By Ryan K. Stansifer
Version Beta-1 Start: July 27, 2010 2:00 PM
Julianne Holcomb dove under the whirring mechanical hummingbird, rolling into a crouch as it swooped through the air with a wash of pink sparkles. Its glimmering green eyes glowed as it retargeted her and struck once again. With a savage grunt, she brought her clipboard up as a shield and the device whirred away, confused. It spun out of the room, giving her room to breathe.
“Angie! Would you hurry up!” she barked at the tiny Chinese woman working feverishly at an ivory pillar in the center of the white room. “This isn’t exactly a gymnast’s body!”
“Shut your yap,” Angie growled. “This ain’t as easy as it looks, toots.”
A pair of deep screams echoed from another room. A few seconds later, absurd giggling was bouncing down the hallway.
“Great, they got Gordon and Paul,” Julianne muttered. “And they’re the ones complaining about hazard pay.”
“They’re morons,” Angie grunted as she pried open a small panel littered with runes. A shimmer of swirling blue and purple light burned from within. “Nobody gets fried that much in this job ‘cept them.”
Julianne had another theory, but Angie wasn’t one to care.
“Come on, come on,” she panted, her hands twitching over her clipboard. “They’ll be back any second.”
“Shut up, toots. I’m goin’ as fast as I can.”
“Then you’d better-“ she stopped as the telltale buzzing noise grew louder. “They’re back!”
The little buzzing dervish swept into the room, but it wasn’t alone this time. Five other little mechanical hummingbirds accompanied it. They floated near the top of the door, considering the situation.
A pair of bright blue eyes peeked out from the left side of the door while a pair of big green eyes peeked out of the right.
“Don’t you want to play with us?” the one with the blue eyes whispered. Julianne guessed it was Gordon.
“It’s fun!” said the other one.
“Yeah, we’ll pass,” Julianne muttered, pushing her thick brown hair out of her face and readying herself for another onslaught of the hummingbirds. She stepped backward, closer to the pillar to give Angie more cover.
“Aren’t ya glad we had the SpecOps sarge here a few weeks ago?” Angie quipped as she slipped a pair of maginetic probes from her vast tool belt into the swirl of light and color. “All kinds ‘a useful.”
“Oh just fix the stupid thing!” Julianne groaned.
The hummingbirds were darting back and forth, watching them like birds of prey waiting for an easy kill. The two pairs of eyes still stared at them from the edges of the doorway. She caught the sound of faint giggling and the patter of little feet.
Her former coworkers stepped out from behind the doorframe and giggled. Each of them had long red hair tied back into cute little ponytails. The girlish faces beamed with almost inhuman happiness and delight. Both were dressed just like all the rest of them, in frilly white dresses with blue lace. The eyes were still the same, though, just put into a tiny girl’s face.
However, when the rest of the children arrived, she was a bit unnerved. The entire hallway was packed with them. And every one of them looked nearly identical, except for the eyes. Dozens of giggling girls staring at the two of them.
“Um, Angie…we’re a bit outnumbered here…”
“We just want to play!” said the girl who used to be Gordon Marcett. “You look upset! You should play too!”
“That’s okay, we don’t want to play right now,” Julianne sputtered as she pushed her clipboard out in front of her like a riot shield. “We just need to fix this thing first…”
“They wanna wreck playtime!” said the other brown-eyed girl. “We can’t let them do that!”
“No!” the crowd cheered.
The hummingbirds dropped like jet bombers. She rolled to the side again and swatted at the little beasts with her clipboard, trying to ward them off. Purple dust trailed behind them, transforming the white tile of the focus room into a soft velvet carpet.
She managed to whack the two hummingbirds at the pack of children creeping up on the two of them. The giggles were starting to unnerve her.
“Just a few more seconds, toots,” Angie called. “Probes are in place. Just gotta run the sequencer.”
Another set of quick blocks from the clipboard gave Julianne another moment of respite, but only to see the other three hummingbirds bearing down on Angie.
“Angie!” she called. “Twelve o’clock high!”
Nothing got through to Angie like military commands. Her gigantic brown eyes immediately snapped up and she glared at the mechanical birds with the intensity of a Sherman tank. However, it didn’t stop them. They swooped down on her with mechanical single-mindedness.
Julianne tried to run forward, but there wasn’t anything she could do. Inside of twenty seconds, they had covered Angie with a shimmering cocoon of purple light. She could hear Angie cursing inside of it for a few seconds, until the same high-pitched giggle echoed from inside.
Julianne’s eyes shot to the small triangular device on the ground. The two probes were still connected. And the “ready to process” button was highlighted in green.
The shimmering cocoon vanished, revealing a giggle little brown-eyed girl in place of Angie.
“Only one left!” the girl that had been Angie cooed. “It’s going to be so much fun!”
The hummingbirds were now circling over her head, but seemed disinclined to attack her directly. They probably didn’t want to be whacked anymore. But the swarm of little girls was more than enough to worry Julianne. She just had to get to that sequencer.
The girls were creeping forward, but they were still a few yards distant, while what was Angie was now moving closer, between her and the sequencer. Her eyes darted to the device. The hummingbirds buzzed angrily.
“Sorry, Angie,” she muttered.
She ran forward and smacked the girl hard across the head, sending her spinning to the ground with a strangled scream of pain. The crowd of little white dressed rushed forward. The hummingbirds dropped like stones upon her. Little hands grabbed at her as she fumbled for the touch panel. The combined strength was too much for her and the unit slipped from her hand.
She looked behind her and kicked the girl Gordon in the face. She fell back with a squeal, though there was no damage to her cute features. She continued to kick wildly as the hummingbirds began to spin their purple cocoon around her.
With one final thrust, she threw herself forward and slammed her hand down upon the sequencer just as the cocoon washed over her head.
She winced, waiting for the rewriting of her personality.