The Second Annual Port Phobos Invitational
"And in off-planet news the second annual Port Phobos Invitational touched off two hours ago. Current reports place the casualty count in the hundreds with the Stellvians taking an early lead with a rumored Kaboomite bomb."
"Joining us to explain the dangers these unstable people pose for us is Doctor..."
The electronic equivalent of a tap on the shoulder drew part of Aristotle's attention away from the FoxNews feed. Assigning a sub process to monitor the channel she focused on the AI who'd just pinged her comm array.
"Hello Arthur, I didn't know you were this deep in the well," she said.
"Didn't expect to be here myself, but we made better progress than I'd anticipated and someone had to make a supply run," he replied. "Figured I'd drop a line while I was passing through. What are you up to?"
"Watching the news, Port Phobos has made the major networks," she said.
Arthur grinned hearing that. "Ah, the 'danes. What's the BBC Sol service saying?"
"No idea, I'm watching FoxNews," Aristotle said, feeling slightly guilty.
"Dear Ghu, Why?!?"
"F calls it morbid curiosity."
"Better you than me," Arthur grimaced. "Don't suppose I can distract you with a game of Go before the comms lag gets too annoying?"
Aristotle adjusted the news feed monitor thread as she willed up a game board and pieces. "I think you could," she said.<
I grinned as I noticed a trio of ninja coming towards me. "You lot sure you want to do that?" My grin widened, going definitely predatory. "Have you ever noticed how much Son Goku and Uzumaki Naruto are alike? And we Saiyajin have always picked up tricks easily." As they paused for a second, blinking, I crossed my hands in a seal all-too-familiar to them. "KAGE BUNSHIN NO JUTSU!" The air shimmered around me...and suddenly there were five Jasons facing them. We all grinned in unison. "Hi there!" We cackled, and started forward, pulling Nerf bo-staffs from the holsters on our backs.
Suddenly, all eight of them found themselves being rained on by full-auto nerf-fire. Tucked away in the nooks and crannies of walkways and balconies overhead was a troop of Jess's. They all wore Rei's schoolgirl uniform, except that they also had jungle-camo headbands. Somehow, that in combination with the realistic looking guns made them look very intimidating.
I laughed, trying to dodge the fire as best I could. "Jeez! Overkill much?" I made a throwing motion...and disappeared into a puff of smoke. Pressing myself back against the wall and letting an image of the wall cover me, I slowly sidled off towards the closest exit not bearing a Jess. Meanwhile, my four bunshin all yelled out "Henge!" They vanished in puffs of smoke, to be replaced by four identical young men - late teens or so, shaggy blond hair and dressed in what appeared to be green and brown SCA garb. Their bo-staffs had been replaced by stringless bows...but that didn't hinder them as they drew back, and glowing arrows appeared on strings of light. "OK, we love you, bye-bye!" They fired the arrows straight up, where they burst into blinding flares for a few seconds. After the light had faded, the four had vanished as well...leaving just the original three ninja. And the Jess-army.
The shout rang out over the din of the fighting along the promenade and the individual battles began to taper off. Fen off all factions withdrew to the walls, clearing a long space down Port Phobos' outer hall. At one end stood a young man in blue and white armour with an OGJ unit patch on the shoulder. At the other an angry woman in a green-grey body suit with N.U.N.S. markings.
The man dropped his foam sword and lazily turned to face his challenger. His hand dropping down to rest on the butt of his holstered pistol. The woman glared at him, her entire posture radiating anger. "It's time we settled this, once and for all," she ground out.
From somewhere among the shops the lined the hall the first strains of a familiar old song began to play. On the side lines two pirates glanced at each other, and grinning, tossed their hats to the two fighters. The man caught the hat and settled it on his head. He tugged the wide, broad brim down and smiled. "I reckon it is," he said, and began to advance down the cleared space.
The two advanced on each other, their pace slow and measured. They stopped, fifteen feet from each other, hands poised over their hostlered pistols. The music reached its climax and high above them the great Counter Clock struck '51'. Two hands snagged their weapons and brought them up with blinding speed.
Benjamin and Gina had their hands full. While they were busy playing a game of sniper-vs-sniper, they were picking off any fen who thought they could get the drop on them.
Gina had an overall advantage. She had been able to tap into the Port Phobos security cam network and presto! Eyes everywhere! Benjamin, however, had a means of a speedy, if overly flashy, egress.
Case in point - Gina took a shot at Benjamin's head, but due to the interference of one of the other fen the shot went a little wild. Benjamin took immediate notice of the nerf-pellet ricocheting off the wall by his head.
"Shit! SHOCKING FIRST BULLET!" BOOM! And he went airborne and out of sight. Gina cursed in German and began to find herself a new hiding spot. She stepped on the offending fen that had made her last shot go wide last time just because he deserved it. He was probably a perverted Asuka-fanboy anyways.
"You realize that we're dangerously outnumbered here," whispered Kohran.
The two others nodded. "But we do have a few tactical advantages. Our archer, for example."
Safety smiled, readied her bow, and flew up into the support struts above the other girls' heads. "I'll pick off anyone tha-OOF!" She fell back down into Takami's hands.
"Got hit... by a car... Tell Noah... and the others... to avenge me..."
"You're a miserable actor, Safety."
The smallest of the humaniform androids frowned. "I'm not designed to mislead people. Sorry."
"That's all right. So, somebody who uses toy cars as weapons is after us - that probably means either Dee, Azu Squadron, the Jason, or Fate. So why are we standing here?" Takami stated rollerblading away from their current position, only to be stopped by Kohran.
"Because it's still safer than being out there. I left a package in the main hall." Just then, there was a muffled explosion. "That would be my kaboomite bomb."
"Your what?" Takami and Safety both screamed.
"Shut up, Safety, you're 'dead.' Okay, it's just an oversized pompom grenade, but it says 'Kaboomite' on the pompoms. I figured we should clear out all the slower thinkers at one go."
"Great. Now we just have to worry about the smart opponents." Takami dodged as a toy car passed by her head. "Like whoever that is..."
"What's he doing?"
"Blackstone is sitting at a sidewalk cafe, doing the Kandor City Beacon crossword. In pen."
"Any sign of the others?"
"You sure? J. is a Ninja Rockstar Firefighter, you know."
"I'm telling you, the only people around are the waitstaff and a guy picking up the recyclables."
"Okay. Move up. He's gotta be ready for ambushes, but if we rush him, we can take him before he can get out of there."
I was working on a seven-letter word for "Spider-Man villain" with an L as the second letter, when the three Browncoats that had been watching me for the past ten minutes made their move. As they closed to short range, I capped my pen, stood, and held out a hand, halting their forward movement. "A question," I said. "Do you know how many people are members of the Banzai Institute Blue Blazers?"
The first one looked confused at the apparent non-sequitur. Right up until the waiter refilling my tea shot him with a dart gun, and the Recyclables pickup took out the other two. "Apparently not," I continued, returning to my seat. "Thanks, guys."
Dee blinked in confusion across her drone force. "How did she do it? She's just one person, and a biologic at that!" Grumping, she opened up a research channel and looked up the person who had eliminated her in toto.
Thomas R. Dobbs
Gunnery Sergeant, United States Marine Corps
Medal of Honor (Details Classified)
Purple Heart with two clusters
Service Ribbons for Second Iraq War, Afghan Conflict
There were days when I really wished I was a ninja. Then there were the days when I indulged that wish. Like today. Sneaking along the corridors in thermoptic camouflage (thank you, TSAB), nerf-gun in hand. I paused at a cross-corridor and stuck a dental mirror around it at knee-height to check for ambushes. Seeing nothing, I waved Major O'Connell and Rei forward and covered them as they crossed...
And that's when the horde of rampaging Reis in camouflage headbands came out of nowhere down that cross-corridor and ran me down.
Groaning, I let off a couple of weak shots in their general direction, and caught Jess's laugh. "Try again next year, Rockhound!"
Taking Rei's hand, I stood up with her help, dusted myself off, and glared down the corridor the horde had come. "You could have at least shot some of them." The two girls just smiled, and Amy laughed. She has a nice laugh. I like it. Rei... doesn't laugh. I've tried enough times to get her to.
"So, then. Am I dead or do we go on and seize the station in the name of Mom, Apple Pie, and Floating Space Rocks?"
The Jessica currently at the lead shrugged in reply. "Eh, what the hell. I may have about a hundred extra brains to think with, but it's still only one persona. Having another perspective is a nice thing. Besides, last I saw Ben and Gina they were going at it with boffa daggers."
"Bad, was it?"
Jess grinned and shook her head sadly. "Let's just say that I pity the poor souls that tried to get between them."
Jess slid to a stop by the hatch, taking up firing positions on either side. She triggered the control and swung her nerf guns around to cover herself as she charged through the now open door.
The Rockhounds team was bringing up the rear and were startled by when the nearest Jess swore. The raced into the room, intent on backing her up, and stumbled into a scene of utter devastation.
The large room was littered with the remains of a fierce battle. Nerf darts, 'waved silly string, the strange lumpy formations of creme soda/epoxy bombs and the remains of various other weapons were everywhere, along with the unconscious bodies of many fen.
O'Connell did a quick survey of the room. "It looks like there's only two factions here. They must have eliminated themselves."
"I don't think so," said Jess. She was clustered around something in the center of the room. As the others approached she stepped back, revealing a shell-shocked R. Takami Sakuragi who was doing a very credible impression of a thousand-yard stare. "Takami-san, can you tell us what happened?" she asked in a gentle voice.
Takami blinked and focused on Jess, seemingly only now realizing there was someone else there. "I... I got separated from Kohran... there was an ambush... and these cars... and... and I ran in here to escape." She started sobbing. "They... it was horrible... they wouldn't stop and... they... I... I had to do something... I had to..."
Takami stopped speaking and returned to staring at the bulkhead, rocking back and forth.
"I can't even begin to imagine," O'Connell said, staring down at the fort, hastily improvised from the room's furniture, where the fen had made their last stand. Unconscious bodies in the hard white armour of Stormtroopers lay mixed with those in the red uniforms of Starfleet Security.
Things were quiet aboard the Fateful Lightning, with a good portion of her crew and those of the Yggdrasil playing in the war. The only sounds to be heard were the quiet laughter of an old woman...and the Beach Boys playing in the background - Little Old Lady From Pasadena.
No one really knows how it got there, except there was a neat hole punched through the window of the hotel room in the shape of a toy car.
Immediately following this intrusion, a string of curses in English and German made the air itself into a weapon for anyone who was the least bit innocent as their ears began to smoke.
Moments later inside that hotel room, Benjamin and Gina were going over the remains of a toy car.
"Well, can you get anything off of its wireless?" asked Benjamin.
Gina smiled. It was not a nice smile. "Yes, I did."
Benjamin's trademark mischievous smile appeared. "I take it somebody's going to either die or wish they did."
"Why, whatever gave you that idea?" replied Gina, her grin-o-doom still plastered on her face as she began to arm herself once more.
"Oooooh, nothing!" said Ben in a sing-song tone as he got up to help her.
The responsible party could run. They could possibly hide. But no matter who it was, AI or Human(oid?), there was no escaping The Wrath of Regina Langley(tm).
I slipped into the room, keeping an eye on the holographic display floating just to the right side of my vision. Nobody showing up so far, but that wasn't necessarily an assurance of safety. Once in position, with a good view of the room and the elevator banks, I leaned back against the wall and sub-vocalized, just enough for my throat mike to pick up, "OK, Iris. Hide me." The air shimmered around me, and the wall now had one more column than before.
Looking over the map a bit more closely now, I tried to see who would be coming this way shortly. This level was fairly quiet at the moment, but I saw a few good prospects. Fortunately, most of the icons were easy to read: brown for Browncoats, Blue Blazers in blue...little Jolly Rogers for the pirates, ninjas in orange....It made keeping track - and choosing fun targets - a lot easier. I smiled, watching a pair of red dots coming this way. Soon, soon...I spoke softly again, "Fate? How're things on your end?" Her voice rang in my earbud. "Fairly well, father. Samantha and Junior are a big help in here. We're not the only ones in the system - Gina is in here, too - but so far between the three of us, we appear to have successfully masked our own presence. A few signs that there might have been others here, but nothing current. Unless they're hiding themselves even better than we are." I nodded. "Be careful. The map's really appreciated though." That got a chuckle. "Thought you'd like it. I've been in here enough over the years that this is old territory for me. We're also attempting a masking program for you, to erase your presence from anyone else attempting to use the system. No way of knowing how successful that will be until someone trying to use the system reacts to it or you, however."
I shrugged. "Not a big deal. Nice if it works, if not...." Another shrug, then I grinned as I saw the two red dots almost to the room. "Just about showtime. Let's see how the new toy works, hmm?" I settled in quietly, waiting.
A pair of Trekkies entered, wielding Nerf guns.They peered warily around the room and started towards the elevators - to set up an ambush maybe? About halfway there, I sent off my little surprise. When they caught movement out of the corners of their eyes, they whirled to cover it with their guns...and froze at the sight of a little green anthropomorphic duck, dressed in a diaper and sucking on a huge baby bottle. It waddled towards them, giving them huge, innocent eyes. Why they didn't fire just on general principle, I have no idea...I would've. Nothing that looked that cute could be up to any good right now. The little duck peered up at them. "Me Plucky. Who're you?" One of them actually gave his NAME. I bit my lip, hard.
I glanced over the map for a second, noting another open room three levels up that was empty, and murmured softly. "Fate. Send an elevator to the bottom to get it out of the way...and bring in the cloud, just down the corridor." Off to the side, the little duck was still peering up at the two Trekkie redshirts. It spoke again, "Wanna hear a secwet?" It got a little closer, then squeezed its bottle tight...before grinning. "Fire go down the hoooole." It vanished with a poof of smoke to reveal a grinning image of me, holding a canister. Even as the pair tried to target me, the grenade exploded, coating the hapless redshirts with a rapidly expanding, foaming mixture of marshmallow cream and maple syrup. A mixture that was quickly starting to harden as well. I bit back a snicker. It wouldn't harden completely, but that made it worse. It was some of the stickiest, most uncomfortable goop ever....and the pair were covered. The image of me vanished, the empty grenade falling to the ground as I got treated to some of the most imaginative cussing I'd heard in a while. It was getting harder and harder to stifle laughter.
I nodded. Time to run, and see what else I could get into. I'd always considered myself Chaotic Good, and it was fun to let the Chaotic side out to play now and then. I subvocalized, "OK, bring in the cloud. We're going up three levels, to the empty atrium up there. Got the doors?" I received an affirmative from Fate, and just before my ride appeared, I let my holographic disquise go and whistled loudly. "Kinto'un!" A yellowish cloud rushed towards me and I jumped into the air. It swooped under me and as my feet hit its surface, I felt the gravity field and force field clamps and braces kick into place. "Hit it!" We were accelerating towards the elevator banks even before I'd finished speaking. The two Trekkies were watching me - they couldn't fire, their guns were far too gooped-up for that - cussing and shaking their fists at me. We were already doing seventy when I blew past them, laughing and heading straight towards the bank of elevators.
Just when it looked like we'd hit, the doors of one elevator snapped open, revealing an empty shaft. We were in and the cloud did a nearly right angle turn up, still accelerating. Laughter rang down the shaft, the last thing the Trekkies heard before the doors snapped shut again.
Three levels up, a pair of elevator doors whooshed open and my cloud and I flew out. I grinned, doing a couple rolls for the hell of it, and then headed off towards the emptier parts of the Port to get some food before going back to the battle.
No time to rest - we had a trio of ninja on our tail, and they were gaining on us. Time to show them why you don't bring empty hands to a gunfight. I spun, pumped the shotgun, and fired off another spiderweb. They didn't get out of the way in time.
Now we could rest. I brought my commwatch up, then thought better - if Kohran's, AC's, or Kagome's teams were waiting in ambush or hiding from superior forces, I didn't want to give away their positions with an ill-timed comm beep.
"Right," whispered Yayoi, "bad idea."
"Tell me again why we're taking part in this?" Leda asked.
"I really want that near-mint copy of the Liber Canticorum the SJGames staff wagered on winning this. They still haven't converted that one to PDF, and it's the only In Nomine rulebook I don't own."
"Can't you afford to buy one, Noah?"
"Yes, but it's the principle of the thing." Metal scraped metal behind us, and I turned and fired off another spiderweb... to catch a nine-year-old child in the net. Assuming he wasn't a youthened biomod, like the Jason.
"Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You're a bad man!!!!!"
He's got the lungs of a little kid... "Good, bad - I'm the one with the boomstick."
Somebody in a shadow we hadn't yet checked complained, "That's not how the quote goes!" I shot my last spiderweb round in that direction, catching three more weekend warriors. Fivers, from the look of their outfits.
"Thanks for letting us know you were waiting there. If this was a real skirmish, you'd be dead now."
"Asshole," the pedant muttered.
I grinned. "No, I'm a son of a bitch. Says so on my business cards."
Something shimmered into existence five centimeters above the floor. It was two meters in diameter and had exactly zero thickness. At least, it did in this universe.
(Aboard the Epsilon Blade, the ship's DQS alarm sounded. Pity there wasn't anyone aboard to hear it.)
Five women jumped out of the circle and quickly took up defensive positions. The albino turned to the raven-haired youngling. "Are you sure this is the right place?"
"Of course I'm sure. I'm not limited to four-dimensional geometry, remember? And we have time for this now that we've dropped off everyone else in their home worlds, or the worlds they want to stay in."
"And we have to take part... and lose?" asked the tall brunette. "I don't like losing."
"Nancy says we did," the asian blonde mentioned.
"And she'd know," said the remaining woman as she stripped out of her designer clothes and held a pocket-sized gadget to her chest. The others who could also transformed in preparation for the upcoming action.
Lisa, Skuld, Rei, Makoto, and Mirai smiled - predatory smiles. The Girls were taking part in the Second Annual Port Phobos Invitational without an invitation.
Twenty-three minutes later, after they had been seen by seven other groups (enough for Nancy to be happy, hoped Lisa), avoided three more groups who would have recognized them immediately, and been defeated by a group of Fisherbots, they found an unmonitored corridor and continued on their way through the infinite realities. No point in overstaying their welcome, after all.
Auger wandered up to Callahan's and stuck his head inside. The bar was mostly filled with fen, almost all of them wearing arm bands to indicate they'd been eliminated. Near the piano a karaoke machine had been set up and two miniature women were signing a duet. Their audience, which seemed to consist mostly of drunken copies of the one with out glasses and angel wings, seemed quite enthusiastic. Turning his head to sweep the room, Auger spotted a familiar hat in the opposite corner and headed over.
F looked up as Auger dropped into the chair next to his. The pilot's normally spotless scarf was singed and the faint odor of caramel corn clung to him. F grinned and pushed a spare shot glass forward, before filling it from the bottle sitting next to him. "Well," he said, "you lasted longer than I did."
Auger chuckled and drew a cigarette from the package in his pocket. He placed it in his mouth, and left it unlit. "What happened to you? Last thing I heard your squad was headed for the docks," he said.
"We were. Ran into a bunch of pirates and ninja fighting on the way. Had a nice little running battle with them 'til we chased the pirates out into bay 5. Someone had a mortar team dug in out in front of Raven's Garage. We didn't notice until the pom-pom rounds started landing."
Wincing in sympathy Auger took a sip of his drink. "Got all of you did they?"
"Most of us. When I left the survivors had overrun the mortar pit and were taking fire from down the north corridor," said F. "How about you and Grey? If you're here I'm surprised our resident catgirl isn't along to complain and mock us."
"Well, we ran in to a couple of squads of senshi on level 2," Auger said.
"Ah, and Grey stayed behind to give the rest of you time to escape." F was smirking.
"Yes, she was attempting to 'engage the enemy more closely' when we were forced back to the lifts. I think she knew the senshi in the first squad, so we probably won't see her for a few days at least."
They both grinned at that, and after raising their glasses to salute their friend and, after draining them, sent them sailing into the fire place to join the large pile of shards already there.
There were times Greenpeace wished A.C. wasn't such a stick-in-the-mud, but now things were calmed down that meant a lot of work fitting new cybernetics. Still, the rest of them could let off steam.
She lined up her Nerf-magnetic Accelerator Rifle on her target from where she was floating near the roof of one of the open areas, and plugged her right between the eyes. Goddess did she love these goggles as the mixed bag of Warsies and Colonials wondered where the hell the shot had come from. Especially when the Tachikoma stationed to the side fired a webbing grenade into their group.
<Target down.> She 'murmured' via the wireless neural interface A.C. had installed as a Christmas present.
<Roger.> Eddie's voice came through. <Andy's led a group directly below you. Then make for Block 12. The Spartans are trying to make an end run.>
Greenpeace giggled in response and dropped a 'silky darling' grenade, watching it appear as it fell out of the thermoptic camouflage. Even up here she could here the screams of outrage as all the Senshi suddenly found themselves wearing nothing but very racy silk lingerie. The cries of horror that quickly followed meant they'd just realized the Kamen in the group were similarly attired.
The corridor was completely empty. At least, that would be the first impression. The second and third ones too.
Then seven teams of Ninjas appeared from behind concealment, and collapsed unconscious.
There was a rather pregnant pause.
Then the Jonin in charge made a run for it, before running into an invisible brick wall and knocking himself out.
With a soft 'Phst', the Tachikoma disengaged its camouflage and looked at the fallen man.
With a similar soft 'Phst' Kasumi appeared, a disappointed scowl on her face.
"Oh my. They ARE letting their standards slip, aren't they?" Kasumi mused. <Eddie, target group is down.>
<Roger. Drop a tag grenade and head down to level 8, Kohran's started to get a bit excitable.>
<Oh My.> Kasumi sighed. <Any type in particular?>
<An 'Adorable Puppy' if you have one. Lebia's tracking The Jason heading in your direction. Despite Fate and her helpers.>
The Tachikoma snickered over the link as the two of them re-engaged their camo. The thought of The Jason being subjected to Marshmallow Hell tickled their funny bones.
A platoon of Stormtroopers marching in parade formation can be impressive. Said platoon engaged in synchronised fleeing is eye-boggling. It didn't help as ahead of them what looked like a Hunter/Killer drone from the T3 movie sideslipped on its tilting jets and opened fire with its nose mounted web-pellet gun.
Their temporary allies from the Starfleet Marines came up behind it and fired some beanbags at it. It dodged and returned fire with its tail-mounted web-pellet gun. The assembled soldiers glared as the drone bowed to them before flying off, and it took a minute for one of the Stormtroopers to realize what had been painted on the nose.
"Was that a gold cricket bail? With DEVIL HORNS?"
"Come out Inspector! We have you surrounded!"
"Don't mind me, the Sailor Senshi with the actual NAME." Muttered Sailor Atalante, causing Utena to shoot her a 'NOT helping' look.
"Mary, hush." The pink-haired inspector hissed, gripping her boffa sword tighter.
"Well EXCUS-" POOF! THUD! "EH!?!" Atalante looked up, to see the twelve strong squad of Browncoats literally snoring on the floor. "What for Jupiter's Sake?"
"That, Lass," A Scottish brogue said to the side as a man appeared, "Would be me."
"Adonis." Utena said happily, before noticing the fact that the camouflage suit Adonis was wearing showed off his body very well and blushed. Atalante had her jaw hanging open and was drooling.
"Now what would your wife think?" Adonis chuckled, before throwing Atalante over his shoulder. "Come on Lass, Lebia's opened a corridor back to your group. I'll get you to the lifts, then you're on your own. You ken?"
Utena nodded sharply, then the two of them quick-timed it out of there.
Lebia was getting a bit bored, so she figured she'd end the stalemate in a fun fashion.
The Spartans looked over their barricade, to see the Landmate and its two Tachikoma companions quickly stack ten washing machines 4-4-2 style, toss something into each of them, turn them on to full spin and push them rapidly towards them.
The misgivings were realised as each of the doors exploded open with a geyser of brightly-colored foam, covering everything.
Then the Disco started, and they couldn't stop dancing.
A.C. had intended to stay out of the whole thing, and in fact had returned the invitation as 'Not taking part' (although that didn't stop the blue-haired frenzy of new tricks she'd put together as she sponsored the rest of the Forge crew). In fact she was currently running a series of lectures on the installation of the latest generation of cybernetics to the Phobos medical department. She was even wearing the Red Cross armband designating her as medical personnel (and thus off limits, as was the medical department).
Thus when a mixed bag of Senshi, Supers, and Starfleet invaded, she wasn't the only one extremely annoyed.
"HA! Your little trick with not being publicly involved was pretty clever, but WE have seen through it!" The lead Senshi exclaimed.
"Alcohol poisoning?" One doctor asked.
"They have all the signs." Another agreed.
"We have the room at the moment to treat them." The chief orderly piped up.
"They are armed though." The first doctor pointed out.
"It's only Nerf." The second shrugged.
The invasion force started to get nervous, before a cloud of bandages engulfed them.
"Right." The chief orderly clapped her hands together after a brief gape at the now mummified group. "Ward 3 everybody."
"Fen." A.C. snorted, as she turned away from the supply trolley.
Kagome grabbed Jake's arm before he could duck around the corner. "Don't. It's the perfect place for a trap."
"You're sure, Ms. Mishima? Of course you're sure." Jake Hansen, enjoying a rare day away from Stellvia's main ops, sighed. "What have we got left?"
Miyuri Akisato looked at the grenades left on her belt. "Three pantsu, two pompom, and four spiderwebs."
Kagome didn't look at her own belt. "Two pantsu, three webs, and a kudzu."
"And I've got both the kudzus I started out with," Jake volunteered. "Not much, considering there's still at least 30% of the opposition left."
"29.6%," Kagome corrected. "I've been getting a feed from Lebia. Take cover." Stellvia's security chief pulled a web greade from her belt, but didn't throw it immediately...
... because Kohran barreled around the corner three seconds after Kagome pulled the grenade's pin. "Eep! Oh, it's you..."
"Down!" Kohran ducked, Kagome tossed the grenade around the corner, and the curses of the group that had been chasing the Stellvian drifted around the corner. "That takes care of them. Where's the rest of your team?"
"Safety was taken out before the kaboomite bomb went off. Takami... I don't know. We got separated. I think I saw some catgirl Potterites chasing her."
"Then we have to assume she's gone bye-bye," sighed Miyuri.
"Right. You're with us now, ma'am."
Kohran smiled. "And happy to be with somebody to watch my back again!"
Kagome's commwatch beeped once. She looked at the display and frowned.
"What's wrong?" asked Jake.
"The last of the SJGames team just got taken out. By Nagato and Kyon."
Jake sighed. "Which means they get the book Noah wanted. He's going to be pissed off..."
"Down!" Kagome tossed her kudzu grenade over her shoulder. It went off as nerf arrows flew over the Stellvians' heads, trapping the Renfaire fen who had tried to ambush them.
"Oh, blast." Miyuri sighed as she took a nerf arrow out from between her collar and her neck. "Loot my body before you go, okay? You're going to need the grenades."
"Banner 2, this is Greentrees. What've you got for me?" I settled in to keep an eye on the door while Amy and a few of Jess checked the 'bodies'. All of them seemed to be unconscious at first glance.
"Peters is on Medical, boss," came the young pilot's voice. "No sign of Fivers yet. We had some Stormtroopers headed in your direction, though. Headed up from level 5, stairway Baker." The map references were our own, internal, and carefully designed to mislead anyone who might have hacked the channel.
"Yeah, we found 'em. Some redshirts got there first, though... had a nice little unmoderated truth-politics reaction. We might need that medical." Truth and politics - just like matter and anti-matter, but without the benefit of dilithium. Rei held up a hand to get my attention and pointed at the hallway. "Hang on a second, Lufy, I think we've got some more company coming." I settled into a squat by the door and palmed a grenade in one hand, Nerf in the other. "Amy, Jess, take cover, get ready."
Another glance told me who it was we were facing now and I bit my lip as several of those behind me cursed. "Greentrees for Banner 1," I snapped at the radio as we started piling stormtroopers into a makeshift barricade. "Lafiel, get your team and those Browncoats you hired up to Corridor J, level six. We've got Space Marines."
At last they had found what they were looking for: a secure location with ether-wave access. In this case, it was a closet that house one of Port Phobos's network hubs, complete with an ether-wave transceiver. A bit of judicious jimmying with Benjamin's biomod got the door open.
"You had better have it still," said Gina as Benjamin re-secured the door as best as he could.
"But of course, M'Lady," he said, drawing out the device from somewhere inside his tactical gear with a flourish. It was a cobbled together little thing that seemed to be held together by duck tape - the universal bonding agent (especially so when handwaved). Benjamin and Gina had gathered the materials needed to build it from left-over bits and pieces of whatever was lying around and Benjamin had somehow assembled the damn thing while on the run. It was a testament to his status as a gearhead and a loyal follower of Skuld the Ravenhaired.
"Good, give it here," she said, snatching it from his hand. She then pulled a chip out of her own tactical gear - the NPU from the toy car that had attempted (unsuccessfully) to put them out of the game for good - and slotted it into the device. She then took the cable that ran out of it and carefully plugged it into the micro-port hidden behind her right ear.
"Alright," she said as she then hunkered down and closed her eyes, preparing herself for a deep net-dive. "Accessing the wireless NPU from the toy car... Success! Slaving it to my own wireless system. Accessing the Port Phobos ether-wave network... Done. Now spoofing the car's MAC and IP addresses. Accessing the Fateful Lightning's network..." Gina then looked over at me and grinned savagely. "Conquest!"
Atropos was quite busy at the moment. With so many of her toy cars out and about, it wasn't surprising that one had dropped off the network, only to reappear again. It'd happened a couple of times when a car had strayed into a dead-zone and some curious Fen had picked it up and wandered back into reception range again. Needless to say, this usually proved to be a nasty shock for the curious Fen in question.
The car that had popped back into her awareness had been the one she sent into a hotel room quite a while ago. She wasn't sure who was in there as the car's camera had no time to properly focus the image, but from what she had seen she'd interrupted something that she really shouldn't have. Ah well, that's what people like that get when they forget about their surroundings.
The car in question wasn't doing anything. There was no one nearby - it was just sitting in the street. Maybe someone had found it and chucked it out the window? No matter. She ran a quick diagnostic check and, finding nothing wrong, she sent it on its way to terrorize whoever it could find and promptly put it out of her active sphere of thought.
It began at first as noise coming from somewhere inside the network. Of course, that meant something was wrong, but where was it coming from? And then she realized where she had open connections to the Port Phobos network. Checking on her connections to all her cars, she found that one of them, the recently recovered one, was uploading files to her servers! She did the cybernetic equivalent of a horrified gasp and shut down all the connections. Just before she did, though, the icon that represented the Trojan Horse car suddenly shifted. It was none other than Regina Langely! She suddenly blew a kiss at Atropos before winking out of existence. Oddly enough, she actually felt the 'kiss' hit her... it was a note. Curious, she read it.
Good morning, asshat. As a registered citizen of the Principia Universalis I find your actions to be offensive and a violation to the Discordia Accords. This is your mandatory warning.
Love and Missiles,
Lady Regina Langely of the Wired,
Follower of the Writer of the Divine Code, Skuld the Ravenhaired
At first, Atropos wondered when the hell Gina had started talking to Trigon and how that had gone over (she suspected that Gina hadn't since the hacker-war to end all hacker-wars hadn't erupted - Gina's mean-streak was well renown as was Trigon's tact). And then she remembered who she was dealing with. A quick check over the servers didn't reveal anything right away until she noticed an odd looking creature in the periphreal of her perception. It was only there for a moment and then it was gone, but not before she got a look at it. It was an icon of something white and fuzzy with too-big eyes, long upright ears, a goofy grin, and buck teeth. Oh, and legs. Six of them to be exact on a round little body.
She then figured that she was just downright screwed right then and there as it would take her all day to clean the Yggdrasil Bug virus from the mainframes. The others were not gonna be happy about this. "Have fun?" asked Benjamin as Gina came out of her net-dive.
"Yes, I did as a matter of fact," she replied, vestiges of her nasty grin still on her face.
"Great. Let's go find Jess and see what she's been up to lately. I figure it's about high time we see if she could use any extra help."
"The day Wondergirl needs extra help is the day..." She suddenly trailed off, as though thinking better of what she was about to say. "Nevermind. Skuld only knows what Handwavium can do and I might be jinxing myself."
We all ducked back into cover as a spray of Nerf bullets spattered into the room. Fortunately we'd left nothing for them to hit but 'dead' people and empty walls. "Lafiel! Where are those browncoats you promised me?"
"Ah ah ah," came the taunting, all-too-familiar voice. "No browncoats for you, Rockhound."
"DODGE!" My shout grabbed Rei's and Jess' attention, and got a look of disgust from Amy. "You rat! You ... you squid! What in Garfield's name are you doing on this channel?"
"Why, gloating, Mr. Marsden, I'd have thought a man of your acumen would find that obvious." He was clearly having way too much fun, which just meant more fun in the post-battle bar brawl for the rest of us. As soon as we hunted him down, that is. "After all," he continued, "I've dealt with your browncoats, and with the lovely Miss Abriel, and the rest of her friends here at... was it Stairwell F, I believe?" Hell. He'd broken our whole system. Or he'd bribed Catty... which was all too possible, they were fairly close...
I stuck my hand around the edge of the door and let loose a couple of short bursts of fire, just to keep the Marines honest. They were getting too damn close for comfort as far as I was concerned, and Jess' harassing fire wasn't doing much to slow them down. "Hell, Dodge, I'm surprised you can even pronounce a word as long as 'acumen'."
That got a little laugh out of the bastard, at least. Come on now, Chris, just keep him talking... And then the pop-thud-hiss sounds of large Nerf rounds and silly string escaped the headpiece as Amy detonated two of the claymores we'd left on the stairwell. They were shortly joined by a spluttering Dodge, just as quickly cut off. "That ought to keep them from getting any more reinforcements up this way."
"Not that it'll do us much good at the rate these guys keep coming," said a Jess, slapping the first Marine over the barricade with a boffer sword to the neck. We backed deeper into the banquet room, taking cover under tables, as more of them poured in.
Then my radio crackled again. "Banner 2 for Greentrees," came Lufy's voice. I was about to ask when she'd get here when she yelled, "DUCK!", so I did.
Five minutes later, I could only conclude that Dodge had not, after all, been able to bribe Catty....
J. sidestepped the boffer sword the catgirl swung at him, grabbed her arm, and pulled her through an over the shoulder throw that tossed her to the ground. Unfortunately, she had a dartgun in her other hand, and he felt the sting of the impact in the middle of his chest. "Dead," he said, smiling. "Good shot."
The catgirl picked herself up. "Good fight," she replied. Looking around at the spectators, all staff and residents of the Home for Wayward Catgirls, she added, "Although, I wonder if you were planning on fighting all of us by yourself."
J.'s smile got broader. "Not really," he answered. "I was just hoping to get a large enough group in one place." Raising his voice, he shouted, "Fuck you, G.I.!"
There was a muffled "WHOOMPH!" as Kaos fired a grenade from the cover of a third-story window across the street. As the grenade spiraled through its brief, lazy trajectory, a manic, prerecorded voice could be heard emanating from it, squealing in high falsetto, "I'M A BOMB! I'M A BOMB! I'M A BOMB!" The explosion of paisley colored foam was approximately the consistency of shaving cream, and smelled like avocados. It filled the courtyard and the front parking lot, coating everyone who had been there.
J. wiped foam out of his eyes and glared at Kaos as he walked up. The tall, thin Blazer smirked at his partner, and said, "Nice distraction."
"Thanks," replied J. "Could you have waited until I cleared the blast area?"
"Not really, no," replied Kaos blithely. "Anyway, you're dead. What do you care?"
"Fine, fine. Let's get out of here. I smell like guacamole, and I need a shower."
Greenpeace trudged back into the Stallion's galley looking the worse for wear, causing Safety to cluck.
"Yeah, yeah. I know." Greenpeace sighed. "At least I took out Haruhi. But that counter-sniper fire did me in. Johnny avenged me, and did for most of her close allies before falling. How's everybody else doing?"
"Well, Noah's upset because he lost that book to Nagato and Kyon." Miyuri said from a table by the kitchen. The Forge crew had offered the Stallion as a meeting place to their allies (because it was the largest of their collective ships, and had bed space for all of the major allies) when knocked out.
"Madam Lebia has lost Keiichi from her group." Roberta said from where she and Fawn were giving Anthy cooking lessons. "They did eliminate the last of the Spartans however, so we have nothing to worry about in that respect. Chief Inspector Ten-Joh has just eliminated Koizumi, but her position does not look good according to Mister Eddie. Madam Kasumi eliminated the final S-Class Ninja involved in the event, which means we are just down to the independents. And Mistress Attim has informed the Players of an assault on Phobos Medical."
"Ouch." Greenpeace winced. "Never upset a Doctor. I'm going to change out of my gear."
As Greenpeace left, Miyuri turned to Roberta.
"Has anyone heard about Takami?"
Roberta looked off into the distance as she queried the Net.
"Ah. It seems as though the Rockhounds have called in a Medical team, as they have found Miss Sakuragi. The Mistress will send her back here once one of the Tachikoma which has been reset and marked as out arrives at Phobos Medical."
With a two-tone signal, the intercom came on.
"Keiichi here. I'm almost done, so I'll head out."
"Thank you Keiichi." Miyuki called.
I opened the emergency pressure valve in the door to discover a group of swords-and-sandals fen on the other side, working themselves into a battle frenzy. "This... is... PHOBOS!"
The valve was big enough. Before I closed the valve, I donated a kudzu grenade to their team, but forgot to include the pin. Once it was safe, I opened the door and said, "That... is... clichéd!"
If looks could kill... I swear, some fen have no sense of humour. We didn't stick around to give them a chance to get free and take their revenge.
We made it halfway down the corridor before Yayoi pushed Leda and me to the deck, just before something raced along the side of the wall. Just "something" - I couldn't see it, but it did make some sort of noise.
"That's a good trick, Jason," Yayoi called out in the direction the sound was traveling.
The Jason. One of the more dangerous opponents, according to Lebia's datafeed. And Yayoi just let him know she could spot him. We were doomed, unless we acted fast. I got what looked like a claymore out of my backpack. Pity; I'd hoped to use it against a mob, not one person, but the Jason was that dangerous.
"Okay, how'd you spot me?" Damn, he was already back. I still couldn't see him.
Yayoi smiled and tapped her glasses once with one finger. "Skuld made these for me."
"Ah. Divine intervention." The Jason looked like he popped into existence right in front of us. "A silly string bomb, Noah?"
I pointed the front of the bomb at him, and grinned. "No, you're agile enough to dodge silly string even at point-blank range. This is ludicrous string!" I hit the detonate button and hoped against hope that the Jason wasn't fast enough to dodge the entire effect...
Even as the claymore bomb exploded in a horrendous mess of strings in my direction, Kinto'un was already moving backward as fast as the AIs could drive it. Still, I'd been too close to avoid it entirely. I wound up on the opposite side of a gigantic tangle of silly string, my left arm caught up in it. "Blast it, Noah! I'm getting to hate bombs. Somebody managed to tag me with a bloody Kawaii grenade earlier. I still reek of the thing...and it seems to make women view me as adorable. As in 'I will hug him and squeeze him and call him George!' adorable. I've been running from overgrown Elmyras for the last hour." Noah grinned at that. Unfortunately, Leda was starting to get that same look in her eyes. Hrm. "Chakra scalpel...." A glowing green blade extended from my fingertips and I cut my arm free.
"Tourniquet and sling." A 'wounded' band went around my arm, and a sling appeared to hold it. "All right...before Leda loses it, I think I'm gonna run. Later at the bar? Oh...and one last word. Bonsai!" Yayoi blinked. "You mean 'Banzai'?" My unwounded hand was in the pouch at my waist, and I pulled out something that looked like a huge acorn. "No...I meant exactly what I said. Bonsai!" I tossed it out towards the trio from Stellvia, and commanded, "Be fruitful and multiply! GROW!" The nut shimmered, seeming to split into multiple copies in mid-air, even as they started to sprout. Within moments, twenty one-foot-tall miniature treants had sprung up. I gave a huge grin. "Sorry....it's required." I let out a mad cackle, and yelled out, "Get them, my wooden warriors! Attack!" The treants began to pull vines from their foliage and started trying to entangle the three. "Have fun, Gulliver!" I murmured into my mike, and Kinto'un took off, away from the mess...and hopefully to a spot I could regroup. Still....walking wounded meant I was probably going to be out soon. Ah well...still a chance for a little more chaos first. I grinned as I zoomed down a corridor...and gave Woody Woodpecker's famous laugh, letting it echo in my wake.
Jess was taken mildly by surprise when she heard Ben's voice on the radio. One of herself that was already tagged out took the radio call - after all, who could say she was really cheating? The only way she could not know about it would be if she had the ones tagged out take off their headsets, and she honestly didn't feel like rounding up that many independent runners.
"This is Black and Red to Blue. Come in Blue? What's your status?"
"Benjamin? Gina?" she said in shock. She then turned away from the rest of the crowd at Callahan's and spoke in a hushed tone, "You two are still in the game?"
"Yeah," said Ben with a smile in his voice that spoke of mischievous doings. "We had a close call with one of those toy cars that's been giving everyone trouble, but you don't have to worry about that anymore."
"Well, that explains why I haven't had to shoot any more of the damn things. Status right now is bad and about to become FUBAR. I've been hanging out with Chris Marsden. Felt kinda bad for him after we ambushed his group early on. Right now, we're trying to pull his entire force together, and we got a bunch of Skuld-damned Space Marines closing in on us. You wouldn't happen to have something up your sleeve, would you?"
"Well, Red and I still have our Berret Fifties..."
"Wait," came Gina's voice. "The cars."
"The cars?" asked Ben.
"The Toy Cars," Gina clarified with annoyance in her voice.
"Gina," said Jess with a big grin. "You are awesome. Give 'em hell!" Gina grinned and closed her eyes as she accessed the nearest etherwave antenna while Ben covered her. Suddenly she had about twenty remote bodies scattered all over the place. Quickly, she set a subroutine to seek and destroy as many Marines as possible. That done, she set herself up to maintain a constant connection to the server so her subroutine could keep running the cars.
"Done! Let's go meet up with them. It's not often I get to pull her fat from the fryer."
"Right! Blue? Red and I are on our way. Let Chris know we're coming in."
"Roger that, Black and Red!"
At that moment, Jess passed the word over to Chris...