"Jeurridam: The Acid Swamps" - Chapter 13


Everything I did had reverberating side effects. The nanites, coursing through Zanir’s blood gave him powers I never could have imagined when I put that brain implant in his head! Everything that he endured was brought upon him because of my selfishness… Him walking out on me the way he did was completely understandable! I didn’t let him live the life a twenty one year old would want to live! No, I forced upon him this grand mission to save this sorry world that I didn’t consider he may not have wanted to be apart of. That was my error!
All I could do was just stand there and look at the mess I made. I destroyed the manticore mech that probably had extreme sentimental value to Zanir because I was angry. I also wrecked the power cell construction Zanir was overseeing. Immediate guilt forced me to begin reconstructing the frame. I was so wrong to have destroyed it!
These were impulses I hadn’t felt in a long while. It probably had something to do with Zanir ending his command protocol over my systems. I rendered the pulse cannons placing them under the lowest power settings. I began re-welding the tall steel struts of the frame back to the large base built by these talented young people.
“That’s a monster…” I heard someone say. It was upsetting to hear, but I continued to rebuild the structure for them. I was, truly a monster! I created such terrible killing machines and now I had become one.
“He called us worthless…” Another said. Truly, I had said some quite hurtful things to these kids but worthless they were not! It was only to undermine Zanir’ efforts to get him to see my views. It was wrong, but it seemed to be the only way to get to him. Indeed it did get to him and it forced him to leave. I was such a terrible father…  
“Oh, so now he’s helping us?” Someone asked, skeptically. It didn’t deter me from attempting to finish fixing what I had ruined. It was the same type of determination I had instilled in Zanir. It was wrong of me to use it against him the way I did!
As I moved on to the last strut, Basil stared at me angrily, arms folded, huffing and puffing. All kinds of eyes stared at me as I fixed the last strut, even the Leer. It bugaled at me loudly. It stomped its cybernetic hooves trying to get my attention. Basil slowly looked at the electronic elk, wondering why it was making the siren-like calls. He was unaware of the form of communication it and I shared, a wireless short wave radio system of commands and prompts.
“They’re fighting!” The Leer said.
“What?” I responded, having to stop what I was doing. The whirring my broken voice modulator did caused everyone to look at me intently.
“There’s a battle!” The Leer responded. If I had a heart, it would have sank to my stomach! I rushed past all the kids in the hangar, the kids scrambling a safe distance away. The Leer was right beside me as I took off, flying high above the base.
The gravity repelling wings carried me at near supersonic speeds, the Leer somehow keeping pace on the ground. We arrived at Jeurridam in a matter of minutes. The sight was horrific! The flying vessels the Revivalists flew in on, were downed, going up in fiery explosions left and right.
Numerous Merchant Clan buggies charged forward towards the much bigger cicada tanks! The impossibly small buggies fearlessly engaged the tanks! Their wheel base spread out, the axles of the buggies rearranging so the drivetrain could still power the wheels. The axles themselves were able to pivot two hundred seventy degrees, allowing the buggies to be extremely agile compared to slow tanks.
The buggies outflanked the slow shooting, slow moving tanks, firing their anti-tank weapons in rapid succession. Tank after tank was destroyed with minimal casualties to the buggies. Had things have gone in the favor of the Revivalists, I wouldn’t have been surprised! They had numbers and firepower on their side! However, the Merchant Clan were decimating the tanks which left me damn stupefied!
 Smaller racers, began to engage the buggies, firing their cannons at them. Many buggies
were ripped apart by the thirty millimeter cannons. Now with the speedy racers running circuits around the buggies in the same way the buggies outflanked the tanks, the remaining tanks took aim, firing on many of the buggies. The explosive rounds sent the lean and fragile buggies into ricocheting fragments across the dunes.
Just as the balance was beginning to swing, over a dozen winged turrets came flying in! Much like the Big Daddy suit, they had four gravity repelling wings! They latched onto random locations in Old Vegas, taking aim at the insurgents miles away. A barrage of long range pulse beams came from the north, many speeders and tanks continuing to be decimated.
There were only forty tanks remaining and a few hundred racers as well! The Merchant Clan still had hundreds of their nimble digitally powered buggies, only a tenth of their force being destroyed. With the numbers shifting, the tanks began to retreat northeastward towards the dam. The Merchant Clan kept the heat on them.
My optics zeroed in on this yellow buggy, dodging the flare-like cannon rounds of the tank as they came down in fiery explosions like the wrath of God! The buggy retaliated by firing repeatedly at the tank! The rounds expelled from the little yellow buggy burst mid flight, sending a web of gelatinous goop containing a powerful depth charge! Upon impact with the tank, the charge exploded, igniting the strange gelatinous goop.
The explosions knocked legs and armor off the tanks, damaging them badly. The little yellow buggy came darting in at impressive speed! It’s anti-tank cannon reverted back to the much smaller fifty millimeter cannon. As the buggy drove by, it fired at the tank’s cockpit, blood splattering everywhere!
The buggy kept on trucking, targeting another tank! As it did, a swarm of racers came in to take care of the threat. Now being pursued, the buggy charged through Henderson at an extreme speed. The pilot, threw impressive turns as the much faster racers closed in.
“Guys, I need help!” He said, as the fire of thirty millimeter cannons began to rip through his buggy.
“On it!” Another buggy pilot responded.  
A buggy came riding across rooftops, it’s advanced magnetic suspension allowing it to make daring leaps as it closed in on the racers pursuing the yellow buggy. It made one last leap from a fuel depot roof, landing on the fragile physique of a racer, firing at the remaining number of racers. The buggy began to make quick work of the racers with it’s very own thirty millimeter cannon.
“You alright boss?” The pilot asked.
“Yeah, I’m fine! We gotta keep pushing them back!” The yellow buggy pilot responded before making radio contact with someone else, “June, their falling back to the dam! Get out of there!”
“I can’t! Zanir and the prisoners are still in there!” June responded back over the air.
This alarmed me to the very core! The Leer and I looked at each other, quite shocked! This was all some reaux to get Zanir within the dam to rescue the assets being imprisoned! That boy had no fear at all!
“Well they’re coming!” The yellow buggy pilot said back.
“I’m doing the best I can down here, Sandles…” June said, growing frustrated.
“Zanir better hurry it…” Julio said, quite worried as well.
I looked at the Leer, both of us quite consumed with worry as well.
“Come on!” I whirred! It followed, both of us heading to a hilly outcrop overlooking the dam! The sight was shocking! Julio and June’s analog buggies were suspended sixty feet above the base of the dam. Between the two buggies, a tiny hole was drilled! Hovering just outside the hole was Orb, ready to provide supporting fire for anything that threatened the two buggies hanging on the side of the dam. So this was how Zanir penetrated the facility! The boy was a genius yet still unbelievably stupid!
“I can’t believe it…” I murmurred.
“Look!” The Leer murmurred! He pointed towards the numerous racers speeding through Henderson towards the dam. Not long after, the Tanks had arrived. The racers and Tanks began to fire at the buggies hanging on the dam! Orb took off, doing the best she could to alleviate the pressure from the buggies! She fired her thirty millimeter pulse cannons at the tanks and racers. The energy pulses destroyed the racers but did nothing but bounce off the densely armored cicada tanks. Still though, the persistent little mech made countless high speed passes on the tanks, only to be ignored by the resilient machines.
June’s buggy moved in close to the hole bored into the side of the dam, bunkering down tightly! The buggy popped open the rear compartment! Numerous people began to pour out of the hole into the rear of the buggy.
“Julio, provide us support, will ya?” June asked.
“Sure thing!” Julio responded. The turret on the back of the buggy began to turn. It took aim at the tanks lining the canyon wall. It fired powerful shot after shot, piercing the canopy of several of the tanks! Blood splattered all over the glass of the tanks’ cockpits. The boy was quite a lethal shot!   
“Go ahead and get out of here!” Julio said as the rear compartment of the buggy closed.
“I’m not leaving you with those things.” June said, “Now, get into position! I don’t have any more room! I’ll provide support this time!”
“Okay…” Julio responded, wheeling the side of the buggy up to the hole. He popped open the door, waiting for more people to come out.  
Julio’s buggy began firing the same large vacuum inducing, anti-personnel rounds at the tanks. Tank after tank began to drop! Orb, steadily mowed down numerous racers, some managing to make it to the other side of the dam to surround the tanks.
“Fuck, we’re surrounded!” June growled.
“Come on Zanir…” Julio said, quite ansty for the boy’s arrival, “What’s taking him so long?”
“I don’t know…” June responded, “But, Heaven’s running out of ammo up there…”
“Shit.” Julio said, growing more and more worried!
Suddenly, a tiny head appeared out of the tunnel bored into the dam wall. It wasn’t Zanir’s but Ezekiel's.
“ZEEK!” Beth screamed. The thin boy leapt into the buggy, the door closing behind him. The two buggies waited a little longer for Zanir but the pressure from the tanks were proving to be too much. He wasn’t coming out!
Seconds later, the two buggies made a speedy getaway up the near vertical face of the dam. Both leapt high into the air before hitting dense ground hard! The powerful suspension of the buggies cushioned the blow, as the two speed towards A99. Still though, racers were in hot pursuit. Orb came swooping in, getting the pursuers off of the buggies.
“All forces withdraw,” Alistair said in a mass OTA wave, “I repeat all forces withdraw and disperse… Do not go back to the City of Rust, I repeat do not go back to the City of Rust! You are ordered to stay away from Jeurridam! Retreat to the mountains.”
This was sad! Allistair’s entire empire crumbled at that very moment! Allistair was a genius, the very man who designed those buggies that dominated the Revivalists. However, this was only a tiny fraction of the Revivalists total force. The man knew better than to stay a unified mass after such a daring attack. He had to break up and separate all of his own or risk complete and total annihilation when the Revivalists came back to retaliate. It was a wise decision.
However, that had little significance to me! My son was still inside that dam and there was little I could do about it! Considering I was incredibly outgunned by the Revivalists, I couldn’t just go in guns blazing and expect a decent outcome. No, Zanir was on his own unless there was something I could do, some way… just something! Afterall, Zanir did have valuable information within that brain implant in his skull and the Revivalists would stop at nothing to get it. They would destroy him to get to it!
I had no choice but to return back to Area 51 with what felt as close to a broken heart as I could remember. My return was not well received. I entered the hangar, balling up tightly on the wall. I wanted to cry but in this big clunky mechanized form, there was no way I could do so. My son was gone because I pushed him away! Surely if I would have assisted him in this daring rescue, he maybe could have possibly walked away this.
The pitter patter of human feet entering the hangar made me look up. It was Basil. The boy was so upset that I had returned, fumes of hatred spewed off of him!
“You’re not welcome here…” He said through the grit of his teeth. My head slowly slumped back down between my knees as the sensation of crying built from within but no tears could come from this form, “I’m serious,” Basil started back up, “LEAVE!” I looked at the boy, seeing his face was red. I got up not wanting to anger him or hurt anyone else further.
Strange murmuring sounds came from a remote corner of the Hangar. It sounded like odd weeping. Even Basil and the people within the scrap hangar had to turn their heads. The Leer’s senses were tuned into the strange weeps as well.
“What is that?” I whirred.
“It sounds like,” The Leer began, running it through the numerous databases within his systems, “The manticore!!!”
“What? I’m possible! I destroyed it!” I said back, having to go forth to truly see.
“HEY!!!!” Basil said, rushing after me! He truly wanted me gone, “I SAID LEAVE!!!”
I climbed over the heap of junk, finding the manticore mech lying in an isolated corner where a number of workers dragged it. It’s wind bladder expanded and contracted showing that it still was breathing. As I crept closer, nanites were refusing it’s head back together! This was utterly insane! This had to be a side effect of Zanir’s engineering.
The machine cried out, obviously in great agony! It seemed to be low on circulatory fluid, not even able to lift it’s head off the ground! The few remaining nanites it had were trying to repair the wounds I had inflicted upon it. Tiny microscopic robots, welded away as they fused with one another to form a new face for the machine.
These were the few resources the machine had left and it had to use them to sustain itself for however many few hours it had left. It was dying from cybertronic anemia, a terrible way to die for a machine! I remember how it felt when I had very little circulatory fluid flowing through my mechanical veins. Since I had caused this, since Zanir had such an attachment to this mech, the least I could do was try and save it before it inevitably died! It’d be a little piece of Zanir I had left after this tragic day.
I scooped up the two ton mech in my arms, carrying it out of the Hangar. It’s long tail, trailed behind, scraping against the tarmac. Basil, quite confused now, was right behind me.
“What are you doing?” He asked. It wasn’t like I could respond. I simply nodded, spreading my wings and taking off with the manticore in my arms.
The Leer was right behind me as we made our way south through the sunset. We arrived in the City of Rust, entering the Acid Swamps which now was empty. The noisy place once teamed with big, loud and obnoxious plate mechs. Now it was silent, filled with carcasses of those very same plate mechs. I placed the manticore down, approaching one of the plate mechs. Surely one had to have some circulatory fluid left in it. They were big machines, incredibly so!
I pried apart the plate mechs internals, searching their complex bodies for any chambers containing their precious circulatory fluid. Even their glottal bladders were drained dry. This was incredibly discouraging. Still though, I continued to search, searching more and more mechs. The search turned up empty. The poor manticore mech now seemed doomed.
“I remember,” The Leer began, “Zanir and Galveston talking about those tubular grasses… It was something about how their beet like roots excrete the acid the plate mechs used to survive.”
“Yeah, I remember them mentioning it a few times…” I responded thinking back to it.
“What if you found a way to juice the grass roots and put the acid within one of the glottal bladders of the plate mechs? Maybe you could refill the manticore then?” The Leer suggested.
“It’s worth a shot…” I sighed.
The Leer and I walked over to the thicker pastures of tubular grass. I began to pull up the plants by the roots. The roots looked quite juicy, dripping none other than cytotrolic acid! The little Leer was right! If I could find a way to put the acid within a glottal bladder of a plate mech, then maybe I could revive the manticore. It was a stretch, but the Leer and I tried it regardless.
Carefully, I cut the glottal bladder of a plate mech away from it’s frame. The Leer pulled up numerous tubular grass roots so they’d be ready by the time I got the bladder away from the frame. It was a delicate process, requiring the most sensitive welding hand. Once freed, I wasted no time in rushing over to the roots.
I stretched open the bladder, placing the root in the opening. I began to squeeze with all my might. Juices began to pour down into the bottom of the bladder. I repeated the process, filling up the bladder with hundreds of gallons of cytotrolic acid. Zanir was right! These plants were an easy way of synthesizing cytotrolic acid and my foolishness prohibited him from doing further research to find this out! This was quite a discovery, something I wish he would have made! I was way past my prime! The boy truly could do wonders with this!
The Leer and I arrived back to the manticore. It was just in time too! The mech seemed to be in utter agony, barely clinging on to life.
“Hold the sack…” I said to the Leer.
“Sure.” He said taking the bladder in his mouth. I got on my hands and knees holding the manticore’s head up. It’s optics were clenched tight, as it cringed in pain.
“I know it hurts,” I said truly empathizing with the machine, “But we’re trying to help!” I extending out my hand to the Leer. He handed me the bladder.
The large balloon-like structure dragged on the ground as I placed it’s spout into the manticore’s mouth. I pushed the spout as far down it’s throat as it could fit. The manticore was too weak to even resist. The life giving acid began to pour into its systems! It was hard to juggle the extremely heavy bladder and keeping the manticore’s head elevated. I didn’t want the manticore to choke on the very life giving fluid we were using to try and save it.
Half of the contents of the bladder were consumed by the manticore before it coughed up the spout. I laid the mech back on the ground to rest. It continued to give weak coughs as it eventually fell into torpor. It’s body then began to repair all damage done! The revitalization worked! However, to see the benefits of it would take time.
“Is he gonna be alright?” The Leer asked.
“I think so! His nanites work fast… very fast…” I responded.
“Can he talk like us?” The Leer continued.
“I’m not quite sure if Zanir gave him the same firmware as us.” I said back.
“I have the OTA but have no way of broadcasting it.” The Leer sighed.
“Maybe Beth can help?” I asked.
“Why not go and find Zanir?” The Leer asked back.
“Zanir’s gone, I’m afraid.” I sighed, hating the truth.
“But he’s your human offspring! I thought humans stopped at nothing to protect their own! Zanir did it! He did it selflessly!” The Leer countered.
“Yeah, but I’m only a tiny damaged fragment of a human… I can’t blindly rush into things like I used to. That’s how I ended up like I am now. And besides, I must keep you safe.” I explained.
“Oh…” The Leer said taking a seat beside the manticore. He placed his head on the ground, ready to enter torpor. He seemed to have silent judgements but said nothing.
“You know,” I began, hating the silence, “This place is amazing…”
“It is…” The Leer nodded, “Zanir connected this place to the Revivalists. This entire quarantine zone is their doing just like Sloan Wall….”
“And he never mentioned this to me? God, it’s like things were going good until he learned I designed the manticore mechs, then his trust slowly began to fade. And it kept getting worse, and worse from that point on! He tightened his control over me, started wasting valuable time and even leaving me behind, locked up in that garage like I wasn’t some living being underneath it all! I tried to ignore it for so long but we just stopped communicating effectively! I couldn’t even speak properly with my voice cog broken…  Then things blew up big time in Area 51 and now this happened...” I sighed, “I don’t know what to fucking do!”
“Well, explosive fights tend to seem to be the result of a lack of communication.” The Leer noted, “And for humans to be so relatively weak, they have the craziest battles.” He was quite an observant machine and very spot on!
“Tell me about it…” I said, scratching my head, before taking a look at the acid pools, “I wonder how saturated the ground itself is with that acid…”
“Based on the growing conditions of the plants,” The Leer began, making minor calculations, “Very… Cytotrolic acid may be a byproduct of the very corrosive acid in the pools.”
“You may be right! If that’s the case then what the hell are these plants and where are they from? Shit,” I sighed, thinking back to it, “I should have never told Zanir this wasn’t important. It’s quite damn important!”
“There’s no use in reflecting on things that happened that are impossible to change. It produces stress.” The Leer said. It made me realize just how much more machine it actually was rather than a sympathizing and compassionate creature.
“You’re right.” I said back, getting to my feet, “I need to try and mend things over with Beth to see if she can send the new firmware to the manticore. Stay here. I’ll be back as soon as possible.”
“..I’ll be here.” The Leer said, placing its delicate little head on the ground.
I took off, flying straight towards A99. Everything was filled with somber energy, not a single soul unmoved by Zanir’s sacrifice. It was pretty dark out at this point. No one could see me this high up and quite frankly, I didn’t want to land! These people saw me at my utmost worst but they had to understand some thing! There was a lot that built up to that moment and I was deeply sorry!
My mind warred deciding whether to land or not. They probably would push me away the same way Basil and the A51ers did. It was something I didn’t know if I could take, not after losing my son the way I did. However, it was evident that I wasn’t the only one who felt they had a great loss. Zeek sat on the Veranda, clearly so much going through his mind. He definitely needed some alone time after his traumatizing ordeal. I bet he hated being back at this prison of a home. Sometimes, it seemed he was the only one I could relate to. He knew what it feels like to be torn between warring factions for the ones he loved. He knew what it felt like to lose time and time again! Hell, he knew what it felt like to have everyone turn against you!
For that, I grew the courage to land but not to confront these people. I cowered behind the garage, steadily trying to build the courage to do what I needed to do. My head drooped between my knees as I tried to gather myself. Suddenly, my radar picked up on a large metal object moving in fast. Before I could react, something hard and round clanked against me. It was Orb!
“What are you doing here?” She asked before seeing just how wrecked I was, “Oh no…”
“I came for some help.” I sighed.
“I’m sorry about you losing your son! I mean, I have a synthos cog so I legitimately am.” She said in a warm and teasing way.
“Thanks…” I said.
“Why’d you run off like,” Beth said rushing behind the garage, “OH MY!!!!!!!!”
“SHHHHH!!!!” I said, holding up my hands in surrender, begging her.
“What are you doing here?” She asked, beyond shocked.
“Go get your laptop!” I said, gesturing with my hands as well. She wouldn’t be able to understand me without it. The sharp girl took her a swift minute to get it.
“On it!” She said, rushing back into the house.
She darted past Zeek who looked on lost. Moments later, she came back out the house with her laptop, booting it as she ran.
“Beth?” Zeek asked.
“Come on!” She said. He quickly got to his feet, following her. He had the slightest clue I was here. Upon seeing me, he burst out laughing. His reactions often were unexpected and I really didn’t get what made him laugh. It was why I liked him!
“So you made it to the reunion too?” He asked.
“How are you guys?” I whirred. Beth looked down at the laptop screen, seeing what I said.
“We’re okay. You?” Beth asked.
“Basil kicked me out.” I chuckled, but that couldn’t translate over.
“No surprise there.” Beth laughed, seeming to pick up on it.
“I came to you because I have a bit of a favor to ask. If you don’t want to do it, that’s fine. It just would mean a lot to me if you did.” I asked.
“Beth?” A stern, raspy voice called out. It was none other than Dale followed by a plethora of other footsteps. They all came around the rear of the garage, wondering why the girl had darted out of the house so wildly. Upon seeing me sitting there, everyone was shocked.
To my surprise, Alistair, June and Julio were here! I would have thought they would have left but no, they were still here!
“Hi…” I said with a wave. Everyone flinched, remembering those big beam cannons my arms would turned into whenever I got upset.
“He’s not going to hurt anyone.” Beth said.
“You sure?” Dale asked.
“I won’t…” I whirred.
“He won’t.” Beth chuckled.
“We need to finish our conversation!” Alistair said. Dale turned to the man, not wanting to hear it.
“What conversation?” Beth asked, having missed it, being up the road at the clinic for the past few hours.
“About how fucked we are!” Alistair said back.
“You mean how fucked you are…” Dale said back, quick to refute such a broad claim.
“No, I mean everyone! We may have won this battle but we started a war we can’t win!” Alistair persisted.
“Won?” Zeek asked, “I mean we lost terribly, don’t you think?” Alistair looked at him, full of sympathy.
“As much as I wish it was about Zanir, it isn’t. It’s about Jeurridam and we crippled the Occupancy which was a humongous undertaking…”
“...That you couldn’t have done without Zanir!” Zeek said.
“I get that but Zanir himself said that this was about driving the Revivalists out! You know he loves to kill two birds with one stone!” Alistair clarified.
“Okay, so what are you getting at?” Dale asked.
“What do you mean what am I getting at? You think the Revivalists are gonna lay down easy after we wrecked their plans like this? When they get their shit together they’re gonna come back strong and who do you think they’re gonna target? US! They’re coming after us, Dale! All of us! How do you suppose we deal with that?” Alistair asked.
“I don’t know.” Dale shrugged, thinking on it.
“What about your guys? They have serious fire power!” Miguel asked.
“I’m afraid that won’t work a second time.” June began, “We only were able to push them back so far because we had Zanir’s tech to disable their ships which really had the heavy weapons. Without the ships, the Revivalists don’t stand much of a fight and without Zanir on our side, we wouldn’t have stood a chance.”
“How can you be so certain that a retaliation is coming?” Dale asked, just not bought.
“Because I saw just how big they’ve gotten!” Heaven began, “When we went to San Diego, all we saw was Revivalist this, Ravager that… propaganda everywhere…”
“Any anything powerful enough to produce propaganda to brainwash masses of people is powerful enough to have the firepower to back it up.” Alistair added. Dale didn’t listen to Alistair’s statement, still stuck on what Heaven had said.
“Wait, when did you go to San Diego?” He asked.
“A few days ago. That’s not important, dad.” Heaven sighed.
“Sandles said that they have dominated the entire pacific coast except for Berengia and the Forests of Columbia… That says something!” June said.
“We gotta do something before these people come and destroy us all! They will!” Alistair said.
“Do you think we should break it off?” Miguel asked Dale, “Like what Alistair did with his crew?”
“It may be best… make yourself scarce. More targets means more time, I guess.” Alistair shrugged.
“No…” Dale quickly refuted, angering Alistair.
“Because I don’t handle shit like you…” Dale said.
“It’s not about handling shit the way I do! It’s about handling shit for the betterment of your community’s future?” Alistair quickly argued.
“Um future? Where’s yours, though? All fragmented and spread across the desert? That’s right, I thought so…” Dale said, feeling his argument was valid.
“And you think your little charades of keeping everyone close and following your exact will is doing anything to keep them safe?” Alistair asked.
“But did mine crumble though?” Dale asked, seemingly just to get Alistair upset.
“Technically yes when Zanir upped and left your ass! Guess where he came; the Merchant Clan! At least my clan fell apart trying to save Jeurridam, the city that made you who you are today! You didn’t give a flying fuck about saving the place!” Alistair retorted.
“You can’t blame me for caring about my family first! How can you be upset with me over not wanting to have my family separated again? Family is just something you never, EVER had!” Dale said. It was a low blow!
“Dad…” Zeek said, not liking where this was heading. Alistair could have came back with more sound logic to Dale’s madness but didn’t.
“You know what… You and I have always been different, ever since we met twenty odd years ago. We’ve had serious conflicts in those years but stop holding on TO THE FUCKING PAST, Dale!!!!! Let it go!!!” Alistair said. It seemed to strike an equal nerve of Dale’s. The two’s past was even more entwined than the surface led on! Something must had happened between them.
“Let it go?” Dale asked, folding his arms, “I did long ago… What I was going to say was that there is an outpost a few dozen miles up the Colorado with an emergency broadcast system. As I’ve said many times, I have powerful friends! What we need to do is broadcast on the UCAC emergency airwaves and tell them what’s coming our way! If we can’t help ourselves then we can at least get someone out here who can!”
“Okay, so you’re calling for help… That’s a damn terrific idea.. Um, but still think about your forces and having them be able to fight another day. Seriously, Dale, maybe it would be best to disperse them…” Alistair nodded. Dale eyed Alistair, feelings he held on to from long ago coming to the surface. It was clear these feelings had not been properly dealt with.
“How far is this station?” June asked.
“About one hundred miles northeast…” Dale said, still looking murderously at Alistair.
“Wait, is it in the Grand Canyons?” Julio asked.
“Yes…” Dale said through the grit of his teeth.
“Then we should get to leaving then… We don’t have a lot of time.” June said, heading towards the buggy.
“No,” Dale said to the boy, “This is a mission for two men! You all stay here! Miguel, you’re in charge until I get back.”
“Okay…” Miguel said back, not thinking much of it.
“It seems time is not an you all’s side…” I whirred, Beth reading as I spoke, “I can fly you both to the outpost.”
“What’s he saying?” Dale asked.
“He’s offering to fly you both to the outpost to expedite things…” Beth said.
“Fly?” Dale said, not approving.
“Sure, why not.” Alistair shrugged, warranting a not to keen look from Dale.
“Dad, it’s not bad.” Beth laughed.
“You’ve flown on him before?” He asked.
“Not him per say but there used to be two Orbs and I flew on the back of one. It’s not at all bad.” Beth smiled.
“This isn’t going to be a get in and get out trip! Repairs will have to be made! The outpost is dilapidated. We’re going to have to stay over night. We’re going to need to pack supplies…” Dale said.
“Wait! Considering that the radio stations of the Revivalists have been destroyed, who’s to say they haven’t already found this place and are using it to broadcast…?” June asked, quite a valid question.
“Do any of you know the Revivalists emergency broadcast frequency?” Beth asked, typing vigorously on the computer.
“No… it’s probably heavily encrypted and none of us have the skill to hack into it.” Alistair said.
“Need I remind you that a mad scientist is sitting before you?” I asked.
“What did he say?” Alistair asked, hearing my wirring.
“He wanted to remind you all that he is a scientist…” Beth smiled.
“You can help?” Alistair asked. I nodded slowly.
“Just pack up what you need and I’ll fly you both over. However I have things to do and I might not be able to stay so arrange a pickup. I have a serious problem on my hands…” I responded. Beth translated.
“June, I’ll broadcast you the location on Merchant Clan wavelengths as soon as we get things up and running.” Alistair said.
“Wouldn’t it just be easier for you to have a team of support there with you? Every single one of us standing here all have something resourceful that could contribute to this mission.” June asked, the question more so directed at Dale.
“Absolutely not. I need everyone here and nothing disjointed! We need to be unified while we figure out what’s going on!” Dale said back. It was a fairly valid point.
“Alistair, do you still have informants in the city?” Zeek asked.
“No, I told all my forces to withdraw from Jeurridam. My folks are camped out in Red Canyon until I give further order.” Alistair said back.
“We could really use a resource team right now to try and figure out what the hell the Revivalsits are up to at this given moment. They’re terribly crippled but not unfunctional. They still have enough of a force left to commandeer a sector of Jeurridam or another small place for that matter! This is important! Hell they could have a resource team stalking us right now.” Zeek said.
“Orb?” Beth asked out, seeing the validity of Zeek’s point.
“We’re safe for now…” The spherical droid said in buzzes and hoots. Beth looked at the screen to see what was said.
“I didn’t scan on my way here, but I didn’t see any signs of the Revivalists left in the region. I’d recommend you send Orb surveying every square inch of the surrounding desert to find where these people are while I take Alistair and Dale to their coordinates. Have her spy on them from a safe altitude when she finds them…” I recommended.
“So they’re nowhere to be seen?” Beth asked, not liking the sound of this.
“I didn’t see them.” I shrugged.
“That’s not good…” Beth said, scratching the back of her head.
“What did he say?” Alistair asked.
“Ever since the attack, he hasn’t seen the Revivalists which for the matter could mean a lot of things!” Beth said.
“It could…” Alistair said, thinking.
“But we got to get moving… Eden, pack us up a wiring kit. Heaven, prepare us some meals… We don’t know how long we’ll be there. Beth, you pack up some camping gear and toiletries…” Dale said.
“Really dad?” Beth asked, refusing.
“I’ll do it…” Zion offered with a shrug.
“Fine…” Dale shrugged rushing towards the house, Alistair right behind him. Beth typed up prompts on the computer and Orb was off, beginning the tedious work of tracking the Revivalists. Eden, Beth’s oldest brother was joined by Elijah, his twin as the two went to the garages to gather a repair kit. They weren’t like their younger three siblings, the two often working without question or second thought. They didn’t have an identity…
While all of this went on, I folded down from sentinel mode to sentry mode. It was akin to the active torpor mode, where all function is shut down except radar scans. However, sentry mode wasn’t inactive. My cannons were online as well as the gravity repulsion that granted me flight. It was so all thirteen feet and nine hundred fifty pounds of me could fit into a form smaller than a barrel. As a result, I could enter smaller spaces such as buildings, homes, vaults.
Zanir was a genius for implementing this! Despite our differences, he was always thinking of ways to make this Big Daddy armor more adaptive. I already missed him dearly… Many of his ideas were so fresh and innovative and were always about the well being of others! That was where I failed him as a father… Before the day I died, all my work was to produce an army, to weaponize people in a unity between man and machine in order to stop a group of extremist. I didn’t think about the little things like, improving home conditions for bystanders to the wars in our wake, or actually making the world a better place! No, I wanted to push the limits on the most powerful human weapon I could build and Zanir, the holder of my last creation, just so happened to be that weapon!
Everyone looked at me surprised, especially Beth.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing, you just look like an oversized soda can…” She teased.
“Hahahahahahahahaha….” I said back.
“So, Zanir modified your torpor mode to be fully active?” Beth asked.
“Yes, the boy has done so much for me and I’m a complete fool to not thank him for it, but he kept me bound by command programs and was wasting serious, serious time! When he released me from the programs and I had learned what he brought upon himself, I exploded… Everything I warned him about was unfolding and he… didn’t care! It was then I learned I didn’t consider a thing about him, just forcing this huge duty upon him from the time he was a born… I didn’t think about letting him grow up and be happy and be normal…” I sighed.
“The thing about parenting is that with your first child, you never get it right… Considering Zanir is your ONLY child, don’t beat yourself up about it… You were an engineer of advanced robotics and cybernetics… being a parent won’t come second nature, I’m afraid!” She smiled. It threw me for a loop.
“You say that like Zanir will just walk back up here any given moment like this never even happened.” I noted.
“I mean,” Beth began, “Look at Zanir’s track record… When the boy was eleven years old, he went to Sloan Canyon to find parts to build you! When he was nearly finished building you, you spent hours and hours and hours of training that boy how to be a stone cold combatant… Fast forward ten years and then you have this kid who has a talent of getting into any deadly scenario without a trace and leaving the same way he entered. Since he left A99, how many situations has this boy gotten into like that? Countless, right? The Revivalists didn’t even know he was in the dam until it was too late! If Zeek made it out, why couldn’t Zanir?”
“ Wait. You’re all talking about the fact that Zanir didn’t escape the dam?” June asked, finally tuning in.
“Yeah.” Beth said, warranting a head turn from Zeek.
“That’s so damn strange, if you ask me! He could have so EASILY made it out! I think he’s up to something and just didn’t want us to know… He has a fucking plan… I mean he has to because it just doesn’t make sense for him to have stayed behind like that…” June said, scratching his head.
“Zanir has this tendency… to like, hold and withhold information, a very trust worthy individual…” Zeek began, “I bet you don’t even know that it was my idea when Zanir went after Da Lagon, that I was there with him the whole time…” June and Beth looked at the boy in shock.
I had to come out of the sentry form, returning to the towering, thirteen foot tall monster Big Daddy was meant to be.
“WHAT?” I whirred. Zeek backed away, fearing my wrath.
“Shhhhhhh, shhhhh,” Beth said, tryinh to calm me before turning to her brother, “Zeek, why…? You idiot!!!!”
“Because, we had both lost someone just too close to us… We knew that it would make Jeurridam a better place if we just took them out… I didn’t want Da Lagon to do to another soul what they did to me!” Zeek said.
“Please tell me you’re lying…” Beth said, having to massage her temples.
“I’m not, but that’s not my point! My point is that Zanir withholds information! There easily could be something he’s not telling us! I’m also pretty sure there are things you have trusted Zanir to keep that none of us in our inner circle know! With all that being said, Zanir was telling me not to look back, to keep looking ahead! After a while, I did that, thinking he was right right behind me! When I finally made it to the buggy, he wasn’t there! I, as a person who’s always up to something and can tell when someone else is up to something, know that Zanir was up to something! We’d be damned fools to count him out so early. Give it a minute…” Zeek clarified.
“True…” I responded, having to calm myself, “If it wasn’t for the Leer, there’d be some things I just wouldn’t know… Zanir even withheld information from me…” It was a shock to Beth.
“Seriously? I thought you and his relationship was good!” Beth said back.
“No, he stopped trusting me when he learned the manticores were my design… after that, he started putting stricter controls on me that got more and more strict the more time went on. We pretty much just stopped communicating… It was such a blow when he went on that trip to the wastelands and left me behind… If he would have brought me along, Galveston and Swish would still be alive, Zanir never would have gotten hurt that badly and this whole thing with the Revivalists never would have happened…” I sighed.
“I wouldn’t be so sure… The Revivalists came because their mechs were all shut down in The City of Rust… I mean that also was Zanir’s doing, a preset he and Galveston made, but still…” Beth said back.
“You’re right.” I said.
“You said you had a favor to ask?” Beth remembered.
“Yes, I…”
“We’re ready!!!!” Dale said, coming down the veranda. Alistair was close behind. I shrunk back down to sentry mode, taking off towards them.
“I’ll explain later.” I said back to Beth.
Both Dale and Alistair looked at me, quite confused. All they could see was a levitating barrel with two laser pointers on a stick.
“Why the hell are you balled up like this?” Alistair asked. I spread my wings, flexing them back and forth, hoping they’d get what I wanted them to do. Finally, Beth came over to translate for the two confused men.
“Okay, he’s saying grab ahold of each wing. In this form, he can get you there much, much faster.” Beth said.
“Can you just fly us there in the sentinel form?” Alistair asked, not quite sure about this smaller form.
“He say’s he’s pressed for time.” Beth shrugged.
“Okay…” Alistair sighed, grabbing on to a wing. Dale was a bit more reluctant, but he did so.
The flight there in the pitch black of the night was brisk. We covered the hundred mile distance in a little over twenty minutes. I shined my light on the area we were about to land so the two men could find their footing. Upon landing, neither men could stand.
“I’m getting so old…” Alistair said.
“Never that shit again! Make sure that ride is coming to pick us up…” Dale said, on his hands and knees. The two men looked at each other with the strangest of energies. Something long ago had brewed between them but the history seemed long, twisted and upsetting…  
“He will.” Alistair said.
We all looked at the outpost. It was pretty large, covering about two soccer fields. Most of the buildings had fallen apart due to age but this one was okay. The giant broadcasting tower was still intact as well. The equipment around it wasn’t as pristeen.
“This won’t be a cakewalk…” Alistair sighed.
“Tough it up, big boy…” Dale said back, as he walked towards the tower. His remark warranted a strange look from Alistair. Yeah, there was definitely some history between these two. It was now time to make myself seem scarce… so I could eavesdrop…
The two began the repair work for the tower. It was long and silent before Dale broke it.
“You remember that ship ride to Jeurridam where we first met?” He asked. Alistair paused to look at him.
“Don’t remind me…” He sighed.
“Seriously though, don’t you miss how simple those times were, when it was just us and our dreams?” Dale persisted. Alistair looked at him, wishing he’d just stop.
“We both had incredibly un-idealistic views of what we thought Jeurridam would be like. When we got here it was such a rude wake up call…” Alistair said back, hoping to spoil the conversation.
“I mean even then, I couldn’t complain much. I was happy then. I haven’t really been happy since those days…” He sighed.
“Oh really?” Alistair asked, Dale’s reflections on the past striking a nerve.
“Yeah I miss what we had… seeing you finally after all these years reminded me of it.” He said. Alistair had to stop his repair work to face Dale.
“But you weren’t the one who was heartbroken when you learned the man you love had a wife and two year old twins and left you as soon as she returned home… You fucking played me like a fiddle Dale, and you knew it…” Alistair said back.
“It’s good to hear you’re still not over that even after twenty four years…” Dale teased.
“Fuck you, Dale…” Alistair sighed. Dale just chuckled, happy to get that reaction from Alistair.
“And you’ve been single for all these years? You must still have been holding out for me?” Dale continued to tease.
“No,” Alistair said back, resuming his work, “When you have a child to raise while building an empire, love just escapes you… especially when all damn men are the FUCKING same… Say they love one minute and say they can’t be with you the next!”
“You know why I did that… I had a family to raise! How would it have looked if I left my wife… for a man! It arguably was a big mistake…. I haven’t been happy since the day twenty four years ago when I left you… I truly feel like I’ve been trudging ever since… I forgot what it feels like to be happy. But, it was something I felt like I had to do.” Dale said.
“Like I said before, Dale… FUCK YOU!!!!!” Alistair snarled, warranting a laugh from Dale.
“You know, you built one hell of an empire… Those buggies just kept getting better every single year!” Dale said, still trying to pry for a reaction out of Alistair.
“So now you finally admitted it… After all these damn years… First you were so in love with me then you became my biggest, most cutthroat competition…” Alistair said, not gratified by this long awaited confession.
“You can’t hold that against me! I was still a kid my damn self.” Dale laughed.
“And so was I but you didn’t see me coming for blood!” Alistair said back.
“Oh really, you didn’t come for blood?” Dale challenged.
“I never was the start to any conflict your gang brought upon itself… you were! When you realized how much of a juggernaut my clan was becoming, you stopped with that whole bullshit, family destroys faggots backwash and had to back off…” Alistair recalled.
“Don’t come for my views on family…” Dale said, growing defensive.
“Dale, you dismissed my entire reason for running away, said it was childish!” Alistair quickly retorted.
“You had a family that loved you but you ripped it apart! I didn’t… All my family was dead and all I had left was a girl I loved and the two kids I got her pregnant with…” Dale said, feeling he was justified.
“It’s not making sense to me. How the hell are you gonna hold against me my choice to better my own life?” Alistair asked.
“Like I said, I was a stupid kid! I was jealous of the very fact that you had a family and you ran from them… You had a wife, just like me but instead of doing what you need to do to support her and your kid, you stole your very own kid from her and abandoned her… I felt like that was a sleazy move!”
“BUT YOU KNOW WHAT MY FUCKING FAMILY FORCED ME TO DO… I didn’t want to get married!” Alistair said, Dale obviously striking a sensitive nerve.
“I know, I know! I said I was a stupid kid! I didn’t know right from wrong, didn’t have anyone to teach me. I thought I was always right and everyone else was wrong… It was just me alone for a long time…” Dale pleaded, not trying to upset Alistair any further.
“Is this your attempt at an apology?” Alistair asked plainly.
“It kind of is… Is it too late for a sorry?” Dale asked back.
“Well let’s see… I’ve lost my city, my business, my empire, my gang is spread all over the Mojave and my son, the one I made sure never had to chip a nail, is now dead… Considering I have nothing left, a long awaited sorry does make a little bit of a difference, so no… I guess it’s not too late…” Alistair responded, accepting the apology in all fairness.
I couldn’t stomach it any longer. The two most powerful men in the Mojave had a love affair and neither man was over it. Wow, you’d think a mad scientist couldn’t be mind boggled anymore but I was fucking mind blown. Nevertheless I flew back to A99 where Beth was waiting patiently on my return. She watched as I came in for a landing.
“Has Orb found anything?” I asked.
“No not yet… But what favor did you wanna ask me?” Beth responded.
“I wanted to ask you can you send the updated firmware to the manticore mech.” I said back. It left Beth baffled.
“I thought you destroyed it!” She said.
“I did, well I thought I did. That thing was trying to heal itself in the back of the scrap hangar where Basil’s boys dumped it. I gave it some fresh circulatory fluid and its regenerating… It almost died from cybertronic anemia which I knew must had been dreadful…” I responded.
“Wow…” Beth said, at a loss for words, “Sure… I’ll help… can I ask why?”
“Because it was the last thing Zanir told me he wanted completed and I need to do it so I can feel like I have a piece of him…” I said.
“Then most definitely!” She smiled.
I flew her to The Acid Swamps, the Leer detecting us long before we got there. He was standing, waiting for us to land.
“It took you long enough!” He bugled.
“Sorry, got side tracked.” I said back, placing Beth on the ground. She opened her laptop, quick to get to work.
“Let’s see…” She said, stroking her chin. The laptop connected with the Manticore’s wireless feeds. Adding the new firmware was a simple drag and drop process. However, the uploading and rebooting process would take a bit of a while. Beth just stared at the Manticore.
“How’d you fix him?” She asked.
“We used the glottal bladder from a plate mech to absorb cytotrolic then fed it down his throat.” I said back, perplexing her.
“Where’d you get that much acid from?” She asked, confused. I spread my arms, twirling around.
“EVERYWHERE! The tubular grasses growing beside the pools of acid convert the caustic acid into cyotrolic acid, some kind of way. I pulled up the roots which are saturated with the acid, like sugar beets are with their natural juices.” I said.
“Wait, so how do these plants withstand such powerful acid? How do they convert it?” Beth asked, truly mind boggled.
“That is what I’m trying to figure out. It could be a variety of things, from electrolysis to chemosynthesis of some kind… These plants may have a catalyzing agent that rips the caustic acid apart and produces a byproduct. Cytotrolic acid is one of those byproducts. This kind of changes everything! I came to Jeurridam thirty years ago to find a new source for cytotrolic acid but instead found gravitanium which was how the UCAC started! I didn’t even know that cytotrolic acid was organic… Zanir’s haunch was right… I should have listened to him when he said he was on the brink of discovering something new about cytotrolic acid!” I said back.
“You can’t beat yourself up like this. You do realize that you’re a human at core and humans do make mistakes, right?” Beth asked me.
“I know but still…” I said back, “That’s my son…”
Suddenly, the most painful wailing erupted out. It was the manticore! He was getting to his feet, trembling from weakness. He started walking eastward, startling both Beth and I.
“Zanir…” It called out.
“Wait!” I said… The large, powerful mech didn’t stop. It kept trudging forth, picking up speed! I rushed in front of it trying to get it to stop, “Wait!!!!”
With one if it’s hands, it flung me out of the way, sending me tumbling across the fields of tube grass. Seeing this, the Leer came sprinting forth, keeping just in front of the manticore.
“Stop… Stop, just relax….” He said to the disoriented mech.
“No… Zanir’s in danger!” The manticore responded.
“Hey,” Beth said to the mech, causing it to turn to look at her, “Zanir’s gone… He’s not with us anymore…”  The manticore shook it’s head in disagreement, it’s dense armor rattling.
“I feel him!” The manticore responded, taking off in a searing sprint!
I got to my feet, picking Beth up in my hands. The Leer just stood there shocked.
“Come on!” I said to him. We both followed the manticore as it ran towards the dam.
“What’s it trying to do?” Beth asked.
“I don’t know!” I said back.
The manticore lept from the high valley down to the base of the dam where Zanir drilled the hole. The giant mech somehow managed to squirm its way within it, disappearing from sight. I had to land after seeing something so trippy!
“Wow…” I said. The Leer looked at me, confusion written all across his face.
“Did that really just happen?” He asked.
“It did… It definitely did.” I said, scratching my head, “Beth, I’m gonna take you home… If that mech which is four my size can fit into that man hole… so can I…”
“You’re gonna need support… Let me help you.” Beth said.
“Okay.” I responded, taking her back to A99.
There, June, Heaven and Zeek were worried sick. They looked on with mixed satisfaction as I landed. Before they could even utter a word, Beth began:
“Guys, you will never believe what happened! The manticore sprung back to life and entered the dam where Zanir bored the hole!” She said.
“That big ass thing managed to fit in that tiny ass hole?” June asked, so surprised!
“Manticore… what’s that?” Zeek asked.
“It’s a big, biiiiiiiiggg mech!” June said, demonstrating with his hands.
“Yeah, but…. Big Daddy’s gonna try and enter the dam too and get Zanir out of there. He could use the support.” Beth said.
“I’m low on ammo.” Julio said, really wanting to help but not willing to push it.
“Me too but if he’s still in there this is so worth it…” June said.
“I know my way around it. I can help you!” Zeek said, walking over to Big Daddy. I shook my head, not approving of him coming along.
“I’ll find him. The closer I get to him, the more his vital meter will spike.” I said back, Beth translating.
“Okay…” He said, a bit disappointed but understanding.
“What are you all doing? Curfew!” Miguel said, coming from the house.
“Curfew? The fuck?” June asked, not liking this at all. Beth slowly turned to him.
“Now you see why I left…” She said, hugging him.
“It’s okay baby. We’re gonna get far the fuck away from here when this shit’s over…” June said, cringing. The idea of a curfew to such a wild and carefree boy was just disgusting! Beth chuckled.
“I’m serious… You all get inside!” Miguel said.
“Sorry, uncle but we got to go!” Beth said, taking off towards the nearest buggy.
“BETH!!!!” Miguel shouted, only shocked to see Zeek, Heaven, June and Julio run after her. Miguel then looked at me, knowing I was somehow responsible. This was worth a laugh but I couldn’t with this stupid contraption’s limitations.
June and  Julio made their way to the dam. Julio was quite confused as to why support was needed.
“So what are we gonna do once we get to the dam? Sit there like before?” He asked.
“Pretty much… Big Daddy’s gonna get in and get out.” Beth said.
“It’s pretty horrible in there! They had me hooked up to this machine called a BrainEngine and it made everything a nightmare… everything felt so real. I hope Zanir’s brain implant makes him impervious to it!” Zeek said, deeply worried.
“BrainEngine?” I asked, “A FUCKING BRAINENGINE?”
“Easy big guy, what’s the problem?” Beth asked.
“A BrainEngine is one of my designs! Its for transferring consciousness from one host to the next! What possibly could they have done with it…?” I said back, Beth reading it aloud.
“They used it to interrogate me, to prod my memories. It was like they were trying to provoke me into revealing something while hooked up to it… thankfully the machine overheated before things could get worse. God, it felt so real.” Zeek said, shaking his head.
“What all happened there?” Beth asked, quite concerned.
“Let’s see, they made me deal with incredible silence, made me think I was getting raped by a Mer,” June cracked up at the very thought, “Made me relive a whole bunch of shit I did and confronted me with the thought of Zanir not being able to forgive me…” Zeek summed.
“You got to get rid of that self guilt!” Beth advised.
“Yeah, that’s how they almost made me crack…” Zeek said.
“I’m so sorry you had to go through that, Ezekiel! The BrainEngine was never meant to be used that way. It was meant to be used only for transferring the consciousness of one person to a clone, or copy. How the hell did these people even get ahold of these blueprints?” I said, Beth translating.
“It’s okay big bro… It was not the worst thing I’ve been through… No, not at all…” Zeek smiled warranting a firled eyebrow from everyone in the buggy.
We arrived at the dam, June and Julio whipping the buggies into position around the opening. Heaven and Julio took the turrets while Beth took over controlling Julio’s buggy.
“Make it fast,” Julio began, “We don’t have an army to protect us this time!”
“I will…” I said back, folding down into sentry mode.
“Wait!” Beth said, typing one handed on her computer, “I’m establishing a connection with you via audio portal so we can be in communication.”
“Okay.” I responded, the laptop stating out everything I said.
It was now time to enter the dam. I floated through the narrow opening Zanir bored through the wall, entering a large underwater base. It had long, interconnected corridors that could easily make a person lost. I sent pulses of sound waves which bounced back, allowing for a basic three dimensionally rendered map to be made. This place seemed deserted, at least on this stretch. Red emergency lights were flashing. Then the distinct reverberations of Zanir’s vitals pinged out.
“I found Zanir’s ping… I’m heading up to it…” I said.
“Good but, we got a problem…” Beth said back, “Water is cascading down over the dam…”
“What?” I said, as I began to hover, not under my own control. Things not bolted to the ground also began to rise. Suddenly, loud cracks rang through the depths of the vault matrix! This was a field of low gravitational pressure! I turned back, seeing the field was spreading closer to the wall, “Beth, June… Get out of here! Low pressure gravity field!”
“On it!” June said back, whipping the buggy into drive! Beth did the same, following him closely.
The entire dam began to tremble as I flew back towards the exit. Soon, it became clear what these loud cracks were! The dam was fracturing! The two buggies had just made it off the the dam, speeding back to A99! As they did, big soccer field size chunks of the dam began to separate from the base, rising high above the ground. Lake Mead came cascading down to the lower Colorado basin. The huge base consisting of the Vault Matrix, the Brain Engine and the Dredging Facilities all began to rip apart, rising up as well.
You could see the low pressure field spreading, further and further. It seemed the bigger it got, the more power it had. Soon the surrounding desert side was cracking open! The earth qaucked violently, spreading more and more! What was causing this?
“I think someone has made Zanir angry!” Beth said as she saw the cracks outpacing even the insane pace of the buggy. The ground behind her was ripped into the air being pulled towards the epicenter of the low density field. June’s buggy was far enough ahead to outpace the quaking but Beth’s buggy soon rose off the ground, “Oh nooooo!!!!”
I swooped in, grabbing the hood of the buggy. Under my own power, I propelled the buggy out of the low density field. It hit the ground with a big thud. Now out of the density field’s radius, we all stood to watch the spectacle.
Huge chunks of debris, from canyon side to buildings hundreds of meters away, were pulled from the area of low density to high density near the epicenter of the field. Everything in the high density core of the field was pulverized under an immense amount of pressure! This showed some serious, serious power, celestial level power! Then, as soon as it started, the density field dissipated, dropping everything it had picked up. The debris now looked unrecognizable, mangled terribly…
“I seriously hope no people were in that…” Beth said, shaking her head.
“If they were,” June began, “They’re mush…”
“Okay, it’s obvious that Zanir was responsible for this but do you think he was caught in that?” Beth asked. It was a question we all needed to know, one that pulled on me hard!
Without wasting time, I took off heading back toward the wreckage. I had to find any traces of the boy. I scoured the valley side, trying to find him but couldn’t… Everything was destroyed. If Zanir was in the density field, he had been obliterated. His vital pings weren’t transmitting any longer. It must had meant he was dead…
Then I saw something shimmering in the river. Rushing over, a shiny piece of metal was stuck under some rocks. I pushed the rocks out the way, surprised to see it was one of Zanir’s gravity blades. It had a weak charge, probably why it couldn’t free itself from the rocks. The blade then rose from the water, it’s solenoids rotating swiftly building charge. It then began to float southward.
This thing had a mind of it’s own! Where was it heading? It seemed like it was going to Sloan Wall! I followed only to realize that more and more blades were heading to this area. Soon all thirty of the blades were all traveling towards Sloan! They stopped at the entrance of a maintenance tunnel, a mechanical hand gripping the doors from within. Zanir’s ping was incredibly strong here. What the hell was going on?
I began to pry open the door, it requiring every ounce of my mechanical strength. Suddenly, the manticore climbed out from the the inside of the tunnel, walking on three of its powerful four limbs. It must had gotten injured trying to escape the density field. It sure as hell ran a long damn way! It then did something mind numbing, something relieving! It placed the tiny build of Zanir on the ground, the boy utterly unscathed with that forever mystified look on his face.
He looked at me with those big brown eyes, seemingly short of words. Those eyes began to dart around wildly before slowly falling upon me.
“Hi…” He said with a smile.
“Hi.” I waved back, unsure what the hell just happened.


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