Episode Eight: Sisters In Arms, Part II
D-59 waltzed down the brightly lit corridor, checking up on her siblings as she passed. She saw that everything was in perfect order; the cyborgs were at their stations, working diligently. A notice on the door of the Birthing Room announced that an Activation Ceremony was in progress, so D-59 stepped in to check it out.
The newborn daughters were standing in a line, waiting to be activated. There were three of them. D-14, the master of ceremonies, had the honor of pushing the buttons and bringing her sisters to life. Upon being activated, each of the cyborgs stated their name and swore a pre-programmed oath.
"D-98, reporting for duty."
"D-99, reporting for duty."
"D-100, reporting for duty."
"I vow to serve this family well, to lend a hand to a sister in need, to protect my fellow cyborgs, and to always obey the Mother Unit." D-59 felt a twinge of unexplainable sadness. The ceremony usually filled her with joy. Perhaps it was anxiety about her upcoming meeting.
"Greetings, Mother Unit. May I ask why you have requested my presence here today?"
"Yes, 59. Firstly, I've called you here to warn you."
"Warn me? Of what?"
"Of yourself. Word from your sisters tells me you've been treating them rather harshly of late. For example, today I overheard your conversation with D-63, in which you disowned her. Why did you do that, 59?"
"She was being insubordinate, Mother."
"Really? Or was she just telling you things you didn't wish to hear?"
"Mother, I'm coming to the conclusion that you don't trust me."
"On the contrary, daughter, I trust you very much. You are of my mind and body, after all, and not trusting you would be like not trusting myself; however, I am wary of your judgment, and your temper."
"Please, Mother. Don't reassign me. I want to stay on this mission and prove myself to you."
"Reassignment? Is that what you think this is about?"
"Well, 63 mentioned something…"
"My dear, as much as I love her, I must say that D-63 is not the most reliable source of gossip. Rest at ease, daughter. You will not be reassigned."
"Remember our discussion from a few nights ago?"
"Do you remember what I told you to do about those…strange feelings?"
"You told me to eliminate the source."
"And why haven't you done that yet? Why haven't you killed Frosty Man?"
"I've tried, but…it's been difficult."
"No matter. I've invented something to help you with this task. It's called an Invisi-Chip. It will make your body refract light, so you'll vanish into thin air. You won't be completely invisible, but enough so that you'll be able to sneak up on someone in a darkened room. I'll install it right now, if you'd like."
D-59 hesitated before accepting the offer. She was filled with so many conflicting emotions. She wanted to obey the Mother Unit, of course; that loyalty had been embedded in her since birth. But she felt a certain sympathy for Frosty Man. He didn't really deserve to die, just to cover up her weakness. But Mother was waiting, so she had to make up her mind.
"Thank you, Mother. With your help, I will surely succeed."
"Good. I'm counting on you, 59."
Noontime, at the Hall of Unsung Heroes headquarters…
Frosty Man was rummaging through the kitchen cabinets for a package of Ramen Noodles. He had a happy, dazed look on his face. That look had been there since two nights ago, when he and Cannon had professed their love for each other. The other Heroes were a little worried about him. It was great to see the frozen man in such a good mood for a change, but they didn't know how long it would last. If anything went wrong, he could easily convert back to his old, miserable self, which is what they feared the most.
He set a pot of water on the stove to boil, and then went from room to room in search of his beloved. He found Jack and Steve in the rec room, locked in a vicious game of air hockey.
"Excuse me, fellas, have either of you seen Cannon around? She said she'd meet me for lunch today."
"No way, buddy! You ain't gettin' in my pocket! I've got sweet goalie skills!"
"Au contraire, little man. My skills are far superior."
"Oh, hey there, Frosty. Come to watch me whoop Steve's ass?"
"Actually, I was just wondering…um, never mind. I can see you're a bit preoccupied at the moment."
"Whatever. Catch ya later, F-Man. Aww, damn it! This is what happens when I let my guard down!"
Frosty's glow was slightly tarnished, but he marched onward with a smile. He convinced himself that it didn't matter what the others thought, or in this case didn't think of him, as long as he had that beautiful cyborg by his side. And if only she would quit her disappearing act.
He heard voices drifting from the library. The door was shut. He opened it just a crack and peered inside.
Techno-Geek and the Captain were cuddled up on the couch with that month's issue of Not Very Popular Mechanics lying open on the end table. By the way things were going, it looked like the scientist wouldn't be getting back to his magazine for a while. The Captain was urging him to "talk nerdy" to her.
"Oooh! Keep going, but…slower."
"Oh, yes. YES!"
Frosty blinked his eyes and shuddered, trying to erase that scene from his memory. He closed the door tightly, hoping to prevent anyone else from witnessing the awkward horror that is middle-aged love. He trudged back to the kitchen, hungry and disappointed. If Cannon didn't turn up soon, he'd be dining alone. He figured he should've been used to it by now. Lonely meals and missing people was the story of his life.
When he got to the kitchen, the water was boiling over. He rushed to turn the knob, but it was stuck.
"Just my luck," he grumbled. He finally managed to turn the stove off, but steaming water continued to slosh onto the stovetop. Some of it splashed on his hands. He waited with a glimmer of hope. Nothing. Not even the slightest tingle of sensation. "God, what have I become?" Not being able to feel pain was one thing, but not being able to feel at all…it was just too much. Frosty longed for the simple days of his youth, before he became a human Popsicle.
He used what was left of the water to soak his noodles in. When they reached some degree of chewability, he drained them over the sink and then took a seat at the plastic fold-out table. He raised his mug full of noodles and said, "Here's to another lunch by myself. At least I have my sanity, for now…"
"Cannon! Where have you been?" The cyborg was leaning in the doorframe with a shy grin on her face.
"I was just getting a tune-up." D-59 frowned for a second, though it was partially the truth. "Sorry to keep you waiting."
"That's okay. Better late than not at all." Being the chivalrous person that he was, Frosty pulled out a chair and offered to cook something for her.
"That's very kind, but…I don't eat." Frosty slapped his head and sighed.
"Sorry. How stupid of me. And I've known you for how long? Stupid, stupid, stupid…" The cyborg walked over to him and wrapped her arms around his shoulders.
"Shhh. It's all right. You forgot, that's all. Don't beat yourself up over it."
"Oh, Cannon, I don't know what I'd do without you. I'd be lost forever…"
"I'd be lost without you, too," she whispered. And this time it was wholly the truth.
Late that night…
A fierce storm was brewing over the southern coastline. The rain that had started falling at dusk only intensified as the night moved on, and was now accompanied by loud claps of thunder. Frosty Man was lying on his bed, wide awake, not just because of the noise, but because of his own fear. He wasn't afraid of the thunder. Hell, only Bunny Boy was afraid of thunder. But for the past hour he had the strangest feeling that someone, or something, was watching him.
Every time the floor creaked or the window shade rustled, he had the urge to get up and investigate, but decided against it.
"Get a grip, man," he kept telling himself. "It's all in your mind." He tried to think about something else, something less sinister. The Loose Cannon came to mind. He pictured her radiant face and let her sweet laugh replay in his ears.
His thoughts were soon disrupted by a different sound, the sound of footsteps. They were heavy and clomping, and getting closer! All he could think of was a Hollywood killer with a big, sharp knife in hand. He heard a door in the hallway open and shut, and then another, and another. The killer was looking for someone. Frosty gulped. What if that someone was him? He closed his eyes and waited for the end.
Creeeeak. The door opened, but nothing happened. Not yet. Getting nervous, he allowed himself a peek through his fingers, just one peek. The room was dark, and all he could make out was a slender figure of medium height, standing in the doorway; just standing there. He didn't see a knife, but this was in no way reassuring. It just meant that the killer wanted to strangle him instead.
"Aha! There you are, my sneaky sister!" Frosty shivered all over. He thought he recognized that voice, but he was too scared to place a name to it. It was definitely feminine, but there was an underlying tone of creepiness to it. "You were able to fool them, but you don't fool me, D-59. Thanks to you, I can't remember much, but my comrades filled me in on some of the minor details, like how you brutally attacked us! And I believe you have something that belongs to me. I'll be taking it back now, if you don't mind."
What on earth was this crazy person talking about? And who was she talking to? Frosty Man had acquired an array of strange and degrading nicknames over the years, mostly from Mr. DeLightful, but as far as he knew, D-59 was not one of them.
"Look, whoever you are, please don't hurt me! I think you have the wrong guy. My name's Frosty Man…"
"I know who you are! Well, I'm supposed to, at least. Anyway, it's not you I'm after. Now kindly step aside so I have a clear target."
"Huh?" It was just then that Frosty noticed a shimmer of something, a wrinkle of light, crouching by his bedside. He traced the outline with his eyes and gasped in shock. "Gah! It's an invisible…THING!" He was surrounded! The figure by the door reached for the light switch.
"You must be tired of living in the dark, but now all will be revealed. D-59 will be exposed for the treacherous villain she is."
"Oh, so now I am the treacherous one?" the figure in the corner spoke up. Frosty knew that voice right away. It was the voice of his beloved, the Loose Cannon. Or so he thought. When the lights flickered on, there she was, kneeling on the floor with a dagger in her hands. "I have always been faithful to those that matter most, unlike you, a traitor to your own family!"
Frosty redirected his gaze to the figure by the door, but quickly regretted it. Standing before him was a being identical to the Loose Cannon in every way, except this one was much worse for wear. Her hair was a tangled mess, she had burn marks all over her body, and one of her eyeballs was missing!
"That may be so, but I have found a new family, and they're much nicer than your lot. My family doesn't go around murdering people."
"I've never murdered! I…I can't. Here, take your accursed Heart-Drive! It's weakening my resolve!" The cyborg did something most unexpected, at least in Frosty's eyes; she reached her arm behind her back and pulled out a little square chip, no bigger than a fingernail. She laid it in the palm of her hand, which she held open as an offering. The other cyborg eyed this gesture warily.
"Why should I trust you?"
"Why shouldn't you? I've made my purpose clear. I wish to be rid of this item."
"Logic is warning me against it."
"Well, if you want to live by logic for the rest of your life, be my guest," said D-59 with a smirk, "But you've always valued emotions. They're what make you so…disgustingly human. Are you sure you're ready for a life without happiness? Without love?"
D-1's singular eye darted around nervously. She could feel the empty spot inside of her, where the circuits reached a dead end. She knew the emptiness would spread, but not in the literal sense; without her Heart-Drive, the world would be dead to her, and she would fall dead to the world. She took a step forward, slowly, and then another. D-59 continued to hold her hand out, but her other hand was gripping the dagger behind her back. Frosty Man saw what was going on, and finally snapped out of his terrible daze.
"Stop!" he yelled, at the top of his lungs. "It's a trap! She has a knife…" D-1 spotted the weapon and melted it with an expert blast from her laser gun. Apparently, D-59's previous attack had rewired her perception skills, and now she could hit any target. How ironic.
"YOU!" screamed the imposter. She was pointing at Frosty Man. "This is all your fault!"
"M-me? What did I do?"
"You made me fall in love with you! How I am supposed to kill someone when my conscience screams at the thought of it?"
"I didn't make you…wait. You were trying to kill me? For how long?"
"Since I first met you! But not just you; my goal was to wipe out everyone in this building.
"I'M NOT THE LOOSE CANNON! Sweet Mother, you humans are slow! That horrid creature over there, that's the Loose Cannon." Frosty looked upon the scarred and dented cyborg, shaking his head in disbelief.
"It's true," she whispered. D-59 hooted with laughter.
"I've been posing as her for almost a week! Obviously, you primates were too dumb to tell the difference. Of course, we do look very alike, my sisters and I."
"S-sisters?" stammered Frosty Man. "Cannon, you never mentioned that you were a…twin? Triplet?"
"Try centuplet!" interjected the Fifty-Ninth Daughter. "There are exactly one hundred of us in the Daughter Colony, and soon to be more!"
"A hundred? You mean to tell me that there are a hundred nearly invincible, pistol-packing, lunatic cyborgs roaming the streets? That can't be good! I should probably…"
"You should shut up and sit down, if you want to live!"
"My twisted sister's right, Man of Frost. This is a war between cyborgs, much too dangerous for human involvement."
"But Cannon, I-"
"You only want to help, but it would be highly illogical of you to risk everything for a cause you know nothing about. Errgh. Logic. That reminds me…hand it over, 59!" The cyborg, knowing that she was beat, tossed the chip into the air. The Loose Cannon caught it and inserted it into her hard drive. "And like all wars, dear Frosty, there are enemies, and prisoners. You're coming with me, sister…" Unfortunately, the Cannon was still badly wounded, and had exhausted all of her reserve energy. She staggered forward and fell. D-59 giggled with glee, which turned to mad laughter, and then…tears.
"Poor D-1! It seems I shall make my getaway after all. So long, Frosty Man! I've realized I was wrong about you. I was wrong about quite a few things, actually. Even without the borrowed Heart-Drive, I still feel…well, goodbye. I don't know where I'll run to. I can't return to the Colony because of the shame. Perhaps some day we'll meet again, perhaps not."
"Call me…the Broken Heart." The cyborg vanished in a flash of lightning from outside, though Frosty could hear quiet tiptoes down the hall and out the exit. He stared at the digital glow of an alarm clock. 4:28 AM. Ignoring the fallen cyborg on the floor, he crawled into bed and pulled the covers over his eyes.
The day after…
"Frosty? Frosty Guy, wake up!"
"Huh?" The scruffy mug of Jack DeLightful was dangling over his face. "Wha…what time is it?"
"12:30 in the afternoon. You overslept, big time."
"I feel awful."
"You look even worse!"
"Oh man, I had the craziest dream last night. Must've eaten a bad pack of noodles. I dreamed that the Loose Cannon was trying to kill me, except…she wasn't the Loose Cannon, she was her evil centuplet. And then the real Cannon passed out, and the evil one got away."
"Uhh…I hate to break it to ya, but…you weren't dreaming. We found Cannon this morning, all banged up, lying face down on your carpet. Techno-Geek took her to the lab for repairs."
"Oh my god! What about…the other one?"
"Disappeared. We've got the cops looking for her…"
"Frosty? You okay? For a second there, it looked like you were about to hurl…"
"Oops. Spoke too soon. Hey, look! Ramen Noodles!"