Disclaimer: Original characters and universe belong to Sean Akins and Jason DeMarco.
A/N: Big apologies for my lack of activity. I feel unpardonably despicable for making everyone wait and then dropping a fresh chapter in your laps, especially considering how terrific most of you are. Sorry, folks. Thing is, updates to my fanfiction may become even less frequent than they already are, but for a good reason. I now have a job that works me ten hours a day (plus forty minutes to and from), four days a week. Good news for my bank account, but not my free time. So … yeah, that's my excuse. It's a good one, though, right?
In other news: in the wake of those lengthy and insightful responses to Dead or Alive, I can't help but feel that I'm sorta falling short of those standards with Endgame. It seems like there's so much more that could be done with this story, but I don't know what. The original comic only offers so much to work with! Perhaps more time must be spent in the depths of my consciousness. If only those ponies would move over and make some room for the robots.
Episode 3: Commence Destruction
Orcelot Rex alighted on the Absolution's dorsal section like a weightless Goliath. He brought his arm up to chest level and a small control panel slid open just behind his wrist where he punched in some commands. Behind him, his assault ship detached from the weaker yet infinitely larger vehicle's plating and gently thrust itself forward until it was hovering over the nose of the broadcast ship. It fired another small explosive into the vessel's prow end, burning through the deep blue one-way glass to create a fresh hole complete with enormous cracks in its opaque surface. Then it returned to the Absolution where it re-engaged its versatile clamps, gripping its comparatively softer plating like claws.
Rex strolled forward with magnetic footsteps across the Absolution's contoured body. Even with naturally broad strides, it took a minute to reach the prow from the command center, but he had no need to make haste. Passing his assault ship and approaching the smelted aperture, he descended through it. His scanners indicated that this would be the section that contained the last server his target AI could retreat to. By now his Skurges would have sought and destroyed any others.
He dropped in with a heavy thud and surveyed his surroundings. He was obviously in the communications bay, if the forward-facing antennae and its communications package that extended forth from outside was any clue. At its throat, the bay was accessible by a short walkway that terminated in a discular platform sporting a standard console setup and an array of monitors mounted on arms. His AI had her face displayed in quarters on the four largest monitors. Corporeal eyes met digital ones from opposite ends of the short walkway.
"The Galactic Police Patrol has already been alerted to our exact location," she informed him.
"They don't matter," Rex assured her in low, menacing tones as a hint of avarice lurked just beneath the surface. "Were they to make an early appearance, I feel confident that I could fight them off. But we will have departed before their arrival, plus they will never be able to track my ship. Even the most advanced surveillance technology available in this sector would have difficulty accomplishing that if they didn't know it was there. You certainly couldn't detect it."
"Just to make you aware," Sara countered, "I nearly did get a reading on your ship."
Rex fixed her with a solid glare. "Part of the reason I aim to collect you. You're a remarkable piece of machinery." He pressed a button on the cube he still held, then watched it as a light in its core blinked on and pieces of its framework shifted or unfolded.
"You are not taking me from this ship!" Sara reacted by shoving the entire screen array up to his slightly smaller face. It was a gesture that would only have intimidated an already weak individual, so it was just childish to intimidation incarnate. But she didn't expect to make an impression, only to punctuate her resolve.
"Your future does not involve being stuck indefinitely on a cheap broadcast ship, construct," her enemy asserted without so much as glancing up from his examination of the data extraction cube. He hadn't even moved from where he'd initially planted his feet. "You're fated to be my instrument regardless of what your own imperative dictates."
"You'd best be ready to be fought every step of the way. I'm not the sort of girl to give quarter to intruders. That's happened too many times on this ship."
Orcelot Rex allowed himself a grim chuckle. "Amusing choice of words." Finally advancing, he gripped the inside edge of one of the monitors and ripped the entire thing free with a surge of violence. Shredded casing, electrical cables, and pneumatic compression lines all hissed and sparked after being severed by his ferocious mechanical strength. He easily tossed the deactivated monitor off the walkway where it fell out of range of the ship's artificial gravity and bumped lightly against the inside surface of the canopy.
Sara redistributed her face to each individual screen. She silently cursed in the back of her mind.
"As I'm sure you already know, this is no ordinary data extraction device."
Rex tossed his cube through the gap he'd made. It landed on the console and stuck there by means of powerful magnets built into its corners. A variety of connectors probing from the tips of segmented cable-arms sprang from its sides and sought out access ports to plug into. To Sara's shock and dismay, though mostly shock, the device instantly shut down every firewall, anti-malware program, and other line of defense that she possessed. After what felt to her like minutes, but was in reality a mere few seconds, it touched her mind and started to download.
Minutes earlier, the bridge was in absolute chaos. The metal-eating things were pouring in faster than TOM could beat them away, which gave him the disturbing sensation of being an enemy in the middle of a pissed-off anthill. The worst part was that without illumination from the lights or even the hub screens, he was nearly in pitch blackness, with nothing but starlight and the occasional sparks from the computer hub's wreckage to show him where the attackers were. For the most part he never saw them coming until they were close enough to get their creepy legs on him. It was a continuous marvel that he was still struggling with them, albeit frantically.
Guess this should be one of those times I'm glad to be made of metal instead of flesh, or this would hurt like crazy. A metal hide bumped his shin and was viciously kicked away. I just wish there weren't so many of the damn things! He suddenly found himself caught in an intense moment, grappling one attacker by a cluster of legs and another by the very rim of its grinding orifice, awkwardly using their bodies to block the rest while a third one came scuttling up his back on a path to his head.
"Clyde, where the hell are you!" He wasn't ashamed of the desperation in his voice.
Clyde had probably been just outside the door struggling to build up the courage to enter. But once it was summoned, the door cycled open and it swooped in. Taking a risk, TOM dropped the thrashing things and reached up to grab the Kiefer A-1 plasma rifle as Clyde swept past. A few precious seconds were wasted getting his finger to the trigger before he aimed the weapon over his shoulder, hoping it wasn't locked into its photon grenade setting, and fired. A high-pitched buzz told him it was the cutting laser, but the prickly legs clambering up onto his helmet told him he'd missed. He instead managed to wedge the gun barrel under the thing and pry it off. Using the butt to knock the others away, he took a proper stance and commenced cutting apart the shadows with the Kiefer's thin red beam, aiming wherever he saw movement in the blackness. It sliced through the bodies of hostiles with the crackling of scorched machinery while doing a nice job of cutting a few chunks out of the bridge as well.
"Man, I've never been able to go to town with this thing before! Sure wish I had time to enjoy it a lot more." Making his way through the carnage toward the exit, he locked in the electron beam and reduced everything he had time to aim at to gently smoking husks. Unfortunately, that didn't include the ones pouring in from overhead. He only noticed them when Clyde gave a shrill whine while looking up. TOM heeded its warning and brought his rifle up just in time to have the barrel swallowed by one. The weapon jerked and vibrated violently in his hands while it was chewed up. With an exclamation, he tossed the whole mess into a dark corner and backed away into the other. Luckily, it was the same corner in which he'd stashed his trident, which he quickly snatched up. Perhaps it was just a toy, but at least he wasn't weaponless. Highlighting the bridge with its orange prongs, he raised it overhead and speared an oncoming machine. For a toy, the damage done wasn't so bad, it just wasn't something a military would ever limit themselves to.
"Clyde, go get me another A-1, then meet me at the doors to the communications bay."
As Clyde flitted away, TOM swung the business end of his pseudo weapon from side to side. The hostiles appeared to have just enough intelligence to charge into it and dispatch themselves while he sidestepped toward the bridge portal, determined to get out sometime within the next few hours. "Well, good news, Sara was actually wrong about something for once." Unfortunately, there appeared to be a limit to how many squirming machine bodies it could slice through before the power supply started dwindling. By the time it was drained, there were only two or three left. TOM finally fled the bridge and ran flat-out, hoping he and his Companion Clyde could make it to the communications bay in time.
He stopped in his tracks as a pre-recorded sound file of Sara's voice abruptly zipped through his head. From the sound of it, she didn't have the time to speak normally and had compensated by flashing up some basic information into a condensed audio file to play for him. "Firewalls deactivated. Complete data retrieval sequence initiated. Zip protocol initiated." Then came the actual message. "TOM, I'm not in the ship's server network anymore. He's prying me out. Find somewhere to hide."
"He … pried her out of the Absolution?" This information chilled him to the core. The guy was dangerous alright. Standing in the hallway, he carefully reasoned out the situation as best he could, knuckles rapping against helmet."Okay, uh, we're way past risk-free, but there's gotta be some non-stupid way I can handle this." He started to pace nervously, thinking up half a dozen options before realizing he was simply wasting valuable time while the likelihood of retrieving Sara faded away by the second. "Aw, heck, I'm just gonna have to chase them. She'd call me stupid if I didn't stay put right now, but then I'd have to call myself crazy. I gotta be one or the other." Picking a new route through the ship, he called out as he ran, "Clyde, change of plans! Meet me in the starboard cargo hold."
Sara will be fine … I can do this …
As his feet pounded down the corridors toward the rear of the ship, only one yet-unsolved mystery bothered him. Sara had told him there was a pack of those things gathered around the auxiliary power supply. But the lights were still on and the elevator still worked. Why hadn't they destroyed it? Continuing to run full-tilt down the length of his ship, he had no answer.
By the time he reached his destination, two minutes had elapsed. Time in which the pirate had likely disappeared into the ice-cold cosmos with Sara (and more than plenty of time for his minions to eat up the auxiliary). Even with the knowledge that he was probably just going to get outside to find nothing, he crossed the expanse of floor to where his Starcycle waited, the one Sara had so easily denounced as an impulse buy. It had a sleek oval-shaped housing with flat sides that stretched ahead of the seat like a comet, then a cluster of four proportionally large thrusters in back. And of course he hadn't been able to resist sprucing it up a little with decals: on one side a Green Hornet logo, a Bat signal, and a chrome "007" shield, and on the other a stylized stencil of a featureless white face partially concealed by a black slouch hat next to a yin-yang.
Unwilling to relinquish the one and only thing that could be called a weapon, he stashed the unlit trident staff lengthwise on the cargo rack.
"Steady or not, here I come." Once again he was glad to be an automaton, since his hands weren't shaking like they would be if he'd had all the delicate aspects of flesh and blood. But that didn't mean his hand didn't jerk away from the door control a little when when a massive thud reverberated through the floor and up the chassis of his vehicle. "What the …?"
A hole opened up in the middle of the towering doors. TOM wasn't sure if Rex had known he would come to the cargo section or if he was just having his machines scour it to see if there was anything more that could be taken, but since they were here now, TOM decided not to be.
He switched on the repulsors and opened the throttle, aiming for the corner exit of the cargo bay. Heading for the port cargo bay would be ideal, but there were too many doors between them at the moment. Once he'd gotten the Starcycle into the hallway where it was never meant to be piloted, he was forced to slow down to avoid crashing wildly off the sides. Unfortunately, his pursuers didn't give him much of a choice. There was a camera located just beneath the Starcycle's thrusters that fed into a screen on his dashboard. It allowed him to see the things propelling themselves along the floor, walls, and ceiling at a faster rate than he could safely drive. He found it annoying that the one and only exit that he knew wasn't crawling with them was at the opposite end of the ship, but at least it was a pretty direct route. He lowered his helmet and shoulders as much as possible while scrapes and dents appeared on all sides of his vehicle.
"Yo, if there are any Clyde 52's on the upper levels, summon the elevator up there right now." Surely the 52's could at least punch buttons with their framework, right? His guess was rewarded by seeing the elevator at the end of the hallway shoot up out of sight. After closing in a little more, he jumped the remaining distance at top speed, smashing through the convex elevator doors and nearly throwing himself into the shaft from the jarring impact. Now came the hard part. Tapping the thrusters and fiddling around with the repulsors, he jimmied his ride inside while struggling to stand it on its end. It got jammed spared a second to glance back at the encroaching hostiles, which made him realize that he didn't have any seconds to spare whatsoever. Tucking himself in, he set the thrusters on full and poured heat into the deck plating until something snapped. A split-second later he was rocketing up the elevator shaft creating twice as many dents as before. "Okay, now bring it back down, Clyde!"
As the elevator pod descended, TOM stopped at the deck he wanted, angled his bike, and shattered that bubble door as well. It was easier getting out than getting in for some reason. He cleared the shaft and glanced back to watch the elevator whoosh past him, satisfied that it was about to plow through a swarm of machines. "Well that was fun. Too bad I'll never have an excuse to do it again."
He set his sight forward and powered through the length of the ship as fast as he dared, lights racing over his bike fast enough that they appeared to be blinking rapidly on and off. As the length of the hallway was eaten up, another Clyde 52 with a surprised face popped out of nowhere, prompting him to reach out and snatch it. Not really useful, he thought, tucking it into a storage compartment, … but maybe I can grab Sara while Rex is busy laughing at it. He passed beneath where the bridge would be, wishing he could exit that way but for the hostile presence up there. Instead, he desperately increased his speed, praying despite the obvious danger that Orcelot Rex would still be around when he escaped the confines of his own ship.
Within seconds, he reached the communications bay and pulled up to clear the mounted screens. He saw the hole Rex had punched in the shield glass and gunned for it. Through the camera again he watched the discular platform and its damaged monitors drop away beneath him. He'd never seen them from that angle before. And he never would again.
Once outside, he scanned space all around the Absolution, searching for the ominous ship. It was off the starboard side, twenty degrees below the Absolution's plane, making its retreat. He knew his comparatively puny Starcycle would never be able to match the powerful engines on Rex's ship, but he didn't exactly feel like sitting around either. There's no telling where she might be by the time the GPP shows up. He opened the throttle as far as it would go and surged after them.
From his changing perspective, the Absolution's enormous bow tilted away, allowing him to see down the rest of the ship's astronomical length. At a less urgent time, he would be able to appreciate the incredible size of the Absolution and marvel at the fact that he lived on it and worked from it. But with Sara in danger, there was no place in his mind for that. So many cool thing are happening today because of that AI-napping jerk, but I can't enjoy any of them for the same reason! We'll just see what happens when I catch up to them. His frustration was compounded by the fact that the size of his ship and the amount of time it took to shrink from his peripheral vision gave the impression that he was moving far too slowly.
But as soon as he couldn't see it anymore, something made him look back. It could have been a precipitous moment from the rear-view screen, a nigh-unnoticeable flash at the corner of his vision, or the hand of some divine intelligence tapping him on the shoulder. Orcelot Rex and Sara were still well within sight, so without slowing down too much, he turned a little in his seat. Although the day so far had put him in the right state of mind to expect pretty much anything, he was not prepared for what came next.