Authors: John Zakour
Tags: #YA, #SF
“You guys can go in without me,” I said as I slipped the top half of my uniform off over my head.
“No, that’s alright, I’ll wait for you,” Elvin said. “After all, you are my pilot.”
I looked at Chriz and Lobi. “What’s your excuse?”
“We’re being polite,” Lobi said quickly. Lobi always did everything quickly. He was the type of kid that no matter where he was, he seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere else. He reminded me of a confused ferret who’d had too much sugar.
“We’re just afraid you’ll get lost.” Chriz said. “We know you’re not too luminescent.” Chriz was the anti-Lobi. He was cool and didn’t do anything without thinking about it. He may not have been a super brain like Lobi or Elvin but he was still way smarter than the average dude and he knew it. He pointed to the clock on the ceiling. “You better hurry — we only have a minute to get out on the mats. I’m sure our pilot is already out there warming up.”
I knew he was right. Kymm loved judo. I was also sure that Zenna was also out there. She enjoyed her judo time only slightly less than Kymm did. I didn’t know what it meant that the girls enjoyed the judo far more than the guys. Then I thought about how rolling around the mats with Kymm was always fun. (Except for that time she kneed me, you know where.) That Kymm couldn’t help flirting with me. I smiled. Yep, I bet she liked me as more than a fellow pilot.
Before I could ponder that for too long though, my train of thought was derailed by a cry from the room.
“Stop! What the bloop are you doing, you crazy Syn!”
“That’s Kymm’s voice,” Lobi said nervously.
I slipped on my workout uniform top as I rushed toward the door that leads to the gym.
“Wait! You’re not in full uniform!” Elvin shouted, not seeing the bigger picture here.
I ignored Elvin and entered the gym. Chriz was right on my heels. Neither of us liked what we saw.
Our judo instructor, Axel-248, had Kymm pinned to the ground by her throat. From the look of fear on Kymm’s face, I knew this was no drill. Kymm was struggling to get free, but Axel-248 was too strong for her. In case you can’t tell by the name, Axel-248 was an android. Of course the politically correct call them “synthetic people,” or “syns” for short, SP for really short. SPs have gray skin and no eyebrows so you can easily distinguish them from regular, old-fashioned organic people. But truthfully, they are always so well built, muscular and chiseled looking that even if they didn’t have the weird skin and no eyebrows, you’d still have to be denser than a black hole not to be able tell what they were.
A few years ago, some bigwig somewhere thought it would be wise to replace many of the organic instructors with SPs. They said this was because SPs were lower maintenance, had higher stamina and never complained about long hours and low pay. They were also supposed to be emotionless and consistent in their actions. Axel-248 had just tossed that theory out the window.
“Axel, what are you doing?” I shouted.
Axel, who had been glaring at Kymm, looked up from her at me. “Call me Sensei Axel!” he ordered.
“Sensei Axel, what are you doing?” I said.
“What the flying triple bloop does it look like I am doing?” he shouted. “I’m a teacher! I’m teaching her extreme self-defense!”
By this time GiS and Kymm’s commander, K999 were in the room. K999 was a German Shepherd, the four-legged, canine kind. Even on his best days he was a bit of a grouch. (He always claimed that was because it was tough being without opposable thumbs in a world built for opposable thumbs.) Right now he was in a particularly nasty mood.
He was in bite-first-use-logic-later mode.
He leapt at Axel, mouth open, teeth showing. He meant business.
Unfortunately, so did Axel. As tough as K999 might be to normal humans, he wasn’t much of a threat to a highly programmed but deranged android. Axel swatted K999 away with his free hand. The blow sent K999 flying across the room.
GiS had a different plan of attack. He, in true administrator form, called for help. He clicked on his wrist communicator.
“We need security to the main gym, stat!”
I looked at GiS. “Call security! That’s the best you could come up with?”
GiS gave me his most dignified look. “We are no match for Axel. Security is armed. They will be able to stop him.” He paused for a tic. “But it will take them four minutes to arrive.”
GiS shook his head. “They were on break. There’s usually not any trouble here.”
“But Kymm could be dead by then.”
“So I suggest we provide a distraction,” GiS said.
“Now that’s something I can do!” I said.
“Me too,” said Chriz.
“What about Lobi and me,” Elvin asked. “What can we do?”
“I’ve often asked myself the same question,” I said moving toward Kymm and Axel.
“Maybe we can distract Axel by getting him to try to compute pi to the last digit?” Lobi suggested.
“I got a better idea,” I said. “Maybe I can make him mad!”
“Yes, no doubt you can,” GiS said. “Let’s just hope it helps.”
I charged at Axel screaming, “Hyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”
When I was within striking distance, I leapt at him. I was going to hit him with a flying kick to the head. I knew it wouldn’t stop him, but I thought it might slow him down. Axel of course saw the move coming from a light year away. He caught my leg in midflight. He tossed me back down to the ground.
“That was karate!” he scolded. “This is judo practice, Scout! Three demerits and no desert for you!”
“Don’t you mean dessert?” I asked.
Axel shook his head. I swore I heard bolts rattling in there. “No, Mr. Smarty Scout, I mean desert. You will not be allowed to partake in our upcoming desert training exercise!” he barked.
If he thought that was a punishment he was even more deranged than I thought.
With Axel now concentrating on me, Chriz thought it was safe to attack. Chriz ran up to him, fired off a snap kick aimed directly between Axel’s legs. The kick hit its mark. Axel just stood there, strangling away as Chriz fell over holding his kicking foot in pain.
Axel just shook his head. “I am a synthetic person, boy!” he shouted at Chriz. “I have no need for that part of my anatomy. Therefore I am not vulnerable to attack there. And if I were, I would have easily blocked your kick!” he ranted.
Zenna, who had been standing nearby, paralyzed by confusion, came over to me. She helped me off the ground.
“Careful, Baxter! Axel is super strong!” she said.
“I wish we knew somebody that was super strong that could help here,” I told her.
Zenna gave me her deer in the headlights look. “Me too,” she said. Suddenly it hit her. Her eyes opened wide. “Hey! I’m super strong!”
I gave her a little pat on the back. “Good, Zen,” I said. “I’ll try to keep his attention. You work your way behind him and pull him off of Kymm. We’ll let security finish him off.”
“Right!” Zenna said, accenting her word with a little salute. She took off, starting to creep behind Axel. Of course if this plan was to have a snowball on the sun’s chance, I was going to have to do my part.
“What’s going on, Axel?” I called.
Axel looked at me like I was speaking in Ancient Aquarian. “What do you mean what’s going on?” he said, rolling his eyes. “What does it look like I am doing? I am still teaching judo and self-defense.”
I pointed to Kymm pinned to the ground. “Actually, it looks like you are killing Kymm,” I said.
Axel shrugged. “It is not my fault that she is really bad at self-defense.”
“Yes, it is. You’re her instructor,” I said. “Therefore if she’s bad it’s your fault. You should turn yourself off and perform a system bug diagnostic.”
Axel looked up in the air for a tic. His eyes glowed red. He looked back at me, all the while never releasing his grip on Kymm.
“I just ran a very thorough test. All systems are functioning at peak, A1++ levels. I must therefore conclude that Kymm is simply a rotten pupil. Hence, therefore I must also conclude that I must give her the ultimate failing grade.”
So much for my attempt at using straight logic on a twisted syn. I needed another idea and fast. Luckily, one popped into my head. Believe it or not, it was sparked from Lobi’s stupid “compute pi to the last digit” remark. It just goes to show you never know where inspiration will come from. Of course to make the inspiration work, it was going to take some perspiration.
I moved slowly toward Axel, carefully calculating my words.
“Isn’t your role as an instructor to instruct?” I asked.
Axel glanced at me for a tic. He looked at the struggling Kymm. He looked back at me. He shook his head like he was totally exasperated with me. “Yes, we’ve been through this, of course it is. Hence the reason the two words share a common root.”
“A successful instructor must have students that can learn. Correct?” I said.
Axel closed one eye while he processed what I said. “Yes, I suppose that would be the optimal case,” he said.
“If you kill Kymm she won’t be able to learn anything,” I said.
Axel looked at me hard. He looked up at the ceiling. He looked back at me.
“Hmm, yes, Student Scout Moon, that may be a valid point. But as far as I know, no scholars or studies have ever established that we stop learning after we die,” Axel said in a professorial tone. “Perhaps we learn about different planes of existence?”
I fought off the urge to shake my head in confusion. I was having a philosophical conversation with a deranged android about after-life learning. Bloop, I needed a hobby!
“Even if there is after-life learning,” I said, slowly, just trying to give Zen more time. “Chances are about one in gazillion that it would be about judo and self-defense.”
“I don’t believe gazillion is an actual number, therefore your argument is once again flawed, blemished and unsound,” Axel said, thinking far more about my statement than he should have.
Zenna had now managed to work around behind Axel. I needed to keep him thinking a little more.
“I hate to break this to you, Axel, my big metal bud, but you’re not really an expert on either numbers or the metaphysical.”
Axel shook his head. “I have no more metal in me than you do,” he said. He thought for a tic. “Actually, I have less. After all your blood contains iron and zinc. Mine doesn’t. In fact…”
Axel didn’t get to finish his statement as Zenna grabbed him. Zenna might not have been mentally fast, but physically she was like lightning on heavy-duty caffeine. Before Axel could do anything other than release his grip on Kymm, Zenna lifted him up in the air and slammed him, back first, to the ground. It was impressive. I had to remember not to make that girl mad.
I moved forward toward Kymm. I shielded her with my body.
“Are you okay, Kymm?”
“Took you long enough to get him off me,” Kymm said with a weak whisper and a weaker smile.
“Save your thanks for later,” I said. “We’re not out of the asteroid field yet.”
“Given your track record, I wish you had used a different analogy,” Kymm whispered.
“Good point,” I said, talking to Kymm but keeping my eyes on Axel and Zenna.
Zenna’s move would have devastated a normal human, or, for that matter, a normal synthetic human; but Axel was neither. Axel was built to take and give out heavy-duty damage. He had withstood Zenna’s best shot, but now he was set to return the favor.
Axel used a spinning leg sweep to take Zenna’s legs out from under her, bringing her to the ground. He flipped himself up off the ground without using his hands. He stood over Zenna. He hesitated for a second. I could tell he was trying to decide which of us to attack now.
“What’s wrong, big syn man?” I taunted. “Can’t decide who you want to teach next?”
“This is not the way to treat your honored instructor,” Axel said. “I am afraid I am going to have to give you all ten demerits, then kill you, then fail you.”
“Man, you’re a tough grader,” I said.
That remark somehow caught Axel’s attention. He forgot about the girls and zeroed in on me.
“That is untrue, a lie, a falsity,” he said, angrily.
“Nice going, Ace,” Kymm said. “Make the crazed, super android even crazier!”
“That’s my plan,” I said.
“You don’t spend a lot of time planning your plans, do you?” Kymm said.
“Nah, planning my plans just slows me down,” I said.
Axel moved toward me. He was trying to be cautious but his anger had gotten the best of him. (He probably wasn’t programmed on how to handle anger.) “I’m going to give you the last judo lesson of your life,” he said pointing at me.
For those of you who have never had an crazed android come at you with the goal of killing you, it’s not a pleasant feeling. If I said I wasn’t scared, I’d be lying through my teeth. My legs were trembling but I held my ground. Both the girls (and Chriz) were hurt. I had to keep Axel distracted a little longer.
“If I were you, I’d run now,” I told Axel, in my manliest voice, just hoping it wouldn’t squeak.
Axel just gave me a confident smile. “Why should I, the honored teacher, run from you, the pupil? You aren’t even my best pupil. In fact you aren’t in my top hundred pupils. In fact, you are a putrid puny pupil.”
I pointed behind him. “If you run you might be able to throw off the security dudes behind you,” I said.
Axel shook his head. “Yeah, right. Like I’m going to fall for that. That trick is almost as old as saying, look your sock is untied.”
On that note, the guards behind Axel fired their energy weapons at him. The force of the beams split Axel in half. Both halves fell to the ground. Axel’s bottom half just lay there harmlessly. His top half, though, was much more stubborn. It pushed itself up and glared at the guards.
“This is martial arts!” Axel shouted. “Energy weapons are cheating! I’ll crush you, even if I have to do it with my teeth!” he screamed.
He charged at the guards on a his hands. He looked kind of like a crazed crab. It was either freaky or comical or just plain sad. I guess it depends on how you look at it. The guards were taking the charge seriously. After all, a killer android is still a killer android, even if it’s legless and, in this case, mostly mindless. Bloop, being mindless probably made Axel more dangerous.