With my quest done, I had more time to spend with Qiang. Sadly, I had more time for my responsibilities as a ruler, as well. American holiday or not, people are still going to cause trouble in the Pacific. Nothing too big to worry about. Without me around to commit it, crime is down. The influx of new recruits allowed a lot more downtime, made the corrupt security guys realize I didn’t need them. It helped that they’ve had ample opportunity to realize I’m both a bad motherfucker and willing to kill them for stepping out of line.
I’m proud of being a bad motherfucker, by the by. It’s a hard title to obtain. It’s much easier to become a good necrophiliac than a bad motherfucker, for instance.
There have still been some incidents, but without me there to hold his hand, the Directory appointment over Internal Security has figured out his role. First he panicked, then he locked himself away for three days with as much whiskey as he could find, then he switched to bourbon and started bossing people around just right. Which, coincidentally, reminds me of what I drink if anyone ever asks me to do any creative writing. His panicked emails and voicemails gave way to drunken slobbering and then a certain resigned cynicism that’ll serve him well. This is no world for optimists.
Optimistic that things weren’t going to be so bad, I had a Dudebot sign off on some new laws and regulations, then decided to check in on the robotic double of myself over on Mu. By now, the new ambassador had arrived to relieve Citra, my wife. She expected the marriage to be political, I’m sure. She never expected me to have her appearance altered to make it look like I was marrying the princess of a nation of bronze age people on a mysterious island that appeared in the middle of the ocean.
I took over running the Dudebot there to walk her out to the newly-arrived delegation. It almost got awkward when the new ambassador-regent’s baggage dropped and some bondage gear dropped out. Those poor, innocent Bronze Citizens will learn soon enough what that mask was for.
“Welcome to the Bronze City, Regent Toyotomi,” I said, the robot body double giving him a handshake. The man smiled warmly for all to see, and sensors in the hand detected that he tried to squeeze it. The guy was younger, with a beard, and had a bit of fitness on him. It probably frustrated him to face a robotic grip that he couldn’t out-muscle, but otherwise I think the guy will fit in just fine. Calling up his file, he’d been the embarrassing son of one of the more important former government bureaucrats to stick with the island. The bureaucrat had become a big deal in our government. His son had stayed an apparent embarrassment.
I’m not fond of how little they thought of the post, but I think they got the right guy. Gregarious and competitive; using ambassadorial luggage for sex gear is a good sign, too. He’ll fit right in with people who think the height of entertainment is a play about a guy banging his own mother.
I may have impressed the Bronze Citizens with my incredible ability as a playwright with plays stolen from actual Greek poets these people have never heard of. I’d have used my own legitimate works, but I don’t think they’d care for my stage adaptation of Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory. I also haven’t written it yet, which presents another obstacle. Need a lot more alcohol and free time.
With a last wave, it was time for Citra and my Dudebot to depart. Oh, and to snatch an arrow out of the air before it could hit Citra. Another almost got Toyotomi, a third bounced harmlessly off the robot’s armor.
“Well,” I told Toyotomi, “I suppose there might be a few problems with this new job you’ve been handed…”
And just like that, the Drone Squad got assigned to security duty. The humans and Deep One immigrants who have taken up service with the remote-controlled warmachines should be more than enough to handle the conspiracy brewing around the Bronze City. You can tell it’s a conspiracy because the guards never found the guy. I know, I know, people used to be fairly incompetent at catching criminals, but think about it, dear readers. Most people in this city don’t go around armed. A spear might not cost a lot of money or take much skill to make, but this was a bow. Not everyone carries a bow in a city. It’s hard to carry a bow inconspicuously. And what kind of bow in a Bronze Age society is going to be both good enough to attempt an assassination and cheap enough to dump somewhere to escape?
The kind of boy funded by someone with money. Makes me wish the old Riccan project to drop mind control drugs from planes worked out. Damn chemtrails just never got off the ground. It’d make this so much easier, and I’d rather not use nanites for this job. I’d rather not think about this place until I had a use for it beyond denying it to other people. Hmm… yeah, I have an idea after all. That’ll be for later, though. I just need to kidnap some people.
In other news, Queen Beetrice, who rules North Korea as part of my empire, has sent me a lot of formal invitations to dinner. Also, a jar of honey that she claims is North Korea’s biggest export. She’s even got a program here where she rents out the services of some of her Buzzkills. The bee people go out, do a little cross-pollinating, and collect money from private interests and state governments who are a little short on bees.
So that’s another idea I can work with. I need an evil plot to kill wild bees.
Yep, plots everywhere. It’s a world of possibilities. So what did I start on first?
I took Qiang around to find a Day of the Dead celebration. They had a sort of one here in the city. It was really more of an outreach thing, but she had fun. She nearly broke a tooth on a sugar skull, but she forgot about how much it hurt when she saw someone dressed as La Calavera Catrina.
Then things got awkward, because she went running off, yelling “Citra!”
Oh fuck all kinds of donkey. She ran up and hugged a confused Venus, babbling away in Riccan pidgen. She pointed back at me before I could change the hologram from my armor to resemble something less like myself.
Venus wasn’t in armor, I should say. She wasn’t even in costume. She was there in a dress, and not one meant to seduce or show things off. Just a green dress. The puzzlement dropped off her face when she saw me. Thismight be the longest I’ve kept a face since I was a kid, and the projection even included some of those nice little scars from when the Master Academy supers were doing brain surgery on me.
“Qiang!” I called out. Speaking in the Riccan pidgen, I told her, “That’s not Citra. That is someone else.”
“She looks just like how Citra looked!” Qiang said, turning and looking at me, then back up at Venus. “Did she change how she looked?”
“No, that is how she looked,” I said. I had hesitated for a moment, then stepped forward.
Venus’s stance had shifted. She’d gone on guard. I noticed her reach for her phone on her hip and start tapping on the keys. I didn’t make a move to stop her. “Hello Venus,” I said in English.
“Hello Gecko,” she responded. Her eyes flicked down to Qiang. “Who is this?”
“Hello, I am Qiang,” Qiang said, also switching to English. She gave a polite and respectful bow. “Do you know my dad?”
“Your DAD?!” Venus seemed rather surprised by the concept that I could have a kid. Sure, it didn’t happen in the conventional sense, but I’m allowed to have kids. Normally, I’d feel more like stressing that point toward Venus, but I didn’t want to deal with her right now. Not with Qiang around.
A few in the crowd around us had looked at hearing Venus’s dramatic response, but stopped paying us any mind. I stepped close as well, though I didn’t give a bow. “Yep. Venus, this is Qiang, who has already introduced herself like a good young lady. Qiang, this is Venus. We are… acquaintances.”
Qiang smiled. “Dad, what’s a acquaintance?”
I looked at Venus. She looked at me. She looked at Qiang. I looked at Qiang. “Well, hon, she’s not exactly a friend, but we know each other.”
“You don’t like each other?” she asked. “Why don’t you like my dad? Dad, why did Citra-”
I cut her off right there. Going back to the pidgen, I told her, “Do not talk about Citra in front of her.” Even if it was Citra’s own choice, I didn’t want to explain to Venus that a woman seeking my affection did so by making herself look like Venus. I probably also wouldn’t like explaining how Citra had access to nude photos of Venus’s entire body. I’m just going to have to close that line of inquiry now. State secrets.
Venus looked us over again, then crossed her arms. “Who is Citra? Why did your daughter run up to me saying that name? How do you have a daughter?”
Starting to regret not using that magic tree to wish her pregnant with my kid. Thinking of Venus with morning sickness is fun. Thinking of it swelling her boobs is better. Probably the best part would have been “accidentally” saying in front of everyone that she was carrying my baby.
Then again, seeing her kneel and ask Qiang if she needs help and if I kidnapped her, I considered the possibility that I might want her hanging from a wire that’s been run through her bowels, a light bulb shoved into her mouth to help her serve as a giant Christmas light.
“My daughter is just fine. She doesn’t need your help. We’re not causing you any trouble here, now are we?”
An explosion bwawoomed in the distance. Venus glared up at me. I held up a finger. “I had nothing to do with that, I think.”
“Right,” she said, pulling her phone off its little hip holder.
“If I’m lying,” I said. “May your puny excuse for a god strike me down where I stand!”
The skies rumbled. I pointed up at a nearby cloud. “You watch it, mister. Don’t make me come up there.” Instead, it parted to reveal a man in what I’d call a quadcopter suit. Four giant rotors on his back.
He fired a shotgun down into the crowd of celebrants while dropping a few racial slurs.
“Stand back, I got this,” said Venus, tearing the bottom portion of he dress away for better agility. Then she saw the guy drop his gun and pull out a rocket launcher.
I sighed and looked to Qiang, then pushed Venus aside. “Looks like I got this.” I dropped the hologram, began charging an energy sheath, and jumped.
As I hoped, the guy realized some big metal man was heading his way and adjusted his aim accordingly. It was a bit less likely to hit anyone I cared about. Or Venus. With my free hand, I whipped out a chicken grenade, pinched the head off, and threw it at what I hoped would work for the distance. I’m not known for my skills as a quarterback.
The quadcopter racist fired at me. I pulled my cape around my front as much as possible, raised the forearm encased in a glowing aura, and loudspinningwhiningnoiseowthatsmyasswhyistherehalfabodegaonmyass…
After a moment spent laying around and collecting myself, I went to shake my head clear and stand up, but my head was already shaking. I stopped it and tried to stand up. First attempt ended in me falling back on my ass and the calf of my right leg. Don’t worry, it’s still attached. Aside from a minor spot of flash-frying on my arm, it seems my armor held up. That doesn’t mean punching a rocket had no consequences. One of them showed up in that all the people around me were on mute and someone had left a high-pitched whine going.
The first to rush over were Qiang and Venus. Qiang actually managed to lift me, at which point the hologram on her armor failed. Venus seemed surprised, but also surprisingly-willing to help me up and try to look me over. Man, there was a lot of sugar skulls. I began to wonder why they made them in the first place, like how they got that idea and how hard they were to eat. And why were we moving so slow.
I pulled away from Venus and picked up Qiang. “Leave me alone, superhero. Always being mean and never liking me. You just want to think I’m nothing but trouble.” I was probably speaking really loudly. “Your help has a hell of a lot fine print than anything I ever do when I kill people! My daughter and I are going to our hotel!”
Despite having trouble with my balance, I fought through the killer headache I had to get out of there, though I didn’t feel well enough to jump or run off. That worked out possibly for the better as Qiang and I found ourselves soon staring at the smoking, flaming wreckage of our hotel, where someone had set off a car bomb at ground level. I turned to Venus, grabbed the shoulders traps of her dress, and used her bosom as a face pillow. “Why can’t I have nice things?!”
My memory gets a little blurry around that time, but I woke up in the regular infirmary of what my GSP assured me was the Master Academy. At least this time, I didn’t have brain surgery. Or a prison. Just a heavy kid sleeping on top of me still in her armor, and a crumpled note in her hand from Venus.
“Dear Psycho Gecko,
The doctor says you can leave after you are rested. I do not know what makes a man like you jump in front of a rocket for people, but it is a positive change for your life. Do not make me regret it.
P.S. Your daughter is welcome to attend. We will make a hero out of one of you yet. :)”
She says that, except now I’m planning to kidnap some people, steal some equipment, and murder the compatriots of whoever blew up my luggage. I’ll just do it out of another hotel.
But I’ll consider the offer for Qiang.
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I have been waiting for this chapter for a while, it didn’t disappoint!
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Love your story gex. With you as you are, great and devious, it’s tough to write supporting characters you actually care about. I find gex caring about qiang very plausible, as gex and qiang are both orphans from places that treat the disadvantaged incredibly poorly. Gex was taken and trained to be a killing machine, qiang was taken a trained to be a fuck toy.
I bet gex will consider her more and more important, and when she gets in danger, we’ll get to see serious gecko.