Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Pallbearer: War Part 1


There wasn’t a mop big enough to clean up the shit storm that the Errata and I had started. That’s what it looked like anyway, when West Worthington failed to send any troops to reclaim The Junkyard after a week and a half. I was vaguely amused. It must have taken them completely off guard to have their operations effectively neutered. There were corporate stragglers still wandering back from failed patrols deep into The Junkyard only to find that it wasn’t a safe house for them any further. Those that wanted to fight were cut down without regret, but those smart enough to surrender were spared. It seemed the fair way to handle things.

We made impressive progress in the time we had. Bellmaker’s Errata were mind-numbingly efficient. They had the debris from the Corp HQ disassembled two days after its demolition, and within another three, they already had a sizable structure up in its place. Something did bother me though. Neither Mammon nor Blank were found anywhere in the rubble. They were both only minimal concerns, what with all humans in our presence being suspect. They were concerns though.

Finally, after two weeks, West Worthington decided to make contact. The little robot that had caught me when I fell was the one who reported the intended trespass.

“Statement. Three entities are entering our restricted space. All three wear emblems marking them as West Worthington employees.”


“Statement. Two are in Sanitation Suits. The suits appear to be recent models that we have not previously encountered. Estimations conclude that the new suits are composed of more densely woven fibers within their elastic armor. The third individual is approximately as large as your Brute unit. He is large, green, and muscular. Claws and sharp teeth are visible. One arm appears to be a synthetic skin over advanced an advanced cybernetic limb. The pigmentation is clearly off by two percent in the green hue.”

“Thank you Novus. Dismissed.”

The robot sprung away; back into the air for further reconnaissance.

“Bellmaker, gather two dozen medium grade soldiers. Call back a core of the elites to guard our new home. Oh, and when this is over, you need to get someone on removing the statement, question, exclamation comments everyone makes. They bug me.”

“That is wise. I assume this is an ambush?”

“It wouldn’t surprise me. I can guess who one of the suits belong to.”


“My ex-fiancĂ©.”

“Oh dear.”

I boarded my Brute and as soon as Bellmaker had gathered together a suitable number of Errata, we departed on a course to meet up with our uninvited guests. The crew he had selected were exactly what I had been hoping for. They were all roughly humanoid with only two tank-treaded robots joining us. If the Corps were filming this, I wanted all the good press we could muster. A show that was just about killing monsters wouldn’t get ratings worth a damn at all. A humanoid robot revolution, why, that was noteworthy, even in this city.

As we grew closer and closer to our targets, chills wriggled up my spine. This wasn’t right. Not right at all. Grendel’s face was expressionless. The Sanitation Suit walking next to him twitched and jerked as it stumbled forward. It wasn’t close enough yet to see through the helmet, but I knew already. That was Cassie inside. I was sure of it. What was happening to her?

The suit leading the way had too thick a tint on its cockpit to see inside. I wanted to know who it was. I needed to know. It had a swagger I was all too familiar with.

They came to a halt about thirty yards out. Cassie’s suit swayed as it stood in place. Her control was miserable. Grendel’s right eye twitched constantly, drool slowly dripping from the corner of his enormous mouth.

“Identify yourself. This District is now under the supervision of The Errata and The Pallbearer.”

The hatch for the lead Sanitation Suit unhinged and lifted open.

“Evenin’ Neil. How ya doing?”

It was Mr. Arlee, the bloated toad of a drill instructor that was turned into raspberry jam. He smiled a degrading filthy smile that had never touched his face before and petted his comb-over.

“Been a long time hasn’t it? God, haven’t seen you since… well… since I died wasn’t it? Well, not really since I died. Since that perfect model they made for me died.”


“I knew you’d be surprised Neil. Could tell even before you spoke. I have to tell you, I’ve been pretty tense about meeting you again. I couldn’t wait for the chance to remind you what sort of fucking idiot you are. All of this fighting and running and the rest of it, and you’re doing it for what? Oh no, the big bad Pallbearer fighting for freedom and love. Boo hoo hoo. Big fucking deal my man. We expected you to break when Cassie came to kill you. And you did. Just not in the way we had planned. Then you had to go and try to take a district away from us. A whole district! What a huge set of balls you must have Neil, to think you can just TAKE something from West Worthington.”

“If it’s that huge a stretch, then why are you here? What kind of deal are you making? You’ve brought Grendel and Cassie here. To what end?”

There was a greasy laugh that choked its way out of his throat as he sat there in his Sanitation Suit.

“No deal. Just proof. See, we’re going to let you have The Junkyard. Seems The Disciples of Adam have had some sort of civil war and all of the losers are going to come flooding here. The Judges are pushing in from the south, there are Sleepers assaulting the eastern edge through a tunnel under Gravesite. You’re screwed whichever way you go my boy. We figure we’ll just wash our hands of you and be done. These two are the last things you have to come after us for.”

He pressed a button on the inside of his suit and Cassie’s popped open. It was her, unconscious, slumped in her seat.

“She put up one hell of a fight. Didn’t want to come see you. Neither did Grendel. Too bad it wasn’t an option for either of them. Never really has been. See, they’ve been machines for a good long time.”

He pulled a pistol from his belt and shot Cassie in the shoulder. St. George was down and my Brute’s finger set to squeeze. But I didn’t. I wasn’t going to take the bait just yet. Blood soaked her arm and uniform and seeped down toward her wrist. That wasn’t what he was showing me though. I think he wanted my attention to shoot to the sparks popping and the gears grinding where the hole had been made.

I shrugged.

“That means what to me?”

“She’s part machine. She’s been that since she died on The Hill. You were the only one we didn’t execute. She’s been modifiable since you two joined our unit.”

“Trying to claim that she’s been fake all this time?”

“Not entirely fake. Just enough,”

“I see. The big guy too?”

“Same thing. The RnD boys were pissed when we told them we were going to waste him in front of you after they bothered attaching that arm.”

I hefted St. George and pointed it at Arlee’s forehead.

“Whoa, hey there sport. Don’t do anything rash now. We’re going to wipe our hands of you, waste these two, and call it a day.”


“Yeah, waste. They’re just toys now. This is about clearing the slate.”

“Right. Clearing the slate. With an android, or clone, or whatever as their spokesman? You’re here to provoke me.”

“Provoke? How could I provoke you? Are you telling me you still have feelings for this bitch?”

He pulled the trigger three more times, every time hitting my Cassie in the chest.

“She’s not even human! She’s almost entirely machine!”

So am I.

St. George roared that he was too and pieces of Mr. Arlee splattered across the front of my Brute.

“Bellmaker, get these two back home. Get my Cassie medical treatment on the double and get Grendel secured. I want to know everything you can determine about what extent of cybernetics we’re talking about and how to access their controls. We need to have results within the day and the day is already mostly over. Let’s move.”

Bellmaker and his Errata sprang to life, vaulting over the bloodied, sparking wreckage of Arlee and his suit. My Cassie was lifted out of her suit by Bellmaker himself. Another Errata robot walked backwards in front of Bellmaker, beginning to operate as they moved. Two other each took one of Grendel’s hands and led him away. He lumbered after them, drool continuing to dribble down his face.

I stood still and didn’t think. Couldn’t think. Just order. Don’t even bother moving. It won’t help. She’ll still have three holes in her chest because you didn’t fire fast enough. You did this Neil. You. No. They did this. They.

I looked down at the mess that had been Arlee. What was left of the juicy corpse had wires sprouting wildly and hydraulic fluid leaking from it.

He had done this. He and the They behind him. If there was more than one, there could very well be another. I lifted my Brute’s foot and began the slow process of stomping Arlee and his suit’s remains into the dirt.

He and They.

I would bury them all.

No comments:

Post a Comment