The Second Annual Port Phobos Invitational Part 2
I sighed. "Yayoi, next time, don't ask - just assume it's something nasty." She looked contrite... for two seconds. "Now, do I dare use that Top Secret weapon?"
"You're keeping secrets from us?" Leda asked distractedly while staring off in the direction the Jason had ran.
"Not 'top secret' as in 'don't tell', 'Top Secret' as in a game that's older than you are." I pulled the Termite Bomb out of my backpack, sighed, and tossed it into the middle of the bonsai ents. "You did bioengineer the termites to be sterile and short-lived, right?"
Leda nodded. "Oh, that's why you wanted them like that."
"Yep. Let's go." And we took off in the opposite direction and down a stairwell, Yayoi and me half-dragging Leda. If she didn't snap out of it soon, we might have to send her to A.C... which meant sacrificing her somewhere so she'd be out of the game. I didn't want to do that to Leda.
Damn... the biggest weapon we brought didn't work against the Jason. Maybe I should have let Kohran bring along the toys that the Girls had left behind... but it was too late to go back and get them.
By the time the Marines took the doorway, several of Jess were down, and I was sporting a 'wound' on my left arm. We'd forted up behind two ranks of collapsed tables and were prepared to make a fighting retreat when Jess announced that the back doors out of the room were locked.
A paintball from one of the marines (loaded with buttercream frosting, yum) splattered on the chest of a redshirt I'd taken cover behind, and the semi-conscious Trekkie groaned. I zatted him again to keep him quiet and ducked as another hail of frosting-balls zipped by my head. "Anytime now, Lufy!"
Benjamin checked the combat web harness once more. He'd taken passengers on impromptu rides before on a Shell-Bullet Jump, but that had been in only the most extreme do-or-die situations. Her Royal Highness, Serenity I, came to mind. However, this time he was actually thinking about it and counted himself lucky that they'd been able to hold onto each other.
This time, it was going to be thought out, but there were complications. Gina was going to be holding and firing her Barret 50-Nerf sniper rifle - a weapon with so much punch, even in the nerf version, that even she needed to handle it with two hands. Benjamin had rigged his and Gina's combat webs to in an improvised manner to hold them together through the rough flight, but Ben had his doubts.
"Okay, you sure you ready for this, Gina?" said Ben, a bit uncertainly. "It's a pretty intense ride."
"Hell yeah I'm ready! Just do it already!"
"Okay then, M'Lady, you asked for it! ANNIHILATING FINAL BULLET!!!"
Lufy tucked away another round in her auto-grenade-launcher and gave the rest of her team one last glanceover. "Alright, team, are we ready?"
"Are we set?"
"Are we gonna mow down those Marines like they were kiddies on pixie sticks?"
"Right, then, let's go!" And up the stairs they charged, the map leading them directly to the same back door that was refusing to let Chris and the rest out. Catty's latest gizmo went through the lock in question like snails on speed, and for the ten second-longest seconds of her life (the first ten had passed while she watched Marsden's reaction to the destruction of Crystal Osaka), Lufy tapped her foot and waited.
Then the door opened.
Suddenly, there was an explosion somewhere overhead. Everyone looked up and were treated to an awe inspiring sight: Benjamin Rhodes, his Shell-Bullet arm active and trailing dust and smoke as he flew overhead... and Gina strapped tightly to his midsection. She had a snarl plastered on her face as she took aim and set the Berret to "AUTO" and pulled the trigger.
Eight Marines came through the door in the first wave. Gina caught four. Rei and Amy both plastered the same one, making sure he stayed down. (He twitched. Rei shot him again.) Then Lufy's squad plastered all eight with key-lime-pie grenades.
The rest of the Marines barrelled through the door, firing on full auto as they saw their comrades cut down. Frostingballs, pie grenades, zat sparks, and nerf bullets flew wildly across the room.
Out of somewhere, a dozen busty blondes appeared, thoroughly distracting several of the Marines.... and several of the other people in the room, too. Those who had time to pay attention might have noticed the way shots kept going through them... if anyone had had the time to notice. Some did, and kept their concentration...
Gina was a machine intelligence and a very quick one at that. Her body had reaction times that could keep up with her mind when she removed certain safety locks. And, fortunately, she was not distracted by the holographic nudes that kept popping up. By the time they reached the other side, Gina had nailed every single Marine still in play on the head.
After Ben and Gina disappeared on the other side, all of Jess suddenly sprung up, punching her fists in the air as they all shouted at once, "Seventeen consecutive headshots! UBER BITCHIN' BONUS!"
"Thank you for the assistance, Pilot Langley," murmured Rei as Ben and Gina landed. "It was quite timely."
"Uhm... you're welcome?"
A.C. paused as her enhanced hearing caught two rather erotically charged moans coming from the med-bay. A quick query to Frosty showed that Utena had been eliminated a while back and she and her wife were taking advantage of one of the massage drones (Greenpeace, as per her sense of humour, had nicknamed this one Taro of all things). Their enhanced physiologies were obviously giving them far more than they expected.
Resisting the 'Darkeyes' side of her's desire for a look, A.C. moved up to the command deck to drop off her things before returning down to the galley.
"Hello Roberta." The raven-hared cyborg greeted the maid.
"Mistress." Roberta acknowledged, a faint blush as always on her cheeks as she replied. A.C. wasn't sure why the android was so shy around her, but figured if it became a problem she'd deal with it then. She'd given up on getting Roberta to call her by name.
"How's the competition going?" She asked as Roberta turned back to the stove. "I know Utena's out. I heard her in the med-bay as I came in."
"Master Adonis is also out, however it seems the female fen did not want to see him go, so they have retired to the dance club Infinity."
"Those camouflage suits are tightly fitted." A.C. agreed with a smirk. Roberta's blush deepened.
"Mister Eddie is still picking off targets of opportunity, but has otherwise gone into hiding."
"And Lebia seems to have taken out Nagato and Kyon with a goop grenade." Fawn said as she walked into the galley.
"Hello Fawn. Any particular type?" A.C. asked as her administrative assistant came up to her side.
"A type 17." Roberta replied.
"Well, that'll explain the uncertainty. The safety foam is opaque and hardens quickly, and they won't WANT to escape until someone sets up a screen." A.C. scowled. "Andy still can't find out why it dissolves clothes. I'm surprised Lebia didn't call it in though."
"Yes, well." Fawn demurred. "Lebia was a little distracted by Gina Langley's Yggdrasil Bug attack on Atropos."
"She WHAT?" A.C. growled, causing Fawn to jump away in fright and Roberta to reach for her knives. "Von allen dumm, unverantwortlich, idiotisch... Live auf Ihren Ruf, warum nicht Sie." [Of all the stupid, irresponsible, idiotic... Live down to your reputation, why don't you.] She muttered under her breath, before taking a deep breath. "Right. So, besides that?"
"Madam Kasumi and her companion have been dark for a few hours now." Roberta continued, now that it didn't look like A.C. was getting mad.
"Kas rarely gets to go full Kunoichi," A.C. pondered, pulling Fawn into a reassuring hug to calm her down, "So she's either waiting for the right moment or engaged with another ninja of her level."
"Wait." Fawn reluctantly shrugged out of the hug. "I thought all the S-Class Ninja were out?"
"There's more than the Hidden Village out there Fawn."
"Madam Greenpeace is in the TV room with Miss Akisato and Miss Safety. They were watching Undercover Blues, but that would have finished a few hours ago. Miss Sakuragi is in her room relaxing, however she did ask if she could have a meal at this time. I have no information on Mr Scott's or Miss Mishima's team." Roberta finished her report.
"I do." A.C. leaned back against the counter. "Noah's team encountered The Jason. That 'Adorable Puppy' grenade had a stronger effect on Leda, but nothing serious as she recovered as Noah and I were talking." A.C. mock-pouted. "Which is a shame, as I'm sure Noah would have liked the treatment of having to give Leda a rather thorough snogging. Or the more effective treatment of having Yayoi do it. Anyway, The Jason's walking wounded at this point."
"Honestly A.C." Fawn huffed. "You're such a bad girl."
"I'm HARDLY a girl." A.C. said archly, before sighing. "And now I've got to do paperwork."
Fawn stuck her tongue out as A.C.'s back as the latter faux-stalked off muttering good-naturedly under her breath about slave-driving admin assistants.
Tonka and Booster were, on record, two of the largest Blue Blazers. Both men massed somewhere near 300 pounds each, with Tonka just below and Booster just above. They hulked by second nature, and used their mass with great effect.
They could, however, be outmassed by sheer numbers. Throw a suitable number of Browncoats, or Senshi, or Catgirls, or even other Blue Blazers at them, and they'd go down. Not without a fight, though, which was why Booster was covered with assorted goop, darts, paint, pies and other Phobos Invitational-approved ammo as he blocked the hall full of pursuers and Tonka scrambled out a window and dropped the single story to the street below. It was a brief respite, unfortunately, since their attackers had sentries who sounded the alarm even as Tonka's pump-action paintball shotgun took them down. Booster watched his partner take off down the street as he heard the mob retreat behind him, sighed, and set off in search of a shower, a clean shirt, and a margarita, preferably in that order.
Tonka, in the meantime, was mildly regretting being one of the heavier members of the Blazers. Despite his mass, he was in good shape, but it had been a long day, and he was getting tired. He rounded the corner at a lope, fully aware that the mob was closing. As he looked around for somewhere to take cover, he saw another Blue Blazer, sitting on a curb and taking a break while chowing down on a sandwich.
Thag nodded, chewed, swallowed, and put down his sandwich. Thag was many things. He was the largest member of the Blue Blazers that was human, standing 6'3" tall and massing almost 400 lbs. Prior to joining the Institute, he had been largely sedentary, and while his activity levels had increased, he still maintained much of his girth. Despite his size, Thag was not brutish; in fact, he possessed a keen sense of wit and common sense, plus a business savvy that made him a valuable contributor to many of the Institute's projects. And finally, Thag was a Rugsucker, and Rugsuckers always believe in carrying the Right Tool for the Right Job.
As the mob pursuing Tonka came around the corner, intent on their quarry, their attentions were drawn to the massive, red-haired man who stood in the street. Moreover, their attentions were drawn to the dangerous whirring noise that the large weapon he was carrying was making. Thag shifted slightly, smiled broadly, and depressed the trigger on his custom-made, battery-powered, rotary paintball cannon, lovingly nicknamed "Rosie." The whir erupted into a roar, and the street was filled with purple-colored doom.
Tonka walked over to where Thag had been sitting and eyed the rest of the sandwich. It had been sliced diagonally and Thag had only eaten half of it. "Hey, Thag?"
"AHAHAHAHA! CRY SOME MORE! CRY SOME MO-What?"
"You want the other half of this sandwich?"
"Nah. You can have it. *ahem* CRY SOME MORE!!!"
We used the mirror from Leda's compact to look around the corner, and saw a lone woman in USN whites trying desperately to blend into the corridor's wall. She looked familiar for some reason.
Ah, yes - she was Yayoi's girlfriend from the Stingray. (I'd only met the ensign once before.) She looked happy to hear Yayoi's voice, and dashed over to us. But I didn't expect any of Dodge's team to be out on their own; was this a trap of some sort? "Nurse Kittredge, what happened to your group?"
"Mr. Scott, I believe my team was taken out by Marsden's team from Rockhounds. I saw Lt. Lake escape down one hallway while I headed in the opposite direction. Captain Dodge was in the middle of the Rockhounds' nerf claymore field when it went off."
The same tactic I had tried against the Jason, except it worked against Tom. It sucked to be him. (But why did she volunteer that information to me? We weren't part of the same alliance for this game.) "Are you trying to hook up with whoever on your team made it through the ambush?"
"No, I've been ordered to act on my own initiative."
Oh, dear. That didn't sound suspicious.
"Would you like to join our team, Ginny?" asked Yayoi quickly. (Possibly too quickly.)
She smiled. "Sure!" She gave Yayoi a quick hug...
...and both of them backstabbed the other with nerf knives. While I expected Ens. Kittredge to fight dirty, I didn't think Yayoi had it in her. "Wonderful," I announced with a hint of annoyance in my voice. "You're both dead. Yayoi, you should have known better than to trust her."
"I did know better. Don't wait up!" And the two of them headed for the docks. I thought they were headed to the Stallion, but then I saw Yayoi get the key for the 'Blade out of her pocket.
Damn. My chief pilot's an AI, and her hormones are still more powerful than mine. Mind you, that stunt did leave Leda and me alone... Once again, I counted myself lucky to have such a good friend as Yayoi.
Too bad we were in no position to enjoy being alone - a couple of Warsies chose that moment to march around the corner. Leda and I pulled out our nerf DH-17s - they seemed appropriate - and started blasting as we ran at them. It took all our ammo to take them all down.
The battle was ended, and I stopped the blond holograms that I'd been using as a distraction for the others. I was starting to get a bit tired - I'd been going pretty much non-stop except for food breaks, and a long hot shower to remove the effects of the Kawaii grenade followed by a long nap were starting to become real temptations. Might as well consider wrapping it up soon. It's not as though I'd come to win the thing - just to have fun.
I had my kids put a thin, invisible forcefield shell around myself, or most of myself. It left my joints free, and most of my head. What it SHOULD do would be to limit the Kawaii effect I was giving off...at least for a few minutes, since there were far fewer areas exposed to radiate the pheromones, or whatever was causing it. I hoped. There were a lot of Jesses in there still. A quickly whispered conference and a bit of setup, and we entered the battlefield.
Eleven copies of myself, me included, entered the room on Kinto'uns. Only a few of my clones were solid, to give Iris more flexibility in creating the larger number of holograms. We all grinned and waved, and one of my clones greeted Ben and Gina. "Hey there. Having fun yet?" A second clone chuckled. "You like our new tricks?" All of us grinned then, and went into full distraction mode. Now...given Ben's arm, this should be...amusing. Especially since Gina was still hooked up from the trick they just pulled. "Harem no jutsu!" My clones and I disappeared into puffs of smoke...to be revealed a moment later as female adult versions, long dark hair partway down our backs, and clothed only in mist. Mind you, the mist was probably more erotic than simple nudity would be, just because it kept offering tantalizing glimpses while not really revealing anything. I spoke up then, for the first time. "We've been watching Naruto again. Can you tell? Picked up all sorts of interesting clone tricks." We all grinned....and then split into pairs - and one trio - and started to make out - cuddling, nibbling on earlobes and necks...putting on a show. Fortunately, monkeys have no shame, and neither did I.
We'd probably go down...but not without taking others with us. There were other clone jutsu in Naruto, after all...and three Maple Marshmallow grenades inside the solid clones I had scattered around meant I could do my own version of the Exploding Clone. Let one of them get hit, and it'd explode in a gooey mess. And of course, if I 'died', the remaining ones would go. I grinned inwardly, making out with the hologram in my arms. Now...given how much of a pervert Ben's arm was...
I'm actually off to one side, not with the clone trio in the middle that had the clone that spoke first. The idea was to make people think that was me, while I stood off to one side...and out of range of the marshmallow messes soon to follow. We can't afford to stick around too long - the forceshield coverings I've got up will only delay the Kawaii effect, not stop it. It will hopefully last long enough for my final hurrah and then to get out of range of the Jesses first, though.
There were four of us when we ran into the party of Warsies. The distinctive 'click-hiss' of the lead Stormtrooper preceded his demand for our surrender. "It's your four against our twenty. You can't take us. Surrender now and you can wait in our lounge while we finish this fight. We'll even comp the drinks."
Never tell us the odds.
The statuesque redhead at my right dropped the object she had in her hand and slowly raised both hands over her head, and smiled a slow, sensual smile. The Navy khakis she wore stretched over her impressive chest as she did so; then she kicked the object she had dropped and rolled it unerringly across the floor to *thump* against the Stormie's boot. He glanced down and just had time to think "A coconut...?" before the coconut cream grenade went off and blinded the entire front rank. She and Mikey dived right, June and I dived left. June ended up against the bulkhead, and hauled out the BlastMaster goop gun I'd just finished the night before. Screaming neon and chrome, the four-foot gun with the .5 meter aperture coughed once, and an expanding mass of green goo blasted three of them back against the wall and stuck them there. Mikey had hauled out his multi-cannon and started blasting away with goober rounds as well; Willie was sniping from behind his bulk with a bamboo Nerf cannon to keep their heads down.
I smiled a small, evil smile and pulled out my own weapon. Several of the troopers pointed and laughed, since I could only get two fingers on the grip. Bad move. The Noisy Cricket silly-string gun coughed once. I slid backwards across the floor, but I was expecting the recoil, so the five of them were down, entangled in the eight-foot sphere of silly string. By the time I slid to a stop and stood up, the rest of the troopers were down, gooped to the walls, the floor, and in one interesting case I couldn't account for, the ceiling.
"Slight problem," June said, as she slammed another magazine home. "We can't get through the end of this hallway now." I sighed and rezzed up my "Welcome to Phobos" map from my cell phone. Darnit, we'd never get to their flag station at this rate...
Jake and Kagome were busy providing supression fire from a doorway marked "Stan's Quality Danegoods" while Kohran keyed in the door's combination. It was amazing how many people overlooked an obvious weapons cache, but the improperly-properly-spelled sign seemed to be sufficient camouflage.
Finally, Kohran announced, "It's done." The door opened, and the three Stellvians dashed into the room inside...
...only to discover a large number of opened, empty boxes. "Blast! Somebody else got here first." Kagome locked the door closed behind them. "At least we have a few seconds to get our feet back under us. Is there anything useful left?"
Jake held up two nerf tommy-guns. "There's ten drums of ammo for these."
"Good. Have you found anything, Kohran?"
"Oooooooooooh, yes... yes! Yes!" She was bent over, half-inside a large packing crate. "And the crate of ludicrous-string grenades is still here! Unopened!"
Jake and Kagome looked at each other, and grinned. "You going to need some help, ma'am?" Jake asked.
"Thanks. Would you load the grenade launcher while I load the nerf guns?"
Kagome nodded. "You two work on that. I'm going to risk contacting Noah."
My wristcomm beeped. "Noah here."
"Sir, it's Kagome. Kohran, Jake, and I are inside the cache. Somebody else got here first, but Kohran's toy is intact."
"Good. Leda and I are following up on a lead Lebia sent us, so we're going quiet for at least five minutes."
"Understood. Mishima out."
I turned to Leda. "What's the target's status?"
She looked up from the mirror she was holding around the corner. "She's trying to raise someone on her wristcomm. I think she's starting to panic."
"Most if not all of her team has been eliminated already. Let's put the poor girl out of her misery."
Leda smiled, and passed me a grenade. "Here you go."
"A type 17 goop grenade?"
She nodded, and tapped her pocket. "And I have the dissolver right here."
Which, once applied, would leave the target free... and naked. "You're too good to me, Leda."
"I know. But this is on one condition, Noah: you can look, but you can't touch."
"That sounds more than fair." I gave her a quick kiss, then walked around the corner. Our target was still panicking, and still alone. Just before I threw the grenade at her, I said in my best Jokey-Smurf imitation, "I've got a present for you, Ms. Mikuru..."
Lebia finally had everything set and now had to warn her allies.
Using the oft-forgotten text messaging feature that was standard in all makes of wristcomms/comwatches from the first, she sent the warning. Not that they would directly be affected, she was far too skilled for that.
Eddie finished his analysis of positions, observations, and signals intelligence, and gave her the targets. Then, with the data-scape equivalent of evil grins, struck.
In a precisely calculated pattern throughout Phobos' comms and data systems, beings suddenly got hit by 'l'Experience Sonique', created by a bored Leonard da Quirm one day based on the descriptions from the Undocumented Features fanfiction series. (Benjamin Hutchins, on receiving a copy from Leonard, reportedly had screamed in terror and hid under the bed. He later lamented the fact he had deleted his copy, to prevent his curiosity getting the better of him.)
When the track had finished 5 minutes 23 seconds later, less than 10% of the original combatants were still in the game and Lebia and Eddie owned Phobos' computer systems outright.
"Guess we don't have to use the rest of the album then?" Lebia asked Eddie wryly.
"Nope." Eddie agreed. "May have a Con resolution banning us from using it again though."
"True. We'll just have to use it on those trying to stop us using it." Lebia gave the electronic equivalent of a shrug. "It'd make an excellent riot control device though."
"Ain't that the truth."
I walked into the Stallion's airlock, and promptly fell over.
When I regained consciousness, A.C. was setting my broken arm. "What in the name of the Great Bird of the Galaxy happened to you, Noah? You were covered with bits of every non-leathal grenade filler Greenpeace and I have ever seen, and a few that even we couldn't identify. And some of those nerf bullets were crazy-glued on to your skin."
"A.C., I learned four things in the half-hour before I blacked out in your airlock... How long was I out, anyway?"
"Ten minutes. What did you learn, and what does it have to do with what I asked?"
"What it has to do with what you asked will be obvious. What I learned... First, the artists working on the You Know What You Doing H-doujinshi have no idea what Mikuru Asahina really looks like; she looks even better than those drawings. Second, that's her natural hair colour."
"You used a type 17 on her." It was a statement, not a question.
"Yeah. Third, Mikuru is damned sexy when she's wearing nothing but my jacket."
"I remember you told me you weren't a Heinleinian, Noah."
"Doesn't mean I can't look at other women. Fourth, and most importantly, Mikuru's fan club is awfully possessive of her."
A.C. whistled. "I'm surprised you got away from them with only one broken bone. Where are Leda and Yayoi?"
"Yayoi was eliminated almost an hour ago; the last I saw, she and her girlfriend were headed for the 'Blade. Leda should have hooked up with Jake, Kohran and Kagome by now. Can I have a beer?"
"Not until the painkillers I gave you wear off."
"I was afraid you were going to say that..."
A feral grin passed across Tom's face. This whole exercise had been the most fun she'd had since That Asshole had thrown her old self into that doohickey. True, the ground fighting from Tango Shoes had brought back some good memories, but it had also brought back some of the bad ones that went with it. PTSD was a bitch and a half to get over.
She shook her head to clear it and got back to her city fighting experience. Port Phobos had it all over Kandahar and Sadr City for the ease of movement a typical civilian could think of. But where it really shone was the access tunnels. Despite her... pneumatic build and thanks to the ridiculous flexibility most catgirl victims wound up with, Tom was able to wriggle through crawlspaces, shimmy up Jeffries' tubes and generally get into places folks would not expect a centerfold-grade woman to get to.
She looked down on the platoon of Leathernecks below her, walking fat and happy. It was obvious many of them had been fresh from Boot Camp when the Stingray lifted, because they were in Textbook formation. She smiled and uncapped her fat red washable marker. Time to make sure the rookies lived up to the Corps' reputation.
"Oo-rah!" she whispered. She might not be welcome back in the States right now, but, "retired" or not, she was still a Marine.
"All right! Now we're cooking with steam!" Kohran marched the battlemover she was wearing out of the weapons cache, providing cover for the rest of her team.
Then a siren sounded behind them. "You! In the mecha! Pull over!"
"What's a police officer doing here?" wondered Kohran.
Jake shrugged. "Better not to piss her off." They stepped to the side of the corridor and waited.
A tall, slim, attractive woman walked up to the party. "Do you have an operator's licence for that power suit?"
"I didn't know she needed one," Jake commented. "And it's a battlemover, not a power suit."
The officer glared at him. "This is Mars. All operators of mecha, battlemovers, or other power suits must pass the basic competency test administered at Cydonia Marsbase Sara. The licence they issue is the only proof of completion we recognize. So..." she turned back to Kohran. "Do you have that licence?"
"How do we know you're actually a police officer?" asked Kagome.
"Here's my badge." She flipped open her wallet. "Chief Inspector Natsuko Aki, Helium Police Department."
"'Helium'?" Jake asked. "Doesn't that mean you don't have any authority here?"
Inspector Aki turned quickly, shot three times, and grinned. Suction-cup darts stuck to Kagome, Jake, and Leda's foreheads. "You're right. But you're also out of the game. Suckers."
Kohran put one hand on Natsume's shoulder and squeezed - not enough to injure the policewoman, but it was obvious that the young Mad could have crippled her opponent. The suit hummed for a moment, then she asked, "Now, do I put my other hand around your neck and pretend to squeeze, or do you admit you're out too... big sister?"
Aki looked shocked. "What?"
"Noah told Yoriko and me about you and Agatha, the day we woke up. The day after the two of you woke up. I always wanted to meet both of you, but whenever I had free time, you were nowhere to be found."
"I'm the chief inspector of a big-city police department. I'm a busy woman."
"And I'm a senior member of an important faction; you could have justified taking the time to meet me."
Natsuko glared at Kohran. "Fine. I was avoiding you."
"That should be obvious. And every minute you spend talking to me is a minute the other teams have to bring heavy weapons up against you. Didn't Scott-san teach you better tactics than that?"
Kohran thought for a moment. "All right... but I do want to get to know you. As a person, not a name out of our father's past."
"You're calling him 'father'?" Natsuko shook her head in disbelief. "Go on, get out of my sight already..."
After Kohran left, Jake turned to Natsuko. "What was all that about?"
"Ask Scott-san, or Hasegawa." They couldn't miss the scorn she put into saying Sora's name. "I have nothing more to say about this." And she walked off towards the entertainment district.
"Why did she attack us?" Kagome wondered. "It made no tactical sense at all."
Leda frowned. "Because we're Noah's friends. I think she's jealous of us... C'mon, let's go back to the Stallion; Noah's going to want to know about Ms. Aki, and it would be rude to tell him over a commwatch."
The group of FESWAT at the corner table in Callahan's had grown somewhat as more eliminated members trickled, or were carried in. Auger had just finished recounting his team's escape from a group of Hunter class Heavy Gear when a waitress arrived at the table and plunked down a fresh pitcher.
"compliments of tall, dark and edgier than thou over there," she said, pointing to an un-helmeted man in silver and bronze tactical dreadnought armour.
F and Auger grinned and raised their glasses in salute. The Space Marine smiled and returned the gesture before turning back to his conversation.
"What was that about, Furry?"
The two glanced at each other and F held out his glass. Auger sighed and started pouring. F waited until the glass was full, "Well, before we got split up our groups ran into him in one of the lower level corridors." He paused as Auger began to snicker. "Alright, I ran into him. Literally. You'd be surprised how quiet someone in that much armour can be."
"Anyway, I've got both my hands full, that dinky little airsoft thing in one, sword in the other, and he doesn't give me any time to draw something heavy enough to deal with his armour. He's got a nerf-bolter in one hand and boffer chain sword in the other and I've barely got time to roll to my feet and parry as he charges at me."
Pausing to take a sip of his drink, F grimaced at the memory. "And let me tell you, you don't want to parry a chain weapon if you can help it. Damn near ripped the sword out of my hand. So I'm back pedalling frantically, dodging swipes from his sword, when Grey and this joker," he indicated Auger with a tilt of his head, "make into the corridor behind him. Can't imagine what took them so long."
Auger shrugged unapologetically, and F resumed speaking. "I figure I've got to keep his attention so they can do something, so I start talking. I say to him 'It may look like I'm in trouble, but I'm an Engineer, I know how to handle this.' And he just gives me this look, right through his helmet and says, 'Oh, and how is that?'. My reply, of course, is 'More gun.', which is when Grey opens up with that Bullgut of hers. He takes all six rockets full in the back and is stuck standing there, wrapped in tangler string."
A new voice broke in while the rest of the table was snickering. "Last we saw of him we'd found a hand trolley and wheeled him over to a recovery point," said Abigail as she pulled up a chair. "'Though, isn't the Bullgut more of a rocket launcher Furry?"
"Yes," said F, "but the principle still stands." He gave Abigail a once over. "I take it the alliance with the pirates and ninja is over?"
She shuddered and reached for a glass. "Yeah, they both stabbed me in the back, the idiots," she said before taking a long drink. "You'd have thought they'd have noticed I was about to throw a foamer grenade, or at least moved away from me before trying to finish each other off."
"I was wondering why your armour was so clean," Auger said. "It's all shiny and squeaky like a new recruits." He leaned too far back to dodge a retaliatory swipe and tumbled from his chair. The rest of the table broke up as Abigail and F hauled him up off the floor.
Chris grinned and shook Dodge's hand. "A great fight, Captain, but you do know what happens next."
"Of course! We retire to the party lounge, and you go to see if you can fight through my rearguard and booby-traps to get to our flag-base."
"Well," Chris mused, "There is that. But there's also the question of us 'torturing' the disarm codes out of you. I have a whole box of chinese finger puzzles, and a few jaffa cakes..." He watched the Navy man's face carefully, and grinned at the expression he saw. "Or I could go right to the chocolate-chip anchovie cookies."
"You wouldn't. Chocolate and anchovies? That's... that's inhuman! Beyond the pale!" Indeed, even Ben and Gina seemed a bit dismayed, and several Jess were covering their mouths and stepping back from the scene.
Chris grinned widely and held up a bag of fish-shaped chocolate-chip cookies, waving them under Dodge's nose. "Now, now, Captain..." He chuckled. Then pushed Dodge back into the crowd of Marines. "G'wan, get out of here. We'll get in the old-fashioned way."
The Marines, rather disappointed that the hot blondes had been only holograms, shuffled discontentedly out the exit, to make their way eventually back to the bar. Despite the solemnity of defeat, they quickly started chatting and joking among themselves. They might be out of the game, but the celebration was only beginning. And besides, they'd get their revenge next year.
Chris, then, turned back to his allies-of-the-moment with that same wide grin. "We do make a good team, hmm? Glad to have you along." After a brief pause, though, he added, "Way too much of an imbalance on the Eva pilots, though. Feeling lost in the sea of Rei, Ms. Langley?" He chuckled slightly, fiddled with his watch for a moment, and then...
"Henge no jutsu!" And he changed.
And it was a perfect Asuka Sohryu-Langley, dressed in a red yukata with gold lining, whose arm Amy O'Connell took with her right, just as she took Rei's in her left - Rei's own uniform having been replaced by a matching yukata in blue and white - and the three bestowed a perfectly innocent 'schoolgirl chums' look on Ben, Gina, and the Jess's. "Cheers!" they called in unison, and as Lufy's troops fell into position around them.
"Perv," Gina hmphed, half-affectionately, and leaned back as Chris reached out to tousle her hair as they passed. So far she'd kept him from finding out why she avoided it, and she meant to keep it up.
"Perv?" Chris smiled and lowered her hand, letting the other Asuka lookalike retreat. "Maybe, maybe, little sister. But if that was all I wanted, I'd henge into Ami Mizuno, get some black silk ribbon, and head down to medical..."
"You're the one who was using pornographic holos to distract the Marines," snapped Gina, just as a rather young-looking figure with a decided resemblance to the aforementioned blonde holograms - indeed, it appeared identical - appeared in the doorway.
"Nope! Those were mine!" she crowed, gaining the instant attention of all in the room. "Worked pretty well, too, huh?" The fact that she was riding on what appeared to be a hovering cloud just added to the sheer surreality of the scene.
Then, not noticing Ben's face reddening, she asked, "Got any of those jaffa cakes left?"
And just as one of Lufy's troopers (Optio Graham Miller, a former miner who'd opted to follow the Eagles at the start of the Boskone War, after losing several friends to slavers and pirates) was about to hand over the box of the British sweets, Fate handed the group a sign that All Was Not Going To Be Quite So Easy.
"SHIT!" cried out Ben as his Shell-Bullet arm suddenly went wild, bucking and thrashing as Benjamin tried desperately to get the thing clipped to cargo strap around his waist.
The Rockhounds group backed off, quickly, being familiar with the odd quirks of Ben's particular problem. The leaders, also being familiar with it, waited to see what they could do to help.
(The kid, on the other hand, chowed down on a jaffa cake, then asked Graham for the bag of cookies.)
"Here!" cried out Gina as she went to help him with the writhing armored arm, muttering Teutonic imprecations as she did so. As chances to do so appeared, Jess, Amy, Jess, Chris, Jess, Rei, and Jess also piled in. Eventually, the arm did get pinned down and restrained, but only after several people got bruised and Benjamin had been pinned down to the ground.
"Sometimes," said Benjamin as he got up wearily, "I think this thing is more trouble than it's worth." No one dared to disagree with him.
As the blonde nibbled, tasting the new cookie, she snickered softly and slowly morphed into a blond-haired boy with whisker marks on his face. The Roughriders had already figured out who they were dealing with, but it wasn't until now that the Rockhounds team began to grasp it.
Chris, Amy, and Rei directed a uniform glare of their own at the boy. "You, young man," Amy snapped out, the command voice coming easily to the former Air Force officer. "You have two choices."
"What's that?" he asked around a mouthful of cookie.
"You can come with us... or we can lock you in the vegetable locker."
The kid laughed. "Come with you? Guess I could. Though you wouldn't want to lock me in with the vegetables, anyway. I'd just turn them into minions..." The kid's form morphed again...still a boy, maybe ten or so, but dark-haired now...with a monkey's tail. He gave the others a big grin. "Hey guys. Having fun yet? Don't get too close, please...I got hit with a Kawaii grenade a while back. I've taken a few measures to hinder the effects, but if you're female you might want to stay back."
A.C. observed Noah's semi-depressed rant with a disappointed scowl, watching as the rest of the Stellvians tried to calm him down. Finally she gave a long sigh and interrupted.
"Oh for Big Blue's sake Noah, shut up and calm down."
Noah made to retort, but a glare from A.C. made him pause, which A.C. took advantage of.
"Regardless of everything else, YOU aren't going ANYWHERE until your arm finishes healing. Which will be at least two hours."
"Lebia has a lock on her, and she isn't scheduled to go back to Helium until tomorrow. Besides, now I know they're up and about I have to make the offer to upgrade them to current spec. If I can find Agatha, which will be tricky."
"You're assuming they're still together." Takami looked up from the computer console logged into the Hacker Underspace's private network (which was watching Fate reverse-engineer Gina's virus). "When I hacked the passenger lists of the ships from Helium, I didn't see anyone named 'Agatha' on the shuttle Natsuko came up on. Or any blondes the right age, either."
"Did she come up on some other shuttle?"
Takami shrugged. "Who knows? Half the late-teenage or early-twenties blonde Sparks out there call themselves Agatha."
"You think they split up when they ran away from home? I guessed that, given their personalities. Thanks for checking anyway. I'm hoping that Natsuko is still in contact with her given that, of the two of them, Agatha was most likely to figure out their maintenance needs. Otherwise it's the hard way. Getting them to trust me is the tricky part." The cyberneticist gave a half amused, half despairing snort. "Why is it," she asked rhetorically, "that every intelligence I have a hand in bringing into the world is more human than I am?" Shaking off the reflective mood, A.C. straightened up and stalked the few steps over to Noah to poke him in the chest with a well-manicured finger. "Now, I STILL have some work to do. If you're good, and I mean very good..." The green-eyed woman purred in that way that raised the temperature of anyone in earshot. Although Noah wasn't having an easy time of it as A.C. was leaning in JUST the right way to give him an enticing look at her cleavage. "I may let you escort me to my chat with her. But," She added as she leaned back and idly tossed her hair back with a sweep of a hand, "that will take some time."
"At least two hours?" Leda asked wryly.
"Smart AND beautiful." A.C. smiled seductively at the senshi. "You really are too good to Noah. If you ever get tired of this big lug, you know where to find me."
"I may be a Senshi, but I'm straight."
"That's a shame." A.C. gave Leda a friendly wink. "Ladies." The raven-haired cyborg walked out with eye-catching seductive grace.
"Boy, Noah." Greenpeace said brightly. "That last time I saw A.C. go that seductive was when she was questioning some Criminal Guild mooks. Of course she likes you, which is why you're not needing a change of underwear from her bad side."
"I nearly need a change of underwear from her good side, if you get my meaning."
"Oh?" Leda grinned as she took Noah's available hand. "Is there a room around here where the two of us can be alone and unobserved?"
"Not for another two hours," A.C. insisted, from the hallway.
"It'll be too late then," Noah and Leda muttered in unison.
Their watches double beeped, indicating a new text message. In eerie synchronicity they looked at their watches, blushed, looked at each other, blushed harder, then turned to look out the Galley door with something like terrified awe.
The Forge residents didn't point out how close they were to an intercom station, which turned off.
Tom grumbled to herself. "Damn pukes were taken out by their libidoes." Their Gunny was going to hear about it at the debriefing. Aunt SAMantha might have a looser dress code than Uncle Sam but the core of her CORPS was shaping up to have the kind of reputation her inspiration had dirtside. It was like the old saying about Ginger Rogers: she did everything Fred Astaire did, backwards, in high heels and a dress. Admittedly, Tom hated wearing the Sammies' "formal" uniform but she loved the way Allison looked in it.
She shook her head to clear her thoughts. Now that her targets of choice were out, all she was left with were ...
She grinned when she saw the battlemover. She was going to get to use the stuff she cadged from the ninja wannabes. The thing was loud, clanking, and seemed to be looking for similar targets. Just like a 'Dane tank, and she KNEW how to handle tanks. She watched from the tunnels for a while, to get an idea of the field of vision of her target. Satisfied, she dashed from cover point to cover point as the head of the suit swiveled around, staying out of the pilot's line of sight.
She pulled a "post-it" from the pad and slapped it on the back of the suit's knee, tearing a corner and priming the expansion foam "limpet mine explosive note." A manic grin split her face as she dashed to a safe distance and more concealment.
"God, I love satchel charges!"
Kohran limped into the Stallion's airlock. "Would somebody help me get out of this thing, please?"
Noah held up his broken arm. "Not for another half-hour, according to A.C. If you would, ladies...?" But Kagome and Greenpeace were already cutting the sponge away from Kohran's mecha's leg. "Thanks. Now, Kohran, what did you learn from this?"
She sighed. "That you were right and the suit was too bulky for real-world use."
"Well, maybe, but that wasn't what I was thinking. What I expected you to say was 'never send a mech out without a covering escort.'"
"But you were all out of the game!"
Kagome looked around. "Really? When did Kasumi and Andy get taken out?"
Noah held up his free hand to stop the discussion. "Enough. Who gets the free stay at Hotel Stellvia?"
"Oh, right. I'm pretty sure it was Tom Dobbs who got me..."
If Eddie were given to maniacal laughter, which he wasn't, he'd be running for the Mad Scientist laugh of 2015 at this point. His patience was about to pay off.
(It should be noted that patience is a trait all Information-based sapients have, merely because their lives are so fast. To even the slowest Infomorph, a minute to us is a millennium to them. Even Trigon, arguably the LEAST patient AI ever, has the equivalent patience of a Saint when taken in that respect.)
Over the course of several hours Eddie had been working on this scheme. Through the surreptitious use of cracked comms, hijacked drones, Lebia's control of the Phobos datanet, several miles of silly string, a couple barrels of custard, two dozen assorted silly-tech grenades, half a tapioca pudding, and one slightly bruised herring (plus whatever else was handy), and via several other encounters on the way he had finally arranged for the last Stormtrooper platoon and the regrouped remains of the Starfleet Marines to be facing each other. All it needed was a spark.
To both groups horror, the most dreaded object this side of Barney appeared out of the junk lining the hallway, banging its drum.
"It keeps going, and going, and going..."
They tried to resist, they really did, but the urge to KILL was too strong.
The Energiser Bunny disintegrated under the combined fire of the two groups, which then turned on each other.
All the while Eddie watched in electronic glee. With these groups whittled down, there was no longer any single organised group capable of overwhelming his team. The US Marines were pretty much out at this point thanks to the Rockhound/Roughriders/Jason group.
"Bleh," said Benjamin all the sudden. "I dunno about you guys, but I need to take a little safety break. I'll be over here in this restaurant for the next few minutes."
Everyone gave Gina and the Jess's confused looks. The Jess closest to Gina shrugged at her and said, "Might as well tell them what's going on. He never said it was classified or anything."
Gina sighed in annoyance. "Yeah, right. You guys know that Ben's been using his Shell Bullet attacks a lot recently, right? Well, thing is that while his transformation is fueled by whatever non-living matter is available in the area, the attacks are fueled directly by him."
"Wait, you mean..."
"Yep," chimed in Jess, casting a worried look in the direction of the restaurant. "He's probably running dangerously low on blood sugar right now."
"The dumkopf," grumbled Gina. "He knows he's supposed to replenish his blood sugar after every round of attacks but he gets hyper-focused on things to the point of exclusion of all else. Especially himself."
While they waited, Chris was getting hungry as well. Using the 'trixie transformation cost some personal energy, too. "He reminds me a lot of me," to which Rei nodded in agreement.
"I, too, am growing hungry," Rei added, quietly. As always for her.
Amy grinned and nudged Chris/Asuka in the ribs. "Well? You heard her."
"Oh, alright," and a cellphone was produced. "Who's up for NinjaBurger? And what does Ben like on his?"
"He likes the Bacon Ranch Deluxe," said Gina. "And I'll have the Mushroom Swiss Special."
Then, a Jess approached with a slip of paper with a large order on it. "I'll have this," she said as she handed it to Asuka/Chris. "Tell them to put it on my tab. They'll know it was me."
Chris eyed the suddenly hungry looking troop of Jesses. "Somehow, I don't doubt it."
Amy's and Rei's orders were dutifully taken (teriyaki-swiss and the tofuburger, respectively), requests were taken from Lufy's troops and the Jason, and the group retired to a convenient lounge nearby.
With NinjaBurger's usual aplomb, the meals were already laid out and waiting for the crowd when they arrived.
Benjamin finally exited the restaurant at that point. When he did, he was carrying a two-and-a-half gallon bag-in-box of 7-Up syrup. He had it fitted with a tube that was mated to the BIB's fitting and was sucking away at it like a kid with his favorite juice-drink.
"You gonna be long with that, dumkopf?" said Gina without much rancor in her voice.
"I'm already half-way done with it," he replied around the tube. That statement took everyone else by surprise.
"That thing's two-and-a-half gallons! How can you drink all that and still stand?"
Benjamin shrugged. "I think it's a quirk. Makes sense that the Wave would make it so I could rapidly recharge this way. The other alternative would be something like Espresso."
"Which he is never touching if I'm around to stop him," said Gina suddenly in a tone that made it clear that she meant it.
Benjamin shrugged again and added, "We have no idea what it'll do to me since I'm prone to hyperactivity anyways."
"You? Hyperactive?" said Gina sarcastically.
"Yeah. You should have seen me when I was a kid. You'd never get me out of the trees."
The Jason looked over at Ben and Gina, and snickered softly. "You sound like my daughters, Gina. They HAVE seen me on an Expresso high once. They described me as being worse than a two-year-old that had been force-fed Pixie sticks and twice-brewed coffee for three days." He pulled a tiny vial out of his beltpouch, one that had just a few drops of dark brown fluid in the bottom. "Brought this along for an emergency boost. I'd been considering it recently, but they talked me out of it." He chuckled wryly. "For SOME reason...."
Gina snorted at that. Finally, Benjamin sucked the bag-in-box dry and went to stuff it into garbage can. "All done! And I'm feeling much better!"
"You sure you can handle another go at this?" said Gina. Her voice held the tone of challenge, but the look on her face was laced with concern.
"I'll need a few days off after this, but I'll be alright."
Jess rolled her eyes. "More work for us to do," she said, referring to Gina and herself. "At least the War is over. Stick around, Boss. We ordered Ninja Burger for you, too."
"Bacon Ranch?" asked Ben with a hopeful look in his eyes.
"Psshht!" scoffed Gina. "As if we, your ever dependable assistants, would forget something as simple as that!"
"My Lady has my gratitude," said Ben as he bowed, taking her hand and laying a kiss on it. The odd part was that Ben did not seem one bit sarcastic at all.
Gina went pink. "Dumkopf! Knock it off with the Romeo act!" Any other person she would have pummeled (with restraint, of course, since there was no need to kill anyone), but not Ben. This only added fuel to the debate (sometimes flame war) on the Senshi networks of whether or not the two were an item.
Ben said nothing, but his eyes twinkled with mischievous delight as he stood back up.
Meanwhile, The Jason practically inhaled his own food - three large teriyaki burgers with grilled onions and swiss - and sat back with a sigh. He was still staying as far away from the females in the group as possible.
"Guys? If we're going to be going up against a base, I might want to up the flexibility of what I can do. While we're here, let me charge something up." He was already fumbling in the pouch on his belt, pulling out a small... jeweler's box? It appeared to be so, since he opened it and slipped a ring onto his good hand. He glanced around the room, and then gave a small grin, holding his fist out in front of him just above the table.
"In brightest day... in blackest night..." The air seemed to thicken in front of his fist, revealing a large glowing emerald lantern. "...no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil's might, beware my power: Green Lantern's light!" There was a flare of green light, and the lantern vanished, leaving the ring on the Jason's hand shining with a bright green aura. The front of his orange gi, which had been plain before, now bore a green-bordered white circle with a stylized green lantern on it in the place where Son Goku wore the mark of his master.
He turned a shit-eating grin on the others, and a beam came out of the ring, turning into a hand giving a huge thumb's up. "You like?"
Benjamin only blinked for a moment, then said, "Okay, we're putting you on frontal assault."
"...And in other sports news, the second annual Port Phobos Invitational is drawing to a close
with only a handfull of Fen still standing. Reports indicate both casualties and spirits are high.
While Port Phobos administration estimates that the clean up will take several weeks and reminds
visitors to be wary of unexploded frosting munitions."
"WHERE'S THAT ARTILLERY SOLDIER!?"
"It's coming now sir!!!"
- KABOOM! KABOOM!*
"Did we get it!?"
- boomp-boOMP-BOOMP-BOOMP!* "Still going! Nothing outlasts the Energizer Bunny(c)! It keeps going and going and..."
"OPEN FIRE!!! CAN ANYTHING STOP THIS MONSTER!?!?"
"Today in Fenspace, Monster Asteroid recently accepted a new creature to its confines. The Energizer Bunny(c) will serve as an indestructable target for the creatures kept there to vent their rage upon, as it seems that nothing can stop the Energizer Bunny(c). At the very least, it can be contained."