The garbage truck slammed headlong into the Valkyrie and sent them flying off in pieces. The truck pulled to a stop and its back opened up. A man with a pink Mohawk and a ripped t-shirt appeared. “Come on, dude! Let’s rock an’ roll!”
I was stunned, not only from the timely save, but also at being able to recognize my savior. As strange as it may seem, I knew that man. It was Filth! He was one of the Retched Refuse! I don’t know how they got here so quickly, but I didn’t waste any time thinking about it. The Valkyrie wouldn’t be down for ever and there were sure to be more on their way. I rushed to the hovering garbage truck, but it was just too difficult to climb into the back with my new bulk and these weak flabby arms. Three of the RR jumped knelt down to help pull me up, but it wasn’t until I felt two strong hands on my rear that I was able to slide in. Jamal swung in beside me then helped Jennifer up. “We’re in! Let’s go!”
The door came down and we flew off. I braced myself against the wall and breathed a sigh of relief. We would have been dead if the RR hadn’t come to save us. In the future, for 3000 years, Freyja will rule the world with an iron fist. Presiding over a totalitarian regime, there will be few who oppose her. But she will care little for the underclass. They will scratch out their existence in the gutters of the privileged. Most will only be concerned with the herculean task of surviving for another day, but some will want to rise up and fight back. These will be the Retched Refuse.
“They’re following us!” came a call from up front. “Gunner stations!”
Seats rose, forming themselves from the floor. The men sat and triggers ascended from the floor. Holographic projections appeared in front of them. Even though, I knew we were in the future, a future we’d visited before, it was a surprise to see the back end of the garbage truck transform into an advanced battle station. For the men, of course, this was nothing new. They wasted no time acquiring targets. “Can we get away?” I asked.
Filth chuckled. “From Valks? No problem.”
The Valkyrie swarmed us. The gunners did their best shooting took them down. It seemed for a time that they would succeed but then one got through, burying its claws into the truck. “Sludge?”
A large man with long flowing hair that changed color as he moved grabbed a pickax. “I’m on it”
A ladder formed out of the wall and Sludge climbed up it to an opening that appeared on the roof. Without hesitation, he climbed outside. Sludge found the Valkyrie trying to bite its way into the truck. He swung the pickax at its head, but the robot batted him away. Sludge went falling back against the roof of the truck, the pickax slid from his hand over the edge. The Valkyrie stalked him. Sludge waited until the Valkyrie was almost on top of him before he took out his boomstick. With a single tug, the stick erupted. A hole appeared in the middle of the Valkyrie as it went flying off the edge of the truck. Sludge was laughing as he came back down the ladder. “Pizza cake! Nothing could be easier.”
Momentarily free of the Valkyrie, the truck turned down a tunnel before the robots caught up. The RR would be safe below the city. The tunnel led to a large cave that looked more like a flea market than a secret hideout. There were hundreds of caves just like this one all over the world, buried beneath the cities where the privileged just wouldn’t go. They were called Freetowns and they were where “free” men and women came to sell their wares and information. This one belonged to the Retched Refuse.
The truck landed and we all climbed out. “Thanks for the save, Filth, but we can’t stay here. We need to get to the palace.”
“The palace!? Are you cray-zay?”
Jamal was running out of patience. Now, that the excitement was over and we were relatively safe, he had only one thing on his mind. “Freyja kidnapped my daughter! We need to save her! Now!!”
Filth stepped back, as if he expected to be attacked. “…oh. I mean, we’d like to help you. Really. But how do you expect to get into the palace? That place is a fortress!”
“What about this?” Doc called from further down in the cave. She was standing by a large machine.
“The Jotun?” Sludge asked. The large man walked up behind her and patted the machine. It looked like some kind of train/plane/tractor hybrid. “Good luck. That thing don’t work. Lost its CPU.”
“Yeah, can’t think without it.”
Doc smiled. “So it needs something to help it think? I think I have just the thing.” Jennifer pulled from her lab coat ALAN’s brain.
“What are you doing with that?” I asked, genuinely confused.
“Kink said that we couldn’t have anything recording our attempts to track Freyja. So it was either shut ALAN down or bring him with us. So I brought him with us.”
“Smart,” I said.
She smiled. “I know.”
Doc went to work. It was a surprisingly quick process. All she had to do was install ALAN’s brain and he immediately took over. The body instantly began repairing itself. Within 10 minutes, he was ready to go…not that that was fast enough for Jamal. “Let’s go already!”
“Hold on,” I told him. “We still need to figure out a way to get in there.”
“Easy,” Filth replied. “I know just the way.”
He bared his teeth, which were surprisingly white. “Through the front door.”
Before I could say anything, he and Sludge began gathering up their crew. I tried to talk them out of it but an assault on the Queen was “too good to pass up.” Jamal was, of course, no help. He wanted to go and get it done. So I gave in. We would all assault the palace.
We all loaded into ALAN’s new body, me, Jamal, Doc, and the Retched Refuse assault team. Our only hope was surprise…and the Queen’s forces’ justified belief that no one would be stupid enough for a frontal assault. To attack Freyja at her home was suicidal, but we had no choice.
ALAN took off down the tunnels and out into open air. Even though his new body was huge, it was still crowded inside. No one seemed to want to be left out of the assault team. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that based on my understanding of temporal theory they had no chance at success. Freyja’s rule would continue for another 1500 years. There was little anyone could do about it. I felt guilty. We needed them for our own purposes, but it wasn’t like I could talk them out of it. We had to save Mathilda. That at least wasn’t decided yet.
to be continued…