tagSci-Fi & FantasyThe Naked Weapon Pt. 10

The Naked Weapon Pt. 10

byDragonCobolt©

Ali smashed her hands onto the table in the meeting room. The table, unused to being hit by a Doyen Princess who was capable of telekinetically enhancing her strength, shattered in half. It was a cheap plastic table, after all. Everything in the human ship was cheap. Ally had told her that this was because, well, the humans had been funding this project in secret, to keep mass human hysteria on their homeworld from sending out a wave of psychic energy that would attract her people.

Right now, she was rather happy about how cheap the table was because she wanted to smash something.

"Abby. Is. Not. DEAD!"

Sergeant Barry and Lt. Kerensky both looked unfazed. However, they didn't speak. The real bigwig at the table was Commander Delacroix. She was a woman, which did give her a step up in Ali's head, but she was also a fool, a moron, an idiot, a wretched degenerate who deserved to be horsewhipped throughout the entirety of the PsiCom Headquarters, and...just...what was the phrase that Ally had used?

Ah.

Yes.

"THE WORST!" Ali shouted.

Commander Delacroix brushed a tiny bit of plastic from her shoulder. "Are you quite done, Princess Tzali?"

Ali felt a tiny chink in the hardened crystal armor she had thrown around her heart. But hearing those two words, Princess and Tzali, merged together. It wasn't using the same tone of voice Abby had used. It was cold and clinical and tightly controlled. But it was still what he had called her. The first time she had met him, he had called her Princess. The bleedoff from his mind had filled that single word with a complex haze of complexity that had flavored it like the finest nostalgia. Tasting that thought had been like sniffing a rose for the first time, and it had been calling her that that...that had really started to open Ali to the stranger from the stars.

And now he was...

She closed her eyes. "No," she said. "I'm going to take Beta Squad, and the League, and I'm going after my father and I will bring my Abby back."

"You will not," Delacroix said, her voice firm. "Squaddie Hatem died a hero. But he wasn't the only one." She pulled out a dead thing - one of those tablets that humans loved so much. "We lost eleven pilots and fifty two personal on our headquarters. They all died heroically, and they all died to give us this chance." She stood up, her lips pursed. "A chance that requires you to stop thinking with your heart and to start thinking with your head, Princess."

Ali started to pace in the room. Delacroix watched her and Ali started to feel a faint squirming uncertainty in her belly. A fear. There was something about talking to someone who wore clothes that made her feel deeply ill at ease. Delacroix wasn't psychic. Neither was Lt. Kerensky. But he didn't matter as much. He wasn't in charge of PsiCom. And despite her lack of psionic talent, Delacroix showed zero fear at being in the same room as Ali in a rage. And Ali would have said that was due to Barry's presence. But she could see that Delacroix didn't even seem to regard him.

She only had eyes for Ali.

I have to save Abby, she thought. He has to be alive. He has to be still alive. He cannot have died, he couldn't have been snuffed out just like that. She paused. But Delacroix is right...

They had a chance here. Several Doyen worlds were entirely undefended, due to the massive numbers of Paladins who had been slain in this battle. With PsiCom and the League, they could liberate each one, calling the serfs there and granting them freedom. Smashing the Angst gate network and installing orbital defenses using a combination of Omniack and human technologies, they would be able to essentially choke off a massive amount of Doyen psychic chattel.

The nobles would grow weaker.

PsiCom could strike bolder attacks.

"But what of Doctor Oblivion?"

"We have the League," Delacroix said, nodding. "They said that they can handle him. Paragon seems to be exceptionally motivated."

Ali sighed, quietly. She brushed her fingers through her hair, frowning as she did so. "Fine. I will lead the attacks on these worlds." She paused. "Well, the diplomatic part of the attacks." She said, quickly, before Lt. Kerensky could complain. He had a squinty, narrow face. The kind of face that was full of complaints and ugliness. He scowled a bit at her, but Delacroix nodded. "And then!" Ali added. "We go and hunt for Abby and free him."

The three of them exchanged glances.

"Kid," Barry said. "Paragon said that Doctor Oblivion's weapon puts out the same energy as a coronal mass ejection, focused into a point only a meter wide." He shook his head. "There's no way that Squaddie Hatem could have possibly survived."

Ali clenched her fists. She shook her head, then turned and started out of the room without even dignifying that with a response. She knew it was not proper military protocol, but they didn't want her to be a member of their military. They wanted her to be a Princess. Well. Then. She'd flounce like a princess. When she emerged, she came into the knot of Beta Squad, who had all been sitting on chairs that were lined up near the wall. Beli, Tasmin, Victory and Diamond all stood around her. Diamond was the one who looked hit hardest, followed closely by Beli, which was not a shock, considering how hard Diamond had been hit by Fang's death and by how many incredible orgasms Abby had given Beli.

What if he never gives anyone orgasms again? Ali thought. The very idea felt like a toxic sludge in her brain, searing through her soul. She twisted away from the very idea and tossed her head. Her crystalline hair clattered and clinked as she said: "Commander Delacroix has declared that we're going to retake several Doyen worlds, to give the PsiCom a platform to continue to dismantle the Doyen Empire."

Diamond nodded, then slammed her black knuckles into her pale palm. "Good."

Beli sniffed. "You said you were going to get them to look for Abby."

Tasmin sighed. "Beli, Diamond and Vicky and I all agree. Abby is dead. We can't change that. All we can do is accept it and go on."

"Oh, no, they're going to look for him after we're done," Ali said, crossing her arms over her chest. She smirked ever so slightly. "I convinced them of that. But I also accepted...that..." Her face fell slightly as the confidence she tried to project to Beta Squad faltered. Her own heart knew the falsehood of her hopes. "But I also accepted that this makes the most strategic sense. The Doyen are weak. Now, we must make their weakness permanent."

They nodded.

Vicky frowned. "So, wake?"

"I like the way the spider-chick thinks," Diamond said. She was quite clearly well beyond her initial dislike of Vicky, and the reason why was born out as the whole lot of them headed for the armory bay where their mecha armor were being seen to by PsiCom technicians. New armor plates were being welded on with showers of sparks, while the advanced weaponry that had been donated by the neanderthals were being pored over by curious science people. But the armory bay was large enough that the entirety of Beta Squad could sit on a catwalk and watch their mecha being repainted and repaired, while Vicky passed out drink bulbs.

"I will steadfastly not think about where you got this beer from," Diamond said, taking the faintly slick and glistening orb that Vicky had pulled from a small organ she had grown on her back. Ali herself didn't see why the humans were do disgusted by Vicky using her biokinesis to make booze. They drank milk. From the udders of cowbeasts.

Ugh!

Cowbeasts couldn't even consent to being so milked!

And Ali was a great fan of this human invention known as 'consent.'

"To Abby and Fang!" Beli said, belching a moment later. She held up the completely empty drinking bulb, then crushed it with a crinkling of carapace and crunch of biomatter. Powdered bits of chiten dusted down towards the floor of the gantry. Diamond lifted her bulb as well after downing it. Ali drank hers back and then leaned her head forward on the edge of the railing. She started to cry. It happened so suddenly, so shockingly, that she barely knew it was coming before it was on her. Hot, salty tears dripped along her nose as she shuddered and gasped.

"Aww..." Beli squished up against her, sliding an arm around her shoulders. Ali sobbed into her shoulder, gasping out the words between racking, shuddering breaths.

"He's...g...g..gooooooone!" She wailed.

CRACK!

Each of Beta Squad lifted their heads.

For just a moment...the air before them had warbled, twisted, then split. The distant clanging and banging of the armory bay almost made Ali think she had not heard properly using her ears. But then the crack came again, and again, a line of white light spread before them. It popped open and Diamond sprang to her feet, her smallish breasts bouncing as she grabbed at the air. She made a ripping gesture with both hands, snarling as she did so.

And Ali's eyes widened at what she saw in the swirling hole before them.

***

Death, as it transpired, was rather peaceful.

It was kind of like floating around in your astral body. No psychic powers to bother you. Nothing but the brightness of the infinite white emptiness that seemed to be the afterlife. Okay, so, I wasn't exactly expecting seventy two virgins. And, honestly, I wasn't sure what I'd do with seventy two virgins. Also, I was pretty sure that whole 'seventy two virgins to martyrs' thing was one of the weaker Hadiths.

Post-life fun fact: A hadith is basically a written account that says, "Yo! Mohammad said that! Totes for reals, yo!" Some of them actually have lots of corroborating evidence so smart people can stroke their chins and go: "Ah, yes, I see, Mohammad did say that, very good."

The Seventy Two Virgins thing was basically on par with a fanfic writer going: "And then Mohammad said that I get a pony and we rode that pony into the Delta Quadrent and Worf was there and he whipped out a lightsaber and started to kill Borg left and right and I banged 7 of 9 while Janeway watched." And, like, I wasn't even Muslim! Yeah, despite me sticking up for the accomplishments of the Muslim world during the golden age of Islam (which were worth sticking up for, even if India had invented the zero), and educating all of you from beyond the grave, I didn't even go to mosque or do the prayer to Mecca thing. My father had fled Iran because he was an atheist. And Mom was a Unitarian Universalist!

But, you know, grow up in America, you kinda get used to being called Muslim when you're brown. And have an Arabic name. And are Arabic.

Hey, at least I wasn't a Sikh. Then I'd get it for wearing a turban too, I'd be a triple threat and have to memorize even more talking points to throw back at bigoted idiots who didn't listen anyway.

I frowned slightly.

Okay, I was okay with death being a vast void, but I kind of expected my consciousness to cease. I didn't exactly want to spend forever doing nothing. Then I realized the alternative was utter oblivion and...wait, shit. No, no, no, that was way worse. Scratch what I said, any cosmic forces out there. Floating around doing nothing was just fine.

The whiteness started to fade. I blinked. Wait...a...second.

The whiteness wasn't fading in the way I'd have expected. Rather than the edges at the distant horizon becoming less white, it was starting in the center of my vision, like fog was being drawn backwards. Then, slowly, a ringing that I hadn't even noticed started to dial down and I felt really dumb as I realized I was sitting in a large crystalline corridor. I wasn't dead. I had just been flashbanged. But in my defense-

Two Doyen walked around the corner. Their spikey armor glittered and they had a pair of glittering psi-halberds in their hands. I sprang to my feet, trying to get a psi-sword into my hands. Nothing happened. And the Doyen walked through me. Then I hit myself again.

I wasn't dead, but I sure as heck wasn't alive.

I was in my astral form.

And with a rush, I remembered the last few seconds before everything had gone white. I had been in my mecha suit, which I realized that I had never gotten around to naming. I had gotten between Paragon and the omni-death beam fired by her arch-nemisis Doctor Oblivion during a pitched space battle with humanity and our distant neanderthal cousins (who were all quantum slinging superheroes in spandex) and a hundred light year wide empire of space psychic crystal aliens. And moments before the omni-death beam, which had already splattered Fang, my former CO and one of my best friends, hit me...

I had pulled the same trick twice.

Stuck in deadly danger?

No clear escape?

Throw yourself into an astral body and hope for the best!

Well. Let us all remember what Radical Edward taught us: When you see a stranger, follow them. I started to float after the Doyen. They didn't speak, but I had a sense that they were sending telepathic communications to one another. It was something in the way they walked, the way one would nod and bob his head, the way the other's lips turned down into a scowly frown. Doyen were good at hiding their emotions from psychic probing. Like, if you looked at my girlfriend Ali's brain with empathic powers, she basically looked and felt like a blank face. But her face face was usually pretty expressive.

It was the real hubristic downside of the Doyen. Planet cracking psychic powers and enough innate telekinesis that most of their buildings were literally made of out cohesive psychic energy, but they never once thought of how to do things sans psychic powers. It was why humans had guns. And boats.

And boats with guns.

Gunboats.

The two Doyen peeled to the right and walked through a wall of blue-white psychic energy. I flung myself through the tiny ripple they left behind them. I emerged into a Doyen throneroom...and a sickening reality that I had, thus far, only heard of in the form of distant rumors and shudders and faint nightmares that echoed from Ali's sleeping body. The Doyen were psychic vampires. Their nobles gained their energy by sucking psychic power from their vassals. But this draining also stripped their minds. Slowly, their pleasure centers shut down, their empathy fizzled and failed. Not their empathic powers, their ability to actually understand empathy, to care about other people. And the needs of their telepathic vampirism grew more intense, so they needed more and more and more energy.

This was why there were two mindless serfs in the room with the nobles and paladins.

In a slightly more cliched universe, they'd be women. But they were...actually gender ambiguous. I wasn't sure if they were male or female or something in between. They were squids. They had long tentacles that were connected to a hexagonal body with a large beaky bit. They had a bunch of eyes. And they weren't even humanoid eyes. They were almost geodesic, with shining, compounded facets. Flies eyes. And you'd think all of this would make it hard for me to read the emotion in their bodies. But...it was all too easy to see the deep, abiding agony in those glittering, gemstone eyes. Each squid had been pinned to the air by immobile shards of psychic energy. Each shard of psychic energy branched outwards in fractal patterns, ending in thousands, millions of hair thin needle points and every single needle plunged into the muscle of the squids.

Yes, muscle. Because their skin had been peeled off. Micron thick blades of psychic energy, crafted by a pair of ghoulish looking Doyen (literally, their crystalline skin had gone faintly green-blue and their eyes were huge in sunken, starved looking faces), had peeled the squids like I'd peel an apple, leaving behind large flakes of blubbery blue skin and bits of bone on the ground. Each needle seemed to touch a nerve or vein, and not a single droplet of blood escaped. It beaded on those needles, then flowed up them, collecting on goblets of crystal that hung suspended from telekinetic webbing. Those goblets were filled with rich, glowing liquid of a pure blue.

I clutched at my astral stomach, wanting to be sick.

Ali had been a teenager, a Doyen Princess. She had never gotten old enough to sustain herself from this horror. But she had been here, in these places, and had to stand by stone faced as her father supped on the pain of a million slaves. I wanted to find her and hug her for, like, five more reasons than I already did.

Slowly, I tore my eyes from the torturing monsters who I would personally throw into a fucking woodchipper the instant I could and to the Doyen nobility who were waiting for their drinks. There was Ali's father. I wasn't sure how I recognized him. He didn't even look that much like her. Maybe it was the make of his armor. Maybe it was the fact he had the crest of her house emblazoned in the air above his head. Maybe it was the fact he was saying to Doctor Oblivion: "When I get my hands on my former daughter, Tzali, I'll throw her to my pain technicians." He shook his head. "Pain technicians. They formed a guild, you know. Used to be you could call them-"

One of the squids let out a piteous screeching howl that made my blood run cold.

Doctor Oblivion, the fucking prick, didn't even have the good grace to be horrified by his allies. Instead, he waved his hand. "Still, I think the mission went quite well."

"Well!?"

This new voice was a Doyen woman - a Paladin by her build, her armor, and the look of pure fury on her face. "The humans killed more than forty two percent of our forces. Two whole banners were wiped out by their damned sunbombs. How could this possibly have gone well?" She stepped forward. "You said that you would be able to rend their dead thing flying base apart with your powers. And yet you did no-"

Doctor Oblivion snapped his fingers. Greenish flames swirled around the Doyen Paladin, starting at her feet and working their way upwards. Her eyes widened and she flung herself backwards in a single smooth motion. The fires still scorched off both of her feet, but it meant that she sprawled on her ass with two blackened stumps rather than her entire body. But as she fell, her arm slammed into one of the ghoulish pain technicians, sending him sprawling on the ground. The needles smashed home and one of the squids died a blessedly quick death. The goblet that had been filling with his psychic torment hit the ground and shattered.

Ali's father cried out. "Oblivion! You spilled that skinless vintage. We've been waiting for hours." He shook his head. "Also, my most loyal paladin is now missing her feet." He shook his head slightly, then snapped his fingers. "Take her to the flesh sculptors. And, Rinzaldi..." he paused as two servants picked up the now footless paladin. "Don't ever attack anyone I have marked as a guest again or you'll be the next on the flensing table."

Rinzaldi, despite the fact she was missing two feet and had been totally in the right considering it was her men who had been butchered by, uh, us, nodded brusquely. Through gritted teeth, she managed to say: "Understand, m'lord."

Then it hit me.

Why the fuuuuuuck were they talking aloud?

They were Doyen, they-

I looked over at the various other courtiers in the room. They were sending each other weighty looks. Doctor Oblivion thrust his finger at one, frowning. "I can read microexpressions at fifteen kilometers. I can see when you people are psi-talking to one another. Speak. Aloud. Or I will feel like a slighted guest. And you don't want to feel..." His glove lifted up and, like Thanos with the Infinity Gauntlet, he looked like he was ready to snap his finger and reduce half the room to fine particulates. "Slighted."

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