The nation of Japan formally condemned the actions of Ricca in kidnapping its citizens, stealing its infrastructure, damaging its power grid, pirating a couple of their ships, and carting off some of their land. And yes, stealing land by physically moving it is carting it, hence why the people who map it are cartographers. If you just steal it by occupying it, it’s Manifest Destiny.
The official response from the Empire of Ricca, as written by me, boils down to a simple question: the fuck y’all talking about? Sure, Japan has a general idea where the reactor went, but they didn’t have eyes on it the entire way, nor did anyone involved identify themselves. We’ve kept the workers who had been there from contacting their homes. Had to keep a close eye on them, too. They’re not entirely eager to be captives, and they had to do a lot of work on the reactor to get it fully settled. It hooked up to the grid just fine and passed a safety check, but it has played havoc with the plant in smaller ways that could get worse.
I’m also trying to work on a completely automated system to handle the work there, but that’s slow going. Keeping one perfectly functional is one of the gaps in my knowledge of nuclear reactors. Destroying one is much easier, especially if I want to take the surrounding environment with it.
The National Constituent Assembly found out about the entire exchange the same time the rest of the world. They’d set up something of a pavilion in the crater of the main palace. It’s all very makeshift, but it keeps the weather off them and gives them areas where they can discuss things with a modicum of privacy. It’s right there by me in case they need me to rubber stamp anything for them. They’ve got themselves some TVs and computers there now. That was how they saw the Japanese Prime Minister’s remarks on the situation. One group in particular came to meet with me, identifying themselves as the Foreign Relations Committee. Citra let them in as I finished to make us all a lunch of noodles and eggs. Noodles were an important part of the diet around the island now, but I didn’t ask where she got the eggs.
“Gentlemen, how is the politicking going out there?” I set aside a bowl I’d been munching on. “Looks like a hot one. Y’all got all the fans y’all need?”
“The Assembly is doing well, your Eminence. We are here as the Foreign Relations Committee. We just learned that the Japanese believe you stole something of theirs.”
I shrugged and sipped out of a mug that said “World’s Best Japanese Dad,” someone had left in the break room of the power plant. “You’re sweating. Here, dry off a bit.” I handed the spokesman a Japanese 5,000 yen note to use as a napkin.
He looked at it, and the oddly-named mug. “Emperor Gecko, we are the provisional government. How are we to respond to this theft? What if Japan attacks in the middle of negotiations?”
I waved it off. “They won’t see a thing, don’t worry.” At that moment, I had painters working on a mural meant to camouflage it. Ships would see the atoll and things past it. I asked if they could just do a picture printed onto a sheet, but the workers made some good points about it being easily torn, hard to hang, and almost impossible to print.
“But what if they do?” asked one of the other committee members.
I shrugged. “Then tell them you tried to get me to give it back, but I wouldn’t. I was an asshole, or I threatened you, or something. Think about it, gentlemen… you have a bona fide scapegoat on your hands. The nation can get away with anything because you have me to pin it on. You guys are just the innocent legislature in all this, trying to control me. It gets to always be my fault, not yours.”
Their eyes all brightened up and they looked at each other. “One moment,” said the guy who had first addressed me. The group all huddled together and spoke to each other in hushed tones for a minute. Then they broke apart, turned, and bowed to me. “Thank you. We will work out an appropriate response as soon as we make formal diplomatic contact with Japan and Queen Beetrice. Have a good day, your majesty.”
I’m only going to take being the leader of this nation serious to a point, so I might as well give them some leeway there, too. Besides, it’ll make it easier to justify getting rid of me whenever I can manage to leave. On the other hand, diplomatic immunity is one hell of a neat party trick. If I play my cards right, I could have a fun time before giving up the throne.
I got a bit too much soy sauce in the eggs, but it was a pretty good lunch overall. Soy sauce can be strong sometimes. Best to cut it with some mushrooms. They soak it up into an explosion of flavor.
Speaking of explosions, that started. Yep. Big explosions. I pulled on my armor first thing while calling up the power plant. “What’s going on out there?” asked the on-duty guard supervisor.
“I don’t know. I heard explosions, I called you. It’s nothing to do with the reactor?”
“Not here,” he answered. “Hey, could you make sure the guys get some of those new rice chips?”
I hung up on him, kissed Qiang’s cheek, slipped on my helmet, and ran outside to jump to a perch on a tower of the building. The smoke drifting up was nowhere near the reactor. It came from another direction. The grounds of the Imperial Institute of Science. I hadn’t done too much to that place. It had been abandoned. It’s really surprising that more things hadn’t blown up there before now.
I should have been on top of that more. I kicked off to land hard on the wall around the palace grounds and then headed out into the city. I had to adjust the satellite view I’d been using to keep track of the atoll power plant. They had done a good job painting the top face of the buildings. I could only see half of it from above in a quick glance.
The god’s eye view of the Institute didn’t show anything giant, which was a good sign. I was a little worried we had a kaiju situation on our hands. We’re in the right part of the world for it, I just introduced nuclear power to the island, and we’ve got a lab full of strange experiments. Well, it wasn’t a kaiju. It wasn’t anything but a letdown. No robot armies, or weird half-man, half-pineapple monsters. Just too much crap plugged in and running when the power got restored. But I’m still glad it drew my attention to the Institute.
The whole thing was opened up to me a hole that had been blown straight upward, which is a weird way for it to act. Most things that explode aren’t really directed any specific way.
Amazingly, the blast didn’t appear to hit any other rooms at the Institute. Even the walls were still intact, of all things. Door wouldn’t open, though. The keypad was wrecked, and anything else that might open it was trashed. I had to climb back up to the surface and head back in the entrance.
Someone had secured it by piling up metal and trash in the elevator. By the door to the stairs flashed a red light with a sign below it reading, “Lockdown”. I punched in a code and about five different things slid out of place before it opened for me. I hunted down the explosion from a new direction and found the room had been labeled as “On-Site Munitions Storage”. I didn’t find any pink mist or meat chunks, so I’ll have to get a full inventory from administration. A check of the walls revealed they were built of something way the hell thicker than anything else around here, directing the blast upward to a weaker part of the structure to protect the rest of the facility. Something very unstable hemmed in on all sides by dense stuff. Like a demon core. Or a political rally.
With that mystery solved, I got a look at the rest of the place.
Now, I have all kinds of weapons. They had War Man’s old weapon stash here. There’s a gun that shoots these mines that fire off a stream of flames. Then there’s a sword here with a bunch of layers of some sort of super-thin metal. I twisted a knob on the bottom of the handle and it fell apart into five different swords. Unless you’re good at throwing swords, it’s terribly impractical. Still cool. I didn’t care too much about all the prototype ballistics, but I went all around there cataloging stuff.
I needed to keep track of this stuff so it didn’t get used against me, plus this is the kind of place that makes prototypes. Those things can blow in your face if not used correctly. Like when I opened up what looked like a commercial freezer and found a gun attached to a glowing green backpack. A label on the wall read, “Warning: Nuclear Hazard.” The inventory for that room informed me they had invented a nuclear flamethrower. Well, it’s not really a flamethrower at that point, though it’s hardly the first quibble to come to mind. Mostly it has to do with having an unlicensed, prototype nuclear accelerator for a backpack.
That lack of people surprised me, actually. I wasn’t finding dead bodies anywhere, though I know the place had been occupied when I put a hole in the island and dumped the ocean on the geothermal power. I know they had been here, and I doubt everyone abandoned their pet projects.
The answer turned out to be in the elevator. That low, I went to check on it and found it wasn’t just metal gumming up the works. There was organic matter at the bottom of the pile of metal. Not crushed people. It stretched out and down. Skin you could see through. Ligaments. Chunks of metal held together by muscle. It reminded me of a web more than anything. I plucked a strand and heard something skitter from below.
I came back with the nuclear flamethrower. Doesn’t seem like such a bad idea in this context. I was just about to start burning my way through when a large, pointed limb pushed it all aside. The thing that crawled out had a lot of the rest of that flesh with it. It looked rotten, and I was really glad my helmet filtered smells. A big spider of rotten meat stretched over metal that showed through where the gore failed to go far enough. It crawled out on pointed legs, revealing a torso that sat upright in the middle section of its body. That part looked more humanoid, save for its head being nothing but a mask of skin with eight holes. Whatever was inside gleamed, and perhaps functioned as an eye. The limb that pushed the blockade aside pushed toward me, a leg now punctured from the inside by a bloody scythe that kept extending further than I’d have liked.
I lit it the hell up with the nuclear flamethrower. Squeezed the trigger and a everything in front of the mouth of the weapon started glowing green. It was an unusual effect, but the organ parts blistered, burned, and fell off. That front blade fell off when some ligaments bubbled and dripped like grease. The thing howled and scrambled back for the hole, a sound made all the worse by its voice being deep and an answering call from down below.
It wasn’t helped by a red light flashing on the body of the flamethrower, which didn’t want to stop firing. I shoved the business end of it into the hole that cyber spider crawled out of and held it there, firing until the multitude of howling halted. Then I fired it even longer, because this was no time to be stingy with the radiation. It was the only way to be sure, and it gave me enough of a working knowledge to figure out how to shut the radiation-thrower down safely and lock it back up in its freezer.
And so once again the day was saved from the monsters who might not have gotten out if I didn’t go investigating the building full of weapons I’d left unattended for like a month. Plus, I have lots of new toys to play with and inventions to sort through.