Gecko Says Mu 4

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“What exactly am I looking at here, besides the obvious?” I asked. VelocityRaptor had streamed a video taken by his helmet camera of what he claimed to be a major discovery. It appeared to be a rocky valley with only a tree. The tree didn’t appear to be in too good of shape, either. Its roots looked like they were maybe arm thickness and spread out along the surface, curling around jagged corners of the rocks it sat on before disappearing down into cracks. It had a thick, pale brown trunk that shot off limbs all along starting a couple feet up and rising up to a mess of branches twenty feet up. No leaves anywhere on the thing or below it.

“As I said, this is a major discovery.” He’s good at repeating things, I’ll give him that. I suppose he should be, considering I’ve already encountered a heroic raptor with superspeed before. That one wore a cape and called itself Veloci-Raptor. I keep meaning to ask if this is just one of those convergent ideas, or if VelocityRaptor’s a villainous cyborg-robot knockoff, like Cyborg Superman, MechaGodzilla, or the bad Bill and Ted robots. The other one might have been more eloquent, though. This guy informed me, “This is the Tree of Wonders.”

“Wow,” I said, “I certainly wonder what’s so important about it.”

He turned his head, taking in the area surrounding the tree. It resembled a crater full of jagged rock. Periodic skeletons and mineral deposits littered the vista. “Once we analyzed the local language, we gained information from our captive. Villages we came across told us much the same. There is a legend about this tree. They say a spirit lives in it that can grant the desires of whoever controls it.”

He walked around the tree, looking at it from all sides. “It doesn’t look impressive to me.” He stepped closer to it. “Are there any tree spirits here?”

He didn’t get an answer, so I spoke up. A magical tree that somehow wasn’t guarded by the most powerful bunch of people in that land. “Fascinating, really. I guess we know where this thing is now. Maybe file that away for exploiting the locals, but let’s keep on the lookout for anything important. Any weird kingdoms of guys with crappy iron weapons, or wizards, or anything?”

“My apologies, my lord. Please give me another chance,” he stammered on.

I rolled my eyes to myself, which caused me to pay attention to my own surroundings again. I’d been building another deathbot in the residence. Something with treads that adjust to the terrain. I didn’t have anything set as far as weapons or a top yet, but I’d come up with something. The previous one had been more of an impulse thing. I bet I can make this one resistant to probing long enough for it to reach Master Academy. I might make more of the other ones, though. Sometimes you have enough enemies around that it doesn’t matter if you drop in a robot that tries to murder anyone.

Not all impulses are bad. Citra passed by and ran her hands through my hair. I caught her hand and pulled her onto my lap, where she cuddled up to me with a smile. “Just be cool, ok?” I requested. She took my hand, but didn’t try anything with me. I returned my attention to VelocityRaptor, who had continued an apology that must have been pre-written. “Are you still talking? I get it, you followed a lead you thought sounded good. A magical tree isn’t really that unusual of an idea nowadays. You didn’t even try and wish for ice cream yet.”

“Ice cream?” he asked.

“Try vanilla, chocolate, whatever you want. Ooh, chocolate ice cream with Nutter Butter pieces is a good one.” I got a confused look from Citra, who’s only hearing one side of all this.

VelocityRaptor’s head tilted to the side. “I would never question your wisdom-”

“Eh, feel free. I welcome feedback, so long as you’re not being a complete asshole. I’ll even tolerate light assholism, depending on the context. I know I’m unimpressed, so now you have an opportunity to show my first impression was wrong. Now stick your hand on that tree and ask for ice cream.”

“Yes, sir.” VelocityRaptor approached, having to pick his way over the roots. He placed a metal claw on the trunk of the tree. “I wish I had chocolate ice cream with pieces of Nutter Butter in it. Agh!” He whipped his head around to see roots grow up over his legs. He clawed at them and chomped up until he was covered in a thick brown substance. “It’s cold!” he yelled. At the same time, things shook on Ricca.

Citra looked around. “Earthquakes?” I squeezed her hand, but she still kept looking around.

“Eat your way free, Raptor!” I egged him on.

“I’m lactose intolerant!”

“We’ll talk about your anti-dairy bigotry another time. For now, get yourself out of there.”

I left him to that and tried calling on the rest of the guys to let them know what happened. I couldn’t raise anyone, so I borrowed a Chinese “television” satellite. The only TV channels that thing carries are whatever Beijing’s intelligence service want to look at. I went ahead and marked down the company that did it as possible non-official cover to be confirmed and sold off later, when the expedition isn’t at risk. The campsite showed the rest of the men sent over were busy getting their asses kicked a mile away from VelocityRaptor. Unfortunately, while China’s ok at forcing kids to dig out computer parts from scrap piles, they aren’t the country that actually makes all this equipment. The thing was limited in how far it could zoom in and identify the assailant.

It annoyed me to not be able to do anything to protect my people, but the Dimension Rangers ship-robot has been spotted approaching from the east, Americas. And, shit, just imagine what they could do with a tree that grants a wish but tries to kill people? They have a few different members to spare.

Finally, VelocityRaptor’s viewpoint cleared up as he pulled himself away from the reaching roots of the tree. They tried to pursue only so far before he shot a gout of flame from his helmet and convinced them to stay back. I spoke up as he took a moment to clear penetrating roots and wet ice cream off. “As tends to be the case, life has served up not just one, but a whole six-pack of douche brew. I need you to get to your camp. It’s under attack.”

“Yes, sir,” He said. He reached down to his waist and and flipped open a part of the exoskeleton. He punched a green button and doubled over with a pained groan. He stood up a couple seconds later, breathing normally, and raced off.

As for me, I sighed and helped Citra off my lap to go get my armor. It was a quicker way for me to travel to the Institute of Science and its Drone Warfare storage. Because I could have tried to put together robots out of prosthetics, but they weren’t ready in time. At least a few of these were good to go. I put out the call to that daredevil military pilot to delivery my menagerie of mechanical menaces.

Ooh, I like that name.

A bit of heavy lifting later and the cavalry was on the way. Tuning back in to VelocityRaptor, he arrived at the camp. The expedition set up in a relatively flat area with short grasses marred only by the occasional boulder. Another of those loincloth-clad barbarians who never heard of a shirt or tunic stood in the middle of a ring of my dead soldiers. He undid the restraints on a strawberry blond woman in leather. So that was the prisoner. Not bad looking, but modern orthodontics would do her good.

Our barbarian friend could use a barber. The male ponytail is so 1990s, and that double-headed battleaxe! Ugh, some people have no taste in weapons. Having done my duty as judge, it was time to be jury and executioner. “Hey, Raptor. I know you’re a little fucked up right now, and not in the fun way that involves a bong made out of a human spleen.” Best to lighten the news with spleen talk. It’s an inherently funny organ, much like the penis when exposed to Alaska or Deep One females.

Anyway, back to Raptor. “I have reinforcements on the way, so try to stay alive long enough to beat the crap out of these guys so bad, they’ll think it was their monthly dysentery session. We’re gonna run the Oregon Trail on them. You got it?”

He didn’t respond. I don’t think Raptor was entirely there anymore. He roared and pounced toward the barbarian. The axe to the face must have hurt, but whatever Raptor injected himself with must have been the good stuff.

He swung his tail around to and drew a line of blood from the barbarian who lodged his axe into a connection between two of the larger pieces of Raptor’s tail. Raptor tossed it off into the distance and managed to slice up the woman’s arm. The barbarian tackled him and threw him to the ground, but doubled over from a tail to the crotch. If the drill hadn’t been damaged from the axe, that could have ended it. He had to resort to lifting up the barbarian, who grabbed onto the appendage and tore it off. The large man hopped onto Raptor’s back and used the portion he tore off to choke Raptor.

Raptor reached up and dug for the barbarian with the suit’s claws. He pulled him over, dropping the man down in front of him. The barbarian gritted teeth so big I could tile a bathroom with them as he caught the blades on the side and pushed them back, overpowering the exoskeleton. “I am going to tear your head off and make you eat it!” They were stalemated until the prisoner ran up and swung the axe into Raptor’s side, knocking him over. The barbarian stood up grabbed it, then raised the weapon high.

Machinegun fire from the helicopter knocked the axe to the sideand ruined the potential strike. One of the drones, a torso on a quad copter, flew out the side door under my direction and fired a laser, trying to hit him. I ended up putting a hole through chest of the woman he’d come there to save instead. When it got too close, he hurled his axe at it. I maneuvered to evade it, but the thing somehow curved in midflight to hit the drone.

Then a tripodal sphere landed, followed by a miniature tank resembling a toy, a torso on four legs, and other prototypes. The barbarian decided it was time to leave while the robotic extensions of myself helped VelocityRaptor into the chopper that lowered itself. They grabbed the axe and the woman’s body while they were at it, too. I felt like pissing off this guy, and then it turned out she wasn’t quite dead yet. An emergency dose of regenerative nanomachines would keep her stabilized.

“I got ya, Raptor. And we’ll be back for the other guys, too.”

I liked the idea of hurting that guy, and not just out of sadism. See, the thought occurs to me that I might need that tree, and he likely knows where to find it. The Dimension Rangers are close, too. I need to evaluate the threat of this island and figure out if they’re going to rally some iron-age army against me, or use a stupid wishing tree to erase me from existence. At least now, the guy only knows about Raptor.

This has also thrown it in my face how much I need to expand my personal reach off the island, and I’m working on that. I’ve got a factory retooling itself to create drones and robots. I myself have taken custody of a large amount of nanites for a special project related to this. Bit by bit, they’re painstakingly assembling a replica of my armor, but with an android drone inside.

I know, it’s not everyday the supervillain dictator of his own country builds a mechanical duplicate of himself in his signature armor to send out after his enemies. Something like this needs a special name. It’s just hard to find something that conveys the correct sense of doom my enemies need to feel. So, instead, I settled on calling it a Dudebot. The name’s subject to change next time my sex does.

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Gecko Says Mu 3

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The expedition is away, an armed force of security, workers, and VelocityRaptor for superhuman support. I would have preferred to send some scientists away, but I have yet to see them return to the island. Instead, I just have this bickering around here. It’s like fucking Conan around here, nothing but the lamentation of my women. Except Qiang, of course. It was all too tedious. I considered killing them all, too. I’d moved back in, because I’ll be damned if they’re going to inconvenience me that much. They walked through, bickering, trying to show off how they looked in dresses to make up my mind.

The whole thing messed with me reading Dr. Seuss to Qiang. It was meant to be a prelude to a later unit on post-World War II Japan and teaching her the famed wrestling hold, The Moss-Covered Three-Handled Family Gradunza. Instead, we had to practice our “Don’t fuck with me” glares. When the three ladies backed off, I turned and smiled at her Qiang. “Good job, sweetie. Did you see the way they stopped in mid-sentence and everything?”

She giggled at that and we returned to our lesson, though the gradually increasing bickering from the rest of the residence left me with the choice of murder or changing locations. So I threw on the ol’ armor and we headed out to the Institute of Science. I could have taken her on a walk around the island, but I wasn’t feeling up to it. Everything felt combative, like I couldn’t stay still. Like I needed to beat the crap out of someone and kill. Instead, I took my kid where I could give her some lessons on understanding her connections to the digital world. I hadn’t gone over it with her as much as I’d have preferred.

Growing up with these kinds of abilities, I had time to get used to them. They were a part of me. It’s like the difference between people who grew up with computers and someone who doesn’t have any idea about them and suddenly gets one. It’s not an insurmountable handicap, but the person who grew with it has a lot of instinctual knowledge. There’s a reason superheroes who get powers aren’t instant experts in their usage. I taught her more about her new heritage, which is pleasantly strong in someone who is now a halfbreed.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that, mostly because I haven’t done much thinking on the subject. Despite all my talk about hating people on a deep, personal level, I am biased against homo sapiens. They sometimes look gross, and they’re backwards, and they’ve done horrible things to homo machina in general and specific. Maybe I could make Qiang entirely homo machina. Or maybe change the rest of the DNA in her to a more suitable mother to have a child with me.

I wonder what Venus is up to? Just a random question, of course. Completely out of nowhere, without connection to prior statements. But since I thought of her, I figured I’d see about a nice present to send her, showing I’d been thinking of her. I found it as I searched through a computer in one of the offices of the Institute of Science while Qiang played with a monitor she was connected to. “I’ll be right back, baby girl,” I told her. “You keep playing around with that. See if you can make it look really weird.”

I considered grabbing something from infectious diseases. I even stared at the door a bit. Yep. Big, heavy door, sealed, with all kinds of warning signs. There were no windows. I found a computer on the outside. After a reboot, it couldn’t give me any specified status information on the interior of the laboratories inside the whole section. After a bit of searching, I went ahead and ordered a purge. It showed me an image of flamethrowers turning on.

Unleashing uncontrolled pathogens will just have to wait. Nasty business, anyway. The Claw probably didn’t worry so much since he was so utterly inhuman as to not be affected, but I guess I’m close enough to humans for interbreeding. Never occurred to me that was the case, but that’s kinda how evolution works with emerging mutants. They gotta fuck someone.

They had a section specifically focused on drones and robotics, but on a lark I decided to check out what they’d managed as far as chemical warfare and drugs. Those two were in different places, but I’d gotten administrative access to the network that let me see what the different hands had been doing once upon a time. So many different groups working on projects related to each other without ever knowing it. A drug to cause temporary paranoia with specialized storage conditions. A design for a drone with a sprayer and holding tank designed to meet those unique conditions.

Destroyed. Something went wrong in that part of the complext. Looked like there had been some fires.

Or, and this was cool, a few projects all centered around bugs. They have a section called Entomological Warfare, which almost unleashed a project to hold the world’s agriculture hostage during the Great Depression by unleashing bugs on what was left of the usable farmland, starting with a test in the United States. World War II happened at first, and Ricca was caught between the United States and the Empire of Japan. Bugs are dead, and records of storage were lost.

Normally, I’d pin this all on the world hating me specifically, but that’s really not the case. Shit happens. That’s reality for you. If you want a unifying theory of why history unfolds the way it does, shit happens is the only thing an honest historian could give you. And I do have it nice. I keep getting away with this shit, day in and day out. I’ve lost friends, experienced more pain than most people could while living, and the entire world has nuclear-fucking-fireballs just ready to turn this island into a useless piece of charcoal, but I still got away with it. I’m the leader of a fucking nation.

Now that I’m a political leader, I could round up everyone wearing glasses and murder them. I could withhold food from people of any category. When they’re my own people, it’s fine. It’s ok. I could just keep breaking this place. It wouldn’t surprise people. Hell, they might even be counting on it. Give them a reason to pull those triggers, especially if there’s nothing left on this rock but all the people the crazy Psycho Gecko sees fit to let live.

Ugh, I gotta stop ranting like this. This is the way I start talking before I start killing people for their own good. For some reason, people don’t listen to your reasoning after the first round of murders. I wonder if I can kill that instinct out of people?

Geez I need a hobby. Hell, maybe I should marry Beetrice. If I’m busy screwing her, I’ll be less likely to screw everyone else. Thoughts for later. I had to scrounge up parts. Instead of having a bunch of doomsday weapons handed to me on a silver platter. I’ve got to build something instead! Perhaps something that shoots serrated silver platters at people…

Instead, brought what I grabbed up to the office to put together my diabolical little deathbot. I was putting together a nice ball drone with the ability to roll around and a few limbs inside to help it maneuver up stairs, along with a pair of holodiscs to help mask it. I wasn’t sure on the weapons, what with all the problems this thing would face getting into the States, so I settled on an age-old classic: knives.

With the agility I’ve given this thing, it could play esports on a South Korean level while stabbing people at a Jack the Ripper level. If I didn’t trust this thing to go homicidal, I’d give it a try at making fries. It’ll basically attack anyone on sight. And once I get it sent to Venus, she can go fuck herself at a Vlad the Impaler level. I suppose I should be more cautious about indiscriminate robot slaughter, but caution’s for losers and quadriplegics.

It also gave me a teaching opportunity. “What’s that, baba?” asked Qiang, sitting in my lap despite my work. “Is that a drone?”

I shook my head. “This is a robot.”

“What’s the difference?” She looked up at me.

I kissed her forehead. He skin had started changing a little as the nanites helped rebuild her body according to her altered DNA. This is my daughter. My daughter is half-human. “Robots can do things on their own, like make things. A drone is controlled by a person all the time.”

“I don’t think I get it,” she said.

“I gotta get you a remote-control car sometime. You get a controller and tell it what direction to go. This thingy here will go around on its own,” I told her, “I’m sending this to a friend I miss. She would make a really good mommy for you.”

“Are you gonna marry her? What she look like?”

“Bring me that screen you were playing with earlier and I’ll show you.” She scrambled out of my lap to go bring it to me, which gave me space to attach a few parts. She brought it over right by my head, and I had to make her wait a little while I finished screwing in a support. Then I turned and pressed my hand to the wiring on the rear of the monitor. After a few seconds, a picture of the tan-skinned, dark-haired Venus appeared. She wore valkyrie armor without boots for no reason I care to elaborate on and rode a tiger-striped unicorn in mid-jump over a wall of fire. She still had her mask on over it all.

“Is she pretty?” She asked.

I nodded. “Yeah. I know it seems hard to tell, but she is. And she’s a good person. She’s going to be visiting us in a little bit. She might be angry, so try and act real cute, ok?”

“Ok!”

We actually had a nice day. I finished putting my deathbot together and arranging for shipping to my nemesis’s home at the Master Academy. By the time it ended, I felt pretty chill. We made a night of it, me taking my daughter around to this new casino that opened up. She liked the slot machines a lot more than I did. She ruined my poker game, which I insisted nobody cheat either for or against me. All it took was her shouting about how funny the guy looked with the sword going into his head and everyone folded, including the guy who had just bet. We had to go around the time we got to this table where a pair of guys were passing around a revolver with only one bullet. Shame I had the kid with me, but she’s going to have a better life than me.

So I was pretty mellow that night when Intercept linked me a transmission from the expeditionary force. “VelocityRaptor here. I was told I should call in because you know my name and it would take too long to explain who another person is and why you should care.”

I raised my eyebrows in surprise. “Damn… whoever told you that deserves a promotion. Don’t bother telling me who, I don’t care. What do you got for me?”

“We have encountered Bronze Age villages. We haven’t figured out how to talk to anyone yet. We do not know the language, but we had skirmishes with little resistance. One of the soldiers almost took an arrow to the knee. He’s fine, but we have a prisoner now. Some girl. The technicians are trying to use the translator to analyze what she says and they expect to know more before long. They have samples for analysis if we ever get people who can analyze things.”

“I’ll find people who will put the anal in analyze, that’s for sure. Anything else I need to know?”

“Not at the moment, Emperor. This is the end of our report.”

“Thanks man. You need to check yourself for clowns, because I’m here to tell you, you have It. You’re going places. Now get out there and go some places.”

I sat there on the line for a couple of seconds before adding, “You going to hang up?”

“I didn’t know if you were going to hang up first, Emperor. I can hang up.”

“It’s ok, I can hang up first.”

“That’s unnecessary, I’ll-” I cut him off, hanging up. I do so hate these long goodbyes.

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Gecko Says Mu 2

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They’re campaigning for the Empress-ship. I didn’t think the batch of people I ruled over even gave a damn about my love life, so long as I didn’t do something stupid like getting peed on on tape. Most of that involves lobbying Qiang, since I’ve been avoiding the palace residence. I’ve been able to call Qiang out to me for lessons or meals in spite of their attention. I just tell her it’s part of her sneaking training.

I’ve been busy aside from all that mess. Like handling this little diplomatic mess with the Faust/Hephaestus people. Alhazred admits he had been a Cthulhu cultist hoping to see his god, and that all three were hoping to explore the island for ruins and so forth. His associates, Pickman and Hero, hadn’t actually done anything wrong while they were here, and Alhazred did help me lure Cthulhu here. In the end, I decided they would be allowed to use the island for storage and trade. I didn’t give them everything they wanted. They aren’t going to use the place for testing or collaboration with our own science people, at least partially because the Institute of Science is still closed. They don’t know it’s closed, but it made a good stick to hit them with, same with rejecting the customer service call center.

As part of my mercy upon them, I even gave the three an aerial tour of the island. I even saw to their safety with who the Shouho claimed to be our very best remaining helicopter pilot. Wouldn’t want anything to happen to them. There was some wariness from the passengers about that, so they made sure to stay restrained in their seats. I reassured them by ordering the doors be kept shut firm on their little ride, including one that separated the pilot from the passengers. That way, there’d be absolutely no chance of them falling out, or onto instruments, or the pilot trying to throw them out. I told them that myself. I promised them, completely out of thin air, that the pilot wouldn’t toss them out of the chopper. I then reiterated that there will be nothing to worry about.

As for the pilot, I told him to show me his best and most showy aerial maneuvers. Good thing the doors were shut for that barrel roll. As soon as they landed, I sent some of the soldiers over with the hoses to make sure the interior was hosed off of our little spew crew in there. They must have read my mind, because they didn’t bother letting out the Faust delegates before starting the hosing. When Pickman, Hero, and Alhazred slipped or fell out, they didn’t stop.

When I saw that, I leaned across to the the Shouho and mentioned, “Give them a little bit of a bonus for this.”

He held out a tablet for me. “Your Eminence, we have a member of the returned I wish to bring to your attention. He is enhanced.”

The returned appears to be their polite term for deserters who come back to Ricca’s service, in case I decide that someone who deserted can be punished but someone who left and returned won’t be. It’s mostly a stupid distinction, but when I once asked the Shouho about it, he started talking about how a military needs discipline and needs to know that desertion will be punished going forward. I picked up what he was putting down, or thought I did until the Issa politely informed me they left the whips and ballgags in their crates in a storage shed. Then I figured he didn’t want people deserting in the future.

This one was a man with extensive cybernetic augmentation, much like Silver Shark. His legs were gone below his thighs, replaced with knees that bent the other direction and feet ending in three-toed claws. He bent forward over the legs, his back weighted down by a gleaming chrome spine that connected his tail with an armored helmet that covered his head in the facade of a dinosaur with a mouth of fangs. The spine had a pair of short pipes around the lower part of it. He was a raptor, albeit a featherless one, with an armored chest and an exoskeleton running along his arms that ended in curved, sickle-like claws. He still had hands under them, and the raptor’s face with its sharp-toothed maw popped back to show it was a helmet. Underneath it, he maintained a neutral expression.

“Welcome back to the fold,” I said. Meanwhile, my eye HUD’s identification program made a match. “You’re the one they call VelocityRaptor, right?”

He nodded. Speaking in the Ricca pidgin, he noted, “That is the name the Americans gave me.”

Good restraint. The name doesn’t sound right in Riccan. “May I have a demonstration of your abilities?”

He nodded and the helmet lowered itself onto his face. The eyes of the raptor lit up red. He turned and those pipes shot flames a few inches into the air before he began running, gathering speed to run to the other end of the base and back fast enough to leave Olympic sprinters in his dust. While he was leaving, a pair of the lowest-ranked men ran up and began setting up dummies that looked like featureless humans.

He skidded to a halt and raised his tail. The end of it began spinning. Once the first of the soldiers had finished and gotten clear, the drilled into the chest of the dummy before swiping the head off. The other one had its chest torn open with his claws, leaking straw on legs that were ripped off one by one by Raptor’s. He ended by using the helmet’s jaws to crush the head and tear it off.

I gave him a polite golf clap. “I mean, they just got them put up and you already destroyed their work. That would seem rude to some people.” I got no response. “From here on out, you owe allegiance to me. You serve this Ricca going forward, and so your oath will be to this Ricca and you will serve out the term of your enlistment from now. Try not to take so long a vacation again.”

He bowed to me as best he could. “Thank you, Emperor. You are generous beyond all measure.”

I walked over and patted him on the back of the head. “No need for all that. Flatter me later, or whenever I feel like it. Right now, I just want to know if you’re ok with entering into new and unfamiliar situations, and maybe with getting nice and wet.”

He rose up to look at the grinning smile projected in front of my helmet where the mouth would be. “Sir?”

I had to throw together an expedition to Mu, and he was going to be part of it. After the first immigrant Deep Ones reached it and claimed a beachhead for the Riccan Empire, I decided to get some Manifest Destiny going. I’m also looking into importing lots of sand and building a bridge right at the surface to connect Ricca and Mu so that I can go there officially without the entire world throwing a tantrum and a nuke.

The peace treaty says I can’t leave the island of Ricca, which is a lot more restrained than if I never left the Empire of Ricca. But an entire new continent just appeared in the Pacific Ocean. They couldn’t just dismiss it if a land bridge suddenly appeared to make Ricca and Mu part of the same landmass.

Even thought I spent a lot of time throwing togethe a group to conquer a new world, that doesn’t mean I neglected Qiang. Like I said, I was still feeding her and teaching her stuff. Basic strength training that she thinks are handstands, or crab walking. Good ways to build her up without pushing her too far and damaging anything. There are also our “dance” lessons that incorporate moves for a bit of self defense. She thinks it’s all fun and games until someone comes at her and she gouges an eyeball out.

When she’s not eating or attending Psychopomp University, I give her lots of time to be lobbied by the prospective Empresses. I actually had to assert myself after they got carried away once. My daughter asked for some ice cream and ended up being given progressively larger portions. I’d given her a network communication device, encrypted to keep anyone but myself out. It also means restricts her from calling just anyone or going online, which is all the more important when that kind of thing’s built into a person’s head. We’re talking home-style encryption too, with a different programming language.

So she called the hotline right to my head because she felt bad and threw up. I kicked the door in and tossed everybody else out. The giant shark cyborg, the giant bee woman, AND the ambitious servant girl. I got on to Qiang, but it’s hard to hold her accountable for that. Instead, I considered giving the other three a chopper ride. Between the three of them, they’d wreck the thing.

Instead, I ended up being able to make an example when, in the middle of applying nanites to the sweet-sick girl, Intercept called me with a tip from Flamebeard’s ship. They’d been taking a look at Mu and noticed a ship. A long catamaran-style ship with sails at the front and a number of burly rowers. He’d gladly take it out for us for a good price.

I rejected the offer and had Intercept keep an eye on it to let me know when we had a landing. The pacing was horrible, though. Took them awhile to reach us on that boat, and it’s tough maintaining anger for a long time.

I stepped out on the beach to meet and greet them. They responded with arrows. I suppose if this was that Civilization game, I’d have been beaten easily by the dozen or so loin-cloth clad men who charged forward, sweaty muscles exposed as they wore hardly anything but a little bit of leather and fur. The raised sword and axe and a sort of wooden club with nubs placed around the end.

Behind me a ways stood Beetrice, Silver, and Citra, along with a crowd of Buzzkills, guards, and VelocityRaptor. The three women were obviously not prisoners or tied up in any way. Just guests with a large group of guards, legitimately so in the case of the Buzzkills, who watched me bitchslap the colons of a group of people. Sometimes, the colons were still internal. I suppose it worked out that they were hostile. A peaceful group of traders would have made a different sort of example.

They seemed to be led by a particularly large one, muscular, but not overly so. We’re not talking about bodybuilders with those showy, useless muscles. Big guys, round, with arms used to swinging weapons and backs capable of lifting women and gold from those they come across. He came at me with a sword that bent when it hit my forearm gauntlet. I stomped his foot as he tried to straighten it and kneed him in the balls. When he dropped the sword and attempted to grapple with me, I hit him with an open palm to the throat, then reached down to turn He-Man into She-Ra. He had a lovely singing voice as he fell to his knees.

“Finish him!” my armor announced. I grabbed a gonad in each hand from that sack I took off him, ripped them apart from each other, then smashed them into the sides of his head until the top burst and his brain spurted out.

I turned back to the crowd, where I saw a couple of the raiders had gotten past me and the guards had punched their tickets to eternity. “It seems our new neighbors have a bit more balls than brains.” Then I stepped closer and gestured with a single finger for the ladies to join me in a private huddle. “Someone who wants to be a mother to my child really ought to remember what being a parent means. And let’s also not think too much about hoping to bully me into a position while we’re at it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go teach my daughter how to use her very own flamethrower.”

Kids love flamethrowers.

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Gecko Says Mu 1

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My people never did find the body. You know what else we didn’t find? A giant octopus-dragon marching around, getting worshiped. Straightened that shit up in a hurry, that fight. After everything that happened, I decided to get healed before organs started shutting down and leaving the cleanup for later. After injecting myself with nanites, I laid down, waved Qiang over, and fell asleep with her cuddled up against me. I woke up the next day to find she had left me a bowl of noodles on the stand next to the bed. First I had to hang up my armor to drain out before helping myself to the cold noodles. A little on the spicy side.

She was happy to see me when she wandered in and caught me in my imperial bathrobe and heart boxers, chowing down on the cold noodles she microwaved all for me. “How’s things, baby girl?” I asked.

“There was a big flood, and then they said a big bunch of land came up, and all the frog people are cleaning up where you had the big fight.” It all came out, mile a minute.

“Anything else?” I asked.

“Much is changed. Are you done playing with monsters now?” A feminine hand reached out across the bedroom doorway wearing gold claws over fingers. It was Citra’s hand, which I saw as she stepped out in a red, high-collared Chinese style dress out of theatre or a fantasy movie. The makeup, the headdress looking like horns…

Silver Shark also stepped out, the large cyborg wearing a similar dress, though larger. They went a bit more whimsical with her makeup around the cybernetic eyes on her modified face. “I think he likes it.”

“Daddy, you’re drooling,” Qiang said.

I reached up and pushed my mouth shut. “Well, ladies, nice as it is to see you’ve both had a makeover, there are more important things around than the women in my life.Come, Qiang, let’s go see how the clean-up is going and whatever you’re talking about with a bunch of land.”

I started to walk past them, but Silver Shark put a hand on my chest. “You have to deal with us. We spent a long time figuring out what we wanted.”

“You both look beautiful,” I said. “But I have so much shit to take care of, including something about new land, and a little matter of necrophilia to take care of.”

“What’s necro whatever?” asked Qiang.

“I’ll tell you later,” I said to her.

“You have to deal with us sooner rather than later, because Beetrice arrived while you were resting,” Silver said. “She says you’re supposed to be getting married soon.”

The giant bee-woman, Beetrice, is surprisingly astute as a diplomat, and incredibly enthusiastic about bedding me. Way, way too enthusiastic. If she was here, I’m surprised I didn’t wake up to find myself tied down with a ballgag in my mouth. It’s not that she grosses me out or anything, with the exoskeleton, fuzz, and mandibles. It’s just that I don’t like her the way she likes me. Plus, she likes to almost kill me. Death by snoo snoo and dehydration.

Speaking of her skills as a negotiator, she added a clause to the peace treaty about marrying me that probably isn’t what everybody legally signed. I bet she’d get the United Nations to say it was binding anyway if they knew how much I didn’t care for the idea.

“She’s on the island? Wonderful.” Then I quieted down and cupped my ear, trying to listen out while remotely accessing cameras and digital devices nearby.

Citra stepped up to me and distracted me quite well by cupping my face in her hands. “You made a deal with my mother to take care of me. You know what she wanted.” The cold metal felt nice against my skin.

“You’re not something to be bought and sold. You should be the boss of your own life. Go do your own thing. You can make it on your own.” I grabbed her hands and held onto them for a moment before pulling them away, wondering when the sappy music was going to start up. I only meant to hold onto them for a moment, but she was pretty.

“You don’t buy people,” she repeated back, her eyes flicking over to Qiang. She pulled her hands away and crossed her arms. “What would I do? I have lived a servant’s life.”

I shrugged and gave her a little smile. “You could be a maid? Go to school or something. Find yourself someone you love.” My smile got a little less friendly as I realized something. “But you’d rather keep living in a palace, wouldn’t you?”

“You are another foolish American, thinking everything is about love and doing your own thing.” That caused me to back my face on up a moment while she continued. “The people do not love you. They know you are strong. You will keep them safe if they keep you happy. They like the lifestyle you offer them.”

“First, I’m not really an American.” I ran my fingers through my hair. “Second, whatever happened to people liking me for me instead of because I have a big house?”

“I’ve had you. You’re an ass,” Silver Shark said. “You cheated on me, remember?”

I threw my hands up. “I don’t see what the problem is. You could have joined us at any time. What are you doing in all this anyway?”

She ran her claws over the fabric of her dress. “I liked the makeover. Some of the benefits were nice, when you weren’t being a jerk. Tell you what. I hear Queen Beetrice loves you for you.”

“I mean, maybe I should try Beetrice?” I said. “After all, I get a choice in this, too. I’m the big emperor guy in charge. Maybe I’ll chug a bunch of energy drinks and sports drinks, lay back, think of England, and then sell my amazing new combined energy/sport drink that you’d think someone would have invented by now.”

As if on cue, the palace’s landline began to ring, the ID placing the caller as Beetrice. I bent the knee pretty damn quick. Silver and Citra shared a laugh at that. “Damn injury, you know,” I tried to cover for it. “Just fought a giant Cthulhu. No big deal. No reason to give a guy a break before you start throwing booty at him. Anyone got a ring or something? Or what’s the tradition here?”

Citra spoke up. “Your family delivers gifts to my family, but my family is dead. Do you have any family?”

I shrugged. “Just Qiang. Other than that, I dunno. If I do, they’re on the other Earth that the guys with the giant robot ship are from. I think I remember an aunt. Either way, not an issue, but I can always give you presents. That it?”

“Then you give me jewelry in a hair combing ceremony.”

“Pretty easy to see these traditions don’t have anything to do with love. Ok, fi- wait a moment. Before I agree, there’s someone I have to consult on this. I looked to Qiang. “What do you think about her?” I nodded toward Citra. “She been nice to you?”

She nodded. “She’s alright.”

Dammit, Qiang! I needed her to be my wingman on this. “You think she’d be ok as my new wife and your new mom?”

She looked up at Citra, furrowing her little brow. Citra smiled warmly down at her, her eyes ligthing up and narrowing the corners of her eye. Silver wore a smirk. I turned back to Qiang. “You were in on it, too? Quite the conspiracy here.”

Before I could say anything else, I heard knocking at the door. “Hello! Psycho Gecko! It’s Beetrice! I couldn’t get you on the phone, so I came here myself!”

I stood up at that and prepared myself to greet my admirer. She rushed upstairs, wearing a dress that, based on the cleavage, back, and slits, was designed to spend more time on a floor than on a person. I gaped at it up until she wrapped her arms around me and tried to squeeze my lungs out through my mouth.

Why do I always forget about the strength? “How are you this strong?” I gasped out.

“What?” she said, stopping to look into my eyes with segmented ones before stealing a mandibled kiss off my lips.

“Insects can’t really get this big due to atmospheric conditions, let alone mate with humans and homo machina. It just occurred to me,” and here I had to take a moment to cough. She set me down for that. “I might be able to improve my armor if I were to study your body.”

A pair of “Ahems,” came from off to the side, where Silver and Citra frowned. Was it something I sai-oooooooooh.

“Did I interrupt something?” Beetrice asked.

“You know what? I think you did. Beetrice, please talk things over with Citra and Silver. Qiang, dear, let’s hurry on out of here and give them some privacy.”

I took her hand and rushed out under the reaching grasps of all three women, er, females. I suppose it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I had to marry one of them, Citra or Beetrice. I just didn’t really plan on marrying. Ever. Citra wouldn’t be too bad, I guess. I know where I stand with her. Beetrice just turns me off, liking me so much. I mean, Venus would be nice if she and I didn’t want to kill each other.

I think I’m getting some insight here.

First stop, the military base! I had called Intercept to see what they were up to and they informed me they still had a piece of Cthulhu in quarantine. This was conveniently the kind of thing that would keep me well away from the palace. Qiang was excited to see the place and all the soldiers, who had swiftly assembled to salute me in my imperial bathrobe. I didn’t have time to grab clothes, remember.

I gave them all a salute back, as did Qiang, and I met with the commanding officer, of a rank called Shouho, as well as the Issa of the Intercept team. They conspicuously avoided mentioning my clothing choice, and they were more than happy to show Qiang all about this helicopter while they showed me to a holding area with six pylons surrounding a tentacle, a glowing yellow barrier connecting each pylon.

I looked up at them. “Handy. Do they fry anything going forward?”

The Shouho spoke up. “The barriers are kinetic, requiring only power. This is an abnormal deployment to secure the anomaly.”

“Very good,” I said. “These look quite useful. We must construct additional pylons.”

“The military could use an expansion in material and manpower. For that, additional supply depots are required,” the Shouho responded.

I held up my hands. “We’ll handle that another time. For now, open this up for me. I’m going to need some alone time with it. It’s not a corpse, but it’ll do. Bow, bowm, bow bow bow.” I started to saunter forward, continuing to mouth porn music. When I saw them looking, I stopped, “Listen, you don’t want anyone to see this next part. Things are going to get freaky. Look at me, Shouho Whatever.”

I pointed at myself and the Shouho said, “Shouho Zhu Luankui.” He straightened up.

“Look at me, Zhu. Look at me. Freaky. That’s what it’s going to be like. You’re going to want raincoats out here if you stand in the splash zone.” I turned away and continued my preparations.

The Intercept Issa interrupted me before I could get into it. “Sir, what are your orders regarding the island that has appeared?”

I paused and pulled my boxers back up. “Ok, let’s go see what this is all about.”

It took me fifteen minutes to reach the beach with an enthusiastic driver and a few close calls. I found the Deep Ones hard at work on the beachfront. They were taking over most of the clean-up, with the locals more than happy to sell them noodles, dumplings, and so on. I thought we were going to have a problem there, but the Deep Ones had some serious bling. Gold and gems. I stepped over to pat the shoulder of one of them who was helping himself, or possibly herself, to a bowl of noodles. “Is it good?”

It kinda nodded its head from side to side. “Yes, good. Not the same as food from home.”

“You smell funny!” said Qiang, looking at a little Deep One that ate with what I assumed were a pair of parents.

I shrugged and focused on the one I’d stopped. “There may be opportunity there. Provided it isn’t poisonous to us, people might like it. Thank you, and the rest of y’all for helping out here.”

“Uhh, you’re welcome,” the Deep One said. “Thank you for allowing us to stay.”

I nodded and left it to the rest of its meal. Qiang had gotten into a game of tag, so I left her to it.

After all, I didn’t stop here just to gladhand the immigrants. I came to see the giant fucking island right off Ricca. I can see it. Granted, my eyes are better than most people’s, and height limits how far a person can see before the horizon’s a problem, but it’s there. I could even make out the mountains.

The satellite images showed more. Just offshore, having risen from the sea, a landmass roughly with roughly two million square miles of area. An entirely new continent that shouldn’t exist according to all the people who study plate tectonics and geology. The soldiers at the base were already calling it according to the name being popularized by the Deep Ones.

It is the island continent of Mu. It’s right here by Ricca. And it will be mine.

I turned back to the crowd of gathering Deep Ones. “Who wants to go claim some land for their new country?”

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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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