Now or Never
"Joe? Joe, pick up! Damn it, Joe, where are you?"
James Milton, mayor of Alveus, turned off his wristphone and slammed it on his office desk.
"Sir," said Milton's aide, walking in.
"What?" said the mayor.
"Joe's body was found just outside of the police station. He was stabbed to death."
"Damn, damn, damn!" screamed Milton, kicking at his desk and ignoring the resulting pain in his foot. "Why does everything have to go wrong today?"
Milton turned on his wristphone and dialed a number. A hologram of a fish in a suit then appeared from the wristphone.
"How may I help you?" said the fish.
"Don't give me any of that crap," said Milton. "I ordered a robot army 15 minutes ago, right after the signal came back, and I have yet to see a single robot here!"
"Don't fret," said the fish. "I always make good on my promises."
"You'd better! Just because you're Cecil Carpfish doesn't mean I'll let you get away with ripping me off!"
"You'll get your robots."
Cecil disconnected, leaving the mayor with only his aide to converse with.
"What do we do now?" asked the aide.
"We wait," replied Milton. "Wait and hope."
The jet-boat that carried SpongeBryan, Pat, Ron, Jim, Sam, and Wally stopped in front of the city line.
"This is crazy," said Pat. "Cyclops plans to kill every single person in the Upper Ring and make some kind of celebration out of it?"
"Yes, and we have seven hours to stop it," said Wally.
"That's plenty of time!" said Ron.
"It may seem that way," said Wally. "But remember that Cyclops is smart. He probably knew that SpongeBryan would come back, and he's probably doing everything in his power to make sure that he doesn't disrupt the ceremony. We have to strike him now, while he least expects us. Then we'll have a fighting chance."
SpongeBryan, Wally, and the rest of them made their way to the Upper Ring, hiding whenever the opportunity arose. Before long, SpongeBryan found himself alone behind a tree, yards away from the Upper Ring denizens, who were chained together where Cyclops first found them and were watching helplessly as mutants tied explosives to their homes.
"I guess this is where it all ends," said Octhomas, rubbing bruises on his body with a broken tentacle.
"Man, he looks really defeated," whispered SpongeBryan.
"I know," whispered Ron, who was right behind him.
SpongeBryan covered his mouth to suppress a scream.
"Don't do that!" he snapped. "I could've blown it for us all!"
"I'm sorry," whispered Ron. "I didn't mean to…"
"It's alright. Just be more careful from now on."
"We just wanted to know if you'd see where Jim and the others went," interjected Pat.
"No, I didn't. I thought they were with you," said SpongeBryan. "Even with these headlamps on, it's hard to know where anybody is without the streetlights."
Suddenly, a cry from behind one of the houses on the opposite side of the lane: "A fugitive! We've caught ourselves a fugitive!"
A pair of mutants hovered into view with Sam clutched in their arms.
"I'll get the boss! You make sure he doesn't escape!" said one of the mutants.
The other mutant nodded, then winked in the direction of SpongeBryan. SpongeBryan realized that the mutant was Wally.
"What's going on?" whispered Ron.
"I think that Wally's setting some kind of trap," replied SpongeBryan.
The first mutant flew off towards the mayor's office, and Wally, staring back at SpongeBryan, gestured toward the mutant with his hand. Understanding immediately, SpongeBryan, Pat, and Ron chased after the mutant, while Wally and his father stayed close to the chained-together captives.
Milton paced back and forth in his office, not knowing what to do next.
"Should we go out there?" wondered his aide.
"Are you crazy? Whoever's running that insurgency will put a laser through my brain for sure! It's better just to wait this thing out for now."
"You spineless little man," came a voice from outside.
"Jim Carpfish?" gasped Milton as he saw Jim crawl into his office through an open window. "What are you doing here?"
"What am I doing here?" replied Jim. "What are you doing here? Your city is about to get demolished, and you're not doing a thing about it!"
"Well, what am I supposed to do? My chief of police is dead, and the robots I ordered from Cecil aren't even here! I'm out of options."
"Wait, you ordered robots from my dad?"
"Yeah, I told him to program the robots to kill any and all mutants they encounter in the Upper Ring."
"Oh no! Wally, Pat and Ron! You have to tell my dad to send the robots back!"
"What? Why would I do that? If the robots even do come, it'll be a gift."
Jim looked out the window with concern. "Oh, they're coming. Dad always keeps his promises."
Suddenly, the door of Milton's office exploded. Cyclops strolled through the heat and fire and wiped a bit of ash off the shoulder of his uniform.
"Who said I don't know how to make an entrance?" he bragged.
Milton lunged for the window, but Cyclops shot a laser through one of his knees, causing him to fall to the ground crying.
"Ah, ah, ah," Cyclops said with a wiggle of his finger. "We can't have our first victim running off by himself, now, can we?"
"What?" Milton coughed.
"In order to destroy whatever hope the Upper Ring-ers may have left, we're going to kill their beloved Mayor Milton right in front of them."
"No!" Milton shouted. "You can't!"
"We can, and we will."
"No! I have somebody better! Jim Carpfish! He's the son of Cecil Carpfish! He'll give you anything you want!" Milton looked up at where Jim was, but he was gone.
"Nice try," said Cyclops. "But the junior Carpfish is in our custody. I saw him get thrown into the cellar at the HQ before we left for here."
Cyclops' wristphone began to ring. He looked down at it in surprise then pressed a button to display the face of the caller.
"The prisoners have escaped! The prisoners have escaped!" cried a hologram of the guard from the insurgency headquarters.
"Why… does my wristphone… work?" snarled Cyclops.
"Oh… I don't know," said the guard. "I just woke up, you see."
Cyclops shut off his wristphone in annoyance and turned around to see one of his soldiers flying towards him.
"Can you explain what just happened?"
The soldier started sweating as he landed. "Well, we didn't really have a lot of time to cut the wireless signals – after all the time we spent shutting off the electricity – so we just did a temporary fix instead that cut it off for five minutes. Pretty funny, huh?"
Cyclops wasn't laughing. "Why didn't you tell me this until now?"
"We didn't want you to get upset."
Cyclops slapped the soldier, sending him sprawling to the ground with blood rushing from his nose.
"Does this look upset to you?" he bellowed.
"No?" the soldier squealed.
Cyclops kicked the soldier in the stomach. He turned around and saw the mayor's aide helping Milton out of the window.
"Oh no, you don't!" Cyclops grabbed the aide by the legs, swung him around, and threw him into the wall.
"His skull! You broke it!" Milton was wailing.
Cycops threw a mirror at Milton's already-wounded knee. "Shut up!"
SpongeBryan, Pat, and Ron watched everything that happened from the bushes just outside the mayor's office.
"He's going crazy," whispered SpongeBryan.
"I know," whispered Jim.
SpongeBryan muffled another scream with his hand.
"Why is everyone sneaking up on me today?" he said.
"Sorry," said Jim. "But the situation is getting more urgent. Milton hired robots from my father to tackle the insurgency, and they'll be here any minute."
"So?" said SpongeBryan.
"The robots were ordered to attack every mutant in the Upper Ring, not just the insurgents."
Pat and Ron looked at each other.
"Oh," said SpongeBryan.
"Yeah," said Jim. "So we need to take down Cyclops now, so he'll be one less thing to worry about when the robots come."
Pat and Ron, not needing to be told twice, jumped out of the bushes.
"Hey! Cyclops, over here!" said Ron.
Cyclops was leaving the mayor's office with Milton in a chokehold. He turned at the sound of Ron's voice and growled in rage.
"I'm getting sick and tired of all these distractions," Cyclops muttered.
Cyclops took a laser gun out of his pocket and shot at Pat and Ron, who deflected the lasers with mirrors.
"Our turn," said Pat with a smile.
Cyclops reached for his mirror, but he remembered that it shattered over Milton's knee.
"Damn it!" said Cyclops.
Cyclops dodged the blasts from Pat and Ron's laser guns, and once they stopped shooting, he fired back at them. He was so intent on Pat and Ron that he didn't notice SpongeBryan sneaking up behind him with his own laser gun raised.
"Bye bye, Cycs!" said SpongeBryan.
Cyclops turned around, but it was too late. SpongeBryan struck him on the temple with his laser gun, knocking the one-eyed leader out.
SpongeBryan sighed. "It's finally over."
"Not yet, it isn't." Jim pointed to the sky, where a fleet of robots was preparing to cast its dark shadow on the already-dark city of Alveus.
Wally heard the first rocket land a few blocks behind him. As he turned around to see what was going on, he was plastered with a mix of fish guts and rubble.
"What the hell?" gasped Wally.
Fifty, maybe sixty robots, all with the same FutureWorks sticker on their backside, approached the Upper Ring with rocket launchers aimed at designated mutants. The rockets flew at random intervals, sometimes hitting a mutant, sometimes hitting the house they were equipping with explosives, always ending in the same grisly death.
Wally watched in horror at first, but then he got a grip on himself and began to run. He ran as fast as legs could carry him, but then one of his legs got caught in a crack in the road. He used all four of his arms to pull at the leg, but it was useless. The more he tugged, the tighter it lodged into the crack. He heard a low buzzing, getting louder every second, and he turned around to see a rocket headed right for him.
Wally closed his eyes, bracing for the impact, when two strong hands curled around his stuck leg. He opened his eyes and looked around, and there was Sam, ripping his son's leg out of the crack in the road and hurling Wally out of the rocket's range.
Before Wally could say anything, a deafening explosion sent him back farther than Sam had thrown him. He plunged into a muddy terrain, and for the next few seconds he sat there, processing what had just happened.
"My d-d-dad… my d-d-dad..." Unable to say anything else, he broke into tears.
SpongeBryan, Pat, Ron, and Jim stared at the unconscious Cyclops.
"What do we do with him?" asked Pat.
"I don't know," replied SpongeBryan. "But there's no doubt the robots will be coming for him next."
"Let's just put him in the bushes and hope for the best," said Jim. "And if the best doesn't come, hey, we can say we tried!"
Pat and Ron tossed Cyclops into the bushes and followed SpongeBryan and Jim as they went south.
"Now what?" asked Ron.
"Now we wait out the rest of the attack downtown," said Jim.
"We do what?" sputtered SpongeBryan. "What about the insurgents?"
"If they aren't dead now, they would be by the time we got there," said Jim. "We'd only be putting ourselves at risk, with little chance of saving anyone, if we tried to help them now. The design of my father's robots is to kill as many of the enemies as possible in the shortest amount of time."
"But they aren't enemies! They're the people I grew up with! The people I live with!"
"And I sympathize, but there's nothing we can do now."
"Fine!" SpongeBryan started marching north. "You three can go downtown without me!"
Jim reached his hand out, but Pat and Ron put it back down.
"Let him go," said Pat. "Let him see what he needs to see."
SpongeBryan hadn't been walking for long when he spotted Wally in the mud.
"You're alive!" cheered SpongeBryan.
"Yayyy," muttered Wally.
"What's wrong? Where's your dad?"
"He didn't make it."
SpongeBryan was shocked. "I-I'm sorry."
"It's alright." Wally wiped away a tear. "He died a hero. That's more than most people can ask for."
SpongeBryan sat down next to Wally. "Do you think there's any survivors?"
Wally shook his head. "I hope you don't actually plan on going up there."
"The things I've seen are things I'm going to have to live with for the rest of my life. I wouldn't wish this experience on anybody."
SpongeBryan nodded. "Come on. Let's go downtown before the robots turn you into fried fish."
As SpongeBryan and Wally went south, they passed the bushes that contained Cyclops. Not long after they passed, Cyclops woke up and crawled out of the bushes with an aching head.
"Once I find that two-headed bastard, I'll give him what for, I will!" he muttered.
Cyclops heard a low buzzing. "What's that sound?"
Just as he turned his head, a rocket greeted him, and it would be the last thing he would ever lay eyes on.
During the next few days, SpongeBryan, Pat, and Ron struggled to adjust to life in the Lower Ring again. Mayor Milton formally pardoned them of all of their crimes, allowing them to move back into their apartments and go on with business as usual, but as the only surviving witnesses of the revolution and its after-effects, SpongeBryan and his friends became very popular in the Lower Ring. Strangers often came up to them on the street and asked them to tell them about "that day", and while they enjoyed their fame at first, it quickly became annoying for them.
They didn't have to deal with it for long, however, because like most things, the revolution was forgotten about in the Lower Ring after a week or two.
In the Upper Ring, Cyclops and his insurgents were seen as group of madmen who deserved to be killed by the FutureWorks robots on that fateful day. Cecil Carpfish was seen as a hero for sending the robots, and he happily assisted in the Upper Ring's reconstruction (for a nominal fee, of course).
Jim Carpfish moved back to the city he grew up in, and despite his father's pleas, he refused to associate with Cecil or his company. Jim's problems with alcohol was soon a thing of the past, and though he got to reunite with old friends, he still made sure to call Pat and Ron each day.
Wally moved into an apartment right next to SpongeBryan's, and though he inherited some money from his father, he went on "shopping" trips with his new friends nevertheless.
During the trips, Wally liked to stop by a statue of Electric Man in front of the mayor's office. Milton commissioned the statue for the soldier he once trained, its inscription reading: "To Sam, who showed us that you don't need electric fingers to be a hero."
SpongeBryan went on a shopping trip alone one night, glancing at the houses he passed, which were built to look exactly as they did before their demolishment. Now, with the houses back, and cleaner than they ever were before, it was almost like nothing had happened at all in this neighborhood. Perhaps that was the effect the reconstruction intended to convey. That nothing was different, that nothing would ever be different. That the Upper Ring would stay wealthy and that the Lower Ring would stay poor, and that no act of insurgency would ever successfully change that.
SpongeBryan made it to his destination. He cracked the code of the lock and entered the mansion with a small sack hanging over his shoulder. Suddenly, the lights turned on, revealing that Octhomas was sitting on the living room couch with a cup of coffee in his hand.
"Hi," said Octhomas.
SpongeBryan waved nervously. "Hi."
"I see that you're about to rob me," Octhomas said, pointing to the small sack that SpongeBryan was holding.
SpongeBryan said nothing.
"Well, if you ever get thirsty, there's a cup of coffee waiting for you here."
Octhomas put the cup on the table in front of him and walked upstairs.
"Have fun," said Octhomas, winking down at the thief.
SpongeBryan smiled and started putting objects in the sack.
"Business as usual," he said.
Author's Note: Well, it's over, ladies and gentlemen! Thank you to everyone who read, everyone who reviewed, and everyone who faved and followed. You'll never know how gracious I am for your support, and if I do ever decide to continue the Cyberpunk mythology, you'll be the first ones to hear about it. Ta ta for now!