After the deaths of ICE’s top guy for the city and DIE’s CDC mole, it seemed like we just about had everything wrapped up in Atlanta. ICE is paralyzed with certain succession and personnel issues. The second highest-ranking officer is in charge, but he’s undertaking some unit disciplining and transfers. Someone just walked in and murdered his predecessor, after all. Can’t keep those guards around.
As a result of those issues, the crackdown on the protests failed and Atlanta’s city officials are working out their own governance. ICE even moved out of city hall to settle on a more defensible position on the edge of the city. Newburgh and Murko are doing what they can to scrub things here. Rendered me pretty unnecessary, especially when I could be shipping off a spare body to Kentucky for a finishing touch to the whole mess.
Which made the perfect moment for them to try one last thing to screw us all over. Newburgh gave us the first hints to it. “It looks like ICE is pulling out. They’re leaving a token force behind, made up of the agents who were stationed at city hall when it was infiltrated.” The rest of us were sitting around eating. We’d been living out of the tour bus. It got a bit stinky at times, but
“Think we should do one last drive by as we leave and moon them?” Gates asked. He was fixing a little door on the top front of the tour bus that hid a grenade launcher behind it. Don’t worry. We were in the parking lot of this old Big Lots and nobody was paying attention to us there.
Slam finished his hotdog up and was reaching for the chips. “Let them retreat. We won.”
And we would have. I was trying to find somewhere nearby with crates big enough for my body and armors. It’d be easier, maybe even quicker, than taking the bus and sharing a shitter with the rest of the team. I was just about to put a down payment on a luxury coffin when Gates called out, “Holy shit, what’s that?”
I looked up, then dove for my armor. It had been a bright projectile flying through the sky. It wasn’t a bird, a plane, or a super man; I’d say it more closely resembled a missile. It wasn’t headed our way, but it didn’t need to be. Plenty of warheads go off once they’re in close enough proximity. From the bang behind me, it sounded like this one did. The fact I heard a bang meant it wasn’t a nuke. I still finished suiting up, realizing I was throwing on the Eminence armor. Once I had shoved my face into the helmet, I watched the cloud scattering over the edge of town.
Slam pointed to Newburgh, “Find out what the hell just happened. This may be none of our business, but I want us prepared to render aid.”
Newburgh had a tiny laptop out. “Nothing yet.”
Slam turned to me. “Gecko, can you scout with your drones?”
I raised a hand and summoned one of my remaining drones to me, then up into the air. It rose higher while I projected a simplified hologram of what it saw. Newburgh walked over, checking it over. “That’s the old fire station the ICE remnants are at, right there.” He pointed to a building right in the middle of the affected area. “Get closer.”
It took a few minutes. In the meantime, we heard the beginning of hell breaking loose. It sounded like plasma fire from ICE rifles, explosions even. The drone got close enough to see ICE agents going crazy. They emptied out into the neighborhoods around the fire station, shooting. One of them got hit by a car that turned a corner. The driver got out to check on the agent he hit, who jumped up and started beating the crap out of the driver with his fists. Started biting him. Another ICE agent ran up on that one and tore off the biter’s helmet, exposing the bring pink skin of the biter’s bald head. The biter turned to him, but the other agent just pointed to his own head, then to the biter’s victim. Then, the second agent rushed at someone else nearby who had approached with a phone. I think he had been trying to offer aid. Instead, he turned into another meal.
The drone’s feed cut. Might have been shot. These things were almost pink brutes, but without growing giant, and with guns. Probably some of that regeneration, too.
“Gecko,” Slam said. I launched myself into the air toward the site of the massacre starting up. It took a few jumps, Slam getting onto comms before the last one. “If that cloud is the brute virus, this is going to be bad.”
“It doesn’t seem widespread yet,” I noted. I watched further down the street as a car sped my way. An ICE agent held onto the back of it, smashing at the rear window. I waved my hands toward me and ran for the car, hoping the driver saw the clear message to keep coming. I ran and jumped into a flying dropkick that carried me over the windshield and the roof of the car into the body of the ICE agent. He fell free and we rolled along the road, slowly coming to a stop as the car sped onward out of the area.
The Icer rose, pulling a knife with his left hand. The right forearm dangled in a way forearms aren’t meant to dangle. His head shook and he began to growl, his mouth gnashing and flinging spittle. “Who the fuck are you?” he asked. He didn’t wait for an answer, lunging for my neck with the knife. He hit harder than a normal person, but so do I. I blocked it. He dropped the knife toward his other arm. I caught it instead, grabbed his head, and swiped with the knife, taking his head off. I kept a close eye on the body. Pink or not, the body stopped wiggling after a few seconds. “The name’s Eminence, because I rule.”
I called into Slam and the rest. “Not the same size as the others, but increased strength and aggression. Pink skin. Not a lot more I can tell you off this guy. I pulled up a quick look at a still of when I’d crossed over the windshield and sent it along to Newburgh while I looked at it myself. “At least someone in the area doesn’t seem affected.”
Slam responded, “Gates, Murko, and I are on the way in the spare.”
I jumped one last time, landing near a half dozen Icers firing into a corner store. I trucked the nearest one, knocking him and the next two in line down. The others all turned their plasma rifles on me. I dove to the side and left a holographic duplicate standing in my place. The shots went right through her. My fists went through two of their chests, from behind. I pulled their hearts out on the way back. The one in the middle rolled forward and came up, rifle trained on me then snatched out of his hands by my nanomachine cape. The cape then came down, a vertical sheet that bisected him. Around this time, two others I’d knocked down were starting to stand up. I grabbed one’s head and twisted it around like half an Exorcist. The other one, my nanites put a solid hole through his chest and popped his lungs out onto the sidewalk.
I was surprised by cheers. People inside the corner store had managed to hold out against the onslaught and they were clapping happily. None of them looked pink. One of them pointed, and my HUD showed the guy whose head I’d rotated pulled it back around. So, I guess that means they have some regeneration abilities. I spun around and gave him an uppercut that knocked his head off. That earned me a pause in the applause, for a second. Then I was back to being their hero. It’s hard to be happy at the death of someone who just tried to kill you.
I waved at my adoring fans, then set off around the fire station. “Slam, just saw a crowd of people who were unaffected. So far, the only pinks I’m seeing are ICE agents.” I stopped, and turned toward the fire station, jumping onto its roof. “If we do this piecemeal, it’ll take forever. I’ll try and draw them to me.”
I switched to loudspeaker mode. “Hey ICE taintwads! I’m here and I killed your friends!” I ducked a shot. Then another. I couldn’t guarantee all the agents were after me, but only because I stopped counting after the first dozen ran my way.
Just for laughs, I swiped with my left hand at one of the shots. Agh! Yeah, that hurt. Instant 4th degree burns, my guess is. The gauntlet didn’t melt, but that didn’t matter. Still fucking… gah. The nanites immediately set to work while I busied myself avoiding anymore bursts of hot plasma. I could have done that in a remarkable display of agility, cybernetics, power armor engineering, and audacity. Instead, I left a holographic doppelganger to dodge while I lounged on the roof of the fire station, letting my hand heal. Crispy. I swear I could smell the burnt meat.
Some of the local supers showed up around the time my guys did, and that complicated matters. I was just going to paralyze the whole bunch, which would be risky enough. If I kept it quiet enough, the pile near me would be the only ones affected. But then these supers show up and start drawing off some of the crowd. And with a big crowd of them having climbed or jumped to the roof of the fire station, I had superseding priorities.
I jumped up and pivoted, bending low. My nanite cape was as an atom-thick blade. Though they weren’t all the same height, the entire crowd encircling my projection ended up considerably shorter. More kept coming, some of them realizing the projection wasn’t real. A grenade landed where the projection stood. I kicked it off the roof, where it sounded like it exploded some climbers. Someone fired his pistol and gut shot me, having figured out I had to be there to kick it. Yay, the sound and incredible feeling of fried intestines. I think something popped in there, too. Yep, that’s some internal damage. Lots of internal damage.
I flopped myself to the side to avoid more shots, which were plentiful. But I made one small change. I sent the nanites out to flow up toward the projection jumped at the trio of remaining Icers trying to ice me. They shot at it, then decided to advance past it once they realized they were just shooting through. The nanites flowed up and formed a hollow body for it then, giving it substance when it turned around and clawed off the first one’s head. The second one barely had time to notice that when the fake-me tore his arms off and kicked him off the roof. The last one fired, but the shots fried a few nanites. The rest formed a horn on the projection’s head for when it headbutted the man. It held its head against his long enough for the nanites to expand, popping the man’s head and dropping him to the roof. The projection disappeared as I recalled the nanites.
“You alright?” Slam asked from up top.
“Yeah, just need to heal a bit. Took some plasma to the gut. Took out all the ones on the roof. How’re y’all?” I asked. I was just laying there, focusing on healing. A hand was one very painful fucking thing. My guts felt like I’d been in a Carolina Reaper chili eating contest.
“We got them. You going to make it?” Slam asked.
“Unfortunately for you and the world, yes,” I said.
And, as revealed by the CDC guys, who were still pretty clueless about all the politics involved, the world wasn’t at risk of turning out the same way. They clued Sgt. Slam in on the fact that these ICE agents were prepped beforehand to change. “This was their penance to ICE,” he told us, including me. I’d been taking it easy after the gutshot. It was healed by the night of the fight, but I still had weird feelings from it.
“This isn’t going to end until we take out ICE’s political support, and the Strode documents tell us exactly who needs to go for that to happen,” Dr. Monroe said. He held up a half-burnt piece of paper. “Codename ‘Big Turtle’ aka Senator McConnell of Kentucky.”
At last, time to turn this KY into jelly. I don’t know if it’ll really take down ICE, but it’ll make me happy to eliminate Big Turtle. And in the end, isn’t that the entire point of this?
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