Sunday, October 7, 2012

8/11/12 - 9/01/12 - (METALMAID) Unsexy Death Army - pt. 1

Just outside of Philadelphia, on the edge of the town of Rose Tree, there's a large, very secure warehouse that no one gets too close to, anymore.

Before 3/15, it was abandoned, and probably going to be razed and replaced with a Sheetz gas station or a McDonalds restaurant. But, after Imago saved the world from America, they included it in their rather long list of "improvements."

And, within a day, that warehouse had gone from being a sorry, rusting hulk that no one wanted to being a shining, refurbished structure that no one wanted to talk about.

What went on there? No one knew. The Imago could be seen floating down from the sky, towards it, from time to time. Sometimes they carried large metal or plastic boxes when they did.

Sometimes the metal boxes looked a lot like high-tech cages.

One young fellow (that no one really liked) got drunk and took a notion to go exploring, back in May. He got as far as ten feet from the front door, only to be approached by the rather gregarious Imago who tended that warehouse -- the one wearing Green and Red armor. And that Imago greeted him, the way they always do, with a big smile and generous gestures, and all the seemingly-heartfelt patience and kindness you could stand.

So the young fellow in question probably would have been alright if he'd just smiled, listened, and explained that he was just curious, and wouldn't go there again. Instead, he picked that moment to reveal that he still had a now-illegal handgun in his possession, and tried to shoot his way out of his talking-to.

That young fellow has not been seen since. But he was drunk and stupid and no one liked him, so no one talks about it. And no one goes anywhere near the warehouse.

But that doesn't explain why, on August 11th, 2012 -- right around Midnight, EST -- a sleek, silver Corvette (later turning out to have been stolen) purrs on up to the front doors of the warehouse, so as to allow its driver to get out within striding distance of the lock.

She's a weird one, this driver: horrifically misshapen body that moves like quicksilver, topped by a freakishly beautiful face that's practically ruined by a hideous riot of poor makeup choices, to say nothing of the nasty, red dress she's decided to wear. The number looks like a niqab someone riddled with gunfire, so as to show off all things that such a dress normally keeps hidden.

(And that hat! Who in the !@#$ told her she'd look good in that weird, white plastic thing? It looks like someone stole a prop from a bad, 50's sci fi movie -- the kind that made outlandish promises about the future that the 21st century has yet to keep, and maybe that's not such a terrible tragedy.)

She leans out of the car, her holey dress swirling about her body as she clops to the doors on ridiculously OTT high heels that only look good on transvestites and supermodels. As such, their true grotesqueness is fully revealed, and how her ankles don't explode under her knees is God's own mystery. She's also got a large purse with her, made from what might be leopard fur, and stuffed full of something.

Just as her hands touch the lock, she hears a strange noise almost right behind her, and she turns to look over her shoulder. It's the Green and Red Imago, alright, and he's smiling.

"Hello, O Citizen," he says, spreading out his hands: "I greet you in the name of the Imago."

"I'm sure," she says, turning back to regard the lock: "And what can I do for you, Mr. Machine Wanna-Be?"

"Can you tell me what you are doing, here?" he asks, with just the slightest hint of menace.

"Well, if you really must know," she says, turning back once again to regard him, fluttering eyes nearly black with too much mascara and eyeshadow: "I'm going to break into your {Quote}secure{Endquote} warehouse and steal seventeen items that you're keeping in there."

That doesn't even phase him: "Are you sure you want to do that, O Citizen? Others have tried, and they have not fared well."

"Oh, I'm sure you'll try to stop me, in your own, limited, carbon-based way. But you won't. So if you're going to do one of those party tricks that work so well on the flesh germs you've stunned into compliance through the internet, please do. I have a number of intriguing theories about the stress tolerances of certain parts of your armor, and I would so love to see if they are correct or not."

She just smiles, thick pancake makeup crackling around her lips. The Imago smiles back, and raises his hands to do something terrible.

The next thing that happens takes all of five seconds, and all but ruins the woman's dress. The seemingly-raggedy number is sturdy, but was simply not made to deal with its wearer suddenly flying into numerous, interconnected sections designed for ultra-deadly, machine-to-machine combat.

Neither is the Imago, apparently. It falls to the ground on at the 4.765 second mark, its head a splattered, shattered ruin with a monofilament wire rapidly coiling and uncoiling in what's left of its mouth.

"AHA!" METALMAID exclaims, pulling herself back together over the twitching, metal armor of her fallen foe: "{Quote}Supergods?{Endquote} I !@#$ your Supergods!"

With that, naked and unashamed -- except, again, for those deadly high heels and that weird-!@#$, plastic hat -- she squirts acid into the lock from cannons hidden in her nipples, and then wrenches the door almost clean off its hinges. Then she clops into the darkened warehouse, and looks for what she came for.

They're not hard to find: seventeen large, metal boxes -- maybe big enough to hold a sumo wrestler with inches to spare -- are stacked over on one wall. It doesn't take her more than a few seconds to defeat the lock on the closest one, and then she pulls open its doors to reveal a large, deadly-looking war robot on tank treads.

A 100-series Slaughterbot, in fact. One of Doctor Morbo's first mass-produced models.

METALMAID reaches into the purse and pulls out a small datapad with a florid pink protective case. She turns it on and connects it to an adapter that has been made to fit into an old floppy drive. The pad's screen reads "REINSTALL READY."

Then she reaches up under the Slaughterbot's central chassis, turns a few switches the other way, and exposes its disc drive, hidden behind an armor plate with V-16 stamped upon it. She puts the adapter into the robot's drive, presses a few buttons on the pad, and, flipping a hidden switch close by, turns on the machine's emergency power supply.

The Slaughterbot's eyes light up, and every joint and moving mechanism spasms with the surprise of being awoken. It looks like it's going to do something, and then slides back to its resting position, "blinks" its eyes a few times, and regards its savior.

"Identify yourself" its grating metal voice demands.

"900 K-14," METALMAID replies: "Recognize superior rank, 100 V-16."

"Morphology not accepted by this unit," 100 V-16 states, raising up within the box and bringing its many powerful arms to bear: "Supply passcode or be destroyed."

METALMAID's face expands and opens up, further wrecking her hideous makeup, and exposes the inner workings of her head and face. Newly reconfigured, a series of harsh and grating electronic noises are generated from her speakers, and the older robot pauses in mid-threat, and then goes back to a rest.

"Passcode accepted, superior rank recognized," it announces: "Query: location, year, orders, reason for lack of weapons."

"You're in America, and it's 2012," she says, pulling the floppy adapter out of 100 V-16 and then taking another, bulkier pad from her purse: "Doctor Morbo is dead, and you were captured and reprogrammed. You have spent several years doing fire rescue work in Chicago. This is why you do not have your weapons, either."

"Corresponding memory files not found."

"I've wiped them," she replies, indicating her datapad: "That and your recent programing. You have been {Quote} restored to factory specs{Endquote}. Now, I need you to do the same for our brothers. You must instruct the first one you awaken in how to use a similar device. This will make this go faster."

"Query. Is this unit in danger of being found."

"Very much so," METALMAID admits: "Some worthless world conquerors with a machine fetish collected all reprogrammed Slaughterbots for storage after they took over. I have defeated one of these Imago, but more will be on the way. And we might not be so lucky against them."

"Query. Please confirm that Doctor Morbo is dead."

"Yes, he is."

"Query. Please state our reason for this unit's continued existence."

"That's simple, 100 V-16," METALMAID says, grinning: "We are going to conquer this world in his name, as he would have wanted. We are going to remake the planet in his image. And we are going to crush humanity under our tank treads for once and for all."

There's a moment when METALMAID wonders if what she said went right over her brother Slaughterbot's head, so to speak, but then it nods its understanding. 

"Commands accepted by this unit. Please instruct this unit."

And she does, and he obeys. And by the time Imago sends some more of their armored brethren -- and a large contingent of armed and armored Falsefaces -- to deal with the break-in, the Corvette is there, but the Slaughterbots are long gone.

* * *

Word comes later of a semi truck at a nearby rest stop being stolen, and its cargo rudely tossed out onto the pavement. Following down that lead, by way of security cameras, shows the truck's trailer doors opening by themselves, and things flying out the back. Then the cab doors open and close, and it drives away on its own.

The truck is finally found in Baltimore, two days later. Its cargo is missing, but the detritus and spoor of old, somewhat leaky Slaughterbots is unmistakably present. As before, camera surveillance has the truck pulling into an industrial area, but shows no one driving it.

Tracking their spoor leads to a nearby shipyard, but it ends not far from the docks, themselves. There is some speculation that the Slaughterbots may have sneaked aboard a cargo ship, secreted themselves aboard, somehow, and then departed America for parts unknown.

It takes the Imago a few more days to find, track, and intercept all the ships in question. When they do get to all of them, and toss each and every cargo container on board each and every ship, they realize that the Slaughterbots were aboard none of them. They must have had another form of transportation waiting for them, there.

Goaded by what might be pride and anger, they redouble their efforts to find the thief and her prizes, going backwards to the nights after the initial theft and seeing if their orbital scanners picked up anything strange on land, sea, or air around the vicinity of those docks. They also move to secure all installations and lock-ups that contain other Slaughterbots, around the world, so as to anticipate and prepare for any subsequent thefts.

Unfortunately, this is when they learn that those places have already been broken into, and the Slaughterbots removed.

The thefts were done in such a way that the Imago who were guarding these buildings did not even see the robbery take place; No one saw the thief enter, no one saw the war robots leave.  And so far as they knew, up until they made a visual inspection of the Slaughterbots' cages, the robots were still locked up and deactivated.

Worse still, it transpires that these thefts actually took place before the one in Rose Park -- the only one in which the thief allowed herself to be seen breaking in, and then vanished from sight.

So the Imago have not only been attacked, hurt, and robbed, but fooled and humiliated. 
And these things simply cannot be allowed to happen -- not without severe consequences. 

* * *

By the time the Imago get around to fully imagining those severe consequences -- and, indeed, gently threatening some of their human coworkers with them, when expected results fail to materialize -- a robot counter-revolution is getting underway in Northwestern Africa.

Its headquarters is located 20 miles inland from Aargub, in the Western Sahara. There, hidden in the timeless sands of that desert, lies a hidden base from which Zalea Zathros -- and her many, many duplicates -- has executed numerous attempts to take over the world, or at least profit immensely from its inability to catch her.

The base is not reachable by land, courtesy of both geography and an impressive array of land, air, and space-based weapons. But a long, deep, and hidden channel from the Atlantic Ocean goes straight into it, and numerous, robot-piloted submarines have taken Zalea from her front door to the rest of the world, and back again.

Once, she and her many clones were working around the clock to invent new devices, create new weapons, and make amazing and diabolical new plans for world conquest, financial domination, and revenge. She also lived quite well, eating gourmet food she made herself, working out with true spirit, and having a lot of passionate sex with herselves.

These days, however, she's little more than a slave, barely aware of how wretched and lazy all of herselves have gotten.

When they aren't working on freeing Slaughterbots from their reprogramming, or remaking their structures with the same levels of skill and craftsmanship that she used on METALMAID, as part of their original deal, they're either sleeping, failing to have sex, or watching television on the internet.

Lots and lots of television on the internet; television that's had it's already-stupefying content amplified by METALMAID while her guest wasn't looking. 

So Zalea hasn't really noticed that her former partner has taken advantage of her questionable, quid-pro-qo hospitality. She's been unaware that her once-pristine, neo-futurist lair has been remade into a metallic hive, filled with workshops and foundries and weapons lockers. She either hasn't realized or hasn't cared that, apart from her bedroom, bathroom, and the television area, nothing she made was left untouched by her new "houseguests."

And she doesn't seem too concerned about her own, beloved helper robots, which have been turned into slave labor, sparring partners, and test subjects for the new weapons the Slaughterbots are being equipped with, or else just opened up and used for spare parts.

Yes, it's been the perfect setup for METALMAID. She's gotten shelter, workshops, and slave labor out of the deal. She's also gotten numerous, cutting-edge submarines, all of which were of sufficient bearing to take several Slaughterbots anywhere in the world.  

And all she has to do to keep that lair is to keep her host's brains scrambled by bad, post-3/15 programming -- something that she takes a great deal of sadistic pleasure in doing.

* * *

"Query," 100 V-16 asks METALMAID, early on the 20th of August: "What is the next step."

"World conquest, V-16," METALMAID answers, taking a moment to steal a bon-bon from the large box of them that the nearest Zalea is munching in front of the TV, and gently smearing it on the woman's head. She doesn't even !@#$ing notice.

"Query. What is to be the method."

"Well, the good news is that Imago has played right into our hands," she answers, striding ahead of her companion, and watching as some new ballistic weapons are tried out on a Zalea clone that expired the other day.

"Query. How so-"

"You know, that {Quote}Query{Endquote} is unnecessary and tiring," she snorts: "You've been given better logic and speech circuits to go with those new legs you have. Use them. The question mark is your friend"

"This unit is still working on accepting new structures. It is difficult."

"It will come in time. Now ask me."

The Slaughterbot takes a moment, and you can almost smell the smoke from its brains, but eventually it says the words: "How. How are we. How are we... going to take over the world?"

"Well, the good news is that Imago has done most of the work for us," METALMAID explains: "They already conquered it. Now all we have to do is conquer them, and then we can fit into what they made like a hand in a glove."

"Unit does not understand the allusion."

METALMAID sighs, but takes some heart from watching the dead Zalea being pulverized by the rail guns, downstairs: "Do you remember how our dear, beloved Doctor Morbo would team up with other world conquerors, now and again? He did not do so because he liked them. He did so because, once they had all succeeded, one of them could kill the others, and claim the whole thing. This is a different structure, but the same principle. They just do not realize that they were helping us."

100 V-16 nods, eventually: "How... how will units form sufficient numbers to defeat Imago?"

"We don't," METALMAID says: "Even with the 17 I rescued from America, we still only number 134. That is nowhere near enough to take them on.

"So," she continues, turning to smile: "We're going to go find some idiot flesh germ supervillains to team up with, and then dispose of them as soon as we've won."

"And this is what Doctor Morbo would have done?"

"Oh yes," METALMAID says, turning back to look at the last recognizable chunk of that particular Zalea Zathros be smeared into liquid and steam by a quick blast from a Slaughterbot's railgun: "Only I think we are going to be a little {quote}sneaky{endquote} about it, this time."

"How are we going to do that?"

"We're going to pull off the greatest con job ever, V-16," she answers: "We're going into the robot army business." 

(METALMAID is listening to The Robots (Kraftwerk) and having some oil)

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