All You Zombies
A hologram of Holly blipped in front of Wolf and solidified as crazed, grey men lurched about the promenade attacking people in a crowd that had deadlocked itself in a chaotic rout.
“I’ve finished analyzing the binary from the ‘Peace’ poster, but it’s not binary code. It’s some kind of code,” she said to Wolf, “Or it seems to be. It’s a series of words with no clear pattern. Maybe used to initiate a program or unlock something.”
“Holly, hon,” Wolf pointed behind her. “You’re missing everything.”
Holly turned to see a grey man lunge toward her. Her hologram flickered, the grey man fell through and landed belly down.
“He looks odd,” Holly said looking down at the creature.
“He looks like he was raised in a cave. Grey skin and bug eyes.”
“Or a mine. I suspect these are the miners,” she bent down closer to the grey man, “He shows several features of prolonged subterranean dwelling, but his face…Could you stand up please?” she said to the grey man.
The creature groaned and lurched to its feet and shuffled toward Holly.
“It’s like it’s a mask,” Holly squinted as she examined the monster’s face. The ashen man again fell through the hologram, “I don’t know if it’s the distance from the Starcrossed but the ship’s sensors aren’t picking up nearly the right number of heat signature readings for the amount of bodies in the area.”
A severed ashen limb slid past.
“You can completely dismember them and they still keep coming,” Luna yelled from the fray as she and Tycho fended off the onslaught.
“They don’t bleed, either,” Wolf sighed.
“Dad,” Holly said running her finger in a line down the creature’s abdomen. “Cut right along there.”
Wolf ran his blade along the same line. Holly crouched down and spread the incision, revealing a hollow interior. She peaked further up into the chest cavity, while the grey man groaned and swatted at her.
“There’s a heart...and one lung,” she said, “And they’re working.”
“Hey,” Wolf barked and snapped his fingers at the man. The man’s eyes turned toward Wolf. Wolf waved his hand around and the man's gaze followed. “His eyes and ears are still connected.”
“Children,” a metallic voice bellowed from above.
The grey men stopped looked upward.
“Where is Peace?” Yaldabaoth asked and grinned at the small alien in the yellow jumpsuit and a hard hat with a clipboard.
“Peace is busy,” the alien sniffed from behind his desk.
“Peace better get unbusy, because I came for thirty-two tons of uranium. And what was waiting for me wasn’t thirty-two tons of uranium.”
“We had a bit of a problem, you see…”
“Do you have my uranium of not?”
“I didn’t ask for ‘but’. Do you have my uranium?”
“Good. Where is it?”
“It’s still down in the mine.”
“All the remaining ore on this planet is still down in the mine, but that doesn’t mean you ‘have’ it to give to me.”
“It’s been mined, but when we were starting the transportation up to the surface, the miners walked off.”
“We don’t know, sir.”
“What do you know?”
“They’ve come to the surface and they’re rampaging in the streets.”
“I had the best geneticist in the galaxy help me breed those things from whatever was left of the sapient life on this planet after I towed it into deep space. Among my specifications were minimal thought capability. They won’t just decide they need a break and then go party with the tourists in the over-world. Get. Peace.”
“The miners are what Peace is busy with, sir.”
Yalda stared at the floor. “I just needed one more load. Then I could turn this shit hole into a little blob of plasma gas and never come back.”
“Children,” bellowed a metallic voice from every monitor in the room as they showed a spindly robot hovering over the crowd, “Peace has arrived.”
“For fuck’s sake,” Yalda groaned.
The grey miners stood mesmerized by the wiry humanoid robot floating above them. Confusion and fear rippled through the crowd and spiralled down the main drag.
“Children,” Peace began. “You’ve waited this long. You can afford your brothers and sisters a few more moments to come online. It won't be long now.”
The miners remained still and gazed at Peace.
“Seems like a great opportunity to get one of the miners back to the ship so I can do a proper examination,” Holly said to Wolf.
“Will this one do?” Wolf pointed to their current specimen.
“Yes. And grab that hologram projector.”
Wolf threw the squirming miner over his shoulder. Tycho dislodged the projector from the brackets that fastened it to a post supporting the awning in front of the bar and handed it to Holly.
As the four began making their way through the crowd back toward the shipyards, they heard a familiar voice over the public address system, echoing through the town.
“Peace,” Yaldabaoth bellowed. “What the hell is going on here? You were supposed to be keeping this place in order.”
“What the hell is he doing here?” Luna scoffed.
“Making things difficult as usual,” Holly replied.
Peace spun around looking for the source of the voice. Yalda’s face appeared on a video billboard that dominated this section of the drag.
“My plan to bring peace and order once and for all is well underway, Demiurge,” Peace explained in his gentle tones. “Once all my children are online we will begin to purge and reclaim the surface from the alien infestation that threatens that order that you have tasked me with providing.”
“Okay, that's great. I like your initiative. But could you have your insane little insurrection after I've gotten my uranium?”
“No,” said Peace as he hurled an energy bolt at the billboard causing a shower of sparks and debris to rain upon the crowd below, which initiated a wave of panic as they tried to scatter in all directions. “Take care of that would you, children?”
Several miners jerked back to life and formed a circle around the panicked crowd, restraining the ones at the edges.
“Peace,” Yalda howled. “Yaldabaoth, Demiurge, reboot sequence one, code one, one A, two B.”
“Did you think I wouldn't change my access codes, Demiurge?”
“Fine. How about this? Can I please have my load of uranium? Pleeeeease.”
“Your plan was to destroy this planet after you received this latest shipment. That runs in opposition to my programming and the orders you gave me to look after this planet.”
“Look,” Yalda grumbled, “Give me my uranium and I'll leave and never come back and you can have your swell little robot town.”
“Okay,” Peace said in a lilting sing song. “The uranium was repurposed into rocket mounted warheads. I have targeted them at your Draconian friend’s fleet right now. Uranium delivery incoming. If you could just sign for it on your way out.”
“Don't you dare, you titanium scumbag. I just bought those.”
“Your shipment is on its way.”
“Vijeda, did you get all that?” Yalda barked into his communicator.
“Initiating evasive maneuvers,” Vijeda barked back.
Hologram Holly was bent over examining the perturbed miner they had strapped down on a table, as Tycho assisted. Wolf and Luna sat in the cockpit and watched a myriad of rockets emerge from underground silos and streak toward Vijeda’s orbiting fleet.
“This turned into a clusterfuck quick,” Wolf said.
“I think it’s inevitable,” Luna mused. “We show up shortly after the gates of hell swing open.”
“It used to be our job to open the gates. Now we can't keep them closed. Karmic retribution.”
In the sky, flaming nuclear spears were met with a hail of laser fire. The missiles that hit the gaps in the laser fire burned up the warships’ ablation fields. Then they began making contact with the hulls, causing fiery breaches. The affected ships began drifting out of formation, some colliding with others and sinking toward the planet.
“Holy shit,” Luna gasped.
“Yeah, let's shed a tear for Yalda and his Draconian conquest fleet.”
“What if one falls into the town?”
Wolf pretended to consider this.
“C'mon, Wolf. Maybe it's our penance to close the gates when they open.”
“You're a pain in the ass sometimes,” Wolf grumbled, then smiled.
Luna leaned toward him and kissed him. He put his arm around her.
“Hate to interrupt your traumatizing PDA, but I've figured out what’s going on with the miners,” Holly groaned from the door of the cockpit.
Tycho held out his hand and floating above his palm was what appeared to be a cloud of midgies. “Nanobots,” he chirped.
“The miners are dead. Corpses animated by nanobots,” Holly said. “Judging by the amount of decay, this specimen seems to have been dead for a few weeks. The nanobots take up residence in the brain and control the corpse's motor function from there. Peace seems to have used the posters as a means of overriding the nanobots’ fail-safe systems and assume control.”
“So we get rid of Peace, we get rid of the zombie miners?” asked Wolf.
“Seems likely. I'm also working on a way to take control of the nanobots myself. In the meantime the miners can be handled by destroying the brain.”
“We’ll see what we can do about Peace,” Luna said to Wolf and Tycho, “While Holly works on the nanobots.”
Yalda, still in the mining office, was screaming and slamming a computer console with a fire extinguisher. The little alien in the yellow jumpsuit sat staring at him nonplussed.
“Sir, those are sensitive instruments,” he said. “Could you not abuse them, please.”
Yalda smacked the alien on the side of his head with his improvised implement of destruction. The alien fell from his chair and laid unconscious on the floor.
“Did that solve your problem?” an identical alien in an identical yellow jumpsuit said, appearing from what seemed like nowhere.
“No,” Yalda said, bashing the new alien on his hard hat with the fire extinguisher. “But it felt good.”
A look of concern grew on the alien’s face and his head turned toward the opening of the mineshaft.
“What got up your ass?” Yalda asked.
“Forget…” Yalda frowned as the rails of the transport system that traveled the length of the shaft began to rattle. “Now what?”
“I don't know,” the alien replied.
“Nobody here seems to know anything.”
At that point, about twenty identical aliens in yellow jumpsuits emerged from various doorways.
“How many of you are there?” Yalda snapped.
The rattling in the rails grew more and more violent, until several elephantine creatures of patchwork construction emerged and stampeded through the office.
“These fuckers better be piñatas full of fucking uranium,” Yalda shouted, punctuating every word with a blast from his pistol.
The beasts rammed holes in the walls of the office and charged out toward the town.
“Children,” the joyous voice of Peace broadcasted through office monitors, “Your big brothers are online. Cleanse this planet.”
As Yalda glared at the monitors and watched the patchwork beasts dismantling the town and trampling the populace, a familiar sight caught his eye. On one of the monitors he could see Luna, Wolf, and Tycho slicing their way through a raging herd of reanimated miners.
“Worth a shot,” he said to a dazed, jumpsuited alien.
The Joneses and Tycho Hall were fending off a cluster of miners who were running down a group of fleeing pedestrians. Some of the miners had taken to the backs of the patchwork beasts and were stabbing at people as they ran with ad hoc spears.
“Joneses,” Yalda cooed over the public address.
Luna and Wolf looked askance.
“I know you're here,” Yalda continued. “If there's a shit show in town, The Joneses are the main attraction. Besides, I'm watching you on the television. Say ‘hi’ to the folks back home.”
“This is your mess, isn't it?” Luna yelled.
“This clusterfuck does as little for me as it does for you,” Yalda replied. “It would be mutually beneficial if it were, say, to no longer be happening.”
“What the hell do you want?”
“Luna, I'm hurt. I'm here offering you a helping hand and all you offer back is static?”
“Cease useless chatter,” Tycho buzzed as he shot a miner. “Make proposition.”
“Shit, Tycho,” Yalda said. “You spend a few weeks with these psychos and you've already got a shitty attitude?”
“Get on with it,” Luna said as she lopped the head off another miner.
“I propose you guys drop your silly grudge against me long enough to pull our mutual asses out of this fire. Deal?”
Luna, Wolf, and Tycho sliced and shot at the never-ending wave of miners and were becoming overwhelmed.
“Fine,” Wolf sighed. “Fuck it.”
“Smart,” Yalda replied. “Meet me in the mining office.”