Chapter 26: Everything Is Lies, Part Three

Here’s a quick one for you:

A woman is giving birth. She gives this huge push and the baby pops out, all gooey and covered in placenta. The doctor picks up the baby and slaps its ass to start it crying, but it stays quiet. The doctor lets out this crazy scream, and starts punching the baby in the face, and then picking it up and smashing it against the wall, and then just throwing it on the ground and stomping on it. The mother is screaming and screaming, but in her condition, she can’t really do anything.

The doctor lets out this great last war-cry, and then hurls the bloody lump of baby through the window, sending it tumbling four stories to the ground below. He laughs, calming down, and turns to the mother.

“Just kidding, miss; it was dead when it came out.”

The moral is this: Things are never as bad as they seem.

Usually, they’re worse.

The Gamma Bomb was a brilliant idea. Conceived by General Thaddeus Ross, brought into reality by Doctor Robert Bruce Banner, the concept itself was flawless. Using gamma rays, the bomb would, in theory, snap the underlying fabric of the universe on an infinitely microscopic scale. Then, in theory, there would be an enormous burst of radiation, incinerating everything in a perfectly contained one-hundred-mile radius, leaving no radiation, no buildings, no life.

The fusion, the beautiful, emerald-green fusion of the gamma bomb was the starting point for the creature people call the Incredible Hulk, born inside of Dr. Banner on the fringes of the first and only Gamma Bomb test.

That light, that shining, perfectly clear light, was meant to be the next evolution in tactical weaponry. It was meant to end the Cold War, and establish the U.S. as the ultimate world power.

It was meant to eviscerate all who would stand in its way.

The only problem was: it didn’t work.

(we can’t stop it the reaction is already starting)

Except it did work. I know that now.

(my god its beautiful the light)

This conspiracy that I’ve been following, it’s much bigger than I ever could have thought. It’s not just national, not just international; this anti-crater alone means whatever kind of scum-fuckery my father, Arcade and FPS are into has big, no, global implications.

Maybe even bigger than that.

Everything is lies. How deep does it go?

Dragonfly swings the katana at me wildly, and I back-step.

“You have to listen to me —” I shout at her, and she just keeps coming, waving the thing like a cheerleader baton.

“You must die! Your hair will be torn out of your skull, your eyes sucked from their sockets, your tongue ripped out of your mouth!”

(what’s that sound sounds like a vacuum)

This is bad. Miss Peelo must be getting too far away; her auditory block is wearing off.

“Dragonfly, you can kill me later; we need to get out of — Jesus!” The sword nearly takes off my head, and dodging it throws me off-balance on my bad leg, causing me to drop face-down into the sand. The sword is raised high, catching the light of the desert sun. I roll out of the way, and she buries the blade in the sand.

(turn off particle accelerators five and eight, it’s going into overload)

“Bastard!” she screams, and I slam my knife into the side of her right knee; I hear a crunching sound as it breaks through the cartilage. She screams, and I try to yank my knife out, but I can’t; it’s stuck. She screeches and karate-kicks me in the side of the head so hard it flips me over. One of my dozens of concussions acts up, and I’m suddenly woozy, dizzy, under- and overbalanced as I scamper blindly away from her.

She limps along after me, swiping the katana at me like a kid playing at sword-fighting.

“Kill you! The green light!”

(wait something’s wrong)

“Get away from me!” I scream at her, my crawling hands finding a big plank of wreckage sticking out of the sand.

(test is scheduled for today with all project heads in attendance)

She swings the katana at me, and I knock it out of her hands with the plank of wood, then swing it back around and smash her over the head with it. The voices of people long dead are starting to take their effect on me; that constant mumbled undercurrent is disorienting me, throwing me off rational thoughts.

(higgins you look in the pink how’s the wife)

Dragonfly fell back, but now she just shrieks like a banshee and dives at me, drawing out a wakizashi short sword. She slices me right across the shoulder blades, cutting through my shirt and skin like butter, and I feel hot blood start to rush down my lower back. I scream and spasm, but this actually throws me forward, landing my hand on a nice, weighty rock.

I roll and throw it as hard as I can, and miss.


I’d like to blame it on the voices,

(all power online)

but truth is, I’ve just never been very good at throwing stuff.

Dragonfly doesn’t even seem to notice, as she slashes the wakizashi at me like a madwoman. This forces me into a kind of crazy backwards-crawl-run-stumble that has to be seen to be believed, and, lucky me, I look desperate enough that she doesn’t even notice me slip on the brass knuckles.

When you catch someone just right on the side of the head with knucks, there’s this wonderful “whomp” sound, like throwing a soccer ball against a brick wall.

I don’t get this sound when I catch Dragonfly with a killer right-hook just above her right-temple; instead I get this meaty “crashk” noise, like someone hitting a frozen steak with a meat cleaver.

And suddenly my arm jerks away from her; she goes down, but so do I.

“EEEEEEEEEYAAAAAHHHHHHH!” I scream, the world a red torrent of pain.

Lesson learned: if you’re going to punch someone with brass knuckles, punch them with the hand THAT DOESN’T HAVE FOUR FUCKING BROKEN FINGERS.

I fall onto my knees, screaming so hard I don’t actually make any real noise, just this tiny squeaking sound. Dragonfly hits the sand, clutching her head, while I just hold my hand out in front of me like it’s on fire, staring at it, screaming. I shoved the knuckles on so quick I didn’t even notice; that’s what adrenaline will do to you.

(starting reduction coil five shift the particle accelerator into phase three)

“Feeeeyyyyyuuuuuck!” I shout at the world empty desert, and throw myself back to my feet, staggering towards Dragonfly as she starts to get up, blood gushing down my back and into my ass-crack. I yank my knife out of her knee, and stab it into her back, right below and to the left of her neck. She screams and rolls, and something wisps past my cheek, leaving a thin, stinging line from my jaw to my chin.

Blood splashes out onto the sand, and I see the gleaming tanto dagger-sword in Dragonfly’s left hand.

“Dah!” I yelp, and grip the new slice in the side of my face, turning away, but then let out a scream and slam the knife up into her armpit. Her arm spasms and she drops the tanto, and I fall on my butt, pulling the knife out of her.

(higgins start reactor one)

She rolls in pain, murmuring, “The voices, the voices …”

I limp over to her and yank out the knife, wipe it off on her hair, fold it, and stick it back in my pocket. My whole right hand is throbbing so hard it feels like its going to jump off my wrist, but the pain doesn’t stop me from kicking her as hard as I can in the side of the head.

The murmuring stops.

She’s a lot lighter than she looked; I would’ve thought all that muscle would weight her down. Dragging her out of the anti-crater, this nightmare of science, one of those big emerald-green lizards starts following us.

Eventually, it gets bolder, and starts pulling at Dragonfly’s shoe. I kick it with my good leg, and it hisses at me and charges.

Okay, this is bad; in my current condition, I’m not sure if I can fend this thing off.

It swipes at me with its tail, and I barely manage to lean out of the way; I hear the WHOOSH sound as it passes me, and the last of my doubts about this anti-crater are erased.

The lizard, I said it was emerald green.


It’s Hulk green.

The lizard roars at me and pounces, but mid-air it’s intercepted by a flash of snarling brown fur.

Marty looks like an animal; not just a mutant, but an actual animal, snarling, frothing at the mouth; he must’ve run all the way back up here.

He bites off part of the lizard’s head, and then snaps its neck, all in one quick motion, and then lies there panting like a dog while the lizard twitches beneath him.

He spits out a piece of the lizard’s rough skin, and smiles at me. “Sorry I couldn’t be here sooner, man. That rock wall is a bitch on broken hips.” He glances at Dragonfly. “Looks like you didn’t need me all that much.

“Yeah, well, looks can be deceiving, Marty. I’m bleeding like a stuck pig out the cut in my back. We need a hospital.”

Marty helps me make my way down the rocks, while we drag the Dragonfly behind us like a roll-away suitcase. We stuff her in the trunk, and then head for civilization. Miss Peelo drives, still holding a huge, bloodstained-brown wad of tissue paper to the wound on her face.

The voices fade as we get farther away, and I start my Gamma-Bomb rant. When I finish, Miss Peelo is the first to speak.

“I don’t understand, dearie,” she says as we turn back onto the highway. “How can you be so sure it was a gamma bomb?”

“Well, normally I wouldn’t be. But when you look at it in context, it’s pretty much certain; this is a spatial collapse scenario, as described in Banner’s paper on side-effects of a gamma explosion. I’m guessing these guys were trying for something completely different; it could’ve been anything from an atom bomb gone woky to an experiment in temporal distortion.”

“What? Time travel? We’re dealing with time travel?” Excited and squatting on the front passenger seat, Marty looks more like a monkey than ever.

“No, Marty; we’re not. But I’m saying the guys who set off the implosion, that might’ve been what they were going for. We’ll probably never know; regardless, whatever it was imploded so hard it caused a shower of gamma rays to cut through the fabric of reality, creating that rip we saw.”

“And?” Miss Peelo says, clearly a little impatient with all of this after having her face torn open.

“And it went from blow …” Marty makes a rather convoluted motion with his hands. “To suck.”

I nod to him, feeling a fresh flood of blood seep out onto the fabric of the car seat. “That’s right. Everything around it, for miles and miles, got sucked right the fuck in.”

There’s a long pause.

“And then?” Marty says, turning down the radio.

“And then they tried to shut it down. Too late; the whole town got sucked in, the testing base included. Everybody, and I do mean everybody, died; got yanked into the Darkforce Dimension.”

“The what?” Marty and Peelo say in unison.

“I don’t know,” I say, rubbing the bleeding wound on my cheek. “I don’t know yet. It’s still vibrating in my head, you know? Something Eddie said before he died. I think it’s what’s inside the Spots; a sort of … between place.”

“So … it’s like a location?” Marty says, rubbing his sweating brow.

“No, I don’t … I don’t know yet. I think it’s like the ocean; like a place, but also a thing; the ocean is made of water, the Darkforce Dimension is made of … Darkforce Dimension.” I sigh. “Our problem isn’t whoever orchestrated the test. Our problem, or problems, are the people who came to clean it up. The people who rebuilt a fake town three miles north just so planes flying over wouldn’t get suspicious.”

“The people …” Marty snarls. “Who got in my head.”

When Marty growls like that, it’s not Monkey-Funny. It’s a little Monkey-Scary.

“We’re jumping to an awful lot of conclusions here, aren’t we?” Miss Peelo says, muttering a curse under her breath as she presses on her wound.

“Hey, Peelo,” I say, smiling despite the pain from my wound. “At this point, jumping to conclusions is all we have.”

There’s a silence, and we hear Dragonfly curse in Japanese from the trunk; she’s waking up. There’s another pause, and then we hear her voice.

“Schultz? Is that you out there?”

“With some friends, yeah.”

“Where am I?”

“In the trunk of a car.”

“You have defeated me in combat, yes?”


“I fear I was undergoing some … difficulties.”

“Yeah, I noticed.”

“Did you retrieve my swords?”

“Sorry, Slick,” I say, patting the unsheathed katana sitting on the seat next to me. “Only got the big one. I was gonna keep it as a souvenir.”

“I need it … I’m going to need it back, Mr. Schultz.”

Her muffled voice from the trunk sounds ridiculous; Peelo and Marty and I are barely holding back laughter.

“Yeah, well … we’ll see about that, won’t we?”

While the ER Nurse is stitching my back up in Albuquerque, my phone buzzes; I’ve got one new message.

Her voice is like cool raindrops on my sun-burnt face.

“Hey, Herman, it’s me … I just, I want to let you know I’m waiting for you in the Tube when you get back; your security system just let me walk right in, I hope it was supposed to do that.”

Actually Felicia, yes, it was. My heart is skipping beats left and right.

“I’m just here because, well … Jesus … Herman, I know this is probably the last thing you want to hear right now, but we’ve got problems. Someone is buying up every meta-mercenary in the city; everyone. The contract is, surprise surprise, on you; Octavius came and told me. He says that the hire has approached Adrian, Max, Wilbur, Flint and Mark, but they all refused. A shit-load of bad, bad guys have signed on, though, and it’s getting pretty scary out there; I even heard someone rented out the Crimson Dynamo armor. Everyone’s looking for me; they know that they … Well, they know that you’ll come for me.”

The way she says that touches me oddly, and I smile inside.

“Be on your guard when you get back to New York, Herman. Things are going to get messy.”

It’s okay, Felicia. With you, I think I might like it messy.

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