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Giant Robots of Tunguska (Doc Vandal Adventures Book 4), page 1

 

Giant Robots of Tunguska (Doc Vandal Adventures Book 4)
 

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Giant Robots of Tunguska (Doc Vandal Adventures Book 4)


  DOC VANDAL

  in

  Giant Robots of Tunguska

  by Dave Robinson

  A Doc Vandal Publication

  Copyright 2017 by Dave Robinson

  Cover Illustration by Carlos Balarezo

  Cover Design by Queen Graphics

  This is a work of fiction. All similarities to any persons living or dead is purely coincidental. All events, locales, and incidents are either purely the product of the author’s imagination or used for fictitious purposes.

  The Doc Vandal Series

  Against the Eldest Flame

  Air Pirates of Krakatoa

  Attacked Beneath Antarctica

  Giant Robots of Tunguska

  The Sunkiller Affair (Forthcoming)

  This novel is dedicated to Kim, without whom I would never have written a word; to Kyrie, and to my brother Neil, who always believed I was a writer even when I didn’t. Also thanks to my late parents, Lyn Robinson, and Clive Robinson. You’re both gone now but I hope you would enjoy these adventures.

  I would also like to thank everyone who has helped me on this writing journey from the moment I first decided I wanted to create my own pulp heroes to the last word I typed; especially those who have read my works and given the kind of feedback you need to get the best out of a story: Jules Ironside, S.L. Huang, Vincent Collins, Jaap Geluk, and Ian Gill.

  Any errors are mine alone.

  Table of Contents

  An Unexpected Visitor

  Rocksferatu

  Manchukuo

  Tunguska

  Ascension

  Afterword

  CHAPTER ONE

  An Unexpected Visitor

  Ming smiled broadly and laid out her hand with a flourish. “Fifteen-two, fifteen-four, fifteen-six, fifteen-eight, and a quadruple run for twenty-four points.”

  She reached out and moved her peg, setting it in the final hole.

  Vic looked at her own hand, four even cards plus the four in the cut for no points. Skunked again. She shoved her crib aside without even looking at the cards. Maybe teaching Ming to play cribbage hadn’t been such a good idea after all.

  “Another game?” Ming was still smiling all the way up to her eyes. “What do you call it? ‘Mugs away’?”

  Vic chuckled and took the cards from her girlfriend. Pushing them into a single pile she began her regular shuffle routine. At least now she had someone to play cards with. Doc, Gus, and Kehla all played chess but the game was just too damn slow for Vic. Even backgammon was better.

  As she shuffled, Vic let her eyes wander around the lounge. It was just another family night at home on the 87th floor of the Republic State Building. It was funny, but this was the first place she’d really called home since she was a little girl at her parent’s dacha outside Petrograd. It was all gone now, even the city had a new name since she was a girl, but at the time it had been home. If nothing else, her new home was very different than anything the Russian aristocracy could have imagined. Then again, her family would have expected her to be married with children of her own: not a spinster romantically involved with a Chinese doctor, and a woman at that.

  Over in the corner of the lounge Doc Vandal, the unofficial head of the family, was playing chess with his best friend, a gorilla named Gus. Augustus Q. Ponchartrain was no ordinary gorilla though; he had more doctorates than some small college departments. Gus’s wife Kehla, also a gorilla, alternated between kibitzing the game and doing a crossword. The last member of the family, a black man named Gilly Chanter, sat in front of a large cabinet radio with their latest guest: a being called Shard.

  Tonight was supposed to be the first episode of a new radio drama featuring one of Gilly’s favorite pulp characters: a masked vigilante known as The Shadow. Gilly seemed to be doing a surprisingly good job of explaining murder mysteries to an alien who had spent the last several million years in a lost city buried on a lakebed miles beneath the Antarctic icecap. Shard was even more alien than the artificial minds that ran the lunar base where Doc was raised; she came from outside the Universe itself. Considering that Gilly had narrowly escaped being transformed into a similar creature, Vic wasn’t surprised that he had developed the strongest connection with Shard.

  Vic’s fingers had kept busy while her mind was wandering, and she finally finished shuffling the cards. After passing the deck over for Ming to cut, she started her deal. She grinned: she was going to win this time.

  The chime from the elevator interrupted her deal and she turned to see a bloody figure stumble out of the car and collapse on the floor in front. Ming dropped her cards and ran to the stranger, driven by more than just her Hippocratic Oath.

  Vic sighed, and dropped her own cards before rising to go help Ming.

  The stranger lay face down on the carpet outside Doc’s private elevator. He was about six feet tall, with red hair the same shade as Vic’s own. Following Ming’s gestured instructions, Vic rolled him over. He was light, maybe a hundred and twenty pounds soaked in blood. Once she had him on his back, his eyes opened and fixed on hers.

  “Ekkie?” That one word was enough to send a dagger into Vic’s heart.

  #

  Doc reached the elevator lobby moments after Vic had rolled their unknown visitor onto his back; just in time to hear the man call her “Ekkie.”

  The word seemed to hit Vic like a poleaxe, almost stunning her in place; Doc was going to have to find out what it meant, but for the moment he had a patient to deal with. Kneeling down, he picked up the injured man and carried him into the infirmary. The man was so thin that his suit hung off his body. Once Doc had him on the surgical bed he began stripping the man’s clothes off while Ming reached for a stethoscope.

  With a whole floor to himself and his friends, Doc had long ago found it useful to keep an infirmary on the premises. Over the years what had been a single small room had grown into something closer in concept to a small hospital. With three beds and a small but very well equipped operating theater, he and Ming could handle almost any medical problem.

  “His heart’s strong,” Ming said, after listening through the stethoscope. “I don’t think all this blood is his.”

  Doc finished stripping the man down to his underwear, and had to agree. Most of the blood was on his suit and trousers, obviously someone else’s. He took a deep breath; not someone else’s something else’s. It was pigs’ blood.

  Now that they had a chance to properly examine the patient it was clear that he was suffering more from malnutrition and exposure than any sort of attack. Although he was a good six feet tall, the scale built into the surgical bed gave his weight as one hundred and eighteen pounds. Meanwhile, Ming was continuing to check his heart and lungs.

  “Is he alright?” Vic had come up behind them, and was leaning against the infirmary doorway, looking surprisingly subdued. “Will he be alright?”

  Ming looked up from her patient and nodded. “He’s about sixty pounds underweight, but that’s nothing a little good food and exercise can’t fix. He might need a week in bed, but after that he should be fine in a month or two.”

  “Thanks.” Vic hugged her chest, her eyes still fixed on their patient.

  Doc raised an eyebrow. Vic wasn’t usually this quiet when something happened. “Do you know who he is?”

  “I think so.” Vic stepped further into the infirmary and leaned over the patient. Reaching forward, she carefully moved a lock of hair away from his eye.

  Now that he had a good look at the two of them, the resemblance was remarkable. Not only was the man’s hair exactly the same shade of red as Vic’s but he also ha
d a similar cast of features. He had the same nose and chin as Vic, once you allowed for the generally heavier features of a man.

  “Who is he?” Ming asked, taking the stethoscope out of her ears.

  “I think he’s my cousin Viktor,” Vic explained. “He always called me Ekkie when we were children because he was Vic so I had to be somebody else.”

  “You think?” Ming asked. “Don’t you know?”

  “As far as I knew, the Bolsheviks shot Viktor in 1918. He was only ten years old.” Vic’s face was a mask. “My grandmother and I were the only members of our family to get out of Russia alive.”

  “It’s alright Ekkie,” Viktor opened his eyes and reached for her hand, his voice barely above a whisper. “You couldn’t have known.”

  “I can understand why you didn’t want her to use your name,” Ming said, “but why Ekkie?”

  “It’s my middle name: The Russian form of Catherine is Ekaterina.” Vic shrugged. “No one’s called me by the Russian form of any of my names for years.”

  “I like it.” Ming grinned. “I wonder what else he has on you?”

  Doc wasn’t quite sure of the point of the exchange, but the fact Ming was willing to joke told him that her diagnosis was the same as his cursory inspection. Vic’s cousin was going to be all right. Unfortunately, that still brought up more questions than it answered.

  Grabbing a stool, he moved it over beside the surgical bed and sat down on the other side of the patient from Vic. “I know you must have been through a lot, but you have to admit that when someone shows up at my door covered in pigs’ blood it’s bound to raise a few questions.”

  “Da, Lyushkov,” Viktor struggled to speak. “NKVD after me. Had to hide in slaughterhouse.”

  “NKVD agents are here?” That surprised Doc. He knew the Soviets had spies everywhere, but usually they didn’t send people after escapees unless they were very important.

  “Lyushkov agents,” Viktor whispered harshly. “Trying to keep his secrets. Talos army.”

  “What do you mean? Talos army?” Doc knew the name from Greek Mythology, but surely Talos was just a story.

  “Giant iron automatons.” Viktor coughed, and Vic quickly gave him a glass of water, holding it so he could take a few sips. He gave her a quick nod and then cleared his throat.

  “Blagodarya Ekkie.”

  Doc gave him a few moments to recover and then gestured for Viktor to continue.

  “Was in gulag near Irkutsk when giant figures fifty feet tall stomped camp flat. Barely escaped with life. While was lying half-dead in remains of camp people got out of giants and talked. Far East head of NKVD, man called Lyushkov, sent them to test machines by destroying camp. Giants burn most of camp with flamethrowers but I fell in well.

  “After giants left, I climbed out. Made way to China. Russian community in Shanghai told me where Ekkie was. They got me on freighter and I worked my way to New York. Am here now.”

  Doc let out a long low breath. “That sounds like quite a trip, but it doesn’t explain the pigs’ blood.”

  “NKVD had agents in Shanghai; must have found me from camp records. When when ship reached New York were waiting for me. I snuck off ship and hid but they found me. Men in iron suits chase me to slaughterhouse district. I hide in trough of pigs’ blood until dark then make way here.”

  From the look of things Vic believed everything her cousin was saying, but Doc didn’t feel so trusting. The man was probably her cousin, but his story was more than a little thin. Oh well, the man was likely to be staying around for a while, so he was sure they could find answers soon enough. The real question was the “men in iron suits.”

  Iron suits weren’t something he expected from the Soviets; they were more likely to throw numbers at a problem than technology. That is, if they were anything more than suits of armor. It was a puzzle, but not enough of one to catch his attention for now.

  “If you don’t mind, I’ll go back to my chess game.” Without more information, he wanted something more to hold his attention so he didn’t worry away at a problem that might not have a solution yet.

  Ming waved him off, while Vic and her cousin were deep in a whispered conversation in Russian.

  Back in the lounge he had almost reached the chess table where Gus sat waiting patiently, when the radio interrupted his concentration:

  “We interrupt tonight’s broadcast for this breaking news brief. More than two hundred people are trapped inside Saint Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral on 97th Street by a gang of men in black armor. Police are on the scene as we speak. Stay tuned to KNYC for updates when we have them. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.”

  “Gilly, get the suits. We’re going to church.”

  #

  Vic hung on for dear life as Ming dumped the clutch of the panel van. Normally she or Gilly would be driving, keeping Ming safely away from the big straight eight with three hundred supercharged horsepower under the hood. That wasn’t an option tonight, because the white sides proudly emblazoned with the name Cibola Holdings hid one of Doc’s latest inventions: powered armor.

  The name was silly, but Vic liked the idea. Combining Van Houten’s strength enhancement servos with a suit of armor; sounded like a ton of fun. According to Doc, the suit made her strong enough to out arm-wrestle Gus, without hurting mobility. Doc and Gilly had similar suits, while Gus insisted he was strong enough that he didn’t need one. The good news was that at least so far Doc seemed to be right about the mobility. She couldn’t quite scratch her back in the suit, but she could come a lot closer than with any other protective gear she had ever worn.

  The catch was that the suit weighed a hundred pounds and the accumulators only lasted about twenty minutes once the system kicked in. Which was why Ming was driving and Vic was stuck in the back with her gauntleted hands wrapped around a grab bar.

  “At least there’ll be a priest to give us last rites,” Vic muttered.

  “What was that?” Ming’s voice in her earphones reminded Vic that they were all hooked into a telephone loop.

  “Nothing, dear.” Vic swallowed her words. Ming really wasn’t a bad driver, and it wasn’t her fault that Vic hated riding in the back where she couldn’t see anything.

  Just then the truck bounced over a curb hard enough to rattle Vic’s teeth.

  “Damnit!” With no way to spit behind the visor Vic swallowed the iron taste of blood from where she’d bitten her tongue.

  “Sorry,” Ming called over the loop. “Maybe you should let me drive more often.”

  With Gilly’s laughter in her ears, Vic focused on the job ahead. From the sounds of the traffic they were on Madison avenue, heading north. Saint Nicholas Cathedral was on East 97th, between Madison and Central Park.

  “Doc, we’ve got a problem,” Kehla spoke up from where she was sitting in the front seat beside Ming. “Police radio says the besiegers are demanding someone named Viktor Filitov, or they will burn everyone inside the cathedral alive.”

  “That’s my cousin.” Vic squirmed in her armor, squeezing the grab bar hard enough that it creaked. “Quick, Ming don’t turn onto 97th. Pull in just past it and we’ll go in on foot.”

  “Are you sure?” Doc asked.

  Vic nodded vigorously. “If they’re making threats like that then they must have people up the alley, too. We’ll have to go in front and back at the same time.”

  “Okay, you and Gilly go down the front; Gus and I’ll take the back.”

  Vic let go of the grab bar with her right hand just long enough to snap a mock salute. “Aye aye, sir!”

  Gilly just shook his head, his features masked by his helmet. All three suits were polished gray alloy; each with a “V” on the helmet, breastplate, and pauldrons. Vic’s was red, Doc’s white, and Gilly’s blue. Gilly had once muttered that the suits would make it harder to tell them apart; Doc had considered it, but then pointed out that the difference in height would be enough to tell them apart. Especially since while Gilly may have been a
pitcher, he was built like a linebacker.

  Ming must have crossed 97th, because the van suddenly lurched right and screeched to a stop.

  “End of the line, folks,” Vic crowed. “Everybody out that’s getting out.”

  Flipping back the shield on the back of her right gauntlet; she closed the switch that kicked in the accumulators and the armor hummed to life. Inside her helmet, a small timer ticked into life. Servos whirred as she hit the back door release and stepped out into the evening.

  If it wasn’t for the police blockade closing off East 97th, it would have been just another typical New York night. People ambling up and down Madison Avenue, shopping and smoking cigarettes; all the while ignoring the flashing lights on the side block. Taking advantage of the light evening traffic, Vic dashed across the street; trusting the others to follow. Once on the sidewalk, the four huddled in one of the storefronts that made up ground level of the six-story brownstone.

  “Okay,” Vic popped her visor to speak to the others rather than over the radio. “The Cathedral’s the next building over. If I remember right, there are two small doors in the back.”

  “Right.” Doc led Gus towards the alley.

  Waving at Gilly to follow, Vic headed for the corner. She had just reached the corner when a constable who looked barely old enough to enter the academy blocked her way.

  “Halt,” he told her in a voice that sounded an octave too deep for his fresh features. “Nobody gets past except on official police business. We have a situation.”

  “That’s why we’re here.” Vic replied, her smile hidden behind the visor. Without giving him a chance for a further response, she bent at the knees and leaped, putting all the suit’s augmented strength into the jump.

  Before she realized what had happened, she was twenty feet off the ground and still rising. “Whee!”

 
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