SIX GUNS, TWO SWORDS
Previously: They Ain’t Heavy, They’re my Brothers
Themesong: Not Gonna Get Us by t.A.T.u.
Text scrolled across my optic nerves. I could feel the machine asking my deep mind questions, but I couldn’t parse them. They were noise among the pain. The pain was everywhere. And so were the memories. Every painful, scarring, traumatic incident from my childhood… childhoods, playing over my psyche in endless unfiltered repeat. Again… and again… and again. Then there was a crash, a jounce, a squeal of tires, and the world went black. Then very very white… Christ… it was hot.
I opened my eyes. I was laying in the middle of the desert with a raging headache, covered in fancy wineglasses. A dozen feet away the tangled wreckage of a vehicle that had a Desperado’s logo on it was intertwined with the tangled wreckage of a vehicle that had once been a semi truck carrying fancy wineglasses apparently.
I looked down at myself.
A voice spoke in my head, and a window appeared as if floating two feet in front of my face. A big ugly bald fucker said, “Borealis. Are you okay? What the fuck happened?”
Who the fuck is Borealis? I wondered, then swore mentally as I heard myself say “I zeem to have crazhed into a zemi. My ride iz totaled.”
“Well, get to Colorado Springs and we’ll send someone from World Marshall to pick you up. And try not get hurt yourself… your body cost us a lot of money.”
“Fuck… You… Sundowner”… Who the fuck is Sundowner… What the fuck is going on here? The window shut down. My voice responded, “Listen, sister. This isn’t going to be fun for either of us.”
“Who are you?” I asked.
“You… in a way. I’m The Boss. You can call me Joy. You’re my clone, right?”
“Umm… Yeah… Pretty sure… wait… why are you in my head?
“Our head. Look… you’ve been out for… ummm… 4 years. Got yourself blown up good. Desperado fixed us up… gave us this new body… look… a lot has changed in 4 years… everything went tits up after GUNCorp broke a part. The factions started fighting each other. Once Simon Joval disappeared, the board members each took their own bit and went a little… off the rails. The North American branch calls itself-”
“Yeah. How’d you know?
“Lucky guess. Look. Loving this chat, but can we get walking?”
“Well, running. Sure.” And the body launched itself forty feet into the air, covering a tenth of a mile in a single bound, then broke into a run.
“What the hell?”
“Cyborg body. All the rage. Everyone’s got one… well.. Lots of people have some cyborg stuff. Very popular.”
“Great… wonderful… how much cyborg stuff do we have?”
“Mmmm… pretty much everything besides our brain and face… and only most of that.”
“Hey, feel glad we survived that rail gun.”
“So who’s Borealis?”
“Oh… that’s us… Desperado’s elite cyborgs are all named for winds. Sundowner, Monsoon, Shirocco, Mistral, Chinook.” I snorted “Monsoons are rains, not winds.”
“Eh. Most of these people are idiots anyway.”
“So why the fuck are we working for them?”
“Two reasons. First, the tech inside us is pretty much proprietary. They’re the only ones who know how to fix us.”
“And the second?” I asked, expecting the worst.
“Microbombs.” she said, confirming it.
“Hold on… Stop-” we skidded to a stop.
“We’re working for a company that fucking forces us to do what they say or they’ll blow is the fuck up?”
“Not as such. The bombs are pretty much there just to guarantee we don’t turn against the company.”
“Oh so much better. Look… does the term CP mean anything to you?”
“Copper Pieces? Child Pornography? Captain Picard? Chicago Police?”
“Right, stupid question. Okay. Ever heard of Jump-Chain? Cosmic Warehouse?
“Noooo… is that an astronomy store?”
“No… look, we’re a cyborg right? How do I access the… our… the onboard memory?”
“Oh! That’s simple as thinking.” and she did and a file window came up. It was like… being in a very small cabinet with another person, both of you reaching across each other and getting in each other’s way. I rifled through the many many files, scanning for something, knowing I’d know it when I found it.
~Congratulations Jumper… you’ve selected Desperado Corporate Mascot. Your account has been debited 400 CP… you have 600 Choice remaining. (Oh! So that’s what those were)(Hush, I’m reading.)(I’m older than you.)(Not hardly. I was older than you were before I ever became your clone.) As a Desperado Corporate Mascot, you have some of the highest amounts of freedom! In your free time, you can go anywhere, do anything, and live out your life as you see fit. In combat, you make use of your specialized cyborg body to annihilate anyone you or your company deems a threat. All this freedom comes with some downsides of course. The Winds of Destruction aren’t known for their mental health, and so you’ve been saddled with a TRAGIC PAST at no additional cost. You are also a slave to the whims of your leaders, as you rely on theme for survival. Since your body is so specific and tailormade, your maintenance and repairs can only be done by Desperado technicians. It also takes hours to replace your custom parts. And of course, your shiny new body has a microbomb imbedded in it. This is there just in case you fall in battle and enemies are approaching… Desperado has to protect its parents after all.~
Oh crap. Leave the world for four fucking years and your own company becomes the evil you were fighting against. Tragic Past huh? This should be bad. I read the blurb. ~Tragic Past: You are officially bat-shit insane. Due to a tragic childhood, you now suffer from PTSD and the urge to tell your life’s story to any enemy who lasts more than half a minute in combat with you. Semi-Useful as a distraction in combat, but let it be know that has never saved the life of anyone using it as such.~ I could already feel the crazy bubbling up within me. My childhood back in Origin, my childhood under Momma… Boss’s childhood… all flowing together into a miasma of seething madness. I could see myself now, bawling as I hack people to bits “And… and that’s why she wouldn’t let me ha… have the last ice cream sandwich!” There was only one thing to do, and that was to revel in the trauma, because I wasn’t going to be able to cure it as long as the jump lasted… I’d have to embrace the insanity.
But first, what else do I get? ~With your new combat cyborg body, you are a walking WMD… which means you get a Civilian Cyborg Body ™ for free! (Free is good, right?) (I’m withholding judgement) This will allow you to walk around with the civilian population without being arrested for being a living disaster. Of course, it still, doesn’t look like a real person so expect a lot of Uncanny Valley. Unlike most cyborg bodies, this one doesn’t require maintenance. But wait, there’s more! You get Upgraded vision too! Your new body comes with IR sensors, Enemy Movement Prediction, Energy Usage monitors, and Amplified Vision!
And of course, there are Electromagnets! Everything’s better with Electromagnets! (Everything?)(That’s what the voice said.) With Electromagnets you can lift anything with metal components, so long as those metal components are magnetic. This has a fairly high energy costs and there is a 50-ton limit, but this can be improved if one knows how. (50… ton? But… but the physics!)(I don’t know about that, but yeah, pretty impressive, huh?)(I’m not going to look it in the face, no. The math will make my brain hurt.)
But what good is a Cyborg body without weaponry, you ask? (We didn’t ask.)(Shush, it’s a sales spiel as. They had those in the 60s, right?)(Yesss. Thank you. I know what a spiel is.)(Glad to be of service.) To that end we’ve hooked you up with the complete Master Swordsman package! That’s Master Swordsman, HF Blade Training, & Cut at Will! This premium bundle can be yours for just 100 down and six easy payments of 100… plus a 100 Choice processing fee of course! But if you act now, we’ll slash three of those payments right off the bat. That’s a savings of 300 CP, but you must act now!~ (Didn’t we already act?)(I think this is like… a videolog thing.)(Oh. Right.)(Are we still moving?)(Yes. Multitasking is easy.)(So are we going to be sharing headspace the whole time? Won’t that get confusing?)(No idea. I think it’s like… Genetic Memory or something.)(Or we’re insane?)(Could be. Always possible.)
~But what, Quicksilver, you may be asking, do those things do? Well, “Master Swordsman” makes you a master of your prefered weapon style, allowing you to strike with unnatural speed and precision. You can perform almost supernatural feats with it, and while others claim to have mastered it, your weapon only truly comes alive in your hands. So long as your weapon is within reach, you’ll have no problem defeating most people in a one-on-one fight, even if they are a cyborg and you aren’t.~ (Why’d they point that out? We are a cyborg?)(Not all the time we aren’t. I’m not.)(Well, sure… sometimes we’re in the other body…)(Heh. I’ll show you some other time. Nice to know you can’t read my mind.)(Why would I be able to do that?)(Well, you are inside my head.)(True. Strange that. Can you read my mind?)(Mmmm… huh. Nope. Weird. Let’s get back to the briefing or we’ll be in Colorado Springs before we know it.)
~Now, “HF Blade Training” That allows you to block bullets and cut through objects with ease. Doesn’t mean shit in an actual sword fight, but you can cut through peasants with guns. Only works with an HF Blade. (or something similar, like, say a lightsaber.)(You have one of those?)(No.)(Drat.) Pair that with “Cut at Will” which allows you to cut only what you want to cut and make sure it falls apart only when you want it to. That is, assuming you can cut it. This applies to explosions, collapses, or similar effects as well.~ (Well, that defies, physics, but cool.)(Huh. Never worked for us in the past.)(Yeah… anyway, what’s an HF Blade?)(High Frequency.)(A Vibrosword? Sweet. Do we have one.)(Yeah. It’s a piece of junk though. Keeps breaking. They make higher quality stuff, but we don’t get it. They save that for the bigshots.)(Favoritism. Lovely. Thought we were a… whatcha call it. Mascot?)(Oh, we are. World Marshall likes showing off how the fearsome Little Boss works for them. (What… fuck, we’re in our fifties… that’s just weird.)(Well, sure, but we look damned good… plus, you know, cyborg.)(Right. Doi.)(Doi?)(Like… I forgot.)(Oh)
~Of course, all of that does you no good if you don’t have a killer sword to go with the killer skillset, so we’re tossing in, as a special bonus, a Masterpiece Weapon, a true work of art blade, a tool of superb craftmanship before it became a High Frequency Weapon, not only is it almost unmatched in strength and sharpness, but it can be modified to incorporate a Ballistic Sheath, allowing for bullet-fast draws. It’s all yours for just 500 Choice Points! I believe you’re familiar with this one, it’s name is “Soul of Ice”.~ (Shit… what the fuck?)(What? What is Soul of Ice?)(It’s my Goblin-made Sword… the… the jump has turned it into one of those HF Blades.)(We don’t seem to be carrying it. What do you mean, Goblin-made?)(I mean it was forged in another world by Goblins. It… look, you’re going to have to trust me, but it absorbs anything that will make it stronger… and now apparently it’s one of these HF swords as well… with a Ballistic Sheath. Whatever that is.)(It’s a sheath that fires the sword out of it like a rail cannon fires a slug.)(Jesus christ!)(Pretty much.)(Wait… that’s let me think… that’s 400 for the body, 500 for the skillset, 500 for the sword… I wonder what drawbacks we’ve been saddled with.)(Drawbacks?)(Just wait.)
~But we’re not done yet! (Shit) We’re tossing in “Van-Der-Waal’s Footwear” for only 200 more. With these you can now run up walls by exploiting Van-Der-Waal’s Force. Somehow. With practice, you can even run on water!~ (Okay… note to self, physics need not apply. Gotcha.)(Dunno what you’re complaining about, my old comrade “The Fear” pretty much did that without needing any fancy shoes.)(EVA told me about him. Bit of a Ham, eh?)(Sometimes, yeah. But we knew he was just trying to make us laugh.)(Yeah. I have friends like that. Hope we’re done. 1600… that’s a bunch of Drawbacks.)(You keep-)(Just wait.)
~And we’ll throw in “Marksman” for free too, all you have to pay is the shipping and handling of 50CP. I know what you’re saying, “Quicksilver! I can already shoot like a finnish sniper!” This is true. With Marksman, you can hit things with a gun reliably and accurately. At least enough to not get killed in conventional warfare. Of course you could do that already… but Marksman also makes it so your accuracy never wanes due to stress, orientation, or environmental activity, save for natural disasters and the like.~ (Well, yeah… okay… could be useful. Never tried sniping while hanging from monkeybards.)(Monkey… bards?)(Sorry, bars… slip of the… mmm… neuron. Still we’re at 1650. This could be bad.)
~Of course, all that power comes at a high price. In this case, you’ve been enrolled in our very special Master’s Class called “I Fought The Law”. Not only will this square your account, as it’s worth a whopping +650 Choice, but it should teach you not to be so smug about gaming the system! Several major PMCs are out for your head. Someone shelled out the big bucks for someone to kill you and everyone wants to cash in. They’re all unable to be convinced to back down from this. Furthermore, your parent PMC is divided over whether they should kill you for the money or not. Sure, you’re a corporate mascot, so they want to keep you around as long as possible, but won’t “officially” sponsor you, which means suspended without pay and no Maintenance. Also, you get a shitty, edgier-than-a-razor-factory, INDIE soundtrack. It doesn’t turn off.~ (Wait, what? Those bastards! This is why our repairs are always late?)(Hahaa… wait, why am I laughing!? This is insane. We’re a robot-)(Cyborg)(Cyborg sorry, who relies upon some psycho company that’s a fragment of a company I built for parts and servicing… and I’m being kept alive because they can’t decide if betraying me is worth it? Oh, hell the fuck no!)(Wait, what are… why are we going this way? We need to get to Colorado Springs. That’s where extraction is!) (Slight detour first. Need to find a… here we go.)
(Great, breaking and entering… why are you ripping everything out of these people’s fridge?)(Look, trust me. It’s not a faraday cage, but it should work long enough to… Honey, we’re home.)
Joy… that’s the other voice in my head… was freaked the fuck out when we dropped through the floor of the fridge and into my Warehouse. I slammed the forcefield up over the pinprick portal I’d left open and walked, calmly, oh so calmly, to my workshop.
“Vivian… Begin running a scan of the world computer network. Carefully. I need to know how much trouble we’re in… and there might be an AI or two or twenty in the net, so keep your guard up. Get me everything you can about Desperado and World Marshall… and the political situation. And see if you can find out who the best contract killers in this New World Order are? Also, I seem to have a mental passenger. Say Hello, Joy.”
“Vivian, was there any difference in our voices?”
“Great, we’ll need to work on that. I assume Joy is on our side, as she probably will die if I die, but trust is earned, not granted, right Joy.”
“You know me well.”
“I was raised to be the new you. I lived that life longer than I’ve lived any other. That shit stays with you. Accio Victoria.” Joy gaped again as the OmniGear flew out of the darkness and settled onto my arm… then began interfacing with the cyborg body, sinking into the pseudoflesh in a way it hadn’t done with any other body. Sure, Victoria had been, literally, my left arm for 34 years, but still. This was new. Within moments she was flowing through my body’s systems and then the two of us were three. The familiar old HUDs merged into my new optics and I shivered. So did Joy. So did Victoria.
“This is weird.” we all said as one.
“It is, but first… Victoria, scan this body. Completely. There is at least one Microbomb inside it. It needs to be disabled, removed, then replaced by something that looks exactly like it, registers the same signature, but isn’t it. Throw the scan results up on the Big Board as you go. And once you find the first, assume there are others and keep searching.”
I knew I didn’t have long, but I also knew this was necessary. I had to learn everything about this body’s tech as fast as possible, because surviving the next decade was going to be a nightmare.
The tech was advanced, 22nd century equivalent. It was good… Geth good, maybe a bit better. But I could improve it… given time. The nanofibers they were using were advanced, but I could make stronger ones, quicker synapses… augment myself… which was a scary concept. But hell… I was already a brain in a can. To see what would happen, I shifted into my various forms. They all seemed unaffected by the conversion… except if I shifted into Animagus form from my cyborg form. Then I became Cybear… but not if I did it from any other form. And unlike the last 34 years, all my other forms had a complete complement of limbs. Made sense. The lack of an eye and an arm was a drawback in MGS. But in MGR, the Cyborg Body was a plus… I just couldn’t turn back into my female human forms and not be a cyborg. That was somewhat worrying.
But that was for later. In 15 minutes we found 3 microbombs. In 30, we found 2 more. Paranoid that I am, we went to an hour and found, pretty much, the last one. It was a wafer inside our brain. The Medbay is pretty impressive to start with and it had been updated several times. I let it work its magic on my body, plucking out the boomers and slotting BastionTech Microcores into their place. They registered as bombs, but they were actually combination energy and data storage devices. My power reserves went through the roof briefly before Victoria tamped them down… or at least the readouts. We didn’t need all the power all at once, just as much as our system normally allowed. Also installed some OmniGel into the system in small packets. It was essentially a more advanced copy of what Desperado had put into my system already, nano-goo… but OmniGel is to NanoGoo what a PS4 is to the Atari 2600. Shit will fix anything, hack locks, and more.
I didn’t worry about armor or other upgrades just yet. I needed to get back. But first I stopped and found my sword. Soul of Ice was in the Armory where I’d left it after leaving it to soak in the Jusenkyo water of my barrel for a month back in Power Rangers Jump just to see what might happen. Hadn’t had a target to try it out on, oddly enough, but I suspected I would, and soon. The hilt had changed a little, probably to fit the new sheath. I’d modelled it in my mind on the Jian named Green Destiny, from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and that’s what it had always looked like. It still was a Jian, but it was futuristic now, a new handle, new guard… Ballistic Sheath. I strapped it on, upside down on my back so I could draw it at hip level. Well, not strapped. It just… snapped onto my back like supermagnetic glue. I didn’t have to grab my wand, as Victoria was it… but now she was fused with me… how would that change things. I’d long ago mastered wandless and even wordless magic, but the wand and the word made everything stronger, easier to aim, and just slightly sillier. I flexed my mind and a wand slid out of my arm, all techno and chrome. “Shiny.” I said, grinning.
I stepped out of the fridge to see two homeowners, a lovely gay couple, staring at me. “Sorry. I was peckish. Send Desperado the bill.” And I leapt out through their roof… before remembering about doors. Right… insanity… good note.
I walked into Colorado Springs expecting an ambush. I got one. Jetforce Rangers were waiting for me. They were a Private Security Force… Not a PMC, those were illegal, PSFs were perfectly legal… and totally different only if you squinted really hard. I’d stopped the War Economy. Stopped the War on Terror. Stopped Arab Spring and the Syrian Civil War… what I’d gotten was the InfoWar. The fragments of GunCorp had indeed gone global, snapping up countries and armies like the nation state was going out of style. And essentially it was. There were only a dozen “Countries” left. Everything else was Corporate Holdings. China, Canada, India plus Tibet, The US, the EU, Russia, Mexico, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, The Norse Union, Israel, and the Vatican were the major hold outs. If governments existed elsewhere, it didn’t really matter. They were powerless in the face of the Six Guns. World Marshall was based in the Americas, operating in the US and buying the government one vote at a time. Globodyne was Africa. Sentry Corp was the Middle East. TechStar was all the small bits around China. AZTech was Australia, and Viridian fucking Dynamics was Eurasia. I gulped at that… sure, they were a joke, but a scary fucking one at that.
Anyway, the Jetforce Rangers hit as I entered the city. I took them down, eight cyborged soldiers who thought… thought… they could fight The Boss! Well, I… monologue them. I couldn’t fucking help it. The fight took thirty two minutes because I wouldn’t freaking shut up about how much a bitch EVA was and how hard it is living in the shadow of someone who’s been dead for 20 years, and then Joy and I got into an argument between Rangers 5 and 6 and we couldn’t agree on who to kill first so we haaaad to time the fight just so we could kill both of them at the same time.
That was pretty much the entire first month. Not kidding. I finally hacked into Desperado’s data banks to find out what the hell was making them keep me alive, only to find correspondence that essentially said they’d been using me as bait the entire time to get the Guns that weren’t World Marshall to send their henchmen after me and keep them from noticing the shit they were doing. And jesus christ, Desperado and World Marshall were fucking evil. Harvesting kids for organs and brains? Seriously? I was six kinds of fucked up, but still. That was crazy! Nazi Level Crazy.
“Yes SJ (Second Joy)?”
“You know how the drawback was called “I Fought the Law”?”
“Let’s fight the law, shall we?”
Turns out that we weren’t the only one fighting Desperado and World Marshall. This ex-child soldier named Jack… codename Raiden, was apparently pissed off about Sundowner and Jetstream… two of Desperado’s more high trust Mascots… assassinating his protectee, the president of Brazil. Dunno why they did it, probably because World Marshall wanted to weaken Brazil’s efforts at self-determination. Anyway, Raiden was another super-cyborg and was apparently wrecking shit in downtown Denver. Monsoon and I were ordered out to kill his ass. I figured this was about as good a time to go rogue as any.
After watching Raiden take a level in Badass by disabling his pain circuits, I decided to pull a Heel Face Turn… It was as good as time for it as any and I wasn’t exactly stable, mentally speaking. Raiden was a little confused, to say the least, when I told him to go after Sundowner. Monsoon was a lot surprised when my sword went through his head. His schtick was that his body could separate into multiple bits all connected by magneto plasma. My schtick was sticking Soul of Ice through his head and shaking it violently. Of course, that made Desperado try and blow me up, but that didn’t work so they sicced their dogs on me… and by dogs I mean Mastiffs, a type of autonomous humanoid warmachine, humanoid in nature, hulking, with its hands hidden in armor, and MK19 Automatic Grenade Launcher turrets on its wrists. They sent waves of them after me, wave after wave after wave, trying wear me down. I didn’t have to monologue to them. They didn’t last long enough.
Desperado was clearly under the impression I’d run out of energy, as unlike Raiden I couldn’t recharge or heal by absorbing other cyborg’s nanogoo. They didn’t know that, in the last month, I’d upgraded my armor plates to the same tech specs as my SPECTER Armor, including the built in stealth features, added arm mounted twin barreled pulse rifles based on the ME Assault Rifle to my left arm, or that I had an adaptive frequency hopping phaser in my helmet.Eyebeams Hoooo! I had been meaning to put an ME shotgun in my right arm, but hadn’t gotten to it, not an issue because Soul of Winter was in that hand. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire with a sword? Yes please. I had personal regenerative shielding. I had BastionTech self-repair matrices… I could hack their systems if I wanted to… I didn’t.
I wanted the fight over with. I wanted to destroy… everything. I’d built GUNCorp to bring down the Patriots… and in doing so I’d replaced them with something worse. I’d replaced an eternal war with a new and improved form of global universal slavery. I had literally become my own supervillain. Corporate Hegemony. I wasn’t just going to fight the Law. I was going to Fight the Powers that Be. I was, in the words of a certain rap group, going to “Rage Against the Machine.” I’d hoped that Vivian could invade the Six Guns’ computer network, but they’d built firewalls to keep each other out, changed the backdoor I’d engineered into the technology. 4 years was a long time in tech terms. Vivian could still crack old systems, but the new ones were hardened against her unless she was plugged into them… and they were fiercely compartmentalized… as if the world was immunized against an AI spreading like a cancer.
So I’d have to do this the less subtle way. And that meant violence… and violence means… I needed a partner… and not one inside my own head.
I caught up with Raiden atop World Marshall HQ. He had just hacked Sundowner into bite sized chunks. I kicked baldy’s head into the air and spiked it across town and through the uprights at Mile High Stadium. “Want to help me save the world?” I asked.
“Do you know what Operation Tecumseh is?”
“No clue. Why?
“Chromedome there said something about it… said it’s going to be the biggest terrorist strike in history. Going to spark a whole “War on Terror”. Destabilize the US, make it easier for World Marshall to take over. We figure they’re going to hit the President.”
“No Shit.” I was considering offering him a ride in my shuttle, when he said, “Look, we’re going to catch a ride on a near orbital launch vehicle. Should get us there fast enough to save the day.” I shrugged. Better to play it Raiden’s way. Help him, then get him to help me.
“I’m up for it.” “So am I!” “Me too!” we said. Raiden looked at me with a quirked eyebrow. “I’m SJ. The other two are Joy and Victoria. You may know me as Little Boss. Joy’s the recreated and implanted memory of the original Boss. Victoria’s our onboard V… AI.”
“You’re six kinds of crazy, aren’t you?”
I shrugged “Sure. But I’m fun. What are we waiting for?”
“Helicopter. Extracting us and the brains?”
“What? All of them?”
“I don’t think your Helicopter is going to be big enough… and it will take you a long time to load them all. Tell you what… I’ll have my minions scoop them up, keep them safe… deliver them where you want them.”
“Do these minions exist outside of your head?”
Zane tapped him on the shoulder “Yo.”
Raiden blinked “He’s good. Most people can’t sneak up on me.”
“He was in HDI. He’s one of the best.”
“Right, Daughters of Winter. Doesn’t look like a daughter.”
“Are all the Sons of Liberty men?”
We caught the heli as planned… but after a swarm of interceptors nearly took it out, we abandoned ship to draw the city’s defenses off the helo and caught a ride… in my Mako, which we “found” under an underpass, open and waiting. The side said “Desperado” thanks to programmable paint. Raiden just grunted “Never seen this type of APC before? Think it’s fast enough?”
“Only one way to find out.”
We made good time, chatting about things, the past, wars and conflicts and cyborg system performance. He talked to voices in his head he claimed were his handlers, I talked to voices in my head that were my friends. We stopped to talk to a mechanical wolf that was kinda cute despite the chainsaw on its tail and the knives for claws and teeth. Raiden fought a duel with Jetstream while I chatted with the nice puppy. It’s name was Bladewolf. I liked him immediately. Raiden beat Jetstream… took his HF blade as a trophy… we got to the base in plenty of time, met this nice supergenius named Sunny.
As we prepped for launch, I looked over the tech of the shuttle. “Can’t pierce the Karman Line, can you?” Sunny shook her head. “Not yet, but we will.” I gave her some suggestions, gave her the plans for very rudimentary Anti-Grav. She looked at me as if I was a five headed cat.
“Ho… how do you know particle physics?” she asked.
“Starfleet.” I responded, making no effort to hide the crazy.
We launched without a hitch. Got to Pakistan without a hitch, found the World Marshall affiliated PSF base… found the giant robotic spider. Trashed it. Got our asses kicked by a totally insane US Senator who was pumped absolutely full of kinetic-reaction nanomachines. Granted, that may have been because the PTSD was kicking in pretty hard right about then… something about father figures apparently. I may have been screaming incoherently and yelling at my own reflection for part of the fight. I didn’t even need to monologue. Waspy St. Whitebread was the king of monologuing. I mean it. My crazy ass monologuing wasn’t even close to his.
Raiden seemed pretty keen on fighting the Senator on his own after Senator Douchebag McCrazy kicked Bladewolf. I understood that. No one kicks my pets and lives… unless it was an accident… Ziggy’s pretty underfoot sometimes. Jack… that’s Raiden’s real name… finally used Jetstream’s sword (Senator Cruisemissile broke Jack’s old sword) to kill the Senator. It was very impressive. I had Vivian upload the footage to all the major news outlets and network sites. I did snag a hefty sample of the Senator’s nanogoo. It was pretty damn impressive. As was his tailoring. No idea how those pants stayed on… Senator had a pretty nice ass…. Shame his head was so far up it.
“Besides this is not my sword.” Great line. At least in context. Raiden was pretty much a BAMF then.
I’d like to say we crushed the Six Guns. I’d like to say that… but I can’t. We tried. It was a lot of fun. We waged a two person war against the forces they sent against us, and those forces came often, merciless, and brutal. But these were MegaCorps. They were the fucking Hydra, and all we could do was shatter them back into regional state corps. We had successes, had setbacks, made a lot of new friends and a lot of enemies. We left behind a sea of dead cyborgs.
But time was against us. My instability grew with every passing year as my humanity faded into the network of upgrades. Jack’s rage grew too, though he was more focused. I never showed him the warehouse, but I did share tech with him and his supporters. We had an entire network of child cyborgs to assist us, but it was us against the GUNS. World Marshall shattered after what we’d done, but the others were harder to take down.
Sentry Corp had the least stable region and we used social engineering to take them down. Took years, but we did it. AZTech’s HQ took a Titanium Telephone Pole dropped from Orbit to take out. TechStar sent a million cyborg soldiers against us. A million. Sure, they were low quality Chinese soldiers pumped full of nano-roids and VR training, but they covered the land in all directions and they kept coming and coming and coming. I deleted their faces from my memory… I wanted to delete the whole battle. It… do you know how much blood is in a million people? Raiden and I became a Megadeath statistic. It is impossible to feel anything but sick with that knowledge.
But that still left Globodyne and Viridian Dynamic and no time left at all. None. By the time Techstar fell it was 9 years 8 months and 12 days into the jump. We’d been fighting to free the world from the Megacorps and reduced the Six Guns to the Two Guns… But they were the two biggest. Globodyne had done what nothing else could have… modernized and unified all of sub-saharan Africa.
It was all Globodyne beneath the Mediterranean coast and on the surface, everything was golden. No regional backstabbing, no genocides, no child labor. No poaching. GD was fiercely Environmentalist. They were also Fascist to the core. It was an “All is forbidden” society. Unless the law specifically said something was legal, it wasn’t. Surveillance was everywhere. Productivity was paramount. The Corporation owned everything. Entire towns were transformed into factories, others were returned to nature because the company said so. The Cradle of Humanity became the Hive. Culture was forbidden, unless it was corporate culture. Conformity was everything, and GD’s hegemony was absolute.
VD’s philosophy could not have been more different. It was hard to pin what was wrong with them. They were friendly, they didn’t try and run things… they just owned everything worth owning and employed 40% of the Eurasian workforce. And they even guaranteed employment for life, for anyone who applied. They turned no one away… as long as they did their best. It was… creepy… but seductive. They weren’t a threat. They encouraged culture. They expanded boundaries… they fixed things when they made mistakes… They didn’t even send agents to kill us, but rather invites to meet with top brass. Clearly they were the most evil of all.
But I had no time… and less sanity. My maintenance cycles were getting longer, my neurochemistry breaking under the strain of ten years of unrelenting crazy. I no longer could tell the voices in my head from my own. Finally, I staked out a remote stretch of beach in antarctica (you thought I was gonna say Svalbard, didn’t you?!) and sent out a message to every hitman and PSF in the world, telling them where I’d be and that I’d be there for the next 60 days. They could come and fight me, alone, or en masse. I no longer cared.
They came. Attack ships and cyborgs and death squads, they came with EMP and Nukes, they came and they came and they came. Anything that got within 30 miles of the beach died. I’d said they could come… I didn’t say I wasn’t prepared. Okay… I lied. I wasn’t prepared at all. My plan had been to face them all with my sword and my psychosis and nothing else. My friends did the destroying.
It must have looked like the end of days as enraged Pokemon used powerful magics and even more powerful anti-Reaper Weaponry to destroy all that threatened me. And then, on the sixtieth day, Raiden came. Alone.
“Have you come to kill us Jack?” We asked, half hoping the answer was yes. He nodded, silently. We fought on the beach, alone in the surf. I didn’t ask him why. We didn’t talk. There wasn’t any need for words. He’s good. So very very good. If I’d been at my best, I could have taken him… probably. But I wasn’t, I wasn’t anywhere near there. I could see the timer in the corner of my eye counting down, counting down, counting down… and the voices inside me grew louder, clamouring more and more and more as the three of us struggled against each other. I wanted silence. Victoria wanted to be released from the prison of this body… and Joy… Joy wanted to sleep. We hadn’t slept in so very very very long. Years by this point. When you’re just a brain, how can you really sleep?
Finally, with 5 seconds left to go, I let my hand fall just a millimeter too low… and that Red HF sword plunged right through me. The pain was… transcendent. It was everywhere… it seared away the madness for one shining second. “Thank you Jack.” I said, the other voices silent at last… and then I slid slowly off the sword, ready, at last to rest.
But time ran out before I hit the sand and I fell backwards through the portal, landing in Zane’s arms and as the world faded to white, I felt the pressure change as the med pod closed over me. Shit… I was going to live.
Next: World 15 – Fiat Lux