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My Heroes Were Rovers
July 24, 2006
The noise of Skylar's entry woke Colby. He sat up on the lone bare mattress in the cheap apartment and pointed to the metal computer connector over Skylar's solar plexus. "You took MetalCrack again." Skylar hid the connector with his hands and avoided eye contact.
"No, the connector's an artifact, a dream figment." Skylar looked around the one-room apartment for a glass. He filled it with tapwater and drank, twice.
"Dream my ass, Sky." He pulled Skylar's hand away from the connector. "You found a junky with a rig. I listened to it the scanner. The cops nearly caught you. Didn't they?" Skylar mumbled, began to speak, then looked into Colby's eyes and slumped over next to him, too tired to argue, too tired to lie.
"I couldn't stop. It's speed, raw horsepower, steel..."
"Until you crash and I get to identify the pieces." Colby held Skylar's head to his chest. He felt flushed and dry, dehydrated. His heart raced. Bad signs. Colby pulled him closer.
"Aw Col, it's not like I'm riding a big hog in the city. The nanomachines don't kill; they just make the body feel good. It's just a dirt bike, a thousand nanos. The metallization is controllable." Skylar shivered. Colby ran his finger around the connector. Skylar gasped at its sensitivity and then drew away in shame.
"You stole everything." Colby pushed him away. "...And you have the balls to come into our bed with the nanomachines still active."
"I'm losing it Col. Can't stop. The pushers know me. They got big bikes I can't resist. Don't turn away from me, please Col. You donŐt understand. You don't know how it feels, can't know..." He lay against Colby. "Don't turn your back on me. You're my only hope. Come ride wit' me tomorrow night. If you do, I'll make it my last ride." Skylar sobbed himself to sleep. Colby remained still until he Skylar's breathing slowed and his heartbeat slowed to normal. He looked at Skylar's eyes as they darted in REM sleep.
"I know a man, Sky. His name is Bit-Boy. He needs men for the bikes. He ain't got roads. No cop chases. He's got a rig out there. All the Metalcrack and nanomachines you need. I'm nothing without you. I'll do what it takes to keep us together... I've been too afraid... We'll do it... tomorrow... in the desert... " A tear ran down Colby's cheek. Afraid of the outcome, he'd put this off too long. He almost lost Skylar tonight. Skylar slept in his arms, dreaming of motorcycles, wheelies, races and speed, above all, the power of speed. Colby didn't sleep. The very thought of what he had to do gave him nightmares.
*** *** ***
"This better be your buddy or you can walk away," Bit-boy pointed the shotgun barrel through the slit that passed for a window in the rusting Quonset hut. Junked vehicles of all types stood in the yard. A half-dozen metal building sat in the middle of nothing but sand, cactus and sun.
"DonŐt be paranoid. Of course he's my buddy." Colby put his arm around Skylar shoulders.
"Big boy, lots of muscle. You said you was bigger'n him."
"Nah, I told you I can still whoop his ass even sporting him 25 pounds." Colby tousled Skylar's hair.
"I don't care what you do with his ass. He's too big for a dirt bikes. I have to use the big stuff, the trikes." Bit-Boy lowered the shotgun and stepped into the doorway.
"What's a trike?" Skylar asked. He didn't like this man. This man wasn't a junkie. This man was something else.
"It's a stunt bike fool. Two oversized front wheels, a huge-ass, 1200 horsepower V12 engine and a monstrous rear wheel to drive it along. Fast as fuck. And it comes with MetalCrank," Bit-Boy said. He pulled the tarp off a pair of trikes. Skylar stared at the largest motor vehicle he ever saw on three wheels. It had five-foot high wheels, a motor three times the size of a street hog and a cage for the driver -- all steel on steel.
"Son-of-a-bitch sky. Who builds machines like these?" Skylar's voice had that little boy wonder in it.
"I do. I like building erections and hard-ons," Bit-Boy answered. He waited for Skylar to get a good look, and then he picked up two helmets.
"OK muscle stud, pick a helmet. The little girl's helmet with 270 degree electronics for you to see forward. Or the man-sized hemispherical VR setup that sees up, down, front, back, right, left, above and below... everywhere around the trike. You get to choose." He set the helmets down.
"Hemi, oh please the hemi," Skylar answered before Bit-Boy had a chance to breath. He snarled at Skylar. No words just a snarl, like a lion saying, go away pissant. He turned to Colby and licked his lips.
"He's a junkie, isn't he? You brought him out here because he's hooked on MetalCrack." Bit-Boy pulled the tarp over
"I asked him to," Skylar defended himself.
"Shut up. It's not your party. It's his," Bit-Boy seemed to tower over Skylar's body. Skylar backed down.
"He's right. It is my choice, Sky. I got the self-control to make the decision. You don't. Tonight, we roll in the desert. Tomorrow, they'll detox our bodies." Colby shuffled Skylar over to one of the trikes.
"This is a cure?" Skylar asked.
"I guarantee it." Bit-Boy laughed in Colby's face.
"But you said I'm too big," Skylar said. Bit-Boy looked at him and shrugged.
"I lied. The trikes take two connectors. A couple thousand nanomachines." Bit-Boy said. "This vehicle is like a wet dream. Data flows through the connector on your chest. It steers with both arms. Wheel camber, torque and traction controls are in each hand. Throttle, clutch and brakes work with your feet just like a car. Your thighs rest here. The chest connector mates directly into the motor. Your head stays protected in the frame thanks to the Hemispherical Virtual Reality in the helmet. Armorplate steel protects the rest of your body."
"I don't care. I just build the damn thing.." Bit Boy said.
"Built for who?"
"Quit asking questions Brenda. You want to ride or you want to talk?" He turned his attention to Colby. "I'm doin' ya both at once." Skylar mounted the trike naked. The silvery connector in the middle of his chest gleamed and sparkled.
Colby undressed and felt his chest where the connector would form. He watched Bit-Boy fasten Skylar's metal boots to the trike's frame. He came over and did the same for Colby. The control surfaces gripped Colby's feet and tingled like electricity. His penis stiffened.
"Stick your thing in that hole and lay on your stomach." Bit-Boy ordered. Colby looks surprised.
"Fool, if you need to relieve yourself that tube drains onto the ground. You want to swim in your own piss?" Colby looked at Skylar already sealed into the body of the trike. He let Bit-Boy tighten the clamps. The grip of the metal excited him. This was it. There was no turning back. Colby leaned forward and relaxed as Bit-Boy forced a nanomachine patch onto his chest. It dissolved into a black spot. In minutes it would be his connector to the motor. Then Bit-Boy fastened the thigh and hip shields. The metal pinched and held him tight to the metal. A bar slid around his butt cheeks pressed his body tight into the metal. Colby slid his hands into the metal grips and felt the controls for each finger tighten as individual connectors for on his fingers.
"This will sting," Bit boy said. He activated the nanomachines for the connector resting against Colby's chest. A thousand nanomachines dug into his body and interacted with his nervous system. The pain faded and the active controllers fed data into Colby's nerves. His mind and body throbbed in anticipation.
"It's like the trike is part of me. The motor is my heart and the wheels my arms and legs."
"That's the idea. Wait until the motor kicks over. That's the real blast." Bit-Boy went to Skylar and emptied a hypo it into his neck. Skylar stiffened as the drugs and nanomachines took control. Bit-boy bolted the metal shields over Skylar's back and shoulders. Then he positioned the helmet on Skylar's head and latched it to the framework. Colby could see the shape of a human body encased in the metal of the trike. It all looked so robotic, so hard steel and cold metal. Military grays and greens covered what wasn't shiny steel.
"Damn dude, he reminds me of an unmanned drones. Looks spooky." Colby said to Bit-Boy.
"This is what you agreed to, jerk. Who da fuck do you think makes these things? They ain't fucking top secret for nothin'. My contact smuggled two new models out for your enjoyment. Now shut your mouth while I bolt the shields over your body. Concentrate on relaxing, these shields are tight and claustrophobic." Bit-Boy shot up Colby with the drugs and bolted the shields over his body. The drugs mitigated the tightness of the metal shields as the metal dug into his body. The helmet fit against every curve and bend on his head. He suppressed his panic as cups pressed against his eyeballs.
Without warning, the helmet fed a brilliant three-dimensional image filled his vision. It startled him. His exterior coalesced into a panorama. He could see the desert ahead, Bit-Boy's shop behind, the ground underneath him and the sky above. Without moving, Colby had a commanding view of everything around the trike in visible light, infrared, ultraviolet, sonar and radar. The focus moved with his eyes and followed his thoughts. A heads-up display of the motor and transmission floated to one side. Communications space for more trikes filled various parts of the screen. Right now, only Skylar and Bit-Boy had active displays.
Static from the com connection buzzed. "Like that display buddy? Look at the sunset. We got until the sun rises." Skylar's voice sounded artificial.
"Breathtaking," Colby thought he vocalized his speech but he wasn't sure. Before he could ask, Bit-Boy turned over the engines. The 1200 horsepower V12 throbbed through Colby's body and nanomachines controlled his reactions. He controlled the motor with computer-like precision. Skylar took off. Colby, anticipating the coefficient of friction of wheels on sand, the torque required on the transmission, and direction to turn the wheels, roared after him.
The trikes raced across the night desert jumping sand dunes and cactus patches. They bounced off rocks like toys, flipping front-over-back and reversing directions with sand flying. Skylar spun on the front wheels and the data link between his and Colby's mind, taught Colby how to imitate each stunt. Each maneuver created a higher level of sexual orgasm. Every time Colby revved the motor his body flared in pleasure. His chest merged with the engine. The motor beat like his own finely-tuned heart. His arms and legs became mere extensions of the frame, guiding him through the desert obstacles. Energy from engine flowed through his torso to power the gearbox and rotate the wheels. His manhood throbbed orgasmically with each acceleration, jump and spin. Colby and Skylar chased each other in an orgasm of tag through the long hours of the night.
As the sky brightened, Skylar and Colby weaved through the sand dunes and cactus patches to return to Bit-Boy's camp. They filled the com channel with idle talk of biggest dune, highest flip. Skylar could replay the moves in stick diagrams with Colby adding force analysis and Bit-Boy supplying skins of otherworldly deserts and alien fauna. Central servers recorded their every move and thought.
Two green halftracks sat next to Bit-Boy's Quonset hut along with a squadron of soldiers already seated on trikes and wearing VR helmets. The rest of the squadron worked to bolt them into the metal framework of the trikes. First, the soldier-riders greeted Skylar and Colby as heroes. Then the mechanics, already half-machine and teeming with nanomachines joined the chorus of praise. A third platoon sat in an adjacent Quonset hut working on the servers that encoded information from the drones, satellites, GPS and sensors for each trike. Colby and Skylar's com displays lit up with screens for each trike and the data systems. He could sense their impending conversion.
"I didn't think you'd deliver, Colby. You could have let Skylar go off alone and walk away from the proof-of-concept experiment. As it is, you and Colby did better than any other volunteer." Bit-Boy adjusted the com channels so they could speak.
Colby buried his reasons in a private part of his mind. "I did what I had to do," The sterile, electronic nature of his voice startled him. He fidgeted and his trike scuffled along the sandy ground. Bit-Boy flipped a switch and disengaged Colby and Skylar's transmissions. They could only rev their engines.
"What deal?" Skylar asked.
"You're buddy didn't tell you? He's one of the rare indivisuals whose immune to MetalCrack. He did the conversion stone cold sober. That's the only way he could bring your pathetic, drug addicted body in the program. MetalCrack isn't enough for complete cybernetic conversion. Colby knew that. But he knew that you would agree to anything he asked if you thought you could escape a fatal overdose of MetalCrank. We conceived these machines for military use. I built them and sold them to the military. Thanks to you two, We will make deliver on initial squad of twelve."
"Initial squad?" Skylar asked. He got no answer. He scanned the surroundings and watched several mechanics, proudly displaying their computer interfaces, come towards him carrying a new battery. Their embedded radios relayed technical parameters on the battery. Colby felt the nanomachines adjust his metallic frame to match the new parameters.
"Rev your engines so you don't lose power as the cyborgs change to nuclear batteries. They last forever and they'll activate several billion nanomachines. The final step in cyborg conversion, boys. Enjoy it." Colby thought of the mechanics permanently augmented men capable of interfacing with any machine. They still resembled greasy muscle-toughs in dirty t-shirts with LEDs, circuit boards and golden connectors. They knew how hot and sexy they looked in Colby's VR array as they worked.
These are powered. in the frame of the trike." The mechanic touched a port on Colby's back. Not mechanics, They inserted the nuclear battery. Colby felt a surge of electric power fill his body. The tingle of nanomachines transforming his body filled through the network. He wasn't alone. A dozen other soldiers felt their bodies turning to steel, circuit boards, memory chips and metallic nerves. The central servers began to integrate their minds into the network. His human body ceased to exist replaced with a mechanical marvel, serviced by a cadre of half-human, half machine cyborgs.
Colby revved his engine as the metal his body transformed into steel.. Every nut and bolt in the trike became part of his body. Every motor seal, piston, rod and spark plug became a living piece of metal. The nanomachines remade his body in the image of a new god, a god of metal and data, man turned trike. No more need for muscles and internal organs. The machine became his body. His mind transformed into data analysis modules.
One by one, his head-up display the new screens in his heads up display showed the integration of another trike. Each othe the mechanics had their own subsystem and the soldiers manning the data channels appeared online. Some were altogether human, others became servers and processors, data collectors and interface systems.
Colby scanned his steel body with the mechanic's artificial eye. He saw not the rough outlines of steel body, larger than life and handsome, well-muscled, gleaming steel man riding inside the metal frame of the trike.
"I look good in steel," thought Colby.
"That you do," added Skylar. The converted soldiers joined in the self-admiration. They began work on custon interfaces suited to each trike's personality. Finally, Skylar asked the obvious question.
"What are we? What have we become?"
Bit-Boy explained "We're a squad of War-Trikes, nearly indestructible on the battlefield. Over the next few weeks, we'll be fitted with the latest weapons, trained in their use and ultimately sent to one of those pesky little conflicts some foreign shitheads are always creating. Think of how debilitating our presence will be on the battlefield. Each of us is more powerful than most armored vehicles. Remote controlled trikes can defeat tank battalions. Think of what a dozen of us can do out there. That's the new dream. We get to live our dream."
One of the mechanics butted into the discussion. "Listen to these two guys. It'[s not about dreams and abstractions, guys. It's about that big engine throbbing between your legs, your new manhood. And the weapons you'll have. You'll feel the impact and take pleasure in it. It's better than sex, guaranteed." The mechanics laughed. Colby let them raid his mind for the best maneuvers of the night before.
"That's hot," one said.
"I can't wait. I want it right now," the other said.
"You are so lucky dude. We went through hell to get into this squad," another said. The rest agreed. Their emotions overwhelmed Colby and Skylar.
One by one, the soldier's hearts raced as the mechanics inserted their nuclear batteries and they transformed into machines. That afternoon, the cyborg mechanics added the minimum number of guns, rocket launchers, satellite links, GPS and other equipment to the squad. Their minds met in electronic union, knowledge transferred, personalities touched, new experiences learned.
Bit-Boy adjusted his control board and brought the squad's central command links online. In the flood of information queries that followed, Colby forgot about his individuality. He was one of many now. He answered queries from the new trikes on several levels and across different channels. These were fresh young minds that gloried in war and its tactics.
In that first hour, while Skylar and Colby taught the rest of the squadron how to manuver their wheels, they also learned the military knowledge of the soldiers. The squad retained their individual personalities but unified in their purpose. They knew each other intimately, no secrets, no hidden memories, no unknown passions; all was revealed.
Over the next ten days, the cyborg mechanics added state-of-the-art equipment of war; machine guns, grenade launchers, energy beam weapons, laser sighting and ranging and old-fashioned spiked armor. The platoon's once-human servers and data analysis network, each fitted with auxiliary displays and computers, created new scenarios for the Trikes to hone their war skills. The interface helmets transformed the desert into foreign battlefields, alien landscapes, deathtraps and thrill rides.
Skylar fit into the squad with ease. He lost his addiction and rolled next to his lover. Colby thought his sacrifice well-made and rose to second-in-command and science officer of the troop. After all, he reasoned, he had his mind and a new body that was well worth the sacrifice.
Two months of training passed before the War-Trikes routed a battalion of heavily armed mercenaries in one of the "stans." The victory did not go unnoticed. The Platoon battled once again, defeating a tank division with superior mobility and coordinated firepower. The media called it a savage slaughter. After that, the Platoon retired to the desert to await a threat that might never materialize. The Trikes spent their days playing never-ending war games and practicing for war.
3000 words more or less
FUTURES YET UNKNOWN
Ten Stories by Dave Fragments
*An Alien serial murderer and a furry detective with fleas.
*Murder on a world with altered humans.
*Disturbing apocalyptic visions *Monstrous dystopian societies.
*A man on trial for betraying the human race to robots.
*Devils, demons and ghosts.
*Survivors of a plague war.
*Cyborgs trying to be human.
*Six friends in a strange sinkhole.
*The truth about a world drowning in rain, without sun, without hope.
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