Friday, May 29, 2009

The Greater Good

Previously: The Beginning of the End; The Good Soldier; Me, I'm Not; My Violent Heart; God Given

270 days remain...

"2012? So... we haven't even been born yet."

I paused to consider the bigger picture. The Mim-cha uprising hadn't taken place yet, either. It appeared that the vamp plague was still going strong. I recalled the stories that I'd learned from those few in our camps who had lived in the pre-Mim-cha world. The basic history was that some time in 2011 vampires, who had for millennia been considered to be myth, made their presence known to mankind en masse. It took a while for people to accept that the crisis they were facing was, in fact, vampires. For months the media referred to it as "Super Rabies". Eventually the truth was finally accepted, and the war on vampires began. It didn't go well, to begin with, but soon, human-looking cyborgs were introduced to battle the creatures.

The bots worked extremely well, reducing vampire attacks in every major city. By July of 2012 there were more than 2 million of the bots worldwide. In August, they began to automate themselves, making advanced changes in their software along the way. They began to refer to themselves as Mim-cha.

Reports than got blurry, as things happened quickly and nobody knew the exact truth. But at some point, the Mim-cha decided that eliminating vampires wasn't enough, and they began to exterminate humans. Efficiently.

Humans, of course, tried to fight back, but the Mim-cha had numbers, intelligence, strength, and camouflage on their side.

Finally, on December 21st, 2012, the bombs fell, decimating humans, vampires, and machines alike. The twenty-five years following had been a constant battle between the remaining humans and a hell of a lot of Mim-cha. The vampires, while still around, had slunk back to the shadows to stay out of the war.

And in '37, the tide had been changing. Bands of survivors such as the one I had come from were learning ways to fight back, and some had reportedly captured and reprogrammed Mim-cha to help them -which is how we had gotten the idea to try it out with Kyle.

The hidden base in South America had been a shocking development. And that they had - apparently - developed time travel on top of that? Astonishing.

And deeply disturbing.

Why in the hell would the Mim-cha want to travel back in time? It certainly wasn't for historical site seeing, or to make a profit betting on sporting events. No, the bastards wanted to alter history. But how? They'd already caused nuclear annihilation. What more could they want? There was some piece of the puzzle I wasn't seeing.I was shaken out of my reverie to notice we were driving down the freeway at nearly a hundred and thirty miles per hour. The Tercel's engines protested being pushed to such extremes.

"What's the rush?" I asked. "You said we have nine months until the shit hits the fan."

"It is in our best interest to get out of the city. The authorities may be looking for us, there will be less vampire activity, and most importantly, currently there are at least a dozen Mim-cha from 2037 residing in various places in the city."


"Before we discovered the temporal displacement facility, I pinged that there were almost three dozen Mim-cha in the South American jungle. Their signatures simply vanished, and since we have been here, I have pinged on twelve of them."

I felt my heart begin to race. "Jesus. So... if you pinged them, they must know where you are!" I looked behind us, expecting an army of pissed off robots on our tale.

"It appears," Kyle said, "that they are not in pursuit. This could mean several things. One, they simply do not view me as a threat - 89% possibility. Two, they did not ping on me for some reason - unknown possibility, but unlikely. Three, they are setting up a trap for later - 50% possibility."

"Wonderful. So, what's our game plan?"

"First, get out of the city and out of range of any Mim-cha. Second, build our resources - weapons, knowledge, and if possible, assistance."
"Who is going to be willing to assist us against an army of killer robots? Who is even going to believe a story like that?"

"I know of two people."


265 days remain...

Simon's display for the President was set up. A vampire that had been captured and kept alive by the National Guard was shackled in a cage at one end of the room. Simon, President Sarah Palin, and her staff of advisers were seated in a separate room, watching behind a one-way mirror.

Simon addressed the Commander-in-Chief, "Madam President, the subject you see has been suffering from the 'super rabies' for, as far as we can tell, eight months. Before he was turned, he was Mr. Robert Arnold, 22, of New York City. When he was captured by the Guard, he was feeding on a three week old child. The family had already been slaughtered by him. Robert Arnold is, I can say without hyperbole, a monster."

Robert shuffled his shackles, staring down at the floor. His skin was translucent and his hair was greasy and stringy. He hadn't fed since his capture.

Simon continued, "We have subdued him, of course, but trust me, Mrs. Palin, if given the opportunity, he would dine on all of our flesh without a second thought."

Sarah Palin nodded. She was well aware of the threat these infected people posed. She also knew that if she could eradicate the vampire plague, history would judge her kindly. She had promised to do just that, and had spent the majority of her presidency looking for any possible solution. Nothing so far had turned out to be effective.

Simon proceeded, "I'm not much of one for speaking, I prefer to let the results speak for themselves. So, please, take note of what you are about to witness."

Two armed Guards and an unarmed woman entered the room. The woman was dressed in jeans and a plain t-shirt, was five foot four, and completely nonthreatening in appearance. She had a grim look upon her face. When she saw the vampire at the other end of the room, she attempted to turn around. The Guards held her arms, preventing her from leaving. Simon smiled a bit knowing that if not for it's programming, the "woman" would have had no problem getting past the two men.

The President watched, fascinated, as the Guards exited the room, leaving the female locked in there with a shackled, but very hungry, vampire. Palin glanced briefly at Birden, but he nodded toward the room with a 'trust me, you want to see this' look.

Simon pushed a button on a remote control he held, and there was a low clink as the shackles were mechanically released.

The female had turned to the locked door and was banging on it, screaming in terror, "Let me out, please, God, it's going to kill me!" Simon felt a burst of pride. His programming was good.

Surprisingly quickly for a creature that had gone a week without sustenance, the vampire crossed the room, tackling the woman. She screamed out one final, "No!!" which caused a few gasps in the room - Palin included - and even Simon felt a twinge of sympathy. The bots looked and sounded and acted so human.

The creature bit into the woman's neck, tearing out a chunk of flesh. There was a half-second where the vampire had a look of confusion on it's face, and then the robot went into action. It had been knocked to the ground, with the vampire on top of it, but once it was bitten, it flipped the creature over so that it was pinned.

The President watched in awe as the woman displayed incredible strength - she was kneeling on the vampire's back, and was repeatedly beating the vamp's face into the ground. Even after the monster's face was a bloody mess that was unrecognizable, she continued to rhythmically bang the creature's head (or what was left of it) into the floor. After the beast had gone limp, Simon pushed another button the remote control, and the woman froze, mid-attack.

Simon addressed the President, "This is a decoy model, Mrs. Palin. We feel that these machines will be effective deterrents for vampire attacks. But we are also able to deploy the Hunter-Killer models, to eliminate the threat altogether.

"These cyborgs are a perfect solution to our problem, and they are completely in our control. They won't harm civilians, they are programmed only to destroy those who are infected. Our lab tests have been 100% accurate, as you can see with the documents my crew have provided you. It's now your call, Madam President. Do you want to implement these robots into the public?"

Sarah Palin enthusiastically replied, "You betcha."


150 days remain...

Over the next four months, Kyle and I acquired IDs. I was now known as Adam King, while the bot was going as Gabe, my younger brother by one year. When Kyle had been captured and the Mim-cha made a copy of his features, we were both 24. Even though it had only been a little over a year, I had certainly aged enough, while Kyle, of course, still looked the same. So the age difference made a bit of sense in that regard. Also, Kyle figured that people would remember identical twins much easier than simply two siblings, and the less conspicuous we were, the better.

We had also obtained a good deal of weaponry, which made me dread the inevitable showdown between us and the Mim-cha army.

The Mim-cha themselves were staying under the radar, at least so far. We would travel from town to town, with Kyle doing internet searches whenever we could. It was bizarre to see Kyle connect to the internet. He could interact with the machines in a way that was downright spooky, but it certainly helped us in knowing what was going on in the world. Kyle notified me that the Mim-cha ancestors were being released into the public. These were the bots that had been designed to destroy vampires. They looked human, of course, as a way of fooling the infected, but they were just as much a machine as he was. The only difference, I was told, was that these bots were still under human control. Kyle informed me that the Mim-cha would not truly be born until they began to automate themselves and make altercations to their software.
For now, though, he said that any Mim-cha we saw would not pose a threat, and besides, he'd ping on them in advance so we could escape.

Turns out that Kyle wasn't always right.

In Monterrey, Mexico, we had gone to a small internet cafe to conduct some searches, to see if the Mim-cha from 2037 had yet shown up - but so far no reports of bots killing people - there were folks who feared them, of course, but most of the critics were silenced by how well the bots performed. It's difficult to criticize something that routinely saves your life. In fact, the demand for bots was far outpacing the supply, and Kyle reported that Sarah Palin was pushing for automated factories to be opened.

While in the cafe, a man saw us and approached with recognition in his eyes. I eyed him cautiously, and saw that he had a concealed weapon. Of course, Kyle and I were also armed. I whispered to Kyle, "We should go."

Kyle looked up as the man arrived in front of us. "Kyle Johnson?" he asked. I felt my heart begin to race - who would know us here? Kyle, of course, wasn't thrown at all. He shook his head. "No. Sorry." We tried to make our way past the man, but he blocked the path. "You are Kyle Johnson. You need to ..." Kyle pushed the man, hard, which should have been enough to unbalance the man and knock him to the floor, but he stood his ground, and in fact, even drew his weapon. A few of the patrons gasped. Kyle grabbed me, and pushed me in front of him, toward the door to leave. The man fired four shots, directly into Kyle's back, as the two of us began to flee.

Kyle fired his own gun at the man, hitting him in the shoulder. Even while running, we both heard the metallic ting that was familiar to both of us - this 'man' was actually a robot! Kyle hadn't pinged on him, for some reason.

The patrons at the cafe screamed and ducked for cover and tried to flee for cover. The bot fired it's gun a few more times, emptying it as it ran after us. I led the way, with Kyle taking up the rear and acting as my shield from the bullets. We exited the cafe along with a good portion of the crowd, and began running down the street. The cyborg continued to chase us.

As we ran, we could hear sirens approaching.

The two of us ran through an alley, approaching an abandoned looking building. Kyle paused, and said, "In here."

I wasn't about to question Kyle's planning - it had worked for us so far - but this seemed a bit odd. Leading us into a building with no obvious exits? Well, it wasn't like I had many other options. I followed Kyle as he hammered through the closed door into the darkened building. As soon as we entered, I could sense that we were not alone. I could see a creature, huddled in the corner, watching us. I heard another shuffle above us. Undoubtedly there were others within the structure.

Kyle stepped forward and shouted, "Help me and my friend, and I will help you."

I still hadn't figured out what exactly my robotic twin had planned, but this was certainly an unexpected twist. How was Kyle going to help a bunch of vampires? If I were the vamps, I'd be thinking the same thing, but a gravelly voice answered back, "Of course."

And then, before I could wonder at how Kyle could calm a group of monsters so easily, the door was kicked in by the bot that had been chasing us. Behind him were three other people (or were they bots? I had no idea of knowing how many of the cyborgs were active in Monterrey, and whether the bot searching for us had requested backup. In the future, Mim-cha often traveled in packs, so it was possible that there could have been more robots nearby. Regardless, there were four individuals entering the premise looking for us.

The bot leading the group entered and was swarmed upon instantly. It was difficult to make out the melee in the dark, but there were more vamps than I had ever seen. Some of them were armed with crowbars and pieces of wood or shards of glass as well as their teeth and nails. Bots are quite strong, of course, but there were just too many vampires attacking this one for it to fight them all off. It did manage to kill some, but it wasn't enough. The beasts devoured the skin, blood, and muscle that was the bot's outer layer, leaving the robotic endoskeleton underneath - which they dismantled in a frenzy of anger and destruction.

The three people who had joined the bot in it's search were grabbed by other vampires and dragged into the building before they could flee. They had, it turned out, been human. Soon, nothing remained of them but bloodstains on several of the creatures' mouths. Even their clothing was being passed around and tried on by the monsters. I leaned over and vomited, the taste bitter and acidic.

Kyle said to me, "We should go. More will be coming."

The vampires were passing around bits of the bot - an arm here, a leg there. One of them had the silver metal skull in his hands, carrying it like a trophy. Kyle approached and said, "I need this." The vampire glared at him, and I could see that he was considering the fact that his kind out-numbered Kyle and I - by a lot. Then, he looked at Kyle a little closer, and simply handed the skull over. He took the machine-head, and said to me, "We have research to do."


140 days remain...

We had learned several things in the week and a half since the attack in the cafe. First, that the bots that were being deployed worldwide (the pre-Mim-cha bots) were on a different frequency than he (and the other Mim-cha from the future) were, which is how he was unable to ping the bot that had attacked us in the cafe. The good news about that was that it worked both ways. He was unable to detect them, but they could not track him down, either.

Second, if given a chance to 'operate' on him, he would be able to talk me through altering his programming so that he would be able to also be hidden from the future Mim-cha's pings, which would allow us to go back to LA to get a closer look at whatever it was that the bots from '37 were planning - and perhaps stop it.

Third, I learned that I still despised the bot that had my brother's face. Over the months that we had been in the past, I had grudgingly begun to almost respect the thing. But I held him accountable for the murders of those three men who had followed us into the building. Our relationship was rather strained, but, of course, Kyle felt nothing, which left all of the resentment and anger and hostility completely on my shoulders. I ached for Reese, or any human contact, really. My whole life, it seemed, was being dictated by machines from the future. I had considered simply going on a kamikaze mission on my own, when Simon found us.

Simon was an old man now, and when he first approached us, I didn't recognize him. But when Kyle had confirmed that he was, in fact, the Simon Birden we had known ...or would know... I embraced the friend I had thought had been lost forever.


Simon explained his story: In '37 when the vampires had attacked us, and the three of us had gone into spheres, he had not activated his right away. Simon could read some of the readouts - he had learned some Mim-cha-ese over the years - and saw that the display panel was indicating that the default time destination was where we had wound up - early 2012. But, upon further inspection, he saw that he was able to choose a different destination. He was able to travel back to 1984. The way the spheres worked, at least in part, was that they soaked up energy from around them like sponges, and were able to use that to travel further into the past. Simon was only able to go back to 1984 because the Vultures had been flying above the facility when the original '37 had gone back in time. And, he theorized, that if there had been more energy available, he would have been able to go further back than that.

Simon had spent the last 28 years helping to create Project Mimic - which, as we all knew, was the precursor to the Mim-cha. He had wanted to change history, but at the same time, he needed to ensure that the vampire plague did not overwhelm humanity. Additionally, he knew that eventually we would show up, as would the other Mim-cha.

When Simon had seen the video footage of Kyle and I in the Los Angeles neighborhood, he knew that time was short. He convinced President Palin to implement the bots into the public, but he had added a feature that nobody knew about - he had ordered them to be on the lookout for Kyle and myself, and to notify him if we were spotted.

Unfortunately, the plan had worked too well, and now Palin had approved automated factories - despite his protests - and soon enough the Mim-cha would be self-aware and would start killing humans as well as vampires.

We told Simon that we were planning on stopping the '37 Mim-cha, and Kyle told him about the pinging frequency solution. Simon agreed to help us, and to alter Kyle's frequency.

Once the change had been made, we made our way back into LA, to track down and investigate the robots from the future.


23 days remain...

The Mim-cha had hidden pretty effectively, and LA is a large city, so it took a longer time than anticipated to locate the bots. Eventually, we pinpointed a large abandoned building that had been receiving odd shipments for several months. Through interrogation of several vampires that Kyle had caught and spoken with (and I again made a note to ask myself why exactly they trusted him), we discovered that the large empty building had once been a thriving breeding ground for vamps, but after some especially brutal machines moved in, they had stayed away. The odd thing was that the bots had arrived months before Palin had released any to the public, and they didn't patrol the neighborhoods, they just stuck to their one location.

We decided that was it, and made our way to it in the middle of the night. When we made our way in, guns drawn, expecting to be assaulted, we found... spheres. Time displacement spheres, simply sitting on the factory floor. All 36 of the bots were stored inside them, in hibernation mode. We walked around the spheres, taking in the entire scene, expecting that at any moment they may sense intruders, and awaken.

Kyle looked at one of the spheres, and noticed a countdown timer. It was set to go off minutes before the time that the bombs were going to hit.

Simon put the pieces together. "My god," he whispered, "they are going to use the energy from the atomic blasts to travel further back in time."

A nuclear bomb had a hell of a lot of energy. If two airplanes were able to send Simon back almost 30 years, I wondered about a blast that size. "How far back could they go?"

Simon did some quick calculating. "I don't know exactly, but it wouldn't surprise me if they were able to go back some fifty thousand years. They could eliminate humankind much easier back then."

"We have to get reinforcements!" I said. "We can still prevent them from doing this. You have an in with the President, just have her send in the Guard, and wipe these bastards out!"

"We can try that," Simon agreed, "but Sarah is less likely to listen to me now that the Mim-cha are actively killing people, and besides, the Guard are thinning. She's reaching the desperation point. Perhaps I can convince her to just bomb here - early. If the bombs go off before the Mim-cha inside are expecting it, they'll simply be obliterated instead of able to use the energy from the blasts to go back in time."

"No, Simon." I said. "There has to be a way to do this without setting off nukes. If Sarah or the Guard won't help us, perhaps the vamps will. They listen to you, Kyle. Can you convince them to help destroy these?"

Kyle considered it. "It will take some time to get enough infected to destroy all of these spheres and Mim-cha. But, yes, I will do what I can."


3 days remain...

In the White House, Sarah Palin watched the reports coming in with increasing dread. The god-damn machines had backfired. They were taking over, and since it was damn near impossible to tell a robot (who were so alien in their thought patterns, that they'd started calling themselves "Mim-cha") from a human, the paranoia levels were supremely high. She had locked herself away for several months now, not making public appearances at all. The rumors were flying about her - that she was dead, that she was a robot, that she was pregnant with twins [one human, one machine], that she was traveling into the future - but she had to remain hidden. Most of the public demanded her to pay. They held her accountable for crashing civilization, and for the birth of the Mim-cha.
She had, of course, tried so hard to turn them off. And they had succeeded briefly. But somehow the machines had risen again, and they'd been pissed.

Now, she was considering her options, and the "kill it to save it" philosophy was beginning to seem more and more reasonable. A few tactical nuclear drops would eliminate a good portion of the Mim-cha, while still allowing humanity to recoup their losses....

But did she really want to have that mark on her record as well? The stress at making this decision was greater than anything she'd ever felt before.

Her head in her hands, she didn't hear that another person had entered the room until she was tapped on the shoulder. She turned and faced... herself.

"Hello, bitch," the Sarah Palin bot said. "You shouldn't have pulled the plug."


4 hours remain...

We had an army. Kyle, with about 400 vamps at his command (some of them eyeing me hungrily). Simon, with roughly three times that amount of his bots. (He had been able to reprogram them in secret. Sarah Palin had decided that Simon Birden was a domestic terrorist and had ordered his immediate execution on sight. So the three of us had been conducting this army building in secret. Not only were we hiding from the authorities, but the Mim-cha were also killing indiscriminately.

But, despite it being the day of the bombs falling, we were here. And we were ready to take these time traveling menaces out, once and for all.

We stormed the building, and were met with resistance. The Mim-cha had set up guards. These robots were not the ones from '37, but were instead ones that had been built in the present, and knew that they were to stand outside this building and not allow anything to get past them.

The vampires and robots battled intensely, with many of the vamps falling at the wayside. During the fighting, one vamp leapt onto my back - thinking in the confusion that he'd be able to sneak in a snack - and Kyle again saved my life. The thing had gotten a good bite into my shoulder before Kyle hurled it some thirty feet into the air, where a bullet (who knows whether it was 'friendly fire' or not) caught the creature in the right eye, ending it permanently. Kyle asked me if I was okay, and I assured him that I was.

Simon was not. He was shot in the hip by a Mim-cha shortly into the battle, and demanded that we go on without him. He apologized for all he had done saying that all he'd done had done no good, and you couldn't fight fate. I told him that it wasn't over yet, and that there was no fate but what we make.

Eventually the fighting made it's way into the building. Our army began to demolish the spheres. The Mim-cha inside would awaken, screaming as if in horrible pain, and thrash about at whatever they could, but most of them were too confused to do much damage.

One of the Mim-cha must have set off some sort of alarm, though, as the final three spheres opened before we could reach them to destroy them. The Mim-cha inside were alert and incredibly angry. (And I thought machines couldn't feel emotion. But these things had an aura of rage about them.)

One of them raced toward me, and kicked me, hard, in the jaw. I felt some of my teeth go down my throat, and my vision blurred. I felt arms pick me up, but I knew it wasn't Kyle, since I was watching him get pummeled by two of the other Mim-cha. The mystery savior placed me inside the sphere and shut the door. As it was closing, I could see that it had been a vampire that had rescued me. I was amazed that a creature like that could demonstrate such an example of humanity.

I blacked out momentarily.

I came to, in time to hear a beeping and see a flash of lightning. I realized that the sphere was activating. I tried, in vain, to stand up and protest. At least, I thought, the bombs haven't fallen. I won't be able to go back that far without the energy from the bombs.

There was a blinding flash of white, and Los Angeles disappeared.

Next: Another Version of the Truth


P@ said...

I know what you're thinking.
"Man, that was long!"
"I can see where you rushed things at the end, there, P@."
"Aren't there two more sections to tell? And didn't you just end it with a nuclear explosion? What are you going to have happen next?"

And my responses would be:
Dude. You're telling me.
Yeah, I know. Like I've said, this is just supposed to be a first draft, and I'm okay with it sucking.
Yes, there are 2 more installments. And Yes, this one ended with a boom. And what's next is the ending. :)

Amy said...

Actually I was thinking, "Pat, you jerk. I just read that whole thing and you won't even let me make my own commentary!"