For a split second, my body refused to listen to any command I was giving it. I was just someone who wanted to be a mechanic. Peacefully adventure from system to system. Find someone who shared my interests and fall in love. I didn’t want to rush to my death early. But these random strangers who barely knew me were willing to risk their own lives in pursuit of a morality I had never faced before. I had to help.
My feet moved on their own accord, leaping multiple steps at a time. With coordination I’d never experienced, I scooped up a larger rifle from a corpse near the nose. The first set of guards I passed didn’t even register I was there, mouths agape at the battle above them. Letting them stare, I rushed into the main entrance.
Bedlam lay before me. There was a makeshift infirmary set up here, protecting the injured from the fighting upstairs. Dozens of men screamed in agony, limbs entirely gone. Most of what remained of the men’s bodies was black, burnt to a complete crisp. Medical staff was boiling large vats of what smelled like alcohol, using it to sterilize instruments before emergent procedures.
I kicked the first vat I came to onto the ground, boiling alcohol spraying everywhere as it bounced off the ground. The staff helping turned to me, reaching for guns on their waists as they realized that I wasn’t one of them. Quickly realizing that I didn’t know how to use the rifle, I knew rushing in was a mistake. With no other options, I threw the gun to the ground and grabbed a torch used to cauterize the worst of the wounds. It had a little button on it, and I pushed it rapidly, trying to cause sparks. Once it caught, it lobbed it onto the hot, steaming alcohol.
The room burst into flames. Fire danced up onto the beds, consuming the bodies of anyone it touched. The people aiming guns at me seemed to explode, their flesh turning black within seconds as they fell to the floor writhing in pain. Flames lunged at me, and as I jumped forward, some tried to feast on my shoes.
Kicking off the burning shoes I ran past the makeshift infirmary. Ahead lay the staircase up to the second floor. It curved away from me, making it impossible to see what was waiting for me at the top. Faint blue lights on the upper wall danced in time to loud explosions up above. As I reached the staircase, I turned back to see most of the infirmary on fire, blocking the entrance. Stopping for that brief second let my body reassess itself, and discovered my lungs were raw from exertion.
Realizing what I had just done, weakness and dizziness crept in, weighing my body down. Climbing that flight was stairs was near impossible, but I forced each foot ahead. I needed to fight for my own life, not to mention Kleinit and Mr. Banana. I reached the top of the stairs to see another twenty men in combat with my former captives. They worked as a team, half of them hiding behind pillars in the hallway to reload while the others fired covering rounds.
I caught a glimpse of Kleinit and Mr. Banana through a splintered door at the end of the hallway. Kleinit’s face was contorted in pain, and Mr. Banana wore a manic grin while he emptied his clips into the hallway. But the two were up against too many at this point. Every time they pulled back to reload, the guards would move forward a few feet. The closest ones were now inches from the door. I pulled out the grenade. It was time to shine.
As the grenade flew from my hand, the guard farthest behind the others noticed I was there. The world slowed as I saw him try to warn the others, leaping as far away as he could. Unfortunately, his jump brought him right into line with Mr. Banana’s sightline. His shoulder and head erupted with a spray of red and he was dead before he hit the floor. Then my world was thrown upside down.
A wall of sound hit me, knocking my feet from beneath me. As they flew above me, I noticed a pillar fall onto four or so men. My arm hit the bannister on the stairs, changing to a grotesque angle with a silent thud. I landed, and felt the world continue to invert. Even when I felt the stairs stop moving beneath me, my head continued to swim in every direction. Laying still felt like a lie, but I couldn’t make sense of how to move myself any more, so I laid on the cold polished stone floor, hoping I had helped.
“Gods he’s got muscle on him.”
“Well obviously not in the arms, did you see how terribly he threw that grenade?”
“C’mon Mr. Banana, it was his first time. Cut him some slack.”
“Maybe if he wasn’t a moron, I wouldn’t have to.”
“At least he’s still alive.”
“Yeah but this arm looks like it’s hanging on by skin flaps. Can you take it easy Kleinit? It’s not easy to bind an injury this bad when you’re bouncing him around like a sack of potatoes.”
“Hard to do when I’m shooting and running.”
“Yeah yeah, doing your best and all that. Still not good enough. Like his throw.”
I realized my eyes were still open, and that I was staring at the floor. A few moments later, and more pieces of the puzzle came together. Slung over Kleinit’s back, I was bouncing as we climbed what seemed to be another set of stairs. Pain roared in my arm, and I forgot the puzzle pieces I had put together momentarily.
“He’s seriously all the way at the top? What an egomaniac this asshole is. I look forward to killing him. The money too. Mostly the money.”
I felt myself move violently, causing pain to lance through my whole body, starting from my right arm. Blue light flitted across the floor, culminating in an explosion from somewhere I couldn’t quite see. A few screams that quickly stopped after another lance of blue light danced at the edge of my vision.
“You’ve gotta be running low. Do we need to stop and change batteries?”
“Soon, let’s finish this.”
“I really don’t want to say I told you so this time.”
I was placed gently to the ground in an upright position. Mr. Banana sat on my lap, his small hands stringing stitches through my arm. I saw muscle torn jagged in my forearm from my landing, and I managed to turn my head and vomit. I felt my shoulder be squeezed gently, and I looked up into Kleinit’s concerned eyes.
“Almost there Anern, don’t give up when we’ve made it this far.”
“You still have to pay us.”
“Seriously Mr. Banana?” I felt a small laugh tumble pathetically from my lips at Kleinit’s response.
“He thinks it’s funny. Plus he’s a real boy, without a Pharaoh fetish. Maybe we can be partners when this is all over, I’ll leave your monosyllabic ass in the desert dust.”
I pushed myself up into more of a sitting position, looking around in earnest. My arm was still a complete mess, but my head started to clear. We were tucked into an alcove, no guards in sight.
“We can decide later.” Kleinit pulled out the glowing container from his jacket, removing a similar, non-glowing container from his arm. He put the new battery into the old ones slot, then carefully resealed the compartment. “We still have to kill this bastard. The door looks like some thick metal. I’ll have to charge most of the power into one shot to get through. How many bullets you have left, monkey?”
“Two, but I’ll only need one. Unless there’s guards holed up with him. Then maybe we’re screwed.” Mr. Banana didn’t look up from his work on my arm. The wound was almost entirely stitched up, though my arm still looked pale and limp. “But there’s only one way to find out! Anern, ready to walk? We need you on your feet buddy.”
Nodding without words, I staggered upright. Kleinit helped support me, and we turned the corner as a trio. Before was set an excessively ornate metal door. The strange human animals from the stairs to the castle were engraved in the door, waving palm fronds over the likeness of Lord Tut. No one stood outside to stop us, and I couldn’t hear anyone coming from behind us. The final showdown had come.
“Doubt we’re lucky enough for it to be unlocked,” Kleinit said dryly. He still tried but the doors were sealed tightly. “Stand back.”
His HandyCannon began to glow blue, a ball of energy gathering at its tip. Even from feet away, I felt the heat from the tip. After about thirty seconds, the ball of energy was as large as my head. Beads of sweat poured down Kleinit’s face in rivulets as he focused keeping the power pouring into one spot without releasing it.
“Here goes!” He was forced back a few steps as it released, flying nearly as fast as a bullet into the door. The doors were forced inward, shards of metal and the stone of the frame went flying out towards us. I took a piece of the shrapnel in the shoulder, but no pain came with it. Blood seeped from the wound, but at this point I just wanted this entire thing to be over.
As the dust settled, I saw Lord Tut. He was dressed in finery, a strange looking weapon held in his shaking hands. Just ahead of where he was standing I saw two guards crushed beneath the door. He squeezed the trigger, and Kleinit spasmed and fell wordlessly, convulsing on the floor. Mr. Banana fired off a single shot, causing Lord Tut’s shoulder to be forced back and his arm sway. Blood seeped from the wound, but before Mr. Banana could get another shot off, he pulled the trigger again. Mr. Banana fell, writhing wordlessly like Kleinit.
“Just us now. And with one pull of the trigger you’ll be incapacitated. I wanted to keep my hands clean in all this, but maybe the celebration should begin with my hands covered in your blood. I think I’ll enjoy this immensely.” He looked down for a moment at his arm, swaying as he saw his bloody clothes. He pulled the trigger, and I rushed towards him, expecting darkness, but wanting to go down fighting.
Darkness didn’t come. My arm, stitched and in a sling of Mr. Banana’s devising, began to convulse of it’s own accord, but I felt nothing. My momentum carried me into Lord Tut before he could fire again. Together we collapsed into a pile, his gun sliding across the room. With my good fist I began to punch his arrogant face. Within seconds his smug smile was replaced with a look of horror soaked in blood.
His hands, weakly trying to push me off soon weakened and he went limp beneath me. Not satisfied, I grabbed a piece of rubble, making his face nearly unrecognizable as I continued beating him in one handed rage.
“You had to kill millions of people just to make yourself fucking special. I’ll happily return the favour just so I don’t have to share air with you again.” Gentle hands were pulling me off of him and I broke down sobbing, weakly trying to beat the air with the stone in my hand.
“It’s over Anern. You ended it.” Klein calmly stated to me as I continued to bawl like a child.
“Gods, how are we supposed to show people we killed him to make Anern Lord? His face is pulp.” Mr. Banana climbed over the corpse, pulling out his knife. “At least this bad boy will get some use today.” He began to saw at the neck.
“But you were shot. I saw you fall,” I managed to choke out between the sobs. “How?”
“A stupidly strong electric gun. If it wasn’t for my arm absorbing some of the charge I’d be dead. Mr. Banana’s had enough genetic alteration to withstand a fair bit more than that.” Calmly, as if he hadn’t just been nearly dead, Kleinit pulled the shrapnel from my shoulder, and put a piece of gauze to it, taping it down.
“Then how’d I not get hurt?”
“The bolt must’ve hit your injured arm. If the current didn’t go through, it means you’ll probably lose the arm it’s so badly damaged. Better than dying though.” Mr. Banana triumphantly held up the severed head of Lord Tut as he responded, handing it to me. “Shall we go meet your adoring new public?”
Weakly I followed the team down to the main entrance. The fire was mostly out, though those who were left trying to stop it didn’t look like they had any fight in them. I presented the head and they bent the knee without a second word. The coup was over, I was Lord.
“Well your Grace, shall we commence with the money you promised? I believe seventy-five million credits should be sufficient.” Mr. Banana did a slight bow, though his words were heavily sarcastic when called me by my new title.
“I guess that there’s no time like the present,” I responded with a slight smile. I motioned over a servant helping to clean up. “Where can I find money to give these people?”
“One moment sir,” he stated with more grace than I could manage in his situation. “I can go get a transfer stick. Seventy-five million credits you said?” With a single nod from me he quickly left.
I stood quietly as we waited, shifting from one foot to another as weight slowly pressed down on my shoulders with increasing weight. I didn’t want to be a Lord. I didn’t want to rule. They would never accept me, I had just murdered many of their friends, their family. The servant I had sent returned with a transfer stick, handing it to Kleinit with a small bow.
“Guess this is it kid. It’s been something else.” Kleinit squeezed my shoulder affectionally once more, eliciting a grimace of pain from me. “Sorry, forgot about that one.”
“Well I’m pretty much done my mechanic’s certificate. Do you need a mechanic?” I tried to not look as useless as I felt, with my arm hanging in a sling and blood slowly soaking through my shoulder gauze.
“Heh, actually yeah. Mr. Banana lacks the focus to finish any upgrade he starts to put into the Queen’s Crown.”
“Stick it up your ass, old man. At least I can throw a grenade right.” Mr. Banana’s indignation was clearly an attempt at affection. “But he is much better than you. C’mon your Grace, let’s head back to the ship.”
“I don’t want that nickname at all!” I protested as I followed them from the man lion castle into the moonlight.
“Too bad, I like it.” Kleinit’s laugh was happy. “Let’s get out of here, your Grace.”