by Gil James Bavel
Part 1: Through Being Cool
It was about 5:00 P.M. Sunday, and in downtown Dallas they were rioting again. The factions were at it, about 150 Devo punks and 70 or so S.L.A.K. troops, and there wasn't any stopping them, not for now. Because it was Dallas—the headquarters of the World SubGenius Foundation—reinforcements for the troops wouldn't be far off, but by the time they arrived, the emergency boys would all be used up, and the Devo punks would be ready to chew through some more.
It wasn't always like this. Used to be, the Devo punks were your standard upstarts armed with street weapons, and the occasional napalm-filled fire extinguisher. Once in awhile they'd bring a vehicle armed with some massive gun too big to have come from anything but a naval vessel, just for looks. In the last couple of months, however, the Devo punks accelerated enormously in terms of the technical level of the weapons they were scavenging. Their resources had expanded of late into the state-of-the-art: cybernetics, bio-integrated hardware and plasma field generators were now part of their repertoire, and the poor S.L.A.K. troops were simply overwhelmed by the sudden jump in technology.
Of course, the S.L.A.K. troops were no guttersnipes, either--they were armed to the teeth with every brand of high-tech gizmo and doodad that the SubGenius Foundation could afford. But even they were no match for the technology on the bleeding edge of state-of-the-art that the Devo punks were somehow obtaining. The riots were becoming massacres. There was even talk that they wouldn't be televised anymore. Needless to say, the Dallas Police Department had long since learned to decline attending, and left the rioters to their own devices.
There were always riots on Sunday, usually beginning with a bunch of Devos showing up downtown, looking for trouble. They would generally hang out in front of the SubGenius building until the patrols would come out to shoo them away, and then Devos would come out from all over, swarming the S.L.A.K. troops, ambush-style. From there, the riots would go all over downtown, the Devos using guerilla tactics to force the S.L.A.K. troops away from protected areas. Today was no different.
As the riot got underway, a large group of Devo punks broke off from the main group, and rushed an oncoming patrol vehicle manned by S.L.A.K. troops. The troops' gunner managed to swing around and fire off a shot just as the Devos reached the vehicle. A couple of Devo punks were knocked back onto the street from the force of the shot, but were still moving as the vehicle rolled over their bodies, k-chunk, k-chunk.
The patrol vehicle was then suddenly teeming with Devo punks, grinning maniacally and smashing the troops with all manner of bludgeon weapons. A single Devo climbed up onto the driver, kicking off a few S.L.A.K. troops, and grabbed onto his helmet. The vehicle began swerving violently to the left and right, but the Devos hung on; they seemed to be enjoying the ride. The Devo punk on the driver pistol-whipped the troops that were annoying him, and then proceeded to the task of removing the driver's helmet. The driver had other ideas, as was evidenced by his frantic head-shaking and attempts to convince the bloodthirsty punk otherwise. The other Devos were ripping the remaining troops to shreds, throwing them off the vehicle, and pulping their brains out with much letting of blood and gory ceremony.
The driver decided he'd had enough and slammed on the brakes, skidding out of control. Losing his grip, the Devo who was on his back flipped over the armored hood and onto the street, immediately scrambling to his feet. The driver, now the only one left of the patrol, dove out of the vehicle to the street and just narrowly escaped the horde of crazed Devo punks who were still mauling what remained of his dead brothers-in-arms.
The driver ran like hell, straight back toward the safety of the SubGenius building, and the riot. The Devo who'd climbed on his back picked up his pistol, and with the cry, "Duty now for the future!" fired eight times in rapid succession upon the hapless SubGenius. Two bullets hit the target, ripping through the driver's reinforced plastic body armor and flakjacket like they were liverwurst. He collapsed onto the concrete, where he convulsed spasmodically until Devo punks massed around him and beat him into unconsciousness. The blood went everywhere. The Devo punks continued to beat his dead body, the blood spattering their leering faces and running down their goggles. The Devo punks were total geeks.
Back at the riot, the S.L.A.K. forces had formed a semicircle around the front doors of the building and were, for the most part, holding their own. They were, anyway, until a small contingent of Devo punks pulled up in a stolen government hovertank. The thing was massive, obviously a leftover battletank from the UN’s India-Pakistan conflict. Apparently, its weaponry was inoperative, for most of the Devos simply sat there and watched the S.L.A.K. troops' reactions; laughing hysterically and hooting like yahoos in a college football crowd. Finally, a S.L.A.K. lieutenant gave the command to fire, and fifteen plasma rifle bolts fired in unison on the Devo punks. The hovertank had a plasma screenfield up, of course, but one of the generator turbines was hit, and the tank was reduced to a wobbling, bobbing encasement of steel.
One of the Devo techies got back onto the rear of the hovertank to commence repairs, and the rest sat there hollering and taunting the S.L.A.K. troops like schoolkids on the playground. There wasn't much they could do, once they saw the screenfield up, so most of the Subs had a smoke or flipped off the Devo punks. The lieutenant got a call on the radio from Dobbs Central Command; there was a major onslaught of Devos nearby, and they were to retreat back indoors. As the S.L.A.K. troops filed inside, the Devo punks turned on the hovertank P.A. and blasted Race of Doom at ungodly decibels. The SubGenius lieutenant yelled, "Fuckin' Weirdos!" at the Devo punks, and slammed the foot-thick metal doors closed behind him.
The riot continued unabated for at least another fifteen minutes. It was out of control--what was left of the SubGenius forces was trapped outside, hunkered down in defensive positions trying to remain unseen. The Devo punks now had unrestricted reign, and they used it. They were tearing up downtown; smashing windows, rolling trucks and burning and smashing up everything in sight. Any poor SubGenii that were caught unprotected outside were stuck and prodded and burned--torture was the high point of the riots for many Devo punks. A few S.L.A.K. troops lay injured in the street, writhing in pain and bleeding profusely. For all intents and purposes, the Devos had won.
Or so they thought. Just about five-thirty, the vampires showed up. First, only a dozen or so appeared, materializing out of the smoke and ruins of combat, but before the Devo punks realized what was about, there were well over thirty PsychVams in the general vicinity of the World SubGenius Foundation building, and they were thirsting for blood, or its equivalent, anyway. The PsychVams were, as their name implied, regular SubGenii that had been highly trained and genetically transmogrified into creatures of little physical substance but impressive psychic strength. At close range they could suck the brain fluid out of a man's skull in less than ten seconds. The normal method of attack for the vampires, however, was simply to focus a psychokinetic staticgrid into the victim's cranium, shutting down his brain's electrical activity altogether and generally wreaking havoc with his nervous system.
This they did, and before long most of the Devos were running around downtown Dallas screaming and holding their heads, dying like roaches that had sucked down too much insecticide. They even kicked their legs like roaches when they died. The PsychVams floated in and out of corporeal space so quickly that none of the Devo punks were able to get in any rounds on them. They attacked from behind, above, and below the street; they swarmed the Devos and had them mostly finished by quarter 'til. A few surviving Devo punks retreated back to their secret base, limping and a few even stumbling around in the wrong direction due to brain damage. The Devo punks were routed.
Up in the SubGenius building, the top brass issued orders for men to re-enter the street and secure the area: clean up and try to recover surviving S.L.A.K. troops. Meanwhile, the dish on the roof was being adjusted to uplink to the SubGenius Command Satellite in order to provide orbital laser cover fire when the Devos regrouped for another attack. A desk jockey had called up the downtown vidangle on his monitor, and was now prepared to fire with digital accuracy upon individual targets should the need arise. The Devos would be fused into laserslag, and the hot cinders of their remains would float up into the atmosphere only to eventually land again and fertilize the ground somewhere. They'd be recycled.
Part 2: Gates Of Steel
High at the top of the SubGenius building, Ivan Stang burst into the conference room and slammed the door, obviously pissed as hell. Tossing his thin briefcase down, he leaned on the huge, mahogany conference table and scowled at Colonel Mark Mothersbaugh across it.
"Where was our fuckin' cover fire? I thought you said those greens of yours were gonna be ready!"
The colonel looked up from his tactics monitor. His boyish face and tousled gray hair gave him a placid, stoic look. "We lost the uplink. It wasn't their fault,” he said calmly.
"Hey, man, tough titty, y'know? We just lost five squads out there, we had to uncrypt the fuckin' 'Vams to deal with 'em this time! Those things are expensive!" Ivan pushed off the table and sat down in front of his briefcase, head in hands. "I had to fly in from Cleveland! Some science division!" Lowering his voice, he sighed and asked, "What exactly went wrong?"
Mothersbaugh put his light pointer down and reached for a 'Fropstick. "I told you. We had a circuit failure and the satellite went offline." He lit up with a slow drag and put the lighter down gently on the table, exhaling bluish smoke into the air.
"Well get the damn thing online! We've got a record number of your fucking groupies on the way, and if that satellite doesn't burn 'em, I think they're gonna break into the building this time!" Stang's voice was taking on a Nicholsonian quality. "Radar shows that they're bringin' serious firepower, and I just don't think the 'Vams are gonna be enough!" He was visibly irritated.
"Look, Ivan," the colonel pointed out, "First of all, they're not my groupies, they're Jerry's, you know that. Since the SchismTime, none of the Devotees even listened to me. And anyway, I'm sure the PsychVams will be more than up to the job. Between them and our new satellite, they can attack in droves and they won't get in. You need to calm down, man. Have a 'Fropstick."
Stang stood up and hit the table, the deep thud resounding off the walls of the conference room. His emergentile side showing, he yelled, "Fuck the 'Frop, Mark! Maybe if you smoked a little less 'Frop and got a little more done around here, we wouldn't be in this mess! These riots are all your fault!" Stang paced down the length of the room and nervously ran one hand over his thinning hair.
Mothersbaugh's phone beeped, lighting up the priority line. "Yes?" he answered, pushing the intercom switch. A feminine voice spoke.
"Commander Kendrick to see you sir."
He glanced at Stang, who was already returning to his seat. "Thank you, Connie. Send him in." Turning off the intercom, Mothersbaugh took another drag off of his smoke and looked down the table at Stang. "Don't you think you're projecting some of your own feelings of inadequacy onto me? You have been really stressed lately."
"Don't psychoanalyze me, Mark,” Stang shot back, glaring.
There was a knock on the door. "Come," said the colonel. It was Kendrick.
"Ivan. Mark." He nodded in greeting as he closed the door and entered the room. His uniform and insignia were kempt and neat, but showed telltale signs of battle. The odd patch of dirt, a near-miss scorch on his epaulet.
"Hi, David," offered Stang, waving.
Mothersbaugh gestured for Commander Kendrick to sit down. "We were just discussing the effectiveness of the PsychVams."
Kendrick's face lit up. "Hey, yeah, those guys were great. Shoulda brought them into the picture earlier. All we had to do was sit back and watch the horror show. Got any 'Frop?"
"Yeah, sure." The colonel tossed him the pack. Commander Kendrick and Stang took their places.
"Look, that's not the point," Ivan said as Kendrick fished out a 'stick. "Those 'Vams are on loan from Dobbstown. Malaysia. If any of them go down, we're into "Bob" for serious cash. Or souls..." he mused, "Neither of which we can spare right now."
"That's true," Kendrick said, holding up one hand for the lighter. Mothersbaugh threw it to him. "Even so, the S.L.A.K. squads don't hold a candle to those mutants, so why waste 'em?" The SubGenius League of Ass-Kickers—even with their high-intensity training and ample weaponry hadn’t made a dent. He lit up and tossed the lighter back. "Besides," he said, exhaling, "We've got the SCS back online now, so those Devos won't cause us any more trouble."
Stang's expression soured. "Yeah, great. So far that orbital laser's performed about as well as "Connie" has lately." He glowered at the colonel. "What if it goes offline again? We gonna play 'em some of your EZ listening muzak? Or maybe some Songs of the Spires?" he taunted sarcastically, turning to Commander Kendrick.
"Actually," Colonel Mothersbaugh said, calling up the statistics from the previous Sunday's riot on the monitor that sprang out of the table at his touch, "Musik for Insomniaks" caused a slight decrease in their attack efficacy last week. I was thinking if we played "Joyeaux Mutato at full --"
"--Think about this," Stang said curtly, standing up and opening his briefcase. Reaching in, he plopped a sheaf of papers in front of both men, withdrew a small model of the World SubGenius Foundation building, and set it down on the table. Mothersbaugh and Kendrick looked at one another, then at the model, and then at the papers, which appeared to be schematic diagrams. They began leafing through them.
"Gordon, 'Evidence and Waves Forest banged heads on this one and here's what they came up with," Stang started, pausing to flick a switch at the bottom of the model. "As you know, after we converted Buck Naked's Laser Project into that fucking satellite—which was a mistake—if you ask me, Waves suggested that we program it to double as an electrokinetic dissonance generator--"
Mothersbaugh stubbed out his 'Fropstick and cut in. "That operation was shitcanned. Too expensive."
"Right." agreed Stang. "But Waves recently came up with a cheap modification that we could implement on the ground, that, uh--I guess we could put together in pretty short order. Now, I'm no big-shot rocket scientist like Waves is," he said, pushing a lighted red button on the model, "But according to him, this should allow us to affect a limited enough area of Dallas, say, two square blocks, so that it wouldn't take that much energy or raw material to pull off."
As Stang spoke, a dull hum emanated from the model, and a small area of the table around it became blurry, like heat waves above a hot sidewalk. He explained further.
"By setting up an electromagnetic field around the building, and firing the laser into that field in a wide-spectrum radial dispersal beam, what we’re essentially doing is ionizing the electrons within the field. Now, as Waves describes it," Stang continued, pushing the now-rapidly blinking red button again, "Once ionized, those electrons are going to resonate at a controlled frequency that exactly matches brainwave engrams….” As he spoke, thousands of tiny bursts of light flashed within the blurry area, crackling audibly, apparently representing the frying brainpans of the enemy. "...Thus making any Devos within the charged area completely susceptible to attack by our PsychVams." Stang looked up from the notes he was obviously reading from, which were concealed in his open briefcase.
"They're already susceptible," Commander Kendrick pointed out. "They were dropping like flies out there." He took one last drag off of his own 'Fropstick and crushed it out in the UberTrayTM.
"Yeah, this time," Mothersbaugh said to Kendrick. "But the Devo punks have some real high-tech cyberpunk big cheese on their side now. Forest says the guy makes him look like a kid playing with a Tesla coil. That accounts for their hyperaccelerated technology. Once they figure out how the PsychVams work, they'll simply put together an antistatic electrogenerator to block out their attacks. Then they'll be useless." He looked at Kendrick with a finalistic expression.
Stang shut off the model. "We anticipated this from way back. We figured we could use the 'Vams once before they'd counter them. Maybe twice. After that..."
"...After that, they'd be expensive fodder, worse even than the S.L.A.K. squads." finished Kendrick, nodding slowly.
"You got it." Stang agreed. "So that's why Waves has this follow-up plan. The Electrokinetic Dissonance Generator will override any antistatic devices brought into the field. Actually, as we speak, he and Gordon are applying the finishing touches to the EDG machine. It should be ready by nightfall."
"Uh, sorry to bust your bubble, Ivan," Kendrick began, "But recon shows those Devos regrouping, and bringing in the heavy guns. They're gonna be back before nightfall, and I guess they're gonna have this antistatic generator thing put together, right?"
Mothersbaugh sighed and reached for another 'Fropstick. "Yeah, it's an incredibly easy device," he said, packing the 'stick on the table. "More likely than not, they'll all have individual electrogenerators hooked into their battle gear. It's just a battery pack and a field generator upgrade. That cyberbrain they've got workin' for 'em could probably hack together a few dozen an hour. We're just going to have to get that EDG Machine ready to go within the hour." He punctuated his statement with a light.
"Whoa, Mark. What's this Captain Kirk stuff?" Ivan exclaimed. "I dinna think wa ken havit reddy bah then, sahr," he mocked in a poor Scottish brogue. "Those guys are already working around the clock, and Waves says that Gordon's about wiped out."
Colonel Mothersbaugh smiled. "He's always wiped out. What's Gordon doing on this project, anyway? This really isn't his area of expertise, and I thought he was busy doing something with Drummond. Some new secret Overman thing."
"Well, yeah, but ever since he and Waves got together on Operation ConniLingus, they've been hanging around together a lot more." Stang explained.
"What, that interactive CyberSex 'droid?" Mothersbaugh queried. "I tried that thing. It was a complete waste of time and money. Might as well go with the 'ol hand job. Net Slack zero."
Stang shrugged. "Well, they use it a lot. I guess Overmen need a little more stimulation than we do to get them goin', y'know?"
"What about 'Evidence? What's his angle?" The colonel asked.
"He just bullied his way into the thing, saying that they needed a military advisor, tactics or something. Oh, and he helped put together the model."
Mothersbaugh snickered. "Figures. Well, tell those guys that we're gonna need hands-on right away. David, get down to your men and suit 'em up." He handed Commander Kendrick a data chip, and stood up. "Here's your orders, and we're going to Plan B on the Laser. Word has it that Alan's back with them now, so if any of your boys see him, Bob, my brothers, or especially Jerry, you tell them to shoot to kill."
Kendrick nodded. "Right. If I can't whup 'em, I'll go down!" he said, giving the SubGenius salute. "Iyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyiyi!" Stang and Mothersbaugh returned his salute, and the commander turned on his heel and left the room. As Stang turned to leave, Mothersbaugh spoke.
"Oh, by the way, Ivan, don't worry about the PsychVams. I'll talk to "Bob". He'll cut us some Slack."
"I sure hope so, Mark. Last time you talked to him, he was talking serious tribulation if anything happened to 'em. I mean, as far as he's concerned, this is all petty in-fighting. He's saving those 'Vams for The Big One."
"Yeah, I know. Ever since he got shot, he's just single-minded. Money, money, money. I almost think he's forgotten that money is just a shitty substitute for Slack."
"Gee, I hope not," Stang admitted. "The X-ists wouldn't be real happy about it."
"Well,” Colonel Mothersbaugh said as he walked Stang out, "That's "Bob's" problem."
Part 3: Smart Patrol
In the meantime, the surviving Devo punks had made it back to base--barely. Most of the ones who'd escaped the PsychVams were so fucked up that they couldn’t even communicate. They just moaned, writhed, and received some much-needed medical attention. The hovertank crew, however, had been able to get away and back to base to report. The Devo corps hierarchy was quite shaken up by the developments.
General Gerald V. Casale strode purposefully down a corridor of Devo Base 5, followed, as usual, by his hand-picked group of lieutenants. On his way to a strategy session, he had been alerted to the riot situation via cellular phone, and was deep in thought about the solution. The final solution to the SubGenius Problem.
During his youth, the whole Devo/SubGenius parallel evolution had been little more than a clever and complex joke to Casale. By and by though, certain strains and tensions had become evident. The SubGenius Foundation became big, not to mention big-headed. The band, conversely, had long since peaked, and like all rock bands, lost momentum. The cars, the groupies, and the music didn't seem to matter as much anymore; the freshness was gone. The drugs and the years had taken their toll, leaving Devo a pale shadow of their once-glorious, hit-studded past, and they quickly faded into obscurity and mediocrity.
Then, in the early 2010s, they were asked to play at the largest SubGenius Devival ever. The Church of the SubGenius had gotten so big that their rosters had swelled into the millions--and Devo performed to a sellout crowd on national television. It was huge, bigger by far than their legendary Saturday Night Live appearance. Everything was like it used to be. Fans singing along, lights, cameras--it was perfect.
Until, after the performance, Mark got into a heated argument with Gerald. Certain founding members of the Church approached, and it soon became a battle of epic proportions. Ivan, Pope Myer, Janor, Philo, and even Palmer Vreedeez sided with Mark--'cause he had the star power, and he'd always been the big SubGenius one anyway--and it became all too obvious to Gerald who his friends were. Of course, Puzzling Evidence brought a gun into it, and a fight broke out. After they'd been pulled apart, Mark asked the rest of the band to join him against Gerald, and accusations of elitism, eugenics, racism, classism and cavorting with the Con were flung between the factions like mud. David, that asshole, went with him, and thus was born the SchismTime. It was a grand feud.
But Devo would have the last laugh. Having played to a worldwide audience on television, and the resulting Internet coverage, Devo had regained their lost popularity, and then some. No one had seen the argument, or the fight. Consequently, Devo fans came out of the woodwork. Devo cut a new album, with Jerry fronting the band, and it went quintuple-platinum instantly, entering the charts at # 1 and staying there for well over a year. They had had the foresight to release it on their own infant label, Devo Records, and Warner Bros., Enigma and Capitol could all go to hell.
Devo soon became a cult to rival the Church; they were no longer a band so much as a social movement. People were finally getting the concept of society's de-evolution. The fans became gangs, and they clashed with the Church on a regular basis. Friend turned against friend, brother against brother, reverend against reverend. Devo Corps and the Church alike began training their followers in the martial arts. Squads of DevoNinjasTM ran wild, rumors were rampant: "Connie" had sided with Gerald and Devo, and was screwing them all. Church top brass had been secretly kidnapped, and replaced with cybernetic androids. Not even "Bob" himself was exempt from the gossip. Clenches everywhere were arming.
Gerald remembered it all too well as he led the way to the tactical meeting. Those events had shaped his life, changing it from the carefree, easygoing life of a rock star/producer to the existence he now knew--the hardened, jaded leader of the Devo Corps military. Now he was determined to have his revenge on the ones who had fucked everything up for him. Those SubGenius assouls would pay, with blood.
Entering the brightly-lit room, General Casale stopped, saluted, and sat down. His lieutenants marched in, were seated, and he called order. Among the RetroEvolutionist elite were Timothy Leary, William Gibson, the Bobs, and Alan Myers. Dr. X, the CyberBrain whose origins were cryptic and unknown, was also present, as were of course, Stang's precious children. Tevis and Xandy had become involved in the movement early, and, though still relatively young, were possibly Devo's greatest asset not only because of the spite factor, but because they were brilliant, conniving and genetically superior. Their third nostrils had been opened at birth in Dobbstown, they were the youngest Overmen in the world, and they were totally loyal to Devo Corps. It was irrelevant that they were initially abducted in a raid and only later did they "come around" to the Devo "attitude".
"First I'd like to thank you all for getting here on such short notice." said the General. "Our boys in the field are waiting for the decision we come up with, so we need to keep this brief." He opened up his folder and laid it out in front of him on the table. "Dr. X, would you take it from here?"
The gaunt man nodded, and rose from his seat. An odd, unwieldy gun looking like a paint sprayer or a fertilizer hose attachment rested on the table in front of him. His sharp features and pale skin were contrasted by a shock of wispy silver hair, and thick, round glasses made from carbon steel. Dressed in a smart black scientist's smock and wearing pens, various electronic devices and a BodyComTM portable computer, the overall effect was something like a nerdy, albino Judge Dredd. Placing his hands on the table, he spoke in a thin, nasal voice with a hint of a German accent.
"Thank you, Jerry. I'll get right to the point. The SubGeniuses have unleashed their secret weapon. They have somehow managed to control and accentuate select areas of the brain near the central fissure between the frontal and parietal lobes, resulting in troops that are capable of controlled psionic intrusion into the electroneurological processes of our Devotees." Dr. X paused to adjust his glasses.
"What?" Xandy asked.
"He means that they can suck the electric impulses out of your brain, and shut down your nervous system with their minds." Leary explained.
"Wow." Gibson uttered, impressed.
"Yeah," Tevis said, nudging her brother. "Haven't you ever seen Scanners?"
Dr. X resumed. "Don't ask me how they've accomplished this; when we tried it, all we ended up with was a bunch of palpitating apoplectics."
Leary offered, "That's because our process was surgical. Theirs is probably based on drugs, genetic reprogramming and biochemical agitators. Anyway, who cares? Get on with it." Ever since his secret longevity operation, Dr. Leary had become kind of an asshole.
"No, they're a bunch of "Bob's" Malaysian recruits.” General Casale said. “I think he probably pulled some strings and used Xist tech to fuck with their DNA structure or something. Those idiots don't have the brains to pull something like that off. Not even Forest could begin to understand that sort of stuff, and he's their best scientist," he admitted.
Dr. X Picked up the strange-looking device in front of him, clearing his throat. "In any case, our Devotees are being outfitted with low-frequency antistatic generators as we speak. Whatever those things are, their psionic attacks should be effectively blocked. The question facing us is this: In light of these developments, should we in turn unleash our own secret weapon, the Devolution gun?" He turned the heavy object over in his hands. "After we use it once, they'll probably catch on and counter it, much like we have theirs."
Casale nodded. "I think this would be a good time to exploit the Devolver; we're at a crucial point with these riots. We've got more Devotees than ever, and with luck we could--"
"Get off the vengeance trip, General," Leary sneered. "Everyone knows that you're just champing at the bit to take those guys down. You could jeopardize the entire operation with your impudence. I say we wait until they’re tested, then bring out the Devolvers. Play it safe."
Gibson intervened. "Hey, Tim, man, lay off Jerry. Everyone hates those Subs, that's why we're all here. So chill out, huh? Besides, he's got a point, I mean, uh, the Devotees are already out there, and they're outfitted with the blockers. We've got the element of surprise, and they're hopefully still off-balance from the last offensive. So why not?"
"Yeah, maybe," the youthful-looking Leary acquiesced. "I just can't help thinking that we ought to call them back and hold off until next time. Let them wait."
"Why, so they can regroup and dig in?" The General pointed out. "No, Bill's got a point. They're automatically entrenched in that building when you don't press the attack. I say we fill a cargo chopper with Devolvers, and get 'em out to the boys ASAP. Let's see a show of hands." Casale raised his right hand, followed by everybody but Leary. Xandy chuckled.
"C'mon, Tim, make it unanimous." Gibson pleaded.
"Oh, all right," Leary groaned, complying.
"'Atta boy." Gibson teased.
Leary rolled his eyes. "Fnord." he grumbled.
"It's settled, then. We'll arm the Devotees with Devolvers, and press the attack." The general handed out instructions from the folder to his lieutenants, and stood up to leave. "Make sure your men understand the weapon."
"Yeah, take the safety off," snickered Leary.
As the group began filing out of the room, Xandy tugged on Casale's sleeve. "Can we go, Jerry?"
"NO," the General barked, adamant. "It's way too dangerous. If anyone saw you, you'd be captured instantly and your father would have you both brainwashed. I'm afraid you'll have to stay this time."
"Awww." the siblings cried in unison.
He closed his folder and shuttled them out the door with it. "You'll just have to settle for watching the riot on the HoloMonitor."
At that, the Smiths perked up and walked happily down the corridor toward the viewing lounge. They chanted DEE-VO, DEE-VO as they went.
Gibson walked with the General as he returned to command and control. "You think we're gonna get in this time?" he asked.
"Yeah, I think so. Chances are good, anyway. And even if we don't, there are going to be a whole lot of single-celled SubGenii crawling around downtown." Casale flashed a smile. "It's going to make great video." Then, becoming serious, he added, "Plus, we'll get to see how well the antistatic generators work. They've had no field test, and they're going to be a crucial factor in our strategy."
They continued on to the command and control room in relative silence. The only sounds were their footfalls, and the video game noises coming from the Playstation5 in the lounge.
Part 4: Time Out For Fun
Waves Forest and G. Gordon Gordon were hauling the just-finished Electrokinetic Dissonance Generator down the basement stairs of the SubGenius building, huffing and puffing with the effort. Once they'd gotten it down the stairs, Gordon put his end down and began clearing some space for it in the middle of the floor. Stark Fist magazines littered the area, having been thrown in the basement for lack of space. There were four or five hundred copies of various issues lying about, and these Gordon unceremoniously kicked out of the way to make room for the EDG.
Forest set his end down carefully, and picked up a copy. "Huh," he said, opening it up. "Can't believe I missed this issue. "Connie" centerfold." Unfolding the third panel, Forest drank in "Connie's" fine nakedness. "Man, "Bob" has it made. Whatta momma."
"Yeah, she's pretty stacked." Gordon noted, leaning over to see. "But," he said, returning to his task, "They airbrushed out the scars. She's got whip and chain burns all over her body." He finished clearing away the magazines, and there was now a small space just big enough in which to place the EDG.
"You've seen her naked?" Forest asked, his eyes glued to the glossy centerfold.
"Seen her? I screwed her. Who hasn't?"
Forest seemed at once enticed, and discouraged. "Wow." He turned the Fist ninety degrees and slavered some more.
"C'mon, put that rag down and let's get this thing going. The laser's already firing."
"Hmm? Oh, yeah." Forest threw the magazine down and picked up his end again. Together, they lifted the hulking jumble of chips, wires and circuit boards, and set it down in the space Forest had cleared on the floor.
"Careful, don't want that transaxial influx capacitor to break off, it's pretty delicate." Forest reminded Gordon.
"Yeah, I hope that solder took. I don't wanna hafta go back in there again." They stepped away from the machine and looked at it. It was a rushed job, but it was complete, and they hoped, operational.
"Let's turn it on, shall we?" Forest said, leaning over and flicking the power switch. The generator hummed into life. A red indicator light blinked, and the cooling fan came on with a quiet whirr.
Forest breathed a sigh. "Well, the power receiver works." The EDG ran on broadcast power, as did the rest of the SubGenius building, thanks to Forest's dutiful free energy research and formidable knowledge of electronics. "That oughta negate any antistatic devices the Devos bring. Boy, will they be surprised."
Gordon nodded agreement. "No shit. Hey, let's go upstairs and see what it looks like outside."
"Yeah, all right." The SubGenii headed back up the stairs, leaving the generator in the basement with only back issues of the Stark Fist of Removal to keep it company.
Part 5: I'd Cry If You Died
Outside, darkness was falling on Dallas. Sunset had dragged its final pastel fingers across the horizon, and the planets and stars were coming out. It was to be the first night riot in a long time. Searchlights on the face of the building came on, and automatically began randomly sweeping the area. The S.L.A.K. lieutenant posted at the doors fidgeted nervously and finished his cigarette, crushing it out under one black combat boot. He looked out into the downtown Dallas city streets, and tried to see whether the Devo punks had shown up yet. The radar showed that the large group of blips that he had been monitoring had moved to within a mile or so of the building. The lieutenant looked to his men, shook his head, and lit another smoke. Exhaling into the cool night air, he dropped the StarliteTM visor on his helmet and waited.
The front doors opened, and out came Forest and Gordon. They were yammering gaily about something and seemed generally unconcerned. Gordon had his shirt off.
The lieutenant put an arm up to block them. "Hey, sirs, you can't be out here without body armor. The enemy are just down the street."
"It's okay, we're just out here for a second to make sure that the Electrokinetic Dissonance Generator is operational. Notice anything?" Forest inquired.
"Uh, yes sir. A couple of minutes ago, the air took on this shimmering quality—smells like ozone."
Forest nodded. "That's it. The laser's ionized the air molecules. They've all picked up an extra oxygen atom."
The troops in the lieutenant's S.L.A.K. squad shifted uneasily. They weren't used to any jargon but the military kind.
"Well, that's great, sir, but I'm afraid I can't have you sirs down here unprotected. I'm going to have to ask you to re--” The lieutenant was cut off by Gordon's nonchalant voice.
"Okay, soldier, okay. Don't get your shorts in a bunch. Get Colonel Mothersbaugh on the radio, and we'll be out of your hair."
The lieutenant frowned at the duo, but grudgingly lifted the transceiver from his belt and pressed the broadcast button. "Colonel, I've got your two science officers down here, sir. They're out of uniform and unarmored. They want to speak with you."
There was a slight pause, and then Mothersbaugh's voice crackled over the radio, thin and static. "Yes, Waves, what is it?"
Forest reached out for the transceiver, and the lieutenant handed it to him. "We've got the EDG up and running. Looks like things are ready down here."
"Fine, fine. Are your men ready, lieutenant?"
The lieutenant took the radio back from Forest and spoke into it. "Yes, sir, colonel. It looks like the Devos are within a mile or so and they're advancing on our position."
Another slight pause. Colonel Mothersbaugh's voice came over the radio again. "Okay, you have your orders. Looks like it's gonna be a party." He signed off.
"Well, sirs, you're going to have to get out of here. Any minute now, there's-"
The lieutenant was cut off by the first of the Devo punks. As if on cue, they came roaring around a corner on motorcycles, about a dozen of them. The cycles were three-wheelers armored with laser-reflectant plastic, and bristled with all manner of weaponry, and video cameras. Following the cycles were several armored personnel transport vehicles, brimming with overeager Devotees, all packing Devolution pistols. Various other vehicles, ranging from modified mopeds to salvaged choppers, carried more Devos, and the now-repaired hovertank brought up the rear. They were all equipped with loudspeakers, of course, and played “Explosions” in some surround-sound stereo at maximum volume. They were city blocks away and they were already way too loud.
"Wow, that's cool," Gordon murmured.
"Yeah." Forest agreed.
The lieutenant instantly forgot about the officers and began shouting BattleSpeak commands into his comlink. "Tech 2! Rightwingform beta!" The S.L.A.K. troops assumed their new positions, fanning out into the street inside the dissonance field created by the generator and charged by the orbital satellite. "Prepfire Alpha! Stratlock moncheck!" As the lieutenant continued issuing orders, the troops instantly responded, hunkering down in their positions and making last-minute strategic defense checks. Nearby, a chorus of safeties clicked off. Gordon just stood there, soaking it all in. Forest shoved him.
"At least close the fucking door," he ordered.
Gordon reached in and closed the door, which locked. The lieutenant turned around.
"What are you sirs still doing here?" he asked.
Gordon smiled. "Watching the fireworks. We built this puppy, we want to see it in action."
The lieutenant turned back around, shaking his head. "Hope you've got strong stomachs," he said, throwing down his cigarette. Its cinder glowed red in the blackness around, a hot white in his green night vision.
Gordon and Forest smirked. The Devo punks were entering the field now, cycle guns blazing away. The personnel transports screeched to a halt cop-show-style, and unloaded. Two hundred berserk Devos charged at the S.L.A.K. troops, who were well inside the confines of the charged electromagnetic field, and already drawing beads on them.
The noise became unbearable. The roaring of engines, gunfire, and that horrible music combined into a cacophonic symphony. The bass beat from the Devos’ subwoofers was overwhelming. The S.L.A.K. troops then began firing on isolated targets, adding to the din. Suddenly, from down the street, some kind of jet-powered one-man flying wing screamed overhead, releasing small packages into the street. They hit the ground and shattered, issuing a thick, black smoke, which quickly grew into a coalescing cloud. With that, the lieutenant spoke into his radio: "Uncrypt the 'Vams."
At once, the vampires materialized into reality, shadows in the darkness between the sweeps of the searchlights. The Devo punks started firing their Devolvers, swarming the area. Squads assumed formations, some dropping to the ground or taking up positions behind concrete barricades. The scene became a high-tech bloodbath, and no one was exempt.
The S.L.A.K. troops pinpointed some of the oncoming vehicles and were launching heavy artillery at them. The Devo punks returned fire, with interest. Particle beams and conventional firearms alike shot across the plaza into the ranks of the SubGenius S.L.A.K. squads. One of the Devo choppers was hit, and it plunged down over the riot, out of control, trailing smoke like a hellbound skywriter until finally it crashed into the SubGenius building with a glorious fuel-fed explosion. The concussive shockwave rocked the plaza.
A couple of Devos broke off from the pack and cautiously circled around to the side of the SubGenius Building. They then crept in on a key defensive position and surprised the S.L.A.K. troops that were hunkered down there. They held the troops at gunpoint, and demanded that they run out into the fray. The S.L.A.K. troops refused, so the Devos fired on one of them. The poor SubGenius screamed, dropped his weapon, and rapidly devolved through the mammalian and amphibian stages, and eventually into a colony of paramecia. What was left of his uniform crawled with monocellular life. The ordeal was evidently quite dramatic, for the remaining S.L.A.K. troops reacted by instantaneously vomiting on one another. The Devo punks then forced them out into the melee, where they were quickly and unceremoniously shot to ribbons in the crossfire. Back at Devo Corps secret base, Xandy and Tevis watched on the lounge monitors, high-fiving each other and whooping it up.
Meanwhile, the PsychVams were making proverbial mincemeat out of the Devo punks, who couldn't figure out why their antistatic generators weren't successfully blocking the vampires' attacks. Devos all over fell to the ground, screaming and clutching their swollen, hemorrhaging heads while trying to fire back at the vampires. Occasionally one would get off a lucky shot, and a PsychVam would devolve away like a bad special effect from a B movie.
The smoke from the shattered packages by then had expanded into a huge mass, covering most of the area. Forest suddenly gasped and looked to Gordon, who was guessing what Forest already knew.
"The Smoke!" Forest exclaimed. "It'll block out the laser! We're doomed!"
The laser was indeed becoming progressively useless. As the smoke cloud spread, it covered a larger and larger area, blocking out the laser and reenabling the Devos' antistatic generators.
Gordon grabbed the lieutenant. "Get some fans down here!" he shouted, shaking him. "If we don't get rid of that smoke, we're done for!" But it was too late. The Devo punks were moving on the troops, and devolving them away like nobody's business. Even the vampires, now effectively powerless, were being gorily consumed into their own genetic heritage down to the last man.
Forest, seeing the Devolution guns at work, couldn't believe his eyes. "Fuck!" he said. They’ve got genetic reprogramming beams! That's incredible!"
Gordon didn't understand. "What are they?"
Forest explained as the Devo punks crept closer. "Those weapons they've got rearrange your DNA pattern on the genetic level, scrambling you back through the evolutionary scale. It's the same concept as the Overman, but backward. One hit from those guns, and you're a monkey, man!"
"But they're not monkeys!" Gordon exclaimed, in a panic. "They're just disappearing!"
Forest threw his hands up in the air. "I know! They've got them set so high that the poor guys are just devolving into fish. Into amoebae. Single-celled lifeforms."
Now some Devo punks were dragging a hapless SubGenius trooper kicking and screaming off into the street. They pointed a Devolver at him and laughed hysterically. "Where's you're precious "Bob", eh?" one taunted. "Where's your Sales God Savior now?"
The SubGenius was shaking, and raised his hands in surrender. Offering himself as a prisoner, he bleated, "A-are w-wuh-we not men?" and forced a nervous smile.
The Devotee holding the gun on him simply shook his head. "We are Devo," he answered, and pulled the trigger. A bright blue beam sizzled from the Devolver and was absorbed into the SubGenius' body, which quickly shrunk into a snail. The transmogrified SubGenius crawled away into the night to begin his new life as a slimy invertebrate.
Things only got worse from there. The S.L.A.K. troops had already fallen back twice, and effectively had nowhere to run. In short order, the Devo punks had advanced to the base of the SubGenius building and secured the area. The riot was over.
The scene was one of utter holocaust. S.L.A.K. troops in various stages of evolution crawled, shuffled, slithered and dragged themselves around the street like the denizens of a lurid H.P. Lovecraft story. The smoke from the Devo jet's drop was a formless ghost, slowly curling its dark, ethereal tentacles throughout the riot area. A Devo assault vehicle, crashed and flipped over, burned fiercely and rocked back and forth, its wheels still turning from its impact with a cement blockade. Shattered glass littered the area, occasionally catching glare from the wandering SubGenius searchlights. A distant radio called to its operator, who lay lifeless and laserburned in the street.
As the remaining S.L.A.K. troops watched, now helpless prisoners of the triumphant Devos, a noisy motorcade lurched into view out of the smoke. Heading up the procession were the Devo Corps Elite Cabal, with General Casale and Dr. X in the lead vehicle. Leary, Gibson, Myers, the Bobs and their commensurate squad of faithful retainers followed close behind, rolling along over the bits of rubble that were strewn about downtown Dallas. They drove up to the doors of the World SubGenius Foundation building and screeched to a halt, “Good Thing” blaring over their speakers. Someone executed the common sense to turn it off, although he waited for the verse to come around to do it.
One of the Devotees ran up to the car, opening the door for Casale and saluting.
"The area has been secured, general."
Casale stepped out. "So I see. Good work, men." He paused for a moment as he looked at the group.
“Well, who have we here?" he inquired sarcastically, approaching Forest and Gordon as the other cabal members disembarked.
"Uh, we have prisoners, sir." the Devotee hastily added.
"Hey, hi, Jerry," said Gordon, offering his hand.
Forest slapped it back down. "Shut up, Gordon." he said.
The cabal joined General Casale at the doors. "And some important ones, too." Casale quipped, looking over the officers. "Dr. X, I'd like you to meet Waves Forest, SubGenius scientific advisor and arrogant asshole."
Before Dr. X could respond, Forest said, "I guess we have a lot in common, eh Herr Doctor?"
Leary pushed his way forward. "That's not funny."
G. Gordon Gordon glared at Leary. "Oh shut up, retread!" he said. The two began hurling insults at one another and the Devo punks broke them up before they could actually start throwing punches.
"Look, aren't you going to invite us in?" General Casale asked. "There's been a riot out here, and it just isn't safe. Besides, we have some upper echelon SubGenii to blow away."
The S.L.A.K. lieutenant stepped between Casale and the doors. No way, Devo dickhead!" he snapped. "Only I have the code to the doors and you'll have to kill me before I give it to you."
Leary laughed maniacally. "That can be arranged. Actually, since "Kill Me" is one of the prime tenets of your pathetic church, we'd just devolve your body into primordial ooze to match your brains."
"Real mature, Tim, real mature." Gordon shot back. "Maybe that longevity operation worked a little too well--"
Myers stepped forward. "HEY! Shut the fuck up! We're engineering a coup here."
General Casale nodded. "Alan does have a point. Now, if you won't decode the doors for us, I'm afraid I'll have to have you blasted into slime." he posed to the lieutenant, who remained stalwart.
"No way, asshole. Why don't you go--"
Forest interrupted him. "Hey, guy, open the doors. They'll get in anyway. I'll see that you're awarded a medal of honor or something, okay? Very admirable."
The lieutenant was incredulous. "What? Open our stronghold to the enemy? It's our duty to "Bob" to deny them entry! My orders are to--"
"Your orders are to open the goddamn doors!" Gordon shouted. "They've got the guns, they're giving the orders! Now do it!"
The lieutenant shook his head. "Alright, sir, but I don't like it." He pulled out a magnetic card and inserted it into the slot next to the doors. "Devo Corps sucks", he muttered into a small microphone, glancing antagonistically over his shoulder at the cabal, and put his thumb against the sensor next to the slot. After a moment, a message came up on the readout: VOICE WAVEFORM ANALYSIS AND THUMBPRINT VERIFICATION COMPLETE. ADMITTANCE AFFIRMATIVe. The doors unlocked with a quiet, bassy click and opened outward. The lieutenant withdrew the card and turned around, still defiant.
"Very intelligent, for a SubGenius." the General lauded. "However," he continued, "You are one of those unbearably fanatical loyalists, and pose too much of a risk. You might try something stupid." He turned to the Devotee. "Shoot him anyway."
The Devo punk obeyed instantly, firing his Devolver at the lieutenant's head. It mutated into a huge, overgrown bald spud just slightly before the rest of his body followed suit. The Overlieutenant screamed in the agony of hyperevolution and dropped to the ground.
"Whoops, wrong way," exclaimed the Devotee, reversing the setting and firing again on the prone form convulsing at his feet. The mutant creature turned briefly back into the lieutenant before shrinking away into a walleye. The look on his face during that moment was horrible to watch. Evidently being devolved was excruciatingly painful.
Forest shook his head and sniffed, wiping away a tear. "Make that a posthumous medal of honor," he lamented.
General Casale clapped his hands together. "Well, gentlemen, shall we go? I believe the phrase is, 'Take me to your leader.'"
Forest and Gordon led the way indoors, leaving the few S.L.A.K. troops that were still alive—and human—outside, under the guard of the Devotees. Gordon whistled the Devo Corporate Anthem loudly as they went around the reception desk and down the hall, to the extreme annoyance of everybody, including Forest.
"Stop that!" Leary demanded. "You're just trying to alert your cohorts!"
"Don't be stupid," Gordon said. "Even as we speak, we're being monitored." He illustrated his point by offhandedly gesturing at a video camera mounted on the wall.
"Well, then they can see that you two are leading the way and will be the first to bite it if there's any shooting." announced General Casale. "Move it."
The party quietly shuffled down the hall and around the corner. A contingent of armed S.L.A.K. troops were stationed behind the SubGenius information display, a tall triangular map and directory that listed the locations of various offices within the building. It proclaimed, "You are here!" at the bottom of the map in a gaudy Day-Glo star.
"Hold it! Drop your weapons!" one of the troops yelled.
Casale spoke up, nudging Gordon. "Tell them to disarm and stand down, or we'll see that you're given a good home in the Dallas zoo. Or maybe a nice lake somewhere...."
Gordon nodded. "You heard 'im, boys. At ease. They're packing Devolution guns."
The troops looked confused, but complied, dropping their weapons, and a few Devotees broke off to cover them. Gibson motioned toward the elevator, and a door leading to the stairway. "Let's take the stairs," he suggested. "They could trap us in the elevator."
Gordon smiled. "No good. You want the Colonel. Top floor, express elevator only. Have to take your chances."
"He's right." Casale admitted. He withdrew a set of the building's blueprints. "The stairs don't go all the way up."
Gordon became incensed. "Where the hell did you get those?"
The general huffed an overly-dramatic sigh. "I did help put the thing together, remember?"
"Oh, yeah." Gordon said sheepishly.
"All right then, open the elevator. Let's get moving."
Gordon raised his hands in defeat. "I can't. I don't have clearance during alert. The only way it can be opened is from upstairs."
At that, Dr. X spoke up. "I think I can be of service here," he said, pushing up his heavy glasses. Stepping toward the control panel, he produced an object that looked much like a tire gauge from his pocket, and pointed it at the elevator's control panel. It made a small, high-pitched whine, and within moments the panel exploded in a brilliant pyrotechnic display of sparks. The doors opened and Dr. X stepped back.
"Very impressive, Doctor." General Casale said, entering. As he followed everyone in, Forest raised a curious eyebrow.
"Hey, d'you make that yourself?" he asked Dr. X.
"Yes, I did. Quite simple really," he said handing over the object. The doors to the elevator closed and the car began the long climb upward to the top of the building.
Forest turned the device over in his hands, examining it. "Variable wave modulator?"
The scientist nodded. "Correct. It operates on an inverted phase loop, so that any peripheral ions inherent in the electron flux are automatically discharged.”
"Yeah, good idea." Forest concurred, impressed. Gibson looked on with interest.
Leary nudged Dr. X. "You guys are supposed to be enemies, remember? You sound like a couple of students at science camp." Forest handed the gadget back.
The rest of the short jaunt was spent in uncomfortable silence. The car soon slowed and came to a gentle stop. The doors opened.
"Get out." General Casale ordered, pushing the SubGenii forward. He cautiously peered into the large, ornately decorated office and followed them in, succeeded by the cabal. As if rehearsed, Forest and Gordon abruptly dived to either side to reveal an armed and lunatic Puzzling Evidence.
"Die, Devo, Die!!" he screamed, firing his Browning 9mm automatic into the cabal. The shots rang out, echoing loudly off the walls. Gordon covered his ears while Forest scrambled feverishly to safety behind a desk. 'Evidence continued his one-man assault, laughing insidiously and pausing only to eject the spent magazine from his gun and jam in a fresh one.
Taken completely by surprise, the Devo cabal dropped to the floor and rolled to the walls. Forest was quickly performing some unseen task behind the desk. The Devotees that were not fully yet in the room took up anxious positions outside the door and drew beads on Puzzling Evidence. Casale, Leary and both Bobs were hit, and gouted blood on the nice, new shag rug that the SubGenius Foundation had just had installed the week before.
Forest popped up from behind the desk, brandishing a weighty, electronic grenade. He threw it two-handed into the room, ducked back down, and covered his head. Two more bullets shot with explosive force from Puzzling Evidence's Browning as he fired on the Devotees, just as they pulled the triggers on their devolvers. Seeing his chance, Gordon stole up and dove for cover behind a filing cabinet, but didn't quite make it. He and Puzzling Evidence were both struck by the Devolvers' electric blue beams, and instantaneously started to devolve. The grenade then detonated in a scintillating prismatic spray of temporal striation, catching Dr. X, Bob 1, Gibson and just about everybody else. Time suddenly seemed to slow down, like film, and came to an inexorable halt with a horrible screeching noise like metal bending. The revolting smell of something like burning insulation pervaded the room. All was suddenly quiet, save the grenade's operational hum.
Forest got up and brushed himself off. "C'mon in, guys," he said, looking into the room's video camera. He sat down on the desk and waited for the others to join him from the conference room next door.
The door opened, and Ivan Stang and Colonel Mothersbaugh entered. "Alright, Waves!" Stang said, high-fiving Forest.
"What is that, a temporal displacement unit of some kind?" Mothersbaugh asked, curiously eyeing the grenade from a distance.
"Yeah. Careful, don't get too close to the field. Don't want you in there too when it restores normal time."
"How long d'you have it set for?" Stang queried, looking at the frozen spectacle.
Forest shrugged. "I didn't have time to set it. I think the default setting is about five minutes."
"Just enough time for a 'fropstick. Care for one?" Mothersbaugh held out the pack to Stang.
"Sure, why not." They lit up and smoked while watching the temporal displacement field and its inhabitants. General Casale's face was a visage of pain, expressing his distaste for being shot through the stomach by Puzzling Evidence's 9mm. Leary, Bob 2 and the Devotees were probably mortally wounded, but looked peaceful, almost asleep. Gordon and Puzzling Evidence were respectively a low-level crustacean of some kind, and a close relative to the wombat. The 9mm lay next to the marsupial, hovering in the air.
Forest got up and walked around the displacement field, picking up a Devolver that had been thrown from one of the Devotees when the grenade went off. He looked it over, and rejoined the others.
"As far as I can tell, we should be able to return them to normal by reversing the setting on this thing and shooting them with it again." He smiled. "Although I do kind of like them better the way they are." He adjusted the setting appropriately.
"Yeah, me too." Colonel Mothersbaugh said. "If that works, can you shoot it at the battlefield and restore the S.L.A.K. troops?"
Forest nodded. "I think so. As long as they haven't strayed too far, or discorporated into separate colonies of paramecia. We could probably hook it in to the SCS and hit 'em all at once."
The figures on the floor stirred, as the temporal displacement field slowly returned its occupants to normal time. The injured Devo cabal and Devotees resumed their bleeding and plaintive lamenting, and the two devolved SubGenii continued their way down the evolutionary ladder. The others simply looked around and tried to comprehend what had happened, and why everyone else was moving so fast. Forest reevolved Gordon, then Puzzling Evidence. Colonel Mothersbaugh unsnapped his holster and covered the cabal with his pistol. The uninjured ones assessed the situation and got up slowly, disoriented.
Shaking off the effects of the grenade, Myers said, "What happened?"
Forest explained. "I hit you with a temporal displacement grenade. It essentially created a short-term stasis field."
General Casale looked up from the floor. "Where on Earth did you get that?" he asked in disbelief, and grimaced in pain. His stomach was bleeding profusely.
"Technically, I won't get it for a while yet." Forest helped Gordon off the floor. "And if won’t be on Earth. I don't think I'll be able to get another, though. I was saving that one for a rainy day." Puzzling Evidence stood up and joined Stang, who began explaining the events to him.
Colonel Mothersbaugh pressed an intercom button on the desk. "Connie, get some security officers and medics in here, and take us off alert. We have the situation under control."
"Yes, sir." came the response.
"Now, Jerry, tell your people to get up, those who can. Including you." Mothersbaugh said, still covering him. Casale complied, and his cabal stood up, except for Leary.
Gibson leaned over and put two fingers to the outside of Leary's neck, then stood up. "He's dead."
Three security officers walked in the room and covered the Devo cabal with pistols.
"Take these men away to the detention cells, and get someone up here to clean up Dr. Leary's body." began the colonel.
"Just a moment, please." Dr. X said. He held up his arm, to which was strapped a small, watchlike device that seemed to have gone previously unnoticed. "I'm afraid I have the 'upper hand'," the mousy doctor chuckled. "One wrong move and I will detonante the tiny thermonuclear device on my wrist. We will now return to our base unimpeded or everyone gets blown to microns and your entire building with it." His tinny voice and his expression were deadpan serious.
Puzzling Evidence shook his head. "He’s bluffing."
"Want to find out, jerkoff?" Casale said weakly, holding his gut.
Gordon looked at Mothersbaugh and gestured toward the door. "I don't think we should take any chances. Let them go."
The colonel agreed. "All right. Get the hell out of here,” he said to Casale, none too happy about it. "But one question first."
The cabal began filing out, the security guards moving aside. General Casale glanced at Mothersbaugh with a pained expression. "What is it, Mark?"
"How did you know to release the smoke? You anticipated the laser?"
The general shrugged. "No, we didn't. We just released the smoke bombs to create a screen for our men. It was purely tactical. Dumb luck."
Colonel Mothersbaugh's eyes grew wide. "Great. Total FlukeSlack." he uttered. General Casale and the remainder of the Devo Cabal triumphantly left the room.
Stang looked down at the body on the floor. "What about Leary?" he called after them.
Casale laughed, entering the elevator. "He was a clone anyway." He pushed the button for the bottom floor, and the doors began to close. "See you next week, assholes!" he shouted as the doors came together, and they began the descent down to street level.
Stay Tuned Next Week For
After Hours in the AM/PM
by Sean Manseau
only on The Freezine of Fantasy
and Science Fiction