Friday, March 22, 2013
Bonus Story: Don't Show Your Face to the Sky
It had been six years since he had been found guilty of murder through inaction, and six years living in this hellhole under a terminal house arrest. Outside his opulent home complex he could see from the belfry window the rain pattering down on the grass, jostling it with the wind in the wild brilliance of nature. As he sat in his rocking chair from the window he watched the sky open up an endless torrent on the grounds all around him.
Cormac Pidgeon watched the garden, breathed in the wet air as it wafted through his open window. He was a prisoner in his own home. Since his execution date he had arranged everything he needed. Being a multi-millionaire had its advantages. Rather than going out into the world, Cormac had found his own ways of living as a forgotten relic of another time.
The means of execution for Cormac were neither cruel, nor direct. The Hand of God orbital platform had been launched fifteen years ago amid mixed applause and jeers from the public finally ready to accept it. Execution was now streamlined, inoffensive, and out of mind. A simple particle stream fired from the orbital platform would be sent down and into the body of the offending party as they made themselves visible to the cloud piercing cameras high above. Indoors, beneath the insulation of his home he was safe from the satellite's uncompromising eyes.
Cormac had finally given serious thought to the concept years after it was implemented when he was put up on charges of negligent homicide. The details of the case were trivial. An employee had died as the result of mislabeled medication. Eventually the responsibility climbed the ladder all the way to him. The official justification was simple - the men responsible for hiring the men responsible for mislabeling the pills should never have been hired.
The judge was kind enough. He had said Mr. Pidgeon with his vast resources could easily live out the rest of his days behind closed doors quite comfortably - a shut in to be forgotten by the world with the toys he had acquired in life. And of course the scotch.
Cormac spent most of his days in the indoor peacock garden feeding the birds and strolling along the small glowing path waiting for the end to come. Friends and family members visited him regularly, talking to him about the outside world and doing their best to keep him comfortable and sane. The opulent conditions of his house certainly didn't deter old friends from making regular appearances.
The neighborhood around Cormac's mansion quickly fell into disrepair. The nearest house, one quarter of a mile east of his own had even seen national headlines as it emerged that an illegal Velocitrops fighting ring had operated there. Federal agents came in and scrubbed the site clean, capturing the abused monstrosities and carrying them away. Needless to say, that house had been on the market ever since.
Still, these things mattered very little to Cormac as he sat taking in the old droning of his tech operas and watched with disinterested amusement the images that followed him on his eight foot wall screen as he strolled through the gardens.
But it was one night in June when Cormac found himself idly sitting looking out the window listening to an old tech opera that he spotted a figure pushing through the mist onto his property.
If they were friends, they hadn't announced their presence. If they were burglars, they would surely find it impossible to breach the polylead door of his mansion or the 3" thick one-way view metal windows. As he watched, he leaned forward pensively and waved his hand over the singing victrolin, filling the room with a dead silence save for the pattering of raindrops on the windows.
In the distance, the roll of thunder could be heard as Cormac stood and grabbed his binoculars, looking out at the woman running toward his front door. She wasn't dressed for the weather, instead made up for the sorts of parties he used to host in younger days. But unfortunately, she was years too late. She kept looking around wildly and yelling. He strained his ears to listen.
"Help?" he repeated. With her hair drenched and clinging behind her, she once again looked down the path and Cormac followed her gaze to the edge of his estate. There, he saw it - the atrocity. It snarled, rearing back on its haunches, and bellowed in a flash of lightning with its jowls trembling pendulously beneath its cheeks and its massive jagged teeth exposed. And in that moment he knew what had happened.
It had come back from a time long before. The velocitrops had been designed to remember. People, places, the scent of blood, the location of a battle once lost, it remembered it all in its artificially primitive brain. In the war the creatures had occasionally escaped, returning to the war grounds to once again challenge the machines that had defeated them. To meet a velocitrops meant death had signed a contract - either theirs or yours. It was clear this monster had escaped its tormentors, likely killing them, and made the long slinking journey back to hunt prey and vindicate itself.
Cormac had only seen a sight such as this in the late night horror shows. Typically the woman would be seen stumbling and falling as the creature closed in, turning to crawl backwards helplessly as it descended on her for the kill. This was not the case. Almost immediately this woman ran to his car and upon finding it locked, smashed the window with a rock and climbed in.
"She won't find much useful in there," Cormac said helplessly as the velocitrops circled the car. It was too large to actually fit in the window, but it would surely find a way in soon enough - either by smashing the windshield or tearing through the door with its massive jaws. He would have to act quickly. He picked up the telephone and dialed for the police.
"How may I be of assistance?" a polite woman on the other end asked after a single ring.
"This is Cormac Pidgeon," Cormac said, draining his glass of scotch nervously, "There is a woman outside my house trapped in a car. There's a velocitrops."
"Is this call being made from your current address?" the woman said professionally. In the background Cormac could hear typing. She continued, "As you know your estate is quite near the county line and there is currently an intercounty border dispute. We cannot send armed police into your area. Piton County has said they will consider this an act of war. Were you not at the last town hall meeting?"
"What's the number for the Piton County Sheriff?" Cormac asked, glancing out the window to see the creature charge the car and hurl its hulking head into its side, "Now, please."
"You're not going to get any help from them. Your land is currently in neutral territory. No police are authorized in that zone until the border transition is approved by the governor's office. Your best bet is to call some friends to help you resolve this. Best of luck."
Cormac slammed the phone onto the receiver clenching his eyes shut. This was it. This was how they were finally going to get him. He opened the closet and grabbed his long robe and put it on over his house clothes. His coat and boots had been thrown away long ago. Slippers would have to do.
From his desk drawer he considered his twelve shooter. The bullets therein would be too small to ever penetrate the fleshy hide of the velocitrops, but it would make the creature mad enough to follow him if he managed to get more than three steps into the yard. He took it and put it in his robe pocket and made it all the way to the massive front door.
Out there. He knew he would be cut down by the Hand of God the moment he walked out into that stormy night. But maybe he could help. It was no longer time to be Cormac the hunted or Cormac the idle player of music. It was time to act. He rolled the cylinder of his twelve shooter and shoved the massive swinging door out.
It was incredible, the things he had forgotten about the outdoors. The smell of grass grown wild without care and the sound of rain falling like confetti around him. It was all to be enjoyed for only a second before the velocitrops snorted and turned glaring down at him. Cormac held out the tiny pistol and fired,
"Run to the house!" he screamed as he sprinted out into his lawn. Memories of his life danced through his head. Here he was a child playing cowboys and indians with his mother. There he was a simple clerk ferrying messages through a vast labyrinth of vacuum tubes. He remembered the trip he had taken with his fiancee to orbit around Mars and the lonely journey home. And he remembered the thing he had done - killed through negligence.
High above the planet Cormac Pidgeon's image was spotted by the Hand of God platform. In the vast coldness of space the infrared satellite cameras were detailed enough to pick out the individual hairs on Cormac's head and project his expected movements with impossible accuracy. Deep within its rotating cylinder the process began. It fired a tiny jet of projectiles as uniformed as a bullet to disperse into a high velocity cloud of mass the size of a grapefruit by the time it hit Cormac's head. Deep within the machine, Cormac's records were updated with the cold swiftness of a computer.
Below Cormac watched as the Velocitrops turned on him and began its thundering clamor toward. From the car the young woman sprinted quickly to the house in a flash. She would be saved. There was that at least. The door began closing automatically behind her as she watched from inside. The light from his home bled dark with a pneumatic whirr. For seconds she watched as the door closed.
Cormac closed his eyes from the world in his soaked bath robe as the creature leaped. There was a gut wrenching sound as it toppled him. And then it suddenly got lighter with a sickening splatter.
When Cormac came to his senses, it was to the woman pulling at his arm. He was in the middle of the wrecked Velocitrops' remains and he stood dusting the pieces from him and shivering in the rain.
"What happened to it?" She asked, pulling him up.
"Murder," he said looking at the prodigious carnage all around him. He chuckled, "Murder by negligence."
"Who are you?" he heard her say beneath the thunder resonating in the distance.
"I'm," Cormac fluttered his eyes as a grin broke out from ear to ear. He looked up at the sky bleeding harmless crystal clear drops all over him, "I'm dead."