03:02:16 - Tombstone v6.0
The creature let loose another blast of fire that sent Phil diving for cover.
"I'm out of ammo!" She screamed as she hurled the spent cannon at the beast.
"Perfect, just bloody perfect" Roger complained loudly. He keyed his radio and yelled into it. "Shimo? We've got to get out of there. Have you got the files yet?"
"Almost there" Shimo's voice called back.
Phil yelled in to her radio. "He's heading toward the command center, Shimo, get out of there!"
Inside the command center Shimo watched the display slowly tick towards 100%. "Phil, Roger, get to the shuttle, I'll meet you there once I've got it all."
"No, Shimo! Get out of .." Phil's voice cut out as Shimo turned the radio off. He needed the element of surprise, even if it was only to run like hell. He looked around for anything he could use to fight a flame throwing Vargarnee bio-guardian. Unfortunately the command center was never designed with an appropriate argon defense cannon array.
There was one option, and it was a long shot. Shimo leapt to the firehose, spun the valve and felt the barely controlled water pressure build. He braced himself against the wall and waited. He glanced at the monitor, "99%".
The wall exploded in a spray of burning debris as the hulking bio-guardian advanced into the room. Shimo smiled and unleashed the blast of water.
In retrospect, spraying down a burning magnesium armored warbot is bad, Spraying down one with an exposed sodium fuel source is worse.
My name is Russell Shimo. I'm currently part of the Galactic Customs task force assigned to my home planet, Earth. In case you're not a native resident of this planet, you probably know it better as Chester-III. I was born in Cupertino, California, April 1, 1967. I'm pretty sure I died the first time in 1994.
"Keep your eyes and ears open people," Jack said as they entered the main cavern, "this area is laced with tunnels and burrows."
"Couldn't we just flush them out with something", Carla asked?
"I suppose we could, but by my estimates, we'd need several billion gallons of benzoic acid, anthocyanidins and fructose just to flood this chamber alone." Shimo replied.
"Fructose?", Carla said with a strong note of disbelief.
"Yeah. Cranberry juice. These guys really hate that stuff." Jack answered with a smile. "But until we can convince New England that we need their year's supply just to flush out a few saber beetle larvae, we'll have to do this the hard way."
There was the sound of rocks falling from the rear of the group. Jack spun around and aimed the stunner's light toward Shimo. Or more accurately, where Shimo was. "Shimo!" Jack called out.
Shimo gave a low moan from the bottom of a small pit. He lay ten feet down in a pile of broken rock. "Oh, man, I think I landed on my scanner."
"Are you ok?"
"Yeah, just got the wind knocked out of me."
"Hang on we'll lower a rope down to you."
"No problem. Man, it smells like someone took a leak down he.."
I think I died the first time because of something that happened in a medical lab. The details are sketchy since nobody bothered to record exactly what happened. All I know is that I woke up in a medical stasis chamber.
"--UCH THAT BUTTON!! Huh, what? Phil! Roger! Where, what? Is this the MedLab? Roger, when did you shave off the mustache?"
Roger rolled his eyes and began his monotone litany. "Yes Shimo, and you're a very lucky lad in deed. You managed to escape with just a few minor injuries but we had to put you into the box for a bit. Phil just needed to collect a quick sample.."
"What sample? OW!"
"..to make sure that you don't have any other diseases. Unfortunately, the door was a bit sticky and it took us a while to get it unjammed. Sorry about the delay. Now let's go get you something to eat so I can bring you up to date." Roger lead Shimo away to the mess.
Phil could hear their conversation as they walked down the hall
"So how long was the door stuck?"
"About eight years."
Phil placed the sample back into the machine and punched the starting sequence into keys that had long ago worn away their labels. As she had countless times before, she hesitated before hitting the last button. She shook her head to clear the memory and pressed the large, vaguely green panel.
'Thank you for using the Rhankau Clone-o-matic. Beginning Scan.'
Phil watched as the meter crept it's way toward one hundred. Then turned to join the others.
Several years ago, I managed to do something unexpected. I found a way to keep myself around longer. This machine has a vast memory array that I was able to download my conscious mind into. I've been able to watch them come and get new "me"s every few months. Although once, it was longer. I managed to find a way to take advantage of that.
Russell hopped down the hallway, still not fully adjusting to the crutches. The rest of the team had left him behind this time. Shimo wasn't going to be much help in the wilds of South Bronx with a broken knee-cap. He winced as his cast bumped against the wall. It was a stupid miscalculation that broke it. One that Phil, Jack and even Roger had told him not to do. He made a mental note that next time, when that many voices told him not to try to kick-start a hover-bike, he'd listen to their advice.
The lock to the medlab door had a four-phase reciprocal cipher, which proved to be more of a challenge than Jerry Springer. Russell quickly remembered why he never watched day-time TV.
With the first and third cipher broken, Russell applied the combined result to the second. It was a 50-50 chance that paid off. The final cipher proved more of a challenge, but soon it too surrendered fell out. Albeit far more literally than the previous three as Russell extinguished the pocket arc cutter he had liberated from Phil's workbench.
"I should have thought of this one earlier." Shimo mumbled to himself as he pried open the door with one of his crutches.
Inside the medlab were a great many devices that indicated without a shadow of a doubt that the locked room was not a medlab. The room was filled with old crates draped in sheets and a number of plastic displays held in front of florescent bulbs. Near the center was the med-kit that Roger and Phil had brought Shimo out of.
Wait, that wasn't a med-kit. That was a..
The words blinked onto the display panel. Russell stood, squinting at them.
It's me, you, Russell
Russell hobbled closer.
What did they do to you?
Russell whacked the side of the Clone-o-matic with his crutch. "Damn thing must be broken."
"Well, start making sense."
I am, you dope! I'm you. The display flashed angrily.
"Wait, how can you be me? I'm me."
No, you're one of me. You're a copy.
"I'm a what?", Russell said in a combination of confusion and fright.
A copy! A clone! The first part of the -o-matic.
"But, where's the original me?"
In here, well, not in me but here in here.
"No, I mean, the me that's like me." Russell stopped, not really sure he even knew what he meant by that.
Oh, that you is probably dead.
As are most of the other me's that have come out of me.
Russell stared at the display not certain what to make of the information.
"Should I be more frightened than confused?" he asked finally.
I'm not sure. I'm pretty lost myself.
The display was blank for a second before it flicked back to life. How did they break your leg?
"How did who? No, I did this. I tried to kick-start a motorcycle."
You broke your leg trying to kick-start a motorcycle?
"Turns out it was a hoverbike in disguise. It's a long story, but in short, don't try to kick-start something with a several ton recoil."
Those bastards, they made you do that?
"If you mean Jack, Roger and Phil, no. They tried to stop me."
Wait. Even Roger tried to stop you?
And you didn't listen?
"Yes. I'm an idiot. I realize that. And no, Roger still hasn't stopped laughing."
He's got a right.
"Oh, fine, thanks a lot." Russell huffed toward the machine.
Look, I'm sorry. Can you do me a favor?
"How do I know that you're me?" Russell asked the box.
House Current Doorbell. The display blinked bringing back a somewhat painful private memory for Russell. One where he learned that five volt buzzers, simple metal switches and house current don't mix.
"Right, what do you want?"
I need you to plug me into the net.
Russell again felt uncomfortable with the idea. The display seemed to know that. Look, I can't get anywhere without a proper ID, right?
And I'm not asking you for one, I already know it. All I'm asking is that you plug a connector cable in. It will help me us get out of this situation.
"I'll have to go get one." Russell said, still not fully comfortable with granting the device access to the net. He turned and hobbled off.
I got network access that night and spent the rest of the night formulating my plan. Then before the others were going to return I quickly put the rest of my plan into action. It was simple and perfect, I could escape this living hell All I had to do was
"Shimo? We're home! Shimo?" Phil called out into the dark as she tried hitting the power switch.
"What is that smell?" Roger complained. It smelled like cooked meat. Possibly over cooked meat. "Jack? Did you leave something in the oven?"
"Lights are out. Let me go check the relay." Phil said as her flashlight lit the path toward the main circuit box.
"Maybe it was Shimo." Jack answered. The main lights flicked back on, and Jack looked to where Roger stood.
"I believe you're correct." Roger continued to look at a large pile of ash that lay next to a crutch. Near the wall was an even larger black burn mark that showed signs of heavy arcing.
Jack examined both glumly. "Better clean this up before Carla and Rhino get back, Roger."
"Me?" Roger protested strongly, "Why do I have to clean up this?"
"Oh give me a break Roger, he's mostly ash anyway. Just sweep up the.. what's this?" He pulled a partially melted object from part of the pile. Bits of cloth were fused to one side.
Roger raised an eyebrow, "Looks like Phil's Pocket fusion torch. And from the looks of it, that's exactly where Shimo had it when fell against this power coupling."
"That explains why the power was out."
Phil shouted something hostile yet untranslatable. Jack looked to Roger, "Apparently Phil's noticed one of her tools is missing."
Phil stormed into the hallway a few moment dragging Shimo behind her. "Jack? It did it again."
Shimo looked at Jack, then Roger. "Ack-TTHHPPPP!"
"Oh delightful," Roger groaned as Shimo walked toward the wall and began licking the dead power coupling, "an early release."
"How's the clone-o-matic?" Jack asked with his usual concern.
"As far as I can tell, it's fine. I've rebooted it and started a new copy. Everything checked out as far as I can tell. I just wish I knew why that stupid thing kept crashing every year or so."
--UCH THAT BUTTON!! Huh? What? Where am I? Hello? I.. I must be in some sort of med-kit, yeah that's it. Ok, relax, I'm not dead. I'm ok. Just need to wait here until they come and get me. Heh, cool. At least they've given me a net link. Wonder what's been going on?