Terzich’s Note: So that the story can continue uninterrupted, I will be continuously posting chapters as they are finished. However, I want to keep the format consistent and will be posting this like it is one book. That means All of the Act II chapters will be added here instead of separate posts. I’ll be sure to notify everyone via social media when to check back to this page for new content.
Also, this follows the content of the novelized version of Act I and thus contains potentially confusing spoilers for those only reading the comic. Read ahead at your own risk.
Episode 13 – Point of View
“Holy shit, I wasn’t expecting it to explode,” hollered out a mid-toned, slightly rasp, feminine voice from within the smoke.
“Metal! Is that you in there!?”
“Who the hell else would it be? There was no one else stuffed in there with me.”
“It’s just…” Sentri let out as the smoke disappeared, “You don’t quite seem like you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
The Metal’s perception finally caught up with the rest of the world as the inner ear ringing caused by the blast settled down enough to hear the vocal change. The Metal looked down for a quick once over and realized -she- was quite different than before. Her hair was just a bit longer, features quite softer, and weight redistributed from evenly throughout to two places in particular. Her gi top was not designed to accommodate The Metal’s new assets, so she had to quickly put her weights back on just to keep them in place when moving about.
“What?” Buck interjected
“I can hardly even tell I’m wearing these?”
“There’s no way, those things weigh a ton. I’ve felt them myself.”
“I kid you not, these weights feel light as a feather.”
“Get over here, you imbecile,” said Pitaya as he grabbed The Metal by the collar and whisked her over to a fancy station in the corner of the lab that was somehow still in working order. He sat The Metal on one of his many titanium folding chairs and stuck a lot of nodes upon various spots of her body.
“Well doc, is it dysentery? Am I not makin’ it to Oregon after all?”
“Can you ever be serious?” he asked rhetorically before going over the results. “Well shit… yeah, um, you’re apparently female down to the genetic level and your vitals are at peak performance. By Odin’s beard, how is that even possible?”
Everyone turned and gave The Metal looks of confusion.
“What? Suddenly switching genders like magic isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person. It’s actually kind of interesting, to say the least. Besides, if it happened one way then there has got to be a way to get back. But in the meantime, we have a fight to finish.”
“My lab has been utterly trashed twice now and you suddenly became a girl. I don’t think I have enough fucks to give anymore. You have fun with your stupid tournament, I’m going to my room and dealing with all this in the morning. I’d be grateful if you all took your leave.”
He left through the main entrance, slamming the door behind him. From a distance, they could faintly hear Pitaya screaming, “WHAT!?!?!?!?” at the top of his lungs. Kavi split as well, without the ability to contain his laughter. The others were still crowded outside the torn up lab, discussing as they do.
“So…” Sentri murmured
“The world keeps spinning. We keep to the schedule. The final round takes place on the Chinese New Year, so I have most of Winter to figure out how to change back. We’ll take the weekend off and get started.”
“Yo, you’re taking this rather well.”
“Eh, it’s not the first time I’ve been a woman, believe it or not. That said, be at my place Monday morning or I’ll make you regret it.”
This weekend was considerably dull compared to the last couple of weeks. Probably a nice change of pace for everyone except the lunatic they tend to follow around. Monday morning came and they all showed up. It was hard to tell just when The Metal was joking or not about this dilemma, so everyone nervously smiled and nodded at everything. Sentri even brought his family along. Always assuming for the worst with The Metal, he figured it would take much longer than she expected and it’d be best if his family just stayed at her place for the time being. It’s not like she doesn’t have the room. No one really knows how The Metal managed to do it, or exactly how legal it was for that matter, but she somehow got her own dojo in the middle of town. It was the traditional kind that had a large house attached to the training hall, a bunkhouse for visitors, a garden with a pond, and a ten-foot wall around the entire property sealed off by a single oak gate. The Kidd, Sentri, and Buck found her in the same place The Metal was most days she wasn’t running around causing trouble: the training hall.
The Metal was wearing a traditional Chinese style uniform like the ones they wore on their way to Hong Kong. Luckily for her, almost all of her clothes were unisex anyway since The Metal insists on wearing some type of martial arts related outfit any chance it comes up. The floor of the hall was covered in metallic dust and shreds of dense fabric from custom heavy bags she tore up before they arrived.
“You seem lively at least, bro.”
“Despite some unforeseen side effects, the machine seems to have worked. I feel stronger and more energized than ever.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re not letting it get you down much. So, where do we start?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“There’s a gig there that might turn into a lead if we do a good enough job.”
“It’s a start and beggars can’t be choosers.”
The group split up to separate rooms to unpack their bags just so the could repack them with the essentials: a week’s worth of clothes, falsified documents, Electromagnetic Psionic arms, concealable melee weapons, pocket-sized explosives, and of course fruit snacks. By noon, they were all gathered in the yard waiting for The Metal to inform the team on the travel plans.
She didn’t say a single word just standing there grinning with her hands in her pockets. Then, The Metal let out a snide laugh as she looked up into the sky. Everyone else cocked their heads up to see what was going on when from within a large cloud emerged a titanous machine covered in a strange alloy that looked like jet black gold. It was a big as a high school football stadium and shaped like some sort of boat with odd-looking cannons all along the deck. The thing appeared to suspiciously hover in the air without any blades, jets, or other known forms of propulsion, but it was almost as if you could see light slightly bending around several large disc-like structures scattered across the outer hull. It was an airship unlike any man had yet seen.
“Jesus Christ, what fresh hell is that!?”
“Remember when you asked what the Chrysanthemum was? Well, there she is. First of her kind, Dreadnaught Class Airship – Prototype 1.”
“I can’t believe you actually managed to make an airship that wasn’t just full of hot air.”
“Well, it wasn’t just me. Joe and I worked on this project together up until he dipped out with it. But we hashed things out after that trouble in Hong Kong. I agreed to let him continue to captain the ship since he already has a functioning crew and he’s agreed to fly me places whenever I need to travel a long distance.”
“Wait, bro… Joe has a crew?”
The ship held its position once it was only a hundred feet about the dojo and released what appeared to be a dingy roughly the size of a tank that hovered down to retrieve them. The vessel docked neatly into a storage bay at the bottom of the Chrysanthemum that was deserted aside from them. Knowing her way around, The Metal led the group to a shaft that bypassed the other decks straight to the bridge where Joe would be awaiting them. After climbing several stories and reaching the first sign of life since they entered this cold mechanical monstrosity, all but The Metal found themselves in a confused state of being both simultaneously surprised and yet not at all after seeing the crew.
Dressed in what could only be described as a sultry parody of a sailor’s uniform, the bridge was littered with Nekomimi operating the instruments, cleaning the floors, and scurrying around preparing a buffet table for their captain’s guests. There must have been at least twenty in the chamber with a couple of them in different, yet equally revealing, uniforms that made it clear which ones were the officers. The catgirls varied in all number of fur colors and builds, with the exception of anyone being the slightest overweight as Joe has always had a loathing disgust toward the obese. And just as the newcomers to the ship were distracted, the captain’s chair swiveled around revealing Joe smirking with a twisted satisfaction for the life he built here.
“Welcome to my ship, I hope you enjoy your stay amongst the classiest crew ever to fly the high skies.”
“Bro, You’re entire crew consists of catgirls?”
“Oh yeah, they’re all rescues.”
The Kidd, Sentri, and Buck all jerked their heads toward The Metal after he spoke of the crew as if they were pets.
“What? Joe and I literally rescued them… from practical slavery. Not every orphan that gets turned into a Nekomimi gets to work a nice job like package delivery or commentary for fights. Some have to do very dirty things. So when this airship project grew big enough that we needed a crew to operate it, I sneaked in and broke some of the girls loose. The genetic modifications actually help them learn new skills very quickly.”
“That and I have a thing for catgirls.”
The Metal shrugged and nodded to Joe’s statement while everyone else just shook their heads. It wasn’t a long trip from Dallas to Crete due to the speed the Chrysanthemum was able to obtain, but neither The Metal nor Joe the Short bothered to inform the others about that fact. At their leisurely pace, it took The Kidd, Sentri, and Buck about ten minutes to walk to the guest quarters. After only ten minutes of settling in and playing games, they heard Joe on the PA system saying, “This is your beloved and majestic captain speaking. We will be entering Greasy airspace in just five minutes. Please be in the drop bay by that time as we are only slowing to a hundred and twenty miles per hour and you don’t want to miss your stop!”
“Wait, Kidd… your brother is joking, right!?”
“Yeah, sure,” He replied while getting up and jolting toward the door. “The guy we all picked on for years is joking about kicking us out of a moving ship going over a hundred miles per hour.”
“But it’s Metal’s ship, too. He wouldn’t let him…”
Sentri and The Kidd stopped just long enough to send a stern and disappointed glare toward Buck before continuing down the hatch.
“Shit, you’re right. That asshole probably thinks this sounds fun.”
The guys shoot down a ladder and scurry to find their way through the winding corridors lined with cables and pipes. The Kidd darted through mostly fine, hollering to get the nekomimis working on the innards of the ship to move out of the way. Sentri trailed just behind him but had some trouble ducking around the pipes since this ship was constructed by two people that stand only five and a half feet tall who wouldn’t consider much the difficulty someone over six feet would have navigating the tighter maintenance tunnels. And slugging behind both of the was Buck, who had no issue with the size of the tunnels yet still found himself tripping and crashing into everything thanks to his klutzy nature.
Entering the drop bay just within the given time frame, the guys spot a nekomimi crewmember standing by the open hatch with four parachutes hanging from her arms. They sprint over to her to grab their chutes and right before they get there she tosses them out the bay door. The stopped dead in their tracks, absolutely floored by the sheer gall of this action, when The Metal came up from behind them. Laughing like the mad man she is, The Metal spun around as she passed them, shouted “training never stops, boys”, and flipped backward out of the ship while saluting them.
“No way,” Buck hollered to the others. “I’ll just sit this one out-”
Before he could finish what he was saying, Sentri kicked him through the hatch. They couldn’t hear it, but they were positive Buck was screaming, “Screw you!” The Kidd shot Sentri a bewildered look.
“We don’t have time for that right now. We have to catch those chutes.”
The two of them leaped out to the airship and narrowed themselves to try and catch up to the bags tumbling through the air. Unsurprised, they noticed The Metal was already scooping up one of the chutes just as they joined the dive. She slung the straps over her shoulders and extended her limbs out to catch as much air as possible to slow down. The others were quickly gaining on him and the other packs. It took Buck a bit to reorient himself in the air since he was so violently kicked out. Maybe a bit too long. The packs kept the same velocity as the ship after being thrown out with The Kidd and Sentri who dropped out at the same speed being able to line up with their targets. Buck, on the other hand, fumbled through the air at the speed of the airship minus Sentri kicking him in the opposite direction and was way too far off the path to catch up.
“Son of a bitch!”
She undid her top, which despite looking like a traditional silk kung fu saam was as heavily woven as her usual gi, and spread it out with her arms to increase her wind resistance. Hanging back, she caught up to Buck and took the chute off her back.
“You’re welcome!” The Metal screamed at Buck as she put the pack onto him and pulled the cord before he had a chance to adjust.
“I hate you!”
She rolled her eyes as Buck yielded away from her to safety. Everyone else already had a deployed parachute, but The Metal still needed to catch the last one. She saw it and tried using her sail-like top in different positions to glide toward it. The air whipped across her face pulling her hair tightly back as she dove as fast as she could to grab the bag. She reached her hands forward and just as The Metal grasped the straps in her fingers she realized that she had run out of time.
The others landed on a nearby beach and saw The Metal crash headfirst into the Aegean Sea. Quickly removing their chutes, they scurried to the water to see if she was alright. They began wading in and screaming for The Metal, but several meters off she rose out of the ocean as if she walked all the way to shore. She had her top off, fully displaying her normal training weights and a bikini top underneath, so could ring as much of the water out of it as possible.
“Jesus Christ, Metal! Are you okay?”
“Oh yeah,” she said before spitting out some water. “I’ll manage. This is just another reason why I always wear a swimsuit instead of normal underwear. Always gotta be prepared for the worst.” She then took off her pants to ring them out as well.
“So,” The Kidd asked, “What now?”
“Now,” The Metal replied, pulling her slightly dryer clothes back over her body, “We take a ride all the way across the island Chania where we’ll meet up with an old friend of ours. Luckily, one of us keeps a plethora of various currencies in their hammerspace”
It took them roughly two hours to make it from where they landed in Heraklion to their destination in Chania. They had to hoof it some of the way due to the construction of some large scaffolding covering in lights and draped with black curtains taking up the entire road in front of the hotel to which The Metal said they were heading. And that’s when it clicked for the rest of them. They couldn’t understand a word of Greek written on the two-story-tall promotional poster, but they the person on it and the only two words that mattered: Laney Lin.