Fantasy & Sci-Fi

The Undead Kid – Part 2

By Richard Lovig a.k.a. Jack

"Apologize! I'm not going to apologize! If you'd explained things more clearly, we wouldn't have a problem." I folded my arms and leaned back in my seat.

"I tried to explain. You cut me off. Impact in twenty seconds."

"Uh, Kid?"

"What now Kistan?"

"Do you think, maybe, as a favor to me, you could argue this later and apologize now?"

"Thirteen, twelve, eleven..."

I looked at the ground rushing up, listened to the Demon counting down, then, with great reluctance, said, "Okay, okay, I'm sorry! Happy?"

"What about that crack about replacing me with a Cybertronics system? Eight seconds to impact."

"Okay! I'm sorry about that too!"

"Pursuit program aborted at an altitude of one-hundred and fifty meters, height above ground. And I hope that you've learned a lesson." The lines on the tactical display slowed and shifted direction again as we pulled into level flight.

"All right," I growled, "Now that that's settled, where's Phil?"

"Gone. The ejection capsule made an emergency six-space transit."

"While he was still in the atmosphere? Risky," Kistan opinioned. "I hope he made it."

I glared at Kistan. "I don't. I hope he transited straight into the sun."

"That's not very nice Kid. Now, I admit that I didn't care for him much, and that he did try to rip you off, but--"

"Us! He tried to rip us off!"

"Actually, according to New Utah law, he ripped off Bureaucracy Inc.," the Demon commented.

"That's still in litigation," I snapped.

"The chances against you winning that case are--"

"Hey! You're a party to that suit too, remember?".

"Granted," the Demon said grudgingly. "Anyway, Phil didn't transit into the sun. According to my calculations, there's a ninety-four percent chance that he wound up at the Alternity Bar and Grill. Did you want to try and follow him there?"

"Definitely not. That's where the girls are." I started to add something else, but was distracted by something on the tactical display.

"Demon, what are all of these ground traces?" I pointed to a cluster of symbols at the bottom of the screen.

"Metallic construction, overgrown by vegetation. An abandoned city perhaps."

"Hey, I though we were supposed to have this place to ourselves," Kistan said. "Demon, scan for life readings."

"Scanning." There was a pause, then, "That's odd."

"What?" I was getting bored. If Phil was gone he was gone. And if he had gone to the Alternity, there was nothing much we could do about it, unless we wanted to run into the girls, which personally, I didn't.

"Well, there are conventional readings from the native life forms, as one would expect..."

"And?"

"And then there are some readings that I can't seem to get a decent fix on. Very strange. Also, there's something odd in the air."

"Harmful?" I asked, trying to cut this short.

"It shouldn't be. It looks like some sort of medical nanite. An odd design, but it definitely won't kill you. Shouldn't even make you sick. In fact--"

"Look, if it won't kill you, and it won't make you sick, I for one see no point in worrying about it." I glanced at the screen again, and noticed that we were just about to pass over the cottage. "Set us down here."

"All right. Landing."

On the way back to the cottage I spotted Phil's jacket and picked it up. "Hey Kistan, look at this."

"Let me see that."

"Sure." I handed it over. "Although personally, I think your leather jacket suits you better."

"I don't want to wear it, I want our money."

"Hey, yeah. Good idea."

I watched him go through the jacket's pockets. He extracted the envelope with our money in it and a thick sheaf of plastic cards, then discarded the jacket.

"What are those?" I asked, indicating the cards.

"Business cards." He started flipping through them. "Let's see here. Real Estate Agent, Interior Decorator, Exterminator, Massage Therapist..." Kistan looked thoughtfully at that card for a moment, then pocketed it. "Anyhow, I'd say this proves he wasn't a real real estate agent." He shook his head sadly. "You, know, it's a sad commentary on the state of things when you can't even buy a planet from some guy you meet in a bar without getting ripped off."

"Tragic, truly tragic," I agreed. "On the other hand, we still have the boat, the money, the keys, the--"

"Hey, yeah! We can take the boat and the money and go to New Lauderdale. They're holding their annual 'Babes and Booze at the Beach,' festival this week."

"Forget it. The girls specifically warned us to stay away from New Lauderdale. Besides, we've got a perfectly good planet here. Why let all this natural beauty go to waste?"

"New Lauderdale has natural beauty too," Kistan muttered.

"Forget it," I repeated. "The girls'd kill us. I mean, after that whole New Utah thing, they're already pretty unhappy with us. And this place is much safer too."

"How so?"

"Well, just think about it. If we went to New Lauderdale, there'd be all sorts of people there. People are trouble. I mean, look at all the trouble I always wind up getting into while dealing with people."

"Yeah. Husbands, fathers, boyfriends, collection agencies, intelligence agencies, adoption agencies--"

"Anyhow," I said, cutting him off. "You get the point. People are nothing but trouble. Here, there are no people." I put my arm around him and began leading toward our boat, saying, "Just think, the nice, relaxing vacation we've always wanted. I mean, what kind of trouble could we possibly get into fishing?"

"Now this is the life," I said, sipping at a cold bulb of beer. "It's a beautiful day, and no one is trying to kill us, enslave us, or belittle us. Best of all, the girls don't even know where we are."

"Uh-huh," Kistan said.

I looked over at him. He was staring at the Tri-D set built into the control panel of the boat, and ignoring me.

"Kistan, how can you watch Tri-D on a day like this? The sun is shining, the fish are biting, and the beer is cold. How can Tri-D compare to that?"

"Uh-huh."

I sat back and looked out across the lake, taking in the view. I looked at the sun as it sparkled off the water. I looked at the green trees in the distance and the fluffy white clouds in the sky. I looked down at the fishing pole in my right hand, and the drink bulb in my left.

Eventually, I turned my seat around and looked at the Tri-D.

"So, what's on?"

"Some kind of fake news report, on a channel from Vista IV," Kistan informed me. "Sort of like that War of the Worlds thing they did on Earth. Only this is all about some colony world getting overrun by the undead. It's pretty neat."

"Uh-huh." I leaned over and turned it up.

"...standing here on the Vista IV side of the Gate, watching refugees come through from the colony on Cophetti..."

"Cophetti? Isn't that the same as our planet's name?" I asked Kistan.

"Uh-huh."

"...fallen victim to a defective medical nanite which seems to bring the dead back to life..."

"Ridiculous," Kistan muttered. "The dead coming back to life. Who'd believe something like that?"

"Um, yeah." I took another sip from my beer.

"...bring you this scene of Vista IV's ground troops, as they carry out the forced evacuation and quarantine of Cophetti's civilian population."

"Boy, look at those zombies swarming around down there. There must be..."

"Uh, Kistan?"

"...least a thousand of 'em." He looked up from the screen, puzzled by the edge in my voice. "Yeah?"

"Are you sure that this isn't a real news report?"

"How could it be? All of the dates are fifteen years old. It's a rerun."

"How far away did Phil say that Vista IV was?"

"About fifteen light-years."

"Right." I leaned over and tapped the set. "And what kind of set is this?"

"An Ethric Portable.".

"Very good. Now think about this. Ethric casts only propagate at the speed of light. If this is being sent from Vista IV, that means it's about fifteen years old."

"How's that again?"

"Look, if they taped it here, sent it through an FTL Gate, then cast it from Vista IV, it would just now be getting here."

"Oh, you mean, all this happened here fifteen years ago, but we're only just seeing it because of the light speed delay?"

"Exactly!" Pleased at having made my point, I leaned back in my seat. "I swear Kistan, sometimes the most obvious things just pass right by you."

"Uh, Kid..."

"I mean, important things. Things that could involve actual survival issues. Things that--"

"Uh, Kid?"

"What now? I'm trying to make a point here. I..." I trailed off as my fishing pole disappeared over the side of the boat, pulled by something at the end of the line. As I grabbed for the pole, something green and slimy emerged from the water and seized my wrist, closely followed by a second something (which strongly resembled, to my horror, a decrepit, decaying hand.) which attached itself to the edge of the boat. A moment later a decayed and grinning head appeared, followed by a body as the loosely associated and horribly animate collection of parts began trying to pull itself into the boat.

Overcoming my surprise, I responded in the cool, professional manner with which I have been trained to deal with the dangerous and unexpected.

"Aiiiugh! Shoot it Kistan! Shoot it!"

"Righty Ho!" Kistan drew his gun and took aim. When I saw where he was aiming I screamed again.

"The thing you moron! Not me!"

"Oh. Right." He fired at the thing's head, blowing it apart. The rest of it kept coming.

"Hmm. That didn't work." Kistan lowered his aim slightly, and fired into the torso, blowing it into slimy little gobbets of decayed flesh. They continued moving, but lacked sufficient cohesion to continue advancing. "There, that's better. You okay Kid?"

"Well, I dropped my drink, and the thing's hand is still around my wrist, but other than that, yeah, I'm fine."

"I don't know about your drink, but we can take care of that hand real quick." He took aim again.

"Hey, no! I have a better idea." I pulled a vibroblade from my boot and used it to carefully slice away the fingers clamped around my wrist. When the fingers were severed, the hand dropped into the water with a quiet plop and sank. I was about to start on the hand attached to the gunwhale when I heard Kistan shout.

"Kid! Behind you!"

I turned. Another of the things had pulled itself out of the water, into the back of the boat, and was reaching for me.

I lashed out with the blade, cutting loose an arm. The thing staggered back slightly, then began advancing again. The brief pause however, gave me the time I needed. I dropped the blade, drew my gun, and fired.

The shot caught it in the chest, blowing it backward into two more zombies which were attempting to climb into the boat. Behind me, I could hear Kistan firing as well.

The next few minutes were busy as the things came at us in twos and threes. We managed to hold them off, but it was close. If they had come at us all at once, we'd have been in real trouble. Fortunately, they didn't seem to be bright enough to think of it.

When the onslaught let up a bit, I pulled out my interface card and yelled into it. "Demon, we're under attack. Now would be an excellent time to come and get us!"

"On my way."

I put the card away and fired again, taking out one that was trying to sneak up on Kistan.

Shortly thereafter, I spotted the Demon as she crossed the treetops, heading toward the boat. When she was directly overhead, she stopped and opened fire.

A lance of blue-white, superheated plasma stabbed down from the Demon, touched the water, and described a slow circle around the boat. The heat and noise were incredible. Lightnings jumped and crackled within the area of the blast and the smell of ozone filed the air.

Eventually, the firing ceased. Within the boat were small bits of blasted zombie, some of which were still twitching and sizzling. The water of the lake boiled gently, sending up a cloud of steam and a smell of boiled zombie.

The Demon descended on her gravity drive, dropping until she was level with the boat. Kistan and I waited nervously for her doors to fold open, then scrambled inside.

"Well," Kistan said once we were safely airborne. "At least now we know what Phil was so nervous about."

"Yeah. And what a great way to discover it. Ugh." I rubbed my wrist for a moment, then reached over to the AutoBar and dialed a drink. I took a long pull from it, then said, "You realize we're going to have trouble with the girls over this, don't you? If we go back early, they're going to suspect something."

"So, what do we do?"

I shrugged. "Nothing much we can do. We're just going to have to stick it out."

"With those things running around out there? We won't have a chance! And I'm not spending the rest of our vacation in the Demon."

"Don't worry," I said soothingly. "We'll stay in in the cottage. There's an automated perimeter defense system aboard the Dawn Star. We'll send the Demon back for it."

"And how do we hold them off while the Demon's gone?"

"Burn a perimeter around the cottage with the Demon's weapons, then sit up on the roof with blast rifles until the Demon gets back."

"Sounds dangerous."

"More dangerous than telling Patty how we got ripped off and bought a planet that's overrun with the undead?"

"Uh..."

"I though you'd see it my way. Demon, take us back to the cottage."