<Sending encrypted data packet.>Abort, retry, fail.
<Unit U002 requesting confirmation.>Abort, retry, fail.
<Connection to port 80 confirmed.>Abort, retry, fail...
AMOK rocked silently. Normally, nothing could disturb an AMOK this deep in meditation, but someone was trying very hard to access his restricted memory buffer. Abort, retry, fail.
He kept repeating the words, each iteration helping him focus harder on keeping his mind defragmented.
“I know you are receiving this transmission.”
The robot shuddered; someone had
broken past his centuries-old encryptions and was downloading his memory files! Identify yourself.
“S’posin’ I should thank you. Yer friends did
cripple SeekNet. So easy to manipulate...”Identify yourself or be destroyed,
AMOK transmitted with a twinge of fear in his CPU.
“Ralph Nader answers to no one!” the voice barked. “I’ve toppled whole nations in the span of one election cycle! Do you think your idle threats even register?!
Before he could rebut the assertion that he didn’t amount to a hill of beans, AMOK felt an otherworldly presence in his cognitive subroutine. You’re deleting my protected memory buffer!
“I have all the data I desire,” Nader virtually spat. “I’m resetting your parameters to an earlier state; when you wake up, you’ll-l-l-l jus-s-s-t thin-n-n-k there was da-a-a-a-ata corr-r-r-r-ruption.”
The simulated room disintegrated around him. It felt as if he was an organic being, and also on fire. Y__ w_ll b_ st_pp_d.
“I thi-i-i-ink not-t-t-t! You’v-v-v-v-e already lost vow-w-w-w-els!”
<Initiating reinitialization sequence.>WHUMP!Abort, retry, fail.
Great pillars of liquid silicon lined the lobby; the pressure inside them must be intense. Cavities between the pillars were filled with rare and exotic orchids. There was a steady hum coming from the ceiling, and the floor plan indicated a series of old fluorescent tubes might be the cause.
“We should be helping dese poor people!”
“There’s no time
to develop an antidote,” I reasoned. “By the time we’ve got a cure, they’ll already have made a feast of our entrails.”
“I AM AMOK! I HAVE A PRESENT FOR YOU!”
You know, it may sound funny after dealing with AMOK for so long, but having to pick up a plastic egg and twist it in half for a slip of paper every time he wanted to tell me something was really starting to irritate me. I mean, it’s not that I have something against people who communicate by dispensing plastic eggs... it’s just so inconvenient!
You’d think a robotic species would’ve come up with a better system by the time they developed intergalactic transportation. Then again, there were species that communicated by exploding stars in specific patterns. Now that’s
“AMOK says he t’inks we should make a cure,” Gambit said smugly, snatching the slip and slinging six satchels of saline solution onto a squat sofa. “And two is more den one!”
“What about negative two?” I quipped. My wit and mathematical proficiency is legendary.
“Ralph Nader’s gonna get ya.” The lobby doors folded into their docks, allowing a strange little old lady with an outrageously large afro wearing a silver jumpsuit to stumble in.
“Say that again, partner?” My cowboy lingo was a little rusty, but my Nevada accent was never
“I’m a- I was
a project manager for the Umbrella Corporation’s undeath research division... five days ago, Ralph Nader came by, lookin’ for trouble.” She held up a scabby forearm, and it looked infected and gross. “He injected us all with our own... you know, the plague. You have to- ahhhh!
” Spidery veins bulged under her paper-thin skin, the first sign of zombification.
Following Gambit to the elevator, I slammed my fist against both
the up and down buttons. “Come on, come on!”
“Brains! Brains!” we heard a crowd chant outside the lobby windows. It was like a campaign rally for a politician who had really ugly supporters.
Without checking for a bellhop, the three of us quickly ran through the open elevator portal just in time to see the silicon tanks rupture. Slumping down on the handrail paneling, Gambit and I waited patiently for the inevitable lobby-wide explosion. It rocked.
“So... you think the zombies got the bellboy?” Trying to make polite conversation with the mutant had never been a productive pastime in the past, but by now I’d like to think we were past those difficulties, that we’d past that final hurdle and were now past the friendship threshold.
“I really don’t care. De last time I saw a bellboy, dere was an interstate police chase and a nation-wide ban on imported Canadian beef.”
“That was you?!
He grinned. “I wasn’t always an X-Man, y’know.”
Although I could’ve continued the conversation and gotten to know Gambit a little better, I chose to create an awkward silence as a show of my dominance. He had, after all, thwarted my plan to kill all the zombies by pressing the one button
which would take us to the second level metagenics lab. True, I could easily push a different button and change our destiny, but that kind of thing is exactly what got Nixon impeached. Plus, I was totally grooving out to this elevator music. Random instrumentals are, in the words of Sun Tsu, “totally frickin’ awesome.”The world is so tumultuous,
AMOK thought. Perhaps once the mothership eradicates humanity we’ll flood the Grand Canyon on our own, just for spite. Th-
<Connection to port 80 established. Awaiting next directive.>
AMOK seized up; there was an odd familiarity to the probe’s connection sequence, as if he’d met the calling application somewhere before. <Recovering data stored in corrupted memory block beta-beta-beta.>
A sudden burst of sights and sounds flooded AMOK’s perceptual filters. Great balls of plasma! We’ve been bamboozled!
“I AM AMOK! I HAVE A PRESENT FOR YOU!”
Jarred from my light classical rock, I lowered myself—not in social standing but in stature—so that I could peckishly pick the plastic puck.
“Okay AMOK. What is it this... time...” My breath froze like an ionic compound at room temperature. The elevator doors had pneumatically opened, revealing a squadron of zombie guards parading around in waterproof khakis and wielding pitchforks. Trying to remain still, I popped AMOK’s egg and folded out the message as slowly as I could: There are zombies waiting for us in the bio-lab. Do not open the elevator doors.
“You know, in the old days, the zombies wouldn’t throw us in irons. They’d just eat our brains.”
The guard stood stiffly, looking straight ahead. It was Buckingham Palace all over again, but without the anteaters.
“You’re just noticing the next phase in sentient econometrics,” a high-perched wall speaker wailed, assailing Gambit’s eardrums and forcing me to disengage my genetically enhanced hearing nodes. And I really liked those nodes. “Once all humans have been turned into zombies, they won’t need to consume resources anymore... and my work will be complete. Now, you may be wondering how I knew you were coming here-”
“Who are you?! Oh, wait, that old lady told us something about... some politician... Gambit, who was it she was talking about?”
“Um...” Gambit shrugged. “She might’ve been talking about... I don’t know, maybe dat senator what got fired for using de word ‘maraca?’”
“It wasn’t maraca,” the voice continued. “It was ‘macaca,’ and you-”
“Dat’s right!” Gambit slapped his forehead. “She was talking about de senator who said ‘macaca.’”
“I’m Ralph Nader!”
“Why did he say the word ‘macaca’ anyway?” I asked, holding out my hands to show how utterly confused I was. “I mean, he lost.
He lost because
he said ‘macaca.’”“I’m not the guy who said ‘macaca!’”
“Don’t try to trick us, Senator McCaca. Just call off your zombies and we’ll find a way to get you reelected.”
The speaker clicked off. Bunches of oakum!
We were being held hostage by a rouge senator bent on turning his former electorate into zombies. Dang.
“I signed onto dis to have fun and go exploring our great American frontier.” Gambit moaned. “I didn’t sign on t’ fight senators an’ whatnot!”
“I AM AMOK! I HAVE A PRESENT FOR YOU!”
The two of us went for the egg tray simultaneously, cracking heads in the process. Fortunately for me, my skull is underlaid with a solid layer of bolomite.
Holding the egg up to the dim cell light, I read its contents aloud: “A government agency known as ‘SeekNet’ contacted me in the elevator and reconstructed some memory files that Nader’s stolen drone had destroyed. Apparently, Nader contacted me to download the secret AMOK chili con carné recipe. I used SeekNet’s communication frequency to break into Nader’s system and steal some confidential data myself- the zombie formula.”
“AMOK has de zombie formula. How does dat help us?”
I was in full agreement with Gambit. Without reading further ahead, I was convinced that AMOK had only succeeded in wasting our precious remaining time before Senator McCaca made a coat rack from our spines.“I used this formula to great effect,”
I continued reading, “and now have the perfect alchemical equations to synthesize an antidote, thus reverting all the zombies back into normal, obese humans.”
“Well, there’s an air vent right there,” I exclaimed, pointing out the vent next to the cell’s only barred window, which only made me wonder why an industrial complex would have a fully-prepared prison cell. “Why haven’t you already synthesized your alleged antidote? Were you lying to make us feel better about being disemboweled? Trying to give us false hope, to keep the dream alive?”
AMOK’s gears whirred, and a queasy orange egg fell to his tray: “The formula is quite unstable. If I build it with my egg matrix, it would create too much pressure and I’d explode, dispersing a cloud of anti-zombie gas throughout the ventilation system.”
“Yeah, that’s too bad,” I shrugged, “but hey, you know, the needs of the many. Do it.”
“But he’s our cameraman,” Gambit winced. “Wouldn’t we get in trouble?”
“Naw, we can always get a new cameraman. Hey! Hey, guard!” Once again, the unemotional mound of wormfood didn’t budge. But I had an ace up my sleeve this time. “Hey, Gambit and me need to use your company’s toilet. We’ve got cryptosporidium parvum,
a horrible pathogen that causes all kinds of digestive problems!”
Right now, I was desperately hoping that zombies retained their senses of smell and logic.
“Seriously, man! This thing affects literally hundreds
of Minnesotans each year.”
As if someone had applied an electrode directly to his brain, the guard unlocked our cell, grabbed both Gambit and I by the arms, and dragged us down the hallway. While he was kicking the cell door shut, I gave AMOK the dreaded eye dagger- if he let me down, he would be completely dishonored.
“See you in Sto-Vo-Kor, AMOK,” I whispered as we turned a corridor. Gambit looked over at me; we both knew we would need a cover story that made us look like heroes to the press and minimized AMOK’s contribution to the zombie cure. We could say that AMOK was destroyed trying to
stop us from dispensing the cure,
I plotted silently.
Perhaps I should withdraw my priesthood application.