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Authors: Joseph Picard

AZU-1: Lifehack (31 page)

BOOK: AZU-1: Lifehack
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As long as it holds long
enough, Captain.”

~~~~~

Chapter 44: Look Here

~~~~~


What the hell?” Parker
placed a ‘look here’ VTag by the horizon, but he didn’t really need
to. Soon, everyone saw the fiery plume rising and heard the
explosion faintly. Kris simultaneously turned the airlimb towards
it and started looking through zoning records and such, to find out
what was there. By the time they were close enough to see what it
was, Kris had the blueprints in front of her.

Several cars were parked around it, and
people were standing around watching. It seemed AZU-1 was the first
unit there. Kris turned on the airlimb’s external
loudspeaker.


People! Please get back
from the fire. There could yet be further explosions. If anyone saw
what caused this, please stick around. Anyone who has no
information is please asked to continue on your trip, and get out
of the way for emergency vehicles.”

Kris turned to Alisia. “I lied. It’s
pretty obvious that whatever could blow, has already blown. Aside
from the fire itself, it should be relatively safe.”

Alisia and Regan were soon on the
ground. They walked over to the three cars that still remained, to
talk to the drivers. Other helicopters were now circling the area,
and a report came in that fire crews were seven minutes away.
Alisia spoke to the nearest civilian. “So. What happened
here?”


I don’t know. I just saw
this explosion and pulled over, an-“


Didn’t we say that if you
had no info, that you should leave?” Alisia yelled so that everyone
could hear. The near guy muttered “sorry” and got into his car, as
did the others.

When Alisia turned, Regan was looking
into the building with her scope. “It was him.” She passed Alisia
the scope. Through the flames she could see blood smeared all over
the walls inside.


Sick bastard.”

~~~~~

Chapter 45: Everything You
Need

~~~~~

The sun was not yet up, but its light
was already filtering out to this strip mall in a suburb of Meston.
Erebus raised his fist at the plate glass window of a small
electronics store.


No, no, stupid.” he said to
himself. Why damage your hand when you can throw a mailbox through
it?

He looked at the little sensor attached
to the inside of the window. No, no... then we would still have the
alarm going off. He looked through the window and examined the
wall. Just a few layers of drywall separated the electronic shop
and the hair dresser’s next door.

The hairdresser’s window didn’t have an
alarm attached to it, so he threw the mailbox through the
hairdresser’s window, and then used it to bash open a respectable
hole in the wall. Voila. No alarms. He looked at the wall clock.
Five thirty or so. Looking at the store hours, he saw this gave him
ample time to shop before any staff showed up. He reached out to
grab a laptop and noticed that his hands were still bloody from the
gas station clerk. Ick. After cleaning up with some paper towels he
found behind the counter, he collected the laptop and a few dozen
electronic parts and components. “Oh fuck,” he said to himself just
before he left, “Tools! Duh!” He went back and collected some of
the essentials. For good measure, he opened the cash register and
took an extra laptop, mainly to make it look like a basic robbery.
Maybe they wouldn’t connect it to him right away.

Now the trick was to find a nice little
hole to hide in; to work in. He looked back at the mess he’d made.
He’d have to be a little more subtle for a while if he was going to
get any work done. After doing some back-alley running to get some
distance from the latest crime scene, he then went shopping for
some office space. After a little cruising of commercial and
industrial areas he found a four story building with an ‘office for
rent’ sign on the top floor.

He was soon standing in the hall of the
top floor. No one was around. He placed his hand over the lock of
his target door and gave a short, strong push. The inner doorframe
snapped out of the way, and the door gently opened. It didn’t make
so much noise that it would attract anyone from any of the other
office suites, so he went in and closed the door. It wouldn’t stay
perfectly shut, so he stuffed his cap against the bottom of the
door to keep it in place.

The office wasn’t furnished but it had
lights, power, communication outlets, and a kitchenette. First, he
used his new laptop and the office communication port to access his
own FTP and download his collection of software and specs. He used
the specs to customize the RF transmitter he grabbed, and hook it
up to the laptop. Then he ran a certain bit of his own homebrew
software, and cut his finger. He held a nine volt battery up to the
cut, as a signal.

A few commands later, and half the
nanites in his bloodstream began racing towards the signal, out the
cut. After a while, a slight, grey, metallic crust was forming
around the contacts of the battery, eventually growing into a mass
a bit smaller than a billiard ball.


Yay! Now I just need about
a zillion more! If each of them builds two friends, and they build
two friends....” Erebus ran a few commands on the laptop. All it
would take now was some time and some raw materials for the nanite
farm.

~~~


I’m seeing burst
transmissions, Captain.” The pilot of the Lancer airlimb squinted
at a display while Captain Harringer leaned over to look. “It’s
very faint, but it seems to fit the parameters of a nanite
server.”


Can you read
it?”


Fraid not, Sir. They’ve got
it encrypted.”

Harringer grumbled. “It’s
him.”

~~~~~

Chapter 46: Giddyup

~~~~~


Major?” Kris’s voice popped
on the unit’s comms. “There’s an unidentified airlimb headed for
Meston.”


What do you mean,
‘Unidentified’?”


It refuses to answer, it
carries no transponder signal, and base says the satellites can’t
even see any markings on it.”

Alisia groaned. “Well what the fuck is
this now?”


I’ve plotted an approximate
course for it, and looked at things in its path, and you’ll never
guess what I found.”


Don’t keep me in suspense,
Captain. I’m not in the mood.” Alisia said tiredly.

Regan piped up. “Damn.”

Kris replied. “There’s a signal that
could only be a nanite server. It’s very weak though.”


Fuck. Erebus is setting up
shop. So this unknown airlimb is probably the same guys that
trashed his other base.”


Shall we?”


Giddyup.”

~~~~~

Chapter 47: Christmas

~~~~~

Erebus heard a little whisper in the
corner of his head. It told him Lancer was coming, but Erebus
expected this. Presently he stood on the roof of the building he
had been working in. The new coat of metal he gently ‘installed’ on
the roof using his latest fleet of nanites shimmered almost like
water in the morning sun.

Erebus stared into the sky, straining
his eyes on the tiny, approaching dot. It grew closer and
closer.

Aboard the Lancer airlimb, Captain
Harriger looked at the display, showing Jonathan ‘Erebus’ Coll,
standing on a rooftop, facing them.


I’ll be damned if he’s not
staring right at us.” Harringer grumbled.


Sir, there’s no way he can
see us at this distance without binoculars or
something.”


Hmm.” Harringer knew
better, or at least suspected. Short range nanite transmissions,
and then Coll’s there, smiling away without a care in the world.
Harringer spoke through his comm to his troops.


Alright men. When we land,
our objective is to capture the target, Coll. It is not necessary
that we take him alive, but I would like to avoid injuring him if
possible. We must assume he’s carrying some variety of nanites in
his body. Splattering him all over could cause infection to us.
Keep your distance from him. We’ll surround him and herd him into
the airlimb, where we’ll seal him in the chamber. Do we
understand?”

Affirmative replies flooded the comm
channel.


We can almost guarantee an
ambush by zombies on first landing but we’ve handled that type
before. You all know the rules.”

Erebus tried hard not to smile as the
dot in the sky got closer, and grew, finally descending over the
roof. Lancer’s airlimb hovered about fifteen centimeters over the
surface. Harriger poured out with ten other soldiers. They checked
all directions as they moved in a wide circle to surround Erebus,
keeping a minimum of four meters away from him.


Coll.” Harriger
greeted.


Hey. Kept me waiting.”
Erebus said.


That mean you’re coming
along peacefully?”


Sure, why not?”


Picked up some nanite
signals. Kinda thought we’d be seeing some zombies here
today.”


Oh, no, haven’t made any of
those lately.” He raised his hands slowly to the sky, in a motion
of surrender. A terrible wrenching cry seemed to come from
everywhere. The floor shifted below them, forcing the soldiers to
adjust their footing.


Fuck, the floor! Drop him
now” Harriger yelled.

Erebus closed his fists as torrents of
bullets tore into his body. The metal floor screamed with rage, and
buckled into two meter high razor-like spikes of folded
metal.

Most of the soldiers were killed
instantly.

Some had a moment to wonder what
happened before they died.

An unfortunate few were treated to up
to half a minute of unimaginable pain. Among these were Harriger,
who stared at Erebus in the stunned, horrified realization of what
had happened, and what would happen soon.

Erebus stood, buckled over a bit in
pain and bleeding profusely. But he did stand; easily over a
hundred bullets in his body. He composed himself and smiled
peacefully as the last of the moans around him faded into
oblivion.


I won.”

He walked up to Harriger, who was stuck
on a few of the spikes, taking the comm from his ear and his
handgun. He put the comm into his own ear.


Helloooooo?
Bookie?”

No reply came. While Erebus waited, he
commanded the nantie infested metal floor to release and flatten
out. The dead soldiers fell to the smooth surface like puppets with
their strings cut. Nanites quietly invaded their bodies, installing
strings for a new puppeteer.


Bookie-poo, would you like
to speak to Harriger?”


He’s alive?” Mr. Book asked
in a flat tone.

Erebus put the comm back into
Harriger’s ear. He closed his eyes, and took control of him. Erebus
spoke through Harriger, using Harriger’s voice. Harriger’s eyes
moved around while the nanites worked to enslave more of the
freshly dead body.


Hi Mr.
Bookie-poo, I’m Harriger!” Erebus forced Harriger’s corpse to say,
“I’m such a freakin doofus. Not only did I get killed, but really,
I didn’t stand a chance! At least I managed to
see
Coll. After all, he designed half
the augmentations in this airlimb and actually could have taken it
over from a mile away, and simply ran my entire squad into the
ground. Jeesus fuck, why didn’t we even consider that, Mr.
Bookie-poo? We’re so fucking dense!”

Mr. Book signed off. Yelling and
commotion was heard just before the signal disappeared. Erebus
returned to his own body.


Oops,” Erebus said,
watching his own nanites seal his ‘trivial’ wounds, “Was that in
bad taste?”

He looked around at the soldiers,
slowly coming to their feet. He looked at the empty Lancer airlimb,
and made a mental inventory of the resources that were probably
inside it. “Merry fucking Christmas!”

~~~~~

Chapter 48: A Fall

~~~~~

All of AZU-1 had watched the ‘battle’
through a satellite, sending its pictures to their airlimb’s
monitors. They didn’t know who these soldiers were, but their
deaths were still startling and disturbing. At first, it was hard
to tell what happened. From the high angle the spikes didn’t show
up so well, except the shadows they caused. Then the blood. Then...
then only one person was moving.


He has got to die. Today,
now.” Regan said.


I think that would be
appropriate.” Alisia said in a somber tone. Despite Erebus’ deeds,
it was still difficult to decide to kill a human. A
person.

Erebus didn’t ‘sense’ the AZU-1 airlimb
the way he sensed the Lancer airlimb, brimming with his own little
microscopic spies, but he heard them. Heard the engine. He searched
the sky and saw it. Soon it was above him. He prepared his witty
repartee with which to tease his favorite pursuers.

BOOK: AZU-1: Lifehack
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