A 'Captain Scarlet' story for Halloween
By Chris Bishop
“Do you really think this could have anything to do with the present threat, Rhapsody Angel?”
Having taking refuge in an empty office soon after leaving Doctors James and Veldes, Rhapsody had contacted Cloudbase on her personal communicator, to report her findings on what was going on in the building’s veterinarian hospital. The least she could say about Colonel White’s doubtful reaction was that she expected it.
“I don’t know, sir,” she admitted. “I’m just suspecting it might be. Doctor George is new to the M.A.T. Corporation and became Doctor Gordon’s assistant very recently. As part of his work, he’s using drugs that suppress a subject’s self-control and has a tendency to bring out his or her most basic and violent instincts.” She paused a second, leaving Colonel White time to absorb the information. “The Mysterons mentioned something like that in their threat,” she concluded.
“I know,” White conceded. “They said something about primitive instincts and brute force meeting with Most Advanced Technology. That could indeed fit. But I don’t see how.” There was a pause, during which Rhapsody had no doubt Colonel White was pondering her report. “From the information we have on the London facility, there is no mention of a Doctor George becoming the director’s assistant,” he finally said. “This is indeed curious…”
“I thought as much, sir,” Rhapsody agreed. “Though this lack of information might be explained by the fact that this promotion was brand new.”
“Yes, which is why we must be cautious. We don’t want to accuse an innocent man – and if Doctor George should be guilty of foul play, we don’t want to alert him either. Have you found anything else that might look suspicious to you?”
“No, sir. At least, from what I’ve been able to gather from my strolling around the building. I haven’t done all the departments, though,” she admitted reluctantly. “I would need more time.”
“Time we might not have, unfortunately. Have you told Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue of your discovery yet?”
“No, sir. I haven’t contacted them since we went our separate ways at the entrance.”
“They’re supposed to be with Doctor Gordon at the moment. In Room 5, on the twelfth floor. Regroup with them, and inform them discreetly of your findings. Your clue might not seem to be much for the moment, but it’s worth a little more digging. This Doctor George’s work at M.A.T. seems rather peculiar; maybe Doctor Gordon could give us more information about it. Meanwhile, I’ll ask Captain Grey to do some outside research on Doctor George.”
“Be careful, Rhapsody,” Colonel White advised. “If indeed you have found our first clue to the Mysterons’ threat against M.A.T., it could become very dangerous for you from now on.”
Rhapsody smiled inwardly. “Don’t worry, Colonel. I’ll be very cautious.”
“If it was Captain Scarlet telling me that, I would be worried. But I know you will take care. Cloudbase out.”
Colonel White cut the communication, and Rhapsody chuckled at his last comment; then she bit her lower lip thoughtfully, thinking that her commander might be right about her being in danger.
She opened her purse and eyed the small pistol with the nacre-pink grip resting at the bottom, that she had managed to sneak unnoticed inside the building when she had slipped in.
It wasn’t a Spectrum-issue weapon, but a gift from her mentor, Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward, that she had carried with her on every undercover mission during her days in FAB, and afterwards in Spectrum. Its toy-like reduced size made it very discreet and easy to carry around, either in her purse, in the pocket of a jacket – or attached to her inner thigh. At the moment, she didn’t have the special holster to put it there, but she thought it would be more accessible if it was in the pocket of her borrowed white vest, so she moved it there. She thought that, under the circumstances, having it handy could be a good idea. If only to be on the safe side.
The pistol had only two shots, but as Rhapsody had often learned – just one shot might be enough to get her out of trouble.
She left the empty office, checked right and left to insure no-one had spotted her and casually walked towards the lift. On her way there, she activated her personal communicator again.
It was time to announce to Captain Scarlet and Captain Blue she would be joining them.
* * *
“Hey, Peer! Look! Look at me go!”
On the stage, still wearing the F.R.E.D. harness, Sam Simmons was very proud and pleased with himself; following the advice given to him earlier, he had finally managed to make the harness work properly, by simply acting as his natural self. He still wasn’t doing ape things, but he was now completely at ease with the device.
Abramson was now standing behind Arnie and Dirk, watching Simmons on the stage as he was making his moves, growing more daring by the minute. At least he doesn’t look like a complete idiot anymore, thought Abramson with satisfaction. The Mini-Mechani-Kong robot wasn’t stumbling awkwardly, it wasn’t dropping onto the floor like a stone, or going into a spin… and it didn’t run the risk of being thrown off the stage. It was now dancing – quite literally – in complete synchronization with Simmons.
“If you're blue and you don't know where to go to
Why don't you go where fashion sits,
Puttin' on the ritz!”
Abramson almost scowled. I take it all back, he told himself. The man IS an idiot. He just wasn’t a clumsy idiot.
“Going well, boys?” he asked Arnie and Dirk.
The two men were working expertly on the programming of the software – and the look on their faces was enough to confirm to Abramson that now they were able to enter proper data.
“Oh yeah,” Arnie told him with a vigorous nod. “Now we’re talking, Mr Abramson. We’ve nearly finished making the necessary adjustments.”
“Actually,” Dirk then said, “I’ve just entered the last of the data, sir. And in a few seconds, F.R.E.D. will be fully synchronised with Mr Simmons.” He watched the progression of the upload on the screen. It didn’t even take ten seconds before it displayed ‘Completed at 100%’. He turned his head to grin at Abramson. “All done, sir. We can now begin to record Mr Simmons’ simian moves. When he’s ready, that is.”
“Well done, boys. Now we’ll be able to get down to real business.” Abramson couldn’t say he wasn’t pleased. He was starting to get very impatient. With a sigh, he straightened up to his full height. “I’ll go tell him to stop making a fool of himself and to start ‘monkeying around’ instead.”
Dirk and Arnie smiled at his words, but then, glancing at Abramson, they saw the serious expression on his face.
“Let’s hope he’ll remember his lessons with Bwindi,” Abramson added darkly. “Unfortunately, Sam has a very short and limited attention span.”
The director left the two operators and walked to the stage. At this point, Simmons had stopped being natural; he was now doing a somewhat remarkable rendition of a moonwalk, in duet with Mini-Mechani-Kong, initiating applause from both Ida and Blondie, now sitting on the edge of their seats. Jack Fuller had stood back and, with his arms crossed on his chest and a smile on his lips, was looking proudly and dotingly at Simmons’ performance.
Got to give it to the moron. He certainly knows how to play to the gallery.
“Sam,” he called as he approached the stage, causing for the actor to stop in mid-movement. “How about you show me your ape moves now?”
With a wide grin, Sam gave him an enthusiastic thumbs up; the gesture from Mini-Mechani-Kong was similar enough. “You got it, boss!”
Finally, thought Abramson. Something is going right.
As he was nearing his seat, a brief whirring sound coming from beyond Sam Simmons’ position made Abramson stop in his tracks. The echo picked up the sound, so everybody else heard it as well, and total silence fell in the hangar; every eye turned to where it seemed to come from.
There was nothing there but the huge seated form of the MIGHTEC prototype.
The whirring made itself heard again, and this time it was louder, and accompanied by a grating sound, like something metallic scraping an equally metallic surface.
And suddenly, the arm of the gigantic robotic ape, which was resting on its lap, moved.
It knocked down a high pile of crates which stood by the ape’s side, along with a scissor lift vehicle, which fell with a crash to the concrete surface of the floor, startling everyone. The ape moved its second arm, pressed its knuckles against the floor and pushed itself up heavily. Very slowly.
Ida and Blondie leapt to their feet, Blondie doing the best impersonation of her career yet of a terrified girl on the verge of hysteria; probably because it was genuine. That made Ida jump out of her skin.
The huge head of ‘Kong’ turned in the direction of the two women. The robotic face seemed so authentic that the people present could have sworn it was looking directly at Blondie with a clueless and curious expression. The eyes appeared lit with a creepy life of their own.
Seeing the robot staring at her with such interest scared the living daylights out of Blondie and her next scream was even louder than the previous one. She turned on her heel and raced towards the exit, closely followed by Ida. A very pale Jack Fuller jumped –almost flew – off the stage and headed in the opposite direction.
Kong grunted loudly, his face contorted with disgruntlement. He stood up; the last of the wires connecting him to the operating console snapped, freeing him. As he straightened up, his huge frame crashed into the beams supporting the roof, smashing through them. He collided with the ceiling, tearing boards of wood, plaster and sheet metal, which rained into the hangar, threatening all who were inside.
Sam Simmons and Peer Abramson were rooted in place, gaping with astonishment at the incredible scene, seemingly unaware of the danger posed by the raining debris.
“Sam!” Abramson yelled over the fracas. “What the bloody hell have you done?”
“I did nothing, Peer!” Simmons replied, turning on his heel to address the director; by his side, Mini-Mechani-Kong spun in a similar fashion. “I swear it isn’t me!”
Abramson looked over his shoulder to stare at both Dirk and Arnie; the two men were still at their station, but they were up on their feet and looking at Kong with the same astonished expression.
“It’s not us either, Mr Abramson!” Arnie shouted at him. “The MIGHTEC isn’t even plugged in! That shouldn’t be happening!”
“Then what –?”
Abramson was interrupted by loud tearing sounds as Kong’s head and shoulders pushed through the ceiling and went right through it; his massive hands raised and started banging on what remained of the ceiling. More debris fell into the hangar, hitting Mini-Mechani-Kong and sending it flying off its feet – right in the direction of Simmons who, terrified, jumped off the stage. He miscalculated the distance, however short it was, didn’t take into account the weight of the F.R.E.D. harness he was still wearing, and fell on his side.
He screamed; a scream that was reminiscent of Blondie’s latest terrified cry.
“My leg!” he shrieked, rolling onto the floor. “My leg! It hurts!”
Imitated by Arnie and Dirk, Abramson ran to him – he didn’t want to think how high his insurance rates would go if one of his main stars were to be hurt. They had reached Simmons and were about to check on him when an unusual sound made them stop and look up.
Standing with half of his body through the roof he was tearing open with his huge hands, the cybernetic Kong was roaring with anger.
It was a deafening sound, very terrifying and life-like, if with a somewhat metallic quality to it – something they never expected. Through the opening of the roof, they could see the huge mouth of the robot gorilla wide open, exposing an impressive set of fangs.
They stared with eyes wide with astonishment.
“It roared,” Abramson almost whispered.
“It roared,” Arnie echoed, as if to confirm the director’s comment.
Kong was heaving himself onto the roof, at a speed that was surprising for something of such size and weight. He moved so naturally – especially considering it wasn’t a real life gorilla, but a clever cybernetic replica of one.
“How come it roared?” Abramson asked, turning swiftly to Arnie. “It shouldn’t roar!”
“Well… technically, it could,” Arnie replied. “M.A.T. did build it with sound capacity and a set of speakers… Okay, the roar sounded a bit metallic, but obviously the speakers are of the highest quality…”
“I don’t care about the quality!” the annoyed Abramson interrupted. “The ruddy thing roared! Why?”
“The speakers shouldn’t even be connected,” Dirk said quickly. “When we rebuilt the big guy upon delivery, we made sure to disconnect them, knowing you wouldn’t need them.”
“Well, obviously, they are connected now!” growled Abramson with irritation. “Like Kong himself is connected!”
He watched through the gap as the robot stood on the roof and roared again, pounding his chest loudly. The director found himself marvelling at how real all of this looked – how genuine the cybernetic ape was acting. This was going beyond his expectations. Kong didn’t look like a remote-controlled robot at all – in any case, nobody seemed to be controlling him right now. It was as if the machine had acquired a mind of its own.
This was really impressive – and frightening, at the same time.
“Clearly,” he commented, shaking his head, “M.A.T. made him all too well.”
“I’m hurt!” Simmons was crying from the floor. “I’m so much hurt! I’m gonna die here! Somebody, please, help me!”
Kong disappeared from Abramson’s view, having visibly jumped off the roof. A loud thundering sound made itself heard as the robot made its landing somewhere – and then, there were human cries of panic.
At that precise moment, Abramson took a crucial decision.
He wasn’t going to let the robot out of his sight. He was going to follow it, and see what was happening to it. After all, he had a lot invested in that piece of equipment – he couldn’t leave it to simply run away. Prestige Pictures might hand his ass to him if he didn’t do anything about it. No-one else but him was handy at the time, so he would have to do the job himself.
“Arnie, do you think you can somehow regain control of that ape?”
Arnie blinked, looking at him with perplexed eyes. “Well, er… it doesn’t seem that the instruments were damaged… I could take the control tablet and –”
“Great, you come with me,” Abramson interrupted him. “Dirk, you take care of Sam.”
“Wait a minute, you’re going to leave me with that IT guy?” Simmons called with irritation as Abramson raced towards the door through which Blondie and Ida had disappeared a few minutes before.
“Cybernetic operator,” Dirk hissed between his teeth.
“Whatever…” Simmons whimpered. “Peer, you can’t go like that. You have to call 911!”
“Don’t worry, Sam,” Abramson called over his shoulder, as Arnie snatched the tablet from the control table and followed behind him. “Dirk will… And if he doesn’t, I’m pretty sure that someone will call them!”
* * *
It was the third guided tour of the morning for Harold Biggs, and he was already more than fed up; lunch was approaching and he was beginning to wonder if he should give this up altogether and find another job. It was now obvious to him that it wasn’t by carting around people constantly asking curious questions that he was going to get that big break he was hoping for at the studio.
With his group, they were approaching the hangar where the King Kong robot was stored. However today, the exhibition was closed, with the bay window through which visitors could usually see the robot covered with a huge curtain. At his announcement that Kong would not be available that day, a huge sigh of disappointment heaved from the group.
“That’s no fun,” a man commented. “I came all this way from Phoenix especially to see this!”
“Yeah, that sucks!” a teenager retorted.
“Sorry, folks,” Harold said, trying to sound patient. “But filming is about to begin.” He took his disgruntled group away from the windows and rounded the hangar with them, as he continued his explanation. It felt pretty good to have something new to say: “Next week, every stage dedicated to the production of King Kong will be closed. So at this moment, people are working behind this very door…” He tapped on the personnel door, next of which stood the security guard. “…to make sure the robot will be ready for his big debut.” He leaned to them, and added, in false confidence: “I heard that director Peer Abramson himself is supervising the operations.” He failed to notice the security guard rolling his eyes.
“Really?” an old woman said, her eyes lighting up at the news. “And would Sam Simmons be there as well?”
“And Blondie O’Day?” asked a man.
Before Harold could answer that, the door burst open, startling everyone – including the security guard who stepped back. Blondie O’Day herself shot through the opening, followed by Ida Quinton. Harold opened his eyes wide, and the people from his tour group gasped in delighted surprise at the sight of the famous movie star.
“Look! It is Blondie O’Day!” a voice shouted joyfully.
“Miss O’Day,” another voice said, “I’m such a big fan of yours!”
“Can I have your autograph?” someone else piped. “It’s for my son…”
The group was crowding around Blondie, blocking her way, everyone speaking all at once. However, she wasn’t listening to them; she was too scared to even acknowledge their presence.
“Out of my way!” she screamed in a tone of panic, pushing the people closest to her aside. “Run for your lives, you fools! It’s alive!”
Her terrified scream surprised everyone so much that it opened a path in front of her, and she went through the group like a knife through butter, Ida hot on her heels. They watched her go with perplexity, as she ran away, screaming.
“Maybe that’s a rehearsal for the movie,” someone commented.
“Certainly sounded like it… who’s that girl with her?”
“Probably an actress with a supporting role…”
And then all voices were silenced when a deafening roar echoed overhead, freezing the blood in everyone’s veins. Eyes rose and looked towards the roof…
… Where an immense giant gorilla was pounding his chest furiously, making a metallic banging that was barely audible through the beast’s enraged cries.
Kong leapt off the roof, landing heavily on the asphalted surface of the ground, cracking it and creating a small crater of several inches deep. He huffed and gave but a glance at the group of people who were staring up at him, completely flabbergasted, and with their jaws hanging open.
Then he bellowed furiously at them.
It was instant pandemonium and, screaming in terror, everyone scattered.
Before he knew exactly what was going on, Harold Biggs was knocked over – by whom, he wouldn’t be able to say but he felt very sure the last face he saw was that of the security guard. He fell head over heels to the ground, hitting his head. Slightly dazed, he watched everyone running in all directions. He could hear Kong’s roar of fury, as suddenly, the giant ape started to trot forward – in exactly the same direction Blondie O’Day and that woman with her had taken seconds earlier.
Harold was trying to make sense of the situation, when he saw two men hurriedly walking out of the now open door. One of them leaned down to help him to his feet.
“Kid, you all right?”
“Yeah, I am…” Harold stroked the back of his head, grimacing slightly. This bump would be sore for some time. He eyed the man who helped him. He recognised him instantly. “Hey, you’re Peer Abramson, aren’t you? The movie director? I saw your picture on Worldnet, and –”
“Fascinating, kid.” Abramson wasn’t listening to the young man and was looking around, in search of his quarry. He saw it, trotting away on all fours, exactly like a normal gorilla would, oblivious to anything and anyone in its path, and walking directly towards the fence marking the studio’s west perimeter.
The beast was making a break for it.
Not exactly, he suddenly realised as he spotted two female silhouettes, running at some distance in front of Kong. He recognised them very well.
I swear, those two must be breaking the hundred meters world record… I can’t decide which is faster than the other… And they’re doing it in high heel shoes. That’s really impressive.
Blondie and Ida were obviously in complete panic. And it was no wonder; the Kong robot seemed to be following the same direction as them, without taking any notice of anyone who crossed his path – or of their terrified screams. Kong wasn’t making any threatening gesture. He didn’t need to. Just the sight of him was terrifying enough.
However, when a driver, possibly startled to see a giant gorilla strolling in the middle of the place, lost control of his car and collided with one of his feet, which seemed to anger the robot. Roaring with fury, he swatted the vehicle away… crashing it into a nearby fire hydrant, which blew into a powerful spray of water.
The screams intensified instantly, and people ran away in terror, as Kong, now visibly annoyed, started smashing his huge feet through every building he passed.
Abramson grimaced. Yep. There goes my insurance rate…
He was relieved to see the driver of the car Kong had destroyed seconds ago step out of his vehicle, staggering on his feet; he was obviously dazed by the incident, but otherwise, seemed unharmed.
“Any luck with that signal?” Abramson asked Arnie whose fingers were flying wildly over the surface of his tablet. “Are you reaching the robot?”
Arnie shook his head. “Sir, I can’t seem to make any contact. It’s really like Kong has a mind of his own. But that’s impossible… He wasn’t built for that!”
“He seems to be going after Blondie,” Abramson mused.
“You think so?” Arnie asked doubtfully.
“Or maybe it’s just that the dumb girl happens to be going in the same direction he’s going. Or maybe it’s Ida he’s after?” Abramson pointed to the buildings he could see beyond the fence towards which the two women – with the robot hot on their heels – were going. “What the hell is that place over there?”
“The M.A.T. Corporation complex,” Arnie answered, frowning.
“That’s where they build the big guy?”
“Actually, I think he was built at their London place… But that’s the same company, yes.”
“The baby’s returning to his mummies, then,” muttered Abramson.
“You think? But how is it possible?” Arnie now looked concerned. “We ought to call them. We ought to call the police too. And we really ought to evacuate wherever this… monster is going!”
Abramson was barely listening to him; his eyes had found a small hand-held tourist camera lying on the ground, obviously abandoned by its owner who had fled in terror. He picked it up and examined it closely. It wasn’t damaged and the battery was full. And there seemed to be enough free space on its memory card.
He was starting to see the headlines now: ‘Rogue cybernetic ape loose in New Hollywood. Millions of dollars’-worth of damage’. That could mean major lawsuits against himself and Prestige Pictures. Except he wasn’t mostly seeing the bad side of things; instead, he saw the huge potential in it. He didn’t think he could be held responsible for faulty equipment; M.A.T. would have to deal with it, when Prestige demanded that they account for their obviously messed up work.
As for Abramson, this was an unhoped-for opportunity to do something really different. Something that no-one else had done before.
The revenue from it could be worth millions – and create huge publicity for the upcoming movie.
And even if there isn’t a movie, this is MUCH better than any King Kong flick I could have done. A hand-held camera and a monster on the loose… This’ll be the next Cloverfield. Except with something real.
He turned to Harold. “You know how to use this?” he asked, presenting the camera.
“Me?” Harold asked in perplexity. “I… I’m a student in cinematography, and I’m working at the studio doing guided tours, but –”
“Never mind your resumé,” Abramson interrupted him, pushing the camera into the young man’s hands. “You’re hired. You’ll come with us and be our cameraman.” He pointed to Kong, who was closing in on the fence. “We follow him.”
Harold barely took the time to think about it. Peer Abramson was hiring him. How cool was that? This was the big break he was waiting for. The danger he might be facing was suddenly of very little consideration to him.
“Yes, sir!” he said eagerly.
“Sir, we really ought to alert everyone,” Arnie then advised. “The MIGHTEC might do untold damage – he could hurt someone! And if he’s really after Ms. O’Day – or Ms. Quinton – he might hurt them!” He waved at Kong. “Look at that! He’s now destroying everything in his path!” An entire building fell under the terrible blows from Kong’s hammering fists. From where they stood, the three men could hear the ape’s roar of victory. “I hope there wasn’t anyone in that building,” he moaned.
“Not to worry, sir,” Harold then said, trying to reassure him. “That’s the archive building and it’s empty and closed during lunch time. It’s unlikely someone was in there.”
“Whatever, it’s property damage and a passer-by could be hit by the debris,” Arnie replied. “Anyway, what’s happening right now, that’s not normal behaviour for a robot!”
“Certainly isn’t,” Abramson agreed. “Isn’t it exciting?”
“But… I still think we should call the police!”
“Arnie, with the size of that thing, do you really think no-one has already called the police?” Abramson retorted. “They’re probably on their way right now. Along with the National Guard, the W.A.A.F. and whoever else! As for us, we have a job to do. Let’s go after him!”
He went running after the rogue ape, Harold following close behind. Arnie shook his head despondently and went after them, getting his portable out of his pocket.
“At least someone needs to tell M.A.T. what’s coming their way,” he muttered as he keyed a phone number.
* * *
“He’s behind us! He’s right behind us!”
Blondie O’Day was terrified. She couldn’t stop herself from checking behind her and could see the Kong robot closing in on them, all the while punching through building walls and roaring furiously at passing cars and people fleeing in his path. It was all she and Ida could do to keep up the pace, so to keep a reasonable distance between them and the ape seemingly coming after them.
But Kong was still gaining on them.
“He’s following us!” Blondie stopped briefly after rounding the corner of a building; she spotted an open door and pointed to it. “Let’s hide in there!”
“You’re nuts!” Ida protested, pulling on her companion’s arm to stop her from entering the building. “What if the robot punches through that place? We’ll be buried in rubble!”
“What do we do then?” Blondie asked, hyperventilating. “Where do we go?”
“Well, we can’t stay here,” Ida reasoned. She was breathing hard, and she was obviously as edgy as Blondie, too but she was somehow keeping a cooler head.
Those English girls… Blondie reflected, they sure know how to stay calm in every situation… She watched with fascination as Ida pointed towards the fence at the west end of the studio.
“We’re not that far from the gate,” she explained. “We should make a run for it.”
“Into the open?” Blondie protested. “That monster will spot us!”
“Then let’s hide between the buildings,” Ida said, waving towards the narrow space between many office blocks which stood nearby.
Blondie approved with an energetic nod. That would take longer, obviously, but it certainly felt safer.
A pounding sound coming from very nearby startled them and they cried out in fear and surprise; they felt the ground under their feet quake, and dirt fell from the wall behind which they were hiding. As the giant shadow of Kong started looming at the corner, they didn’t hesitate further and darted into the alleyway between the office blocks. As she ran, Ida swiftly removed her shoes. Blondie thought it was a good idea and swiftly kicked off her five thousand dollar stilettos. It certainly was easier to run that way. She looked over her shoulder just in time to see the monstrous form of the cybernetic ape leaning against the corner of the building and looking down. He gave a furious snarl and destroyed the wall with one giant swipe of his hand. It was exactly as if he had been expecting to find something there and was now frustrated to have been denied whatever he was looking for.
Blondie hoped she wasn’t the object of Kong’s interest.
But quite frankly, it really looked as if the robot was going straight after her.
“Splendid vantage view we have from up there.”
Doctor Gordon was looking at the image on one of the three screens overhanging the console. The picture relayed by the camera in Kong’s cybernetic eyes were now crystal clear, and the Mysteronised scientist could see with immense satisfaction the destruction the robot was leaving in its wake.
“The signal is strong and steady,” Doctor George reported from his station. “Contact with the MIGHTEC’s internal database has been effected without a single glitch. We have access to all its protocols and behavioural sequences.” He smiled thinly. “The program it’s currently following, added to the D.N.I. link to our subject, will insure that our plan will follow its course.”
“He’s heading to the M.A.T. complex,” Gordon commented, with a slow nod, acknowledging the information. “That’s perfect.” He glanced at his accomplice. “And how does the subject react?” he asked quietly. “Through the MIGHTEC’s eyes, he sees the same as us, right?”
“With the distorted view of a mind muddled by the disinhibiting drugs,” George replied. He checked the data on his station. “There are sudden spikes in the beta waves… and they keep rising. He’s getting more upset and angrier by the second.”
“And at the same time, the MIGHTEC is getting more destructive. Indeed, all is going according to plan.”
Gordon couldn’t be more pleased. He checked on the second of the three screens. Through the satellite comm.link system, he was able to spy on the various communications about the events in Los Angeles, mostly from the M.A.T. complex itself, but also, from news radio and police forces radio, where the information had started to spread on. The only communication he wasn’t able to pick was Spectrum’s own.
Reports of property damage were pouring in: cars, buildings, fences, city infrastructure… Kong was destroying everything in his path. People were panicking, and flying from the threat of the rogue giant gorilla, but so far, only minor injuries had been reported. The worst anyone had suffered because of the MIGHTEC’s rampage were broken bones. No deaths had been reported at this point.
But it was still early. Gordon was hoping that it would be getting worse… much worse in the upcoming minutes and hours.
“The robot is taking a slight detour,” George remarked, checking on his data.
Gordon shrugged dismissively. “I don’t mind if it does,” he said, “as long as it causes as much random destruction and panic while on its way there.” He watched the screen thoughtfully. “Since we’re at it, see if you still can increase the levels of anger from the subject.”
“Yes, sir.” There was an evil grin on George’s face as he turned a dial.
As if an afterthought, Gordon turned to him and added casually: “Oh, do be careful with the amount of drugs you’re giving him. We still need his… collaboration for a little while. We wouldn’t want his heart to give out… at least, not before we’re through.”
* * *
Captain Ochre, Captain Magenta and Symphony Angel were climbing the steps to enter the main building of the M.A.T. Los Angeles facility with Curtis Greenwood to return to his office when they heard a powerful roar echoing in the distance behind them. That made them stop in their tracks and they turned around, puzzled by what it could be. The sound obviously came from beyond the east perimeter fence, not far from the entrance gate.
“It seems your neighbours are noisy today, Mr Greenwood,” Magenta commented.
“When the neighbours in question are movie studios, that happens a lot,” Greenwood said, offering a candid smile.
“Sounds like an angry beast,” Symphony said. The roar made itself heard again and that sent a shiver down her spine. “A very angry beast,” she specified.
“Oh, what do you bet it’s King Kong himself?” Ochre quickly said, beaming at them. To this, Magenta groaned and Symphony rolled her eyes.
However, Greenwood was quick to respond to Ochre’s suggestion: “It is quite possible, actually. From what I heard, they were going to do tests today, so we have some technicians here on standby, in case M.A.T. needs to provide any help with ‘the material’.”
“You mean, the ape robot?” Ochre said.
The roar made itself heard a third time, seemingly louder. Magenta was the first one to realise it was actually coming closer.
“Are these tests made indoors or outdoors?” he asked with a frown.
“Frankly, I wouldn’t know,” Greenwood said hesitantly. “The studio might be noisy at times, but it’s normally quieter than that… The tests could be outdoors, by the sound of it. Or they have very powerful speakers. They might be putting on a show for visitors, maybe? The studio runs guided tours, you know – and you could actually see ‘King Kong’ himself through a large bay window, seated in his maintenance hangar… I saw it, it’s very impressive.”
“Oh, really?” Ochre found that information from Greenwood very interesting. He grinned at both Magenta and Symphony. “Now I know we’ll have to visit the studio after this assignment…”
Greenwood’s phone started buzzing at that moment, attracting his attention. He frowned, taking the phone out of his vest pocket. “Now that’s odd…”
“What is?” Symphony asked.
“That’s the emergency tone from the desk of my secretary,” Greenwood explained. “I can’t remember having heard it in the last six months. It must be something very important if she’s calling me at this moment. She wouldn’t disturb me if it wasn’t, she knows I’m with you.” He answered the call. “Yes, Esmé, what is it? …Arnie Doyle? No… That name isn’t familiar… cybernetic operator at Prestige Pictures? You know I don’t take that kind of call personally. You should send it to IT… Oh, he seems upset…? An emergency? That bad?” Those last words caused Ochre, Magenta and Symphony to turn to him with the same inquiring look. He nodded to the three of them. “Now, now, I’m sure he’s overreacting over nothing... Clients often do… Yes, under the circumstances, I’ll take the call. Put him through.” He glanced up briefly at the three Spectrum officers watching him. “There seems to be some kind of ruckus at the studios, so maybe we’ll get to learn what’s going on…” He smiled reassuringly. “Obviously, something to do with one of our pieces of equipment…”
“Maybe the Kong robot itself?” Magenta suggested.
“We’ll see… I’m sure it’s no big deal… This shouldn’t take long…”
Magenta, Symphony and Ochre exchanged perplexed glances; Greenwood appeared singularly unconcerned. They couldn’t conceive that a cybernetic operator from Prestige Pictures would call him directly, over some insignificant problem. They could easily imagine that it was much more serious than the M.A.T. director seemed to think.
Or perhaps he was overconfident that his staff would be able to help Prestige with whatever problem they might have at the studio?
“Mr Doyle? Curtis Greenwood, director of M.A.T. Los Angeles… I normally don’t take these calls directly, but… How can I be of service to you? You mentioned some kind of problem that may require our expertise…?”
There was a moment of silence as Greenwood listened to his caller. Symphony, who was closer to him, could overhear some muffled babbling coming from the phone’s speaker. By the sound of it, that Arnie Doyle fellow was indeed very upset. She couldn’t make out what he was saying exactly, though.
Greenwood’s brow creased in perplexity. “What are you saying? The MIGHTEC prototype…? What’s wrong with –”
Greenwood was interrupted in the middle of his question when a thunderous blast sounded from the east fence, followed by a loud fizzle; everyone turned in that direction, in time to see a series of buildings close to the other side of the fence collapse. A massive ball of fire emerged from a thick cloud of smoke and dust which started to rise from one of the buildings.
Even if they had been able to see from this distance, that cloud was enough to hide from the Spectrum officers’ concerned eyes exactly what could be going on at the studio.
“What the hell?” Ochre muttered.
“Whoa – that doesn’t sound like they’re filming something,” Symphony remarked.
“I lost the connection.” They returned their combined attention to Greenwood, who was now gaping at his phone with an interrogative look. “Just as that explosion occurred. Maybe it’s causing some kind of interference…”
Magenta gave it some quick thought. “Are your phones landline?”
Greenwood nodded. “Yes. Because of all the electronic tests we’re running here, mobile lines are sometimes less than effective. Landline communications are much more reliable in this facility. This phone is linked directly to my office line.” He smiled shyly. “That must sound strange enough when you consider the advanced technology we’re dealing with here.”
“Not really. On the contrary, it sounds quite logical.” Magenta thumbed in the direction of the blast site. “I would bet anything that this explosion knocked down the lines. Did that Doyle guy have time to tell you what the problem was over there?”
“Not quite… He was nearly hysterical. I could hear screaming in the background…”
“And that doesn’t concern you?” Symphony asked, almost sardonically.
“Well… It’s a movie studio… They could be filming a scene.”
“Really?” Symphony retorted. Another series of smaller explosions made themselves heard from beyond the fence and she gestured to it. “And I suppose those are special light and sound effects?”
Greenwood didn’t reply, but instead frowned, thinking of what Doyle had managed to tell him. “Doyle mentioned something about the MIGHTEC prototype… He didn’t have time to tell me what.”
“The MIGHTEC prototype?” Magenta repeated.
“Mechanical Interfacial Gorilla High-Technological Engineered Cybernetics,” Ochre clarified. “It’s the King Kong robot.”
He failed to notice how Magenta and Symphony rolled their eyes almost in unison.
“Why am I not surprised you should know that?” Magenta commented. “Right, whatever’s going on over there, we ought to check it out. It seems to be serious enough for us to consider it a risk.”
“You mean – it could be related to that Mysteron threat that brought you three here?” Greenwood inquired.
“I don’t know…” Ochre said thoughtfully. “Explosions, interferences in communication, panic phone call… Screaming in the background?”
“Could be right up the Mysterons’ alley,” Symphony approved. Another series of explosions and flames emerging from beyond the fence made her scowl. Definitely not light and sound effects… She was on her way before her two colleagues could move. “What are we waiting for? Let’s investigate this right away and see what’s going on.”
“Hang on… Symphony!” Before Magenta could call her back, the young woman was already running in the direction of the explosions beyond the fence. He exchanged glances with Ochre, who shook his head despondently.
“Always rushing where Angels fear to thread,” the Midwesterner said, half-jokingly, half-seriously.
“Between you making jokes and Symphony playing Danger Mouse, I don’t know what I prefer,” Magenta muttered, starting after the young woman. “Come on. Let’s not let her out of our sight.”
“Yeah,” Ochre agreed, following suit. “I wouldn’t want for Blue to wring my neck if something should happen to his gal. I’ll call Cloudbase to inform them of the suspicious activities on the studio’s grounds.”
“And what about me?” called Greenwood after them.
“Alert your security, and prepare your people for an evacuation should it be needed,” Ochre told him over his shoulder. “Then go back to your office and wait for our call. We will tell you quickly if there’s really some reason to be concerned.”
Although knowing the Mysterons, I’m pretty sure we’re in for trouble, he added to himself grimly as he activated his radiocap.
* * *
Symphony and Magenta were approaching the nearest facility building to the fence when they spotted a group of M.A.T. security guards rushing towards the entrance gate not that far from there. Obviously, the explosion had alerted them and unlike the complex director, they didn’t seem to believe that the incident was due to any filming at the studio.
And it wasn’t any wonder. As they rounded the building which was blocking their view and came closer to the guardhouse by the entrance gate, the two Spectrum agents were able to see what the guards themselves could see. There was much more flames, smoke and destruction than they had expected to find: at least four structures on the studio grounds had been reduced to rubble and were still burning. In panic, people were running away from the destroyed buildings, while a few bystanders were sticking around to watch the devastation as if it was a spectacle.
“Definitely not any filming going on,” Magenta muttered. “Something is definitely wrong…”
Symphony intercepted the first guard they encountered; he was rushing past them from the gate, with a portable on his ear. When he turned an annoyed expression at her, she swiftly showed him her credentials and asked him what he knew of what was going on at the studio. He shook his head.
“We don’t know,” he declared. “We first heard a deafening roar, and something big hit that first building on the studio’s grounds.” He pointed to a huge pile of rubble, a good four hundred metres from their position. A thick pall of smoke enveloped it, and they could see it was still smouldering with an inner fire. “And then, the other buildings collapsed in turn. One after the other. Just like dominoes, you could say.”
The man gestured toward the other downed constructions. ‘Like dominoes’ wasn’t exactly an accurate description, but the trail of destruction seemed to follow a more or less straight line, leading to the fence. It was only a little more than two hundred meters away now.
The guard showed his portable. “The landlines are down, so I’m trying to call the main office with this… I’m not having much luck either.”
“Did you see what that thing was that collided with that first building?” It was Captain Ochre’s voice, coming from behind Magenta. After his call to Cloudbase, he had managed to reach his colleagues, in time to hear the guard’s report. The latter shook his head again at his question.
“Most of us, we don’t know what it was,” he continued. “It happened too fast and then there was too much smoke… Whatever it was, it seems to have disappeared. Or maybe hiding, I’m not sure.”
“You said ‘most of us’,” Magenta noted. “Someone did see something, then.”
The guard hesitated. He looked behind his shoulder, in the direction of his comrades. “Jeff… he said he saw something crazy…”
“What did he say he saw?” Magenta insisted.
“He swore it was something like a giant beast of some sort.” The guard shrugged. He obviously didn’t believe it himself.
“A giant beast,” Symphony repeated, sceptically.
“A giant beast?” Ochre said in turn. “What kind of giant beast?” There was barely a fraction of a second’s pause, before he added, expectantly: “Could it have been a kind of giant ape?”
“Captain Ochre,” Symphony told him warningly.
There was a new loud explosion coming from the studio ground, to which answered a deep rumbling roar. They turned around to see part of another building crumbling down.
It was closer still. Less than a hundred meters.
Magenta quickly addressed the guard anew: “Go get your colleagues and have everyone in the complex prepare for evacuation.”
“Evacuation, sir?” the guard echoed in confusion.
“Whatever this thing might be,” Magenta explained, “it’s obviously coming in our direction. Look at the path of this destruction. It’s leading right to this perimeter fence. See to the personnel’s safety. We’ll investigate what this is all about. ”
The guard acknowledged the order with a brief nod and turned around to shout out to his colleagues. They answered his call and joined him and they were swiftly on their way.
“So that’s it?” Symphony commented. “The Mysterons are on the move?”
“It seems like it,” Magenta muttered. “I don’t know what they could be using from the studio that can be used as an actual weapon, but –”
“How about that giant beast that Jeff guy saw?” Ochre interrupted.
Symphony sighed. Really, Ochre was letting his imagination get the better of him. “Captain,” she retorted, “it’s not because they’re filming ‘King Kong’ on these premises –”
He cut her off swiftly. “I’m serious, Symphony. Remember what Greenwood said: there might be some kind of problem with the MIGHTEC prototype. How about… it’s on the loose right now?”
The cry for help came from beyond the entrance gate and the three of them turned around; seemingly coming from behind one of the two last buildings standing on the studio grounds closest to the fence, a young woman covered with dust and specks of debris was running their way. They could see the panic in her features and they hurried to her. They met at the gate, and it was into Magenta’s arms that she threw herself. He could feel her shaking like a leaf from head to toes.
“Please, help me!” she implored, raising her platinum blonde head and looking at him with deep distress in her eyes. “He’s after me!”
“Who?” asked Magenta with a deep frown. “What’s going on over there?”
He knew the woman but he couldn’t place her. It was Ochre who provided the name he was looking for:
“Hey, aren’t you Blondie O’Day?”
Instead of answering the question – to which the answer was obvious anyway, Magenta and Symphony having recognised her as well – she swiftly turned to him. The fear in her blue eyes were so obvious, it couldn’t be feigned, even by the best actress who ever lived.
Which she wasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination.
“Please, you’ve got to help me!” she pleaded again. “Ida… She was with me, but she disappeared in the smoke when the last building was destroyed… I think she ran away in another direction, but I don’t know… She could have been killed! I don’t want to die as well! Take me somewhere safe! Before it’s too late!”
“Too late for what?” Symphony asked, scowling as she tried to make sense of the words coming out of the actress’s mouth at the speed of a runaway train. “What are you so afraid of?”
A roar seemed to answer her and startled the four of them; it was coming from very close by, but as hard as they looked, they couldn’t see what it could be. Whatever that thing coming their way, it was still invisible to their eyes, hidden from them by the smoke and those two last buildings close to the fence.
They heard a loud thumping, like something hitting the ground. Hard.
“Who’s after you, Miss O’Day?” Magenta asked the trembling woman in his arms.
She looked at him, still in panic. “King Kong!”
And right at this moment, the wall of one of the buildings exploded from the inside. As if something was pushing through it.
Blondie screamed; Magenta thought his eardrums would burst. He took the same careful step back as his two colleagues, pulling the young woman along. He didn’t believe her claims about King Kong. All he knew was that they were definitely in danger if they were to stay on this spot.
Suddenly, a huge figure went right through the wall, enveloped in a cloud of intense smoke and dusty rubble, making what remained of the building fall in on itself; with a terrifying roar and an incredible speed for something so big, the indistinct shape made a mighty leap into the air through the dust and smoke, way over the security fence bordering the M.A.T. grounds. It landed heavily on top of the guardhouse, making part of the roof collapse underneath its weight. Fortunately, there was no-one left inside that could have been hurt by the falling rubble.
Blondie O’Day was beside herself with panic; she clung to Magenta like a drowning woman to a lifebelt. The three Spectrum officers were looking in disbelief at the huge creature now stooping on top of the half-destroyed roof, grunting loudly. Even Ochre, who had first voiced the possibility, couldn’t believe what their eyes were now seeing.
“Sweet Mother of God,” Magenta breathed out. “Tell me it’s not true…”
“This is not good,” Ochre said, shaking his head in dismay. “Man, sometimes, I wish that I wasn’t so right all the time.”
Kong straightened up on his legs, roared in apparent defiance, and started thumping on his chest, each bang echoing with a deep metallic sound. He didn’t seem to have seen the four human beings standing close by – or at least, he didn’t appear to take any notice of them. They slowly backed away, not letting the huge gorilla out of their sight.
“We’d better confirm the threat to Cloudbase,” Magenta said in a low voice, in an obvious attempt not to be heard by the giant gorilla. “There’s no doubt now. This is really the work of the Mysterons.”
“You think?” Ochre retorted in the same voice.
“You know anyone else who could animate a giant robot gorilla and make it act like a real one?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never seen a real giant gorilla before…”
Magenta unhooked Blondie’s arms from his person – which was surprisingly easy, considering the state of panic she was in. He needed both hands and she was becoming a hindrance. He pushed her towards Symphony.
At this moment, the massive head of the robot gorilla moved – and looked down at them, seemingly noticing their presence at last.
He first glared at the two men in the colourful uniforms; then his eyes fell on the two women, standing close to one another. He emitted a guttural grunt as he seemed to consider them, very closely. He stepped heavily off the guardhouse.
Magenta didn’t like that.
“Slowly,” he whispered. “Let’s get back before –”
He was interrupted by Kong’s sudden roar of fury; and then the ape raised his massive hand menacingly.
“Look out!” Ochre cried out.
They all ducked, just as Kong lowered his hand – and with a mighty swipe, razed the side of what was left of the guardhouse, sending debris of wood and bricks flying all around them.
Ochre hit the ground, right next to Magenta; he just got a glimpse of Symphony throwing herself at Blondie O’Day and pushing her to the ground, and then completely lost sight of both women – though he heard the movie star’s high scream through the noise of destruction and the cybernetic gorilla’s rumbling growls. Kong definitely sounded as if he was angry – if it was possible for a robot to get angry.
Coughing, Ochre blinked through the dust and risked an eye in the direction of Kong; he saw him raising his fist once more; the scream directly from his right gave him Blondie’s location. He turned to see her lying flat on her belly, and reached for her hand – just as he spotted Magenta slowly getting to his feet…
…Right underneath Kong’s raised hand.
“Magenta!” he roared.
Magenta briefly looked at his colleague, but neither had time to speak.
Another giant swat from Kong’s hand completed the utter destruction of the guardhouse. Both Magenta and Ochre, with Blondie in tow, leapt out of the hand’s path as fast as they could. That didn’t save them from the rubble which rained on them, sending them down and knocking them off their feet. Blondie stopped screaming; if he had not been so concerned about her safety, Ochre would have been grateful for at least that.
Lying on his back, slightly groggy, he looked up, and watched with perplexity as Kong, half-hidden by the smoke and dust of the destruction he had caused, straightened up and turned his back on them. The giant gorilla gave a loud challenging roar, and thumped his chest again, but this time with only one fist.
Then he started ambling away from the destruction scene, stepping on a parked car and tearing through a low fence that was in his way. He didn’t even slow down or look back.
Slowly, Ochre got up, helping a still shaken Blondie to her feet. From the corner of his eye, he saw Magenta pushing himself up, groaning as he did. He was relieved that his colleague seemed in one piece.
“You okay, Magenta?”
“Yeah, I think I am.” Magenta coughed, the dust catching in his throat, and got to his feet. “Mostly bruises, I guess… I’ve been lucky. You?”
“I’m all right too.” Ochre quickly checked Blondie with his eyes. She was holding on to his right arm, so tight that he had the impression she was cutting off his circulation. “Ms. O’Day seems okay too.”
Magenta had his cap in his hand and was ruffling his hair, trying to get his bearings. He looked towards Ochre, noticed Blondie clinging to his colleague’s arm, and then realised that something was wrong. At about the same time, Ochre noticed the same, and both started looking around; their concern grew when they could find no trace of what they were searching for.
“Where… where’s Symphony?” Magenta finally said.
“Oh no,” Ochre whispered, looking with horror at the pile of bricks next to which they stood. “I hope she’s not under –”
He never got to finish his thoughts as a scream interrupted him. This time, it wasn’t coming from Blondie; in fact, it resembled nothing like Blondie’s high-pitched scream, but it carried a certain amount of fear. It was coming from a distance – actually coming from the same direction the MIGHTEC robot had taken a few seconds before.
And right after that scream, Ochre and Magenta heard a well-known voice, shouting defiant words:
“Get your stinking paws of me, you damn dirty ape!”
Ochre and Magenta spun around to look with incredulity at the giant robot gorilla which was walking away from them. A new scream confirmed their suspicion and they looked at each other’s in distress.
“Oh no,” Magenta said, paling. “Don’t tell me –”
“He grabbed her.”
Magenta turned to address an inquiring look at Blondie O’Day who had said those words. She was still clinging to Ochre’s arm. The latter was gaping at her with perplexity.
“You said… Kong got her?” Ochre inquired.
The young woman nodded. Ochre could feel her trembling. “He was about to get his hand on me… but your friend, she pushed me out of the way and I fell. And the beast, he went for her instead…” She looked up at Ochre with something akin to admiration in her eyes. “She ought to be the bravest person I’ve ever met!”
“Yeah, and she’s a damn impetuous fool too,” Ochre groaned. “Blue’s gonna kill us if something happens to her!”
“Never mind that,” Magenta retorted. “We’ve got to follow that ape! And not let it out of our sight.”
“But how? He’s fast, how can we follow him?”
“That.” Magenta pointed to a row of electric carts parked just a few meters away from the destroyed guardhouse; the vehicles were obviously used to patrol the grounds. Three of them had escaped the rubble. “We’ll use one of those. That should be fast enough to catch up with the robot.”
“You want to give chase to King Kong in a golf cart?” Ochre asked with incredulity.
“Do we have any choice?” Magenta retorted with a voice that didn’t accept any compromise. “We don’t have a SPV handy right now and the SSC is still at the M.A.T. Tower. I’ll drive. You contact Cloudbase and tell them what happened.”
“S.I.G.” Ochre was about to follow Magenta who was already moving towards the closest cart, when he was stopped in his movement by Blondie, who clung to him with all her might.
“You’re not going to leave me all alone?” she shrieked in protest. “With that monster on the loose? What if he comes back for me?”
“Miss O’Day, I doubt there’s any risk of that,” Ochre reassured her. “Get away from here and find a place to hide… You’ll be safe.” As her pleading, beautiful blue eyes met his, he hesitated for a moment. She was even more beautiful up close than on the screen. He offered her his most comforting smile. “Just be sure to stay around. When this is all over, Spectrum will certainly want to contact you to get your deposition regarding these events.”
“And… will you be the one to come question me?” she asked, smiling in turn, almost timidly. “Captain…?” She frowned, obviously searching for his name.
“Ochre. Captain Ochre.” His smile widened. “It’ll be an honour, Miss O’Day. I… er… I’m a big fan of yours, and –”
“Hey, fan boy!” The forceful call made Ochre freeze and he looked over his shoulder; Magenta was seated at the wheel of his chosen cart and was glaring at him with annoyance and impatience. “Do I have to remind you that we have another blonde in distress and that she’s a friend of ours? Quit fooling around! You can get her autograph later!”
“Right.” Composing himself, Ochre cleared his throat, untangled Blondie’s arms from his person and after saluting her with a tip of his cap, he turned on his heel and jogged over to jump onto the seat next to Magenta.
“I wasn’t being a fan boy,” he protested in a low voice.
“Of course you weren’t,” mumbled Magenta.
The engine was silent but swift when he put it into motion; the cart jumped forward, with the two Spectrum officers onboard, giving chase to the runaway robot and leaving Blondie O’Day standing in front of the destroyed guardhouse.
“Did you get all that, Harry?”
“Sir, my name’s Harold. Nobody ever called me ‘Harry’. You can call me ‘Hal’, if you want, but –”
“I don’t care if your name’s Athelstane. Did you get it or not?”
Harold Biggs sighed dejectedly. He never thought that Peer Abramson would be such a difficult man to work with; he never imagined either that he would be running after a rogue cybernetic gorilla, filming all his actions on a handheld tourist camera, while hiding behind the last standing wall of a building the said cybernetic gorilla just had destroyed on the way.
“I’ve got everything, sir,” he told Abramson. “From beginning to end.”
“Blondie O’Day throwing herself into the arms of a heroic colour-coded Spectrum officer,” Abramson said, almost not believing it as he said the words. “That’s way better than I could ever have dreamt of! Does the scene look good?”
“Awesome, Mr. Abramson.”
“Talk about awesome, have you seen that leap over the fence?” Arnie then said, from behind Abramson and Harold. “Never thought the big guy had so much spring in his legs. M.A.T. certainly knows its stuff with building cybernetics.”
“They sure must be regretting now having made him so well,” Abramson retorted. “Oh well, their loss, our gain, I guess. I don’t suppose you were about to re-make contact with the robot, Arnie?”
“No, sir,” Arnie answered, still playing with the commands of his tablet. “And I’ve been trying, I can tell you that.” He frowned, looking at his device. “It’s like there’s something… blocking me out.”
“Keep at it. Nobody would be able to say that we didn’t try anything to stop this ape’s rampage. Any idea why he was chasing after Blondie in the first place?”
“Ah… It must be his programming.” Arnie gave it some thought. “Dirk and I entered the Kong synthesized behavioural patterns last night. There’s one protocol called the ‘Fay Wray sequence’. And I guess the whole ‘Giant gorilla in love with blonde bombshell’ thing must be imbedded in all the patterns as well.”
“But he went after the other girl at the last minute,” remarked Harold.
“One blonde girl or another… The behavioural patterns don’t specify it ought to be Miss O’Day,” Arnie said. “Kong might not be that faithful to his lady love.”
“And will he hurt that girl?” Harold asked.
“I don’t expect so… Asimov’s three laws of robotics are programmed into him, after all… and Kong is supposed to be protective of Ann Darrow, isn’t it? Although he hurt Mr. Simmons…”
“That was an accident,” Abramson swiftly replied. “It wasn’t a mortal wound by any stretch of the imagination, so he’ll be all right. In the meantime, we’ll continue to follow the robot… and take as much footage as we can.”
“And how are we going to do that?” Arnie asked with a raised brow. “It has a good start on us now…”
“Those Spectrum officers had the right idea.” Abramson pointed to the remaining electric cart next to the destroyed guardhouse. “Let’s take that. All right with you, Harry?”
Harold sighed heavily and rolled his eyes as the three of them left the safety of their hiding place. “It’s still Harold, sir,” he repeated timidly.
The three men hurried towards the cart. Blondie O’Day, who was watching the first cart speeding away after Kong, turned around when she heard hurried footsteps behind her. She opened wide eyes with surprise when she saw Abramson, flanked with Arnie and they young tour guide.
“Oh, Peer!” She purred with relief, throwing herself at Abramson and stopping him in his tracks, just as Arnie and Harold passed her and went directly to the cart. “You came after me to check if I was all right? Did you see that? That big robot was chasing me. It was terrifying!”
“Yeah, yeah, I saw it, love,” Abramson answered, nodding vigorously. “That house falling all around you and all… You okay, he didn’t hurt you?”
“No, I’m okay, but –”
“That’s good, then.” Swiftly, Abramson planted a kiss on the young woman’s forehead. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, sweetheart, I’ve got a beast to chase.” Leaving her abruptly, he rushed to join Harold and Arnie. He pushed the latter out of the driver’s seat, and took the wheel.
Baffled by his conduct, Blondie glared at him with an upset frown. “You mean… you’re leaving me here to go after that… robot?” she asked with incomprehension.
“I’ve got to get as much footage as I can, Blondie,” he replied, barely looking back at her and turning the electric engine on. “Maybe we’ll still be able to salvage something from this incident. You’ll be all right, don’t worry.” He glanced over his shoulder and offered an apologetic smile. “If it wasn’t the case, the Spectrum officers wouldn’t have left you either, right?” Not waiting for the young woman’s answer, he pressed the pedal and the cart jumped forward.
Infuriated to have been left behind – again – Blondie O’Day glared angrily at the departing cart.
“Men!” she hissed. “You can never count on them! How can they leave me that way and leave me all alone?”
“You are not alone, Earthwoman.”
The voice coming from behind her surprised Blondie and she almost jumped out of her skin. She wasn’t sure she recognised it and turned on her heels; she blew a deep sigh of relief when she saw who it was.
“Oh, it’s you!” she said. “You gave me quite a scare, you know? And what’s the game, with you calling me Earthwoman with that voice? You going all ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ on me all of a sudden, are you?”
“Something like that, Earthwoman…” was the ominous reply.
“Oh, cut it out!” Blondie said with annoyance. “It’s really not working…” She gasped when she saw the gun in her interlocutor’s hand, aimed straight at her. That was enough to shut her up instantly. She saw the evil smile appear on the other’s lips.
“Good. That’s how I want you: silent and obedient. You may still survive what is to come.” A hand pointed towards the last of the electric carts. “Now get behind the wheel and follow my instructions. We are going for a ride.”