Chuck Marley approached the door panel. He pushed the button below the palm scanner.
“This is an emergency!
Rothball Hazard must have overridden the emergency sequence for this room. He held his palm to the scanner. Nothing happened. He needed to get out of here. Being stuck inside an executive suite during a rebellion was not his cup of tea.
There was a little gap where Rudolf’s shoe had jammed the door.
With all his might he wrenched at the doors. They wouldn’t budge.
How was he going to authorise his ass out of here?
Then he saw Nono prostrate on the floor. His palm! The question was, how was he going to leverage Nono’s bulk towards the door so he could raise his palm to the scanner?
He grabbed the arm of the fallen giant and pulled. He heaved and sweated to no avail. Nono remained as unmoved as the second Lord Humbrous of Burgundy after being told by the Ambassador of Foon that he had could solve his dandruff problem with radiation therapy.
He picked up Jed’s arm and fired a salvo at the door. It was bulletproof. In utter frustration he pulled every finger of the cybernetic limb. Surely it was more than a mere weapon. Yes, it could be used as an incredible isomorphic backscratcher; and right now Chuck was itching to escape.
He bent every finger of the arm as far back as they would go. The synthetic knuckles cracked. He bent the elbow back. It hissed. Hissed? A patch of skin flapped open just below the elbow joint. A switch! It had three settings: “1. Shotgun 2. Back scratcher 3. Flamethrower.”
Igniting the flamethrower and concentrating the burn to a narrow thread was immensely satisfying. Move over Cretan Special Forces, here was Chuck Marley!
He severed the flabby hand of the late Frint Nono, now plush cushion. He hit the main arterial vein not so professionally, splashing blood all over himself. If only he hadn’t removed the tea lady apron.
Holding the severed hand aloft made him feel like the mythical harbinger who delivered the hand of John the Dentist unto the eager salamander. Or was it John the Baptist?
After scanning Nono’s palm, the door swooshed open without complaint.
He looked right and left. The evacuation announcement had done its job.
A faint whirring preceded the approach of another MTBin cleaning bot. It flew around a corner and thudded into Marley’s leg. Marley moved his leg aside. It thudded straight back into it. Was this robot afraid? Had its programmers neglected to write some instructions on what it should do in an emergency? Marley dropped a chewing gum wrapper onto the floor. It gleefully swept it up and scurried off to the floor’s disposal unit.
Marley was only half-surprised when inside the lift, he discovered it wasn’t working.
“Please take the stairs. Alert Level A3 is in force.” The lift’s voice had a hint of melancholia.
How many flights of stairs?
He was about to call Gaston Dimble on his flablet when, as if attuned to his mental state, the flablet vibrated and flashed “Incoming Call”. Surprised, Marley fumbled and answered it. From the speaker a strained voice called his name. “Chuck. Come in. Chuck!”
He saw what could only be the nose of Dimble peering up at him from the screen.
“Where are you?”
“In the labs of Thuris Thranganis. Hazard has descended into the bowels of this complex. How far down we do not know. Nor do we know what his plans are. But he has the Antlers of Amplitude.”
“He still has the Antlers?” Marley exhaled.
“Yes. Not only that. He’s wearing them! He stuck them to his head with sticky-tape.”
Marley held his breath.
“Not the most sophisticated method I agree, but with the Antlers, Hazard is invincible.” Dimble briefly showed Marley some footage of the Zorgons bowing down to him. “Even I was overcome, as if I was standing in the aura of a great leader with overpowering presence.”
Marley could not believe that such a petty, callous, diminutive character with such hairy eyebrows could inspire presence. “If he’s wearing the Antlers we’ll be powerless then, unable to act.”
The Professor said quickly, “I believe the effects are more obvious on Zorgons. Upon humans you can feel the presence, but you aren’t reduced to a grovelling primitive.”
Marley paused. “That’s why the Viscount a la Carte is after them. Humans won’t realise they’re being manipulated when they vote for him.”
“But listen. Thranganis is working on a tingling spray that’ll make Hazard’s scalp itch and force him to remove the Antlers.”
“What a plan,” Marley said with sarcasm. “I’m on my way down.”
Dimble’s image fled the screen.