Monday, April 17, 2017

Chapter 5

Kilgor crunched down on the Life Savor, chewed it into bits, swallowed, then popped in another, looping the tip of his dark-splotched tongue in its center while shedding the vibration of Dolomedes and followed Gorrack into an office. 
The bald guy with a long sliver of jagged chrome sliced down the right side of his cheek bone swiveled around. And smiled.
“Good to see you again, Kilgor. Please,” he gestured a palm of five servo digits in chrome “sit.”
The walls in the room were blank, save for an abstract painting with four hooded figures riding inside transparent spheres in the sky. On the ground a circle of black figures kneeled, bowed their heads, and reached their arms and hands to the sky. Kilgor recognized the figures from his studies: The Metempsychosis Quartet, aka The Reckoning, aka the gods of the Shift, aka the new gods of the apocalypse.
The chair creaked as Clawdious leaned back and steepled his digits. “How is everything going for you so far, Kilgor?”
“Very well.” Kilgor noticed the snow globe at the edge of Clawdious’ desk animate. 
“How’s training going?”
“Good. I’ve not only beaten the Darken clan, I’ve taken out the leader, Rosha Kuulu.” His lips pulled back, revealing his canines.
Clawdious beamed. “This makes me very happy. Your virtual training has progressed quicker than expected. Do you feel you have advanced? Do feel as if it is a…bore?”
Kilgor shrugged. 
“It’s okay to admit it, Kilgor. Gorrack can always write a separate program that will make  your fights more difficult. It would help you advance. Gods in spheres know you need it. You need to be trained the very best you can. When the time comes, Kilgor, you will have a very important job to do. Gorrack and I encourage you to improve.”
It wasn’t that Kilgor felt the programs had been less of a challenge. It’s just he wished he could move forward and train hands-on. There was no doubt his neurotransmitters excelled. His brain swallowed knowledge by the buckets. Lately he treated the virtuals as games. He loved them. Hells, he couldn’t have been out of the vat more than two months already and his size had rocketed due to Gorrack’s Rapid Aging program—it also came with his focus as a trained killer. 
In the virtuals he had adopted a precognition, knowing his enemies next move. How he knew it, he did not know. Had Gorrack installed new software in his HeadKase? A precog app?
Hard to say.
Would he have the precog when confronted in a real fight? 
Still hard to say.
Most of the time he amused himself by allowing the gunslinger to draw first while he dropped to one knee and blasted the guy’s leg off. Or waited for the guard to round the corner where the innocent couple stood and back hand him with a fist, smashing his nose. 
“The more you improve, the quicker we’ll place you in your job. You don’t want to stay in the virtual world forever, right?” Clawdious raised a pencil-thin eyebrow that wasn’t there.
Kilgor shook his head.
“Good. The real challenge you’ll face will be in Ozarium,” he pointed a shiny digit, “beyond those walls. When you are ready, when you believe you have done all you can and you feel your skills are ready for use on the next level, please, let me know. We want you to feel confident and more than ready for the job. I truly believe you will be the very best bounty hunter in Westersphere. You will be our savior, Kilgor.”

#

“Nimbus, if you save us, I’ll spend the extra BodyKredd and update your CPU to eight point oh. I promise.” Kilgor clawed the arm rests and ground his canines as the craft shook.
I…am….working…on it….sir.
The bouncer jerked to the side, whipping Kilgor’s head and body in the same direction. Thank the gods for seat belts. “Try harder!”
The shriek from the metal beast returned, this time scraping the outside shell of the craft, forcing it into a spin. Warning lights chimed and red and yellow colors flashed over Kilgor’s dark skinned face. 
“Nimbus! Get the situation under control!”
Yes, s—
The seat belts squeezed Kilgor against the cushion as the bouncer rumbled and shook. A square piece of metal peeled off the bottom and shot into the air. Cracks carved into the windshield and the view switched from sky to ground as they nosedived.
Warning lights switched from a pleasant ear-friendly chime to an excruciating ear-piercing pain, bouncing off the walls in the cabin. Yellow lights became blurs. Red lights became liquid. Green ones were ooze. All the colors were bleeding together in Kilgor’s vision as the atmosphere inside shimmied, making him see double and then triple.
The turbines screamed as Nimbus tried reversing them.
The creature’s shriek overpowered the craft, shooting multicolored beams, giving it a swift punch in the side, forcing the craft to rocket sideways end over end.
“Nimbus! Get a hold on…this…thing!”
Nimbus’ reply severed in mid-sentence when another replaced the onboard computer in a monotone verbal:
SYSTEM CRASH. PLEASE REBOOT.
Crap! “Nimbus! You still with me?”
A pulse rippled through the craft, shaking it, making the windshield crack more.
SYSTEM CRASH. PLEASE REBOOT.
“How the hells am I supposed to reboot this mess? Nimbus! you still w—”
SYSTEM CRASH. PLEASE REBOOT.
Chimes screamed.
ABORT SEQUENCE INITIATED IN FIVE
The outside world was in multiple pieces, some demented abstraction, while trying to look through the multi-cracked windshield.
FOUR
Kilgor dug his claws into the fabric of the arm rests.
THREE
The seat belts squeezed more, making him gasp.
TWO
Kilgor snapped his eyelids shut as the horror inside slowly silenced.
ONE
The roof of the craft exploded, sending huge pieces of metal flying. 
ZERO. THANK YOU FOR YOUR PURCHASE OF THIS CRAFT. PLEASE VISIT OUR WEBSITE TO VIEW OUR VIRTUAL CATALOG OF PARTS AND OUR LATEST EMERGENCY EVACUATIONS.

GOODBYE.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Chapter 4

Kilgor located the icon, mentally slid the bar to the left.
Gorrack’s mouth moved but no words came out.
Kilgor slid the bar to the right.
<—id you figure it out?>
They stood in an octagon-shaped room with a very loud, very large machine occupying the center of the floor. Appendages stretched from the creature and at each of its eight endings a pair of robots picked off metal parts from the conveyer and snapped them onto a small figure. Once it was complete, the figure was placed on a cart and shoved into another room through a thick plastic curtain.
Above their heads an ouroboros-shaped metal walkway with railing ran the length of the room, hooked to the cavern walls. 
Dr. Livingston had installed Kilgor’s HeadKase. Nice guy. A genius in Kilgor’s book. He could figure out damn near anything. But having issues keeping the robots alive and working? That’s hard to believe. 
Kilgor didn’t admit it either, using Splice to divide his thoughts from the mental verbals he used to speak to Gorrack.
Gorrack explained.
Gorrack gestured with an open palm,
Kilgor shook his head.
Kilgor followed Gorrack through a spot on the wall and into another room. The spot spiraled shut, shutting out Dolomedes. Ten beds were set up and occupying each were children strapped down while an IV and bag fed their jugular’s. Their eyes were shut. Their grey skin stretched over their bones and their fingers were long, sleek, with fingernails as sharp as razors.
“These are the only children from Ozarium we’ve been able to capture,” Gorrack said, switching off his telekinetic, “The IV is feeding them a pre-Shift drug called Rohypnol to keep them knocked out and dormant. The drug used to be used for sever insomnia. It’s a central nervous system depressant that creates a general slowing down of their brain activity. Too much of the drug—which in this case we induce because of how dangerous they are—slows their heart rate and lowers their blood pressure.
“The kids are scheduled for HeadKase installments from Dr. Livingston. That way, they can be controlled. When Clawdious, Kimberly and Barrabas collected them, going out on their own, I wish I could say they returned unscathed. These kids hurt them pretty bad. Notice Barrabas’ chrome teeth and Kimberly’s optical where her right eye used to sit?”
Kilgor nodded. Kimberly’s eye always gave him the creeps. It didn’t move with her other,  as if the servo had a mind of its own, rolling in its socket, focussed on something else when you spoke to her. 
“You don’t even have to ask what happened to Clawdious. Think about how he looks. Those kids tore the hells out of him.”
Gorrack was right. Clawdious’ hands had to be replaced. 
“If Kimberly and Barrabas hadn’t been there, the bald guy would be long dead.”
“When we created you, Kilgor, we made sure you would be fit for this job. We needed to develop an individual nearly super-human to take the punishment these creatures you see in the beds would dish out. Your stamina and strength and knowledge how to perform your job has been infused into you. You will do well in your job, Kilgor. I guarantee it.”

#

Wisps of smoke leaked into the room and curled around one of the broken bodies. Shapes of tiny hands lifted the clone to her feet. Ghosts of Maximus Slader’s dead children had come to help. The first to rise was a girl whose neck was twisted and angled wrong. Ripples ran the course of her neck and deep canals had burrowed where the skin had failed to rip. The girl’s pupil hid halfway inside the lid, half out, as if peeking over a straight edge; while the other eye rolled back and forth in the socket until focussing on Kilgor.
The corners of the girl’s lips twitched, then she stretched a smile.
The second broken body rose. The head wobbled on the shoulders, unable to stay balanced. But did not stave away her giggling.
Kilgor could hear bone scrape against bone.
The second body’s face was a frozen mask. She could only blink.
The third clone with the smashed face, wearing a mask of blood, her flesh shoved against bone, the cartilage in her nose defunct, twitched her cheek and lifted the corner of her mouth as she rose. 
And the fourth had managed to rise, save for its right leg bent in the wrong direction. She pulled back her split lips, showed her ivory points, and dragged her leg as she took a step forward.
Sir, I’m detecting something. 
“What is it? Because I may know what it is.”
It appears the building is restructuring itself.
“Perhaps I do not. Did you say restructuring itself?”
Yes, sir. In better terms, the building is alive. I cannot pinpoint the algorithm and stop the program. Your chance of survival is under fifty percent if you do not leave this second.
“Don’t have to tell me twice, buddy. Time to go.” 
Kilgor slipped another wintergreen Life Savor between his lips and slipped past the walking dead and dove into the hallway and rocketed off. The walls were indeed alive. A storm deep inside brewed. Buzzing. Humming. Making the floor vibrate under Kilgor’s boots as he ran. He had to take time to slap a claw on the wall to prevent a crash and a broken nose, smacking the floor face-first.
Sleet fell in sheets, the sound swelling around him as he climbed the stairs, sometimes in twos.  
We….see…..you….goblin badger….
No escape….from….us…
The voice fused together hundreds of vocal cords of children, all speaking the warning in unison, each with their own sociopathic intrigue. Some took turns linking into the telekinetic option of Kilgor’s HeadKase: 
<Us….>
<Goblin badger!>
The sleet behind the walls smashed, blocking out the voices as Kilgor ran down the hall to the doorway. Behind him, the skin on the walls began to split, pouring forth chrome servo bugs. Rapidly climbing over each other as they swarmed. 
The exit spiraled shut.
And Kilgor blasted it open with his gun.
A hand grabbed his ankle as he stepped onto the roof.
The corpse’s face peered up at him. Cackled. The hole in the skull showed the mutant worms squirming. They scattered from the corpse’s battered clothing and skeleton and formed a figure sheathed with moving worm flesh.
“Open the door, Nimbus.”
Yes, sir.
The pneumatic door whispered shut.
“Juice the turbines, buddy, and let’s get the hells outta here.” As soon as Kilgor strapped in the seat craft slid sideways, toward the blown door of the building.
The roof had slanted.
And the invertebrate figure developed in worm flesh grew in size and reached out both hands to make purchase on the craft.
However.…
The nose of the bouncer whipped around in time for it to connect and launch the figure off the building. Kilgor caught sight of the swarm of chrome servos pouring out of the doorway, fusing together, shaping into a black oval. Multiple spots rippled across the surface and faces of the children appeared, giggling, winking. The collage expanded and the multiplicity of the children opened their mouths, serrated ivory points chewing the air.
“Get us the hells out, Nimbus!”
The turbines shrieked as the bouncer launched into the sky, scorching huge face of the children. Their expressions scowled and the face returned inside the doorway.
The building shimmered.
And shook.
A relay spun and a long whirr stabbed the air. Glass windows shattered in an ocean wave on each of its four sides, crashing into the ground below. The frames bent inward, drowning in a pitch black darkness. A loud clank ricocheted off far away buildings as long arms pulling away from the sides of Slader Corp. The flat top of the building reformed and chrome bugs linked themselves together and shaped into a long beak with glowing red eyes. The structure shifted itself, transforming into a hunched over creature with long claws and a wide span of wings.
The face reared back at the sky, opened its beak and shrieked, shattering more windows on other buildings. It’s rage exhausted sound waves through the air, found the bouncer’s frame, grabbed hold and forced it a struggle to blast into the sky.