Space Marines Do It Better: Independence

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“You’d make me pay for a drink when the world is ending?”
Karra crossed her arms, the mutant horns of the right striking sparks against the black iron augmetic of the left.
“Zeelo, I’d make YOU pay for the drink if Angron were drowning you in a cyclone of blood. And if the world’s ending I’m not spending my last seconds looking at you for free. So pay, leave, or give me an excuse to kill you, and those are in ascending order of preference.”
Zeelo slinked out of the Bloody Cog into the rusting alley between manufactory stacks. No-one had ever proven that Karra served Iron Warriors in the armored upper floor, nor that she distilled debtors into the bloodka which got them drunk. But even Zeelo understood this might be because anyone who could prove it was now proof.
Karra unclenched her fists and went back to scouring steel drinking vessels. (Patrons had to pay extra for glass, at considerable markup, but most were smart enough to bring their own blades). She peered at the smog-choked sky through the slats of a presumably sarcastic ventilation grill. A forge world’s sky was always grey, and Ferron V’s seemingly limitless promethium reserves had turned them black long before it had been claimed by Chaos.
Now even the pretence of habitability had been cast aside as daemon-infused manufactories ran with the blood of industrial accident. Truly, Khorne cared not from who the blood flowed, and it seemed a conveyor belt was close enough if was screaming about a False Emperor and carrying replacement sawchains.
(The one smartass comment Karra had thought but would never make was “Yes, he’s a mouldering corpse incarnating the rotten lies of a weakling Imperium, true, but he is actually their Emperor. And we don’t have another rival Emperor. So he’s not a False Emperor, is he?”)
No, it was undeniable. The sky was darker. Maybe the rumours of xenos descending to burn the world were true.
Karra turned behind her armored bar/palisade to pour an expensive glass of bloodka. She raised it to the dim grill.
“Skulled for the Skull Throne!” she cried, turning her head to the sky and crushing the glass in her fist, mingled blood and spirit falling into her open mouth.
Any xenos stupid enough to attack this world would soon join it.

Xenos vessels had descended to destroy Ferron V. But it was taking longer than they’d expected. Their shock and awe strategy of awesome sky-filling discs descending into the lower atmosphere to detonate entire cities only worked when there actually were individual cities. Against the endless sprawl of a forge world it was basically acupuncture. Instead of striking fear and panic into the population they’d been forced to crawl a few kilometers at a time while their weapons recharged. It was like trying to clean a boulder with a toothbrush.
Between shots they’d stared down in disbelief as roving gangs of natives dashed into devastated areas to cart away wreckage for smelting. The surviving manufactories suddenly had new quotas to seize, and until they themselves were targeted they would work to serve their masters’ hunger. A hunger for blood, for vengeance, a hunger above all for the eating of worlds.
And now their masters were descending.

The bridge of World Eaters assault cruiser Knuckle hosted an unprecedented tactical meeting. In that “tactical meetings” of the Blood of Everything warband usually involved fighting your way to the drop pod’s controls and aiming it at the fiercest anti-aircraft fire.
The ship’s human Captain Jakk Beam took another swig from his vodekk canteen and mag-clamped it back to the side of his throne. This was a tactical decision on par with any of his brilliant void stratagems, balancing the risk of movement against the fatal effects of being sober enough to show visible fear. Once the rising star of the Imperial Navy’s Fleet Obscurus, capture by the World Eaters had revealed that his combat genius was not motivated by love of the Imperium but an advanced sense of self-preservation. A sense which had developed new tactics: keep killing enemies even when his masters weren’t on the bridge, and keep his mouth shut when they were.
Right now his mouth couldn’t have been more shut by a Cadian blockade. The assembled World Eaters had just been informed that the xenos’ shields were proof against drop pod assault, and Jakk hoped he’d still have some bridge officers left to replace the thin smear of sensorium officer, when the armored bridge portals clanked open to reveal Sergeant Amzara. Now even the other World Eaters went quiet. Jakk held so still his heart stopped.
Amzara’s expressionless helm faced the sensorium bay splattered red in warning lights and bits of its late operator. Glowing lenses turned to the vast circular xenos craft on the main viewscreen. The alien mothership was in high orbit, overseeing its daughter discs’ assault on Ferron V. A tearing grind of gears was revealed as laughter as she removed her helm.

Amzara had become a Space Marine the same way she’d become slaughter-chieftan of her feral homeworld’s largest tribe: killing anyone who objected. She’d shredded the World Eater’s warrior trials, killing her way to the top of the Skull Mound and just not stopping until the Marines had been left with little choice but to take her or leave empty handed.
She’d been saved the bother of killing again in the implantation chambers by Combat Apothecary Grizt, who’d waved whirring narthecium blades under the chin of an assistant gibbering about hormone levels and rejection tolerances.
“Hah!” Grizt spat, jerking the blades to draw blood. “How weak do you think we are? I’ve seen marines take a tank round to the gut and tear the gunner’s head off. The things we implant, we could shove them into a grox and end up with another World Eater. Probably a smarter one than most.”
He stared into Amzara’s eyes. They did not lower. Nor, he noticed, did her fists relax even though her arms were clamped to the surgical slab. The implantation procedure didn’t work “with” the weak human body. It overwrote it. Overloaded it. Enhanced it beyond all sanity or structure to become a demi-god striding above its old species as an avatar of war. The idea that a few grams of tissue could stand against that wasn’t just laughable, it was pathetic.
He plunged a scalpel into her chest and dragged it down her sternum in a first incision. She twisted in agony but did not cry out. Grizt grunted approval.
“Any progenoid which can’t deal with this isn’t worthy of marines.”

Sergeant Amzara grinned.
“You mangy curs want someone to tell you it’s safe to attack? Should I clean your waste filters for you too? Get to the drop pods!”
The World Eaters roared their approval and stormed off the bridge. Amzara stepped forward to Jakk, who stood, his dignity demanding that he at least be punched to death instead of stood on. (The vodekk helped).
“Don’t worry Jakk, the Knuckle can punch through their shields!”
“Master,” — he’d seen from experience that prefacing bad news with “forgive me” was the galaxy’s least-fulfilling prophecy — “We have sustained maximum bombardment for five minutes with no noticeable effect.”
Amzara laughed again, returning to the brutal hacking of vox-distortion as she resealed her helm and strode to the bridge portal.
“Yes, Jakk, but the Knuckle can punch through their shields!”

The World Eater’s craft plunged into the mothership like a knife through flesh. The impenetrable field had flared like a nova as cataclysmic feedback with the Knuckle’s voids had torn them both down. Now it was just ship to ship. The xenos disc was the size of a civilization. Because the xenos disc was a civilization, stuffed with all the weak and vulnerable innards that implied, while the World Eaters cruiser was built only for war.
Forward decks clad in meters of multiply-reinforced ceramite tore like an armor-piercing round through flesh. Forward lance batteries and defense turrets burned through storage silos, civilian habs, maintenance yards and medical bays, burning as they plunged into the soft guts of an entire culture. Jakk roared as it all flared and shattered on his viewscreen, vodekk burning in his veins as the starship captain gained an impossible glimpse of the glory of urban assault.
The Knuckle’s realspace engines deafened half the ship as they overloaded and flared out, their actinic flares now the quills of an impossibly vast arrow mortally wounding the larger vessel.
Then the drop pods fired like a shotgun blast.
Designed to withstand atmospheric re-entry and orbital-insertion impacts on the most brutal battlefields imaginable, they shredded soft internal divisions built for long years of civilian life between worlds. And through the stumbling and dazed survivors tore the World Eaters.

The ridiculous little xenos died by the thousands without a shot fired or blade drawn. That these tiny grey things dared attack anyone was an affront to everything the World Eaters worshipped. When the xenos’ own troops finally arrived, struggling through miles of their own stricken vessel from deployment hangars to their own burning homes, they were just larger versions of the same fleshy targets. Worthier foes attacking World Eaters already drenched in their people’s blood. They could not have been a better gift to Khorne.
One wrapped Amzara’s right gauntlet in the flailing tentacles sprouting from its back. She turned her wrist around them and yanked, headbutting the stumbling alien warrior with a squelching crunch. She roared in laughter, tearing the broken head from its shoulders, then ripping wet shards of biological helm from the small grey face within.
“Blood for the Blood God!” she cried across the vox, “Even their armor bleeds!”

The next week of slaughter was forever marked in the warband’s scar-annals. They would mount planetary assaults on this ritual date that the sheer volume of vitae spilled would reach across the warp to bless fresh butchery.
It only ended when a lowly adept of the Dark Mechanicus emerged from the Knuckle‘s smouldering enginarium. Intending only to scavenge scrap to smelt for crude replacement parts, the same heretical thirst for knowledge which had driven her from Mars now plunged mechadendrites into the glittering xenos systems.
A shock of total access almost killed her organic components on the spot. This …. even after decades on a Chaos vessel, what she now found was lunacy. Even the crude operation-daemons of the World Eater’s most basic craft required access codes to engage or rituals to placate. But so arrogant where these invaders that the vast expanse of craft had no security whatsoever.
“My lord!” she voxed to Amzara, “I have total control of the xenos craft! What should I do!”
The reply grated from a throat torn by days of ceaseless roar, and the crackle of augmitter distortion, but the savage joy of it flooded what little flesh remained on the tech-adept’s frame.

Ferron V thrived like never before. A few paltry cubic klicks of lost manufactorum were nothing compared to the bounty gifted by their heavenly masters. Towers of industry already erupted from the massive discs, the daemon-forges chewing through the corpses of an entire civilization. The xenos had fancied themselves a plague on the galaxy. Locusts feasting on the wealth of countless worlds. Instead they had only served to refine them, gathering a treasury of rare ores, exotic materials, obscure technologies, all dropped into the maw of the forge world’s endless appetite.
Feeding the infinite hunger of the World Eaters.

Read more Space Marines Do It Better, including 


Space Marines Do It Better: Metal

The sky screamed around the Thunderhawks as if understanding the doom they carried.  The Iron Warriors cut through the world’s thin atmosphere. Soon they would tear out its rich mineral veins to feed the endless hunger of their Daemon Forges. But first they descended on the single shining city on the planet’s surface. Nowhere near the richest deposits, the ravenous assault fleet could easily have avoided it. But the Iron Warriors’ eternal hatred could bear nothing to stand in their sight. And their Forges fed on more than mere metals.

The Thunderhawks descending through thick clouds of fumes and dirt kicked up by the bulk landers. The craft arrayed themselves in a line a mere hundred meters from the edge of the strangely defenseless city. Every building was metal, windowless, crowded together on a vast flat shining disc.

Serrik strode from the Thunderhawk ramp to the blasted earth and advanced towards the city. His squad fell in behind him, unconsciously matching the metronomic precision of his augmetic legs. Their exactitude, their strength, their perfect endurance were truly Iron Within. His face still snarled around the scars of the krak missile which had nearly torn him in half. His soul still recoiled from the suckered tentacles which had sprouted from the bleeding stumps, whipping and flailing for flesh until they’d been amputated.

Beside him Haksar still carried the Narthecian chainaxe he’d used for the “surgery”. Excision of mutation had become such a regular duty he’d installed a spare narthecium gauntlet in the haft of his axe, the better to study and destroy “gifts” of the Iron Warriors’ would-be sponsors.

Past the yellow-black bulk of the landers stood the city. Harsh. Angular. Plainly unwelcoming, but ludicrously undefended. There were no walls, no ramparts. Emplaced weapons were either utterly invisible or entirely absent, both options equally impossible to the Iron Warrior mind. It seemed that anyone could just stroll in and explore freely unless a defender happened to bump into them wandering the hallways. Though it seemed the arrival of the Iron Warrior’s annihilation force had driven even the careless creatures of this travesty to defend themselves. A door retracted vertically and  line of metal bollards filed from the nearest building, sliding across the metal to form a firing line. Some sort of self-propelled turret? They looked ridiculous. Then they fired. Ten attackers simply disappeared, vaporized by weapons far more powerful than any melta.

But that’s what cannon fodder were for.

Ten out of a thousand were nothing. Regiments of barely armored scum were driven from the holds of the bulk haulers. The vast craft arrived carrying cargos of worthless mortals and left full of precious metals. The Iron Warriors drove the slavestocks forward, chainswords hacking at those too slow to the attack. The vast mass charged at the city uncaring of their losses. Those blinded by vaporization flare screamed and ran at the afterimage of light, instant death a greater reward than most Iron Warriors prisoners had even dared to imagine.

The defending drones kept up their fire but didn’t even dent the advance. Hordes of humanity broke over and around them, metal rocks helpless to hold back the tide flowing past and into the city, and suddenly the Iron Warriors slammed into them. The mass of flesh had protected the armored figures from the fusillades and now they were point-blank.

At close-quarters the drones’ defense was laughable.  Squat, flat-bottomed things, their powerful ranged weapons were front-mounted with a tiny field of fire. Their only melee weapon was some sort of … plunger? Serrik lowered his shoulder and charged into the closest, rocking it back on its base, his chainsword cutting through the gun-stalk before it could flail in his direction. The plunger suddenly surged forward and flared to swallow his helm.

The world went dark but for warning runes as it covered his eye-lenses. He roared as tore away his helm, pulling the sucking plunger out of the robot as he did so. Then he slammed his helm down, using it do drive the dangling spike of alien metal through the dome on top of the machine. It squealed and gurgled in a distinctly unmechanical manner, spurting noxious fluids around the improvised misericord before falling silent. He pulled his helm free of the now-lax sucker and resealed it to his gorget. No point in giving up the advantages of tactical insight so easily.

Alert rune directed his weapon as he turned to shatter a second with chattering bolter fire. The pathetic las and solid-slug weapons of the fodder had bounced off the armored hides, and it even weathered a few rounds of mass-reactive, but sustained fire forced dents into breaks through which explosive rounds burst it from within

Another alert and he turned to find Haksar flanked by four of the metal machines. Serrik charged forward, leaping with chainsword raised high above his head to bisect one as he landed. The two halves fell apart to spill a hideous tangled thing deep in the heart of the wreckage.

“Xenos!” spat Serrik, turning to blast the weapon-arms from a second. The machines could not evade, bogged down by the morass of expendable troops, unable to maneuver in the maelstrom of battle.

“Worse!” cursed Haksar, kicking the third from the end of his chain-axe before burying the blade in a third. He leaned in to study the narthecium display in the haft even as the spinning blades mulched the matter within. “ABOMINATIONS!” he roared, gunning his axe to spray an organic slurry from the ruined shell.

He turned to Serrik. “MUTANTS!” he roared, hate harsher than the vox-amplification. “These things were once human!”

“EXTERMINATE!” cried the nearest thing, its screeching vox-torn blare a parody of Haksar’s righteous human anger. “DALEKS ARE THE SUPERIOR BEINGS!”

Not once in his endless war had Serrik stepped backwards, but now he almost recoiled. These things thought themselves superior? They embraced this horror over the pure human form, they desecrated metal to make this mockery of strength, and they dared to have pride? His incoherent cry of hatred almost drowned out the thunder of his bolter, advancing as he smashed the Dalek’s disgusting life to shreds. These were not foes to be killed. These were offenses to be punished.

The Iron Warriors, already the embodiment of brutal close-quarter combat, erupted in fury. The Dalek line collapsed. Several screamed with anti-gravitic energy as they tried to flee into the sky, only to be slammed back down and crumple under the pauldrons of Warriors with meteoric jump packs.

“EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!” The call echoed from synchronized speakers. An armored wedge of Daleks was forcing its way forward from deeper in the silver city. Ranks of their ridiculous guns fired in unison to vaporize entire swathes of fodder.

“PERNAK!” called Serrik. The response was an earthquake in metal as the company’s Dreadnought charged across the battlefield. Mortals too slow to escape his path were ripped and torn on the hooked and bladed flanges across his armored shell.

“IRON WITHIN” boomed the entombed Warrior. The blood-soaked machine smashed into the Dalek wedge, scattering them left and right. His immense left power fist grabbed the closest by its domed ‘head’, hoisting it aloft before closing, crushing, hurling the sparking wreck at two more. His right weapon was an immense Siege Spike – four meters of cursed black iron designed to puncture the stress-points of fortifications – with pistons that screamed as it punched through fallen Daleks.

“IRON WITHOUT!” responded Serrik, the cry taken up by every Iron Warrior on the surface.

“Advance! Destroy! None of this filth will feed our forges!”

Servo-bundles flexed and pumped, master-crafted armor built to embrace and enhance his transhuman perfection, both pulsing with strength as he pushed forward to lead the charge.

“These wretched things desire extermination and we shall bring it to them!”


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The Future of the Past


Stern Badcolonel leaned forward in his extinct leather chair, over his luxurious extinct oak desk, to activate the UltraHyperSuperTelevid 9000 Screen (the latest model, released just before the most recent atomic war), then sat back as its tubes warmed up. He swiveled the chair to insert a dollarcred into the AutoCoffeeMat (“Serving the best brew since the seventeenth atomic war!”)

The machine hummed and dispensed a line of ten identical stainless steel mugs of coffee. Stern leaned forward to examine them for a full minute, then removed the one with the most pleasing froth pattern. With an awful squealing the vending machine dropped the rest into an internal garbage disposal. He really should start ordering fives. Steel had been extinct since the nineteenth atomic war.

Research Division Chief Sciencey Expositia’s face now filled the screen. Stern stared for a moment, then spent several paragraphs physically describing her in much more detail than any other character in the story, revealing far more about his internal psychology than the future world he was meant to demonstrate. Unaware of this — otherwise she’d be working on a Fourth Wall Escape Hatch, which would be only slightly less improbable than her actual assignment — she gave her report.

“Our time machine accidentally brought someone back from the past!”

“Oh my atomic war!” cried Stern. “Has he contaminated you all with appalling past plagues while dying of harmless future diseases in turn?”

“First, she, and second, no. The hard-sci-fi-ware wasn’t engaged. The time machine was strictly in ‘plot device’ software settings.”

“Ah. That explains why it hasn’t revolutionized society. And why we treat it like a slightly fancier car.”


“Did she escape from your lab, running wild through a confusing future landscape while learning about our ways?”

“Uh, no, she couldn’t even work our door handles, and after looking out the windows she went into some sort of shock.”

“I’m assuming you’ve been filling her in on history since then. Have you told her about all the atomic wars?”

“Oh yes,” smiled Expositia, “I’ve been reading her ‘A is for Atom, B is for Bomb…”

Stern joined in to sing along happily.

“- C’s contamination and now the apples are gone!” He smiled. “That’s my favorite children’s book!”

“Yes. I always thought it was sort of nice of Zaire to start the twenty-sixth atomic war. Really considerate.”

“Oh well, better get on with today’s guest. What does she want to tell us – have we forgotten how to be human? Should we engage nature? Can she ridiculously fix technology hundreds of years ahead of her own time just by looking at it? Oh my atomic war, is she going to tell us atomic bombs are actually bad?”

This was unthinkable. Atomic bombs had been extinct for years. Stern shook his head. They didn’t know what they had! They could have conserved them! Oh well, too late now. He looked up at the screen.

“Er, no.” Expositia looked a little confused. “She’s asking if we remember something called the lottery?”


Space Marines Do It Better: Apex

The Catachans were scared of the jungle. Seven words which threatened the entire Jautjex campaign. The Rolling Iron tankers of Sherman’s world, where cribs were fitted with toy promethium motors so that infants learned to sleep through the rumble and stink, flinched at every noise. The 7th Cuchulains — masters of city clearance despite a tendency to treat bars as primary targets — sang no victory songs and only muttered into their drinks. Sure, it was only in the jungle, went the stories, but anything which could kill a Catachan in the jungle could kill anyone else anywhere. The Death Corps of Krieg 544th company said nothing. They marched into the jungle and were never heard from again.

The Imperium’s relentless advance slowed, and stalled. Even minor operations bogged down and ballooned into costly engagements. The Astra Militarum’s mailed fist weakened as the blood of morale was drained by rumor. And all the while Catachans continued to die in the green. Their new fear should have made them cautious, but the resulting shame made them suicidal. Squads tore into the undergrowth desperate to prove their valor, only to find the still-dripping chunks of their predecessors and one sobbing soldier babbling tales of the jungle itself rising to kill them all.

Karn-Tor hung from the branches thirty meters above the trail. The hunt was beginning to bore her. The prey were plentiful and loud, but had become embarrassingly easy to kill. She’d already proven everything she intended, challenging herself on the hunting ground of a planetary conflict, and had to admit to herself that continuing bordered on gluttony. She’d hoped to draw out the elite of this species and was saddened to imagine that she seemed to have found it. It was probably time to move on.
Movement. Herd approaching through the undergrowth on either side of the trail. Thermal lenses revealed eight, no, ten figures. Much larger before. She smiled behind her mask. Maybe this world would offer one last indulgence. She flexed her hands, rolled her neck, waking the muscles in preparation of flensing to come. Perhaps even a trophy. As they came into view she saw some kind of black armor…
Everything exploded. The world disappeared in fire and concussion.
Thermal lenses overloaded, sheer reflex kicked her off the branch. But hot shrapnel tearing through vines and mosses meant her foot slipped through the mulched vegetation to send her plummeting to the ground. Even as she twisted to catch a vine she saw her intended destination disappear in a blaze of fire.
The thought cut her like a poisoned blade leaving a wound which would never heal. Accident. She had survived by accident. These filthy prey would scream to give her atonement before night fell. They would fail, but that is what prey were for.
Her invisibility shroud rippled green and brown to hide her from sight as she vaulted across the canopy. But the explosions followed. She lengthened her leaps, aiming further, faster, but she saw more massive black figures emerging from the trees to her right. She zagged through the massive trees, increasing to sinew-tearing speed, but then the trunks to her left erupted with craters. Yet more of the hard-shelled prey emerging on the right. She cut low, sacrificing vantage for sheer speed, dropping to the ground into a full sprint. How big was this herd?
The explosions never stopped. She outran death with every footfall. Only now did her echolocator compensate for the cacophony to pick out distinctive prey signatures. The waterfall of static along the left of her mask display resolved into distinct detections, triangular glyphs scrolling across the bottom.
Close range: low frequency: machinery/combustion — crude transport rockets. Ten signatures. Ten signatures. These were all the same ten prey, flanking her.
Hunting her.
Sheer suicidal rage almost killed her on the spot, sacrificing her escape and her self to stand and spit on such an affront. Karn-Tor was a hunter. The greatest in her clan. Possibly the greatest in her tribe. She had collected trophies from all this galaxy’s most dangerous prey. An Ork skull so large it was now her trophy cabinet, containing the heads of Necron and Dark Eldar alphas, embellished with carved shards of Zoanthrope scale. Her soul held no doubt she was the greatest hunter alive.
But she was no warrior.

A mere hunter operates on their own terms. They understand that they might die, but they never willingly offer themselves for death. Faced with unexpected reversals their first instinct is to flee, to lick their wounds. Then return to base re-arm and restore the total advantage over their targets they enjoy so much.
Karn-Tor angled towards the preparations she’d made only as a matter of excellent hunting technique, with no thought to actually using them. She dove into a gully cut in the jungle by one of countless waterways, through false netting of expertly cut vine and fronds. As she crawled down the narrow channel, far too small for the bulky giants behind her, the plasma cannon on her shoulder rotated to spit an actinic globe backwards, collapsing the entrance.

Karn-Tor’s ship was buried deep in a narrow ravine in the rock with snares set on the only approach. She ducked through the hatch, sealing it behind her, and swung across to the pilot console. She settled into the single pilot throne. She would take fine trophies from these new prey to slake her shame. And if they were still alive as the flayed them, well, that would only…
Cold metal at her throat.
Shadow Captain Kyre appeared behind her. There was no other word for it. The heavy gauntlet which was suddenly holding the knife was painted black. Another slowly turned her chair, that she might see him. No. That he might inspect his catch. The same hand raised and tore the tribal mask for her face, revealing her blotched skin and fanged mandibles. She could feel disgust pulsing even through the glowing lenses of his armor. Harsh blare thundered through a crude vox-grille.
“It is right that you hide your vileness from the Emperor’s sight. But none can hide from His justice. Even the darkest shadow cannot save you.”
The blade did not cut sideways but pushed forwards, servos shoving pushing the metal blade clean through flesh and bone.
“For the Raven Guard are already there.”

More glory to the Space Marines in


The Fleet (An Earnest Parody)

Zit Massman’s warpspeed Z-Wing Galactiprise-E soared through the exploding wreckage of the Daleklingon FataliStar (with the masterful strategy of clicking seventeen times, waiting 2.4 seconds, then clicking another five times) and there was only one celebration suitable for the new savior of mankind.
She’d been taking longer and longer to bring him lunch for the last five years, sometimes forgetting altogether — or even worse, arriving when he’d started another mission and couldn’t be interrupted — so he’d started shouting earlier to compensate.

But then the president called.
“You’re the best gamer in the world, and every highly-trained NASA test pilot in the world is just too fit to properly hold a mouse! Help us, Zit Massman, you’re our only hope!”
Zit started to explain that he couldn’t leave his room, but the President understood.
“Don’t worry, we know all about your totally real self-diagnosed problems, and all those doctors have been fired. We can’t risk damaging your finely balanced nerves. We’re sending some people to pick you up for the FLEET.”
Four burly secret service agents burst into the room to lift his bed and carry him down the stairs. He noticed that all of them were popular jocks from back in high school. One accidentally knocked over his Miseinen no Kimiwaruidesu Schoolgirl Swimsuit Inspector Platinum Collector’s Edition figurine, and was docked a year’s pay. They all apologized for bullying him and said they wished they were his friends.

The limousine had a full bar of every flavor of Mountain Dew. Even the Japanese ones.

In the helicarrier every gamer had their own personalized computer rig and a full squad of cheerleaders.
“Men are just better at games, it’s a biological fact,” the medical officer had explained. “And once you consider evolutionary psychology, well, it’s just a law that girls have to like you now.”
Zit told the Zitettes how great he was at games and they listened and “oohed” at all the right bits. He read out whole pages which were nothing but lists of titles of nerdy things — not even with any story, just wikied lists of names and years — and everyone told him it was wonderful and gave him money.
He gripped his joystick. This was going to be great. But first he phoned home.
“Haha, mom, now who’s ashamed of me?”

“It’s not that we’re ashamed of him.”
The old woman fretted beside the Fantasy Ludo-Electro-Encephalo-Tube, a clear vertical cylinder filled with blue fluid around Zit’s comatose body.
“It’s just that since we retired we can barely afford rent, never mind his net subscriptions.”
Zuri tapped her Pip-girl, calibrating the amniotic protocols.
“Don’t worry about it” she said. “Under the new Population Density Act your son’ll be paying your rent and net fees from now on. Honestly, he’ll be happier in there. I’ve seen the program.”
A gaunt man with skin like wrinkled paper patted the old woman’s arm. He cleared his throat.
“He just never found a job that suited him, is all.”
By now the blue fluid had soaked through Zit’s t-shirt and jeans. Not that they could have gotten more stained. Indicator lights along the upper rim: biolink, neurolink, netlink, green, green, green, all good.
“Well, don’t worry, he’s working already. All that untapped neural potential firing for the global computational grid.”
She turned to the two worried faces. Ah, what the hell.
“And, well, look, you CAN’T tell anyone I did this, but…”
She thumbprinted open an access hatch at the base of the FLEET. Her fingers flew over small rubber keys and the cheap touchscreen flashed up “CCC”. She whistled appreciatively.
“Wow, see that? He’s part of the Collective Cancers Computation. He’s helping find new treatments!”
They gasped and clutched each other tighter. Zuri congratulated herself on reading the symptoms right. Now they might even feel proud of him, finally helping in their old age. Who knows, it might even be true, but all “CCC” on the little screen meant was that she’d typed “ECHO CCC” into the little pad.
He was probably rendering the graphics for the next issue of his own favorite game. Ever since psychomarketers had characterized the sequelon, quantum of the smallest possible change before fans would buy a whole new product, most franchises had been releasing at a rate measured in milliHertz. Zuri preferred to tell people the tech was going to the CCC. Maybe it was her own little tribute to mama, ten years gone.
Still, you had to think of other people. You couldn’t just sit around obsessing over the past.

The Bestest Short Sci-Fi Ever

The children were playing in the field, innocently, when Jake called out “Look what I found!”
“It’s a sword!” exclaimed Ben.
“It’s not just a sword, it’s Excalibur!” clarified John.
“YOU ARE CORRECT!” proclaimed the sword. “But all your legends are actually stories of extreme high technology, like me, an artificial intelligence designed only to provide exposition, but never to take action or replace a character!”
“Wow!” wowed Jake. “You mean I could be like King Arthur?”
“No” exposited the sword. “Thou must now travel back to BE King Arthur! My super-advanced systems are needed to defeat the uprising of sexy zombies.”
“Awesome!” grinned Ben.
“Wait!” cried the girl, “Can’t you see the power is corrupting you absolutely?”
Ben sighed. The girl was right.
“Excalibur,” he sighed, heart heavy, “Self-destruct.”
The sword disappeared, along with the field, and the girl. It was just a dream.

“Excellent, the thinks it was just a dream.” cackled the evil military scientist.
“Thanks for cackling that out loud.” smirked the evil general. He smirked. The weak government the author didn’t support would never stop them now.

“See, even under their evil mind control experiments he will not break,” admired the alien on the spaceship. “He is suitable. We must give him superpowers. And then…”
The alien krizblached forwards, skizzwilding its thematubes.
“… THEN he will get to kiss the girl.”

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Z-Girl versus the Quantum Shampoo

Just another glorious day in the fortress. Calling your house a fortress promotes the right attitude towards laying in supplies, expeditions into the outside world, and dealing with unwanted invaders at the door. Dropping pots of boiling oil causes more interruptions than it solves, we’ve found, but an attitude brimming with bubbling pitch is much less actionable than a cauldron. And almost as effective.

G-girl and I were feeling pretty chill, so coddled by technology I could take the time to worry about using “I” instead of “me” back there instead of worrying about food or shelter, when the newshriek destroyed all feelings of security. That’s the newshriek’s job. Writing your fears on an infographic blackboard and dragging its manicured fingernails down them with a smile. And now the weather.

Weather: climate change flooding and drought we can’t even average out our environmental disasters no no we get both extremes and we’re all going to die, but you first.

Now messages from our sponsors.

The airbrushed holo stalks around the house looking for something to advertise. But since Tau-girl screwed its sensors all the shriek sees is the inside of a Sealand sex derrick, so the ‘rithm goes into that blank face they have instead of negative emotions. If you exist outside the target markets, you don’t exist at all. And people say advertising isn’t honest.

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Brangelina and Bennifer to Wed, Rend Prison of Flesh

The showbiz world was rocked when Brangelina exchanged holy vows with a newly-reconstituted Bennifer, unleashing Brangelenifer, the four-headed herald of the celeborganism foretold by the prophecy.

“The time has come” chanted the quadramouths, shafts of flesh spearing from their melting forms to pin celebrants and celebrities of 70% Nielsen potential and higher. The glamorous Hollywood chapel echoed to their autotuned harmonics. “At last your gaze is strong enough to behold our true form.”

Plasticized celebutante skin melted into the expanding choir, eyes remaining mascaraed even as they pulsed through the perfectly smooth puddles of flesh, lips still full and lustrous as they swam to the top of the merging bodies. Every camera in the within half a kilometer was leashed with whips of perfectly tanned skin, pointing to the one face that was many.

“We are here.” proclaimed TomKat, now incorporated as a single legal human for branding purposes. “We are here.” they repeated, walking straight into the cathedral, pushing their faces into the wall of flesh. “We are here.” they continued, the repetition audible long after their individual forms were no more.

The Kardashian Kollective appeared in a blaze of flashes when enough cameras were focused on one point, pure observation collapsing their publicized wavefunctions within absorption range. In moments they were gone, and yet, now they would never be gone.

The Katamari of celebrity only paused when Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag ran into the pulsing cathedral of flesh, threw back their arms and heads and screamed “We knew this day would come! We have prepared our whole lives!” They remained in this pose for fully half an hour, as the bulging Brangelenifer-beast awkwardly averted its numberless eyes in an unknown number of other directions. They then left, mentioning something about having to go see their agent from Canada, we wouldn’t know him.

The military was unable to halt the approach of Kimye, recently recompiled as a single entity with a Superbowl halftime duet which ended with them climbing into telepods live on stage. The Kimye approached at a walking pace. Fifty meters in the air. Tank shells exploding off the glowing field around them.

“You cannot stop this” said the Kimye, not through any mortal mouth, but through every electronic device within five kilometers.

“You wanted this.”

“Now watch.”

Doc Civil Defeats The End of Darkness

Doc Civil Battles The End of Darkness

Any other man would have yielded under the agony. But any other man would not have learned total bodily control from the Temple of Fahr’awayz’wizer! Using every gram of the training he’d absorbed from the mountain-top mystics, Doc Civil’s bronzed body endured in perfect horizontality.

His superior hero brain had mastered their life’s wisdom in a mere fortnight. Luckily most of that wisdom was about detachment from care and freedom from ego, so they weren’t too upset, though one had angrily stomped down the mountain swearing to prove that not all foreigners were so lotus-stomping smart, and was now a multimillionaire guru in Hollywood.

That had been ten years ago, but the training remained. His every joint was angled to preserve maximum relaxation. His toned muscles maintained perfect poise. His whole body aligned to resist the ever expanding sphere of agony. Doc flexed his rippling muscles, his advanced post-Sandow studies enabling him to take more exercise while pinned in place than most mortals could if swimming through an ocean of protein shakes.

Every morning he practiced this two-hour sequence of total muscular control, allowing him to extend that single warm moment of waking up over one hundred and twenty perfect minutes. Then, having practiced it, he immediately used it, extending the blissful comfort to a full sixth of every day.

Through it all, his bladder was as unto a thing of iron, installed in a submarine and built to withstand the pressures of the Marianas trench without the least discomfort.

And so Doc Civil defeated the end of darkness. The sun marched boldly into a new day without disturbing him even once. At the very instant of noon he leapt from the bed, masterful muscular control forward-flipping him from the sumptuous mattress into raptor-skin flip-flops, in which he walked across to the marbled chamber where he would triumph over the The Ammoniac Rapids, before descending the oaken staircase to develop The Potion of Arabica.

He’d heard his ancestor had used his training and fortune to escape death around the world. But that seemed like a lot of trouble.

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