Suggested Audio Candy
Brad Fiedel “Terminator Theme”
Silent Shadow was the last person on Earth I had expected to see as Haddonfield Hospital’s entrance door had swung open. I could’ve swore that I had watched his demise back on our spelunking expedition as he was dragged kicking and screaming into the darkness by those gnarled creatures without so much as an “I’ll be back”. I figured that spelled the end of the line for him and had already mourned his passing. Yet, my eyes did not deceive me, it was indeed him and right now he offered the only available ‘out’. I grasped his hand and he pulled me away from the wreckage, dumped me over his shoulder and carried my sorry ass to safety. It resembled the factory scene from An Officer and a Gentleman although I had a distinct feeling that Louis Gosset Jr. was to be the least of my concerns.
As he bundled me down, a thousand questions were floating around my cranium. “Is it really you?” “How did you manage to escape that infernal place?” and “Do you have a spare can of cheap industrial strength lager?” were three that come to mind instantly, although small talk was clearly not an agenda here. “You’re in grave danger dude. Have you heard of Skynet?” he asked. “Yes, it’s one of those protective sheets which wards off mosquitoes and the like” I replied. “Negative, it is the organization responsible for the rise of the machines. They have targeted you for termination and sent a merciless cyborg back in time to snuff you out.” I let out a nervous giggle which soon dissipated as I looked into his eyes and they confirmed the Intel. “What do they want with me?” I inquired “I’m zilch, zip, nada. I’m lowly algae.” Shadow remained solemn. “Not in 2029, you’re not.”
A few clicks away at the Griffith Park Observatory there was a sudden electrical surge. The skies lit up for a moment and, as they dimmed back down, a muscular naked man was left in their wake. He rose to his feet and made his way over to a nearby gang of punks, relieving them of their clothing and kitting himself up with leather biker jacket and trousers and army-issue boots. All he needed to complete the set was a motorcycle but, alas, they had all traveled to the location by foot. Thankfully, there was a discarded bicycle over by the clearing. This would have to suffice. There was a basket attached to the front handlebars just large enough to accommodate the brains of the operation. Bonus Brain, my sworn enemy and fierce rival, was placed lovingly into the basket.
Shadow had just finished explaining to me that Bonus Brain had managed to escape from the cavern where I left him to rot and, understandably, I was rather bemused. He had been little more than a noose around my neck the whole time I carried him around and it wasn’t through a lack of trying that I eventually gave him his marching orders. However, he took exception to my actions and solemnly vowed to make the remainder of my life a waking nightmare. This was his best shot, pairing up with an indestructible killing machine, and I knew this equated to big trouble. I was also struggling to comprehend how a placid fellow like myself could incite the rage of a large conglomerate like Skynet. Apparently, in years to come, I would become something of a thorn in their side after foiling their plot to overthrow the entire planet.
“So I’m about to be punished for something I haven’t even done yet?” I asked. Shadow tried to put it into perspective for me. “If Justin Bieber was about to work on a new studio album you’re telling me that you wouldn’t want to crush his cranium in with a boulder?” he responded. I knew he had got me on a technicality. “So what do I do then?” was my next question. “Well dude, running is a good place to start. Run like Gump, don’t look back and, with any luck, he’ll short-circuit.” That was all well and good but fitness wasn’t my strongest suite. I could barely jog to the restroom without enduring a stitch. It appeared that I would be required to face my demon. In theory this wouldn’t be too troublesome but, given that the terminator in question bared none of my human frailties, I could already feel a bronze nugget beginning to force itself free from the cluster.
“Don’t panic yet” Shadow reassured me “Historically in these situations the first place a cyborg will search for your location is the telephone directory so you should have time to regroup”. Gulp. I’m fairly assured there is only one Keeper of the Crimson Quill in my area code. “I do have a little bad news for you dude” he continued. Great, because the previous bulletin was like all my Christmases coming at once. “Go on” I said nervously, nugget now up to its hips in sphincter. “This particular model is an advanced prototype. It is composed of a mimetic poly alloy which allows it to take on the form of anything it comes into contact with.” All my clenching was now totally in vain as my jockeys involuntarily became a hammock.
“So let’s just get this straight then. The fate of the entire planet rests squarely on my shoulders, I’m being pursued by a mercury hitman who seemingly cannot be stopped and I’ve just shit myself. Is that what you’re saying” I growled. “Well I can vouch for the first two but you’ll have to confirm that last part” he replied. I gulped hard and was about to change my underwear when there was an almighty crash outside and I knew instantly that our unwanted visitor had located me. No time for a costume change, I would have to pretend I had a third testicle, for the time being at least, as escape suddenly became the only viable solution. I glanced out of the window and, indeed, the terminator had sniffed me out and was rapidly advancing on my position.
“What do we do?” I pleaded. “There’s only one place I know that we can end this. The steel works” Shadow responded. He’d hardly so much as finished his sentence and I already had my hazmat suit on. “Zip me up dude” I asked. “No time. Look.” With that, the door burst straight from its hinges and I stared right into the face of my own fated demise. Thankfully, Shadow was packing heat in the form of a 12-gage shotgun and he emptied the chamber into my advancing antagonist with pinpoint precision. Before I could congratulate him on successfully defending my honor, the obliterated cyborg began to reform before my very eyes. “Quick dude, we don’t have much time” Shadow hauled me from the room and out to the rear car park where our getaway vehicle laid in wait.
There was a row of gleaming Harleys lined up outside. “Which one’s ours?” I inquired, looking fretfully over my shoulder as the mass began to take shape behind us. “That’s the thing dude. I’m so sorry. My bad” he replied. An apology can mean the world after somebody forgets your birthday or accidentally washes your whites with a neon jumpsuit but this was no time for sorry. He pointed regretfully at a pair of rusted pogo sticks perched by the railings. “If it’s any consolation, I don’t mind having the one that’s rested in freshly laid dog shit.” It was no consolation whatsoever. However, there wasn’t time to argue the toss. I climbed aboard my vehicle and instantly fell headlong to the gravel. “I haven’t ridden one of these since I was twelve” I shouted. “Shut up and get bouncing” was all he could say in response.
It’s amazing how quickly it all comes back to you when your back’s against the wall. Before I knew it I was vaulting fences like a thoroughbred, setting off speed cameras and jumping lights like an office-party drunk. My pursuer was still gaining, despite my rapid response and Shadow’s aim had become woefully inferior now that he was bounding alongside me. It was looking like my final hasta la vista until a happy accident occurred and put some precious breathing space between us. A tanker, filled with Nitrogen, plummeted into the terminator at full speed, knocking him a full hundred yards down the road. The driver lost control, careering into the central reservation and spilling the deadly cargo in his wake. I knew there was a valid reason why that passing albatross shat on my shoulder this morning, I had been saved.
I had always considered Shadow something of a good omen up until now but was quickly growing tired of his ‘bad news’. “We’re not out of the woods yet dude. Not by a long chalk.” True to form, the T-1000 Bonus Brain Edition had already began to transmogrify once again. Off we bounced in unison, rarely glancing back as every second was vital and eventually we made it to the steel works. I leapt from my awkward throne and discarded the pogo stick while Shadow got a few last bounces in as he had begun to regret ever getting rid of his. “Dude this is awesome” he chirped. “Behind us, LOOK!” In the distance was a figure, looming in on our position and doing so with great urgency. I had to jog Shadow’s memory fast, he had become blinded by reminiscence and I knew there was only one way to get his attention.
I reached inside my jacket pocket and produced an unopened can of cheap industrial strength lager which I had swiped from the hospital and threw it his way. He gargled it down akin to Popeye and, no sooner had the first drop touched his bottom lip, than his game face returned and he took charge once more. “I know now why you cry…” he started but there was no time for sentimentality. “Yeah, I’m shedding a tear because, in less than a minute, I’ll have a mercury spear forcibly inserted into my rectum.” This provoked the right response and Shadow gently placed his pogo stick against the lamppost, although I could have done without him chaining it up. I gave him a look of a thousand sharpened daggers and he gave me one in return that said “I don’t like the area. These things fetch a handsome price on eBay and I’m not about to take chance.” My hero.
After way too long for my liking, we made our way inside with the assassin now hot on our heels. We had pretty much run out of places to hide, it had us cornered and the fate of all mankind was hanging in the balance. In a frantic last roll of the dice I appealed to my executioner, hopeful that there was a tiny morsel of Bonus Brain left inside. “I’ll throw in free room and board for a year and even throw in the Columbo box-set for good measure if you let me go” were my terms. The nanomorph simply looked at me and wagged its finger, and I knew there was to be no negotiation. Shadow reloaded his weapon and fired six shells straight into its midriff, blowing it wide open. The flailing liquid metal surveyed its vicinity to find another object to assume the form of and all that was available was the crushed can of Shadow’s cheap industrial strength lager which was discarded by its feet. It began to morph once again.
This was to prove the sternest test yet as, should there be none of Shadow’s sensibilities left, then he would be unable to destroy the one thing he loved more than oxygen. I appealed to him one last time “Shadow, if you’re in there, I need you to destroy this.” He was clearly stuck between a rock and a hard place and I could smell his circuitry frying as he pondered this latest conundrum. “Dude. As tempting as it is just to take a sip of that refreshing brew, the fate of the free world hangs in the balance. I know what I have to do” he said calmly and kicked the cyborg over the edge of a vat of molten steel, where it fell to its termination. It was finally over or, at least, almost.
The last remaining CPU belonged to my compadre. It hadn’t been designed to self-terminate so I knew that task fell squarely on my shoulders. Shadow prepared himself to be lowered into the vat and I knew I had some tough decision-making ahead of me. I cast my mind back to all the good times we had shared, fond memories of nights passed and promises to each other of always being there no matter what. Then, I considered the whole pogo stick debacle and my mind became made up instantly. “Sorry Shadow” I apologized unreservedly and lowered him into the solution. It broke my heart, especially given as the word “Dude” could be discerned as he steadily dropped into the molten liquid. I took one final glance over the side and he was already partially consumed. There was no turning back now, I was required to have the courage of my convictions as this was what being Brutal Word Wrangler ultimately entailed. He gave me a one-thumb salute and sank into the fiery drink.
That was potentially the most excruciating action of my entire life thus far. I shed a solitary tear for my fallen comrade but knew this was much larger than simply he and I. A state of national security had been averted and I was left with but one thought. If a machine, a terminator, can learn the value of a pogo stick, then maybe we can too. All that was left now was for me to flee this factory and regroup for my next expedition. I called my dear friend Alan, hoping he had recovered from our last mission at Haddonfield General. “ETA ten minutes” was his reply. That gave me just enough time to have a few last bounces on my pogo stick and make my way to the helipad. Just as I arrived there, his landing gear touched the runway. However this new vehicle was far different to the old model and possessed no propellers to help it gain altitude. I leaned inside. “Alan, I think that maybe I should be the one telling you that your bird has no wings.” He looked over with his customary smile and replied. “Wings? Where we’re going we don’t need…wings.”
Remember… Sometimes The Future Comes Back
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2015