I met up with my robot on the way to Empyreal City. The team at Area 51 grabbed some cargo copters and airlifted it part of the way, an expense which spared them and their loved ones. Many others couldn’t say the same. In my anger over the actions of Venus and the Master Academy, I made good on my threat using a list of people assembled for being family, friends, or lovers of political figures and supers. Not all such folks were under threat from my nanites due to either lack of exposure or the nanites being gone. On top of that, I found that some of them had disappeared off the grid.
This conspiracy against me must have found a way to hide people. Possibly under lead, in bunkers, that sort of thing. And I never knew, not really, until one of them made a mistake. Normally, conspiracies are almost impossible to keep secret. The more people involved in something, the less they can keep quiet. But I had a whole damn world to listen to and almost nobody helping me do it. Worse, they began to take out my Electric Eyes as I flew along. Ambushes, traps. I couldn’t do anything but force them into retreat and hiding.
The voices and sensations threatened to intrude on my head. I’d been doing so well. I’d gotten to the point where I could mostly keep to my own mind, the various connections to nanite-infested individuals being regulated by the Electric Eyes and my mind having gotten used to it. Except now I was down to four of the helper robots, all while I tried to keep an eye on Empyreal City and watch the progress of my digital twin.
I can hardly blame him for killing all those people. I certainly didn’t order an evacuation for the sake of their lives, save Carl and his family. Mostly, I just wanted to thwart him. He had a plan; same plan I’d have in his place. Keep fighting, draw me in, and take me out. He’d have the advantage of a bit more time to discover any flaws in the robot’s assembly, maybe find a way to put together traps outside my area of surveillance. No need to run or hide. He knows I’m on my way.
He’s me. That’s enough. Everything I am, every flaw, every damn thing I’ve ever done. The other way around, I knew he’d kill me for the same reasons. I don’t think I’m explaining that well, but he must die. I deserve to die and the only thing that keeps me from handling that myself is the same desire to survive that pushed me to fight through such actions. And now there’s another me. I don’t know if Venus figured that all out on her own or if the copy convinced her. The fact that she went through with it anyway doesn’t say much for her ability to reason. But then, I’m the one who flew off in a cold, blind rage.
So now they’re assassinating my Electric Eyes that they somehow know about. I don’t know how they’re finding them. They’re hiding people. Don’t know for sure how that’s happening. I bet they’ve got some way to disable the nanites, not that I’ve got that one figured out. I don’t know. I just don’t. But that wasn’t what was important.
What was important was when I jumped out of the Imperial helicopter into the waiting hatch on the top of the robot. It was a smooth landing, except for bouncing my balls off the rich Corinthian leather of the pilot’s seat. I hadn’t even given it a name yet. Hadn’t spent much time thinking on it. It didn’t fit some of the older names. It wasn’t a WarBringer, or a Thriller, or even Candyman-of-Doom. “Hello, my Imperial Colossus,” I said, coming to a joyless decision at the naming.
Once inside, I secured myself and connected with the Colossus. It didn’t have much of an independent operating system. That’s what I was for, which made security a lot easier. Kinda hard to steal it when I have to be inside it to make it move. Still, I triple-checked on the diagnostic scans to make sure no one sabotaged it, including a few tricky ones to make sure nobody messed with the sensors. I gave it as much of a workout as I could for the remaining trip to Empyreal City. They were actually moving it quicker, even if it left me less time for a proper shakedown.
Then it was time to cut the strings and turn the Imperial Colossus into a real boy. I reached up and grabbed the cables allowing the cargo copters to haul it. Tearing them off, I sent the choppers careening through the air. Two of them collided. Another lost control completely and crashed into the ground, soon followed by Imperial Colossus landing on its feet. I marched it into the outskirts of Empyreal City from the southwest, keeping an eye out for anything that might have gotten past me. I could have been so focused on Mecha Gecko that these other conspiratorial sons-of-aye ayes set up their own ambushes.
I found my eviler counterpart tearing up TriBeCa, a rough trapezoid area next to the Hudson River that likes to watch movies. Mecha Gecko had climbed to the top of a building while holding a Ferrari in its hand. It used the other fist to beat its own chest. I reached out, checking on the whereabouts of my grabber drones. A few were in the area, but most were still in transit. I sent the local ones after Mecha Gecko, swarming him and grabbing where they could, trying to throw him off balance. If he wanted to play King Kong, I’d be more than willing to turn that jackass into Donkey Kong.
While the grabber drones harassed him, I stepped around the corner of the street and approached, trying to avoid abandoned cars for some measure of stealth. It’s not particularly easy to hide a giant robot, but it’s not as hard as people think, either. Most folks don’t bother looking up, and there are ways to control the weight you put down on any foot, especially for someone as intuitive at it as I am. Just like how humans can stomp, walk normally, or sneak through, with resulting changes in weight distribution and footfall.
I fixated on Mecha Gecko with the main sensors of the Colossus when I got around. He appeared distracted by the grabbers, but I couldn’t tell. I didn’t build the thing to have mere binocular vision, in line with how my armor works. I could sneak up on him, or I could fail. I wouldn’t know for sure unless he let on.
Then, in my fixation, the Colossus stepped on a truck. The crumpling of metal wasn’t good, but then the thing slid out from underneath my mecha’s foot, landing the Colossus on its shiny metal ass. Scrabbling to push off the cracked street, the mech’s hands landed on more trucks and slid. It was only then I brought one cloe enough to get a good look. Chiqita Banana delivery trucks. That tricky son of a bitch. I actually felt an iota of pride in him. You know, aside from homicidal bloodlust.
It didn’t matter if he had binocular vision anymore. A mess like I made, Helen Keller could have found me. I rolled the Colossus back over itself and dug its fingers into the street. Purchase found, I rose just in time to get my bell rung by a flying punch across the mech’s head. Literal bell-ringing, too. I’d forgotten how much physical blows reverberated in these things.
It snapped my mech’s head around, but I extended a leg and swept at it. Mecha Gecko jumped over it, then grabbed the back of my mech and threw it into a building. So far, not my best fight.
“Hello, Gecko Prime,” he said. “I understood you used our nanite scheme. Whatever happened to just killing everyone?”
Its fist glanced off the juncture between my mecha’s legs. I snapped a leg back, which knocked it back enough for it to, surprise surprise, slip on one of the banana trucks. I straightened up, finding no damage to either legs caused by where my evil twin attempted to shove his fist up a nonexistent ass. I whirled and raised the mech’s arm to aim a laser at him. I found him sitting on a structure across the road, doing much the same. Both of us fired on the chest while moving. Both missed.
“You know, our little wannabe girlfriend’s not worth it. Just look what she did,” He said.
I answered back, “I think I figured that out. Don’t tell me you fell for her redemption schtick?”
“I’m no hero. You should have remembered that before you decided to take over the Earth for the greater good. We don’t do good, greater or otherwise,” he kept talking.
“Somebody should have updated their antivirus and wiped you out, worm,” I responded.
I grabbed a nearby water tower. He pulled a tree up. I flung mine at him and raised the Colossus’s other arm to fire a gout of flame. It scorched his armor a bit, but didn’t seem to damage much. He fired back with a laser that melted some of the armor on my mech’s right shoulder. Loss of functionality…minor.
But it gave me an idea. In any battle between giant robots, an idea is a far more potent weapon. Hell, if there’s anything close to an Aesop to be had from the entirety of all this, it’s that thinking is the greatest superpower of all. Now y’all know, and knowing is half the battle. Yo Cobra!
I raised the damaged arm, then jerked it to a stop suddenly. It should have looked like damage stopped me. “I don’t buy it,” Mecha Gecko said. He adjusted his arm, but grabber drones came down and pushed his arm as he fired. I raised mine and fired, again and again. A series of quick bursts of coherent light burned into his chest armor. The array on the Colossus’s arm burst into flames. Overuse and overheating blew it and cost me the weapon, but Mecha Gecko crumpled slowly to its knees.
In the back of my head, I felt the Empyreal City Electric Eye go offline, nothing left in its vision but fire. I took a moment to catch my breath and figure out where the rest of them were. Oh, they were all destroyed. How the fuck were they all destroyed?!
At last, I had a moment to figure that out. And to execute Venus. Except then the Mecha Gecko stood back up. “Hello, hello, hello, beautiful stranger. How familiar the danger, slipping into the shadows…” it said, voice sounding distorted. “You didn’t think it would be that easy, now did you?”
“You know, for a second there, I kinda did,” I said. I really did. I know people expect fights to be drag-out affairs like that ridiculous Daredevil show, where it takes 5 minutes for a ninja to beat up a street hood, but that’s just not how fighting works. Or at least, how killing works. It’s like an authentic duelist versus one of those movie sword-twirlers; you can dance around all you like, or you can win. I thought I won. I thought wrong.
“You made a LOT of enemies…heh.” The robot raised up as if lifted by its own Area 51 choppers. Instead of all that, the hole in its chest filled in with something brown or…no, red. A red tendril flopped out of the hole, whirling around. Like some sort of tentacle. More red spread over the machine’s chest, like spilled blood. Except then a hunk of meat burst through that surface and smacked into my machine, sending me crashing through a building. As I struggled to regain my mecha’s balance, the fleshy limb stretched straight out, then the closest third of it bent with a sudden crack. Then the next section, in another direction. The end sticking out spread its end like a wet, fleshy sun. A round mouth full of teeth opened and snapped at the air.
“Ready for round two?” asked an entirely different, but familiar, voice. I got a flash of red eyes in a mirror.
“If that’s who I think it is, do I have a fun way to deal with you!” I said. Almost as soon as the words left my mecha, the jointed limb spit a fountain of viscous grey-green goop all over the Imperial Colossus. Everything went very quiet. Not just sound being deadened, but I suddenly realized I couldn’t hear anything outside my own body or the mecha’s sensors. I couldn’t connect to the internet, couldn’t feel the grabber drones, any of it.
Which meant I couldn’t trigger the nanites on anyone. Crap.
“Let’s test this ‘dead man’s switch’ theory, shall we? I think he lied to all y’all, Spiney.” asked Mecha Gecko, directing the question at the being who had revived him and re-empowered his giant robot. Not that Spinetingler needed the encouragement. I’d fought him once and beaten him. Grievously wounded him. I’d threatened his daughter’s life countless times, more because all he knew was she lived in Empyreal City and I’m not known for minding the collateral damage.
Spinetingler’s chuckle echoed through my mind. On the head of the Mecha Gecko, the metal shifted. What had once been a smiley face twisted into a Jack O Lantern’s grin. An orange glow seeped out between the crooked zig zag of the pumpkin smile. “Oh no. He won’t be a dead man yet. He doesn’t deserve that kindness.”
Looks like it’s become a handicap match. Too bad they’re fighting against a handicapped opponent. I’m a psychopath. It gets me a parking sticker and everything. Oh, wait, that’s the bloody knife I carry with me. Either way, this fight isn’t over yet.