Thursday, September 8, 2011

Human Black Box: What Happens in Vegas... (pt. 6)

In the last installment of Human Black Box, the team found themselves the unlikely allies of the exhumans. Two enemies working towards the same goal... it helps that Mikhail is holding Cornelius hostage. Chloe's scheme is to go along until the time is right, and then plunge the knife into their back - of course, that means not turning hers. After all, if she's planning to betray them, it doesn't take a genius to figure out they're going to do the same thing...

You can find all the previous parts of Human Black Box here, in the Human Black Box archive.

In the meantime, it's off to the picture show!

Vegas, in the dark, was little more than a twisted maze of blasted out ruins, strange growths, and unnatural shadows that almost certainly didn't belong to creatures Chloe recognized. She could only watch as her dreams of catching up on any rest went right out the window; she was pushing more than twenty-four hours since she last slept. The first rays of sun broke over the mountains to the east, reflecting off of the bright, if not shattered, tarnished, and dust covered, glass skyscraper faces.

She was driving; probably not the smartest decision given that she was very tired and her reaction time was off, but Mikhail had assured her that whatever she hit and ran over probably deserved it in some form or another. She had a general idea where they were at - they were traveling north along South Ranchero Drive - but where exactly was lost on her.

At least, that was until Mikhail leaned over the topless car, grabbing her shoulder and snapping her out of her fatigue. She jarred up, looking around. Hotaru was beside her, with Zira in the backseat. Zaius was driving the other vehicle, with two other exhumans with him. There was a third exhuman, but they'd jumped ship and vanished a while back. When Mikhail grabbed her shoulder, Chloe looked up and spotted the third exhuman, and put the brakes on, bringing the car to a stop. Zaius did the same, as the exhuman started towards them.

ES Mikhail: [He says that the Warbot and the headhunters are inside of the airport, along with the hunter-killers.]

Chloe: [Oh good. Let's just call in the military strike then and be done with it. Nuke this whole fucking city.]

She could see the sign announcing the presence of Las Vegas airport, but, more importantly, she could see the airport itself off in the distance, its shattered buildings rising up and reflecting the sunlight in the distance.

Zaius: [So, brave commander, any ideas?]

Chloe: [I told you. Call in the military and have them blow this fucking place to kingdom come.]

Zaius: [Wonderful. Do you have them on speed dial?]

Chloe: [No. I was hoping you did.]

She was despondent, but the tone didn't carry through.

ES Mikhail: [The three of you - you, me, and Knives will find the Warbot and put it out of business. The other two - Hypocrite and Apocalypse - will make their way to the hunter killers and take those out. We can't destroy the TITAN equipment; I know that much. But we can put it out of action long enough to make the attack on Area 51 that much easier.]

Chloe looked up at hir. That was the first thing that had gotten through her sleepless haze all conversation.

"Wait. We can't destroy them?"

ES Mikhail: [Did I stutter? You can't destroy them for good. You can take them down, put them in repair for a long time, but I have yet to see a TITAN device utterly destroyed for good.]

"Fuck it all. I hate this planet."

ES Mikhail reached down and picked up their rocket launcher, running hir hand over it.

ES Mikhail: [This should be enough. One clear shot is all I need. Drive, transhuman.]

Chloe: [What do you want me to do - run my car through the front doors?]

The interior of the airport was filled with soft and quiet stagnation caused by the already rising heat. This was quickly dismissed when the front end of the car, careening down the airport road, slammed into the glass facade. In a spray of glass slivers and twisted metal, the front wall vanished, and the car ripped through the bone-filled airport, ripping up seats and knocking over other artifacts along the way, as Chloe brought the car to a stop.

Chloe pushed her green hair away from her face. "You know, that felt really satisfying."

Hotaru looked up, blinking in surprise.

"Well, they know we're here," Zira said.

Chloe: [This is what you call a "suicide mission."]

They could already hear the buzz of the headhunters. She had no idea how many of them were in here, but it didn't matter - one was too many. She slammed on the gas, throwing Mikhail backwards as she raced down the narrow corridor, sending a shower of sparks as the rear view mirror ripped off. Zaius was right behind her; the noise of the headhunters was more than enough warning to not get out of the vehicle.

The first few headhunters appeared, cutting around the corner only to run square into the front end of the car. The car was violently jarred as she ran over it, the buzzsaw ripping up the tires. She continued, as the rim hit the tiled floor and threw a spray of sparks. The other headhunters ducked aside, as still more appeared.

This was stupid. Chloe had no words to describe how stupid this was.

She continued flooring it, until several more headhunters appeared. Hotaru was clinging onto her, as Mikhail looked back at her.

ES Mikhail: [What are you doing?! Stop!]

Chloe: [What the hell? You don't stop when these things are after you!]

Chloe paused, an idea flashing into her head, as Zira leaned over the back and took potshots at the headhunters, Mikhail hitting the deck to avoid getting shot. While Zira wasn't purposefully aiming for hir, both Mikhail and Chloe knew she wouldn't try to avoid hitting hir, either.

Chloe: [Hold on. I have an idea.]

Zira: [Good or bad?]

Chloe: [That'll depend upon whether or not we walk away.]

The car tore through the next lobby, knocking over a garbage bin. There were more headhunters behind them now than she knew what to do with - they were keeping up, but just barely. This was looking less and less like an intelligent idea and more and more like an even stupider one.

Blue (private chat, #Chloe#): [Just what exactly is your plan?]

Chloe (private chat, #Blue#): [This is an airport. That means there's jet fuel stored here. Jet fuel explodes. If I can get enough of these fuckers following behind me and ram the car into a tanker of jet fuel, then I'll take a whole bunch of them out.]

Blue (private chat, #Chloe#): [I see. Now, how are we going to escape that?]

Chloe (private chat, #Blue#): [I'm still working that out.]

Chloe turned the car suddenly - without the wheel it didn't turn on a dime anymore, but it never really did anyway. She looked up and watched the headhunters close in and then then floored it towards a hangar. A light activated on her forehead in the t-ray spectrum, and the doors revealed what was behind them. She looked over at Hotaru, and took her by the hand.

Chloe (private chat, #Zira, ES Mikhail, Hotaru#): [When I say jump, jump!]

ES Mikhail: [Jump from a moving vehicle? You are insane.]

Chloe tired to find a response to that, but couldn't. The thought of an exhuman calling her mentally unstable terminated any feeble train of thought she had in her head at that time. She pushed it aside, and drove the car right through the doors of the hangar. She grabbed Hotaru, and jumped out.

Chloe: [JUMP!]

She curled Hotaru up inside of her and hit the ground, rolling and irritating that broken rib again. She came tumbling to a stop, as Zira landed nearby. Mikhail hit the ground as well, and was back on his feet before any of the others. Chloe forced herself upright, still gasping for air, and grabbed Zira, as the headhunters came through en masse. Ahead was a side door; she slammed it behind her, as the car slammed into a container.

It worked almost exactly like she'd originally planned.

The jet fuel - or whatever fuel she'd floored the car into - detonated in a flash and blew the windows of the hangar out. The door nearly caved as well, and the loud rumble gave way to an even louder one as the four of them made a quick escape; more fuel detonated, followed by yet another explosion - this one forcing everyone to duck behind something as the top of the hangar vanished in a large fireball. Burning debris rained down around them, as Chloe looked over the concrete barricade that she had ducked behind.

Chloe: [Holy shit that actually worked.]

Blue: [Holy shit it did. How did you know you had a T-ray emitter?]

Chloe: [I saw it when I broke my ribs earlier. When I got the medical read out, I got a display of everything that was inside of this body. I know what this body can do; it's a shame it took breaking two ribs to figure that out.]

Zaius: [That wasn't even half of the headhunters. But that was pretty amazing.]

Chloe looked around.

Chloe: [So where are the other half?]

Zaius: [Chasing after us. We're ahead of them, though - you, Zira, Hotaru and the exhuman go deal with the Warbot; me and these two clowns will try and outrun these headhunters and keep them away from you.]

Chloe looked back at Mikhail, as he flung the rocket launcher over his shoulder. Zira was holding her gun; thankfully, she'd grabbed another. She tossed it at Chloe, who caught it.

Chloe: [I'm not sure what good this will do.]

ES Mikhail: [Distract it. Give me one good shot.]

Hotaru: [We're dead. We are so dead.]

That was probably the last thing she wanted to hear. She pinched her nose, looked at the gun, and that, along with her exhaustion, created a rising tension that she eventually let loose.

Chloe: [What if we're already dead? What if... what if we died in the Fall, and this is us being damned to Hell for an eternity. Then we're already dead, so you don't have worry about it. I mean, hell - look at our company. Two monkeys, a cannibal sociopath, and God only knows what you do - have you done anything? - and we're trapped here, on this hellhole, trying to find a way off by sticking our heads in the mouth of a fucking lion. And we wonder why it's going to bit down!]

Her gestures were exaggerated and drenched in acrid bitterness. Hotaru frowned, looking down at her feet. The full magnitude of what she'd said hit home, and Chloe frowned sadly too.

Chloe: [I'm sorry. I'm tired, but it's not an excuse.]

ES Mikhail: [Don't lag, transhumans.]

Zira (private chat, #Chloe#): [Oh, I'm sure it matters. I'm sure it's so important that we all acknowledge that, because it's impossible that other people could feel the same way.]

Chloe frowned, but didn't say anything. She followed as they walked back towards the airport terminal, stepping back through the shattered glass into the lobby that Chloe had just driven through.

Chloe (private chat, #Blue#): [I'm not being very productive, am I?]

Blue (private chat, #Chloe#): [Not acting like that. Focus on what's important. Don't feel sorry because you made a mistake and end up getting everyone killed.]

Chloe took Hotaru and gently wrapped an arm around her, holding the gun upright.

ES Mikhail (private chat, #Chloe#): [Keep your eyes open. Also, I find it interesting that your company has more internal strife than mine. I left transhumanity a long time ago; are all of you like this?]

Chloe (private chat, #ES Mikhail#): [Shut up, Mikhail.]

Mikhail looked back at her, and Chloe could just picture the arrogant smile under all that leather binding and metal that hie called a "mask." Hie turned around, as they stepped into another part of the terminal. Chloe spotted it first; the humanoid mass of metal and waving tentacles that slowly snapped to life, groaning as it struggled upright. Everyone else wheeled around as the towering warbot slowly stood up, the eyes flashing bright red, as it clutched the gun in hand.

Unknown: [Kes läheb seal?]

Chloe: [HOTARU! DUCK!]

Chloe shoved her aside. Hotaru hit the floor and ducked under several chairs, as Chloe and Zira fell backwards, opening fire with their rifles on the warbot. Both didn't expect anything from it; the rounds merely bounced off of the armor as the warbot twisted the large gun around and squeezed the trigger, the heavy round slamming into the ground between them. It was only split-second reflexes that kept them alive. Chloe hit the ground, sliding on her side and coughing. She still hadn't healed those ribs yet, but she didn't stay where she was to dwell on them. A few seconds after she slid out of the way, another round ripped into the floor, followed by several more, including a needle round that cut through her leg. She screamed and bit her tongue, two more of the rounds sinking into her chest as the larger round ripped into the ground and threw her sideways. She had no idea where anyone was at; the warbot was spamming so much ammunition and so many rounds that the room was full of dust and shards of rounds or rounds themselves. She staggered back upright, ripped the rounds from her chest, and nearly lost the lower part of her face when a needle cut a few inches away from her face - close enough to take a layer of skin off of her chin. She hit the ground, bleeding from the wound, and finally hoping that she'd managed to find some kind of cover.

She was hit in so many places she didn't even know where to begin. Most of the rounds that got her were needle rounds, although at least one shrapnel round had gone off near her foot. She didn't know what the full situation was, but when she looked out over the airport and spotted a dark cloud on the horizon, one that was rapidly closing in, she knew it couldn't be good.

Zaius: [SWARM! SWARM!]

The warbot stopped firing, and for the first time since it started, there was silence.

Unknown: [
Wo bist du? Ich w-w-w-wollte spielen.]

Chloe picked up her rifle, and set it on fully automatic. She had no idea what a "swarm" was, nor did she know how many rounds she had left. She was just damn determined to put down this warbot. She stood up, surprised that her foot was able to hold her, and she trained the gun on the head.

That was until something appeared on the head of the warbot. Chloe was caught off guard; the small sylph grabbed the head and pulled backwards, the lashing tentacles wrapping around her body and trying to pull her off.

Chloe didn't think; she jumped over the chairs and tried to make for the warbot. Unfortunately, her foot didn't appreciate the jump; she fell flat on her face and looked up as the warbot managed to get Hotaru free from around its face - it didn't take much, and wrapped the tentacles around her and started to pull. She heard the first joint dislocate, and could only watch in horror as the thing started to rend her apart. She screamed - those screams would stay with Chloe for the rest of her life.

The warbot didn't manage to rip her apart, though. It severely dislocated all four limbs and probably damaged her body severely before the rocket round slammed into the neck and gutted the head in a violent explosion. The warbot staggered foward, leaned, swayed, and then hit the ground, unmoving.

ES Mikhail stood up, lowering the rocket launcher.

ES Mikhail: [One good shot.]

Chloe forced herself back upright, and crawled over to Hotaru, as she lay on the ground, crying helplessly. Her limbs were twisted in ways that they weren't supposed to twist; when she'd hit the ground, she'd knocked the wind out of her. Now that it'd come back, she could do nothing but cry in pain.

Chloe crawled over to her and hugged her, giving up and crying herself.

ES Mikhail: [Is that a swarm?]

Zira: [Yes. Yes it is.]

ES Mikhail: [Fuck.]

"I'm so sorry... I'm so sorry, Hotaru," Chloe sobbed, as Hotaru continued crying. For both of them, it was an unreal experience; like a dream, something that they expected to wake up from, but something that neither of them knew they would wake up from.

Zira raced over, bleeding from half a dozen wounds. She grabbed Chloe by the shoulder.

"Get up."

"She can't move."

"Pop her stack, Chloe."

Chloe sat up, looking down at Hotaru as she continued to cry.

"No. No. Fuck that. This is my fault. I'll fix it myself."

She staggered upright, picking up Hotaru.

"You're an idiot. You can barely carry your own weight on that foot...," Zira said, as Chloe staggered towards the door, holding Hotaru. She cradled the mangled body of the younger woman, as Zira raced beside her. They followed Mikhail through the doors, Mikhail looked behind hir, spotting a doorway.

ES Mikhail: [Down! We go down!]

The four vanished into a flight of stairs, descending into the storeroom under the airport.

Chloe: [What the fuck are swarms?]

ES Mikhail: [We should be safe down here. Of course, safe being a relative term.]

Zira: [Yeah, try something. I've still got thirty rounds left.]

Chloe staggered over to the far wall, and fell down, Hotaru draping across her lap. Hotaru had passed out, probably from the pain, leaving just Chloe with Mikhail and Zira.

ES Mikhail: [Swarms - nanobot swarms. If that's the disassembler swarm I think it is, and it probably is, it passes through here every so often. It looks for organics and it strips them down to nothing. So long as we're hiding down here and we don't go back up there until the swarm is gone, we're safe.]

Chloe: [Zaius?]

Zaius: [Me and the clowns are safe. What about you, Zira, and Hotaru?]

Chloe: [I think I almost got Hotaru killed.]

Zaius: [So I take it you're fine then.]

Chloe: [Fine... yeah, sure. It's a relative word, anyway.]

Thanks Brin :)

1 comment:

  1. “Hangar” is consistently spelled as “hanger” throughout.

    went right out he window;


    more than twenty four hours

    “Twenty-four” should be hyphenated.

    as the first rays of sun broke over the mountains

    This would be better as the beginning of a new sentence, rather than an “as”.

    her reaction time off

    Her reaction time was off.

    but they'd jump ship


    put the breaks on


    it's shattered buildings rising up


    Do you have them speed dial?

    Have them on speed dial.

    you can take them down

    This is the beginning of a sentence. “You” should be capitalised.

    careening down airport road

    The airport road.

    it without the wheel it

    The first “it” shouldn't be there.

    and then then floored it

    Double “then”.

    Chloe tired to find a response


    She came tumbling to a stop, as Zira landed nearby, tumbling to a stop.

    The two “tumbling to a stop”s are a bit repetitive.

    detonated in flash

    In a flash.

    hanger out, The door

    Period, not comma.

    you don't have worry about it

    Don't have to worry.

    and we're trapped her,


    why it's going to bit down!


    (private chat, #ES Mikhail)

    Lacking an end #.

    as it clenched the gun in hand.

    “Clenched” isn't completely wrong, but “clutched” would be a better fit.

    the heavy round slamming in the ground


    It was only split second reflexes

    “Split-second” should be hyphenated.

    seconds after she slide out of the way


    or round themselves


    got her were needle round


    how many round she had left.

    And again.

    didn't even know where to being.


    the first time since it's started


    Hotaru free from around it's face


    The warbot staggered froward


    Chloe forced her self back upright

    Herself, with no space.

    [Is that swarm?]

    A or the swarm.

    [Yes. yes it is.]

    Either a comma instead of the first period, or a capitalised second “Yes”.

    staggered over to far wall

    The far wall.