This Vespanican guy had an interesting base. He moved into an abandoned nuclear power plant. Bit of a touchy subject around here, nuclear power. Another good example of a force of nature turning on mankind, and an overall insidious choice. Some of this bunch needed all the help they could get.
I hung out with these guys, and while they’re pretty fun, I wouldn’t put them down as the types to take over the world. Vespanican himself is aloof and quiet enough, with an intimidating presence toward the others.
His lieutenants are the interesting ones. For starters, they don’t look like Vespanican or the rangers. They don’t appear to be people in suits. They’re bugs. Giant, anthropomorphic bugs. It occurs to me that I sure am dealing with a lot of bugs between Australia and Japan.
The muscle of the group is this big cockroach guy called Perri. He walks around on two legs with the rest of them all sticking together so it looks like he has huge arms. His antennas do this thing where they curve back in a way that makes him look like he has a pompadour. He’s always knocking stuff over and wrecking stuff. When I first walked in, he ran over to hug me and ask if I had any food.
Then there’s the smart guy, Kade the centipede. He’s tall and skinny, with a shiny black exoskeleton, yellow legs, and a red head. He’s always doing things with his hands, rifling through my pockets. He says weird things, too. He’s nicknamed me “Tasty” and I don’t think it’s meant in a fun way. Plus, he’s got this trailing part of his body, like a tail, that he draped over my shoulder once or twice.
His wife was a lot like that, too. I don’t know much about mosquito sexual dimorphism, but she was a skinny humanoid with an exoskeleton and and fake boobs. Normally I don’t care about fake boobs, but most of those are on female mammals, not on a bug person named Maude Squito. She didn’t get handsy like her husband, just lipsy. Kinda. She didn’t really have lips, but she kept trying to kiss me and muss up my hair with her fluttery wings.
The first time she did that, I acted all hesitant and said, “I think I need an adult.” Then fucking spider-girl dropped down behind me. She meant to spook me, but I had my helmet on with its handy display. She looked curvier than the mosquito woman, with her fuzzy brown thorax. She stood on two pairs of legs, and used another pair as extra arms. Unlike the others, she didn’t try to touch me. She bowed in the Japanese custom and began idle chitchat while looking me over with all those eyes. She introduced herself as Ashidaka.
“Overjoyed to have you in our parlor,” she told me, smiling. She had teeth. Teeth and mandibles that pumped up and down on her cheeks.
After meeting the clown car, I stopped off at the throne room, juggling my anti-armor grenade. Lord Vespanican got the first word in, his voice booming quite well. He put some thought into acoustics. “You’ve met the idiots I must usually rely on. I assume your Moai statue doesn’t talk back.” He waved his hand lazily in the direction of Moai, who stood by the door to keep us from being interrupted.
“From my experience, the intelligence of sapient beings decreases inversely proportional to the number of them present. That’s why people always do dumb shit in schools and at parties. That and alcohol. If you don’t like them so much, why keep them around? You could always push them away, arrange for them to get caught, fire them, or reassign them to a far away place,” I volunteered helpfully, wondering how many of them were eavesdropping. I guess I’d find out next time I ran into them.
He set his head on one hand, elbow propped on his armrest. “I need them. The roach is good for carrying heavy loads. Kade uses his Genetic Sequence Grower to create monsters for us using DNA obtained by Maude.”
I nodded. “Yes, I got the feeling she likes finding other men’s DNA.”
He kept on talking, “And Ashidaka is an amazing spy.”
“So they can all do things you can’t?” I asked.
The fingers of his right hand dug into the armrest, cracking it. It also showed off his impressive bling. The guy had a gem in the shape of a paper seal. It’s one of those taoist things around here. Had that always been on his bracer? Huh, he had one on each. Maybe I’ve been touching myself too long, because I should have noticed those before that moment. “I am the strongest of all. I could replace any and all of them. If I did that, I would spend my time doing their jobs. I am the leader and that means I don’t waste time on smaller problems.”
“That’s one way to do things.” I tossed up the anti-armor grenade and caught it. “Besides, I have all the problem solver you need right here. So, when do we head and out do this ‘destroying the rangers’ thing?”
“Kade says the next monster will be ready in three days time.”
Disappointed, I deposited the grenade in a pouch on my belt. “I thought you all would be ready.”
Vespanican raised a hand and closed it in a fist, causing the air above me to shimmer with past fights between Nature Force and the monsters of Vespanican’s Extinction Army. “It takes a week to grow a new monster. We can’t attack any sooner.” I watched as anthropomorphic small animals fought and lost to the rangers, four on one, one after the other.
I used my armor and projected additional stick figures on the side of the monster. “You know, if you saved up a couple weeks and sent more, that might do it. Or if you helped handle that problem personally.”
“That’s why I have you. If you can do what you claim, accompanying my next monster to destroy the rangers will prove no great challenge. Until then, you will wait and remember that I am in charge here.” He opened his fist, ending the recap of past defeats for his side.
“How about we cut the challenge crap and you send one of your other guys with me?”
“I have them doing other things. It will just have to be you and the monster.”
His decision frustrated me, but I relented and accepted it. Then I stepped outside to find Perri hiding by the door. “Hey,” I asked him, “want to go wreck some shit?”
“Oh boy, do I!” he clapped his hands together.
Thirty minutes later, we stood in front of ODA’s office building. I gave Perri a light punch on the shoulder. “So, I hear you’re the strong one.”
He nodded enthusiastically. “Uh huh, uh huh.”
“Really? You don’t look so strong. What can you lift?” I spread my arms, hoping to draw attention to the cars parked on the curb.
“How can you say that? Here!” Perri walked over to one of the cars and lifted the front end, then stepped under the body to lift it all up over his head. “See!”
I tapped one armored boot on the ground. “I don’t know, they make small cars here. I wouldn’t trust your strength as far as I could throw you.”
“Oh yeah? How about as far as I can throw this?” He tossed the machine right at the ODA building, shattering glass and staining salarymen’s underpants.
“Ha! Moai could probably throw harder than you and knock that building down before you could!” I taunted Perri. While you should never assume someone who is strong is also a bit on the slow side, you’d be forgiven for thinking that about Perri. “Moai, why don’t you demonstrate your superior strength.”
I honestly couldn’t remember if Moai could lift a car, but he bounced over beside another small Japanese auto and threw it, spinning, by its side into the building.
“He didn’t even hold it over his head first! Clearly I am the strongest,” Perri said.
I pointed at the hole in the building, which looked bigger due to the car’s spin. “He did have a more impressive throw than you. I don’t think this is finished yet.”
And so the pair went, happily tossing cars at the ODA offices until we heard a commotion behind us. “Stop right there, evil Extincters!”
Hey! Nobody calls me an extincter! Sure, I can get a little ripe the more I stay in the suit, but I happen to love a good bath. I whirled around, my HUD already showing me what we faced. Green Mantis and Black Beetle stood there, weapons at the ready. Yellow Moth and Blue Dragonfly dropped from the air to land on either side of them, the bottom of Moth’s wings sliding around her waist to form a skirt.
Perri raised his hands toward his proportionally tiny head. “Uh oh. It’s Nature Force!”
“That’s right!” called out Green Mantis, exceeding my weekly allowance of exclamation points. “Surrender now and we might let you live.”
Bloodthirsty little teenagers with attitude, aren’t they? You kill a few heroes and everyone loses they’re fucking minds. Be a hero slaughtering days-old humanoids that look creepy and suddenly you’re the savior of mankind.
I reached down and pulled out a pair of wasp nests. I switched to English so as to properly tell them, “Excuse me for not listening, but I don’t like it when heroes drone on.” I tossed the nests onto the ground in front of the ranges. A cloud of wasps issued forth from each and hovered in the air above the nests momentarily before they grew and landed on the ground. They stood as black and yellow humanoids with a stinger on their right hands, the sunlight glinting off their untarnished exoskeletons. I pointed at the rangers and ordered the drones to attack, “Buzzkills, buzz and kill! Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!”
While the buzzkills engaged the rangers in a suicidal melee, Perri patted me on the shoulder. “That was good. Have you done this before?”
“Too many times. But not too many more with these guys.” I unclipped the anti-armor grenade and pulled the pin out of the top. Turning toward Perri, I offered him a hand with my index finger sticking out. “Here, pull my finger.”
I threw the grenade as he gave it a yank. Over the fighting rangers and buzzkills, the top section expelled a loud puff and yellow fluid that rained down over the combatants below. It tumbled to the ground, leaving the rangers confused as nothing seemed to happen. Then the cloud of thick, green fumes whooshed out of the bottom section and engulfed the area.
“What is this?” asked one of the male rangers from the cloud of mixing chemicals.
I pointed at Perri, aware they probably couldn’t see me anyway. “He did it.”
The cloud suddenly blew outward in a ring and I caught a glimpse of the yellow ranger in the air, her wings stretched wide. However, she fell to the ground before she could make a graceful landing. The others rushed to her, concerned, but found themselves overwhelmed by the buzzkills. Slashes of stinger blades threw sparks into the air and knocked the rangers off their feet.
“What’s going on? What’s happened to our powers?” asked the blue guy, looking at his gloves.
“We need to get everyone together!” yelled the black ranger. He stood up and sent a couple buzzkills flying with punches. Unlike other times, they jumped back to their feet.
A voiced boomed out. “WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS!” A horde of hornets descended from the sky and came together to form Lord Vespanican.
A spider that went unnoticed until now grew into Ashidaka. “I told you they attacked without your permission, my lord.”
“Dammit, move!” I tried to look past the pair of party poopers to see how the buzzkills were doing. They stood, looking in all directions. The rangers were nowhere in sight.
Vespanican grabbed me and looked me right in the visor, probably glaring behind his mask. “You disobeyed my order!”
I poked him in the chest. “You let the rangers escape. If you were half as concerned with stopping them as you were with your own pecking order, they’d be gone!”
He slapped my finger away with one hand and drew one of his stinger blades with the other, holding it against my neck. “You could have ruined my plans. We have a deal, you and I! If you get defeated before I’m ready to use you, you’re worth less to me than the drones you stole.”
“They like being called buzzkills. It’s a solid name. Motivates them a lot more than just calling them drones.”
Perri moved to stand beside Ashidaka, but otherwise kept quiet. He let me be the one to evoke Vespanican’s ire. The hornet-themed liege lord growled at me. “This was a mistake. You are as irresponsible and unworthy as the rest of the humans!”
“Maybe, but I still got them with my grenade. Boom. Pow. They’re armor is wrecked. The buzzkills were beating them. Your monster gets to do whatever the hell he wants now.”
Vespanican lowered his sword. “They will repair their armor. They always do.”
I shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not. If they do, we’ll just use more.” I smiled under my armor as Vespanican sheathed his sword.
He leaned in close. “When we get back, report to Kade on your trick with the rangers. You will need his help to produce all I may need. Do this. We still have rangers to destroy.”
“Personally, I’d rather we skip the destroying and go straight to the killing, but whatever.”