Humanis Falls: Post Credits


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Scene Title Humanis Falls: Post Credits
Synopsis A stakeholder and his loyal manservant come to collect.
Date July 23, 2018

Some miles out from Fort Irwin

For the first time in many months, the skies are clearing over this patch of the Mojave Desert.

The sunset is angling low from the west, splashing golden light up over bare rocky edges, shadows running long. Fort Irwin has yet to be picked clean of the final insurgent weeds that grew through its crevices. Medical tents erected into white rows. Humvees patrolling. Civilians in lines, with men and women in camo taking down details onto clipboards. The perpetual storm is slowly disintegrating, showing patches of clear coming night.

And some distance away, reducing Fort Irwin to a line on the horizon of glittering flood lights, a patch of air displaces, and two sets of boots sink into storm-churned sand.

Evelyn Waugh takes his hand off of the elbow of his companion, and checks his watch with a shift of his coat sleeve. It's a nice watch, fine metal and glass, and he deftly adjusts the time to read two minutes away from 6 PM. He wears a weather repellent coat that sweeps down as far as his ankles, protecting pressed linens beneath, the fold of a white shirt collar just visible. His boots are practical for the rough terrain of the once-stormy desert, but still clean.

He did, after all, just get here.

"You have to hand it to the old girl," he says, glancing up past his watch to seriously consider the sight of Fort Irwin on the darkening horizon, "she had vision."

“Hand what to her?”

Flat as the desert terrain around them, Klaus snaps the antenna he’s carrying open with a stroke, stiff from the elbow. He’s the taller of them by a shade, shoulders cut out in a wide, military V, fatigues a dusty brown patchwork from the roll of his sleeves to the treads of his boots. His face is austere, dark hair shaved down at the sides, eyes chipped with amber against the setting sunlight in a long look aimed after the fallen Fort Irwin.

He blots out the view with a pair of sunglasses twisted off his collar.

If he’s wearing a watch, he doesn’t bother with the time; there’s a transmitter he’s been tasked to fiddle with instead, dials twisted at a box he pulls from his belt. The rifle on his back is big and mean and fully unnecessary.

A shrill burst of static evokes a muttered scheiße — volume adjusted, another knob turned, until —

Boop, the box boops.

“You are always so dapper, Evelyn. ‘Fashion’ for every occasion.” His knuckles gleam metallic beneath the antenna when he raises it out, armor plating segmented in satin-finished shades of silver and carbon black. “Tell me, how do you do it?”

"Due credit, Mr Fleischer," Waugh says, as to this first thing.

The second thing gets a wry looked tipped aside, attuned to such things as otherwise inaudible quotation marks. Blue eyes and coppery haircut and the tan of his clothing all render him slightly indistinct in all the desert tones of sundown, if it weren't for his own height, the haughty cut of bone and shoulder span. "By dressing first for the weather."

The rapidly cooling desert air still tosses fitfully under the hang of what remains of once lightning-riddled clouds, which get a long look from Waugh as the device in Klaus' hand gives off insectile chirrups. His returning glance is to it, rather than the man holding it.

"Quickly," he prompts. "We shouldn't linger."

“That is my strategy also,” says Mr. Fleischer in his mercenary amalgamation of desert camouflage, a tattered shemagh thrown broad over one shoulder. Tassels flutter in the wind when he turns at his hip, feeling out the surrounding desert for the source of that rhythmic chirp.

His fingertips flex and resettle at the prompt for expediency that follows, clicking like talons on a post around the antenna’s grip. Impatience is mirrored by a ripple of tension across the back of his good arm; dial-nudging paused for an are you sure because I could make this an all night affair look aside. The transponder chirps idle in the pit of his glove.

He is polite in all other respects.

“Of course, Mister Waugh.” Quickly they will go. Klaus lifts his chin — dead away from the setting sun. “Due east, if you please. One kilometer.”

Waugh chases that glance with a calculating look of his own. The coming dark curtains off the particulars of the terrain, as do mountainous rises, but it doesn't bring him much hesitation.

His hand reaches out, curls around Klaus's elbow, and they vanish, leaving behind the static boot prints in the damp sand.

The ground beneath them is solid rock as they anchor in, space folded in on itself as neat and as effortlessly as a closed book in the same time it takes Klaus to register Waugh's touch to his arm. Around him, the world spins queasily by an inch before restoring, brain slower on the uptake this round, and it takes a further second for that strange static in his ears to resolve into coherent sound.

Engines. Lights. Unsettlingly near.

And Waugh is already moving, light claw on Klaus's elbow settling into a more urgent grip as he steps backwards, casting a wild look before they vanish once more.

The pressure of vertigo grips Klaus's brain a little harder as they reappear— not quite behind cover, save that distance and coming darkness will have to do. Evelyn has already let him go, dropping down to a knee on that strangely marshy desert floor, watching now from this safer distance the convoy of military vehicles draining eastwards along a barely visible road, white headlights and soldiers packed in, legs dangling, rifles held casual.

Six, in total. No one stops, or raises an alarm.

At the sudden swing of headlights in proximity, Klaus has hardly had time to drop the transponder and clap his hand across the flat of Waugh’s chest in a hard shove back behind him before they’re — folding in and out of space again.
He weaves on his feet upon second (third?) arrival, eyes shut hard, jaw knotted sharp around the grit of his teeth. His right hand is empty, both of Evelyn and of technology.

Wenn du das nochmal machst, werde ich mich übergeben,” he says, and thumbs his glasses off. They drop into wet sand, not far from the weeble-wobble of his transponder at the end of its cord. One of the dials traces a loose S in the damp crust at the surface.

Fleischer still holds the antenna, such as it is, in the grasp of his mechanical hand.

“How many?”

Waugh's own wave of illness is clamped down as tight as his back teeth, used to it, more adrenalised at a near miss than dizzy, with fresh beads of sweat now standing out on the slope of his brow. Prepared to do it again, too, despite gruff German complaining thrown aside at him, crouched tense for any sign than they were seen.

"Six rangers. US Army," from what he can tell in the dark, from a distance, voice kept low and quiet, before he steers a look up and aside at the other man. In the wake of the swift onset of extreme stress, Waugh gives him a swift smile in the darkness, more given to just showing his teeth than laughing. "Fixed point, Klaus. Keep your eyes forward and you'll feel all the better."

He reaches to pick up the transponder from its hang off the cord, offering it up.


Klaus stoops, antenna and all, to brace his hands to his knees. He’s bent over for a good long while, wide of stance Just In Case, in no hurry to dodge or duck for cover. They have ammunition to spare and the dusk is closing in, no tell-tale wash of brake lights across the desert to have him shrugging the rifle strap off of his shoulder. The engine’s rumble fades.

Back up straight again in silence after the offered transponder, he’s slow to take it. Shoulders rolled back, lingering nausea baleful in a glance, he sketches over his partner’s position with a gesture of the box.

He doesn’t smile, but he looks like he could, exaggerate instead in the recovery of purpose and poise.

“Thank god you are crouched or they might have seen us.” His intonation makes intent hard to read, vowels looped long between harsher consonants. A crook at his brow helps. So too does the lack of any rush to help Evelyn back to his feet. He sweeps grit off of the transponder instead.

Evelyn does not expect nor require help, preoccupied with dusting that same grit off his pant leg as Klaus offers his retort. His reply is a hush kind of laugh, initially, still bent down double on his way to his feet, but uncoils into his usual poise a moment later. "Had they opened fire," he points out, a snip of irritation sharp between incisors and syllables, "you could have thanked him in person."

But he imagines there wouldn't have been an awful lot to talk about.

There's a function on his otherwise analogue looking watch that will tell him what his pulse is doing, but confident that he has a fair idea of such data, Evelyn doesn't bother. He turns, a hand coming up to clap Klaus' shoulder in a companionable pat pat against unfeeling metal under cloth, on his way to wander away by some yards to regard that darkening stretch of desert around them.

Getting his bearings.

This time, he doesn't ask Klaus to make the radio waves go faster.

“They are Americans,” says Klaus, with absolute certainty. “Heroes. They don’t open fire on your kind. They give them guns and jobs in the government.”

He raises the antenna, strangely fixed against the pat pat despite a fluid roll at his wrist while he turns. It’s like reassuring a buick, no give in the structure beneath. In his right hand, the transponder continues to chirp; the volume drops a notch under his thumb.

“East by southeast,” he adds, and sucks in a long breath, steeling against a wave of psychosomatic vertigo brought on by the mere consideration of another leap through the aether.

“You would just have to use that tongue of yours.”

He cocks his elbow out for the taking.

There's no reply to this first thing, save for maybe the subtle angle of his chin as Waugh continues his study of the dark landscape. Assent, almost. Touché, motherfucker.

East by southeast. He turns. Raises an eyebrow, mouth hooking up at the corner. "It's not as fast as all that," Waugh defers, as humble as to the talents of his tongue as he is deeply sardonic. His hand goes out to clap down and hook in at Klaus's elbow, and jerks them both through time and space with a gut-deep tug as soon as contact is made.

For the sake of expediency, of course.

The boot prints they've left behind sink in with the slow crawl of mud, erasing their presence, as if they were never there.

One hour later…

The machine, likewise, leaves little in the way of tracks. Occasionally, one of its metal-and-rubber paws sinks into the stiffly formed mud of the desert and leaves a mark, and just as often, these marks fill in with fresh gusts of rain, replacing displaced mud.

Come dawn, it had paused its journey, huddled low in rock and sand beneath the cover of jagged cliff face.

Normally superheated metal has cooled in its idling rest, the occasional plume of steam quick to disperse in the increasingly dry air. The sun has moved through the sky and the Hunter has not moved. The sun has sunk low to the horizon and slowly, engines begin to hum and glow beneath a rib cage of sharply honed steel. It will run all night if it has to. All it knows is running.

And then it knows something else. Two warm bodies abruptly appearing, a hundred feet north.

A man, and a mutant.

With a hiss of hydraulics, the Hunter slides to its feet. Silver fangs glint in the meagre sunlight still struggling on from the west, washed out soon enough by the sudden crimson flood of light from its ocular sockets. With a smooth mechanic prowl, it moves to square off with these shapes, steel spike protruding and near-dripping from its ever open maw.

Shaking off the sensation of being dragged inside out across the desert by the scruff is no easy task, after an hour. Klaus manages it without complaint despite the sweat lank in his hair and dark in middle of his back, bought (and built) to last.

He had better be, for the price.

Before him stands a robot hunter, uncurling from the mud to round on him To round on them, actually, because Waugh is also here, right next to him. Jaw jut open, antenna in one hand and transponder in the other, Klaus looks into its red, red eyes for a long moment.

There’s nothing else around — no boxes, no glints of metal, no evidence of anything recently buried. Just the cricket chirping of the transponder, insisting that they have arrived.

“Is this a joke?”

Now there is a weary friction to droning english, his shoulders wound up at reluctant ready.

Are you being funny, Mister Waugh?

Mr Waugh is not being funny. Mr Waugh's expression has tightened at the hinges, blue eyes lock on red glow across the way as the skeletal, feline shape of the robot roams ever closer. He wants to say that the word Mr Fleischer is looking for is trap, but doubt anchors him in place, straining against the instinct of another impulsive space-bending leap in the other direction. His hand leaves Klaus's arm.

And he steps forward, tentatively steps, as if he is fighting the compulsion to do the opposite thing and put his companion in between himself and the threat as is only good and proper.

The Hunter gains a little momentum, easily eating up distance with confident strikes, jetting angry plumes of steam through steel as it closes in.

Mr. Fleischer holds fast, neither approaching or threatening to interfere with Evelyn’s deathwish. They are all adults, here. Adults or robots.

Or a mix of both.

He clips the transponder onto his belt like a radio, antenna unplugged and dropped aside to free his hands. A casual flip over the snap of his sidearm’s holster to open it up feels like a very natural part of that process. Desert grit has had time to dry against the armor plated up his left arm, salt streaked in a pair of chalky lines around the wrist.

“Give the word.”


Is a word.

Evelyn has a pretty good idea about what these things can do to a person, and he is standing too tense for Klaus to imagine he's underestimating it. More than most mutants, he has a fairly good means of escape, keyed into and locked ready with his own power as sure as Klaus flips the catch on his holster. The mechanical beast closing in is heavy enough that Waugh can feel its strides reverberating through the firmer ground beneath the silty muck.

He holds his ground, anyway. Imagines that the next toss of wind brings with it the heat and smell of over-warm metal.

That smooth mechanical whirr of moving parts slows to a trot, and a halt, close enough that the glow of its red eyes casts their shadows in blurred darkness behind them. It stops, aggressive approach decelerated into idled, frozen halt. One last blast of steam, and then slowly, its eyes snap back to green.

Hold is a word, and Fleischer holds. The strap of his rifle is still caught up stiff at his shoulder, not yet shrugged down to drop the gun to his elbow.

There is no need.


He breathes in where the hunter jettisons steam, tension kept in on the exhale. Red eyes shift to green; Klaus stands ready, restraint pent up in the same verbal command. He leans slightly, is all, as if to better gauge the aspect of the metal beast Evelyn has tamed with a word. Distrust keeps the arch of his brow crooked in the background, his right hand still hooked ready at the side of his belt.

“…Now what?”

Evelyn doesn't answer, save to signal uncertainty with a slight head tip. Unclear.

Boots sink into damp sand with each cautious step nearer, as if not trusting the construction to remain frozen in place, skittish at the presence of billowing steam and moving to circle in a wide radius. More than only watching for signs of danger, there is an analytical edge to Waugh's focus, eye shine in the gloom where runoff light reflects back at him. He settles, then, into a crouch, head ducked to peer up under the shadows of the robotic form, in search for something, focus and intent only just hedging past his irritation.

He bears some resemblance to a finicky prospective customer inspecting a used car, more so than a man attempting to divine clues from a robot tiger designed for the express purpose of human subdual. Or mutant.

"There," he says, almost more to himself than to the man standing guard. But he does look to Klaus, an eyebrow raising, to confirm, "This is the package."

“This is a mechanical lion.”

It is horrible and magnificent and he would like ten, if not for the (very slight) risk of them pumping his meal ticket full of deadly neurotoxin.

No less poised than before, he tips his head the other way in the semidark, gloved fingertips curled just shy of his pistol. The rise and fall of his shoulders has stayed slow and steady throughout, measured caution over adrenaline-fueled fear. A hard blink does little to clear the sting of sweat from his eyes.

“Can you take it?”

It's a fair question — this robot is not an insignificant piece of machinery, long from nose to tail and heavy boned. Waugh scopes it over without answering right away, before he says, with a mathematical certainty, "Yes.


He angles his wrist to look at his watch, fingertips touching delicate metal frame. The clockface vanishes to a white screen that glows faintly, time replaced by a barely visible read-out of coordinates, loaded and locked in. Waugh's manner, now, is that of unhurried efficiency, as if all lingering anxieties and caution have been dismissed. Not out of ignorance, and certainly not bravery, but out of the expectation that anxiety and concern for their immediate circumstances are Klaus Fleischer's duties.

"Really, the only component we need take with us is that which is stored within. I highly doubt these things are made to be cracked open, however, and my talents aren't quite so selective."

Waugh’s assertion of ‘storage within’ is processed in a silence that broadcasts incomprehension, no look to read further in required. Klaus eventually grumbles his assent in the pit of his throat — passive agreement to whatever this means.

“I am certain we will find some use for the rest of it.”

The hunter has idled in peace long enough now that he sets to stripping the glove from his right hand, fine articulation of segmented fingers twisting like exposed bone over canvas and velcro. He flops the glove down to Waugh, who is not looking at him, roughly aimed to hit him in the shoulder.


“For safety.”

Waugh looks down at the glove, as though Klaus might as well have tossed a dead rat at his feet, but only for a moment — he picks it up once he's done fussing with his watch and tugs it on, fingers wriggled into place. He can feel the baking heat coming off this thing, drawing beads of sweat to his brow, the occasional blast of steam angled just away from where he's settled.

"Give me five minutes," he says. "In the event this goes terribly wrong on the other side."

Which, it could.

But ostensibly five minutes is all he will need to make his return, and Waugh only reaches out to find grasp the likeliest looking angle of robot, the smell of burning synthetics drifting off of it a few seconds later where one edge touches the very hot metal its armored by. Focus hedges out discomfort save for the slight curl of tension at his brow, and then—


Evelyn and robot both vanish, with only a quickly dispersing cloud of steam left to cool and disperse into nothingness.

The silence and emptiness of the desert press in on all sides.

“Consider them given.”

The lining of the glove is cold and damp against Evelyn’s fingers, but stiff and dry on the outside — insulated enough to spare him contact burns, as long as he is quick. Which it would behoove him to be, all things considered.

Mutant and robot vanish.

Klaus watches disembodied steam lift away with distrust as the quiet closes in, the last fiery oranges of sunset bleeding out into blue and grey across the mud and stone around him. He unhitches a canteen from his belt and unscrews the cap, drinking some, pouring the rest down his collar.

It will be cold soon, but he is confident enough he will be gone to take the risk.

By the time of Waugh’s return, Fleischer has gathered up the dropped antenna and packed it away in its sleeve and is standing much as the robot was in its idle state. Awaiting instruction. There is the faint stink of highly concentrated piss mingling with wet sand, now, also. Maybe it was like that before.

Waugh's return is soundless, a tall and lean figure editing his way into the reels of Klaus' peripheral awareness without flicker, bang, or flash. It's been less than five minutes — just enough to give instructions, to ensure that the robot on the other side wasn't set to suddenly rampage, to clear the path.

His watch also now reads a different timezone.

And if he registers the smell of fresh urine mingled in the last of a perpetual rainy season in the air, the mud, the lingering after impression of burning hot metal, he is altogether far too polite to express acknowledgment.

"She's safe and sound," he says, tone dry, brittle, self-satisfied. He nears, and offers out the glove he's removed — and closes his hand around Klaus' wrist when he goes to receive it. There, he holds on, counting the seconds behind a crooked smile, and a direct, blue-eyed scrutiny. "You have my gratitude, Mr Fleischer. The consummate professional as always."

Fleischer turns to the sound of wet sand shifting grain over grain against the weight of Waugh’s return, unhurried in the face of inevitability. Either it’s a friendly and he’s going home, or it’s an enemy and he is going to die.

“You are welcome.” Of course.

It’s Waugh.

He reaches for his glove, mechanically predictable, and is caught before he can close his right hand around Evelyn’s, as he would prefer. Instead he’s snared around the wrist — captured in the act of attempting theft of a handhold. Deprived of that minor aggravation, he picks a bit of fuzz off Waugh’s shoulder with an insectoid clicking of metal on metal.

This leaves two seconds for eye contact, and the leering crook of half a smile. A pleasure, as always.

He flicks Crito’s lint into the desert.

Space folds, spinning the earth under their feet until they emerge clear on the other side.

From the perspective of the desert, with the sun falling swift beyond the horizon, light draining away, wind and rain and gravity all make themselves complicit in their coming and going by washing away all traces of evidence that they were ever here at all.

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