“You know, what’s really interesting is that the weakening of the dimensional…uh…fabric? Maybe? I guess the dimension bomb does, in its own way, create a localized weakening in the fabric of the universe. I’d have to wonder what that means about the laws of physics, though I suppose the least information transmitted through in any given place, the better. I mean, this could be pretty damn disastrous if we’re going big enough…hopefully a space fleet isn’t within that threshold, but it also creates the possibility that a weaker spot could let more things through. Hell, I wonder if we could make some sort of wormhole-like network…” I finished my little talk as I readjusted the D-Bomb. I didn’t leave it fully functional, of course. Then all the aliens would need to do is turn it on with me around and problem solved.
Moai interrupted my reverie by dropping the holodisc in front of me on the table. I looked up at him, raising an eyebrow, then over at my armor. Max walked around that table, looking over the armor, especially a hole just under the main chest armor. “Impressively done. It’s hard to tell it almost melted you.”
I grabbed the disc and rolled my chair from the bomb table to the other. “The nanite quilt layer is shot, and a hell of a lot of the hologram system went up in smoke.” I began to install the holodisc in that hole. It didn’t take that long at all as a finishing touch, though an imperfect one. When I finally set down the screwdriver, Moai nudged my shoulder from behind. “Don’t remind me. I can’t believe it’s time. I’d rather it not be time.”
“You need to do it,” Max said.
“Yeah, stop being a pussy,” Sam added. “There are people saying Beijing was just covered by something not made of smog and pollution for once.”
“Aww,” I whined, totally not being a pussy, “but I still have to finish hiring the cropdusters for the thing…”
“Meow,” Holly said. Sam looked at her. Holly looked back and said, “Pussy, alright?”
But I’d much rather have gone back to Hephaestus or fought off another Fluidic assassin
than go to visit the original Master Academy campus with my hands out. Odd how that works out. There’s no reason to be worried about them, even. Could be I’ve got some sort of psychological hangup left over from the events in Empyreal City. Why couldn’t it be something simple to deal with, like wanting to fuck my own mother?
Well, I put on my lightly-refurbished armor and set out for Master Academy with Moai backing me up. Max said he’d be ready to help, but he also stayed at the hotel, so he was more useful in case I got into some sort of extended situation, like if I took hostages, got into a high-speed chase with cops, or had to bake a turkey.
The similarity of baking a turkey to dealing with heroes is all in how you reach in and pull out the giblets, I should note.
They were not happy to see me there, but I wasn’t that happy to see me there either. That is, the copycat armor that looked an awful lot like mine except for these twin plasma cannons held in each hand. I could tell they were plasma cannons from the way they fired bursts of plasma at the building, blowing walls apart as they superheated.
A human tank ran out to greet the copy. That is, a large and rotund fellow with the body shape of a weightlifter grabbed a section of the multi-colored brick wall and carried it in front of him like a shield as he hurried to greet my double with such enthusiasm. The first shot blew the wall apart. The second scorched a hole in the man’s shoulder. The third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth got him in the eyes until his brain popped out with an audible sizzle. At least the copy got some details correct.
But, if there’s any good lesson to take away from Ethan Basford’s double-edged gift of truth, it’s that I hate myself. That, and my distinct desire not to lose to what I surely felt to be a Fluidic plot, propelled me to action. I jumped, invisible to naked and clothed eyes alike. Power flowed from the hidden core inside me to my gloves, that concentrated them in wiring that wrapped around the outside and projected a field of high energy a short distance from my forearms and fists. My first blow struck the imposter in the head, denting the helmet in a way that would be fatal to most at least for what it meant happened to the head inside. Though the neck snapped to the side, I noticed the head seemed to flop in that direction before gliding back into place quite fluidly.
That was, however, merely the first hit by my lovely right hand. Even as my doppelganger whirled to try and cannon-whip me, I brought my left up in an uppercut aimed at the other me’s jaw. His helmet popped off, spewing black fluid like I’d just struck oil for a second. I decided to stop admiring the gusher and jumped up, aiming to bring my arm down on the double’s neck hole.
The alien had other plans. It formed up its body enough to grab me around the waist and instead pull me down toward the suit’s arms. It dropped the cannon in its left arm. From the forearm popped out a nasty surprise of its own: a blade with edges that glowed white hot. Something told me this wasn’t exactly standard-Earth-issue. I also began to hope that it went for the chest instead of my less-armored crotch, despite the fact that I had not yet gone through with giving myself balls again. It’s a very male instinct, for those of my readers who sport a perky pair of X chromosomes on your chest instead of a dangly Y between the legs.
I was saved by the timely intervention of rock n’roll. Moai struck the alien like The Dude picking up a spare, forcing the alien to drop me as it went under my sidewinding sidekick. I landed on my knees next to it in a puddle, conjuring up John Goodman screaming “You went over the line!” Because they had certainly crossed quite a line this time, those Fluidics. The image of a squeezed container of toothpaste came to mind, except the armor was still mostly unbent, so I worked my arm into the neck hole and felt around a bit.
The alien’s core tried to elude me while it regained its senses. “Come on,” I grunted while reaching deep down into the double of my armor while Moai approached me from behind, “I’ve got to grab the ball.”
I ignored some polite coughing from behind Moai and pulled, wrenching a green, clear, multi-faceted stone from within the armor. I tossed black-stained grass next to Moai, where it began to attract the fallen fluid to itself. I jumped up, grabbing hold of my minion’s head. “Come on, big guy, let’s give it the stamp of disapproval.”
As if I dragged Moai down, he fell sideways onto the core and crushed it before it could pull itself together. Moai righted himself immediately, setting me back on my feet and allowing us both to get a look at whoever had settled in behind him to enjoy the fight without joining in.
This turned out to be a small crowd; one adult who ushered a small group of teens and kids back toward the buildings and two other adults who looked over Moai, me, and the situation itself to figure out what threat, if any, we posed.
I grabbed the suit of my doppelganger and raised it above my head. “I know this usually the aliens’ line, but we come in peace. Take me to your leader.”
In a way, the copycat worked out for me. The attempted framing by the Fluidics convinced the remnants of Master Academy that my intentions were good, or at least hostile toward the right people, though they didn’t have many warm bodies to throw into my meat grinder. That got me an audience with a man wide enough to have trouble with some doors, named Broadside who had a knack for creating blasts of varying concussive force from his hands. The problem, as he explained it to me, is that most of the senior staff had already gone to Empyreal City. “I didn’t go because I caught the flu. We have a few more good folks here, but I’m not putting them teens in harms way, unnerstand?”
I nodded enthusiastically, but told him, “Nope. Not one bit. Because I’m pretty sure the Fluidics aren’t going to spare them. In fact, if Empyreal City is anything to go by, they’re going to make a pretty big effort to nab them especially. So they can either go down fighting, or go down doing nothing. No, wait, better turn of phrase: they can go down sucking.” His raised eyebrow made me reconsider the statement, “Hmm, yes, a bit much on the innuendo for teens. Either way, those boys and girls out there are going down. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. Hell, some of them probably have already. But you can’t protect them forever. It’d be better for them to be forewarned, forearmed, and capable of their own protection, than just trying to get them to abstain from the inevitable.”
“We have sex education covered, Psycho Gecko. This is a battle. You don’t understand that we don’t just use powers for fighting. They aren’t all heroes out there. Some of them are businessmen, teachers, bankers, homemakers, chefs, even barbers. They can be anything they want to be, even if they have powers. Would you ask a barber to grab his razor and help you fight the aliens?”
I projected a straight razor into my gloved hand. “Why yes, actually. If the Demon Barber of Fleet Street was around, I’d proudly call on Sweeney Todd myself to march beside me. Because they are after everybody. This is something I understand, ya see. There are no civilians on this planet anymore, because that is precisely their goal. We are all bodies they can mold, arm, and send to die for them. The only way to stop from being mindlessly being slaughtered by aliens is to try and mindlessly slaughter the aliens first. It’s a moral imperative.”
Broadside sighed. “There’s nothing about this moral, and you can check any book you want about that.”
I held my hand up like a ham reciting Shakespeare, “’Happy is he who taketh thy little ones and dasheth them against the rocks.’ That’s right there in the Bible. Now come on, Broadside. I need your little ones. Help me dasheth them against some alien head, Broadside. What do you say?”
That’s how I got turned down for help from Master Academy. The only thing I got from them was some spare armor parts. Instead of offering baby bashing, I should have offered some babes. This shit would have worked if I brought seventy-two virgins to the offering table, I’m sure.