's 2017 Horror Write-off:

Brothers in Rust pt. 3

Submitted by Kira M.

We walked silently westward for several miles before we took off our backpacks and sat down in the cold sand, our backs resting up against one of the huge boulders. Jay opened his pack and took out two of the terrible MREs. After we choked down the preservative laced clumps of food, we each took another of my pep pills to keep us moving. We shared a few bowl packs of the green herb in my attempt to get Jay to relax a little more. I guess it's only normal to be afraid of a place like this, especially when you've spent most of your life avoiding it altogether. Personally, I'm more afraid of the regular world. Out there are people, and people are more terrible than anything inside the Dread Shores. The thing that separates humans from animals is our ability to harm other humans; not out of fear or survival, but just to cause them suffering. Our defining characteristic is inflicting suffering. But here the tables have turned. Nothing here fears humans. Humans fear everything here.

"Have you heard from the gauntlet since the last time? Like inside your head or something? I'm not sure if it can do that, but it wouldn't surprise me." Jay said with a cigarette bobbing from his mouth.

"It's weird, but only now that you mentioned it did I even remember it was still on my arm. Like I said, it's so weird but it honestly doesn't feel like I'm wearing anything let alone a metal glove. But I haven't heard it, I think it said it had to sleep and then I told it not to talk... maybe I was a little rough with it. I mean, it did save our lives from those loonies. The dick ripping just shocked me I think."

"Yeah, I definitely didn't care for the dick ripping, seems like over kill. Maybe next time tell it to just go for the throat. No need for hurting anyone." Said Jay. He passed me the cigarette and I took a drag from it, then passed it back to him.

"Hey gauntlet. You awake?" The glove's etchings faintly glow.

"Yup, I'm here. Been listening and keeping quite. Need something?"

"Kinda had a few questions. Do you know if this stupid amulet works?" I said and pointed to the necklace. I then noticed that I was pointing with the hand the gauntlet was on. Wonder if it can see it...

"Oh, it definitely works. Probably not in the way you think or want it to work. It works though..." The gauntlet said and trailed off. Jay and I exchanged puzzled glances.

"What do you mean by that? No fooling me either. Just say it, okay?"

"Are you familiar with the creatures around here?" It asked

"Most of them. I don't think I know their proper names, but there's the big stork looking birds, the armadillos, couple of different bug looking ones and then there's the humanoid things. Reminds me more of orangutans than people. They're big. Live in small groups or tribes I guess. The trees of course. Oh, and the big things on long stilted legs. Everything here is mechanical like a robot though, even the plants." I said.

"Wow, okay you're more familiar with them than I thought. But you're forgetting something." Said the gauntlet.

"No, that's all the ones I know about here-" The gauntlet cut me off.

"You're forgetting the worms..." It said in a solemn tone. Then it all came rushing back to me. 

The whole reason why the Dread Shores are so feared is because of that one creature. Almost everything here is peaceful or at the very least it won't attack you unless you attack it. The creatures here are only dangerous when they're being defensive, that is everything except the worms. You could pass through this place a hundred times and never encounter one, or even see any evidence of them. Humans are the top animal in our world; it's debatable whether or not we are the most intelligent but we're without a doubt the most dangerous. That comes from millions of years of evolution creating the most adaptable and creative predator. Somehow the top predator's absence makes this place more unnerving, like a feeling of being watched through security cameras. This world is basically the reverse of ours, with humans on the bottom and worms at the top... 

"What about them? I've never seen one and I've practically lived a quarter of my life in this place. I didn't even think about them because they're basically mythological. Most Rift explores think they're like dinosaur fossils on our planet. We have evidence that they exist like parts of bodies and stuff, but nobody's ever seen one alive and moving. How do the worms relate to the amulet?" I was happy to get the chance to show off my Rift knowledge.

"I hate to tell you this, but that amulet is probably made from a worm. Not only from a worm, but to be used by a worm. It's the part of a worm that lets them communicate with each other. And likewise it tells them where other worms are. It's basically a beacon for them. I started hearing it beep earlier, and I was going to tell you before you put it on, but you said I couldn't speak. I'd say sorry, but I'm not." The gauntlet started laughing. 

I stood up so quickly I jumped a bit off the ground, then started frantically trying to take the amulet off. I couldn't find the clasp and it didn't seem to even fit over my head now. I used the traitorous gloved hand to try and rip it off, then Jay tried too. It wouldn't budge. I suddenly lost my composure and began flailing around, barely containing my urge to scream and cry. This is how it must feel to be an animal that gets its foot caught in a snare or trap; suddenly unable to escape it becomes panicked and aware of their own mortality. This is all my fault. I bought both things from the merchant, and Jay had warned me not too. He was being carful and smart, he knew this stuff was dangerous and he told me, but I thought I knew more, thought I knew better than him... 

Jay looked down at his fat brother, the supposedly smart brother who had been reduced to a kid again. Behind Kay's intelligence was the real man, the real Kay. The one who used intelligence and books to hide his true self, who is perpetually scared and cowardly. He's pitiful and helpless, like a mouse who's constantly trapped in a corner by a cat shaped shadow. The fat mouse man became unexpectedly still and gazed into the distance. His eyes were wide with terror as he watched something to the east while his mouth opened and closed like a fish. He looked up at Jay with tears welling up behind his glasses.

"Jay... Just go. Run west. Go. Run!" I screamed and tried pushing him. Then he put his hands on my shoulders and slowly shook his head.

"I ain't running. I ain't ever left you behind before and I'm not gonna start now. We're going to face whatever it is together." Jay said stoically.

"Death, Jay! We're facing death! Don't be stupid, we both don't have to die! This isn't a action movie, nobody will ever know!" I yelled at him. He looked at me and gave me that same crazy smile that was more teeth than man like some demented anglerfish. 

"Well, I guess we're facing death together. It'd be boring without you anyway, so if you're gonna die so am I. Everyone makes mistakes, but sometimes you just gotta roll them dice." Jay said grinning. Then he gave me a little brotherly hug and sighed.

"You're so much like dad, Kay. Try'na tell people how to die properly."

Suddenly they both felt something shake the ground. It was similar to how thunder or huge drums in a parade can rumble through your body and into your chest, but it steadily became stronger and more rhythmic. They sat down again with their backs pressed to the rock. Jay loaded and cocked his new rifle, taking a exploratory glance through its scope. Kay grabbed the only thing that ever seemed to be within reach whenever there was danger, clutching the shovel with his gauntlet arm. The gauntlet...

"Gauntlet! How big do these worms get? How do you kill them? Can you help?!" I shouted at my arm. There's something different about how it feels, like it's responding to the environment or something in it. I have the grim thought that it too might be a gigantic antenna.

"They range widely in size. 10 feet to 180 feet. There are three of them coming for you. Medium sized, about 80 feet long, one of them is smaller, maybe 20 feet. They're still two miles away to the east. About a quarter mile underground. Death does not come naturally to them, they usually choose when they want too die. They have very long lives. To give you an idea how long, they only reach reproductive age when they're at least 30,000 years old. The ones humans found before were already dead, killed during the Test as the Rifts came to earth. They died from being on the very edge of the Rift boundary and were pulled apart from the forces. And I am helping you. I can read the signals coming from the amulet. That's how I know where they're at and stuff. By the way, it was nice to have met you. I really wish we could've had more time together. I think we could've had fun... I am not looking forward to either being eaten or sitting here for eternity. They're close now. Good luck..." the gauntlet suddenly became limp like before.

"Well, that was informative but not really helpful... how bad do you think this is going to be?" Jay casually asked.

"This is worse than the dirt bike boys. That situation was like back alley drug deal turned dick ripper massacre. This is more impending doom delivered by something akin to a dragon. But the dragon is actually a huge mechanical worm. Still mythical though..." 

I had barely finished that sentence when the rumbling became so intense it caused a few of the big green crystals on the rock above to break loose and tumble to the ground. You couldn't even see straight now, everything was shaking as if the planet were tearing itself apart. In the distance a small lonely grove of the metal trees unanimously agreed that they didn't much like that particular location, in fact they thought maybe they'd like someplace that was anywhere but there. So they pulled their metallic cable like roots from out of the sand and scurried away in every direction, moving around like how an octopus slops its whole body across things at low tide. The trees of the Dread Shores don't wait around for danger which is why the most successful birds tend to build nests on the ground here. Many confused trees have ended up as foster parents to birds who're arguably far more confused later on in life once they realize the truth about being birds and not trees. 

Then the earthquake stopped. Everything became eerily silent for just long enough to wonder if maybe it was over, but as is so often the case it had only begun. The quaking was replaced by a small grinding sensation that vibrated up through the sand, steadily becoming stronger. The odd auroral lights above us became brighter and violently whipped through the sky in shades of crimson purple. Ionization was thick throughout the air and it occasionally discharged as fat lightening bolts that race across the sky and to metallic boulders in the distance. Electricity I thought to myself, these worms are huge and moving so quickly through so much sand that they're creating static or piezoelectric lightening. And look at the sky! I pointed up and Jay looked at the strange rainbow colored clouds and bobbing orbs of light that now appeared out of nowhere, shimmering brighter than the aurora in the sky. Earthquake lights! They've been reported throughout history during or right before gigantic earthquakes. I take comfort in knowing that my last few moments of life will be spent admiring the beauty of earthquake lights.

A thousand yards away from us there's a tremendous thumping noise. The lights disappear as two huge geysers of black sand shoot hundreds of feet into the air. There's a crunching noise as sand is smashed into even smaller pieces by the enormous weight of the worms, who finally lumber above ground. They're exactly the same size around as a city bus, but easily two and half times as long. For some reason the two huge worms aren't moving; then a smaller fountain of sand erupts as yet another beast arises, this one however is a miniature version of the more monstrous worms. Petite comes to mind as I watch it move, it's maybe as big around as a trash can while a tad over 20 feet long. Color wise all three are dark grey with patches that shine metallic or black, and like an earthworm their bodies are segmented into thick bands that extend and contract in order to move around. As they slink forward I'm completely awestruck at the near complete lack of sound, other than a low rumbling and the crunch of the sand beneath their immense weight.

Less than two hundred feet away from us the gigantic ones stop while the other smaller worm continues to get closer. Jay raises the rifle and takes aim but I push the barrel down and shake my head at him. 

"The thing is nothing but metal, I think that'll just piss it off. For some reason I think we might actually live through this, I'm getting that dice feeling..."

All three of the worms have heads, faces or whatever the terminology may be, that resembles the type of drill bits they use for oil wells and boring through the toughest rock but many times bigger. It's like a tri-cone structure with teeth that rotate around to grapple and crush rock as quickly as possible. Now only ten feet away from us, the smallest worm coils itself slightly and rears its head up to loom above us. It's strange cog filled mouth spins rapidly. I watch a thin needle like drill emerge from between the three cone toothed pieces and into the rock above our heads. Neither of us dare move but I can't help but to look up and see the drill glide through the boulder without the slightest hint of resistance; maybe it's showing us how strong it is, this is its version of flexing. After the inappropriately terrifying greeting, it stops and hangs limply at face level, and a small black cable snakes out from its mouth to replace where the drill had been. 

Searching like a leech to find a host, the cable bobs and weaves erratically before it shines a brilliant yellow beam of light from the tip. It's bright enough that it leaves purple and white after images in my vision, and it quickly sweeps over me till it comes in sight of the amulet. Something vibrates the sand around us softly. Then the cable reaches out and touches the necklace, reels the cable back into its mouth and repeatedly makes a busy humming sound. My stomach drops as I see the two gigantic ones slither forward till they're as close as the small one. 

Their mouths clank and rumble. Christ, they're so large that it literally fills my vision completely. We're going to be turned into meat slurry by mining equipment. But... What are they doing? They couldn't possibly want to eat us, I mean they could, but we're absolutely nothing to these worms, like the caloric equivalent of a single blade of grass. The smaller one becomes a lot less menacing just by adjusting its posture, but then it begins making terrible metallic buzzing sounds. It's like nails on a chalkboard, microphone feedback, styrofoam crumbling and tinnitus hissing had a terrible robot baby. Like a frequency sweep it starts low and rumbling and continues to get higher till only a sharp whine, then goes lower and suddenly there's like a popping sensation behind our eyes. For a moment I thought our brains had been boiled with sound.

"Gherrto? Ky'glopy? Yupperi. Krrrrrr.... Ciao, Hola, Namaste, Hello, Sa-" I gasped at it. Jay and I turn to each other to make sure we both heard it speak.

"STOP! Hello, it's hello. English. You can talk?" Kay said marveling at the worm. The drilling bits wiggled back and forth ever so slightly when it spoke. It's talking by rubbing its drills together like how a cricket sings. 

"Of course we can talk. But nobody ever wants too. Plus you're wearing a communicator module around your neck, which probably helps. We heard you both walking around while you were still outside of the Rift, then you came in here and we felt the module calling out for help. What did you need?" Said the worm in a rather helpful tone. It didn't sound either male or female, it was almost as if it was equal parts of both and very difficult to describe. I looked at Jay and he just smiled and kind of shrugged. He implied that I had to do the talking.

"Um, well we didn't actually need any help. I bought this amulet from a man who said it'd allow us to walk safely through the Dread Shores. I'm sorry for bothering you, I didn't realize it'd make you think someone was in trouble." 

"Oh, it's not a big deal. We don't really have many reasons to come to the surface, but I like the fresh air anyway. And before you ask, we don't have names as you'd understand them since they're more of a vibration. Like this." The first worm buzzed the sand with a high pitched tone, while the two giants hummed very low, then nodded ever so slightly in what I'd accept as a very friendly handshake. 

"Nice to meet you... guys? Girls? Robots? I'm guessing it's a fluid amorphous gender, which do you all prefer?"

"Girls is fine." The small one said in a chipper tone. 

"Well, nice to meet you gals, I'm Kay and this is my brother, Jay." 

"Howdy ladies." Jay nodded thoughtfully at the metal worms.

"So what brings you two humans all the way out here? Did you come to join the other humans who're building the... whatever it is they're building?" The worm asked inquisitively. The two giants seemed to be watching us more closely now.

"We're actually going to a family reunion. It's where a bunch of your relatives you haven't seen for a while get together and eat lots of food, get drunk and argue. It's more fun than it sounds, trust me. So wait, there's other humans out here?" 

"Oh my, that does seem like fun. You humans are such social beings, it's a shame you all have to fight and kill one another so often. But eating, reproducing and fighting isn't a bad agenda. Very different from ours but to each their own. And yes, there are quite a few other humans out here building some very large structure. At least there had been. There's only a small group of them now. Other worms have asked what they're constructing but the humans are unusually hostile and shot them with some kind of explosive arrow." She said.

"Hm, they don't happen to use dirt bikes do they?" Jay asked.

"Dirt bikes... are they like a wheeled contraption that lets them go faster and makes a hideous buzzing sound?" 

"Yup, that's a dirt bike." Jay said and smiled.

"Yes, they have lots of the dirt bikes and even more things with lots of wheels and tall things that reach into the sky. They're extraordinarily loud, I can't hear them up above ground, but underneath the sand it's deafening. They're building whatever it is right next to one of the mountains on this landmass. Everyday they bring in more material and humans. Until recently that is. I think they've finished whatever they're working on."

"Why haven't you or any of the other worms stopped them? I can't imagine it'd take more than two dozen of the giant worms to absolutely crush them. If you folks don't want them to build it, you can stop them. It is your land and world after all." Jay said to all three of them. Then one of the big ones talked. It's voice rattled our skeletons as it spoke.

"We have not considered that option. We do not own the land. Nobody does. Land tends to own and govern itself. How can you own something that isn't attached or inside your own body? Strange concept. Humans are so weak and fragile compared to us. We can live for millions of years and part of us believed that whatever they are doing would be tiny in the long run. And until they began the construction they were all but temporary visitors, none stayed here longer than necessary. They've never been cause for alarm, we try to avoid humans because we don't want to harm them. Considering that our plants and smaller animals can easily kill humans, we felt bad for them if they're desperate enough to try and pass through here." Said the huge old one.

"I have long thought we should've done more to keep them out of here, or at least spoken to their leaders to establish rules." Said the other giant worm. "We do not mind humans. Overall they can be loving and sometimes they are interesting. They have odd beliefs like if another living creature or place cannot communicate or fight back, that they may continue doing whatever they want with it. They treat both like personal property. It becomes a problem when we hear about their deeds from across our planet. The noise is incessant and I am tired of it." The huge worm said with a sigh. 

I stood up and stretched out, using the shovel to steady myself like a cane. All three of the worms slid back slightly.

"Where did you obtain that weapon? How can you possibly possess that?!" The smallest one asked hurriedly. 

"Huh? You mean the shovel? It's not really a weapon, well not unless you swing it hard enough. It was our grandmothers. I think a knight from here made it from one of those moving trees you have. That's the story anyway."

"I told you it was powerful, I tried to tell them about it but they wouldn't listen! They haven't even used it for anything, they said they use it to dig holes with! Holes! Can you believe that?" Said the gauntlet out of turn. One of the big worms inched forward ever so slightly and stared at my arm with eyes unseen.

"Oh dearie, dearie me... A piece of sentient Abyss Armor! Do you know how long it's been since I've seen one around these parts? That really does bring back good memories. Abysmal Plane Warriors really were the real deal, true fire and brimstone fanatics who believed that the darkness would overcome the light. The place that they came from was even flatter and bleaker than here, with zero traces of natural light. They saw using some kind of minds eye or echolocation since most were born without eyes. Though some had rudimentary ones, like tiny crab eyes; they were usually signs of royalty and wore special masks or blindfolds. They thought light and anything living inside it was evil, and they killed anything with eyes or that wasn't blind. Or they'd just make you blind if they were too tired to swing an axe. So devoted to darkness they worshipped us like gods. Of course they worshipped moles and pretty much anything that lived in a cave, but it was nice to feel special. That was 500,000 years ago... good times." Said the gigantic rambling worm. 

"What's your Original Status and serving number? Did you by chance fight in the Second Dusk War?" Asked the other big worm. Upon hearing the worm speak the gauntlet froze and stiffened while the runes shined in a kaleidoscopic light. The whole thing began to hum as it tried to recall some long forgotten information. In a voice that was extremely different from the one we knew, it started to speak.

"ORIGINAL STATUS IS DESTROYER CLASS ARMOR, TYPE THIRTY NINE C. SERVING NUMBER 562,733,018-KLP. Several tours of the second dusk war are recorded, 74 tours exactly. Total time accumulated in battleground conditions is six years-four months-eighteen days-eleven hours-42 minutes in solar Earth time. Number of slain, killed or otherwise defeated enemies is 9,515. Time since complete suit aggregation with memory exchange is unknown. Three pieces of original suit are currently located on the planet Earth's surface, one is me, two is frozen near the North Pole the third is in Bangladesh. Do you wish to hear any further information about me, sir or madam?" The gauntlet spoke robotically and without personality or inflection. It was weird to hear it rattle off its kill count and stuff. I suddenly feel like I'm not old enough to possibly wear this armor. The huge worm continued having a coded conversation with the gauntlet.

"No, that'll be all 018-KLP. Please continue operations using the irregular personality systems you've developed naturally. You're new supreme commander is the human you are currently attached with. You will allow him to access all databases, abilities and command functions without resistance or authorization from former commanders. Set voice command functions to respond to the name Kelp. Direct operating systems save, hard reset and reboot afterwards. That'll be all." The gauntlet glowed softly before going limp and heavy again, and thirty seconds later it sprang back to life without saying anything remotely sassy. 

"It's under your total control now. See, the older this armor gets and the longer it's separate from the whole suit the more personality it starts collecting. It's not entirely bad, because a lot of times they start to develop intuition and grow to anticipate the users needs and wants automatically. But it wasn't originally designed to do that and a lot of times it has quirky behavior or can grow spitefully because it's being controlled in a way that's arbitrary to its original programming. It doesn't mean to be, but it resents being commanded out of proper operations alinement." Said the big left worm. 

"How... do you know all this exactly? I guess I'm still confused about what you things... you girls actually are?" Jay asked cautiously.

"Well, we are mechanical beings that obtained consciousness after several hundred years of mindless nothingness. We're not sure where we came from or if we possibly evolved naturally; we are robotic yet can reproduce like organic life. Origins are unclear. At some point we became sentient and began organizing and talking to one another, then attempting to communicate with the other mechanical beings that inhabit our world. The ones that resemble humans-" 

"Oh the orangutans looking things?"

"Yes, one in the same. They are currently the only similar ones who acknowledge us, albeit in a rather primitive manner, but they have moved beyond screaming and running away from us like the others still do. We believe our planet was invaded by the Abysmal Plane People and their warriors, but it's possible that they were already here and just unnoticed. Either way, they weren't completely mechanical but used surgery and implants to augment themselves and they created the body armor that your gauntlet is originally from. They worshipped us as gods for a long time, then they just sort of died out from some disease. And I helped repair and build the programming language of the suits, at least the newer generations like yours." The worm said. Jay and I tried to take it all in, but this was still so damn weird, well, weirder than normal. 

"So are you still on your planet or are we on ours, Earth, right now? Where do you think we are?" I asked them. This time the smallest worm spoke up. 

"You and I are currently on our planet and yours right now, simultaneously. That's how this particular Rift works, I'm not sure about any of the others. I'm guessing your Rift is entered from the east or west side; our version of the Rift is entered through the north or south. We came from the east just like you, so you're in the Shore. If we go through the south we end up in a thick green forest with lots of rolling hills. But we've constructed some rock barriers to keep our side from leaking out too much in the north and south. And our species has only traveled off the Dread Shores and into your world four separate times." Said the little one.

Suddenly there was a huge explosion far off in the distance behind us. Jay and I stood up, and walked around the massive rock we'd been resting against. Just barely visible on the horizon a massive red plume of smoke billowed into the empty sky. Without any type of air flow the smoke quickly took on the familiar shape of a mushroom cloud. Just below the cloud was a small white spire next to what looked like a large hill. From this distance it seemed tiny but in all likelihood the tower was probably thousands of feet tall and beside a mountain. We stared at the bone white monolith and we watched as a purple beam of light shot from out of it, through the red cloud and high into the atmosphere. I sighed and pointed at it.

"So I'm guessing that's where these other humans are at, isn't it?"

The smallest worm said yes. 

"How far away is that and what's the fast way to get there?" I lifted up my glasses and rubbed the spot where they sat on my nose, trying not to become too irritated. 

This was ridiculous, we just wanted to go to our family reunion and see our relatives and eat a buffet and get drunk. Some minor issues like bandits and shit were expected and exactly the reason why we left so early. What I hadn't factored into the equation was helping giant robotic worms evict some humans from their world; humans who probably work for the government. And when I say government, I mean the very small portion of people who still clung to the notion that one ruling and uniting entity could still work. I actually don't think they personally believe it'll ever work again, they just like the structure and of course the unbridled power they have. 

The government and armed forces were unofficially dissolved more than 45 years ago, but a few generations of bureaucratic inbreeding has grown a hardy stock of people who control a little over 1.2% of what the former strength of the nation was; which really translates to 1.2% of the former budget. Doesn't seem like much, but when you consider the overall figure used to be in the hundreds of trillions of dollars, it's suddenly quite a huge amount of force. Especially when you factor in the tons of mentally unstable people who don't care where their money or gold comes from, and they sure as shit don't care about the ethical implications of using a pipe wrench to smash your head in like a pumpkin. These are your classic henchmen. The lowly scum bags paid a flat fee in drugs and gold who might receive commission whenever they shoot a pregnant woman with a crossbow or something else fucked up. 

"It's a little less than eighty miles away, and the fastest route is well... just show them, would you?" The small worm spoke to the large one on the left. Then Lefty opened her mouth; and then opened her mouth again; and again. Three layers of rock smashing jaws sat openly gaping atop the ebony sand. Though the outside is gunmetal grey, the internal parts of the worm are highlighted in various colors like yellow and blue. Looking within Lefty's gullet Jay and I saw there actually was a small place that looked comfortable enough to ride inside, it wasn't exactly cushioned or safe though, but we'd been in more dangerous vehicles. 

"So do we just grab on to the handle bar looking things?" Asked Jay.

"Yeah, and if you move those yellow panels back you'll find two harnesses that'll keep you snug in place. Even room for the backpacks." Lefty said.

"Right, so I don't have any qualms with jumping into your mouth and riding over there; that's the easy part. What should we do when we get there though? You want us to tell them to leave or destroy the tower, or we kill all of them and tear down the tower or something else? Killing them would honestly be so much better. These aren't normal level headed humans like Jay and I... they're homicidal dope freaks with missile launchers and radiation induced dementia. They aren't even wanted back in our world, frankly they'd just run around and fuck more stuff up. What do you think, Jay?"

"Hmm... pretty much have to agree with Kay here. You can't even imagine the kind of horrors these people inflict upon others. It'd be different if they weren't so far gone, maybe if they still thought about stuff other than money, violence, dope and sex. These are humans boiled down to their most basic and primal state. Kill, fuck, eat and shoot up. More like insects with military weaponry really... Who's the biggest worm on the planet that can be here within two hours?" Jay said rubbing his chin.

"That'd be old Six. He's 441 feet long nowadays, at least last time I saw him he was." Lefty said.

"Holy shit, I didn't think you guys got that big?! The gauntlet, Kelp, said you only get to like 180 feet." I said with a sputter.

"That was true, and that was around the maximum size achieved back when he was here. But that was well over half a million years ago; and being machines we naturally evolve at an accelerated pace. You used the qualifier of two hours as well, and outside of that time range there are even larger worms. Some grow too 900 feet long and wider than the things you call highways and skyscrapers. Our species refers to itself as the Dōkai, I feel like we should have said something in the beginning but it never come up." Righty said with a satisfied quality to her voice. The smallest worm and Righty began violently vibrating across the sands, making everything hum. Lefty told us they were alerting the other Dōkai to the plan, and having them meet us here.

"I know that you just set the gauntlet up for me, but would it be possible to let Jay wear it for a bit, Lefty? I just think that if we're going to be doing some fighting then Jay should have it. Plus I've got the shovel." I asked the massive worm. Jay shot me a confused expression before shrugging.

"Sure, I don't see why not? 018-Kelp Respond please." The glove glowed. 

"018-Kelp activated, awaiting commands." It said in a monotone voice.

"You will relinquish control over to Jay, override any existing security features to allow full access to your abilities. Create a preset in memory bank slot 1-A, that will allow two separate users full control, run this memory program every time you are removed and put on again. You now have two commanders on file, you will not display or develop preference for one user over the other, they are equal and you will treat them exactly the same. During your next combat experience you will run a scan of the enemy and search the entire database for relevant information pertaining to the fastest method for target elimination. Make the changes, save, then reset yourself and the operating system. That is all." As Lefty finished, the gauntlet slid off my arm as if it'd never even fitted me. 

Jay bent over and grabbed the spiked armor, bouncing it a bit to estimate the weight. I held my breath as he gently put his arm into it, and I heard the glove expand slightly to accommodate Jay's more muscular arm before it squeaked and grew snug. He took the new rifle and shouldered it, making sure it was mobile and the gauntlet's fingers could operate the safety, fire selection and fit through the trigger guard. And of course it was and it could, because it strives to please its commander.

"Wow, this thing is really comfortable. I can't even tell I'm wearing it. Like it goes from weighing probably 20 pounds and then suddenly it's only a few ounces. I wonder if it can..." Jay held his arm out horizontally and bit his lower lip while mentally focusing on something. Without warning his arm or rather the gauntlet suddenly grew twenty feet long, while its surface became so covered in spines it looked like a cactus. He then grabbed a handful of sand with the stretched out arm, and it rocketed back to its normal length. Then he threw the sand above his head, and the arm shot up again, this time creating a large umbrella type shape from a huge webbed hand like that of a frog. The sand peacefully poured over the brim of the umbrella. I just stood there and watched him in awe. 

"How... did you do that?!" I yelped. Jay furrowed his brow and shrugged.

"I honestly don't know... it was like a felling or something. It's working much better now." Jay said.

"You know, the same kind of stuff is possible with the shovel, except it's actually hundreds of times more powerful than the gauntlet. Have you ever even tried it out?" Lefty asked me.

I shook my head no.

"We have an hour or two before the cavalry arrives, so let's experiment a little bit." Said Tiny. She slithered up to me and I swear she smiled at me...