- Issue #73 – Give Thanks
- Issue #74 – Bit Part Bad Guys
- Issue #75 – Kaiju for Christmas
- Issue #76 – Silicon Soul, Adamantine Will
- Issue #77 – Date Night
- Issue #78 – Delved Too Deep (Une Mascarade Brisée Part 1)
- Issue #79 – Tome of Secrets (Une Mascarade Brisée Part 2)
- Descendants Special #7 – The Curtain Rises
- Issue #80 – Bitter Work
- Issue #81 – Kin, Speed and Ducks
- Issue #82 – What To Do With Your Downtime
- Issue #83 – Avalon Rises
- Issue #84 – Darkness Falling
- Descendants Annual #7 – First Frost
Issue #75 – Kaiju for Christmas
Kaiju For Christmas (Part 2)
“Gustav.” Oscar Gustav, one of Live Metal‘s executive producers, answered the call on the second ring. He was on the balcony of an upscale cafe in Tuscon, enjoying a light lunch. His enjoyment was swiftly crushed when he heard what the party on the other end of the line.
“What?! That’s not possible!” He paused, listening to the response. “No, I mean, it should be literally impossible! I don’t care how good a hacker someone is, the command links in all of our mecha have an extremely limited range for just that reason.”
Another pause and his expression turned haggard. “Well yes, obviously someone figured out how. We’re going to catch hell with… everyone. The only reason we can even do this show is the promise that the mecha can’t operate outside of our events. What did the police say?”
His eyes widened at the answer. “Didn’t call—why did you call me first?! Did you honestly think that a six story robot T-rex is something you could cover up? Call the police, Terry! Call the FBI—hell, call the army—call anyone that can stop it!”
Juniper was on the verge of giving up as the wandered the aisles of a men’s clothing store. She’d assumed that inspiration would strike her once she was there: Malcolm liked to dress nice whenever he was off work, so it seemed to her like something to make him look sharp would be the perfect gift.
As it turned out, she had no idea what size he was and without him standing right there, what colors would look good on him. All in all, she’s wasted the better part of an hour.
A hopeless sigh escaped her. At least she’d found Jessica’s gift easily: an articulated model of the Mars Habitation Module, the first manned object to land on Mars, to go with all the other astronomy-related artifacts that peppered Kay’s roommate’s shelves and desk.
While she wanted to get Malcolm something on her own, she was starting to fear that asking her father for help was the best course of action. Even so, it didn’t feel right: a present, in her opinion, should come from the giver. If it was the thought that counted, it should be her thoughts.
Her eyes settled on an orange ascot.
No matter how flawed those thoughts might be.
A hand softly prodded her shoulder and she almost jumped before hearing her father’s voice. “Willow, we’ve got to go.”
She blinked. “Did I really take that much time?”
Pete held his palmtop up in her line of sight. “I just got a call from General Pratt. I’ll explain on the way, but your mom is already prepping The Rook for launch.”
He didn’t need to say more. If her mother felt they needed the extra resources of her airborne carrier, then Juniper knew it was a serious matter. She nodded and followed him out of the mall.
It took them fifteen minutes to find someplace out of sight of the public and of cameras that wouldn’t immediately give away that they older man and young woman who just went by were Zero Point and Zero once they flew off. Once there, a section of a nearby park off the walking path, Juniper reached for the pendant hanging around her neck.
The bauble looked like a green-tinted, tear-shaped crystal, but at a murmured command, she caused the glamor cast on it to fade, revealing her D-icon. Another command activated it, replacing her street clothes with her hooded Zero costume.
Pete shook his head. “Wave of the future, I suppose. But I prefer the old school method of dressing in layers.” With that, he undid the buttons of his shirt, revealing the white suit with the familiar 0-P logo on his chest.
“Zero Point and Zero here, General.” Zero Point reported over is comm.
“Majestrix. I’m here too, just getting into the air. What’s the problem and where are we headed?”
After a few moments, the voice of General Pratt came in over all their comms. “I think I’ll leave it to the people on the ground to explain this one. We’re routing your comms over to Shaquille Hardison, chief engineering consultant with Spectacle In Action Entertainment Group for the specifics.”
“Where do I know that name from?” Majestrix muttered mostly to herself.
“Possibly the credits for Live Metal or Impossible Build.” a new voice came on, presumably the aforementioned Shaquille Hardison “Live Metal is the problem at hand, actually. As you may or may not know, we were having an event down at Scattered Lake. Unfortunately, about an hour ago, someone stole one of our robots.”
Zero Point made a thoughtful sound before saying, “I’m going to guess this isn’t all you have to tell us. People don’t get routed to the General and then to us over some stolen property.”
Hardison considered his words for a moment. “Sir, the robots on Live Metal are built by some of the brightest, most ambitious minds in the field of robotics—DARPA candidates, every one of them. In fact, DARPA is a silent sponsor for the show for headhunting purposes.
“Each one of these machines is a fully capable combat machine that isn’t being deployed by the military purely due to cost and efficiency issues. In fact, we have to have seventeen different licenses and special dispensations to operate them at all and have to install regularly inspected range limiters on all equipment as well as cutting edge security approved by the NSA.”
Zero, flying beside her father, looked over at him. “I’ve seen that show a few times.” More than a few; Tink loved the show, so it was on in the upstairs commons at Freeland House quite often. “Some of these robots are as strong as the Queen’s Gambit.”
“Oh, I think we’ll see about that.” Majestrix said from the flight deck of the Rook. “I usually have to hold back because of collateral damage or because the target is human.”
Knowing not to challenge her mother on the capabilities of her war machine, Zero addressed Hardison. “So which robot is it?”
“Rex the Wrecker. I can give you the rundown…”
“That’s not good.” said Zero, missing the last part. “Rex is Tom Simpson’s. His motto is ‘Overbuild for Overkill’. It probably has more weapons than the National Guard!”
Hardison cleared his throat. “I actually have Tom’s last approved load-out for Rex: two five-inch plasma lances, eight Scrambler light ground-to-ground missiles, a single forward-mounted, eighteen-inch PSM generator, three .50 caliber machine guns—on on the back, two slung under the belly,–a tail mounted rail gun firing custom tungsten slugs with an explosive charge that will destroy them if they lose contract with a beacon with a three hundred meter range that comprises the tail, and a pair of thirty-six inch diameter diamond buzz-saws that can extend to mount on the forearms.
“He also equipped it with extended durations jump jets, a pair of ram boosters, and an uni-directional standing field generator.”
Majestrix let out a low whistle. “That’s one tough dino, Mr. Hardison. It must run very hot and need an incredible power plant.”
“Heat shouldn’t be a problem for it, as it has topped off coolant and vent systems. As for the power plant, the Lithium conversion fuel cell will probably give it six hours of operating time—depending on how often it uses its most energy intensive weapons of course.”
“Of course.” said Majestrix, Her tone said that she’d already checked out of the conversation and was putting together a plan.
Zero Point stepped in for her. “So we really only have to minimize the damage it does until the batteries die. Five hours and counting. Do we know where it is?”
“Yes, Sir.” said Hardison. “All of the Live Metal mecha are fitted with a dedicated GPS system so that our camera drones can follow the action across expansive battlefields and through debris. We’ve had a GPS lock on Rex the entire time. That’s why the National Guard elevated up to the Pentagon and then to you.”
The reason for that was obvious: time was of the essence and the military felt that Zero Point and Majestrix could do the job with less chance of casualties—which meant the robot was already in or near a populated area. “Right. So where it is, Mr. Hardison.”
Hardison coughed. “It’s been evading visual confirmation somehow, but GPS has it headed straight for this small city… or large town on the border called Windy Mesa.”
“Feed us the GPS lock, Mr. Hardison.” said Majestrix, surfacing from her gear-filled mind. “And General, have your people start with Windy Mesa: find any known hackers or mechanical experts around those parts on both sides of the border.”
“There is one more thing I should warn you about.” said Hardison. “Rex—all of our mecha—have heavily encrypted wireless control schemes The receiver has an extremely short range and without the connection, the mecha are missing key parts of their core logic. Whoever was able to take Rex over was a master hacker with toys we’ve never heard of.”
Majestrix let that sink in, then suppressed a laugh. “Oh. you’re worried that they might take over the Queen’s Gambit? Not unless they take me over. The only controls for it are the ones I’ll be sitting at. Just keep an eye on your robot, keep trying to jam the control signal… and help us figure out why it went to Windy Mesa.”
Food was a priority.
The creature that now called itself Wrex didn’t have an immediate need for sustenance: its host didn’t seem to need any sort of external energy and flowbeasts were ambush predators, designed to go long periods between feedings.
However, it occurred to Wrex that it no longer needed to wait for the opportunity to stumble along. With the mighty body and weaponry of its host, it could eat whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted, and whoever it wanted. Gluttony was a luxury of the truly mighty.
Unfortunately, the desert was lacking in meals fit for a giant such as itself. It sniffed out and consumed a nest of hares and a fox in its den, but those were just appetizers to acclimate itself to the prey available in its new environment. Something much larger was required to give it a proper meal.
So when it came upon what it assumed to be a road (it was made of what appeared to be a single slab of black stone spanning miles rather than the cobbles the hobgoblins near its swamp used to make safe the trails between their settlements), it chose to follow it. As said road was crawling with fast, swarming metal creatures not unlike its host, it chose to conceal itself, changing the color of its skin to match its surroundings and keeping a low profile.
As it hoped, the road led to a settlement—the largest it ever encountered—and not far from it, the welcome scent of food.
There was a sign marking the place and it took Wrex a few minutes to extrapolate from its host’s rudimentary mind that it read ‘Glennway Dude Ranch Resort’. Dude had no meaning, but ‘ranch meant a place where large, domesticated animals were bred.
Keeping its chameleon-like camouflage in place, it stalked through the semi-orderly rows of trees planted around the property. It was as if the local sapient beings had done everything to make its hunt as successful as possible: not only were the trees acting as a screen, but they were arranged to hide large sections of the land from each other. Plus, the entire place had been built upwind of the desert the trees and modified grass were meant to combat.
The prey couldn’t smell Wrex, but it could smell them perfectly.
Soon enough, it could see them as well. Through a windbreak of tall cedar trees, it spied a dozen horses in a corral, getting their daily exercise while a handful of resort staff looked on.
Wrex didn’t know what a horse was, but it did know that they smelled like food. The only thing between it and them were a fence it could easily crush and the trees, which were set too close to one another for it to push through easily—but weren’t anywhere near strong enough to hold it back if it… insisted.
One step followed another, the incredible weight of its host’s chassis and weaponry supported by an internal skeleton of revolutionary composite materials. After a dozen step, Wrex had reached its top speed of thirty miles and hour and came crashing through the treeline.
The fence was a non-issue; a long stride carried Wrex beyond it without even touching it.
Both horses and staffers panicked, and while the later could run for the barn, the former were trapped in the corral with the murderous beast bearing down on them.
Wrex charged into the midst of them, lowering its head to bring its great jaws into play. A yearling was too slow to turn aside and found itself caught in a trap of serrated teeth. As Wrex’s host didn’t have a stomach or digestive system, it engulfed the unlucky creature in a flow of leathery flesh to be digested at its leisure.
It wasn’t done yet; not with so much delectable meat on display for it. With the first horse still struggling inside a deadly cocoon, it lowered its head and made to capture another.
Its teeth came down, only to squeal against a plane of blue force interposed between it and the terrified equine. Orange eyes followed the tangible beam of blue psychokinetic energy to it’s source: Zero Point.
“You’re a real sick on, aren’t you, buddy?” the hero accused. “What do you gain for terrorizing a bunch of poor, dumb animals?”
“Actually horses are pretty smart.” Zero said over the comm.
“Not really the time.” said Zero Point. Then he took a closer look at the thing he’d interrupted. “Are we sure this is a robot?”
Up in the Rook, hovering over the resort, Majestrix was strapping herself into the Queen’s Gambit on the launch deck. “I can only hope so, because I’ve done a full conversion for high-damage weaponry.”
Wrex was regarding Zero Point, trying to take his measure. No mages or sorcerers it knew of would save a random animal and try to speak. Their spells would be geared to harm, not defense. It was caught off guard when a second flying creature surrounded in blue energy flew up close to it.
“It does kind of look like an animal… or a monster and not a robot. Maybe we managed to find a second giant something in Windy Mesa?”
This one was too close for Wrex’s taste. It opened its mouth wide and charged its PSM emitter.
What Zero saw was the beast’s mouth open impossibly wide (with the trapped horse still trying to fight its way free) and the black material at the back of its gullet splitting. Behind it was the projection dish of an absolutely mammoth PSM emitter, which looked like the bastard child of a disco ball and a war crime. The device began to glow green as it charged.
“…Or not.” Zero amended as Wrex fired.
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