Jump the Gun

rating: +36+x

PREVIOUS: Prey and Obey

FIRST: The Chosen Few

To be honest, I'm glad that Diya jumps right to murder. It's a lot less awkward than talking. Six extra arms unfold from her sides and begin inscribing symbols into the air. My subconscious warns me of the oxygen concentration building in the chamber.

Diya snaps her fingers and six jets of flame lance towards me. I dive out of the way, cartwheeling behind the beer crates as I struggle to stay ahead of her killer hand signals. I'm hoping she'll accidentally hit the crates and throw up a smokescreen I can use, but nothing happens. The Shock Top must be more satisfying than my death could ever be.

This is fine. It gives me time to figure out the best way to kill her.

I try to stifle my bloodlust. My trip down memory lane has left me conflicted about my former clique. I honestly kind of feel bad for them. Natasha's devolved from the anarchist I loved to a corporate stooge. And Diya's gone from a tankie bitch to Natasha's bitch.

I think about Alliott bleeding out in my arms and harden my heart.

"Hang on, Amma," someone says. "We'll handle this."

I peek over the crates to assess the situation. The space elevator is a barren metal circle rocketing up through a thick glass tube. A bunch of crates lie around the arena, shaken from their moorings by Diya’s pyrotechnics. The only sign that we're exiting Earth's atmosphere is a faint vibration and phantom queasiness in whatever passes for my stomach.

On the other side of the elevator, Diya starts carving something into the floor. If not for the tail and cat-ears I'd say she was wearing armor — but those orange plates aren't covering her skin, they are her skin. Her bodyguards take up a defensive stance in front of her. They're not the nyandroids Alliott and I fought through on Earth. These are proper cyborg catgirls with furry ears and spiked tails that cautiously lash back and forth. One of them is dressed in red body armor; the other is clad in blue. They both look vaguely like Diya, but have Natasha's eyes.

"Absolutely not," Diya says. "This woman is psychotic. She —"

"Tried to kill you and Mum, we know, Ma," Red says.

"Let us take care of this." Razor-sharp talons pop from Blue's hands. "We're programmed for this. You built us for this."

Thank God, they're not actually her kids. Just her androids. But who's Mum?

Natasha. It's clearly Natasha. God dammit.

I push those thoughts out of my head and focus on the products of her hubris. On cue, my subconscious feeds me an acoustic analysis of the catgirls' construction. Their claws are sharp and their reflexes primed. Diya's clearly invested, both financially and emotionally, in her robo-kitties. There's no way she'll be willing to risk blowing a fiery hole through either. As long as I can stay up in their faces, I'll have all the time in the world to beat the kawaii out of them.

Diya pinches her forehead. "There is no way in hell—"

"Hello!" Red points a metallic claw at me. "My name is Ingrid Montoya. You killed my mother.
Prepare to die."

"Five outta ten reference, sis," Blue says.

In the split-second I take to register the reference, the two of them are in my face. Two pairs of red and blue fists slam into my chest. I stumble back but they close the distance immediately, pounding me into the floor with simultaneous flip-kicks to the head. I taste phantom blood.

"Kits!" Diya shouts. Her hands scrabble through the air.

As I roll onto my back, the second Desert Eagle comes out. I empty one clip into Red's face and the other into Blue's. The bullets plink harmlessly off their faces.

An orange pentagonal aura glimmers around the two catgirls. They pat their faces in confusion, then look towards Diya. One hand is pressed to her forehead and two others scribble thaumic patterns into the air while the rest continue their mystery work on the elevator.

"Thanks, Ma!" the catgirls say in unison. Protective visors slide down over their faces and light up, sneering at me with twin >:3‘s.

"Get back here right now!" Diya yells.

"Sorry, can't hear you!" Blue says.

"Ears are shot!" Red says.

The dynamic dumbasses barrel at me again, raining down a flurry of blows that I can barely see, much less dodge. It feels like being smashed between two trucks at once. As I reel back, Blue spins behind me and sweeps out my legs with her tail. Red jumps up and plants both feet in my chest. I skid across the ground at a hundred kilometers per hour and crack my head on a crate of Shock Top. The spider in my brain warns me that it needs to fix my newly acquired TBI.

"Vibe check!" my tormentors chant.


Rookie! Alliott thinks. What’s happening in there? You ok?


That's a no. Listen, that's a kinetic redirection field around them. You try to grab 'em, it'll zap you off. Bullets will just feed it. You need to take out whoever's generating the magic!

Which reminds me that Diya is assembling a spell that I know nothing about.

"Shoot her!" Diya says. "You have guns! Use them!"

"Where's the fun in that?" Blue says, mid axe-kick. I roll to the side to avoid it and come up to parry Red's flurry of blows. Red leaves her neck open, so I chop at it with enough force to topple a redwood. My hand bounces off the same pentagonal aura. It hurts like a bitch. I clutch the hand instinctively and then take red and blue backhands to the face.


"You're not very good at this, are you?" Red says.

"Focus!" Diya says. "Don't talk, act!"

I don't like my chances with the commando catgirls. I'd rather try my luck on the root cause, who is currently glaring daggers at me. I break and sprint towards Diya. The khanda comes down on her head.

"No you don't!"

Red comes from behind to parry my blade with a magically-reinforced forearm. Behind her, Blue pulls Diya away. She's still scratching symbols into the ground.

Alliott, what's she writing?

No clue. Need a better angle.

"You trick bitch," Red snarls. Her face switches to >:[. "Mom's off limits!"

I pull the blade up and stab at her midsection. "Kid, she's not your mom, and this is strictly between us."

She parries again. "Wrong us. Zab!"

Twin machine pistols appear in Blue's hand and she empties them in my direction. I parry a kick from Red and juke. The bullets rattle off her back like raindrops on a tin roof.

"Look," I say, "let's try this again. I'm not going to try to kill your mom, okay? I just want to see Natasha."

So I can kill her.

Red twitches in Blue's direction and my eyes snap to Blue. This is an error. Red's foot snaps up into my chin and she follows up with a spin kick that lifts me off the ground. I berate myself mentally and prepare to crash down to earth. Instead something electric and sharp bounces me up. The world spins up and down as my brain pieces swirling colors together to form Red: lying on her back, metal claws up, batting me up and down like a ball of yarn.

That god damn >:3 is plastered across her faceplate.

I go spread-eagle to halt the spinning and aim both swords for her metal belly. Her tail intercepts mine first.


Alliott's voice rings through my ears. Subconscious diagnostics inform me that Red punctured one of my oil tanks. The pain is excruciating, like a taser wired directly to my liver. My brain bounces around between my ears as Red whips me back and forth. I try to pull myself loose but only manage to shock myself stupid on her force field.

The world goes horizontal for a moment. Then Blue plants both feet squarely in my solar plexus. The blow ejects me from Red's tail and tosses me directly into the Shock Top. The crate doesn't survive our collision.

"Stop messing around and shoot her!" Diya says. "Zabu, watch where you're kicking!"

I let the debris zap me to semi-wakefulness and groggily probe the results of Red's traumatic tail play. It's a perfect cylinder, boring right through me and draining my Castrol blood. My limbs are already starting to feel stiffer, the twin teenage terrors are stalking towards me, and Diya's still putting together her whopper of a spell. I need to patch my wound up and then put the kibosh on her. There are too many things happening at once. I need time to think.

Let's make some.

My nonexistent teeth clamp down on the spider in my skull. It protests vigorously and scrabbles for purchase, but I grab it with my mind's hands and seat it atop my subconscious throne. The spider's legs bite into my head — migraine coming out, clamp it down. Clamp it down and focus!

The spider accepts its position and jams itself in. Mind and matter go nuclear under my hood, boiling the cerebromantic fluid pumped through my brain. A twitchy energy floods my nervous system, forcing the grinding gears and slowly seizing servos in my battered bionic body to spin under its own accord. My mind speeds up. Bottles fall impossibly slowly. The gravity pushing me down lightens and the catgirls become visible as I invade their world of slowed time.

Now how do I handle their shields?

Red's foot strikes out, but I catch it on hopped-up reflex. The pentagons sizzle against the oil coating my hands. Both of us look at it in surprise. My head hurts.

"What the fuck?" Red says.

I yank Red to the ground and scrabble to my feet. My head hurts and my chest cooks painfully. A perversely cold shock runs through me as I realize I'm overheating. I look around desperately for some kind of fluid replacement as Red comes at me again. I duck and let her trip over me. She spins, digs her foot into my gut, and launches me into another crate. New plan: hurt as she kicks me a few more times for good measure and then kicks me into another crate.

That's just excessive.

I pettily throw a pair of stray cans at her, then pause to look at my salvation in hand. I pop two holes into the can and then slam it into the hole in my liver. The can slides smoothly into place and I instantly feel better as coolant and brew flood my system again. Are my insides waterproof? I'm not going to think about that.

I have Red to worry about anyways. On cue, she throws a punch that I catch with accelerated ease. My grip remains steady; the coolant covering my hands crackles. Red immediately drives a foot into my crotch and makes me grateful that MachineGod already stole it. As I roll with the blow, the CPU in my brain cranks even faster, connecting the dots I need before I know I need them. The oil must be acting as a barrier, like dipping a hand into liquid nitrogen. It won't go through the field… but there's nothing wrong with a little blunt trauma.

Red comes at me again, but I backflip away and hastily wipe more of my bionic blood on my boots. She hops to her feet, >:[ shining on her face, and charges. The brewskis I keep shoving through my belly prove enticing targets that make her strikes easy to predict and easier to block. Her tail gets too close to the ground and my left boot slams it home, pinning the tail between the foot and heel. Red yowls and tries to pull away, but I'm planted to the ground. Then I punch her in the face.

The blow hurts me more than Red, but distracts her long enough for me to step off her tail and grab it with my hand. I spin her tail around her, pinning her arms to her sides. When I run out of tail, I spin her around so that her back is facing me. I cap off our impromptu swing by bringing one arm around her chest and pinning the end of her tail between them.

"You're not very good at this, are you?" I say.

Red struggles against me, but I've tied her up with her own tail. "Get off!"

"You got it," I say. One hand shoves her away; the other yanks her tail like a top, spinning her towards her family before she reaches the end of her tether and stops short. I imagine the look on her face as I reel her back in.

Red turns around mid-reel and lunges. I sidestep and let her trip over my foot. As she falls, my hand presses itself to the small of her back. With my other hand, I wrap her tail around her arm and dig my fingers into her claws, locking the tail between our hands.

I wink at Diya. If she weren't half-machine, she'd be half-eggplant at the sight of me dipping her daughter. Red regains a modicum of composure and slashes at my eyes with her free claw. I release her back and catch her wrist a centimeter from my sockets, then slam it back into her own face.

The sound Red's fist makes as it passes through her own protective barrier fills me with frisson. It's like cracking a perfect sixer in cricket or beating a bobby with his own baton. My own hand stops at the barrier, but it's a start.

"Gotta be honest with you," I say as we sashay around the elevator. "You're a rubbish dancer."

Red hisses at me and I bop her in the face. "Don't worry, this dance is easy. Just follow my lead. Serious question — laser pointers. Do those work on you?"

I push her away as she tries to knee me in the stomach, then yank her back in and hit her with a haymaker. "Hey!" I say. "I asked you a question. Blue, what about you? Laser pointers. Yay or nay?"

Blue takes a few half-hearted swings, but she's pulling them for her sister's sake. We dance around them easily.

"If I had to guess… yay," I say. "Diya's anal about those kinda details."

Red's fist bounces off her face again.

"What about catnip. That work on you? Do they make cyber-catnip?"

I shoot a look at Diya. The veins in her forehead throb. She's using six hands to scribble and two to mime strangling me.

"What's the deal with the catgirl thing anything? Mum's fursona's a wolf, innit?"

I'm mouthing off but my options are drying up as fast as my hands. I'll have to drop Red soon. Worse, Diya seems content to finish her work regardless of how I disrespect her little girl. I need to do something drastic.

"Ah, c'mon, talk to me!" I say. "You were hammin’ it up less than a minute ago."

The next blow cracks Red's faceplate clean in two, exposing a glare with upsettingly full lashes. I stretch my arms apart as far as they'll go and draw her right up into my personal space. Diya’s bots look old enough to drink. This next bit will really make her mad.

"What else are those lips good for?"

Excuse me?!

The barrier over Red’s face jolts me back the instant our lips make contact. A split of a split of a split-second later, laser-thin explosions lance through the air, dicing through the orange pentagrams along Red's neck and damn near blasting both our faces off. In the instant Red’s shield needs to reform, I let go of her hand and wedge my own into the gap along her neck. The kinetic barrier seals around it and locks my hand into place around her throat. Automatic morphine deals with the pins and needles biting into my wrist.

"Nobody move!" I shout. "Take another step and I'll put a sword through her pretty little neck!"

Blue has to hold Diya back. Red sneers up at me. I feel her terrified excitement buzzing through her bolts.

"I think we got off on the wrong foot," I say. "Diya, why don't you apologize for trying to kill me at first sight, and then I'll apologize for taking Red here hostage?"

"You. Little. You — What. Do. You. Want?" Diya forces each word through her teeth like broken glass.

"Whaddya think?" I say, tapping my chest with a free hand. "About fist-sized, bright red, Natasha ripped it out of my chest —"

“Make a new one!” Diya seethes. “You got a new girlfriend! You got a new life! Why come back here?” She's shaking. "Why ruin ours?"

"I'm not the bad guy here!" I say. Red shifts and I tighten my chokehold. "I did Natasha in once by accident. She's tried thrice on purpose!" My voice hardens. "Almost killed my girlfriend."

"And what does that have to do with me? With my kits?" Diya's voice turns shrill.

"You got in the way!"

The four of us stare forlornly at the phrase hanging in the air. I exhale and hold out my free hand in what I hope is a gesture of neutral will.

"Look," I say, "I don't want to hurt Red. I don't even want to hurt you. I'm sorry for what I did to you. I'm sorry for hurting Natasha and I don't want back in your lives any more than you want me. Give me my heart back and I'll leave you alone forever."

"Sorry?" Diya's face contorts further. "You're sorry? Look girls, she's sorry! You're sorry? You're sorry. You.. are telling me… you're sorry."

I exchange worried glances with Red and Blue as her rant continues. "You break onto my island, threaten my kits, and then you want to apologize? You had your chance to apologize. You could've apologized at any point in the last five years and Natty would've forgiven you. I might've forgiven you."

"I was stupid and scared, okay?" I say. "I didn't know how to apologize. I didn't think she'd forgive me."

"So you left her to rot?" Diya's eyes dilate and her hands tremble. "I kept promising you'd come back. I kept hoping you'd come back. Because I didn't believe anyone could actually be that impulsive and selfish and —"

Her daughters look as uncomfortable as I feel. She might actually start frothing at the mouth she doesn't have.

"You don't get to waltz in here, vandalize my life, and waltz out!" Diya snarls. "Not twice! Ingrid Model — voice override! Shut down!"

The light in Red's eyes dies and her protective shield dissipates. I stumble as she ragdolls in my grip, then look up into a face that will give me nightmares. Diya's skeletal steel hand wraps around my throat as she barks out a string of syllables. The symbols on the ground pulse orange and the world spins around me. Not spinning, crashing. Not crashing, falling. Not falling, spiraling. Fragments of memory wash over me: love, lust, betrayal, transformation. Dimly, I realize that I'm spiraling around inside of someone's gray matter.

"You bitch," someone says in my ear. The fragments are cast aside by the very real visage of Diya choking the life out of me. But this isn't right either. I shouldn't even be able to choke. She's human. I'm human.

"You trick bitch," Diya repeats. Her eyes are twin vertical slits against murky yellow irises, backed by pointy ears and bared incisors. "You don't get to apologize. You don't deserve that. You barely deserve a quick death."

She batters my head against the void. I headbutt her and roll away, gasping for air. Oxygen fills my lungs and my vision is restored. Self-assessment: I'm naked. Comfort fashion comes to mind — combat boots, KMFDM tee, and jeans. On instinct, my fingers tighten the straps of the fingerless gloves materializing on my hands. Some kind of lucid dream?

Correction: nightmare. Every square centimeter of the place is a face: mine, Natasha, Zabutom, Tracy Tzu, Red and Blue. Their mouths are open, their eyes lack pupils, and they wail at me silently. Light comes from everywhere and nowhere, filling the monstrous orange bounce house lesbian obsession nightmare.

"What the fuck is this?" I say.

"Hell," Diya says. "Now shut up and die."

NEXT: Leather Pig

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