Tag Archives: Beetrice

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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Korea Harder 4

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“There you are!” shouted Citra and Silver in unison. They stood in the doorway of Beetrice’s queenly suite. I had managed to crawl out of bed and a few feet to the door, but it was tough going.

“Help,” I called. “I can’t hardly walk.”

Citra folded her arms and huffed, but Silver stepped over and easily picked me up in a princess carry. “Did she break your hips?”

I shook my head. “I don’t think so, but it’s too close to tell. I need fluids. Lots of electrolytes. And I can’t feel Lefty.”

“Lefty?” asked Citra.

I pointed at my crotch. “She just kept on and on. Eventually, I was running out completely. It was like a straw sucking away at nothing and closing in on itself. First it hurt, then it just went numb. Either I literally busted a nut, or it ran away. Here boy! Here Lefty!”

“Happy Independence Day to your balls,” said Silver Shark with a grin.

“Hurry before she comes back. Has the armistice lasted?” I asked.

Citra spoke up. “No one is fighting anymore. The details are being negotiated, but they don’t let us in that. My father is doing most of the work.”

I lolled my head over. “You father? Which one is he?”

She lowered her head. “Mother never wanted me to admit it, but the world has changed. The Majordomo.”

“I wish we had someone else than him,” I said. “I’m not the finest diplomat on all the details. I don’t even know all the details. The whens and wheres and what compositions. And so many of the lesser bureaucrats never dealt with anything quite this big before. Consolidation of power is a bitch when the ruler dies.”

“Is that guy treating you any different now you’re open about who you are?” asked Silver.

Citra frowned. “He never said anything before but he was critical of me. He watched me. Now, he does not react to me at all. I am just another servant to him.”

“Hey,” I chimed in. “Don’t be a servant. Things are changed, he left you behind, and he’s not paying you enough for all this shit.”

“We worked for room and board,” she said.

I pointed between the two of us, moving my hand back and forth. “Well, your mother traded you to me as a wife, so you’re not a servant anymore. Tell them to go fuck themselves if they ask you for stuff. But, uh, I’m not necessarily going to own you and make you be my wife and fuck me. For starters, I’m bone dry. Geez, there’s so much to work out now. Say, how do you react to being abandoned?”

Silver slapped me across the face. “Don’t do that.”

“Ow… where’s my armor?” I asked, wondering about returning the favor. That, and walking. That thing would go a long way towards making me mobile again.

“Mother was overseeing the washing because no one else wanted to touch it. They were worried you left traps in there. They thought they smelled the chemical gas.”

“That’s just rude. We should go slap them. And someone needs to fetch me my daughter.”

“She’s already here,” Silver said. I heard a child’s giggling, but didn’t see her anywhere. She crawled up onto Silver’s shoulder and looked down at me.

“Hi daddy!” She hopped down onto me, knocking some of the air out of me and nearly poking me with the knife she carried. “I was practicing sneaking, just like you taught me.”

I hugged her as best as I could without getting stabbed. “You were very good at it. A lot of people would be creeped out by the laughing, too.”

We cuddled for a bit before I had Silver Shark set us down. I really could walk, but it was still nice to have someone carry me well away from Beetrice’s chambers. The bee queen had a forceful and enthusiastic personality and had absconded with me to her chambers to attempt to kill me by dehydration. It wasn’t easy to eat like that, either. She kept insisting on feeding me certain foods, like bananas and hot dogs. A sub sandwich. On the other hand, the middle of sex is no time for soup.

People dream about these kinds of relationships. I suppose they’d be nice, but I have other things to deal with besides having even more people foisted on me as responsibilities. And as I’ve bitched and moaned about before, it tends to make me wonder when someone likes me enough to put my dick in ’em.

Chief among those suspicious individuals is Technolutionary. “Any word on Technolutionary?” I asked Citra as I walked hand in hand with Qiang.

“I don’t know. I could go find out,” she responded.

“Go do that for me,” I said. She turned to head down a different corridor when I put a hand on her shoulder. “Wait, wait, you were supposed to tell me to go fuck myself.”

She froze, then started to say, “Go fu-.”

I cut her off again. “Too late. Now if you say it, you’ll be saying I because I told you to, and I told you not to do what someone tells you to do.”

She waited there, unsure what to do, then finally said, “I’m going to find out about Technolutionary,” and scampered off. It’s a step. She’s learning. It’s like one of those koan things.

Silver started coughing before we even reached the room. “All the chemicals they’ve been using irritates my nose.”

When we opened the door to where my armor should be, it lay on the floor underneath the blunt hooks that the men in hazmat suits set it on when I first left it with them. One of these now held Wangi right through her middle, just below the ribs. I checked around the room quickly before heading after her. From behind me, Silver called out, “I’ll get help!” That left Qiang at the doorway. I turned and glimpsed her face scrunching and tearing up. Crying, not ripping. Considering the wounds on Wangi, it seemed a necessary thing to point out.

She had several slices taken out of her. There were three parallel marks in each group. Then she’d been tossed on a hook. But she wasn’t quite dead yet. Close. I checked on my armor and around the room for any nanites like those I’d bottled up. I did find a medical kit thrown off into the corner, but the nanite gel was missing and I don’t think a bandaid was going to fix this one. I turned to Qiang. “Go find another one of these, ok?” She stood there in the doorway for awhile before I clapped my hands. Then she ran off. Hopefully she did what I said, but I also didn’t want her getting too close a view of all this. A guy can hold out some hope for a kid having a better childhood than he had.

I walked over and slapped Wangi’s face. “Wakey wakey!”

She gasped, opening her eyes.

Wangi’s eyes blazed with intelligence even in the middle of all the shock and mortal injuries. I put my hands on the side of her head. “I think we both know what’s going on here, but I have people trying to bring help nonetheless. What happened?”

She tried to take a deep breath, but that proved a little difficult with the hook’s positioning. I looked her in her eyes and tried to feign sympathy. It’s so hard when you have to think about it, like a millipede trying to watch its step.

“Lu didn’t know. Her or me,” she finally forced out.

“He did this to you?” I asked.

“No. He isn’t Lu.” She began to cry. “Please. Look after her.” I held her, trying to keep from adding to her pain. My mind wandered, though. Not to Citra and any thoughts of taking care of her. More to Lu. As if sensing my thoughts, Wangi told me. “His hand changed. He isn’t Lu.”

I just held her. It wasn the only thing to do, especially when Qiang came back, crying and shaking her head. Silver Shark returned soon afterward with a medical kit of her own, but she tossed it away in frustration after opening it. “All of the gel is gone,” she growled. “I called the doctors. The emergency team is on their way.”

They didn’t get there in time. Citra’s arrival on the scene then caused my ears to automatically sensor out the damaging high pitch of her screams. I left her to it, except I made sure to tell the doctors not to leave her alone at all on pain of not-death. I like a chance to be creative with someone’s punishment in such a way that they live a nice, long time with it.

I didn’t let Qiang or Shark go anywhere either. I huddled us out well away from the bawling and crying, only to be hug-tackled a weepy Beetrice. All of her arms, including the middle pair, wrapped their fuzzy selves around me and she lifted me up off the floor. “I heard someone was killed. Are you ok?!”

I patted her, keeping my face well clear of her unusual mouth parts. Bee mouths have, like, their own legs and stuff. “Put me down,” I ordered. She must have figured out a difference in my demeanor, because she did as commanded. “I am unhurt, obviously. The Claw has been masquerading as Lu. He murdered Wangi when she realized he wasn’t really the Majordomo. Have Lu found and arrested, if possible. With all this out in the open, we can’t hide that we know. Wait, we kinda can. Have them look for an assassin who may or may not have Lu or have killed Lu. They likely can’t kill him on their own anyway if they tried, so maybe he’ll play along and let himself be arrested.”

The Buzzkills swept the palace for an assassin. Telling everyone their Emperor was still alive would be counterproductive, and I preferred them over possible loyalist Riccan elements. Odd that he didn’t want anyone knowing he was alive too, but it confirmed my suspicions over Lu’s changed demeanor. Where I thought he’d gotten all sycophantic toward me just because he was in charge, it turned out Claw was telling me what I wanted to hear to reduce suspicion. So I was right, but for the wrong reason. I’d have rather been wrong for the right one, since I’d fallen for his trick in the first place. The Claw was more than a man in a mask, after all. He’s controlled all the information surrounding him for so long, he played me.

Even after they found a dead body, I had the Buzzkills continue on into Pyongyang. They were more than happy to take up policing duties and increase the guard at the palace because it made their queen happy. There might be some genetic obedience thing mixed in too, but I’d have to study up more on bees. You know, because that’s obviously going to tell me everything I need to know about a race of bee humanoids.

I examined the body they found myself. Face missing, hands missing. He could be DNA tested, but that’s worthless without a database to compare it to. He was dressed in Lu’s robes, but he was way too fresh to be the original dead body. Claw killed this guy, stole his clothes, and replaced him.

It went without saying I slept with one eye open. What required saying is I slept with both of them open. Even with Qiang in bed with me, I made sure to pop my eyes out so they could cover two different directions and alert me if anything moved.

And, making all this worse, I’m now saddled with seeing to the delegation that’s about to arrive to hash out all the final peace stuff. I guess we’ll see if Claw objected to Emperor Gecko being cut up and stuffed into enough baggies that every hostile nation on the planet could have a piece.

It feels a lot less peaceful around here, and despite me no longer being tied to Beetrice’s bed, I feel more fucked than ever.

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AvPG: FUBAR FTW 1

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I made my move into the city on Wednesday, and in considerably less dramatic a fashion as anyone expected, but then I want the anticipation to build up. I want people antsy to see me there. An enemy that doesn’t see you coming may be vulnerable, but so is one that knows you’re out there with no way of knowing when and where you’ll appear. Guards can only remain tense and on guard for so long before it gets to them. It isn’t merely psychological, something that can be overridden by having an alien controlling a person by joystick. It’s physiological.

The human body is capable of amazing things even without superpowers, but it does so with the aid of drugs like adrenaline and dopamine while tearing the body apart. Doesn’t sound much better than a druggy killing himself for a fix, right? A very accurate analogy in a way. That same fix that lets a mom lift a car off her child or slow time for a soldier to react can eat away at a person, tearing them apart. In the former case, quite quickly; the latter takes a toll over time, though.

And if anyone thinks I’ll have any sympathy for them, I’ll point out now that I went and waded through the sewers. Yeah, the city has quite a few of them, and anyone in disbelief that they’d allow a person in power armor to maneuver around freely should remember that they maintain routes for maintenance workers. It’s more than enough for one person to go alone, with or without a sword given to them by an old man.

I’d have brought more, but it occurred to me after a moments’ thought that alien mind control would probably make such workers more dutiful and watchful. So I just kinda snuck through all invisible, like Shinobi la Pew. When I reached the end, I took out a stick of deodorant and ran it along the undersides of my armor before pushing open a manhole and making for the rear elevator on the rear of Double Cross Tower. It had always been a good way for me to sneak up to the penthouse or to the hidden bunker I had put together under the place. This time, I went down.

The elevator got a very negative reaction. As soon as the door opened, giant stingers shot through the air and stuck into the metal rear of the elevator. I thought they’d stop at an even dozen, but they went with seventeen of the things before stopping. Then someone tossed in a single brown loafer as an afterthought. After a tense moment, I heard someone say, “Sorry, it’s all I had.”

I, on the other hand, lowered myself down through the top access hatch of the elevator so that anyone down there could recognize my upside-down head. “Hiya, folks! Miss me?” I made a show of turning to look over my shoulder where some of the stingers still quivered from being shot. “I guess so.”

“Is that Psycho Gecko, the notorious supervillain?” asked Festus, standing with one shoe in the middle of a horde of Buzzkills. The Buzzkills were bee people. They looked humanoid, but had black and yellow exoskeletons with fuzz sticking out in tufts and in place of human hair. They tended to keep their wings folded up on their backs unless needed, and looked out at the world with bulbous, segmented eyes. They also liked to use swords made out of giant stingers, much like the ones they carried then.

“Hi Festus,” I said to my former head of Human Resources. It kinda surprised me to see the young, shaky college grad still around. “Any of the other department heads make it?”

“Um…actually, good question. I don’t know.” He hunched up and gave a cautious shrug. In the distance, it sounded like someone had finished boiling up some tea. The sound gradually came to my attention, but now I couldn’t keep from hearing it.

“That’s ok. More surprised you did, though it’s a pleasant surprise in general to see the Buzzkills here. You guys ok?”

They stood down and waved at me, giving mumbling answers that showed they didn’t think I really cared, except for one overly enthusiastic one that jumped up and down. “I’m great! It’s wonderful to see you again. Just wait until we tell the queen!”

I motioned with my hand in a downward-shooing motion. “Maybe get her some downers first before you do that. Sleeping pills, heroin, something to level her out a bit. She’s always been a bit excitable.”

Before the overly-cheerful Buzzkill could answer, a larger Buzzkill flung her aside. The giant one ran over and wrapped her arms around me, lifting me in a great bearhug and shaking me about so much that I almost got whiplash from the experience. After about five seconds of this, I realized that the sound I’d mistaken for a tea kettle was the elongated squee of the Buzzkill queen who held me captive in her embrace. Beetrice was large and in charge of the Buzzkills, but she also had a very odd mind about me. Almost childlike, one might say, except for the bit about wanting my sperm so she could use it to create a huge army of Buzzkills.

Thing is, I’m not really ready for kids. It’d be nothing but running around, crapping on things, flinging food all over people, stomping around after not getting something, breaking toys, followed by staying up late, sneaking out, drinking, and trying to get laid. And I can’t have kids interrupting that schedule of mine.

As quickly as Beetrice had swept me up into a massive hug, she set me back down quickly enough that I stumbled back and lost my balance. “You stink, Male Drone Gecko!” the queen declared.

I held out my arms imploringly. “It’s not what it smells like, honey bee. I was just delivering that package to Mrs. Creature From The Black Lagoon and she invited me in for some hot coffee. That’s all, I swear.”

Beetrice cocked her head to the side, trying to figure the statement out, rubbing her mandibles together. She’s got kind of a weird mouth. Don’t get me wrong, I’d try it before I knocked it. I mean, couldn’t be any weirder than kissing a mouth, once you think about it. Readers, just take a look in a mirror someday, really take a look, and think about what a strange animal you are physically.

While I might consider kissing a bee woman, I wasn’t doing it at the time. Instead, I stood up. “I had to come through the sewers to get here without risking being spotted.”

“Why didn’t you come through the hive?” asked Beetrice.

“I…didn’t know there was a hive that I could come through?” I answered, indeed framing it like a question.

Beetrice responded by grabbing me and carrying me under her arm over to a side wall well away from the elevator. There, they’d opened several large holes into what was supposed to have been layers of concrete and lead. I shook my head. “After I went through all the trouble of putting this together, you go and mess up the wall. I thought y’all are bees, anyway? You get a bit antsy waiting for my return?”

Beetrice’s reflexes were too slow to catch the pun as it went over her head. “We needed a way out nobody would watch, so I pulled up the pornography you left on the ginormous screen television and got to work! There are holes that lead out all over the city, but mostly to parks. Some go to the edge of the barrier, even.”

“Hmm…I might be able to use those to get my people back in. But you say you learned all this from porn? I didn’t think such an education in drilling would prove so useful…”

“Let me show you!” Beetrice exclaimed, trying her best to snap my head as she turned and bounded for the giant computer setup I left down there. When she got close, she yelled at it, “Computer, play file Beetrice Favorite Number Six.”

Did I leave that thing with a voice command system? I couldn’t remember, especially as little as I ever used voice commands. Horrible idea for power armor, I know that. One stumble and you go form launching a rocket to lunching a cock, if the computer can even understand what’s being said.

But enough about cocks. I had porn to watch. Which, incidentally, opened with “Flight of the Bumblebees,” before showing a title card that introduced it as a nature documentary about insects of North America. If I had to guess, Beetrice liked the discussion of bee mating. I didn’t get to watch that far along because, barely two minutes after she decided we would watch it, some sort of alert came up in one corner of the screen.

“Just ignore that, it happens sometimes,” Beetrice told me, segmented eyes locked on the screen. I squirmed out of her grip, landing on my belly and face, then picked myself up to punch a button on the keyboard. Instantly, the screen split in half between the documentary and a scene elsewhere in the city. There, caught on traffic camera, a cat woman fought off a crowd of civilians who crowded around her like a zombie movie.

Wildflower. I kinda left her here. I don’t know exactly who she is, but neither is she. She was a victim of this one laboratory I bought up after a city takeover by a horror villain ruined their experiments. Somehow, she lost her memory and gained powers that involve being a weird hybrid of various animals and plants. The tail looked like something that’d be perched above any feline’s behind, except for the thorns that grew out of it. Being a hero, I first knew her to be a nuisance. Then, in the process of imprisoning her and manipulating her psychologically, we developed some feelings toward each other. It’d make a good romance novel someday. And since she and I were both physical females at the time, they could even call it “Fifty Shades of Gay”.

She didn’t look so good. She fought like a crazy person, an unusual description for her. Claws rent faces and superhuman strength sent bodies flying. In the end, she fled, looking incredibly tattered and torn. It surprised me that she’d made it this far. If she really had. “Has that been happening often?” I asked Beetrice, pointing to those events.

“Hm? Oh, yeah!” The thought of Wildflower getting mauled either excited her, or Beetrice really needed those sleeping pills. “Every now and then, when nothing good is on, it shows her fighting people. She just keeps fighting and fighting them, ever since the day you told us to hide.”

The view where Wildflower fought before disappeared. “Because I set up a recognition program to spy on certain people. I don’t see Venus, though…” Indeed, nothing popped up for a few seconds until another camera alerted me to Wildflower stopping and resting in a neglected patch of green on a street corner. Bushes and trees had been left wild, perhaps less important to the running of the city than the sewers were to the new alien overlords in town.

“You never went and brought her?” I asked Beetrice.

She just shrugged.

A part of me felt mad. Huh. I turned and looked as Wildflower held her arms close to her body. I knew she couldn’t be that cold, given her increased body temperature. It’s why she wears skimpy outfits. She was hurt in many ways.

And, most importantly, I knew she was mine. I’m not sure if I knew that before I left the city, because I’d forgotten it in the meantime. Caught up in my sha-, er, my personal contemplations when I left, and then the rush of an ingeniously insane plan soon afterward. Absence made the heart forgetful. But I wanted her back.

“Beetrice, I need you to send out some very fast scouts to meet up with a crowd of supers and other riffraff. I’ll let them know you’re coming. I want you to prepare an isolated hive hole to collapse. Preferably one you don’t use much that’s on the far side of the city from this.” I followed the order up by bringing up a map of the city that showed a ping centered around the location of the camera currently showing my Wildflower.

Beetrice stepped close to the screen, rubbing at her chin, then pointed to the north. I shook my head when she turned to say something. “Sorry,” I stopped her query before it began, “I need it somewhere to the south. That’s where they’ll be. They need to draw enough attention getting to the hole that fewer people will be around her. And then we collapse the hole so they can’t follow. They won’t be able to figure out where it goes, right?”

Beetrice nodded. “Oh yes, we filled in holes before. Lots of times. They don’t like us.”

I reached up to pat her on the head, until the distance necessitated jumping to do so. “There, there. I like you, and this is important to me, ok?”

She nearly gave herself whiplash nodding this time. “Can I ask why?”

I brought up the camera footage of Wildflower huddled in a small pseudo-park. “Because I need to get her back.”

Sunset threatened the city with darkness by the time I set out into it again. The Buzzkills and Mix N’Max were both ready to play their roles, linking up and distracting the city. I wanted to bring them all in quietly, up until I saw Wildflower.

I put her out of my head so easily while away from this place, it surprised me to realize I still felt she was important. I knew it was contradictory and stupid and no way to plan a personal vendetta against a race of alien goo monsters, but I also knew that I wanted her back and I wanted to make them suffer for what they did to my Wildflower.

I wanted to snap the necks of so many of these meat puppets as I passed invisible among them from the location of the nearest hive hole to a good jumping-off point, but restrained myself in case a sudden death alerted their controllers to a disturbance in an unusual place. Instead, I lept into the air and bounded along rooftops until I found the small area of green. It was really more like a pizza slice of green where two streets met and formed a V shape.The overgrown bushes and trio of small trees formed a decent barrier unless anyone decided they needed to look there, something which most passerby no longer had the initiative for.

I waited until all had passed the area by. Wildflower’s face peeked out, checking to see if the coast was clear. I reappeared right in front of her, making her jump back for a moment, then pounce on me. Unlike any number of animals she got that instinct from, she didn’t try to shred me with tooth and claw. Not immediately, at least. She kept the claws ready, though, sizing me up even while her legs wrapped around my waist to hold her against me.

I reached up, released the seals on my helmet, and pulled it off. “Hey there, Tigerlily.” I figured my face and use of my pet name for her would disarm the situation.

She grabbed my cheeks hard enough to cut lines into the skin and looked me in the eyes. “They taunted me about you. They said you left me to die.” She narrowed her eyes at me. “I’ve done alright without you.”

Here, I had two options. Option A, I lie to her, claim the aliens are lying bastards, and shove my tongue down her throat. Option B, I tell her the truth, get calling a lying bastard, and she tries to shove her foot up my ass.

“They would say something like all that,” I answered. “I got back as soon as I could get here again. And maybe you don’t need my rescuing, but nobody hurts my Wildflower.” Commence the tongue shoving!

I mean, come on, folks, every good relationship is built on some tiny white lies, whether it’s a person claiming they’re looking for stability without drama, or wanting a little more excitement in their life, not wanting kids, or having abandoned the other person to save their own life from an alien invasion. That’s just how relationships work, and anyone unprepared to deal with that is really too naive for one.

Reunited, I cloaked her in a hologram disguise as best I could for us to make our way back to the safety of the bunker.

We made it as far as the nearest hotel’s uppermost rooms, where we broke in quietly…then broke in loudly.

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Aliens Eunt Domus 8

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Just bear with me here, folks. See, sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Ignore my boobs for the purposes of this lesson. Just keep that in mind as I recount what happened.

See, there was the usual ranting, raving, and distrust in the Master Academy Camp, so much so that I began to hope the invaders would just zap the place like they did the broadcast station. No luck. I actually watched as they tried, and somehow failed. Something the supers here did, good to keep in mind. There wasn’t much else to do for entertainment in between working on the D-bomb. The broad strokes of it are done, it’s more a matter of adjusting it to only affect a certain radius. After all, if you think of spacetime as a sheet on which massive objects sit and distort, then you have to be careful how big of a whole you punch through the sheet…

Ah, hell, that’s getting too technical. But anyway, I didn’t have too much to do. There’s been little to no TV ever since the field went up around the city, and the internet has abandoned us as well. Oh internet, we are but worms without you! Come back to us! Bring the porn!

At least I had a few games stored in my head to alleviate it, though I almost missed having teammates in Payday 2, except for the part where they bitch about how the people who make their game keep wanting to be paid. It’s one thing to steal porn off the internet; it’s another to insist all the porn should be free.

But enough about various sorts of pussies.

So, between building a better bomb and listening to Elmore James perform “The Sky is Crying,” I also got the skinny from the scouts. I almost said hero scouts, but at least some of the ones around the campus were villains who resisted assimilation after a couple of misty downpours. With the sheer numbers on the aliens’ side, it was looking futile. I put out the call to Beetrice and the Buzzkills in the bunker under Double Cross Tower, but phone lines were iffy and I didn’t quite know if bee people were immune to everything. They’re not human, but neither am I or many other supers, strictly speaking.

One fine morning, I hopped up to the wall to take a look out and saw people. Just people. A sea of human beings, unpowered and powered alike. There was no earth visible ringing the school. Further on, I mechanical tendrils reached down from the sky, and presumably a vessel rivaling Empyreal City in size. Kind of a bad sign when you can’t tell the size of a craft even when it’s right next to a city.

I dropped down just inside the wall and didn’t quite catch myself, landing on my ass. I took a minute to sit against the wall. Ya know, just for a minute. Or five. Or thirty.

I had to think. I let so many pieces get away from me. So many things I couldn’t keep track of. I even vaguely wondered how Crash and the others at the company were doing. Probably trying to kill me. Just for good measure, probably have to kill Crash with her own car. I’ve kept on wrecking them anyway. And a few other things. But at least I had an idea or two to go with it.

To my surprise, Venus walked out to retrieve me. She had her armor on, too. Kinda risky to go outside without it, even though it’d been a day since the last light misting. “Why didn’t you just send Wildflower? I’m tired of this stupid fantasy you have about reforming me, and you hate dealing with me anyway.”

She turned around and plopped in the mud next to me. “Yeah. It looks bad out there. You know it isn’t your fault, right?”

I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, not so much I could have done to just plain stop them, but that doesn’t mean nothing was my fault. Even I can’t stop an army, and now I am fated to die. I did…every damn thing I did…to live. You can stomach almost anything if it’s to save your own ass, ya know? Lots of dead people. Hurt. Wounded. Taken apart. Things. Except I’ve almost certainly failed, so all that was meaningless.”

I pushed my hands against my helmet, wishing I could shove them in my mouth to hide the noises that began to burst forth. I couldn’t. I wound up holding my head, uncontrollable laughter issuing forth. I just couldn’t stop.

Venus reached out and put a hand on my shoulder, as much to try and stop me as comfort me. It took a minute of effort to force myself to stop long enough to hear the worthless words, like so many others that she employed to deter me from actions that, in the end, didn’t matter one way or another. “I failed too. I thought I could save you. We aren’t so different, you and I. I wanted to save you in spite of yourself. You wanted to make me kill you.”

“Didn’t matter anyway,” I responded. “None of it does. I think, somehow, I fooled myself about that. Or forgot it. Its very freeing, though, to realize that everything is permitted, that there isn’t guilt, just responsibility. I have always had an end coming for me, whether I made it happen or not. Maybe what I did pushed it back. Maybe not. It was always there regardless. In thinking I was so smart for knowing life was absurd, and yet I still was the victim, controlled by my past and my fear. Those bozos out there better hope they kill me. Because I feel like fetters are off that I didn’t even realize weighed me down.”

I jumped to my feet. Venus rose beside me and stepped in front of me. “We give the world meaning, Gecko. We live for a short time and use it to make the world a better place for all who come before. If they enslave me, they will know I resisted. It matters if it slows them down one second. And if I die, I died fighting. Maybe humanity will die fighting. These bastards will look down on a dead world full of dead people who would rather fight with everything they have than submit. We are not puppets.”

I gave her a golf clap, but was interrupted by something a little worse.

Someone yelling for us on the outside over a completely silent crowd. “Dear friends! Come out! Let us have a talk!”

I thought about it a moment. “I know that voice. This guy’s a jackass!”

I poked my head up first, then turned visible, then hauled up Venus when it seemed no one was in a sniping mood. I saw the alien ambassador again, who had looked so Nazi just a short while ago. Since then, he’d undergone a few changes. For starters, there was the way his skin looked a bit rotten, and how his eyes were all black with black goo dripping from them in lines down his cheeks. And how his mouth looked to be filled with nothing but more black slime, even covering his teeth. He wore one of those rough encounter suits his bodyguards had, but with round plugs or holes on the sides.

It wasn’t just him backing up the army of enslaved people around us, either. He brought friends. Most of them looked robotic. I saw spheres that waved some sort of barrels at us, usually with a smaller secondary sphere attached by a metal shaft. Balls and shaft aside, they also had a few of these things that looked like an orgy of octopi all pointed tentacles full of black slime toward the air above us. Some sort of artillery, then? I couldn’t see their bases very well.

There were definitely more of those bodyguard types, but with mechanical tendrils hanging off their suits. And giant discs with four big tentacles that ended in gleaming metal tips.

I suddenly understood why the Japanese so hated to see an invasion by tentacle monsters: no matter whether hostile or peaceful, you’re still getting fucked.

I nodded toward Venus. “You want to take this one, or do you want me to talk smack about his momma?” To the diplomat, I yelled, “Hey, your momma sucks so hard, they called her a whirlpool!”

Venus pointed toward the huge army with her chin. “I would tell you this isn’t helping, but I don’t think they stopped by for enrollment.”

“That’s right, this is a school. Maybe you ought to get the kids out here to learn some important lessons. See how many of them can name all the different types of word that ‘fuck’ counts as. Tell ya what, I’ll even spot them prepositions in light of these fuckers right fucking here.”

While she dropped down and made for the school, the voice of the aliens spoke up again, the slimy bastard. “It is time you joined us. The city is against you. Soon, the world!”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that before. You don’t frighten us, English pig dogs! Go and butter your bottom, sons of a silly person! I blow my nose at your ambassador, you and your sssssshitheads!” I started blowing him raspberries and patting the top of my helmet, the put my thumbs where my ears would be to make a funny gesture.

“This-!” started the ambassador, before I interrupted.

“I don’t wanna talk to you no more you empty-headed urinal cake licker. I would fart in your general direction if it didn’t make you horny. Your mother was a hamster, and your father did time for bestiality!”

With what amounted to wit on their planet, the alien asked, “Is there an adult at home I could talk to?!”

“No! Now go away, or I’ll taunt you a second time!” I gave him the V sign with one hand and the middle finger with the other.

That was when the slime-filled tentacle whipped up over the wall, wrapped around my waist, and tossed me into the middle of a huge crowd of people. They got all handsy, too. It was like being in the middle of a zombie movie, which would normally be a bad thing if I was a horror movie character. The mean, foul-mouthed lesbian who drinks and has lots of sex?

Then again, the joke’s on them. A regular person would be restrained. A regular person wouldn’t have Gecko’s patented fists of fuckin’ fury, motherfucker! Wham! Bam! Pow, right in the kisser! It’s not like the city would really miss a person or twelve. They have reinforcements, and busting a few skulls gave me room to get my feet under me and jump, narrowly avoiding an explosion from one of the tenta-mortars. Not exactly watching where I was going, I missed a large burst of blue laser from one of those floating orbs and shafts. It missed me because I clanged into it and spun off before I could even wreck its shit.

I landed ass first on someone’s head, snapping something on them in the process. Good thing, too. Helped me land on my feet, like a cat of death or a buttery piece of toasted destruction.

I landed, snapping elbows to faces and throats. Headbutt a nose, kick a ball. When the surging crowd gave me some room, I popped the Nasty Surprise out and used it to skewer some poor idiot in front of me, and the person behind him. I withdrew the mini chainsaw and and grabbed hold of the second person’s intestines. I drew them out through his friend and wrapped them around the throat of another attacker, tightening it into choking and tying it off in a knot.

My efforts to make a pretty bow went surprisingly undisturbed by other expendable slaves, but then one of those human-shaped suits stepped over the crowd using the tendrils that stuck out of its back and sides. It tried to put one through my neck, but I ducked and he impaled his friend’s face. I turned and deflected the next few blows aimed at me with my fists, though he backed me up. Despite the wild thrashing of that part of his body, he settled on the humanoid legs and slowly crumpled forward like some sort of folding-up puppet. I didn’t have all the room in the world, unfortunately, so I resorted to dodging in place until I could grab one. Before he could follow up or wiggle free, I slid under the legs of the encounter-suited liquid alien thingy, then jammed the end of the tendril right where the poop chute would be.

The tendrils flailed for a moment, so maybe that still hurt. I grabbed the base of a pair of them, set my boot on the one I shoved up his ass, and used the leverage to really ream it in there, spurting black goo all over him. To be fair, dark-colored fluid often gets on my boot when I stick it up there on a human.

Before I could dig my hand in to grab hold of its core, a mortar blast threw me onto it and tossed us both forward in a heap. Then a follow up blast reverberated the entire world around me. Felt like my teeth were going to shake out and left me unable to breath from the pressure of the blast. A third shot didn’t come in as quick succession, giving me a moment to roll to my feet and desperately try to jump for freedom. That one hit just after I left the ground.

The resulting mess of a jump spun me around enough that I almost lost my lunch and didn’t quite comprehend when I stopped flying. When I gained the ability to think again, i turned out I’d been caught by someone. I almost put my elbow through the jaw of the person who grabbed me before I noticed its yellow and black exoskeleton, antenna, and its compound eyes. You know, it’s not until you’re face to face with a half-bee, half-human monstrosity that you appreciate the beauty of its five eyes. He, or more likely she, soared above the crowd on wings that really shouldn’t have been able to lift it, let alone me.

But this is the battle where aliens are fighting superheroes, so perhaps it’s the wrong time to analyze things. And as it set me down in front of a small army of Buzzkills, it seemed like a pretty good time to give the analysis a second look.

I heard Beetrice a split second before I felt the giant, multi-armed bee person squeeze me against her yellow exoskeleton in a hug. “Weeeee! So happy to see you!” It had been an exclamation point sort of day by then.

“You’re here. Great. I mean, great! But maybe ease up on the lovin’? It’s time to do some seriously hating…”

Beetrice let me slip out of her arms to the ground while bee-people and slave-people fought before the earthen wall in the distance. “Sure thing, most important drone! But who do you want us to hate?”

“There’s not a lot of options here, but not the heroes. For once. Odd to say it, I know,” I pointed over at the wall where Master Academy capes had mounted it to blast the attackers.

“What about them?” she asked.

“Huh?”

She picked me up again, but this time to show me another force, approaching to flank both the Buzzkills and slaves.

This time, it was a bunch of people with all sorts of mechanical add-ons marching in lockstep toward the fight, but stopping short of engaging anyone. Above them floated Technolutionary, floating in form-fitting purple armor. I hopped over in front of him and the metal monstrosities he’d built. They looked like more of his human-robots, but their bodies had various gadgets built into him. This guy watched too many Borg episodes of Star Trek.

Technolutionary laughed as he floated over. “How do you like my creations?” He held his hands out to encompass the mass of mechanized abominations. “The proud merger of my work and your natural gifts. You should be proud of our children.”

“I got ya, you’re back to the weird semi-romantic thoughts. Ya know what really turns me on, though? Killin’ aliens. Come on. You, me, a bunch of expendable idiots. Let’s make this massacre happen, right?”

Technolutionary stared down at me. “I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.”

I pointed toward the battle, where all other forces were hard at work beating the crap out of each other in an orgy of violence and explosions that would bring Michael Bay to tears. “Come on, man. Expendable stuff was made to be expended. This IS why we did all that collaboration, ya know. Saving my ass from the aliens.”

Technolutionary floated down and pressed a button on one of his forearms. A panel on his belt opened and some glowing thing floated out. He raised his hands and it floated over them before forming into a perfectly symmetrical crystalline structure about the size of his forearm. “I have saved you. This is the key.”

I looked it over. “Looks like a rock. Most people at least stick it in a ring first. What is it?”

He cupped it close. “This is a transponder from the aliens themselves. A sign of my willing cooperation.” He turned his head and spoke to his human bots. “Move on the heroes. Capture them all for our allies.”

“Willing cooperation?”

He looked toward me, then pressed another button on his forearm, causing the metal face that covered his real one to fold up. He smiled at me with that freaky look in his eye, like he wanted to get freaky. “I did this for you and I. You will be safe, and I will usher in the next evolution of mankind.”

“What does it do?” I asked, probing for information.

A voice echoed forth from the crystal thing, a rough digitized voice. “This is a sign of your cooperation. Join us willingly and become a great asset, Psycho Gecko. Your ingenuity is welcome and your willingness to serve your best interests appears infamous by our understanding of Earth’s superhumans.”

The crystal glowed, then split into two identical smaller versions. Technolutionary added his last bit to the pitch. “Come on, Gecko. Join me. Save yourself. We can watch the world evolve together.” He raised his eyebrows. “You don’t even have to fight here. Let’s just leave this city and watch the fight from afar.”

“Kind of a shield up right now.” Off to my left, humans swarmed a crack in the wall while aliens worked to pull it apart.

“It lets you out.” Technolutionary smiled. “They will know where you are, but also not to attack you.”

It took a second of thought, but I stepped close and reached out with my left hand.

Technolutionary set down on the ground. “Yes. Smart girl.”

“And if I don’t want to help, but just have a truce here?”

That provoked a response from the crystal. “Parameters acceptable.”

A puzzled Technolutionary looked between me and the crystal, then at the inside of his eyelids after I tried to fist his eye hole. On the off chance it’d negate the transponder thingy, I left him alive. I shouldn’t have, but I did. It was more than he deserved. Then I took one of those damn floating crystals, which folded in on itself until it became small enough to fit in a pouch on my armor.

“Helping you isn’t exactly on my agenda. But if this gets me out of here and doesn’t get me killed…ok then.” I muttered to myself.

Like I said, don’t judge. A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. It’s not like I’m going to help them. I’m just ensuring my survival. I mean, fucking alien invasion, dudes. What am I supposed to do?

I mean, I did call Beetrice up again and tell her to get her people and hide. Lock themselves in the bunker. All that. Gave her a fighting chance. I still never found Crash or Carl since all the rain and assimilation stuff. But I did get Moai out. He helped me haul out the Dimension Bomb. And me. I rode out on his head, the energy barrier around the edge of the city opening up to accommodate everything around me as we approached.

I didn’t look back while the others fought for their lives. I’d saved mine, after all.

That was the most important thing. Sure, right. The most important thing.

But it’s not my fight anymore.

Nope. Not my fight.

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Aliens Eunt Domus 2

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I have a new look. Wildflower approves. Venus probably wouldn’t, but I didn’t tell her. Fuck her. To quote a horrible movie, “Everybody betrayed me; I’m fed up with this world! Oh hi Mark.” That last sentence isn’t relevant, unless I count all the people I’m fooling as marks.

It’d be difficult for most people to connect “Psycho Gecko” with “Woman.” As hard as such a thought must be for all of y’all, dear readers, they’re completely unlikely to peg me as some Japanese Peruvian assistant to the ambassador of Isla Tropica. Quick bit of international knowledge, our version of Peru has had a lot of Japanese immigrants. Probably confuses the hell out of people who don’t understand much about South America. So, now I look Japanese and speak Spanish. You won’t believe how many American politicians want to put me in a camp.

With my translator program working for every language except Australian, I should be able to blend in. Especially after El Presidente forced the ambassador, Juanito Perez. All it took was a letter from El Presidente himself and the sycophantic former radio DJ welcomed me with open arms. Literally. Might have been the part where I look like a Japanese woman. “I am so happy El Presidente sent you to me!” he yelled while squeezing my ass. “We should talk over dinner. Do you exercise?”

If I’d thought of it, just namedropping El Presidente would have gotten my foot in the door. I’d forgotten about this guy. Caught his program a few times back in the day. Major ass-kisser, but the funny kind. El Presidente must not have shared my fondness for the program. I’m betting it was either getting sent to Empyreal City, or getting a special delivery from the secret police detail hidden in the back of Isla Pizza. Could have done without his hand on my ass. I dropped my hand in our little hug, seemingly getting my fingers right up between his cheeks. “I work very hard on my body, but the plastic surgeons did so much more. Mmm, nice ass. You like chicks with dicks?”

Juanito started coughing and backed off. “Sorry, I am not well right now. You should eat without me until I feel better. Please collect your credentials from the front desk. Welcome to the Isla Tropica United Nations Embassy.”

Aha! Credentials! All you need trespass legitimately. After that, I just had to sneak past metal detectors and patdowns to get into the UN compound itself. Easy enough for me. The extra patting had more to do with me smuggling in extra ass.

Even though I was in, I couldn’t just kill the teenaged tattooed alien ambassador from Beverly Hills. The D-Bomb isn’t ready yet, and they’d lock everything down tight if I gut him like a horny coed. Plus, I didn’t want to get up close and personal with his bodyguards without my armor. Nah, this time I snuck in for recon. Last time I’d been by, I was stopping a hero’s attempt to save the world using a love- and lust-inducing drug called Sexahol. Looking back, I’m jealous I didn’t think of doing something similar to this place. I imagine things were real awkward around here afterward, what with everyone “laying the foundation for peace in the Middle East” or however they wanted to phrase it. I think that phrase usually referred to them all jerking off before that day, anyway.

I wandered around, though it’s unfair to call it that. I strode with a purpose. That’s the secret to being somewhere you’re not supposed to be when people have to see you: act like you belong there. Just like one of the best ways to lie is to believe the lie, and the best way to cook a whole chicken involves shoving a lemon up its ass. But you better remember to use the oil. It gets pretty rough without the oil, but the same can be said of most dealings with other organisms.

Like this guard who tried to stop me heading out to the helipad where the alien shuttle parked. Since landing, construction crews had added to the wall that protected the landing pad from ground fire. There wasn’t much they could do to protect the entire thing in a city full of skyscrapers, though. Still, I wanted to get close enough to touch it, and that meant getting past a guard stationed in a building that combined a waiting area with a refueling station. “Ma’am, I’m afraid I can’t let you through here,” said the ceremonially-dressed…something. Marine? Army? He had one of those bolt-action rifles they like to use for ceremonial duty, too.

I batted my eyes at him and told him in my new Spanish accent, “I can not squeeze through? If only I’d brought my oil.” I leaned in close to him. “It gets rough without the oil.”

If I’d been standing any closer, I’d probably have felt him stand at full attention, wink wink. As close as I was, I could popped out the fangs I’d added and maybe torn into his throat. Unfortunately, that’d ruin my cover and my dressy little suit. A Gecko’s got to keep any skirt I look good in, n’awmean? So instead, I whispered, “Meet me in the storage closet by the bathrooms in two, big boy?” I winked as I departed, heading down to the section where a storage closet door stood across from the pair of men’s and women’s bathrooms. I guess they didn’t expect to host too many aliens from the binary choice of bathrooms. Like those all-black bodyguards that look like they got water sloshing around in them. The thought of taking a leak might be offensive to fluid-based lifeforms. They might take paper towels and toilet paper as a threat. Not to mention the damn hand dryers.

The eager soldier marched smartly along right on schedule, driven by either duty to investigate or dick to wet. I heard him turning the lock on the door and then throw it open. That’s when I stepped out of the women’s room behind him and kicked him in. He fell face first into some shelves. I grabbed the door and swung it closed behind me as I jumped in on his back and went for the sleeper hold.

A few seconds later, I stepped out of the closet and quickly shut the door behind me, then set about straightening my blouse. “Whew, good thing he wasn’t gay…” I muttered to myself, then noticed a man in a suit exiting the bathroom. I raised an eyebrow and glared at him. He smiled to himself and headed toward the lobby. I had a helipad to inspect, and fast. Since I’d neglected to bring anything like cocaine or liquor with me, I couldn’t sprinkle that around to discredit the guy. I don’t just carry random drugs on me. Weapons, sure. Other people’s stolen wallets, definitely. But not drugs.

Just say no to drugs, kids. Then knife the dealer and steal his cash. What’s he going to do, call the cops on you?

And since I didn’t want to draw the kind of heat that a murder investigation can bring up when aliens suddenly show up, I had to look at it really, really quickly. I slipped into the bathroom long enough to pull what I’d swear to anyone who saw was a paperweight, but what was really one of the mobile projection disks just like I put on a belt for Moai. And just like I used to use for distractions before I started destroying all my stuff for like three years straight. So I threw together another of the disks just for this occasion, as well as a couple of bugs.

Suddenly, I looked like an older, dignified Chinese man. It’d be pretty hard for anyone watching the cameras to justify mistaking a woman of Japanese descent with a Chinese man, no matter how difficult they find it to tell Asians apart. Looking like that, I headed out to get a glimpse of the alien shuttle.

Whether the distortion was added in the broadcast or due to some device inside the ship, it no longer looked all fuzzy around the edges. Before, colors and lines sort of blended together, like how things look when someone is near-sighted. Now, I could see it looked like, how do I put it, a brick or an iron. Kind of a Twinkie shape, I just realized. Oblong, with a smooth, rounded top, perhaps the only concession to aerodynamics. It wasn’t all, smooth, though.There were portions sticking off the sides, like people just kept building a tiny portion out here and there. Its base looked as uniformly flat as an iron, which is what led me to my initial description of it, except for a tiny bit of it bulged out, like it had flattened something. It was examining that that led me to realize the base was more like some sort of goo or fluid that conformed to whatever surface it landed on.

I could work with that kind of exterior. I went around to one of the ends of the thing and dropped down, pulling out one of my little spies. Working on short notice, these things had some serious flaws. First, they used some old-fashioned radio to communicate. For what I needed and how small I needed it, that was the best I could do in a hurry. Of course, it might be better that way. Something more sophisticated, like interdimensional transmissions, might be more readily detected by an advanced species. Radio’s probably so obsolete to them as to be ignored.

Another problem was that I went with magnets to attach them. It might be absolutely useless with how they composed the ship, but I couldn’t drill them in or bring a hammer and start nailing them. Not unless my cover on being discovered was to basically recreate some sort of ET porn scenario. “Oh, hey there Mr. Alien. Me? I’m here to do some nailing.” Yeah, so that wasn’t happening.

When it came to data storage, I actually had to go more modern than I initially wanted. Believe it or not, tapes can store a shitload of data in a relatively compact form. You’d be surprised. But magnets were the problem there, especially with everything else they could be exposed to in space. Not that sending a tiny compact disk into space without the protection of atmosphere is any better, but it’ll have to do with what I put it in. Which is essentially a clear sleave of nanomaterials meant to regulate temperatures and blend in about as well as something clear can.

No wonder my first hiding spot involved shoving one into the landing goo. It took a bit of effort, but it slowly deformed around the tiny disk, accepted it, and then mostly filled back out. Next, I slipped a couple against one of those extra things on the outside. There was one portion where something stuck out to form three parallel extensions of about half a foot. That got one. Another looked like someone stuck a block lower down on one side as an afterthought. I stuck one on the underside of that. The last one, I tossed up on top of the ship, where it hopefully landed out of most people’s sight.

I had a couple more with me, but I wasn’t sure on taking the last gamble. See, the door was still open, if you could call it a door. It looked like a hole in the exterior of one side, meant for a short person. I didn’t realize that on the news, but then I couldn’t see the clear lines of the thing then. It was very tempting to run in there, spy around, and drop some more bugs.

But. Yeah, I like big Buts, and I cannot lie.

But, they’d left the door open. Which would make it absurdly easy to go in. And this is the middle of Empyreal City, around some of the least scrupulous people on earth. I mean the politicians, of course, but I wouldn’t put it past a carjacker to try either. And I have trouble believing that any spacefaring civilization would be so naive as to leave the door of their ride unlocked and open. Unless someone stuck their head in and got eaten by a pet Shoggoth or Mi-Go or some crap like that.

I’m a sexually active, mean, drinking asshole in the body of a woman. I’m staying away from the alien-equivalent of building an Elm Street at Camp Crystal Lake, solving an ancient puzzle box, saying “Candyman” five times in front of a mirror, then taking a nap after a tiring day of following a really tall old guy who steals bodies from the local cemetery.

Fate doesn’t like to be tempted. I should know. I’m usually the one who goes in and does Fate’s dirty work. So I got out of there that time and decided to see what Fate would feed my bugs, if anything, before I got my bomb up and working.

I took it as a good sign when Beetrice, the giant bee woman who lives in my basement, called me down to have a milkshake party with her and the rest of the hive, which was briefly interrupted when a number of young graffiti artists were chased off by security while trying to paint on the front of my building.

So at least our milkshakes brought all the boys to the yard.

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Enlightening Strikes 4

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So there I was, Valentine’s Day, walking beside Wildflower down the street after seeing a movie together, my head resting on her shoulder. And I told her, in that romantic way only I can pull off, “Admit it, you just talked all that shit because you didn’t want to be alone on Valentine’s.”

The fact that she laughed? Good sign. She’s got a good laugh and smile, for an alien.

In the days since Wildflower and I came to our understanding, I decided to introduce her to Moai, Carl, and the horde of bee people hidden underneath my tower. Beetrice, the queen bee who wanted my man-gravy so she could have a few thousand kids by me, seemed a bit jealous at first until I revealed my continued lack of dong. She turned her nose up at that, saying that if I wanted to play hard to get, she’d find someone else to see to her needs.

I might send down Festus, my young head of HR. The guy could stand to blow off some steam.

Then, I took her back up to the penthouse for a serious discussion. Admitting that aliens are going to invade and try to kill you isn’t something most people say that early on into a relationship. In fact, it’s usually said just before the end of the relationship, right around the time the men with the snuggly, self-hugging jacket come to take you away, ha ha. I had to trust her. Time was essential. A long time prior to her unfortunate demise, I asked Fortune Cookie about when the aliens would show up, and she said March of this year. It’s currently February of this year. They’re coming to take me away, ha ha!

Wildflower went out on a limb and showed off her little Master Academy dorm. To hear her tell it, Venus is too active to bother teaching any sort of Master Academy branch over here, so it hasn’t been properly set up yet except for a couple of dorm buildings.

Quick recap time: Master Academy is this California-based school for powered youngsters that trains them up to be crimefighters and fully functioning members of society. Venus just happened to get in because he was orphaned or something, I think. She lacks powers, but she’s kinda been their spokeswoman because of her ability to kick serious villain ass. Including my own, a couple of times. She’s still alive, after all. Anyway, after awhile, she decided to stay with a batch of Master Academy trainees and set up a branch over here. Apparently it hasn’t gone too well, but at least there’s a bit of property north of the city that could one day be a school if she stopped, and it gives people a place to stay.

When I stepped into the Girls’ Dorm and saw that most of the students were decidedly on the nubile and statutory side of things, I gave Wildflower a look. She looked at me, then looked at them, then leaned in and whispered, “I’m over eighteen.”

“Are you sure? You might be an early bloomer.”

She took my hand, right in front of a few “Oohing” teens and led me to her room. She shared it with a roommate who appeared to be mentally deficient based on the number of posters featuring untalented singers. I think one of them was a boy band. Do boy bands still exist? I thought they went extinct.

Anyway, Wildflower’s side of the room featured a little different decor. I expected something like the poster from Cats, though. I pointed to it. “Fan of people dressed in really tight cat costumes?”

“I haven’t seen it. The others got that for me. I don’t know if they were trying to be mean. That inspired me to read The Island of Dr. Moreau, then Frankenstein. I’m up to Stoker and Lovecraft now.” She rifled through her nightstand for something.

“Hmm. Never messed with them. I keep meaning to pick up some stuff by Albert Camus. Seems like my kinda guy. You picking up those books? Don’t know how things work for you here.”

She abruptly stood up and handed me a broken piece of plastic. It looked like about half a driver’s license, with a good chunk of the picture and number gone, along with the real name. “Wow, you’re twenty-four. And they have you rooming with teens.”

She shrugged and took the broken license back. “I have a lot to relearn, and a lot to learn about my powers. I want to do this if they open a proper campus.” She almost said something else, which I got the sense was questioning if I was ok with that. In my own way, I was just wondering if an amnesiac, even one who’d been around for a few months, was a little on the dirty side.

Maybe it was all the teenagers.

She led me around, even introduced me to a couple of costumed capes I didn’t recognize. Then again, I can barely keep their names straight enough as it is. I remember once fighting a Master Academy super with some sort of ball powers. Energy balls, maybe? Then I remember someone using various ball-like devices to fight The Oligarch and The Order just before I killed Oligarch. I don’t know how many ballers we got around here. Perhaps I should ask someone in the hood.

Now, if only I could figure out where da hood, where da hood, where da hood at?

Still weird, though. It wasn’t a date. It was just Wildflower showing me a part of her life. Right after I showed her part of mine. Like, I know what I did, but the reciprocity threw me for a small loop. I’m usually more self-centered than all that. Luckily, a call from Captain Lightning precluded further introspection.

“Hey, Lightning just told me he’s going to stop by in a couple hours with the communication pod-thing. Want to stop somewhere beforehand? Maybe grab some hibachi?”

On the way out, we caught a passing glare from Venus on our way out. It was the sort of evil eye that normally includes ominous Latin chanting and ends when a car passes by and the person glaring abruptly disappears. A nudging on my arm interrupted my mental choir.

“You should talk to her,” Wildflower suggested in a whisper.

“She doesn’t like me.”

“Yeah, but she doesn’t want to see you killed by aliens. Hey, Venus!” Obviously, she didn’t direct that last part at me, but instead to the civilian-clothed heroine. “Gecko has something to tell you!”

A pair of girls passing nearby whipped their heads around to stare at me. Well, at least she’s not ashamed to be seen with me, nor is she ashamed to be seen dragging me by the arm over to Venus.

Venus took a long swig of a water bottle, enough that I wondered if she had vodka instead of water in there. She raised a finger to ward off any talk until she finished, then began the conversation her own way. “What are you doing bringing her here? Shut up, Gecko, I’m not talking to you.”

With that in mind, I’m happy to say Wildflower improvised. “We wanted to invite you to dinner to clear the air. We’re going to meet at the Double Cross tower.”

“I’m not sure I want to go. It’s hard to forget what I saw last time.” Venus looked between Wildflower and me, no doubt meaning her inadvertent discovery that we weren’t a chaste couple, and the subsequent incident where we threw the bed at her. When I raised an interested eyebrow, she looked me dead in the eye and told me. “Not in a thousand years to whatever you were about to say.”

“How about if Captain Lightning is there? He’s bringing something by, so you can just meet us in a, where would it be, babe, a meeting room?” Wildflower looked to me. I nodded. She turned back to Venus. “A meeting room. We can compare notes about it and have a meal.”

Venus capped her water bottle before crossing her arms and looking me over. Normally, this is where I’d work the puppy dog eyes, but I had to do without since I haven’t killed any puppies lately. Instead, I laid my head back down on Wildflower’s shoulder and put my arm around her, trying to look all cute and sweet for Venus while subtly hunching over enough to emphasize my awesome boobage. That’s right. It’s my turn to shake some tits at you, Venus. But just to really give her something hot to think about, I mean to really lube up this deal so she’d take it and take it hard, I added. “You can bring along anyone you want as a plus one.”

She looked at me, her eyes flicking down to my milk makers, then quickly back to my face. “I’ll think about it.”

Imagine our surprise when Forcelight landed in front of Double Cross Tower two hours later, meeting Captain Lightning on his way up. I think they got in contact and coordinated their arrival. Well, I did a little of my own coordinating and had a giant screen set up to give Technolutionary a view of the meeting.

Lightning held the door for the ladies, staring at them. Old perv. He must have noticed me noticing, because he quickly explained himself. “They’re clear.”

“What is this about, now?” Forcelight asked. She stood tall in her white and black tights, the adoptive daughter of the former owner of Long Life. The medical corporation’s last owner died at my hands, but not before using a variety of illegal experiments involving organ theft to transform her into a superhero while forcing her biological dad to play the role of said villainous organ thief. I still miss the Good Doctor sometimes. When he got going, he really knew where to stab those scalpels. Unfortunately, he turned himself in to atone and try to heal things with his daughter. Just goes to show that being a surgeon doesn’t make someone smart.

I sat back in my chair, setting my half-eaten pork egg roll aside. “I have invited this delightful bunch here to discuss a matter of grave importance to all of us. If you don’t already know, Forcelight, I’m Psycho Gecko. Yes, I’m aware I have boobs now, thank you for noticing. Y’all are here for one of three reasons: you are already aware of what’s going on, you are a leader in your community who can help prepare them for the upcoming battle, or I’ve had sex with you.”

Forcelight immediately turned to Venus. “What did you do?!”

“He means her!” Venus jabbed her finger toward Wildflower, who smiled around a mouthful of chow mein.

“Enough playing around, Gecko.” Captain Lightning produced a small box, too large to pretend he was proposing to me. Opening it revealed the little fleshy communications device. It looked like a small walnut made out of warped skin and muscle, perhaps because it was so much easier for the body to grow those tissues compared to some others. He set it on the table past three stacks of papers roughly outlining what little I knew of the upcoming catastrophe.

They all took a seat while Technolutionary and I looked it over. Tech spoke first through his monitor. “Did the medical examiner think to perform a DNA test?”

Lightning nodded toward the screen. “Yes. It matches the person we found it in. They are still testing the one found in Mary Malady, but we should extract the one from the other man, Mack.”

“Max,” I corrected. “Max Muscles. I advised him to come to this city when he left, in case I needed to look after him for one thing or another. He’s the one who first clued me in that something spoke to him and made him attack Washington D.C.“

“It stands to reason someone they would make this device compatible with the physiology of individual humans. Remember our recent bout with organ rejection?” Technolutionary asked, inclining his head more toward me out of the rest of the group at the table.

When everyone looked at me, I mentioned, “Last Christmas, he gave me his heart. The very next day, I gave it away. This organ was part of Senator Powers, who worded a situation very similarly to other suspicious individuals. We haven’t had them tested yet. There’s not even enough left of one to test. It appears to be a method of communication we can’t listen in on. I have extremely trustworthy intelligence that points to an alien invasion force getting involved. Now we know they have infiltrated some of us, us meaning Earth in this context, so it stands to reason there are more to check.”

Wildflower didn’t help my suspicions any by asking, “What if they try to come in peace? Maybe you do something.” Her prickly tail stroked my back gently, hoping to let me know she didn’t mean any hard feelings by the question. It’s technically a good point. I am exactly the sort of person who would screw up human-alien first contacts.

“I don’t know their goal, but so far there haven’t been very many good-natured alien contacts with Earth that involve them showing up en masse. What reason would they have for peaceful contact? Needing medical help? They’re advanced enough to fly to Earth from the ass-end of wherever. Same for maintenance.”

“Whatever they use for fuel, Earth cannot or will not hand over,” Technolutionary provided.

I nodded toward the screen. “And then there’s the possibility we get the intergalactic equivalent of the Jehovah’s fucking Wit-”

Captain Lightning cut me off there. “Psycho Gecko has a point. Most first contacts between foreign cultures with such a disproportionate difference in technology are hostile in some form or another. Earth’s experience with aliens provides ample evidence in favor of this viewpoint. We should be be prepared to talk softly, but carry a big stick.”

Technolutionary spoke up, “If you want peace, prepare for war. It makes sense why you would reverse your stance now, Gecko.”

I tried to make sure no one delved into that conversation too far. I doubted any of the heroes, even my Wildflower, had the moral flexibility to see the bigger picture in what we’ve done, especially given mine and Technolutionary’s lack of restraint in terms of collateral damage. “A big, throbbing stick capable of wiping them all out, preferably preemptively.”

“A show of force would work,” said Forcelight, looking over the information I’d provided on the table. “Not everyone treats every conflict as a fight to the death.”

I shrugged. “If worst comes to worst, we need to prepare a very final method of dealing with them.”

Venus scoffed. “A Final Solution?”

“Don’t go knocking genocide just because some racist Germans used it once. That’s slander on the good name of that perfectly viable tactic by associating it solely with the Nazis. Which is falacious, I might add. Call it something nicer or loftier, like Manifest Destiny. Besides, I’d use it against everyone, not just members of one race or another.”

Venus shook her head and looked to Wildflower. “And you’re fine with this? This is who you want?”

I don’t know if I sense legitimate jealousy there, but I’ll even take hot fantasy lesbian threesome jealousy, only this time I wear a skimpy nurse’s outfit with red high heels, and Wildflower’s the one I call Dr. Feelgood.

“Do you want me to tell him not to kill people? Alright.” Wildflower leaned close guided my face around so I was looking right at her. “Baby, please don’t kill people.”

“Aww, how could I ever say ‘no’ to you…” I leaned my head close, our foreheads touching. “Oh yeah, now I remember! No.”

She stepped back, an amused smile on her face. I don’t believe it surprised her. Then she looked to Venus. “I tried.”

“You’re going to let him or her talk to you like that?”

Wildflower crossed her arms. “You should ask him. Everyone knows you two have some special bond.”

Perturbed, Venus leaned in close, squishing her twin milk cannons for best effect. “Hey, Gecko. Please, for me, try not to kill so many people, alright?”

I pretended to think. “Gee, when you put it that way, there’s probably only one thing I can say. That’s that you should back up, stick your tongue out, flap your arms, jump off the roof, and give a flying fuck. Because I don’t. Pussy.”

And she was concerned about how I talked to Wildflower.

“Since you want to pretend you are a woman now, you might watch out for that sort of sexist talk.” Venus flipped me the bird.

I held a hand to my chest. “I like to think of myself as a skeleton trapped in a woman’s body.”

“Gecko, please shut up for five minutes.” Lightning butted in, trying to stop the talk from breaking down.

“A moment, oh Captain my captain. I have just one thing to say.” I let silence fall for a moment as everyone prepared themselves for my incoming remark. To Venus, I finally said, “Suck my coccyx.”

Captain Lightning reached over with one finger and zapped with a small arc of electricity. “I’m afraid we have gone off-task in our discussion. Reign this in, stay on point. Aliens.”

I nodded. “If you’ll all avoid getting too much soy sauce on the papers there, I’ve vaguely described some of the measures I’ve taken to secure the city a little better. I don’t care about the nanites, either, Forcelight. They’ll help. But if I come out of the blue to discuss this with the heroes when E.T. Decides to pwn home, most won’t believe me. We need to get people ready for this, and we don’t have long.”

“Why do you care this much?” Venus glared at me some more. You’d think she’d have a little less anger after flashing me with her headlights the other day and punching me into a ceiling.

“It doesn’t matter why he cares. It just matters that he’s helping.” Lightning answered for me, exasperated with the arguing. “We need to find those we can trust and prepare quietly. Organize.” I noticed Venus’s eye twitch as she watched Lightning. “Anyone with an x-ray vision power can find it where the neck meets the skull.”

“A knife and visual inspection works, too.” I added. Wildflower rubbed at the back of her neck.

Lightning glanced at her neck briefly, then pulled over a carton of fried rice. In the midst of all our arguing, we’d mostly forgotten the food. I returned to chowing down on my egg roll. “Seems it does,” he confirmed.

“Gentlemen, ladies…don’t just stand there looking surprised. Let’s eat some food and plan how to take over…sorry, wrong crowd…save the world!”

Lightning and Wildflower nodded. On the screen, a doorbell got Technolutionary’s attention. Forcelight joined us in our meal, but Venus didn’t lower her guard until Technolutionary returned and lifted up his helmet enough to start chowing down on a box of Chinese delivery.

Of course, convincing some heroes to get to work on this was the easy part, if it works at all. Now I’ve got to find some way to present myself as trustworthy to a bunch of supervillains. Clearly, this will require copious amounts of lying. And more chicken teriyaki.

Next

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Local Politics 16

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Previous

At last.

I finally talked Oligarch into the field. I suspect the Seals managed to wound him, or at least cause serious maintenance on at least one portion of his armor.

No more stalling. No more getting things into position. No more “let’s see what’s behind curtains one and two,” just curtains.

It all began with a curtain call that finally linked all of The Order up to one another. There, I explained just enough for them to be useful in wrecking me shit: the docks are overcrowded with hostile bee people led by a group of queens. Expect super strength, organic armor, and stinger swords. I ended the brief briefing with an appeal directly to Oligarch, “Your people need you.”

They didn’t spend a whole lot of time getting organized. While supervillains don’t make that good of an army when it comes to working together, it also means they don’t need a lot of time getting organized before a sortie. The two are kinda connected.

It also meant that we didn’t hit the docks as one body. It was more like waves. Roadkill skidded along in a steamroller as one of the first guys in, probably having one hell of a time. I didn’t pay attention to how far he went. I was curious what would happen when he hit the water, but I was too busy landing from on a crane and watching the attack go down.

Once again, my armor protected me physically and provided me with a convenient disguise. For some reason, I just don’t feel like settling for the marginal offensive and defensive capabilities of the Banshee costume. Besides, it helped me feel more like myself again.

So I looked down, laughing, as Buzzkills took to the sky in small clouds to pursue individual flyers. I had to catch my breath before I could call back to the bunker that it was go time. I’d also briefed the heroes on what was going on before I visited the villains. I’d admitted that I had some connection to The Order necessitated by being outed as a superhuman and as a need to maintain contact with the heroes themselves. I was surprised Wildflower didn’t vouch for me there, but she’d been distant lately. Enough of the heroes remembered my help releasing them that I made a good case without a character witness.

I gave them the same information about the Buzzkills. They are a menace, I tell ya! A horrible menace that threatens to destroy everything good in the world. But they were still my best bet against the swarm of bee people. Eh? I bet y’all see what I did there.

I revealed that I’d set up The Order to go after the Buzzkills. I’d had the plan in waiting ever since my people were the first to lock down the docks following the discovery of the insectoids. I know people say that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but sometimes lying about there being sugar in the spoon works just as well, because they swallowed it hook, line, and sinker.

And I implored them, with every acting bone in my body, that though they may not all trust me, “Your people need you.”

So while I watched shit hit the fan at the docks, heroes departed from the base of Double Cross Tower and started hitching rides with each other to make it to the battle. This was their time for revenge. Being cooped up made them antsy and ready for a bit of action. I can’t even take credit for that level of enthusiasm. I’d gotten so paranoid about them all over the past couple days, I seriously almost pushed the button to fill the whole bunker with gas. Once, I stopped when I remembered I really shouldn’t do that. Another time, I didn’t go through with it because I couldn’t remember if I’d loaded Arsine, which is toxic, or Sexahol, which creates feelings of love, goodwill, and physical lust.

That one might be a missed opportunity there.

Knowing they were on the way and feeling about a half-ton lighter, I celebrated by jumping into the fray. I leaped off the crane and wrapped my legs around the torso of a Buzzkill humming by in hot pursuit of a man in a duster and bowler with a pair of bunny ears trailing back as he flew. He didn’t take kindly to my presence and attempted to throw me off by swinging around in a circle. I dug my fingers into his shoulderblades and clawed my way up to a standing position. With a back flip, I clubbed his head. This time, he calmed down a lot more when I held onto him with my legs. I liked his change in behavior so much, that I kept right at it. Hammerin’ away. I could barely pull myself away, it was so much fun.

Unfortunately, it also left me and the Buzzkill plummeting. I grabbed him by the shoulders long enough to get my feet on his chest, then pushed off into an incomplete back flip. It separated me from the Buzzkill, but didn’t really get me close enough to the crane or anything else.

And yet, I felt oddly at peace. No, seriously. It was being ok with falling that freaked me out. That got me flailing, which is probably why Forcelight chose that moment to grab my arm and save me from cracking open like a mussel dropped by a bird. The jolt felt like it pulled something out of the socket, though. Probably my arm. I couldn’t check until after she slowed down a little and dumped me on top of a rusty old warehouse roof. After rolling, I was able to take inventory of my physical state. Yep. It was the arm.

Forcelight’s presence created quite the buzz, and not just among the bees. Villains were all over the comms.

“Is that Forcelight?”

“What’s she doing here?”

“Alive? Not possible!”

And so they spoke, and so they spoke, those lords of Empyreal. But then heroes joined in the fray, with everyone clear they’re here.

No, I didn’t actually go with The Rains of Castamere as a way to announce their arrival. I didn’t think about that until later. What came to mind instead was a song from an album where a bunch of inmates break out and start killing their captors in order to obtain freedom.

That’s why some unspecified person, wink wink, played a short piece announcing, “Hell is empty… and all the devils are here!” Plus, I knew it’d piss a few of them off. I’m pretty sure Venus is some sort of Christian. And even if she isn’t, chances are good most of the other heroes are.

I guess it’s worth pointing out since it’s about time for the War on Christmas to start up again, but America is about 70% to 83% Christian depending on what poll you’re looking at. Then again, they screw up their definitions all the time. I saw one that asked people to identify themselves and discuss their beliefs, which is how they have a percent of atheists who believe in a god, a bunch of people who say they don’t believe in any gods but who aren’t atheists, and agnostics as separate group. It’s like saying that people with red hair are considered a separate skin color.

But that’s a tender subject that many people would prefer to treat gingerly.

Of course, these heroes were too busy fighting real enemies to worry about imagined ones. They swept up behind villain battle lines that were facing the wrong direction, and they were generally more inclined to teamwork than their enemies.

Of course, I say that like someone looking back on things. At the time, I just tried to get my arm back in and subtly apply my miracle-working super machines. That, and having fun. A line of about four Buzzkills came at me, bro. I ducked to the left and grabbed the shoulder of the one on that end. I whipped around and got that one in a facelock as I kicked off one of its buddies, then swung it down and planted its face into the roof. I immediately sat up and rammed my head into the belly of a Buzzkill that tried to impale my downed chest with a stinger sword. Another sword glanced off my back, showing that I wasn’t as unarmored as I appeared. The last one took a swipe at my throat from the side, though. Not cool.

I caught that one and twisted it, then used it to fend off another blow from the one behind me. I pulled her close and got her in a triangle choke. The parried Buzzkill took a step back and aimed its stinger sword at me, shooting out a flash of yellow energy that exploded against me and its comrade, scorcing some of the hologram system’s microcameras and creating a minor power surge. Needing a projectile of my own, I smashed my hand in the top of the captured Buzzkill’s exoskeleton and pulled out what could have been a brain, which I then tossed at its compadre. The Buzzkill knocked it aside, but took a moment to ponder in disgust what she just did.

The one I headbutted had recovered then, and I was tired of handling all of them on my back, so I jumped up and took a punch from it just so I could grab her arm. “Hey, doll. Ever been roofied?” Then I threw her off the roof.

When I turned, I saw the one standing up who I’d introduced to the roof. I also saw the one who shot me taking aim for a second shot. I walked forward and clapped the wobbly one on her shoulders. “Good to see you’re alive!” I told her, then ducked behind her for a moment. A good punch stumbled her back in the way of the shooter, but I didn’t stick around to see them get into a fight. Nor did I stick around to see the shooter discover the headless rubber chicken tied around the lower arm of the off-balance Buzzkill or the subsequent explosion as the chicken grenade went off.

It’s like Sweeney Todd’s joy over finding his old straight razors to be able to use those again.

I jumped from that roof to the next and then stopped a moment to survey the battlefield. It was beautiful. Lights of all different colors lit up the sky as supers fought with themselves and the bees. The bees themselves were dropping like flies, which made me wonder for a moment about how vague the line is on who supers do and don’t kill. At this point in the fight, everyone was so worried about life and limb that I don’t think it mattered. The royal Buzzkills could have easily counted as too “super” to kill, but I saw one of them kneeling beside another downed one, doing something. She shook, so maybe the trauma of our little fight had gotten to her.

Before I could see how that one went, an angry roar got my attention. As opposed to a sleepy roar or a casual bored roar, I suppose. Another of the royals threw a dumpster at Oligarch. A burst of his boot jets sent him to the side while micromunitions from his raised left arm caught the dumpster and knocked it to the side with a detonation. A pair of tubes then pushed out of the side of his gauntlet and spewed a cone of flame in her direction. Then she let out more of a crispy roar.

I let myself fade into invisibility so I could make a call. “Hello, this is Beetrice,” said a happy, buzzing voice on the other end.

“That’s what you went with?” I asked my pet royal Buzzkill. When she didn’t say anything for a second, I reminded her, “I can’t see you when you talk over the phone. Say yes or no.”

“Yes. Who is speaking?”

“It’s me. Gecko. The one who rescued you.”

“Oh! Hi boyfriend. How is your day going?”

“This is a bad time to do whatever it is you think you’re doing right now. You know how I told you you would soon take your place at the head of your people after their numbers had been whittled down and your evil sisters were defeated?”

“We talked about it before you left. Yes. Is it time?”

“That’s a big ten-four, sweet bee. Get that shiny hiney on down here and try to keep yourself and some Buzzkills alive. Come on, your people need you.”

Lot of damn people needing a lot of other people today.

While she was busy on her way, I let myself live in the moment. Nearby, I saw someone wearing a goat’s head as a mask sweep an FN MAG machinegun across the sky. I don’t even know what side they were on, but I knocked them the fuck out with a punch. Then I saw Roadkill climbing up a ladder out of the water. I grabbed the machinegun and slung it at him. He ducked behind the ladder, which blocked the gun, but the noise attracted Buzzkills. Then, some giant rolling ball sped in next to me and separated into panels that folded up into a much smaller ball held in the hand of one of the heroes. I think that asshole punched me back at the asylum, in fact. He stuck that ball to his belt, then pulled off a blue one and a yellow one. The blue one he threw at crowd of Buzzkills. It hit one, then bounced off another’s head, ricocheting around the group until they all fell to the ground. While that ball did its trick, this big baller dropped the yellow one and kicked it over to where a bloody-mawed wolfman fought with what looked like a prepubescent girl in a red cloak and hood. She contorted out of the way of a slash from the wolfman, who then seized up as electricity arced out of the ball and formed a sort of cage around him. I put the ball guy out of business by hitting him in his weak spot from behind. You know the one. His balls.

It saddened me that I couldn’t go completely wild there, but I had a job to do. I looked around, scanning for Oligarch. I found him overhead, pushing his suit to stay out of Forcelight’s grasp while they dodged around buildings and the crane. He used his munitions to try and divert the heroine into the crane as a means of weakening her. I needed a chance to get close and jumped onto the crane itself. That’s when he chose to dive down and lead her over the water.

She was in chase mode, following him out there, but staying a little higher. It didn’t help her much when Terrorjaw flew out of the waves and chomped on her. Oligarch changed course, heading back to shore while she fell below the waters with the sharkman.

It gave me an idea. I unsealed one gauntlet and began charging up the other. Oligarch soared closer, leaving a wake as he passed over the water. I jumped out, hoping he didn’t decide to juke to the side for some reason at the last minute. He would have seen a small glow in the air until the hologram changed from showing the environment around me to showing Forcelight.

I’d timed it right. My glowing fit hit him in the back, the charged energy driving him into the ground. He bounced, even. Yeah, a bad part of having armor that’s so small and fits so tight against the body is it may not leave a lot of room for padding. That’s an issue miniaturization just can’t fix. I rolled and skidded as I came to a stop, throwing up a few sparks that I hoped no one noticed.

My facade as Forcelight continued as I stepped up to him and reached down to grab hold of the stunned villain’s neck with my bare hand.

One of the reasons the neck is so vulnerable is that it’s the only way things get between the head and the rest of the body. Brain signals, food, air, alcohol; you gotta go through the neck. It’s a literal chokepoint. Me, I implanted the equivalent of bodily wifi at the base of my head that lets me bypass that weakness in case my neck is broken or even severed. Oligarch didn’t have that on his side.

I had to work quickly as I felt my system merge with the cables and wiring in Oligarch’s armor’s neck. Armor stability could have been better. Running a bit low on ammo. That’s a problem with kinetic and missile weapons. A few heat vents were cracked, though. I could work with that. I ordered more to shut down. He had a self-destruct in the suit, too. Probably remotely activated, I would hope. A way to keep people from jacking his stuff like they did with mine. I stole the frequency, then backed off when I saw him making more purposeful movements.

I became invisible again and slipped on my glove just before water exploded out of the ocean nearby and Forcelight shot into the air with Terrorjaw riding her back. You don’t see that everyday.

She spun around, and I saw Terrorjaw fall off, then go flying as she kicked him out to see. Off in the distance, I think I saw him skip a few times. Well, he’s England’s problem now.
Back on land, Oligarch wrestled with his suit. Over the villainside comms, I heard him call out for anyone with ice powers. “My suit has a malfunction. The heat is building up. This is critical. Anyone?” He pulled his helmet off, looking like a sweaty old man with a bad case of helmet hair. He took a deep breath, then Venus swung down and clobbered him in the face so hard, I swear I heard a bong sound from her armored fist.

Isn’t that some shit? Forcelight had been on his case, then I put in the real work of beating him down, but Venus shows up at the last second to get all the credit?

I let her bask in the glory while I jumped for it. That’s about the time I noticed that the living Buzzkills had already made a run for it. Nothing left but the bodies. I saw some of them bees fleeing into the city from the vantage point I took further away from Oligarch. I didn’t know how big of a self-destruct Oligarch put in his armor, but I hoped it was smaller than city-wide.

Oh well, not worth asking him at this point.

“Look out, he’s going critical!” I yelled into everyone’s comms, then counted to three and sent the signal. The explosion disappointed. I expected a nice fireball, maybe some rocking. You know, maybe bend the crane a bit. I saw fire leap into the sky and heard people scream, but a closer inspection showed very few people actually hurt. The main one I focused on after confirming Oligarch was nothing but a crispy critter was Venus. She laid off to the side, clutching her arm and smoking a little.

Well, if she didn’t know smoking was bad for her health before, she probably learned her lesson getting blown up like that. A part of me felt bad, seeing her like that. I wanted to go down there, walk over to her, hold her in my hands…and squeeze her throat until she crapped her tights.

Sadly, this was not a day for star-crossed lovers like Romeo and Juliet. You know, a couple that winds up killing each other.

I had a window there, where everyone had stopped and wasn’t entirely sure what to do. To the villains, I said, “Retreat. We’ll have a meeting about this later. The Order is not done, but I think it’s clear we don’t own the city anymore.”

To the heroes, I said, “Let them go. We don’t need any more fighting than is necessary. We’ve won.”

Then I called up Harlon, my guy in the news. He’s an executive who climbed to that position in part because I killed the right people and feed him the occasional red hot story. He wasn’t in Empyreal City, but he was very happy he could have his people report that a fight left the Oligarch dead and the city no longer under villain control.

And, finally, I called up Beetrice the Queen Bee and told her she did good getting her hive out. That, and “You better not watch Deep Space 9 without me!”

I’m not too keen on knocking her up with a colony full of my illegitimate insectoid monstrosi-babies, but a job this well done makes me feel like regrowing my balls for a celebratory nut scratch.

I settled for a victorious glare on top of Double Cross HQ while bells rang happily through the streets.

You see, I learned something from all this. Having any one ego in charge can work for certain group, like Double Cross. The company wouldn’t exist without me. It is a manifestation of my will, acting in my name to accomplish my goals. They are my drones, my workers. But they have to work toward a goal. Without one, they turn out about as cooperative and focused as the Buzzkills. And even if I wanted a group of equals based on cooperation, someone’s going to wind up the figurehead in charge, like Oligarch and The Order. And getting that many powerful individuals together and trying to force my goals on them would probably turn out just as bad for him as it would for me. And I don’t need a gang of enemies. I have enough of that as is. You need some sort of crisis or change in the paradigm to control them. The most basic way is a threat.

Yeah, I learned something. As the saying goes, “Knowledge is power, power corrupts; study hard and be evil.”

And since we’re coming up on Thanksgiving for those in the U.S., let me add a cheerful: “Party on, dudes!”

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