A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do. Tautology. That’s fancy philosophy speak for circular reasoning. Like I said before, you can charge extra for crap with a fancy French name and call it gourmet. When it comes to philosophy, it’s crap with a Greek name. And yet this crap is so considered wise, but the moment I start talking about critical butt sex failure, I’m deemed ridiculous and weird. Such people lack imagination, but I think we’re heading too much into sob story territory here, and this is not a sob story. This is a story about a whale. No!
This is a story about being happy!
Holly and Sam weren’t happy. We knew where Max was after your dimension was so kind as to hold the data for me, but the issue was about getting him out. Sam and Holly had this whole loyalty thing that was getting in the way. It would have been an admirable trait except they were heading into near-certain death.
They wanted to charge in with me. Upon finding out that I knew Max’s location, they gathered up their gear, whatever it was. Sam even took the time to hit up the bathroom. Good head on her shoulders.
I went ahead and gave my own self a similar bug to Max’s, right in the chest. Just had to slip off the armor, jab a knife in there, insert, have a shot of nanites, and by the time I had my armor on they were closing me up. Now that I knew that thing worked so well, I wanted one of my own. I figured I could write on the thing and send out the blog this way if I was ever too far away from my stuff.
Holly opened one of the kitchen cabinets and pulled out a bullet proof vest from somewhere, and started grabbing every knife in the place. I doubt she could have done much murder with some of them, but she was bound and determined to spread some Hephaestus butter.
I grabbed one of them away from her. At first, she didn’t react. After a second to think about it, she got angry and lunged for the knife, which I held away from her. “Hey, give that back!” she yelled, her voice going a little too high. I moved in front of the bathroom door to keep Sam from interfering as I played Keep Away with Holly. I heard Sam shuffling around in there in some sort of hurry. Probably the unpleasant kind of hurry, which is the standard hurry of the bathroom.
I ignored Sam’s attempts to open the door and addressed Holly, who was now tearing up as she jumped and tried to take the knife from me. “As much as you think killing someone with a butter knife is going to solve your problems, there is no margarine of error here!”
Holly pulled a knife and stabbed at me. It slid off the armor and clattered out of her hand, which then stuck a chest plate. She rubbed at her hand where it hit me. “See? You’re not cut out for hand to chest combat.”
“No one’s cut out to fight you, but that doesn’t mean I can’t kill a few of them.”
“Hey, what’s going on out there?!” Sam yelled out. She pushed harder now.
“Nothing, Sam. Don’t get your panties in a knot. And make sure to wipe!” I yelled back.
“Panties in a knot?” Holly repeated after me. “Why don’t you want me to go kill people? Is it because I’m a woman?”
I put my hands up, palms toward her, keeping the knife between two fingers. “I need you to listen to me, Holly. Do you trust me?”
“No,” she said, and tried to grab the butter knife again.
I dropped the knife in front of me with my right hand. She lunged to grab it, but I grabbed her throat with my left hand. I spun quickly, pressing her against the door, trapping Sam in again after she got her hopes up and the door part of the way open. From the flammable gas warning that popped up in my HUD, Sam’s attempt to escape might not have been just because I was doing something to Holly.
As for Holly, I held her up in the air by her throat while she kicked at me and the door. I wanted to tell her something, but it was hard with her whining so much. “Sh, sh, sh, calm down and listen to me. Listen to me!” I lightly popped her head against the door to make her pay attention. She moaned in pain, but it kept her from struggling so much, so I lowered her where she could barely touch the floor.
“Now then,” I said. “You’ve been a little bit on tilt lately. You know, upset, angry, sad, perhaps with some uncomfortable feminine itch or even some burning when you urinate courtesy a swarthy Latin lover named Esteban…not judging, and feel free to correct me on the details of your love life. That’s beside the point. Look at you. I don’t know what Max taught you, but you’ve never been a real part of the fighting before this. Before that night you got terrorized doggy style by a hellhound. Why do you want to do this?”
I lowered her a little more. “Please,” she whispered to me, “Please, I have to do something. I don’t want to be helpless again. I have to help save him. I have to.”
“You’re fodder, Holly. And you’re not quite right in the head. You go in there with me, you’ll die. Sam too, and she’s the stronger of you two. Cry and plead all you want, but I’ve heard a lot of it before.”
“Please,” she said again. She grabbed at her pocket and brought out a steak knife. She slashed futilely at my arm, sobbing. It was not a pretty sight, especially the snot draining out of her nose.
Here’s where not being a particularly good person proved advantageous. “Alright, let me make this simple for you.” I set her down, grabbed the wrist she was slashing at me with, and brought my other hand around, and snapped her ulna. Ignoring the scream of pain, I let her go then, and she stumbled over to the steps leading up to the bed. Sam slammed the door of the lavatory open and rushed out. She glared at me even as she checked on her friend.
“Take care of her. And don’t let her go fighting. I think she’s still in that maze with that demon dog a little bit, up here.” I pointed at my head.
As I turned to leave, Moai rotated and ducked through the door into the entryway. I caught up to him in there and patted him on the side of the head. “You look after them.”
His head tilted back, as if in shock.
“I just got you out. I’d rather you were in there backing me up. I’d prefer it to those two. But this might go bad for me. Plus, I’m leaving Sam and Holly out because they’re not so much prepared for all this wild fighting stuff. Not to this degree. But it’s dangerous out here, too. No matter what, I am getting Max out. Wouldn’t do to have him out and have his loyal assistants massacred. And move the trailer every once in awhile. They might have a way to find it.”
Moai nodded and turned to go back in.
When I stepped out the door, a dozen leisure-suited boogeymen greeted me, smiling from out of the darkness that held their lesser brethren.
I tipped my helmet to them. “Alright, folks, let’s go solve the world’s overpopulation problem.”
Half an hour later, I ran through the corridors of a base that was at times reminiscent of 1960s Cold War bunker and other times the leftover from a 1980s fantasy movie. I could turn a corner from parse, light brown walls and vinyl floors and wind up in a passageway of rock light with dripping torches. To think, it was all part of a compound underneath this epic plantation-looking mansion in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
Rather than try to fight me, guards and workers retreated, occasionally sealing heavy doors behind me that featured magical glyphs of some sort. There was always some way out, even if it involved blowing a hole into an adjacent room or widening some air ducts with a chicken grenade. There had been no guards up top, just a sense of paranoia as I approached the mansion, like I had things watching me from the dark.
Maybe I just have a go-getter attitude or maybe it was all the friendly things I had lurking in the dark, but I got past that mental mumbo jumbo and found my way down through a trap door in the basement.
Then began the running through the corridors part, which was quickly losing its luster because the guards were all leaving me alone. At some point, I noticed that only some of the corridors were sealed off and other doors were left wide open. I took a couple of them before figuring out they were leading me somewhere. I double checked Max’s last known location and saw they corralling me well away from it.
That wouldn’t do. I blew my way through a wall in the correct direction and stepped through. Directly into a toilet. A bathroom. As if to punctuate this realization, a cinderblock plopped into the toilet. I opened the door and stepped out to the stares of other men who had been washing their hands, using the urinals, or peeking out their doors. I pointed back to the charred hole in the wall. “Too much Burrito Bell for lunch, know what I’m saying? I wouldn’t go in there, though, because I blew it up. Shittin’ bricks, you know?”
They fled in terror. That’s some damn common courtesy for you, isn’t it? It was funny, too. Mages were depicted with robes often enough, but these guys looked like regular office drones in button-up shirts and slacks.
The bastards at Faustus had crushed all the fun out of magic with their boring corporate conformity. Or maybe that was just the IT pool.
Either way, I soon found my way past guards trying to flirt with me via rail gun and burst through a wall into the room Max was supposedly being held in.
Surprise, surprise, it was a really big room with a smaller observation room. Like the rest of the place, it had a bit of a schizophrenic design: fluorescent lit the middle of the room while the edges were illuminated by hovering orbs in sconces. It was a room with an odd fusion of modern and fantasy.
Oh, and enemies. Lots of enemies. Terrorjaw, Gorilla Badass, Motley Sue, and Quick Sand were all there from Pivot’s little Annihilation Eight team. Conventional Hephaestus guards held flanked me in a sort of crescent moon shape on either end of the Eight and their magical friends nearby. At the head of a group of men in camo who stood without guns in hand was something that looked like a floating iron maiden flanked by . Not the good kind, with the music and Eddie the Head. The pointy kind. Except the metal face on the outside had glowing eyes.
“Aha!” I exclaimed. “You’re all here! Right where I wanted you. Except Max, where’s he?”
The iron maiden answered with a digitally altered voice. “Your friend is within the testing chamber. Acolyte Samson, enlighten our guest as to the fate of his friend should he resist.”
A man stepped up beside him in urban grey, white, black camo and a hood over his face. He held something in his hand that engulfed it in magical flames without burning himself. I couldn’t see his face at all somehow, but his voice was clear enough. “Resist and your friend is thrown to the minotaur, who shall break his bones and devour him, leaving the head for last.”
“Sounds fun. I think I want to resist.”
“What?” Acolyte Samson asked.
“Well come on. Almost everyone in this room’s about to die and y’all went to all the effort to set that up. I mean, it sounds pretty cool. I’d like to see it since you guys actually found a minotaur. Or bred a minotaur. Hey, which one of you guys’ wives was picked for bull fucking duty? But seriously, all you guard guys, you don’t have too much longer to live. Don’t you want to be able to say you saw a supervillain fight a minotaur before your death?”
Silence reigned in the room as they contemplated my enthusiasm. Meanwhile, I spoke more softly into my helmet. “Alright, guys. The goal is getting Max out. Whatever you do, go for him, alright?”
I heard a chuckle that seemed indicative.
I put my hands up. “Alright, you convinced me. I’ll pretend to give up, then we can struggle and the minotaur can fight while and hopefully break out while we’re screwing around out here. Now, let me just get my helmet off…”
“You’re not getting anything off!” growled Terrorjaw.
“That’s not what your wife said,” I retorted with a smile as I removed my helmet and the shadowy beings hidden in my armor shot out like a fountain of black ink.
The boogeymen were scarcely out of my armor when the orbs around the room turned off. I slammed my armor back on my head and got low, dodging, ducking, dipping, diving, and then dodging again as rail rifles cracked. It didn’t help too much when one of them shattered my hip and another cracked the visor of my helmet. By then, the orbs were out, and with a wide smile from one of the disco-suited boogeymen, the fluorescents went all at once. We were plunged into darkness.
I had the suit though. My helmet allowed me to see with the ole night vision. That threw off most of the guys shooting at me, even some of the mages who hurled fireballs, icicles, lightning bolts, and magic blasts at the area where I stood. I was too busy closing in on the Eight. Motley Sue was my first target, though I soon saw tiny bits of sand whirling in my vision as Quick Sand got a sense of where I was. Eyes closed, Sue was strumming, trying to pay attention, trying to find me in everything that was going on. I briefly saw her eyes open in shock before teeth closed around me like a vice and I was slammed into the ground by Terrorjaw.
His teeth couldn’t get through, but he was pinning me in place. He gave me a nasty surprise. I thought it was only right to give him one back. The Nasty Surprise, my handy hidden mini-chainsaw, slid out and fired up, digging into the flesh at the corner of Terrorjaw’s predatory grin.
He howled even as he tried to dig his teeth into me. “Relax,” I said, “Everyone’s going to want to know how you got these scars.”
The bad news is I didn’t get to finish. The good news was that Motley Sue struck out blindly. Or she just didn’t give a shit about Terrorjaw. Her music caused something to slam into us, knocking Terrorjaw off of me. Unfortunately, it was Quick Sand’s time then. He gathered himself together and drove his sand into my visor, sandblasting it, then looped back around to keep up the pressure. Getting an idea, I called out to the various mages nearby. “Hey, wannabe Harry Potters! Your mommas turned tricks!”
From there, it was a matter of rolling as magical barrages flew into the area around me where Hephaestus’s pet supervillains had gathered. Quick Sand couldn’t keep up with me. He was mostly turned to glass after the first few lightning bolts hit, then melted, frozen, and finally shattered as everything else caught up. There weren’t many sand particles left after that.
It scattered the other villains, at least at first. Then they were on me. Something that vibrated to Sue’s tune held down my legs while Terrorjaw found me again and tried to bite off my Nasty Surprise arm. Even the muscle enhancers weren’t overcoming their determination. I still thought I had a good shot at them, right up until something sparked on the ceiling. One moment, there were just sparks that illuminated a pockmark-faced gorilla hard at work. Then some magical word reverberated through the room, and there was light. And I saw the light, and it was not good. There were parts of it that were good. Max was gone. Out of there thanks to the boogeymen, who have had an annoying ability to teleport when lights are turned on in any room they’re in. That was the first of the bad parts of all this.
The bad parts began when the iron maiden began to grow arms and legs, each one at least as long as I am. The iron maiden spoke, revealing it was the one to say whatever turned the lights back on. It began to chant something else, with its mages joining in. It was horrible. I couldn’t even bang my head to it.
Instead, I took one look at the situation and said “Fuck this shit.” The assassination part of the plan had gone FUBAR and I wasn’t in so much of a position to fight my way out as flee with as many body parts as possible.
I pulled a chicken grenade’s head off while it was slung through my belt, then pulled it out and went to throw it. Right when I tried, the floor opened up beneath me and I fell, grenade coming down with me. Everything looked like stars all around me as I fell, and I could see Gorilla Badass watch me from where he clung to the rafters above. I also saw the chicken grenade coming down right on me. Its explosion didn’t help my head any, but it helped throw me to wherever I was going. I heard my neck snap just before I blacked out.
That would be a great place for a cliffhanger if this was a story, or if I could just blog every single day. That’s not all or even the most important thing to happen to me in this time period. That was probably when I woke up to a room that was all white. There were no lights, but the light just came from somewhere. No doors, no windows, no sign of the hole I fell through.
The white didn’t much help my headache, but at least I hadn’t been out too long. Remember, knocking someone out for more than five minutes means they probably suffered brain damage. I could regrow the hardware, but I preferred not to lose the software, especially the hidden porn files. At least the spinal column regenerated thanks to the impact bursting some of the nanite quilting.
Since then, even though I’ve kept everything I had on me when I got in this place, it’s been…boring. Days straight in here. No word from the outside. No word from Max. No word from anybody. No radio, no TV, no satellite or wifi signals. Food was delivered to me, but it always just sort of appeared somewhere I wasn’t paying attention. Weird thing was, the peripheral cameras linked to my helmet never caught the delivery either. I would keep an eye out all around when it got to be a few hours since my last meal, and see nothing. Then I turned and there was food, sitting right on the ground. Sandwiches sometimes. Pizzas. Fast food burgers and fries. Wherever I was, I knew I was connected to the real world.
All the waste disappeared similarly, which nearly blew up in my face. After I’d noticed that trick being pulled on my droppings, I tried to hide a chicken grenade in the middle of a pile with a loose head, hoping, it might surprise my captor. Like I said, that one blew up in my face when just the crap disappeared.
I figured out a plan, though, and that’s why y’all have been able to read all this. The bug said I was still down there under that mansion. I just had to rig it send the message back through the other device with my computer to inform Max, Sam, Holly, and Moai where I am and hope they figure out something to get me out of here.
Fuck, this became a story about a man finding himself and having to depend on the power of friendship after all. Whatever happens, readers, don’t let them sell the movie rights to Disney.