Oblivion (6)

Oblivion (6)


Parallel 12: Jungle Earth

“I love you, Emilio,” she said.

“That’s weird,” Emilio replied.


“I love you too.”

She slapped his arm, grinning.

“Pendoha. One of these days you’re gonna get slapped and not know why,” she said, laying back on the bed of leaves.

“That’s not so bad.”

He laid back on the leaves and put an arm around her, pulling her close. This was perfection. This was Heaven. He never wanted to leave this place. Someday he’d have to go home. He owed Xiao that much. He had to let his long time friend and partner know that the suit worked. But it had been a long time. So long. Xiao would have moved on by now, right? He had the designs and the schematics and the blueprints. He could work backwards and make a new suit. But the funding. Where was he going to get the money? It wasn’t like Emilio had left his estate in order.

“Your thoughts are too loud,” she said.

“I thought you said you couldn’t read minds,” Emilio said.

“I can read yours.”

“God I hope not.”

“You make it sound so bad. But I know what’s on your mind most of the time.”

“What I am thinking about right now?” Emilio asked. She looked down, then back to his eyes.

“I can take a guess or two,” she said, climbing on top of him.

* * *

Parallel 14: BioHack Earth

Day slipped into evening. Outside, the chants turned to howls and the torchlight overtook the setting sun. Emilio had underestimated the headquarters’ resilience. He’d expected an angry mob to have made short work of the doors by now, but they had yet to breach it. Then again, these were a bunch of strung out, wasted, pleasure worshipers.

Jael would check on him every few minutes, asking if he needed anything, acting like they weren’t all about to be lynched or burned at the stake or whatever they did on this fucked up Earth. Sometime after sunset, Jael approached Emilio again.

“How are you holding up, friend?” he asked.

“Terrible, if you can somehow believe it,” Emilio replied, tired and exasperated. For hours he’d been waiting for the door to shatter and the hordes to come busting in. Every minute could be the last one.

“I like your sense of humor,” Jael said, chuckling. “A good attitude is crucial in times like these.”

“I’m the least positive person you’ll ever meet,” Emilio said.

“That can’t be completely true.”

“Why not?” Emilio asked.

“You’re still here, aren’t you?”

Emilio wasn’t sure how to reply. The door had held so far. He could hold on to the tiniest sliver of hope while it lasted. Once it was broken down, who knew what he’d do.

“Got anything to eat around here?” he finally asked.

“How about some chips?” Jael asked, revealing a case full of the precious things.

“Holy Jesus! You could buy a district with this! A city! How did… what? Whu? Huh?” Emilio said, blubbering like a man struck dumb.

“We like to save for rainy days. It’s part of Clarity’s teachings,” said Jael.

“I can have any one of these?” Emilio asked.

“You can have it all,” Jael replied. Emilio almost fell on his ass.

“Are you crazy? You gotta be kidding!” Emilio cried.

“It’s the least we could do considering the situation we’ve put you in.”

“Is there a catch? There’s gotta be a catch. What’s the catch?” Emilio asked.

“No catch,” Jael said.

“BS. You want me to join up, don’t you? You want me to sell my soul in this hour of need just to save my own skin,” Emilio proclaimed.

“It’s just a gift. No catch. No strings attached,” said Jael.

“Oh. Because I totally would have. Missed your chance, buddy,” Emilio said.

Jael laughed. “I think we were meant to find each other in that alley, you as much as me,” he said.

“Let’s hope you still feel that way after all this,” Emilio said.

He perused the chips, thumbing through trillions of bytes of data. Most of them were pretty standard fare. Performance enhancement. Data Processors. Smart analyzers. Bio-algos meant to regulate mutation or dampen more excitable biological processes. Everything on this Earth was designed, programmed or built with biohacks in mind. If he wanted to craft something that would get him home, he would need a lab space and weeks, maybe months to kludge something together that would get the job done. Perhaps something that would up his odds of survival was in order.

“I see you like the defense chips,” Jael remarked once Emilio had selected a few.

“At the moment, they’re the most important chips in the world. I’ll revisit these other ones later if we make it out the other side,” Emilio said. He pressed a button on the side of his helmet which opened several chip ports. One by one he installed the defense chips, giving his helmet OS a minute or so to load each one.

“The crowd is getting restless out there,” Jael said, perking his ears up. “I think you may have a chance to test those chips rather soon.”

“Don’t jinx it. I’m almost done here,” Emilio said.

“Brother!” one of the young acolytes cried, running into the room. “They have a cannon!”

“A what?” Jael asked, surprised.

“You guys still use cannons here?” Emilio asked. Jael ran up the stairs to the second story. Emilio cursed and followed. The windows up there were a little less narrow, but still narrow enough to be defensible. Emilio tried to angle his helmet so he could see out the bloody thing, but he was having trouble. Then he saw it.

“Good God,” Jael said.

Rolling down the street in a large converted wagon was the fattest man Emilio had ever seen on any Earth. He was easily the size of four men in height, though he laid on his back, and twenty men in terms of girth. He had a look of drunken ecstasy on his face. Drool oozed from his mouth. He was naked save for a meager loincloth.

“So, where’s the cannon? Is it behind that fat guy?” Emilio asked.

“That is the cannon,” Jael replied.

“That… what?”

“Tell everyone to get away from the front of the house now!” Jael commanded. The young acolyte ran as fast as he could.

“Wait, how is that… he has a cannon biohack? Is that even possible?” Emilio asked.

“More possible everyday. You should step away from the windows,” Jael suggested.

Emilio was at a loss for words. He turned his attention back to the “cannon” only to see that the crowd was warming him up, rubbing his belly and chanting something his microphones couldn’t pick up. A big smile grew on the fat man’s face like a fungus. His belly rumbled. His legs drew back toward his body. His rump shifted forward and Emilio recoiled in horror when he realized why everyone was calling this guy a cannon. The mob aimed the man’s anus/muzzle toward the front door. A hand grabbed Emilio’s shoulder and pulled him away from the window. Jael spoke to him but his words were meaningless. Everything was meaningless before the Man Cannon. Nothing could withstand the coming assault. Yes, Ass-sault! What could a rational universe offer as explanation? How could sanity exist next to this mockery of nature? This abomination!

“Snap out of it!” Jael shouted. Emilio came to, shaking his head. They were halfway down the stairs. “You saw the ass cannon, didn’t you?”

“I can never un-see it,” Emilio replied.

“Hurry. We have maybe seconds before they…”

“Pull. That. FINGER!” the mob shouted in unison.

“Get down!” a brother screamed.

The front of the house exploded. A foul mass of corrosive matter left a massive hole through every wall of the headquarters before exiting through the back. The noxious air melted every bit of structure that it touched. The door was gone. Nothing but splinters. The windows were dust and rubble. Half a dozen brothers were vaporized or horribly maimed. The rest of them were relatively unscathed, and Jael realized why when he saw Emilio erecting an energy shield before him. The shield had caught most of the splinters and shrapnel.

“Shield, Boost, and Zone motherfuckers!” Emilio shouted.

“You beautiful man!” Jael said, getting to his feet. “You’ve given us a chance!”

“It’s the only one you get,” Emilio said, dismissing the energy hungry shield.

Jael nodded, then unbuttoned his jacket. “Brothers,” he began. “We stand for freedom. We stand for peace. But in the face of death, we choose to fight for life. Fight for our choice to live or die!”

“Woot!” the brothers replied in unison.

“Emilio. We could die. But if we do, it is for a just cause,” Jael said as the mob cleared the ruined front of the building.

“I’m totally running the first chance I get,” Emilio said.

“What was that, friend?” Jael asked over the roar of the mob.

“Nothing! Good luck!” Emilio shouted.

Jael undid the last button, then took the jacket off with a flourish, turning it inside out in one fluid motion. He put the jacket back on, black needle teeth on the outside now.

“Time to choose pain!” he yelled.


4 responses to “Oblivion (6)”

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