As easily as the Claw abandoned Ricca, he’s not fooling around with North Korea. I’d been pondering his decision to flee the island rather than try to hold it. It bothered me, even though I made it happen. The guy did have supers. The palace was replaceable. They had to have bunkers with alternate power sources.
Traveling across North Korea, I got it. I understood. Because even though I spent a lot of time hiding and staying under cover, I still got to see a sky dotted by supers. Men, women, and that technicolor rainbow in between, all flying across the sky. They didn’t blot out the sun. Too many of them kept moving to do so. Some had wings, some capes, some jetpacks; all manor of ways to move through the air, powered internally and externally. So high, I couldn’t see colors or fine details, just shadow after shadow moving through the air. At one point, a some of them disappeared upward into pinpricks. There were a pair of explosions. The first was nothing, more or less. A plane, maybe. All I know is it wasn’t that big of an explosion. I didn’t get that good of a look before the second one went off.
I didn’t see much of the second one. The flash was incredibly bright and would have blinded regular eyes staring directly at it. That didn’t matter to my cybernetics. What did matter was a humongous electromagnetic pulse that hurt like hell and shut parts of me down for awhile. Not permanently, not with me, but it was a hell of an EMP.
After the explosion finished being loud and the group around me finished their gasps and screams, I still couldn’t see anything, but I could hear. I’d just suddenly gone from walking to being on the ground.
“What happened?” asked Wangi.
“What does it look like?” I asked, more sarcastically than anything else. Pain doesn’t really bring out my better angels, and my nerves were on fire. “Qiang, how do you feel?”
“I feel funny. Everything’s dizzy,” she responded.
“You’ll be ok. This is just temporary. This can happen sometimes,” I reassured her.
Another voice broke in, a harsher one. I may be really in to Silver Shark, but her voice is yet another part of her that isn’t so conventionally appealing. “I can’t see! I can’t hear! Help me, someone, help!”
I tried crawling toward the voice and eventually found her on the ground as well. I tried to take her massive hand, but she grabbed me and pulled me into a hug. That, or some attempt to squeeze me to death. When she calmed down enough to release my arms, I tried giving her a check-up. The fact that her implants were mostly mechanical prevented a lot worse. I guess it was a smart idea, considering she was designed to swim around the ocean. Salt water, weird organisms, and wild animals all tend to be hell on circuitry.
Once she calmed down, I popped open her eyes and ears to fix them up real quick. We did have a cart I confiscated from some dead peasants I made, but we couldn’t move her big, beautiful ass on it AND have me work on it. So I set to work amidst the questions. “What was that, dad?” asked Qiang.
I glanced at her, wondering how much to explain. “Not all of this will make sense, but what you felt, you felt because of what we are. Some things, like lightning, hurt us a little more. It isn’t as bad for you because you don’t have all the stuff plugged into you that I do, and maybe because your mom wasn’t like me.”
“That was no lightning,” Citra said, moving to my side.
I nodded, even as I dug around in Silver’s eye to workaround some damaged circuits. “That was nuclear electromagnetic radiation. They detonated a nuclear bomb way up in the atmosphere. I expect someone wanted it to land closer to the ground, but those supers got to it first.
I looked up to see the swarm had moved to another part of the airspace, little more than shapes in the distance.
Those were just the supers in the air. I don’t know if Ricca had a formal air force with machines, but that would also pump up their numbers. There’s also the millions of Koreans up here, and however many Buzzkills that fight for him under the banner of Queen Beetrice. I figure they were relying almost entirely on that forcefield for domestic protection, with a little help from supers like War Man or Dame.
We were picked up by a truck of soldiers headed to the DMZ with fancy new Riccan toys. I didn’t get the best look because I dropped “dead” as soon as they came into range, popping off my helmet again. The women gave the story about me being the dead traitor Psycho Gecko, the one whose body they were ordered to retrieve for the Emperor. The sergeant of the unit knelt down to inspect me, coughing at the smell. He was a graying old man, way too old for most militaries, especially as infantry. The others had the opposite problem. I’m pretty sure at least one of the others in this unit hadn’t even started shaving yet.
One who was a little older, maybe eighteen, joined his sergeant. “Sir, what do we do? We were ordered to the border.”
The old man looked up, gazing off into the distance. He sighed heavily and squeezed his eyes shut, then fixed his face into one impassive and uncaring. “We have a higher purpose to serve for our Emperor. It calls us away from the front lines. We take them to Pyongyang.” The boy he addressed had a hint of a smile on his face as he turned away to get the others organized. They loaded us all up for the trip far back from where people would shoot at them. Hopefully, at least. The old officer seemed to get more and more tense as our journey went, perhaps fearing that he might have still gotten the kids under his command killed.
As for me, I decided to replay this one game about vampires. Just me running around as an immortal, superhuman killing machine who feeds on human blood and drives people insane. I also occasionally argue with stop signs.
We soon rolled up into lovely, crappy Pyongyang. Sadly, I just had to lay there and listen to people talk about it. I’m sure it was a nice, quaint little place. The dictators of North Korea saw that all the big boys had cities of their own, so they threw their own together to play in. Same reason there’s a theme park around here. The theme, I’m told, is repression. It’d be a much better park if the guys from Monty Python designed it.
I didn’t get to see any of that because I was playing a dead guy. The hardest thing to keep up was the stink. It took quite a bit of chocolate pudding stuffed down the back of my pants to achieve this smell and maintain it. Going to have to do a lot of cleaning once this is done.
I was into the Kangdong Palace, the soldiers careful to keep me from scraping luxurious marble floors. This isn’t to be confused with Bangdong Palace, an Asian-themed gay club I know back in Empyreal City. They wondered at all the gold and ivory. I assume there were other things to look at, but dead men tell no tails. Not when they put a fucking sheet over you for most of the trip. When they laid me down, I thought my chance was nearly here.
“Come no further! Leave him there and stand at attention!” Ordered Lu, the former Majordomo of the Claw’s palace back on the island. The soldiers set me down and stepped back. Lu approached and moved the sheet from over my head, looking into my eyes with a flashlight at hand. Ooh, smart. I hadn’t even thought of that one. Pupil dilation is a good way to tell if someone’s faking the dead. It’s automatic. Of course, the reason I hadn’t thought of that might have to do with my own cybernetic eyes not dilating where everyone can see. He realized that himself with a frown and dumped the sheet back over my head. “He certainly smells bad enough, and he’s bloated.”
Well now that’s just rude. The food hasn’t exactly been high quality and I’m a little backed up. Also, I’m retaining a lot of water and I have big bones. He might also be referring to some stuff I shoved into my mouth. Our trip here involved living off food stolen from the residence wing of the Riccan palace, but Silver Shark managed to improvise something out of fish and this really groovy strain of Mary Jane growing in the wild that I could hold in my mouth. Having something in there makes my cheeks look puffed out, and it contributes to the smell of death. That and all the dead blood I’ve been smearing on me. Dead things have a very distinctive scent, and chocolate pudding can only go so far.
“Sergeant, remove your gun and place it against the temple of the little girl,” Lu ordered. I heard a gun unholster and a girl whimper. Someone else shuffled around and then something hit flesh. “Stay out of this!”
If Lu was fishing for a reaction, he doesn’t know what he’s dropped his pole in the water for. Already planning out all the stuff I’m going to shove up his ass until he dies. And, sadly, this is what caring for people does. I didn’t jump up and start killing my way to wherever the Claw’s holed up.
“No reaction. He may be dead. He is not supposed to be one who acts this calmly. Then why isn’t she dead as well? Take them into custody. This doesn’t need to concern the Queen Bee or the Emperor direc-” I didn’t get to hear the rest as he must have pressed something. The floor opened up beneath me. It was quite a fall, but I scraped along the walls to slow the momentum. It helped that I landed in a bunch of really soft ashes. You know, up until I realized I landed in ashes. It was completely dark. Even the trapdoor above had closed. Then it got less dark as the pilot flames appeared on the ends of six holes arranged over two walls of this square room.
Would the Kim family have built a palace with a trapdoor leading to an incinerator in one of the foyers? I think so.
I reached for my cock and found one of my rubber chicken grenades. I quickly tore off the head and tossed it at the corner between two of the holes, hoping to clear enough space to avoid a flamebroil. It got up and began to walk to its right, toward one set of flames. When it got too close, it went off.
Holding my head and now knowing what a soccer ball felt like, I glanced over. Light flowed in from a hole in the corner. I rushed over to it, missing the two remaining holes opening up with jets of flame. I dove through to find myself in a corridor that traveled around the incinerator. I’d been much closer to a door than I’d known.
But not a door to the outside. I walked this way and that through a twisted maze. When I pulled up a mapping program to trace my progress, I uncovered an even more annoying truth: I was in a literal maze. A labyrinth. Oh joy. They built an incinerator situated in the middle of an underground labyrinth, and I’m pretty sure I hear something roaring off in the distance.
This is what happens when madmen get crazy billionaire money. I’m jealous. I hope they have monsters down here.
Now find my way through the labyrinth and to castle in the heart of the goblin city to take back the child they have stolen from me. Then, Lu and the Claw both will pay for cock-blocking my murders so long.
…the way this damn assassination’s going, I’m not getting out of here until I bang a minotaur.