Previously: Traitor’s Fury
Themesong: There is No Other Way from Pacific Overtures
Okay, so, I’m back from Vordlandia… bleh. That last year wasn’t fun. Managed to save some, but so many died, and that croach… ugh… seriously… ugh. Nutritious in the same way Kix cereal is and twice as horrid. Only slightly better than carrots.
Anyway, I’m sure if I had nightmares, I’d be having them. The guilt hits me at odd times. But I remind myself that I still made things better. For all Tavi’s work, female equality under the law wasn’t something he achieved, and he managed to give away humanity’s sole advantage over the other races to boot. Still, another decade down, another jump to plan. I look over at the Vending Machines and see “Black Bullet”. I have no idea what that is. Like. None. Might as well see what I can figure out from the…
What the hell did I just read? Three human cities left, a global plague of monsters… and the only thing standing between humanity and the darkness are 10 year old girls with this horrific disease? Ones who are used as prostitutes, lynched, abused… No… no… fuck this… fuck this hard. Screw this entire thing. Burn the world. No… no sweetness. I’m not going to burn this world… this has gone beyond the pale. I’m going to kill every last motherfucking asshole on this festering blight. Sometimes the darkness wins. I am Balance after all.
Fuck it. Let’s see the Vord Queen cope with this. I’m not exposing anyone else to this shit. I get one import this jump… if I go Promoter or Initiator. Well, I’m not going to inflict Initiator on Regina, so I guess she gets to be the Promoter. Which means I’m 10 years old again. Woo! Behold, I am become death, the destroyer of… well, not worlds, but cities at this point. Three fucking cities, apparently full of the worst of humanity. Christ. Humans are the real monsters?
I dunno if this is Anime or not, sounds like it, but can’t be sure. Honestly, if it didn’t have Tokyo as one of the three cities I’d be defo thinking not, but… I mean, for fuck’s sake, they’ve put bombs into these little kids heads. How the fuck mental are these people.
But fine, let’s do this build.
Initiator Free. Initiators get “Roach” and “Rabbit” Free… and the other 4 Initiator Perks cost a grand total of 900 CP… might as well get the set. Roach hardens my skin and gives regen enough to recover from all but the worst wounds in minutes, though it does come with a vulnerability to Varanium, which bypasses the resistance and regen. Well, okay, just as long as all my other nigh invulnerability and regen perks aren’t nerfed by wondermetal, I’m okay with that. Rabbit is an agility and strength boost, giving boosted jump distance, double jump, and the strength to allow a 10 year old little girl to fire an anti-materiel rifle.. or kick so hard as to render it meaningless… “May or may not increase fertility.” wait, what? May or may not what? 10 years old… rabbit… oy.
The second tier contains Owl & Dolphin. Owl is a ridiculously powerful vision booster, granting darkvision, rendering me immune to all but the best illusions and camouflage, improving my aim even further, and increasing the general range and resolution of my vision many fold. Wooo? Yoooo? Bang! Headshot. Dolphin on the other hand came with improved intelligence and echolocation strong enough to grant blindsight and the ability to ‘see’ through walls. It was a twofer of sensory goodness. I can see you… and hear you. You cannot hide from me. I’m coming to kill your murdering, child-raping ass.
The third and final tier of Initiator perks (and I can’t help thinking that normal Initiators get a grand total of 1 of these, not all damned 6… so I’m some kind of Super Initiator even not taking into account all my Out of Context Abilities and 13,000 years of training and practice) are Spider, which is… well… the Spiderman package. Wall cling, danger sense that words for me or when anyone I care about is in danger, sticky webbing from my fingers at will… monofilament wire webbing to be specific… MONOFILAMENT WIRES AT WILL? Fuuuuck me sideways and call me George! Daaaamn! Oh, and the Friendly Danger Sense will be useful as sin… and Mantis… a general boost to all bladed combat, with nigh precognitive fighting style which will allow me to parry reflexively and deflect attacks I didn’t even see coming… up to and including bullets while I’ve got a blade (or two) in my hands. And since, you know, I’ve got Soul of Ice and a Shehai blade, I’m always going to have one if not both.
That leaves me with 100, just enough to buy the “Varanium Weaponry” upgrade, which allows me to upgrade my existing weapons with a Varanium Alloy. Varanium Mjolnir anyone? Oh, and let me just commit to paper the wording on those bombs, one of which is now installed in my head. “Cybernetic Upgrade – Welles: An explosive installed within your cranium allowing your superiors easier control and neutralisation of assets, allowing for simple disposal once asset exceeds use by date. Free Unupgrade for intitator.” EXCEEDS USE BY DATE? ASSETS!? Guess what’s coming out of my head asap? Yup. That’s right. Fuck you people. Fuck you very very much. I’m going to install one of these inside each and every god damned one of your heads and then make you beg me not to push the trigger, you psycho-freaking-fuck heads!
Once I managed to calm down again… fuck keeping calm… my eyes were actually igniting the air in front of my face which made seeing the screen hard… I keyed in Regina (she had to have a name, right?) and ran through her options. Interesting the number of teamwork perks a Promoter gets. Huh. I wonder if the Boss slotted this jump in special. It seems tailor made for this situation.“Let’s Get Tactical” and “Flight of the Coward” are free… and again, the other four would cost 900 and are divided into pairs of two. That would leave her with 100, and I laughed and slotted her with a copy of Roach as well. Not that she’d need it in her normal form, but she wouldn’t be in Vord form for any part of this jump. This was her first import, no alt-forms for her.
Tier one contained, as I said “Let’s Get Tactical” which was uncanny battlefield analysis coupled with an instinctive knack for determining an optimal approach for any given fight, complete with vulnerability/weakness optimization. It was slightly scary, but par for her course. I didn’t want to cripple her, I wanted her to become a willing ally. That was paired with “Flight of the Coward” which granted a considerable talent are disengagement from conflict… while bringing her allies with her. It was, again, something she already knew, but recontextualized into a framework that included allies.
Tier two lacked a cohesive theme, with one teamwork booster in the form of “Bonds that Bind” and one combat booster in the form of “Combat Techniques”. The first gave her a kind of synchronization with close allies, allowing her to instinctively determine what we were going to do next and to coordinate with them… and it worked both ways! If that didn’t teach miss “I am the Vord” teamwork, I don’t know what will. The second was a bit of what seemed like Anime-Inspired Insanity… the ability to perform blatantly reality warping stunts such as splitting a steel bar in half with a butter knife… but only after concentrating and loudly reciting a long declaration of intent. It was just weird, it was. Plus, I think I can cut a steel bar with a butterknife already… hell, at this point, I might be able to cut a butter knife with a steel bar if I thought about it for a second or two.
The highest tier of Promoter abilities were similarly themeless, but even more blithering. “Finishing Blow” gave her the perfected ability to massively boost the power of a single attack from her arsenal… but only once per day at most… and at the cost of, at the very least, rendering her hors de combat and at worst resulting in a multi-day coma. It was that draining. Ack. I dunno if SHE would ever use it, but it would be spectacular if she did. The other one, “Sharing is Caring” simply let her share any one power she possessed with me, a power that could be changed once at the start of each new jump. Well, that waaaas interesting. Right now, she didn’t have any powers besides the ability to control the Vord that I don’t (Except the stuff from this jump), so… huh. Maybe she should share this power with me so I could share one of my powers with her… like Third Eye of Satori. Might help her understand people better. Yeah, let’s go with that.
Ahab & Joy decided to go in as an IP team, with Joy as the Initiator, but Ahab going in as a female Promoter, apparently concerned that this world did something fucked up to the minds of the men. It was a theory, and that’s all we had. Joy got Roach and Rabbit of course, and Ahab got Let’s get Tactical and Flight of the Coward. Plus each of them got some Varanium shit. Woo!
As soon as I hit the confirmation, a second screen appeared and two individuals flashed on screen. One was a masked man with silver skin who promised me that Reggy and I would survive and we’d destroy the Gastrea (the monstrous mutagenic virus that defined the plot) and all we’d have to do is kill every single other Cursed Child and all their handlers. Of which there were at least 700,000 ranked pairs and who knows how many unranked Cursed Children without Promoters. Fuck that guy. The other was a young blonde girl calling herself Lucy, who promised a guaranteed method of saving me and my companion, and she’d assist me in saving those I deemed worthy. All it would cost was the downfall of the cities, with few survivors. I’d have to take the varanium from the monoliths that protected the cities and transform it into a vaccine of sorts that would prevent Cursed Children from turning while at the same time dramatically increase their power. I’d get another Promoter & Initiator, public enemy #2 she says, as companions, and I’d be able to bring all those I deemed worthy to my next jump, but no further…. “Let it all Burn” she said. Plus, the jump ends when the cities are gone.
I took her offer. Of course I did. I knew it was a deal with the devil, but in this case, better the devil you knew… The chance to save the worthy from this hell hole of a doomed world. Better than leaving them to rot in the wasteland even assuming I could cure the disease. I’d spent most of a decade trying that in Zombie Land. And there were billions of people on the line there. This was only a few million, and most of them were awful people apparently.
Oddly enough, Zane was not bothered by my choice to import Reggy over him. “Ugh. that place sounds terrible.” What he was worried about was me trusting Queeny.
“She can’t go back. She’s stuck with us. This is a bit of a test. We’ll see how it goes. Are you okay with me bringing down the last bastions of humanity?”
“I don’t see as you have much choice. The others mostly agree. Kendra and Toph are a little unnerved by it, as is Selene, but Uriel and Sextus understand, Joy and Ahab understand. Bao… look, it’s a bad scene all around. But even the softest of us wouldn’t sanction the bullshit these people are doing. Save as many as you can, right?”
I nodded. “Right.”
Regina and I dropped, into a tiny office. She looked good as a human, a little on the small side for an adult, and very flat chested, but not bad. Of course, I was smaller. On the desk in front of us was a box that had a hand stamp. I tested it on a piece of paper. “Worthy!” it said, with a smiling bunny face above it. Great, at least I knew how I’d mark the worthy. Fucking Bunny Rapture. Now to find someone who wasn’t a Cursed Child who was worthy. Normal kids it is.
We went outside, Regina asking me a string of questions as she tried to adjust to her new persona. The two Regina’s were surprisingly similar, one a sociopathic insect, the other a socially awkward aspergers case. Both asked “Why?” a lot.
I answered her as best I could as we headed towards the nearest school. Found a bunch of kids and some teachers, scanned them all. It was kinda weird playing judge and jury, but if I was going to do this, I was going to save as many worthy people as I could find. Most of the teachers failed my standards. About half of the kids, elementary schoolers like myself, passed. Bullies, jerks, and altogether too many little shits. This wasn’t a good world.
I tested the stamp on one little girl and she blinked, looking down at her hand… as she faded out of reality. Huh. By the end of the a 10 minute period, 376 kids had vanished from the school and the rest of the school was in an uproar. I slipped out, having never been noticed.
“We are supposed to kill the Gastraea, Selene. Why are we not doing that?” Regina asked.
“New Mission. Go get a sandwich at that restaurant. You know how money works. I’ll be back in 20 minutes. Don’t kill anyone that’s not trying to kill you.” I left her there and entered the warehouse. “Well? Any idea where they went?” I asked as I shapeshifted the bomb out of my head and spit it onto the floor. “Bleh, tastes of brain matter,” I commented, cricking my serpentine neck as I sealed the hole in my skull.
“We’ve got a box over here that’s registering 376 confirmed.” Toph said, pointing to a box that had pink bunnies on each side.
“Have you found these allies yet?”
“Nope. The monoliths are fucking huge, like 500 stories high. Massive as fuck. And the people. Jesus. The people. I get that they’ve been through a lot, but it’s like most of them lost their humanity along the way. Fifteen teachers were convinced that their charges were going to turn on them. Three of them were hoping specific girls turned out to be Cursed Children so they could visit them in the brothels they go to. And one was actually a government agent tasked to blow up the entire school if it got infected. I say was, because she isn’t anything anymore besides wormfood.”
Like I said, this wasn’t a great place to live. Hell, even the Jump Document lied to me. There were more than 3 cities left. Granted, Detroit, Tokyo, and Cairo were the only major cities left, and all the others were more along the lines of military camps… camps that had not yet been destroyed by one of the absolutely titanically huge Class V Gastraea, the eleven Zodiac Gastraea who’d fucked this world so hard it was on full on meltdown. I fucking hate biowarfare… and that’s clearly what this was. The Zodiac Gastraea could go full Godzilla.
Anyway, Regina and I began prowling the outer districts of Tokyo, where only the poorest people… and Cursed Children, lived, scooping up hundreds of them with each pass. Christ on a crutch, so damned many kids living in abject poverty right outside a thriving megalopolis. They had a few protectors, but overall… it was a horrorshow.
About 4 weeks after we got there, the head lady of the Tokyo Area called all the top IP (Initiator Promoter) teams to a meeting. I wasn’t invited, but I’d been scoping out the other Promoters, bugging their coms, stuff like that, and I’d followed them… oh, and Sextus was dealing with the mother of all Cultureshock. Astraea was… possibly even more horrified than I’d been by this world and you could see she just wanted to hug every one of those poor little girls… she couldn’t, she was still a spirit, so she kept hugging me instead.
Seitenshi, that was what they called the Ruler of the Tokyo Area, was a young attractive woman with an old guy you didn’t have to scan to sense he was a snake as her chief advisor. She tasked everyone with recovering a box that had been eaten by some Gastraea… and then a lunatic in a mask showed up and shot a bunch of people and left this low ranker Rentaro a head in a box. I hope like hell Mask Guy isn’t Public Enemy #2, because he’s fucking crazy. He’s a cyborg and his head is full of batshit crazy. Rentaro (also a cyborg) is much nicer… though his Initiator is a little Yandere (unlike Mask Guy, who’s daughter/initiator is full-on Cute but Psycho.). Rentaro was aiming for a better world and Enju, his initiator, was seriously in love with the guy (7 years her senior). Mask Guy just wanted the world to burn to justify his (and his daughter’s) existence. Fucked in the head, but not really evil. I could see his point, if I squinted. His daughter… she was not right. She needed therapy in a big way.
But anyway, this case. The reward was just too good, the prestige of the catch too attractive. People were going to die. I tagged Rentaro, since he seemed to know what the hell was going on, monitoring him if he headed out of the city proper. He did. Followed him to one of the outer districts which I hadn’t gotten to yet (there are a lot of them and I was being thorough. I didn’t want to leave anyone behind if I could help it.). Turns out Enju had run away from home after being outed as a Cursed Child at school. Fuck this world.
Helped him find her, she was with a bunch of other CCs and their caretaker, nice old guy. After getting Enju to head back with Rentaro, I zapped them all into the box. Four weeks down and I was running at an average of about 1,200 a day. Reggy had only had to kill about thirty total fuckheads and we still hadn’t faced a Gastraea. That was going to change… fast.
Next day, Rentaro and a bunch of other IP teams headed out into the wilderness to track the box. Mask Man was there too, and psycho daughter. Mask man was not happy when I sent psycho daughter into the aether, but I was merciful and sent him too. Sent the Initiators of the other teams, and just 2 of their 10 Promoters (the ones who cared and didn’t think of their girls as tools… though even those two weren’t great people, but someone who cared a bit was better than someone who didn’t care at all. I was going to have a huge number of kids who needed caretakers if I didn’t watch out.) One of the Promoters got himself nailed to a tree by his dangly bits and left, screaming, for the Gastraea. Fucking bastard.
And the Gs came. Lots of them. Swarms of them out of the night. Reggy understood this, knew the thrill of battle, and went after them. I had to save her from them. “They’re venomous… and you’re not immune. Like your Wax Spiders and everyone else. They bite you, you turn into one of them.” I didn’t tell her that she’d wake up in the Warehouse if that happened. I wasn’t sure it would work on unpurchased companions and wasn’t eager to find out. Sure, it had worked on Uriel, way back when, but dude was dead and from a world where ghosts were real. He’d been a ghost since I killed him. I wasn’t even sure Reggy had a normal mortal soul. Should look at what I got from her daughter sometime. Later.
Gastraea are fucking ugly, fast, and gross. Enju killed the one with the box… and then Tokyo was attacked by the Scorpio Gastraea. It was Pacific Rim Kaiju Big, and four times as ugly. While Renju went to try and bring the thing down using a fucking Railgun the Tokyo Defense Force had just left lying about in the forest… wow, convenient, I flew off to Tokyo Bay to make sushi out of the big thing.
I am… not a weak entity. I can attack at hypersonic speeds. This fucking thing healed faster than anything I’ve ever seen. I was just about to break out the frost magic and see how it liked that (I’d been leery of using mass damage attacks because the city was… you know… right there.) when the railgun fired. I was, barely, able to get out of the way in time. 90% the speed of light gives you a little warning, but I still hurt myself slamming across the water of Tokyo Bay at hypersonic speeds. Ouch.
What, the fuck? Seriously. If these people have the tech to build these god-damned railguns, how did they lose to the Gastraea? This place made no sense. It was like a morality play of… oh… right. It was a morality play about how humans are the bad guys. Fuck it.
Long story short? 2.6 million Cursed Children, 9.4 million others, in the box, 7 years, 241 days. That’s how many I was able to save, maxing out the box, and how long it took (not counting the month between jumps). I didn’t even have to bring down the monoliths (though I did to get the varanium for the vaccine, but only after the Gastraea had killed everyone. Hell, some of those monoliths had been rigged to fail. Fucking humans.). I just took away all the Cursed Children. I was the last one standing. And I watched as Cairo, the last bastion of human civilization on this world fell.
“I do not understand. How can you care about some of your kind and still let this happen?” Reggy asked. She was Reggy now. Regina was too formal for common use.
“It’s a mystery. I could not stop the end of this world. So I saved everyone I could.”
“You did not try to save the world.”
“I didn’t. I could have spent all my time doing so and failed… then the jump would end and no one would be saved. This world, these people, had transgressed so many rules, so many, many basic rules of human decency… crossed lines that can’t be uncrossed. And still, if I’d been certain there was a way to save them, I would have tried. But I can’t sacrifice their innocent victims just to take a chance that the undeserving would be saved.”
“But you’re allowing twenty to die for everyone you’re saving.”
“Twelve million innocents saved. I could have risked them to try and save the rest, but it would have meant letting a couple million innocents die for certain, and allowing millions of scumbags, bastards, murderers, and people who willingly looked the other way live. And it might have been for naught. I didn’t make this world a hell hole. I can only hope the next one is better. And can cope with a couple million superpowered pubescent girls.”
There was a beach this time, but no party. Just a candlelight vigil for a world that was ending, and a hope that maybe, just maybe, humanity would learn from this. But I doubted it. I didn’t know who the hell the companions I’d been promised were, but I kinda hoped they’d fuck off. I wasn’t feeling very good about myself right now and didn’t want to be associated with anyone who’d rejoice at what we’d done. It was like cauterizing a wound, necessary, but fucked up. Twice now I’d let hundreds of millions die. The first time to make what I hoped was a better world. This time… I wasn’t sure. But I hoped like hell it wasn’t a trend.
Next: World 40 – The Promise