Category Archives: 60. Die Seas Adventure

Ahoy, mateys. With a secure island, there’s little left but to keep the peace as supercriminals begin arriving on the island. Will Gecko save the day? Will he get bang a pirate? Will the ancient ritual to summon evil from the underworld go off without a hitch? Probably, this is that kind of story.

Die Seas Adventure 6

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On top of the low-grade civil war happening in the United States, they had to deal with a hurricane. Paradise City is on the Florida Gulf Coast. Ruled by a supervillain named Ouroboros, he has a series of weather control buoys in the ocean to protect it from hurricanes. They took a little bit of the bite out of this one, but not enough to stop it. Now a big chunk of Texas is underwater. A chunk normally home to millions of people.

It would have been a perfect time to attack the States. Civil war, natural disaster, no Psycho Gecko to deal with, and the populace rejecting the potential for nanotechnology to save lives. Tracing his path, that’s where the big guy had been headed. Then all the praying started and he turned to us. We haven’t had a cloudless day since. The island hasn’t seen the sun in days, instead being lit through an impenetrable dark haze of clouds. At least our food is already all grown indoors.

I didn’t notice it until it got within viewing distance of the island, but the waters rippled a bit in front of it. I had thrown on my armor and headed out to the beach. We’d cleared away the Deep Ones who had fled from the religious Cthulhu extremists down below, except for the ones who insisted on chanting along with Alhazred.

They didn’t even notice when I prepped the whole place. Little things, like stocking up on weapons and equipment, including the radiationthrower from the Institute of Science. I had a humongous stockpile of nanites on hand as well.

The guards were supposed to be keeping order, but many of them found guard spots that let them spy on that beach in particular as the thing approached with its forward-moving wake. I decided to taunt it further one of the best ways I know how: I stood on the beach, in full armor, with a guitar. I raised a hand to the sky as lightning crackled and thunder boomed. I brought my hand down and the speakers sitting behind me let loose a few clanging notes before all the strings broke. The neck, as well. I looked down at the broken guitar and tossed it aside. “Well, fuck.”

I cranked up the volume on my helmet and readied my phenomenal singing voice. “This is a little number I like to call ‘They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha Ha’.”

Just as I breathed in to release my siren song into the world, lightning seemingly split the sky right in front of me, hitting this multi-armed water thingy that inspired the works of Lovecraft and many others. The world rumbled then and the ocean flew up. Or the multi-armed, multi-winged, one-eyed tail dropped back onto the ocean and the thing’s actual body arose from the water.

“Whoa,” I said. I kinda wish I had a better idea of distances on sight alone, because this was one big biznitch. Didn’t this thing get beat by a yacht from the Twentieth century? Oh, right, it was hit in the octopus head by it, a head that seemed to be mostly tentacles except for eyes and a bulgy back section. I only saw the two eyes, but at this point I wouldn’t have been surprised to see more of those open up somewhere. What at first appeared as scales and hairs instead appeared to be move in the same manner as the tail’s appendages, though it had a conventional pair of arms and wings. It also had nards. “Octopus-man’s got nards!” I shouted, drowned out by the roar of storm and falling water.

“Excuse me, Emperor,” I heard in my ear. “This is the Intercept team, and I believe you know what I’m about to say.”

“Yes, indeedy,” I said.

“How are you going to fight that thing?” the soldier on the other end asked.

I shrugged. “Well it won’t be Queensberry Rules. I think I’ll try the Oscar Wilde Rule.”

“The what, sir?”

“Shoot on sight, Intercept.”

New thunder joined the storm as artillery shells exploded against the body of Cthulhu. “Let’s hear that famous call of Cthulhu now, fishlips!”

The entity’s high-pitched roar echoed through my brain, despite the soundproofing of my helmet. I flipped it off and responded with, “You scream like a girl! And if you’re not sure what a girl is, come over here and I’ll make you into one!”

In all likelihood, it didn’t hear me. Things were noisy. But it did stomp toward land. It needed to stop the guns and we didn’t have anything it could use as a convenient projectile.

I reached down and grabbed one of the many hoses I’d had placed to pump nanites. From the way its body was healing those shots, I would need them. I’m sorry, did I imply I’d use the nanites for healing? I ran with that hose and jumped, landing on part of its leg and getting tangled in a wet, slimy mess of small wings and appendages before I hooked the hose to one of them. Then I went back for more.

It caught on around the third one that what I was doing was more important than the artillery. That Paimon demon might have been talking out its ass when it made Cthulhu seem to know a lot more. It didn’t even know how to hit me with its long, spiney fingers. Instead, I was able to grab on to a wing on its arm and hook a hose to it.

Before long, I’d gotten almost all of them in place. It was while trying to get rid of a knot on the penultimate one that keeping my hose in line was interrupted by a tentacle wrapping around me. I readied a pimp hand, directing energy to the conduits on the gauntlet, and punched a hole through it. Then I reached in with both arms and tore it apart, dropping myself and part of the squirming appendage to the ground.

Then I won the lottery. And by that, I mean I got struck by lightning, shutting down my armor and cybernetics for a couple of seconds and hurting a lot. Well, more like everything in my body tensed up to the point where it felt like it would explode. Adrenaline could only do so much to numb the pain.

A blow sent me rolling along the wet sand of the beach. I recovered my sight in time to see myself hit the edge of the pavement and tip into the air, where my progress was stopped shortly after breaking through its second-story window. I guess it’s about time to remember that I’m fighting a giant monster, after all. A version of that though ran through my head. At the moment, the thing doing most of the running was my secret stockpile of delicious lemonade in my lower armor.

Once I picked myself up and dusted off my brain, I also popped a special opening in my crotch to try and drain out. I added that feature just for this fight, along with a similar one in the rear. While I did that, I heard Intercept telling me they were having to divert fire to stop incoming boats and chunks of pier. “Understood, Intercept. You’ve done your job. I’ll take it from here.”

“Emperor, are you sure?”

“Don’t worry about me. Worry about yourself, and Cthulhu,” I closed my crotch hole and grabbed a nearby surfboard, suddenly wishing I had some silver spray paint. When I looked out, I saw the big critter had torn off all the hoses on him, which really sucked. They looked like they’d been cut through, at least the closest. It’s generally not a good idea to take inventory only when you’ve got Revenge of the Calamari stomping around. I hopped out and positioned the surfboard below me. The landing was a bit of a jolt, but the board slid along the pavement and sand until I jumped off and ran for the remaining loose hose end.

“These are desperate times, Mrs. Lovett,” I said to myself, “And desperate measures are called for.” I opened the rear and forward hatches. It took a bit of reaching around in there until I could set the hose in there where it would hold steady. I got it just in time, too, as the biggun almost dropped part of a restaurant on me. Good to see the giant horror from beyond time didn’t forget about me. Nice to know I made an impression. If only I made friends so easily?

I had dodged and powered up the legs of the exoskeleton under my armor. I called back up the Buzzkills who had hidden nearby, hoping they hadn’t decided to abandon their post. “Pump team, report!”

“We are in readiness, master. We merely await your command.”

“Things are going to get rocky here, so no Bullwinkle. I need all of it sent through hose number nine, starting on my signal. Just make sure it can draw from the other tanks, got it?”

“Aye, aye, sir! Ready when you are.”

I jumped into the air and onto the thing, climbing up its body. Something this big wasn’t going to be defeated by just one guy, a sword, and a weakspot. Nah, my plan here involved a death by a thousand cuts. No, a death by a billion cuts. But don’t worry. They’re just tiny ones.

I climbed up onto its shoulder and ran up onto its face, where tentacles bent over backward to slam into me or grab me. “I’m ready for it to come!” I yelled into comms. “Fire now!”

I stopped right in front of one of its eyes and turned toward it, flashing it briefly before unleashing a warm spurt of nanite-infused gel into its eyes. The fluid began breaking it down on contact, working on something similar to my emergency Grey Goo protocol. A tentacle actually grabbed me around the waist, but I angled my hips up and got some of it landing on me. Those on me ignored my flesh and metal to hunt down this bizarre being that had taken hold of me, and together they ate through the tentacle and dropped me back down, where I continued to shoot my load into Cthulhu’s face.

“Take it all, big boy!” I yelled, laughing because it’s important to have some fun. I actually had to run back the way I came so nothing would get tangled up, but I hopped back down to make sure I got plenty on the monster’s chest. It was soon too busy clawing at where the nanites ate into it that it either couldn’t find me or couldn’t be bothered to. Its regeneration didn’t help either, as the nanites were buildng replicas out of any usable material on him, and I had enough of my own for eight more hoses.

I didn’t let up even when it collapsed and tried to crawl back into the ocean, its body diminishing atom by atom, bit by bit. I finally stopped when I saw it covered entirely in nanites, only possible because they had been at work on so much of it. I took a moment to pull out the hose and close up my hatches before skipping over to it and wiping it away.

Cthulhu was now no longer a giant winged octopus monster. Now, it was a pale, nude redhead. And me there, positioned behind her. “Told you I’d make you into a girl,” I told her. She looked up at me and screamed. I jumped back to give myself room for a running kick right between Cthulhu’s shapely new asscheeks. She flew off back into that ocean with the loud crack of breaking bone. And I don’t just mean a little ways into the water. I broke my own foot with that kick, so I sat down to watc her fly off into the distance and begin skipping off the surface of the water before sinking below the distant waves.

I pulled my boot off with a pained grunt and stuck my foot in a puddle of the nanite gel, still wincing. I saw Alhazred approach well in advance. He stepped over to look into the distance at where I’d kicked his literally emasculated god so hard she almost bounced over the horizon and, for all the flat earthers know, over the edge of the Earth.

He seemed like a man in a daze, and when he spoke, I wasn’t entirely sure it was directed at me. “That is not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even death may die.”

“That is not dead can still get a boot in its ass, and death begs to differ,” I responded.

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Die Seas Adventure 5

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In preparation for my intended brawl with this giant thing in the monster, I wanted to make sure some of those parties who contributed to all this on Ricca weren’t going to do anything to mess with it. I don’t need help here, but I didn’t want anybody doing any sort of prayers or sacrifices that could feed that thing. Stories inspired by this thing don’t speak to any magic spells or anything, just physical resilience. Supposedly it causes madness just looking at it, but I’m just not seeing it.

I had a couple of groups detained while I saw to the Cultists first. Old Man Hoodless was mighty contrite. I know that, because he looked down at his feet, ran his hand through his hair, and said, “I’m mighty contrite over my part in this.”

He’s been a straight shooter with me so far, so I patted him on the shoulder, leaving a marker behind that would track his precise location and allow the Intercept team at the base to fire on him with some of the artillery cannons they got working. They didn’t offer an explanation of where they got the expertise for that, and I didn’t threaten anybody with court martials or executions. Not like I’m picky. I had Qiang call Beetrice for me. The Queen of North Korea and of the Buzzkills really wanted me on the phone with her, but Qiang was cool. Nobody expects a kid to know everything about their dad’s schedule.

The addition of Buzzkills alleviated a lot of sudden manpower problems in holding onto the Faust delegation. I’d also locked down Captain Flamebird’s crew, but those guards are more like observers. As far as Flamebird’s concerned, his whole crew is partying it up and getting drunk. I don’t know for a fact they had their eye on Mu or Lemuria, a pair of mythical lands said to have existed and sunk below the waters in the Pacific, but it’s a risk factor I can eliminate.

The Buzzkills were also helping the Directory’s people sort through our new immigrants with a little help from the Cape Diem organization. It’s taking time, and there are violent encounters, but that’s how it goes when you have two sides not trusting each other, and one of them forcing the other to wait around in a cramped space while they sort through them.

But the group I absolutely needed to sit down with were those guys from Faustus. If I had my way, I’d just go charging off across the ocean and punch Cthulhu-ish in the nards. If it even has nards. Note to self: find out if it has nards. Regardless of the testical status of the giant monster from beneath the sea, I can’t walk on water. I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking out just any ship. Too small and easy to destroy. I want to fight this beast on equal footing.

I’d rather fight it on ground that’s ridiculously slanted in my favor, but I’ll take what I can get.

So I went to go see Alhazred. He and his buddies had been held at the military base. When I first delivered them to the guys at the base, they wondered why I didn’t leave them in one of the private sites. I haven’t had time to look into that, but I have an idea what they might be. This island had all kinds of secrets.

They kept Alhazred, Pickman, and Hero in separate rooms. I visited with Alhazred first, who on the floor praying. “Putting in a few words to whatever that thing is?” I asked as I stepped in.

He had his face to the floor, but sat up. “It is dead Cthulhu revived,” he said with his back still turned to me.

I shook my head. “It’s not Cthulhu. Looks nothing like it. It hasn’t magically taken over the world yet. I’ll bet you it was never dead, though it probably will be.”

“Death does not exist for creatures such as it!” he said.

I rolled my eyes. “Easy way to prove that. Bring it here.”

He turned and crawled toward me, spittle flecking his face and a wild look in his eyes. “To bring it would begin its reign over your people, the first of all kingdoms to fall to it on this Earth! The waters would seethe and boil withs its armies of degenerate creatures! Your technology and magic would be as nothing to the horrors it represents! It is a god, and it will pass its judgment upon- ow!”

I slapped him upside the face. He held his palm to that cheek, looking a little sensible. I slapped him again just to make sure. “You done with the ranting yet?”

He blinked, rubbing his cheek. “Ow, yeah. Geez. Death, destruction, the end of civilization as we know it… what am I saying? I I don’t want any of those things! I just worshipped it for power. I didn’t think about the end of times it would cause if it was ever real and true enough to show up!”

I patted him on the head understandingly, then grabbed his hair and yanked his head back just to cause some pain and focus him. “Ow!” he said again. “I wouldn’t want him to come here if I were you. He could destroy the world if he tries anything.”

“Whatever it is, it may have a few abilities, but the fact that people treat it like it’s that powerful seems to be the biggest thing about it. I do want it here, and I want to kill it.”

“Why?” he asked.

I grinned. “Because we’re one of the closest places to it. Because it’s causing my problems for me and mine. And, finally, because how else am I going to fuck its corpse?”

He closed his eyes and shuddered. When he regained control of himself, he held up his hands. “I think I can help bring it here, but you better be sure you can kill it. There are legends passed down in fragments predating what people know of history, and they do not make this look easy.”

I shrugged. “Bunch of pansies, always exaggerating. The river floods once, they make up a world flood story. They run into a monster before encountering gunpowder, and it’s some sort of apocalyptic deathbeast. Oh, and they decide that it’s somehow driving people mad. That thing’s on twenty-four hour news right now and the only people its driving mad are a bunch of horny Japanese. All the other religions are claiming it fits with so and so prophecy of the end times and are about as bad as you, forgetting that they don’t want the world to end. After all, if they thought they deserved their own heaven, they’d have gotten themselves killed so they could go to it sooner.”

I pointed off in the general direction of the creature.“That thing says it’s a god. Big deal. I say I’m a god. It’s just a basic tip of life that if someone asks if you’re a god, you say yes. But it’s the god of a bunch of people who hadn’t invented armor, let alone guns, tanks, bombers, aircarft carriers, and nuclear weapons. It impressed people who never could have imagined spaceflight and computers. They were scared of something really, really big that looks like a jellyfish, the same way they were scared of lightning and eclipses. It is a god that commands fear only because of ignorance. So help me, I will find its ass and kick it. And if I can’t find it, I’ll make a new one. And then, I’ll stick my dick in the hole. Now, are you with me?”

I got a cheer both from him and from nearby guards who wandered over to eavesdrop. All hail the Man-Emperor of Mankind, right?

Alhazred agreed to help me out now that he’s come to his senses, though I stuck one of my explosive leashes on him. With some of the soldiers having proven themselves, they didn’t need theirs any longer. Pickman and Hero were left locked up, Alhazred insisting that they didn’t really know rituals related to this thing like he did. But he still hoped to have some help from people who knew some of the prayers.

That’s when I introduced him to Gillbert. Well, that’s what I call the Deep One who I first talked to the other day and who had been thrust into something of a role helping with the immigration effort. Alhazred had sudden-onset religious fervor, which caused the one-gilled Deep One to facepalm. “This again? This wanker’s acting like someone from down below saw the god awake and rise up.” He shook his head at the sight of Alhazred kneeling and praying. He reached down and lifted the guy’s head up, slapping him across the face. “Cut it out, you wanker! You wanna bring that thing down on all of us?”

“Actually, yes,” I said.

“The fuck you say!”

Geez, what’s with all the exclamation points? “I’m gonna kill it. I was serious.”

Gillbert gestured to Alhazred. “This wanker’s useless to you then. Messed up in the head, strewth.”

In response, Alhazred got up and began running through the Deep Ones toward the ocean, crying out in prayer. A few of the Deep Ones ran to join him. Gillbert nudged my arm. “I had my doubts about those ones. Now we know. If you’re serious, your friend here could run all along starting prayer circles. Save us all a headache and bring the big guy here.”

I patted him on the shoulder. “Good idea. Let them get eaten first, and separate some of them out.”

“I’m sorry it’s so many of them,” he said. “So many cunts.”

I shrugged. “Might not be anything. Religions turn on other sects all the time. Either way, you’re looking at, what, a couple dozen there? A few hundred others? Makes it easier to get the rest of y’all out of the way. This will call this thing, right?”

He shook his soggy head. “Dunno. The stories always said he liked worship. Stories said he was a cunt, too.”

“Not a fan?” I asked.

“Fuck them and their god. I just want to sit back and find a way to steal more land tele.” He snorted and spat something into the shallow water at our feet.

“Don’t we all,” I said, patting him on the shoulder.

Later that afternoon, as the hulk in he ocean turned toward us and began to make a beeline for the island, I knew it had worked after all. I put the Intercept team on alert. More than that, I authorized the nanomachine factories to work full time, bringing in as much help and paying as much overtime as needed. They acted confused about the overtime thing until I explained it to them and the fact that they’d be compensated. We were going to need a lot of nanites. After all, I’ve got a god to beat down.

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Die Seas Adventure 4

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We have a tiny problem on our hands here in Ricca. As those used to my description of problem sizes should suspect by now, most people would not call it tiny. Most people would call it a giant winged squid monster. Possibly even Cthulhu, but I expected something more intimidating. It’s just a big monster the likes of which we’ve never expected, apparently ripped straight out of the pages of H.P. Lovecraft.

It’s really not Cthulhu, though. The head is a round and ringed with wriggling tentacles, but it only seems to have the one eye in the middle. It might have scales on it, hard to see. It doesn’t sit very still, and I haven’t been able to see to its body because of all the wings and arms. It has them all over, enough to hide any central trunk within. Can’t be easy to fly with those things on all sides like that, but then I haven’t tried. For all I know, the almost-Cthulhu thinks nothing of it.

It emerged from the water immediately after another oceanic bloop was detected, miles to our southeast. It has absolutely killed boat traffic from the Americas. I’m not just talking about proactive defensive measures, either. It did something with a cargo container ship carrying cars and smuggled people from China to the United States.

First thing I did upon seeing it, aside from fending off phone calls from foreign heads of state wondering what I did, was armor up . I made sure Qiang had plenty of knives and caught a glimpse of Silver Shark rushing out in a kimono before I jumped out the window. I paid a visit to the Agriculture Mall to figure out what the Cult did. They seemed as shocked as anyone else might be, though I noticed their camel-riding demon friend was calmly looking over paperwork without any apparent upset in attitude. “What about this thing? It looks like it knows what’s going on? What’s it know that I don’t?”

“I reckon darn near ever’thing,” replied Old Man Hoodless. “Paimon here knows just about everything happening on our planet on this plane of existence.”

I stepped over, sat on the stack of papers it was reading on a desk, and slid around so it was now staring into my crotch. It looked up, smiling just slightly. I pointed my thumb in the general direction of the eldritch abomination wading through the ocean. “Explain.”

I have no clue what language it spoke, but my ears could barely even hear it. It wasn’t a matter of volume, but instead that the words were hazy and faded from sound almost as soon as I heard them. I would later find out the sounds failed to record. It’s just silence there, as far as my digital memory is concerned. I’m not a fan of something doing that to my brain. If anyone’s going to fuck up my brain, it’s going to be me. And alcohol.

“You catch that?” I asked Hoodless.

He shook his head. “Let me try somethin’.” He looked to Paimon and addressed him firmly. “This is Emperor Psycho Gecko. You will address him in English like the rest of us and answer his questions.”

Paimon stiffened slightly, then relaxed and nodded its head. “As you wish. You pay my retainer. Greetings, Emperor Psycho Gecko. I wonder what your true name is.”

I shrugged. “Beats me. But before something else does so, I’d like to know what that thing is tromping around in my ocean? Thing looks like off-brand Cthulhu. Like someone made a Russian fake Avengers movie, or that movie who makes Transmorphers had to come up with something on the fly.”

Paimon’s grin was not amusement or good humor of any sort. It smiled like a predator about to enjoy a meal. I readied my pimp hand for bad news. “It is the being that fits the world’s cultural understanding of what you call ‘Cthulhu.’ It is not that monster you named, which is a fiction. It is the being existing within the subconscious of man that inspired it in dreams and whispers of writers who then erred in describing it.”

I blinked. “Sounds like a cop-out for using a knock-off instead, but I guess it would be strange if it really existed in spite of being a fictional mythos. Why is it showing up now? Did it have anything to do with the sacrifices that brought you here?”

Without confusion, it calmly stated, “Yes. No. It awoke because of the meddling of other powers in the ocean who seek the ancient lands of Mu and Lemuria in those waters. Nonetheless, rituals are about dramatic effect. At the same time they sought it, a group of knowledge seekers who led by a worshipper of this being spoke prayers to it in the hopes of making their own discoveries related to it on this island. Then many people were sacrificed on a tree spreading its roots to feed virgin blood into the heart of the island. This being does not perceive time in the way you do, and it found this confluence of events pleasing.”

I pondered this over. “So it showed up now because it made the best sense… narratively? Like in a story?”

Paimon leaned forward. “What would you do if you could read the future and past to decide when exactly to make a dramatic entrance?”

“Son of a fox-fucking sasquatch,” I muttered. “I’d be unstoppable.” I’d certainly have a knack for causing trouble just when it could result in my nemesis, Venus, having any attempts at sex interrupted. Preferably while saying “I came as quick as I could. Oh, but I see you didn’t.”

“I had one last question left. “Is it a threat?”

Paimon shrugged and held up a palm parallel to the floor, wobbling it slightly. “Fifty-fifty?”

Then the screaming began. Always with the screaming. I rushed out out and headed for the city. Cameras and satellites painted a nasty picture. Creatures emerged from the ocean, clambering up piers and docks, stomping their way up beaches. They had the thin skin of an amphibian, with webbed hands and feet. Or something like hands, but clawed. Bulbous eyes? They had ’em. Flat noses? Yep. Their mouths were filled with smaller teeth, though, and their gills were external, on branching pieces of flesh sticking out of their necks. I recognized that from a little knowledge I have of amphibians. I’m called Axolotl Xolotl in Mexico, and axolotls are amphibians with the same sorts of gills. They branch out, like coral.

The invasion went mostly unanswered. A few fights were breaking out, mostly in ex-military who managed to retain weapons or enhancements. Something of an unofficial reserve, even though I never pushed most of them. At least the ones I did persuade into service realized there was nowhere to flee to. That’s an issue with soldiers of questionable loyalty, but we’re on an island being attacked from all shores and hardly any aircraft.

The thing is, aside from fighting back when attacked, most of them were making themselves at home instead. They skittered into shade and helped themselves to whatever food was around. Which, come to think of it, made me realize just how few stray dogs and cats crawl around this island. I landed in front of one who was on top of one of my guys. The soldier’s laser rifle had been knocked clear and the Deep One clawed at his chest, attempting to gauge out something bloody and necessary.

I grabbed it by the gill, picked it up overhead, and smacked it onto the pavement, tearing off the the gill in the process. It writhed there, and a few of the Deep Ones started forward toward it and me. I put my boot on its head and raised a hand toward them. “Stop right there, you fish-faced barnacle-humpers!” I yelled.

They did. “You understand me? Raise your right hand if you know what I’m saying.” No response. I tried Japanese, then Cantonese, both being important languages in close proximity. Neither of those worked so I thought I may as well try English. Before I could, the one under my boot spoke up. In an Australian accent.

“Bugger me, it hurts. Ripped of my gill, you wanker.”

As if in response, the soldier groaned and stood up. He coughed up some blood, then reached over and grabbed his laser rifle. He aimed it at the head of the one I had pinned, but I grabbed the gun and held the barrel toward the ground. He looked at me, then moved his finger off the trigger.

I put a little more pressure on the Deep One’s head to shut him up from his continued grumbling. “Ok, good, now we’re speaking the same language. Now, do I have to kill each and every one of you to solve this little crisis, or are you going to stand down and surrender? I only ask because I had other things to do today.”

“I only hit ‘im because he shot at me first, strewth. We don’t want a fight. That’s why we’re up here.”

I eased up on him a bit. “Explain this invasion.”

“Invasion? Things are crazy down there! The priests and religious ones are giving each other a wristy over their god waking up. They’re killing nonbelievers. You gotta believe me, mate, we just want to get away from a bunch of fanatics!”

I looked up at the rest of the Deep Ones, who saw me looking and put their hands up. I turned back to the one on the ground. “Ok, here’s what I want you to do. You and your friends need to get the rest of your people, wherever they are, and stop going inland. Assemble on the beaches. You don’t have to go all the way back to wherever, but let’s get you all organized before we go tearing up the whole city. Do we have an understanding?”

“Emperor, they’re attacking,” said the wounded soldier with me.

“They’re moving toward us and being shot at. There is a difference, and some of them might even be taking advantage, but this way stops the fighting. I can let it go on if you’re that set on revenge. I won’t die. You might, especially if you don’t get medical care. Going to be a lot of wounded or dying ahead of you if it isn’t stopped, though. Well, if they don’t go after the hospital in retaliation, that is. And at the end of the day, if they’re lying to me, I can just kill them all. Power means never having to say you’re worried.”

The soldier glared, but bowed and relaxed. “As you command.”

I nodded. “Good. Go get yourself looked at.” He saluted and jogged off at a pretty good speed for a guy whose chest can be described using the word “gauges”. I reached down and helped the wounded Deep One up. I nodded toward the others cowering nearby. “Go spread the word to your people. We’ve got a public address to make.”

They went around and I sent out a message to the Intercept team and other units I actually do have on the plan. Try not to shoot at them, because it’ll start a fight. If a fight breaks out, finish it quickly in a way that doesn’t escalate. Try to address the Deep Ones in English and get them to wait at the beaches. Prevent looting and protect Riccans if they should be attacked by these guys.

For good measure, I had the Deep One with me talk into my ear in the squishy tongue of the Deep Ones so there wouldn’t be any translation issues, telling them to go to the beaches where they would be sorted out. I then followed it up with some words of my own to everyone.

“This is your Emperor speaking. As many of you know, this was kind of a dick move by the Deep Ones to rush up here. But I’m also a dick. Many of you are dicks. If there’s one thing the new Ricca is going to be about, it’s giving dicks of all shapes and sizes a fair shake. These people are fleeing religious oppression, and I’m willing to give them a place for now. The people who came for them might soon come for us. Their god, this Cthulhu beast in the ocean, may attack as well. What we should be doing is working together to keep dicks like that from coming here and fucking everything over. To that end, I make you all a promise now, my fellow Riccans. I am going to kill that Cthulhu. Then, I’m going to fuck the corpse.”

And there was much rejoicing in the streets and beaches.

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Die Seas Adventure 3

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“You’ll give me what I want, or I’ll slit the bitch’s throat, hang her upside down on a hook, and make marinara from the drippings, you understand me?!” I slammed the phone down on my desk and leaned back. I raised my feet up under the desk to stop my backward ascent before I could lean too far and possibly topple over. Steepling my fingers in front of me, I regarded the person in question. “What can you do for me that could save your life, in light of their refusal to play ball?”

The Filipino pizza delivery woman shifted nervously. “I have some extra breadsticks I was going to take home when I was done.”

With that bit of negotiation out of the way, and a hefty tip given to pizza delivery across national borders by boat, I enjoyed my delivered lunch and rubber stamped a few things from the new Directory. I know my dear readers might have some questions, and I just really wanted pizza from that particular restaurant. Sadly, they forgot my order of extra marinara, so I won’t be ordering from there again. Besides, making it out of blood doesn’t really work.

As far as the Directory goes, they’re not doing too much. They’re just confirming a bunch of the old laws that they used to live by as far as traffic, littering, pollution standards, and all that. As the guy who gets to enforce everything, they figure I should have some idea what I’m hurting people for.

It gave me something to do while figuring out my next move. If I even have a next move. The hell is my next move? Money? I got a national economy under my thumb. I’m selling bionic toes to Seal Team Six. Power? More than I’d like. What’s even the point? Revenge? I got a few vendettas I’d like to end once and for all, but nothing all that important. Love? What IS love? Baby don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me, no more.

Until the Dimension Rangers come knocking again, my schedule is clear. It has been awhile since that was the case. I almost want to start teaching Qiang assassination techniques, but I have memories of my own upbringing that say that’s a bad idea. I wouldn’t do it the same way, but it wouldn’t hurt her to keep some more innocence.

My attempts to check on what Silver Shark and Citra are up to haven’t panned out. I stopped to knock on Citra’s door at one point. “Hey,” I started, “Are you two lesbianing in there? I just want you to know I’m not angry if you are. I’m willing to prove it, too, even if I have to stand there and just watch you two do it!”

“They left a little while ago,” Qiang said from behind me. “What’s lesbianing?”

“I’ll tell you about it later, or you can ask Citra when you see her next, how about that?” I smiled and faked a cheery, excited jump. Qiang followed along, resolving to find out what lesbians are straight from Citra’s mouth. I resolved to try and see Citra’s face when she gets that question, perhaps before asking my own.

With all that acknowledged, I guess I’ll just roll with this whole Cult business for now. Maybe I’ll get a fancy hat. Religions always involve a fancy hat of some sort. If anything, that’s the problem with starting a new one. All the best hats are taken already. Hell, the Pope keeps an entire type all to himself, selfish god-botherer. That’s why I wore a round, towering hat myself. Like a tophat, but no brim and the top cut like a crown. Might as well throw in some references to me being legally recognized as an Emperor.

I went out shopping at the local hatter’s to make it a reality and picked up a nifty bowler. I wonder if I can get them to make a copy with a razor in the brim, or maybe something stiff that can break a statue upon throwing. I felt sharp enough to take a head off with it. Indeed, as I was leaving, I ran across someone who just dropped half a box of noodles right on the sidewalk.

“Excuse me, my good lady!” I called out after her.

She turned around, “What do you want bothering me, whitey? We don’t have any hookers for you around here, unless you’re looking for those Thai man-things on Yellow River.” Yellow River’s an informal name for an area that was either centered around a lot of buildings that had been painted yellow decades back, or it had been predominantly Chinese. I don’t believe it has the best reputation now, if the context clues are to be believed.

“The laws of the land decree that such littering is illegal. It dirties your beautiful city for all of us outsiders.” I took my hat off and gestured with it toward myself.

She scoffed. “You don’t come into my home and tell me what to do. Go tell the police if you can find them.”

I shrugged. “Well, as Emperor, I don’t need any agents of the law to back me up.” I put on my best gravelly voice. “I am the law.” Then I smacked her in the face with my hat. She cried out in surprise until I backhanded her the same way. She fell and started to crawl away when I spanked her ass with my bowler. I kept beating her with the hat, and my hand at times, incidentally. It was fun.

If you think about it, being an officer of the law is a great way to take out destructive impulses. Cops can get away with stopping people, frisking them, ruining their day. Shoot them with a taser, pepper spray. Beat ’em with a stick, shoot ’em with a gun; if you like hurting people, cops are nonstop fun. And that’s before you get into making up stuff and planting drugs. I hear some places let a cop eyeball a speeding offense. And even if they’re caught on video, they still get away with it, if they’re even charged at all. The other cops have their backs.

There’s even a way to steal from people as a cop. Civil Forfeiture. Cops just take your stuff for their own use. Ok, so technically they have to believe your stuff was used in the commission of a crime, and then they take it without filing any charges, and the owner only gets it back if they can prove the cash was innocent. Citizens of the other world, if you have this law, do not eat powdered donuts and then touch your money!

Good thing civilized countries have all those laws to protect people against beatings and thefts, right?

After my public woman beating, I had to take my hat back for repairs and pick up a new bowler. Y’all know why they call them bowlers, right? Because you can tell the man who wears one has good arm strength to carry around a pair so big, they weigh a minimum of six pounds. The maximum is sixteen pounds, which is what I gave the polluter with my hat. Heyo!

Alright, I think we’ve had enough social commentary this round. But before I left the city to go visit the cultist hicks living out there, growing all our food, I had to go meet the members of that corporation who sell people power at the cost of their soul. I’m talking, of course, about Faustus-Hephaestus, purveyors of magical artifacts, superpowers, and abnormal technology, depending on whether you’re discussing Faustus or Hephaestus. One handles magic, the other deals in science, both calm and mad.

The name used to be the other way around, Hephaestus-Faustus, but they were infiltrated by a hero supposed to take them down who had a grudge against me. They turned on me instead of paying me for a job, so I destroyed some of their logistics and hidden bases, causing a bit of trouble. In the end, the hero was discovered and ousted, the Hephaestus side was weakened and made to look foolish, and the Faustus side took prominence. I’ve been caught up in my own stuff for so long, and less magically inclined, so I haven’t much associated with the new guys.

Now, I’m Emperor, and I reached out to them. They flew in to the airport. Think northeast, other side of the military base. I waited out there as they exited their private jet, a delegation led by a man in a polo shirt and khaki’s carrying a torch and chanting.

“Seriously?” I asked, interrupting the chant. “You feel how damn hot it is out here, and you’re carrying a torch?”

Behind him, three figures stepped out of the jet in heavy black robes pulled up over their heads. They walked across the tarmac toward myself and the stopped aide before one of them stopped. “Oh my Gaia, this heat!” He threw the robe off and began fanning himself.

The one in front of him turned back. “Jesus, Dave.”

The leader stopped and bowed to me. “Greetings, Emperor Gecko. We represent Faustus and Hephaestus. I am Lord Alhazred. With me are my associates,” he motioned to the others. “This is Mr. Pickman, and David Hero.”

The one who threw off the robe waved at me. “Hullo! I’m Hero, but don’t hold it against me.” He stepped past Pickman and offered his hand. I shook it. “Hot as hell out here, isn’t it?”

“Indeed it is,” I answered. “That’s why I was suggesting your helper here cut down on the torches. Now, come on. I was going to grab some sandwiches on the go and head on out to the Ag Mall. Thought we could talk on the way to this ritual the local Cult’s cooking up.”

They all froze at that one before Alhazred asked, “Cult?”

“Yeah, bunch of hillbilly American types who want to feed the world. They’re going to summon up some legal help to deal with Scientology.”

They all relaxed. “Bloody Scientologists again,” muttered Pickman. “I’m all for sticking it to them. One of them tried that audit with me once. I fed him to a- well, I’m not sure what it was, exactly. I suspect it was the descendent of something old and powerful forced upon a mortal being of this plane. It made a terrible mess. Would anyone like to see?”

“Give it a rest already!” Alhazred said, and I caught a hint of an Arabic accent in his frustration. “Let’s get changed and have some lunch, shall we?”

Over a pleasant lunch in the back of an army transport, we discussed business. I was willing to let them do all kinds of stuff here if they paid good money for it. No more operating in shady locations. They could set up a permanent location here to sell wares of magical and technological empowerment.

They asked about what I might offer in return as far as knowledge and technology. They had been barred from Ricca in the past and were eager to take a look at inhabitants who had been upgraded and made superhuman. I didn’t let them know that the Institute of Science was basically still a barricaded mess that I hadn’t fully cleaned up, but I told them I’d be willing to help provide pieces to them that otherwise are available only to select clientele. If you think about it, a villain could make a good living off a gimmick centered around that radiation thrower.

“Beautiful country,” said Dave, looking at the landscape around us. “Are there any ruins on the island?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. I always thought the Claw had this place made somehow, and I haven’t had time to go traipsing all over the western and northwestern portions.”

“If you don’t mind, I would love to take a trip to see the sights,” he said, smiling.

Pickman, who appeared to be quite scrawny and with a bad case of robe hair, gestured to get my attention as well. “Do you suppose I could borrow some of your people to model for me? I am something of an artist.”

“Ask them,” I said. “See if any will volunteer. I won’t force them one way or another, but you’ll probably find someone. We get all types here.”

Alhazred shuddered at that. “What?” I asked him.

He held up a hand. “Nothing. I just felt something… strange. They must have had many. You’re sure they only want legal help?”

I nodded. Alhazred didn’t say anything more, but I think he felt the ritual happen, because we arrived to find a large tree growing up in front of the Agriculture mall, tall like pine, but with branches jutting out. Every branch held a body close against the trunk of the tree, blood smeared out along the length of each branch and over the leaves.

“This wasn’t here before,” I mused.

I saw Hoodless and a few of the other cultists gathered around some wannabe queen on a camel had its own crown. He looked over and waved to me happily. “We got tired of waiting. Come on over here and meet Paimon! We’re gon’ have a dinner for him. I hope you like potato salad!”

Nothing to see here. Nothing unusual. Just a cult, an emperor, a demon, and three representatives from an occult corporation all sitting down for a picnic under some sort of sacrifice tree.

The oddness didn’t come until a ways into it when I silently answered a call in my head from the Intercept team. “Emperor, we thought you should know as soon as we confirmed it. We’ve had a bloop in the water. A big one.”

I smell something rotten, and I didn’t do it this time.

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Die Seas Adventure 2

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Seeing as I’m not supposed to be leaving the island and Captain Flamebeard knows what he’s doing, I busied myself on other things than preparations for the attack. Unlike China or India, this place doesn’t work on the raw material side of the marketplace. All these cybernetic parts and pieces had to come from somewhere, even if there’s a high degree of personalization. People are starting to get back to work in the factories. These guys were some of my competitors when my old corporation was selling medical prostheses, except these are aimed at a wider market.

Records are spotty, but managers on the ground are trying to fill back orders to some organizations that I know to be fronts for groups who like violence in the dark. Wetworks. CIA, maybe, though they’re not technically supposed to be assassinating people, but also stuff like military dark ops. I remember them from back when I ruled the world and its delicious computer mainframes.

Hey, as long as they aren’t trying to fuck me over, I’m willing to live and let kill. They look like they could use the help, too. The United States looks like it’s having a heck of a time. Some sort of racist nationalist group launched a couple of attacks. They’d been in hiding, simmering under the surface, and boiled over with their own supers and minions. A bit unsophisticated, maybe, but the size and scope hints at the same hidden funding that Ricca and groups even within the States gave them.

Up in Canada, Dr. Creeper showed up with another robot haphazardly painted over with pink paint and wore a crossed-out swastika on the back of his lab coat when he next went out, which was just a quick march run through the streets to steal some groceries. Something tells me he won’t be playing Nazi anymore just for the heat it draws.

Master Academy, other teams, and individual heroes did a fairly good job of stopping them without too many people killed. Even the FBI got in on the action, stopping one of them blowing up a building in Oklahoma City. Just like during World War II, superheroes stopped a Nazi fifth column. Huzzah, and all that. Venus cut a striking figure. They got a photo of her in mid-jump, about to punch the teeth out of a man about to drop a survival tomahawk on a woman’s head. There are already memes and everything.

She’s saving the day from assholes; I’m selling the next batch equipment for when they try. Some people not on any government’s books are really interested in exoskeletons.

In other domestic issues, I finally figured out what Citra and Silver Shark have been up to. Citra’s been kinda living with me, though she’s been sleeping in the quarters she had in this section before. Silver has taken up in a side room now, and hasn’t been all that close. Then there was the whole Lola thing and they disappeared for a bit. Not like I invited the pirate to live here, too.

So I woke up the morning before the planned attack with my head feeling like it would explode, a result more of having fallen asleep hanging upside down off a couch than the bottles scattered around me. I thought something had crashed in my dream from the sound. I tried to wiggle around and almost woke up Qiang, who had crawled onto my stomach to sleep.

I managed to get sideways when she was awakened by a door slamming elsewhere in the mansion. Another door opened, the main door to the residence. Silver Shark walked in with an enormous stockpile of clothing in her arms.

“What’s going on?” Qiang asked no one and everyone at once.

I sat up and patted her head. “I dunno. I think something stereotypical.”

Silver shot me a glare before stomping back to Citra’s room. I carried Qiang with me as I went back there to take a look at what was going on. The door to Citra’s room opened as I got close and Silver stepped out. She took one look at me, grabbed Qiang, and told her, “You can help us. Your dad can go play elsewhere. He has been stupid.” Then she slammed the door in my face.

I knocked on the door a couple of times, then got an idea in my sleep-addled brain. “So… anything I should know?”

Silver called back. “Yeah, go get yourself checked for fleas and anything else you might have picked up lately!”

“I take very good care of myself!” I answered back, though I felt rather oily and dirty from the night before. “The nanites gave me a clean bill of health.”

“Good for you,” she answered back.

“Good for you too, if you want to head upstairs,” I responded.

She opened the door just enough to poke her head out. “No. You’re not going to bring back some pirate hooker then pretend like you and I have that kind of relationship.”

I scratched my head. “I mean, you hadn’t wanted to make the beast with a billion backs lately. I thought you’d be fine with it.”

She gave me a look that made me glad the Claw never installed lasers in those eyes. “I thought you wanted a relationship. I thought you liked me for more than my body parts. I gave you a chance and you blew it.”

She thinks the chance was bad, she should have seen me working my way through the North Koreans. Actually, she did. “Your body parts are what first caused us to get busy, though. Like those fins, and your neck, and all the neat things they put inside you.”

She sighed. “There’s a woman underneath these cybernetics.” I was about to tell her I certainly knew and appreciated that, but she cut me off as I opened my mouth. “You have a lot to prove to apologize right now, and not just to me. Go think about that and leave us alone.”

She closed the door on me. I thought for a second, then asked, “Does this mean you’re moving out?”

“And give out the second best bed on the entire island? No way!”

See, this is why it’s easier to date guys. You pound another guy in the ass hard one night, they don’t have any problem letting you do it someone else the next.

Speaking of manly sodomy, Flamebeard’s plan to attack the Sea Org craft involved pretending to depart, then crossing around to cross the T. He didn’t expect any real resistance from them, and Sea Org was here for the Cult. Indeed, he maneuvered around in the way he let on, his pirate ship’s sails catching fire as he accellerated to attack. One cruise liner owned by a conspiratorial religious group versus one old-looking ship of anachronistic pirates led by a supervillain pirate captain.

I meant to at least pay attention during the attack, but I was busy on some very important Imperial duties. Qiang and I were watching a movie while I braided her hair. I’m trying to spend time with her a lot while I do all this stuff. I feel like it’s a thing parents are supposed to do. I dunno. I sometimes feel weird in pretending to do all the things parents do with this young girl given to me as an incentive who I then tricked into thinking I was her father while having her genetically altered to make that kinda true.

I didn’t have to ponder that for long, as I got a call on the official black phone. I had it installed for official Imperial business, not to be confused with the red phone, which is more for official hiding from nuclear war. I reached out a hand to the landline, which had bluetooth activated speaker mode. “You are go for Gecko. What’s up and who is this?”

“Emperor, this is the Intercept team at the base. We run the radar and sonar systems detecting incoming enemies. We have an unauthorized entry by a boat dispatched from that cruise ship anchored offshore. Are we under attack?”

“Just a little bit of religious warfare. I’ll handle it.”

I hung up and headed not to the Gecko cave, but to the man cave. I had an armor stand in one closet, and a wall of gadgets in another. I suited up in no time and grabbed my equipment. Rubber chicken grenades. Flares. A pair of machete’s rigged with explosives. And, as a last minute thought, a bunch of fluffy pink handcuffs.

Qiang clapped for me. “When can I come with you?”

I patted her on the head. “After you’re trained and have your own armor. See you later, sweet pea.”

I linked back up with Intercept, who gave me the route the boat had taken. They were landing right about the same time Flamebeard’s ship crossed the liner’s T and fired on it with howitzers. According to my observers, Sea Org was packing rifles and doing a fine job of missing depending on the sway of the ship.

I landed near the boat on the beach and found it unguarded, with tracks leading inland. I disabled its motor so no one would be making a quick escape and headed in. They’d actually landed in an undeveloped portion of the island, with plenty of trees and other flora. That led to me sneaking through the underbrush and occasionally leaping up to hold onto the sides of trees.

They traveled in a line, wearing camo. It wasn’t hard to find them with one big, boisterious one making about as much noise as possible. He tromped through bushes, spat chew, and offered some to one of his colleagues. When the man rebuffed him, he said, “Bunch of slack-jawed faggots around here. This stuff will make you a goddamn sexual Tyranosaurus, just like me.”

The guy he offered it to just laughed. “We all had the celibacy clause in our billion-year contract. You’re not fooling anyone.”

Virgins, six of them. Good thing I brought the handcuffs. These guys will make excellent sacrifices.

I went after the little one with the radio first. I eased myself up behind him, hologram projectors working overtime to make it look like I wasn’t there. I snatched the gun out of his hand with one hand, shoved my other hand into his mouth, and then jumped us both out of there. It took less than a second, and gave me time to leave the radio man cuffed around a tree with a mouthful of leaves and a broken radio.

“What the hell happened to Hawkins?” I heard someone yell from where the squad were marching.

The second one I took turned out to be the big guy. Got him in a sleeper hold and dragged him off into the foliage. Another one, a black guy, got upset at this and emptied his gun and the one left behind by the big guy into it. Did fuck-all to me, but it did kill the big one. Funny thing is, they inspected where the guy bled and thought they hit me. The one leading them looked at the blood on the leaves and remarked, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.”

Of course, then he turned around and the black guy was missing too. They decided then they’d turn around and try to escape, with me whittling away at them the whole time. In the end, it came down to just me and the leader, who tripped and fell out onto the beach, losing his gun in the process. He rolled to his knees and pulled a knife, expecting an immediate attack. Instead, I stepped out from the treeline, dropping my cloak and pulling an explosive machete from my belt.

He started to say “You are one ugly-”

“Motherfucker,” I said, cutting him off, along with his leg below the knee. He swung the knife at me but I knocked it away, grabbed his wrists, and handcuffed him. For good measure, I dropped a fallen tree on him to hold him there while I tied off his wound. “Stick around.”

The mission was a complete success. I got my five virgins, the big guy bleeding out before I could get him out of there. Flamebeard and his men ended up taking out the ship’s ability to flee, which caused the survivors to disembark. The ones not caught by Flamebeard were rounded up once they hit the island by anyone the Intercept team could scramble to meet them. I had a quick meeting with the Assembly’s transitional people who quickly dropped the question of religious liberty when I started showing them the businesses owned or run by the relatives of several of the people we captured. Throw in the landing they made, and these were POWs, not refugees.

Sacrifices for a cult, a new cruise liner for the island, booty for pirates, and now plenty of hostages to ransom back. Maybe we need more religious tourism here. I already have an idea involving all that gold we got from Flamebeard being melted into a general “plate” shape…

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Die Seas Adventure 1

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Life is good, so it’s inevitably going to be fucked up. But before it does, I should at least enjoy it. It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to just sit around and enjoy myself. Now I’ve even got myself saddled with a kid now.

But I can still have a bit of fun. Like how I had Captain Flamebeard show up in port one day with his ship’s hold full of shiny goods. Gold, gemstones, and consumer electronics. “It’s the TV sets and computers that most people buy,” Flamebeard said when I stopped by the port to see his old-time pirate ship. “Most people don’t accept gold baubles for services.”

I handed him a bottle of plum wine, careful to keep it away from his beard of fire. If it fell in to a burning beard of fire, it’d burt out, out, out, and the flame would grow higher. And it’d burn, burn, burn, the beard of fire. The beard of fire. “We’re more than happy to take your stolen goods of all shapes and sizes here. I’m afraid there’s not much here for tourists, but we’re working on it.” I pointed at his ship. “Looks nice. Been awhile since I saw it fly off into the sunset.”

“Aye, she’s as seaworthy as she’s ever been, though I been lookin’ t’upgrade her cannons.” He pulled the cork out with his teeth and took a swig before offering it. I waved him off, then pulled out my own bottle to open up and sip on. “Any smiths in town know their way around fire and iron?”

I shrugged. “We might have a few people who know how to make your grape shot even graper.” He grimaced at that one. “And if that doesn’t work for you, Faustus sent me a…bird. They want to set up an outlet on the island.”

“A bird! I’d like to see a crow fly this far to deliver a message,” Flamebeard laughed and took another swig.

I shook my head. “Turns out they have magical messenger pelicans. Didn’t see it coming. Do you think they can do flamingoes?”

He had to stop drinking long enough to have a snort at that. Flamebeard and I werent’ exactly best buds last time we encountered each other, but he seemed to get my message loud and clear about this being a friendly port of call for criminals. I also made sure he knew I was personally enforcing the peace around here. That said, I didn’t mind if he and his guy shad themselves a cooling-off period ashore. They’re sailors. Gotta let them do some drinking, fighting, and whoring, or else what’s the point?

All the money, I guess. He paid me a personal port service fee out of a number of these gold coins and artifacts they had. They might have a lot more value than just the worthless yellow rock normally commands on Earth. They even helped me tutor Qiang on her math homework. She’s starting to understand that it’s easier to count in real time if you learn make things into tens and add the remainder. I like to think she’s growing up grounded for someone thrust into such a position.

It was there, teaching her to count on gold, that I was interrupted by furious knocking at my front door. Wondering who it could be so early in the day, I stepped outside in the Imperial bathrobe, wielding the Imperial brick tied to a string. “Ok, who the fuck’s on my lawn!”

I was met by a half dozen dirty men and women dressed like it was the Caribbean in the early 1700s. I grabbed one of the women who seemed a bit cleaner than most, even if she needed to clean her dreadlocks a bit. I pulled her by my side and said to the others out there. “I don’t know what you’re here for, but make it quick. I have a woman over,” here I nodded to the pirate I grabbed, “and it’s not going to be a good time for company.”

While that got a little bit of an “Oooh,” from some of them, one with a bandana covering up a bald spot on his head spoke above the others. “Cap’n Flamebeard needs you. Evil cultists kidnapped some of the crew! Someone said they was to sacrifice them to their heathen god and bring about the end of days!”

I took a moment to think. “Cultists… were any of them in overalls and packing shotguns?” I immediately thought of Old Man Hoodless and his people out at the Agriculture Mall. The nods from the pirates confirmed it. I sighed and turned to the pirate I’d nabbed, with her corset and tricorn. “Sorry, we’ll have to continue this after a visit to this funny farm outside of town, where life is wonderful all the time.” I started inside for my armor, then stopped and stepped back out. “What is your name, anyway?”

In a dark brown voice, she said, “Lola.”

Looks like the pretty pirate’s packing a pistol. Fun.

I got there ahead of all of them thanks to the roads not being so straightforward. Pretty good traffic for the island, all things considered. Maybe I’ll see if Flamebeard can mug a car shipper out of Japan, get some people something nice. Maybe I’ll hold a lottery for people who avoid tickets.

Anyway, I landed in front of the Agriculture Mall, where Captain Flamebeard had a slim, modern twenty-five pound howitzer on an old-fashioned cannon cart, aimed at the door of the compound. He waved his flaming sword at the Agriculture Mall’s fortified door which had so recently dealt with animal rights attacks. Slots were opened all over, with the cult’s shotguns sticking out. I mean, I expect the howitzer would get them in, but most of the pirates only had some cars for cover. One poor sod even yelled from the safety of his doorless, topless jeep. At least the pirates had some of their own guns among the cutlasses they wielded.

“Ok, that’s enough!” I yelled out, my helmet amplifying my voice. “The only one killing anybody around here tonight is me. Any volunteers?”

That shut up the pirates, so I walked on over to the compound door. “Knock, knock, kna-knock, knock!” I said, then rapped the door twice with my fist for the two bits. “Come on, Old Man, open up. I hear we have an incident here!” Behind me, Flamebeard was stepping ahead of his men to stand behind me.

Old Man Hoodless opened the door and raised his shotgun toward the pirate, who held his sword our, careful to avoid touching me with it. I held up my hands between both of them. “Gentlemen, let’s put down our weapons or I’ll tear you apart with my hands, alright?” I looked between them and they reluctantly lowered the offending items, Flamebeard’s extinguishing itself.

I turned to Hoodless, who had exited to reveal himself draped in crap-brown robes that looked course and itchy. “These no-good, dirty, rotten scoundrels are currently guests on our island. I hear you kidnapped one of them for a human sacrifice?”

“Well,” Old Man Hoodless scratched at his scruffy chin hairs. “Maybe I done did. You know how hard it is to get a good human sacrifice? We can’t just use any ol’ body!” He gestured with his gun hand off toward the city. “We don’t wanna take any of them folks. We got to live around them.”

“Well, that’s considerate, kinda, but I think we need to find another way here. This human sacrifice, is it on a deadline here? Ya know, is an eclipse needed or a certain day? Full moon? Anything like that?”

He shook his head. “Naw. Just tryin’ to summon infernal legal advice from the depths of Hades to handle this Cease and Desist from them damn Scientologists.” He reached to a fanny pack on the outside of his robe.

“Hard to reach the pockets?” I asked.

“Well, you know, I didn’t want nothin’ endangering the ritual. Nothing on under it.” He patted the material.

“Really? Looks hellaciously itchy.” I reached out. “May I?”

“Go ahead!” He held out his arm. “It’s really soft material.”

I stroked the sleeve. “Wow. That’s high-quality culting right there. Flamebeard, feel this.” I moved out of the way to let him feel. “Geez, is that from y’all? Where’d you get this?”

“I know a guy,” Hoodless said as the pirate also felt him up. “Maybe we can discuss tailoring another time. I’m really concerned about this Cease and Desist. This is Scientology, we’re talking about. Legend tells they captured a unicorn using the virgin blood of a sacred hunter-priestess of Artemis and bargained away its crimson life’s vigor for an Enochian contract the likes of which the planet has never seen.” The Old Man was practically foaming at the mouth by the end. Flamebeard had quietly stepped back to avoid splatter.

“Geez, even better than OJ Simpson?” I asked.

Old Man Hoodless wiped away his mouth. “Oh yes. After all, he only sacrificed the two people.”

Ba dum tish.

“Ok, so let’s get back on track here,” I said, smacking my palm with my fist. “This isn’t that time intensive, right? It can wait a few days?”

“I suppose,” grumbled Old Man Hoodless.

I turned to Flamebeard. “You’ve kidnapped people before, right?”

He stopped picking at one of his teeth with his sword and slipped the tooth back into his gums. “Yar, though it be more of a hostage situation than a kidnapping. Rich young bastards are worth a lot to the older bastard what spat ’em out.”

Somewhere, there’s a dyslexic or someone who didn’t grow up with English as a first language who is losing their mind right now. Between me, the hillbilly cult leader, and Captain Throwback, we’re beating the English language to death and lighting the body on fire.

I negotiated a deal. Flamebeard will go off and kidnap someone, preferably someone with a car I can use for the good driver lottery, and bring the unfortunate soul back to be sacrificed in a corn field pagan blood orgy in exchange for legal services to counter the Scientologist threat. Should be nice and simple. Though, before I left the cultists and crew to party with moonshine, I did pull Old Man Hoodless aside and ask him just what the Cease and Desist was all about.

“Well, we sometimes send people fruit baskets with some literature, an’ it turned out we done proselytized to a bunch of Scientologists that way. Scientology don’t take kindly to that, nosiree, so they threatened us. After that, it’s more I thought they was a bunch of assholes and sent ’em even more baskets. Then came the Cease and Desist.”

I grinned under my helmet. “I like you, Old Man. You’ve got the support of Ricca behind you, don’t worry.”

A small wrinkle did appear the next day, but I believe it just gave the plan a distinguished look. A ship was spotted off the coast. They didn’t hail us or approach the port. Looked like a big cruise liner.

I saw it from a high balcony at my residence, zooming in with my eyes to see one of the most generic naval insignias out there. My eyes immediately matched it to Sea Org, the paramilitary navy of Scientology.

From behind me stepped Lola, dressed in bedsheet if at all. “Hey baby,” she said, stepping up behind me and going in for a kiss that I turned my cheek into. Pirate chicks have some nasty breath. I don’t know if there are water restrictions that keep them from brushing so often, or if it’s just all the alcohol. Either way, I’d need to down quite a bit of rum to numb myself to the taste of trying that again. “What are you looking at?” she asked.

I pointed to the ship. “Well, I think I found your boss a good source of kidnap victims.”

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