Ultima Ratio

The Doktor Is Out

The horde of shambling undead closed in on all sides. Each of the zombie cyborgs moved forwards with an unnatural, asymmetric gait befitting their bodies. Comprised of rotting flesh and nanomachine-grown cybernetic implants, the zomborgs were hard to put down. They networked with each other wirelessly, creating a wireless neural network the larger the horde got. Many had laser-eye grafts and tools growing out of places they should not.

A metal bulkhead was all that separated the zomborgs from their target. Separated from the rest of the squad, Rico Ratio readied himself for the onslaught. The bright light from a cutting torch indicated that the bulkhead would be compromised soon. In the dim light of the underground lab, the Transhuman Troubleshooter prepared to step into action. His bronze skin showed his Latin American heritage, and his hair was a disheveled mop of black curls. His narrow face was turned towards the door, anticipating the breach. He was dressed in dark jeans and a blue sweater, and fingerless gloves covered his hands. On the back of his sweater was a letter "S" made from a DNA double helix, the logo of his employer, Singulartech. While his clothing looked average, it was made of a special self-repairing nano-fiber material resistant to gunfire, blades, and offered limited protection against energy weapons.

His brown eyes turned towards the door as his hands reached into his many concealed pockets. He pulled out a sword hilt with a red tassel dangling from it, holding it in his right hand. Pressing a button, the programmable blade extended in a split second, taking the shape of a Chinese longsword. This one emitted an electrical buzzing as he kept it extended. In his other hand, he drew out a heavily customized Taurus pistol, chambered for modern caseless rounds and barely recognizable. The custom PT92 was set into burst mode, and trained at the door. Rico lifted the sword above his head in his right hand, and held the machine pistol in the other.

It was then the bulkhead exploded outwards. Rico cocked his leg and jumped to the side to avoid the barrage of colored laser beams that had targeted where he had just been standing. The beams would normally be invisible, but a special gas released by the implants allowed them to be made visible for psychological effect and ease of zomborg targeting. Having rotting ocular nerves made targeting for some of them difficult.

Rico had leapt to the side as more zomborgs charged into the metal corridor. He fired a burst from his pistol at the nearest zomborg, and spun around with his sword. The electrified blade cut through several of the zomborgs like a superheated knife through butter. Black and red fluids splattered all across the wall and floor. He painted the gunmetal gray walls, ceiling, and floors like the Picasso of close combat. Instead of a brush, his instruments were his blade and gun.

He charged as he ran. Rico kicked off the wall with his foot, vaulting towards a charging wave of zomborgs. A charging zomborg grabbed his leg, and the abomination yanked him down. Rico fell to the ground, grunting in pain, and some of the zomborgs pinned him. The one that had first dropped him opened its half-metal, half-bone mouth, preparing to infect its next victim. Its rotting comrades each pinned his arms, legs, and head. Hypodermic fangs inside the cyborg monster's teeth glistened, ready to inject the zomborg nano-virus into whatever flesh they were unfortunate enough to bite down on. Rico struggled, yanking his gun hand free. He quickly aimed his pistol with his other hand, but it clicked empty. Cursing to himself, he tried to yank his arm away.

The zomborg bit deep into his flesh, penetrating right through his padded nano-fiber sweater. A jet of pain filled Rico's arm. The nasty nanomachines entered his bloodstream, where his own nanobots would try to fight them off. He had hoped the nano-vaccine he got would prepare him for whatever strain this one was carrying. He did not relish the idea of joining the ranks of his arch-enemy's minions. The zomborg prepared to bite down again, but suddenly, they stopped.

Suddenly, the zomborg who had bit him stepped back. The zomborgs that had swarmed around him parted, like a jacket being unzipped. The horde of zomborgs stepped back into parallel lines, leaning up against the opposing walls. The only ones that remained were the ones holding him down. Rico tried to hack into them with his neural implant, but there was still too many of them. The strain his body was going through made a sustained electronic attack difficult. Rico tried to conserve his energy, since he might need to fight his way out soon.

Down the zomborg-lined corridor, another figure appeared. It was a person that Rico and the Ultima Ratio team had spent years chasing. The dark green exomesh robe, angular black plastic mask for a face, gladius on his belt, and QBZ assault rifle in his hands easily indicated who it was. It was the Abominable Doktor Bizarro himself. The evil cyborg cackled maniacally, walking toward his helpless prisoner. He kept his rifle out, keeping it trained on his prisoner.

"Well, well," he mocked in a snarky tone. "It looks like even the Transhuman Troubleshooter was ultimately no match for my Zomborg Legion! MWUHAHAHAHA! You've invaded my lab, only to fail so close to your goal!"

"I have to give you credit, Dok," Rico replied. "You finally made a strain of zomborg virus that I'm having difficulty fighting off."

"Oh, you flatter me," Bizarro snickered. "I literally made that a few hours ago. Once I finish off your comrades, I'll unleash it into major population centers across Terran space! MWUHAHAHA! But, I must say, I was wrong about something else."

"Yeah?" Rico asked, spitting at the mad cyborg. "You mean the fact you're an incompetent egomaniac of a mad scientist? Or how half of your experiments explode in your face? I spent more time cleaning up after your messes than actually fighting you!"

"Silence!" Bizarro fired a blast of rounds near the prone prisoner. "You can finally cut the righteous hero routine. As the zomborgs closed in on them, I could see you abandoned them, seeking out an exit on your own. So much for the bonds of friendship, eh? MWUHAHAHA!"

Rico grinned at the madman. "You always were a lousy tactician, you know that?" Rico smirked. "You had regular zomborgs, gun-toting zomborg commandos, nano-swarms, all sorts of robots and high tech vehicles, and could barely use them effectively. And despite the fact you're a decent enough fighter, you don't even pop out until your minions pop out. Sometimes, a leader's got to lead from the front and take risks."

Bizarro stomped his foot onto Ratio's chest. "You cowardly fool! I learned my lesson after the Second Zomborg War! The Zomborg Legion is are far more useful in tying down enemies than finishing them off. Enough zomborgs, and even you fall! MWUHAHA! You were too dumb to even use your thermoptic camo to escape undetected! You shouldn't lecture me on tactics!"

"Answer me this, Dok," Ratio asked. "Why does your zomborg virus create a backup of the victim's brain? Is that just some oversight of yours?"

"Of course not, you fool!" Bizarro shouted. "I do that so that I may observe the personality and memories of all in my Legion. Helps with intelligence gathering, reconnaissance, and the like. While your species is pathetic and overrated, your diversity is good for a few laughs. Mostly at how pathetic the lot of you are! MWUHAHAHAHA!"

"So, are you going to finish me, or not?" Rico replied to the triumphant madman. "You could just shoot me now, steal my brain-stack to prevent me from being uploaded, and let the zomborg virus turn me into one of your minions. I'd have to say, that's preferable to listening to you ramble all the time."

"I'm going to keep you a prisoner in your own body for that remark," Bizarro mocked. "And you'll be forced to watch as you transform into one of my zomborg minions! MWUHAHAHA! But first, watch the friends you abandoned die!"

Doktor Bizarro projected a hologram from his other hand. It showed the camera feed from a dead end hallway. Rico saw his comrades there, fighting a losing battle against the unrelenting zomborgs. There was shouting, gunfire, and the cacophony of battle. He could make out each of his comrades there. A muscular woman with cropped brown hair and a FAMAS assault rifle fired into the mass of zomborgs, taking cover from behind a bank of computer consoles. Sergeant Sophie Starr was dressed in her green Science Corps uniform, with the atom and two automatic pistol design on her sleeve. The Latin phrase "Cum Scientia Defendumus" was barely visible underneath the shoulder patch. Her uniform and hair were singed from laser burns, and she was obviously running low on ammo.

The squad's martial artist, the genetically uplifted gorilla Grok the Skullcrusher, charged into close combat with the zomborgs. He only had on a martial arts gi. He fired the electrolasers implanted in his palms, calling forth electric power from his hands. He stunned some of the zomborgs before smashing their organic parts with his enhanced strength. However, his fur was matted, and even though he moved with finesse, fatigue was visible in his form.

A short gray alien, Dr. Zeno, tried to protect himself with his nano-shield. An orange glow encased the trenchcoat clad nanotech-specialist, the result of billions of microscopic machines protecting him. As the squad's medic, scientist, and nanotech specialist, his head was notably larger than a standard human one. The most famous gray professor at the Invisible College had clear signs of fatigue. His deep black eyes seemed to stare ahead, as he tried returning fire with a Mossberg shotgun loaded with nano-fractal rounds. He managed to down some zomborgs, but they kept coming. At his feet was a mess of dissolved protoplasm. It still twitched, bit Rico knew what it was. Shoggy, their nanotech utility blob, had been blasted apart by zomborg lasers. Rico winced as he imaged Shoggy burned into bits of nanotech protoplasm.

The Doktor cackled maniacally as he showed Rico the painful hologram. "Soon, they'll be overrun and torn apart!" Bizarro cackled. "All of them are going to be zomborg food rather than zomborgs!"

"Dok, why don't you let me be the one to go after them?" Rico suggested. "I am infected with your nanovirus after all, and it's only a matter of time before I'm your slave."

"A tempting idea, but I had a response prepared," the evil cyborg aimed his rifle at Rico's chest. He pulled the trigger, and the prone man felt as though a rocket ship had collided with his gut. Looking down, he could see the special fibers in his jacket had protected him, but only barely. "There is no way I am letting you leave, Ratio, until you've completely converted. I'll just watch the show from here instead of letting you all develop some countermeasure or vaccine. As a superior entity, I learn from my mistakes, unlike you."

His clothing was self-healing, due to its nanotech construction. It was then Rico had an idea. His control of his own body was weakening as the zomborg virus kicked in. He sent out a message to the nanomachines inside his sweater. There were advantages to wearing clothing made of programmable matter. Rico hoped that if his friends did survive, they'd be able to put him out of his misery before he infected them as well.

Without warning, glowing mono-molecular blades erupted from within the folds of Rico's clothing. Even the simple flick of his wrists and jerking his legs took more energy than he subconsciously remembered. Bizarro was above him, still showing the hologram, and hopefully not expecting what would come next.

The quick motion managed to sever the limbs of the zomborgs holding him down. Quickly, Rico sat up, and reached for his sword. He grabbed it just as Bizarro aimed his rifle at Rico's head. Rico swung it, knocking the assault rifle away at the exact moment that Bizarro compressed the trigger. The electrified blade didn't cut the rifle, but he did manage to knock the weapon out of the mad scientist's hands.

Bizarro muttered to himself and pulled out his gladius. Rico stood up, holding his jian over his head in a defensive stance. The Doktor held his gladius in a back-hand position, getting ready to counter his opponent's strikes. The zomborgs had been slow to react, but soon responded. The maimed ones feel to the ground, and the Doktor lurked behind them. Despite being made of lightweight composites, the blade felt heavier than normal. He still had an adrenaline surge, and realized it might very well be his last as a free willed transhuman. He set up a firewall in his augmented brain to protect his conscious mind and his motor cortex, so that he could fight longer.

Rico opened the fight with an arcing slash in front of him. He spun around, decapitating the walking heaps of compost and scrap metal from nearby. As zomborg heads fell to the ground, Bizarro hesitated. He was unsure whether to attack or retreat. Bizarro held up his short sword to protect his head, trying to fall back.

Rico came after the madman, ignoring the additional zomborgs gnawing and clawing at his exposed skin. His clothing was trying to repair itself, but it was being strained past its limits. Dr. Bizarro waited for Rico to close the distance, before lunging with a horizontal slash towards his armpit. Rico parried it, and spun away, trying to get the most advantage out of the longer blade. Rico thrust his blade, but Bizarro pulled a zomborg in front of the weapon's path at the last instant. While the blade was stuck inside a zomborg, Bizarro stabbed Rico in the thigh.

Rico grunted in pain, and dropped to one foot. Bizarro swung the gladius around in a downward arc, but Rico managed to block the blade with his. Sparks flew from the blades as they collided. The steel clashed with a resounding sound, creating a soundtrack worthy of any epic sword duel. Eventually, Rico saw his vision began to blur. The zomborg virus was overriding his senses. Bizarro and his zomborgs began to vanish into an amorphous blob of colors. Rico began to slash where he hoped something would be, but only heard the swoosh as he cut through empty air.

It was then his adrenaline rush ended. The sword grew heavy in his hand, and it clattered to the ground. Rico felt a blast of pain to the side of his head. Then he saw a green blur move across his field of vision. There was another impact and more pain, and then another. He knew what was happening. Dr. Bizarro was beating the crap out of him with his bare hands. He fell to the ground, this time realizing his time of zomborg conversion was near. The remaining zomborgs threw themselves on top of him, preventing him from moving anything at all.

"You put up a good fight, Ratio," Doktor Bizarro's snarky voice taunted. "But I'm afraid it's the end of the line, and you're all out of tricks! MWUHAHAHA!"

Even though he couldn't see it, Ratio heard an object clatter to the ground. He grinned internally when he realized what it was. There was an explosion, and then the sound of something oozing through the corridor. If Rico recalled correctly, that was the sound of a compression grenade, which was often used to hold ultra-dense masses of nanomachines.

The high pitched battlecry of "Tekeli-li!" confirmed that it was indeed his friend, Shoggy the utility blob of organic nanotech. He felt the warm tendrils of the nano-shoggoth embrace him, and begin to counteract the zomborg virus from within his body. It was an easy task for a bio-nanotech creature like Shoggy.

The sounds of gunfire erupted, and the rest of Ratio's comrades appeared. The remaining zomborgs feel, and Shoggy immobilized both Bizarro and Ratio with his tremendous protoplasmic bulk. They were battered and beaten, but had more than enough supplies to do what they came to.

"What?! I thought all of you were dead!" Bizarro mocked. "You were pinned down by my zomborgs!"

"You should learn to trust more than your eyes, Herr Doktor," Grok grinned slightly on his otherwise stoic face.

"What you saw was just Rico hacking your security camera and giving it false footage," Dr. Zeno's calm voice explained. "He offered to flee deeper into the base, and draw your attention away from us. He was most insightful to utilize your obsession for him to launch a successful decoy attack!"

"Besides," came Sophie's voice. "We never leave a man behind. Especially not a man who's saved us more times than we can count."

"I played you like a fiddle, Dok," Rico grinned. His vision and stamina had not yet fully been restored. "I purged my memory of the plan, so I didn't know what was going to happen. I have to say, these neural implants are pretty nice."

"Now, you nutcase, we're sending you to jail," Sophie added. "A special kind of jail. I'm no egghead, but it's some kind of pocket dimension. You won't be escaping from this one anytime soon."

"Take 'em away, Shoggy!" Rico ordered. "And Zeno, think you can call up the bosses? We've got to restore the personalities of all the people that Dok here turned into zomborgs."

"I shall contact our superiors immediately!" the gray alien nodded.

"Curse you! By the Singularity, I swear that I will-" Bizarro's threat was cut off by Shoggy completely enveloping him in his protoplasm. The mad scientist struggled, flailing his arms around futilely. Shoggy began to move.

"The power of science compels you, Dok," Rico grinned. "Be at peace, and enjoy your solitude. Maybe you'll realize why we put you in there in the first place."

"Tekeli-li!" Shoggy chirped in its high pitched voice. Shoggy left a trail of transparent mucus-like substance behind him as he took their prisoner away from the lab. The clean up would be left to their respective organizations. Rico Ratio was glad to have such a team. Together, they had finally taken down one of the most wanted maniacs in history. He knew, however, there were plenty more maniacs remaining.