Tag Archives: Silver Shark

Die Seas Adventure 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good for you,” she answered back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He started to say “You are one ugly-”

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

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

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

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Break It, Bought It 7

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I didn’t just rush into the situation with Good Doctor blindly. That would just make it easy for him. No, I had to use that steaming pile of think gunk in my head here. The coordinates he gave me were for this artificial island made by the United States right after World War II and gradually abandoned as necessity allowed. Satellites confirmed he was there, along with a boat, and Citra. I even got to see when he burned the boat he arrived on. I could have rushed in there, but I took the time to pimp my own ride to the island. I don’t get many opportunities to have a custom-equipped speedboat. I expect it’ll come in handy. I’m not even supposed to leave the island.

Under Imperial decree, I confiscated a speedboat. I installed armor. I gave it a pair of small mines. I strapped machine guns to it, and a rocket launcher. Darn near blew myself up with that. This whole Doc thing had me on edge, even if he only took Citra. I didn’t want more of this shit, with friends turning on me and plans within plans. Who does, right?

But it’ll pass. One way or another. Doc will die, Citra might die, even I might die, but it will end one way or another. I won’t be so quick to say I just want it to end no matter what, because I’m still fond of living. Even if there aren’t any omnipotent gods out there, I’ve been the devil of a deal enough times to know to be careful what I ask for. That’s probably what got me listening to “Poor Unfortunate Souls” while I worked. Don’t let Ursula fool y’all. Her deal was particularly wicked.

But enough aquatic antics with mermaids. You can never get further than blowjob base with them, anyway.

Now, unlike my armor, I did add a self-destruct sequence to this one. It seemed handy if I needed to ram something and explode prematurely. I swear, baby, it never happens. Don’t worry, I have protection. It can’t explode until after the ejector seat has fired off well away. Ejector seats are fun, if you can get one. Mine comes with its own parachute, and the seat cushion can be used as a flotation device. There’s also a bag that goes over the face in case of emergency, like if I bring a really ugly person with a nice body back to the boat.

The day seemed stormy, and not from the weather. Seemed like a lot of the Assembly people were stopping by. I had let some of them in on it, not yet having learned all the various councils and committees they were working on. It was more a matter of letting them know they might have to bail me out. I told them they might have to print up some new money, and if I was on it, give me a nice hat. I’m thinking a bowler.

One of them even wore a fancy sash across his chest when he stopped by. “My Emperor,” he said while bowing in the Japanese fashion.

I returned it. “Got this baby almost ready to go. No paint job, though. When I get back, I’ll have to see about it. I’m thinking flames and a dark knight riding a unicorn. What do you think?”

“I wanted to tell you that the entire Assembly supports you in the return of Lady Citra. The treaty has disseminated throughout the Assembly and we want you to know that we will not reveal your absence. If anyone claims to see you off the island, we will say otherwise.”

“Thanks. Nice to have a little support, even if I’m leaving y’all in a bind.” I held out a hand. He took it, and bowed his head against it. I grabbed his hair and gave him a handshake on the head. “Close enough.”

Qiang ran over before I cast off, drawing my egress out even further. “Hey there, kiddo,” I said, wondering where Silver Shark was. The cyborg woman was supposed to be watching her and keeping her well away from here. Yeah, she’s alive, and almost good as new. Still a bit tender herself, but between Ricca’s nanotech medical care and all the modifications made, she pulled through. Guess it was too much to hope she could wrangle a kid, though. “What are you doing away from Silver Shark?”

“I snuck away!” she said, hopping up into the boat. “I swapped shirts with another girl when she wasn’t looking and ran away.”

Aww. She’s learning. And taking her clothes off in public. I’d be so proud of her if I didn’t want her far away from this boat so she didn’t smuggle herself onboard. “Smart, though you won’t always be able to do that. Listen, daddy needs you to stay here and try to be a good girl, ok?”

“Don’t go, daddy!” she pouted up at me. No enemy on Earth could attack me like the face of my daughter.

I hugged her, feeling her slowly connect to my armor as well to keep her from doing anything to it. She didn’t seem to understand it enough to power me down or accidentally screw up the strength multipliers on the exoskeleton. “I have to. He won’t stop, and he’ll hurt Citra and more. And if I don’t show up there, he’ll come back and try a different way I won’t see coming.”

“Can’t I go with you?” she asked.

I shook my head. “Nope. I brought you with me before because I didn’t know where he was and I wanted you close in case I had to protect you. I know where he is now, and that you’ll be safe here. I can stop him from reaching you.”

“What if he hurts you?” she asked.

“If he does, he might leave you alone. Don’t worry. I’m coming back.”

She didn’t believe me. Just hugged onto me, crying, yelling “Don’t go!” It’s a good thing I have experience being heartless. I picked her up, gently tied her up to a pole on the pier, and shoved off. I did see Silver Shark running up after her as I left, so I waved at her before cranking the Geckoboat up and speeding off into the horizon.

I don’t know if the island had a name other than whatever secret base name the military gave it. Talk about people not afraid of sunk cost. I can respect that.

I called the satellites back up as I approached. It didn’t look like he’d put any defenses in place. He just left Citra sitting outside on the ground about a hundred yards from a shed. She did some wiggling that convinced me she was still alive. Hear that, ladies? Taking the hint yet? Show some damn effort in bed!

No mines, no guard sharks, no trained seals, not even a belligerent mutated sea bass. It was almost insultingly easy. I swooped around and came up alongside the island and dropped anchor on the concrete. If it happened to slide off, I figured I’d hear the plop in the water. I climbed aboard and kept my eyes open for any sneakiness. Nothing. Aside from Citra, there were waves in the water and the bobbing of the boat. That’s it. I focused on the sheds and other abandoned building entrances, but it turned out to be unnecessary. I approached the tied-up girl completely unmolested, which isn’t a word normally used in situations involving bound and gagged females.

I pulled the gag out first, and quickly. Gagged people always have something important to tell you, like “Look out! They’re right behind you!”

“Look out!” she yelled, voice cracking and croaking. Fucking called it, right? “He’s taking the boat!”

I spun around. Good Doctor, his outfit wet and glistening from the sea, finished slicing through the anchor line and waved us goodbye before hitting the accelerator.

“That bastard,” I said.

“He’s stranded us. He’s going back to the island,” Citra said.

I turned to look at her and finish tearing off the ropes that bound her. “Conserve your water.” In my head, I connected to my poor, new boat and activated the ejector seat. Good Doctor shot into the air, clinging to the seat as the parachute deployed. So much for hoping he’d have been left in it so I could just hit the self-destruct. I helped Citra stand up and regain her feet all while watching Doc figure out how to direct the chute and seat back to land. “You’ll want to hide now. I’m going to have to murder a friend.”

She didn’t argue with me. She stumbled away, trying to find somewhere to hide. I approached the edge of the island where the seat looked to come a little bit short. Indeed, Doc jumped out of it and landed on the edge as the seat itself plopped into the water.

“Clever,” I said to him. “Lure me here, head back, and finish what you couldn’t before.”

He stood up. I couldn’t see his eyes through the visor on his black leather helmet, but I could feel his hatred. “You did not react the way I anticipated to protecting that girl. Rumors say you have a daughter.”

“Jealous?” I asked. He took up a scalpel in his right hand and a punch knife in his left.

“Saddened. I take no joy in what I must do to you,” he said, his voice warping slightly to the tone I often heard when he slipped into his murderous state of mind.

“I’ve seen you take plenty of joy in it. Didn’t think you were the type to go after a man’s daughter. Have you truly become no better than I?” I stepped forward, hands open and palms to him, leaning forward just slightly over my front foot.

“We are, both of us, monsters, but I did what I did to provide a life for my daughter. She was the one thing that justified my actions. The one thing I could live with myself for. Now she is ashes, and I will see anything you care about rendered as such.”

“This really the hill you wanna die on, Doc?” I asked, noting the tension in his body. I knew what his answer would be, but I also knew it didn’t matter. He was never leaving this island alive.

He threw his scalpel at me. I deflected easily, then saw as the hand he pulled back from the throw tossed pellets at the ground between us. Black smoke blossomed forth. I paced a little back and forth, trying to see around it, even calling upon the satellite view. He was inside the cloud. I rushed in and whirled around, my cape helping blow it away. I pulled it close as an emergency warning appeared on my HUD. One of my batteries had been stabbed.

I pulled my cape in close, but not before the other battery reported physical damage. “You lost your glowing heart. You can only last so long.” he called in that smooth British voice of his. I did have power in the capacitors, but he was right. Once that’s loose, this armor of mine becomes much less useful. Then it’s just a matter of pulling my helmet off.

I growled as I jumped high into the air, then grinned as I looked down at the smoke cloud below me. I grabbed my cape as I dropped like a stone. When I crashed back into the cement, the air cushion under my cape blew the smoke out from around me, revealing Doc and kinda breaking something in one of my knees. I grabbed him by his leg and pulled him down to the ground under me, where all it took was one super strong punch to cave in his face. I put a hole through where his heart should be for good measure there. Watching, panting through the pain, I saw his body in its death throes.

“Dammit, you fucking fuckhead!” I called, pounding at the remains of his chest with the bottoms of my fists one last time, trying to avoid getting raindrops in my mouth. Small weather front in my helmet is all. I sat back then under the bright, sunny sky. “Other people thought you could live with yourself just fine,” I said to no one. I thought back, trying to see if anything could have stopped all this. It all comes down to Forcelight and her death. Just a casualty in the crossfire, though one who I was glad to see go because of her power. It was a hard train of thought to follow when something in my knee was screaming for attention as well.

That was the state Citra found me in, putting a hand on my shoulder and shaking me. “Get up. You’re alive, right?”

I brushed her off and turned to look at her. She backed away, paling. With a swallow, she asked, “How do we get off the island?”

Oh, right. That. Heh. Cunning asshole did a good job on this trap. In addition to leaving me here so he could go back and do what he would on Ricca, I was now out where anyone could get me. I wonder if he knew that I was only allowed to run free if I stuck to the island. A bit too late to ask him now.

I laughed at that one. Even if I wanted to risk jumping to my boat, which I didn’t bother exploding, my knee has decided it is now jelly. The kind of jelly with fruit in it, except the fruit are bone shards and strips of torn ligament.

A shadow crossed in front of the sun and brought a flapping sound. I looked up to see the Titan descending on wings further across than he was tall. “You shouldn’t be here, giant blue dude.”

He settled on the ground more gently than I did, that’s for sure. “My people saw the message carved on your friend. I still owed you a debt.”

“Well, aren’t you just a beautiful deus ex machina,” I said.

“I think it would be a stantibus celsior ex machina, but I never learned Latin,” he said. He picked me up easily and carried me under one arm. Citra didn’t object to getting out of there. “Click your heels together and say ‘there’s no place like home.’”

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Break It, Bought It 6

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It’s been a rough couple of days. I had doubts soon after starting my search, because it seemed so bizarre that he didn’t try to kill me. He wants it, so why didn’t he do it? I mean, I killed his daughter, so why wouldn’t he go for the kill? He’d never been one to just send threats when he could go in for the kill. My first instinct was to double check all the footage of The Claw’s death and make absolutely sure. I even begrudgingly called Beetrice, though I had to put up with a nigh-unbearable squealing as she realized it was me. The thumbs-ups from the Buzzkills on the island didn’t alleviate my annoyance.

Not only had The Claw been confirmed dead, they locked his remains in a lead coffin and were preparing to launch him into space over in Russia. Yeah, probably after they examine his remains a bunch of times hoping to make their own Claw.

So that just left me with a former friend uncharacteristically targeting my daughter. He’s wanted to kill me, just me, ever since finding out I murdered his daughter. And therein lay the problem. I killed his daughter. He threatened mine. That’s the fucked up thing about letting yourself care about someone, too. When I realized that, I actually found myself wishing he’d go after me instead.

I suppose it’s not that weird, though. I’ve often preferred people to try and kill me. Except, I guess I feel a bit less like dying nowadays. And a bit less willing to martyr someone else upon the altar of my own safety. Rather than focus on confusing feelings, I figured I’d focus on the ones I know all about: homicide and avoiding being its victim.

It’s not like I had an army to swarm the island. I had a few Buzzkills and a couple squads of guys who used to be police or military. I could barely field a football team, let alone scour the entire island. I had only myself to rely on, and that also meant keeping Qiang with me. Anyone I left her with would likely be killed.

I know Good Doctor doesn’t seem that intimidating. A little older now, his power is x-ray vision, except without x-rays. It’s just the ability to see through things up to a certain depth. Pretty good little trick if you’re trying to hide something for obvious reasons, and because he has brains enough to check in places he can’t see through. He’s got a canny power, he’s smart, and he’s willing to kill.

Humanity is quite a bipolar animal, and I mean that in the same sense as including myself this time around. Simultaneously incredibly fragile and difficult to kill, humans are also ill-equipped psychologically to murder each other, and yet do so with ease over the littlest of reasons. Look at skin color. Some people are killed for having a shade of skin achievable by their murderer staying outside in the sun a few minutes. Despite the numerous horrible wars humanity has gone through, it was only relatively recently on this Earth that people learned to train soldiers to ignore humanity and become better killers. Too many in the World Wars weren’t shooting at people intentionally.

There are few times when superheroes are willing to kill, and few have gone through with it. Or had, up until this business with The Claw. I could actually take credit for corrupting them, I suppose, but his crimes were quite severe. Between him and the alien invasion, we might be looking at a time when far more of the heroes are comfortable taking life as a solution. There used to be unwritten rules. Villains don’t kill heroes, heroes don’t kill villains.

Doc is more than comfortable breaking those rules. He’s killed several other superpowered people before. Worse, he was doing it for a good reason. I can get distracted, or go easy on someone, or let them live on a whim. Someone who thinks they have a good reason is already prepared to force themselves to do what must be done.

So, now it should be clear why I’m worried about him. But what have I done about it? After confirming that announcements of the Claw’s demise weren’t premature, I warned Citra and Silver Shark that they needed to get off the island. I’m not entirely sure I want to put all my egg-layers in one basket, and I’d prefer being there to defend Qiang myself, so I kept her around.

I checked over my armor, too. It’s a strength, and also a weakness. I couldn’t help but think of the Oligarch, grand old supervillain of the Master Academy, who kept his armor out of enemy hands by installing a self-destruct sequence. I turned it on while he wore the thing.

I don’t include that function in my armor, which explains why life-support and power armor technology has advanced in recent years. Instead, I now have big batteries to rely on and an exoskeleton built into it that exerts enough force to break my own bones. It took more time than I wanted to spend making sure he hadn’t left any surprises for me there. A poisoned needle in my pants, a blade in a biceps, a cut wire in the crotch, a pile of shit in my boots.

Only once I was sure to be clean did I run off with Qiang. Despite the reason behind our search, it was fun jumping with her. She liked seeing the world from so high up and knowing it was with me. One stop, she asked me, “Daddy, can I jump like you?”

I patted her hair and said, “I’ll teach you how some day once we’re done finding this man.”

“I don’t want to see him!” she said, pouting.

“Are you scared?” I asked, sitting down so I could talk to her on her level. She nodded. “I get that. Big guy, a grown-up, who could hurt you. He already snuck into your room, like a monster in the night.” She nodded again. I reached out and pulled her knife out from where she had it hidden on her. “Monsters don’t like being stabbed, and neither do men. You can always stab a monster. Now, show me how you stab.”

She ran through some techniques I’d taught her, with me gently correcting her. After ten minutes of quick practice, she was giggling and adding little flourishes for fun. With her mind off Doc being some bogeyman for her, I stood up and we resumed our search. The first spot that took us to was the Cape Diem camp. I didn’t wait at the edges this time. I headed right for the medical tent, keeping Qiang close enough to hide under my cape for some protection. I had my eyes on point, overclocked, ready to identify Doc in a seconds. No dice.

Several doctors looked up, many showing signs of superpowers. “What is going on here?!” demanded what looked to be a short nurse with bark-like skin.

“I am Emperor Gecko of Ricca. I demand Good Doctor be brought before me.” I kept my eyes on a swivel, making damn sure no one snuck up using my helmet’s 360 display.

A buzzing from behind me accompanied the arrival of that drone with the hologram projection. “You have demands of us?” the translucent androgyne asked.

I turned, making sure to keep Qiang behind me. “Where is the Titan?”

“Away on other business. I am in command of this camp as of the current time,” answered the hologram.

“Fine, let’s find a corner to discuss this in away from everyone’s eyes,” I said, toning down my voice.

The hologram zipped on over to what could have been a storage shed, especially with a door big enough to allow Titan entrance. The sign on the door read “Administration,” in various languages. “What is this and why do you need Good Doctor?” asked the hologram. I didn’t answer for a moment as I cleared everything for Qiang’s entrance. “And who is she?”

“This is my daughter, Qiang. And this occurred Sunday,” I projected a hologram of what my eye had seen in her room, with Good Doctor stepping in, threatening her, and then leaving his message on the wall. “You’re on the short list of groups I expect could have brought Good Doctor here, since we’re not seeing a lot of other traffic to the island.”

The hologram froze, a projected belt appearing that read “One moment, please.” When it started back up, it said, “The Good Doctor joined our organization soon after our arrival on the island. Upon completion of certification, he asked for and was given assignment here due to his surgical abilities. Records show he went missing on the day in question. His actions do not represent Cape Diem policy in any way.”

I raised a hand. “I figured. Your famous neutrality has withstood worse dictators than me. I don’t want to have to call it into question publicly. I just want him found and delivered to me so he doesn’t harm my daughter. This isn’t about making Cape Diem my armor or anything like that. This is just about bringing Good Doctor before me, and this will have been made right.”

“I will communicate your request to the Director of Operations with the highest priority. Cape Diem would like to apologize for the actions of the Good Doctor in violating our neutrality.” The hologram almost sounded contrite. It had to know they’d be in some shit. A lot of people would see that neutrality as a restriction on an organization to act against oppression, but it also served as the shield allowing them to help people even in countries otherwise hostile to any foreign intervention.

It took half an hour before the hologram directed me over to a large circular metal framework. One moment, I saw right through it. The next, I saw the Titan standing in a large room. He stepped through and unfurled his wings, then came to stand in front of me. “Emperor Gecko, I would like to convey my sincerest apologies for the actions of this rogue agent in violation of our neutrality. The Security Division is coming through now and they will help you find him. There are a lot of men and women who come to us to escape their past, and this threatens that deal.”

With my blessing, they spread out. I briefly entertained the thought that this might be some ploy to take over the island, but that’d be it for these guys. No more Cape Diem. Best to keep my paranoia on a leash in that circumstance.

With them safely swarming out, I found Qiang tugging on my cape. “What about the train?”

“Train?” I asked, trying to figure out what she meant. Oh, the maglev. The one underground. Underneath the palace. That’d be a handy place to hide a person. “Right, the maglev.” It seemed perfect. While the Cape Diem supers spread out looking for their former colleague, I carried Qiang to the palace and set to work finding the way down. It turned out to be below some light rubble in the same crater that housed the legislature. If I hadn’t been down there already, I likely wouldn’t have noticed it at all. And the fact that it didn’t have that much blocking the entrance suggested Qiang had been right. We both slipped down there, Qiang using some of those lessons I gave her to pad almost as silently as myself down there.

We didn’t have to go too far to find MRE wrappers and more. I swear, he left that pile right in the middle of the way down just so I’d step in it. Ugh, going to take forever to clean that out from under my boot. And yet, no Doc. Nothing in the platform, and the doors to the rest of the track were firmly shut.

The hologram found us on our way up, the drone not having to worry about stepping in any slick, stinky piles left by my old friend. “Emperor Gecko, there is a situation.”

The hologram intendant led me to where they were dragging Silver Shark out of the water. She was missing a foot, a fin, and she had a scalpel jammed through her throat. More than that, she had coordinates carved on her back with the note, “Come alone or the girl dies.”

I mean, I could bring people along. It’s only Citra. He didn’t even get Qiang. Maybe he expected to send her off the island. See, it’s those paternal instincts why my kid’s still alive and his is dead. But soon, oh so soon, I’ll have to arrange a reunion for them. Because I am going to find him, and I’ll find him a grave man.

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Break It, Bought It 2

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Nothing like staying up late at night murdering hooligans to make you resentful of peacekeeping. A couple of guys had decided to run around a neighborhood at night, smashing up the place. Not so bad. More of an annoyance, especially because I’ve heard rumblings about gangs not letting people leave their homes. Except they’d been setting fires. That’s just what we need, a fire burning down half the island because emergency services collapsed.

“Good job on your reading, honey.” I said to Quiang. I’d set it up so I could listen to her and help her practice her reading. I’d even left a little camera for her to wear that would show me the book so I could help her with the words. Seems like the kind of thing a parent would do. I don’t have much personal experience to go on there. “Daddy’s got to take a break for a minute or two. Be right back.”

Below me, the pair I’d come looking for were lighting up a Molotov cocktail. Future Corpse One held the bottle while Future Corpse Two flicked his lighter trying to set fire to the rag at the top. “I think it’s out of fluid,” said Two.

I landed between them, grabbed the bottle, and smashed it over Two’s head hard enough to shatter it. I turned and shoved my hand into One’s mouth, held it open, shoved the bottle in there, then kicked him in the nuts hard enough that it carried him into the air a short distance. I turned to Two then and snatched the lighter from his hands. “This town deserves a better class of criminal,” I said to him. I flicked the lighter. Nothing. I tried again. Again, nothing. “I think you’re out of fluid,” I said to him. “Don’t worry, though. I’ll help you find more. It’s dark, though.” I reached to my belt and pulled out a flare. “Here, take a light.” I popped the flare and threw it at him.

All in all, it was a brief but thoroughly enlightening experience for him.

On the political side of things, I didn’t expect much from asking a bunch of people to throw together a group of representatives in a hurry, but they surprised me. I ended up with various committees and gangs in attendance at the palace who were either picked to represent some borough or neighborhood, or who had already been doing so. It’s just so nice to see some competence. I get a little jaded at times watching people rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic that it’s nice when something goes according to plan.

Which made it all the more frustrating when this group decided to maintain their fealty to Emperor Gecko instead of replacing me. After that little fiasco, I left them to sort out details like composition and rules and so on. I had a meeting with the local boss of the Yakuza. It was time for their humanitarian efforts to pay off as I wheeled and dealed. Or, to be more honest, attempted to not murder a guy and instead come up with some preposterous scheme to restore power to the entire island.

“It’s simple,” the Yakuza fellow explained to me. I hadn’t listened to his title, nor did I care to go back and reread. “We run underground powerlines from our island to yours. It will cost more until the new nuclear power plants are built. We would be more than happy to front much of the capital necessary for your own switch to nuclear power, if necessary.”

We sat in a small room at a higher-end bar that hadn’t been ransacked like the others. The Yakuza boss sat further away from me, at the other end of the table. The one doing all the talking was an underling sitting closest out of all his delegation.

I mulled over their offer. “So this will be able to handle the entire island’s power supply, unlike those generators you brought?”

He bowed his head. “Yes.”

I thought about it a minute. “Why can’t we just steal the nuclear power plant itself?”

“Pardon me. Would you please rephrase the question?” he asked. Geez, don’t know what about that didn’t make sense.

“You have a nuclear power plant over there. I need it over here. What if we took it from over there and brought it over here,” I pantomimed grabbing something and bringing it back over to me to illustrate the point.

“It is a large building with foundations in the soil of Japan.”

I nodded. “I’m aware of this. The question remains the same.”

“We would be unable to perform this. We would gladly provide power to your island while you work out a plan,” he answered, likely expecting there’d be no plan. One had come to mind, but I was gonna need some manpower.

“I would be more than happy to allow your group to operate on the island in return for power, and in gratitude for having aided the people of Ricca so far. I hope we can have a fruitful relationship, devoid of extradition treaties and nosy law enforcement.” When we went to shake on it, I gave him a little soul to go with it. Some fries with that shake. Fist bump, up and down, finger wiggle, all that.

From there, it was back to the assembly of committees, or whatever name they gave themselves. “Yo, dudes and dudettes!” I called out. “How far along have we gotten?”

One guy who had been standing on a table in the cratered courtyard looked up. “We are the first National Constituent Assembly. As soon as we have resolved the shape the government will take, we will dissolve and the people will decide representation. Do you approve, my Emperor?”

Yeah, sure, why not? “I approve of the steps you take for the people.” And it’s incredibly easy for people to say and do horrible things in the name of the people. “I need the aid of those same people to help provide for them. Not everyone has returned to the service of their country.”

We lost a lot of people who had just been brainwashed. I didn’t send out any orders one way or the other. The Koreans didn’t make a stink about letting them go, so I don’t think they’d have tried too hard to keep them there. I bet others are on the fence about serving the guy who killed the fellow they were loyal to, maybe some are so loyal they’re staying there until the war is technically resolved. Oh crap, I left Beetrice to negotiate a multi-national treaty with my life on the line.

Anyway, I’ve got a handful of loyal supers actually on the island with shaky loyalties. I could spend way too long looking into that, or I could go ahead with a plan that doesn’t necessarily involve them. I chose to go ahead. It was cheaper this way. Well, relatively.

It was late at night when the workers and I approached first while the ship went on, picking up an order of inflatable rafts, rice, and whatever else people are buying up on Ricca. We had plenty of boats to get to the mainland ourselves, but a trashed island could always use a few million more.

It was night, but it turns out Ricca had a rich nautical tradition. Most of the guys got their boats to shore without a problem, save one or two collisions. They spread out and began drilling down with the equipment we brought. Miners, demolition experts, and so on. They didn’t have to go far enough to hit lava or anything like that. Just far enough to help break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar. It took hours to get enough holes dug and loaded with the explosives. Meanwhile, I unpacked my armor and pulled it on, then commenced pounding anchors in and attaching heavy duty cables.

A lot of the guys were spreading worried chatter, especially after the night manager at the plant stepped outside to ask what we were doing there. After he saw the expansion blueprints and one of the resting workers who used to be a foreman gave him the runaround with some construction terminology, he went back inside to get us documents showing where all the ground cables were that left the site, just so we wouldn’t accidentally mess with any of them.

The foreman called me back over. “We need to go over these blueprints, with your permission.” I swung by there, trying to stay out of sight of the people inside as much as possible. After some consultation I had hardly anything to do with, they figured out we needed a few more holes and got to work. They knew what they were doing this for. I think it even excited them some to try this. I took some of the others to fix the last of our cables into place.

Our ride was that cargo ship returning. I’d given the captain and rather special crew extensive leeway with money and equipment. Many of them were former Riccan military who ditched the uniforms when the island was abandoned. They also knew the stakes, and that I was in a forgiving mood these days. When they came back, it wasn’t just with the ship we rode in on, now loaded with supplies. It was with five ships, some cargo, and at least one whaler. I didn’t get the best look at them in the middle of the night.

Those cables I planted earlier were run out to the boats, which most of the guys took back to the ships. Next came the part I least wanted to see. The more moving parts in any plan, the less likely it is to go off without a hitch, and we were running lucky so far. All this ships sitting around here would look suspicious to anybody whose job was to watch out for a bunch of strange ships not acting like civilian traffic. Except it was taking way too long to get the boats reloaded with some of those sailors and inflatables.

Our luck decided it ran far enough. “We have a problem,” said one of the captains, his voice coming through my earpiece. “They found us.”

“Any idea where they are?” I asked, even as I started hijacking satellites and tried to patch in to the Japanese Defense Force’s naval communications. Even my skills, you can’t just instantly break into Japan’s defense network that easily. Unlike the United States, they’ve been staying up to date. Their security could nab you so many different ways, you’d think you were surrounded by tentacles. Then things get really nasty.

Oh, sure, as if I wouldn’t make a tentacle joke about Japan.

“I’m on it,” said a digitally distorted voice. “I know right where they are. It’s called electroreception, and it’s why sharks are awesome.” That’s the happiest I’ve heard Silver Shark outside of sex. Made me a little jealous, as a matter of fact.

“The rest of us better step lively. Don’t go so fast you miss anything, but the coffee break’s over and now it’s time to use up some caffeine,” I said. The first wave of sailors began running around getting the inflatable rafts set up.

“All done. They’re dead in the water and sinking,” reported Silver Shark after a good twenty minutes. By that time, we’d gotten the rest of our ground team over.

I sorted through messages and found where they’d sent out a report about us beforehand. They didn’t get a distress call out, but they had called in backup. “We might see more company. I think it’s time to go. Last check, cables secure?”

The ships all answered in the affirmative. “Good. Looks like we got our part done. I think it’s time we blow this scene. Get everybody and the stuff together. Ok, three, two, one, let’s jam.” It seemed like the crack was louder than the explosions that caused the earth to reverberate under our feet. Alarms immediately blared from the nuclear plant, which the sailors flooded into. They were to make sure the night shift kept the place running. I’d considered a forceful evacuation instead, but we needed someone to run the place and train replacements.

Between the power of the explosions and the pulling of the ships, the power plant and a little bit of the land it sat on pulled off mainland Japan and into the water. Though auto-inflating rafts began to deploy around the edges, more were being swept underneath before opening.

It took the entire rest of the night to move the plant, but it finally settled into a small atoll just north of Ricca shortly after daylight broke. Nuclear power and atolls just go together in my mind for some reason. Natural fit. One safety check later and it was confirmed: the Empire of Ricca now has its own nuclear plant, and some new ships.

Welcome to Ricca. Our national motto: I swear, it fell off the back of a truck.

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Korea Harder 6

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Lots of lost sleep. It’s the memories. I’m there, back in the other world. Back as a kid, or back at the original dimension bomb. I almost snapped Qiang’s neck. I woke up and I didn’t know who she was. I only knew something was going on and I was being attacked. After all, I’d just been back in the old world, surrounded by enemies. And once I realized where I was, I seriously considered going ahead and breaking her little neck anyway. It might have been the better thing to do.

That whole thing where I was of two minds about everything wasn’t something as nonsensical as a split personality. Just the closest thing I had to a conscience. I don’t know if that was the part telling me to go ahead and kill her. I can’t tell anymore.

I couldn’t get back to sleep until I’d scratched a certain itch. I left one of my eyes to keep watch over Qiang and Citra, then headed out. I ran across a custodian cleaning up the place in the hours when most were asleep. “Hey, good job,” I told him, then pointed behind him. “What’s that?!”

They found him in the morning, hung to death off a balcony of the palace by his underwear, which had been pulled far up his backside, deep into his crack, and around his neck. When I do an atomic wedgie, Japanese people die.

That made me feel better, like I could get back to bed. But then, I realized I’d hit upon a decent solution. I soon skipped along until I found a crew setting up in the kitchens, getting them clean and prepped for the day. “You there!” I shouted. “No one’s in the chair! Come and visit your old friend Sweeney.”

I didn’t get a lot of sleep that night, but I had a good time, and that’s what counts. Sent some messages out. Stuff for Master Academy in the event things went badly. Like how to fix supers brainwashed by the Unity chemical. Still none around here after the island lost power and all the others were sent to the supers and soldiers of the front line.

At the meeting the next day, I had to represent Claw’s interests. That meant only going back to pre-war, not pre-expansion, in terms of territory. I didn’t mind if the Empire went to some sort of democratic system, and figured I’d use that as a concession for better terms, but now I’ve got to insist on remaining in power as a way to protect the institution of the Empire. Or some crap like that. The rest of it is crap about economics, trade, and UN seats.

I smiled up at the glass of tea dropped off for me by the servant in the room. “Thank you. Please, don’t leave. We may need more orders. Just stand to the side, if you will.” He nodded and did as ordered while I addressed the others. “Listen, folks, these talks are fascinating. Truly, they are. I’m just a bit bored by threats at the moment, so why are these guys still here?” I asked, pointing to the Dimension Rangers.

The red one looked me in the eye. The Rangers tend to assign that color to the field leader of their teams, though at least one team was led by the pink one. It’s not unheard of for a later member to take over the team, as well. Still, the red one’s as good a person to talk to as any. “We are here to keep you from causing trouble. We are here to see that peace is achieved. We will then take you back.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Why would you ever want me back?”

Red continued. “We did not know you were still alive. You can’t be allowed to run free and ruin this dimension. These people don’t want you here disturbing their lives and destroying their world.”

I looked to the edge of the chamber, where I’d ordered Citra and, more important, Qiang to attend. I called Qiang over. She ran over, doing a great job at keeping that knife of hers hidden. I took her hand and pulled her onto my lap, where I took her hand and felt the trademark connection of a homo machina. Everyone else around here could die. I kissed Qiang’s head, then looked to the Red Ranger. “This world is my home now.”

“Our world doesn’t want you back, but we can contain you. You have corrupted this world with knowledge beyond its natural development and killed untold numbers in the process. This world is not yours to play with. It does not revolve around you, nor do they want it to. We can move onto the important work after we clean up this nuisance you have created.” It’s a good thing the language we spoke wasn’t the same. Some people might take offence to that part about restricting knowledge.

“What if I just want to be left here in peace?” I asked.

He scoffed at that. The one in black laughed outright. I smiled and said, “Who doesn’t like a good joke? Isn’t it enough that I don’t want to destroy this world and kill everyone?”

Red wasted no time on a response. “No.”

“You do not get a pass because you are a mildly better person here,” said the outraged Black ranger. “This world is better off without you saving it.”

Now it was my turn to laugh. “I’m sorry,” I said in English, so more people would understand. “You’re right. I’m a horrible person. I shouldn’t try the save the world. I shouldn’t do that anymore. I tried, and ended up creating the devices the Claw used to help wash some brains. Oh, and he had the White House destroyed. And I shouldn’t run a country. I’m just negotiating here because I killed the last guy and figured I could at least get some peace goin’. Of course, then it turned out the Claw set me up to kill a body double and probably snuck me some poison that can kill me if he manages to get any more to me.”

I paused here to hook my cup of tea with me finger and raise it to my mouth. Eyes went wide around the table as I did so. I lowered it some and smiled. “Don’t worry. This wouldn’t be the catalyst that kills me. Not when I’m supposed to be doing the Claw’s bidding here. Because he’s already given it to my daughter, and to that lady,” I nodded my head back toward Citra, who looked horrified. Lip quivering, eyes wide, all that. I added, “I mean, it could be. But life involves a gamble or two.”

I paused here and looked down at little Qiang. Wish I had that little thing inside me to give me a little guidance, even if it meant I’d listen and do the opposite. I looked to the Black ranger. “Take care of my daughter, please? I have to kill the man who tried to kill her twice already and almost ruined my world.”

I stood up. So did the Rangers. They took a defensive position as I held Qiang out to them. The Red one took her, though Blue and Black stayed on guard because I would gladly use that opportunity to punch them most of the time.

Instead, as soon as they did so, I lunged toward the servant who brought me the tea and put my fist through his chest. The speed of movement and contact caused the illusion around my arm to fail, allowing the black and blue of my armor to show through. He trembled and stared, mouth agape, at my fist. “Come on and change back, you bastard,” I said. “I killed this servant this morning, shoved him onto a bidet and forced the water through him until he died. Anal water boarding.”

One of the Buzzkills chimed in, “My Emperor, he has a twin brother.”

Oh. Crapbaskets.

Then the door opened and in walked the same servant with an assortment of finger foods on a tray. Every head in the room turned to him, except the guy I’d fist impaled. The man himself looked at me and his dead doppelganger. “My twin brother!”

I held the corpse out between he and I and pulled my arm out, disappearing. Before the body hit the floor, my next punch flew toward the Claw’s face. He slapped it aside, disrupting the hologram and allowing everyone to see up to my elbow. My follow-up to his gut hit nothing. One second his stomach was there, the next my left went through a hole. I pulled it out before he could clamp down. He deflected more punches, didn’t react to ball shot, and I might as well have headbutted George Washington on Mt. Rushmore for all the good it did. In retrospect, the nut punch was a dumb idea in someone who can relocate his nuts. I should shift mine around sometime.

I directed energy from the batteries to my right fist and pulled back, telegraphing. The Claw didn’t bother reacting. Of course, I just had to open my big mouth in the middle of a fight. I did it to release a scream on the frequency that short circuits human motor functions and paralyzes them instead of bragging, though. My helmet and ears protected me from the effects while he was wide open. And while it’d be a great time to shove an explosive down his throat, I had stronger explosives than I had space in the same room as my kid. Shouldn’t matter. Not like he could dodge.

He dodged it and let me tear up the door instead. Then he grabbed my arm and jerked it back. “You think you are clever. What innovation! Punch me. Scream at me. Betray me. Pretend you can keep your loved ones safe from me.” His head transformed into the bulbous, yellow, many-folded form I’d seen in the old photos. His eyes were large red slits on black, and he had more fangs than the Tepes family in that mouth of his. “You are not the hero of some story, just a cunt.”

He squeezed my arm, bending metal and breaking bones. When Buzzkill guards stepped forward to try and impale him with their stinger swords, he swiped at the air. He didn’t need to touch them to carve lines right through them. I jumped up and tried kicking off from him. I flipped back, but he didn’t let go. I landed on my head, shoulder popped out of its socket. He picked me up by the afflicted limb and slammed me into the ground several more times for good measure, then brought one of his titular claws down on my back. It pierced my armor and spine with ease. “Hey, you dick. I need that to walk,” I coughed out.

He stepped over me and toward the Rangers and Qiang, who started to stir. I popped the Unexpected Surprise, the molecular-edged blade, and sliced through his ankle. He grabbed the table and turned around. He opened his mouth and a glowing beam slammed into me, grinding me along the floor and leaving me smoking by the wall. He simply regrew the leg and turned back to the Black Ranger and Qiang. He reached for her slowly, getting a knife to the hand. When Black tried to push him away, Claw backhanded the man upside his jaw with a hard crack.

Claw went for another chance. It must have surprised him when I came running for him. He turned and sliced the air in anticipation of catching me. He lost that claw, then his head. The head rolled forward before his other hand caught it. I tried stabbing it with the blade, but he raised it up. I hit chest instead, and then the stump of his severed hand hit the side of the blade and snapped right through it even as it tore the stump to pieces as well. I tried to grab it, but it was sucked through his body, shooting out the back and leaving a hole in the wall behind him. His head grinned as he set it back on his neck, his hand regrowing.

You know, it’s mildly frustrating being the one on the other side of the constant regenerating.

“Get out of here already!” I yelled at the damn Rangers, mainly because they were supposed to be keeping my kid out of this. I didn’t give a damn about everyone else, who were also trying to get out after their brief paralysis. Then I looked Claw right into his furiously unkillable eyes and said, “Come on, you bastard. You’re not getting to her while I’m alive. Go ahead. I’ll even broadcast it. Get you some attention. You’ll always be known as the man who killed Psycho Gecko. That’s a lot more impressive than killing a little girl.”

Another mouth beam knocked the delicious chocolate pudding out of me and left me gasping for breath in my Psycho Gecko-shaped impression in the wall. He grabbed a chair then and threw it into me with enough strength to lodge three of the legs through my chest and pin me in there. At that point, everything below the hair hurt. Air eluded me, and blood was running like rats from a sinking ship.

“I will be the one to break you and hear you whimper,” he said calmly.

“I mean, if that’s all you wanted, I’m not a big fan of the bondage stuff, but-”

“Before this day is through, it will be cemented in the minds of all that you are just a weak little man with a reputation far greater than your means or ability. Who are you to challenge me?”

“Dimension Squad, Transport!” yelled three voices, followed by an explosion. I looked up to see the three Rangers had called their shiny costumes. The resulting explosion from their morph had wrecked the wall of the room. Instead of standing, they fled through the hole with Qiang, calling for everyone around to evacuate. They left me, but that’s no big loss.

“I think you missed your chance. Even now, I feel my salvation close at hand,” I meant to chuckle, but something solid lodged in my throat. Spat it out. Odd shade of pinkish-orange. Are there orange organs?

The Claw looked back at me, but stepped out after them, cutting his way through walls to follow after. I tried moving, but my body didn’t cooperate. I tried thinking of Qiang, or inspirational power up music, or something like that. But that kind of thing happens to heroes, and I’m not the hero.

I projected my consciousness outward, along the networked devices of the palace. Like a security camera nuclear alarm system. “Hey, Claw, whatcha doin’? Hunting down Rangers?”

He sneered and cut through that intercom, but at least the cameras had sound. “No more stolen nanomachines, no more stolen weapons. The Gecko thief has only cameras and speakers to steal. I doubt you burgled anything that can stop me now. Is there any part of you not stolen from someone else? From my understanding, your name is not your own. You have nothing to save yourself or your stolen daughter now.”

He pushed down the doors of the palace. Outside stood the diplomats, my few supporters such as Silver Shark and Beetrice, and the Dimension Rangers in what should have been the sunlight. But the sun behind them was blotted out. A veritable horde of supers crowded around outside the palace, all facing the Claw.

“This too is something of mine. You stole my Empire, but it is mine, and my subjects answer to me,” he said to mock me. I heard it perfectly, through so many ears. War Man stepped forward holding a grenade launcher more fit to be mounted on a tank.

“About that,” I said from a nearby phone being held by one of the Chinese peace envoys. “I have stolen many things, but not the Unity drug, nor the memories of so many superheroes. I am indeed a right cunt. But didn’t you ever wonder why I didn’t bring in nanites to replace those you destroyed, purse myself of your poison? They were sent to the front lines instead, to heal those who fought for you. You’re right. I was not strong enough, but I think they are. It doesn’t throw off your big finale if that memory block’s gone, does it?”

I went to laugh back in my little wall cradle, but the coughing started, and the distant thunder and multitude of lights and beams and lasers aimed at the Claw and directed by a bunch of very pissed and eager people. But I couldn’t stop coughing, and shaking and just before I lost co-

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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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Korea Harder 3

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My escape did not, in fact, involve a minotaur. I’d tried wandering around finding a quiet way out. I know, I know, me quiet? I could have bounded right back up the furnace and punched through the floor, probably. But I didn’t come all this way, play dead, play with fish, and spill pudding down my pants just to blow the stealth approach this late in the game. I made my way through the maze in the general direction of that distant noise I’d associated with a roar.

This wasn’t some kid’s menu with a nice top down view, so it was harder to get a sense of maze’s size. I took a page from Ricca’s augmented reality and left a glowing trail behind me for my eyes only. I corrected for dead ends and back tracking as well. The music in my head helped make the trip tolerable. For some reason, “One Night In Bangkok” felt appropriate. I even caught myself circling back around to a four way intersection and taking a different turn due to the process of elimination. Then I said “Fuck this,” and cranked up the armor. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, you see.

The maze ran out of walls between myself and my target before I ran out of power. I ended up peeking my head around one last corner from whence I heard the sound I’d been following. Despite it not sounding bestial, I legit expected to find a minotaur, or perhaps some genetic abomination. It’s not like it’d be hard to make a humanoid bull at this point. Hell, I’m banging a cyborg shark woman. Rawr.

I didn’t find one of the epic classic monsters, like a cyclops, hydra, or dragon. I didn’t even get one of the weak modern monsters like chupacabra or the skunk ape. I got… some people by an elevator with cleaning supplies. There were four of them, they all wore jumpsuits, but one had a vest over his. “Remember, if the Majordomo asks, remind him it is improper for him to address lowly staff directly. He will probably remember that, but he has been up my ass about cleaning down here the past couple of days. This is an easy job. Do you want to be reassigned to the war?”

“We heard you the first four times,” answered a subordinate of his with wild, uncombed hair.

“You are really nervous about this, boss?” asked another, a woman.

She turned to nod to the last of their group, but I stood there instead. “Yeah, what’s the big deal?” I asked. Under my arm, the original fourth mumbled something. I couldn’t hear him real well, so I twisted his neck around. I heard that one real clear, before the screaming started. Always with the screaming.

The maintenance elevator took me to a subbasement, but that turned out to be accessible to a sub-basement. Having gotten a good look at the uniform of these workers, I used the incomplete holographic field of my armor to mimic one. I wanted to keep my armor on. I was confident I could sneak in it easily enough.

Nobody really looked twice at me as I left the elevator. Once, sure, but I must remind y’all once again that sometimes the best way to sneak by people is to look like you belong there.

After that, it was almost insultingly easy to move about the palace. I was a worker. I was beneath official notice, and I was already in. Surely, someone else must have already checked me if I got this far. So curiosity met apathy, and apathy won.

One of the common themes among dictators is an over-inflated sense of self-worth. They get it into their heads that they’re the greatest instead of hiring someone to whisper sweet “Sic transit gloria mundi”s in their ear. St. Petersburg becomes Stalingrad, Saddam Hussein gets a painting of him slaying the hydra, and one of the guys who used to live here grabbed or invented 54 different titles to appear important. They’re all only worth as much as someone will pay to kill them. Everyone’s like that, except for the assassin.

And as the best killer around, I’d say I’m worth a lot more than the others. I’m like the big game hunter of heroes. I should add that to my list of titles. Maybe add an asterisk there that includes, “and villains.”

So the assassin swept through the palace, forgotten for dead, ignored in continued life. I wore no helmet, but no man remembered my face. I glided silently, a heavily armored enigma in the night. I was a deadly breeze that absconded with any life caught in my embrace. I left bodies when I had no choice. Their necessary deaths and disappeared corpses were the cobblestones that eased my approach.

My trail took me past a corridor where Buzzkills guarded a door. The bee people had segmented eyes, but I took pains not to be seen. I climbed further, to the largest and most luxurious of the personal suite. I found a trio of men outside in heavy armor of their own. The armor they wore looked unpowered, but thick and plated all over the place. Pads weighed them down from the shins, knees, thighs, waist, arms, and shoulders. Faceless helmets concealed their faces, finishing the work of their gloves and high-necked shirts to completely obscure their skin. They might have been tinted enough to mitigate some of the impact of a bright flash, and possibly a bang. I wouldn’t give them a bang. Even if I didn’t use one, the guns in their hands hinted at many loud noises in the future. They stood with two to the sides of the door and one across from it.

I set my hologram and readied myself. I checked the ceiling, seeing what I had to work with. Twenty feet or so. I’m still not th ebest at imperial measurement despite my own stint as emperor. I whipped out a chicken grenade. Instead of pulling its head off, I tossed it high. It hit the ceiling just above them, sooner than I meant, but momentum let it flip and flop over to the side of them. They all turned to look, but the one on the furthest side of the door was the first to turn.

My kick knocked the gun out of his grip, though a strap saved him from losing it completely. The one across the hall went down with an enhanced punch to his throat. With one hand, I grabbed the hand of the one on the closer side of the door. A hell of a lot closer, eh? With my other hand, I grabbed around his head in a one-handed twist. He went down. The one who had turned first tried to yell something, but was muffled by his helmet as he raised his rifle. I jammed my finger in there behind the trigger and chopped his throat. My hand went from his throat to the bottom of his torso armor and I lifted, swung him overhead, and slammed him down onto the top of his head. I figured that probably got him, but for good measure, I stomped down on the back of his neck after he finished falling over.

Some moments are too perfect to say anything. Others, you’re trying to silently assassinate someone.

I started to open the door when I heard a clicking sound from behind me. I turned to see two of the guards standing back up: the one I’d punched in the throat and the one whose neck I broke. That one twisted it back into place.

I sighed. From underneath my left forearm popped a blade. Where I normally install a Nasty Surprise, I had instead traded it out for a broken piece of the atom-thin blade I’d broken off the suit of my stalker from my home Earth. I figured it would make an even more fun surprise. One swipe later and the bodies of the guards dropped, followed swiftly by their heads. Strangely, they lacked blood. I removed the head from the one still laying down for good measure before checking the room.

The locked door put up more resistance than most human vertebra. The designer was good, but not good enough. I popped that lock like a 90s breakdancer, and entered like a smooth criminal. So did my friends out in the hall, in case anyone happened to pass by. I dumped them all on their sides on a sofa with its back turned to the door. Layouts being fairly standard, I figured I wouldn’t find his bedroom adjacent to the kitchen or main living room. There were guest rooms, but a good rule of thumb is to find the one separated from the others so that mommy and daddy can give you a little brother with at least a tiny bit of privacy.

That one didn’t have an electronic lock either. This one I picked with the help of my laser eye and let myself in. I’d come all this way and the Claw laid before me. With my eyes, I had enough light to see the inhuman visage of the thing laying in the bed. Humanoid, with a large yellow head, pointy ears, and a huge mouth barely hanging open over folds that hinted it could go further.

I’d pondered a bit of speechifying. Giving him a piece of his mind and making up some stuff about how I’m so much better than him. But that didn’t matter. Knowing why he would die wasn’t important.

I shoved first one hand, then another into the sleeper’s chest, tearing him in half before he could awaken and pulling out his heard. Then I squeezed his shaking head until it burst.

It felt ok. Not astounding or even great. Just ok. A bit of a let down. I thought I’d feel better about it all, especially after the guy tried to kill me and my daughter. I prefer letting people know I have a way to hurt them so they stay in line. His way was nothing but a last laugh to have. In this case, it was more of a provocation.

I checked over this much-storied villain. Just a man in a mask, as far as I could tell. Maybe he was super powered, but a bit of a letdown from the theories about being alien or fae. I pondered the oddity of it all over a late night snack. I grabbed his heart and gave it a nibble. Standard human heart, aside from a surprising level of physical fitness for a man his age.

Movement woke me from my thoughts. Shaking kind of movement. The sounds of warfare. In the middle of that, I heard a creak from outside. I walked out and saw Lu standing there. His eyes narrowed and halted. Silver Shark swung around in front of him.

“Hey babe,” I said, smiling with blood around my mouth and chunks of heart. It’s not a tender cut of meat.

“Did you murder the Emperor?” asked Lu.

I shrugged. “The Emperor is dead. Long live Emperor Gecko. What’s shaking out there?”

I walked toward them and out the door. Silver Shark kept up with me easily. “It’s a war out there. Bombs are getting through into Pyongyang. You sure waited long enough! The war’s going so bad, this guy broke me out to do what you hadn’t.”

I turned to look at Lu. “Since when do you turn coat?” When he opened his mouth to answer, I interrupted him. “Forget that, get me to whatever command center you have here, and have the other women who came with me released unharmed. They’re alive, right?”

Lu bowed his head respectfully. “I had them imprisoned in the dungeon. They are otherwise well cared for.”

I eyed him. He noticed it and added, “This course had become madness. I dislike that you made it happen. I realized also you could save the empire. You would not have made it this far if I had not learned of your voyage and cleared your path. I knew you lived, and knew you would survive the fall and labyrinth. When you took so long, I suspected I was wrong and recruited Silver Shark to take your place. I do not know what form the empire will take now as it continues, but it continues.”

“For the moment, it’s a totalitarian Geckocracy. One man, one vote, and I’m the one man. But all that isn’t going to matter unless we deal with this little problem we have vis-a-vis the whole world knocking on our door with nuclear weapons.“

“You there!” Lu called out to a scampering servant. He gave the man orders to release Wangi, Citra, and Qiang, and to bring them to us in the command and control center. After exasperatedly demanding the man hurry, he came back to me and smiled. “Let us hurry. Things go poorly.”

I was ushered into the place where all the wartime magic happens, finding it a crude attempt to stick 21st century equipment in a room designed for individual computers that barely fit on desks. There was a back portion with a set of chairs, one central. From there, the room moved down in tiers, with a long planning table on the next one down, and then desks with computers. On the wall opposite, a humongous screen was divided up to show multiple different views. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but there was a lot of white and red in places that looked bad for this half of the peninsula. “Sup, people. I need you to get me the belligerents on the phone. Everybody. The Russian asshole, the American idiot, the Chinese businessman, the German alliance builder, and whoever the hell the British have after their election bit their PM in the ass.”

“What about the Japanese and French?” asked some random person at a computer.

I pointed to him. “Good point. Get me all of them. Everyone. Anyone who has declared war on us, I want their face on that monitor as soon as possible. And someone bring me a chair to sit in.”

Lu motioned to a chair behind me. “This is the ruler’s chair.” He sure has cozied up to me. I’d rather he be as much an ass as before. I don’t think I can trust him like this, the way he set things up for me to supposedly waltz in and kill his leader. He never struck me as the type to do that. I better keep my eye on him.

And why didn’t he just do the job? If the Claw was just a regular guy in a mask, and probably an older one, why get me? Or Silver? Why not push him down a flight of stairs?

Lu put his hands on my shoulder to guide me around since I’d taken a moment to think instead of paying attention to the chair he meant for me to sit in. Some thick golden monstrosity. I pushed it onto its side and sat in it, at least confident it didn’t have a bomb hidden underneath. “If this is all you have, then it’ll have to do. Crap, we’ll probably have to wake up Beetrice sometime soon, won’t we?”

“If she hasn’t awakened already from the bombing. She is an important political figure going into the future of our nation. Her support will mean something,” Lu said.

Silver Shark just kinda stood around looking awkward. I waved her over. “Hey there beautiful. Am I dead? Because I don’t know if I’m seeing an angel or a succubus.”

She shuffled her large cybernetic flipper feet and looked down. “Ha ha. You think you’re funny.”

“I hear I’m a riot. That must be why people keep trying to beat and pepper spray me. But I’m not joking about how you look.”

“Stop,” she said, and a bit more seriously than because of my flirting. She looked back up and toward the entrance of the room. I saw the older and thicker Wangi, her waifish daughter Citra, and my Qiang. The little girl ran toward me with my helmet on her head. I caught her in a long hug, holding her until called out that they had representatives of Ricca’s enemies ready to present on screen for a visual.

I sat Qiang on my knee, keeping an arm around her waist. “You look good in daddy’s helmet,” I told her. She looked up at me and nodded, the helmet exaggerating the gesture.

“This is General-” started someone from the monitors. I looked up to see they were all lined up there on the big screen, this conversation taking precedence over everything else.

“Yeah, yeah, nice to meet you. How’s the war going for you?” I asked in English, smiling. I tossed the heart I still carried from the hand holding Qiang over to my free one so I could raise it and take another bite. I didn’t bother waiting for an answer before starting in, “The Empire of Ricca has made a grave mistake and is willing to correct course. As part of this, to you, the nations that have been wronged by recent actions, we offer unconditional surrender.”

“There may be repercussions for Emperor Claw for his role in recent events,” spoke the American General. “Do you have the authority to negotiate on his behalf?”

I wiggled the heart in my hand. “The Claw has faced his final repercussions. My authority comes from my standing as Emperor Gecko. Now, let’s talk peace.”

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Korea Harder 2

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As easily as the Claw abandoned Ricca, he’s not fooling around with North Korea. I’d been pondering his decision to flee the island rather than try to hold it. It bothered me, even though I made it happen. The guy did have supers. The palace was replaceable. They had to have bunkers with alternate power sources.

Traveling across North Korea, I got it. I understood. Because even though I spent a lot of time hiding and staying under cover, I still got to see a sky dotted by supers. Men, women, and that technicolor rainbow in between, all flying across the sky. They didn’t blot out the sun. Too many of them kept moving to do so. Some had wings, some capes, some jetpacks; all manor of ways to move through the air, powered internally and externally. So high, I couldn’t see colors or fine details, just shadow after shadow moving through the air. At one point, a some of them disappeared upward into pinpricks. There were a pair of explosions. The first was nothing, more or less. A plane, maybe. All I know is it wasn’t that big of an explosion. I didn’t get that good of a look before the second one went off.

I didn’t see much of the second one. The flash was incredibly bright and would have blinded regular eyes staring directly at it. That didn’t matter to my cybernetics. What did matter was a humongous electromagnetic pulse that hurt like hell and shut parts of me down for awhile. Not permanently, not with me, but it was a hell of an EMP.

After the explosion finished being loud and the group around me finished their gasps and screams, I still couldn’t see anything, but I could hear. I’d just suddenly gone from walking to being on the ground.

“What happened?” asked Wangi.

“What does it look like?” I asked, more sarcastically than anything else. Pain doesn’t really bring out my better angels, and my nerves were on fire. “Qiang, how do you feel?”

“I feel funny. Everything’s dizzy,” she responded.

“You’ll be ok. This is just temporary. This can happen sometimes,” I reassured her.

Another voice broke in, a harsher one. I may be really in to Silver Shark, but her voice is yet another part of her that isn’t so conventionally appealing. “I can’t see! I can’t hear! Help me, someone, help!”

I tried crawling toward the voice and eventually found her on the ground as well. I tried to take her massive hand, but she grabbed me and pulled me into a hug. That, or some attempt to squeeze me to death. When she calmed down enough to release my arms, I tried giving her a check-up. The fact that her implants were mostly mechanical prevented a lot worse. I guess it was a smart idea, considering she was designed to swim around the ocean. Salt water, weird organisms, and wild animals all tend to be hell on circuitry.

Once she calmed down, I popped open her eyes and ears to fix them up real quick. We did have a cart I confiscated from some dead peasants I made, but we couldn’t move her big, beautiful ass on it AND have me work on it. So I set to work amidst the questions. “What was that, dad?” asked Qiang.

I glanced at her, wondering how much to explain. “Not all of this will make sense, but what you felt, you felt because of what we are. Some things, like lightning, hurt us a little more. It isn’t as bad for you because you don’t have all the stuff plugged into you that I do, and maybe because your mom wasn’t like me.”

“That was no lightning,” Citra said, moving to my side.

I nodded, even as I dug around in Silver’s eye to workaround some damaged circuits. “That was nuclear electromagnetic radiation. They detonated a nuclear bomb way up in the atmosphere. I expect someone wanted it to land closer to the ground, but those supers got to it first.

I looked up to see the swarm had moved to another part of the airspace, little more than shapes in the distance.

Those were just the supers in the air. I don’t know if Ricca had a formal air force with machines, but that would also pump up their numbers. There’s also the millions of Koreans up here, and however many Buzzkills that fight for him under the banner of Queen Beetrice. I figure they were relying almost entirely on that forcefield for domestic protection, with a little help from supers like War Man or Dame.

We were picked up by a truck of soldiers headed to the DMZ with fancy new Riccan toys. I didn’t get the best look because I dropped “dead” as soon as they came into range, popping off my helmet again. The women gave the story about me being the dead traitor Psycho Gecko, the one whose body they were ordered to retrieve for the Emperor. The sergeant of the unit knelt down to inspect me, coughing at the smell. He was a graying old man, way too old for most militaries, especially as infantry. The others had the opposite problem. I’m pretty sure at least one of the others in this unit hadn’t even started shaving yet.

One who was a little older, maybe eighteen, joined his sergeant. “Sir, what do we do? We were ordered to the border.”

The old man looked up, gazing off into the distance. He sighed heavily and squeezed his eyes shut, then fixed his face into one impassive and uncaring. “We have a higher purpose to serve for our Emperor. It calls us away from the front lines. We take them to Pyongyang.” The boy he addressed had a hint of a smile on his face as he turned away to get the others organized. They loaded us all up for the trip far back from where people would shoot at them. Hopefully, at least. The old officer seemed to get more and more tense as our journey went, perhaps fearing that he might have still gotten the kids under his command killed.

As for me, I decided to replay this one game about vampires. Just me running around as an immortal, superhuman killing machine who feeds on human blood and drives people insane. I also occasionally argue with stop signs.

We soon rolled up into lovely, crappy Pyongyang. Sadly, I just had to lay there and listen to people talk about it. I’m sure it was a nice, quaint little place. The dictators of North Korea saw that all the big boys had cities of their own, so they threw their own together to play in. Same reason there’s a theme park around here. The theme, I’m told, is repression. It’d be a much better park if the guys from Monty Python designed it.

I didn’t get to see any of that because I was playing a dead guy. The hardest thing to keep up was the stink. It took quite a bit of chocolate pudding stuffed down the back of my pants to achieve this smell and maintain it. Going to have to do a lot of cleaning once this is done.

I was into the Kangdong Palace, the soldiers careful to keep me from scraping luxurious marble floors. This isn’t to be confused with Bangdong Palace, an Asian-themed gay club I know back in Empyreal City. They wondered at all the gold and ivory. I assume there were other things to look at, but dead men tell no tails. Not when they put a fucking sheet over you for most of the trip. When they laid me down, I thought my chance was nearly here.

“Come no further! Leave him there and stand at attention!” Ordered Lu, the former Majordomo of the Claw’s palace back on the island. The soldiers set me down and stepped back. Lu approached and moved the sheet from over my head, looking into my eyes with a flashlight at hand. Ooh, smart. I hadn’t even thought of that one. Pupil dilation is a good way to tell if someone’s faking the dead. It’s automatic. Of course, the reason I hadn’t thought of that might have to do with my own cybernetic eyes not dilating where everyone can see. He realized that himself with a frown and dumped the sheet back over my head. “He certainly smells bad enough, and he’s bloated.”

Well now that’s just rude. The food hasn’t exactly been high quality and I’m a little backed up. Also, I’m retaining a lot of water and I have big bones. He might also be referring to some stuff I shoved into my mouth. Our trip here involved living off food stolen from the residence wing of the Riccan palace, but Silver Shark managed to improvise something out of fish and this really groovy strain of Mary Jane growing in the wild that I could hold in my mouth. Having something in there makes my cheeks look puffed out, and it contributes to the smell of death. That and all the dead blood I’ve been smearing on me. Dead things have a very distinctive scent, and chocolate pudding can only go so far.

“Sergeant, remove your gun and place it against the temple of the little girl,” Lu ordered. I heard a gun unholster and a girl whimper. Someone else shuffled around and then something hit flesh. “Stay out of this!”

If Lu was fishing for a reaction, he doesn’t know what he’s dropped his pole in the water for. Already planning out all the stuff I’m going to shove up his ass until he dies. And, sadly, this is what caring for people does. I didn’t jump up and start killing my way to wherever the Claw’s holed up.

“No reaction. He may be dead. He is not supposed to be one who acts this calmly. Then why isn’t she dead as well? Take them into custody. This doesn’t need to concern the Queen Bee or the Emperor direc-” I didn’t get to hear the rest as he must have pressed something. The floor opened up beneath me. It was quite a fall, but I scraped along the walls to slow the momentum. It helped that I landed in a bunch of really soft ashes. You know, up until I realized I landed in ashes. It was completely dark. Even the trapdoor above had closed. Then it got less dark as the pilot flames appeared on the ends of six holes arranged over two walls of this square room.

Would the Kim family have built a palace with a trapdoor leading to an incinerator in one of the foyers? I think so.

I reached for my cock and found one of my rubber chicken grenades. I quickly tore off the head and tossed it at the corner between two of the holes, hoping to clear enough space to avoid a flamebroil. It got up and began to walk to its right, toward one set of flames. When it got too close, it went off.

Holding my head and now knowing what a soccer ball felt like, I glanced over. Light flowed in from a hole in the corner. I rushed over to it, missing the two remaining holes opening up with jets of flame. I dove through to find myself in a corridor that traveled around the incinerator. I’d been much closer to a door than I’d known.

But not a door to the outside. I walked this way and that through a twisted maze. When I pulled up a mapping program to trace my progress, I uncovered an even more annoying truth: I was in a literal maze. A labyrinth. Oh joy. They built an incinerator situated in the middle of an underground labyrinth, and I’m pretty sure I hear something roaring off in the distance.

This is what happens when madmen get crazy billionaire money. I’m jealous. I hope they have monsters down here.

Now find my way through the labyrinth and to castle in the heart of the goblin city to take back the child they have stolen from me. Then, Lu and the Claw both will pay for cock-blocking my murders so long.

…the way this damn assassination’s going, I’m not getting out of here until I bang a minotaur.

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Korean War 2: Korea Harder 1

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“What do we have here?” asked a Riccan sailor of slightly higher rank. He peered down from the edge of his patrol boat. Qiang, Citra, and Wangi. I don’t think he expected to find three females wanting to go to the Empire’s new base of operations, let alone whatever suspicions he had over race. Citra might be somewhat mixed in comparison to her mother, and Qiang no longer looks fully Chinese herself. I’m not even going into the more intricate ethnic details here. I think I’ve done pretty good learning the ins and outs of my inferiors. And before I get anyone whining, I mean humans. Worthless, incompetent humans.

Case in point, it took this guy way too long to notice me there. I laid there on the deck, doing my best not to move. I’d learned plenty on playing dead. It’s incredibly useful for killing people. They get a lucky shot off at you, you pretend to play dead, they let down their guard. Ya fucking shot me! You got more bullets! What are you going to do with them, take them out and have a tea party? Double tap that shit. Nope. Instead, they walk right up and I turn their organs into a meat patty, violating their 67th Amendment rights.

This wasn’t much different. I controlled my breathing to look like I wasn’t and kept my eyes staring blankly up with my helmet off. I even maintained a bit of rigor mortis, though I doubted the sea men would check down there thanks to my armor. I looked like a dead body. The man glanced down at me, some dead guy in power armor. “What is that?”

“It’s a dead body, idiot,” said Wangi. She’s been a lot more assertive since the other day. She’s still got it in her head that I’ll marry her daughter or something, though she also seems possessive. It’s like she’s fighting with me over Qiang. Citra’s been trying to be nice to me, but is awkward about the whole situation, especially her mom banging me. Now I just need a woman who looks like a little girl, a princess, a space pirate, and/or some member of law enforcement all attracted to me, then it’d really be a party. Citra knelt down over my dead, deceased body while her mother cussed out idiot sailors.

The officer pulled a submachine gun out of a holster on his waistband and fired it into the air to shut up Wangi. She put her hands over her ears, then started yelling at him for almost deafening her. When he pointed the gun at her, she tried to lunge for it, but Citra and Qiang grabbed her to hold her back. Holy shit. I stuck my dick in that. Like, a lot. It’s enough to make me wonder if I’m such a corrupting influence that my damn sperm can drive a woman insane. And what if she gets pregnant? That fucking baby would sit inside her as long as it damn well pleased, then probably claw its way out of her belly when it wanted some fresh air. Or maybe it’d be way too dumb to survive. It’s a good thing I already had a boner, because a lot of confusing and arousing thoughts were going through my head at her reaction, and I don’t mean the head with a face.

Note to self: draw a face on it.

Citra cleared her throat before speaking up. “This is the body of Psycho Gecko. I was ordered to bring it to the Emperor himself.”

“A washer woman like you wouldn’t be asked to bring the Emperor his clothes,” the officer responded, then shared a laugh with his comrades. You know, the real obnoxious kind, where the guy in charge has clearly prompted them to do so at once for his own ego.

“He is a special enemy of the Emperor whose death we were ordered to provide proof of,” said Wangi.

The officer looked at them, the smile leaving his face though his teeth still showed. “There must be a reward of some kind for such service.”

Citra bowed her head. “We only wish to serve His Grandness.”

The officer turned the gun on her instead. “A common maid should not get the reward for this over loyal warriors in the Emperor’s navy. We will take the body.”

“No!” cried Qiang. She ran to cover me up. The officer trained his gun on her. Wangi grabbed her and pulled her away, holding her against her. He kept the firearm on her for a second before raising the barrel to the sky, satisfied that no one would interfere.

“Good. Help me men bring it onboard.”

They didn’t let the women on the boat, instead passing my body off to more men to try and stick me in a storage closet. The guy who stuck me in there just dumped me and let my head smack against the wall. “Ow,” I said.

His eyes went wide and he went white as a ghost. Before he could scream, I pulled him after me and knocked his teeth down his throat. Don’t try that at home because I was wearing gauntlets. Before he could finish coughing up his incisors, I laughed and said, “Brains!” Then I tore his throat out with my teeth. “Live brains!”

I waited until he was good and dead, though I didn’t chow down on his grey matter. For starters, I wasn’t a zombie, but it’s also not that easy to bite through a skull. He’d just about stopped quivering completely when I heard someone outside call out. “Cheol! Where are you, fool? The food may be bad, but it’s better than starving.”

I slammed the door open, hitting the person calling out. I jumped out and grabbed him by the top of his head. My eye laser lit up and carved through his opened mouth, right through the middle. His body fell away from underneath the detached part of his head. Since I’d left my helmet back on the other boat, I wore this guy’s head instead. It’d be my little disguise.

It proved less than effective at fooling those on the boat, who tragically all came down with a bad case of murdered-itis soon after I found them. The officer I’d seen wasn’t the captain of this little love boat, though. I found him below deck at one point and jumped right in front of him so he’d see me. He tried to quick draw McGraw me with that zip gun of his, but I broke his wrist, his gun, and then banged his head against the wall until he decided to take a nap.

When I got to the bridge or wheelhouse or whatever they have on little ships like this, I decided to test one of those new things I’d put together. I opened up an electrical panel and tapped into the power. My gauntlet drew from the ship, filling up my battery and storing excess in a capacitor. Once it showed one filled, I let go of that and reached back under my cape. It came off with a twist, the size and shape of a large can. I pressed in a pair of pins and yanked a tab out that caused it to whine. I pulled the door to the wheelhouse open and tossed it in before closing the door, catching a glimpse of the words “Whoop-Ass” briefly. When the can opened itself up, the room went out with a bang.

My gun-happy friend was just waking up when I returned to him. “Now then, let’s see what prizes we have in store for the man who pointed a gun at my darling dear daughter..”

Believe it or not, it IS indeed possible for someone to have their head up their own ass. It’s the kind of thing that’d kill most people who tried it if they didn’t have someone knowledgeable in human anatomy to help them. The bending was the hardest part for me, really. For him, it was probably the part where I planted my boot on his head and slowly forced it into his ever-widening anus. Don’t know what he was screaming and then mumbling about, to be honest. I hardly felt a thing, not even when I picked up the whole mess and brought both his pelvis and neck down over my knee hard enough to break them both.

I then wandered up on deck, waiting for the women to catch up to me. This rendezvous might have worked if they’d agreed to escort us all to wherever the Claw’s hiding, but not so much if they were going to take all the credit themselves. I’d established beforehand that I’d get free if contact went badly like that.

It was up on deck that I caught a glimpse of something shining in the sea. I backed into a doorway to better observe in case I hadn’t already been spotted and activated my holodisc belt to hide myself from view. The silvery shining object moved faster and faster. As it approached, I recognized it as the triangular fin of a shark. A big one. The shark dove out of the water, a very un-sharklike thing to do, and I saw it was some sort of robot. Or maybe a cyborg.

The Silver Shark landed hard on the deck, but on two large, flipper-like feet that supported a body little more than seven feet tall. My eyes wandered up thick tree trunk legs and an equally stocky tail, past hips husky hips, up a torso that almost looked organic in the middle. It had the texture of skin, but a similar metallic sheen to it as the more overtly cybernetic parts and stretched taut over muscles. The Shark looked absolutely ripped, though armor covered the upper portion, preventing me from seeing any nipple.

Aside from the expectation of NSFW pinkness, the same physique showed through for a portion of the arms that weren’t encased in gleaming metal and tipped with barbed claws. It didn’t so much have a neck at the top as a portion of the torso that stretched upward and narrowed into a head that faced upward. With a loud click, it shifted to face the front instead, a wide face with no eyebrows or lashes and a nose replaced by a filter embedded in the silvery skin and stretching out to a point. The mouth didn’t even shut anymore around all the replacement teeth. For whatever reason, he didn’t have his prominent chin dimple removed, the only thing that marred his beauty. He looked like he wore goggles with lenses of dark black, but the edges of the goggles disappeared into its flesh at the corner of its eyes.

Yes, from a conventional human standpoint, he was one ugly motherfucker. From mine, he made such a magnificent piece of cybernetics, I wanted to stick my dick in it.

It must have sensed the increased blood flow or perhaps my unique electromagnetic signature, because it looked right at me. “Who are you and what happened to this ship?” he said in short barks of a voice that spoke through a modified throat. Not a pleasant singer, this one.

“I dunno. I just swam up, found it like this, and haven’t left,” I said. My invisibility was so good, he saw right through the lie. And reached for me. I ducked under the claw and punched it where the groin be if it wasn’t replaced by metal, then jumped and headbutted it on the underside of its butted chin. It responded way more swiftly than it should have, dropping an elbow on my shoulder and kicking me hard down the hallway.

I coughed and tried to stand, calling to him, “Oh you marvelous beasty, if you surrender your tailhole now, we can still reach an amicable conclusion to this! No one has to die, except the petite mort.”

“You’re no smooth talker, asswipe,” he said. Not a singer, and certainly no comeback artist. He charged me, bending the walls to accommodate his bulk. “Who do I have the pleaure of ripping apart?!”

“Psychopomp Gecko, the one and only, and I’ll merge with those circuits of yours if I have to tear them out of you!”

The Shark slowed. “Psycho Gecko? You’re like Technolutionary, right? You do the thing with the touching?”

I raised an eyebrow. “Technolutionary is like ME. And yes, I’ve been known to touch lots of things. Good touch, bad touch, touching on the doll, sometimes just touching myself. You seem less angry to run across me.”

“You’re a traitor.”

“Or maybe not so happy after all.”

He held up his meaty hands and clasped them together. “Please, fix me.”

Not something I normally hear from a guy. “Come again? You’re actually not wanting to fight me to your death?”

He nodded. “I need someone like you to help me, but all the people I know who can touch me like you do are loyal.”

“Connect some dots for me here. Help you with what?” I asked.

“They did something to me. Implanted a thing in me.”

“I hear that’s going around.” I eased over cautiously and undid a gauntlet. When I pressed it to his chest, I got nothing. I kept a careful eye on his face for any signs of bluffing, though I got the idea this wasn’t the Claw’s smartest henchman.

“Try my eyes first. They watch me some of the time. I’m only able to get away with this because they haven’t spied on me as much since everything went wrong for them.” He lowered his head to me. I pressed my fingertips to his eyes, quickly connecting and getting both a glimpse of him from my direction and acknowledgment that they were transmitters. I disabled that part.

“No spying on you now at least. Any idea where your thingy’s at?” I couldn’t get much further. The cyberization was more mechanical than digital.

His chest stomach pulled in like he was forcing a burp and the armor on the top part opened up, revealing a plug with teeth like a gear sitting on the surface of the skin above the heart would be and between a pair of breasts that would be underdeveloped on a woman but were a bit overdeveloped for a man to have. That explains all the muscles. Steroids have interesting effects on the male body, kids.

I reached over and made a connection with this device, finding that the entire thing was a bomb meant to split the chest open and destroy the heart. It had its own receivers, one linked specifically to the eyes as a backup. I didn’t so much shut them down as heavily alter the protocols for connecting to them, in case this was still some sort of trick. A bit of reformatting, a bit of change to the code, and I was soon playing around with arming and deactivating it to prove I could. As I pulled my hand away, I smiled up at him and said, “There we go. Deactivated, and they can’t connect to it now at all. I don’t think I left this place in any position to get it out of you, but no one will be blowing you up if I have anything to say about it.” Honestly, my ability to blow him up meant I was the only one with any say in it.

He pulled me up into a hug, threatening to pop my armor open. I almost armed the bomb until I heard him say, “Thank you, thank you. I’m a free woman again at last!” He, or she rather, looked down at me. “How can I ever repay you?”

I looked down at her sad little breasts, then a bit lower where the metal protected her crotch. “I don’t suppose more of you pops open, does it?”

Citra’s the one who eventually found us, the gang having arrived at the boat at some point, waited, cautiously explored the outer deck and wheelhouse, then splitting up into two groups to try and find me below deck. I looked up from the Amazonian cyborg when the slim young lady gasped from doorway to the crew bunks. Silver Shark stopped as well, looking between me and Citra. Citra also looked at myself and Silver Shark, which didn’t take as much head-turning as it did for Silver.

“Well, this is awkward,” I said, finally breaking the ice. “So, let’s get to some introductions… this is my fiance, apparently.”

The women looked at each other.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know you two-” Silver Shark started.

“I’m very happy for you two-,” Citra began.

Both recognizing the mutual misunderstanding, they shared more looks even as I began to put my clothes back on.

The tenseness between them all lasted even after we made our way up on deck to find Wangi and Qiang coming this way, Wangi muttering something about a daft girl getting lost.

Qiang ran out of Wangi’s grasp and right toward me to get swept up in a hug, yelling, “Papa!”

“Who is this?” asked Wangi, approaching Shark.

“This is Silver Shark, a new friend who is going to help us on our journey,” I announced, heading to the boat and hopping down into it. Qiang wiggled free to fetch my helmet and sat it on my head for me. “And we’re all going to play nice or I’m turning this assassination around, ya here?”

They heard, and so we resumed our voyage as the absolute worst harem in the entire genre. Tenchi Muyo, eat your heart out.

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