“LAST MAG!” This is what I scream as I keep my cheek firmly pressed to my rifle, pulling the trigger as fast as I can. It’s not a matter of aiming now, it’s a matter of throwing as much punishment as I possibly can against a damn near unstoppable force born from the Food Network. That’s right—Martha Stewart has merged with AI to become some sort of Skynet/Matrix-style super-power. She’d deployed her Terminator-like android facsimiles all across the globe, wiping out holdout after holdout of humanity’s last, desperate few. Right now I’m dug in behind a berm (shaped dirt mound) blasting away at a Marthauder (cross between Martha and marauder). Half its face is gone—all that remains is the gleaming, skull-shaped layer of hardened techno-organics that serve as its endo-skeleton. Ironically, its blonde bob has remained perfectly intact. It compresses its legs, then pushes off the ground and soars toward us, arcing 50 feet into the sky like a praying mantis-style as streams of tracers and laser-fire follow it through space. THOOM! It lands in a crouch like an anime character, left knee down, right knee up, left hand palming the ground while its right arm is extended toward the sky. It begins walking calmly toward our position, giant sparks glancing off its exposed endo while our directed-energy weapons refract across its light-woven protection matrix—the force-field that keeps it safe from beam rounds. It walks up to my buddy, who’s about fifteen yards to my right and seated behind a grenade launcher. The Marthauder’s left eye (the one that’s still covered in flesh) shines in glee and it exclaims, “Don’t forget the red sauce!” before its blade-augmented fingers blur forward, slicing every major artery in my buddy’s body. Long, lurid tines of blood hang briefly in the air from each of the slices, and my buddy screams in agony as the last of his life spurts and gushes from his carotids, his femorals, and deep cuts in his chest. I get a grenade ready so that I can at least do a little damage when she gets to me. I’m about to get on comms and ask command to drop an airstrike right on top of us when the light in the Marthauder’s eye goes dark and she leans forward at the waist and becomes still. She says in a running-out-of-power voice: “I can’t be a criminal! I’m Martha motha duckin’ Steewwwaaaarrrrr—” There’s a series of harsh, grating clacks, and the Marthauder falls silent. My fellow rebels breathe a collective sigh of relief, and not an instant later I hear a tortured scream. The air is filled with cries of, “EYES FRONT! THERE’S ANOTHER ONE!!!” I look over the berm just in time to see a fresh Marthauder turn its backside to us and jet out a weaponized cloud of sickly-sweet smelling flames (ones that smell like cupcakes now that I think back on it) and envelop a machine-gun team in a blaze of fiery death. I see their outlines wreathed in a storm of black and red, and I snap. For no reason whatsoever, I scream “PALAMEDES PUBLISHING!!!” Magic flash. Suddenly, dozens of armed attack choppers appear over the horizon. Directly below them are legions of armored vehicles, all with the letters “SEC” emblazoned on their sides. A bull-horn-amplified voice says, “STEWART! YOU ARE IN DIRECT VIOLATION OF SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION LAWS AND REGULATIONS! SURRENDER YOURSELF IMMEDIATELY!” The Marthauder turns, snarls, and begins charging the SEC’s Enforcement Division. They immediately begin laying into her, slathering her with a bevy of spectacular destruction. Somewhere in the haze of dust and explosions I see a platoon of SEC battle-mechs surging forward, wrist-bayonets extended so they can throw down with the evil known as Martha. I gather up the last of my fellow rebels and we beat a hasty retreat, forever indebted to the brave men and women over at the SEC.
The Marthauders are coming. Only a matter of time before we need to band together and start living like Mad Max. Palamedes Publishing. Check out their poetry here: Machu Picchu Me They are assisting me with the process of getting Echo Volumes 1 & 2 in paperback. For now, 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