Marty scanned the area… The center of the enemy position couldn’t POSSIBLY be this open! There HAD to be an ambush or something… The area seemed clean of explosions and fighters and the surrounding hills seemed completely empty.
Marty had Limey scan magically… four figures hiding on the four hilltops surrounding the clearing. They looked to be laying on the ground facing the clearing. No way to know if they were hostile directly, but he was pretty sure HE didn’t have any allies capable of that.
He did a flyover; not close enough for effective gunfire, but acting like he didn’t know that anyone was there… They looked to be Volkswagon operatives; he could see the logos stamped on the back of their clothing – but they didn’t seem to have noticed him.
Marty was tempted to open fire, but had to wonder what sort of backup they had? Were they on his side but undercover.
Oh, what the heck. He’d try to clear them out. If he was lucky, he can get them before they could call in anyone else anyway. If they were undercover, it’d be what they got for not TELLING anybody!.. Hopefully there wouldn’t be some nasty trap set up.
He split up his forces – making sure to stick the loose cannon sentient guns with the best commanders, that way the friendly casualties shouldn’t be too high.
Wait, he was actually WORRYING about casualties? What was wrong with him?
The sneaking up was easy… Too easy. His first attack filleted the guy from neck to tailbone and the second decapitated him, spilling cotton all over the hillside.
Radio reports from the other groups indicated similar results. Who the hell makes dummies invisible? Oh shit… the Ninja are here! Oh please God, don’t make them be accountants too…
And that was when the counter-attack hit. Half his group went down in the first few moments – and even Marty had to dive to avoid a swordstroke
A very finely dressed tall man in a tuxedo was slowly rising out of the ground, holding a broadsword, and looking at the ground where Marty was with a grin on his face.
(Marty) “Oh, mother-“
Marty stopped himself as he flipped himself upright again. If he wanted to reform himself he needed to stop cursing so much!
Baron Samedi? Nah… no top hat and no sunglasses with only one dark lens?
(Attacker) “Impressive, you move like you have some actual experience in you. Unlike most of these rookies, you should prove to be a challenge!”
(Marty) “Bring it on, pal.”
Hopefully this was not ANOTHER distraction!
(Attacker, dropping into position) “Well since I had the first strike, common courtesy wold say that it is your turn then. If you would.”
Marty unleashed one of his patent-pending semi-supernatural crushing hammer attacks, slashing the finely-dressed man across the chest in a large gash. Feathers few up into his face. Feathers? What the hell? Who were these people? Did they even BELONG in Battling Business World? He was glad he wasn’t fighting ninja accountants, but STILL.
(Attacker) “Oh, you not only managed to hit me, but you hit me hard. You are good. Can’t say the same about your coworkers though.”
Marty didn’t respond to that. Normally he’d have made a smart remark about ambushes, but since he’d just tried one, it would be hypocritical.
Core really WAS rubbing off on him!
(Marty) “Ok, you try. You nearly hit me last time!”
The attacker struck several stereotypical hand to hand poses.
(Attacker) “Now you will see all the elite combat training I have been taught!”
Marty yawned and prepare to dodge as his attacker rolled, swiped, jumped over him while swiping again, landed, fell to the ground, swiped a third time at his ankles, and then landed an upper cut on his chin. This guy was pretty good. He actually bled for a few seconds before the wounds sealed…
(Marty) “Pretty good. But how about this?”
Marty feinted, got an opening, and launched another massive strike. His swing came in with titanic force, hammered into his opponents head from behind as he misreads the attack, and sank in with remarkable ease… All of a sudden there was a massive explosion of black and white feathers and his target was gone.
Okay… He’d fought ninja accountants. He’d taken down rampaging printing presses. He’d even coldcocked a priest of Mars. But that was just weird… And that really might have been a distraction! A great number of the forces he’d brought in had either been cut down or were deep in combat. It looked like they were all are fighting the tuxedo guys – and someone had just stabed him from behind.
Marty checked his knee, pulled the sword out of it, and found a small, snappily dressed, flightless bird hanging onto the other end. About two feet tall. It looked to be pretty determined too…
He grabbed it, stuck it in his briefcase, and passed the word. He needed cats! Birdseed! Something!
(Confused reply) “What?! What do you mean they are birds?”
(Marty) “I mean that they are birds! I think they’re shapeshifting somehow. Try birdseed! Or Birdshot! Or Birdseed as Birdshot on them!”
Within minutes the entire squad of tuxedos was subdued as the birdseed birdshot forced them back to their original forms. Marty now had about half his remaining forces trying to restrain the birds as they slid around on their bellies.
At the moment, Marty really wished that he had one of those easy buttons. Too bad the people who got them inevitably retired out of boredom. Now to wipe out the real enemy… They held the high ground and were behind the enemy lines, even if they had lost the element of surprise and quite a few men. At least most of the guns were still operating…
Marty rallied his forces and managed to keep the enemy forces from forming an effective defense line, although they were bringing in more and more forces every minute. On the other hand the more that came after Marty and his men, the fewer there were going after BMW, GM, Nissan, and Chrysler. With any luck they could hold them off for long enough for their guys to win the other battle, then!
The battle grew more intense with each passing moment. Explosions were going off all around him, and he watched as more and more of his coworkers had body parts blown off spectacularly. One of the rookies strapped several cans of spam to himself and rolled into the enemy lines before exploding in a hail of fake meat. Ah, spam attacks. Too bad they weren’t fighting Hawaiians, they went crazy for the stuff… Marty took some nasty hits from explosions – looked to be thrown pineapples with the tops torn off.
Wait, pineapples? Well, it wasn’t quite as bad as the Trojan possum! What fruit do his men have?
(Rookie) “Let’s see, we have mangos, pomegranates, oranges and tomatoes. We also seem to have a healthy supply of potatoes, but I am afraid they are all mashed.”
(Marty) “Well, let’s fire it all at them!”
The battleground became a veritable food fight as explosive fruits and vegetables were thrown back and forth. Soon though, the sounds of battle begin to die down as the sun began to set on the horizon. It looked like almost all of the forces on the battlefield were beaten and exhausted. There was no clear winner.
So what should they do now? Rest and start again tomorrow? That seemed so pointless… Gah! Now he was sounding like Gelman! He went to find some alcohol and have a drink!
Wait… Shapeshifting birds? Exploding fruit? That wasn’t quite as bad as that mess in Crusader had been – it wasn’t QUITE over the edge for Battling Business World – but were the reality-distortions spreading this far?
The nearest source of booze turned out to be on of the fuel stations nearby, where you could buy ethanol for yourself and your car all at the drive through. Marty chugged it… They gave him a long straw that went back into the building as they hooked another one up to the car’s fuel intake. He could hear the car making annoying slurping sounds as it filled up. It didn’t seem to be sentient… It was just really thirsty and using appropriate annoying sound effects.
Marty patted it, even though he felt like smacking the thing. The last thing he needed was a sentient car. They always wanted to go places!
His briefcase was making noises again too… Oh yeah! The bird!
He got a birdcage and stuck it in it. He also got some birdseed and crackers…
(Marty) “Polly wanna cracker?”
(Bird, spitting birdseed back at him) “You damn higher mammal, I don’t want bird seed you idiot. I eat fish! And I am not a parrot.”
(Marty) “Yeah, I know, I was just giving you a hard time.”
He bought it some fish. A Seagull was it?
(Bird) “I am a penguin you moron. Why on earth do you think I am so snappily dressed?”
(Marty) “Heh, never watched that movie… So what made you get into corporate raiding?”
(Bird) “Gotta expand our territory and show you primitive primates just how it is done in downtown.”
(Marty) “Downtown? You mean human downtown or someplace else?”
(Bird) “Well how many downtowns do you see in the Serengeti? Our course we mean the human downtowns.”
(Marty) “So how did you do the shapeshifting? Drugs?”
(Bird) “Sorry, but I am afraid that information is classified.”
(Marty) “By who? The polar bears?”
(Bird, scoffing) “Polar bears? Please, they couldn’t make snow in the arctic if they tried.”
Marty wasn’t entirely sure how to handle this situation. What they were doing was perfectly legal, although he’d love to know how they were doing the shapeshifting.
(Marty) “What ARE we going to do, since it’s a tie?”
(Bird) “Well, that is a good question soldier. Our orders were to stop your interference in the battle.”
(Marty) “And you nearly did it, too. You are good.” I shrug. “Guess your TRAINING’S also classified.”
(Bird) “Not necessarily, we can arrange a training contract. We just can’t reveal all our secrets.”
(Marty) “And who sent you, anyway?”
(Bird) “Ah, sorry, nondisclosure clause.”
(Marty) “Oh for the love of-“
Marty guessed he’d have to let him go… after all, the battle was over and he was still alive.
(Bird) “If you wish to discuss that training contract, you can find us in the Central Park Zoo in New York. Although don’t let Alice know why you are there.”
(Marty) “Who’s Alice, the zookeeper?”
(Bird) “Why yes”.
Marty would keep that in mind if he needed infiltration. He headed back to check on the local office.
Back in Kadia, Kevin had his Midnight Gardener program – or at least the feasibility study – in operation. Such LOOKS he’d gotten… Try to do a little long-term planning and people thought you were nuts or were over-reaching or something.
Hm. The Core and Computer reaction to his new-and-improved-contract-now-with-extra-rights (was Marty rubbing off on him?) looked pretty good in theory, and in the preliminary computer results – but he really needed to know how people would see it as a personal thing.
Well, he’d been intending to take his three usual companions for a visit to their parents for awhile now. That should be far too small a test case to disturb things much; kids were lost to the Manifold, or struck strange (and usually far worse) pacts with things out there all the time – and most of THOSE never got to visit home again at all.
What would be best? Take them home looking just as they had? Slightly or notably more mature? With the usual trace-features of genegrafting for physical enhancements? They’d been normal purebred humans before he’d recruited them…
He was a pretty good psychologist – and the kids knew their parents well enough. He thought that enough subtle changes to make it obvious that they’d changed and grown a bit, but not enough to make them obviously alien, would be best. Besides, now he could bring a bit of the parental perspective to it.
If he needed to be really startling, he could always have them take a big cat form or something. It would take a bit of magical support of course, but he could certainly manage THAT. It almost certainly wouldn’t go over well to start off like that though…
Hm… They had been wanting to stretch a bit. It would be showing off – but if they switched into Falcon-form, even their basic telekinesis would let them accelerate a thirty or forty gravities – and they could expand their senses far beyond human limits.
A simple mindlink and he could let the parents feel their children fly into space, feel and see a glorious range of celestial forces and events – and the forces and events that surrounded the earth below them – tap the energies of the cosmos, and return, in mere minutes. It would be a fair sample of what he offered…