The Revelation

rating: +78+x

PREVIOUS: Loud, Lawless, and Lost

FIRST: The Chosen Few

My ex-girlfriend's army of possessed office executives goose-steps toward me. The combat corset feels like a vice around my chest.

"What the hell are you doing here?" I hiss.

"Me? You're supposed to be dead, babe," they titter in unison. "Am I that rusty?"

"Babe? What the hell is going on?" Alex and Alliott say simultaneously into my earpiece.

"Chappell Wraith Securities? They're run by a witch named Natasha Tokyopop," I say. "She's… enchanted the office drones into actual ones. Like demon robots."

"You've got to be fucking kidding me," Alex says in my earpiece. "Get down."

There's an ear-splitting crack and then a sharp ping.

Natasha shakes her heads. "Did you shoot me? Did you really just shoot me with an actual gun? Come the fuck on, babygirl, you know me better than that."

"Alex?" I say. There's no response.

"Alex? Oh, is she your new girlfriend? How many have you gone through since you ditched me?" the drones say. "Sorry Ruku, if she shot me then she's deader than dirt."

"Alliott, we've got trouble," I say. "These drones are charmed or something — I think they reflect bullets. Alex is dead."

Alliott curses. "I'm still working on the hack but I'll get you out, don't worry. Keep her busy!"

"What are you doing here, Rukmini?" the drones ask in unison.

"What do you think?" I say, looking for a way past Natasha. "Taking some fat cats hostage — you know, how you used to?"

"I am taking them hostage, babe," they say. "You know how much I'm charging these pricks? I don't even need Chappell's fortune! These assholes are paying me one every day!"

The sing-song tone she's using dredges up a variety of feelings: arousal, from a particularly aggressive sex session I still have bite-marks on my tits from; shock, from the time I watched her beat a man to death in front of me; and fear — because that's the same tone of voice she had when she took a dozen children hostage.

The lead drone takes a swipe at me with a baton. I duck past her and run down the corridor, rummaging through the backpack. My hands close around the handle of a metal baseball bat.

As I reach the windows, a sheet of green flame rises in front of the windows and licks at my face. I skid to a halt in front of it and turn around. The entire outer perimeter of the office is sealed off by a wall of green fire. Natasha's army of drones stalks towards me in perfect goose-step formation.

Natasha's drones bear all the hallmarks of her style: brutalist fashion, perfect synchronization, elegant in the way they simply hijack the normal functions of a human body. She loves summoning and charming automatons. She was trying to enchant a giant mecha. And with my powers? She probably has.

But she prioritizes form over function. I'd recognize that bulletproof enchantment anywhere. Hell, I'm the one who came up with it. It's a basic kinetic energy redirector — efficient and practically unnoticeable to the naked eye, but easily exploited with a little clever symbology.

"I don't believe this!" I snap. "Chappell Wraith Securities? Fucking security guards? You stole my heart and sold out?"

I dive through a nearby doorway into a conference room and lock the door behind me. I pull a pocket knife out of the backpack and start carving symbols into the bat. Natasha's drones beat at the windows of the room.

"It pays to suck corporate dick, huh?" I shout. "I thought you were better than this.”

The glass makes a popping sound.

"Gosh," the drones say. "I wonder what coulda changed. It's not like you stole my magic and crippled me completely. Oh wait!"

The glass cracks and bulges.

"Me, right now? Everything I've done in the past five years? All you, Ruku."

The glass disintegrates. The drones begin to pour in.

"All. Your. Fault."

I drop the knife, wrap both hands around the bat and swing.

The engraving on the bat is based on a Sanskrit prayer to the Hindu god, Ganesha. It's an exploit — a kind of buffer overflow in reality that overwrites the kinetic energy redirector and redirects the excess force right back into Barnard Sachs. There's a sharp crack and a smell like burnt hair as Barnard goes flying, taking a dozen drones with him and clearing a path for me. A home run.

"Get stuffed," I snarl. A secretary with a baton takes her swing. I parry it and crack her in the gut. Her vertebrae shoot out her back and she crumples bonelessly to the ground.

"I can't stay mad at you though," the other drones say breathily, strutting towards me. "You know, you're suuuuuuuuper hot when you're angry."

"Christ," I say. "You know how bloody creepy that is when it's an eighty-year-old white dude saying that?"

I talk into my earpiece. "Alliott, there is a wall of fire encircling the floor and I cannot get out."

"I'm done, I'm done, I'll send an elevator up, just hold on!" she says.

"How the hell did you even find me?" I ask Natasha.

"Babe, I've been keeping an eye on you since you ran away. You really think I'd let my forever girl get away like that?"

"You've been spying on me?" I backpedal towards the elevators.

"It's not spying if it's someone you love!" she titters. The faces of her many drones fall at once. "I still love you."

I'm so surprised by this that I stop swinging my bat. "You love — you tried to kill me! You've been spying on me and you tried to kill me and you have the bloody gall to tell me that you love me?"

This is a huge mistake. A half-dozen old white men in suits dogpile me and knock the bat out of my hand. It rolls towards the elevator.

They all breathe the same thing at me. "I was going to revive you. Bring you back to me. Show you how much you still love me."

"Jesus Christ. Get off me!" I try to push them off but some more drones pile on top. It's hard to breathe. I'm being crushed under a morass of old white men with garlic breath proclaiming their psychotic love for me.

"Alliott, I could use a little — "

One of the drones rips the earpiece away and whispers directly into my ear. "But then you didn't die and I couldn't track you any more without the heart. I thought I'd lost you forever and I was so upset but then you fell right back into my orbit! Don't you see? We're meant to be together! The universes are pushing us together!"

My vision starts to blur and darken. I think I feel a rib crack.

"You don't need Alliott. You'll see — I'll bring you with me and things will go back to normal. Back to how we used to be, shooting and robbing and fucking all day long. It'll be so much fun!"

I'm about to pass out when I hear a faint ding and then several loud cracks. The drones fall away from me. I take a deep breath and then start coughing, but I'm breathing again. The pressure is gone. A hand grabs my own and lifts me onto my feet.

Alliott Chao stands in front of me, breathing heavily and holding my baseball bat. There are bodies everywhere. She's covered in chunks of white middle-aged businessman.

It is incredibly hot.

"Your ex is a real psycho, you know that?" Alliott pulls me into the elevator and slaps the button for the ground floor. Elevator music plays while we both try to catch our breath with our hands on our knees. My chest aches.

"She's not actually like that," I say.

Alliott looks up at me. "Huh?"

"She's not really like that. She's just trying to fuck with us. Me. She's just trying to fuck with me."

Alliott cocks her head. "Trying to brainwash you is just fucking with you?"

"Yeah. She used to — it's how we — it's her sense of humor."

"Her sense of humor."


My ears are burning beneath the balaclava. Thankfully Alliott chooses to let me off with some dignity by changing the subject.

"There's going to be like… fifty fucking robocops down there," she says. "You got any ideas?"

My backpack is still on my back. I rummage through it briefly and then pull out a bazooka. It telescopes on the way out, lengthening and widening to reveal a fully-loaded six-barrel incendiary grenade launcher. A smile breaks out on my face.

"Yes. Yes I do."

The elevator doors open to reveal the full extent of security that a monolithic corporation can buy. A hundred robocops have the elevator surrounded. Ten APCs can be seen through the lobby windows. There's not one, not two, but three entire FLYPAPER units drooling hungrily behind them.

"Cover your ears." I fire.

The FLYPAPER nearest to the elevator takes a grenade full-on in what passes for its face. It's instantly engulfed in flames. The robocops watch in horrified awe as it thrashes about, smashing the floor to bits and sending chunks of burning meat and metal everywhere. Then I fire the other five rounds into the crowd.

The lobby is transformed into a maelstrom of flesh, metal, and flame. Alliott and I sprint for the emergency exit. We crash through the door as bullets and agonized shouts fly past.

"Where's the car?" I shout.

Alliott simply takes off running, leading me through a maze of glass and steel. Sirens in the distance grow louder with each step. I almost run past the Porsche before Alliott slides into the driver's seat and honks at me.

We peel out of the alleyway the car was hidden in. Ahead of us, a line of cop cars blocks the road. Alliott spins the wheel and shifts gears, sending us into a spin and pointing us in the other direction. There's another line of cars blocking our exit, so she instead veers back into the alleyway.

More cops are waiting for us on the other side. Alliott swerves onto the pavement and barely avoids clipping one of their cars.

"Fucking hell," she yells. "They're everywhere! You know any shortcuts?"

I don't, but I know someone who does.

Dutch! I think into the void.

The Inside Man picks up after a moment. Rookie! You must really be in trouble. Hang on.

An intersection full of APCs bears down on us as he sends me a list of turns to take and curbs to hop.

"Take a right!" I shout. "There's a gap in the barricade!"

Alliott shoots me a quizzical eyebrow, but yanks the steering wheel to the right. The wheels scream as we slide into the turn and drift right through the promised hole in the vehicle barricade.

"Left!" Caltrops have been scattered across the road like salt. There's a shudder as we bounce onto the curb and hurdle right over them.

Ahead of us, the intersection is entirely blocked by a full APC barricade. Behind us, a flood of cop cars box us in. There's no way out.

"Use the machine gun," Alliott grunts.



I unbuckle myself, pop the sunroof, and stand up in my seat. The machine gun is mounted to a swivel with a pair of trigger handles to grab onto, letting me spin it around but not aim it up or down. A pair of ammo belts dangle from the weapon, trailing into the back windows. I hoist myself up onto the roof and grab onto the handles, rolling around the roof so that I'm lying on the rear window aiming forwards and holding onto the gun for dear life.

A pair of cops with rocket launchers stand up and take aim.

I squeeze the trigger.

The machine gun sounds like a chainsaw cutting through metal and makes my brain feel like it's been put into a blender. In just under three seconds it carves an explosive swathe through the barricade, chewing holes larger than double-A batteries through everything in its way. The barrage of bullets causes the warheads in both launchers to explode in a massive fireball. I barely have time to roll back around and drop down through the sunroof before Alliott drifts right through the explosion.

Then we're on a straightaway just a hundred meters from the train tracks. A horn sounds and the gates start to come down. The Phitransimun Combine races towards the crossing gate. A tidal wave of blue bears down on us from behind.

Alliott and I register all of this and come to the same conclusion in the second it takes us to reach the tracks. She pulls into yet another drift and smashes through the crossing guards. Then we're barreling down an interdimensional railway with the Phitransimun Combine barely meters behind us.

The police sirens fade into the distance. The only things that can be heard are the juddering of the car, the steady bay of its engine, and the rumble of the pursuing train. We drive in silence for several minutes.

"Jesus Christ," Alliott says. "I'd known it would turn out like this I'da stayed home and watched the game."

She looks over at me. "You're something fucking else, you know that?"

"Thanks. I think."

Alliot cocks her head. "After this you want to — "

The car door on my side is abruptly ripped away. Something wraps around my arm and yanks. I scrabble for something to hold onto but find only the bat before being torn bodily out of the car.

There's a heart-stopping pause and then I land flat on my back, looking up into the eyes of Natasha Tokyopop. She's wearing an avatar of unclear Asian ethnicity, but I'd recognize her retro-sukeban style anywhere: a black sailor-top and skirt combo, with long leggings, combat boots, and a long black tendril in place of her left arm to round out the look.

"I told you. I wanted to catch up!" she exclaims, wrapping the tendril around my neck and pulling me into the air. "You ran away before we were finished. Was it the thing about brainwashing you?" she asks. "I thought it might be a bit much, but I know how much you used to like it when we — "

I'm too busy choking to pay attention. Natasha slackens her grip and lowers to the ground.

"Sorry! I'm still getting used to my powers. It's been so long since I had any," she says.

I take a quick look around while rubbing my neck. We're atop the lead engine of Phitransmun Combine. The wind buffets my face, breaking against my goggles and chilling me to the bone. I can see Alliott's car just below us, but Natasha stands between me and freedom.

"Rookie! Where are you? Are you okay?" Alliott's voice rings through the earpiece.

"On the train. With Natasha."

"Well you need to get off it stat," Alliott says. "We're gonna hit the junction in maybe five minutes and if you are not in here when that happens it's game fucking over."

"Got it," I say.

"You knowwwww," Natasha says in a faux-singsong, "I'm right here."

"What do you even want with me?" I spit.

"What, can't two ex-girlfriends hang out like old times?" she asks. "I've been doing wonderfully, you know! I took up judo, piano, started a corporation, and got my powers back. Now you go."

I take a swing at her. She blocks it easily and then slices at my leg. It starts bleeding.

"Don't have anything to say?" she asks. "That's fine. I'll just grill you instead. First question. What have you and the Inside Man been doing with all the shit you steal?"

The tendril lashes out at my neck. I smack it away and slam the bat into her ribs. She doesn't even flinch.

"Sit on your little dragon's hoard and blow it on catgirls and comic books?" she guesses. "Tell me I'm wrong." She catches my bat with her human hand and shoves me back. "You're a fucking hypocrite, Ruku. You always have been."

I lunge at her, but she sidesteps and I go sprawling towards the front edge of the train.

"Next question!" Natasha chirps. "What were you really doing at Oneiroi? 'Taking people hostage'? C'mon. That's more see-through than those panties you wore for my birthday."

I scramble to my feet and charge at her. Natasha dodges all my swings effortlessly. She looks past me and raises an eyebrow. "That's a Black Queen, ain't it? Now I get it! You're looking for a Way. Okay okay, next question. You want to come after me? Don't you?"

I feint at her from the right, then swing at her left. Then her right. Then her neck. Then her chest. She ducks, weaves, bobs, blocks, and then simply snatches the bat from my grasp and gives me a love-tap on the head. It feels like a jackhammer to the skull.

"How do you feel, Ruku?" she asks, poking the bat into my chest. "Powerless? Frustrated? Infuriated that I did this to you?"

I struggle to my feet, trying to keep pain-induced tears out of my eyes.

"Well how the hell do you think I felt?" she asks. "When you crippled me? When you broke my heart? When you left me to die?"

Natasha throws the bat to me, then steps back and relaxes.

"Last question. You really wanna kill me, huh?"

Her arms drop to her shoulders and her tendril rests against the ground.

"Take a swing," she says.

My head is swimming. "What?"

"Take a swing," she repeats. "I'm right fucking here. I'm your monster, Ruku. Do the right thing."

I stare at her. "What?"

"Take a swing!" Natasha exclaims. "I'm a whore and a bootlicker and a murderer. Isn't that it? I'm a corporate slave and a pathetic bitch who tried to murder my ex and should be put down like one."

She raises her hands and gestures mockingly. "I'll give you one shot. Hit me. Pound my brain into mash. Kill. Me."

I oblige with an overhead that comes right down on her scalp and slams her into the ground. Then I swing again.

Once. Twice. Thrice. A dent in the train's roof forms under her head. Bits of brain, bone, and blood fly everywhere. Her perfect little face disintegrates. Her perfect clothing gets spattered in blood.

I stop swinging and pause to examine my handiwork. The avatar is well and truly dead. Her limbs twitch once, a postmortem reflex from a brain that isn't there anymore.

Then they twitch again. And again.

As if being rewound, the bloodstains on her perfect clothing dissipate. Her perfect little face reassembles itself. Bits of blood, bone, and brain are sucked from thin air back into her skull. The dent in the roof stays.

I swing the bat down again. The tendril whips upwards and stops it. Natasha hops to her feet, looking like she just got out of her walk-in closet instead of beaten to death by a magic baseball bat.

Green flame pours from her eye sockets. She winks at me. "I think you missed."

Natasha tackles me right off the train and onto the trunk of the Porsche. I land flat on my back and she lands on top of me. She wraps her tendril around the bat, wrenches it out of my grasp, and flings it away.

"My turn."

The tendril sharpens into a scythe and comes down for the killing blow.

"Tokyopop!" Alliott's voice is audible without my earpiece.

Natasha pauses and we both look over at Alliott. Then there's a sound like a chainsaw cutting through metal and what's left of Natasha is splattered against the Phitransimun Combine like a fly.

"Get the fuck in!" Alliott yells from behind the gun. Then she disappears below the sunroof.

I take a few hasty breaths, then scramble over the machine gun and fall into the car with my feet on the dash. Alliot immediately pushes a button on the gearstick and floors the gas. My vision fills with the colors of the rainbow and then they're gone, replaced by the darkness of the industrial district and the neon glow of the Kemonomimi Zaibatsu's cat logo.

Alliott slams on the brakes, and we screech to a halt in the KMZ parking lot. Neither of us speak for several minutes, not daring to believe what just happened. Then my ribs suddenly flare up. I wince audibly.

"Oh shit," Alliott says. "You okay?"

"I think some of my ribs are broken," I cough out.

"Shit," she says. "C'mon, let's get you to the infirmary."

Alliott lets me lean on her as we walk inside. The receptionist looks up at us and just says,"Third door on the right."

We limp into the infirmary together. There's nobody else around, but Alliott takes charge. She retrieves some bandages and fabric shears and cuts my hoodie away.

"Why are you wearing a corset?"

Oh shit, I think. "Don't take it off," I gasp.

"What? Why?" Alliott inspects the corset carefully. "Oh, I see. Combat corset. Wait, why didn't you tell me you were wearing one of these? Could've saved the hoodie."

"I… forgot about it?" I offer.

She cocks her head and offers an expression of sardonic bemusement. At that moment, Alliott's phone dings, and she looks through it.

"They tied. Anderson and ICSUT tied."

It's like a dam bursting. Then we both start giggling like madwomen.

"The hack went through," Alliott laughs. "I can't believe it."

I pull my own phone out and look at my own civilian bank account. I'm more than two million dollars richer.

"Want to grab a drink?" she says. "On me. I think we both need it."

Natasha's words echo in my mind. She almost skewered me back there, and that was just with a clone. I'm going to have to face the real Natasha soon enough, and I doubt I have a snowball's chance in hell of beating her. I have the Inside Man on my side — but she has all my powers, and then some. More than that, she's fueled by five years worth of hate — most of it deserved.

I need to get her out of my head.

"If it's all the same to you," I say, "I'd rather get right to the shagging."

Next: Truth is Sin

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