Shadowrun II - Into The Awakened Lands
Honduras, Central America, Aztlan, June 24, 2058 AD -
"Drek this GPS Unit! Can't make heads or tails of the drekking son of a bitch!"
Captain David Dykstra smacked the Global Positioning System handheld a few more times before giving up and putting it in his pocket.
"You forget, breeder, we're in the Awakend Lands. Any cartographic information that gets to the satellite is already out of date," Dave's buddy, Captain Damar Goldbranch, reminded him. The tall Elven man hacked away at the undergrowth, clearing a path for the small group of hikers.
He, Dave, and their wives Willow and Michelle were sent to this particular jungle to hunt for a supposed illegal android factory their Mr. Johnson, Edwin Silverleaf, aka Snow White, "asked" them to find for him.
"You'd think Ed would give us a GPS that is instantly updated as the geography changes," Mitch complained. The hot jungle environment was wearing on all their patience.
Damar looked to the sky. The hot sun peeked through the steamy foliage. "You'd think we passed this tree at least 15 times, or swear we're going in circles, but believe me, we're still headed in the right direction."
"I will personally detach something very personal from Mr. Silverleaf's anatomy when we get out of this jungle. I hate it already!" Willow piped up.
"Okay, folks, that's it. Let's take five...we're getting cranky," Dave said.
He unhitched his canteen, helped Mitch take her pack off, and took a deep swig as he sat down. "Fragging hell, I don't remember Aztlan being this hot." He passed his canteen to Mitch, who downed a large gulp.
"That's because you and I were in Yellowjacket choppers last time we were here, and one of our pilots got shot down pretty much where we're heading to now," Damar said. He dropped his pack and helped Willow with hers. He wiped the sweat out of his eyes as he sat down, taking a slug from his own canteen.
"Well, hell, why didn't you say that!" Dave said as he pulled out the GPS. He hurriedly reset the GPS to default, waited a few seconds, then proceeded to reconfigure the unit.
"I thought I did before we dropped in," Damar said.
"You thought too hard, Damar," Dave said. A pleasant chirp emitted from the GPS, and a steady "ping ping" could be heard. "HA! Got it!" he half-shouted. "Awaken all you want, Aztlan! You can't hide an ELT!"
"A what?" Willow asked.
"Emergency Locator Transponder," Dave explained. "All aircraft have them, but military ships have ELTs with a satellite link." He turned to Damar. "That was Sixpence's chopper that went down, right?"
"His chopper, but Tank was flying it. Drek! That ELT is still working after all these years?"
Dave held up the GPS, it's speaker emitting the familiar (to him and Damar) "ping ping" of the ELT.
"Well, I'll be drekked!" Damar exclaimed. "I thought sure the batteries would have geeked long ago."
"Well, remember, we never were able to recover the ship," Dave said. He examined the GPS's display. "As for the batteries...hell, who knows. I took a chance, hoping it'd work. Nice to see it did! But, how come it's showing Sixpence's transponder code? Tank forget to enter his own code?"
"Yep. Six was sidelined that day...his wife was having a baby, so the Old Man let him go home. Tank took Six's chopper that day...his was dead lined for maintenance. Boy, you're sure getting forgetful in your old age, breeder," Damar said.
"Bite me, dandelion eater!" Dave insulted back. Damar was one of the few Elven people he could insult like that and get away with it. He checked his watch against the sun's position in the sky.
"Well, it's going to be dark in about an hour. What say we get back on the trail and get as far as we can before we call it a night?"
"What's the GPS say?" Damar asked
Dave looked at the display again. "We're about 15 clicks from it's location...I'd like to get as close as possible before we pack it in for the night."
"I've a better idea," Michelle said. "Why don't we just pack it in for the night right now? Willow and I are tired, we are all cranky and hungry, so just unload those tents and sleeping bags right now!"
Dave and Damar looked at each other. "Hey, I've got a good idea, Damar. Why don't we just pack it in for the night right now? Boy, I'm tired and hungry. I think I'll unload my tent and sleeping bag right now!"
Damar agreed. "Mighty good idea you have there, Dave. Gee, I wish I had thought of that myself!"
Mitch gave Dave a sour look.
"We were going to stop anyway, honey," Dave said. He turned off the GPS and opened his pack. "So, what do we want to eat? M-Rats or M-Rats?"
Later that night, as the girls were sleeping, Dave and Damar were up on a small ridge getting their trail mapped out to the ELT's source.
"You know by tomorrow morning, this map's going to be out of date," Damar reminded Dave.
"No drek, Sherlock. But, it always helps to get an idea of where we're going so we don't get lost," Dave said.
The men dove for the ground and snapped the safeties off their Steyr-Aug rifles, as their military training kicked in. Dave reverted to tactical sign language to communicate with Damar, as he switched on his low light retinal implants. Dave rolled under a fallen tree, Damar concealing himself behind a big rock.
"See anything?" He pointed to his eyes.
Damar shook his head, then pointed to his ear. "Two people," he signed, holding up two fingers, "at your 2 o'clock."
Dave knew Damar could hear where the intruders were, and exactly how many. He trained his rifle on their approximate position and activated his smartlink. Crosshairs appeared on his retinal implants where the barrel of the rifle was aimed.
"Hold!" Damar signed, closed fist. He pointed to his eyes. "I see two...armed. They have laser sights," he signed, pointing to his rifle.
Dave looked toward the intruders' position...and saw the telltale laser beams, but there was something odd about them. They had the tinge of infrared light, as viewed through night-vision electronics. And, something else...no heat signature from either of the intruders.
Awfully odd, he thought. Maybe they're using some sort of heat-signature dampening clothing. He could see the intruders now...not very clearly, but still no heat signature, even from the exposed flesh. One intruder looked directly at Dave. He could swear he heard something go "whirr-click-buzz." The reflected IR light looked strange coming from the retinas of the intruder...then he put it all together.
They were robots. Most likely from the place Ed wanted them to find.
A moral dilemma began to appear. Do they shoot these sentries or follow them? Since they weren't under attack at the moment, Dave held his fire.
The sentry turned away and followed it's partner down the trail. Must be a perimeter patrol, Dave thought. They were close to this compound. Dave signalled to Damar.
"Hold! Flank around and meet me back at camp."
Damar flashed a thumbs-up and proceeded to low-crawl quietly through the underbrush. Dave pulled back with his rifle still trained on the position of the two sentries, now about 10 meters down the trail. If they timed it right, they could get the girls, then shadow the sentries to the compound.
It seemed like hours before the men got back to camp. "Mitch, get up. We have a window of opportunity," Dave whispered as he poked his head inside the tent.
Michelle wasn't in her sleeping bag.
Dave looked across to Damar's tent. "Is Mitch over there with Willow?" he whispered.
"I was just going to ask you if Willow was over there with Mitch," Damar said quietly.
"Frag!" Dave fumed. He looked around...there were footprints in camp, too many for just the girls.
"Looks like there was a struggle here," Damar whispered.
"Betcha a month's pay I know where they are," Dave said.
"The girls' weapons are still here...maybe our friends weren't interested in them," Damar said.
"Well, hell. Seems like they're the center of interest on every 'run we go on," Dave said. "Mount up...lock and load. We gotta hump ahead of us."
They painted their faces camoflage before setting out on the most direct route through the jungle, covering the 15 clicks in just a few hours.
Dave surmised they were about 30 minutes behind the sentries who had kidnapped Mitch and Willow, maybe further.
They came upon what looked like an old mining shaft entrance at the co-ordinates of the ELT's emissions.
Dave could see the remains of a Yellowjacket helicopter lodged firmly in the trees, vines growing through the broken wreckage. He called to Damar on his two-way earpiece radio.
"I'm there." He leveled his rifle at the entrance, the smartlink's crosshairs appearing on his retinal implants.
"Right behind you," Damar called back.
"Double-time it...I see a tunnel, and something going on inside," Dave said. He could see shadows in the light spilling out of the tunnel, moving around. Damar caught up a few seconds later.
"You weren't kidding," Damar said, looking at the tunnel. He saw the same shadows Dave had described earlier.
"You hear anything in there?" Dave asked.
Damar listened intently. "Not really...some crackling, water dripping...not much else. No voices or footsteps."
"Crackling? That's odd. Okay, cover me. I'm moving up," Dave said, keeping his rifle aimed at the entrance.
Damar aimed in the same direction as Dave broke into a sprint. He dove for the ground just as he reached the entry, rolling to a stop. Keeping low, he slung his rifle over his shoulder and drew his Colt .45 as he looked around the corner into the tunnel, pistol first. He remembered to switch off his low light implants before looking into the dimly lit tunnel, lest he inadvertently look directly into a light source.
He could see what was causing the flickering shadows outside...the tunnel was lit with flaming torches. He performed a quick sweep from left to right, then signalled "all clear" to Damar. He re-holstered his pistol and unslung his rifle just as Damar jogged up.
"Next time, you get to do the rush," Dave said.
"No thanks...I have a low tolerance to lead poisoning," Damar joked.
Dave gave Damar a sour look. "It doesn't look like they're too concerned with security...I didn't see any security devices," he said, indicating the tunnel, "but let's not be too hasty. We could inadvertently set something off."
"Just so you know, breeder, there are photosensors in there. I can see the light beams," Damar said, looking into the tunnel. His Elven eyes were naturally low-light capable, so he could see things ordinary humans couldn't.
"What's the interval?"
"About every two and a half steps for ten meters...there's one right at the entrance," Damar said.
"Impressive...casually stroll in, trip a beam, and set off an alarm. Anything else you can see?"
"A pressure plate about fifteen meters inside, three meters square."
"Drek! This guy thought of everything!" Dave then examined a footprint near the entry. "That's one of Mitch's footprints," he said.
"And there's Willow's," Damar added. "No doubt about it...they're here."
"Look at these sentries' prints," Dave said, indicating the other footprints. "They're fairly short-strided."
"Design flaw?" Damar guessed.
"I don't know...maybe we're dealing with Dwarf robots," Dave said.
"I don't think that's very likely...remember how tall they were when we saw them?" Damar asked.
"Not really...I couldn't see them too clearly." Dave hoisted his rifle to his shoulder. "Let's get in there and get the girls out. Ed can come down here and get this fragging crap himself."
"Agreed." Damar shouldered his rifle. "Staggered entry?"
"You got it," Dave said. "You're covered...go!"
Damar did a quick two-step, a small leap over a sensor, then he called, "Set!"
Dave repeated Damar's steps exactly, then again as he approached another sensor. They did this funky dance for a few minutes till they got to the pressure plate. Dave noticed footprints in the dirt covering the plate.
"Maybe it's a switch of some kind to let the people running this compound know their sentries have returned," Dave guessed.
"There's a path about four centimeters wide on each side...we can move along that," Damar said, indicating the small clearance on each side of the plate. He slung his rifle over his shoulder.
"My feet are just a tad wider than that, Damar," Dave said.
"Then I'd suggest you be really careful," Damar said as he prepared to circumvent the plate. He tiptoed across the small path on the left side of the plate, clinging to the wooden supports as he stepped. He cleared the final few centimeters, unslung his rifle, then drew a bead on a door he had just seen. "Set!"
Dave began his slow creep toward Damar's position, clinging to the supports as he inched his way along the narrow path. He could see what Damar was covering now...it looked like an elevator door. He cleared the path, drew his own rifle, and took the opposite side of the entry tunnel. Then, he noticed something...blast doors hanging off their hinges on either side of the tunnel, and a small desk near the elevator door. It looked like this area had taken a direct hit from a missile.
"Looks like this was something official. Check out that desk," Dave said.
Damar moved toward the desk, looking in an open drawer. "Nothing here but dust," he said.
"Look at these blast doors...not very thick. Bomb shelter?"
"Could be," Damar said. "Maybe a super secret military headquarters."
Dave noticed the floor...it was smooth concrete. He looked into an abandoned stairway, plugged with broken concrete, dirt, and twisted metal. "Looks like the only way out is the way one comes in, at first glance," he said.
Damar examined the elevator door. He tried to pry the door open. "Give me a hand here, breeder."
Dave took out his knife and worked it into the opening. The door groaned in protest as the rusted rollers ground against bare steel. They managed to open the door about two centimeters.
"Drek!" Dave said, looking around. He saw something they could use, over by the blast doors. He ran over and picked up a couple of concrete rebars lying on the floor. "Here, try this," he said, handing Damar one of the bars.
They managed to get the elevator door open about half a meter...enough to peer inside. The shaft was dark, broken cables dangling uselessly, rails twisted into pretzel knots. Dave took out a flashlight and shined it down the shaft. The remains of a broken elevator cab lay in a heap about 30 meters below them.
"Good to the last drop," Dave muttered, an old coffee commercial coming to mind. "You got the rappelling equipment?"
Damar was already unpacking ropes and carabiners. "Find me an anchor point. I'll free rappel down."
Dave tied one end of the rope around the rebars. "One anchor point." He began to tie a Swiss seat, locking a D-ring into place. Damar had his seat tied and was hooking up to rappel. Dave positioned himself between Damar and the anchor point, bracing the bars horizontally outside the jammed doors on the floor, dropping the free end of the rope down the shaft.
"On rappel," Damar said, beginning his descent.
A few seconds later, he came upon the broken elevator cab. "Fragging-a, man. If there was anyone in here, they would not have survived," he called on his earpiece to Dave.
Dave hooked up for his descent. "On rappel," he called.
"On belay," Damar called up, taking the loose rope and applying a little tension.
The rope began to buzz with the sound of it's friction passing through the D-ring. Dave soon joined Damar at the bottom of the descent.
"Frag me running. Looks like it was going pretty fast," Dave said, looking at the remains of the elevator.
"This isn't the bottom of the shaft," Damar said. "Look at these indentations here," indicating the shaft walls.
Dave shined his flashlight. The outline of steel and concrete reminded him of a jigsaw puzzle, plus the depth of the indentation indicated some other purpose.
"Another set of blast doors," they said in unison.
"Awfully damn heavy ones," Dave said. He then saw the hydraulic piston...five feet in diameter for the inner shaft, six for the housing. "Can't get through here...the shaft is rusted."
"You're right there, Dave." Damar touched the orange colored steel. "Plenty of rust. Looks like it hasn't been used for years."
"And the pivot pin is sheared. This guy wants to keep people out. You look down the shaft, you see a broken elevator, you go home." Dave said. He looked behind the piston.
"Now what are you looking for?" Damar asked.
"The service hatch. It's gotta be here somewhere," Dave said. "Look over by the cab...see if you can find an emergency escape hatch or airlock valve. Remember the old NORAD Headquarters museum in Cheyenne Mountain? This must be like it."
Damar began looking on the floor. "It'd be my luck it's under the cab."
"Probably so...just holler if you find something resembling a hatch."
A brief pause. "How about an air vent?" Damar said.
Dave looked up. "That'd work...you find one?"
"Yep...and there's air moving through it." Damar stood on the far side of the floor, opposite the elevator cab. "There's a big rebar screen covering the opening."
"I hope you have a plasma torch," Dave said as he approached Damar.
"Looks like the air scrubbers have been removed," Damar noted. He turned away for a moment.
Dave rattled the rebar structure criss-crossing the vent. It unhinged and tilted dangerously backward.
"Oh, DREK! Damar!" Dave hollered.
Damar grabbed the screen just before Dave finished his sentence. "That's one fragging heavy screen," he grunted, helping Dave set the screen aside.
Dave shined his light down the shaft. "Deep son of a dragon, too." He picked up a chunk of concrete and dropped it down the shaft. The echo of the chunk hitting bottom was so very faint, Damar could barely hear it.
"I make that at almost 1000 meters," Damar said.
"We don't have enough rope...250 meters, tops," Dave said. Then he examined the shaft more closely. "Maybe we don't have to rappel...it's angled."
"We can slide down," Damar said. "You first."
"What's this 'you first' crap, dandelion eater? You can go first, this time."
"I rappelled down here first."
"Drek, I'm not gonna argue with you, Damar. Democratic Decision Time."
Damar rolled his eyes. "You know I hate this," he said.
"So ka, chummer, but you forced it. Now, get ready," Dave said.
They faced each other, fists clenched. Dave began counting.
"One, two, three..."
They began to shake their fists...
"Paper, rock, scissors...GO!"
Damar had scissors, Dave had rock.
"Frag!" Damar said. He uttered something in his native language that sounded like "clucking bell."
"Told you, Damar. You go first."
"Oriculum scissors breaks rock..." Damar tried.
"Tough nuts, elf. Get going."
"Two out of three?" Damar asked.
"Slot it and fragging run all-drekking-ready, Damar. Go down barrel first. Hose anything in your way...I'll bring up the rear."
Damar gave in. "Okay...see ya next week," he said as he plunged down the shaft.
Dave followed. It was a long slide, taking almost 5 minutes to reach the bottom.
When they got to the bottom, they couldn't believe their eyes. This area was populated!
Not just one or two robots, like Ed had said, but dozens! Hundreds, even!
These weren't ordinary robots, either...they were too fluid in their movement, almost sapiens-like...
"I'll be a son of a dragon...androids! Hundreds of androids!" Dave whispered.
"Tell me if you notice what type of androids they are," Damar said quietly.
Dave examined the passing android as closely as possible. "I'll be drekked...female!" he whispered.
"From what I can tell, they are all female. Not quite two meters tall, about one and three-quarters," Damar said. "Notice their stride...same as the footprints up top."
The light literally clicked on over Dave's head. "I thought that was unusual...I never thought about gender," he whispered. "Now, we have a problem. All these female androids here...how in drek are we gonna blend in? And, how the hell are we gonna find the girls?"
"Maybe if we just stick to the shadows, follow one or two of them around..." Damar suggested.
"Good idea. Sling arms and draw pistols," Dave said. "Let's follow this side shaft...maybe it comes out somewhere inside the compound. Low-crawl tactical entry."
Damar led the way, drawing his Beretta. Dave switched on his retinal implants so he could see better in the barely-lit interior of the air shaft and drew his Colt .45. The breeze of fresh air rushing by led them to several outlets along the main airshaft. Many of the rooms they had looked in on through the screens were being used in one form or another. One room had the lower halves of female androids walking on treadmills, with cables leading to various diagnostic equipment. Another room had dismembered limbs being worked on by other androids, some of which were still operating. Still another was some sort of testing facility, where several androids had various parts of their bodies lying on diagnostic table...heads, faces, arms, legs, hands, feet, some taken apart at the waist, some with their chest panels opened...still connected with various cables and tubes.
"Must be an interesting society here," Dave whispered.
"Take a look on that far table," Damar whispered back, pointing.
Dave pulled out a small set of binoculars, as the room was fairly large.
The air inlet was barely large enough to accomodate both men and their weapons. He looked to where Damar was pointing.
"Near the door, right?" he asked, zooming in closer to the disassembled androids on the table. One head looked familiar.
"That's it...I can't see it too well, but isn't that Mitch?"
Dave nearly dropped his binocs. "Deja vu', man! Didn't we have a similar situation a few months ago?" He saw something else nearby. "Check it out, Damar. There's Willow's head on that next table."
Damar shook his head. "You weren't kidding...frag, man! Twice inside of six months that our wives were kidnapped and subjected to who knows what..."
"Well, remember, they are fashion models, so of course, they're going to be extremely popular targets. Gives us something to do while we're on a 'run," Dave said sarcastically.
"'Smeg Off, Rimmer'," Damar said, quoting an old "Red Dwarf" trideo show he had seen, as he crawled down the vent.
"Where you going?" Dave asked.
"To find my wife and get her out of here. Screw this mission...Ed can come get this fragging drek himself!"
"Right behind you, chummer!" was Dave's reply. 'This seems interesting, though', he thought. 'An entire society, populated by female androids, and now they have two more women with which to build new ones...I'd kinda like to see how they interact with one another. Probably really boring, no men to have sex with or...'
"Aha! Store room! We can get in here!" Damar said. He pried the vent screen off, pulled himself through the small opening, and dropped to the floor. "Come on, Dykstra, move your ass!"
Dave handed his rifle to Damar, then squeezed himself through the vent. He landed on the floor as Damar moved to check the door. Damar tossed Dave's rifle back to him as Dave replaced the screen. Dave then turned his attention to the boxes and barrels in the room. One box was labeled "MC145152P2KN15 CPU Chips", another was labeled "Micro-pump assemblies", while the barrels were labeled "RF Flesh Organic Compound."
"Here's one...'Pedal mold assembly'. And this one...'Metacarpal flexor cables'," Damar said, examining some of the boxes. He removed one of the mold assemblies from an open box. "Hmmm...looks like a foot."
Dave looked at what Damar had in his hand. "Funniest looking foot I ever seen...looks like the ones they use on 'Neil, The Ork Barbarian," he said.
"Outside, maybe, but the inside is definitely a foot. Looks like they put the electronics inside, then inject the flesh compound into the mold. I'd like to see how they do that," Damar said.
"Are we having a change of heart, Captain Goldbranch?" Dave mocked.
"Hey, I remember what you told me about that robot woman you saw in Seattle, breeder! I know you want to see how they do this, too!"
Dave stopped. "Y'know, you're right. It'd be kinda interesting having an android for a wife..."
Damar hit the lights as they dove behind boxes, leveling their rifles at the door. Dave clicked his selector to full auto, hoping Damar was doing the same. He held his breath and tensed his finger on the trigger...
"You might as well come out, gentlemen. We know you're in here," said a familiar voice.
Dave recognized the tone. "Mitch?" he said from his hiding place.
"I am one of her, but 'Mitch' will do, Captain Dykstra," the android said.
Dave came out, rifle at the ready.
"Please, sir, we mean you no harm. You may lower your weapon," she said.
"Captain Goldbranch, you know we speak the truth. We will not harm either of you in any way," Mitch said to Damar's hiding place.
Damar came out, lowering his weapon.
"What in frag do you think you're doing?" Dave hissed.
"Complying with our captor's wishes," Damar said.
"You are not prisoners, gentlemen. You are our guests. Please, Captain Dykstra, lower your rifle," the android Mitch asked again. Dave hesitated, then lowered his rifle.
"That's better. Michelle and Willow told us you'd be here looking for them."
Dave was still a bit tense. His wife was addressing both he and Damar, but it wasn't his wife. Another copy of Mitch appeared outside the door, along with two Willows.
This took Damar by surprise. He and the two Willows began to speak in their native language of Sperethiel. Dave did his best to ignore what they were talking about...most likely something rather personal.
"If you'll hand your weapons to our sisters, we will take you to our factory and show you how we were created," Mitch said. "We promise you will get them back when you leave."
Dave and Damar complied, removing the magazines and clearing the rifles and pistols.
The next few hours were rather interesting for both Dave and Damar. The androids gave them a guided tour of the facility, showing them everything that went into building one of them. The most intriguing part was the actual prototyping facility.
"In your terms, this is a quantum-resolution photocopier, based on the mechanism that was destroyed in Seattle a few months ago," Mitch said. "And, as you said, earlier, it would be interesting having an android for a wife, Captain Dykstra."
"Well, yeah, but I don't..." Dave started.
"Who do you think has been living with you gentlemen for the last few months?" Willow's android copy said.
The men looked at each other. "You can't be serious," Dave finally said.
Damar was dumbfounded. "And all this time..."
"You were living with an android," Willow finished.
"Actually much longer...remember when we met, David?" Mitch asked.
"Yeah..." Dave said.
"Sequim High School, sophomore year. We got married after graduation, then you joined the Army," Mitch said. "I went to Top Notch Modeling Academy while you were at Ft. Benning. My body was replaced with an android body from this facility after my accident."
"What accident?" Dave asked.
"The one that killed our organic bodies. Our memories were saved, then transferred into these bodies," Willow explained. "You remember Flight 703?"
Dave tried to recall...that was the first totally automated passenger flight nonstop from Seattle to Europe, just as he and Damar were graduating from flight school.
"The one that was shot down by an unknown aggressor...yeah, I remember that. But Willow and Mitch weren't on that flight. Their bodies were never recovered," Damar said.
"Because Top Notch shadowrunners moved in immediately and recovered them. Our bodies were too horribly burned in the explosion. We were very near to death, but thanks to the technology here, our memory engrams were recorded and transferred to these bodies." Mitch took a long breath. "We were constructed to resemble real metahumans...in every detail."
Dave finally put it all together. "And when you were talking to me when you supposedly mannequinized..."
"I was communicating to you by way of your chipjack," Mitch explained.
"And that Q-Crystal..."
"Was real. Our creator was trying to find a better way to power our bodies, but you destroyed it. Actually, you did us a favor by doing that, David. We now have fusion generators, powered by organic sustenance," Willow said.
"In other words, you can eat real food and not run out of energy," Damar said.
"Correct, Damar," Willow said.
"But our kids..." Damar said.
"Are real. Orphaned Elven children that were abandoned by their real parents. They were given to us as tiny newborns when I was 'impregnated' by you."
Dave could barely believe what was being said. "So why didn't we have any kids, Mitch?"
Mitch thought on this for a moment. "My organic body would never have been able to produce children. A sad thought, I know, David. I am truly sorry for you."
They walked past a door labeled "Experimental Laboratory - Keep Out".
"What's in here?" Damar asked.
"That's our top secret lab. No android is permitted in there, by orders of Mr. Johnson," Mitch said.
Dave had switched on his stealth IR vision during their conversation with their "wives". He could see through the door as if it were made of glass. Inside were some heat signatures, about metahuman-sized, 5 foot 8 inches tall, looked like two females...
"Man," Dave said, fanning himself with his hand. "I'm twice as hot as I was a few minutes ago."
"Would you like something to drink, David?" Mitch asked.
Damar picked up instantly on Dave's code. "Y'know, ladies, if I can use that term, we've had all the fun we can stand here. We'd like our stuff so we can get going."
"We'll go get your equipment then, gentlemen," Willow said.
Damar waited as the girls walked away. "What did you see?" he asked in tactical sign language.
"Looked like two people inside that room," Dave signed back.
"You thinking what I'm thinking?" Damar signed.
The girls approached with their weapons and equipment. "Well, we're sorry we had to deceive you, gentlemen, but you know where we are and where you can find us."
Damar faked surprise. "What? You're not coming back with us?"
Willow shook her head. "No, we can't. Not until we get a better power supply for our bodies. The fusion generators are experimental, at best."
"Oh, that's too bad for you. Sure wish you didn't have to stay here," Dave said, loading his rifle.
"Well, we must. But, we may return sooner than you think," Willow said.
"I hope so. In the meantime, there is something we would like to take with us," Damar said, chambering a HEAT round in his grenade launcher.
"And what's that?" Mitch asked.
Dave charged his rifle. "The two prisoners in the experimental lab," he said, leveling his rifle at the android copies of their wives. Then, he hesitated. He was about to kill his wife of fifteen years, but then again, it wasn't her. His finger tensed on the trigger...his smartlink activated...
"We cannot allow that..." they began. Their speech was cut short by the explosion of mutiple rounds cutting through their bodies. Alert sirens began to blare throughout the underground complex.
"Fragging drek almighty. I think we just opened up a can of firefight," Dave yelled above the gunfire beginning to erupt around them. He dropped three androids and dove for cover. "Damar! You can open that fragging door any-fragging-time now!"
Damar blew the lock off the door, kicking it off it's hinges. He and Dave dove through the frame as more bullets erupted around them.
There were two women, chained to the wall, excessively thin and malnourished, their hair a mess. The room itself was barely larger than a closet with a door on the opposite side.
One woman looked up. "Who are you?" she asked in a familiar voice.
Dave spoke up. "Michelle? Don't you remember me? It's Dave."
"Dave? Dykstra? From high school?" Michelle asked.
"Yeah." He fumbled with the chains, trying to free the girls.
Damar fired rounds through the door frame at the approaching androids. "Get re-acquainted later, breeder, and slot it and fragging run! They're calling in the drekking cavalry!" Laser bolts began to explode around them. "Fragging hell! They have MP Lasers!"
"So what? They'll geek in about 10 minutes," Dave said.
"We'll be barbecued inside of two, breeder!" Damar yelled back.
He had Michelle freed and was working on the other woman. He recognized her. "Hi, Willow, my name's David Dykstra. The tall Elven gentleman you see defending us is Damar Goldbranch. We're here to rescue you," he said.
The girls were dazed, as if they had been drugged. "Looks like we'll have to carry you two," Dave said as Damar launched another HEAT round, the concussion blowing seven more androids apart. Dave finally got Willow free, then tried the opposite door. "Frag! Locked! But, not for long," he said, blowing the lock off. One swift kick opened the door to a long dark tunnel, running left and right.
"Damar! Last Man! Go Watch Hand!!" Dave called, taking a position near the newly-open door. Damar escorted the ladies out of the room and went to the left. Dave switched to a fresh magazine and provided suppressive fire as he brought up the rear. The women could barely walk, let alone run.
"Too bad Six isn't here to help us...he could carry both ladies," Dave said. "Toss me some smoke."
Damar tossed a smoke grenade to Dave, who pulled the pin and rolled it toward the door. A thick cloud of white smoke erupted, effectively providing a screen in which they could get as far as possible down the tunnel before the androids could figure out which way they went.
"Why did you want to go left?" Damar asked. "It looks like we're going deeper into the complex."
"Maybe so, but trust me on this. So far, everything is identical to the NORAD museum. This way will most likely lead to the hangar..."
"And a way out!" Damar finished. "Hopefully they have a couple of WASPs..."
"Ed wants this place...fine. He can come here and pick out the pieces he wants." Dave lobbed another smoke grenade, doubling the smoke barrier.
Laser bolts pierced the clouds, blowing small chunks of rock off the tunnel walls. Dave and Damar had to carry the women down the tunnel about 500 yards, while the androids went the wrong way looking for them. Soon, the tunnel opened up to the hangar Dave had hoped was there. The myriad of aircraft there made them both whistle.
"Sweet! WASPs and Yellowjackets!" Damar said. He carried Willow toward one WASP, while Dave and Michelle approached one close by. They were getting strapped in when they were suddenly stopped by a familiar voice blaring over the loudspeakers.
"Nice try, gentlemen, but you can't escape that easily," a certain Elven man said.
The men looked at each other, a puzzled look on their faces as they realized who was speaking.
"Drek! Ed, you fragging son of a dragon! You set us up!" Dave shouted.
"Of course...this was a test. You think I would really send you in someplace to get something I already have?" The gunfire quickly subsided, the androids stopping in their tracks.
Damar and Dave looked around at the androids, then at each other, bewildered looks on their faces. "Okay, Ed, if this was a test, then where are Michelle and Willow?" Dave finally asked.
"Right up here," said Michelle.
"Then who the drek..." Damar started.
"Two new androids. I call them near-life droids...they can mimic a metahuman so closely. They even fooled David's IR vision," Ed said. "You didn't have to kill so many of my other androids...they were programmed not to hurt you."
"Then you shouldn't have given us so many explosives," Dave said. "But, why copy our wives?"
"I told you...it was a test. And since my near-life androids can fool you, they can certainly fool anyone else I choose."
"But on the way in..." Damar started.
"Your wives were always real, except when you got down here. I made a bunch of copies of them to fool you. You should have taken the hint when they said you weren't prisoners," Ed said.
The men shook their heads. They had been the butt of an elaborate prank. "Musta cost you plenty of nuyen to put this little playground together," Dave finally said.
"Hey, you know...that's a good idea! An adult theme park, where you can go kill android copies of whoever you want. Nice idea, David. How would you two...excuse me...you four, like to help me put together this theme park?"
"Sounds like the basis for a movie," Damar said. He was referring to an old movie that had been on the nostalgia channel back home...something about the Ancient West...
The End...or is it?