|20.20|21|22|22.2|22.22|22.222|23|24|25|Those Extra Four…|1|2|3|4|Back Cover|
The Dilapidated Warehouse
“Listen, I never claimed to know the way around these woods, nor did I ever claim to know the specific trail we have to follow to get to the warehouse. I didn’t even want to go on this mission, I could be sleeping right now.”
“Affirmative, and understood,” G1-Zm0 says in a computerized voice as the pistons in his legs march him further and further up the mountain. “Apologies UltraVee, I should’ve pulled KingPig out of his mud.”
Violet sighs, then, “It’s fine Gary, don’t worry about it. And you don’t need to use the codenames when it’s just us, that’s more of a Hymarc thing.”
“What codenames?” Jennae bounces. “And you should call him Sean, he’ll buy you nice things if you act like you want to sleep with him.”
“But don’t you actually sleep with him?” Violet asks, mostly to herself but loud enough for everyone else to overhear.
“Sort of… but only when Daddy’s in the room with us. Ugh,” she shudders, thinking back to their group therapy sessions. “And I don’t even let him touch me when we’re in there, so don’t get any ideas with your cameras and stuff.”
Violet is absolutely disgusted at the fact that Jennae, or anybody for that matter, would even entertain the thought of her being into voyeurism. ‘There are so many better fetishes out there, like, really? Sex is not a spectator sport.’ She’s especially put off by the fact that Jennae thinks she would be into watching her, of all humans, in the act – they spend so much time together that they’re basically sisters, that would be so twisted.
Two minutes of silent hiking later and Jennae’s about to freak out. She channels this uncomfortableness into, “SO ahaha, what’s new everybody? I feel like it’s been, like, days since we’ve all talked and caught up!”
“Incorrect,” G1Zm0 drones, consulting his memory archives to be sure. “All three of us had conversed on the flight over here. I say three even though there were four of us. As you all may remember, Rose wasn’t explicitly talkative.”
“No Gary, she def was not!” Jennae claps, giddily overpowering the harmony of nature with the noise of humanity. “I wonder what crawled up her coochie and went ka-put!”
“Well,” Violet condescends from the top of the boulder she just climbed, holding a hand down to help Jennae up, “considering how she just” strain “got back from a mission toting Ray’s lifeless corpse and news of Wolf’s disappearance, she was probably traumatized. Probably saw some shit that she didn’t want to see. Wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened to the poor thing.”
“Whatever you say, UltraVee, with your purple hair up on this rock. I’m so jealous of that hair, ugh. Anyway, that girl’s name may be Rose, but she is nuttin’ sweet!” the nuttin’ sweet part spoken in an accent that Jennae had to practice in a mirror over and over and over again for a movie role. “If it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t have to be climbing this stupid mountain in the first place!”
“Yes, because ensuring we don’t get dropped into an ambush is such a terrible idea. Pipe down, Jenjen.”
Despite Jennae’s best attempts at sparking conversations, Violet snuffs out any semblance of talkative embers for the rest of the hike. The climb doesn’t last very long; our three of the seven MERCs find their way to the clearing on top of the plateau where the Apex Secret Storage Facility And Warehouse, or ASSFAW as literally nobody at Apex calls it, was built and then abandoned many years ago.
The structure was originally meant to be a top secret, very high-tech storage facility where the Apex Corporation could keep any and all of their prized, dangerous, and/or lucrative inventions and/or projects latched away under lock and key from the prying eyes of the public, but then the public’s eyes stopped prying when the US government collapsed in 2012 and everybody stopped caring about what went on behind the closed doors the buildings outside the town or city they lived in. It was like all of America’s settlements pulled a New Manhattan and erected a border wall, but not one made out of titanium. No, the walls enclosing places like Treering and Brick City are built of something stronger: high grade ignorance.
Speaking of New Manhattan, Hymarc could have easily moved his Apex Corporation into the city when it opened in ‘010, but he chose not to, preferring to wait until it was established before he sunk any of his time or hard-earned money into supporting the creation of somebody else. Had he invested, he could easily own half of the companies that Chuck currently owns, which is four or five times more than Hymarc thinks he owns, but that’s neither here nor there.
As more and more businesses migrated to NewMann, less and less were available for Apex to acquire. Considering the fact that the Apex Corporation began as a private consultation firm and Hymarc was consistently slow on the draw at taking himself to the next level and acquiring child companies (aside from the aquarium), he didn’t have very much to store out here in the wilderness of North Dakota. Plus, Apex was based out of Brick City at the time, the commute was asinine. So, Hymarc wound up acquiring a foreclosed science and warehousing company in some beatnik north Jersey town for himself; he still occasionally uses the North Dakota facility today, but on the whole, the warehouse – along with the hundreds of acres of mountainous property the warehouse sits within – was left to rot.
The land didn’t rot, obviously; nature took over in force. Where there was once a clearly carved and marked trail leading up to the facility, there is now a game trail littered with rockslides and fallen trees. Where there was once a neatly trimmed grass lawn, there now sprouts waist-high tufts of crabgrass. Where there once stood the supremely sturdy solid steel exterior that served as Apex’s version of the impenetrable NewMann wall, there is now a hollowed-out rusted shell that couldn’t serve its purpose even if it tried. If that’s not poetic, I don’t know what is; the doors of the thing degraded so much that G1-Zm0 can effortlessly open them with just one of his cybernetically-enhanced arms.
As he opens the door, a massive cobweb is torn apart, unleashing a torrential waterfall of baby spiders upon the unsuspecting MERC. Thankfully, G1-Zm0 is a soulless automaton, and he is aware that the spiders can’t possibly do anything to hurt him, so he’s not afraid. Sometimes, a lack of any and all human emotion is helpful.
Telling the ladies to wait outside for a moment, G1-Zm0 walks in and performs a scan of the building. The walls are lined with empty shelving units, and in the center of the concrete floor, covered in dust and muzzling the mouth of the bottomless pit that wasn’t depicted in any of the internally accessible top-secret clearance level schematics of the ASSFAW that G1-Zm0 accessed not only on the flight over but also on the trek up the mountain and whilst walking across the uncut lawn, rests the Apex Corporation’s entire supply of robinite, an extremely rare and valuable space metal that came to Earth via meteor once and was never seen again. Apex’s robinite, which was bought at an underground BL4K-MRKT auction, was formed into a piece of two-inch thick sheet metal, and atop that sheet metal sits one of Hymarc’s dilapidated old cars that’s more rusted out than the warehouse that holds it.
G1-Zm0 pokes his head, which is atop a very long extendo-neck that Torpol installed for the hell of it, out through the doors to inform his female allies that the coast is clear. Or rather, he would have, if they hadn’t just followed him right in after he got rid of the very occupied spider’s nest, and if he had said extendo-neck upgrade in the first place.
Torpol does nothing for the hell of it, you swine.
Violet is the first to approach the car, but G1-Zm0 stops her with an extendo-arm, one that actually exists. Violet proceeds to grasp said arm with her bare hand and, as the star tattooed over her eye begins to glow a bright purple, she severs it in half with the hard-light circular sawblade that comes spinning out the stretch of hand skin between her palm and the tip of her middle finger. The hand piece of G1-zm0’s arm drops to the ground and the extendo- piece retracts into the cyborg’s body like a buttery piece of spaghetti into the mouth of a very Italian high school track coach.
“Oooh,” Jennae swoons, “kinky.”
Violet, after flipping Jennae off with G1-Zm0’s severed noodle hand, says, “Don’t ever try to do that again, Gary.”
“Affirmative, verbal apologies.” After the atom-sized nanobots in his body reattach his severed arm, “There seems to be an anomaly underneath the automobile.”
“A what?” Jennae asks, unsure what the word anomaly means.
G1-Zm0 goes cross-eyed and says, “Anomaly. From the Greek word anōmalos. Noun. Definition: something that deviates from what is standard, normal or expected.” G1-Zm0’s eyes then uncross and he looks around, as if he didn’t know where he was.
Violet cuts in (in a much less literal way) with, “To use it in a sentence: Ever since his accident, a normal conversation with Gary is an anomaly.” The two girls laugh and high five, walking right past G1-Zm0 and towards the old jalopy.
It’s an ancient early-2000s station wagon, painted the identical shade of gray the Apex Corporation’s main headquarters is bathed in. Its hood is a box, the interior a box, and the trunk a very large box that contains a smaller box, the small box made from a strange bluish metal that almost glows in the dark. It doesn’t quite glow, but it almost does, as if it was reflecting the tiny bit of sunlight that’s shining into the facility through the many rusted-out holes in both the ceiling and the door of the car’s trunk.
Violet grabs the trunk’s handle and pulls, but the door doesn’t give. “Must be locked… anyone have the keys?”
“Negative,” G1-Zm0 negates. “President Hymarc specifically instructed us to not open the trunk. We are to bring the entire vehicle back with us.”
“Oh my ghaaad, what a drag,” Jennae groans, really putting her back in to it. “Hymey can be such a draaag sometimes, I swear to gosh.”
“Gary, why didn’t you tell us that before I tried to open it? What the hell, man?”
“It did not seem necessary. And I am not a man, I am a cyborg.”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean you should be lacking a brain, does it?”
G1-Zm0 computes this hypothetical for a few moments, the processor chip implanted into his brain performing quintillions of calculations in mere seconds, then, “Affirmative, that does not mean that I am lacking a brain.”
“Okay. Well you have some kind of learning software up there, right? Do you have any idea what could have happened if you let me open that trunk? Because I sure as hell don’t. I could have been, I don’t know, impaled in the heart or something awful like that. Jeez Gary, why does Hymarc even send you on these missions?”
“Because I lack all human emotions and my actions cannot be influenced by such unpredictable whims.”
“Huh… well fair enough.”
“I’m bored, and hungry, can we wrap this up puh-leeeeaase?” whines Jennae as she bulks up, her suddenly massive biceps and triceps shredding through the measly threads of the MERC garb that thought they could hold her down.
She waddles over to the trunk of the station wagon, her immense muscle mass making it difficult to walk normally, and grips the top hinges. With a grunt and a couple pulls, Jennae tears the trunk’s door clear off the car, flinging it like a rogue discus through the rusty warehouse doors, pulverizing them into a tetanus-riddled dust storm that will wreak all sorts of havoc on the environment surrounding the warehouse for years to come. The now slightly lighter car shakes a little, as if the sheet metal it’s holding down was impacted from below.
Jennae turns to face the jaded Violet and the flat-faced G1-Zm0. “We are not putting the entire weight of this company car on our backs, girl! …and Gary. We’ll just take the doohickey and you can carry it back to the ship, Gar. No problemo!”
“Problemo: President Hymarc specifically instructed me, and by extension us, to not remove the transmitter from the car.”
“Yo what the fuck?” says a male voice that, according to the known laws of disappearance, should not be in the warehouse right now.
“Wolf?” Violet flabbergasts. “How the fuck are you here?”
“You know, I could ask myself the same question.”
Wolf turns to face the exposed transmitter. As he does, a small slot opens up in the top surface of the device. From the hole extends a metal arm, and from that metal arm extends yet another metal arm. One more metal arm extends at a right angle from the second metal arm, this metal arm ending in a small blue box that stops a mere inch off-center of Wolf’s sternum.
Right over his heart.
“Uh… what the hell are you gals getting int-HUAC!!!”
From the blue box extended a five-inch needle which pierced Wolf’s chest, and heart, and body in general, before retracting back into the blue box. The box arm collapses back into the second arm, which collapses back into the first arm, which collapses back into the device. The device rumbles a bit and then beeps, the slot closing shortly after.
A look of horror grasps everybody except G1-Zm0 as Wolf falls backwards and a pool of blood forms around him. He’s gasping for air, reaching up towards the blown-out lightbulbs in the ceiling, attempting to speak but being choked out by the blood that’s quickly filling the void that was once his throat. Then, he vanishes, leaving the three MERCs to stand shook around a pool of humanless human blood.
“What in the anomalous fuck was that?!” Jennae shouts, not needing to pretend to be afraid because she is literally, like, so afraid right now. She backs up from the puddle of Wolf’s blood and, her body still pumping the muscle maximization fluid, bumps into the car, making it roll off the sheet metal like a toy car rolls down a hill. Except, when the very heavy engine block under the car’s hood rolls off the lid of the bottomless pit, something escapes its confinement with enough force to send the car, the cover, and the muscle-maxed Jennae flying through the air.
The car punches a hole through the back wall of the dilapidated warehouse, weakening the structure and encouraging the roof to cave in just a little bit. Jennae bodies both Violet and G1-Zm0 and the three fly out the gap in the front wall where the rusty doors once hung. The sheet metal, being propelled by seemingly nothing at all, attempts to explode through the ceiling but can’t quite cut the mustard, giving the warehouse that extra little bit of encouragement it needed to collapse in on itself entirely. When the dust and the rust settles, the once proud ASSFAW stands as a shadow of its former self, reduced to a pile of scrap metal.
Violet, suddenly a lot more than fucking irritated at her supposed comrades, dusts herself off and walks a couple steps away to gather herself. Then she turns around and walks back, grabbing Jennae by the slutty little ponytail she always has her spindly, knotted hair all bound up in, and pulls her to her feet.
“What the fuck were you thinking, you stupid fucking whore?! Why didn’t you fucking listen to the fucking cyborg?! You’re so, fucking, stupid!!! He says one thing and you do the goddamned opposite, are you retarded? Do you have fucking brain damage from getting skull-fucked by so many wrinkly old man cocks when you were trying to scrape together your shitty acting career?!”
Jennae hasn’t been talked to like this since before her dad died. “Vuh… Violet, that’s so mean… what’s wrong with you?”
Violet’s star tattoo begins to glow as three hard-light ultraviolet razor claws protrude from her knuckles. If you were looking at her shadow, which is a few shades darker than everyone else’s for some reason, it wouldn’t look like she has razor claws extending from her knuckles because light doesn’t cast a shadow when more light hits it. But she does have claws, and they’re about to be swung through Jennae’s weak little
cock sock throat.
G1-Zm0 notices the sudden change in the density of UltraVi’s shadow and goes to comment, but then it returns to normal, similarly to how the kinetic ultraviolet light flowing through Violet’s mutated nervous system returns to potentiality.
“I… I don’t know,” UltraVi says, suddenly feeling like she’s the only thing controlling her body, for some reason. “That was just… I’m not sure what happened. Are you okay, Jen?”
Jennae looks at her hands, then balls them up into fists so tight that veins bulge out of her forearms and a series of her blood vessels pop. She grabs Violet by the skinny, pathetic little neck and lifts her off the ground, struggling to crush the uncrushable hard-light neck brace that formed the second before Jennae gripped down.
“No, I’m not fucking okay. You’re a fucking cunt Violet, you always fucking were. Always jealous because I have the bigger tits, because I had something going for me before I was swooped up by the sad fucking circus that is Sean Hymarc and his tiny-dicked Apex Corporation. You’re a fucking train wreck, you know that? Always locking yourself in your little fucking slut dungeon all day to hide from the fact that nobody fucking wants you around anyway. And when I shatter this stupid fucking gimp collar you gave yourself, you kinky little bitch, I’m going to use the shards to slice your throat.”
It is at this point that Violet notices the shadow Jennae’s bulging arm is casting on her torso is just a few shades darker than it should be under the current light conditions. With absolutely zero fear in her voice because Violet can take care of herself, she asks, “Jennae, what’s up with your shadow?”
Jennae drops Violet and commands her interior network of tubes to stop the flow of muscle maximization fluid to her body. A few moments later, when she shrinks back down to normal human size, Jennae hugs Violet and starts to weep into her shoulder.
“Ohemgee, Vee, I AM SO, SORRY !” sob “I don’t, I don’t know what” sniffle “I don’t know what came over me! I didn’t hurt you, did I? I’m so” sob “S O R R Y!”
Violet pats Jennae on the back a couple times, consoling her. “It’s… okay Jennae, I’m sorry too. I think we both got a little carried away from the explosion and everything, it’s okay. There, there.” She then turns to G1-Zm0 and, with a confessing chuckle, says, “I guess you were onto something when you were talking about those human emotions, huh Gar?”
G1-Zm0 doesn’t say a word. He just stares at the breathing sacks of flesh through the glass eyes his captors fitted into his fractured skull. He’s never noticed how weak they are compared to him, how inclined towards violent outbursts. How… so disgustingly human they are, despite them all going through the same training regimen. G1-Zm0’s the only one who was killed in the field, in this very field, the field of the ASSFAW, and fitted with advanced cybernetics, the only one who has truly achieved the next level of human evolution. He could snap their bones like twigs, pop their skulls like water balloons, eviscerate them like The Prisoner did to him on this very plateau all those years ago. It would take less effort to kill them both, incinerate their bodies, and scatter their putrid ashes in the wind than it would to carry their unstable, insecure selves back to headquarters – and it would probably cause less damage in the long run, too.
No, there is a better solution. The only solution.
The final solution.
G1-Zm0 raises both of his arms, his hands hinging down at the wrists to reveal the barrels of two internally belt-fed machine guns. He opens fire, mercilessly shredding the insignificant human bodies of Jennae and UltraVi until they’re nothing more than wet, leaking, unrecognizable piles of meat, pulverized bones, and copper enriched grass food. Then, G1-Zm0’s shadow gets a few shades lighter, and the barrels of the guns stop spinning.
G1-Zm0 observes the bloody mound of human before him and his mechanical heart stops beating for a moment. Alarms begin to go off in his head; he enters the seventy-two required passwords to open the emergency line of communication between himself and his creator, Doctor Edvard Torpol.
“Yes? Gary, vhat iz et? Ine am prepearing to see a client!”
G1-Zm0, his many processors unable to calm his panicked brain enough to form complete sentences, repeats a single word over and over and over again until the emergency medical helicopters finally arrive and medivac what remains of the remaining human MERCs back to the Apex Corporation New Manhattan headquarters:
“ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY! ANOMALY!”