Martin stood upright after countless hours spent hunched over his work station.
His spine clicked and popped, the man rubbed his eyes for a long moment before
untwining a cable connecting his computer to the microprocessors in a
shimmering silver cloth the size of a handkerchief. The LARC1 colony’s lead
scientist for reverse engineering felt on the verge of a major
breakthrough. The smart cloth, as he had referred to the project, attempted to recreate the textile armor that shugarra were made of. During the conflicts with the Nefilim, shugarra became one of
his favorite Anki relics. If Sam could perfect the technology, and every
citizen could augment their physical strength, fly, breath underwater, and even
tunnel through solid rock, then not even a returning Anki and Nefilim invasion
force could stop them.
Sam draped the cloth over an open fist and imagined a gloved hand. The textile received his mental cue and wrapped itself around palm and fingers, forming a gauntlet. Remembering Gilgamesh’s boxing lessons, Sam landed a clean right cross into a pad of impact clay. The indentation went clear to the back of the pad. His bare fisted attempt hardly left knuckle marks. The engineer’s eye caught a glimpse of the time on his wall clock and the man swore. Inana, his girlfriend would be meeting him for dinner at Rick’s Diner in just a couple minutes. He stuffed the experimental smart cloth into his pants pocket to show Inana. Seeing no alternative than keeping the Middle Eastern beauty waiting, Sam hurriedly donned his shugarra, withheld from the Colonial Security Forces for study, and in a streak of silver took to the sky.
Sam had just enough time to disrobe the shugarra before his date arrived. Inana swept his mind free of work in an instant. She and her brother Gilgamesh’s shugarra corps patrol had located another pocket of Nefilim in a previously unknown entrance to the Underworld. Not until the couple ambled through the moon lit streets of the colony toward Sam’s quarters that the topic of his research came up. He gave her the briefest description of his progress, the smart cloth itself, still buried in his pocket, completely forgotten. Inana’s evening attire typically had the effect on him. Inana prided herself on being the only thing that kept the workaholic social. His friends all considered her a charity worker for the ability.
Getting ready for bed, Sam tried casually sneaking peeks through the door, left slightly ajar while Inana brushed her lush black hair. Pants around ankles, Sam stumbled on yesterday’s discarded laundry, swearing as he fell headlong into the heap.
“Are you alright out there?”
“This laundry monster is taking on a life of its own,” Sam replied feeling sheepish.
“You really ought to make time for that before it takes over the room.”
That night the smart cloth’s experimental AI puzzled over Sam’s last command until at last it located and cannibalized the electronic components from Sam’s closet necessary to complete the command. Wires, circuits, gears, and small motors formed a network from the smart cloth to the pants, socks, briefs, and shirts cluttering Sam’s bedroom floor while the engineer and shugarra corps woman slept peacefully. Having assimilated Sam’s heap, the smart cloth realized it had a greater capacity and wires snaked through duct work to other citizen’s quarters, returning with soiled garments for its textile carapace.
Inana awoke far earlier than normal with a strange apprehension. She lifted her head gently from Sam’s shoulder and spotted a giant, lumpy figure looming over them. It smelled unwashed, and crept on a dozen limbs to the foot of the bed. As one limb touched the bed, its sheet slithered off the couple and enmeshed itself into the creature.
“Sam, wake up. Your laundry monster needs attention.”
“Right, I’ll get to it on Saturday, I just…” Before he could request another hour’s rest the laundry monster grabbed his night shirt and pulled it violently over the man’s head.
Inana launched herself at the creature and they tumbled across the floor. The living threads uttered a sour cry and pulled Sam’s curtains into its bodily bulk. Massive, looming heaps of laundry menaced Sam and Inana, swiping denim arms, and grasping with sock fingers. Sam motioned for Inana to follow and the pair bolted out the bedroom door, through his quarters, and into the street. The laundry monster galloped after them moving like a drunken centipede.
“Where are we leading it?” Inana asked, pausing to let Sam catch up.
“I’ve got to get it back to my lab. Only one weapon can stop it.”
They raced down the predawn streets until they reached Sam’s lab. The engineer punched the key code and they bolted through the entry, their stinking predator seconds behind them. The creature rushed headlong at them through the dark room until it banged into something solid. Sam and Inana stuffed its rear limbs in behind its bulk and slammed the door to Sam’s centrifuge shut. He quickly mixed a few compounds at a workstation, producing detergent and risked the monster’s escape by splashing it inside. Sam activated the centrifuge, which he occasionally used to launder large items recovered from Anki strongholds.
The pair did not leave Sam’s lab until past noon. The smart cloth safely deactivated and Sam’s laundry stowed in a basket. They accompanied one another going door to door, returning articles of clothing with excuses and apologies to Sam’s bewildered neighbors.