PBPArchives' original archive
Chapter 14: Armory
Gregory put on the brakes and swung out his arms to keep the woman from running past him. She stopped, breathless from running. "Wait!" he said, looking down at the sad, poor, sick-looking thing on the floor. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" he asked her. She looked at him bewilderedly.
"We could use him as a shield in case those autobots get us in range again!"
She was shocked at his words. Use the poor sick-looking thing on the floor as a non-human shield? "No, no, no, I'm not thinking that at all, not even a little! Ugh, with all the technological advances, why do men always have to stay the same?"
"Now ma'am," Gregory countered, "this is hardly the time nor place for debating gender ethics!"
She ducked under his arm and rushed to the creature's side. "Awww, it's so cute and cuddly!" She knelt to pet the sad, sickly-looking thing. "It reminds me of a stuffed rabbit toy I used to have. I called him Peter-wabbit," she heard herself saying, but in her mind she heard, "E=mc2! A dysfunctional childhood, too much math in my office, nicknamed 'quasi-infinite' ... go figure I would have problems with men. All I've ever wanted was a pay raise, and instead I'm running down corridors following men blindly. Now where's the logic in that?"
"I couldn't have scored better," Rufus thought as the human female pet him. "A chick! Chicks dig me. Hopefully this'll pan out ... some chow, a soft bed ... maybe even some extracurricular petting," he thought. "Wrood wroo prees hrelp mree?" Rufus feigned with the woman, all the while sizing up the male with her. Rufus looked up at Gregory, smiled widely, wagged his tail and panted with a sort of 'c'mon I'll be your bud ... I'll fetch your slippers ...' look.
Amanda looked up at Gregory as well, glaring at him, waiting for him to help. "Don't just stand there! Come and help me. Let's take it with us!"
Gregory felt that Rufus was much more intelligent than he was letting on. He had a strong feeling that whatever this creature was, it was an opportunist. He already felt like he was being played. "The autobots will be here any minute! We might have something a lot worse thrown at us if we don't get to a lifeboat soon, ma'am!"
"You sure know how to ruin the mood," she said, "and my name is Amanda: A... m... anda."
"Well Amanda, if you want to take this dog-mutant with us, then you'd best hurry!" Gregory didn't wait to see if it could walk. He started to jog on ahead of them.
She pulled Rufus to his feet. "Oh come on my petty wetty, we have to hurry uppy." She wondered if Rufus could understand anything she was saying. She hurried to keep up with Gregory, pulling Rufus along with her. "Anyway, it's not a dog-mutant," she called out to Gregory, "it's a rabbit-mutant, ummm, I think. I think its ears are a dead giveaway, but then again I'm not a biologist, I'm a mathematician."
Gregory didn't reply. He didn't slow down, either. "All the world's a stage," Amanda said to herself, "and we are in a sea of troubles."
"All the world has mange," Rufus thought, "and oh! Fleas are the trouble! I hope they are going to lead me somewhere safer than the gallows." His two companions didn't seem very calm. It must have been the noise and the faint purple light, he figured. Hmmm ... he'd tag along for a while, if just to see how the chow situation was. "Wrut's wrup?" Rufus asked Amanda.
"We're trying to avoid being vaporized by the Watcher's security 'bots," Amanda panted as she hurried to catch up with Gregory.
"Hmm ... these folks are in even more trouble than I was ... and there's no food ... Does blaster-cooked human sound appealing," he wondered.
BLAMM!! An explosion rocked the corridor! The initial sound came from the hallway ahead of Gregory, but it reverberated down the hall and back again innumerable times.
"Ohhh ... this isn't good!" Gregory hollered back to Amanda and Rufus. He waited for them to catch up at an intersection in the corridor. The sound of an autobot's anti-gravity device was growing behind them, limiting their choices. He decided to use Amanda and Rufus as shields from either direction. "Come on," he said, "I can't protect you if you don't keep up!" He grabbed Rufus by the arm and helped Amanda to pull him faster, admiring her face as he did so, smiling a toothy grin.
Amanda followed as fast as she could. "What am I doing?" she asked herself. She felt like an engineer crossed with a lemming, running back and forth down the same corridor; a little woolly and jumping to the wrong conclusions at every turn. "Whenever the math turns out to be impossible, you have to invent new physics," she told herself. Of course, it did very little to help. "Oh, come now, stop delaying the inevitable," said Death, somewhere in the recesses of her mathematical mind. She felt weak and paradoxical. Fatigue had begun to take its toll on her. She tried to ignore it and ran.
Rufus had abandoned hope of finding food anytime soon. "Better go with plan ... uh ... C: 'Run until the shooting stops'."
Rufus and Gregory shared a desire, although neither of them knew it, to reach the next bit of cover. But, alas, there was no cover to be had. A long dash seemed to be the only option as the motley threesome ran pell-mell down the hallway. Every now and again Amanda fell behind and Gregory paused to pull her and her scruffy companion forward more quickly. They passed through an intersection that they hadn't seen until they were nearly upon it, then through a section of hallway that seemed to have already seen some action. Large bits of pipe, steel, and sharp jagged sections of wall were lying about. A thin, wispy smoke made everything seem very strange.
Around the next corner, a long series of doors appeared on either side of them, almost all of which were labeled with the letter 'S' followed by a number. They came to a stop at a four-way intersection. Gregory stood still, listening. He thought he could hear human voices down one of the corridors.
With unexpected grace, Rufus tumbled toward a pile of debris in search of a suitably wicked piece of edged-something-or-other. He held his nose close to the floor and snorted the wispy smoke away from his nostrils. He perked up his jackal ears and scanned through the rubble until at last he was rewarded with a long, jagged shard of steel that was still partially attached to a piece of pliable door molding. The molding was about 13 centimeters long, and the jagged steel was 36 centimeters long. It seemed as if the two materials had been smelted together, probably from blast heat. "Wruuvy!", he said with his tongue lolling and his tail wagging happily. He brandished the wicked piece of debris and rejoined his newly found targets who weren't him. Oh, if only he had an energy pistol, like his old Cougaroid weapons-master had taught him to use! He hoped he could stay alive long enough to secure one. In the meantime, his axe would have to do.
Gregory let out his held breath. "Just as I'd hoped," he said. "Those explosions must mean that the autobots have already swept this corridor and moved on."
"If we could only be so lucky that they have forgotten us," Amanda replied, partly to herself.
No sooner had Amanda finished speaking than a pair of autobots rounded a corner behind them. He winced, "Ok, so they check things twice." They ran off quickly in the direction of the distant voices.
Percy heard little besides his own labored panting and the sound of rubble beneath his feet as he ran. He hadn't recognize any of the corridors that he had passed through. His cloned body had had insufficient muscular stimulation to prepare him for this sprint---only just enough to make his muscles work as requested by his cloned brain. "Dang ..." he thought, completely amazed that the cloning process had worked at all.
In the distance behind them, the autobots were beginning to gain ground. Zhaxier began to notice room numbers; S8323, S8324, S8325. Under each number was a name. Unfortunately, before he could stop to look at one more closely, BLAM! The corridor behind Chelydra, who was bringing up the rear, exploded in a fiery display of color as shards of steel and other metals flew madly. The good news was that the damage was still about 15 meters behind them; the bad news was that the autobots now considered them to be in firing range, and they were closing in. Everyone's adrenaline pumped some extra speed into their lagging strides, everyone except Tinker that is. Even carrying Sharneste, he easily maintained a fast pace. "Let's get outta this hallway," Arkady said quietly.
The dark hall seemed too long to offer any hope of salvation from the merciless robots behind them. No nearby intersection offered an alternate route, but Zhaxier saw two indented archways on either side of the hallway in front of him. The others behind him saw his medical bag and laser pistol come together as the Blendoid ducked into one of the alcoves. Inside it, a doorway was labeled 'G10'. Across the corridor, a similar door in the other alcove was labeled 'G11'. Some optimistic part of him harbored the hope that, despite the elephantine nature of The Warden, this was the same 'G10' that Dr. Flockheart had mentioned. Zhaxier didn't know why he hoped this, nor did he take the time to reflect.
As Arkady and Nike caught up with Zhaxier, they noted the huge sign printed in red metallic letters that graced the doors on either side of the hallway, 'AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY!'.
Tinker pulled in behind them and Sharneste dropped off his back, glad to be on her own paws again. "Shiny thing not run anymore?" she asked. "Okay, we fight now?" She didn't know what autobots were, but the others seemed afraid of them and the things that they threw looked painful. "I ready to fight!"
In the eerie silence they heard the futile sound of Zhaxier trying to open the locked door. "I have the means to cut it open," Tinker offered.
"That'll take some time," Nike said, "and might set off some type of anti-crime measures. Maybe one of us used to have this clearance, and if so, scanning our badge should open it." She removed her badge and took up a defensive position, ready for the 'bots. She knew that they wouldn't stand much of a chance with their present weaponry, but she wasn't going to be vaporized without a fight. Maybe the 'bots wouldn't know which room they would go into. "Yeah, right," she thought.
Zhaxier slid his card in the door reader several times with no result.
He quickly stepped aside and yelled over the din of another explosion, "Well
what're you waiting for, Butch?"
Nike, Arkady, Tinker and Sharneste entered the room together - Nike and Tinker with pistols held in front of them. They quickly determined that they were the room's only occupants. They were safe for the time being. The cabinets that faced them were like a dream dreamt by someone being chased down by security 'bots with phasers set to kill, especially if that someone was wearing a red shirt!
Tinker rushed to open the cabinets, but they were locked fast. Quickly, he pulled out his drill to attempt a break in, but he heard Nike's voice say, "STOP! Do not drill that lock!" She moved closer to him and flashed her ID badge across the sensor on the lock. "You trying to get us all killed?"
"No more than the approaching Arnolds! Dead is dead, no matter how you die."
"There are usually other means than force." Nike flashed her card for the lock: it gleamed green, beeped twice, and snapped unlocked. Inside were solar cells, chemical cells, hydrogen energy cells, disruptor pistols, paralysis rods, pistols, torches, and rifles. Tinker selected a particularly high-powered metal disruptor rifle and emitted, "Hello, Disruptor M-3000. Welcome to Poppa." <chick-chack> He also picked up two laser pistols, four hydrogen energy cells, and two solar cells. Sharneste grabbed a paralysis rod.
"We should get these doors shut ASAP," Arkady shouted loudly enough for his comrades across the hall to hear. "We sure could use a few extra minutes!"
"Then we'd be trapped! It's lock, load and leave, flyboy---and I'll cover you." Tinker whipped around the alcove's edge and fired the Disruptor at the approaching security robots. The head bot's right extender arm disintegrated into tiny bits of goo with a loud KABOOM.
Nike grabbed two Disruptor pistols (metal and protein), a mini-scope, a laser pistol, a special auto-adapting stun gun that would stun 'anything', a dart ejector, two solar cells, a hydrogen cell and some shotgun shells. The laser pistol she stuffed into her left holster; the metal disruptor, her right. The protein disruptor, scope, dart ejector and power cells she placed into a munitions bag that she found in another cabinet; she then stuffed the bag with more energy cells of various sorts. As she clipped the bag onto her suit and hooked it around her left arm, the entryway filled with bright light as an explosion rocked the room.
Arkady grabbed a pod launcher, along with a bag full of pods. Some were blue;
some green; some red. He wasn't sure what they did, but they looked menacing, and
the launcher was huge, which gave him some comfort. He fiddled with the pod
launcher and a red pod, wondering, "Now, how exactly do I load this thing?"
Meanwhile, Percy and Chelydra had moved into the armory. "Here, you better take
your ID card back, Chelydra." He handed the card back to Lt. Jackson, "er, that
is, Lieutenant!" Percy put his own ID card in his belt zipper pack and zipped it up.