Saturday, September 7

the third wave

"You wretched little scamps! I warned you!"

And at that moment a sound like a thousand fingernails scraping across a chalkboard ripped through the air. Oh dear Lord, I thought. Please don't let Hans have a Deadly Ringer weapon! Even as far away as we were, poor Sprog curled up on the gravel beneath us covering her ears and screaming.

"Sprog? Surely you've heard a siren before...?" The boy whose wounds I was dressing began convulsing.

"Red Fire!" I luckily had some small wax globes stashed away in my bandolier. A must for anyone who works near artillery. I pushed a pair of the globes into Ryan's ears and the convulsing stopped. Then I struggled to pull Sprog's hands away from her ears long enough to give her healing protection as well.

These screamer weapons are loathsome. At best they're adequate for crowd control at the very lowest settings. At worst their vibrations rattle the brain in its skull and rip through flesh. They should be banned, I tell you!

I stood up to watch the tribes of Wasteland youth scatter as Hans rose to his feet. What was left of him, actually. Somehow those children managed to pry most the armor off that metal colossus! His reactor core, pulsing a deep blue and spilling with icy mist, was exposed in the construct's chest. But still none of the tykes had ripped that stupid semblance of a beard off his face.

I shouted for Koen, even though I knew it was useless. I dove for cover just as I saw my son careening towards me in his hover board. He sped over me and crashed into the hill, rolling end over end. The poor boy, his neko ears must be even more susceptible to the audible onslaught than the other children.

I glanced to the other side of the crater by the fallen column where Yagi had lay wounded. She, and the chain gun, were gone. What the blazes...?

And that's when she tapped on my elbow. I spun and there she was, with the massive empty weapon in her hands, looking up at me with the utmost concern. Concern, but no pain...

Yes, of course! Shapechangers were immune to Deadly Ringer effect because their inner ears would always bounce back, and never shatter, from the force of the vibration.  I pulled another blueprint from my chest pocket.

"Build this!" I said. She nodded and took the plans.  She bounded over another crumbled wall and threw down the chain gun, and literally leapt onto it! I stood in amazement. Her features blurred as she molded herself around the gun. No wonder she could build so fast!  I give her a blueprint with an exploded view and she pulls the original object apart inside her and reassembles it!

It was time for another old Capper Brigade trick.  I stood at the top of the hill and tossed a rock at him. It bounced off his head, sadly not breaking the filthy red plumage on his helmet. His neck rotated at an unlikely angle. I pantomimed screaming at him. I wasn't going to wreck my vocal chords over the racket he was generating. His false jaw flapped up and down in response but since there was no read his lips (he had none) I didn't even try to guess what he was saying. I continued to silently castigate him like a preacher in one of those flickering penny-booths. (The arcades always install it in one machine as a prank to non-frequent customers. Don't ask me how I know this.) I began rattling off imaginary points of order on my fingers when he finally turned the screamer off.


I smirked. The trick works every time.

"Why don't you try picking on someone your own size?"

Gravel crunched beneath his massive metal feet as he started up the hill towards me. I noted a flash of green light followed by a momentary flicker of yellow from where Yagi was hiding with her newest project.

"You're the closest thing to that, Mason. You have time for a quick prayer before I pulverize you!"

I kept my composure when I felt the chill of his cold fusion reactor core as he stopped within reach of me.

"With all due respect, Hans, I strongly urge you to look behind you."

"HA! I am not falling for such an immature-"



A figure in a black bodysuit radiating an emerald light landed behind him with such force it made the broken ground shake.

He outstretched his arm which held a brilliantly shining disc. The light emanating from it congealed like molten lead into a mold, forming a huge mechanical claw. The claw slammed tight around Hans. With a quick spin of the disc with his wrist, Hans was raised in a powerful arc and slammed cranium-first into the ground.

A roar echoed through the crater as Koen's ragtag army of savage children crawled from their hiding places and scrambled closer to witness the triumph of the Green Lantern.

"Greetings, Father."

"Nice to see you, Ash. Did you kill him?"

"Kill? Subject is a User?"

"User? I would use the term Cyborg."

"Analyzing subject."

He drew the arm upwards again. Hans' which I mean the ridiculous freon tank bucket with a feather decoration and the hinged metal jaw crudely decorated with a merkin false beard was gone. Only the clear cylinder with a floating brain and connected ocular sensors that was underneath remained.

"Life-sustaining equipment is still functional. Subject..."

He was interrupted by a blinding flash. I heard a rush of wind inches from my face followed by a heavy thud. My eyes recovered. Hans lay on the ground where he had been previously suspended. The circuitry on Ash's armor flickered out and he collapsed at my feet.

"Ash! What?"

That was when I saw Ash's arm a few feet away, severed below the elbow. It was still clutching his power disc. Handfuls of gears and springs spilled over the ground from where the limb was cut away. The edge of the cut was still glowing from the heat of the deadly instrument.

The crowd of children began to back away slowly. Their attention was focused on something behind and above me. This could not possibly be good. I spun around to see a floating silhouette wreathed in golden circuitry, brandishing a yellow disc. I could sense an aura of dread pulsing from his weapon.

"Hello dear brother. I see it's story time. Would your little friends like to hear a nursery rhyme?"

"In brightest day, in blackest night
See Terror forged in circuits bright!
All ye flee before the sight

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