Cold Metal

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Kyle the Skeptic
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Cold Metal

Postby Kyle the Skeptic » Mon Jan 22, 2007 2:22 am

Summary: Stan and Kyle are the lone survivors of a disaster aboard a space colony. Although everyone they knew is dead, they soon find out that they are not alone. In a misguided attempt to save the lives of the colony's inhabitants, the computer responsible for controlling most of the automated systems has "augmented" the bodies of the deceased with wires and steel, resulting in mangled demented shadows of their former selves. The boys end up in the fight of their lives to put a stop to the deranged computer, but what chance do a couple of kids possibly stand?

This is an AU sci-fi fic, loosely based on the cyberpunk game System Shock.

Author's Notes: iceiwynd is my beta-reader for this fic. It's my first attempt at this particular genre.


~~~~~~~~

Chapter 1 – Solitaire

Then man said, “Let us create God in our image, in our likeness.”
So man created God in his own image,
In the image of man he created him…


The thunderous crashes of steel on steel became more frequent, almost eager. Large jagged puncture marks appeared in the surface of the door with every strike. There was no running away in his current condition, and with his ammunition running low, no way for him to fight back. The life slowly drained out of him with every beat of his heart, flowing from the deep ragged gash that ran from halfway down his right thigh to his knee, and spreading a diluted crimson stain throughout the layer of water covering the floor.

A nauseous throbbing gripped at the sides of Kyle’s temples, while his trembling hands struggled against the weight of his handgun. His heavy clothes clung wetly to his aching body, soaked through and through by the small geyser raining down on him from the broken toilet source pipe. Under the dim flickering light from the one remaining fluorescent ceiling fixture, he could see that the crude barricade of restroom stall doors they had braced against the entry door would not hold up under this onslaught.

Kyle knew how careless he had been to underestimate those creatures, those monstrosities. The entry door had been burned out and inaccessible ever since the ceiling collapse on the outside that had initially sealed them in the restroom, but that was not about to stop the thing from tearing right through. He dared not approach the door a second time. The wound in his leg was ample proof of how dangerous those steel talons could be, cutting through layers of flesh like they were nothing, slicing open bundles of arteries, and leaving the small amount of exposed bone a mess of white splinters. He could only imagine what might have happened had it not struck him through a layer of metal. Kyle pressed the release on his handgun and let the clip slide out into his left hand. “Four, five, six…” he counted, blinking hard to clear the hazy double vision from his eyes. Six hollow point rounds would not do him any good in this situation, even if he could still manage to line up the sights. “Where are you, Stan?” he wondered aloud.

It was because of Kyle’s injury that Stan had ventured out alone, in order to scrounge up whatever weapons and first aid supplies he could find. Kyle could not bear to put any weight on his leg, and following Stan through the air ducts as usual was out of the question. His only chance for survival now was for Stan to arrive in time. The very room that had once sheltered them from harm was fast becoming a deathtrap. It had only been a matter of time before those things had pinpointed their location.

The door buckled in half, torn from its grooves, and four sharp spindly legs bore down heavily on it. Kyle kicked out with his left leg, pushing himself up against the far wall next to the opened air vent, and held the handgun as best he could. This was it. Kyle felt his pulse quicken and his blood pressure steadily rise, which meant he would only bleed to death faster, but there wasn’t anything he could do to help it. His dizzy aim wavered back and forth across the doorway. If he could get lucky with a headshot, there was a slim hope for him yet.

With one final crash the door flew out of the doorway and sloshed to a stop halfway across the flooded floor, in a heap of twisted metal. The creature contracted its eight mechanical legs against its central body and squeezed itself into the restroom, before spreading itself back out to its full stance. Kyle immediately recognized it as a cyborg harvestman. It was the first time he had ever seen one up close. The arachnoid monster that stood before him was built from the top half of a human body attached to the bottom of a central robotic frame by the head and spine, so that the body looked as though it had been welded right into the mass of wires and cables. He knew firsthand what those steel-taloned legs could do up close, and he’d previously witnessed in action the twin pulse rifles mounted around the cyborg’s head. The deathly pale face, frozen in its final moments of fear, staring down on him with blank glazed-over eyes and mouth held rigidly open, was nobody he recognized.

“If I’m going down, you’re going with me, you son of a bitch!” Kyle growled through clenched teeth, clutching his handgun in a death grip. He squeezed off three rounds in quick succession, two of which bounced uselessly off the cyborg’s metal frame, and the third lodging itself in the forearm of the body. The harvestman rotated four of its legs to the front to block the next three shots Kyle fired. Kyle continued to pull the trigger out of desperation, but the hammer only clicked on an empty chamber. “sh*t.”

The harvestman advanced on Kyle, its legs poised over the head of its helpless victim. This small human was not worth wasting pulse rounds on. The cyborg would finish him off quickly, collect his body for conversion, and then move on. Kyle crossed his raised arms over his head and squeezed his eyes shut. There was nothing more he could do.

Several blasts of gunfire erupted from the nearby air vent, followed by the high-pitched screech of shearing metal. Kyle’s eyelids slowly parted to the sight of the harvestman stumbling to rebalance itself after having four of its legs shot off. The smoking barrel of an automatic shotgun emerged from the air duct, followed shortly after by its wielder.

“Stan!” gasped Kyle. “You made it just in time!”

“Damn right!” Stan crawled to his feet and tossed Kyle an ammo clip marked in green. “Here, take this, and let’s finish daddy longlegs off!”

Kyle turned the clip over once in his hand. Stan had brought him armor piercing rounds. These were exactly what he needed. With the AP rounds loaded in his handgun, Kyle gave a determined nod, and lined up the sights dead center.

Stan let loose with another burst, blowing three more legs off and causing the harvestman’s central frame to crash to the ground, while Kyle steadied his aim over his left knee and plugged his bullets into the cyborg’s human head. An electrical surge ran through what was left of the harvestman’s body and it died with a shudder, while dollops of thick red brain matter oozed like molasses out of the bullet holes in its skull.

“Whew! Glad that’s over,” said Stan, wiping his brow with his left sleeve.

“What kind of weapon did you use?” asked Kyle. The bulky rifle wrapped around Stan’s right arm was unlike anything he was familiar with.

“Automatic shotgun,” replied Stan. “Heavy slug rounds, so they’re good against hard targets.”

The rush of adrenaline subsided, and Kyle soon felt the return of the shooting pains in his leg and the numbness over the rest of his body. Were it not for the overwhelming urge to dry heave, he might have already passed out. “Did you manage to find anything?”

“Yes.” Stan took out a white oblong box marked with a red cross. “One of the few remaining Autodocs.” He set the box on Kyle’s left leg and opened it up to reveal an assortment of surgical equipment, fast-acting drugs, and a set of miniature robotic arms. “I’m surprised this one still has any charge left in it.” The arms automatically telescoped out towards the gash in Kyle’s thigh and went right to work, stopping the bleeding, repairing the damaged muscles, and gradually closing up the wound.

“Hey wait,” said Kyle, who could not take his eyes off the procedure. “Are you sure this is a good idea? I mean to let a machine operate on me?”

“Don’t worry about it. These kits were in use long before the system was ever put in place, so they work independently. That’s why they’re such a rare find.” Both boys watched the arms emit an array of blue beams, which seemed to be sealing over the wound as they passed back and forth across it. “Besides, you should be more appreciative Kyle. If you hadn’t gotten this treated, you’d probably be dead in no time.”

“Yeah, I know.” Kyle glanced over at the dead harvestman cyborg, which was giving off involuntary spasms, even as the mushy contents of its cranial cavity continued to seep out into the floodwater. “We all know what happens to people who die on this colony.” Stan closed up the Autodoc kit and pulled Kyle to his feet. Kyle tested his right leg by shifting his weight to it, to answer Stan’s look of concern. “It’s still a little sore, but I think I can walk.”

“Good. Because now that they know our location, it’d probably be best not to stick around,” said Stan. “If they sent one, they’ll send a hundred, especially when this one fails to return. We need to get on the move if we’re going to survive.” He crawled into the air duct, followed by Kyle. Once they were both in, Stan reached for the grating and pulled it shut as best he could.

The two followed the ventilation systems for a short while, in search of any unoccupied rooms. Outside they could hear the frantic clanking of additional harvestmen shuffling past them in the direction of the flooded restroom. Once they found what Stan and Kyle had done, they would send out a security notice, which would make it even more dangerous for the boys to venture out. The air ducts were a good way to get from one place to another without being seen, but spending the night in such dusty conditions was out of the question.

The boys finally reached the living quarters and came up on an apartment that had been completely turned inside out. Furniture lay in smashed and broken pieces, clothes were strewn everywhere, and all of the appliances and electronics had been overturned. Stan held out his hand to signal Kyle to stop. “Here. This room looks like it’s already been ransacked. They probably won’t think to check it twice.”

Kyle followed Stan out of the air duct, and they both surveyed the apartment. Scratches and claw marks marred nearly every surface. Whoever, or whatever, tore through this room had obviously been searching for something. More than half of the carpet was caked with a crusty brownish red stain, obviously several weeks old, which crunched underfoot. It looked as though a whole family had been slaughtered together, huddled in one spot, although the bodies were nowhere to be seen. “What do you think they were looking for?” Kyle wondered aloud.

The electronic lock to the door had been torn right out of the wall. Stan holstered his shotgun and knelt by an overturned desk. “Dude, come over here and help me move this.” He motioned with his head towards the door. Kyle moved to the other side and pushed while Stan pulled, until the desk slid across the bottom half of the doorway. They then stacked as many empty dresser drawers as they could on top of the desk. It would be sufficient for now to slow down anything that tried to break in.

Kyle turned his attention towards a shelf of books on the wall. It was the only thing in the apartment that hadn’t been knocked over. Judging from the titles, they seemed to be a collection of hardcover manuals on advanced computer programming. Kyle took down a thick dusty tome entitled ‘Emergent Intelligence Theory’ and flipped through the first few pages. The book had been published in 2072 and was more than 25 years out of date. No wonder it had been left behind. Stamped on the inside cover was the name of its owner: Gary Harrison Sr. “Hey,” said Kyle. “I think this apartment belonged to the Harrisons.”

“Harrison?” asked Stan. “You mean the Mormon family?” Stan ran his finger past a book entitled ‘Ethical Constraint Encoding’. “What were they doing collecting all these outdated books? Besides, hardly anyone reads paper books anymore.”

Kyle replaced the first book and took down another. “Check it out,” he chuckled. It was a leather-bound copy of ‘The Book of Mormon’. “In this day and age, people still believe in that kind of… Hey, wait a minute.” Kyle opened the book and found that the inner area of each page had been neatly sliced out, to form a hidden compartment. Stashed inside were a number of data records on disk, which Kyle removed and held up for Stan to see. “Like you said, hardly anyone reads paper books anymore.”

“Looks like those cyborg freaks missed the grand prize,” said Stan. “Let me see if my video player can get anything off them.” He took one of the disks from Kyle, rolled up his left sleeve, and plugged it into the computerized device strapped around his forearm.

“Dude, yours has a video player?” asked Kyle, comparing his PDA to Stan’s. “When did they come out with those?”

Stan laughed. “Only since about a year ago. Get with the program Kyle; you’re always falling behind the latest trends.” Kyle frowned at him. “Ah don’t sweat it. If we ever make it up to New Conifer’s shopping center, we can get you the upgrade.”

The video had finished loading, and a two-dimensional holographic viewscreen popped up over Stan’s reader. The timestamp read August 13, 2097, almost 6 months earlier. The subject line simply bore the name ‘MORONI’ in all capital letters. Mr. Harrison could be seen standing at one of the terminals of the colony’s central computer core, but the angle was such that not much of the core was visible.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era in technological integration,” spoke Mr. Harrison proudly. “After years of hard work, we have successfully installed the Medical Operating Routine Override Network Interface, also known as MORONI, named after the angel that visited the prophet Joseph Smith. What makes MORONI truly exceptional is that it is the first fully functional artificial intelligence in the history of mankind! That’s right, MORONI is self-aware and is capable of thinking and making decisions on its own. This means New Conifer is not only the solar system’s top innovator in the field of computer science, it is also soon to be the top innovator in medical technology…”

Kyle shook his fist and growled through clenched teeth. “Harrison, you son of a bitch. This is all your goddamn fault.”

Stan made a shushing noise and calmly switched to the next data record in sequence. It had the same timestamp and subject line as the first, with the added word ‘Applications’, and was made by New Conifer’s lead surgeon Dr. Gouache. The doctor could be seen in the medical sector of the colony’s computer core level, standing with his arms folded. “The AI was programmed for the express purpose of managing the colony’s medical emergencies. After all, working to maintain the only space colony on the surface of Ariel can be a dangerous job, regardless of your position, and accidents do happen. It is our hope that designating certain procedures to computer control will allow people to receive faster treatment, and in doing so, save many lives.”

Mr. Harrison appeared on screen next to the doctor. “But that’s not all.” The view panned over to a monitor displaying the AI’s avatar: an expressionless white skinned face with golden yellow wiring circuits flowing from it. Mr. Harrison stood next to the monitor, still smiling proudly. “MORONI here has a complete database containing detailed information on human anatomy, and all the latest drugs and medical techniques to date. Because of its capacity to think for itself and acquire new data on its own, to ‘learn’ if you will, it may also invent new procedures and drugs that could one day cure even the worst diseases.”

Kyle mumbled cynically, “But what’s to stop it from coming up with new diseases? Nothing.”

Stan played the third data record in sequence. The timestamp read August 14, 2097, with the subject line ‘Safeguards in Modern AI Systems’. Mr. Harrison was the speaker once again. “I am confident that we can avoid any of the mishaps of the past, in which early experimental AI were foolishly handed control over military systems and nuclear weapons.” He shook his finger admonishingly, with a smug grin. “Rest assured we have taken steps to avert any potential rampant behavior. MORONI has been instilled with a very rigid code of ethics, which it may never deviate from. Since it exists to manage emergency medical procedures, we have taught it that its purpose is to see to the health and well being of the humans in its care, no matter what. So in a sense, MORONI has been programmed to serve as our guardian angel. It’s simply against its programming for it to cause human suffering in any way…”

“bullsh*t.” Stan stopped the recording manually. His brow tightened over his eyes, which had narrowed to angry red tear stained slits, as he replaced the data records in the book. The PDA saved everything by default, so there was no need to carry them around.

“It’s okay, I…” said Kyle hesitantly. “I know how it is. We’re in the same situation here anyway.” Moments ago Kyle had been the one cursing his fate aloud, but only because Stan was better than he at bottling his feelings up inside. It wasn’t often that he saw Stan break down in front of him, and Kyle knew that was the risk he took by approaching the issue again. He took a deep breath. “Listen Stan, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you.”

“About what?”

“I was thinking that it might be a good idea, while we’re in the area, to check the rest of the living quarters for any other survivors.” There was a glimmer of hope in Kyle’s voice, of the improbable optimism he had clung to ever since the two had gotten separated from their families. It was the only thing that had kept him from succumbing to utter despair up to this point. This was not the first time he’d asked, and part of him knew that Stan’s answer was going to be the same as it had been last time.

“You know as well as I do, that’s not something we can afford to do in our current state,” said Stan, lowering his gaze to the blood encrusted floor and shaking his head. His body ached all over from sleep deprivation, on top of his recent frantic rush through the cramped quarters of the ventilation system. “We’re still low on ammo and healing supplies, and it would be a better idea to make sure we’re prepared before we do anything else. This apartment is only a temporary refuge. We can’t stay here.”

“But what if we do find someone else? We could join forces with them,” said Kyle insistently. In spite of what he’d just been through moments earlier, his mind refused to accept the fact that this was a struggle for survival, as opposed to a rescue mission. “What if my little brother is still alive somewhere? We have to at least try looking for him!”

Stan held up his hand. “Kyle,” he spoke slowly, “Your brother most likely ended up the way everyone else did; the way…” Stan paused, “…My family did.” This was not the way Stan had expected the argument to go. He found himself becoming increasingly frustrated with Kyle’s stubbornness, and did not like having his own emotional scars being torn open once again. It had been several weeks since that fateful day, when his whole world had been torn asunder. The sounds of gunfire and explosions echoing through dark corridors, of his mother and sister among the screaming chorus of victims in the distance, all played fresh in his memory. “What would you have us do, run around defenseless? For once, just be reasonable! There’s no guarantee that we’ll find anyone else at this rate.”

“There’s no guarantee that there will be any weapons or first aid just lying around for the taking either!” Kyle shot back. “I think you’re the one who’s being irrational here. You know damn well that MORONI controls all the medical facilities on this colony. Ever since that AI was created, they stopped making and selling first aid kits, and everything that was left was used up during the war. Trying to find any more of those Autodocs is going to be a waste of time!”

“Are you listening to what you’re saying, Kyle?” Stan held up the white oblong box marked with the red cross. “If it weren’t for this Autodoc, you’d probably be dead by now!”

“That’s exactly my point,” Kyle retorted. “There could still be people out there who need help, just as I did. They could be dying right now for all we know!”

“And what are we going to help them with? How are we going to help them if we can’t even defend ourselves?” Stan sensed this was going nowhere.

“There you go, always thinking about yourself!” Kyle got in his face. Whether or not it was the painkillers talking, he did not know nor care. This was not something Kyle would let Stan lord over him like he always did. “It always has to be done your way!”

“I—thought about—you!” Stan snarled, his eyes widening in disbelief at his friend’s accusation. “I saved your life! You owe me!”

“I get it,” Kyle nodded, staring a hole through Stan. “You only saved me so that you could grab a hold of my will, and make me do whatever you say. Well let me inform you that it doesn’t work that way! You pretend that you care about me, but it’s obvious that you can’t give a damn about the ones who matter most to me.”

“All right fine!” Stan put the Autodoc away, threw up his arms, and stepped around Kyle, walking past him to avoid eye contact. “You want to do things your way, you go right ahead. I won’t stop you.”

“I will!” Kyle glowered. “I’m going to. I’ll find my brother alive, I can promise you that.”


Half an hour had passed since the two boys parted ways. Kyle crept through the dark corridors of the colony’s living quarters, listening for any signs of life, with his handgun drawn and ready. Navigating through the once familiar path home felt like a surreal journey through a deranged form of the reality he once knew. What was once a peaceful neighborhood, filled with friendly faces, was now a war-torn charred shell that smelled strongly of smoke and rust. Bullet holes, blast marks, and bloody imprints decorated the halls. It came as no surprise to Kyle that there were no human remains in sight. The red silhouettes painted a grisly picture, marking the very places where many unfortunate victims had breathed their last, like a ghostly recording frozen in time. The last echoes of screams and pleas for mercy were almost still audible over the deafening silence that filled the halls.

Kyle finally came up on the dark green door to apartment 2001. He was home at last. There were no claw marks on the door, and the electronic lock seemed intact. Could someone possibly still be alive? He holstered his weapon, swiped his keycard, and stepped over the threshold.

Stan meanwhile had found his way over to the commercial district of the level. While not as large as the New Conifer shopping center several levels up, it was still enough to provide the basic necessities for the local colonists, including firearms and ammunition. The gun shop owned by his uncle Jimbo had been mostly picked clean in the lead up to the civil war, as well as in the riots that followed, but there was a chance Stan could find a few small arms lying around that had been overlooked. He stepped through the broken storefront window. The inside of the abandoned store was a mess of broken glass and toppled display cases. The credit card reader was torn open and sparking, possibly from a failed attempt to hack it.

Stan switched on his pocket flashlight and began to sort through a pile of debris behind the checkout counter, in hopes of finding something salvageable. His hand brushed across the cover of a dusty magazine, which he picked up. The title read ‘Outer Planetary Destinations’ in loopy cursive writing. It was obviously a travel brochure from back during the days of New Conifer’s short-lived tourism industry. The cover featured a picture of the colony, which resembled a giant starship floating on the frozen seas of water and carbon dioxide ices that comprised the surface of Ariel, its brightly finished exterior standing out against the drab gray of the moon. The planet Uranus could be seen setting in the background, a large emerald green orb with glowing digitally enhanced rings perpendicular to the horizon. Stan sighed and tossed the brochure aside.

A rhythmic tapping of bare feet on metal floor startled Stan out of the task at hand. The sound from outside was moving closer and closer. Stan killed his flashlight and crept back over towards the window. Who would be going around barefoot in a place like this? Judging from the footfalls, there wasn’t just one but several. Stan could almost make out several voices engaged in casual conversation. Could they be other survivors?

Kyle looked around his family’s apartment. It was practically pitch black. He tried the wall switch several times, but the power was out. “H-hello? Anyone here?” he called out quietly into the darkness. Nothing. Kyle switched on his flashlight and began scanning it across the room. “Hello? Are there any other survivors?” he tried a little more loudly.

“Brudder came home,” came a voice from the shadows. It sounded like that of a small child, only there was something odd about it.

“Who’s there? Ike? Is that you?” Kyle turned in the direction of the voice and aimed his flashlight, until he came across a familiar tuft of black hair. There was no mistaking the face he saw staring back at him. “Ike! It is you! You’re alive!”

“I like chocklit!” Ike spoke again. Yet instead of rushing up to meet his brother, Ike simply stood there, bobbing slightly up and down. Something was strangely amiss.

Becoming suspicious, Kyle angled his flashlight further down. “Oh my God,” he gasped. The entire bottom half of Ike’s body was missing, and replaced from the waist down with a set of four robotic legs, splayed out like those of an insect. A cluster of thick cables wound in and out of Ike’s abdomen to join him to the metal frame, with traces of blood caked around the edges. It was then that Kyle noticed the large metal hinges fused to the corners of Ike’s jaw, and around the back of his head. “Ike, what have they done to you?”

“Brudder come play,” said Ike, his eyes flashing with the unmistakable glint of primal aggression. The 3 year old leapt into the air with inhuman agility, and before Kyle could even scream, Ike was tearing into him with talons of cold metal.
Last edited by Kyle the Skeptic on Tue Jan 23, 2007 12:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
Total_Beefcake
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Postby Total_Beefcake » Mon Jan 22, 2007 2:43 am

Hey, great first chapter!

I'll definitely be looking forward to reading the rest of this. It was hard to understand at first, but I really liked it once I somewhat understood what was going on. The storyline is very exciting and suspenseful.

I can't wait to see what happens with Ike and Kyle, and who Stan runs into...

Good stuff, this fanfic. :]
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buttersbutters
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Postby buttersbutters » Mon Jan 22, 2007 6:43 pm

Very good, I didnt think I would like this at first, but it really kept me interested, and I like the conversations between Stan and Kyle, really gave an insight into there friendship.
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Taranis_Music
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Re: Cold Metal

Postby Taranis_Music » Mon Jan 22, 2007 8:45 pm

Kyle the Skeptic wrote: terrible talons of cold metal.


I don't know why, but that kind of sounds cliche. Maybe it's the use of the word terrible.
Kyle the Skeptic
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Postby Kyle the Skeptic » Tue Jan 23, 2007 12:53 am

I did it for the alliteration, but I suppose you're right. I'll take the word out.
Kyle the Skeptic
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Postby Kyle the Skeptic » Fri Jan 26, 2007 1:34 am

Thanks for the reviews and suggestions. Here's the next chapter.

~~~~~~~~

Chapter 2 - Humanity Lost

“Is someone there?” Stan whispered to himself, with a mix of anticipation and dread. Given the kinds of half-human horrors he had seen inhabiting the colony lately, there was little reason for him to think they were anything but hostile. Yet the voices sounded so very much like real people. The bare footsteps were getting closer and closer. Stan pressed his back against the wall next to the storefront window frame and leaned out as far as he could without exposing himself to sight. He kept a wary hand next to his holstered shotgun and tried to calm his breathing. A drop of sweat trickled down the back of his neck.

The first voice sounded like a larger man, with a deep throaty tone and a redneck accent. “Hey guys, did y’all watch the game last night?” It sounded familiar, Stan thought, but he couldn’t quite place it.

“I sure did,” said the second voice; a higher pitched, more nasal one than the first. “The Demois team from Mars sure handed those North Americans from the Earth league the ass-whooping of a lifetime!”

Now Stan was certain he recognized that voice. Could it be? “Uncle Jimbo?” he wondered aloud. None of what they were talking about made any sense though. Sports broadcasts, along with all other media, had stopped being received ever since the fighting first broke out one month earlier.

“Those oppressive commie bastards deserved it,” said the third, in a digitized voice Stan knew he did not recognize. It sounded like that of a young man in his late teens or early twenties, yet it was clearly artificial. If Jimbo was among the three, it stood to reason that this voice belonged to his buddy Ned. However, Ned had always adamantly refused to have a cybernetic voicebox implant to restore his speech after an old war injury, preferring instead to carry an external device with him wherever he went. Why did he sound so different this time? Could the implant have been installed against his will by MORONI?

“I don’t normally open my shop this early, Skeeter,” said Jimbo, “But I guess I could make an exception for such a longtime customer. I’ll fix you up with a spiffy new assault rifle. How’s that sound?” So Skeeter was the third, Stan thought.

“Sounds great,” replied Skeeter. “I can’t wait to get it down to the range and test it out.”

Stan turned and crouched behind the storefront windowsill. What was going on? Didn’t they know that the gun shop had already been ransacked? Whatever the case, they were headed his way. Stan finally worked up the nerve to lean out over the sill from the shadows. What he saw approaching left him staring wide-eyed in terror. Those weren’t bare feet he heard, they were bare hands, and the three were only walking on them because they had no feet, let alone anything else from the lower abdomen down. Waving around behind each of them, held parallel to the ground like a tail, was the spinal column, plated in metal and terminating in a sharp and vicious looking barb. The bottom region of the chest and protruding ribcage of each man was filled in with robotic replacement parts, to take over the functions of the missing organs. Wires and angular metal plates were sparsely arranged over the surface of the arms, most likely as mechanical augmentations to enhance strength and mobility.

Stan withdrew into the store and resumed his hiding position against the wall next to the window frame, breathing heavily with beads of sweat forming on his forehead and palms. He began to feel a little queasy, and could hear his throbbing heartbeat against his eardrums. “That’s not Uncle Jimbo, that’s not my Uncle Jimbo,” Stan repeated to himself over and over in his head, with his fists shaking and eyes squeezed shut. He had to get out of there fast. His life depended on it. But if he made a break for it at that moment, they would surely see him and come after him. “Damn, what the hell do I do?” he whispered.


The pocket flashlight clattered to the floor and rolled into the corner, plunging the room into almost total darkness once again. Kyle had the wherewithal to cross his arms in front of his face to defend himself, but that did little to slow the onslaught of Ike’s steel talons, which were frantically raking across his neck and face. The cuts happened so quickly that Kyle barely even had time to register pain, as tiny droplets of blood filled the air with a ruddy mist.

“Ike?! What the f*ck?” Kyle sounded more bewildered than anything else. His first and only instinct was to separate himself from his attacker. “Ike! What the f*ck!” he screamed even louder this time. Acting on pure adrenaline Kyle palmed Ike’s face with one hand, balled up his other in a fist, and drove a clubbing blow down into his head. Ike was sent flying momentarily, righting himself in midair and skidding to a stop in a crouched position on his four robotic legs. The 3 year old kept his gaze fixated on his prey and uttered a piercing mechanical hiss.

Kyle reached up and touched the thin cuts and slashes Ike had left all over his face, which were trickling warm blood down the sides of his chin and soaking into his collar. He could not believe what was happening, despite the fact that the more logical side of his mind had immediately pieced together the situation. “Ike, it’s me, Kyle! Why are you doing this?” The words escaped his lips before he had time to think them over. There was no chance that Ike, or what was left of him, was capable of understanding what Kyle was saying.

Ike scuttled across the floor towards Kyle faster than a cockroach fleeing light. “Cookie monster,” he babbled, baring his teeth and dislocating his jaw, so that his mouth was opened wider than humanly possible along the metal hinges fused to the sides of his head. Kyle felt an intense pain shoot up from his left ankle, as Ike’s jaws clamped down on him like a mousetrap.

“Augh!!” Kyle howled, falling to the floor and kicking out desperately with his free leg. “Get off! Get the hell off!” He drove the heel of his right shoe into Ike’s face several times, but Ike still held fast like a frenzied shark to its victim. Kyle’s better judgment kept urging him to get Ike off him at all costs. Yet a part of him could still only see his 3 year old little brother, who was merely acting misguided, and did not deserve to be hurt. But if Kyle didn’t do something fast, his leg would likely be broken, and it wasn’t easy to argue with the intense crushing pain. Rage overtook him in an instant, and he delivered a savage kick to Ike’s forehead. The force of the blow wrenched the top of Ike’s skull backwards, prying the teeth loose from Kyle’s ankle and driving Ike head first into the far wall. Kyle’s hand went for his gun, while Ike flailed his legs and righted himself. Could he really shoot his own brother if he had to? Kyle and Ike remained at a tense standoff, glaring their hate at one another from several paces apart.


Stan was frozen to the spot, biting his lips as he desperately fought to hold back the nausea welling up inside him. He could see that the three cyborgs were now right outside the gun shop. Although the windows had all been broken open, and would have provided easy access, Jimbo for some strange reason lead the other two up to the front door. He casually reached up towards the handle with the barb of his spinal column and pulled the door open, in a movement that looked as natural as if he’d used his hands.

“C’mon in Skeeter,” said Jimbo, while the other two followed him inside. “Make yourself at home. I’ll be right out with your equipment.” Jimbo’s barbed spine went for the light switch on the wall and flipped it on. Even though the lights were all burned out, he didn’t seem aware of this fact, and apparently neither did Ned or Skeeter.

Stan’s mind raced to weigh the precious few options he had. Ned and Skeeter had paused right inside the doorway, just a few steps away from where Stan hid on the opposite side of the storefront window, while Jimbo walked around the store counter and into the back storage area. Stan’s hand drifted towards his holstered shotgun, but then he thought better of it. Even if he could take out one of the cyborgs at close range, the second would be right on top of him by the time he’d be able to finish the first off. Was running an option? The quickest way out was through the broken window next to him, but that would briefly expose him to sight before he jumped, as well as put him within reach of those spinal barbs when he took a step towards them.

Skeeter began to wander impatiently, crushing the broken glass under the palms of his hands as he paced back and forth. Stan flattened himself into the darkened corner as tightly as he could, blinking nervously and forcing himself to take as shallow breaths as possible. Thankfully, Skeeter soon turned and paced back in the other direction.

“Hey Ned, give me a hand back here, will ya?” Jimbo called out from the storage area. “I don’t think we have any more of those rifles in stock!” He must have discovered that the gun racks were all empty. Stan wondered: could they perhaps be marginally aware of their surroundings?

“I’ll be right there,” replied Ned, who turned and made his way around the counter.

“What? You’re out already? Ain’t no way!” exclaimed Skeeter. “You gotta have something I could use.”

Much to Stan’s relief, Skeeter followed Ned into the back, leaving him alone in the front of the store. This was Stan’s chance to escape. He carefully slid one foot in front of the window and shifted his weight onto it. Now! Stan spun and kicked his other leg over the sill, vaulting through the window as fast as he could. Unfortunately, in his haste, Stan’s right sleeve caught on a shard of broken glass, ripping his jacket and scraping open his wrist right across the tendons. “Gaah, f*ck!” he yelped, clapping his left hand over his mouth a split second too late to keep from giving himself away.

The three cyborgs in the back of the gun shop turned in unison at the sound of Stan’s voice. “Hey, did ya hear that?” Jimbo called out. “I think we’ve got ourselves a shoplifter!” Jimbo charged out to the front of the store, leading the formation.

“I see him! He’s getting away!” said Ned, pointing with his spinal barb.

Stan clamored to his feet and ran into the next closest store, clutching his wrist the whole way. The only light in this store came from the nightlights inside the display cases, casting the aisles in an eerie fluorescent glow. He leapt behind the checkout counter and reached for his automatic shotgun. In spite of his injury, he placed the weapon over his right arm, since he was a far better shot right-handed. Breathing heavily, Stan crouched by the corner of the counter and trained his gun on the front door.

Jimbo was the first to enter, followed by Ned and Skeeter. The three oriented themselves towards Stan the moment they saw him, waving their barbs menacingly over their heads, but paused in their tracks when they saw that he was armed. Stan took aim on Jimbo’s head and slowly squeezed the trigger. It was then that a sudden feeling of regret overcame him, forcing him to let up before he could fire. What was he thinking? These weren’t like the faceless harvestman he’d killed before; these were people he knew! How could he shoot his own uncle, or his friends?


Neither Kyle nor Ike had moved an inch. The cuts and slashes across Kyle’s forearms and face continued to weep blood, and sweat was beginning to trickle down from his forehead into his open wounds, causing him to wince from the stinging sensation. The sights on his gun were still lined up perfectly. He could put a quick end to it if he wanted to, but something was stopping him, as if his hands had lost all feeling. This creature that attacked him couldn’t possibly be the Ike he once knew, yet it looked so much like him.

Before he could vacillate any further, Ike had made the decision for him. The toddler darted out sideways on his four legs, scaling the wall up to the ceiling and dropping himself right on top of Kyle’s head. Kyle dove out of the way and landed on his stomach, but then heard the rapid clinking of sharp metal feet fast approaching from behind his line of sight. He rolled out of the way at the last second, barely avoiding having his neck impaled, as Ike jumped again and drove his talons down into the floor.

Kyle’s mind raced as he jumped out of the way again and hid behind the couch. Ike is dead. It’s too late to bring him back. What you’re seeing is not your little brother, but the very thing that killed him. Ike is dead, and the machine that has consumed more than half his body is what’s attacking you, not Ike. There is nothing left but revenge!

“Let my brother go!” Kyle screamed, firing angrily into the robotic frame that made up the lower half of Ike’s body. Wires snapped, sparks flew, and the servos on one of the legs emitted a bright flash, leaving the leg smoking and hanging limply to the side. Kyle fired again, striking the layer of cables running up and down Ike’s spine. Despite the damage, Ike still would not relent in his attack, biting at the air and lashing out furiously with his legs whenever he had a chance. Kyle sidestepped around the room, trying to match Ike’s movements as the cyborg stalked him on its three working legs. Ike charged at Kyle again, jaws held wide open and teeth bared, until he received another sharp kick to the forehead, sending him reeling and lashing his head back. The largest cable connecting to the back of Ike’s neck finally began to come loose and break off, even as Ike struggled to right himself. What Kyle heard next though would come as a complete surprise.

“K-Kyle…” Ike stuttered faintly. “H-help me K-Kyle…”

Kyle wiped the blood from his eyes and lowered his gun down to his side, keeping both hands on it but taking his aim off of Ike for the moment. Did he just hear what he thought he heard? Could this be another trick to get him to drop his guard? “What the?” he whispered to himself.


Stan stood crouched beside the store counter, his weary aim darting back and forth between the three cyborgs in turn, warning to them not to get any closer. Although he recognized their faces, they clearly did not recognize him. They paced anxiously in place on the palms of their hands, with their spinal barbs held ready to strike at any second.

“Stay back!” Stan cried out in warning, his automatic shotgun shaking in his grip. “I don’t want to do it, but I will if I have to!” The cyborgs tilted their heads towards one another and exchanged strange glances without saying anything. Was it possible that they were able to hear him, or understand him?

Jimbo was the first to break the silence. “It’s an armed shoplifter!” he exclaimed, pointing at Stan with his barb. “Get that lowlife punk!”

“Get that lowlife punk!” Ned echoed.

“Oh sh*t!” Stan barely had time to roll out of the way when a trio of metal-plated spinal barbs smashed right through the store counter, sending glass shards and particle board splinters everywhere. As Stan covered his head and ran for his life behind the counter, the cyborgs gave chase, thrusting the pointed ends of their spinal columns at him like scorpion stingers and destroying everything in their path. It was the end of the line. Stan had nowhere else to run.

Skeeter charged ahead after him. “He’s cornered! I’ll get the thieving varmint!”

Stan climbed up on top of the store counter and swung his shotgun towards the cyborg’s face. “Eat this!” He plugged several blasts into Skeeter’s head before jumping at the last second. A surge of electricity ran through the cyborg’s body, and it let out a grating electronic wail as it collapsed on the floor with a violent spasm. The other two, Jimbo and Ned, shrieked in rage as they crawled over Skeeter’s body and brought their tails crashing down on the countertop where Stan had been standing moments earlier.

The store was quiet for a few seconds as the dust settled. Jimbo and Ned panned their heads back and forth, scanning the area for their prey, until Stan gave himself away during his mad dash down the aisle he’d taken cover in. The two immediately turned towards him and plowed their way down the aisle in hot pursuit. Stan reached the end and made a sharp turn down the far wall, just in time to avoid a series of quick stinger strikes that left a series of holes punched in the wallboard panels behind him. He had to figure out a way to slow them down, and fast.

It was then that Stan noticed that all twelve chambers on his shotgun were empty. “Crap!” Ned was closing in rapidly. Stan only had enough time to load up one shell, so he had to make it count, especially since the gun was feeling heavier and heavier the longer he carried it around his blood-soaked right arm as he ran. He turned and fired, his aim pulling lower than he’d expected, although still managing to hit something. Ned’s right arm had been torn off at the elbow by the shotgun blast, forcing him to skid to a stop on his face, and smearing a red streak along the floor behind him.

“Jeeaawwww!” Ned hollered, angrily flailing his leaky stump of exposed flesh and bone in the air, while clawing at the floor with his left arm in a futile attempt to pull himself towards Stan. Jimbo collided with Ned from behind, landing on his face and stalling for a brief moment. This was exactly what Stan needed. He plugged as many shells into the rotating clip as he could in the few seconds it took for Jimbo to gather himself up and vault over the fallen Ned.

“Don’t worry Ned, I got him!” Jimbo exclaimed, drawing back his barb and charging right for Stan.

Stan pointed the barrel of his automatic shotgun directly at Jimbo’s head. He had no other choice. “I’m sorry, Uncle Jimbo,” he muttered through gritted teeth. The gun blazed four times in quick succession, sending a thick spatter of blood, brain, and metal shards all over the walls and floor. The force of the blast arrested the cyborg’s momentum, bringing it to a dead halt in midair and sending it crashing to the floor. The cruel mockery of Stan’s uncle gave one final involuntary shudder and died in a pool of its own blood. There was only one thing left to do. Stan adjusted his aim, narrowed his eyes, and fired the rest of his slugs into the head of Ned.

The automatic shotgun fell from Stan’s weakened grip, its barrel still smoking, and clattered to the floor in slow motion. His right hand and wrist were now caked and sticky with coagulated blood. He clasped his forehead in his left hand, his dry eyes stinging as he surveyed the aftermath of the fight. Stan had acted in self-defense; had he not fought back, there’s no telling what might have happened, and he would not have had the luxury of reflecting on his actions. The feelings of regret he felt would have been more tolerable, had it not been for the fact that Stan knew in the back of his mind how foolish he’d been to venture out on his own in the first place. He had to admit that Kyle had a point: there was strength in numbers, and Stan could very easily have been killed. The three dead cyborgs laid out before him served as a grim reminder of how he may have ended up if that happened.

For the first time since he’d entered the store to take cover inside, Stan noticed just what kind of store it was. This was the drugstore that was practically driven out of business back when MORONI was installed. Unlike the gun shop next door, the cyborgs had not even touched it. With the AI in control of all their medical needs, what use would they have for the primitive outmoded goods sold in a drugstore? Most of the shelves were bare, after the owner had decided to cut his losses and throw everything away, but there was still a meager selection of expired items.

Stan wrapped a short length of bandages around the scrape on his right wrist. The package was already opened when he found it, but it would do. He piled the rest of the items he could find into his Autodoc kit, barely enough to fully restock it, but sufficient for the time being. Stan retrieved his shotgun, left the drugstore, and headed back the way he came, retracing his steps to the living quarters of the level. It was time he stopped thinking about himself and his own sadness, and started thinking about the needs of those closest to him. Stan picked up the pace until he was running, for there was one thing weighing on his mind more heavily than any other: he needed to find Kyle.


“H-help me,” Ike repeated. “S-save me K-Kyle…”

Something strange was definitely going on. Kyle tilted his head and took a closer look at Ike. The harsh aggressive glare had begun to fade from his eyes. Was this perhaps a glimmer of humanity showing through? Kyle took a step closer, prompting the sharp metal talons to lash out towards him, even though Ike’s upper body and head were hanging slack. Ike existed it seemed, only to serve the will of the machine controlling him, for it was the very thing that was keeping him alive.

“Help me Kyle,” Ike pleaded faintly.

Whether or not this was a ploy, Kyle realized that it wouldn’t be safe to approach without some way to defend himself from those claws. He reached for a sheet of scrap metal to shield himself, and advanced on Ike with his gun held at the ready. Ike’s legs continued to flail involuntarily in Kyle’s direction, scratching and clawing at the piece of scrap every time Kyle took a step. Kyle finally managed to restrain Ike by kicking the piece of metal towards him; the moment Ike took the bait, Kyle shifted his weight on top of the sheet metal, holding it down with his foot and pinning Ike’s three working legs to the floor. Up close, he could see that the wires and metal were hopelessly entangled with Ike’s body. Even if he somehow managed to remove them, Ike would die. If he left them…

“Kyle… Help…”

He had no other choice. “All right,” Kyle spoke softly, slowly nodding. He lined up the sights, turned his head away, and closed his eyes. Three bullets tore through Ike’s skull at close range. The toddler vomited up a blackened mix of burned blood and machine oil before falling limp. Ike was at peace at last.

Kyle removed his foot from atop Ike’s body and tossed aside the metal panel he used to restrain him. The four mechanical legs lay sparking and motionless. Kyle gazed once more into his brother’s eyes; glistening black pearls among a bloodstained countenance of corrupted innocence. He reached down, moved his hand over Ike’s face, and closed the 3 year old’s eyes for the last time.

Then he knelt on the floor, alone in the room, and wept.
Last edited by Kyle the Skeptic on Sun Jan 28, 2007 12:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
polymorph
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Postby polymorph » Sat Jan 27, 2007 9:43 pm

It's good but it is giving of more of the air of an action story rather than horror.

additionly I thought the use of the "it's coming right for us" gag took out a large part of the horror but wasn't enough for comedy so it didn't really work for anything and kind of ruined the air of the seen.

And how is Ned walking with just one arm.
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Postby Kyle the Skeptic » Sat Jan 27, 2007 11:58 pm

This is AU, so Ned doesn't lose the arm until this particular fight. The way that he gets it shot off is meant to be a reference to that.

I actually threw in a number of gag elements, in addition to Jimbo's line. It was meant to show how the same thing, when framed in a different context, can have a very different meaning. In other words, something that he'd normally say while alive would be funny, but here the same words are threatening. I don't know how much sense that made, but that's the best I can explain it.

Also, I don't mind if this gets construed as an action story. A lot of horror genre stories have action scenes in them. What would you call mowing down hordes of zombies with a sawed off shotgun, for example?
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Postby polymorph » Sun Jan 28, 2007 12:39 am

[quote="Kyle the Skeptic":977e9]This is AU, so Ned doesn't lose the arm until this particular fight. The way that he gets it shot off is meant to be a reference to that.

I actually threw in a number of gag elements, in addition to Jimbo's line. It was meant to show how the same thing, when framed in a different context, can have a very different meaning. In other words, something that he'd normally say while alive would be funny, but here the same words are threatening. I don't know how much sense that made, but that's the best I can explain it.

Also, I don't mind if this gets construed as an action story. A lot of horror genre stories have action scenes in them. What would you call mowing down hordes of zombies with a sawed off shotgun, for example?[/quote:977e9]

I know this is AU I must of just spaced the bit where Ned loses his arm.

I see the point of the gag elements and Ike saying "Cookie Monster" while trying to rip off Kyle's face was definently creepy I just don't think "It's coming right for us" works for that idea but oh well, just whatever you do don't use "Respect my authoritah" in this fic.
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Postby Kyle the Skeptic » Sun Jan 28, 2007 12:53 am

Actually, I've gone ahead and taken out Jimbo's line. It does seem kind of forced, come to think of it. I'm usually open to suggestions, after all, so it's no big deal.

Also, Cartman does make an appearance later, but I was kind of stuck racking my brain on whether it was possible to make his catchphrase seem intimidating. It'll probably be easier if I leave it out anyway, so I think I'll do that.
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Postby polymorph » Sun Jan 28, 2007 1:11 am

Kyle the Skeptic wrote:Also, Cartman does make an appearance later, but I was kind of stuck racking my brain on whether it was possible to make his catchphrase seem intimidating. It'll probably be easier if I leave it out anyway, so I think I'll do that.


Cartman has a lot of catchphrases and gags it's just a matter of choosing the right one. Personaly I'd go for Cartman's thing in "Toilet Paper" because you don't really have work hard to make that creepy "So how are things Kyle".
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Postby ShaneHaughey » Mon Jan 29, 2007 7:19 am

Very well done so far. I like how you explain the backstory without directly telling us what happened(so far). My only gripe would be that you showed us the summary, which filled in the holes too quickly for those with good memory. Despite these really small gripes, it is an excellent story. You should really consider science fiction/action/horror often.
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Postby Kyle the Skeptic » Mon Jan 29, 2007 8:14 pm

It's the same summary I used on FOSFF, as well as in the preview of upcoming fics I posted in the Fanfic Discussion Thread. I know it's spoiler-ific, and in fact I've even told a few people (including my beta reader) how the story is going to end. The thing is, I don't really mind spoiling it that much though, because I find it doesn't hurt if I give away a little just to get people's attention. I always have a few more surprises planned regardless, and anyone who skips over the story because they think I've already given everything away is going to be making a mistake.

Anyway, glad you read it.
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Postby Aimsireil » Mon Jan 29, 2007 11:59 pm

Crap, I can't believe I didn't find this until now. That fic was brilliant, and my only real gripe (I just realized that Shane used that word a few posts back... my memory works in strange ways) is that I would have liked for there to have been a few more living characters. The whole lone-survivors thing always annoys me, like in the first Matrix movie when all the other crew members got killed. I like when the main characters have some backup.

I haven't actually played "System Shock", the game you mentioned, but anyways this fic reminded me of the book "Spy High 2" (the reanimated corpses), and the movie "I, Robot" (the Autodocs reminded me of the older robot models, which were independant from the system) and a few other similarities. Also, I'm vaguely reminded of the movie "Firewall" (which I just watched yesterday) because of the people that you know are evil but they appear so nice and kind, and the Kyle-Ike scene reminded me of the Luke-Vader scenes in the "Star Wars" movies, because of how Luke always thought there was some good left in Vader. And there was, in both cases.

The Jimbo scenes were awesome. I actually got confused when I first read that scene (I was doing something else) and I thought that it was a recording of the three of them from like 20 years ago, due to the description of how Ned sounded like a teen. When I re-read it, it was very clear.

When was "It's coming right for us" originally used? Could you paste that passage here? I want to see that.

And how many other SP characters are you going to make into cyborgs? 2, or 20? That would be creepy if there were that many.


Anyhow, a few questions:

Is the colony indoors or outdoors? I was kind of imagining it like the interior of the Enterprise (although wider and taller), what with different rooms being the stores and living quarters, but I don't know. The windows kind of tipped me off that it was outdoors. Or is it sort of like an outdoor area that is sheltered? Is the planet habitable?

Why is the robot brain attacking Stan and Kyle? Or will that be explained later?

Did you plan to use Mr. Harrison from the start, or was the abbreviation (most likely the wrong word there) "MORONI" just a coincidence, and you realized it was the name of a Morman angel?

Is Kenny dead (actually dead)? You usually work him into your fics.
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Postby Kyle the Skeptic » Tue Jan 30, 2007 12:51 am

Aimsireil wrote:When was "It's coming right for us" originally used? Could you paste that passage here? I want to see that.

It was whenever Jimbo addressed or threatened Stan. I decided it didn't seem very appropriate, so I took it out and replaced it with more generic lines.
Is the colony indoors or outdoors?

It's a closed system, floating on the sea of ice. Reread the description. The moon Ariel is so cold that carbon dioxide and methane freeze. So the shopping center is like an indoor mall, which as you know, still has windows.
Why is the robot brain attacking Stan and Kyle? Or will that be explained later?

Yes.
Did you plan to use Mr. Harrison from the start, or was the abbreviation (most likely the wrong word there) "MORONI" just a coincidence, and you realized it was the name of a Morman angel?

I had planned on both using Mr. Harrison (since his occupation is never given) and having an acronym for the AI's name. I was originally going to go with something funny, like just leaving it at MORON, but then I figured why not make them related?
Is Kenny dead (actually dead)? You usually work him into your fics.

Kenny shows up later.

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