Little foaming white bubbles began boiling out of the wounds about ten minutes into her fire.
I inspected my cuts, lifting my shirt. Along each blood red wound appeared small white bubbles, like fizzing soda. I was poisoned.
AMALEK destroyer of worlds
I knew this poison. I had seen it work. ‘Scorpions Kiss’ or “Bloody Scorpion” or something to that effect. The bio-toxin would take a few days to kill. It would slowly wind its way through my endocrine system, giving me higher and higher fever, destroying my kidneys, until I suffocated to death in my own unfiltered waste.
The Nanos would fight the infection for a while, but unless I got treatment, I would die.
As I sat there, I weighed my options.
Option one-stay here and die.
Option two, walk back the way I came and die.
Option three, try to make the Argo.
The only viable option was the Argo. But the Argo was still many, many kilometers away. There was no way of making it in my condition.
“chirp-the Mechanex dummy, use the Mechanex-chirp,”
“Of course! Chirp you are a genius! But that suit must be twenty seasons old- you think it still works?”
Chirp didn’t answer.
But I got up. It was worth a try.
I walked back to the rusted Mechanex suit.
The exo-suits were hard-lined with Nusteel. This one was gold colored, but badly tarnished.I poked around the controls- dormant. I flipped some switches, nothing. I turned on the emergency fission generator, batteries hummed alive, but very weak, around 2%. That was something, at least. “Now what?” There was power, but no P.U.- the processing unit wasn’t attached. “What do you think Chirp? You ready to run a Mechanex again?” I took Chirpy out of my belt. The cabin had a port to attach A.I units. I made a few modifications and using a phalange wrench from my tool kit, I configured a slip-shot interface between the Mechanex and Chirpy’s core.
I activated the power-up motor, lights flashed up with a H.U.D heads-up display. Then… nothing.
“Fuck.” I slammed my fist against the dash. I hopped out of the cabin and walked to the rear hatch. The cellular fission engine was burnt to a crisp, but the iode adapters seemed operational.
The thing wouldn’t do much, but it should be able to fly.
“So, what hell is wrong which you?” I wasn’t much of a mechanic, I could do simple jobs but fixing this robot was above my ability.
That’s when I saw it. The bright orange mushroom cloud stuck to the horizon couldn’t hide it. A dust cloud, moving fast. The cloud was as wide as the horizon and twice as tall to the sun. Moving like the hounds of hell after the very last rabbit. A sense of impending doom forecast by a dominating storm of furies.
“I’m the rabbit. Fuck, Fuck.” I jumped off the robot and kicked the damn thing.
“C’mon, you piece of shit!” I think I broke my toe, but magically, the thing beeped to life.
“Ohh…shit, eureka!” I climbed into the cabin as fast as I could. The chest hatch slowly closed, encasing me.
I brought up the aerial H.U.D and engaged the ion drive. The robot whirred to life and stood to attention, we were mobile. “Yes!” I grabbed the mUnaal sticks, pressed the accelerator panels and did the pre-flight check. All green.
The Mechanex boots fired, white smoke billowed out from underneath the robot’s feet, we lifted a few feet off the ground. “Got it.” I engaged the J.E.T propulsion, the Mechanex began to shake as two prime turbines in the robot’s back shot fire. We shot up into the sky, pulling a G of force in less than three seconds. Within ten we were over a thousand feet into the atmosphere, well below the black clouds but far enough up to see my destination clearly.
I nudged the control sticks back, sending the Mechanex forward, toward the inferno. It had been a while. Chirp’s core was handling the Mechanex brilliantly, just like old times. We cruised.
The glow from the mushroom had pushed back intrepid Darkness.
The red eye began its colored ascent into Earth sky as dawn broke over the planet.
The red dawn mixed with the orange aura of the radioactive mushroom and the cloud of grey dust, had a punitive effect on me, somehow calming. I didn’t remember ever seeing so much color in my entire life, but the knowledge that it was all designed to kill me, well that was familiar.
An image opened on the
HUD –’WARNING-WARNING-MONITOR FUEL.”
“Shit.” The fuel cells. The batteries powered the suit, but the fuel cells are what actually made them go. I forgot to check the amount of fuel left. That was stupid. How much did I have in this thing, I wondered? I was answered a second later.
‘LOW FUEL CELL’
A light flashed a yellow cone with a black exclamation point in the middle.
“EXTREMELY LOW FUEL CELL COUNT. CATASTROPHIC FAILURE IMMINET. PLEASE DESCEDEND MECHANEX.”
“Of course.” I was roughly three miles away from the Enclaves. To land the Mechanex now would be suicide. Either the Marauders would find me stranded and sick or I would just die of the poison running through me.
I pushed it. I tapped the fuel mix and engaged the J.ET propulsion and had them integrate. It was like having nitric oxide poured into a gas tank. The Mechanex burst into fire and catapulted forward. The fuel, the batteries and all power burnt out in a whir.
I expended the last of the fuel to get a couple more hundred feet out of the thing.
The Mechanex died. I was basically floating in a box, or casket, three thousand feet in the air. The Mechanex began to fall. Slowly at first, then faster and faster, within a few moments we were in a free dive. I tried peeling back the weather vanes to draw in some power, but there was none in reserve. I pulled the emergency chord.
The chest plate popped open, it flew away, cold air rushed in, taking my breathe away. Smell of smoke and burning wires infiltrated my nostrils. I had to eject, but I had to destroy the Mechanex first. Each Mechanex was fitted for self-destruct.
I opened the cell filters and overload the fission drive.
“Self-Destruct Sequence Activated.”
Thousands of pounds of pressure hit me like a wall, still hundreds of feet from the ground.
The parachute popped open, jarring me again and turning me into a tails pin as the jet stream hurled me slightly upward. For a few milli-seconds it was as if I was floating.
The Mechanex continued to fall like a rock. Then, a bright red spot exploded a few hundred yards underneath my falling body.
Shock waves hit my parachute, then ripped it open. Gravity grabbed me and pulled me toward the Earth at speed so fast it felt like it would break my neck.
I grabbed my harness, still strapped to my chest, and pulled the secondary emergency cord unit.
The harness expanded and converted into a hand glider. I sailed past the fireball, stuck like a pin in a mid-air wall. I was going to fast with the glider, the speed and proximity to the Earth made it difficult to maneuver. I only had a vague training in emergency glider operations, I had to land. I sailed over the Enclaves. The closer I got to the border domiciles toward the east, the safer I would be. I glanced a hole in a roof of a domicile- that filled the bill.
There was no way to land gracefully.
Twenty-five feet away from the hole. I took a final breathe and unfastened the harness. The glider pirouetted behind me and ran towards the west. I free-fell into the domicile and rolly-pollied myself through the floor, slamming into a thick, clay-brick foundation column, face first. Right before everything went black, I took a second to stay there, in a heap, catching my breathe.
“Fuck…I can’t believe it…I’m still alive.”