"Tim!" Alison screamed.
She watched as Tim stopped struggling under the weight of the women
piling into the room, his blood slowly filling the floor around his
body. Alison backed up against the wall out of the way of the angry
women, but they paid her no never mind, and instead set about walloping
all the equipment in the room. As Alison realized their lack of interest
in her doings, she started to creep out of the room.
Alison recognized the smell of tear gas from her own experience with
it the previous year. It was starting to dissipate, but still, she covered
her mouth and nose with her sleeve as she raced through the room. Whatever
carnage had occurred there seemed to have moved on, having left a large
quantity of breakage as well as a body or two on the ground. As she
ran for the door, officers wearing gas masks filed into the room, and
she gestured to where she'd come from and shouted through her sleeve, "Through
there!" One of the officers grabbed her by the arm and pulled her
out of the station into the open air.
"Are you all right, miss?" he asked.
"I'm fine," she said, "But I think they killed Officer
"All right, Ma'am, stay here. You'll be safest if you stick close
to the police station, we'll be able to keep things under control here."
"Hold on," a nearby officer said. "You're Alison Ames,
"Yes…" she replied, hesitantly.
"Come with me," the second officer said, and grabbed her
by the arm.
"Where are you taking me?"
"Just because we have bigger troubles than you right now doesn't
mean we're going to let you walk free. Come on."
The officer pulled Alison towards the lot where the patrol vehicles
sat. He took her to one of them, number 24, and shoved her up against
"Put your hands on the back of your head," he said.
Alison blinked a few times. She smiled.
"Does your wife know about Doeling yet?"
"What?" the officer cried. He spun Alison around forcefully
and jabbed his left arm against her neck, pinning her in place. "How
do you know about that?"
Alison replied weakly, her voice a bit choked, "Back up and I'll
"You'll tell me, bitch-"
"Just- coff- give me a little space…"
The cops arm loosened his grip on her, and stepped back a few steps,
but drew his gun as he did so, taking aim right at Alison. She wasn't
fond of guns; particularly those pointed at her. She eyed the officer
"A little to your right," she said.
"What is this crap?" he said, but did move ever so slightly
to his right.
"Two things. First of all, don't leave her letters to you in your
pockets. You wife does the laundry, idiot. Second of all-"
A crash came from a window two stories above them in the building next
to the lot. The cop has exactly enough time to look upwards before the
fax machine smacked him in the face, sending him toppling to the ground.
A senseless cry echoed out from the shattered window.
"I agree," Alison said.
She immediately set about grabbing through the cop's things, and found
his keys after only a moment or so of searching. She pulled his jacket
off, and slipped it on. It was a bit big on her, but it was close enough
for now. She also grabbed his hat, which, surprisingly, fit. As an afterthought,
she grabbed his gun as well. You never know.
She leapt into the patrol car, her confidence building as she sped
out of the lot. After all, things were starting to make sense now.
Unfortunately, Red, Argento, and Chelsea were unable to make it to
the Police station. They had been driving along smoothly, My Sharona playing on the radio, Red proposing ideas for ways to spring Alison,
and Argento shooting them down (with Chelsea chiming in her reassurance
to Red that if he kept thinking, she was sure he'd come up with something!),
when they were suddenly stopped by a stumbling hoard of violent football
Well, Red thought they looked like football players, in their builds
at least, but the fact that they were all dressed as cheerleaders sort
of confused the issue a bit. They were all wearing skirts the blue and
white colors of their school and had some sort of badger-like creature
stitched onto the uniforms, a number of them wore wigs, and they all
had on far too much lipstick, even those in their number with prominent
facial hair. The boys seemed to be pouring out of the torn open door
of a crashed bus, the driver of which appeared to be knocked out. They
seemed dazed, and at first Red believed they might have been injured
in the crash, but changed his point of view when they began to violently
beat upon anything mechanical or electronic around them.
"What they hell are they doing?" Argento asked.
"They're coming this way," Red answered.
A number of them were. While some of them beat on the other nearby
cars, a handful began to slam their fists upon Argento's, particularly
near Red, in his shiny new 'Mediator' suit.
"I don't think they feel the savior's love," Chelsea said.
"You know," said Red, "you just might be- Whoa!"
Unable to get through the windows yet (or, apparently, grasp the concept
of the door-handles) the boys had begun to rock the car violently. Red
could feel the wheels beginning to lift off the ground as they pushed
one way, then the next.
"Oh crap, they're going to-"
And before he could say 'flip us,' they flipped them.
The car creaked and groaned as it rolled onto its roof. Red's Mediator
helmet, which he'd had on his lap, smacked Argento in the side of the
head. The three passengers had been wearing their seatbelts, and as
such, they hung down hard on the straps. Red was the first to hit the
release button and fall to the roof. The others followed suit a moment
"I think I need to put a stop to this."
"Red," said Argento, "What are you going to do?"
Red wiggled onto his back, drew his sword, and sliced off the passenger
side of the car. He kicked hard on the sliced segment, and it smacked
satisfyingly against the faux-cheerleaders, sending them stumbling.
As they struggled to regain their footing, Red grabbed his helmet, slipped
it on his head, and pointed his feet, taking to the air.
Seeing Red in his amazing flying armor immediately captivated the attention
of the boys. The majority of them gave up on smashing whatever they
were attempting to destroy and turned their attention to him. Red, for
his part, was keeping above their heads, flying around in circles, watching
them stumble after them. He swiped at them with his sword, but they
didn't seem to mind a bit as their wigs, shirts, and falsies fell to
the ground and were trampled mindlessly underfoot.
"It's just like what happened to Alison!" Argento called,
crawling out of the wreckage. "Red, they're not thinking, they're
just destroying anything electronic!"
"So, what do I do?" Red said.
"I don't know… hit them?"
"No!" Chelsea shouted. "That's no way to spread love!
These boys just need-"
"Shut up, Chelsea!"
Red started swooping a little lower, clocking the boys on the head
with the hilt of his sword as he passed. He had knocked out three of
them in the head and was coming around for a fourth when he got a little
too close to the bastards and they grabbed a hold of him. Before he
could even fully recognize what was happening, they dragged him down
and were piling on top of him, tearing at his limbs. Red began screaming.
The casing of Red's right forearm was the first thing to crack and
be torn off the outfit as Red struggled to get free. Red could hear
the jet's motor buzzing on overtime on his back, and then, a moment
later, he heard the sickening sound of pureed flesh, as one of the boys
had stuck his hand inside the jet. The boy let out an angered yell,
and began pounding his newly formed bloody stump on Red's back, and
a moment later, he felt a snap as the jet's casing cracked loose. As
the boys pried it free, the rotor spun off its axle and shot out into
the forehead of one of the attackers. The rest of the cheerleaders kept
tearing away at Red's shell, trying to slip their fingers into the cracks.
A cell phone rang.
The boys paused on top of Red, and he felt their weight shift. The
phone rang again, the familiar electronic corporate ring of the common
"Come on, boys!" called Argento. "Come and get it."
The boys began to rise, and as Red looked over his shoulder, he could
see Argento holding the cell over his head. The stumbling mass began
moving en masse towards the little singing device.
"Here you go, you want this, don't you?" Argento backed up
a little until his back was against the flipped, sliced car. "Fetch!" Argento
brought his arm back and threw the phone as hard as he could over the
boys' heads and away from Red. Their heads all turned in unison to follow
the device, and as it smacked to the ground, they all piled on top of
it like it was the first down.
"Run!" Argento cried, grabbing Chelsea's arm and jerking
her into motion.
Red leapt up from the ground, bleeding slightly but the exoskeleton
having saved him from any broken bones. He was missing the aforementioned
right forearm panel, jet motor (robbing him of his ability to fly),
and his left thigh panel as well, but everything else seemed to be in
place. He fell into step just behind Argento and Chelsea as they ran
past him, and was at their side as they rounded the corner and skidded
to a halt.
Red could see, roughly, forty or so men, women, and children scattered
around the street in front of them destroying things. They looked up
at Red and from what he could tell, they liked what they saw.
"This might not be the right way," Red said.
"You might be right," Argento agreed.
"Why is everyone so angry?" Chelsea asked.
"Shut up, Chelsea," Red said.
They turned on their heels and spun around to the exact opposite direction,
passing by the cheerleader boys just in time to regain their attention
and persuade their simple minds into joining what was quickly becoming
something of a mob chasing behind them. Fortunately, the mindless herd
seemed unable to handle moving at a very high rate of speed, so that
even as their number kept growing, the trio was able to outrun them.
Unfortunately, whenever Red ran past another member of the rampaging
hoard, the sight of his shiny metal hide seemed to set what little brains
they had left all aflutter.
"Red," Argento called out while running, "for Heaven’s
sake, take off that armor!"
"I… I don’t really know how," Red admitted.
Red glanced round the view screen in his helmet, calling up the menus,
searching through them all quickly for something to release the seals
on the armor. Eventually, he came across a "disengage armor",
and blinked his selection. A bit of Red text came up, informing him
that "Disengage Failed". He blinked at the small "More
Info" down in the corner. Up popped the message "Release valve
damaged- contact repair. Do you want to transmit repair request?" Red
blink a "No" response, and all the text vanished from his
"No dice," Red said. "It’s busted. Won’t
"We’ve got to do something!" Argento said.
"We could… tell them about… the Word," Chelsea
"Let’s try to find somewhere to hide," Red said, grabbing
for one of the doors to the shops they were passing. The first one he
came to was locked. Another glance back revealed their crowd of followers
was still growing, slowly and steadily. The three of them ran across
"Spread out, try the doors," Red said. The others obliged.
Red tried the door to a dollar store, which was locked.
"Red!" Argento was shouting from across the street and building
or so down. "Over here!"
Chelsea had been closer and was already standing by Argento when Red
ran across the street to join them. He was holding open the door to
a local single-screen movie house. Red quickly pushed his way inside
and pulled the door shut behind him, silencing the grunts of the pursuing
mob under the hard rock and crowd noise drifting from the inner theatre
into the lobby. He pulled off his helmet.
"How do you lock these?" Red shouted to the guy in the ticket
"What?" he replied, coming around the counter. "Why?"
"Because I don’t think you’re going to want their
business!" Red gestured to the mob of approaching destruction on
legs. There were about a hundred of them now.
"Holy crap!" the theatre worker said. He whipped out his
key chain and began locking the glass doors. "What’s going
"They don’t have Jesus’ love in their hearts," Chelsea
Argento and Red said, "Shut up, Chelsea!" in such perfect
unison, it was almost as scary as the approaching hoard. But not quite.
After a moment, the first of the mindless followers reached the doors
and began pawing at them ineffectually. Red, Argento, Chelsea, and the
ticket seller all began to slowly back away from the doors. As more
and more of them approached and began shoving their way up to the glass,
crowding the doorway, pressing the ones up front in closer, flattening
their faces against the glass, smudging their lipstick against the doors.
Lipstick… Red noticed something.
"What, are they using mind control lipstick?" he said. "Look,
they’re all tarted up. Seriously, if it is mind control lipstick,
I am telling you, they definitely didn’t get me."
"Red," said Argento, "This is no time for jokes."
"What do they want?" the worker asked.
"They want to break things," said Red. "Expensive things.
"Is there a back door?" Argento asked.
"Emergency exits," the worker said, "at the front of
"Might be a good idea," Red said.
They turned and pushed through the curtain of the entryway into the
theatre proper. The place was a little on the shabby side in this day
and age of chain multiplexes, but it was a decent place, and the crowd
was packed in tonight. It had a medium sized screen, with a little stage
in front of it- a stage a few people were standing on at the moment,
doing wacky dances along with the Van Halen song bouncing from the speakers.
Red thought they were sort of oddly dressed, but then again, who was
he to talk, and it was Halloween, wasn’t it? Halloween… As
he glanced at a few more patrons in their gaudy outfits and elaborate
make-up, Red made another connection in his mind.
"Frank… oh, crap. Frank," Red said. "They’re
here for the Rocky Horror Picture Show."
"So?" Argento said.
At that moment, David Lee Roth’s vocals faded out and another
voice came on, informing the audience "You’re listening to
WHRW, all the hits you’ve been craving in one place!" Red
recognized the voice. Katz. The familiar rhythm of My Sharona began
pounding out of the speakers.
"God damn it…" Red said.
"Language!" Chelsea reminded.
Fortunately, Chelsea’s reflexes had not been affected by her
recent change of mind. Her body crunched up just in time to avoid a
digital camera that passed an inch above her head before smashing up
against the wall. Red looked back to the theatre going crowd and realized
that approximately 2/3 of the crowd, regardless of sex, was wearing
lipstick. A number of cell phones, cameras, ipods, and other devices
the crowd had on them were being quickly dispatched with, but already
a number of the attendees were turning to Red with intent in their eyes.
Argento appeared to be realizing what Red had just worked out. "Perhaps
we should think about-"
The sound of shattering glass behind them made them turn back to the
lobby, where the doors had finally been pushed in and shattered all
over the floor. Leading the brainless charge into the theatre was one
of the cheerleader boys, his fake breasts all lopsided and falling down
"Upstairs," the worker said, "The projection booth.
He opened a door next to the curtain, revealing a staircase. The four
quickly filed through it and Red shut and locked it behind them. At
the top of the stairs, Red learned that there really wasn’t so
much a projection booth as there was a projector on an open landing
raised a story above the theatre floor. He was looking out over the
chaos of the theatre, and even if the patrons didn’t seen him
up there (which they did), it looked like they had already seen the
expensive looking projector. They were filing up to the back wall one
after another, pushing in, reaching upwards towards the platform none
of them were tall enough to reach.
"Looks like we’re safe," Argento said.
"Unless they break down that door," Red said.
"Or they do that," Chelsea added.
The belipsticked masses below were pushing in tighter and tighter against
the back wall, and had begun climbing over one another, stepping on
each other’s backs and faces. A hand grasped a hold of the landing
and began pulling its owner up.
"Crap," Red observed.
Alison was feeling gutsy by the time she drove into the Circuit City
lot, police sirens blazing in her stolen patrol car and so, inspired
by stories of Red's earlier exploits, she went for broke and smashed
the car right through the front windows of the store. She figured she
wouldn't be able to keep a cop car anyway, so why not get rid of it
The store was closed, so no one was inside, but the alarms began blaring
as soon as she crashed into it. She hopped from the car and ran towards
the "Employee Only" doors, and down the staircase she found
there. When the path began to fork, she flew by the seat of her pants,
trusting her blessed instincts to guide her, and before long, she found
herself in a dark room full of boxes, the only light coming from around
the edges of the door in front of her. From within, she could hear the
beat, the familiar pounding from her visions, 'thump-thump, thump, thump,
thump-thump, thump-thump-thump, thump, thump, tha-thump-thump'. She
approached the door, the stolen policeman's gun held in her hand. As
she came closer, the beat became clearer, she began to hear the other
instruments. She was hearing the song My Sharona.
She threw open the door quickly and burst into the room, gun first,
taking the man within by surprise. He had been leaning back in a revolving
chair in front of a soundboard, gently spinning as the music played,
but upon seeing Alison, he fumbled to a more upright position. He was
a curly-haired guy with thick glasses, she recognized him from one of
her visions. One of his legs was heavily bandaged, and from the way
he moved, he was avoiding putting pressure on it.
"Who are you?" he said.
"Don't you move a muscle," she answered. "I know what
you're up to. I know all about phase three, and the lipstick, and what
you've done to Red. You've got exactly ten seconds to tell me how to
reverse it. What's the trigger to cancel out all your programming?"
"You're too late," the man said. "By this point the
damage is done. We're going to be rich, beyond our wildest dreams, and
there's nothing you can do to stop it."
"I'm not afraid to shoo-"
The gun went off, shooting the man in his good leg. Actually, Alison
was afraid to shoot him, and had only pressed the trigger in her attempt
to keep her hand from shaking.
"All right!" he said, clutching the newly wounded limb. "Jesus
Christ, all right! Anything you want! It's right there- track twelve."
"Cue it up. I want it on every radio station in town."
Red kicked one of the climbing transvestites in the head, sending him
spilling over backwards into the thick of the crowd.
"Red, no!" Chelsea cried.
"Is there any other way out of here?" Argento asked.
"There's only one way," Red said. "I'll give myself
"No, Red, that's suicide!"
"It's the only way. They'll take me, they won't care about any
of you, you're not covered in high tech equipment. You can escape."
"Red, I won't allow it," Argento said.
"I'm not asking you to," Red said. He put his helmet back
on, took a few running steps, and launched himself over the crowd. In
that moment that he sailed over them, their arms reaching up for him,
outstretched with the desire to grab him, rend him apart, he heard something
odd. Words coming over the speakers of the theatre. The extended guitar
solo of The Knack was faded out quickly, replaced by the words "Number
Nine, Number Nine, Number Nine," repeated over and over again.
As Red fell into the arms of the crowd, they didn't begin tearing him
limb from limb, as he had expected them to. Instead, they looked incredibly
confused, and half dropped, half put him down on the ground. Red grunted
as he hit the floor. Unfortunately, Red didn't really have time to fully
grasp what had just occurred, since only a second after his butt-plate
clanked to the floor, a large section of the ceiling of the theatre
At this point the crowd began screaming and running out of the building.
Red was stepped on a few times, and was then thankful for the armor
he'd been cursing for the last while. As the crowd thinned, he saw three
figures flying in through the smoke of the explosion. Two he immediately
recognized- Amy and Thuy in their pink and yellow Mediator garb. The
other, he had never seen before.
It appeared to be a ten-foot robot, blue in color, and apparently heavily
armed. It was still shaped like a person, just much bigger. "It's
too late, Red," came a voice from the thing. It was Orloske. Only
then did Red see that Steve, in his Mediator suit, was just barely discernable
at the center of the thing. "You can't stop us, we've already won."
Red scrambled to his feet. "Not a chance," he said. "There's
no way I'm going to allow corporate swine like you to feed off the innocent
under-classes any longer. I'll stop at nothing- nothing- to destroy
you. Besides- do you not remember anything I told you? I'm not even
going to have to break a sweat dismantling you."
Red whipped out his sword from behind his back, gave it a little twirl
for dramatic effect, and swung it right through the middle of the giant
robot, slicing it in half right around the shocked Orloske. At least,
that's what he thought would happen. What actually happened was the
sword clanging into the robots head, the contact sending jarring vibrations
shooting up Red's arm while not so much as denting the giant mechanical
"Eureka," Steve said simply.