Ace Tucker wasn’t surprised when Elvis Presley asked him for a beer. The surprising and the unexpected had always been a part of his life. As a baby, an unknown alien took Ace from Earth and left him on the doorstep of an outer space orphanage. There was no explanation and as far as origin stories go, well, that’s all you’re going to get.
The overtaxed nuns of the Galactic Church did their best to raise him, but Ace was a strange and difficult child. After eighteen years of frustration, they had finally had enough. The nuns sent Ace out into the galaxy with a half-assed blessing for his soul and the state-mandated fifty credits for bus fare, lunch, and tolls.
Now, ole Ace Tucker was a man of action and a gambling man. So, he spent twenty-five credits on a ticket to the nearest casino planet and used the rest to enter a high-stakes nebulacard tournament.
Eight hours later, he was the proud and improbable winner of the grand prize: a one-of-a-kind prototype Valdovian Ultra Space Freight Hauler smartship.
Ace spent the next ten years scratching out a meager living as a galactic cargo trucker. These days he worked the rock ’n’ roll circuit as a roadie for Mustache Supernova, the greatest band in the known galaxy.
Yes, sir. In all his days, Ace thought he had pretty much seen it all.
But he hadn’t seen anything yet.
Our story begins the night Ace Tucker and his best friend/business partner, Ivan Chimpanov, attended a swinging party at the palatial estate of famed galactic rock ’n’ roll promoter, Sleazon Nebula.
Vibrant and raucous alien partygoers of all shapes and sizes milled about as Ace and Ivan sized up a man who was the spitting image of the one and only Elvis Presley.
“I dunno, Ivan,” Ace said. “He sure looks like Elvis but what the hell would he be doing out here? Isn’t he supposed to be dead?”
“Yeah!” Ivan said, drawing out the word to three syllables. “But there have always been rumors that he faked his death. It’s possible that is him.”
Ace narrowed his eyes and tilted his head as he tried to get a bead on the man. “Right, but… He could be a shapeshifter. You know as well as I do that odd lifeforms are part of the job. Remember that guy from the Large Kingdom of the Shiver who had no true physical form? He had some kinda low-level telepathy and would just take any physical shape he could cherry pick out of your head.”
“Riiiight,” Ivan said. “That was the day you had just finished watching the first two seasons of Charlie’s Angels for the umpteen millionth time!”
“Yup. That ole boy took the form of Farrah Fawcett. Man, that was one hell of a day!” Ace said and took a sip from his beer.
“All I’m saying is it could be Elvis, yeah?” Ivan said as he stared at the man, ignoring his own beer.
“I dunno, man,” Ace said after he swallowed. “If it was Elvis why would he be poaching drinks all night? I’ve seen him steal, like, four glasses of bubbly from waiterbots when they weren’t looking.”
“Hang on, Ace!” Ivan said with a gasp. “He’s coming over here!”
“Say there, mister,” the man said. “Can I have one of them beers there? Thank you. Thank you very much.”
“Excuse me?” Ace said as he tapped his index finger on his bottle of Dark Star beer. Tap, tap, tap. “What was that?”
Ace’s physical appearance made him an easy mark, he guessed. He tended to stand out in a crowd. He wore simple denim jeans, a black Mustache Supernova t-shirt, and biker boots. His shoulder-length wavy dark hair was kept in check by a black snapback hat featuring an embroidered patch with the word “Ace” written out in fancy white script front and center.
Sure, other lifeforms throughout the galaxy looked human, but most of them dressed like pansies.
“I said, can I have one of those beers, mister?” the man said.
Ace let out a quick snort and glanced at the six-pack he held like a briefcase. Two full bottles and three dead soldiers.
Ace raised up his bottle-in-progress and checked how much liquid joy remained. About four fingers worth. He brought the bottle up to his lips and took a long pull, draining the bottle in one gulp then shoved the bottle upside down in the empty slot of the six-pack like a gunslinger holstering his weapon. A few drops of beer ran along the length of the container and dripped onto the floor.
“Nope,” Ace said with a slight burp. “Fresh out, buddy. Sorry.”
“Aw come on, man. I can see right there you got two more full ones.” The man pointed at the six-pack and gave Ace a friendly smile.
Ace furrowed his brow. “Tell you what. Me and my pal here have a little bet. You settle it for us, and I’ll give you one of these. OK?”
“Sure, man! What’s the bet?”
Before Ace could speak Ivan blurted out, “You’re Elvis Presley, right?”
The man threw his head back and roared with a laugh that carried all the way across the room. A few party guests looked over. When they saw who was laughing, they looked away, annoyed. After what seemed like an eternity, the man stopped laughing and wiped away a few tears.
“Yeah, man. That’s me. But jeez, man. I never thought anyone would ever ask me that again,” Elvis said.
“See, Ace! What’d I tell you?” Ivan said, elbowing Ace.
“Watch where you elbow me, Ivan!” Ace said. “You hit me right in the sixer!”
“Great. You got beer all over my jacket!” Ivan said as he slapped at the beer drops in an attempt to keep the jacket pristine.
Right now would be a good time to explain that Ace’s pal, Ivan Chimpanov, loved his leather jacket. It might also be a good time to point out that Ivan was, in fact, a Russian cyborg chimpanzee.
When they first met, the jacket first caught Ace’s eye. It was not every day you see a leather jacket covered in punk rock band patches two hundred light years from the Solar System.
Ivan wore his affection literally on his sleeve. Sex Pistols, The Clash, Misfits, The Damned, Buzzcocks, and countless others running the gamut of classic punk littered every inch of the jacket. The area on the right shoulder, however, displayed Ivan’s favorite: the Ramones. He had several patches commemorating the rebellious progenitors of punk. Ace always wondered if it was the music or the title of the Ramones’ third studio album, Rocket to Russia, that first grabbed Ivan’s attention.
Ivan started as a normal Earth-bound chimpanzee until the Soviet Union shot him into space in 1985. Some sort of new propulsion system experiment. Mother Russia didn’t care if Ivan lived or died. If it weren’t for a group of bored Ruffinili college kids out for a joy ride, he would still be adrift somewhere in the depths of space.
Lucky for Ivan those dorks were engineering students and thought it’d be cute to have a super-intelligent chimp for a butler. The Ruffinili didn’t account for Ivan’s vicious temper, though. Once his new cybernetic systems came online, Ivan kicked those jerks’ asses and stole their ship. Ivan never told Ace exactly what he did with them, though. Just that they “got what they deserved.” Ace learned not to pry too much with Ivan. He’d tell you what he wanted when he wanted.
“There. That’s better,” Ivan said, satisfied his jacket was clean. “That beer could’ve stained my Ramones patches, Ace!”
Ace bit his lip to hide his smile, “Hey, man. You’re the one that elbowed me. But, we’re rude to our friend here, Ivan. Here you go, Mr. Presley. Have a bottle of Dark Star beer.”
Ace pulled a beer from the six-pack, opened it with a church-key attached to his belt via a retractable chain, and handed it to Elvis.
Elvis took a long drink and said, “Ah! Thank you. Thank you very much.”
“But answer me this,” Ace said. “How did a supposed dead guy from Earth get into this exclusive after party? I mean, it’s not every day that Mustache Supernova has a show in this sector of space. Me and Ivan here are on the road crew, and that’s the only way we got into this party. How about you?”
“Aw, hell, man,” Elvis said. “I wrote most of Nova’s hits!”
Elvis showed a heightened level of cool by referring to Mustache Supernova simply as Nova, both as a form of lazy slang and as a nod to the band’s frontman, Nova Johnson.
“No way!” Ivan said. “You’re telling me you wrote Blow That Neutron Out Your Starfish?”
“Yup,” Elvis said.
“How about Psionic Isohammer Boogie?”
“Yeah. I wrote that one, too,” Elvis nodded.
“The Thieves of Plasmatron?”
“Oh yeah!” Elvis said.
“What about that one album where it was just four hours of orgasms and crying?” Ivan asked with a cringe.
“Nah, man,” Elvis winced. “That’s Nova Johnson’s solo stuff. I didn’t have anything to do with that crap.”
“So what then?” Ace said. “You’ve just been a ghostwriter in outer space this whole time? Aren’t you supposed to be dead?”
“And you don’t look a day over forty!” Ivan added. “Shouldn’t you be, like, seventy-something years old now?”
“Yeah. Funny story, actually,” Elvis said after draining his bottle of beer. “Ahh…So there I was, on Earth. At my home, Graceland. I had just finished playing racquetball and was on my way to the john when these two guys just appear out of nowhere and…Oh, damn. Wait a minute—”
Elvis stopped. His face turned ashen, white and pallid. His lips trembled a few times like he was trying to speak, but all that came out was a low inaudible whisper. He looked past Ace and Ivan with wide eyes. Ace turned, following Elvis’s gaze to the far side of the room. A man dressed from head to toe in an impossibly shiny metallic suit stood near the entrance waving off a waiterbot trying to get his drink order.
Ace had to squint to get a better look. “Whoa. That’s the shiniest suit I’ve ever seen. It’s…impossibly shiny.”
It wasn’t just the tailored three-piece suit complete with a shiny tie that was made of metal. The man’s skin seemed to be made of the same impossibly shiny ultra-reflective chrome. He reflected and bent so much of the dim ambient mood lighting he appeared almost invisible. Yet, the man shined with brilliant iridescence at the same time. It made Ace’s eyes water and his brain itch. When his eyes finally focused Ace saw the man held a laser revolver in his impossibly shiny hand. A split second later, the room erupted in laser fire and screams.
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Five terrifying minutes later Ace dragged a limp and bloody Elvis Presley across the lawn of Sleazon Nebula’s palatial estate. Laser blasts echoed from behind the mansion as Sleazon’s security Killbots fought the impossibly shiny gunman.
Sleazon was the biggest concert promoter in Doucheon System and rumored to be an arms dealer on the side. His home protection measures were top notch, but the repeated explosions and robot screams didn’t convince Ace it was enough.
When the gunman first opened fire on the party, he started by targeting Elvis Presley. Yet, Elvis evaded the first dozen or so shots without a scratch. He leaped. He crouched. He juked around furniture, party guests, and waiterbots all while laser bolts tore through the well-appointed great room of Sleazon’s mansion.
Elvis almost made it outside when he slipped on a cocktail napkin. A laser bolt ripped through his midsection, and he dropped like a sack.
Ace and Ivan stayed low and moved slowly as the lasers flew overhead. Ace knew keeping your head down was the best way to stay alive. No one liked a hero. It wasn’t that Ace was a coward. He just liked being alive too much to do anything stupid like getting involved.
Moreover, he was unarmed. His sidearm sat idle in a gun locker on Betty, his spacefaring smartship parked out front.
When the shooting paused, Ace peeked up from behind a smoldering Jarkolounger. The headrest and most of the back were melted making the expensive lounge chair look like some sort of surreal modern art project. The stench of burning jarko fur hung heavy in the air, stinging Ace’s nostrils.
Across the room, the shiny gunman loomed over Elvis with his laser revolver poised and ready to fire.
Elvis squirmed. He held one hand against the wound on his gut and the other up as a plea for an armistice.
“It’s nice to see you, Mr. Presley,” the gunman said. His voice was jarring and synthetic like his larynx was an ancient computer speech synthesizer trapped in a blender. “Andromeda sends her regards.”
“Aww! Come on, man! Not now!” Elvis’s voice quivered, and his hand shook.
“I’m afraid your time is up.” The gunman cocked the hammer back on the laser revolver. Ace guessed this was mostly for dramatic effect. The hammers on laser revolvers did absolutely nothing, but tough guys loved to do crap like that to make a point.
“You know what I want,” the shiny gunman said. “Give it to me, or you die. Here. Now.”
Out of nowhere, an orange plasma bolt hit the gunman square in the back sending him flying out the sliding glass door and into a heavy-water swimming pool thirty feet beyond it.
Four armored Killbots carrying twin plasma throwers and bad attitudes stalked into the room.
“Attention partygoers,” the Killbots said in robotic and deafening unison. “Mr. Nebula regrets to inform you, due to unfortunate circumstances beyond his control, the party is canceled. Please gather your belongings and vacate the premises. Failure to do so may result in personal injury. Have a nice night.”
The Killbots opened fire on the swimming pool all at once.
The gunman avoided the superheated plasma vaporizing the water around him by swimming like an eel and snaking in every possible direction.
The Killbots stomped past Ace and Ivan firing the entire time and hurling nasty insults in Robotese.
“We gotta save him!” Ivan said.
“What?” Ace shouted over the stomping, blasting, and swearing.
“Elvis! We gotta save him. He’s hurt super bad!”
Ivan always had a soft spot for injured critters. One time, while on a run hauling Lemmium, Ivan found a tiny ralladog with a broken tail. Ace didn’t see what all the fuss was about as the thing clearly had a second working tail. But Ivan insisted on nursing it back to health. It turned out to be a smart move because that ralladog happened to be Big Johnny’s favorite pet, Feefi.
Big Johnny was the rotund and cash-flush proprietor of Big Johnny’s Lemmium Emporium and a solid customer. Hauling Lemmium was notoriously volatile, and Ace was one of the only truckers crazy enough to do it on a regular basis.
After Ivan patched Feefi up using the advanced medical systems onboard Betty he posted a lost dog notice on Krang’s List. Within two hours Ivan got a reply from Big Johnny himself, overjoyed that they found his beloved pet.
Big Johnny insisted they take two hundred credits as a reward. Ivan split half the money with Ace as per their agreement to share all monies earned on the job, including tips and rewards.
Ivan bought a few credits worth of black market Earth media including some choice television shows and music albums from the mid to late 1970s—Ivan’s favorite era.
Ace lost his share on a bad bet.
It was twenty to one odds, and Ace’s bookie swore that Mugs Turntoil would take a dive in the tenth round of the fight. The winnings would’ve been easy money and help to clear part of Ace’s sizable gambling debt. His lucky streak seemed to start and end with the nebulacard tournament he won in his youth. Since then it had been a series of small wins and big losses.
As fate would have it, Mugs did not take a dive in the tenth round as promised. Instead, he knocked the head off his opponent in the sixth round and won the fight. Ace was out a hundred credits.
Ace’s tab on borrowed money had serious interest stacking up. The little shindig at Sleazon’s was supposed to be a short respite between jobs. They were due to blast off within the hour and deliver several thousand metric tons of Mustache Supernova’s sound equipment to the next tour stop.
“You’re out of your damn mind, Ivan!” Ace said, amazed that Ivan would suggest helping a doomed stranger in the middle of an active shoot-out. “Leave him. The paramedics will be here any minute. Let’s get the hell out of here! We’re late already!”
Ace pointed at the front door, away from all the stomping and blasting, where the few remaining party guests scrambled for safety. In the distance, he could hear rescue and police vehicles approaching. Yet another reason to get out quick. Ace was not a fan of cops. They asked too many questions.
The initial onslaught of laser fire took out a dozen or so people. Blood, spilled drinks, and snack chips covered everything. Small fires burned on mangled pieces of classy furniture. In the corner, a groupie puked and fished around for her phone, so she could post images of the horror on galactic social media. SpaceFace was going to have a field day with this, and she wanted to be the first to break the story.
“Come on, Ace,” Ivan said. “We can get him to the ship. Plus! He’s from Earth! Don’t you always say we gotta stick together ‘cause no one else gives a damn about us?”
Ivan was right. Ace did always say that. Living as a lone human in a galaxy full of trillions of alien lifeforms had its upsides. It was hardly a boring place to call home. But even with all the crazy numbers of people out there, it could get lonely.
Ace spent years on his own before he met Ivan, and species differences aside, they became fast friends. They were both from Earth and had a DNA-level bond stronger than any of their previous friendships. A shared genetic history that spanned their evolutionary differences and kept them thick as thieves.
Also, it didn’t hurt that Ivan’s cybernetic implants made him a super-genius and could riddle things out better than Ace could. If Ivan believed that they could make it out of there with Elvis in tow, then Ace was inclined to believe him.
“Alright, goddammit!” Ace shouted.
Ivan nodded in agreement and scurried over on all fours to where Elvis lay, passed out, in a pool of his own blood. Ace followed, cursing under his breath.
Elvis awoke and coughed up more blood. He clutched his abdomen, but the bleeding didn’t look all that bad to Ace. Based on the caliber of the laser revolver he expected to see clear through the man to the floor.
“Jeez!” Ace said. “You’d think a guy who took a laser blast to the gut would’ve bled out by now. Look, Ivan! Where the laser blast hit. It’s all covered with black plastic or something. What the shit?”
“Just relax,” Ivan said to Elvis. “We’re going to get you out of here.”
“Thank you. Thank you very much,” Elvis said, grabbing Ace by the arm. Elvis squeezed harder than Ace guessed a seventy-something-year-old with a laser wound possibly could.
“Please, m-man,” Elvis sputtered. “Help me…Gotta get me to Graceland. Get…El…Dorado.”
Elvis’s eyes lost focus, and he passed out.
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As the fierce battle raged below, Ace had a white-knuckle grip on Betty’s steering wheel and rocketed through the atmosphere at fourteen times the speed of sound. Everything shook like a paint mixer as the ship breached the atmosphere and blasted into outer space.
A few empty fast food containers rattled off the dashboard and floated up for a second before the artificial gravity kicked in. When the containers hit the floor, Ace kicked them over into the pile on Ivan’s side of the cabin.
Ace engaged the dark matter hyperdrives and pushed Betty through a curtain of multidimensional light, slipping out of normal space and into hyperspace.
When Ace was satisfied they were safe he flipped an analog switch labeled “autopilot.”
“All yours, Betty,” he said.
“Confirmed, Ace. Autopilot engaged. We are trucking at eight million times the speed of light,” Betty said in her somewhat robotic, yet soothing, female voice.
Years ago, when Ace first took ownership of Betty, she had a nerve-grating, sterile audio interface. “Welcome, new owner. This interface will guide you through customizing your new Valdovian Ultra Space Freight Hauler smartship.” It sounded like nails on a chalkboard.
The voice was the first thing Ace changed. It took him almost an hour to get the cadence and timber of it right. When he was done, Betty sounded breathy and intimate yet firm and stern. Just the way Ace liked his women.
By the time Ace was ready to customize the exterior, his sobriety had long since been kicked to the curb. He had been celebrating his nebulacard tournament victory and sampling the fully stocked bar aboard his newly acquired smartship. The mix of booze and the bizarre set of circumstances that resulted in his triumph had left his head fuzzy and filled with strange thoughts.
Ace initially lost his money in the first round of the tournament and had to scheme a way to earn some quick cash to get back in the game. He figured if he could earn one hundred credits fast, he could re-enter under a hard-luck ruling and have a chance at the big win. In a twist of fate, he met a slagrunner at a bar who specialized in black market media from underworlds, the technologically backward planets not affiliated with the Galactic Union. Fetish collectors loved to get their hands on the media because it was forbidden to actually visit those planets.
The man never gave Ace his name, but prepaid two hundred credits and said the best way to transport the goods was by uploading the content in a living brain.
“A small device will be strapped to your skull,” the slagrunner said. “It will store the underworld media in your prefrontal cortex temporarily. It is quite painless. You won’t even notice it.”
The process only caused slight brain damage (no more than the swill Ace was drinking) and it paid well so Ace figured why not.
Ace had no idea that his brain would be exposed to cultural artifacts from Earth. But there they were among Zentali opera, Mundial folk music, and Hodarki poetry slams. His first conscious encounter with Earth.
In a perfect scenario, Ace would have retained no memory of the media pumped into his brain, but a lightning storm raged that night on MegaReno. When the buyer strapped Ace into the retrieval unit, a power surge botched the process leaving bits and pieces behind.
Most of the stuff left behind were just impressions. Ghost images. A man hitting a ball with a stick and the roar of a crowd. Loud guns firing tiny solid projectiles. A bar full of men punching each other and throwing chairs. A mustachioed outlaw with an infectious laugh driving a black vehicle with a golden bird painted on the hood. Weapons of war raining hellfire down on sleepy towns. A child eating small grain circles covered in white liquid.
Whereas most of the visions were hazy, a few were more concrete. The clearest bit was a cinematic sequence of an eighteen wheeler rolling down a highway being chased by what Ace later learned were police cars.
The sequence always played the same in his mind’s eye. The truck smashing through a barricade. Wood and metal splinters flying everywhere. Scores of black and white police cruisers in pursuit with sirens wailing and lights flashing. The driver yelling something unintelligible but clearly having the time of his life.
Another especially vivid bit was an animated rollerskating coyote with an exploding rocket strapped to its back trying to capture a speeding roadrunner.
His inebriated subconscious mashed it all together spitting out what the startup program used to build the exterior design of Betty. A perfect recreation of a 1974 Kenworth W900 truck with one cartoon rocket strapped to nacelles on each side of the semi-trailer.
Ace knew Betty wasn’t exactly pleased with his design choice for the exterior. She asked him to confirm the design fifteen times. She eventually gave in and begrudgingly moved on to the next phase of the startup program.
Betty had top-of-the-line artificial intelligence with complete empathic and emotion circuit upgrades. She was as alive as any physical being and as such had her own little personality quirks. One of them being a short temper when Ace was slow to pick up on advanced concepts.
When it came time for the interior design phase, Betty informed him that the hyperdimensional nature of the interior space allowed for as much actual physical space as he desired. She had to rephrase this several times before she settled on, “The innards are way bigger than the ship looks from the outside. Put whatever you want in there.”
Something in Betty’s tone hinted to Ace she was, in fact, a spaceship and should probably look like one in certain parts. He decided to go with the interior layout template for a Valdovian Galacto-Freight space cargo hauler.
It made Ace’s head hurt when he thought about the dimensionally transcendental nature of Betty’s interior. He didn’t even try to understand how the interior exists in a different relative dimension to the exterior. It was easier to just think of the ship as four decks and a large cargo bay that never got completely full.
The cockpit was at the head of the ship on the upper deck. Ace forced the issue and compromised with Betty on its design. The cockpit looked like the cab of a standard eighteen-wheeler but with super advanced alien tech blended in. Cutting-edge Valdovian navigation and operational systems like 4D haptic touch computer holoscreens were inlaid upon the faux wood and vinyl dashboard right next to analog dials, switches, and pulls.
A single CB radio push-to-talk microphone hung from the ceiling and served as Ace’s main communications interface. Below it was a large leather captain’s chair behind a polished wood and chrome steering wheel. Accelerator and brake pedals were beneath the dash for use when Betty was in ground transport mode.
A second identical leather chair sat abreast to Ace’s. This was Ivan’s seat and where most of the fancy alien technology resided along with more round analog gauges and black flip switches.
Everything else throughout the ship was pure Valdovian Galacto-Freight design. Brushed ultra-titanium blended with subdued matte paint colors on the walls, floors, and ceilings.
Beyond the cockpit was a long corridor with ladders leading down to the crew quarters and a small airlock to Betty’s exterior via a side hatch. At the end of the main corridor was an elevator that connected the upper deck to the rest of the ship.
Deck two held the dining area, kitchenette, and recreation room. Below that was the engine room, a place Ace never went because every time he entered his brain wanted to scream. It was pure alien technology, and although Ace was handy with tools, he left the repairs and upkeep for the propulsion systems to Ivan.
Deck four was the cargo bay, main airlock, and the sickbay. Ace’s next stop.
When Ace walked in, he saw Ivan attempting to stabilize Elvis Presley’s condition with the super advanced medical support systems.
“How’s he doing?” Ace asked.
Ivan shook his head as he looked up from a complicated med computer screen that Ace never could figure out.
“He’s in pretty rough shape, Ace. I’m not sure he’s going to make it,” Ivan said.
A silver spike protruded from the top of Ivan’s wrist and was jammed into a data port on the wall next to Elvis’s bed. Ivan’s cybernetic implants made it possible for him to interface with any computer. This made him the perfect co-pilot and business partner. There wasn’t a computer system he couldn’t crack or a ship he couldn’t fly.
Ivan was also a whiz with languages. Ace had to rely on a second-hand translator implant to understand and communicate with the over seventy billion languages spoken throughout the galaxy. Ivan, on the other hand, didn’t require one. The cyber tech writhing through his body had souped up his brain to an off-the-charts IQ. The languages he didn’t already know, he could pick up in the course of an average conversation. Unless it was with one of the few species in the Outer Belt that communicates solely by touch. You have to hire a translator or risk being bludgeoned to death by a flurry of tentacles swatting at you like a drunk trying to put out a fire with their bare hands.
“Hang on,” Ivan said as the screen started displaying a series of complicated computer code. Ivan’s eyes rolled into the back of his head and started to flutter like a person deep in REM sleep, a physical manifestation of him hitting the computer systems hard, processing an onslaught of new information.
The screen stopped spewing code, and Ivan snapped out of his trance.
“Wow. Elvis has nanotech installed in his central nervous system,” Ivan said.
“What? He’s a cyborg like you?” Ace asked.
“Not really. It’s different. Like nothing I’ve seen before. But it’s definitely alien and super advanced. That would explain why the guy hasn’t aged in the last few decades. The nanobots are constantly repairing his cells and enhancing his physiology.”
“Well, shit. If he has onboard medical, why aren’t the nanobots fixing him up?” Ace asked.
Ivan pointed at the wound covered in burnt plastic on Elvis’s gut. “That spot there. It has a massive concentration of offline nanobots. It’s like they all rushed in to take care of the wound and then were immediately shut down. I’m not sure why. It might have something to do with the gun that shiny guy had. I’m picking up all kinds of weird energy signatures, and they’re strongest around the wound. So, I guess the blast had some type of effect on his tech. They were able to stop the bleeding before they conked out, but without something to kick the healing into gear, I’m not sure he’s gonna make it.”
“El…Dorado…” Elvis murmured. He reached out and squeezed Ace’s hand. “Graceland…El…Dorado.”
Elvis fought to open his eyes, and when he did, they lacked focus.
“Try and take it easy,” Ace said trying to sound reassuring. “We’ll get you to a hospital as soon as we can.”
“No! No hospitals.” Elvis’s speech was shallow and haggard. “He’ll get me if you drop me at a hospital. He’ll be there. He’ll get me.”
“Who? Who’s after you, Elvis?” Ivan asked as he tapped a few buttons on the medical computer.
“The Shiny Man…” Elvis whispered before passing out.