“Eric,” I said, after Valkyrie had finally left, “any particular reason why you showed up? I’ve noticed that everyone was… vague with our friendly neighborhood super hero.”
“Of course,” Eric said. “We don’t really want to talk about NIU with her around, you understand.”
“Or why you’re here,” I suggested. Eric had mentioned something about personal vendettas against the Dragon’s Teeth, but apart from the two white people who weren’t Cross and some of the Middle Easterners, I had a sneaking suspicion that most of the people were from countries that the Dragon’s Teeth didn’t consider strategically important. Apart from some border clashes with Egypt, most of the African countries were relatively Deet-free and many of the South-East and Central Asian countries like Vietnam, Taiwan, Burma and the Philippines were only being menaced by the Teeth in China and India and annoyed by refugees instead of dealing with full-scale invasion.
“Well,” Eric said, “we are mostly here to observe and report. Some of us are going to attempt to blend in among the populace if the Dragon’s Teeth come in full force. Others are going to attempt to keep you alive and this facility out of Dragon’s Teeth hands.”
“Makes sense,” I said, “But-”
“That first goal is going to be very hard,” Eric said, completely po-faced. “You seem to like getting yourself into stupid situations.”
“Fuck you,” I said, punching him in the arm. “I’ve been good recently.”
“Yes,” Eric said. “Very well-behaved. In fact, diplomats will be using your behavior in Japan as an etiquette guide.”
“That was an accident.”
Eric laughed. “Then if I ever get fine china, remind me to always give you paper plates, my friend. In fact, if that is your idea of an innocent mistake, I should probably stay a couple kilometers away from you just to avoid your blast radius.”
“Very funny,” I said, trying not to consider the costs of my “mistakes.” “But seriously, there isn’t any hidden agendas? Nothing you’re hiding from me?”
“No, Killer,” Eric said. He smiled. I was not reassured.
Over the next few weeks, I showed Eric and the rest of the people how to work the guns I’d developed. Eric, Ray-Gun, and MC Disaster figured a way to use the Fuckup effectively at the firing range. Eric would fire the gun and clear the inevitable malfunctions. When a belt ran out of ammo, he’d pull the cocking lever for the belt on the other side. Meanwhile, Ray-Gun and MC were on either side, ready with extra belts and spare barrels. Thus, when on a bipod or tripod (and ignoring the many, many malfunctions,) the Fuckup could fire near continuously, because it could be reloaded while firing. When they weren’t doing maintenance or reloading, Ray-Gun and MC Disaster would help Doc and the Monk provide covering fire.
Meanwhile, the news seemed to be getting better and better. Canadian forces were massing to the north, with the occasional reinforcements from Austrailia, New Zealand, and various exiled Asians, and to the south, most of the Latin American nations were moving troops to the US-Mexican border. As I was watching a report about the overseas reinforcements, MC Disaster said, “We shouldn’t expect too many.”
I turned to him. “There’s a reason they captured all those ships instead of sinking them,” MC said. “They’re patrolling the seas, sinking anything bigger than a rubber dinghy and capturing oil derricks to use as lookout towers. We almost got sunk by destroyers several times.”
“Dragon’s Teeth or scared and confused runners?”
MC grimaced. “Hard to tell. The Dragon’s Teeth don’t keep their flags up. Either way, we think our subs looked too much like the kind of subs the Dragon’s Teeth look like on radar.”
“By the way,” I said, “any news on where the other people are?”
“What other people?” MC asked.
“The people you came in with,” I said. “There were like, twenty or thirty so operators you came in with. I mean, there still are, but a few are different.” MC suddenly began studying his palms like he was trying to see the future. “Look,” I said, annoyed, “I accept that you’re going to be doing recon. I can help. But if you’re going behind my back, and I don’t know what you’re doing, and you do something big enough to draw attention, then I’m going to have to give you up. If you let me help you, we can avoid that.”
“As long as the Dragon’s Teeth don’t occupy this place,” MC said carefully, “we won’t be attracting attention. Until then, our silence is your protection.”
“Why’s that?” I asked.
“The Dragon’s Teeth wants you alive,” MC said. “If they take this city, we want them to take you. If they give you some liberty, then we want you to be an asset.”
“And if they break me or Eliza,” I said, “then you all are compromised.”
“Who says it’s just us?” MC asked.
I turned back to the TV. A reporter was in Boston Common, facing the State House, talking about something or other. In the background, for some reason, I noticed that some cops with long guns were walking to the left, like there had been a non-urgent disturbance of some sort.
Then, there was a crashing sound, and a vehicle that, from the distance the camera was at, looked like an Escalade or similar SUV, raced into view, running down the cops before they could eve raise their guns. “Oh my God!” The reporter said. “You just saw this, a car accident outside Beacon Hill, hitting multiple police-”
Then five more SUVs also raced in from the same direction and seven from the opposite one. All thirteen changed color from various civilian colors to an urban camo pattern. Simultaneously, a turret raised from where a sunroof would be on a normal SUV, and Picts began dismounting. I noticed that they had supplemented their Deet-issued weapons with various captured guns.
“So,” I said, turning to MC, “assuming they’re not in Worcester already, how much do you want to bet they won’t be here by October?”
MC laughed. “That’s three weeks away. They’re going to be here by Friday.”