Double Deuce

“I perceive you responded promptly for a coward.”  IMP2 sounded the same although he looked considerably different from the last time Deuce saw him.

They stood about a decameter apart, facing each other in a field of shriveled weeds and stirring dust.  Deuce had a force of three hundred men concealed all around them in the barren trees and dry boulders.  He could spy the ranks of cyborgs lined half a kilometer behind IMP2, but his estimate of their numbers was only a hundred, although that was more than enough….

His opponent had previously been a man like him – generated from the same DNA foundation for physical superiority, but as biologically whole as the soldiers crouched around them.  Now IMP2 resembled the troops he led.  Half his face was outfitted with technical components to enhance vision and hearing, and his left arm resembled a weapon more than a limb.

“I see you’ve put on some weight,” Deuce deadpanned.

The split-second pressing together of IMP2’s lips offered a gram of satisfaction.  Deuce figured there were plenty of other enhancements he couldn’t see, but had a good idea what they were.

It occurred to him they were, in a sense, brothers, although the concept of family had been alien to him until a year ago, after he defected to this faction who still embraced their total humanity.  Despite IMP2’s so-called improvements, they even shared familial features, with the same russet skin and brown eyes and dark hair.

He was also fully aware the playing field between them was no longer level.  If he wasn’t very careful, this encounter would end in blood and screams and fire for the people behind him, who comprised a community beyond the soldiers….

“Your sojourn among the rabble has dulled your intellect.”  IMP2 raised his weaponized arm slightly, but Deuce remained still so as not to give away which direction he would dodge if needed.  “Instead of blathering nonsense, you should inquire why I requested this conference when I could simply assail the habitation.”

Did he really used to talk like that?  “I figured you’d get around to it.”

Hopefully his incongruous responses would disconcert IMP2 enough to make him start second-guessing that Deuce was no longer the IMP17 he used to know … and therefore less predictable.

“I’ll allot you credit on the difficulty in tracking you down.  In the interim since your departure, the regents have granted asylum if you return and divulge the relevant datum they require.”

The Elite weren’t practitioners of forgiveness, although they would feign it if that achieved their objective.  “You do believe I’ve gone bonkers if you think I’d swallow that tripe.”

But what type of ruse was IMP2’s offer?  Everybody agreed this was a trap, but Deuce consented to the meeting because of the chance he could discover what agenda hid behind it.  That also gave the people in the now-threatened city an opportunity to evacuate.

So he didn’t come out here alone, and his troops had new weapons and supplementary training that the Elite and IMP2 didn’t know about….

“I anticipated your obduracy,” IMP2 replied.  “But apply logic to the facts.  What purpose does it serve me to approach with only adequate forces, when I possess the option to overwhelm and devastate you?”

What purpose, indeed?  Facts and truth weren’t always the same thing.  Deuce had accepted this invitation partly to give the citizens time to escape.  IMP2 also seemed to be stalling for time … and if that was the case, Deuce should deny him that option.  Besides, an engagement would still allow the inhabitants to withdraw.

He cocked his head to the left and muttered the code to attack.

Blaster fire and grenades shot from the sheltering trees and boulders.  Deuce took a blaster crack at IMP2 the same instant his opponent’s weaponized arm fired at him.  Both successfully evaded, but Deuce retreated behind the lines of soldiers that pressed closer to the enemy.

He didn’t like trying to command from behind his troops, but knew he was the most sought-after target on the battlefield.  Even from this lesser vantage point he ascertained the ambush had been expected, so their forces hadn’t gained any surprise advantage.

Something wasn’t right….

The com patch near his left ear crackled with a voice on the edge of panic.

“Troops have breached the city!  There’re still citizens on grounds!”

Deuce swore under his breath.  Of course – this whole encounter had been a distraction.  While he was out here with most of his forces, a skeleton-crew guard remained in the city to facilitate evacuation.  And now those defenders were both outgunned and outnumbered by the cyborg ranks.

IMP2 predicted he would do this….

Not only were there vulnerable children and elderly, Ita might still be there, too.  She and Deuce arrived only yesterday to negotiate about some components for a certain project.  And Ita was much too important to that project to fall prey to the Elite in any manner.

“Withdraw to the city!”  Deuce knew his command couldn’t be obeyed effectively.  IMP2’s cyborgs would try to hold them here while the larger enemy force razed the city.

But maybe at least he could do something to atone for his blunder….

He sprinted across the cracked earth and scattered gravel, outdistancing any of his troops that tried to follow.  Behind he heard the continuing cacophony of battle, and it seemed to swell toward him, as though the combatants were caught in his wake.  Those who could were in pursuit, and he knew who would be in the lead.

Deuce tried to run even faster.

###

This month the prompt word for #BlogBattle was perfect:  Conceal!  You probably noticed this installment has the feel of a two-parter, so never fear, more will be divulged next month.  And with another great word there’s bound to be plenty of great stories, so feel free to check out the rest!

And I suppose this is something of a one-year anniversary for the serialization I’ve been posting since this is episode number twelve.  Where has the time gone?  If you’ve missed the earlier installments, you can find them here.  Happy Reading!

11 thoughts on “Double Deuce

  1. Wow, straight into the action with this month’s episode! Awesome! I see what you meant in your comment on mine — I hope we get to see pt. II of this one soon!

    I loved the back and forth between Deuce and IMP2 — “I see you’ve put on some weight” cracked me up! I really like that Deuce has begun to become more acquainted with the more human vocab, it’s a lovely touch. The notion of IMP2 (that this IMP’s name is a mirror of Deuce hadn’t evaded me, by the way — very cool!) getting puzzled by Deuce’s strange choice of words and unpredictable conversation is great.

    IMP2 is quite a scary character, in my mind. I’m picturing a Terminator-esque person, mixed with Nemesis from Resident Evil. Used to be sorta human, not any longer! I wonder if he was right in saying that Deuce’s time with the rabble has dulled his mind — after all, he didn’t foresee this distraction.

    I do feel sorry for Deuce — I have no doubt that Ita (and many others) will take this tactical failing as a sign of our IMP friend’s unreliability, and will question whether it was all a ruse to stab them in the back. Can’t wait to see where this goes, the tension was fantastic!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I wasn’t sure how many folks will remember IMP2’s introduction from a few months ago, but was hoping he’d be powerful enough a character to not ‘need’ introduction…! Oh yes, the mirror of those two was very purposeful, except now where as they once were ‘equals’ IMP2 now has the advantage – got to keep Deuce on his toes, after all. As you can figure, the action will continue next month … although if the prompt word is something like ‘Piano’ I might have to work it in as a weapon of opportunity!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascinating. The double blind stratagem would be so obvious if it were two simple humans negotiating but not from a protagonist who you would perceive to operate on more logical and less devious principles. When the machines (mechanical or biological) learn to be more devious than humans we will truly have created artificial intelligence. Can’t wait to see what happens to Deuce and bizarrely Imp2, whom I feel sorry for as it is only following orders but presumably without the empathy required to realise the difference between good and bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you … and I find it interesting you can actually express a little empathy for IMP2. Considering one of the threads in this arc involves showing mercy to one’s enemy, I suppose there could be a mix of readers where some despise him and others wonder if he could attain any redemption. Your mention of ‘only following orders’ is indeed fertile ground for exploring one’s character!

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  3. Ahh, now we’re seeing the tactical game of chess between the cyborgs of the Elite with the self exile disconnected from the core thinking. Perhaps Deuce now has more humane rationale than he realises. Surely as IMP17 he’d have sussed the double bluff and not have left the city vulnerable?

    As Joshua says, very terminator feel to IMP 2. No empathy, just programming. That said we’re not privy to its internal thinking so it’s entirely possible his human side might have its own thoughts outside the digitised ones. Loving the upgrade innuendo too re packing some weight. Clearly resistance is futile… to use a non terminator reference… bit of a cross between Terminator, Borg and Cybermen going round my head now. Seems to be a common linker though. A central hive mind. Does Deuce still remember how information was fed to him and by what? Might be there is a weakness in the tech of the Elite there somewhere.

    Great stuff Abe and it’s proper book material now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed, who really knows who between these two? When I introduced IMP2 back in Evil by Degrees, I alluded how he knew Deuce was a risk-taker and planned to exploit that trait. Of course his plans had to pay off…! I’ll even hint that ‘hive mentality’ you referred to will be rearing its ugly head. It’s a shame some details must be glossed over in these 1000 word bites, but I’m glad its coming together well enough. Thanks!

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      • Always troublesome with a word count limit when things want to be more Abe. I do recall IMP2 from way back too. How time flies!! On the brighter side, those glossed over details can always appear in the book proper yes?

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      • Unfortunately *this* story is a prologue to the book proper I have planned (the one I’ll write after the one I’m writing now). But fleshing out the ‘why’ to a premise in *that* book is going to prove quite useful, I’m figuring out!

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      • Many a book has been followed by a prequel Abe. Mind you, both Joshua and I are using BB to flesh out back story and find out who characters are and how they fit into a world build too. Methinks we are using this promot thing in similar ways!

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