Stupid, stupid, stupid.
I counted too much on people being bored and forgot something really simple. See, this was something of an event, but you have to remember that by now it’s been more than a week that the aliens have been around. Not a lot of time, but there’s a limit to how many days most news crews want to sit around and point a camera at a fuzzy-looking spaceship.
And that’s not even counting government assets. Pick a government, any government, so long as they have satellites. I’d say I allowed my mortality-driven expediency to push me into acting irrationally. I’d say it, but there’s so much wrong with that sentence, starting with the assumption that my actions are normally rational. The only way I can explain it is that I acted stupid because…shit…because I’m afraid. They already killed me once in the future. That’s the way things are supposed to go. And now that I think about it, the late Fortune Cookie’s advice that I just be myself kinda sucks. I was probably being myself in the future where I died, after all. I probably wouldn’t have been Norma or this sneaky cloak-and-dagger fucker I’ve been. I’m naturally a different sort of sneaky. It’s the difference between knifing someone in the back undetected, and smuggling a nuclear bomb into the middle of a city.
I’m the nuke, preferably sent from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure. Or at least that’s what I am today, along with royally fucked.
I could talk a lot about having planned things to happen this way, or point out that no one can focus on security camera footage for anywhere near the length of time to catch everything, but there’s still viral footage out there. It doesn’t show Psycho Gecko doing anything. It doesn’t show my cover at the UN. But it shows Mr. Old Chinese Dude walking around, kneeling by the shuttles goo skirt, putting something on the sides, and tossing something up top.
Maybe the various governments with spy satellites would have stayed quiet, just to see what was going on, except everything got exposed to the public. The fucking public. The ignorant bunch of jackasses that distrusts every jackass they themselves put into office. The sort that thinks governments can’t be trusted to regulate food safety, but have no problem if they want to spend money on building lots of nukes.
Back to nukes again. Aren’t I in a glowing mood today?
So, anyway, the bomb’s still not done, but everyone knows something’s up. The immediate likely response? Temporary recall of the ambassador and a tightening of security, with future meetings set in a different locale, one that favors the aggrieved party. But just because one has to dip one’s toe into the waters of conventional sanity doesn’t mean I should let it sweep me away.
As quickly as possible, I set Moai up with a plane trip out of town and a nice big bag of luggage, then some very strict instructions for what to do with his life after he got off. It was important. I had to look after the most important person in my life, after all.
I also advised Crash to let everyone in the company know things may get difficult for awhile, except for Carl. I took him aside and let him know that, “Carl, my man, it’s about time you used up as much of your paid time off as you can. In fact, take extra. It’s just a good time to get away.”
He fidgeted in the fancy suit he now wore, which may well have been his source of discomfort if not for the fact that I was warning him to run. “Boss, what’s going to happen?”
I just chuckled and pulled him into a hug before whispering. “Hell is empty, and all the demons are here.”
He was too shocked to even try a grope like Juanito from Isla Tropica did. I drew the line at licking his ear, though. I don’t know where that ear’s been.
As for Technolutionary, my partner in crime hellbent on turning people into my species…well, fuck him. He can wait. Same for Venus. Same for Beetrice. Much as I hate to say it, same for Wildflower, too. Now, as much as I know that the key to a good relationship is communication, I also knew she was still at least a little bit of a hero. So all I did was tease her on my way out.
“Have fun on patrol, puttytat?” I asked, showing off how good I looked in a nice women’s business outfit.
After collecting her jaw off the floor, my heavily-hybridized honey answered with. “I stopped a mugger.”
I rolled my eyes. “Psh, stopping some poor mugger who’s just trying to put dinner on the table. Why can’t you go after some big threat, like a bank robber or something?” I stuck out my tongue at her playfully. I’d go into more depth about our goodbye, but I much prefer to discuss how the world screws me.
That implies quite a bit of finality to my leaving Double Cross Tower, doesn’t it? I suppose it all does. But, really, I hoped to survive my latest trip to the United Nations. I had to leave behind any weapons with the advanced screening procedures, but I managed to keep all my body parts and a pen. And the pen is mightier than the sword, or so says a bunch of people moping around without any swords, staring at their pens instead. Sigh. Do I have a sword yet? Nope, still just a fucking pen. At least the pen is mightier than the sword. Damn sword probably would have been too heavy anyway. Sigh.
But I got through perfectly fine, as I said. It all depends on where you position various pieces of metal. Just like homicide. Or sex.
Once in, I knew I needed to find the alien diplomatic dude with haste, a feat I thought I pulled off when I found an inordinately-sized crowd of newspeople running through the halls. I guess I could have gotten in that way instead of playing on El Presidente’s favors. Cameras are great for bludgeoning things to death. Especially, as I found out the one time I tried camping, witches. Bitch witch should have laid off the creepy stick figures.
Back in the UN’s main building, I strolled casually as if I had a purpose. And that purpose was simple: find the alien ambassador. The job, if I had to call it anything, was a Lee Harvey Oswald, aka a John Wilkes Booth. To translate that from hitman lingo, that’s a kill with significant risk to the killer. They’re expected to be arrested and/or killed in the process, due to the target’s high profile and the inability to completely subvert their security measures. Because I knew there were security suits around, and they were good enough not to look like suits. And it wasn’t that easy just finding things anymore. My recon mission should have involved some useful recon. They’d remodeled since the last time I stopped in. My visits tend to do that.
So y’all are probably wondering: why kill this guy after I made such a big deal about being sneaky before? Because it would start a war. It’s going to happen anyway, but at least I can make it happen on my terms. If you can’t completely stop an enemy’s plan, you can at least attempt to throw it off.
I had to reach out mentally and sense for open connections. They can have all the security they want, but an unsecured cell phone is still a sneaky way in. And after wandering all over the place, I finally heard something promising. Korean being spoken back and forth, with one voice sounding like an electronic crackle. Like it landed on one of those snowy channels years back. So either one of North Korea’s guys was playing with his videogame girlfriend, or someone inhuman was talking to someone Korean. Did y’all know the Secretary General of the United Nations is Korean?
Now you know, and knowing is half the battle. Yoooooo, Cobra!
Listening in like that, I had their location. It sounded like a small room, something my translator program confirmed when it caught up with giving me Korean. Entirely different lineage of languages compared to pretty much anything Western.
“What are you doing to us?” cried the Korean human.
The crackly voice answered, “I was ordered. ‘Induce communication cortex.’ They spoke openly of this. Many of my people are tired of fighting. They accept our loss in our civil war. I must lead them to the true way. I am one of the many who knows this. You die here and by your deception force a war we will swiftly win.”
I overheard a sudden gasp that was cut off, followed by sounds of a struggle.
The Korean must not have been the one getting choked out. Maybe he’d live long enough for me to kill him. “What would war achieve for you, besides useless death?”
“Useful lives. Our victory will be easy. Few will die, most will live. We gain an army seven billion strong. Your people will be sacrificed for our utopia.”
That sounded familiar, on several levels. I rounded a corner and found one of the fluid guards standing at the door. I stopped and looked it in its black, featureless face. It looked like it had ridges, whatever the being was encased in. I smiled and reached up to mess around with the pen holding up my hair. “Hey, you’re one of those aliens, aren’t you? I was just curious about something.” I made a show of looking down over the thing’s body, which looked neither muscular nor boobtastic.
It didn’t react to me at all, so I clicked the pen and jabbed its point into the thing’s throat. Its neck seemingly deflated as a black liquid spurted out. Pushing with both hands, I tore it through the material, which seemed a little tougher than skin. No bones in it, either. Just lots of that black gunk. Its entire head flattened out.
Didn’t seem to be that tough, at first. Then the goo stopped pouring out. Instead, it twisted in midair and wrapped around my head, slamming me back against the opposite wall hard enough to drive the air out of me. While some of it got into my mouth and nose, it didn’t push in. It just knocked me back against the wall again. I tried swiping a hand through the goop, then an arm, then both arms. I couldn’t see very well, but flailing was better than doing nothing. The goo fell away momentarily as I felt more force against my arms. I ducked then and stopped blocking, then threw myself against its body where it still stood, looking a little emptier than before. I stabbed away, again and again, while hacking up black gunk. That is, while spitting and vomitting. Not easy to stab someone while puking. It’s an acquired skill.
I didn’t think I was getting anywhere, except in the middle of a mess of more goo as it wrapped around my chest and began to squeeze. “Not gonna lie..” I squeezed out, using precious air. “You’re being a real dick right now. And a lot harder to kill than I thought.” You can kill everything living, but they didn’t seem to have anything living in the suits. Like fighting water. Worse, water with a mind, like fucking nanites. Nanites in a humanoid suit. Rage filled me at not having considered it, coupling with the mounting fear and pain to create a threesome simultaneous orgasm of adrenaline. My pen hand moved like a blur and I swiped through the suit with the blackened zirconium nails of my free hand. I just hoped I could somehow destabilize the entire thing.
And then I did. It happened when I thought I’d torn through the back of the suit because my pen hit something a little tougher. When it didn’t go through, I brought my claws to meet what I figured was the wall. Instead of hitting the wall, my hand closed on some rounded thing. I squeezed, digging my nails in. Squeezing this thing as bad as this thing as squeezing me. Now serving: heavily tenderized ribs. Probably broken.
One good squeeze later and I could breath a little more easily while standing in a puddle of the same goop that drained out of the collapsing encounter suit. Feeling like it still had a grip on me, I slunk back against the opposite wall and tried to suck down some glorious air. Ah, nitrogen. The lifeblood of the human body. The other gases might disagree, but that level of pettiness is a good example of the sort of antics you can expect among low-class gases. The noble gases never act that way. ‘Tis an elemental form of aristocracy.
I’d gotten lucky with that control sphere thing. Dumb luck can be an incredible asset when your ass is on the line, but it’s nothing to rely on. At least I now knew these things had some sort of thing in them I could break to defeat them. Now to hope I don’t have to rely on dumb luck any more.
As if in answer to my desire to no longer be lucky, the door chose that time to open, propelled as it was by the hand of the other bodyguard as it led the way for the exiting diplomat himself.
He looked between the rapidly-spreading black puddle, shredded bodysuit, and gunk-covered me, and asked me, “What has happened here?” in Korean.
“I’m Japanese,” I answered in Spanish.
His bright blue eyes bored into me, like something dull that penetrates stuff. A Great Gatsby dildo, maybe. Sorry, book lovers, but I don’t read it aloud and the opening paragraph still gives me dry mouth.
“You,” the human-looking alien began, this time in English, “Obey. You serve. You pave the way.”
“Fuck you,” I told him, wondering why what he said sounded so damn familiar.
“Walk with us while we depart. My guard and I are leaving, but you stay. Thank you for killing this one. It lacked commitment to our cause. Kill anyone who attempts to stop me leaving.” He and the other guard turned and began to walk. Without meaning to, I followed, and followed quickly despite my injuries.
“I never came here to help you out.”
He didn’t respond.
“I only came to spread the word. Have you heard the Good News? You can go fuck yourself!” I tried to jump at him and bury something sharp in his neck. And by tried, I mean I gave the order and my legs wobbled. I fell against the wall.
He glanced back. “A shame you haven’t fully embraced cybernetics. You are lacking.” And with that, they walked off and left me. I still followed, hoping I did so more out of a desire to kill him than save him.
Staggering on like that, I figured out where I heard his words before. I’d have figured it out sooner, but it wasn’t the entire phrase. “Obey. Serve. Give in. Surrender. Pave the way. “ Not even a year ago, I fought my way up the side of a Romanian mountain, working my way through vampires, werewolves, and temporal fluctuations, and heard that message embedded in a virus that attacked me when I temporarily appeared in the future. A future I was almost up to, possibly. Maybe. I hope not.
I thought I’d purged it. Woops.
So I followed, my biological parts wanting to kill that guy, while my artificial ones (excepting the boobs, which are completely natural), wanted to serve, obey, and pave the way. After five of the longest minutes on earth, I hit sunlight. Ugh, just what I needed. I was already hurt, but the daytime demonstone of light assaulted my eyes as well. At least until I spotted some general or something jogging toward the diplomat and guard as they walked across the marble walkway and grassy lawn toward the helipad, ignoring both the VIP entrance and the lobby area I’d screwed around with last time.
“Wait! Please stay, we can work this argh!” he fell with a scream, a laser hole burnt through the back of his skull. I know. I saw it happen. It was my eye that shot the laser. I could almost imagine the alien bastard smirking at that, too.
“She killed General Wilhelm!” someone yelled. Wonderful. I saw guns appearing in hands all over the place. Even a janitor, whose presence mopping outside spoke wonders for my powers of deduction on my way in earlier. A pair of dress-uniform officers stopped by the fallen general to check his vital signs, but a laser-cut hole through the skull and brain doesn’t generally have a favorable prognosis.
In the process of fulfilling the literal order given to me, I’d managed to not only draw attention away from the escaping alien invaders, but had attracted a wide caliber of pissed-off people with guns. And I still felt compelled to follow.
To think, me without my armor. I made that big deal about dumb luck earlier, but there I was, surrounded by enough guns and government agents to make an NRA member wet their pants with piss and jizz. Sure would be a good time not to rely on dumb luck.
I looked up, ignoring the sight of the aliens casually jumping the helipad’s protective wall, looking. Then I smiled, because while I clearly wasn’t lucky, I also wasn’t about to be dumb.
I held up my hands, dropping my goo-stained pen. “Everyone, wait! I have something I need to get out before we go any further, but I promise I’ll go without a fight.”
I squeezed my fists shut and bent over. “Hnnnnng! Ung! Hnn!” Over the sounds of my straining, I heard someone cough and someone else stifle a chuckle. I spared a glance to see some of them had lowered their guns, but fewer than I’d have hoped for. Some people really need a sense of humor. I mean, if I looked as stupid as they did, I’d have had to learn to laugh by then in my life.
“Lay flat on the ground and put your hands on your head!” a voice boomed. No thanks. I’ve followed enough orders today. The alien ship’s loud liftoff and quick flight just made me less inclined to follow anymore, including the one given to me by the ambassador.
I held up a finger. “Ooooooooooone second, I’m trying to…hold on, I think I got a good one.” I waggled the finger. “Someone come pull this! Ah, hell, nevermind.” I grabbed my finger and gave it a tug. Then Moai and his luggage hit the lawn and threw up a dust storm.
That bought time. The guards refused to open up on anything for fear of hitting the wrong anything, so the dust and the remains of Moai’s parachute provided great cover. They probably wished they hadn’t been so cautious when I stepped out a little straighter, regenerative nanites flooring it to my ribs to give them a clean bill of health. I rubbed my wrists, glad to be in the armor I’d sent with Moai as his luggage. “Thank you, Moai,” I told the magically-animate statue minion who hauled himself out of a small crater to stand beside me facing the numerous guards who blocked my escape. A few of them had tossed aside their guns in favor of various glowing body parts. Their own, sadly. I looked them over and laughed. “Gentlemen, I promised I’d leave without a fight. I don’t think this will be much of one at all.”