24
Oct
12

battle of the network sycophants

Sgt. Jack McMaster leaned hard against the wall of the cold metal corridor for support as the alarms wailed. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a handful of sand and cast it toward the opening at the passageway’s end to make sure no web of infrared trip wires lay waiting for him ahead. His path cleared, he proceeded forward, his blood-filled left boot making a sickening squish sound with every stagger toward the white light beyond. Suddenly, the sound of frantic footsteps made him grasp reflexively for his weapon, as two terrified men wearing the black berets and fatigues of Lassiter’s militia sprinted past him into the hellish maze he had spent the last 30 hours navigating to reach this point. The pair were unarmed, having abandoned their submachine guns along with their loyalty to Lassiter in the chaos that reigned in the minutes since McMaster shut off the base’s reactor core. He didn’t even bother killing them; this close to his mission’s culmination, he had to conserve not just his strength, but his bullets.
At the mouth of the hallway, he made quick work of the two swiveling guns on either side of the entrance to the control room and entered cautiously, his M-16 trained on the back of the chair at the room’s center as he advanced up the steps toward it. A faceless voice greeted him.
“Welcome, McMaster. You’re right on… time.” Behind him, a clock three stories high counted down the few minutes remaining until Lassiter’s lunar-mounted heat ray was set to melt the Golden Gate Bridge, Great Sphinx, and Big Ben simultaneously. The chair rotated slowly until McMaster found himself finally face to face with the international criminal mastermind.
McMaster, having never seen Lassiter in person before, was caught off guard by his visage. The black and white photos given him in the classified documents had all been from the neck up, failing to disclose the fact that Lassiter was maybe four foot nine. The small man’s feet dangled above the floor as he struggled a bit to push himself out of the chair.
“You’ll find your carbine quite useless here in this electromagnetically sealed room, my friend,” Lassiter hissed. McMaster pulled his trigger futilely, then cast the rifle aside. It clattered on the steel floor, its firing pin disabled by the infernal interfering force field. “If you are to stop my plan from unfolding, I’m afraid you’ll have to kill me with your bare hands.”
“No problem, asshole. A quick death is too good for you,” McMaster spat as he cracked his knuckles in anticipation. The battle-hardened commando’s prodigious biceps gleamed with sweat, but as he got closer, he found himself hesitating. “You even weigh a hundred pounds, small fry?”
“Ninety-one, to be precise,” Lassiter crowed. “I suppose after singlehandedly killing your way through 200 of my best men, outsmarting my robots, and braving my secret lair a mile under the earth’s surface, crushing a gnat as tiny as me would prove most… unsatisfying, wouldn’t it?”
McMaster paused. “What is this, some kind of trap?”
“Now why would I do something like that? I’m sorry if I prove to be an unworthy challenge,” Lassiter wheezed as he pushed his thick glasses up on the bridge of his nose for like the fifth time in the last minute. “Though it hardly seems a good use of all those muscles to just kill me, wouldn’t you say? You probably wouldn’t even break a sweat. Hell, I don’t even think I could hold my own in a fight against a seventh grader.”
McMaster ruminated briefly and checked the clock. He only had a few precious seconds left. Had he really hot-wired a tank, wriggled through hundreds of feet of razor wire-lined air ducts, and cauterized his own wounded thigh with a blowtorch, just to complete his task by exerting less effort than would be required to tear a sheet of paper? Somehow it no longer really seemed worth coming out of retirement for anymore. Lassiter looked as if he might collapse under the weight of his own clothing at any time.
“Look, McMaster, you’re as big as a goddam grizzly bear. What is disposing of me with a single punch gonna prove, when just breathing on me too hard would probably leave me spending the next year in a full body cast?”
“I hate to admit it, you son of a bitch, but you’re right. Got anything around here that’s a bit more man-sized?”
“Sure. You really want to be a hero, see if you can lift that big heavy garage door,” Lassiter said, pointing to the only obstacle preventing him from reaching his escape pod.

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