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Meat Puppets

by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

Table of Contents
Part 3 and Part 5
appear in this issue.
part 4 of 7

“They are moving fast — no, wait, they just stopped,” said Maya, standing in an alleyway.

“What direction?”

Maya pointed, and off they went. The group got noticed as it filed out of the alley, but it was nothing to shout about. The women then marched across the road and along the sidewalk.

“How far?” said Carmilla.

“About two blocks, we should be there in five, six minutes,” said Maya.

In just under ten minutes, they were all standing in front of Weaver’s Clothes, interrupting the flow of traffic. The store was enjoying good business on all three levels.

“This might be a problem,” said Maya.

“Why? Can’t you get a fix on her?”

“No, the store security is messing it up for me — or maybe it’s the iron in the concrete...”

“She is wearing your clothes, right?” asked Carmilla.

“Don’t remind me.”

Maya turned toward the group and said, “Okay people, the girl we are looking for is most likely wearing a short grey jacket, a white T-shirt and black stretch pants, with some white shoes on her feet. Be quick now, this is a clothing store, and she may have noticed us following her.”

Carmilla just shook her head and rubbed her forehead. She knew well that the hunt was a disaster, but she still felt it was the best way she had to do this. She just hoped the android had not changed clothes yet.

The women did not all seem to bother with the description, and menaced every female entity in the store. After all, had they not been told that the robot could assume any shape? Maya had to walk between groups to confirm whether they had the right one or not, and in most cases they let the poor women go quickly.

The ones who caught androids were less willing to release them without some further violence, but after a few solid kicks they usually let them go too. Their owners threatened lawsuits for property damage, but quickly shut up when guns were flashed.

* * *

“What’s that noise?” asked Jonas. He left Elfa in the changing room and went to investigate. He saw the women barge in on the floor below, and start to terrorize the clientele. He ran back and told Elfa to hurry up. She came out of the dressing room wearing a dress with a flower pattern.

“Your friends have arrived,” he told her. “We have to leave.”

They walked casually to the nearest cashier and Jonas paid for the garments. He gave the cashier a bag with the clothes Elfa had worn in, and told her to keep those. Then they walked away.

“Okay, we are going up to the roof,” he said to Elfa. “We can walk from there to the next roof; the houses here are all interconnected; we can get down a fire escape somewhere.”

They found the stairs to the top near the back, hidden from view, and went in there, and to the top. The door to the roof was locked, but that is the sort of thing that fire extinguishers are for. The door came open after about ten hits with the extinguisher, and they were on the roof.

As Jonas said, the roofs were interconnected. They climbed to the nearest roof, which was only about one and a half meters higher, walked across the building to the next, and so on, until they came to an alley.

“I’m not jumping down there,” said Jonas. Elfa was already gone to look for the fire escape when he looked around. She found it, and climbed down. Jonas followed her.

It took a few minutes to climb all the way down, but they made it safely, and started walking. They got out on the other side of the block and crossed the road to re-enter the alley. There they walked through the various back alleys for almost an hour before they came out in the red light district.

There weren’t many hookers out in daylight, but you could see a few walking about. There were a couple of guys standing by the windows, watching some old 2802 models strut their stuff. You could rent those by the hour. No law yet against pimping out machinery.

Jonas spotted a hotel after a short while. It was one of the many “hourly rate” establishments around.

“Let’s go in there,” he said to Elfa. She followed him in. There was an uninterested looking guy at the counter, surfing the web. He barely noticed them when he rented them a room for a couple of hours.

The room was on the fourth floor, and the elevator was out of order. By the looks of it, it had been out for over a decade. The room was in the middle of a long and narrow hallway, decorated with ugly green wallpaper and a worn-out carpet on the floor.

When they opened the door to their room, they saw that it was long and narrow, with barely enough space for anything more than the singles bed. At the end of the bed was a bed-stand with an alarm on top of it, and beside it, an egg timer for some reason. Jonas sat on the bed and picked up the egg timer. It could go for an hour.

“Nice place,” said Elfa, looking around. The floor creaked every time she took a step.

“We’ll only have to be here for two hours,” said Jonas, “I need to rest. We can order pizza if you like?”

“No thanks, not hungry,” said Elfa, and sat down. The bed creaked as well.

Jonas sat back and let his mind roam. He sat there for almost five minutes, until Elfa interrupted his reverie. “Isn’t this a concrete house?” she asked Jonas.

Jonas banged his head against the wall. Then he reached to the outer wall, and gave it a good bang under the window with his fist.

“The outer walls are solid rock,” he said, “but the inner walls are drywall. It’s probably an old apartment building they have converted into a hotel. They can make three hotel rooms from every living room in an old apartment, they only have to space it with drywall and add beds.”

Elfa stood up and jumped. The whole room shook.

Jonas sat up and held tight. He looked at Elfa. “Let’s not move around so much, shall we?”

* * *

“They went out? How did they get out? There are only two exits, and we’ve got them both covered!” said Carmilla when Maya told her what her locator said.

“I don’t know, they appear to have walked right through the wall, into the adjacent building,” said Maya.

“All right, we have to gather our team together again,” said Carmilla, looking around, and she waved someone to come to her.

It took fifteen minutes to get a hold of all the women and tell them the news. Then they all marched out to the street again. They could hear the sirens by then, but they kept together. They already had a contact at the police switchboard who did all she could to slow down the response time, but she couldn’t do that forever without causing suspicion.

“They are in the red-light district,” said Maya.

“What on earth are they doing there?” asked Carmilla.

“Well, it is close to the NLT building,” said Maya, “Maybe whoever has the android is returning it.”

“We can’t let that happen,” said Carmilla and walked faster.

They did not enter the alleys, but went around them, and it was not too long until they were in the red light district. They fanned out and walked through the street, toward where Maya said the android was hiding.

It was an ugly, dilapidated old brick and mortar house, perhaps a hundred years old or more. Carmilla looked at Maya, who nodded. Carmilla drew her gun out of her purse and held it by her side as she walked inside. She walked to the uninterested guy at the computer, smiled at him and asked about any people who may have rented an apartment from him during the last hour. The guy didn’t even bother to look from his monitor as he answered:

“I run a confidential business,” he said.

Carmilla aimed the gun at him. He didn’t flinch, and continued clicking on something.

“Look, this is a .40-calibre military handgun, with a 30-round helical feed magazine. I think I still have 29 rounds left, so tell me before I decide to turn you into Swiss cheese and start looking the hard way!”

The man shrugged and ignored her. Carmilla fired her gun at the monitor, and pointed it at the man. He sighed.

“They are in room 412,” he said. “All the doors have a deadbolt, but you can probably break through the wall in the adjacent rooms. That’s cheaper for me to fix. Here’s the keys,” the man concluded, and handed Carmilla the keys to rooms 414 and 410.

“Thank you,” said Carmilla, and put the gun back in her purse.

Carmilla selected ten of the women to go up with her, all armed with guns. It would be unnecessary to bring the whole crowd, she thought. She left Maya downstairs with the rest of the group, to keep an eye out for anything unsuspected.

When they came to the fourth floor, they snuck up to the room, and listened. They were in there, talking. Carmilla nodded, and the women got out their guns and split up; three of them stealthily opened room 410 and slipped in, other three sneaked into room 414, and two waited at the door to room 412 with their guns ready, finger on the trigger.

* * *

“Did you hear anything?” asked Jonas when he saw Elfa prep her ears.

“Yes, there are some people sneaking around in the hallway... they are getting into the rooms on each side of us now...” said Elfa.

“I’ll check it out,” said Jonas, and opened the window. He leaned out and caught a glimpse of one of the women readying her gun. He slid back in, and said to Elfa:

“We are about to get shot — lie down.”

Elfa looked at him. Jonas pushed her to the ground and laid himself on top of her. He had only just done that when Carmilla gave the signal, and the six women started firing at full auto through the walls.

Of course, two layers of drywall are hardly enough to so much as slow down a .40 calibre pistol round, and four layers only ever manage to drop the power to the level of a .32 automatic, but that is more than enough power to perforate a human.

As the six women shot each other, they fell down and started to spray bullets into the ceiling and at the floor, as well as out the windows and doors. One of the women who stayed outside with Carmilla got hit in the leg by a round coming through the open door, and she was quick to return fire.

Carmilla had not expected that to happen at all. She just stood there in the hallway for a moment with a sheepish look on her face. Then she shook it off and looked into room 414. One of the bodies was still twitching, and another stared blankly at her. She closed her eyes. Frankly, she had expected more blood, but that was still disgusting enough.

The thirty or so women who had been waiting at ground floor were all stampeding up the stairs to see what had happened. Jonas and Elfa could feel the floor shake more and more violently, and the creaks were becoming louder.

“We should get up,” said Jonas. Right after he said that, someone fired a bunch of rounds at the door, screaming curses as she did.

“Okay, NOW we get up — and jump out the window...”

This time Jonas had not finished what he was going to say, when the floor began breaking from under him and Elfa.

“The bed! Quick!” he yelled, and they just made it to the bed before the whole fourth floor came crashing down on the third, and the third came down on the second, and the second collapsed on the ground floor.

“That was fun,” said Elfa once they had stopped.

“Let’s get out of here before something else falls down,” said Jonas, and stumbled to his feet. He could hear moans in the dust and through the wreckage under him, but he dared not stay around to try and help them. They could be the demented individuals trying to kill him, and he rather did not want to be shot while trying to rescue someone who was not one of them.

The guy was still in the lobby. Jonas threw him the key and forced a grin. The guy just nodded.

* * *

Proceed to part 5...

Copyright © 2007 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson

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