Ghost in the Machine

Part 5

by Mere (mbmincey at hotmail.com)
1/29/02

Well... here it is. Have mercy on me guys. It's the best I can do with such a busy schedule.

--Mere

Consciousness came slowly.

(Name?! Rank?!)
(I think you killed him this time, Griff.)

Last time he took a friendly bet, by God. When was he going to learn? Stubborn as a mule but not half as smart his Dad would say.

(Dwayne? You all right in there?)

No... That wasn't it. There were noises, whooping, louder and louder. Making his head ache to its rhythm. It was Big Guy's master alarms. Maybe all of them. Bringing him back to Earth and letting him know that something was wrong.

Dwayne cracked his eyes open to see through the cracked visor of his helmet. Everything was red, flashing alarms painting the cockpit the color of blood off and on, off and on. Glittering silver veins interwoven and pulsing in the entire cockpit. It looked like he had been swallowed whole. And even more distressing was that he couldn't move. Something heavy was pressing against him, an enormous weight on his chest the worst. What had happened again?

Dwayne took in a sharp intake of breath and stared down at himself, seeing the same metal as before pinning him down. His chest, thighs, legs -- held down by a metallic, squirming ooze. Oh, yeah... Man, I really need to start keeping a diary of these things.

This reminded him of those insects nailed down through the center in Biology class. Only instead of that, thank God, he was smothered by it. A small grace at least, but he could only force so much oxygen into his lungs. His arm too. Sharp, shooting pains traveled up and down his left arm. His wrist...Broke it when....

(I think I'm in trouble here!)

It broke his wrist when he reached for the ejection handle. Dwayne searched for it and then finally realized he was at an odd angle. Further down and to the right. When the hell did that happen? When he found the ejection handle he tried to reach it with his bad hand because it was simply closer to it, which really hurt like a mother. The transmorphic metal that held his arm down was too hard to fight against. That and, yeah, it just really hurt. Shock is over, baby. It was too far. Even with the metal thinner now, it was still strong enough to keep him in here. He tried again anyway, letting out a grunt as he strained. His throat also sore because....

Because it had nearly choked him to death. When Big Guy grabbed Jo he had been able to open his emergency kit, spilling what he was looking for to the floor... It had wrapped around his neck and choked him until everything had gone black.

"They sure don't make them like they used to, eh, little buddy?"

Big Guy's voice boomed in his ears. The radio in his helmet suddenly turned back on. The sudden noise made Dwayne jump.

"I mean really, where did the craftsmanship go? Astro Boy rip-off."

The main monitor came back online. Allowing Dwayne to finally see what was going on outside. He appeared to be several feet in the air as Big Guy looked down at a neatly manicured lawn. The back and forth stripes of freshly cut grass interrupted by a big hole in the dirt and a smaller red dot in the middle. Big Guy flew down to it, the image growing bigger and bigger until Dwayne could distinguish the red dot as Rusty. Something cold passed through his gut when saw the poor kid face down and perfectly still. Panic settled in again as Dwayne searched for the damn flare gun. The goddamn flare gun, where the f*#% was the goddamn flare gun?!?

"Since you're bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I thought you should see this." Big Guy said in a jolly tone. "Don't get scared now."

Big Guy touched down into the grimy mud hole the kid had made and knelt down beside him, flipping Rusty over to see his face slightly caved in and nose crushed. A permanently frozen expression, teeth bare in a grimace and eyes shut tight.

(No pain receptors!)

Rustyís facial 'muscles' hadnít relaxed like they were supposed to.

"Howís the proverb go?" Big Guy asked. "Donít dig your enemyís grave, you might fall into it? Or something like that. Whereís that from, Dwayne? I canít remember."

Where IS it?!

"Well?!" Big Guy bellowed, crushing him in its grip again, the flare gun temporarily forgotten as it took particular relish on his wrist. The corners of his vision turned white.

"Russian!" Dwayne gasped, his lungs fighting for air. "It's... Russian!"

It relaxed its hold on him and the whiteness faded as Big Guy took a more casual tone, as if it thought of them as two friends just shooting the breeze.

"Thatís right. Chernobyl said that, didnít he? When he attacked the White House?"

"Y-yes..."

"Man, good times, good times. I miss the Cold War. Just you and me saving America."

Big Guy stared down at Rusty. "Just us." It then carefully put its other fist around Rusty's head, pulling it off as green nucleo-protons spit out from detached wires.

"Rusty!"

"But this time it's different." Big Guy said in smug satisfaction. "Iím wearing the Daddy pants now." He held the severed head up to his face, Rustyís damaged face larger than life on the monitor. "See?"

(No pain receptors!)

"I... see it." You son of a b###h!

"Good. I'm glad we worked this out."

Fluorescent metal bled from Big Guy's hand, seeping into Rusty's cranium seamlessly as he reattached it to Rusty's neck, melding it back on with the advanced nano-technology. Rusty's face also seemed to magically heal itself and Big Guy dropped him unceremoniously to the ground.

"Welcome to the club, kid."

Part of Dwayne was immensely relieved as Big Guy left Rusty behind in his mud hole to the point that he had a case of the shakes afterwards, but the other part reasoned that what had happened wasn't all that good either. The same thing that had taken over the BGY-11 was now in Rusty also.

What Big Guy was about to do now didn't seem all that rosy, either. Big Guy shot up into the sky, infrared scanners coming online to make the walls of Quark disappear. Seeing all the frantic people inside as they prepared for a monster attack like little ants as their hill was being decimated. The bad guys had hijacked an exo-suit and the Legend-One. Together they could level the city in thirty minutes.

Quark was doomed.

Big Guy went inside a gaping hole in the side of the Tower. Dwayne recognizing it as Slate's lab as Big Guy landed again, zooming in on what it wanted: the probe from last night. All of this? Doing God knows what to Jo, Mack, and Rusty for this?

Had to find the flare gun. Fire would kill this thing. Fire kills everything.

On to Part 6!

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