Chaos in Crystal: The Novelization

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Chaos in Crystal: The Novelization

Post by Kooshmeister » Thu Dec 26, 2019 12:49 pm

As with my novelization of The Giant Bacteria/my fan script of it, I'm going to be turning the script of Chaos in Crystal/my fan redo into a fan novelization. RazorHappyCait

The silence of the vast and arid midday Megakat Desert was broken by the whooshing sonic boom of the Turbokat as it swept along through the air, close to the ground.

"Nothin' like a desert test run!" yelled T-Bone jubilantly in the cockpit as they flew towards Megakat Canyon. "We should do this more often, buddy!"

He liked getting out of the salvage yard, where he too often felt cooped up, confined, even in their secret underground hangar. So he relished any excuse to get out and stretch his legs, so to speak, and keep his piloting skills good and honed. Always hungry for action, he preferred fighting villains, but a trial run of the new missiles Razor had developed recently would have to do on a quiet, beautiful day like this with nothing interesting happening... even if T-Bone had serious doubts about these latest missiles. As they approached the mouth of Megakat Canyon, he flew the jet around around some; up, down and all around, refusing to fly in a straight line, grinning ear to ear.

"T-Bone," said Razor behind him, a touch of indignant impatient in his voice, "may I remind you we're here to test my missiles, not your flying."

Razor could be such a party pooper! T-Bone pretended to pout, but couldn't supress his smirk. "Aw, but I'm havin' fun!" he pretended to protest, but he was already righting the jet and getting it back on course for the canyon which was dead ahead.

"You can do tricks after we're done!" Razor chided, sounding like a schoolteacher scolding the class clown, which, he had to face it, pretty much described Chance Furlong's personality. The bigger SWAT Kat was a born showoff and risk-taker and loved goofing off.

"Yeah, after we prove these things are duds!" T-Bone said, his mood souring slightly, though he continued grinning.

Razor grumbled. T-Bone hadn't been quiet about what he thought of his latest inventions. From the drawing board to the final prototype phase, he'd made sure his partner knew that he thought these latest missiles were over-the-top, even for Razor.

"What?" demanded T-Bone, his smile faltering a little. He glanced over his shoulder, then back ahead. Razor's grumble meant his friend was annoyed, but the pilot refused to back down. "Come on, Razor," he insisted, pleading his case, "I know you're real..." he struggled for the right word which wouldn't bruise Razor's ego any further, "'creative' when it comes to missiles, but I got my doubts about these babies. 'Specially the screamin' ones." The Banshee Missiles. He stuck his pinky into his ear and wiggled it around inside, grimacing. "My ears still hurt from that noise they make."

Razor chuckled, brightening a little. "Sometimes creativity is our best weapon. Not everything can be solved with just a regular missile that goes 'boom.'" T-Bone was about to protest that he liked things that went "boom" when Razor added, "I think Feral proves that every day."

Okay, T-Bone thought. Now Razor had him convinced up to a point. But the missiles still needed to prove themselves. Which was what they were here for, after all. If they succeeded, he'd eat crow and admit he was wrong, or at least try to; if they failed, he'd get to gloat about how he was right all day long. He flew into the entrance of Megakat Canyon. It was a long, deep-throated canyon with natural stone arches over it are irregular intervals. Flying through the crevasse, which was wide enough to admit the jet's wings; where it wasn't, T-Bone turned the Turbokat on its wing and flew sideways through tighter spots. He was beginning to enjoy himself again, unable to resist showing off despite Razor's protests, intentionally picking areas of the canyon that were more difficult to navigate in such a fast-moving aircraft as a jet, the better to showcase his impressive skills, the walls of the canyon a blur beside them in the cockpit as the jet rocketed past.

Razor just sighed and shook his head. Noting their position, he turned serious and got down to business. "Okay, now, get ready, 'cause the first set of drones is comin' up!"

"Roger," replied T-Bone, getting his head back in the game.

Set up on a natural arch a few yards ahead were a trio of tank robot drone vehicles, each armed with a top-mounted laser cannon. Razor had specially designed them as fodder for his missiles, and he had to admit that for what they were, they were impressive little gadgets. He'd even given them an extra flourish, painting them in the distinctive SWAT Kat color scheme of red and blue despite the fact they existed solely to be taken out in this test run. They opened fire as the Turbokat approached. Explosions filled the air. T-Bone was momentarily alarmed, and Razor smirked, allowing himself to savor his cocky friend's surprise. When they'd set the drones up, Razor had neglected to mention they'd actually fire at the Turbokat. A little extra something to spice up T-Bone's fun.

"Razor, I thought you said no live ammo!" said the startled T-Bone, tightening his grip on the steering mechanism as he weaved and bobbed to avoid behind hit by the surface to air explosives.

Razor's smirk widened. "Just keepin' you on your toes, buddy! Besides, it wouldn't be a real test without some danger!" He leaned forward slightly and consulted the Turbokat's weapons panel. In addition to the main buttons for the jet's usual arsenal, each one neatly labeled, there were two newly-added buttons with handwritten temporary labels. Razor pressed the one marked "Slicer Missile." "Deploying Slicer Missiles!"

Three Slicer Missiles shot forward. There were five of them aboard in all, two more besides the ones Razor had just fired. He'd learned since the incident with the Megavolt Missile that when loading up on prototypes, always keep spares. The wedge-shaped projectiles unfolded into huge cutting blades like a trio of Swiss Army knives, blades so sharp that the three missiles passed through the tank drones like jelly. The tanks immediately stopped firing. After a moment, they collapsed into evenly cut pieces. The Slicer Missiles continued on and crashed into the canyon walls, splintering apart. Razor had designed each individual blade with a specific tensile strength so that it remained rigid only for the initial impact; after cutting through a target, they weakened and became brittle and the next thing they hit caused them to shatter like glass. This was to reduce damage for when the missiles inevitably hit something else upon passing through their initial target.

T-Bone raised an eyebrow, impressed with their performance. "Okay, I gotta hand it to ya, there, Razor, those things did pretty good." As for the Banshee Missiles, he remained doubtful. "Still not sure about the screamers, though." He grinned. "My turn to have some fun again!"

Razor didn't say anything. He simply grinned. He passed over the archway, blowing the sliced remains of the tank drones off with the jet's backwash, and did a barrel roll underneath an archway to avoid a huge outcropping. As the Turbokat zoomed past, some smallish winged flying target drones, three in all, arranged under a ledge, activated and rocketed off in pursuit of the jet. These targets he'd set up by himself and hadn't told T-Bone about. And unlike the tanks, they were mobile, capable of long range and very dogged pursuit.

In the cockpit, T-Bone was alerted to their approach by an insistent beeping sound from his radar screen. "Heads up, buddy, three bogeys closin' fast!"

"That'll be the other drones."

"What other drones?" T-Bone asked. "I thought the tank sushi back there was all that..." He trailed off, scowling. "You and your surprises!"

"On your toes, buddy!" giggled Razor. "On your toes!" Once more his finger hovered over the weapons panel and he selected the button marked "Banshee Missiles." "Banshee Missiles, deployed!"

As with the Slicer Missiles, there were five experimental Banshee Missiles on board. Three were launched facing rearwards from the jet and zoom towards the pursuing drones. These resembled ordinary missiles except for their modified front ends, from which high-pitched sonic waves emitted. These struck and shattered the foremost drone. It exploded in midair. However, they overshot the remaining two drones and crashed into the supports of the natural archway where the tanks had sat. The archway blew apart on impact and collapsed into the depths of the canyon, leaving just its broken off ends sticking out of the canyon walls on either side. The drones continued chasing the Turbokat, firing laser blasts.

Razor frowned. "Crud. One outta three. I gotta work on their guidance system."

"I told ya..."

Razor wasn't having his friend's triumphant jeering. He smirked. "They sound cool, though."

T-Bone glowered and rubbed his ear again, remembering. He hoped that was the last they'd seen - and heard - of those awful things, and that Razor junked the remaining two once they returned home. He pushed the throttle forward as he continued fleeing the drones. He flew up and out of the canyon with the pair in hot pursuit.

"Eh," he said, indifferent, "nothin' beats a plain ol' ordinary missile."

"Speaking of which...!" said Razor, and activated a third button on his control panel. This one was neatly labeled "Plain Old Missile." Sometimes ordinary missiles that just went "boom" were the right idea. Especially when the fancy ones failed to perform as expected. A pair of missiles that had "From Razor With Love!" stenciled on their sides fired back and hit the drones dead center, destroying them. Flaming debris rained from the sky.

"Woo!" he cheered. "Maybe sometimes the old-fashioned way is better, T-Bone."

"Come on, let's head home," said T-Bone, and prepared to turn around and head back towards Megakat City, several miles distant. "I got a craving for a tuna fish sandwich."

Razor stopped him. "But first, we clean up our mess!"

No sense leaving a bunch of junk to clutter up the perfectly nice Megakat Canyon, he reasoned. Besides, what if someone found the parts and turned them in to the Enforcers? Or kept them for themselves? Even from the busted bits and pieces, someone, like the lab guys at Enforcer Headquarters, could potentially reverse engineer the missiles and drones and produce their own versions. Razor didn't want to chance losing the edge they had over the Enforcers... or, worse, his weaponry falling into the wrong hands. The Enforcers were one thing, but Megakat City's criminal element with SWAT Kat weaponry was a nightmare he didn't want to think about.

"Ugh, fiiiiiiiine!" sighed T-Bone, then banked the Turbokat away and began heading back the way they came, looking for a place to land."
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Re: Chaos in Crystal: The Novelization

Post by Kooshmeister » Fri Dec 27, 2019 5:00 am

The long white mayoral limousine drove up towards the main gates of a heavily fortified prison with huge stone walls and guard towers sitting near the desert highway. The Megakat Maximum Security Prison, though Callie Briggs as she shifted in her plush, comfortable seat in the limo's rear. Armed guards glowered down at the vehicle as it approached the huge gates and slowed, chauffeur Royce Bentley honking the horn.

One of the guards turned and yelled down inside. "Comin' in!"

The gates opened. Gently accelerating, Bentley drove through into the unpaved earthen courtyard. Gripping the armrests of her seat as the stretched luxury car bumped gently over the uneven ground, Callie suppressed her annoyance as Mayor Manx exhaled loudly beside her. He kept checking his cheap gold pocketwatch.

"This is the third one today...!" he whined.

Callie leaned back in her seat as the car drove past numerous blockhouse with barred windows. Hizzoner could be such a petulant brat. "Come on, Mr. Mayor. You have to do the yearly prison inspections..."

Manx was undeterred in his complaining. "But all on the same day?" he asked, dejected.

Callie refrained from reminding him of why he was being so impatient. That it was his own fault. He was impatient because he'd had the lack of foresight to schedule three prison inspections on the same day as the golf tournament at Megakat Springs. His golf bag and change of clothes were in the trunk. When Callie pointed out the potential scheduling conflict, he'd brushed her off. Of course they could do both, he insisted! He'd been cheerful and optimistic during the drive out of the city, but had begun fidgeting restlessly before they'd even arrived at the docks to take the ferry to Alkatraz Island, and although he'd smiled and nodded and swapped funny stories with the warden, it was clear to Callie on the boat ride back that Manx was already losing interest.

"It's the last one," said Callie, holding up a finger. "Besides, you said yourself... the faster we get this over with, the faster you can tee off."

Manx brightened a bit, then turned and looked out the rolled up window without responding. The gates closed behind the limo with an ominous, reverberating bang as Bentley drove up to the brutalist-looking administration building. Standing outside were Warden Cyrus Meece and three prison guards. The limo stopped. Meece and the guards approached as Bentley got out and walked towards the back of the car. Callie made a point of getting out first on her side, while Manx, as usual, waited until the tired-looking chauffeur had opened his door before exiting. He shot his cuffs and Bentley shut the car door as his employer walked over to greet the Warden and his men. Callie shut hers and followed. They met halfway and shook hands with Warden Meece.

Meece was a fat fellow in a tacky purple suit and magenta tie, with a gray crewcut and a neatly-trimmed mustache. Callie frowned. She remembered Meece from the last inspection they gave. She didn't like him. There was something unctuous and unpleasant about him, even though as far as she knew he ran a tight ship. Megakat Maximum Security Prison had never had a recorded escape in its entire short history, something Meece was proud of and loved to boast about.

"Good afternoon, Mayor Manx," Meece said, a thick Southern drawl to his voice. "How nice of you to come down and pay us a visit."

No hello for me, Callie thought. She kept her mouth shut. The three guards lingered behind the purple-suited Warden. They looked mean and tough. The meanest-looking one was a gaunt, stone-faced individual whose features looked like they've never been lit by a smile in his life. Callie thought his name was Slammer, the captain of the prison's security force. The Mayor moved to shake Captain Slammer's hand, but the glowering corrections officer emphatically didn't accept. Manx jerked his hand back as though bitten. Callie smiled a bit. At least someone here saw through Manx's glad-handing.

Manx backed up and cleared his throat. Putting on his best "official" voice, he said, "Well, you know I have to make these yearly inspections of all the prisons, Warden Meece."

There was a gleam in Meece's eye. "Then I'm sure you're going to be impressed with what you see." He turned and the three headed off, followed at some distance by the guards. They entered the main building of the prison where all the inmates were housed, which was separate from the administration offices. They were given laminated visitor ID badges and had to be buzzed through numerous checkpoints before entering the main cell block. There were rows and rows of prisoners in drab gray uniforms, many of whom came to look out at the visitors. Armed guards stood at every entrance and exit.

"Megakat Maximum Security Prison lives up to its name, Mayor. We're the most secure prison in all Megakat City," Meece was saying.

"Yes, indeedy," Manx said, sounding bored again already.

Following their visit to the second prison, Manx wasted valuable time by making a point of getting his golf bag out of the trunk to practice some putts in the carefully manicured front lawn of the main building. It'd been difficult for Callie to persuade him to put the putter away so they could make the third and final prison visit before the tournament. Initially, Manx had hesitated, insisting they had time, but finally relented when Callie had the audacity to suggest Manx take his seldom-used personal helicopter to Megakat Springs, allowing her to finish the inspections by herself. She could handle it, she insisted. No, glowered Manx, gesturing with his putter. The warden would be expecting no less a luminary than Megakat City's mayor, not the deputy mayor. To an extent, he'd been right, she realized; after all, Meece hadn't even acknowledged her presence since they arrived.

And with that, he'd spitefully tossed the putter into the trunk without returning it to the golf bag, and gone and gotten into the car, leaving it to the longsuffering chauffeur, Bentley, to shut it. Callie made helped him. It didn't require two people to shut the trunk, but Callie knew what it was like to feel unappreciated, so she'd made a point of helping him. He'd smiled his thinks. A few of the prisoners hooted and hollered and gave Callie a few "kat-calls," bringing her back to the present. She ignored them with pure, cool professionalism. Although impressed with her detachment, Captain Slammer, bringing up the rear with his men, was nonetheless of a... different persuasion.

"Knock it off, you hooligans!" he said with a voice like gravel. "We got us a lady visiting!"

His guards gave the misbehaving inmates a few whacks on the knuckles with their nightsticks where they gripped the bars as they passed the cells behind the group. They piped down. Callie's opinion of the prison guard captain changed. She wasn't sure she liked this kind of physical abuse, even if they were criminals. She didn't thank Slammer; although she nevertheless appreciated the gesture, the fact that Slammer believed the convicts should face comeuppance for insulting a visitor, the Deputy Mayor, no less, she hadn't needed his help. Besides, she doubted Slammer would've accepted her thanks; all he did when she glanced back at him was tip the wide brim of his hat and say "Ma'am" disinterestedly.

The tour continued without incident. Manx was still bored out of his skull and made a point of repeatedly continuing to check his pocketwatch, unimpressed with what he's seen so far. That darn tournament, Callie thought. She, despite her dislike of Meece and Slammer, was impressed; a few broken fingers aside, something she'd bring up with Meece at a later date, Megakat Maximum Security Prison was definitely living up to its reputation as tightly run and well-ordered.

The group, sans their escort, then went to Warden Meece's office on the second floor of the main administration building. Waiting for them there was a kat Callie had never seen before. He was young and scruffy, in a rumpled shirt and tie wearing glasses, sitting in one of the plush armchairs reserved for visitors in front of the desk. A magazine he'd apparently been reading was on Meece's desk in front of him and he was drumming his fingers idly on the armrests. Callie wondered who he was, noticing a visitor's ID badge clipped to his shirt pocket, but for the moment she was too busy gawking at the room they were in. It wasn't very big but it was strikingly opulent and luxurious in comparison the rest of the facility. Megakat Maximum Security Prison was state-of-the-art, being only a few years old, constructed to house the worst criminals in Megakat City and the surrounding towns and counties, but it was also extremely spartan. Here, though, were wood-paneled walls and plush, deep, rich red carpet. The desk the scruffy-looking kat sat in front of was made of hand-carved oak. Tastefully nude classical paintings and a statue of a beautiful she-kat drawing water decorated the room.

This opulence stunned Callie. During the previous inspection, Meece's office had been functional. Now, though, it seemed as though the Warden was moving up in the world. But how? Meece's budget had been cut considerably since the destruction of the Megakat Tower, and as far as she knew he wasn't personally wealthy.

Callie went to the window. There were three. One immediately behind Meece's desk with a view of the courtyard, and one to either side of the room. Callie approached the window to the right of the door. Down below, she saw prisoners, supervised by guards, working around a storehouse that abutted the main building. They were pushing covered wheelbarrows of something in through a big loading door. Something was up.

She cleared her throat and spoke for the first time since getting out of the limo. "The prison certainly seems to be in great shape, Warden. How are you able to keep it up on the sadly meager budget you have? Especially after all the cuts made to compensate for rebuilding the Megakat Tower?"

The others turned to look at her. Manx frowned at the mention of the tower.

After a moment, Meece's eyes gleamed brighter, his smile becoming more condescending and smarmy. "Well, my little side project sees to that. If you'll follow me...?"

He turned, gesturing back towards Callie and Manx with a crooked finger. The three exited the room, Manx pocketing his watch. The other kat rose to follow.
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Re: Chaos in Crystal: The Novelization

Post by Kooshmeister » Sat Dec 28, 2019 5:02 am

Meece led Callie and Manx outside, with the scruffy kat in the rumpled shirt and tie trailing behind to the storage house Callie had seen through the window. It was a single story gray structure that sat alongside the main building. They went in through a smaller door beside the big loading one. Upon entering, Manx and Callie's eyes widened in astonishment as they beheld boxes and boxes of glittering diamonds. The prisoners being supervised by the guards were adding more diamonds to the collection. Each wheelbarrow had its cover removed to reveal more of the precious stones, which the inmates tipped into the boxes. So that was how Meece funded the prison... not to mention his expensive taste in office furnishings. Callie glanced back at a grinning Warden Meece. The scruffy kat from his office lingered in the doorway behind him, hands stuffed into his pants pockets. Who was he? wondered Callie.

"We use prisoners to mine the nearby mountain for precious diamonds," Warden Meece explained. "We keep them here until we ship them out to dealers, who in turn pay us the money we use to fund the prison."

They walked among the rows of boxes as the prisoners finished up, pushing the empty wheelbarrows out, followed by the guards. Now Manx was interested. Of course, thought Callie. Now that there was an untold fortune in diamonds, suddenly her boss' interest in the prison had been piqued. From a random box, Callie picked up a diamond between her fingers. No one objected. It definitely seemed real to her, although she was no jeweler. Assuming they were real, where had they come from? Supposedly there was an old mine or two out in the middle of Megakat Desert, but they'd long since run dry during the big diamond rush back before Mega War I. Had Meece found a new vein? Was the scruffy-looking kat from his office involved somehow?

Palming the stone and curling her fingers tightly around it, she turned and said, "But I thought those old mines were dried out."

Without missing a beat, Meece said, "They are, as a matter of fact."

That admission surprised Callie. "But then how did you get the diamonds?"

The kat in the rumpled shirt and tie aproached them and stood beside Meece. The Warden clapped him on the shoulder. "I think he's the one who can best answer your question, Deputy Mayor. Let me introduce you to Dr. Leiter Greenbox."

So that's who he was. A scientist of some sort. Possibly a geologist? Callie continued playing with the glittering diamond in her hand.

"Thanks to this genius, diamond production is going to triple!" Warden Meece continued excitedly, gripping Greenbox's shoulder tightly in his enthusiasm.

The scientist smiled. "You mean thanks to the Gemkat 6000!"

"The what?" asked Callie, eying him.

Greenbox reached into his pocket and produced a folded-up piece of paper, which he unfolded into the blueprints for some sort of machine, spreading them out on a table. According to what Callie was looking at, the physical model of the device would be roughly the size of a household vacuum cleaner and the schematics indicated it had a clear compartment built into the side for storage. "It's an experimental mining device contracted by the prison," Dr. Greenbox said, stuffing his hands back into his pockets, smiling, clearly proud of what he'd designed.

"And," Meece added, grinning, "a workin' model of this baby is being used up at the mines."

Callie frowned and flicked the diamond she was holding back into the box she'd gotten it from with a "chink." The Gemkat 6000. That settled it. Greenbox was definitely a geologist, or at least worked in a field that was geology-adjacent. Gemkat Labs was a private outfit located somewhere outside of Megakat Springs. Callie knew enough about them to know that they did technological-based geological work. The Gemkat 6000 was just something they'd invent. Manx leaned over the blueprints to study them, squinting through his glasses as though the diagram was difficult to see. His enthusiasm was gone now that he was faced with a machine more complicated than a toaster oven.

Enthusiastic, Greenbox continued, "It uses a high-velocity laser beam to heat rocks to the point of crystallization. Basically, about a million year's worth of nature's work in about a few seconds. Making them essentially artificially-created natural diamonds, if you will... assuming that makes any sense. Just as valuable as the real thing because they are the real thing."

Callie yielded to a swift liking of the Doctor. There was an "aw, shucks" quality to his cadence and his enthusiasm for his work. Something genuine in him that was lacking in the other two men in the room with her. His pride lacked the smarmy arrogance of Meece, and unlike Slammer he actually smiled. Remembering the way Slammer had made his guards rap the knuckles of the misbehaving convicts earlier, Callie remembered how she'd initially liked him too because he'd amused her by refusing to shake Manx's hand. While he didn't strike her as a bully, he was still a little too quick to violence for her tastes, especially for a prison guard. She just hoped he didn't abuse his authority. As for Greenbox, she hope her initial impression of him would hold firm...

"Ehhh," grumbled Manx, straightening and making a point of adjusting his glasses in a gesture calculated to make himself seem like the smartest person in the room. He furrowed his brows, eying Dr. Greenbox. Of the device pictured in the blueprints, he said, "Looks complicated..."

Greenbox chuckled, and Meece shook his head.

Callie only wanted to know one thing. "Is it safe?" She didn't want the prisoners working with the thing to be in any danger.

Warden Meece turned and glowered. "Who cares if it's safe or not? It's just convicted criminals using it."

Greenbox cleared his throat and cut in. "As long as you use it correctly, Deputy Mayor," he reassured Callie, smiling. "Fortunately, it's very simple to use." His smile broadened. "I promise you, no one is going to be hurt because of my invention."

Callie nodded, also smiling. She was sure now. She liked Leiter Greenbox.
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Re: Chaos in Crystal: The Novelization

Post by Kooshmeister » Sat Dec 28, 2019 8:46 pm

At that same instant, many miles away, convicted criminal Rex Shard stood outside the entrance to one of the old diamond mines used by the prison. He was an older kat with grayish-white fur, and ugly. Even if his nose had been broken more than once in the past and never quite healed properly, giving him the unmistakable look of someone with an excessively violent past, Rex Shard couldn't be considered handsome. He was, however, impressively built, with a bodybuilder's physique from a lot of time spent in the prison exercise yard lifting weights.

Shard was shirtless, a pair of goggles worn up on his forehead. For work purposes, he is wasn't shackled. That was fine by him. It felt good to get out of the prison and into the open, somewhere where there weren't any plain gray stone walls. That was why he'd volunteered for this gig. Any gig like it suited him just fine, really. Whenever the opportunity came up, Shard would sign up. But because he wasn't exactly a model prisoner, and a murderer, attempted murderer, thief and all-around scumbag serving a nine-life sentence at that, he was ordinarily denied. But this time was different.

Today would make Shard only the third inmate to work the mine using the device he currently held in his rough, strong hands. The Gemkat 6000 was proven, or so they said, but because it involved a high-velocity laser of great heat and intensity, potentially dangerous stuff, most of the usual guys who competed with Shard for getting plum outdoor work had emphatically not volunteered. That had left Meece with few options. Even a promise of putting in a good word to the parole board hadn't made them budge. When Shard first approached Meece, the Warden had turned him down per usual, selecting first one inmate with a history of better behavior on the inside and then another. Only when the way his work program was set up meant that he had to rotate the volunteers out was Meece finally forced to accept Shard as a volunteer.

And so he stood outside, stripped to the waist, not minding the heat at all, enjoying it, really. He'd grown up in the desert, after all. He had fond memories of catching lizards and scorpions and running off from his deadbeat parents to explore. But he never wandered too far from home. The Megakat Desert was vast. He knew well enough that if you got lost in it you were as good as dead. It was one reason why escape wasn't on his mind.

The other two reasons stood on either side of him, armed with prison-issue laser rifles. And unlike Shard, they found the heat of the Megakat Desert far less appealing. The two sweating, bored guards assigned to watch him were named Talon and Lem, and Shard didn't like them one bit. Talon especially. He was short and obese, his girth straining the seams of his uniform, and he was one of the meanest guards serving under Slammer. Lem was the more agreeable of the two. He was tall and lanky and peered out at the world through cheap green sunglasses that had solid plastic lenses with narrow rectangular slits in them, giving him an odd, squinty-eyed look.

"It's really easy to use," Talon was saying, pointing at the Gemkat 6000. "Even a pinhead like you can use the Gemkat 6000 without a problem!"

A bully through and through, Talon loved using his authority - and a supposed connection to a high-ranking Enforcer - to bully the prisoners whenever Warden Meece and Captain Slammer weren't looking, which was often, it seemed, and Shard was his favorite victim. He knew that even though the muscular convict was bigger and stronger, Shard didn't dare fight back.

Fortunately, Shard had weapons besides his fists. Talon wasn't particularly bright, and Shard's sharp tongue was usually more than enough to the fat idiot in his place. He fixed the guard with an angry stare. "What kind of a fool do you take me for?"

He didn't need to be reminded how to use Greenbox's invention! The Doc himself had given him the rundown before they set out in the armored prison van parked a few feet away, on loan from the Enforcers like all the vehicles used by the prison. The big gold "M" logo adorned its hood. The prison's close relationship to the Enforcers seemed to be why Talon always claimed to have a relative serving in their ranks. He was supposed to be some sergeant or other, but nobody really believed him, least of all Shard. There probably was an Enforcer sergeant named Talon, but Shard doubted they were related. You didn't serve in the Enforcers if you were an idiot, and anyone related to Talon the guard had to be dumb as a sack of bricks.

Talon wasn't going to let up. "The kinda fool serving a nine-life sentence!" he said smugly, seemingly determined to ruin Shard's day by reminding him that as soon as they were done, it was back to his cell.

Lem, the other guard, interjected. "But the Warden's willing to talk to the parole board about shaving some time for using that stupid thing." He pointed at the Gemkat 6000.

A promise Shard intended to hold Meece to, but mention of his jailer nevertheless stirred extreme distaste in him. "The Warden? Cyrus Meece is the only one gettin' rich off this mine!" Oh, he knew all about Meece's skimming. And Greenbox, too. Information he would've used to his benefit provided anyone would've believed him. The mining machine had a shoulder strap. Shard slung it over one shoulder and then turned and trudged into the mine. He threw a parting barb at Talon over his shoulder. "And don't get any uglier while I'm gone, fatso!"

That did it for Talon. He balled up a fist and stepped forward as if to follow Shard into the mine. "Hey, you hood! Come here and say that to my face!"

Lem held his partner back. "Easy there, Talon. He's not worth it."

Shard proceeded deeper into the mine, lugging the Gemkat 6000 and muttering to himself. "So, this little gizmo mines a day's work's worth of diamonds in seconds? Gimme a break!"

He honestly didn't believe it would work, but hadn't said so when he'd volunteered for fear of being turned away. When you were serving a nine-life sentence and spent most of your days staring at a gray wall, even fooling around with what looked for all the world like a prop in a cheapo sci-fi thriller felt like a vacation to tropical Anakata Island by comparison. Though he had to admit, he was starting to regret having volunteered for this particular assignment... the dark and dank old mine was already reminding him of his cell, and he felt a slight tightness in his chest as something akin to claustrophobia began to well up in him. Still, he had to see this through. Besides, the tunnel was larger than his cell.

He approached the wall of the mine, frowning. Apart from two shallow sort of pits, the wall was bare. Where was he supposed to begin? He should've asked the other two cons who'd worked this detail where they used the machine. Unslinging the device, he pulled his goggles down and turned the machine on. It hummed to life in his hands. Again the doubts about whether it was going to work surfaced, the claims of both Dr. Greenbox and the other men who'd worked with the device before him notwithstanding. Still... all those diamonds in the prison storehouse had to come from somewhere, so maybe...

He held the Gemkat 6000 like a gun, from the hip, picked a spot on the wall at random, shrugged and pulled what amounted to the device's trigger. To his surprise, a bright green beam shoots out of the front, boring into the rock. He was amazed. "Wow..." he whispered in awe, "I take it back. Let's see what this baby can do!"

The immediate area around where the beam penetrated the rock began to heat up and crystallize. As if magnetized, a horde of newly-created diamonds was suddenly sucked up by the beam as if by magic, clunking noisily into the clear fiberglass storage compartment on the Gemkat 6000's side. It then shut off without him doing anything and beeped three times. Shard, puzzled, lifted the drill up to peer into the storage compartment. He figured that it was designed to automatically turn itself off once the compartment was full or to prevent overheating.

"Dang!" he cried. "That Doc wasn't kiddin'! This thing's full already! Wow, a guy could get rich overnight with this beauty."

He glanced at the wall where he'd aimed. There was a sunken pit where the mass of rocks that'd been heated up and converted into diamonds had been. It was identical to the other two he'd seen a minute ago. So that's what those had been. He lifted his goggles up and turned to look back down the tunnel. He saw Talon and Lem standing at the entrance, laughing and talking to one another. He couldn't hear what they were saying. The van was visible further behind them.

A smirk crossed Shard's face. Suddenly, he was thinking of escape. Just not on foot. One of the guards had the keys to the van. The alternative was smuggling the diamonds back into prison in a most uncomfortable way. He preferred taking all the diamonds he'd just mined, swiping the van, finding a decent fence somewhere in either Megakat Springs or Megakat City and then skipping the country to swallowing only a few of the diamonds and coughing them up later back in his cell. Taking off his goggles, he knelt, setting the mining machine down. He started attempting to open the compartment with the diamonds.

"I think I'll take a few off the top before that crud Meece and his crud partner do!" he said, straining as he struggled with the compartment.

Taking the entire Gemkat 6000 with him was out of the question; easier to stuff the diamonds into his pockets. Bulging pants pockets were weird-looking but way less suspicious on the streets than a big technological device. Dang, he thought, Greenbox designed it real good. It sure was hard to open. Grunting as he strained harder, he continued talking aloud to himself quietly.

"Then I'll take care a' dumb and dumber out there and be on my way to freedom before you can say..." he continued and trailed off as the compartment lid refused to budge and his fingers started hurting. "Before you can say... Rrrr! Drat!" No go. The thing wasn't opening.

After taking a moment to scratch his chin in thought, he grabbed a rock. He hesitated, considering the consequences of hitting a device he knew nothing about with a big, hard object, but Rex Shard was nothing if not a risk taker. He'd lived his entire life on chance. Sometimes he won, sometimes he lost. You never knew what life was going to hand you until you held out your hand...

"Aw, what the heck."

He brought the rock down onto the device hard. Crack!

And with that, Shard's world became blinding white light and deafening noise. He'd held out his hand and life had promptly smacked it away. He'd taken a chance.. and lost. He screamed.
0 x
R.I.P. Gary Owens (1936-2015)

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