(October 31, 2017)
“Honestly,” I said. “You have got to stop playing that song.”
“Awww…,” she whined, “but it’s so fitting!”
The sound of Marilyn Manson’s This is Halloween wafted through the air.
“Bee, I don’t care, we’re not playing it.” She pouted. At least, that’s what I assumed she did from her tone of voice. In retrospect, I had no idea. Her mask wasn’t the most revealing.
She was dressed in a small, black, chitinous costume. It had an extra set of arms below the normal ones, reinforced legs, and a giant hump. Her face was covered in a bug-eyed mask, with two long mandibles stretching down about six-inches. Though designed to creep people out, it was practical. The arms had obvious utility. They gave her an edge on the rare occasions when she was involved in actual combat, and let her build stuff faster. The reinforced legs let her support all the weight, and the eyes and mandibles were stuffed full of gadgets. The big hump… Honestly, I don’t even know. I’ve seen it sprout little robotic arms, turn into a giant cannon, and she’s pulled enough raw material out of it to make my costume ten times over.
What can I say? The name Beetle was well deserved.
My suit is the opposite. Where Brenna went for a creepy look, but very practical costume, I went for pure elegance, to the shameful extent of cutting some useful gadgets because they ruined the aesthetics.
My costume is a suit of black body armor, styled after my namesake, a bird. I had mechanized claws on my feet, lightly textured to evoke thoughts of bird legs. I had a utility belt around my waist, and a beak shaped helmet. My magnum opus, though, was the magnificent set of wings on my back. The culmination of all my different works, I’ve been offered millions of dollars to let someone borrow them for a day. Nigh-invincible, but flexible, combining some of the tech I got from a technician-tinker named Bastion, and some materials I got from Deadalus [sic]. They fold up and can fit onto my back so well that nobody knows they’re there. The thing I’m most proud of is how silent they are. I’m the first tinker, regardless of classification, to make a compact and yet stealthy method of flight.
That’s part of why people have given me the “mobility” specialization, just like how Beetle’s is “exponential creation.”
They’re wrong though. I don’t know what my specialization is. I just built a mobile suit because I liked it, and it complemented Brenna’s slow and large suit.
We made a perfect team. I dealt with strong, single enemies, and she dealt with the hordes. Luckily, neither of us were feeling useless that day.
I was flying around, shooting energy blasts at some of the big guys, while Beetle was using her tinker-tech to build a swarm of minute soldiers, yet somehow still finding time to play music and chat with me over her comm.
“Shit,” she said, “Ben, I’m gonna need some help.”
“I told you, Bee. Codenames. Call me Bird while in costume.”
“Fine, Big Bird, get your pansy ass down here and actually do some fucking damage to the demons.”
“Bird,” I muttered, “Just, Bird,” but flew down to help her anyway. I retracted my energy blasters, and drew my photon blades. Another unique construction, I built them after Brenna finally convinced me to watch the Star Wars movie. They work by- no, I’ll stop there. Just… light and heat. And radioactive decay. Not going into a technical explanation. All that matters is that they sliced through the demons like paper.
If only that killed them.
“Remind me why we took this job, again?” I asked, switching my comm on.
“Because,” she grunted, “we’re minors, and though people don’t officially know that, they can guess. We have stuff to prove. This is proving it.”
“Yeah, but don’t you think this is a little much for a couple of fourteen year-olds?”
“Shuttup, we can do this!”
“I mean, I get the whole, proving that we’re at least anti-heroes, thing, but saving a kid who fucked himself over seems a little extreme.”
“It’s not extreme! He was overconfident!”
“How overconfident do you have to be summon a legion of demons?”
She started ignoring me, and switched to external speakers,
“John! Johnathan Fusk! Where are you? Can you hear us?”
From behind the horde we were fighting, we heard a voice say, in a deep, dark, definitely not fouteen year-old boy voice,
“All too well…”
We froze. Moments later, instead of taking advantage of our pause, the demons froze, and started kneeling. Half in the direction of the voice, half in the other. We heard a huge thud, then the demons started fighting amongst themselves. From the direction of the thud, we saw a figure approaching. Tall and muscular, he carried a twisted black knife, and walked with a strange feline at his side.
Half a second later, my helmet identified it as a serval.
“Them,” it said. “I’ll kill the tall one.” Realizing it meant me, I hit the ground, hoping to dodge in time. When nothing seemed to happen, I looked around. The tall man had dashed behind me, somehow knocking off Beetle’s helmet in one hit, exposing her red hair and freckled face. He had scored a long cut across her cheek, and was running his finger along his knife standing behind her. Rather than her back spouting a cannon and shooting him, as I expected, she knelt in front of him. He nodded, then she, walking mindlessly, moved towards the serval, then stopped, standing at attention. The serval, noting her immobility, moved towards me.
“King,” it said, “take her back to the base. I’ll catch up with you, and send our little Legion to follow you. Don’t expect him tomorrow, it’ll be a few years.” Then, passing through the horde of demons without being touched, the serval came in front of me.
“Call me Khan,” it said. “You will not survive this encounter.”. With that, it raised one paw and slammed it down on my back. Looking at the suit monitors, I saw that three long holes had pierced the armor on my back… And my stomach. Uh-oh. That’s not good.
“Activating lethal wound procedure,” I heard from my suit.
I felt the pain in my chest, all of a sudden, and barely managed to hold back a scream.
/It thinks I’m dead. If I can play possum for long enough… I can get away, and rescue Brenna!/
I heard sounds of conversation in the distance, and strange screams, but ignored it, focusing on my inventions to distract me from the pain.
/That claw thing the serval did… Perhaps I could replicate it with focused air blasts?/
As I thought, I gradually noticed the demons leaving. Some burrowed, some walked, some flew…. But many just disappeared.
/What are those fuckers?/
When the field was empty, the serval, Khan, returned. Looking at my body with pity, it said,
“What a funny-looking corpse. Ugly fuck.” It paused.
“Not even a twitch. Dead, then. Sorry, Copy Tinker. You would have been his friend, and we can’t have that.” With that, it disappeared.
As as I slipped into unconsciousness, I heard the faint sound of music from a dropped speaker:
“I am the wind blowing through your hair
I am the shadow on the moon at night
Filling your dreams to the brim with fright