株式会社東宝のキャラクター、ゴジラのオフィシャルサイト。1954年にその姿を現わして以来、その名を世界に轟かせている怪獣王、ゴジラ。歴代作品、各種情報、snsなど、ゴジラについての情報を紹介しています。 ハリウッド版『GODZILLA』最新作 『ゴジラ キング・オブ・モンスターズ』2019年12月18日Blu-ray&DVD発売！ 『GODZILLA ゴジラ』（原題: Godzilla）は、日本の同名映画キャラクターに基づいた2014年のアメリカ合衆国のSF 怪獣映画である 。また、レジェンダリー・ピクチャーズ製作の怪獣映画を同一世界観のクロスオーバー作品として扱うモンスターバースシリーズとしては第1作目の映画である。 「ゴジラ・ストア」2号店となる「ゴジラ・ストア OSAKA」が、2020年秋より大阪にオープン。2017年に世界初の常設店舗としてオープンした「ゴジラ ... stomping ground ＝ stamping ground - アルクがお届けするオンライン英和・和英辞書検索サービス。 ゴジラは、日本の東宝が1954年（昭和29年）に公開した特撮 怪獣映画『ゴジラ』に始まる一連のシリーズ作品及び、それらの作品に登場する架空の怪獣の名称である。 これら一連のシリーズ作品のことを「ゴジラ映画」と呼ぶこともある。 本項ではシリーズ作品全般についての解説を行う。 ゴジラ（2019）全長：9㎝ キングギドラ（2019） 全幅：21㎝ ラドン（2019）全幅：14㎝ モスラ成虫（2019）全幅：17㎝ モスラ幼虫（2019）奥行9㎝ ゴジラ（2019）バーニングver 全長：9㎝ 商品仕様：彩色済みpvcフィギュア 全6種類 材質：非フタル酸pvc abs
2010.06.16 05:47 jeannie1331 Stomping Grounds | Godzilla | ゴジラ
2020.09.18 15:40 Samara_Buckley_Derby Private cam show
Summary: Fighting immortals is a sweetheart job for someone obsessed with the afterlife. Dying on the job, however, is cutting it too close. However, Julian's curiosity with the great beyond pushes him a little too far, back to the land of the living and cursed with a damned soul, just like the immortals he's sworn to fight...
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“You’re late,” she said, wrenching open the cart and pulling out her weapons.
“Yeah, uh…” He scrunched up his face, as if thinking hard. “Tara, or… Milly? She said—”
“Yes yes, I know.” Pooja set to work, affixing her various weapons to her concealed holsters.
“Wouldn’t be easier to hide that if you were wearing the burqa?” Blake asked.
“Niqab. And it would be unnecessary given the size of my guns. Only Lapinsky actually needs a large weapon.” She pulled her new disguise, airport security. “Besides, we want to consider optics.” To round out the look, she popped her earpiece in. Currently none of the other members had theirs in yet. They needed to ensure they had control of security before doing anything that might raise suspicions.
Pooja just shook her head. “Don’t worry about it. I need to get into security only zones anyway, so.” She gestured at her disguise before clipping her badge on and adjusting her hat. Then she looked back at Blake, contemplating what to do with him.
Xing had reported that she’d meet him here but she’d also been vague on the nature of her disruption. It was too risky to be specific but whatever was delaying her meant that Pooja couldn’t necessarily rely on her to keep Blake informed.
Pooja sighed. “Alright. Let me give you a quick rundown, in case she doesn’t show up. If this thing goes well, we get Von Marwitz separated from her entourage and take her out near an exit location. That’s going to be loud and cause immediate panic. We’ve got people, people who AngelThana thinks are your followers, disguised as airport personnel. They’ll deal with Von Marwitz but things might get hairy…” Dammit where was Xing? Pooja checked her watch. Blake, for all his well meaning, wasn’t a soldier and judging by the blank look on his face, a lot of this was news to him. He clearly hadn’t retained much of his prior briefings but this was eating her buffer.
Then the door burst open and Xing was there, panting. “Apologies,” she said. “Everything is sorted. We have eighty seven minutes to get into position.”
Pooja’s shoulders relaxed at her specialist’s arrival. “Thank god. Get him into position.” She put a hand on his shoulder, as that familiar, overwhelmed grew in his eyes. “Just remember, you’re here to keep civilians safe. She,” Pooja pointed at Xing, “will identify Von Marwitz’s guard but your job is to keep civilians away from the action.”
He nodded and raised a hand to his forehead in what he probably thought was a salute. “Copy that Colonel.”
“Good. I’m off.” With a salute of her own, she vacated the bathroom, face immediately taking on the dispassionate if intimidating expression of a security officer. First task: shut down the camera feed storage. She would have to manually link them to Sykes’ control, where his team could hack and loop them. Pooja had gotten her BS in electrical engineering, which made her among the best suited for this job, second only to Mati. But he needed to set up where he had a clear shot to Gate K01, where Lady von Marwitz would deplane. There was no time for the group’s only computer scientist to also infiltrate security.
Besides, Pooja had the tools she needed.
She slid through a secure door with a flash of her card and let out a well concealed sigh of relief. She pulled out her phone, alternating between the airport map, directing her to the surveillance room, and some burner apps meant to busy up her phone’s screen. Phone hypnosis was an excellent disguise. Most people were too polite to interrupt someone who seemed engrossed and as long as she avoided any collisions, she was fine.
Finally she found the entrance to the main surveillance center. She took a deep breath to steady herself and then tapped her badge, allowing her instant entry.
Inside sat two men, both droopy eyed and blank faced. One looked over and gave her a halfhearted nod before returning to dully surveil the feeds.
She cleared her throat, grateful for the three foreign language requirements necessary for Colonel. “I’m sorry? When are you two off?” Pooja asked in passable German, her voice lifting in surprise. “I thought…”
“No?” One of the two, an older man with a salt and pepper moustache rose to his feet, cracking his back, a puzzled look on his face. “We’re here til fourteen hundred. We have another—”
He paused to check his watch but Pooja was satisfied with his answer. No one would check on the room for three hours, which was entirely sufficient. The single, fluid motion she’d needed to unholster her stunjet, was so natural that the man didn’t realize she’d pulled out a weapon until she’d shot him with it.
“No, no please,” he said, holding his hands in the air, dart protruding from his neck already. His companion had barely turned around before he too got a round.
“You’ll be fine,” Pooja said. “Give it a few hours, you’ll be groggy but you’ll pull through.” She had to give it to Cortez, the stunjets were effective. Airpowered, strong enough for a dart to puncture skin, probably leave a bruise, but not enough to kill anyone.
Both guards slumped to the ground before either had another word to say and Pooja stashed their unconscious bodies to the side.
“Alright,” she said, fishing out the chip from her pocket, eyes darting across the screens. She took a few minutes to locate her agents. Nearly every team had reached terminal K by this point. The terminal was in a separate building from the other terminals and Sykes had pulled some technical witchcraft to book as many flights to other gates as possible. Only four flights would be arriving or departing in the next two hours. Currently one of those planes was ten minutes from boarding and there was a lot of movement around it. But once that area thinned, there would be plenty of space to maneuver. Blake, Xing, Jha, and Grace weren’t there yet but they were all on their way.
After confirming the positions of her soldiers, she tapped over to the observation deck, which was on the seventh floor of the main building. The space was entirely evacuated, again thanks to Sykes’.
“Alright Officer,” she said under her breath. “Let’s get your people in here.” She plugged the chip into the appropriate port on the computer and tapped her earpiece. “Sykes, you should be in.”
“Copy Laghardi. Standby for confirmation.”
Pooja watched the passengers in terminal K begin to flow into a line outside their gate while waiting for Sykes’ confirmation. Any of the remaining passengers in the terminal could be a follower of Von Marwitz. She wouldn’t land for another hour, so it was still too early for Pooja to tell which travelers were good candidates. One more flight would leave in twenty three minutes and another would land in half an hour. After the commotion from those settled down, she’d get a better eye on who stuck around.
“Alright Laghardi, they’re as good as blind,” Syke’s voice finally crackled through her headset.
“Copy that Sykes and well done. We’re all in position with barely a hitch.” She thumbed her phone to send a message to the rest of the squad that they were good to equip their earpieces. After a minute or two, she tested the connection.
“Each operative radio back with your alias name, in alphabetical order. Don’t go until the person before you has replied or has had at least ten seconds to do so.” Her eyes darted across the screen and jumped from agent to agent as they each tapped their earpieces and called in. All in order, all on time. Maybe this would go well after all.
“Laghardi to all,” she said, “this channel is open. You say something, we all hear it, so don’t clutter coms.” She probably could have sent a text just to Blake with this but it didn’t hurt to remind everyone. “Any questions?”
This was, of course, rhetorical, but Blake, of course, missed that.
“So they don’t have eyes on us? Like the cameras—” his voice cut and Pooja’s eyes found him and Xing on the map, where the specialist was scolding Blake for improper radio etiquette.
“Laghardi to Blake. To answer your question, yes they still see us. Any attempt at fully cutting the transmission would raise immediate hackles so we won’t do that until Lapinsky gets a lock on the target. We’re simply pre-wiping the feeds to ensure none of this is captured.” Nothing suspicious so far had happened but as the agents moved into position, their actions would grow suspicious in hindsight. Anything captured would be open game for investigators after the fact. Such as eighteen people ranging from security officers to passengers to janitors all wearing earpieces, all in the same nearly deserted terminal. Little things that no one would notice watching active feeds but would definitely light up on an investigation.
“Oh ok. Right. Copy that. Uh. Blake to Laghardi.”
She grinned. “You’re doing good, kid. Laghadri to Sykes, loop the observation deck cams for eight seconds, prepare for sniper relocation.”
The officer’s voice crackled back.“Sykes to Lapinsky, standby.”
“Lapinsky to Sykes, standing by for your mark.”
“On my mark… now.”
Pooja’s eyes remained glued to the feeds, knowing that Matti was, god willing, darting from the external hallway to the camera’s blindspot in the observation deck.
The eight seconds passed in half a heartbeat.
“Sykes to Lapinsky, feeds restored. Status?”
“Matti to Bart. I’m in.”
Pooja saw an outbreak of smiles, laughs, even little fistpumps from her agents on the screen. Whether or not they were fans of the renegade class, everyone was pleased to hear that their sniper was in position.
“Matti to all.” He sounded both calm and smug. “I’ve got a lovely shot of the windows right by gate K01. I can see some of your smiling faces and we are ready to rock this.”
“Alright Lapinsky, let’s keep coms clear.”
“Copy that Pooja.”
God he was cheeky. She rolled her eyes but knowing he was in the observation deck, setting up his darling rifle, and peering through his scope did made her feel better. He’d get the job done. Pooja turned back to the two unconscious guards. The stunjet should keep them out for at least four hours but ‘should’ was one of Pooja’s least favorite words, so she gagged them and ziptied their hands and feet together. Someone would find them once this was all done.
With that, she slipped out of the room and latched the door behind her. It was time to head to Terminal K.
The terminal was bustling with Fleur rebels, chatting animatedly, sulking over phone calls, mopping floors, and just generally making a nuisance of themselves. They hadn’t been hers for long, and god knows she missed her soldiers back at Iota, but a bond had formed here over the past few months that had really stood some harsh trials.
They were good soldiers.
“Sykes to all. Plane’s entered its landing pattern.” A few of the soldiers, the younger or less experienced ones jumped at this, just a subtle tell that no one would notice but made Pooja smile. Obtaining an immortal would put them in possession of two and with Julian and Von Marwitz with them, they could actually make some progress.
Pooja placed a hand over her mouth, blocking her lips from any who might try to read them. “Laghardi to all, keep coms clear besides my commands or Lapinsky and Sykses’ updates.”
Her eyes moved to the window, outside of which planes took off and landed and taxied around, calm and mundane. She was about to ruin a lot of holiday and business travel. The thought made her smile, if a little wryly. One of those planes in the sky held Von Marwitz. Lady Helga, they called her. Or the bitch, if they were pissed off at her, which they usually were.
“Sykes to all. Plane touching down. Estimated eight minutes to gate.”
Pooja leaned back against the wall opposite the gate. “Laghardi to all. Take note of the following agents. Female, caucasian, mid forties, approximately 5’ 4”, 140 pounds, blond hair, cropped below ears. Red shirt, jeans. No bag.” Pooja’s eyes flicked to her next suspect, a man who’d been sitting in Ternimal K for about three hours. “Man, east asian, twenties, 5’ 10”, 150 pounds, short dark hair. Suit.” Then her eyes fell on a young woman who’d just recently sprinted to the terminal despite no planes leaving for another hour. “Female. Early twenties. 5’ 8”. 130 pounds. Brown braid. Black leggings and green tank top. Roller bag.”
As she spoke, her agents fanned across the hall, still talking animatedly with each other, barely even taking in the place around them. Damn they were trained well for some privates. Of course, AngelThana did only take the best of the best and as an underground organization, covert missions were a bit more of the norm. Still, she was impressed.
Meanwhile, Blake and Xing were starting to mop near the gate, filling the air with enough unpleasant cleaning smells to ward off most civilians. When two middle aged women stayed up, Pooja gave their identities to her agents. Every single one of the suspects would have to act first before Pooja’s operatives could strike. There was no room for trigger happiness in this situation.
“Sykes to all. The bird has docked. Preparing for deplaning.”
“I’ve got my eyes on the jet,” Matti’s voice call from the observation deck. “Any idea where she’s sitting?”
“Boarding pass says 6C. Business.”
Pooja could almost hear the smirk in Sykes’ voice as much as she could see the eyeroll from Grace across the hall.
“So she’ll be among the first out? That’s dirty.” Matti didn’t sound happy and Pooja echoed his sentiments. First out meant all civilians and airplane staff would still be close by during the attack.
“I’ll handle that,” Pooja said, righting herself from where she’d been leaning against the wall. “Breakers, you’re on her.” The six Spring Breakers had been Julian’s alleged followers and they were the primary faces that she wanted any social media livestreaming to show. A glance at anyone allegedly dead or still loyal would blow the entire Fleur Insurgency open.
The Breakers moved to the gate, chatting loudly and checking their phones, expressing frustration that their apps were reflecting the wrong gate. The two middle aged women, whom Pooja had already called out as potential enemies, moved over to offer the six young adults with assistance. No doubt wanted them away from the gate.
“Careful Breakers. If they notice that you’re made up or at all disguised, they could radio Von Marwitz to stay on the plane.” The immortal may be packing explosives or ready to hijack the flight, try to force it back into the air. She’d done both already, on record.
The Breakers conceded and began heading away, not wanting to blow their cover, when radio from Sykes rang in.
“Deplaning has begun!”
“Scope’s on and trained. Waiting on a visual and then waiting on Pooja’s ok,” reported Lapinsky.
“Breakers, scatter and try to keep someone by the door. Xing, move in. Blake, hang back with Shanti and LaForge, you’re all on civilians.”
Xing muttered something to Blake and pointed at something by K01, before rolling her eyes and gesturing back at the two privates. Blake nodded, too nervously, and headed back over to them, talking about something hopefully janitorial related.
“Jha, with Xing, provide backup but keep your distance.” Pooja’s knuckles would have been white if she hadn’t kept such an effort to appear disinterested, surveying the room dully. By now, the Breakers had moved away from the position, but one, Bruni, had stopped to take a selfie, stalling the group for a few seconds.
“She’s here.” Matti’s voice was so calm over comms that Pooja almost didn’t realize the significance.
But then she looked and saw the woman, dressed in mostly red with a large black sunhat primarily blocking her visage and dark sunglasses.
“One hundred percent confirmed, Lapinsky?” Pooja asked. “You get it wrong, there’s no second tries.” Suddenly a million doubts flew through her head. This could have been a bait, the whole thing, just to draw them out, get them to shoot up a random airport for no reason. That could be a totally innocent woman.
“Positive.” There wasn’t room for doubt in Matti’s voice and Pooja knew that, three years on the job, he’d never taken out the wrong target.
She’d have to trust him.
The agent, still decked in janitorial garb, plunged her mop into its basin, splashing water everywhere, including the woman’s dark red pants. She backed up a few steps and Xing launched forward, apologizing frantically. The woman looked annoyed, gestured down at her pants and Xing motioned her over to where the main cart was, right by the large window next to the gate.
“Laghardi to Schmidtt. Move into position.” He’d have to be landed and very close and very ready to intercept the whole group as soon as possible once the shooting started.
Xing knelt at Von Marwitz’s feet, mopping up her shoes.
“Aim obtained. Am I clear to fire?”
There wasn’t time for hesitating. Another few seconds to potentially lose their mark wouldn’t confirm her one way or another.
“Fire when ready.”
The explosive blast from the sniper rifle erupted about a second after Pooja’s command. In that second lapse, something happened that Pooja hadn’t anticipated. Really, it was the first thing to go wrong so far but it was bad.
A civilian stepped between Von Marwitz and the shot, taking it and dropping.
Screams spread throughout the terminal.
“I took down a civie?” Matti’s alarmed voice pierced through the ringing in Pooja’s ears. No, he hadn’t. Not really. The civilian had been sitting on a chair between Von Marwitz and Matti. He’d jumped up with almost impeccable timing, launching up onto his seat, to intercept the bullet. Pooja had barely even registered him when talking with Matti but his movements were so uncannily timed, he had to have been intentionally grabbing it. He was a follower and their plan had officially gone to shit.
“No.” Her train of thought had taken the space of half a second. Half the terminal was on the floor, hands over heads, or scrambling for cover. At least she knew who the targets were now. “Just a follower. Reload and fire on my command. Breakers, in, eyes on people who haved ducked for cover. The rest of you, evac the area.”
Pandemonium broke out as half of Pooja’s people jumped into action, ushering away civilians while the other half immediately drew their weapons. Von Marwtiz’s agents followed suit, but their resulting gunfire was widespread, interested in causing death and chaos, apathetic as to where the bullets landed. Pooja’s people were smarter and more focused and within the first thirty seconds of combat, three of the twelve hostiles had been definitively killed, with another two incapacitated. Comparatively, only one of Pooja’s soldiers’ had been hit, Silva.
“Grace, turning over battle strats to you, I’m taking on the immortal,” Pooja radioed before sprinting to the fight between the Breakers and Von Marwitz’s agents. The immortal herself looked rather unconcerned by this whole thing. She lazily surveilled the room, eyes combing over everyone involved, all while her lips moved, almost distractedly. It was clear that she was giving orders but her attention seemed elsewhere.
Pooja’s hand hovered over her various holsters. Gun, stunjet… venojet.
“Matti, belay firing until you’re given the command.”
“Copy that.” He sounded confused, which Pooja understood, but there wasn’t time to give more info.
She’d been close enough to the wall to, thankfully, avoid most attention, but now it was time to move. Unholstering a weapon in each hand, she made her move towards the fighting, careful to keep an eye on any hostile that she could reasonably take out without endangering an ally who might be too close, or even more dangerous, behind the enemy. She couldn’t risk missing a shot and causing more harm than help but as she sprinted across the terminal, she was able to fire off two rounds into a retreating enemy. So at least that was one more down.
Amid the gunfire and her headset filled with Grace’s voice barking orders, the noise and chaos was unbelievable. It was both standard combat and also a strange level of insanity she’d never experienced. There were no superiors waiting with any kind of support, what they were doing was completely unsanctioned, they were entirely at the mercy of Sykes’ computer skills, Schmidt’s piloting, and their own meddle.
Finally Pooja reached firing range of the immortal, ducking behind the cover of a gate check desk. Von Marwitz knew that she was more protected than shielded by Pooja’s surrounding agents, as with combat being so close, a misaimed shot could wound or kill an ally. This wasn’t something their enemies cared about, being as fanatical as they were. An ally that respected neither their lives nor the lives of their allies were dangerous indeed.
Von Marwitz aimed a lazy smile at Pooja, an eyebrow raise, the kind of look that made her blood boil. So she reached out with her weapon, took aim, and fired.
The immortal’s eyebrows shot way up, and understandably so. As hard as Pooja tried, the swaying combat, the bodies darting in front of her, between the two, she simply couldn’t make her target the first few shots. The first ricocheted across the ground but the second struck deep into the side of one her own agents, who barely noticed the hit. The third hit one of Von Marwitz’s, the fourth missed, and the fifth hit another one of Pooja’s soldiers again.
The sixth landed its target. Von Marwitz tapped her arm, where the dart had made its landing and then looked up back at Pooja, that same belittling look on her face. Immortal’s processed toxins quickly; most incapacitating drugs didn’t work for very long on them. But then the woman’s eyebrow creased as she examined the room, taking in the other agents who’d been hit, with no apparent effects.
Pooja ducked for cover again and tapped her earset. “Now.”
This time the gunfire, so much louder than the other shots, was almost instantaneous.
And judging by the dead silence that followed it, Matti had hit his target this time.
More chapters up next week! Hope you're enjoying the show :D
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Moonbase Alpha, Earth’s Moon, 2036 A.D. X-Day: X + 4 days.
The Antares-III class space shuttle gently touched down in Moonbase Alpha’s main hangar bay. Aboard the spacecraft was N.S.A. Director Howard and a security detail. Howard had been sent to the base, discreetly, by President Robinson in order to aid in the interrogation of the captured alien.
As he stepped off the shuttle’s boarding ramp, the Director looked around. The hangar was empty, save for two figures walking rapidly towards him. When they got closer, Howard recognised them as Colonel Straker and Captain Black. Howard frowned. The last he had heard, Black was on Planet Cur’cle, with the rest of Task Force Bravo.
There was something else too, but he couldn’t quite place it. Something felt slightly off about the base. He didn’t know what, as this was his first time to the Moon, but the fact still remained.
Straker arrived and shook hands with the Director.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Director,” he said enthusiastically, “This is Captain Black, whom I’m sure you’ve heard of.”
“I’m in awe, Captain,” Howard said, shaking the soldier’s hand, “Your name is spoken highly of in intelligence circles.”
Black looked surprised.
“I’m just doing my job, sir,” he replied, “Nothing special about that.”
Howard looked inquisitively at the Captain.
“I thought you were on Planet Cur’cle,” he said as the trio set off to the exit, “Has the invasion finished early?” he joked.
Captain Black gave a half-smile.
“No sir,” he said regretfully, “as a matter-of-fact, two of my men were killed on the first day of the invasion. Now that there’s a slight lull in hostilities, we’re having the funeral back on Earth. I just stopped by here to get a few things,” he explained as they walked out of the hangar, “oh, and to welcome you, sir,” he added hastily.
“I’m sorry to hear that, Captain,” Howard replied, not sure how to respond, “I’m sure they were good men.”
“The best, sir,” Black answered shortly.
The three men walked further along the corridor. Turning at a junction, Howard brushed against a stray equipment cart that someone had left just around the corner. He knocked off a steel mug, which plummeted towards the floor at a far faster speed than the Director expected, hitting the ground with a sharp clank.
Fortunately, it was empty, so Howard, swiftly grabbed the mug and placed it back on the cart. He looked at it thoughtfully. Something wasn’t right here, but he still couldn’t place it.
Shrugging, he caught up with the others and continued along the corridor. As they passed through another junction, Black turned to Straker.
“I must say, Colonel, the artificial gravity you installed is a pleasant change. I’m still not quite used to it, though.”
“Me neither,” confessed the Colonel, “But it was only installed yesterday after all. I expect many of the astronauts still have to find their 'Earth-legs' after so long in low-gravity.”
Of course! It clicked in Howard’s mind. That’s what was bugging him: The gravity was too strong for the Moon! All this time, he had been walking at a normal pace, with normal Earth-gravity affecting him.
Satisfied that he had solved that little mystery, he followed the other two into the office being used by Secretary-General Kain.
The Secretary-General was speaking to someone on the phone when they walked in.
“Yes, I understand… No, I’m not going to cancel my trip… Sorry, that’s classified… Good-day, sir,” he hung up the phone and looked at the three people in his office.
“Sorry about that,” he apologised, “Some of the smaller oil companies have banded together. They want to lobby against all this alien tech that’ll put them out of business.”
“Anyway, what can I do for you?” he asked. He suddenly noticed Director Howard.
“Oh, Director!” he greeted Howard, “Welcome to Moonbase Alpha.”
“Thank you, sir,” replied the Director.
“I expect you’ll want to interview our guest,” said Kain, getting up from his desk, “I’ll show you to him now.”
Howard followed Kain out of the small office, while Captain Black walked back to the shuttle bay, muttering something about ‘making funeral arrangements.’ Kain led Howard and Colonel Straker down some more corridors. Eventually, they arrived at the alien’s cell. The cell was flanked by two U.N. guards, who stood at attention as the pair walked up to them. Entering a PIN into a keypad, Kain unlocked the door.
Inside was a small table, a bunkbed and a screened-off bathroom.
The alien inside the cell looked up as Howard passed through the door, the guards closing it behind him.
It said something in its native language. A translator on the table deciphered the strange tongue.
“Who are you?” the alien had asked.
“I am Director Howard of the N.S.A.”
“A Director!” the alien screeched, jumping up from the table and running to the opposite end of the cell, “You’re one of them! I knew the Consortium would find me!”
“Calm down!” Howard raised his hands soothingly, “I’m not one of the Consortium’s directors. Human’s aren’t part of the Consortium, you know that. I’m just here to ask some questions.”
“Very well,” the alien replied, sitting down and eyeing the human with suspicion, “Ask away.”
Mojave Air and Space Port, Mojave, California. 2036 A.D. X-Day: X + One Week.
The SpaceX Starship freighter, under the influence of its anti-gravity systems, gently touched down on one of the many landing pads that had been hastily built around the Mojave Spaceport. Mobile gantries were moved into position and large, red clamps locked the rocket in position. As the ten astronauts aboard prepared to disembark the spacecraft, a convoy of three army trucks drove up to the landing site.
A group of soldiers jumped out from the lead truck and walked over to the astronauts as they climbed down the gantry.
“I suppose you’re here for the cargo?” one of the astronauts asked.
“That’s right,” replied one of the soldiers, a sergeant.
“O.k.,” replied the spacecraft pilot, “I’m sure the dockworkers will get onto it.”
A dockworker, drove past the little gathering on one of the new hover-sleds, ready to unpack the cargo crates from the Starship’s hull.
With a mechanical whirr, the large cargo hatch was opened, and a series of cranes lowered each heavy box onto the sled. The sled then drove back to the convoy of trucks. While the soldiers stood guard, a forklift loaded them into the middle truck. Once the process was complete, the soldiers jumped back aboard their truck. The trucks roared to life and grumbled out of the space port.
The convoy reached a main road and travelled on it until they reached Edwards Air Force Base. Once there, the boxes were loaded onto a C/V-130. The C/V-130, unlike its larger cousin, the C/V-5, was merely a C-130 Hercules transport with antigravity systems equipped. This allowed the versatile transport to take-off and land in a larger variety of terrain.
Propellers droning, the aircraft took off from Edwards, flying until it reached Dr Simmons’ Secret Research Centre. There, the cargo was unloaded and the engineers prepared to integrate it into Earth's latest secret weapon.
Director Howard sat and stared at the sullen alien in front of him. This was his third interrogation of the captured Scourge soldier. He had asked him some questions about the war, what he knew of the Consortium, things like that.
The alien, Vectren as he was called, was co-operative enough, but he adamantly refused to tell Howard anything about the Infinite Scourge, or the Hegemony, as they called themselves. Besides, the U.N. already knew most of what Vectren was telling him.
“Listen, Vectren, to end the War and stop the Consortium, we need to know about your Hegemony,” the N.S.A. Director pleaded with the alien private, but Vectren wasn’t having any of it.
“I’ve already told you: I will not sell out my comrades!” he said defiantly, “Your Secretary-General knows that!”
Sighing, Howard pulled out a remote control from his suit pocket and pressed a button. A panel on the wall silently slid aside, revealing a hidden T.V. screen.
“What’s this?” asked Vectren, suspicious.
“Call it, persuasion,” Howard replied ominously. Pressing another button on the remote, he watched as a video started playing. A black background faded into view.
“COMBAT FOOTAGE TAKEN FROM PLANET CUR’CLE,” text on the screen read, “X-DAY: X + 2 HOURS.”
The text and the background faded away and was replaced by footage from the helmet-cam of a fighter pilot. Vectren stared at the footage. With a shock of revulsion, he realised that he was watching the human chasing down a Hegemony starfighter. The fighter pilot dodged and weaved in an attempt to evade, but the human stayed on his target, firing a missile and destroying the Hegemony aircraft.
“What is this?” he demanded, outraged. Howard said nothing, but merely indicated the footage. It had now switched to video from a soldier as he killed multiple Hegemony warriors in quick succession, while an armoured beast rolled past, destroying its opponents like clockwork.
The footage changed yet again to some kind of targeting system as a human war machine tracked a Hegemony convoy. Vectren fought back the urge to vomit as he saw his comrades killed by missiles and cannon fire.
"Every minute you stall, a Hegemony soldier is killed, Vectren" Howard said, eyes boring into the alien's.
More footage was shown, this time from a human starship as it effortlessly cut through at least five Consortium battlecruisers. The Golic felt sickened as he watched more and more slaughter take place.
Seeing his discomfort, Director Howard spoke to him.
“Vectren,” he said calmly, “If you do not tell me what you can about the Hegemony, we will have no way of knowing how to proceed with negotiations,” he explained, “If there are no negotiations, your comrades will keep being killed needlessly until the Consortium wins.”
Vectren winced at the thought. Pressing his advantage, the Drector continued, still speaking in that infuriatingly calm voice.
“You will have the deaths of all your comrades on your conscience, Vectren,” he said, watching as the alien tried to tear his eyes away from the screen. But Vecten’s gaze was held there by a kind of fascinated horror.
“The Consortium will win, and your cause will be lost,” Howard concluded. As if to emphasis his point, the video cut to a flight of U.N.S.C. fighter-bombers effortlessly wiping out a Hegemony base. Vectren couldn’t take it anymore.
“Alright!” cried out, “Stop! I’ll talk.”
“Good,” he said, “I’ll see you later.”
He signalled the guard, who opened the door. Just as the Director was mounting the steps, Vectren called out to him.
Howard stopped and turned.
“Just one thing,” Vectren said, “Those weapons you showed me. They were like nothing I’ve ever seen before. So brutal and efficient,” he shuddered, “Why did you create them? From what you tell me, the Consortium only officially contacted you less than one of your years ago. Your government had no knowledge of us or them beyond rumours. So,” Vectren said, finally getting to the point,
“Why did you build them? Why did you need so much destructive power? Who were you preparing to fight?”
Director Howard smiled mirthlessly. His reply was short, simple and chilling:
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2020.09.16 15:27 Samara_Buckley_Derby Private cam show
Summary: Fighting immortals is a sweetheart job for someone obsessed with the afterlife. Dying on the job, however, is cutting it too close. However, Julian's curiosity with the great beyond pushes him a little too far, back to the land of the living and cursed with a damned soul, just like the immortals he's sworn to fight...
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And dangerous was how Matti liked it. He was yet to have a real reason to believe his life was in danger and until he felt that, he had no problem pushing the envelope.
Which is why he was perched in the back of a helicopter heading out to Munich on a mission intended to intercept one of the deadliest immortals at an active civilian airport with nearly two dozen soldiers, some of whom were legally dead, while most were shoot-on-sight traitors.
Could it get any better?
“Find anything, Matti?” a cool voice asked in his ear.
“Clear for now, Pooja.” He gave the Colonel a reassuring smile and she nodded, returning to the cockpit. Last names had never suited him and as a renegade, he wasn’t obligated to use them. It was easier to empathize with an Amy or Markus than with a Brown or Khan. Knowing the name they heard from friends and family humanized them and that was important when lives were on the line.
They usually just thought he was being cocky and rude and he had no need to dispel that theory because, as a renegade, they were going to think he was an arrogant prick anyway. It wasn’t even really a lie, so…
The helicopter they all sat in—Matti, Julian, Pooja and her two operatives, Kyline, and her squad—was borrowed from Omicron HQ. No way could Schmidtt’s usual helicopter fit the nearly two dozen agents, so Pooja had pulled some strings. There was enough room to comfortably walk around, especially with the others mostly strapped in, a fact that Matti gladly took advantage of, roaming from window to window, popping up his binoculars to scan for any aircraft that might be flying under the radar.
He’d been disappointed so far.
In between his little lookout sessions, he’d make small talk with various operatives. Pooja didn’t like chatting when on a mission, Kyline hated his guts, and the other scientists he usually hung out with were, for obvious reasons, not here, so ‘various operatives’ mostly meant Julian.
“Gotta admit, when you said you had some questions for me, I wasn’t expecting this,” Julian said after Matti’s third round.
“Am I boring you?” Matti tilted his head.
Julian laughed, always a good sign. “No. But unless this is some weird renegade interrogation tactic, I don’t know why you care about my favorite breakfast food.”
Matti gave him a cool look. “I’ve watched you very carefully since joining the Fleursurgents. I need to make sure your answers align with what I’ve seen.” It was a terribly blatant lie, but not one Matti really cared about guarding. If Julian chose to see through it, good on him. Reality was, Matti just liked getting to know his charges.
Julian squinted. “Fleursurgents?”
“Come on. Fleur Insurgents is a mouthful and there are a ton of repeated syllable sounds there. It’s only natural that you should work a portmanteau in there. Saves time.”
“Lotta big words from someone with a STEM degree. Maybe you should have gone into linguistics.” Julian grinned, and unless it was Matti’s imagination, seemed to relax a bit.
Matti lifted a shoulder. “Linguistics wouldn’t have gotten me a job here. Besides, I didn’t go to an English speaking school.”
“Clearly, or you’d have caught the better portmanteau: Infleurgents.”
This took Matti aback quite a bit, because Julian was absolutely correct. That one was far superior. “I take my hat off to you. We’re now the Infleurgents. Clearly your English skills make mine look paltry.”
“Well, it was my first language.” He shifted in his seat, probably trying to make the helicopter seat feel more comfortable. “You said a linguistics degree wouldn’t have gotten you a job here. Did you know about this place when starting college?”
There were a few options for how an AngelThana operative might have gotten involved in the organization. A bulk of the scientists were poached from the public facing front: a nanotech organization that privately manufactured weapons and also somehow did some work with biotech. It was often scrutinized for guzzling research money and turning out rather few results but that was kind of the point of a public facing front. It’s just that the public didn’t know that. Hence ‘front’.
Then there were military poaches, outstanding soldiers who were approached at the conclusion of their official government military contracts. Outside of these poached soldiers, AngelThana rarely allowed for transfers to military units if the employee hadn’t been with the company for a minimum of three years, which explained why the minimum age of active combatants was 21 and not most military’s standard 18.
Then there were the nuts. AngelThana sent representatives out to anyone who found out about the immortals organically, whether from personal experience or obsessive web research. That’s how Matti got involved. He’d spent the greater part of his childhood chasing down conspiracies online because that’s about all there was to do in a northern European village, population: twelve, where the sun came up twice a year. He’d discovered some paper trails and various web footage that showed the same few people involved in a host of different terrorist attacks across the globe, a conspiracy he was surprised no one else pointed out.
It turned out no one pointed it out because AngelThana scrubbed the internet from all information of the immortals, with a rather impressive tech division. This was originally what they scouted him for until pretty much everyone realized he was a crap hacker. By that point, he’d requested a transfer to sniper school and anyone involved agreed it was for the best.
Most of the people on the helicopter had been in the second boat, sniped from their own government’s military. On the books, they were ‘security’ officers.
Julian was, as with most scientists, from the first group. He’d been scouted because of his academic work and pressured into taking the job with AngelThana.
“My official transfer to the internal department was about a month into my onboarding on the face department.” Julian had that glint in his eyes that the PhDs always got when they were about to launch into a lecture, and Matti braced himself. “The day they pulled me in and explained that honest to god immortals existed, well I thought I’d gone crazy.”
“Really? You didn’t think they had?”
Julian shook his head. “No! I’d always suspected so when my theories were confirmed, my mind was blown. It was like falling into a dream I’d had.”
“Lapinksy! Back on your post. You’ve had weeks to make idle chit chat. This is not the time.” Pooja’s scolding turned all the heads in the chopper to Matti, who smiled back at her, jumping to his feet in a solute.
“Copy that, Colonel.” There would also be time for idle chit chat later, so he had no qualms with resuming his watch.
“Alright we’re approaching our drop point,” Pooja announced, some few, uneventful hours later. “We’re officially on non-essential cargo pickup, so keep that in mind. Grace, prep your unit, but I want them down and out of sight until signaled.”
Kyline saluted in acknowledgement, her face rigid.
“The cargo pickup is scheduled to happen at eight hundred hours, so we’re here plenty early and should be able to get all of you off before they load us up.” Pooja began walking up and down the aisle of the ship, making eye contact with every single person on board. “I’ll be staying on board to handle the loading, with Schmidtt and Lapinksy. You’ll take your orders from the Sergeant and in the case of her incapacitation, your chain of command will fall to Agent Xing, Agent Jha, field medic LeDuc…” The chain of command was something they’d all been briefed on but redundancy may as well be synonymous with procedure because whenever someone said ‘follow the proper process’ it meant they wanted to you use enough fallbacks and extraneous measures that you probably could have accomplished three times your goal if you’d just checked something once or twice.
But for all their traitorous nature, the Infleurgents still followed their god damned processes to a T. Whatever. Matti didn’t technically need to know who to listen to but unfortunately for his ego, the chain of command usually made too much sense to ignore, so he rarely did.
The helicopter touched down at a tiny regional airport in the early hours of the morning, probably close to five hundred hours, as light as a feather per Schmidtt’s usual. He radioed in their arrival to the incognito convoy that was bringing whatever equipment Pooja had maneuvered into being their ‘target’. They reported that they were still about two hours out, which Schmidtt confirmed on radar scans.
“Copy that, we’ll be waiting.” Then Pooja looked up at Matti. “Give us a visual perimeter, make sure the area is clear of personnel or civilians.” She turned to Kyline. “At Lapinsky’s signal, take your men to the far parking lot. The convoy was instructed to leave one truck behind so that we could unload our cargo. Which…” She waved a hand at the soldiers, “is all of you. So stay out of sight until Grace gives the command. Understood?”
A host of salutes confirmed comprehension. Matti eyed Pooja and tossed her a slightly more casual salute before slipping into the night.
For once, the lack of complications wasn’t boring. The presence of civilians would have dramatically slowed down the offloading, suspicions from the convoy would have just caused drama, and if any of Kyline’s soldiers had been spotted, it would have really been disastrous.
All told, Pooja’s plan went without a hitch and soon Schmidt was flying away with whatever cargo they’d used as an excuse to hide their illicit actions. Matti sat in the back of the remaining convoy truck, squished with the others. These things were supposed to seat a dozen. While Matti, Julian, Xing Luli, the Iota agent, were slim enough to count for half a person, they simply had too many people on board for the drive to be comfortable. But comfort wasn’t a requisite so no one complained about being cramped too much.
The real issue was the lack of space to put on their disguises. AngelThana lacked the resources to intensely scrutinize every security cam feed on the planet to scan for faces that matched certain criteria. So the group didn’t have to worry too much about being spotted by the sophisticated software needed to match their specific face shapes and retina scans. But that didn’t mean they could slack off. They’d still need to play dress up to fool any AngelThana member who happened to be casually watching the MUC feeds in their downtime.
There were precious few people on board who knew enough about hair and makeup to make a convincing change to faces, so each agent had to wait quite a bit for their turn. Something to change complexion, darken or bright eyes, maybe thicken the look of facial hair.
“Do me dirty,” Matti said as he pushed past Private Amelie Silva for his turn. He scrunched his eyes closed in preparation for the assault on his face.
“Don’t do that with your eyes,” Pooja said, as he heard her swishing around some bottle of something probably wet and sticky. “It’ll make it uneven.” Pooja, along with Henri LaForge and Edmund Howards, was one of the only confident enough with her makeup skills to do anything convincing on the soldiers. “Hold still.” A bright light blasted his eyelids as another of the soldiers shone a flashlight at him.
“We should have brought Sofia,” Matti said, trying hard not to move his mouth. “She could make every guy in here a girl and vice versa.”
“Matti keep your mouth shut or you’re going to look like more of a mess than you normally do.” After a far too long period of getting paint slathered and smeared on his face, his nails and hands squished, his hair pulled tight and hidden under a wig, Pooja thrust an armful of clothes in his hands. “What do you think?”
The question was a little too amused for Matti’s liking and he cracked an eyelid to see the private holding the flashlight was openly smirking.
“He did say he wanted to be a girl. Think you did a mighty good job there, Colonel.”
The other eyelid snapped open. “I need a mirror. Now.”
Pooja held up one and Matti stared at himself. He wasn’t a girl, probably. Not technically. But he also saw where the private was coming from. “Pooja, you know ‘scene’ hasn’t been in since the early 2000s, right?” He twisted one of the silky, unnaturally platinum locks around a finger.
“We’re active members.” She shooed him to the side to start her next victim. “So our looks need to be a bit more dramatically changed. Us and Blake. If you’re going heavy makeup, you have to make it look intentional. That’s why you have the eyeliner. You’re now Alexi Petroff, 16 years old, so you’ve got to look like it.”
“Great. Back to being an edgy teen.” He didn’t really mind the look but it was far from comfortable. “What dramatic bit are you doing?”
“Inaya Hasmi, 34, traveling with my husband Tahir.” She pointed a bit away where Vikas Jha, the other Iota agent, was getting minimal makeup work done. “I’ll have a bit of work done but most of my face will be hidden.”
“Lucky. Would be nice if we all could just go the religious veil route.” Matti tapped at his face to see if his makeup had dried.
Pooja cocked an eyebrow. “Would have made us all the more likely to be stopped by airport security. Don’t need to increase those odds. Alright, you’re done Shanti.”
“Fucking most disgusting thing I ever got on my face,” he grumbled.
“Shut up, Shanti,” Matti said, almost absentmindedly. The private needled him with a glare before moving on.
“We kind of switched colors,” Julian remarked as he settled down next to Matti. The previously sandy haired man now had cropped dark crew cut, so convincing that Matti couldn’t imagine how his real hair had fit under it. His previously green eyes were now blue, much like how Matti’s blue had changed to green.
“Who did yours?” Matti asked.
“LaForge. Man did theatre through his entire education. I guess it shows but god my head feels like it’s about to explode.” Julian’s hand hovered near his scalp as if itching to itch it.
“Not a finger!” shouted LaForge from about eight feet away where he was twisting Luli’s hair into a tight ponytail. “Or I’ll cut it off.”
“Would he get back?” asked another private.
Julian’s body sagged as his hand dropped. “Here they go.”
The questions, jokes, and jabs flowed through the truck, lightening up the mood at the expense of Julian’s.
“You’re not a fan?” Matti asked. “You can’t deny, there are some good questions in there.”
“Yeah but they don’t want answers, they just want to snicker.” Julian sighed, crossing his arms. “But I’m starting to learn to tune it out.”
Even Matti had to admit that, after two more hours of the soldiers coming up with increasingly stupid puns, it had gotten old. He fiddled with his rifle, knowing that it would soon be locked in a very special crate, the kind that AngelThana routinely used to smuggle weapons through airports, past border patrols, and into government events. Matti didn’t like departing with his beloved rifle but there would be no keeping it on him.
The sun had long risen now as the truck pulled into a long term parking lot, advertised as being ‘mere kilometers from MUC!’ From there, the group split into teams, each with their own mission plans.
Pooja took Vikas, her husband, and the two headed the short walk to the public transport. Six of the soldiers, all dressed as spring breakers, flooded to the closest rental car place.
Matti checked his ID and the instructions on his phone giving him a rundown of Alexi Pertoff.
“I’m traveling with my father and girlfriend, huh? Haven’t had one of those in a while.” He looked up at the remaining operatives. Shanti and Henri were brothers, Amelie and Edmund were also dating. A few others were traveling solo. Then his eyes fell on Luli, Pooja’s Iota agent. She fixed him with a long once over.
“We’re dating?” she asked. In all fairness, she probably wasn’t much older than he was and with the high ponytail with a red streak in it, the loose bangs around her face, and too much eye makeup, she could absolutely pass for 17 or 18.
“I guess so. Which just leaves… dad.” He grinned as Julian looked down at his ID.
“Ah. Pieter Pertoff. 38” He looked up at the two agents as the remaining operatives sped off on their predetermined methods of transportation. “Never thought much of having kids…”
“God I must be like, the biggest disappointment to you.” Matti examined his nails, which were all black except for a red nail on each middle finger. Then he looked up at Julian’s tight crew cut and the lines on his face, artfully exaggerated by LaForge’s handiwork.
Luli laughed at the start contrast that couldn’t hide enough of a similarity between the two men to hint at their relation. “Alright then, team,” she said. “Let’s get our car and get to the airport. We’ve got an invasion to stop.”
Find out tomorrow!
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2020.09.16 04:00 deadislandman1 Cyborg #7 - Touchdown
DC Next presents:
CYBORG Issue seven: Touchdown
Written by Deadislandman1
Edited by AdamantAce, Trestormart, and Fortanono
Next Issue > Coming October 21st
Arc: Welcome to Detroit
“You got any videogames in that head of yours?”
Victor raised his eyebrow at Exxy, who was currently sat across from him, twiddling his thumbs while on one of Mr. Terrific’s workshop tables. The two were waiting for Mr. Terrific to come back from his mission so that he could sort the two out, but it had been nearly an hour since he left. Vic laid down in the corner of the room, tapping his fingers against the concrete to make a repetitive, rhythmic motion while Exxy blew raspberries from his seat. The two were unbearably bored, so Exxy posed the question to break the silence.
“Nope.” sighed Victor, not even bothering to look at Exxy while he was speaking to him, “No games.”
“Not even the eight bit ones?” asked Exxy, “Like Pong or E.T.?”
“Like I said, no games.” said Victor, “And we don’t talk about E.T.”
“Right, we don’t talk about E.T.” said Exxy, making a few popping sounds with his mouth before finally standing up, the inherent lack of anything happening finally getting to him, “Aight, screw this. I’m bored. I’m gonna snoop around, see if I can find anything interesting.”
“You don’t need my permission man, knock yourself out,” said Victor, turning away from Exxy and facing the wall while closing his eye. He didn’t mean to be so cold to the guy, but he had just met him less than ten or so hours ago. For now he’d rather just reflect on himself and let Exxy do his thing, though hopefully he wouldn’t mess anything up while exploring the area.
Exxy got up and waltzed around the base, checking out all the little bits and bobs of the workshop in closer detail. Most of the parts strewn about were pieces of Forger weaponry, taken apart and put back together over and over again in such a manner so that Terrific could better understand the craftsmanship and style of the arms-manufacturer, but there were a few workshop benches that held other parts, specifically parts used to build the T-Spheres. Picking up a nearly complete T-Sphere, Exxy ran his hands over its smooth frame, observing it from every angle.
“Hey Vic,” said Exxy, marvelling at the technology in his hands, “You think you can build something like this?”
Victor turned his head to face Exxy, clear annoyance in his eye. “Just because I’m a product of science doesn’t mean I’m good at science. I’m smart, but not smartest in the world smart.”
Exxy nodded, plopping the T-Sphere down on the table again before returning to his odyssey around the room. Unfortunately for him, there wasn’t much else to see, barring a few computer screens and a table stacked to the brim with various types of professional papers featuring both law and science topics. Just as he was ready to sit back down again and die of boredom, Exxy spotted a door leading into a smaller side room, marked by its relative normality when compared to the massive blast doors that signified the entrance to the base as a whole. Intrigued, Exxy strode over to the door, planting his hands on the knob and attempting to turn it. Alas, it didn’t budge, as the door was locked.
“Well shit, someone wants to keep parts of his place private… or at least, more private,” said Exxy, glancing back at Victor, “Vic, Terrific’s got a locked door here.”
“Guy probably has a few places in his little base that he doesn’t want us to go into.” said Victor, completely apathetic to Exxy’s discovery, “It’s probably best to leave it alone.”
Staring up at the ceiling, Victor elected to ignore Exxy the next time he spoke, instead looking inward in order to explore his options with everything that had happened up to that point.
‘V, what’s the damage to me so far? Did that electro-gun do a lot of damage?’ thought Victor.
[While the current was enough to temporarily disable all systems, internal shock protectors prevented permanent damage.]
‘That’s good.’ thought Victor, ‘On another subject, I’ve gotta figure out how to get into the STAR Labs database. There’s another location of theirs in Central City, so it might be a good idea to-’
Victor frowned, sitting up and looking in Exxy’s direction, spotting the young man fiddling with the lock on the door. Just as Victor was about to ask what in the hell Exxy was doing over there, he heard a third Click as Exxy pushed the door open, a look of satisfaction on his face. Turning around, Exxy flashed a lockpick in full view of Victor, slipping them back into his sleeve before waltzing inside. Victor scrambled to his feet, trotting into the room after Exxy with a look of utter shock on his face.
“H-How did you do that?!” said Victor.
“I used to be a thief, man. All that experience doesn’t just go away once stop stealing shit from people” said Exxy, “But enough of that, let’s see what Detroit’s hometown hero is keeping locked up.”
Now in the room, Exxy found the reward for his effort to be fairly disappointing. It was just an old office with a single swivel chair and desk, all positioned under an array of unpowered monitors. Exxy groaned, plopping himself into the chair and kicking his legs up onto the desk, “Man, all that buildup and it’s just some dusty old office.”
Victor raised his eyebrow, observing the contents of the desk, “I’m sure there’s a reason he kept this place locked up.” Spotting a picture frame placed face down on the desk next to the keyboard, Victor picked it up, curiosity piquing his interest as he turned it right side up to find a wedding photo featuring a husband and wife as well as the best man. While the wife and best man had completely foreign faces to Victor, the Husband seemed very familiar.
“Hey Exxy?” said Victor, turning the photo around to show the former thief the photo, “Who is this guy? The husband I mean.”
Exxy leaned in to get a look of the photo, studying it for a few seconds before doing a double take, “Dude! That’s Michael Holt!”
“Michael Holt?” said Victor, the name ringing a few bells but not bringing anything significant up in Victor’s head, “Can you tell me about him? I don’t know much about this guy.”
“Crazy to think that you don’t know who he is.” said Exxy, “He is...well was the CEO and founder of a tech company called Holt Industries. One of the biggest tech companies in the world until...well, it wasn’t.”
“I remember now,” said Victor, a few memories flooding back, “My dad liked to get stuff from their catalog. Wait, you’re talking about it like it’s gone.”
“Well….it is.” said Exxy, “Some guy bombed the main building in a terrorist attack or something like that. Holt got lucky and didn’t die, but got knocked into a coma. Without him or a...well, alive board of directors, the whole company was apparently in chaos. Then, as they tend to do, The Galaxy corporation swallowed the whole thing up and liquidated everything. No more Holt Industries now.”
Victor turned the picture back over towards him, looking at it a second time. Everyone in the photo seemed so...joyous, yet the photo was clearly face down, like Terrific, whoever he was, was not only connected to this photo, but clearly felt some kind of negative emotion whenever he saw it. Placing the photo down, Victor then spotted the pc that powered the monitors.
“Hey, you wanna flip the switch and see what these babies can do?” asked Vic, watching as Exxy agonized over the decision.
“Hmmm….Sure!” said Exxy, “What’s the worst that can happen?”
Leaning down and pressing the button, Vic and Exxy watched all the screens light up with various camera angles throughout the city. Some depicted quiet alleyways devoid of any action while others showed establishments rife with excitement, such as a bar in the downtown area filled to the brim with people.
“Daaaaaamn!” said Exxy, eyes wide in surprise, “Big Brother is watching you!”
Victor scanned the monitors, looking over the different angles of the city until he spotted a peculiar one that drew his eyes into focus, “Hey Exxy, isn’t that your old gang’s hideout?”
Exxy’s eyes darted to the monitor, “Oh shit, it is! Terrific’s still in there I guess?”
“Shouldn’t he have come out by now?” asked Victor.
“...I dunno man, maybe.” said Exxy, scratching his head, “This whole thing is fishy as all hell.”
Victor continued to stare at the monitor, taking in the hideout’s image. Terrific better come back, he didn’t want to be cooped up in this base forever.
“Tch Tch Tch...Wakey Wakey Shmarthashh!”
A heap of water sloshed onto Terrific, soaking him and bringing him back from his state of unconsciousness. He coughed, spitting water out of his mouth before shaking his head, attempting to get the liquid out of his eyes as his captor slowly came into view. He’d tied to a chair, his jacket stripped from his body and his feet chained to the ground. Looking up, he spotted Rizzo, who had a bandage wrapped around his chin, rifling through the Terrific’s outer wear after tossing an empty bucket aside. One of his henchmen watched the door to the warehouse, guarding the area while the other slept in a cot to the side. To Terrific’s relief he was still masked, though this was mainly due to the fact that it didn’t come off his face and just disappeared whenever he wanted it to.
“You goth a loth of pockethsh in thish bitcsh,” said Rizzo, scratching at his scalp, “Buth they’re all shealed up. Thalk about pocketh protheckthorsh. Hey Therrificth, mind thelling ush how tho open your jacketh?”
Terrific ignored Rizzo, his eyes scanning the rest of the room instead in order to properly gauge some of the more specific details of the warehouse. There was a box sitting on the foldable table that held his jacket, filled with small cylindrical objects, which Terrific ascertained from their shape and specific design were concussion grenades built by the Forger, one’s he’d seen before during other patrols. Looking towards the sleeping Rat Pack member, Terrific noticed that his cot was located underneath a metal catwalk. Turning his attention to the bonds binding his hands together, Terrific felt the knots with his fingers, counting out how many they were before everything in his head clicked.
Within seconds, a plan was formed.
“Ey!” piped Rizzo, spitting angrily through his broken jaw as he marched over to Terrific, frustration written all over his face, “Don’th ignore me! I’m shpeakthing thoo you ashhole.”
Terrific turned to look Rizzo in the eyes, seeing the almost childish anger beneath his attempt at an intimidating facade, “Sure, and now that I am speaking to you, I’m going to have to ask you where you got your weapons.”
“Don’th acth like you’re in charge!” piped Rizzo, “You’re noth in a posithon to askth anything of ush.”
“Really?” said Terrific, “And why is that?”
“Becauth I outhshmarthed you.” said Rizzo, a proud grin forming on his face, “You fuckthed up, and I came outh on Thop. Ith justh goesh thoo show thath you heroesh really aren’th all thath shpecial.”
“So you’re saying you’re smarter than me?” said Terrific, raising an eyebrow at Rizzo as the criminal flaunted his own overblown ego.
“Hell yeah I’m shaying I’m shmarther than you.” said Rizzo, “Whath elsh would I be shaying?”
“Well, if you were really so smart,” said Terrific, standing up as the ropes that had previously bound his wrists hit the floor, “You’d know that five knots in a row is an insultingly easy challenge for me.”
“Uh-UH!” Rizzo stuttered like a broken record, unable to respond as Terrific slammed his hands into the sides of the criminal’s head, discombobulating him and filling his brain with a persistent ringing. As Rizzo crashed to the ground, hands over his ears and groaning in pain, the henchman at the door raised his weapon in response, fear in his eyes as he powered his armament up. Grabbing the chair he was sitting in with one hand, Terrific swung his arm in a wide motion, flinging the furniture at the man and watching as it collided with his torso, forcing him back against the door as he dropped his weapon. Rushing towards the man, Terrific slid over the foldable table, grabbing a concussion grenade landing on the other side, kicking the table back into the air and towards his enemy. The man anticipated this attack, grabbing the chair in midair, but was unprepared for the second kick Terrific sent his way. Slamming his boot into the chair, Terrific smashed it to pieces as the momentum of the kick carried through into the man’s chest, knocking him right through the door and onto the grass outside the warehouse.
The final criminal in the cot was the only person Terrific had to deal with now, but he would be child's play. Flipping a switch on the grenade, Terrific strolled back over to the table, tossing the grenade directly underneath the criminal’s cot before grabbing his Fair Play jacket. As the criminal rubbed his eyes in confusion, he turned to his right to find Terrific slipping his jacket on, “Hey….Hey! You’re supposed to be-”
The grenade underneath the man goes off, sending both him and the cot upwards into the catwalk. The man’s body slammed into the underneath of the catwalk, the cot sandwiching him and further harming him before the two fell back down to earth. Hitting the ground at the same time as the cot, the man rolled onto the floor, unconscious and now missing a few of his front teeth. Straightening his sleeves, Mister Terrific smirked, “Sweet Dreams buddy.”
“Ughhhhhhhh” groaned Rizzo, whining in pain as Terrific grabbed him by the collar, eliciting a terrified yelp, “Wha-Whath!”
“Alright Rizzo, I’ve figured a few things out already so let’s skip the spiel.” said Terrific, “Under normal circumstances you’d just put a bullet in my head, but there’s a reason you tied me up instead. Carme to enlighten me?”
“The-The-The Forger called ush, wanthed tho colleth you!” stuttered Rizzo, “He shent hish enforsher thoo colleth you!”
Terrific kept a poker face, his mind chugging along and taking in the information, formulating all sorts of potential reasons for why the Forger wanted him now. Could be that he was tired of Terrific snooping about, or maybe, maybe, he’d figured out Terrific’s identity. As unlikely as the latter idea was, he still had to take it into account. Grabbing Rizzo’s head, Terrific slammed it against the concrete, knocking him out before standing up, Spotting the jammer from before on a crate. Walking over to it, Terrific picked it up, crushing it in his fist before scanning the rest of the warehouse for potential places to set up an ambush.
If he could catch the Forger’s enforcer off guard, he might just have a way of going straight to the man himself.
“I spy….something red.”
“It’s the fire hydrant, Exxy.”
Having quickly reacquired the extreme boredom that had ailed them both, Exxy and Victor had resorted to playing a game of I spy, pointing out different objects on the camera’s various angles around the city. It started out well enough, with the two pointing out mundane objects like lamp posts or cars, but soon Exxy tried to spice things up by immediately selecting an object within five seconds of the feed coming in. Issue was, it was always the most striking and colorful object on display, making it extremely easy for Victor to pick out what his choice was.
“Okay okay okay!” said Exxy, Flipping to another camera while his eyes darted about the screen, “Uuuuuuuh, I spy something…..Yellow and-”
“Flashing pizza place sign.”
Exxy let out an angry squeal, frustration evident in his bulging eyes and the fact that he’s literally pulling his hair out. He slammed his hands on the desk, causing the camera’s to switch channels before swiveling his chair in order to face Victor.
“Why can’t you just let me have it, just one time!” said Exxy.
“If you wanna win then stop making it so easy.” said Victor, offhandedly glancing at the screen as Exxy continued to complain.
“Listen man, I’m goin’ a little nuts bein’ cooped up in here with nothing to do except dick around with you,” said Exxy, “And listen, I don’t know how you got to be how you are...but I swear, I will…..write a song about how much you suck or something, I dunno.”
“Wait a second...”
“No, I’m serious.” said Exxy, “It’s gonna be a jazz number and I’ll call it...The metal man without a dick or something!”
“Exxy shut up!” said Victor, Pointing at the screen, “Look.”
Exxy gave Victor an odd look before turning back to the screen, realizing that it was depicting the Rat Pack’s hideout. This time however, one of the doors had been busted open, with one of the gang’s members laying just outside the building, unconscious.
“Oh, look at that...” said Exxy, “Looks like our friend has cleaned house. I imagine he’ll be back in a few minutes.”
“Sure.” said Victor, rolling his eye, “Then we have to listen to him babble.”
“C’mon man, I’ve said once I’ll say it again, he ain’t that bad.” said Exxy.
“Whatever,” said Victor, turning around and walking back into the workshop, “Watch on if you want, I’m gonna lie down again.”
Exxy wrinkled his nose, swiveling back to the camera’s in order to let Victor be on his own. Despite his somewhat unwelcoming attitude, Exxy didn’t think Victor was a bad guy. He struck him less as a monstrous villain and more as just a guy trying to be better than the dice roll life gave him. Looking back at the screen, Exxy watched the warehouse, looking for any other details that might have changed.
Oddly enough, there appeared to be a little blip of light in the corner of the camera feed. Squinting, Exxy looked closer, attempting to identify what it was. As the blip became brighter, it approached the camera at incredible speed, too fast for Exxy to see what it was before a part of the light seemed to split off, destroying the T-Sphere and cutting the feed.
“Oh shit!” said Exxy, standing up abruptly before turning to Victor, “Vic! Somethin fast just came through! Terrific might need some help.”
“He’s the Smartest man alive.” replied Victor, lying down in the workshop, “I’m sure he’ll get through it fine.”
“Vic, quit playing around,” said Exxy, “The dude could be in trouble!”
“I’m not playing around,” said Victor, turning his head away from Exxy, “I just don’t think the guy needs help.”
Exxy remained sat in his seat, a look of disbelief on his face. Victor seemed uneasy before, but now he was just being...cold. “What...What’s your deal man? You could have run when Rizzo came knocking, let him take me out back and put me down, but you stuck around and tried to cover my back, even though they got the better of you! But now you’re not gonna help this guy out because...what, he rubs you the wrong way?”
“Exxy, I’m a massive hunk of tech designed to kill shit.” said Victor, sitting up to actually look Exxy in the eyes in irritation, “I’m not a hero who goes out and saves people.”
Exxy narrowed his eyes, “If you’re designed to kill things, then why didn’t you paint my walls red with the Rat Pack’s blood?”
Victor’s expression fell away almost immediately after Exxy said those words. He had indeed spared the Rat Pack and it wasn’t a decision he thought much of. He made it subconsciously, as if it was the right thing to do, yet it was now making him question himself.
“You say you’re built to kill, but as far as I know you’re not a killer.” said Exxy, turning around to rifle through some of the desk’s drawers, “You saved my life tonight, so what’s wrong with saving another?”
Finding a pair of earpieces, Exxy swiveled back around, tossing one to Vic, “C’mon, I’ll lead you there. What’dya say?”
Victor looked at the earpiece in his hand, unsure of what to do. He really didn’t like Terrific, and would rather focus on his own task of finding his Father, yet despite Terrific’s pedigree, the idea that he was in trouble did tug at Victor’s inner conscience. Hanging his head, Victor realized that even if he did refuse, Exxy wouldn’t shut up trying to convince him for the rest of the time they were here, and if Terrific really was in trouble and got killed out there, that could be forever.
“Sigh fine?” said Victor.
Exxy’s eyes widened, “Y-You’ll actually do it! Awesome!”
“You do realize I don’t have ears right?” said Victor.
“And we still don’t have a way of opening the door, right?”
“Uuuuuuummmmmm...Yeah I think I might’ve jumped over a few issues we might have at the present moment.” said Exxy.
[I may be of assistance.]
V’s sudden entrance to the situation surprised Victor, as the AI had been fairly quiet. Still, it was a welcome return, ‘What do you think we can do, V?’
[Please move over to the main entrance to this facility and touch the door. I will do the rest.]
Unsure of what exactly V had in mind, Victor got up and walked over to the massive bulk doors closing him off from the outside world. Placing his hand on the metal, Victor suddenly felt a small spark in the back of his mind, followed by a sensation that felt like a hand reaching out of his mind, grasping at something before pulling a switch. He felt the sensation twice, at which point the doors suddenly began to open to Vic’s surprise.
“Woah!” said Exxy, “How’d you do that?!”
“I dunno.” said Victor, reaching out to V internally, ‘How did I do that?’
[I connected to the doors and used a few lines of code to open them. I also took initiative and linked your audio-sensors to the earpiece, you no longer need it as all audio now feeds directly into your mind.]
Great, now Exxy could bark into his ear wherever he was, ‘If you could always do this, why didn’t you do it before?’
[You never asked.]
Victor grumbled at such an answer, both very fitting for a computer and very irritating for him to deal with. Walking up to the opening in the base, Victor turned back towards Exxy, “I guess I’m going out there then.”
“Good luck,” said Exxy, “I’ll head back to the office and watch from the cams.”
Victor nodded, turning back towards the opening. Time to back up the smartest man alive.
Exxy was right, whatever was flying around the Rat Pack’s hideout was fast, so fast that Victor couldn’t even keep track of it. On a bright sunny day, this thing would be a blur, something people would think was just a figment of their imagination. At night though, with a skyline as starless as Detroit’s, it might as well have been invisible. The only reason Victor could tell this thing was still around the hideout was because of the lightning quick energy blasts being peppered at the building from what seemed to be every angle imaginable.
Victor found himself crouched across a field of grass, watching the attack unfold from a relatively safe distance. He wanted to gauge the extent of the attack, as Exxy’s description was fairly vague, and now that he knew how bad the fight actually was, he had to figure out how he was getting in.
“Just run in dude! Rip the bandaid off!” said Exxy, speaking over the ear-piece.
“Really? You’re the one pressuring me to rescue this guy, but you’re also not the one risking your life out here.” said Victor.
“Relax man, I’m sure you can take a few hits.” said Exxy, “Like, sixty percent sure.”
Victor growled, shuffling in place for a few seconds before begrudgingly preparing to run. He didn’t know if the thing in the sky would even attack him, but if it did, he wasn’t sure how many blasts his frame could handle. Watching the blasts blow solid brick to smithereens, Victor guessed that that number wasn’t many. Racking his brain, Victor struggled to come up with a way inside.
At least, he did until he saw what was in the grass.
A small deflated football sat in the grass, barely visible from Victor’s position. If he had to guess, it belonged to less fortunate children who used the field as a football arena of their own, but for some reason they had left their icon of joy behind. Regardless of why it was here, it gave Victor an idea, one very much rooted in his old life. Taking a few steps back, Victor got into a three-point stance, his fingers pressing past the grass and into the dirt as he waited for his moment to go. As the attacker seemed to move around the back end of the warehouse, Victor launched himself forward, his legs thundering against the grass as he charged for his destination.
The thing in the sky seemed to notice him bolting across the grass, evidenced by the fresh array of energy blasts now heading straight for him. As the distorted light came hard and fast, Victor did what he always did when an enemy linebacker charged in in football, he dodged, he weaved, he spun out of the way. He gave himself to the flow of the game, or in this case, the action, pretending that the hail of deadly energy balls were just opponents to rush past.
Maneuvering his body and using its inherent momentum to peter side to side, Victor avoided each blast as it peppered the ground, leaving massive burn marks in the grass as Victor made it to the halfway point. The attacking entity saw him as a threat, enough so that it would divert some of its weapon fire at him, but without the full firepower of the attacks, Victor remains untouchable, just like on the football fields of his college career.
It was moments like this, moments where his past came to life again, moments that reminded him of what he used to be, that brang life back into Victor’s soul.
Now only a few meters from the warehouse wall, Victor tucked his head and leaped forward, using the force of his body to slam straight through the brick making up the wall, sending debris flying everywhere as he finally got into the building.
Victor groaned, shrugging the shattered brick off his body before looking up to find a surprised Mister Terrific taking cover underneath a foldable table. The hero growled in frustration, doing a little angry dance with his hands for a moment before frustratingly beckoning Victor to take cover with him. Crawling through and over bits and pieces of rubble made from his entrance and from the attacks by the entity before finally reaching the table. Terrific reached out as the entity’s assault began again, energy peppering the interior of the warehouse as he grabbed Victor, dragging him into cover just as the blasts began to hit the area around the table.
“We’re gonna have a talk, y’here me.” said Terrific, his tone angry, “Once we get back, we’re all gonna sit down and you’re gonna tell me everything.”
“Yeah, once we get back,” said Victor, nervously eyeing the area outside the warehouse, “First we gotta deal with whatever’s attacking us.”
“They’re Forger’s enforcer.” said Terrific, “Forger being the weapon designer I’ve been tracking. Long Story. Point is, they’re on some kind of hover vehicle and they’re too fast for even my T-Sphere’s to track. I was going to set a trap, but I wasn’t expecting somebody this mobile.”
Victor frowned, his mind racing to figure out how he could help Terrific out of this one. Their enemy was too fast to even track with the naked or artificial eye, and their attacks were strong enough to punch through brick. Any conventional means of combating them were practically useless. They needed something out of the ordinary.
‘V, do we have anything that can deal with something this fast?’ thought Victor.
[Parsing….I recommend the hypersonic emitter.]
Victor had no clue what that was, but at this point he’d take anything, ‘Alright, give me the...whatever it is.’
Victor felt his hand begin to shift, the fingers folding back as if his arm was becoming a blaster again. However, this blaster was much smaller in comparison, formed around where his hand used to be and about the size of his palm in comparison to the massive blaster that was his White Noise Cannon.
Welp, here goes nothing.
Aiming the weapon outward towards an opening where the shots rained in, Victor subconsciously activated the emitter, expecting some kind of sound wave. Instead, what he got was a loud screeching noise, broadcast from his hand and creating a deafening wave of sound over the entire warehouse. Turning around, Victor watched Terrific cover his ears, groaning in pain as he withstood the ear piercing noise.
A scream could be heard from outside as someone, likely the enforcer, cried out in pain. The attacks ceased, likely due to the pain caused by the unexpected attack as Victor caught a glimpse of their assailant flying away. As his arm shifted back to normal, Victor crawled out from under the table, looking out through the holes in the warehouse roof and into the night sky.
The shout seemed almost...feminine.
“Shit. Rattama’s flown the coop…..again.”
Terrific trembled in anger, his hands shaking before tightening up into fists. Victor backed away a little, unsure of what to say now that the threat was over, “Uh, I’m sure you can catch him...again.”
Terrific turned around, giving Victor a face that screamed ‘I’m going to kill you.’ Victor shuddered in fear, taking a few steps back as Terrific began to approach him.
“What’s goin on?” barked Exxy, broadcasting into Victor’s ear, “Did you save him?”
Terrific got right up into Victor’s personal space, pressing his face against Victor’s before whispering a few angry words.
“Back to base. Tell me everything. Now.”
Terrific sat across from Victor, putting the pieces of his story together as Victor nervously tapped his fingers against the table, silently venting his stress while Exxy sat to the side. The former thief was delighted at first to see the two back safe, but once Terrific realized that Exxy had broken into a...private section of the base, that delight quickly morphed into terror as Terrific lost his temper, pushing him aside and re-locking the door. Now keeping a watchful eye on the burglar, Terrific sat all three of them down, allowing Victor to tell Terrific everything. The facility, the fight with GRID, he left nothing out.
Having finally been told everything, Terrific rubbed his chin, reflecting on the story before standing up, “That’s...quite the tale. I can imagine that you’d be in a stressful state of mind at this moment.”
“Now that you know everything, can you please just let me out of here.” said Victor, “I need to find my dad, and I can do that by picking up his trail in the STAR LABS database.”
“Don’t bother.” said Terrific, “The security on those databases are complex, so complex that nobody’s ever broken them before. I don’t know what your baseline intelligence or education level is, but even the best hackers in the world haven’t gotten in.”
Victor shook his head, his frustration starting to bubble to the surface he let out a sigh, “Damnit I...I’m just grasping at straws right now. I don’t know where to go from here.”
“Ey!” piped Exxy, gesturing at Terrific, “Aren’t you the smartest man in the world? Couldn’t you break it...hypothetically speaking.”
“Firstly, I’m one of the smartest men alive, it isn’t concrete.” said Terrific, “Second, even if I was too willing to put my time into this, I can’t. This business with Forger takes priority.”
Exxy stood up abruptly, anger in his eyes, “I’m sorry but...Victor just did you a solid. He helped you out and you’re just gonna send him off without a thank you?”
“I don’t know why you think you’re entitled to my help.” said Terrific, “Forger’s weapons are all over the city and if I don’t-”
“Don’t speak to me about entitlement.” said Exxy, his usually calm and laid back demeanor replaced by uncharacteristic malice, “Sure, you fight crime with your fancy gadgets and doodads, and I’m happy that you help at all, but don’t ever get started on entitlement if you’ve never had to go weeks on end without a home, a shower, or food to eat.”
The snappiness of the reply surprised Terrific, who seemed to inch back a little in response to Exxy’s retort. Before he could respond however, Victor spoke up.
“Then we make a deal.” said Victor, “I help you find Forger, back you up in as many ways as I can, including stuff you might not be able to deal with, then you help me with my dad. I know you just met me and I know we didn’t get off to a good start, but I need this. I need to find my dad, and right now, you’re my only option.”`
It was an ask made almost completely out of desperation, and Terrific knew that. He thought on the deal, entertaining the idea of working with a partner again. Curtis wasn’t here anymore to watch his back, and so far he’d fallen into a few unnecessarily easy to see traps. If someone was there to pick up any slack he had, if any, then that would patch some of the holes he had in his methods. Not only that, but he was emotionally compromised too due to the attack on Holt Industries. If he went out of line, then somebody would need to pull him back from the brink. As much as he hated to admit it, this was the most logical step.
“Alright, you have yourself a deal.” said Terrific, “But we’ll need someone to keep an eagles eye in the investigation if we want all the bases covered.”
“I’ll do it!” said Exxy, raising his hand, “I’m already kinda familiar with the system so...It’ll be easy for me to integrate and shit.”
“Exxy….why do you want to do this at all?” said Terrific, “I can’t legally pay you or anything.”
“Sure, but if you let me sleep in here,” said Exxy, waving at the base as a whole, “Then I’ll be golden.”
“If that’s so then...It’s settled.” said Terrific, turning back to Victor with a serious look, “Get rest, we start tomorrow at five a.m.”
Standing up from his seat, Terrific stretched his arms before walking off, leaving Exxy and Victor alone. Despite the rollercoaster of a night the two had had, this had turned out about as well as Victor had hoped. He may have hit a roadblock, but there was a way to move forward.
And hey, he even made some friends along the way.
Rizzo groaned in pain, clutching his chest as he hobbled into a dirty Detroit alley. He’d barely made it out of the warehouse during the chaos, but he was forced to leave behind everything. His gear, his money, his crew, everything.
Now he was nothing but an out of breath guy with a broken jaw.
“Fack!” shouted Rizzo, punching the wall in frustration resting his head against the brick, “Damnith, Can’th I have shomething go righth?”
“Hello? Are you alright my friend?”
Rizzo, startled the entrance of a clam but electronically distorted voice, stumbled back a few feet, looking into the dark depths of the alley in terror, “Who-Who’sh there?”
“Do not worry, I am not interested in turning you in or otherwise doing anything that would be detrimental to you. That would be exceedingly hypocritical of me.”
Rizzo shuddered, shaking nervously as he cautiously took a step towards the voice, “W-Whath do you wanth?”
“Me? I want to help you Rizzo. I’ve been keeping an eye on you and I’ve noticed that your recent...exploits have been less than successful.”
“It’sh my damn gang,” piped Rizzo, blaming others rather than himself, “They’re all ushelesh. Even Forgar’sh weaponry doeshn’th help.”
“Guns are only as good as their users, and in your case the users weren’t competent.” said teh voice, “Me though, I can offer you a more...permanent upgrade.”
Rizzo raised his eyebrow, “Exshplain.”
“Sure, you could buy a laser that can punch through brick walls, but what if you could just use your fists? Sure, you can snipe somebody from a rooftop, but what if you could just look at them and get the same result?” said the voice, “You might not even want an enhancement for combat or crime related purposes. I can get you fixes that let you not have to worry about being out a breath, I can replace a cancerous and diseased organ or heart. I can even make your bones unbreakable.”
Rizzo rubbed his broken jaw, seriously considering the man’s words, “Who are you?”
Out of the shadows stepped a man draped in a trenchcoat and hood. Pulling the hood back, the man revealed a head completely enclosed by a metallic mask, with unevenly spaced eye holes and lines running haphazardly around his head, “I am the Machinist, and if you take my hand, I’ll make your dreams come true.”
submitted by deadislandman1 to DCNext [link] [comments]
2020.09.13 00:10 TallGuySpencer Show cam private
I just need to vent. Responses are welcome telling me I'm wrong/right for being upset. I guess my situation isn't as bad as some have it in this subreddit.
2020 was supposed to be the year I moved out and started my life. For reference, I turned 24 in May and was planning on buying a townhome and starting my life and career. I work in aviation and up until the beginning of this year, everything was great. I live in NC, but from Oct. last year to Apr. this year, I was in Arizona working for my company, living from a hotel that was company paid for, all expenses paid for (best time of my hands down). COVID took off and my company wanted me back at my home location in NC. So I don't have an apartment here and I went back with my parents.
My dad is pretty chill. My mom is overprotective with narcissisitc ways. I already keep to myself at home pretty much and I told them my room is my private area. Well, I knew even though I said that, they wouldn't respect it. My mom always thinks shes right because shes my mom and I'm the son. They think their opinion is the correct opinion on anything.
With my mom losing her job to COVID, she's home 24/7 now. I set up a Wyze cam in my room and have it notify me of motion detection.
While I'm home, in my room, they don't bother me. But, sure enough, when I go to work or am in the shower, I get notifications showing my mom in my room doing stuff.
I usually keep a bottle of vodka hidden beside my PC tower. Me and my friends on discord like to sometimes have a couple drinks and have some chill play nights on some games. For reference, I'm not getting severely drunk/loud/totally wasted like crazy; we just let loose and have some fun, all keeping to myself and not disturbing anyone. Or sometimes I just like to sip some whisky and read a book or watch netflix on a Friday night. Obviously you could defend this as their house, their rules. But come on, I stay in my room and mind my own business.
Well, today I'm in the shower and I got a notification with her in my room going through it and looking around my PC tower and taking everything out and looking at it. I stop the shower and watch as she leaves my room instantly.
I comment "I ask for privacy and you still can't stay out of my room and stuff and respect it." which she replies "It's my house, I do what I want." - I kinda got real upset and just said "I don't give a damn." and went in and just closed the door on her.
This "its my house, I do what I what I want" line has been used SO MANY times for other situations.
My parents are hardcore Christians, so I'm just waiting to see how this goes. Still haven't left my room beause I'm upset my trust/privacy was violated. I feel like I can't trust them anylonger. I've never done anything for them to question my privacy/trust either. I've always been the "good" kid staying out of trouble and making excellent grades in college. The worst thing I've ever done in life was get a speeding ticket lmao.
Now, I want to move out so bad, after all that was my plan at the beginnng of 2020. Except I'm randomly furloughed at my job now. Sometimes I work 2 weeks on 1 off, or 2 off and 1 on. It all depends on our workload week-to-week. I'm concerned about losing my job, but I'm real good at what I do and my supervisor keeps saying "I'll leave before they fire you." Which I believe is BS - but nonetheless, I do hold some weight at my job.
Apartments around me are roughly $900/mo and ghetto. Townhomes here sell instantly, but if I wait I can maybe snag one for $150k. I have a sizeable savings right now. I pay for my food, gas, entertainment subscriptions for the house, basically all my own bills minus paying them rent. I clean my own room and take care of my own responsibilities.
I absolutely hate living with no privacy, but thanks to COVID I feel like I'm stuck here. I don't want to lease an apartment and have to break it due to a house coming up I want or if i lose my job. I'm scared to get a house, if I lose my job how will I pay mortgage payments. But it seems my work is picking up right now. I don't know what to do. I have a decent savings, enough for a 20% downpayment and extra. I don't even know if I can get a mortgage loan with me being partially furloughed.
This year has given me severe depression and obviously my parents don't understand mental health.
I feel like I'm still treated like a kid and moving back home due to COVID was a mistake. Maybe taking a risk and getting a shitty apartment is my only way out. I just don't want to eat into my house savings and ruin it all. I hate this so much.
Maybe this was fit more for PersonalFinance, but I needed to vent about my mom and how I can't have privacy, even in my own room.
submitted by TallGuySpencer to raisedbynarcissists [link] [comments]
2020.09.11 22:11 Jade_Mirror So I tried Strip Chat for the first time today
And it was the best day I've had camming! I got three private shows, one which lasted half an hour. My anxiety there was somehow lesser, and being a trans woman, I feel like the small bowl gave me better visibility. I know the site promotes newer users, which I know contributed. But even though I was getting considerably smaller audiences, people who were interested in me could find be better.
My big hangup with the site though has been that it uses some highly transphobic language so I feel gross using it tbh.
That I got virtually all my earnings from one person today makes me wonder if I should just pivot to private shows entirely since I have had limited luck getting people to tip me to show them my ass.
submitted by Jade_Mirror to CamGirlProblems [link] [comments]
2020.09.08 02:57 CherryJello312 texting abbreviations
Text Messaging & Chat Abbreviations: Numbers & Characters ?
I have a question
I don't understand what you mean
I have a question for you
Gentle warning, like "Hmm? What did you say?"
Meaning "read line" or "read message" above
Meaning "sideways heart" (love, friendship)
Meaning "broken heart"
Meaning "heart or love" (more 3s is a bigger heart)
At the end of the day
My (or your) two cents worth
Meaning number of items needed for win (online gaming)
Meaning extra life (online gaming)
One-to-one (private chat initiation)
Leet, meaning 'elite'
I love you
I love you too
One for all, and all for one
I hate you
Zero hand (online gaming)
Ten man (online gaming)
One in a million
Meaning "to" in SMS
Too good to be true
Too much too handle
Too much information
Too much to handle
Short for "for" in SMS
I don't know
Lets get high
Means I love you (ILY is 459 using keypad numbers)
For adults only
For crying out loud
Forever and ever
Too much information (more than 411)
Sobbing, crying. (Mandarin Chinese txt msgs)
Crying your eyes out (Mandarin Chinese txt msgs)
Meaning Laughing (In Thai language the number 5 is pronounced 'ha'.)
Meaning Hells Angels (H=8th letter of alphabet, A=1st letter of alphabet)
I love you (8 letters, 3 words, 1 meaning)
Bye-bye (Mandarin Chinese txt msgs)
Hugs and kisses
Parent is watching
"A" Text Message & Chat Abbreviations A3
Anytime, anywhere, anyplace
As a matter of fact
As a friend
Asleep at keyboard
Alive and kicking
As a matter of fact
As a matter of interest
Always a pleasure
At any rate
Alive and smiling
As always, Sheldon has the answer (Bike mechanic Sheldon Brown)
Always at the keyboard
As always, your friend
Already been chewed
Already been done
Meaning 'About to'
Meaning Good-bye (signoff)
All bugged up
Anyone can come
ALT / CONTROL / DELETE
Accident (e-mail, Government)
Meaning marijuana cigarette
Accept (e-mail, Government)
Acquisition (e-mail, Government)
Another day, another dollar
All done, bye-bye
Another day in hell
Another day in paradise
Any day now
Area effect (online gaming)
As early as possible
Aggression factor (online gaming)
Away from computer
As far as I am aware
As far as I am concerned
As far as I know
As far as I understand it
As far as possible
Angels Forever, Forever Angels
April Fool's joke
Away from keyboard
Acronym Free Zone
A fresh pair of eyes
Meaning "agility" (online gaming)
And I am a money's uncle
As I remember
As it should be
As I said before
As I see it
Adult in the room
Also known as
Actually laughing out loud
Ask me anything (Reddit)
As much as possible
All my best wishes
All my love
As a matter of fact
Anarchy Online (online gaming)
Available on cell
Area of effect (online game)
Age of majority
Age of Mythology (online gaming)
All of the above
Angel on your pillow
All praise and credit
As quick (or quiet) as possible
Archive (compressed files)
Acronym rich environment
And so it goes
As soon as possible
At your terminal
All the best
At the end of the day
At the moment
All the stars in the sky
Along the same line (or lines)
After awhile crocodile
Away without leaving
Absent without leave
Are you done yet?
All your base are belong to us (online gaming)
At your earliest convenience
At your own risk
Are you stupid or something?
Are you serious?
Are you there?
And you're telling me this because
Are you vertical?
As you were
As you want / As you wish
"B" Text Message / Chat Abbreviations B
Back to work
Bait (person teased or joked with, or under-aged person/teen)
Boss is watching
Background (personal information request)
Bye for now
Busting a gut
Before anyone else
Meaning Babe or baby
Best and final offer
Back at keyboard
Below average mentality
Bad *a* mother *f*
Be aware of
Big 'butt' smile
Meaning anything mainstream
Breathing a sigh of relief
Business as usual
Back at ya
Bebi / Baby (Spanish SMS)
Big bad challenge
Be back in a bit
Be back in a few
Be back in a minute
Be back in a sec
Be back later
Bye, bye now
Barbeque, "Ownage", shooting score/frag (online gaming)
Be back soon
Be back tomorrow
Be seeing you
Big crush on
Big crush on you
Big darn number
Big evil grin
Meaning "Blood Elf" (online gaming)
Best friend at work
Battlefield 2 (online gaming)
Best friends forever
Best friends for life
Best friends for life, no matter what
Big freaking deal
Big freaking grin
Best friend for now
Bye for now
Be gentle with me
Be home late
Boss is back
Beer in, beer out
Butt in chair
Before I forget
Burn in hell
Brother in law
Meaning "I'm going to the bathroom" (or) "Bathroom break"
Believe it or not
Blow it out your *a*
Blow it out your nose
Best in slot (online gaming)
Boy, I sure feel like a turquoise monkey! (unverified)
But in the meantime
Better luck next time
Meaning Man (Discord)
Based on my experience
Between me and you
Back off *buddy*
Meaning "bind on equip" (online gaming)
Bend over here it comes again
Best of luck
*b* of mine
Be on the look out
Bored out of my skull
Meaning "bind on pickup" (online gaming)
Bending over smacking my knee laughing
Back on topic
Be on that
Broke my scale, used when rating someone
Big person little mind
Be right back
Be right back *b*
Be right back, nature calls
Be right here
Be right there
But seriously folks
Blue screen of death
Better safe than sorry
But then again
Been there, done that
By the way
Slang term for the most beautiful of women
Used to reference an insult
Meaning "changed and is now stronger" (online gaming)
Bursting with laughter
Bring your own beer
Bring your own computer
Bring your own device
Bat you on (the) head
Bring your own paint (paintball)
Better you than me
"C" Text Message / Chat Abbreviations C&G
Chuckle & grin
Ciao for now
Control + Alt + Delete
Short for Canada/Canadian
Meaning Birthday (Reddit)
Code 9, Meaning "parents are around"
Care for secret?
Calling for you
Good-bye (Italian word)
Coffee in, coffee out
Crying in disgrace
Consider it done
Crying like a baby
Cover my *a* partner (online gaming)
Call me back
Meaning "Community manager"
Correct me if I'm wrong
Continued (in) next post
Close of business
City of Heroes (online gaming)
Chat post (or continue in IM)
Slang term meaning "crazy"
Can't remember a *freaking* thing
Come right back
Crying really big tears
Meaning "critical hit" (online gaming)
Can't remember *stuff*
Chuckle, snicker, grin
Can't stop laughing
Counter-Strike Source (online gaming)
Care to chat?
Cracking the *heck* up
Can't talk now
Check this out
See you too
See you around
See you later
See you later alligator
See you later
See you in my dreams
See you around like a donut
Comment when done
Complete waste of time
Chat with you later
See you later
Check your e-mail
Close your eyes partner (online gaming)
See you online
"D" Text Message / Chat Abbreviations D2
Dedos / fingers (Spanish SMS)
Down for sex?
Does anyone else?
(What) the *Freak*?
Don't annoy me
Dark Age of Camelot (online gaming)
Doing business as usual
Don't believe everything you read
Dear (or Darling) daughter
Drop dead gorgeous
A phrase used in online chat to annoy or frustrate those involved in the conversation.
Dear (or Darling) daughter
Meaning stupid or silly
Don't even go there
Dead *freaking* last (online gaming)
Don't go anywhere
Don't give a *freak*
Don't go there
Don't go there, girlfriend
Dang, girl you fine
Dear (or Darling) husband
Dinosaur hugs (used to show support)
Darned if I know
Do I know you?
Do I look like I give a *freak*?
Do I look like I give a sugar?
Did I say?
Did I tell you I'm distressed?
Do it yourself
Don't know, don't care
Dragon kill points (online gaming)
Don't let (the) bed bugs bite
Don't let the bed bugs bite
Direct message (Twitter slang)
Dungeon Master (online gaming)
Dude Man No Offense
Don't mess yourself
Do not compute (meaning I do not understand)
Daughter of Eve
Damage over time (online gaming)
Voting negatively on a thread using Reddit’s voting system (Reddit)
Damage per second (online gaming)
Don't quote me on this
Dear (or Darling) son
Define the relationship
Do the right thing
Don't think so
Don't touch that dial
Do you remember?
Dear (or Darling) wife
Divorced white female
Divorced white male
Do you know what you are talking about?
Did you find it?
Dude, you fascinate me
Don't you just hate it when...?
Do your own research (common stock market chat slang)
"E" Text Message / Chat Abbreviations E
Enemy (online gaming)
Easy as one, two, three
Ear to ear grin
Eating at keyboard
Error between keyboard and chair
Editing in progress
Explain like I'm 5
E-mail (Twitter slang)
E-mail address (Twitter slang)
Excuse me for butting in
Excuse me for jumping in
End of day
End of discussion
End of lecture
End of life
End of message
End of show
End of transmission
EverQuest (online gaming)
Meaning "Erotic Role-Play" (online gaming)
Eres tz / are you (Spanish SMS)
Eat *S* and die!
Estimated time (of) arrival
Edited to add
Evil wicked grin (in fun, teasing)
Emailing while intoxicated
Meaning over the top
Excitable, yet calm
"F" Text Message / Chat Abbreviations F
Face to face
Free to play (online gaming)
Follow for follow (Instagram)
Falling asleep at keyboard
Used to represent the gesture of "smacking your forehead with your palm" to express embarrassment or frustration
Funny as *freak*
FFamily, but not limited to actual family members. Could mean friends.
Frequently asked questions
*Freak* all you
Meaning "Facebook buddy"
Meaning "Facebook friend"
Fat boy food (e.g. pizza, burgers, fries)
Fine by me
Facebook official (An official update from Facebook)
For better or worse
Full card (online gaming)
For crying out loud
For crying out loud
A social meme that means to feel negative.
A social meme taking "feelsbadman" to the extreme. This references the DC super hero Batmanbecause he witnessed the murder of his parents.
A social meme that means to feel positive.
*Freak* 'em if they can't take a joke
Follow Friday (Twitter slang)
Free for all (online gaming)
Frankly I couldn't care a less
*Freak* I'm funny
*Freaked* if I know
Forget it, I'm out of here
Father in law
Forever in my heart
Means "Going to"
A second Instagram account where someone can post things that they're too afraid to post on their main account.
First in, still here
Fill in the blank
*Freak* My Life
Falling off my chair
Fear of missing out (definition)
*Freak* off and die
Friend of a friend
Falling off my chair laughing
For real though
From the bottom of my heart
Fixed that for you
For the loss
For the win
Fouled up beyond all recognition
Fouled up beyond belief
Face up deal (online gaming)
Feet up, take a break
Friend with benefits
For what it's worth
Fine with me
First world problems
Fire, something that is cool
For your eyes only
For your amusement
For your information
"G" Text Message / Chat Abbreviations G
Good to see you
Got to go
Got to go I'll see you later
Got to run
Got to tell u (you)
Going for coffee
Get a clue
Get a *freaking* clue
Get a life
Meaning a player ambush or unfair player kill (online gaming)
Got a second?
Greetings and salutations
Get back to work
God bless you
Grinning, ducking, and running
Grinning, ducking, and running
Go for it
Gone for now
Good Game (online gaming)
Brother (Mandarin Chinese txt msgs)
Good game, all (online gaming)
Good game, everyone (online gaming)
Good game, you too
Gotta get me some of that
Gotta Get Outa Here
Got to go pee
Good hand (online gaming)
Give it a rest
Gift in crib (online gaming)
Garbage in, garbage out
Guy in real life
Good luck to you (online gaming)
Good luck all (online gaming)
Good luck, have fun (online gaming)
Good luck everyone (online gaming)
Good luck everyone (online gaming)
Good luck next game (online gaming)
Giggling my butt off
Great minds think alike
Got my vote
Good night all
Good night everyone
Good night, sweet dreams
Greatest of all Time(s)
Get over it
Giggling out loud
Get off my back
Gratuitous picture of yourself
Get right with God
Grinning, running and ducking
Good split (online gaming)
Get the *freak* out
Get the *freak* outta here
Got to go
Giggling to myself
Going to read mail
Great (or good) to see you
Glad we had this little chat
"H" Text Message / Chat Abbreviations H
Hate to be you
Have a good one
Hug and kiss
How about you?
Hugs & kisses
Hope to see you soon
Have a good night
Have a good one
Have a nice day
Have a wonderful day (out-dated, see next in list)
Meaning "sexy" or "attractive"
How about you?
Holy flipping animal crackers
Happy Father's Day
Head hanging in shame
How I felt when... (Used with photo or gif)
Half Life (online gaming)
Hola / hello (Spanish SMS)
Happy Mother's Day
Hit me up
(w)Hole 'nother level
Hold on a second
Hit points / Health points (online gaming)
How are you?
Hope this helps
Head up butt
Head up your *butt*
Heroic Violet Hold (online gaming)
Hell yeah, *Freaking* right!
"I" Text Message / Chat Abbreviations I2
I too (me too)
I already ate
I am an accountant
I am a doctor
I am a lawyer
In any case
In any event
I am not a crook
I am not a lawyer
I am out (of here)
I couldn't agree more
It could be worse
I can't even discuss it
I could fall in love with you
In case you missed it (Twitter slang)
I don't believe it
I don't care
I don't give a *freak*
I don't know
I don't think so
I don't know
I feel your pain
I got to run
I got high tonight
I (I've) got nothing
I got to (go) pee
I have no idea
If I remember correctly
Intel inside, idiot outside
I know, right?
I'll be late
I love you
I love you man
I love you so much
I love you
In my arrogant opinion
In my humble opinion
(in Arial font) Means I love you (a way of using the American sign language in text)
In my not so humble opinion
In my opinion
I am sorry
I am so bored
I am the man
I miss u (you)
I'm not a lawyer
Meaning "incoming" (online gaming)
In over my head
In other words
In real life
I rest my case
I still love you
In search of
It's The Accounting, Man (financial blogs)
In This Thread
I thought you knew
If you say so
I will always love you
I want a way out
Idiot wrapped in a moron
I want sex now
If you know what I mean
In your opinion
Meaning "I like you"
If you say so
"J" Text Message / Chat Abbreviations j00
Just a second
Just a minute
Just a second
Just do it
Just for fun
Just *freaking* Google it
Just in case
Just joking around
Just let me know
Just my opinion
Jackpot (online gaming, bingo games)
Just to let you know
"K" Text Messages / Chat Abbreviations K
Kick butt (online gaming)
Means Cracking (K) the (D as in Da) *freak* up
I will key you later
Key me when you get in
Kiss for you
Know it all
Keep it real
Keep it simple, stupid
Keep in touch
Kiss my *a*
Kiss my keister
Kiss my tushie
Kiss on cheek
Key opinion leader
Someone obsessed with Korean culture
Kid over shoulder
Kill on sight (online gaming)
Knock on wood
Kiss on the cheek
Kicks of the day (Instagram)
Kiss on the lips
Know what I mean?
Keeping parents clueless
Kill then steal (online gaming)
Kind (of) sort (of) chuckle
Keep up the good work
"L" Text Message & Chat Abbreviations L2G
Like to go?
(would) Love to go
Like to come
Learn to play
Leet, meaning 'elite'
Like for like (Instagram)
Life's a *b*
Laughing back at you
Laughing, but serious
Laughing, but very serious
Like, duh obviously
Let me know
Leaving easy reach of keyboard
Left for day
Looking for group (online gaming)
Looking for guard (online gaming)
Looking for more (online gaming)
Lets get high
Lets have sex
Lets have sex
Lord help me
Laughing head off
Like I care
Laugh in my tummy
Meaning really good or something fun and exciting
Love, later, God bless
Laughing like *silly*
Laughing my *a* off
Laughing my butt off
Laughing my freaking *a* off
Lets meet in real life
Let me know
Laughing my mother freaking a** off
Leave my name out
Like my status (Facebook)
Meaning lost in translation
List of acronyms
Laughing out loud
Laugh out loud
Lots of love
Laughing out loud hysterically
Lots of love
Laughing out loud (saying) "What the *freak*?"
Laughing on the inside
Lord of The Rings (online gaming)
Laughing quietly to myself
Laugh so hard my belly hurts
Language, sex and violence
Living the dream
Let's twist like we did last summer
Long time no see
Laptop of death
Laughing to self
Love you long time
Meaning joke, or for laughs
Left voice mail
Laughing without smiling
Love you like a sis
Love you like crazy
Love you so much
"M" Text Messages & Chat Abbreviations M$
Mom behind shoulder
My Dad is a cop
My eyes glaze over
Meaning a "shrug" or shrugging shoulders
Meaning a "so-so" or "just okay"
Meaning a "sigh" or sighing
Meaning "mesmerize" (online gaming)
Mad for it
My face when... (Used with photo or gif)
May God bless
My hat (is) off to you
Me in real life
Meet in real life
Meaning "child and her age". Miss.3 would be a 3-year old daughter
Meaning "Mmm, okay"
Meaning give the middle finger
Sister (Mandarin Chinese txt msg)
Meaning okay? (as a question)
Mother nature calls
Mensaje (message in Spanish)
Modification (online gaming)
Male or female?
My own opinion
Member of the opposite sex
Mother over shoulder
Member of same sex
Mana points (online gaming)
Meaning "child and his age". Mr.3 would be a 3-year old son
Modified ReTweet (Twitter slang)
My reaction when... (Used with photo or gif)
More to follow
May the force be with you
Miss U (you)
Multiple unsuccessful attempts (at/to) humor
Miss you so much
Meaning "kiss" (it is is the sound made when kissing through the air)
Mind your own (business)
Mind your own business
"N" Text Message & Chat Abbreviations n00b
Nothing too much
Not a darn thing
Not a lot of people know that
Not now, no need
No big deal
No bad for a beginner (online gaming)
Nice crib (online gaming)
Nice double (online gaming)
Meaning "Changed and is now weaker" (online gaming)
submitted by CherryJello312 to WhatsTheRule [link] [comments]
2020.09.04 15:12 Sooperdude24 Private cam show
Warning - A little bad language in this one, that's me - u/eruwenn is the one adding polish, refinement and the enhancing of words.
First / Prev / Next
Free of the harness that had proven awkward and unwieldy, Tony wandered unhindered down the tunnel. He sniffed the air and examined the ground, occasionally pushing his head against Aaron in the hopes of a biscuit reward or a scratch behind the ear. The drone cams, numbering half a dozen, circled silently overhead to show the scene from various angles to the crowds.
The nearby streets were filled with those watching the screens, but that wasn't even the full extent of those who were paying attention. Kasur as a whole was at a standstill, its population gathered in crowds in cities across the world, even on the far side where the glow of the screens lit up like beacons in the night.
Leokas-mania itself had spread even wider, far beyond Kasur. Billions across the Federation were watching, bearing witness to the last human walking side by side with one of the most infamous symbols in the galaxy. Tony, a leokas — power and death personified — had been a victim of this notoriety. Stolen, and made into a chilling cryo decoration. Sold to a distant world merely for the purpose of decorating a lobby.
Alexa, working behind the scenes, was doing as Aaron had requested and carefully inserting clips from Tony's journey into the live stream. Glimpses at the depressing footage of the Arkellian museum. The first encounter with the duo from Earth, gently but firmly being driven from the corridor. All the bits and pieces that best told the journey from fearsome to wary, and from wary all the way to playful and friendly.
Unknowing of what exactly was playing out on the screens, Aaron and Tony walked on through the quiet tunnel. The leokas suddenly stopped, sniffing intently at some scent imperceptible to Aaron as the duo reached the door to the enclosure. A single word from the human, a call, prompted Tony's head to rise, and after a moment the leokas trotted happily over. In a slow gesture that felt infinitely profound to those watching, Aaron opened the door.
A warm breeze blew into the tunnel, accompanied by the dappled light of the forest and the rich smells of one of the remaining wilds of Kasur. Nervous at the unfamiliar, Tony froze, then took a step back. Aaron, on the other hand, stepped forward into the warm rays.
"Come on, ya big scaredy cat.”
Emboldened by the calmness of the human, Tony began to walk forward again and as Aaron stepped onto a newly cut path, the leokas paused in the doorway. The humid air, heavy with the deep aroma of leaf litter and nutrient rich dirt, seemed to tug the animal forward and, with nose and whiskers twitching, he stepped out of the tunnel with head held high in the air.
As they followed the path the door silently closed behind them. The Kasurians had left a trail to a clearing deep amongst the trees, and the pair walked together for a short while. The Kasur sun was high and the air warm. Shafts of light pierced the canopy and Aaron picked up a stick to idly swipe at the air. Tony’s tail swished as he padded softly behind, and the human took out a biscuit and tossed it backwards, turning his head to watch the leokas snatch it greedily. “Make the most of them, buddy; you’re going to have to get your own dinner from now on.”
Passing under a giant example of a blue broccoli tree, the human stepped off the path to look more closely at the trunk. It pulsed, and was translucent, and Aaron wasn't certain whether to be amazed or disgusted by it. Tony, on the other hand, stepped closer and seemed to be instantly enthralled, rubbing his face against the soft jelly-like trunk and letting out a soft purr.
“Must be good.” Aaron leaned forward and hesitantly placed his face against the alien tree, finding it soothingly cool to the touch.
The pair silently continued their journey together, and after about half an hour the path came to a stream that seemed to follow it. Tony immediately walked over to the water and drank deeply, then froze with perked up ears as a silver-blue streak flashed away into the submerged plants further downstream. The great beast splashed after the small fish, slapping at the water in a frenzy and dowsing Aaron in the process. As Tony raced down the water's edge the human stood by quietly. Aaron had already decided that if Tony was to walk away, he would return to the ship. It was the leokas' journey from here, and once he was ready to go alone Aaron wouldn't call him back.
As Tony stopped and turned back towards him Aaron felt a moment of warm relief that his friend had deigned to return, quickly swamped by guilt as the leokas needed to move on. The animal stopped in front of him and opened his mouth, promptly dropping the silver-blue definitely-not-a-fish at his companion’s feet. Tony stepped back and looked up at the human, almost seeming proud of his offering, finally repaying his biscuit benefactor.
Aaron smiled and looked down at the aquatic creature. "At least you won't starve." He picked it up, trying not to show how much the cold, wet, wriggling entity in his hand unnerved him, and pretended to take a bite, theatrically chewing and swallowing. "Mmm, so good. Your turn.” He tossed the small creature to Tony, who snapped it up in one. Aaron wiped his hands on his trousers amidst the sounds of squelchy crunching and swallowing. “That’s kinda gross, buddy.”
They walked on, the warm air slowly drying them despite the humidity. Aaron occasionally tossed a biscuit to his friend, and where the path allowed it they walked side by side, the human’s hand resting on Tony’s back. “We’re a regular Calvin and Hobbes, off on an adventure.” Aaron did his best to ignore the drone cams as they continued to circle, but still felt self-conscious as his emotions were raw and exposed.
As they entered the clearing Tony’s head lifted, ears twitching, and he let out a low growl as he stared at the undergrowth opposite them. Aaron knelt by the beast, hand resting on its shoulder as his eyes scanned the undergrowth. He was immediately on his guard. The animal beside him was a predator, the biggest badass on this planet, and anything else would normally register as food. But, he reasoned, you don't growl at food...
"Better come out. You can’t hide from this guy's nose.” A scruffy looking reddish-brown Kasurian rose from the undergrowth, his robes filthy, clearly having been hiding since before the new security measures. Aaron stood once more, peering closer. “Tufty?”
Gritting his teeth in anger the Tataiso snapped back, “Toofti, Elder Toofti Flew’Fitayl, you insufferable heretic!” He staggered forward. “I am the Keeper of Lefu’Mohlanka, not you!”
Aaron was conscious of the cameras, the viewers, and he took a long, deep breath, letting it out slowly before speaking. “Sure, the Tataiso, I remember. I am just here to help, to show you there’s another way. They deserve better than those cells.”
“Deserve?” Toofti was incensed. “They are just mindless killing machines.”
Aaron walked forward a few steps. Tony stalked behind him, the leokas’ eyes firmly fixed on the stranger. Aaron held a hand out to his side, and Tony paused and sat. The human then flicked a biscuit into the waiting mouth. “Mindless? If he was really a killing machine, why am I not dead? Or you?” Aaron took a knee once more, scratching Tony’s head and chin; the growl subsided, turning to a gentle rumbling purr. “No, I think you’re the one not thinking. Let them live in peace. No more prisons, no more sacrifices.”
“The Nyehelo gift their lives, it is a sacred offering to ensure the survival of our people!” Toofti’s screamed back at him.
“Dude...” Aaron was trying his best to be reasonable. “Let it go, you didn’t want to die back there. We all saw it. Let them have the land, and some peace and quiet.”
Incensed by the human questioning his faith, the Tataiso began walking forward. Melimo Lentsoe herself had come to him to open his eyes to a way to restore his lost honour. He would prove his faith, be the most public Nyehelo their people had ever known, and be redeemed as he set an example for the ages. "I have failed one test of my faith, I shall not fail another!" He would be remembered — remembered as the spark that reignited his people's faith. Remembered as the one who inspired thousands to follow him into the maws of Lefu'Mohlanka and bring a time of plenty to his people. He marched towards the one who would set him free from living, staring directly into the beast's eyes.
Tony's growl returned as the crazed Kasurian stomped almost angrily across the clearning. Toofti took an ornate flask from his pocket, seeming to hold it aloft for the camera drones before drinking deeply. He would feel no pain, he knew, and he began stripping away his dirty robes. "All our times have come," he muttered, beginning the ritualistic chant
The leokas stood, and Aaron placed a calming hand on Tony’s back. “Easy boy,” he said calmly, then to the Tataiso, “Back off dumbass, you’re freaking him out!”
“Here but now they're gone,” the Elder continued. Madness was in his eyes as his deranged march broke into a run. "The seasons fear not the reaper. Nor do the wind, the sun, or the rain. We are capable of being as they."
The leokas was agitated, the Kasurian was insane, and the human was running out of patience. Tony crouched with tense muscles, ready to charge at the perceived threat. Aaron, working with what he had available to him, held his fist in front of the leokas. Nose twitching, the predator’s focus switched to the hand, full of biscuits. Stepping between them he used one hand to shove the Elder to the floor and the other to scatter the fish biscuits across the clearing. Tony happily bounded away to snuffle out his favourite treat, and after glancing to make sure the leokas was properly distracted Aaron spun round to face the fallen Toofti. “You’re a fucking moron!”
“Noooo!” The Kasurian screamed as he sprawled in the grass. “How dare you interfere! I am Nyehelo! I must gift my life!”
His emotions had been already on edge from needing to say goodbye to his friend, but now this Elder had interrupted that sad farewell. Aaron could no longer properly hold back his pent-up frustration. “Oh, fuck off with that shite!” With his temper rising he forgot about the drones circling them. “Gift my hairy arse! Why the ever-loving shit-balls would your god want something you don’t even value yourself? If you give it away so lightly, then what fucking value does it have? Sweet fuck all! You Stupid. Furry. Twat.”
Toofti scrambled to his feet as the human yelled obscenities, his tail bolt upright and bristling. “What? How dare you! It is a great sacrifice, the most prized gift to the future of your people!”
Aaron threw his hands up. “You know what, Tufty? Fuck you! What does your death achieve, other than making me happier? Nothing? One less mouth to feed? So fucking what?” His irritation had grown beyond that which mere words could express, and he began pacing back and forth. “How about you spend your life working to develop better replicator efficiency? Building your world's economy so you can colonise somewhere else? Maybe you could invent new technologies to make lives better? Nah, you’re definitely too fucking dumb for that. But even a dipshit like you could devote your life to stopping inequality, or caring for the old, the sick, the young. Oh, wait! That would require compassion.”
The Elder, still numb from the ritual potion, struggled to stand as his senses dulled further. “Perhaps your people are not willing to die for each other! Perhaps that is why you are the last of your kind!”
“First!” The human snarled. “I’m the fucking FIRST human. Number fucking one, cream of the crop, tip fucking top!” He was bouncing on the balls of his feet as he roared at the skies above. Turning back to the Tataiso, he snapped, “Open those fuzzy ears of yours and let me tell you something, you snivelling little coward.” He was ranting, he knew he was, but there was no stopping his mouth now that it was off the leash of diplomacy. “My people die fighting, fighting for every fucking breath. Whether it’s war or disease, we fight that skull-faced bastard every step. And when one of us gives his life for another it means something, because we cling on to that life with every ounce of fucking strength in our bodies. When one of us goes down, you know they went down swinging. You, you roll over and give up, you abandon your problems for others to face. Oh no, Kasur is over-populated. Stop having so many fucking babies you dense mother-fuckers! Oh no, food is running low. Get better crops, invent better farming techniques, look for new food sources - build a giant fucking space farm, just do something! Fight! Stop rolling over and taking it, and fucking fight!”
The Elder blearily looked at the human, the drugs must be affecting his mind. This outsider was insulting his people, his faith, everything he believed in. “How dare you criticise us! You have no idea what is happening here, the pressures levied on our people. The rules we must follow!”
“Rules?” Aaron spat the word. “Fuck the rules. The Federation is holding you back, bollocks to’em. I have worlds ready to be colonised, terra-formed… whatever the fuck you call it.” He was getting off-topic. “You could work with me, we could all build something better. Or Tony here can turn you into fertiliser, eventually.”
“What?” The Elder stepped back from the human. “You have worlds?”
Aaron’s rant stopped in its expletive-laden tracks as he realised he’d said too much. “Shit.” He glanced at the nearest drone cam. This was supposed to have been secret until the council and Church of Modimo Wa Lefu had come to an agreement. The politicians needed their blessing to ensure enough public support for such a huge endeavour. Everyone had been warned not to let a single word of this out until the church was convinced. “Fuck it,” Aaron announced. “Yeah, I have a whole system, and I’m not part of the Federation. So, I’m making my own, with blackjack, and hookers!”
Toofti blinked slowly. The drugs in his system must be affecting more than just his pain receptors. “You want us to form some sort of rebel alliance with you, and whoever this Black Jack is?”
The human waved his hands and suddenly Tony was there, pushing his fuzzy head against his side in search of further snacks. “Woah, now. Both of you calm down.” He began scratching Tony’s chin again. “It’s not a rebellion. You can be part of the Federation, and have a separate deal with me.”
The red Kasurian wobbled. His feet were floaty and his fur was beginning to tingle, he could feel every strand. “We can?”
Aaron shrugged. All of the rules they had found detailed how the Federation would negotiate on the behalf of all members. None of them directly said you couldn’t do it yourself. They probably thought the size and scope of the Federation gave them such overwhelming negotiating power that nobody would think of going it alone. “There’s no rule against it.”
Toofti’s tail sagged and he flopped backwards onto his fluffy butt. His mouth felt funny, like his lips were trying to wriggle off his face, and he sat looking at his hands. They were amazing. “I don’t have to die?” he whimpered.
“No.” Aaron was growing a little concerned as Toofti sat, wavering back and forth like a blade of grass in the wind. “No more Nyehelo. Life is the gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back... by becoming more. No more quitting; we fight.”
The Elder was slowly moving his hand in front of his face: so many fingers. “Kasurians can’t fight, silly.” He gave up on convincing his spine to remain upright and flopped onto his back before mumbling a quote from their holy book. “Death is eternal; death is immortal; death is a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight. When your time in the sun is over, you must accept the night. As you fade, those who follow can bask in the light, for it is their time now. Death is a new beginning.”
Aaron looked down at the Kasurian. “Are you high?”
Toofti patted the ground he was lying on. “I am low.”
The human took a few steps to sit beside the Elder. Tony trotted after him, slowing as he approached the downed Kasurian. He loomed over the failed Nyehelo, sniffing him, his whiskers brushing Toofti’s face. The potential snack giggled and with a snort of disgust the leokas moved to the opposite side of the human. He quickly lay down, resting his head on Aaron's lap, nose insistently pressed to the biscuit pocket. Aaron offered up two more. “Death is the end, not a beginning. That’s why you fight. Once it’s over you’re done, game fucking over. You get one shot. One opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted.”
The Elder sighed wistfully. “I want a cupcake.”
“Dead people don’t get cupcakes.”
Toofti’s face screwed up in anger. “Then I’ll never die and eat cupcakes forever!” He tried to make a fist, but his fingers were too hard to control.
Aaron patted the little weirdo on the shoulder. “That’s the spirit.”
Time drifted by, Aaron’s hand never leaving Tony’s side, rising and falling with each breath. Occasionally the Tataiso would mumble incoherently. The sun was warm and the air was the freshest he’d breathed in a long time, despite the smell of the Tataiso. Aaron leaned into the leokas, giving him one last hug. The colours of the sky slowly shifted as the sun began to set, both on the day itself and on their time together.
Tony lifted his head, seemingly catching a scent on the breeze. Dusk was a good time for hunters and instincts were being triggered. He stood and raised his great head into the air, ears swivelling to catch distant sounds. He began to walk away and stopped, then turned back to push his head against Aaron, trying to get the human to his feet. “I’m not coming on this hunt, buddy.”
The leokas turned and sniffed at the air again. Biscuits were a tasty treat, but the animal was hungry for something more substantial. As Tony began to silently trot towards the edge of the clearing, Aaron watched unmoving with tears in his eyes. As the fires of colour in the sky seemed to reach a crescendo, the mighty leokas paused to take one final look over his shoulder at his friend. Time stood still for one beautiful second, then Tony vanished into the undergrowth with an enthusiastic hop.
Aaron stood, picking up the Tataiso and unceremoniously throwing him across his shoulder. “Come on, dumbass, better go see how much trouble we’re in.” crossed the clearing, distantly glad to have located the path back before the skies had completely darkened. He cast his eyes around the clearing once more, then silently reached into his pocket to drop the last few biscuits onto the grass. "Goodbye, Tony."
The way back was foreboding, and as Aaron walked the darkness seemed to grow around him. The blackness of the unlit Lung of Kasur seemed to coil around the trees to fill the thick undergrowth with concerning shadows. The closer he got to the exit, the more fervently he wished he'd brought his phone to use as a torch. He hadn't wanted any distractions, and so he'd left it behind, and though it had been a pleasant change of pace being disconnected from everything, having a bit of light now to help avoid tripping on roots and rocks would be nice.
Something dimly lighted darted in front of his field of view, and Aaron was startled for a moment before he was reminded of the presence of the drone cams. They seemed to swarm in front of him, blinking their lights in a way that appeared almost insistent. "Trouble?" he asked, and the central drone tilted up and down in a way that could be considered a nod. "On my way." The drone's lights brightened as much as they were able, and after a few moments he found that they provided enough light for him to break into a cautious run. "Thanks!"
Embar was holding the door open, and as he exited Estrilla had a medical gurney waiting. He dumped Toofti into it with a loud thump. “Sorry!” He waved at the camera, trying not to offend his followers.
The Kachna doctor carelessly slapped a monitoring device on her patient. “Don’t worry, no-one’s watching.” She slapped the Tataiso across the face. “See?”
Embar was shocked. “Come on ‘Rilla, a bit of professionalism, please,” he gently chided her.
Estrilla gave a mischievous smile. “Standard field test for responsiveness.”
Alexa was running down the small corridor, datapad in hand. Aaron stepped away from the two gate guardians and their drug-addled cargo. “What’s happening?”
She was clearly irritated, her jaw set and eyes furious. “They stole control of the live feed. They’re broadcasting to your viewers!”
“The old church leader, Melimo Lentsoe!” Alexa held up the datapad and Aaron finally saw what was happening. The old Kasurian was standing in front of a leokas pen. One of her Elders was preparing a dart gun as she was preaching to the viewers. Aaron could see it in her eyes; she was a believer, and she would do anything to prove her religion was the one true path. She had been a constant hindrance to them, nudging Aaron in public and in private to become a vocal advocate for the Nyehelo. He had politely avoided a direct refusal, but after his very public confrontation with Toofti she had clearly decided to become more proactive. “She is denouncing Toofti as a fraud and is about to walk into the enclosure and become a Bohlokoa Nyehelo.”
“Bohlokoa Nyehelo!” She scrunched her nose and poked his chest. “Allistan gave you a folder on their religion, didn’t you read it?” She didn’t wait for an answer; at best he had skimmed it. “When the leader of their faith becomes a Nyehelo, it is a call for mass offerings. A couple of hundred local years ago this happened and over fifty thousand offered themselves. Hundreds of leokas died from the stimulants they used to anger them. With so many watching now, that number could be two, maybe three times that. Your channel is giving them the biggest audience they’ve ever had!”
Alexa turned and pointed down the tunnel to the exit. “In the facility. She was here watching with the politicians, showing off to the crowds. This must have been her back-up plan.”
Aaron was already running, crashing through the door to the tunnel that had taken Tony from the ship to the enclosure. Alexa was close behind him, Embar and Estrilla staying behind to take care of the doped up patient. “Why didn’t someone stop them?”
“I tried!” she cried out, easily keeping pace with him. “Ranjaz went to stop her when I couldn’t get the channel back. I came to get you.”
“Ranjaz?” Aaron sped up, bursting into the facility and making for the elevators. The head keeper was waiting. “What’s happening?”
The Kasurian looked sheepish. “I’m sorry, she’s Melimo Lentsoe, I can’t stop her.” He quickly got the elevator moving. “I have no right to interfere. Your friend already punched her assistant and tried pushing her back out of the doors. He actually shoved her and called her...” The head keeper shuddered. “I can’t even repeat it.”
Aaron nodded and turned back to Alexa. “Why did you send Ranjaz? Why not someone sensible like Allistan, or Chae’Sol? Hell, a sweeper bot might have been a better choice!”
The doors opened and raised voices drifted down the long corridor. Alexa pointed at the group three doors down, where the roaring and snarling of a leokas could be heard. “The others are with various political and business interests, schmoozing at your request. Ranjaz was assisting me, and the first to react.”
Two Kasurian Elders lay on the ground: one unconscious, the other holding his groin and whimpering. A third held Ranjaz at gunpoint, preventing the Kittran from approaching Melimo Lentsoe. “Finally,” his crewmate snarled. “Captain, rip this guys head off.”
The gunman took a step back, and the human placed a hand on Ranjaz’s shoulder. “Good job in delaying them, but no head ripping today.”
Melimo Lentsoe glared defiantly at them as her own drone cams circled her. She knew there was nothing the human could do to interfere with so many eyes on them. “Now you will all see the serenity that comes with following the path of a Nyehelo. When you are a true follower of Modimo Wa Lefu, death holds no fear, no pain, no regrets. It is a thing of beauty as your soul transcends the physical.”
Aaron stepped forward, hands half raised. “Don’t do this.”
She shot him a look filled with hate, her eyes shining with religious fervour. “I will show the galaxy the power of becoming a Nyehelo. And, the true nature of the leokas.”
The human sneered at the last part, pointing at the dropped dart gun. “It’s not their true nature if you have to drug them. No wonder they’re sick, jacking them up on stimulants only to feed them tainted meat-”
“Tainted?” she screeched. “How dare you! I have no time for your insults.” She opened the door and stepped inside, her drone cams following. “Witness true faith,” she proclaimed as the door closed and her gun-toting associate stepped in front of it, still aiming at them. With no other option remaining, all eyes turned to the screen in Alexa's hand.
The leokas was pacing back and forth at the far end of the room, clearly distressed. Melimo Lentsoe began speaking, reciting the same chant as Toofti had used with much greater gravitas, befitting her position. Her powers of oration were quite good indeed, but in the middle of a sentence she suddenly stopped. She patted her clothing again and again, looking increasingly frantic as she seemed to be searching her pockets for something.
Ranjaz nudged Aaron, holding up a familiar-seeming ornate flask. "Do you think she's looking for this?”
Now completely terrified, Melimo Lentsoe turned to run back to the door. The agitated leokas, however, closed the distance in a few bounds and leapt upon her. Weak, underweight, and crazed from the drugs they had used to induce the feeding frenzy, its first bite to the neck wasn't nearly strong enough to kill. It was sufficient, however, to knock the old Kasurian to the ground, and the beast loomed over her as she rolled to her back.
Aaron tried to approach the door, but the elder with the energy pistol stood firm. He couldn’t see what was happening with his back to the screen on the wall, but he had his instructions. “Stay back! I’ll shoot!”
“Let me help her,” the human pleaded.
The Elder pulled himself up to his maximum height, which was still considerably smaller than his opponent. “She doesn’t need your he-”
The scream cut him off.
The weakened leokas, confused and angry and unable to deliver a killing blow, had begun eating - starting with the soft tissues of the abdomen. Alexa held up the nauseating scene on her datapad to the guard. "Half the galaxy is watching this!"
“What?” The pistol-wielding Elder stepped back. “She should feel nothing, the Nyehelo are at peace.”
Aaron snatched the flask from Ranjaz, holding it up to both the Elder and the remaining drone cam. “They’re drugged. It’s all a fucking lie. Move!”
The gun wavered, then came back up. “No! This is a trick!” He turned to look at the small screen on the wall that showed inside the room. The weak and gurgling tortured cries of Melimo Lentsoe echoed through the tiny room as she begged for help. The human, sensing the guard's hesitation, took his chance and snatched the pistol. Pushing the Elder aside, he pulled open the door and ran forward. But within a couple of strides he knew that he was too late, as the screaming had already stopped.
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