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Book: Toxic Venom
Chapter 2: Flames

A string of small black objects lined a curved section of one of the mining station's main passageways. Each one had a tiny red light that blinked in synchronisation with the others. There were thirty four in total, matching the number of mechanoid guards that were marching closer and closer with every second that passed.


"Done!" Antoine announced as the final gravity grenade had been armed. "As soon as all those metal freaks have stomped into this area, we detonate and they'll be no more!"

"Excellent!" Lex said. "Are you sure that this corridor is a dead end?"

"Absolutely." Antoine answered. "My map reading skills are extraordinary! Those machines can only get to us from one direction. As soon as they are all in range, we duck into that room, seal the door, then pow! All gone."

"Simple."

"Simple and deadly!"

"Indeed!"

A rhythmic 'thud thud' could be heard. It was becoming distinctly more audible every moment. They were almost here.

"This is it!" Lex said melodramatically. "Remember, we must stay in view until the last possible nanosecond. They must come as close as possible."

"No problem!" Antoine said. He energised his disruptor rifle. It rumbled to life. "Is your camera ready?"

Lex tapped his small ear-mounted device. "Recording as we speak."

At that precise instant, the door at the end of the corridor crashed open and slammed on to the polished floor. A line of tough looking mechanoids began to file into the passageway, their unnecessary red eyes glowing menacingly.

Lex and Antoine opened fire, showering the walking death machines in puissant energy. Sparks, flames, and the occasional highly polished limb scattered in every direction. The mechanoids continued their advance and returned fire. Lex and Antoine were overwhelmed with lethal killer beams. Debris from the walls and the ceiling crashed down all around, covering them in scorched tiles and panelling.

There were now fifteen mechanoids in the corridor.

"Almost half way." Antoine announced. His finger was poised over the detonation button on his hip-mounted multi-purpose remote activation unit.

The leading machine suddenly halted and looked down. It appeared to be looking at the grenades.

"It's spotted them!" Lex said. He began to fire wildly trying to draw the mechanoid's attention away from the explosives. The machine merely raised its hand to deflect the blasts. Antoine also fired, blowing away several of its fingers. Oil and other more high-tech fluids dribbled from its stumps. The mechanoid’s concentration remained on the grenades.

"Go for its feet!" Lex shouted.

The two journalists entered into a rapid fire frenzy and unleashed a searing torrent of intense energy fire onto the leading mechanoid. The concentrated attack paid off. The death machine stumbled, and then crashed to the floor, legless from its knee joint down.

"Ha ha harr!!" Antoine laughed. He was enjoying this immensely. What could possibly be more enjoyable than blowing a war machine's legs off? Not much!

Antoine’s elation was short lived.

Two of the other mechanoids had spotted the grenades. There was no way that the journalists' weapons would be able to get them all, and the ones that were yet to enter the corridor would retreat and re-evaluate their strategy.

"I think our cunning plan has been foiled." Lex said, stating the obvious.

Antoine was thinking hard. "What can we do?" he said. The likelihood of legendary status seemed to have faded away. In a fit of anger, he began the firing frenzy once again. Another mechanoid crashed to the ground. There was no reason for Antoine to laugh this time, three of the others had spotted the grenades.

Antoine bowed his head in a moment of temporary despair. It was lucky that he did so. An unerringly accurate blast of light passed through the space where his head had been only milliseconds before. he didn't notice, so he wasn't shaken.

"Antoine!" Lex said. "Look what they're up to!"

Antoine looked up. Two of the mechanoids were picking up the grenades, their arms were almost full already. They began to walk back towards the corridor's exit. A couple of other Mechanoids picked up the rest of the grenades.

"Oh brilliant!" Antoine said sarcastically. "They've stolen our grenades. I'm so happy."

Lex looked at his companion. "You're not looking at the whole picture, are you?"

"What picture are you talking about?"

"I was being metaphoric. They have stolen our grenades, but look!" He pointed at them. "They're taking them out and past their comrades. If we detonate now we'll get them all after all!"

Antoine leapt into the air and performed a double back-flip followed by a series of rapid punches and kicks. "Yes!!!"

Energy fire continued to flow from some of the machines none of which, purely by sheer fluke, hit Antoine during his acrobatic display.

Antoine pressed the button on his remote unit. "We'd better take cover."

Lex nodded and the two journalists leapt into an adjoining room.

The gravity grenades took effect. Lex felt a deep feeling of internal stress wash over him as a concentrated graviton wave pulsed through the immediate area.

Antoine also had that deep feeling and was beginning to feel nauseous. All the lettuce that he had eaten recently was desperately trying to get out. With the help of his will-power augmentation implant, he managed to keep it down.

A deafening crunch reverberated through the station as the graviton wave collapsed completely. For a small instance of time, a singularity with more mass than Bahl itself created an intense gravity field right next to the mechanoids. Lex and Antoine were pulled into a wall at great speed.

One point six seconds later silence reigned and calm returned.

The two journalists peeled themselves off the wall and staggered, dazed and disoriented, around the room.

"I feel so high!" Antoine said. "I've never felt the effects of those things before."

"Me neither." Lex said. He smiled as the lingering sensations passed around his body. Very pleasing. "We'd better get moving. This whole complex is going to blow in twenty minutes."

The journalists stepped back out into the corridor. what an amazing sight! An almost perfect sphere, forty metres across, had been sucked out of the station and condensed into a small solid ball about ten centimetres in diameter.

"There they are." Antoine said, pointing. "Those idiotic machines got sucked into that one all right!"

Lex looked annoyed. "I wish I could've recorded that."

"Never mind," Antoine said. "You couldn't have recorded it anyway."

"Why?"

"Apart from the fact that it would have torn you up into thin and manageable strips of flesh, the intense gravity field would have sucked in all the light. You wouldn't have been able to see anything, therefore you wouldn't have been able to record anything."

"I guess you're right."

"I am indeed!"

The two journalists began to make their way across the graviton damaged section and across to another corridor. A few metres down was the map, apparently undamaged. Antoine rushed over to, eager to examine some more of its operational characteristics. he began to manipulate some of the controls.

Lex caught up with him. "Antoine, remember that we haven't got much time. Find out the best way to get to Mac without..."

Antoine interrupted. "Look at that!" He said with disgust.
"What now?"

"I opened up the correlation maintenance routine and displayed its principal constituents. look at the coding pattern."

Lex looked. "It looks fine to me." He said, pretending to know what he was staring at.

"You're not looking hard enough. Section one point three and two point three have an inconsistency in relation to their synthetic intelligence management co-routines."

Lex was getting annoyed again. "So what?"

"The accuracy of the output from their co-dependent background functions is directly related to the level of graphic detail available to the mapping display. It'll only take me five minutes to update these systems and I'll almost double the perceived resolution of the screen..."

"Leave it alone!" Lex shouted.

"But I could so easily get it to conform to the recent program protocols defined by the Artificial Mind Bureau on Ganimaen IV!"

"In less than twenty minutes this whole station, complete with that stupid cartographical heap of mindless sub-whatevers is going to be annihilated!"

"This map device is not stupid! Nor is it mindless. Its intelligence systems are verging on sentience in complexity!"

"Please, can we get on with our assignment. Awards remember? Merchandising?"

Antoine thought for a moment. "You're right. I did it again, didn't I?"

"Forget about it. Just call up the main map and locate the crew. We have to get to Mac Mytar, interview him, then get out within sixteen minutes!"

"No problem." Antoine operated the map's control panel with tremendous expertise. In no time, the correct display was showing. The position of the station's personnel could clearly be seen. "They're all in Mac's opulent quarters on the complex's northern side. All that is, except Angelina."

"Where's she?"

"In the gym."

"Really? I remember you said that as far as you could tell her job was to be in the gym."

"Indeed I did."

"I wonder what for?"

"Mac Mytar probably likes his women well-toned and full of stamina."

"Interesting."

"We'd better move." Antoine said.

The two journalists began a rapid walk in a northerly direction.

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