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Everyone just looked at me like I was just so anomalous! It just made little sense to anyone how I managed to escape the Vault Matrix. It was very early in the morning, the sun probably ready to rise at any given moment. Beth sat down in front of me, the puzzled look on her face being just plain hilarious.
“What the hell happened?” She asked, wanting to hear me explain in explicit detail.
“I um… Someone popped an EMP grenade when Zeek and I were trying to escape. My brain implant shut down and as a result, I passed out. When the brain implant booted back up, I was in this strange virtual world… Detecting that something was wrong, the brain implant wiped all sensitive data and was trying to wake me back into consciousness. It was telling me to be aware that what felt like reality, wasn’t… And eventually, the machine overheated and they had to unhook me. They said there was an intruder fucking shit up and were locking down the base. Realizing what was happening, I got mad, very mad and shit started getting ripped apart. When shit started hitting the fan, the manticore came out of fucking nowhere and toted me off down a tunnel… It all happened so damn fast, man. What actually did happened? I can barely remember…” I asked back, trying to recall the events.
“You fucking blew up the Hoover Dam!” June said.
“And took out the Secondary bridge…” Julio added.
“Oh no…” I said, this sounding terrible!
“Yes,” Big Daddy began, hovering forth in sentry mode, “You produced a density field so powerful it caused everything caught in it’s path to be ripped apart… You must be very, very careful with this power, son!”
“I mean, I knew I was making one but I had no idea that would happen… I.. I..will be…” I said, wondering how the hell could I have possibly ripped apart a seven hundred foot tall dam. My mind just couldn’t wrap around that.
“I um…” Zeek began, scratching the back of his head, “I was hooked up to the same machine. They called it the BrainEngine…”
“BrainEngine…?” I said, “Where did I hear that before?”
“You saw it in my old blueprints in the archival data. It was a theoretical machine designed to transfer consciousness from one mass to another…” Big Daddy said back.
“You designed that?” I asked.
“I designed a lot of things… too many things to keep tabs of. I don’t know how the Revivalists got a hold of it.” He said.
“And they weaponized it…?” I asked, not liking this at all, “Do you realize the things they can do with that machine???”
“It was never intended to be used that way! They were only rough ideas I kept archived for possible ways to help people!” He said in his defense.
“Oh, help people…” I sighed, not buying it one bit.
“Look,” He said sternly, “I’m sorry I flew off the handle back in A51 but you kept me chained down! You treated me like a machine, didn’t give me any say so any more, only came around when you needed me! When things took a turn for the worst, things I warned you about, of course I was angry! We just stopped being effective communicators! You started placing distance between us!”
“I just didn’t want to be consumed with worry anymore… All you did was worry me about something that if I had a choice, would have known better… would have turned down completely! I’m sorry, but I would… This is not at all fair to me.” I said, shaking my head.
“I get that, and I am so happy you’re sticking by me through this… If, the UCAC get here in time, don’t worry about it! I’ll finish where I left off with my work. They have the power to make an actually efficient BrainEngine that can transfer my consciousness to a possible clone. They still have my genetic makeup on file… You’re right… What I did was wrong!” He said, truly apologetic.
“And what will I do here?” I asked laughing, “I mean I’m in this shit know and it’s all I know. We can work as a team!!! Our little issue we were having, we’re past that now… But how in the HELL did you fix the manticore?????”
“It was your programming! The new protocols that placed it under your command made the remaining cytocites clump into nanites and rebuild the damage I had done… but nanite restructuring is a resource hungry process so the mech was feeling the thirst… I didn’t know what to do so I took it to the Acid Swamps and the Leer hatched an idea revolving the tube grass. Their roots have so much cytotrolic acid… Like naturally occurring, organic cytotrolic acid! So the Leer and I figured out a way to juice them and fed it to the manticore and it’s regen process sped up substantially. But still though, it’s metabolism is relatively fast and in a few months, will need to get fresh acid… Cytotrolic acid doesn’t seem to have a long shelf life especially for a fast and active mech like the manticore…” He explained.
“Wow…” I said back at a loss for words, “Just wow…”
“You were right! The tube grass was the answer from the start!” Big Daddy said.
“So what does this mean for your research… your Cihangir travesti innovation?” I asked.
“For now, not much… I just want to know how in the hell did the Revivalists level up like this! Ten, twenty years ago… they weren’t shit but now they are truly a formidable force! Their army is potent and in large numbers, might prove to be unstoppable… But that in itself, I don’t think is the issue… The issue is that they obviously have found a way to synthesize cyotrolic acid before the UCM which gives them a huge advantage…” He said.
“Call me dumb,” Heaven said, bringing us all plates of food to devour, “But, what’s so bad about the Revivalists…”
“On the surface nothing… It’s more so how they run things and destroy what’s in their path to get what they want… They want the world to return to the way it was seven hundred years ago… a complete restoration. The UCM, on the other hand doesn’t want old war technology being as commonplace as it once was. The Revivalists have this fixation on old war mechs and thinks they should still be around while the UCM wants them to be done away with because old war mechs are extermination machines!!! Why hold onto something meant to kill millions?! Then you have the Ravagers another extremist group that wants technology just done away with and for humans to start fresh! They have previously stormed into colonies and took away everything the people used to survive… How in the hell the Ravagers and Revivalists joined forces is beyond me but together, they do have a military force about thirty percent larger than the UCM. I don’t quite know exactly how advanced the Revivalists have become but it is definitely concerning…” Big Daddy explained.
“So…” I began, “They specialize in mechs, while the UCM specializes in cybernetics… The Ravagers specialize in heavy military tactics and being a brutish force to face… How the hell can the Revivalists and the Ravagers work together without conflict… What the hell happened… Wait, do you think they’re amassing a mech army?”
“Oh God, I hope not… if so, we’re fucked sideways and eternally! The UCAC was constructed to deal with problem mechs! The UCNC was constructed to deal with problem people… Ever since my visions both came to fruition, they’ve become clouded and twisted… I don’t know how well the UCM has advanced in the past two decades since I left. Back then, the UCAC had a hard time taking down mechs… sure they can do so more effectively now, I hope…” Big Daddy said back, truly worried.
“How fast do you think we can get a ground core off the ground?” I asked.
“For cybernetics…? You’re looking at a three to five year projection if we hustle…” Big Daddy sighed.
“What about with nanite fusion…? I saw that in your archives and used the base formula for a lot of designs, especially the Leer… The Leer is a nanite fusion device and the manticore could be as well!” I said back.
“What ways do you think you can implement it with a brain implant?” Big Daddy, asked, curious.
“Think of it like the nano-conduits with my gravity blades… They’re extensions of my thoughts… Look at the nanites in my body… they’re extensions of my emotions! The outer structure of the Leer is a one hundred percent computer designed exoskeleton. However, internals are entirely constructed from cytocytes fusing to form nanites, fusing to form nano-conduits, fusing to form liquid flesh, so on and forth… The program, the sustainability program used to make mechs adapt to changing environments can be reworked to fit around a brain implant. I just would have to figure out a safe way to make the nanites work as an extension to the brain implant rather than the way mine does. My nanites have a mind of their own.” I clarified.
“Yes, this could work… You know more about constituting nanites than I do currently so this may be your field of expertise, come the next few years. I’ll look into the design of the actual ground force as well as the pooling process for finding the right type of candidates… With your work ethic, and the entire UCM backing us, I’m looking at a projection for two years…”
“The candidate, process… is that difficult?” I asked.
“God, you have no idea. I’ve put kids through so much turmoil so they can become apart of the UCM… For one, we send scouts everywhere, around the globe… We then pay the family to literally buy the child from them and commence research on the child. After that, the child is separated from their home, sent into surgery and given a brain implant… After that, it’s none stop training up until they get to the age where their bodies can withstand the cybernetic suits… But then again, that was over thirty years ago. The process may have changed… I know that the spinal surgery is incredibly dangerous and painful and we’ve killed and paralyzed many in an attempt to get them ready to be a cybernetic…” Big Daddy sighed.
“That’s… whoa….” Zeek said, astounded by the toughness of the process.
“But, Fındıkzade travesti I still think that a union between man and machine is so much better than relying on just man or machine… Sure, the process for unifying man and machine is gruesome, torturous even, but the result is breathtaking! When you see the UCAC fly in, looking like great majestic birds, you will have to stop everything you’re doing just too bear witness… I’ll be just as speechless as you all because I know for a fact the new advancements will leave me shocked!” Big Daddy clarified.
“Hopefully the process is not as torturous anymore… But if the UCAC come to Jeurridam, that’d be great!” I said, “The last thing we want is Jeurridam being taken… This city, Phoenix to the east, and Tijuana to the west are major points of control and are rich in resources… Jeurridam may be the most rich, though. It is why so many people come from far and wide to sort through its heaps of junk… Sooner or later, it was bound to bring some military attention.”
“That makes sense…” Zeek said thinking about it.
June and Julio came in from the rear door. They were followed by two of Miguel’s children, Emanuel and Elijah…
“Guys, I’m heading up the canyon to pick up Alistair and Dale. I’ll be back in like two hours…” June said.
“Alright.” Beth said.
“And I need to refuel but since the bridge was destroyed last night, I’m gonna have to go to Phoenix…and I don’t know my way there.” June smiled, “I tried asking these two but they never have left A99…”
“I know how to get there… I mean I’ve never been, but I know how to get there.” Heaven said, walking over to him.
“Fair enough… Cielo.” June said with a devilish smile. A whole bunch of lustful thoughts popped up in June’s head. The two wasted no time in leaving the house, heading towards the buggy.
Beth looked at her two younger cousins like they were such miserable little beings.
“You two need to get out into the town…” She said.
“Noooo!” Elijah said, apprehensively, “All they do is fight in Jeurridam. I don’t wanna go there!”
“Trust me, Jeurridam is a lot better than being here…” Zeek teased.
“Well you’re the wildcard of the family so that is easy for you to say!” Emanuel said.
“Hey, watch it boy!” Zeek warned, warranting a laugh from us all.
“I’m just saying, it’s no life for you here. You gotta get out there and find you something of your own.” Beth smiled.
“We have what we need right here!” Elijah said.
“God, tio has you both so brainwashed…” Beth said, clenching her head.
“I was mentioned…” Miguel said, coming from down the hall.
“What are you doing to these kids?” Beth asked laughing.
“What do you mean what am I doing? Raising them!” Miguel said, getting defensive.
“You need to let them breathe some! One day they’ll wake up and be like, this is soooooooooo boring… I wanna go!” Zeek teased.
“No, they won’t. You, Zeek, just like to test the waters. Not every child will be like you.” Miguel said, coming to sit down.
“Maybe you’re right but they should experience just a little bit of freedom…” Zeek continued.
“They get it. Right before dinner I give them an hour to go and play in the desert with their friends.” Miguel said, feeling that was more than enough play time for the boys.
“That’s not… See… Elijah is fifteen and Emanuel will be seventeen really soon. You basically will have men on your hands, uncle.” Beth said.
“Yeah, you can’t baby men forever…” Zeek continued to tease.
“Baby them?” Miguel asked, laughing.
“Yeah you kind of do…” Beth chucked.
“Zanir,” Miguel called out, causing me to tense up, “Do I baby my kids?” All I could do was sip this awesome nopal tea Heaven had made.
“This is some good ass tea!” I said, dismissing the topic. Everyone laughed at me.
“So, Zeek… We never ever talked about how things went in the desert. Martha told me you were doing goooooood.” Miguel said.
“Yeah, I was doing alright. Nothing really to talk about. I did what I could to make some extra money but the Revivalists stole my safe so I’m back down to zero…” I sighed.
“How much money did you scrape up?” Miguel asked.
“A few hundred thousand pesos…” Zeek said, feeling it was no big deal. Both Miguel and I choked on the tea!
“How the hell did you make that much money in like two in a half months?” Miguel asked. Hell I was curious too!
“It’s something you don’t want to hear me discuss…” Zeek sighed.
“Damn… I’m sorry! I just don’t believe you raked in that amount…” Miguel said, shaking his head. It warranted a stern look from Zeek.
“Well, believe it…” Beth chimed in, “June and I took Zeek to collect the safe and both of us were floored when he opened it…”
“June? That little boy you like… You know you shouldn’t be involved with anyone, Beth, especially a Merchant Clan member…” Miguel said.
“Uncle…” Beth said leaning Fulya travesti in, “I don’t give a DAMN!!! June and I are a team!!! We work good together! I am twenty two years old! I’ll do what the hell I want… And I’ll say it to my father too!”
The vast amount of side eyes she got from her brothers and cousins was hysterical. This community was indeed quite small minded…
“My, my, everyone here’s so brainwashed…” Zeek sighed, coming to her defense.
“Why do you all hate this place so much?” Miguel said, not seeing what they found so wrong.
“Oh, because of how controlled and obscured this place is. Everything I’ve learned about how to be a man, how to survive, how to be a team player was because of what I learned in the streets over the course of the past six almost seven years. Dad didn’t even want me to learn to read! He wanted me to be dumb, pathetic and useless! Beth had to teach me how to read so I wouldn’t go crazy when I was going through what I was going through… The best thing that ever happened to me was the fact that dad repeatedly kicked me out! He showed me how big this damn world is and that being trapped and imprisoned by a demeaning and degrading family is no way of living!” Zeek said, full of passion and angst.
“I kind of agree with Zeek but to less of an extreme. I just didn’t like how hard I worked here and didn’t have shit to show for it! I fixed what your son Zion messed up so he wouldn’t have to hear your mouth! I’d help Heaven in the kitchen when he’d get overloaded! I’d have to run to the infirmary to help all twelve zillion of your wives do their job… They seriously are… I’m just gonna say not qualified, to sound nice! Not to mention, I had to do laundry every day for thirty men while cleaning up after you all… And you all just took me for granted, Feliz and Yendo making my job hella difficult for shits and giggles! You think I, as a young woman want to suffer through that? It was a lot easier when mom was here but since she left, I had to pick up a lot more work. I’m outnumbered, here and the misogynistic attitudes you all have towards women is sickening…” Beth let out.
“Yeah… You all treat Beth like she’s weaker than she is! Not many girls I know can do what she does!” I added.
Zeek and Beth’s hard words didn’t go so kindly with Miguel. He was clearly offended by the harsh truths but these were exactly what they were, truths!
“You all act like no one here has ever had a hard time… All these boys are pushed to their limits everyday…” Miguel said.
“No they’re not! I used to come around the back of the Veranda to see Joel and Chris sitting, procrastinating the day away. Zion and Gabriel would let mechanical work build up on them and be swamped when all kinds of vehicle problems swarmed in! If they didn’t have someone constantly in their ear telling them to get off their asses then they’d be on their asses and shit wouldn’t get done! You obviously can’t keep tabs on your own damn kids to know this…” Beth said, shaking her head.
“Neither you or dad raised saints. Everyone that lives in this house always tries to find a means of getting over, if not out!” Zeek sighed. It forced Miguel to sigh, to rethink all of what he said.
“Well what can I say about that?” Miguel asked.
“Really? You were the one who asked us why we weren’t happy… We told you! You got your answer. There’s nothing left to say.” Beth shrugged, before getting up to leave. This was now getting pretty damn awkward…
“I wonder what kind of fine tunings I could do to perfect the manticore.” I said, with a stroke of the chin, getting up and heading out into the yard. Zeek was right behind me. He seemed to have a lot on his mind, like he wanted to talk.
The manticore was curled up in a state of torpor, it’s wind bladder moving ever so slowly. I scanned it with my watch looking over every small detail about the robot.
“Hey…” Zeek said. I turned to him, curious to what he wanted.
“Wussup?” I asked nonchalantly. He began stroking the back of his head, this conversation definitely about to go down a path I was not ready for.
“Um… The other day, I thought I was a gonner! I thought those folks were going to just kill me. I never got the chance to thank you for saving me… Like really, thank you!” He said, just so gratified.
“No problem…” I said back, continuing to overview the scans.
“Can I talk to you about anything?” He asked.
“Sure…” I said, unsure where this discussion was about to head.
“Well hear me out to the end… I um.. Ever since you broke my addiction, you’ve been the only one on my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I hurt you that day yet how you still went out of your way to help me… and for the matter you still did! I um… got this terrible habit of falling heart first for people and I um… I’ve definitely fallen for you,” He sighed, those words being quite cringeworthy, “But, as I’m starting to see, we’re just not meant to be together…”
“What makes you think that?” I asked curiously, often fascinated by Zeek’s mind.
“We’re just meant to be… brothers! It’s how it’s always been! I have your back, you have mine! And plus, do you know how god-awful close to incest it would have been if you and I ever like… hooked up?” He chuckled.
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