Ah, war. A time of bloodshed and thundering guns. I’ve participated in a few before. Sometimes as an assassin working for a side; other times as an enthusiastic fan. When you don’t have connections to the world, it’s easy to be a fan of a war. Just invoke a plague on both their houses, crack open a beer, and watch a fireworks show.
But this is the Earth where I keep my family. As much as I’d prefer to be there with them, giving my daughter lessons in urban warfare, I’ll have to settle for making sure she’s safe to come back home to. That’s why I instead gave the invaders a lesson in urban warfare. Nothing quite like shoving some knowledge inside a pliable head. Strong enough power armor, any head’s pliable.
These were a different sort. Whatever raiders, robotmen, and thunder riflers had been pushed to the side. In the case of the otherworldly animals, this bunch were just as willing to kill them off if they got in the way. Instead of the raiders’ segmented armor or the riflers’ wool uniform, they had something I recognized as light ballistics vests. In testing, I found the less bulky plates the tankers wore were just as capable of absorbing lead as the stuff the national guardsmen are using. The new infantry have stuff that’s a little bulkier, even the grey ones.
I got a good look at them. I’d killed enough of them, after all. A few wore jetpacks with short wings sticking out from either side. Those tended to have a reflective visor built into their helmets. The others just get regular ol’ helmets.
The fighting has been intense. My squad have been keeping ourselves scarce, working with fellow villains. We decided not to present a unified front, not exactly. It might have gone better if my speech hadn’t been released to the wider public. But there was still room for villains to, say, ambush a light motorized infantry unit with flamethrowers trying to burn through Green territory. The eco-friendly gang of hippies had one of the most drastic effects on Empyreal City. With all the rebuilding the city does almost constantly, they stand out for spreading all sorts of plants across their territory. They went from smelly and mostly harmless potheads to having horned heads and smelling of musk thanks to whatever they’d started smoking.
They refused to heed the call until their territory was safe. I told them I’d guarantee it. Then here comes the invaders with flamethrowers and grenade launchers trying to make me a liar. Well, if there’s one thing I’m not, it’s a productive member of society. I’ve been a liar for a long time. I even lied that the invaders made me a liar. But I only lie when it’s absolutely necessary. Actually, that was also a lie. I do it for all sorts of reasons.
When I showed up with a squad of my guys and a few villains who felt like being useful, the burn squad was hard at work demolishing the entire neighborhood. We’d headed there in the back of Crankshaft’s pickup truck and stopped just around the corner. Not my call, but Crankshaft didn’t want to risk his wheels. The outside of a corner store we passed looked like its walls were made of thick vines, which is why I didn’t take the burn squad’s actions as overkill.
One of my soldiers approached, curious, and reached out for the wall. A thinner vine whipped out at him. A red-clad woman with a small mallet, Red Plague, reached for his shoulder, but he jumped back before she could pull him back.
Crankshaft’s partner, who wore a yellow jumpsuit with two checker-patterned stripes, and a mask that resembles flames, laughed. “Maybe we oughta let ’em burn it.”
Red Plague rolled her eyes. “We don’t need more dead and homeless, Gearshift.”
“We’re gonna have plenty enough, commie,” Crankshaft said.
“How are we doing this?” I asked, glancing around the corner at a quartet of skirted vehicles with turret-mounted flamethrowers. I saw fifteen… no, sixteen soldiers. Some also had little guns with prominent canisters that added to the firestorm. I saw a man with a twisted tangle of horns and tusks try to rush them, then erupted in a blaze courtesy of a grenade from one of the soldiers.
Red Plague looked up at the vines. “Get me to an overwatch position and I’ll make them sick. I’ll do what I can around all this heat.”
I glanced up as a grey man zoomed in like a bird or a plane. He had a bigass sword in one hand. Couldn’t see what was in the other. I smiled under my helmet. “Look at that, it’s my reason for living… killing. I can head in, disable one or two of the vehicles, then I think the big guy will be on me. Probably better if I hold im off. Crankshaft, you got a way to survive getting shot?”
He cracked his stained knuckles and grinned. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and bands of metal popped out of his skin in pieces. “I’m tougher’n I look.”
“I’ll get him and these others there lickity split,” Gearshift said. She looked at my Riccans, who nodded. Crankshaft moved over to grab Gearshift’s arm, trying to lock eyes with one of the soldiers. He tugged Gearshift away from them, muttering something.
I shook my head. “They have guns. Those work from a distance. A couple of you, stick with Red Plague. Wait for her to do her thing. Once cars go boom, that’s the cue for the rest of you to open fire. Crankshaft, use the confusion to get into them and knock out any remaining vehicles before they light us all up.”
Crankshaft stuck his fist out. Gearshift put hers on top. The two looked to the rest of us. Red Plague snorted and put hers in, followed by me and my soldiers. “Kickass on three. One, two, three, kickass!” said Crankshaft. Lucky the soldiers we were here to kill were far enough away not to hear us.
The squad leader of my bodyguards picked a couple of guys who boosted Red Plague up to the rooftop and jumped up after. They stayed low and began to pick their way over to a better position. Minicameras took in my environment, processed it, and projectors created the impression that people from any angle were seeing what was on the other side of me. Thus invisible, I jogged along as quietly as necessary.
A couple of soldiers took up the rear, but the whole group were great at keeping an eye on each other. I decided not to risk taking them out. The vehicles were more important in my eyes. I might even take them all out. “Plague, you in position?”
“I have a good spot. My phage friends are going to be hitting them any second now, then give it a minute for them to feel the full effects.”
“Heartburn? Excessive flatulence? Herpes?” I tried to clarify.
“Vomiting, coughing, sneezing, watery eyes. If I had more time and it wasn’t so hot, I could make them laugh until they shit themselves.”
I chuckled and got into position behind the nearest of the wheeled, skirted, armored hybrid of a jeep and a humvee.
I grabbed for the thing’s skirt, which looked like metal. I dug my fingers in and tried to find something a bit more structural. I had to get under there pretty well until I found a piece solid enough I felt I could lift, all while the thing trundled along. Not everyone knows this, but the secret to lifting heavy objects is to sneak up behind them, lift with your back and power armor. My armor and my enhanced musculature strained. It’s been awhile since I lifted heavy crap.
The skirted thing bucked and jumped, then I lifted and swung, smacking it into another right beside it. I lost my grip, which killed any chance of me using it on the others, and then someone decided to light me up. Even with my armor’s climate control, I still felt the heat rise and my body rush to sweat. I instantly cranked the A/C up so the batteries on my back didn’t explode or anything like that, and tackled the offending soldier. He fell back and I grabbed his gun, shoved the barrel into his mouth, and pulled the trigger to unleash fire from the smoking, hissing barrel point blank into his skull.
Behind me, the metal and napalm sandwich I left behind skidded and rolled, flames wreathing the both of them. They didn’t explode, but both gunners were either cooked or tenderized. Nobody would be using either one of those.
I looked up and through myself to the side to keep from being cut in half like the man underneath me was. The grey man’s tree trunk-wide sword split my own victim and caught fire when the man’s gun exploded. He opened his other hand. A black orb floated out and pulled both of us toward it. There we were, both of our chests stuck to a black magnet. The lack of EM distortion showed it wasn’t magnetic at least, but that wasn’t so fun when I was now stuck within kissing distance of a man whose sword could pleasure a whale.
He raised his sword with no backswing. I popped my Nasty Surprise mini-chainsaws and met his blade to hold it back. My lower arms grabbed at the orb, pushing and beating at it. I switched off one of my Nasty Surprise arms and used the other two to help keep the sword at bay. He went to backswing, but had to cut it short when I grabbed his hand and tried to force it down onto my free chainsaw. He needed to get the sword between us to stop that. And while all that happened, I swiped up with the mini-chainsaw, carving into the orb. It sparked once, twice, three times a lady, and pushed us apart when it burst and fell dead to the ground.
“Let’s dance before I cut your legs off,” the grey man said, flipping the sword around easily.
I sent a silent order to my squad and started charging a gauntlet with energy. “I’ll warm up the big band for you,” I said just before a grenade went off between my opponent’s legs. He flew up, spinning, and every member of my bodyguard unit raised their microguns to have a turkey shoot. The flames surrounding us drowned out the glow surrounding my lower right fist as I force-fed energy into a field that would magnify the effects of my punch.
Despite all the bullets, no blood had been drawn off the guy. My uppercut to his gut changed that. My fist punched a hole in his belly under his ribs and my arm sank in. His neck bulged at the arm sliding up it and his head burst open to reveal my hand. My fingers formed a rudimentary mouth as I put on the world’s goriest ventriloquist act. “Wow, I picked a fight with the wrong woman.”
The sound of someone vomiting drew my attention. Standing next to a pair of downed invaders was Crankshaft, puking. I looked around and found Red Plague among all the downed and soldiers, my guards, and a couple of Greens who held a pistol to the head of one sobbing wounded invader. “Might need to ease off on the disease.”
She shook her head and grimaced looking at me. “That’s not me this time. It’s you.”
“It is you, Psycho Gecko.” I looked over to the Greens. A large man there, long white fur flowing out from his head and forearms, a single long horn glowing amidst the flames. “You’re serious about fighting for us, too.”
“Serious as a heart attack,” I said, tossing the dead clone super aside.
“Then so are the Greens,” Unicorn said.
Red Plague stepped up beside me, her neck stiff to keep from glancing down at the mutilated clone. “And so are the Reds.”
I checked the sky and the massive domeship partially blotting it out. “I’m glad we’re on the same page. Those taint jugglers up there think this is a war epic. Let’s write them a horror story, instead.”