Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sudden Short Story 34

Black was the color of his jacket.  Black was the color of his leggings.  Black was the color of his boots.  Black was the color of his gloves, except for the fingertips, which were all the colors of the rainbow.  He kept the tips in groups - blue to blue, yellow to yellow, red to red, green to green - and waved them about in the ever-warm air.  A great machine copied his movements, reaching for a large canister.  It was also a bit noisy - an unusual feature for its size - and so he did not hear her approach on her green ATV.
"You've got to be hot under all of that," she shouted to him.  "You look like you're dressed for a funeral."
"I suppose that I am," he shouted back, "but it's cold in space.  You'll see."
"I don't know that I need to go all the way to space to know that," she replied.  "So are you The Spacefarer, then?"
"I am.  Am I still the only one who's left?"
"Well, I don't suppose that anyone has, really, seeing as how you came back."
"I'll be heading out again soon enough."
"Don't tell me that The Spacefarer has returned to Earth just to do an experiment at Kilauea."
Another voice interrupted them.  "HALT, EVILDOER!" came the sudden, loud cry from an indiscernible source.  The Spacefarer was sliding down the slope before he realized that he had suffered a rather strong impact to his chest.  The man dressed in blue landed on the rim, and quickly discarded his overheated and spent jet belt.  He faced her through his mask and asked, boldly, "Are you alright, madam?"
"Why shouldn't I be?  You didn't fly into me at highway speed!  What's the meaning of this?"
"Don't let him fool you.  He's here to kill us all."
The Spacefarer staggered to his feet.  "You see, this is why I didn't tell anyone.  You'd all get upset and start trying to ruin my plans.  Fortunately, I'm not the one who was fool enough to wear a cape."  The Spacefarer brought his fingers together and wheeled his hand through the air.  The canister was released, and one of the great mechanical arms grabbed the hero's cape, lifting him into the air, but before it had him even a meter off of the ground, he struck a latch around his collar, releasing himself from his cape.
"I'm not so great a fool as that.  --"  The hero was smacked away suddenly by a great mechanical arm.
"Don't think that I wasn't prepared for this possibility.  Somebody would notice my return, and there was a chance that somebody among them would suspect my motives.  There was then a chance that one of those would actually piece it together, and then a chance that that individual might take action.  With nearly ten billion humans on the planet, I didn't put it past you."
She asked her would-be savior a question.  "How did you know?"
He groaned out a reply.  "He went out there... so far... He brought back a sizable payload.  It's suspicious, and then he takes it to a volcano.  Hawai'i is just as good a place as any....  Nobody cares any more."
She turned to address The Spacefarer.  "So what is it, then?  Neutron degenerate matter?  Strange matter?  Some new isotope that can only be found in space?"
The mechanical arms worked at full capacity to lift the massive container high enough to pass the rim.  "It's nothing so unlikely as that, really.  I call it the Absolution Link Device.  The Hawaiian hotspot gives the right combination of lift and heat to ensure that the container is destroyed just before reaching the core.  At that point, containment will be lost, and the link will be re-established, with this end connected to Earth's core.  You'll never guess where the other end is before this hits the core, let alone actually reach it, you know."
She pretended to examine the body of the would-be hero, to see what she could do to help him.  Really, she examined him for anything useful.  He had been armored, which was excellent for his health at this point, though it was now heavily dented.  He had apparently underestimated his opponent's machine's strength.  Electric charges in the gauntlets.  A lightweight baton.  A pouch apparently containing tiny transmitters.  A shield had been in his left hand, and it seemed to be made of the same stuff as the baton.  Then, she realized what she needed, and it was on her ATV.  She went to it, grabbed it and her first aid kit, and went back to the would be hero.  At the same time, she confronted the riddle that had been put before her.
"It could be almost anywhere."
"'Almost anywhere' is a lot of places."  The Spacefarer's head was suddenly interrupted by a flying wrench.  He collapsed immediately.
She went over to him, removed his gloves, donned them herself, and set the canister down short of the rim.
"Please tell me that you have some manacles in that getup of yours," she called to the man bedecked in blue.
He moved his arm, but found that it hurt too much.  "Third pouch on the left.  So where's the other end of this thing?"
She went to retrieve the handcuffs.  "Most of the universe is cold, hard vaccum.  It's there."
"You know, for a guy who said that he anticipated me, he sure didn't anticipate you."
"Apparently, he's got a shield field generator to stop beams and bullets - personal sized, if you can believe it - so it's a good thing that we didn't have guns to try to shoot him.  I think that he was relying on those arms to stop anyone who tried to melee him."
"That's still quite a chance.  If you didn't hit him in the head, neck, or crotch, then you wouldn't have stopped him."
"You're right," she replied.  "That's why I hit him in the head."

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