Let’s discuss the fable of The Scorpion and the Frog. One of those old, simply little fables with talking animals. There’s a frog and a scorpion, which I’m sure is a huge surprise, though you might capitalize them as some sort of archetypes. And there’s this stream or river or something. Really, any body of water can be used; the beach is always wetter on the other side. That was so lame, I should take it out behind the barn and beat it along with my dislike of guns.
So the Scorpion wants to get to the other side, but can’t swim. The Frog considers it, but suggests that the Scorpion might sting it. The Scorpion points out that if it stings the Frog while riding it, they’ll both drown. Sound reasoning, of course. So the Frog agrees and carries the Scorpion on its back as it swims through the water. Halfway through, the Scorpion stings the Frog. Just before they drown, the Frog asks the Scorpion, “Why?” The Scorpion replies, “It was in my nature.”
I mean, there are other versions of the story, true. Like one with a turtle that doesn’t involve either one drowning, or one with a snake freezing to death and a farmer that warms it up against his breast, or even this one old one where the scorpion saves someone from being bitten by a snake, but they all remember that it is in the Scorpion’s nature to sting. Even when it’s in his worst interest.
So much for the great, devious, and overall chaotic Psycho Gecko, huh? I’m a lot easier to control than I realized, a realization brought about my Frogs back there in Empyreal City, if you want to call them that.
Yeah, I know. I know. I KNOW. I sold them all out. Skipped town and let them do all their own stunts. I had set up this big fight, built defenses, put things in place. It all started crashing down around me, until the enemies themselves offered me a way out. I wonder why they even did that?
“Because the one who calls himself ‘Technolutionary’ asked it as part of his deal,” answered a voice from my belt.
I let my head loll down. “You better not be telepathic, you little alien asshole.”
“Telepathy unnecessary. You converse with yourself.”
“The fuck you say?”
The bartender turned away from cleaning a glass. “He’s right, whoever he is, ma’am.”
I flipped him the bird. “Don’t you take sides in this. Bring me your biggest glass full of White Russian.”
He pulled out a large, frosty mug. I picked it up, looked it over, and threw it on the floor. Got lots of looks from the others in the bar, and even more when I walked over to a corner next to a neon sign that had a rubber tree plant in its own planter. It took some work, since I had to concentrate on placing my steps. I had a few drinks. Some big guy, probably a bouncer, decided to sign his death warrant. “Ma’am, I need you to stop breaking things. You have had enough.”
I pointed at him, “I haven’t had enough. You’ve had enough! Your face had enough! You know who hasn’t had enough? Venus! Wildflower! Man-Opener! The other fuckers in Empyreal City. And your momma, if last night is anything to go by.” I tipped over the planter and carried it back to the bar next to my helmet. “Fill ‘er up, asshole.”
“Ma’am, that’s a pot.”
“Yeah. Get pouring, drink boy.”
He looked at the planter and took it down to the other side of the bar. “Anyway, what’s got you drinking enough to kill an elephant?”
I smiled and held my hands out, pushing away the bouncer who had taken up position next to me. Probably waving over someone else. “I’m just finding myself.”
The bartender reached down under the bar, doing something that he didn’t seem to need to look. “Finding yourself?”
“In the Alps!” I slammed my hand on the bar, making my helmet jump a little from the impact. “Find me right in the Alps, all day long.” Through the fuzzy haze in my head, I remembered I had a question. I looked back down to my utility belt in spite of the hair falling in front of my view. “Hey, wait, why did y’all make a deal with me anyway?”
The crystal made a sound as if blowing wind out of itself. “Because the one who calls himself ‘Technolutionary’ asked it as part of his deal.”
I blinked a few times. “Oh, right, you said that. Right. Right. Guess it’s almost about time then…”
“Time to go?” suggested the bouncer next to me.
“Almost, but not what I meant.” I slammed my hand on the bar a bit harder, the blow enhanced by the pseudomuscles. It popped my helmet into the air where I caught it and spun, knocking the bouncer on his ass with it. I turned back to the bartender and threw the helmet at his head. It cracked his nose and knocked him into a bunch of liquor bottles. The helmet, meanwhile, ricocheted into the air, bounced off the light fixture, and landed on my head during a rain of broken fluorescent light bulbs.
And lucky me, a broken fluorescent bulb landed right in my hand as the bouncer pulled himself to his feet. “Hey there, fella. It’s about time your colon had a bright idea.”
So, anyway, now that that’s dealt with, I should talk about what happened now that I’ve abandoned a city of eight and a half million people to the aliens. Yeah, that’s a lot of people. Basically more than the combined militaries of China, the United States, India, and North Korea by a couple million. Not that the news is saying that. The President is claiming that it’s all some sort of joint riot control effort aided by alien technology, either to save face politically or because he’s being controlled. But it’s still up, for whatever reason.
And that’s it for my knowledge of what’s behind the neon curtain. I still don’t know how it’s going in there. There’s still a giant ship floating over the whole thing, and a giant shield keeping anything else from entering or leaving. Including my car, I only realized once I got out. I stole the next vehicle I found and headed out of state, spending my first night out of Empyreal City in some dive pub in Philly, where I drank and talked to myself out loud.. I sent Moai out to try and find the local villain watering hole, since it’s not easy to just pull that info up on the internet, but I couldn’t stand waiting and stopped off at some near-abandoned place to throw liquor into my face. And humming “Trust Me” from Devil’s Carnival to myself an awful lot.
I realized, as I knelt in a motel bathroom puking up enough White Russians to capture Berlin, that I felt really fucking terrible. I seriously needed an Alka Seltzer, or maybe a couple Tums. That’s obviously what I mean. Couldn’t be anything else.
Couldn’t have anything to do with the idea that I might have hit reached a low depth I’m not comfortable at, or that maybe I’m not exactly the same person who wants to destroy the planet I’m sitting on. I’m no hero. A coward, maybe. Definitely maybe. And it’s more than a bit creepy that Technolutionary has this idea of “helping” me by negotiating a deal behind my back. He’s probably nifty for being able to empower humans, and for modifying them into better warriors for the invaders, but not a big enough deal to justify all that. And I’m not feeling like that big of a deal, either. If I had the means to totally curb stomp their shit, I’d have just used it instead of taking the easy way out.
Ugh, speaking of taking the easy way out, I took a big swallow of my nanite solution and then spat it up when I started coughing. No harm, no foul, but the spray itself gave me an idea. “Ha!”
I crawled back into the bedroom and grabbed the crystal off the bed. “Hey, you! Whatever I call you…on a scale of one to ten, just how much would your masters piss their pants at the idea of me combining their rain idea with my nanites?”
It didn’t betray any emotion. Then again, I’m not entirely sure what it is, except that I don’t seem to bond with it like I do computers and stuff. “This would violate the agreement.”
I laughed. “I take it that’s pretty high on the scale.”
“Do not pursue this action or you will become a target. You will become a high priority target.”
With some effort, I propped my head up on the bed. “Sounds like a ten. They’ll send assassins?”
It glowed as it responded. “Yes.”
I hummed a little bit of a song to myself, then asked. “These assassins…they’ll pull out all the stops, won’t they? We’re talking every fucking thing they could do to take me on, right? Big, mean, nasty things with what I’m guessing are goo-filled tentacles, right?”
“Yes. You have been shown a rare mercy. It is inadvisable to violate this truce.”
I smacked it aside and guffawed loudly, causing the neighbors to bang on the wall like they’d interrupted me having sex with a clown or something.
I quickly grabbed my suit and anything else I brought in, then left that motel with the crystal. It didn’t much matter if I was legally capable of driving with Moai and the truck gone, so instead I got the hell out of there before something flashed through the sky and the entire building tore itself apart into tiny splinters. There, watching any last chance at my third option in this whole mess go up in smoke, I wondered just how drunk I was. Then I called up Moai.
“Yo, Mo. Come pick me up. I’m a little pickled right now. I shouldn’t be jumping under the influence right now, and we really need to go to Kingscrow right now.”
Why Kingscrow? Because Kingscrow has the Long Life Corporation, who stole my nanites and has been mass-producing copies for commercial use. Because I could use them. And because the horribly-named Forcelight wasn’t in Empyreal City when it got cut off from everything, and so she’s likely to be a bit pissed at her friends being abducted and anal-probed. I mean, I can’t speak for what anyone’s doing to Venus, but things got a bit interesting with Wildflower in bed a few times.
And it really is quite hilarious, ya know? That I’d throw away my one shot at mercy from people predicted to kill me? I bet some dear readers are asking themselves the same question, to which I would like to remind everyone of a certain fable that’s been on my mind lately.
It’s in my nature.