“I AM AMOK! I HAVE A PRESENT FOR YOU!”
The unexpected outburst almost halted the entire hike; if AMOK kept interrupting the guide, we’d never get to ride donkeys to the bottom!
“AMOK, what is it? What is it, boy?” Reaching for his rotating egg tray, I twisted a blue-pink egg in twain; the innards were sterile and predictably contained a small piece of paper. Popping the egg shells in my mouth (delicious plastic!) I committed the communique’s contents to memory: Recommended procedure: termination of tour, continuation of challenge.
“He’s... right,” Gambit haltingly added, pausing to take a big ol’ swig of his cherry slushie. “We need... mmm, dat’s good slushie! We need t’ jump de canyon on a hovercycle.”
“I would love
to do that, Remmy.” Reaching in my upper vest pocket, I passed him a photograph of myself with noted injury enthusiast Evil Knievel. “Evil was my best friend in high school, and I was even there when he broke his first bone; it was his ringtoe. Nothing would make me happier than fulfilling his life’s dream and then showing up at his mom’s house to rub it in his face. ’Cause, you know, he lives with his mom. Momma’s boy.”
We turned back to join the group, which by now was nearly a half-minute jog away. Most of the tourists were crowding around a soda machine the national park service had set up to keep visitors hydrated, but the tour guide was pouring over her walkie talkie. I was just about to pretend to choke on a cactus and have Gambit tape it so we could discredit the whole walkie talkie movement as a gateway to negligence when she clicked it off.
“Can I have your attention... can I have your attention...”
Clearly she had been told something important over the walkie talkie, something that the whole group needed to know. Perhaps I had underestimated the value of remote communication.
“Hello... people, simmer down! I have something...”
Those pigheaded tourists and their Mountain Dew-lust! They had absolutely no respect
for the national park service. Rage burned through me like gaseous carbon dioxide under 300 atmospheres of pressure at 31 degrees Celsius. I could stand their impudence no longer!
Scooping AMOK up like a doting mother elk, I smacked the “manual release” button hidden under his USB post.
“I AM AMOK! I AM AMOK! I AM AMOK!”
A hail of multicolored plastic eggs shot out, scattering the startled tourists and earning me the eternal praise of the United States’ government. Goodwill is so hard to find these days.
“Thank you,” said the beleaguered park ranger. “But I do have a megaphone...”
“Would you prefer to burn to death while the fire marshal talks to you through a megaphone, or would you want the entire fire department to douse your home with water, represented here by a massive barrage of plastic eggs?”
“That was the head of the tourism center,” the guide shouted, dodging my question. “We’re evacuating the Grand Canyon. Please line up and follow me-”
“See here, now!” A surly eastern tourist with weird Gilded Age-style facial hair pointed an accusing (and perfectly manicured) finger at both the guide and me.
“I took a significant time off from my job at the factory so I could bring my family,” he gestured to an elderly woman in a black shawl and two melancholy children, “to witness the grandiose splendor of North America, and now you’re throwing eggs at us and kicking us out?! We demand
Doctor Elias Cornmeal. I didn’t go to medical school for ten years and learn how to perform a double lung removal in less than four minutes
so I could be addressed as mister
by a sand-footed sloth!”
“You just said you worked in a factory,” I fired back.
“Removing the lungs of the people who work there! Keep up, you slack-jawed applejohn!”
Before I could reply to his salacious overtures, an air raid siren let off a powerful roar; we all looked frantically, but there were no wooden desks we could duck under for cover from a nuclear blast.
“What’s going on?!” I shouted at the guide, trying to be heard over the din. She seemed less bewildered than the rest of us, and being a forest ranger she would be privy to confidential park records and such.
“We need to evacuate now!
Brandishing a phase-pistol, the anonymous ranger started herding our group back toward the gift shop with a few well-aimed shots. Under different circumstances, she’d make an excellent addition to my bridge crew. But my days as a cargo ship captain were far behind me, and we were apparently under attack by forces hostile to American interests.
“We’re not goin’ anywhere ’til we get a straight answer!” Gambit grabbed her by the shoulder. His interrogation technique reminded me of a young Gary Colman. I was about to devolve into a flashback sequence involving Dif’rent Strokes
when our guide tasered Gambit; in less than thirty seconds he was on the ground convulsing and foaming at the mouth. It was like looking into a mirror.
AMOK’s faceplate exploded in color and geometric display patterns. Nano-scale mechanisms inside his chassis converted blocks of unformed, undifferentiated material into liquid plastic which was then supercooled and molded into the miracle that is a plastic egg: My sensors have detected large numbers of robotic drones advancing on this location. Discretion is in order.
“Robot drones are coming to kill us?!”
My ultra-loud outburst set off a panic among the tour group, which was perfect for me since I’m in the middle of writing a dissertation about the psychology of mass hysteria.
“I say! AAAAAHHHHH! There’s nerve endings in that!” Doctor Cornmeal bellowed as some guy in a cowboy hat bit into the midsection of his outlandishly long beard.
Maintaining order at this point was impossible. Tourists were scrambling across the wastes, and the ranger had her hands full keeping Gambit tasered. Just seeing Gambit sprawled out on the ground, writhing in pain... it gave me a wonderful idea!
“You there!” I pointed broadly at the ranger, running my eyes over her name tag. “Hello My Name Is Pat, tell me- how far away are the Amazing Mutant Race-brand hovercycles that we’re supposed to use to jump this ‘big ditch?’”
“The launch pad is in the gift shop,” she tilted her head to the prefab building a few hundred feet behind us.
“You assistance has been noted,” I said, dropping my voice below the decibel level given off by the sirens. Springing backwards, I flipped AMOK into the air and smacked the release button as fast as I could; a single aqua-green egg bounced off Ranger Hello My Name Is Pat’s head, as the prophesy foretold eons
before I was born. Grabbing Gambit’s gigantic gloves, I gravely galloped to the cycle-pad.
“Ga-blahhh...” Bless his tasered little heart, Gambit was trying to communicate!
“It’s okay, buddy.” The lights were on and someone was home, but it was like whoever was home had just been tasered.
Sliding before us, the automatic doors were completely unaware
that by letting us past they were ensuring their own doom. Poor, poor automatic doors. At least the building had been evacuated, and no one would be around to hear the doors die; the sounds doors make in their death throes have been known to break even the most disciplined of minds.
“Here you go, buddy!” I slid Gambit into the cockpit and pulled a safety belt over him, adjusting the controls to compensate for a tasered occupant. “Look, all you have to do is ride this thing over the canyon- by the time it reaches the other side, its engine will be generating a high-frequency electromagnetic field. If you use your mutant ability to convert the hovercycle into energy just
as it touches down on the other side, before it powers down, you’ll create a huge
magnetic disturbance field. It should neutralize all robotic activity in the area... I’ll have AMOK here, protected by the Lead in this facility’s Interstitial Resonance Chamber. Remember, use your ability only once you touch down
on the other side of the canyon! If you don’t, you might not catch all the drones in your area of effect!”
Entering the landing coordinates into the cycle’s pathfinding algorithm, I triggered the launch sequence. Those drones would be closing in on us any minute now...
I didn’t have the heart to tell him his beloved beverage was spilled in the tasering.
“Good luck, Remmy! We salute you!”