Thursday, September 12

before hell freezes over

Cold Dead Hans gloated as I dangled helplessly several feet from the ground in his iron grip. The haze of cold that poured out of him onto the ground grew even thicker.

"I will not turn the screamer machine on again, Doctor Mason...because I want to hear you plead for your life before I CRUSH it out of you! And if your little friends think they can swarm me again..."

As I was noticing a thin web of frost stretch up the struts of his arm, a sword blade sprung from the wrist in his other hand. One of those wavy two-handed models.

"Hans. Listen to me carefully..." I struggled to keep my head up and not pass out as I fought for every ragged breath that exhaled as a white cloud. "Your reactor is faulty. If you don't power down immediately this entire region..."

"SILENCE!"  He shook me so hard my neck nearly snapped. My goggles were beginning to frost over as well.

"Even now you try to ferret your way out of you doom!"

I think he meant "weasel".

"Look up!" He lifted me high into the air as I heard a pop and a hiss below me.  "Look up so my airship crew can capture your face one last time before..."

His diatribe was drowned out by the rush of white gas blossoming from his back. His grip relaxed and I fell to the ground.

"Damn you, Hans! I warned you! Somebody help me up!"

Koen reached under my shoulders and scooped me back to my feet, ushering me to the flashing blue orb in the chest cavity of Hans' great failing frame. Recalling what I read of his blueprints, I flipped open the hinged black metal box under which the knife switch to shut down the reactor was meant to reside. However...

"What the hell is this?" I squinted at the squares of off-white plastic inlayed on chrome, and the blinking red lines in a small glass bar above them.

"That's a digital keypad, Dad..."

"DIGITAL?!? HANS! This isn't Steamlands technology! Is this reactor even from..."

As I shouted at his brain-jar, the cylinder suddenly spun in its casing. An array of long, thin spikes of metal expanded from the collar and bent on smooth joints downward until they latched onto the beams where the neck met the shoulders. The joints flexed and smoothly lifted the brain jar from its housing.

"Now how come I never thought of that...?"

I heard the rip of a needle digging into a wax disc that began to spin in the base of the jar, and a tinny echo of his previously booming voice hissed through static. "We shall meet again, Doctor. If you survive, that is."

With slightly less coordination than I would expect, the jar - brain and all - scuttled like a crab off his shoulders until it dropped to the ground.

"CATCH HIM!" I screamed. "We need the code to power down this reactor or New Babbage is DOOMED!"

Koen bolted after him, leaving me to fall to the now-frozen ground as his small army rushed behind.


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