skieswideopen: Milt Chamberlain in an FBI bulletproof vest (Battle Creek)
skieswideopen ([personal profile] skieswideopen) wrote2015-07-28 11:30 pm

On a Twisted Road (Battle Creek, Gen, PG-13, 1282 words)

Written for [ profile] gameofcards.

Russ checked over his supplies one last time, checking things off against his mental list. A couple of changes of clothing, check. Food and water, check. A flashlight, check. Assorted survival gear, check. Ammunition, check. He added his handgun and a recently-acquired shotgun and stepped back, giving a satisfied nod as he looked over the pile. Ignoring his unsettled stomach, Russ picked up the packs and carried them outside.

Someone was already there, waiting for him. Russ's face tightened into a scowl when he saw the long, familiar figure leaning up against his car. Of course Milt couldn't resist interfering. When had he ever just minded his own business?

"Hey, Russ," Milt said, looking up from his cellphone. "How's it going?"

Russ opened his trunk and set the first bag inside. "Fine."

"Hmm." Milt slipped his phone into his pocket and straightened up, circling around to stand beside Russ. "You taking a trip?"

Russ settled his face into his best 'don't mess with me' expression as he closed the trunk. "I'm going to get Holly."

"I figured," Milt said, following him around to the side of the car.

"You're not going to talk me out of it," Russ said, tossing the other bag into the back seat. He'd avoided telling anyone his plans precisely to avoid that conversation. Damn Milt for tracking him down.

"Wasn't planning on it."

Yeah, right. Russ slammed the door shut and moved up the driver's door. "Then why are you here, Milt?"

"I'm going with you." Milt's tone was pure innocence, as if it had never occurred to him that Russ would think anything else.

Russ scowled again. "You're not going with me."

"You can't drive all the way out there alone," Milt said reasonably.

"Watch me." Russ went back inside for the guns. Milt followed.

"Your car might not even make it that far. Besides, you need someone to watch your back."

"She's only four hours away," Russ said irritably, holstering his sidearm. "It's not like she's on the other side of the planet."

"Yeah?" Milt countered. "Then what's with all the supplies? And the weapons? You know as well as I do that it could take you a whole lot longer than four hours to get to Bloomington. And that's if Holly's even still there."

"And having you there will keep us safe?" Russ said. "I don't know if you've noticed, Milt, but the world's gone fucking nuts. These nano-whatevers are everywhere. Civilization is falling apart around us."

"I don't think I'd go that far. Look around. Battle Creek is still pretty civilized."

"There are tiny robots out there turning people into monsters and the rest of nature into...I don't even know what," Russ said. "And it's just a matter of time before they start taking over all our computers and turning them into more little robots."

"Or until we find a way to shut them down," Milt said.

"Yeah, whatever," Russ said, picking up the shotgun. "I'm not leaving Holly out there alone."

"I agree," Milt said. "We should go get her. In my car."

"Don't you have any friends or family of your own you need to go rescue?"

"My family's all in Europe," Milt said. "Outside the infection zone. It wouldn't help them to bring them here."

"You're not going to leave this alone, are you?"

Milt shook his head.

"Fine," Russ said, heading for the door. "Just don't slow me down."

Milt's car was the better choice, Russ admitted to himself as Milt turned south. Or at least less likely to break down on the side of the highway. And his stomach had calmed down a bit with Milt there, which as something Russ wasn't going to examine too closely.

To distract himself, he looked at the window at the passing scenery. Battle Creek had been lucky; the nanobots had been slow to move in. The further away they got, the more twisted the landscape became. It reminded Russ of a children's horror book, rabbits with razor-sharp claws darting between weirdly-coloured tree trunks. "I always knew technology would destroy the world," Russ said.

Milt glanced over at him. "Technology is the only thing that will save us now."

"Yeah, but we wouldn't be in this situation if someone hadn't decided to play God."

"It wasn't someone playing God," Milt said. "It was a targeted at--" He stopped as something jumped into the road in front of them. Milt swerved to the side and braked hard, throwing them both against their seatbelts as the car slid off the road.

Russ twisted, looking out the rear window at the once-human figure heading straight towards them. "Go, go, go," he said frantically.

Milt shifted to reverse and hit the gas, but the car didn't move. "It's no good."

"It has to be good," Russ said. "We have to get out of here."

"Wait here," Milt instructed, reaching for the door handle.

"What the hell are you..." Russ began as Milt got out. "Oh, hell." Russ reached down and grabbed the shotgun, then followed Milt out.

Milt walked toward the creature, hands held carefully in front of him. "We don't want to hurt you," he said. "We just want to get back on the road and keep going."

Russ raised the gun. Milt gave him a quick, annoyed look, then turned back to the creature. "Please," he said.

The creature's eyes narrowed, then it jumped, faster than Russ could see, and landed in front of Milt. It reached out, grabbing Milt's jacket. Russ swung the gun, cursing at the lack of a clear shot. He'd seen video of what nano-modified people--former people--could do, and figured he had about five seconds before the creature pulled Milt's head off.

Then Milt reached out, broke the creature's hold, and threw it clear across the road, away from the car. Russ turned again, aiming, but the creature didn't seem inclined to attack again. Instead, it stood up, looking dazed, then stumbled away.

"Come on," Milt said, turning away. "Let's get back on the road."

Russ waited until they were driving before he spoke again. "Are you going to tell me?"

"Tell you what?" Milt asked.

"How you did it." Russ turned in his seat, looking at Milt. "I've seen what those things can do. They're..." He trailed off as realization struck him. "You're like them, aren't you? Modified. By nanites."

"The government's been working on nanotechnology for a while," Milt said quietly. "When the attack came, they thought...well, they thought the best counter would be to infect someone with nanites we control, to prevent the enemy nanites from gaining a foothold. The way helpful bacteria can ward off dangerous bacteria."

"You're not even human," Russ said.

"I'm human," Milt said, "I'm just...augmented."

"How long?"

"About a week after the first attack," Milt said.

"How did they--"

"You don't need to know," Milt interrupted.

"Fuck." Russ settled back in his seat.

"We would have died today if I weren't."

"We'd all be better off if that technology had never existed," Russ said.

"True, but that's not really an option, is it?"

"So what?" Russ asked. "Is the government planning to transform all of us into nano-superpeople?"

Milt shook his head. "No. At the moment, only a select few with a specific genetic profile can handle it. Besides, they know most people wouldn't accept that. Especially after what's happened."

"That's for sure."

"They're working on a way to fix this," Milt said. "Put things back the way they were."

"You can't go back from this," Russ said.

"Move forward then," Milt said. "Into something better."

Russ laughed harshly. "Maybe."

"And in the meantime," Milt said, "we're going to bring Holly home."

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