Before I went too much further, I had to deal with an issue at home. Because, fuck me, some people have some misconceptions about me. I was informed one of the Directors had a special gift for me he wanted to discuss with me over the phone because he was seeing to the offloading at the docks.
“1,500 kids? Where the fuck do you get 1,500- oh I’m sorry, interrupt your damn Empress while you’re at it, 1,475 kids? I don’t give a shit about the price. I understand what the phrase ‘fall off the back of a truck’ means, but most people don’t consider children the sort of thing that falls off the backs of trucks. I don’t care what that video shows, I caught her before she hit the ground, and this isn’t about her. This is about 1,500 kids that you decided to buy… why? What do I need kids for?! Anything worth doing is worth training an adult to do. What I want you to do is turn the boat around and send them back. It’s the United fucking States, it’s not that hard to sneak in. I know a bar in Mexico, place called the Titty Twister, caters to truck drivers. Pay a few of them enough, they’ll get them in. Worse comes to worse, you take them in through Canada instead.”
I put on my helmet so I could slam my head against the desk in my office for the appropriate slamming sound. That’s one of the problems with integrating cell phone technology into your brain; it’s so hard to manage a satisfying hangup. I’ve got a pretty liberal immigration policy for Ricca, but people begin to wonder what the fuck’s going on once you’ve smuggled in 1,500 kids. And do you know how hard it is to find a buyer for children in bulk?
I mean, sure, there’s China and its sweatshops. The Vatican and its child molestation. South Korea and its professional gaming slaves. And whatever it is Russia does with kids. Probably science experiments, if they even can pull that off now. The place got royally fucked. No, czarally fucked. For some reason, investing almost all legal power into a mortal man instead of some sort of system of government turned out badly for them when he died, especially with various crimelords free of control and eager to prevent any future president from being able to control them.
The Claw, being long-lived and difficult to kill, managed it for a long time. I just found it easier to shove some of the responsibilities on other people by making them draw up a constitution. That allows this Directory bunch to run the country while I sit around remotely controlling a robotic doppelganger in Belgium. I’ve had a small castle made for them all to be kept in at the military base, with plenty of room for all the other princesses I have villains and mercenaries kidnapping for me. They’ve had time to make their own deliveries. The princesses haven’t tried anything stupid, like escaping. The Deep One guards are fairly intimidating to regular humans, but we also keep drones around. And we’re on an island.
It’s gotten out that someone is kidnapping them.
I naturally got a call about it from an interested source. As in, Venus, the nemesis who has overstayed her welcome in my life. I was on my throne, laying around while my Dudebot scouted the Royal Castle over in Belgium. One of the Directory aides ran up with a phone for me. “The Director of Foreign Affairs sent this,” he said.
I took handset off the phone and held it up to my helmet. “It is I, the great and devious Psychopomp Gecko, master of death, destroyer of worlds, eater of souls. May I ask who’s calling?”
“Gecko, it’s me.” said a familiar voice.
I hung up. Six and a half minutes later, the phone rang. I answered it, fairly certain it was the same caller as before.
“You have no idea how big a hassle it is to call you. I have to call my friend in an embassy who calls someone he knows in another country’s embassy who directs it to that country’s Riccan embassy who sends the call all the way to his boss in your government.”
“Wow, that sounds just-” I hung up again. When she called back, I decided to reveal, “Ya know, I made sure lots of people know that if you’re reaching out to me, to go ahead and get the call to me. It’s complicated this way, but you won’t give me your number.”
“You keep hacking my phone anyway.”
I nodded. “Oh, that’s right, I refuse to give you my number. Anyway, I’m a very busy world leader here. Can’t spent all day playing phone tag with you. What do you want?”
“Are you kidnapping nobles?”
“Nah,” I answered.
“If you’re just going to say that about any answer I give, why bother asking? Venus, y’all worked out some sort of crazy reverse diplomatic immunity for me. It’s open season me if I leave, so clearly I don’t just run off from the island.”
“You were just over here during the holidays,” she reminded me.
“Yes, and maybe someone needs to give you and your friends a stern talk about aiding and abetting international fugitives from justice, but it won’t be me because I’m adhering to the terms of my agreement.” Either I’ve gotten really good at envisioning Venus’s reactions to my antics, or she grinds her teeth loudly. “I have not left this island and I am not kidnapping royals. If I had some sort of plan for that, why would I wait until after that big wedding in the UK?”
“I don’t know what you’re doing, but we know you’re having royal women kidnapped for whatever reason. I shouldn’t have to remind you that being a leader means worrying about war instead of jail.”
I laughed at that one. “Right, like anyone would invade a country that actually has weapons of mass destruction. Only an imbecile or a madman actually declares war on someone like that, what with millions of lives all snuffing out in the first few minutes of any such war. Plus, ya know, I can teleport my bombs anywhere in the world. No, I’m perfectly safe here. But if you’re looking for kidnapped royals, then I have to say thanks for thinking of me, but your princess is in another castle. Oh, but while I have you, I was hoping to invite you to a party-”
She hung up on me that time.
Over in Belgium, I used the Dudebot and satellites to recon the Royal Castle. It’s a misnomer, though. It’s a palace, but not really a castle. The difference isn’t just pedantic. A castle is an actual fortress, designed to withstand knights and catapults. Palaces are designed to protect nobility from living in a mere mansion like one of those dirty plebians who worked for their money. Or worse, who don’t even have money. With today’s military technology, the difference can be negligible.
They have the Royal Castle locked down tight with guards and dogs, and guards as ugly as dogs. I mean, they’re trying. It’s the thought that counts, right? Plenty of people would be deterred by those shitty defenses. Lots of folks wouldn’t go after the last four princesses in Belgium. There are actually five Belgian princesses left, but one of them lives over in the U.S. Or something. Princess Marie-Christine Daphne Astrid Elisabeth not only continues the trend of having either Marie or Maria in her name, but appears to be something of a black sheep. She lives abroad and estranged, already spent all her money, and talks about how maybe Belgium would be better off without royalty. Given some people I’ve seen elected to power, I’m not sure she has room to shit talk the monarchy.
Regardless, Marie-Christine wasn’t gathered up by the royal family and shipped to the Royal Castle for safekeeping during this kidnapping spree. The other four were inside this sad little piece of architecture they thought they could defend with probably more armed guards than their normal standing army.
It really wasn’t that hard to just sneak in. Jump some fences, sneak in behind a patrolling guard, invisible as a fart in the wind, but twice as deadly. It took me awhile to find where they were actually being held. I had to go through a lot of bedrooms, and even when I was sure I found the actual room, it turned out to be sadly empty. On the plus side, I know one of the remaining princesses wasn’t wearing panties. I hope it’s not the 55 year old.
All the bedrooms… empty. Which wouldn’t be entirely suspicious, but even the ones that looked like room for the guards didn’t have anyone in them. And it occurred to me there should have been more staff in general. I expanded my search and was a little less gentle, like someone finding out his girlfriend has problems cumming from just penetration. As this tends to do, this did eventually lead me to a room full of women. Also, a gaggle of guys with guns aimed right at a door that opened all by itself. Had to be like twenty of them packed in there along with the four nobles I was after. They stood on a platform of a sort, with a slope reaching out several feet in all directions and bolted to the floor.
“Test it,” said one of the security detail. A man stepped forward and fired a shotgun, peppering my armor with buckshot because that’s the kind of gun that’s awesome for shooting into a doorway. Natural chokepoint, after all. And with only one way in or out, a shotgun would normally shred someone to pieces there. It just ticked me off a bit and prompted the one giving orders to turn and signal something to a woman sitting at a computer near the princesses. The computer person made twenty-one, a fun number for every occasion. “Activate it! Open fire, protect the princesses!”
The guards opened up on me all at once. Just a good, long, loud few seconds of automatic fire. Right as it petered off, one guy thunked a grenade at the doorway that began to spew smoke. As a whole, the group turned to stare at one mustachioed guard in goggles, the nearest asking “Really, Dietrich?”
I stepped the Dudebot out of the cloud, the smoke marking it for everyone to see and preventing the cameras and projectors from working properly to conceal it. Or the panties stretched over the helmet.
“Are those my knickers?” asked the skinny blonde 29 year old of the bunch, Maria Laura Zita Beatriz Gerhard.
“Score,” I said, pumping the Dudebot’s fist. Then my helmet started blasting “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”.
I jumped and put my hand through the nearest guard’s skull. His body fell back down and I grabbed the legs, yanking him into the air to smack another into a very heavy classical marble statue that fell over on top of that one. Another flew into a vase that looked pretty old. I tossed the body at his head, snapping it back.
The next one in front of me got a punch through his gut, leaving a hole that let me see yet another one behind him who was trying to get me with a shotgun he managed to reload. I reached through the hole and grabbed the guy’s crotch. He screamed as I pulled it back, the gun firing off to the side. I think it got another of his team. I turned to someone flanking me and whipped the torn-off dick at his face, causing him to be momentarily blinded. I grabbed his gun out of his hand and slammed the barrel into the top of his skull. Then I bent him over and emptied fifteen shots through his asshole into another pair of guards.
A shot to the back of the Dudebot reminded me they were trying to get around behind me. I turned and brought the ripped dick straight down. The guard, a woman with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, opened her mouth in shock and, amazingly, took the entire thing down her throat. “Holy crap, that’s just great,” I told her. She flailed her free hand and reached for the bloody cock. “You doing anything later?” I asked.
She shot the Dudebot in its crotch. I kicked her onto her back. “Rotting, eh? Sounds fun. I’ll leave you to it.” I stomped her groin. She sat straight up, at which point I kicked her head off with the other leg.
“Got it!” shouted the woman at the computer, hitting a button. The four princesses, all huddled together, were cut off from everything else by a shimmering barrier. “Now you can’t get them!” she said, turning to give me a triumphant and teasing grin.
I plowed through everyone else, pushing them aside, to grab the woman and lift her up. Then I turned to look the princesses themselves and cocked my head toward the dead bodies and regrouping guards. “So, you wanna come with me, or do you want all of them to die in fun and inventive ways while you stand by and watch. Then I find my way to y’all anyway.”
“You’ll never get them!” said the struggling woman in my grip, her legs kicking at my armor with futility.
Princess Astrid Josephine-Charlotte Fabrizia Elsabieth Paola Marie, a name that makes me want a deep breath just thinking about it, spoke for them. “It is our duty to stay strong for our people. To be their spirit and will. Though their bodies fail, that indomitable spirit remains.”
I shrugged and slammed the woman on the ground, leaving her splayed out on the ground while the Dudebot stepped as close to this shield and the device emitting it as possible. Then I activated the Dimension Bomb hidden on it.
When the bunch reappeared and the Dudebot returned to my control, I saw that about half the technician who activated the shield came with it. The entire device didn’t come with me either, which is why the shield didn’t last so long. I smirked to myself as the Deep Ones rushed up to take the princesses into custody and lead them into the castle, but I threw back a parting insult to the various Marias and Maries. “Outside of ghosts, you won’t find too many dead men who give a crap about spirit. Real easy to sacrifice other people for your own life, isn’t it? Enjoy your stay, ladies.”