haxx0rgunman's tools of the trade
What is it?

Hmmm?

This project, your new project, what is it?

Oh, of course, the project. Not much I can say about that, all strictly confidential and all that, and I don't believe this a secured line. I can tell you that we have made the next major breakthrough in A.I.-

A.I.?

Artificial intelligence.

* * *

haxx0r gunman almost lost his balance as he slid into the hotel lobby. He was shocked to find that the entire room seemed to be covered in a thick, slippery layer of ice. Even more shocking was the fact that it was the middle of June. Even for Sub-Dakotah, that was more than a little out of the ordinary. There wasn't much of a question in haxx0r gunman's mind as to who was behind this.

There is only one I know of who can turn so much of what is alive and warm into cold, dead ice. This must be the work of that diabolical Chill Penguin!

Although his exact origins were unknown, Chill Penguin was generally reguarded by most experts in the field as nature's most twisted and cruel joke. Standing at 6 feet tall, he was for all practical purposes a human-sized penguin. While his size was definitely strange, stranger still was the fact that he had a deathly cold ice breath that froze all it touched. Since his first appearance in the New United States, he had been showing up in cities all over the country. It was always the same, he'd freeze over some large building, nest in it for a few weeks, and then move on to the next town. Not before encasing any humans he encountered in an icy tomb, though. And while many had stood face to frosty face with Chill Penguin, none had returned unfrozen.

That's why they called us. After Chill Penguin had taken over the hotel, at least his tenth nest, the President realized he'd never get rid of the oversized bird by conventional means. soon commissioned haxx0r gunman and his longtime partner Carlos "Charlie" Blanka to take out the trash, or in this case the penguin. When they arrived on the scene, Charlie had gone in first alone to scout the scene. That was almost three hours ago, and haxx0r gunman had seen or heard nothing of his old friend since. With a heavy heart and and even heavier 2x haxx0rgun, he had kicked down the door and stepped inside to find this veritable winter wonderland. He knew something was wrong after taking a few more careful steps inside. It's not like a penguin, to leave his nest unguarded. Unless of course he is out on the hunt, but the season for that is long past . . .

In answer to his unspoken question, the elevator doors at the opposite end of the lobby slid open, and out filed a group of what must have been at least twenty Arctic Ninjas. They surrounded haxx0r gunman, each brandishing fatally sharp wicked-looking ninja stars made of nothing but more of Chill Penguin's crudely fashioned ice.

Their leader, a brash young Eagle's Claw named Kagare, stepped forth from their ranks and addressed haxx0r gunman. "So Mr. gunman, at long last we finally meet. Is an honor, an honor and yet it is a sacred duty as well. Come with me, haxx0r gunman. Let me welcome you paradise." Kagare led haxx0r gunman away from the lobby, away from the ninjas, and onto one of the elevators. They rode it up to the fourteenth floor, where as soon as he stepped off haxx0r gunman heard the unmistakable sound of . . . A child's laughter? What child could find joy in a prison made of ice? But just as he wondered this very thing, he saw three small children run out of a nearby doorway and down the hall, to build a snowman in a snow-filled room at the end. "What? But this is-" "Impossible? Far from it, Mr. gunman. I know that the President, as well as many others, would have you believe that Chill Penguin is evil, that he seeks to enslave humanity, but the truth is that he seeks to enlighten it. You of all people should know that the truth is not always what it seems. Do try to keep up, Mr. gunman. You have much to learn and little time to learn it in." Kagare increased his pace and haxx0r gunman did the same. The ninja master led him through an endlessly confusing series of hallways and tunnels, until they arrived at what looked like some kind of laboratory. Several scientists in white labcoats were huddled around a control console in the middle of the room. If they noticed the two visitors, they made no sign of it, giving worry to only whatever work they had at the moment. haxx0r gunman was confused. "I do not understand. You speak of enlightenment, when all I see here are synthesizations. Instead of the power of wisdom, you seek the power of creation, and a dangerous power that is indeed." Kagare smiled the smile of a wise old man and then shook his head. "Still, you do not understand? Well than I shall tell you, for our time together is almost gone. What you look upon now, haxx0r gunman, is the heart of our operations. This is meta-ice."

Of all the shocking revelations thus far, this was definitely the greatest. After the major commercial successes of several synthetic elements, such as metasteel and oxybon, it wasn't long before scientists scrambled to synthesize the metaphorical king of all synthesizations. Ice.

For thousands of years, Ice boggled the minds of mankind. What other substance that man knew so readily changed form from solid to liquid, and then back again? And how could man harness this power for his benefit?

The first step to solving this riddle was to find out how to duplicate the chemical properties of ice while maintaining it's chemical stability. While several came close, none could create an element stable enough to reproduce the cold transluscency of ice. Eventually, meta-ice was deemed the "impossible element" and all work towards it's creation was abandoned.

Or so haxx0r gunman had thought. But now it seemed that this team of Chill Penguin's scientists had not only pursued meta-ice, but acheived it. And harness its power they had, as the hotel was standing proof of. But haxx0r gunman still wasn't completely clear. "Meta-ice is all well and good, and heroes of all technicality you are for unlocking its secrets, but it seems to me bitterly ironic. For with Chill Penguin, you are the only ones who had no need for such a thing as meta-ice, yet you sought it more eagerly than those who needed it most. Why?"

Kagare only laughed again. "After all I have said, you still do not see? Perhaps your cyber-eyes, with all their readings and figures, have left you blind to that which matters most. You see haxx0r gunman we synthesized ice but we also synthesized life itself! Chill Penguin is our creation, born of man not of nature, the first true artificial intelligence equipped with the first true artificial ice. With such a creation, we could take humanity into a new era!" But haxx0r gunman did not seem to share Kagare's enthusiasm. He instead shot a harsh glare that burned the old ninja to his very heart. "Did you ever stop to think that perhaps you are not fit to make such choices for the whole of humanity? Didn't you realize that the reason we have no meta-ice is because we are not yet ready for responsibilty. You have tried to jump start the engine of progress, but the tank has not yet drank from the ocean of understanding that serves as its fuel. Well, I lifeguard the beaches of that ocean, and no one takes a drink without first paying the full admission!"

When he ended his firespray of 2x haxx0rbolts, the scientists were all dead and Kagare lay on the floor, breathing his final breaths. "haxx0r gunman . . . you who thought we were so carefree, so foolish, now you shall see the truth. For though we created these things for the sake of creation, we knew there might come a time when destruction's sake was the only one we had any stock in. That's why we built an entire-" Kagare inhaled sharply, then his eyelids fluttered for a few moments, and he was gone. haxx0r gunman held his limp form for a long time.

After what seemed like an eternity, he stood and wiped a single tear from his eye. Then he walked out the door, trying to remember just how to get back out of this winding maze. That's when he found himself once again surrounded, only this time by at least a hundred chill penguins, each one's meta-ice armed beak pointed squarely at his head.

"Freeze!" the nearest Chill Penguin cried out.

One way or another, haxx0r gunman didn't have much of a choice.