Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Attack of the Robot Zombie Pirates

This is a bit of silliness inspired by some ideas tossed around in the comments of Phil Plait's Bad Astononomy. The vampire gun comes from Some Canadian Skeptic.

The escape capsule bobbed gently in the purplish ocean under a green sky. No wind blew, no foam-capped waves flecked the sea, but occasional bubbles broke the still surface, releasing brownish wisps of sulfur-stinking gas.

The capsule was quite large, larger than many of the vessels that had plied these waters so many years before. It had been built with just this sort of situation in mind, and had been designed to function as a powered watercraft for as long as it would take to reach dry land - or to arrange retrieval by a rescue craft.

The first mate peered out of the forward viewport at the sheet of purple ocean before him. For the thousandth time he cursed the flight programmer who felt that this would be a reasonable place to use a gravity assist to bleed off excess velocity before the final approach to the lush greenery and blue seas of home. Now two hundred and forty-seven souls lay at the mercy of the things which roamed the remnants of a place long ago abandoned as uninhabitable.

"Earth," he grunted. "What a dump."

Captain Four-Six Blackbeard dot Three-oh-Two raised the farseeoscope to his good eye and scanned the darkening horizon again. Matey Two-Two-Seven had sworn on his own desecrated grave that he had seen something burning through the sky in a trajectory that suggested it was actively trying to slow down, and that it had hit the ocean just over the horizon to the East. Three hours of hard swimming and sailing had brought them to this point, but there was nothing to be seen. Perhaps it had been another satellite crashing down, in which case it might have valuable materials that could be scrounged. Or perhaps it had sunk to the bottom of the ocean. Or...

There. On the horizon, a lump like a dead whale. But it wasn't moving like a dead whale might. It moved slowly and in a straight line, leaving a trail of phosphorescent foam in its wake. If only we could fly, the Captain thought, they would be so easy to track, so easy to catch. But flying would be a bit much to ask from a cybernetically resurrected cetacean.

Four-Six Blackbeard let the scope fall away and squinted at the speck on the horizon. The targeting grid in his eye zeroed in on the spot and enhanced the image, magnifying it almost as well as the scope but at the same time assessing range, direction, and relative velocity.

He adjusted his footing against the barnacles of his great steed's back. The same cybernetic wizardry which had granted it eternal unlife in service to himself and his crew had also kept all of them active and healthy long past their own personal expiration dates. His feet would not slip, nor would his legs give way as the whale changed course. They were designed not to.

"Arrrr!" he shouted, his amplified voice getting his crew's attention, in case the signal being beamed directly into their brain interfaces were not enough. "Change course, hard to starboard, bearing four-two-mark-three-six. There be a vessel a-waiting to be taken!" A cheer went up from the long-dead throats of the half-electronic men and women who served under his command. "Hoist high the Jolly Roger! Break out the coffins! Load the vampire gun!"

Twelve dead sailors, their eyes glowing red with indicator LEDs, removed half a dozen coffins from a hold mounted just behind the whale's dorsal fin. They carried them as carefully as their jury-rigged cybernetics would allow to something that looked like an enormous revolver built into the forward edge of the fin. Each coffin slid smoothly into a chamber that was locked and primed and set to rotate in its turn into the firing position. When fired, the gun would gently launch the coffin and its dormant occupant in a lazy parabola toward the target vessel. Shattering on impact, the coffin would disgorge its now enraged and wide-awake payload onto the deck, where it would proceed to slaughter every last living thing it encountered. Should the coffin miss its target, or the vampire be slain, or the task prove to be too great for a single vampire, there were always additional coffins chambered and ready to fire.

It had never been necessary to launch more than three vampires against a target vessel.

With surprising speed and silence for something so large and so dead, the whale cut a path directly for the stranded escape capsule. Two hundred and forty-seven souls had no idea what was coming for them...

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