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Beach Blanket Bingo at the End of the World (1 of 2)
Thu May 27, 2010 8:03pm


The other end of the portal violently vomited out a writhing, swearing pile of Freelance Reploids before it abruptly slammed out of existence. They lay there atop each other for a long moment, disoriented and upset. Sion Laiken moaned something about landing on his coccyx, Zeo Gray almost ended up with someone’s bare foot in his face and almost flew into a berserker rage, and Cross took longer than was required to crawl off of Sonmura Stravinski. Maquestan Crasher was the first to climb to her feet and comment on their surroundings, saying “Guys… I don’t think we’re in the Kansas anymore…”

The landscape before her was something from the imagination of a lunatic. The dark red sun glared angrily from low on the barren horizon cast long shadows that made the perfect flatness of the terrain seem surreal and nightmarish. In the distance a huge tower-like structure rose at least a mile high. It was difficult to see details that far off for a torrid wind blew particles of sharp sand that stung the face and obscured the vision. The ground was hard and cracked into an endless spider-web pattern, baked by a thousand days without rain.

Overhead the stars were already out, but stars more luminous and strange than any that they’d ever seen. And not just stars, but comets, nebulas and even galaxies visible to the naked eye. A thousand heavenly bodies crowded overhead in an overwhelming panorama of exaggerated space, all of which was tinted slightly blue. A solid-looking line arched across part of the sky like a ring of Saturn, the last rocky remnant of some shattered moon.

“Did he transport us to Hell?” Shade asked. “I was expecting demons and rock music.”

Shinsei closed her eyes and stretched out with her soul, trying to touch the magical ley lines that crisscrossed the dimensions like golden threads woven into fabric. Their intersections and vibrations would tell her where they’d ended up, but when she got her answer she was shocked and said to Maq “I think you were wrong.”

“Wrong about what?” the captain asked.

Shinsei closed her eyes again to double check before answering “We ARE in Kansas! Or maybe Nebraska… but definitely somewhere in North America.”

“You mean this is EARTH?!?” Maq exclaimed.

The strange vista was as different from their home as an alien world. It reminded Demios of the vision he’d had back on the island of the Eaters, a cloud of nano-bots that could strip a city down to its raw materials or, given enough centuries, reduce a continent to waste.

“I see someone.” Lock reported while shielding his eyes from the sun and gazing to the west. The others looked and could indeed spot a dark spec in the distance.

Axel instantly slipped into tactical mode, ordering the mercs to “Assume Charlie Echo formation. Everyone who joined Maq’s Mystic Squad back on the island, you’re left flank. Cylecks, Vier, Trigger, Drej and Lock are now Tekno Squad. You take right flank. I’ll take point. As we approach, cover me.”

“Cover you with what?” Drej asked. “None of us have any weapons.”

It was then that Axel noticed Dan Crasher had already broken away from the group and was walking towards the distant figure. Maq sprinted after him, calling for her father to wait up. Before Cossack could protest the rest of the mercs started to follow as well in the most disorderly manner possible. Kail stepped up beside his annoyed counterpart and commented wryly “That Charlie Echo must have been a genius. That’s the most complicated formation I’ve ever seen.”

Axel looked down at his fellow captain and snorted “Fine time to get a sense of humor.”

Upon reaching their destination the Freelance Reploids discovered that the spec was not one person, but two. The first was an old black man dressed in a dirty lab coat. He was balding, but what hair he did have was as white and bushy as wool. Despite his age the human seemed remarkably spry and he hopped about in a sort of dance that looked very comical to the mercs. The other person was a middle-age human dressed in a pristine white chef’s ensemble complete with tall toque hat. He, unlike the older man, sat on the ground with his chin on his hands looking very depressed. He gently sobbed “mon dieu.”

As the mercs approached, the black man stopped his dancing and asked “Do any of you people have a gun?”

“Sorry.” Dan replied, shaking his head.

The man in the lab coat sighed “Drat. I was hoping to blow my brains out.” He then continued dancing.

“He’s bonkers.” Maq muttered to Dan.

The ageless wizard wasn’t so quick to dismiss the man as being insane, and introduced himself by saying “My name’s Dan Crasher. This pretty lady is my daughter Maquestan, and all the folks behind us are our friends. Uh… what might your name be, if you don’t mind me asking? And what’s that dance you’re doing?”

“I’m Judson Bent.” the old man said without stopping. “And this is a jig. I always said if I knew I was about to die then I’d dance the jig.”

“DOCTOR Judson Bent?” Hilton exclaimed and pushed his way through the crowd of mercs. “The quantum physicist? I’ve read your books on temporal mechanics.”

Only now did the old man stop dancing and ask “You did? What did you think?”

“They… weren’t without a certain kindergarten charm.” Hilton replied, reluctant to give praise to another scientist who knew more in a certain field than he did. “What the devil are you doing here?”

“Well, some years back a fellow named Dr. Pious asked a few of us professors at Dopplertown University to build a kind of time engine. What we ended up developing was an object codenamed The Demiurge. It could have changed the world, but Pious decided it was too dangerous to exist and had it destroyed. Soon afterwards I was visited by a man who wanted to hire me for another project involving time manipulation. He claimed to be a businessman, but I did some digging and found out he was mixed up in a kind of secret society.”

“Malegaunt.” Dan grumbled.

Dr. Bent nodded. “I would have turned him down, but my scientific curiosity got the better of me. He wanted me to study an object that he claimed could create portals through space and time at will. I laughed at first, but the object… the object was made of an element that I couldn’t identify. He called it ‘Star Metal’. I was intrigued so I took the job. Even with what I’d learned creating The Demiurge it still took over a year to figure out exactly how that talisman of his worked. Once I did and explained it all to Malegaunt he wasted no time in using my own discovery against me. He wanted to be the only person in the world who knew how its secrets, I guess, because he set the dials for exactly one hour before the end of the world and pushed me in.”

“Wait, did that guy just say THE WORLD’S ABOUT TO END?!?” Jim Sikorsky exclaimed, and his outburst was soon joined by declarations from many other Freelancers. Zeo Gray walked directly up to Bent and asked in no uncertain terms “Are you saying we only have an hour before the world ends?”

“Oh heavens, no.” Dr. Bent replied, inspecting his pocket chronometer. “I arrived an hour before it was going to end, but I’ve been here for fifty five minutes already. It’s now going to end in five minutes.”


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