Tag Archives: Arachnoid

Summer Sunnin’

Next

Previous

You’d think a gal could take a vacation without problems cropping up. I don’t just mean various day to day issues of running a dictatorship. Unlike a democracy, I actually have to be responsible to my people. If I screw up, I can’t blame another party that then has to fix my mess.

I mean just trying to relax. Have a good time. Like swimming. My family hung out at the beach a bit. It’s real popular. We have all these little boats that can go out there and set up awnings for shade or grills for cooking. I was out there, swimming with this big fruity drink in my hand that glowed bright green. Pretty sure that wasn’t a healthy radioactive glow, but it failed to set off either my internal Geiger counter or my Giger counter. The former measures radioactivity, the latter measures whether a substance contains an alien parasite that will try to mate with my mouth. I mean, aliens mating with my mouth aren’t a dealbreaker normally, but I’m still trying to make monogamy work.

Where were we? Swimming, right. I was out there with my nemesis-turned-girlfriend, my bribe-turned-daughter, and my ex-turned-bodyguard. At the moment, Medusa and Qiang were playing chicken with some other swimmers. Silver Shark was off doing something. Not sure. I saw her jumping onto a pad at one point to launch people into the air, but that had been before I picked up the bowl of liquor. I took a sip of my ridiculously large drink and felt a bump.

I looked down and saw a fin pass by under the shining water. Ah, that’s where Silver Shark went. She’s one of the ones who had a problem with my lack of monogamy after I blew a bunch of North Korean military officials to gain their loyalty. It bumped me again and I reached down to try and run my hand over the metal of her cybernetics. “Easy there, Shark. We aren’t that close anymore.”

A squeal of delight drew my attention to that big pad thing, where a kid splashed in the water and Silver Shark hopped off the pad.

Oh. Shark attack. I took a drink because I was gonna need it.

I turned to try and find the shark that had been bumping into me. A big fucking shark came right for my chest, eyes black, before it dived. Sharp teeth stabbed into my leg as I was dragged down. My ears caught screams before I was pulled under.

Bastard probably thought I’d just let the leg go. Someone bit into the wrong bitch. I grabbed the plastic cup my drink came in and broke it so that it was jagged. It wasn’t easy to keep track of what was going on with the water rushing around, but we seemed to be heading into deeper water. I went a-jabbin’ into that sleek undersea predator. I felt its jaws let up, but the fact that I was in front of it meant I didn’t get away. This time, it chomped down on the side of my belly. It hurt, but my body’s a tough piece of meat and metal. I stabbed into it for a handhold then bent toward it to bite it.

We must have taken a downward turn at some point, because I smacked into the bottom and threw up a bunch of sand. The shark let go and shook the front part of its body to get loose from me. It tried to swim away, but it found the steely grip of three of my arms holding onto its tail. Now it was my turn to smile and roll my eyes.

I can only imagine how it looked when that shark burst out of the water and flew through the air toward the shore. I know I didn’t look the best when I walked out of the water and toward the crowds. My leg and belly were bleeding. Medusa and Qiang ran up, my former nemesis now asking, “Are you ok?”

Qiang hugged onto me and I gave her a quick hug in return, saying, “Yeah, I’m fine. You should see the other guy. In fact, let’s go see the other guy.”

I walked past the concerned citizens gathered on the shore and grabbed someone’s folding beach chair. I folded it up while pushing past the crowd that gathered around the shark itself. I looked down on the floundering finned fiend and started whacking it over and over again with the side of the chair. When that broke apart, I tossed it down and looked around for something else. Someone held a bottle of sake out for me, so I grabbed that, sipped some, then started beating the shark with the bottle.

It died eventually. I like to think it wasn’t entirely from being on land. Someone offered to make me a special dinner of shark fin soup, but I declined and threw the shark over my shoulder. “Hey, Qiang, wanna go with me to the taxidermist?”

“What’s a taxidermist?” my daughter asked.

“It’s where grown-ups go to make stuffed animals out of things they hit with their car. Only they don’t cuddle them or hug them or play with them. They just stick them on a wall.”

“Mama, are you going to be ok?” she asked.

I patted her on the head. “I’m just fine. You can stay here and play with Medusa and the others if you want.”

Reassured, she ran over and grabbed Medusa’s hand to lead her back to the water. Medusa looked at me concerned, but ultimately decided I knew what I was talking about. So I dragged the shark off with me.

“Yep,” I told Mix N’Max later, in my bathroom. We were in my hot tub, soaking. I pointed up at the shark mounted on the wall overhead. “I caught one that big once.”

“Stop it, you’re making that up,” he told me.

“Ah!” said Holly, one of his assistants, as she stepped into the room and saw the shark on the wall. “Oh my god. You put a shark in your bathroom.”

“Let me see!” called Sam, his other assistant, who ran into the room and seemed disappointed. “Oh, a dead one.”

That wasn’t the only interruption either. I was out on a date with Medusa, which was a raincheck after she missed our last one to go wreck a concentration camp over in the States. She was treating me all gentle and all after the shark attack. Normally, and quite predictably, I don’t tend to like people babying me, but I liked it in this context. The way she held me in her strong, muscular arms.

Then she got a call from one of her hero buddies. I listened in from the other side of the dinner table as she asked for details about something. She gave me a sheepish look when she hung up. “I’m sorry, but I have to go.”

“You do? There aren’t any other heroes in places that speak English?” I asked, wagging a piece of steak at her.

“It’s one of those grey areas that known heroes can’t mess around with. It’s that Deputy Program they implemented. Portland PD’s got an arms deal set up with another group like the one that got into that shoot-out at the mall last week. I want to put the fear of God into cops selling off evidence and armories while claiming they’re deputizing white supremacists.”

I folded my lower pair of arms across my chest while continuing to eat with my upper arms. That’s another great thing about having extra arms. I can show my disapproval while still shoving food into my mouth. “Fine. Arachnoid might want to help out, while you’re at it.” She clapped her hands and stood up. I sighed, but felt a little better when she bent down to give me a quick kiss.

“I’ll be back as soon as possible, don’t worry. Besides, we had half a dinner,” she said, before rushing off to go help people or whatever nonsense she was up to these days. It’d gotten a lot easier for her ever since we got the tele-chambers set up. The scientists used the data I stole from that other dimension to figure out a way to create an intradimensional portal. It was a hell of a strain on the island’s power supply, but we put a hell of a lot of work into that system having its own separate power supply. We’re really growing all the way around over here, and the ability to teleport people anywhere in the world or call them back has helped tremendously. So have the Deep Ones. Without them and other refugees, we’d be terribly understaffed.

So with her off, I was left to finish my meal with the prospect of having both dessert and “dessert” alone. As it was, I took my time with the first and ended up trying to survive overeating by catching up on the island’s news. That was interrupted by an alert on my internal HUD that started just as the ground started shaking. I thought it was an earthquake at first, until a big white mass of fur slammed through the ceiling of the restaurant nearby, knocking my table over and me out of my booth.

I looked up at the thing, which quickly raised up. More of the ceiling fell in under an even bigger and longer white-furred thing the size of a car. I connected to the city’s drones and cameras to see what the hell was attacking the restaurant. I beheld a giant bunny, thirty feet long if you didn’t count the head. I was going to give its height, but it sat up on its haunches and looked around, which made the length the same as the height in my book. It hopped, crushing another building under its weight. People ran, screaming in terror as it leaned down to nibble at the top of a tree.

I answered the alert from the Institute of Science and Dr. Creeper, its head. “Creeper, why is there a giant bunny running amok in my city?”

“I have here the scientist to blame for it, ja,” he said in his faux-German accent. “He has been a naughty boy, experimenting with a food additive meant to increase the size of animals who eat it. It is meant for livestock, but this is too far!”

“Huh. That’s actually kind of impressive. While I’m unhappy with the immediate result, I think he’s on to something. We’ll discuss this more once I’ve killed Thumper here,” I said, calling a Dudebot to carry my armor to me and putting the military on red alert. They always knew, being so close to Japan, they might have to deal with a giant monster. I doubt they expected it to be a rabbit. Someone lost the betting pool, I’m certain.

“You can’t do that!” Creeper yelled.

“What? Why? Is it important for the experiments? The only survivng sample of whatever caused this? Will it explode into a pair of rabbits half as big over and over again?” I asked.

“It’s so cute,” he answered.

I took a moment to think about the reason my Science head was giving for not killing a giant rabbit causing hare-raising terror in my city. As if on cue, it jumped a few more times, tearing a swath of destruction and flipping a bus that landed with an explosion. I told Dr. Creeper, “That’s not a good enough reason,” and clambered my way out of the restaurant.

The Dudebot met me, having jumped from the palace with my armor that I pulled closed around me. The robot doppelganger of mine wouldn’t fool anyone up on how my latest armor looked, but it had two arms and all the usefulness of my prior suit, so it was still worth keeping around. I jumped onto Big Bunny’s head and grabbed its ear. At the same time, the Dudebot made for its front paw and tried to pull it out of the way so we could topple this lagomorph. The bunny shook its head, jerking me around, then turned and kicked the Dudebot halfway to China.

I grabbed onto its fur and gave it a mighty punch that knocked its head down. It responded by rolling over and trying to crush me into a car. I let go and it rolled back over, exposing its belly to me. I flew up with a punch that caused it to jump and kick at the air, barely missing me while I fell. I landed on the front of the car and rolled backward off it, a little winded. The bunny recovered as well, but its fur stuck out when it landed and a portion of the city went dark. It hopped forward again, off whatever power lines it had been on, and started trying to shake that out. I threw a car at it. It bounced off, but the bunny began to flee. It made for one of the island’s skyscrapers and actually began to scramble up the thing, its fluffy paws smashing through glass as it lifted itself up straining steel. If that thing tipped over, it would do a lot of damage. I jumped after it, the sight of Psycho Flyers in the air making me grin.

They’d named the VTOL aircraft after me. The heavily-armed transports opened up on the bunny, firing machine guns and unleashing rockets into the white body of the rabbit, that began to turn black from the attacks.

At the base of the tower, I felt pretty useless until I found a pretty young woman frozen in terror. I grabbed her, and also that guy she was with, and gave them a push in the right direction, which was away. “The first rule of giant monster attacks is not to stand still near the thing and stare at the giant monster!” I yelled after them. Then I noticed it was getting darker. I looked up to see a burnt white mass descending upon me, filling the entire sky from my perspective.

When I did manage to crawl out, it was next to some amateur reporter streaming from his phone. “I think it crushed the evil dictator here to death. It wasn’t the Flyers’ fault. It was bunny that killed the beast.”

“Who are you calling a beast, asshole?” I grunted, prompting him to flee.

Fucking tourists.

Next

Previous

Manifest Screw Destiny 3

Next

Previous

You could cut the tension as the invasion day approached, but most people were saving their knives for the invaders. We got most of the civilians rounded up. The old geothermal power plant had space, as did the tunnels for the underground high speed rail. Others took shelter in old black sites. Anyone who wished to leave the island was allowed. I’d have pushed for a general evacuation, but there’s really no telling where all will be hit. That’s the same reason I didn’t recall all my agents or my wife. Informing us of the invasion ahead of time may be of questionable strategy, but it created a lot of uncertainty and confusion that can work against us in the initial strike.

Those who wanted to fight were given the opportunity for that as well. The training kept my soldiers ready and helped them focus. We could always use the manpower. Beetrice didn’t stay, but at least we have VelocityRaptor back, mostly healed from that business in Africa. He failed to kill Velociraptor. We’ve also still got Silver Shark, who decided to take up position near the beach with the Deep One militia. Bronze Rhino, another Claw creation, was pulled out of his homestead in the wilderness and sobered up to help defend the city. We needed him to fight, and his alcohol for Molotovs.

So the clocks tick-tocked away, bringing us closer and closer to a clash. I finished doing what I could to my armor. Plenty of integrated nanite-holding quilt on the inner layer, spiked blades on knees and elbows, and as many chicken grenades and explosive throwing knives as I could pack.

Venus watched me as I worked in my study. “Are you ready?”

I laughed. “Is anybody truly ready?”

“Did you have one of Max’s brownies he’s passing around? You shouldn’t have dulled reactions right now,” she said.

I shook my head and turned to look at her, “I am fully in control of my own faculties. Razor sharp, you might say.”

“You look tense.” She walked over and ran her hands through my hair. “How do you feel?”

I closed my eyes, enjoying the feeling. “A little tense and excited. You?”

“The same. The big fights don’t announce when they’re coming. I had the Academy send me my exoskeleton through Cape Diem. Don’t worry, I repainted it in my new colors.” She stopped running my head and I reached up to hold her hand.

We stayed like that for several seconds, then I smiled and made the situation worse with singing. “It’s an emergency, call the police, you left me and abandoned the lease.” The guitar, bass, and drums started up when I put on the actual song to cover up my disastrous singing voice.

Venus giggled, then started dancing when I stood up. I heard a squeal from the doorway to find Qiang dancing there to “Gave You Everything” by The Interrupters. I pulled Venus over so I could grab Qiang and lift her up. Further down the hall, Sam rocked out, then hopped on something and played an imaginary guitar.

It was just stupid fun to music. It was right. It was what we needed and it broke the tension. And it was just in time, because pretty much everything we were using to detect an incursion went off at once. I didn’t know whether to expect a portal or a craft of some sort. We got both, but the portals were temporary and the craft were floating and flying. The things in the sky had hull like ship with a narrow angle. Could have been some sort of floating battleship or destroyer for all I know ship designations. The ones in the water were wider and more round, like if someone made a circular aircraft carrier and loaded the deck with guns.

Some of those ended up cut into pieces when the barrier went up. Explosions rippled across it from where the flying ships had fired already. Some were inside the dome of the shield already when it went up.

I dropped everything and began to suit up, sending out an address while I did so. “People of Ricca, the invasion is incoming. Stay in the shelters unless they’re compromised. If possible, we will evacuate you to areas of the world not under attack. I will not leave you. I’ll keep fighting. You might doubt me as a benevolent leader. Honestly, I don’t think any good leader can be a good person. Ha! By that metric, I’d be an excellent leader. Don’t trust me because of morality. Trust me to be a monster unleashed on your enemies. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go set a new world record for most bowels perforated with a single fist.”

This is why people hire speechwriters. More competent speakers give these events a certain gravitas.

I flexed my armor and reached for my helmet. Qiang held it up for me, in a smaller, less spiky version of my armor. She didn’t have her helmet on either and smiled at me. Mindful of the spikes, I grabbed her for a hug. “I love you.”

“Love you too, mommy,” she said, setting it on my head. It sealed into place and she walked over to the desk where I’d left my helmet, grabbing her knife and helmet.

“I want you underground, staying safe,” I told her. “And keep your armor on.”

“Yes mama!” she yelled, running off with her helmet past Venus. The heroine rested against the doorway, a smile visible underneath the chrome visor obscuring most of her face.

“You ready?” she asked.

I nodded. “You?”

“Yeah. Time to fight the good fight,” she said, as if that line wasn’t designed to make my eyes roll.

Sam and Holly stayed behind, so it was just the three of us setting out from the palace: Max, Venus, and Gecko. Max twirled a syringe gun in one hand, a spray gun in the other, careful of the bandoleer full of smoke grenades. Venus scanned the area and pulled out a staff that extended. I called over a larger drone that attached underneath the armored battery pack on my back, adding a large pair of lasers designed for heavy use hanging off each side of me, and a stand on my shoulder on which a pair of my normal-sized drones settled with their smaller beam weapons.

Out in the waters, Silver Shark and the Deep One marines had capsized a trio of the invading ships, which shot a lot of empty buildings on the waterfront. Some of those inside tried to swim to shore despite segmented armor, but I had more Deep Ones than they had exceptional swimmers.

The seafaring ships outside the barrier had pressed against it. They were glowing some orange color and slowly easing through. I contacted my submarine, who assured me they had everything in hand. The message came through about the time I saw the explosions tear through the ships. My admiral figured that the natural compliment to a shield around the island is a minefield around the shield. There weren’t many living invaders left to argue the efficacy of that.

I was beginning to think I wouldn’t even get to use my armor when white portals began to swallow the battleship aircraft outside the shield. New white portals opened in the air over the water, spitting them back out. They began to adjust targets.

The Intercept team was on it with surface-to-air missiles and drones. The first shots of the battlecraft crashed into the Directory building and probably wrecked my favorite chair. They turned to adjust aim once the first of our missiles began to blow holes in them. My guys focused on three of these things equally for way too long before concentrating fire on the closest. Whatever kept the battlecraft afloat in the air didn’t compensate for the hits and it rocked back and forth until something gave out and it crashed into the water. The other two focused on the military base. Note to self: when rebuilding the military base, include its own shield. Same for the new Directory building and the Palace.

The next craft to go down was dissected in a fucking grid pattern by laser drones. It was beautiful. It swung and dipped, just barely missing the remaining battlecraft. Gotta give them points for trying. That craft ended up smacking into shallower water, part of the hull crumpling on the beach.

The invaders changed tactics. Four portals began to open up at ground level and stayed open for thirty seconds. “Anyone left at Intercept who sees where these things are coming in?” I asked over my command channel.

“Affirmative, Empress. Intercept Field Unit is deployed. We have eyes on rifts and are passing the locations on, triaging per your orders.”

All are equal under the Empress, but some places are more equal than others. The base’s capabilities are reduced, but we need the power plant and the shield. We need the people in the shelters if they threaten any of them.

After that, more opened. I wasn’t paying so much attention to those, because one of those first sets of portals opened right in front of my group. The ones most eager to die were a bunch of guys who must have interrupted their beard-growing contest to get killed being the most prominent group. There were a few others mixed in. It was a pretty diverse bunch.

I giggled and began to dance, pumping out the next song on my murder playlist, Coolio’s Fantastic Voyage. I spun and slid onto my knees, hands in the air, waving like I just didn’t care, while the heavy lasers and the laser drones I personally commanded went to town on them. The first wave just died. Whatever segmented armor they had wasn’t that good at handling light. Some of the ones to survive were grey guys in tights and vests. A small blossom of light appeared where they were hit. Max tossed one of his grenades and hid behind me. They didn’t come out the other side of the thick blue smoke that spread all over the edge of the courtyard. The stream of enemies came around the sides, but something did walk out of the smoke. I caught a glimpse in between mowing down their buddies.

There were three clunky robots. Heavy metal plating and bolts on the torso chest, head, arms, and legs. It had a thick support connecting the chest to the legs, but didn’t bother with all those delicious parts of living critters. These were some old school robots, staring out at us through slots in their heads that glowed with red lights. Venus stepped up in front of myself and Max. She held her staff in her right hand, angled to avoid the metal spike she extended from the gauntlet. Electricity arced from it, then up along the staff which she swept over the robots. Ball lighting flew forth, throwing off smaller tendrils on its way into the middle of the robots. The others who got too close didn’t take it any better than the miraculous metal men did.

We were barely done with that group when another portal opened behind us. The future corpses who ran out of that one included some in old wool outfits and flintlocks, of all things. I held out a hand and gestured for them to bring it. Venus grabbed my arm and tugged me to the side when one of them fired at me, with Max diving behind me. Behind me, a person-sized hole appeared in the wall around the courtyard.

I targeted the flintlock shooters first after that. Max ducked beneath my legs to fire into the crowd with his gun and called out, “Thanks Venus!”

“Yeah, thanks,” I said, a bit grumbly. Ugh, my nemesis I’m in love with saved my life. Time to go write in my diary about how unfair my life is and how I’m so embarrassed I’m just gonna DIE. Wait, is this not the teen drama portion of the narrative? Oh, right, I was murdering folks.

Intercept contacted me for an update after we’d finished with that bunch. “Empress, we have reports of dinosaurs loose in the city. The food growers are under siege and summoned a giant demon plant for assistance. Additionally, VelocityRaptor has responded. The Institute is under attack as well. Dr. Creeper, Bronze Rhino, and Arachnoid are defending. All fronts are holding. The sea battle is over. Silver Shark is bringing the Deep Ones ashore to flank the enemy.”

“Anywhere look like it could stand some reinforcement?” I asked.

“The skeleton crew at the water treatment plant reported an attack. We have dispatched a Flyer and squad to take it back, but we are low on available manpower.”

“I thought we told them to evacuate with the rest…” I looked to Venus and Max. “We’re heading to the water treatment plant to expel some waste. Don’t let them touch the water there if you want to keep them down for good.”

Venus nodded, but I caught something moving toward us out of the corner of my eye. By the time I turned to look, one of those grey fucks was right up in my face, pushing me. The wall we passed through stunned me a bit. You know, like they do. Wrecked my big drone, I think. The grey speedster let me go and I crashed through another wall, and another, and into a small refrigerator in someone’s kitchen. The family left a pot on the stove and rice in a bag nearby. And a superspeedster coming through a hole to stop right in front of me and punch the crap out of my armor. He grabbed my throat. I tried to put a spike through his eye, but he dodged it. I sent a straight at his gut, but he was elsewhere the moment it would have hit. I brought my arm down on his elbow and instead he was choking me with his other hand.

I looked him in his blank eyes and raised my arms. “Really dude?” I asked, despite the tightening grip that threatened to shut off my air supply. But you know what’s faster than super speed most of the time? Light. Guess who has a laser built into her helmet? This bitch. I fired the trio of lasers in my helmet into his eyes and face, for just a moment. The speedy fucker clutched his head.

I laughed my ass off and grabbed him. I pulled open the refrigerator door and pulled him in, smashing the door against his head. He stumbled back away, pushing at me. I caught a beer before it fell out and smashed it over his cranium. I put my heel into his crotch, grabbed him, and threw him against the stovetop. I didn’t need to be a speedster to stick the pot on his head and hit the lasers again. I fried his noggin in the pot. I’d have done it slow, but he was fast. Now he’s a past tense person.

I stepped out, checking on the situation. Venus and Max were on their way to the water treatment plant. I figured I could rendezvous with them, or I could turn right and see why it was suddenly a shady day. I looked, and there stood a sixteen foot tall bird staring down at me with hungry eyes. It opened its beak and roared, showing off a mouth full of rows of sharp teeth.

Command channel time. “I might kill this one, but if we happen to have a spare giant dino bird after this is all over with, I would be happy to have a new pet.” Its beaky maw snatched me up. “This one wants to play already!” It tried to chew me. I put my hands up and stopped it, then stood up on its tongue. I cut the comms channel and addressed the bird directly. “You need to remain calm and stop trying to eat me, or this relationship is never going to work. And it can work! Just look at how things turned out with Venus! All I had to do was change my life, kill fewer people, medicate, have a kid, take responsibility for a bunch of people I don’t know, set up rules for supervillains, and save the world like a dozen times.”

More crap for the diary, in between talking about who I have a crush on and what I want my prom dress to look like, like ohmigosh.

I punched the top of the birdasaur’s mouth. It opened wider and tried again. This time, it caught an elbow blade. It roared and shook its head. I fell out. I hopped up on the birdasaur’s beak and stared it in the eye. “Hey there, critter. I’m your new best friend. I’m gonna hug you and clean up after you and ride you to slaughter my enemies.”

The bird shook its head, then smashed me into the side of the building. I pulled myself up and flipped around to sit on its neck. It hopped and flapped its tiny arms, trying to get rid of me. It rolled over in the street. I don’t crush so easy. I stayed on and gave a “Yippee-ki-yay!” when we came up.

On the street below us, scaly emu things ran along, hissing and growling. I pointed down at them. “Chow down!”

The birdasaur tried to shake me off, but it knew a meal when it saw it. It snatched one up for a meal. At the end of the street, a group of the bearded soldiers and grey men stepped out. They swiped at the emus to chase them off. A soldier raised his sword to point at me. One of the grey men stepped up and raised his hands. A purple ray shot from his hands and singed the feathers on my mount.

I laughed. “Kill, my pretty! Slaughter every last one of them and feast on their bones!” It didn’t seem to need much encouragement after those pitiful attempts to shoot me. It ran into them and started biting. I even hopped down to go after that one grey guy. “That all you got? I killed a guy with super speed earlier. I’ve seen some of your buddies fly and take missiles. ‘Sup?”

He tried shooting me and all the blast did was leave a dark mark on my armor. He tried again and still did nothing. A raider sung at me from the side. I caught the blade and pulled it free from his hands, flipped it around to take the grip, and shoved it through his mouth. I grabbed the blade again and pulled it free, then kicked the body up into the air where my new pet chomped on it. When I turned back to the grey guy who shot at me, he was running. I jumped over him to land in his way. He skidded short and raised his hands in front of his face. “Please-!”

I punched him in the gut just enough to double him over. “I like it when they beg. You want me to like you? Beg more. Tell me things.” I laughed and grabbed him. “Why are you so weak when some of you things are so strong?”

“We are clones,” it told me. It shook as the birdasaur roared.

I slapped its face. “Don’t pay attention to that thing, pay attention to me. You’re clones, right?”

“We are made. Some of us have strong powers. If we are loyal and strong, we are promoted to serve the masters. If not, we serve with the vassals from the provinces.”

I brushed off his tights. “There you go. Good guy, telling me things.” I punched him and knocked him out. I saw a car nearby and carried him over. He fit pretty well into the trunk. My new pet roared at me, read for another go, but then squad of robotmen rounded the corner. I yelled back, “Tag, you’re it!” and ran for them. They raised their arms and shot bolts of molten metal at me. I could feel that, whatever it was. I could also turn invisible, and did so. Shooting like that didn’t make the birdasaur happy, and it couldn’t even eat these ones.

I watched it have fun with them from a rooftop nearby. I glanced up to look around, seeing Psycho Flyers all about. Some of them fired down on hotspots, like one over by the water treatment plant. “This is the Empress. Status update?”

“The portals have stopped, your eminence. The enemy is divided, but most large groups are breaking off to concentrate on the shield building.”

“Reinforce the building as best you can to make sure it doesn’t fall. Let them gather,” I said. I hate that kind of wait. The Institute, farm, and water treatment detachments never made it to the rally point because they got fed pavement with some serious velocity with the help of my guys. The Deep Ones and soldiers used the big gathering to start clearing sections of the city. The weird dino-bird things were the main trouble there. It’s like someone opened up portals to an alternate dinosaur era and let the wildlife run through.

And then, with more than a thousand people banging away at the power plant’s gates, water rose from manholes and drains outside of it. The army might have taken it for a minor inconvenience until the itching started. Being taken apart piece by piece will do that to you. Some tried even harder to break in, but the Psycho Flyers massed to drop my people in there and to concentrate firepower on that front. The ones who tried to run found out hard that is when your feet are falling apart. Whoops, then they fell into the water.

I guided my new feathered friend as best as I could to watch, making sure the nanites knew not to eat this one. Sure, it still tried to fight me and throw me into things, but I think we were getting used to one another. It was a good enough place to watch as the invaders found out that I am quite literally the master of this island.

When the screaming was over, I called up Max. “I got a big boy for you to tranquilize. Or girl. I don’t know how to sex a bird.”

“Come now,” Max said with a chuckle in his voice.

“I was drunk that time,” I reminded him.

“Hey, butting in here, what’s going on?” asked Venus. “Did we win?”

I added Command to the line. “Well, did we win?”

The voice on the other line gave a rundown. “The enemy is no longer a coherent force at anything but the squad level. The city has been 24% cleared. The portals are stopped, the craft are in retreat. The Battle of Ricca appears to be over.”

I clapped my hands. “Very good. I’m guessing, not everyone was as lucky?”

“The United States, France, United Kingdom, Russia, and China were all invaded by significantly larger forces of differing effectiveness. In addition, the United States and Russia are fighting traitors. There are other nations fighting, including North Korea. Some have surrendered. We are assembling a list of others who repelled their invasions.”

“There’s your answer then, Venus,” I told her. “Today, Ricca. Tomorrow… the world!”

My ambition blinded me. It lit up the sky, though Intercept broke in with and explained things differently. “Large rift opening outside the dome.”

The image I saw was basically a giant gun with engines on it to keep it afloat. And maybe something loose in the water way behind it, but the big weapon might just do it for me here. The huge barrel pointed at us glowed, then shot what looked like a miniature sun at our shield.

“Brace your sphincters, everyone,” I told announced.

The energy blast blinded us as it approached, even though the tinting functionality on my helmet’s display. It struck the shield and lashed out like it was releasing solar flares. The shield went red in a ripple that rolled out from that point, audibly crackling loud enough to drown out even the communication device sealed to my head. The shield and the sun both disappeared at once.

“Casualties at the power plant!” I heard someone call out. “Evacuate and triage!”

I didn’t tell them not to bother. I patted the birdasaur and pulled at its neck feathers until its head turned in the right direction and it began to run for the gun. “Status on our D-bomb stockpile?”

Creeper answered, “It appears an infiltrator reached Bomb Storage with an incendiary device. We have no functional D-Bombs.”

“I’m moving to intercept,” I announced.

“That’s crazy,” Venus said.

“Looks like I’m perfect for it,” I told her. I saw the gun’s barrel glowing again. I knew perfectly well I’d never make it, and never be able to do anything to it. But when there’s nothing left but death, might as well let it know you’re not afraid of it.

I had regrets, though. Plenty, including for my daughter.

A beam from high in the sky struck the rear of the gun, pushing the barrel upward. The enormous energy blast it fired went well overhead, but close enough we felt the heat. I couldn’t tell if it was going to angle back to Earth and make someone’s day infinitely more shitty, but it missed us. The gunship began to slowly turn to face whatever hit it.

A blue satellite with a barrel of its own in between a trio of large solar panel arms lowered from the sky. Below it, a yellow aircraft carrier carried a humongous green tank. A pink submarine broke the surface with a jump, and a red fighter jet soared overheard.

“Oh no,” I said.

The aircraft carrier rose up like it was flipping forward. The tank backed up it while its deck split apart. The tank reached the end and fitting onto it. A fore section of the carrier bent at a 90 degree angle as it finished becoming a pair of legs attached to a green tank torso. The sub leaped into the air again, splitting apart. One half attached to the upper left of the tank. The other caught on the upper right and swiveled around. The jet flew up and curved back down, aimed at the rear of the tank. It somehow slowed, the fighter shifting to reveal a metal face as it slid into the rear of the tank, slotted in. Finally, the satellite. The giant robot reached for the tank’s cannon. The cannon split off easily, as did the barrel of the satellite as it came down. The satellite attached to the back of the robot, two of its panels forming wings that hung down behind it. The other panel arm broke off and attached to the barrel that had come undone from the satellite, then that section fitted into the end of the tank’s cannon to form a sort of sword.

“Venus, what did you do?” I asked.

“I asked them for help, like you said,” she informed me, a hunt of smugness in her voice.

The gunship fired again, this time trying to destroy the Justice Rangers. The robot batted it away with its sword, then raised it high. The sword glowed as bright as the sun. The robot went into a stance like it was taking a step to sprint toward it. The robot flew along the surface of the water, kicking up a spray of water to either side as it closed on the gunship, then past it. The sword stopped and the robot straightened up, standing in the shallow water by the beach. Behind it, the gunship fell apart into halves that exploded.

Rangers…

I was saved by the Phenomenal Fighting Justice Rangers.

Next

Previous

Manifest Screw Destiny 1

Next

Previous

I feel like Venus might be a reality warper. Somehow, she slid into the whole group with ease. I know Qiang likes her. They have some good history together from Qiang’s time at Master Academy. I didn’t expect Max to be cool with her though. Even his assistants, Holly and Sam, are more accepting of her than they were of me for a long time. I pulled Max aside to talk about that, “You were a real asshole to them at first.”

“I don’t see how,” I said.

“You were an asshole to me too,” he said.

“You said that was cocaine, too,” I reminded Max.

He looked around, “That’s neither here nor there. Besides, the erection went away eventually.”

“After four months. You told me I had to bone guys,” I said. It wasn’t all bad. I still have some fond memories. Sometimes, it’s just so much easier with guys. You never have to wonder if they’re in the mood, for instance.

He shrugged. “I said it had something to do with being the same gender, and I’ve learned new things about you since then.” He motioned to my boobs and crotch.

I folded all four of my arms across my chest, unamused.

I remain unamused. And confused. Maybe it’s her plan. Maybe that’s just how messed up I am. At least, that was Sam’s take on it. I was asking her about her thoughts on Venus. “Why are you so interested in what we think of her?”

Next thing I knew, I was laying on the couch. “I suppose I’m seeking outside confirmation that she’s untrustowrthy and this whole situation is fucked up. Because even though I want her to like me, I recognize that people actually liking me, or even loving me, usually means they want something from me or are so messed-up that I don’t bother them.”

Sam nodded. “I can see why you’d believe that based on everyone I’ve ever seen in your life, and that includes your daughter. I’m wondering why you jumped on your own couch and started talking when I asked you a question?”

I wiggled into the cushions to get comfy. “I can’t really say what started it, I guess. The first real romantic relationship I ever had followed this pattern.”

“Why are you telling me this?” Sam asked. “I don’t care.”

“The fact that you don’t care is why you’re the perfect person to tell,” I informed her.

She facepalmed. “Fuck, that makes sense.”

“After everything I went through on my home Earth, the fights and my own government cutting ties with me, at some point I ended up involved in a revolutionary movement. The pay sucked, but I was doing it for the art. Killing someone with a pencil is easy; it takes an artist’s soul to murder someone with a crayon. Or it takes slamming an artist’s head into a crayon over and over again. It helps that I used the brick color.”

Sam cleared her throat, eager to be done. “Ok, fine,” I continued, “I got involved with a woman who was my number two. She had it all… boobs, ass, legs, a pretty mouth… in retrospect, I might have been a bit shallow. Smart, too. Looking back, it might even make more sense. I really didn’t think I was unclear on my goal to use the dimension bomb to pretty much end all life on Earth. You wouldn’t even need to take half the planet’s mass away. It’s really more a matter of location. She betrayed me right at the end of it all and stopped me.”

“It’s my expert opinion as someone who doesn’t care that one of the things Max and Qiang get from you is that they care about you and people who care about each other act certain ways. If they’re fucked up people, that means they need it even more. Speaking of which, Venus isn’t like that. You used to go on about her being your ideal hero, the one destined to kill you, and then she was too good a hero to do that. Take a hint. She likes you even though you’re only person weird enough to run the show on this island. Enjoy being with her while she still puts up with you.” Sam stood up and headed for the office door, unlocking it.

I raised a finger. “You seem to be under the impression we’re dating.”

She raised a middle finger before she left. “Yeah, figure that out, genius.”

I didn’t have time to, as Venus attached herself to me pretty quickly and asked, “What are we doing today?”

“Oh, just a demonstration of a science project. Anything new on the hero front?” I asked.

She cocked her head. “Yeah. Old friends told me about some political prisoners in Egypt.”

“Oh? Is Venus dipping her toe into villainy for realsies, not as undercover work?” I asked.

She laughed. “This is how I’m making this work for me. I have an opportunity to do some good I don’t normally get to do.” She kinda swung her shoulders forward and back, looking cute and excited. “Mind if I come with you? I need to grab something to eat, so I can split off from you when we get to where we’re going if you don’t want me there.”

I shrugged. “Sure, we can pick up something on the way. There are some good street food carts near the Institute if you don’t mind spicy food.”

“Any taquerias?” asked Venus.

I shook my head. “Not a lot of that here, but plenty of spicy food if you’re a fan.”

“Sure, let’s make it spicy,” she said, taking my hand as we started walking.

We went over the prison in question. She had access to the city’s augmented reality network, so we were able to go over a 3D blueprint of the prison she had. When she saw my surprise she’d somehow slotted into that so easily as well, she told me, “Citra set up clearance before she went back to college. My friends sent me the blueprints and Qiang showed me how you find programs to do this.” She spun the image around, then stopped it and pointed to a basement section under one corner of the rectangular complex. “They only hide it enough to satisfy the Americans.”

“The world is built on open secrets as much as real ones,” I observed. “Floor looks kinda thin there. Could blow the place open on that side and blast a way through, but that risks damage to the staircase. Carve your way through, I guess.”

“Any ideas that minimize danger to the inmates?” she asked, as if that was a ever my major concern.

I shook my head. “Not if you want a big opening. You want to protect anyone, you’re going to have to take your time. Or, and this can be somewhat riskier, you need to blast your way out, not in.”

By the time we got our food and were approaching the Institute, we’d laid out a plan to use her local contacts to smuggle her. They think she’s food, she pops out and starts handing out asses like she’s on the campaign trail for chief butthole surfer. Plastic explosives are cheap enough coming through here and we get stuff from all over.

At the Institute, Dr. Gralz was more than happy to show us the progress made on the Arachnoid exoskeleton. They had a full-sized model ready with a volunteer, a fellow of African descent in a wheelchair he pushed along using cybernetic arm prosthetics. “Empress Gecko, this is Cassius Isaac. Mr. Isaac will be piloting the armor for us. Mr. Isaac, this is her Imperial Majesty Psychopomp Gecko and her wife, the Empress-Consort.”

I shook hands with our Arachnoid user, faking a smile at Gralz’s introduction. “Someone certainly did a number on you.”

He smiled. “It’s an honor to meet you. I’m here because of these legs. I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to have my spine healed and to extract revenge from the people responsible.”

“May I ask who that is?” Venus asked.

Cassius bobbed his chin up at her. “Routine traffic stop. They didn’t even charge the officer. Insurance company refused to pay. I thought I had a way out when your majesty,” he nodded to me, “took over, but my brother and my mother convinced my wife to keep me from the hospital when healthcare was free. I finally got the money to visit here.”

“You must feel it’s pretty extreme circumstances to put yourself at the mercy of Gecko,” Venus said. See, that’s what gives me trust issues. Statements like that.

“All due respect, ma’am, I faced possible execution every time I went to get groceries. This is my chance to be made whole, physically and spiritually. I’d risk death for that,” he said.

Dr. Gralz motioned us toward the elevator. “If you please, I have a demonstration room set up. We can talk further on the way.”

I lagged behind with Venus for a quiet conversation as we walked., “I didn’t tell people you were my wife.”

She gave me a knowing look with a little smile. “Lots of people think I am. I understand you had Citra look like me?”

“She did that on her own to appeal to me. She thought it would help us as a couple,” I said.

She raised her eyebrows, but instead of commenting on my marital issues, she said, “Irregardless, we talked about it. She’s fine letting me borrow her identity.”

“The question is more whether you can stomach agreeing to be known as my wife,” I told her, stopping so we wouldn’t walk right into the elevator where Gralz and Cassius Isaac waited for us.

She winked at me. “You forgot. I’m not locked this with you.” She brought her forehead to mine and spoke in a faux-gravely voice. “You’re locked in this with me.”

The Arachnoid exoskeleton was beautiful. Gralz showed it to us while lab techs prepped Cassius for it. It rested on gleaming limbs that looked more than capable of impaling a human body. The antigrav system had been integrated into the thorax, which made the bottom more vulnerable. “The arms are capable of reaching beneath it,” Gralz assured us.

“What other weapons we got here?” I asked.

“The rear contains a grappling hook and line. We built them with the possibility of being fired into people to pull them closer. We have a webbing spray system on the front. It fires a net of foam that hardens and constricts movement. The original design called for the spray system and a pair of modular mandibles that could serve as bladed weapons or be replaced with other mission-specific loadouts: machineguns, flamethrowers, rocket pods. However, the prototype was built when we were working on the integration of plasma-based weaponry. It will be more precise, but space and power requirements forced us to leave off mandibles and have the plasma cannon mounted above the net system.”

“You up for running this bad boy?” I asked Cassius.

He had a custom-built suit with armor on the back and a helmet. He had waved off the pulley system they had and used his arms to climb up the thing and set his legs into slots, then removed the prosthetic arms. Underneath were stumps that stopped a little past the elbows. He looked down at me. “Ma’am, my country trained me before it threw me away. In addition, I have passed multiple qualifications and other tests with the Arachnoid prototype exoskeleton and integrated weapons systems. I can say with 100% confidence I am the most-qualified person to pilot this armor.”

I nodded to him. “Have at it, then.”

He dropped down into the groove where his body was meant to lay, arms sliding into their slots. The armor on his back blended with the smooth edges of the exoskeleton. As it powered up, four pairs of lights on the top of his helmet began to glow, one pair at a time.

“We’re going to remove the lights,” said Gralz. “There’s no need for a visual indicator of the system’s activation to anyone who isn’t piloting it.”

Arachnoid rose on its hind legs in the small gymnasium-sized room we were in. Arachnoid pawed at the air with his front legs. The weapons were shown off first. The legs punched through a cinderblock wall to impale a mannequin on the other side. Another was dragged from fifty feet away while wearing a set of plate mail, the barb on the hook having penetrated the armor. When it got close, the cable detached and he fired another into the mannequin’s helmet, then detached it as well. A third mannequin was sprayed with net spray, the gunk net clinging to his front and legs before hardening. A fourth got picked up, sprayed with the net, then wrapped up entirely like spider with a fly. It was then set down in front of the third one and Arachnoid fired its plasma weapon. It left a flaming hole through the chests of the dummies.

Cassius put the armor through its paces, scrabbling around the floor. After a bit of experimenting, he even found a way to do it without gauging the floor. It got up to a pretty good speed, too. For as big as it was, it jumped hurdles with ease, and he pulled off a nifty move taking a corner using a grappling hook to maintain speed and swing around.

They didn’t have room for the climbing test itself, so he squeezed it out through the door, down the corridor. We ran after and watched as Arachnoid pried open the maintenance elevator and began climbing the shaft. I tapped Gralz on the shoulder, “Is that thing below or above us?”

“I made sure it would be held at the top floor,” he informed me as we approached the shaft. Looking up, we watched him climbing the shaft with ease. Then a grappling bolt shot down and stabbed into the floor by us. Arachnoid let go and started pulling himself down the line as if he had to climb it. “That is the antigravity on now.”

“Was it on for the climb?” Venus asked.

“No,” Gralz answered, pointing to gauges in the wall. “It can be much gentler with the antigravity on, but it has to be more careful in its movement. Imagine taking a step and not being able to put your foot back down.”

An alert interrupted me. Some sort of unidentified super that appeared in the skies above the island. “I need to go,” I told.

“What is it?” Venus asked.

“I have to go deal with something. My island, my responsibility.” I told her, walking over to Arachnoid’s cable. I called up to him. “I need a lift to the surface.”

“I’m coming with you,” Venus said.

“Well, I can’t stop you from following.” I grabbed hold of the cable and kicked the barb loose. I just sorta drifted up slowly for a moment. Looking up, I saw Arachnoid still getting its footing underneath it on the sides of the elevator. That left plenty of time for Venus to run up and wrap her arms around me, beaming at me even when Arachnoid pulled us up quickly. He pried open the ground floor’s elevator and swung us onto it.

He followed us outside.

There, a grey man in a simple white leotard floated above the city. “Intercept detected something screwy, then this guy came flying in. Hasn’t done anything so far.”

Way off in the sky, the grey guy surveyed the city, head shooting around in quick and jerky motions until he got to me. He turned his whole body in my direction and begin floating down. “Well, crap. There goes sneaking off and grabbing the armor.”

“Can’t you use nanomachines to form a personal armor around you?” Arachnoid asked.

I snorted. “That’s not armor, that’s just a bunch of tiny robots surrounding me, and it’s not like nanites magically form different computer systems or lasers when they fit together.”

By then the grey guy got close enough where I was pretty sure he’d hear us talking. I stepped forward. “Hail, visitor. As Empress of the great Empire of Ricca, I would like to extent my greetings and ask you what the fuck you’re doing here.”

He was an odd duck. His skin was grey, as I said, and he was hairless. Not one piece of fur on his noggin. His eyes seemed normal brown, though they stared through me like he wasn’t really using them. “I am designated Praetor M. I have been dispatched to inform you of the imminent invasion of your universe by my master, Chief Executor Paldrin.”

I waved him away dismissively. “I’m not home right now. Shoo. Tell him to come back another time.”

“You may surrender now and see yourself spared. You will be given position in the new order. Or you can die when my master lays waste to your planet,” Praetor M said, still not looking at me so much as through my head.

I laughed. “Like I haven’t heard that one before, pal. Nobody’s laying waste to this planet but me, you hear me?” I paused as Venus whispered something in my ear, then added, “And climate change. I mean to get around to that too, I’ve just been busy fighting for my life for six years on a near-constant basis.”

“Your answer is noted. Be warned, my fellow Praetors are extending this offer to those worthy. It is doubtful your defiance is as unyielding, their ambitions so checked. You have five days to prepare.” Without moving, a bubble appeared around him with little waves of blue moving over its surface. It expanded quickly, knocking Venus, Arachnoid, and myself back, and cracking the ground beneath the Praetor. He flew up quickly and turned at a sharp right angle to speed out of there faster than a locomotive.

Venus raised a fist at his fleeing form. “Yeah, we don’t negotiate with terrorists!”

I helped her up, but had to correct her. “What are you talking about? Of course we negotiate with terrorists: always money down, no financing.”

Next

Previous