Sand swirls around me as I share the cooked remains of our latest kill with my 10 lb. terrier Bitefighter. It’s been years since we’ve left the soft trappings of cities and opted for the desolate wilds. It’s been years since…MARTHA. After creating an army of clones, Martha Stewart swept across the land like a wind-borne plague. At first she was taken as a joke…until she fitted each clone with a devastating array of cybernetic weaponry. The finest combined arms force to ever exist was cobbled together from the world’s militaries. Didn’t matter; Martha cut through them like a blond-bobbed Megatron. Since then, I’ve tried to put it out of my mind. There’s still clean water and good meat to be had on the edges of the deserts….suddenly, Bitefighter perks up besides me and lets out a querulous growl. I pause mid-bite, a lizard steak held before my face, praying that it’s nothing. My heart drops as I hear the faint whup-whup-whup of helicopter rotors. A chopper crests the mountain to my left and blinds me with a spotlight. I see hunter-killer Martha variants dropping out from either side of the search ‘copter. There’s a loud squeal, then the fritz of static as one of them uses her megaphone voice. “KENT WAYNE. YOUR STEAKS LACK THE PROPER SEASONING, AND THEY’RE UNDERCOOKED. SURRENDER YOURSELF, OR SUFFER THE WRATH OF MARTHA.” The robot appears to be a petite elderly woman, but it’s far from harmless: It’s sporting a telemetry-based artificial eye on the right side of its face. I know that if I listen closely, I can hear the whir of oiled servos as the optic’s AI readjusts for threats. Martha’s mascot—a fluffy haired miniature poodle named Destroyer—runs up to Bitefighter, snapping and growling. Bitefighter bares his teeth. I yell, “NOOOOOOOOO” just as Bitefighter executes a 360-degree four-legged wheel-kick and knocks Destroyer unconscious (I taught him that). The Martha-bots scream in inarticulate rage. They emit a hard series of clacks as they transform their arms into miniguns and begin peppering the sand around me. I dive to the left—all those John Woo movie’s are finally coming in handy—and scoop up Bitefighter. At the same time I open my eReader to Echo. Magic flash. Kal-el blurs down from the sky and smashes into the ground. Martha-bots go flying everywhere, but in an instant they swamp him. At first he’s surprised and tries to struggle, then a look of dismay comes over his face. “I’m sorry Kent,” he gasps. “There’s…too…many…” I’m looking on in disbelief when the Bat-wing screams overhead and the Dark Knight flits down from his craft. He spares Superman a disgusted look at being so easily overcome, then rasps out, “Epsilon, Archimedes, stochastic mobius.” The code words hit the Martha-bots like nuclear bullets. They freeze in place, gibber, then begin exploding, one after the other. Batman looks on in grim satisfaction, turns to me and says, “I like my meat medium-rare as well.” Saved!
We all want to spend some time as hard-bitten loners, but tell me: what are you gonna do when the Martha-bots try to kill your dog? WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO??? Get Echo Vol. 1 on Kindle here: Vol. 1 on Kindle. Vol. 2 on Kindle here: Vol.2 on Kindle Vol. 3 on Kindle here: Vol. 3 on Kindle