As I occasionally pondered the results of going up against the big dogs with their hive of apparently under-worked lawyers, I broke out, as I am wont to do, into the odd daydream. One of these turned out to be a nightmare, when something shorted in my head and connected the reality of facing down TRU with the unreality of a story line I was working on involving a BATF assault on my house. This was the result. -MEO
Wet hair slapping his face in the central Texas storm, Miles stood in shock in his driveway. A crater 50 feet in diameter spat flames and smoke where his house had stood. Parts of his van hung from trees 100 feet away - trees closer to his former home were either gone or flattened. He didn't need to see the hoof prints the storm was washing away; he knew what had happened and why. He stood for hours until a paramedic led him away. When he finally slept, his dreams were full of his family, and revenge.
A slightly heavy-set man in a full ,urban-pattern camouflage outfit slips quietly into a The-Future-Is-Us store. Security droids from centuries to come hardly notice him - not because of the the camos, but because he presents no threat. He asks a clerk for several rolls of Sinclair Monofilament.
"Sir, we aren't allowed to sell that for at least another century. Too far ahead of your technology." The clerk shakes his head in mild disapproval.
The customer explains briefly. The clerk's eyebrows go up just a hint, right in the middle. The customer points across the street to a hideous edifice. The clerk purses his lips, stares vacantly into space, waits until the security droids are scanning a new customer, and hands several spools across the counter. He looks pointedly at his watch. The customer nods.
"Well, thanks, for nothing." He storms out under the unchanging, impassionate gaze of the droids.
The man in camouflage welds the last spool to a girder. Every door to the vast, sprawling headquarters now has a one-molecule-thick strand of monofilament across it about 5 feet off the ground. Hiding in the shadows, dodging the standard cameras and other detectors, he returns to the main alarm wiring junction box. Attaching a pre-fab harness, he presses a switch.
Every alarm in the building goes off at once. Fire, tornado, civil defense, security breach, power loss, and any number of others. Emergency lighting and sprinklers turn on. Halon systems dump throughout the computer complexes. In a word, pandemonium strikes. Doors go into emergency evacuation mode, sliding to a locked-open position on battery power. A stampede begins.
The intruder waits at the edge of the main driveway. The complex begins to belch herds, nay, hordes of giraffes. As each runs blindly through an exit, its head is cleanly sliced from its body by the undetectable thread. Soon the lot is littered with thrashing giraffe necks, bellowing unnaturally, eyes rolling in frenzy or staring in hatred. Bodies run on blindly into the distance, eventually to be mowed down by traffic or run into walls, poles, bushes, the river, whatever.
The intruder steps out of the shadows towards the nearest neck. A yellowish-green substance pumps from the base - clearly not giraffe blood. The intruder shrugs, raises an SKS carbine, aims at the head - and leaps just in time as teeth slice through his pants. A quick burst shatters the swiftly scything head. Something rather like slices of half-dried apple falls out - clearly not giraffe brains.
The last vestiges of remorse waft away as he realizes these are not giraffes. Whatever alien hell spawned these things can just prepare to take them back. He steps carefully through the parking lot, dispatching alien body parts with a look as impassionate as a security droid.
There are more than he expected, and he runs out of ammo. He finishes a few clusters of heads with grenades, then darts across the street to 2nd-Amendments-R-Us, still aglow with lights. The clerk is only mildly surprised to be selling a case of Chinese surplus ammo to such a figure at night.
After finishing off the rest of the giraffe-like monstrosities, the intruder returns to the alarm panel, presses another button. The building quiets, the doors slam shut and seal under emergency security override. He rips loose the spools and carefully rewinds the strands of monofilament. Removing his wiring from the panel, he types in a code on the standard keypad. Lights wink, and LEDs begin counting down from 60. Scooting across the street, the clerk at The-Future-Is-Us lets him in and slams the blast door shut. Seconds later, the building shakes. For nearly a minute the walls, then roof, are pelted with debris. The intruder hands the clerk the monofilament, and they step outside. A crater the size of a football field or two gapes from the former parking lot of Geoffrey, Inc. The clerk smiles in satisfaction, goes back inside, locks the door, and heads home for the night.
Carelessly, the intruder crosses back to the scene of carnage. He pauses at the edge of the hole - looks down with satisfaction at the rubble far below. After a moment, he turns to go - and stops. He stares. Up. And up. And up.
Finally his voice returns. "You must be the Mother of All Giraffes!" he croaks. The thing moves slightly. He realizes it isn't touching the ground. A machine? Yes - a belly turret comes to life, twin barrels point his way. He utters a quick prayer.
As if in answer, the giant head suddenly looks up, as a bright yellow rubber duckie-shaped ship appears overhead. Its belly opens, and a spatula the size of the Empire State Building whips out and under the giraffe ship, and flips it across Paramus into a swamp. An explosion rocks the entire city, followed by geysers of steam and tremendous columns of foul smoke, which last for days. This being new Jersey, nobody else notices.
The duck does a victory roll, and with a mighty squeak that shatters windows as far away as Andover, disappears in a puff of light (I know, but that's what it disappeared in). A leaflet floats down beside the intruder. He picks it up. "Spatula City - We Sell Spatulas, and That's All". Staring thoughtfully into the empty darkness, Jon mulls it over. Perhaps Miles can explain it.
A slight smile plays over his face, briefly. "Miles will sleep a lot better after I tell him about this," Jon thinks.
Thoughtfully, he starts for his rental car 5 blocks away, heading home to Austin. Just as he reaches the car, a slight sound behind him causes him to whip around, his full-auto Glock 18 grasped firmly in both hands. An aging yet stately giraffe sits proudly in a wheelchair, a young male stands to her right.
The Glock points straight at her face. She appears unmoved, the youth vaguely annoyed. They don't seem hostile, but Jon takes no chances. "Who are you? What do you want?"
One of her ears twitches slightly as her graying muzzle cracks a faint smile. "Can't you guess? I'm the Mother of All Giraffes."
Jon just stares at the front sight, his forefinger arguing with itself whether to pull the trigger. The youth speaks up. "We bleed. Blood. May I?" He slowly picks up a piece of broken glass from the ground, and pricks his leg. Normal-looking blood pulses out. Red. Wet. Drippy.
Jon eases off the trigger, lowers the Glock to one side, but keeps both hands on it. "OK. Maybe. What do you want? And who," he looks straight at the young male giraffe, "are you, even if she's who she says she is?"
Again the eldest speaks. "I am who I say I am, even if you cannot tell me from a spaceship the height of a 6-story building. And this," she glanced lovingly at the youth, "is Geoffrey, apple of my eye, Speaker to Children, Crown Prince of all Giraffedom." Geoffrey bowed. "Now that you have dealt with the usurpers and New Jersey is cleansed (such as it can be) he will re-ascend his throne, and you may name your price."
Jon stares. His mouth refuses to help, and he stands like an idiot, Glock pointing at his feet (at least he reflexively removed his finger from the trigger at some point). Eventually his brain reboots. "It doesn't matter. All I want is my friends back. And those fiends killed them. Miles is in shock at St. Davids Hospital. What price could I name? There's nothing you, or anyone else, this side of Heaven can do." He wanted to scream, to shoot something, but he just stood and waited.
"It appears," spoke the Prince, "that someone has failed to communicate. I must assume my right hand giraffe is dead if Miles never received any message. We managed to whisk his family away just in time. They will be back with him within 24 hours. We will pay for the damages to his home and land. Within the week our defenses will be complete, and you need never fear them," he nodded upwards and Jon cringed slightly - the image of snapping fangs on snake-like necks refused to go away) "again."
"And just how," Jon manages not to snarl, "do you plan to defend against that?" Jon's head nods up.
The Mother smiles. "With a little help from the nice people at The-Future-Is-Us, of course. Why do you think he was so ready to help you? We were already working with him."
Jon groans. "Do I want to know about all this?"
Both giraffes shake their heads emphatically.
"Then I'll be off. Thanks. I think. I hope... I don't know why I believe you, but after today, anything's possible." On impulse, he bows. "By your leave?"
The Mother radiates approval. "Go in peace, Giraffe-Friend."
Jon slowly gets into the car, never quite taking his eyes off the pair or giraffes. He doesn't put the Glock up until nearly at the airport. An hour later, he's on a plane home. After determining there is nobody on the plane with a neck longer than a few inches, Jon relaxes for the first time in a week.
Another slight smile plays over his face, briefly. "Yeah, Miles should sleep a lot better now," Jon thinks. "Me, too."
And he's right.
Copyright 1995 Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.