my God! That stupid piece of junk!”
“Junk?! I resent that label!” said the doctor offended. “It is the culmination of UberCorp Defensive Engineering.”
“Yeah. It protected them from getting killed by a Terrasaur by killing them first!” snapped Keith. “And what’s the big deal with making it look like a cartoon Terra Khan? It makes it look dumb!”
“The robot is programmed according to behavior patterns observed in Terra Khan. And its protein computer uses Terra Khan’s DNA. Its simplistic, instinctual behavior was ideal in designing its combat programs, and engineers said it would respond better if its morphology closely approximated that of Terra Khan’s.”
In its flight, Cyber Khan had blazed ahead of all its support and allied units, and the Radicals and The Crew were taking advantage of that momentary separation to cut it off from any help, with vehicles peppering it with rockets, grenades and cannon fire from the ruin.
Having fallen face-down and being half-buried in dirt and rubble, it took Cyber Khan a long time to recover. Time which Crew and Radicals took to bombard the hell out of it as it laboriously incorporated. By the time it was up, a dozen small fires blazed from as many breaches and holes in its chassis and its left shoulder-cannon had fallen off, as its left arm hung uselessly. The scene was being recorded from far up main street, and details were getting harder to see from a combination of a faulty feed and from increasing clouds of dust and smoke.
Cyber Kahn blasted up once more with its thrusters, but this time it was a short burst which caused it to lift up half its body height (some 30m) only to crash back down on the ground with Mountain-Rending force. The resulting shock wave stunned many Pteradactix out of the sky and blowing off the wheels and feet off most Green Fury vans and Terrasaur beasts. Even those in cover of the rubble. This attack is followed by the Cyber Khan firing its remaining shoulder-cannon and opening its mouth to release a sonic blast that knocks over more buildings concealing Units of Radicals and revealing the Crew’s four trucks.
The Crew apparently was expecting this move, despite having taken heavy damage from the attack, and opened up with all its weapons in a spectacular pyrotechnics display, which ended with the Rolling Ranch ramming one of its legs and sending Cyber Kahn tumbling back into another building. The giant robot loosed its balance backing off into a building, crashing into it and vanishing into a debris cloud. The frightening tremors were felt by Keith and Ballantyne despite the fact that this battle was taking place more than a mile away. Now, the lights were flickering constantly and the video feed was irregular, fading on and off into bursts of static.
“I think they took it down,” said Keith.
“No. It must still be up because they are still firing at it! We just can’t see behind the clouds!”
“The lady is correct!” exulted Dr. _01. “Its power plant must have shut down for a minute to allow the auxiliary to kick in for more power! In an instant its output will more than double and then you will see true Destruction!”
Just as the doctor finished speaking, the robot, despite massive damage and unrelenting punishment, surged up from the rubble and dust cloud to stomp at the Crew’s trucks as these beat a hasty retreat, but not before Cyber Khan reached the gear Jammer and punted it through a building with a single kick.
“No! NO! Pavel! Hannah!” screamed Keith as he saw the vehicle vanish behind clouds of dust and showers of rubble, just before the screen went blank.
“I take it you knew those people?” smiled Dr. _01 benignly.
“You SONOVAB-!!” Keith leapt over the desk with desperate agility to pummel at the still-smiling doctor.
Ballantyne was about to join him when a movement in one of the smaller screens caught her eye.
As Cyber Khan stomped after the rest of the Crew, another Titanic, reptilian figure charged through the smoke clouds and fire at full speed. Its massive, frilled head crowned with Jade spikes lowered and its claws poised. The Specimen was up and about again, god knew how. She had only seen it in its dormant state and never fully active. How it went from that compressed, wrinkled, spiky form to this ninety-meter juggernaut avalanche of fury and death was a mystery no one fully understood.
But there it was, goring Cyber Khan from behind, lifting its chassis overhead. Shaking the robot savagely to bits as its claws ripped at its hull with jade claws before tossing the whole pile of metal a full mile in the air.
Something must have caused Cyber Khan’s reactors to overload or reach critical during that punishing deadlift, because as it sailed through the air, Cyber Khan broke apart into several pieces which exploded into a spectacular rain of flames. Bigger than the Challenger explosion, the whole flaming wreck fell on the complex of Company offices, and Power Plants like an avalanche of Doom.
“This is going to hurt,” whined Ballantyne. “KEITH! DUCK!!” she shrieked trying to dive beneath Dr. _01’s desk before the world exploded around them and went black.
Next week: part 7 “THE WIZARD OF _01“