Monday, August 8, 2011

Human Black Box: Things Go Sideways (pt 8)

In the last installment of Human Black Box, the team received a message from Antares telling them that there was something that had already set up shop at Area 51 - a TITAN, or a fragment of one, named Ares. In notifying them of that fact, Antares alerted everything within 50 miles of their current location, and with that, they became the target of every TITAN device within that area. From automated attack bikes to cars to attack jets, the team has managed to stay ahead of the devices ... until now, on the ledge overlooking a deep descent into the Colorado river, between several jets and a very, very steep fall...

You can find the archives here; parts 1-7.
This is the last part of Act 1: Things Go Sideways.
The rock tumbled down the Black Canyon, to the dried banks of the Colorado River. It was quite the fall.

Chloe: [I don't supposed we can teach it too, can we?]

Zira: [Not unless you're game to go out there and strap some jets on the side of it. Otherwise, I don't think this thing can fly.]

Chloe looked out the windows on the back of the crash van, riddled with cracks and broken, splintered fragments. The actual glass had yet to give in, though, and through those spiderweb cracks, she could see the jets moving in closer and closer.

She raced up to the front and spotted the large dam, looking back at the jets.

Chloe: [There! It's a bridge! Blue, tell the AGI to go over the dam!]

Blue (private chat #Chloe#): [I'm doing that right now.]

Chloe looked over as the crash van switched into reverse and started to go backwards, picking up speed as it did. Once it was far enough away from the ledge it spun on its side and took two of the missiles, slamming into the of the van with a loud roar and fiery explosion.

The tires ground against the dried earth and the crash vehicle picked up speed, careening off the road and onto the rocky area between the I-93 and US 93x. The jets made a wide loop, as the crash vehicle slammed on the gas and ripped over the rough, rocky terrain. Realizing that they weren't going to escape the jets until they'd either given them the slip or destroyed them, Chloe jumped over the seat and landed in the back again, grabbing the rocket launcher. The ride was rough and bumpy; the roar of the gravel under tire near deafening.

Once she was firmly in place in the back, she pushed open the doors and took aim at the first of the jets as it made a wide loop.

Ahmed: [You're not seriously trying to...]

Chloe: [Someone has to!]

She closed her eyes and hoped for the best, as Ahmed reached across and flipped open the sight. She looked over at him, as he patted her on the shoulder.

Ahmed (private chat #Chloe#): [Try it with the sight. That might make things easier.]

With the sight flipped open, Chloe crouched down on one knee, while leveling it over her shoulder. The launcher drew a bead on the first jet and she squeezed the trigger, the rocket screaming towards the jets. Unsurprisingly, the jet swung wide to avoid the hit - until the rocket, apparently some kind of heat-seeker, looped back around and rammed into the tailpipe of the jet, detonating. The nose of the jet went down, and the rest quickly joined it, slamming into the desert floor as the other two broke off in opposite directions.

Chloe: [Oh. It comes back.]

She looked at the rocket launcher, and then at the flaming debris of the jet scattered in the field.

Ahmed: [Big boom.]

As he leaned down beside her, the remains of the jet detonated in a large explosion.

Ahmed: [Shut the door, we're almost the...]

Ahmed was cut off when the nose of the crash vehicle went over the ledge and slammed into the ground. Inertia carried it forward, and the vehicle rolled, throwing everyone and everything around. It came to a stop teetering on its side, before it rolled back onto its wheels, the springs bouncing it back into place.

Chloe slammed on the floor, as the doors slapped shut. Ahmed was anchored in the front seat, and Hotaru was not far from where she'd been. Zaius had grabbed Zira and the two were in the front, along with Ahmed.

Ahmed: [Ah fuck.]

Chloe spat blood from her mouth, and a tooth along with it, and felt the back of her head. It wasn't sticky, but still didn't quite feel like getting up. Hotaru muttered something, and several missiles detonated against the sharp cliff face that they'd dropped off.

This wasn't going at all like they expected it. But at least they weren't dead yet.

The gears ground together and the engine rattled, but after several attempts, the crash vehicle lurched forward, sputtered to a stop, lurched forward, sputtered to a stop, and finally managed to get a better start, racing down a dirt path towards US 93x.

Ahmed (private chat #Chloe#): [If it's not your AI friend trying to kill us it's this damn AGI.]

Chloe forced herself on her knees. She hurt really bad now; there was nothing worse than being thrown around like a rag doll while your crash vehicle did a barrel roll off of what looked like a 10 foot drop. The crash vehicle turned off on US 93x, nearly loosing control as it did. Chloe slammed against the side of the crash vehicle, falling back down and catching Hotaru as she slid across the floor towards her. They were now on 93x, and were making for the dam.

The jets looped back around, and came in for another pass. Several rockets ripped through the air, slamming into the ground around them. Only one struck, and that one punched into the top of the crash vehicle. It'd taken a lot more damage than it was probably designed to take; the explosion ripped off a good part of the roof's armor, but didn't crack the vehicle yet.

Chloe scrambled and grabbed the launcher again, as the AGI drove right off the road, ignoring the narrow, hairpin corner easily, and then jumping on the Kingman Wash Access Road. She grabbed the doors and, with Zaius' help, managed to latch them shut.

Chloe (private chat #Zaius#): [I didn't think you were conscious.]

Zaius (private chat #Chloe#): [For what it's worth, I'm still half-hoping I'm not.]

Chloe climbed up into the front again, as they drove out onto the two lane road that spanned the Black Canyon. On one side was the dried up Colorado River, and on the other side was the empty basin where Lake Mead used to be, now just a flat stretch of land from where they were to the horizon. And it looked like there were more jets closing in from the north.

Several missiles screamed through the air. Chloe ducked and winced, expecting these to be the ones that killed them. She heard the loud explosions, but opened her eyes when she realized the missiles had hit. She watched as the jets flew overhead, and then heard the noise of crumbling.

Zira: [Oh fuck.]

Chloe watched from the passenger's seat as the dam started to crumble behind them. It started with a shrill, grinding noise and rumbling, before part of it caved completely.

Hotaru: [Ahead!]

Chloe spun and watched as the dam ahead of them began to collapse as well.

The AGI put on the gas as the dam ahead of them vanished. The road tilted on its way down as the crash vehicle raced straight up and launched itself off of the road. It slammed on the other side with a loud crash; nearly ripping the suspension out in the process. Chloe slammed her head against the dash and pulled herself out from under the windshield, watching through the passenger's window as the two parts of the dam collapsed fully. What followed was the rest of the dam going along with it in a loud and deafening roar.

But it didn't matter to them now; they were in Nevada, on the other side of the dam.

Chloe (private chat #Blue#): [You lied, Blue. These things can fly.]

Blue (private chat #Chloe#): [The AGI says it's not flying, it's jumping really good.]

Chloe (private chat #Blue#): [Whatever.]

Blue (private chat #Chloe, Ahmed#): [The AGI wants it made known that this isn't going to last much longer. The jump nearly destroyed the undercarriage, and most of the other stuff is shot. We're going to need to think of something fast if we don't want to see ourselves blown to pieces.]

Chloe watched as the jet trails looped back around. There were more of them now, and they were closing fast.

Chloe (private chat #Ahmed, Blue#): [Ahmed! Your muse gave you a map, right?]

Ahmed (private chat #Chloe#)[Yeah.]

Chloe (private chat #Ahmed, Blue#) [How far are we from Las Vegas?]

The van slowed down as they made another tight, hairpin turn, and then started back up again, picking up speed.

The jets fired off another few missiles but missed, most of the missiles slamming into the ground as the AGI pulled evasive maneuvers to avoid them.

Ahmed (private chat #Chloe, Blue#): [We're closer to Boulder City.]

Chloe jumped over the back seat, grabbing the stuff. The Hoover Dam access road continued to weave through the rough terrain, a missile slamming into the Great Basin Highway just over them - I-93 - and bringing it crashing to the ground. The jets soared overhead, getting ready for a second pass.

Chloe: [Are there any buildings nearby?]

Zira: [There should be. We've camped there in the past, on our way out of Las Vegas!]

Chloe: [Then hold on, I've got an idea!]

Route 172 continued to weave, until it connected back up with I-93.

Once it did, they were on the highway again.

Up ahead, a building called Hacienda Hotel and Casino rose up from the desert. It was every bit as battered and shabby looking as their crash vehicle was. The crash vehicle made a sharp turn towards it, as the jets caught back up. The first missile slammed into the back of the vehicle, detonating in a massive fireball. It blew the vehicle off its wheels, spinning it around as the next missile ripped into the front. The whole side was engulfed in the fire ball. It tipped, slammed on its side, and a final missile eviscerated the crash vehicle from beneath, leaving little behind save the smoking, crackling fires and the shattered, blackened debris.


Chloe rubbed her elbow, holding out under the awning as the last of the missiles ripped through the crash vehicle. Hotaru was nearby, and as far as Chloe knew, Zaius and Zira were hiding out somewhere in the parking lot. Ahmed wasn't far off either; the battered synth staggered out of the fire, and collapsed on the ground, playing dead.

Hotaru looked up at Chloe, holding onto her bag tightly. They waited in the shade, as the jets circled overhead, made several passes, and then fanned out, vanishing just over the horizon.

Ahmed: [This is where I question how smart an idea that was.]

Chloe: [They're not chasing us anymore, are they? See, that's what we call "a good thing".]

Chloe turned around and opened the doors, a blast of cooler air hitting her in the face as she stepped into the casino and hotel.

Ahmed: [Oh no. I'm not doing this again. Remember what happened in the last casino and hotel we were in? I don't feel like playing the odds this time around and actually letting them kill us.]

She looked over her shoulder at Ahmed, who hobbled towards them on a bum leg.

Chloe: [Then what are your thoughts? It's something like 6% humidity out here. You may not have a biological body, but those of us that do will are feeling like we're being tanned. And not in the tanning bed sense. In the leather tanning sense.]

She opened the doors and stepped inside, as Zira and Zaius caught up with them. It was dark and cool; with just a little light filtering through the boarded up windows.

Zira: [We're safe here. The swarms don't come this way, and the last time we were here, there weren't any robots. We were able to camp out with another survivalist group; we could probably spend the rest of the day and the night here and not get caught.]

They walked onto the casino floor, Chloe falling backwards into one of the seats.

Chloe: [Good. I'm so tired of being shot at, stabbed in the general direction of, having buzz-saws inches away from my face or attempts of blowing me up with rockets.]

Ahmed: [But we're not, so it doesn't matter.]

"Why?" Chloe asked, perhaps a little more heatedly than she intended.

Ahmed pointed outside at the van.

Ahmed: [It's really simple. See, the TITANs are fucking nuts, but they're not fucking stupid. And neither are their toys. They're going to send ground forces to investigate, just to make sure that they killed their target. We don't want to be here when that happens.]

Chloe scowled, looking over at Zira and Zaius.

Zaius: [Well, if we're going to go into Las Vega, we should go while the sun is up. There are... things in Las Vegas that are better left alone after dark.]

Chloe: [Things like?]

Zira: [ES-Mikhail? Is that his name?]

Zira looked over at Zaius.

Zaius: [I believe it is.]

They had all taken a seat, and were collecting themselves.

Chloe: [Who's that?]

Zaius: [ES-Mikhail is a Posthuman. It classifies itself as an Exhuman, and it claims to rule all of Las Vegas. With the kind of abilities that Mikhail has, and how twisted Mikhail is, I'm not surprised that Mikhail has managed to build his own little fiefdom in Las Vegas.]

Chloe: [What's an Exhuman?]

Ahmed: [Just that. Someone who thought transhumans were too weak so they moved on. They're Nietzsche Wannabes; why be hindered by such things like 'morality' and 'humanity' when you can shed them all together and become something decidedly less than most animal life?]

Chloe looked down at Hotaru, and helped her up on a seat.

Chloe (private chat #Hotaru#): [You don't have to sit on the floor, Hotaru.]

Hotaru (private chat #Chloe#): [I know. But I'm used to it.]

Chloe (private chat #Hotaru#): [We'll have to fix that. (#Hotaru#/#public#) So... This Mikhail guy is a human who decided he didn't want to be human anymore? So what is he now?]

Zira and Zaius looked at one another.

Zaius: [Well, ES-Mikhail classifies itself as the ultimate hunter. Nobody's ever really seen Mikhail proper, but his other post-human enforcers, ES-Hypocrite, ES-Knives, and ES-Genocide, we've had the misfortune of meeting. Mikhail owns some parts of Las Vegas and enforces that ownership. Other parts aren't owned by him because there's something far worse. Last time we were through Las Vegas, we just barely managed to get out with our skins.]

Chloe: [What's worse than him?]

Zira: [Exsurgents. I originally mistook you for one, remember? There's a collective of Exsurgent infected residents who hide out in the city; they still look, for the most part, like regular transhumans. We thought they were other survivors until we learned what they were. Then we got the hell out of there ASAP.]

Chloe: [Okay, but that's not telling me anything.]

Ahmed (private chat #Chloe#): [I'll be sure to tell you more later, once we're off planet. In the meantime, just know that Exsurgents are bad news. Very, very bad news. (#Chloe#/#public#)Well, this is just fucking peachy. On the one hand, Exsurgents. On the other hand, Exhumans. Just outside the city limits, a TITAN or TITAN remnant. Is someone trying to prove a point?]

Chloe: [I don't know.]

Zira: [Mikhail isn't normally active during the day, and neither are his lackeys. The Exsurgents, though, are. We need to move quickly, and we need a vehicle if we're going to do this. Walking is asking for trouble. You don't walk through the Las Vegas fiefdom. Normally, the Exsurgents and the Exhumans are fighting one another, so maybe we could play that to our advantage. Maybe.]

Chloe watched Zaius stand up.

Zaius: [There's a few vehicles out in the parking lot. If we can check, maybe we can get two of them working.]

Zira: [I'll go too. This shouldn't take long... hopefully]

Zira walked past, picking up a gun.

Chloe rubbed Hotaru's hand. She was obviously nervous and scared.

Chloe (private chat, #Hotaru#):[We'll get through. I promise.]

Hotaru (private chat, #Chloe#): [I trust you. And I hope you're right.]

Chloe (private chat, #Hotaru#): [So do I, Hotaru. So do I.]


  1. The tires ground against the dried Earth

    Earth refers here to dirt, not the planet, and should not be capitalised.

    With the sight flipped open, crouched down on one knee, while leveling it over her shoulder.

    She or Chloe crouched. Otherwise it's a sentence fragment.

    some kind of heat-seaker


    Ahmed had leaned down beside her when the jet detonated, and continued burning.

    "Ahmed had leaned down beside her when the jet detonated. It was continuing to burn." The current phrasing implies Ahmed is burning.

    [Shut the door, we're almost the...]

    Ahmed was cut off

    Either it's Chloe talking or it has the wrong colour.

    It came to a stop on teetering on its side

    Remove the first "on".

    Hotaru was not far from where she was

    Where she had been. ("Wherever you go, there you are.")

    Chloe spat blood from her mouth, and a tooth along with it, feeling the back of her head.

    "...tooth along with it. She felt the back of her head."

    didn't quiet feel like setting up.

    Quite, not quiet.
    What's "setting up" supposed to mean?

    This wasn't going at all like they expected it.

    Like they'd expected.

    The crash vehicle turned off on US 93x, nearly loosing it as it did.

    Losing, but losing what?

    looped back around, and come in


    only one struck

    Only should be capitalised as the beginning of a sentence.

    One one side was the dried up Colorado river

    On one side.
    "Colorado River" is a proper noun, so both words should be capitalised.

    the nose of crumbling


    tilted on it's way down


    off of the road, clearing the collapsing dam under it and slamming down on the other side

    " of the road. It cleared the collapsing dam under it and slammed down on the other side..."

    it didn't matter to them now, they were in Nevada

    Colon, not comma.

    more of the now, and they were closing

    More of them.

    the vehicle off it's wheels


    Chloe rubbed her her elbow

    Extra "her".

    they waited in the shade

    Beginning of a sentence, so "They" should be capitalised.

    those of us that will are feeling like we're being tanned

    Those of us that do.

    It classifies itself as an Exhuman [...] build his own little fiefdom

    I can certainly see myself unable to decide between "it" and "he", but that sort of realism isn't too common amongst fictional characters. I thought I'd point it out in case you didn't mean and don't want to do that.

    itself a the ultimate hunter.


    One one hand

    On the one hand.

    [This shouldn't take long. Hopefully. ]

    There's a space between the "Hopefully." and the end bracket.


    This is the last part of the "Things Go Sideways" arc.

    While it's not exactly a cliffhanger, it hardly looks like the end of an arc, either. What do you mean by it being the end?

  2. What happened is that I used the wrong word (acts is the word I should've be using), but because I didn't catch myself until I went back and looked over my notes again (that would be today), I've rubbing my temples in frustration and meaning to go back and fix them.