ArgumentativeNerfer t1_jefxxyk wrote

"Carl," Linda whispered. "That man over there. Doesn't he look like Doom Master?"

What made you think that? Carl thought. The robot laser eye, or the trio of badly disguised android henchmen? What he said out loud was, "I'm sure it's just your imagination, love."

". . . Carl, I'm pretty sure that's Cybermentor," Linda went on. "Isn't he the one who held the United Nations hostage last month? Someone should do something. . ."

"Well, given that his arch-nemesis Hyperion is sitting across the aisle from him and isn't doing anything, I don't think anything you or I could do is going to matter, honey," Carl hissed between his teeth.

"Carl! I'm serious!" Linda hissed. "This entire funeral is filled with SUPERVILLAINS!"

"Linda. . ." Carl sighed and glanced around the chapel. The services weren't about to start for another fifteen minutes, so he took Linda by the arm and gently led her into the narthex. "All right, Linda. You're right. The entire supervillain community is here for my Grand-Dad's funeral. I don't know why any more than you do, but it probably has SOMETHING to do with the fact that Skywatch called Mom last Thursday and asked to give the eulogy."

"Skywatch!?" Linda gasped. "Reverend McEnroe is Skywatch?!"

"Keep it down!" Carl hissed. He looked around the church lobby, but the mourners seemed undisturbed by the conversation. "Look, I don't understand this either. I mean, I know Grand-Dad was a small-time hero when he was younger, but nobody really gives a crap about Captain Liberty these days. Let's just get through the service, and maybe someone will explain this to us once this is all over."

Linda didn't seem to like that, but she quietly acquiesced, and the couple returned to their seat. As the organist finished their prelude, and the mourners took their seats, a tall, iron-haired woman in black clerical robes took to the pulpit.

"Please be seated," Reverend Isabel McEnroe said.

A hundred-odd friends, family, and the most powerful superheroes and villains in the world took their seats.

"We are gathered here today to lay to rest the man whom many of you knew as Dr. Grant Mason. Many others knew of him as Captain Liberty: a superhero active during the post World-War II years for about a decade and a half. Captain Liberty had a modest career as a superhero and crimefighter, before hanging up his cape. . . most people believed, for good." The reverend took a deep breath. "To most of you, Dr. Mason's superhero career ended there. But. . . among those of us who wear the cape and mask, Dr. Mason's hero career began on the day that he put away his cape and donned doctor's whites for the first time.

"Because, despite what the public believed, Captain Liberty did not lose his cosmic powers during the battle against The Menace From the Stars. Dr. Grant Mason retained his cosmic strength, his laser vision, and his super-speed and flight. However, it was his wish that this fact be kept secret. . . not only from the public, but from his closest friends and family as well. Only those of us who were there, at the final confrontation against the Menace, would be allowed to know his secret."

The reverend took a deep, shuddering breath, eyes haunted. "The Menace, we learned on that day, was not an alien being bent on conquest. The Menace was the final form of Dr. Grant Mason, come from the future to conquer the past. During that final confrontation with the combined forces of the Guardians of Earth and the Legions of Evil, we learned that Captain Liberty was destined to lead the Guardians in one final battle against the Legions of Evil. . . a battle during which all life on Earth would die. This moment. . . the Singularity Point. . . was a fixed moment in time. An inevitability. Captain Liberty had come from the future to change the past over and over and over again, sustained by cosmic energy into a lifetime of tens of thousands of years, until transformed into the being that emerged over Star City on that fateful day fifty years ago.

"Grant saw that there was no future during which Captain Liberty would not become the Menace from The Stars. . . and so, he created a future where there would be no Captain Liberty. Only Grant Mason, a quiet country doctor with a quiet little practice in a quiet town in the midwestern United States.

"I don't know that there is anyone else in this room who would have had the strength to do what he did. To live an entire life knowing that you possessed the power to change the world, and never doing so. To know every single moment of your life that you possessed the power of a living god. . . could grasp the power of the cosmos itself. . . but to do so would inevitably lead to the end of all life on Earth.

"Without drawing upon the cosmic power within him, Grant's life ebbed away as normal human lives do. Though long-lived, his body began to fade and die. Cancer. What must it have been like to face the end of your life, knowing that all you had to do was reach out and grasp the power at your fingertips, and death would pass you by? I do not believe I would have had the strength. I know all here feel the same.

The reverend reached into her coat and pulled out a silver and blue domino mask. She donned it in silence. "As the Reverend McEnroe, I am here today to lay to rest my old friend, Dr. Grant Mason. As the superheroine Skywatch, I am here to celebrate the success of my old friend Captain Liberty's final mission. The Bible says that, through Christ, we triumph over death in new life. . . I know that in his death, Grant triumphed over the greater death that lay in our future. I pray that the Lord takes him safe into their loving arms, and I know that the gates of heaven stand ready to welcome him safe."

There was a quiet murmuring and the sound of sliding cloth. Carl turned to see half the people in the chapel reaching into their jackets to pull out masks and don them in unison. The Garden Master. Pirate Pete. Annihilatrix. Iceglider. Killer Bee. The greatest heroes and villains of the Golden Age now sat in silent unison to witness the passing of the greatest of their own.

Skywatch nodded quietly. "Thank you," she said. "Now, I'd like to pass the mic to someone who needs no introduction. Oliver?"

The hulking five-hundred pound form of The Terrifying Brute rose from the church pew with the creaking of old wood and older joints. With titanium cane in hand, the giant lizard-beast hobbled his way up the steps to the pulpit, assisted by a younger lizard-girl in a black suit. Pausing for a moment to pay respects at the open casket, the monster stomped slowly to the microphone, adjusted it, gave a rheumy cough, and began to speak.

"The first time Brute meet Captain," he growled, "Captain punched Brute in face. It was okay. Brute was eating doggy at the time. But dat was how Brute meet Captain, and Captain help turn Brute from Bad Guy to Good Guy. . .


ArgumentativeNerfer t1_jeax56o wrote

"Oh, here we go again," I said, as yet another goddamn middle-aged Japanese man came storming into my office. "Hello," I said. "Welcome to the Osaka Branch of the Heavenly Love Warrior Office. My name is Ker-"

"You fucking monster!" the fat ugly bastard shouted. He got up all in my face and pointed his finger at my nose. "How DARE you recruit my daughter to fight your wars! Why, if I had a gun I'd. . ."

"Oh, FUCK OFF!" I snarled back. "You think I like it any better? Listening to helium-voiced little Japanese girls going 'kyaa!' and 'mouuuuu' and whining about how fighting monsters is going to ruin their date with some mealy-mouthed preteen boy with a mashed-potato sandwich personality? But if you haven't noticed, you self-righteous prick, THIS IS A MAGICAL GIRL UNIVERSE!"

The fat old fuck immediately recoiled in shock, the world behind him turning jet black with a single line of light slashing through it. "GAAACK!" he gasped. "I never THOUGHT OF THAT!"

"Well, you SHOULD have! Like it or not, we are NOT the main characters here! Your daughter. . . who is your daughter, again?"

"K-kumiko Nakagawa," the old fucker sweated.

"Ah. Magical Love Archer Cutie Sweet Cupid. She's fantastic, by the way. . . ANYWAY! This is NOT about you being protective of your daughter. This is NOT about me supposedly 'needing warriors' to fight against monsters from the Hate Dimensions. What this is about is Kumiko. This is her journey of growth and discovery. HER allegory for the struggles and tribulations of growing from girlhood into adulthood. And you are NOT going to ruin that for her by being overprotective, just as you HAVE been since her mother passed away!"

"She's fighting MONSTERS!" the bald fuck whined.

"And she's KICKING THEIR ASSES!" I pointed out. "She's gaining confidence in her ability to stand up for herself and face her fears. You and I might prefer if she never had to do that, but given that this is a magical girl series, she's gonna fight monsters, and she's doing an excellent job of it." I glared at him over the tops of my magical glasses. "And don't think you're gonna get away with buying a gun and fighting the demons yourself or some shit. Hate Dimension Demons can only be defeated by the True Light of Love from the Sweet Cupid Arrow Strike."

"She's my daughter," the old man complained. "I worry about her."

"Then why the fuck aren't you talking to her about this? You know, the way a real parent would? Supporting her through her struggles, listening to her problems, being there when she needs you? But no. You have to go and lash out like some big macho man without considering her feelings first. Dick."

Kumiko's dad sweated silently for a moment. "Does she HAVE to wear that short skirt?" he asked plaintively.

"Magical Love Archer Cutie Sweet Cupid's outfit is a reflection of what she views as maturity and power. Which in your daughter's case, does happen to be a short skirt, similar to one worn by the pop idols and music stars she idolizes. I know that doesn't reflect well on how our culture views female maturity, but I'm just here to defeat the Hate Dimensions, not undo thousands of years of cultural baggage."

The bald guy stood up and walked to the door of my office. He paused with one hand on the door. "You're not some intergalactic monster who's secretly harvesting my daughter's misery for power, are you?"

". . . No. Get out."

He did. I buried my face in my hands. "Fucking Kyuubey ruining this shit for the rest of us. . . Old fashioned, wholesome magical girl agencies can't do shit these days." I sighed.


ArgumentativeNerfer t1_je7mkok wrote

I made my way through the caverns in silence, glowrod held high. The alchemical substances inside the glass rod cast an eerie, green light all around me, reflecting off the dripping limestone in a manner most unpleasantly reminiscent of the interior of some great beast's bowels. . . which was where I was likely to end up if I played my hand incorrectly.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I rounded the corner and found myself face to face with an enormous black-scaled dragon, perched on an enormous mound of gold coins, fanged teeth dripping with poison, serpentine eyes glaring at me with sinister intent.


"EXCUSE ME!" I shouted in reply. "If THIS is how you're going to treat me, I'm going to leave and sell my services to the next client!"

The dragon's eyes widened in surprise. "OH!" it said. "MY DEEPEST APOLOGIES, MORSEL. . . ahem. I mean. . . mortal. You would be the broker, then?"

"I would be, indeed." Reaching into my cloak pocket, I pulled out a comically large rectangle of pasteboard, embossed in gold, enchanted with glowing calligraphy:


>Whymper, Strunk, and Blackhammer
>Adventurer Brokering Agency.
>Est. year 504 of the Fifth Age of Man.


The dragon took it in his claws: the thing looked comically tiny in his claws, and he squinted to read the text. "Ah, yes," he rumbled. "You come highly recommended. Vercingetorix used your services last year."

"I remember. Mortenwrath the Red." Five adventuring parties had met their ends down Mortenwrath's gullet. The sixth had become rich beyond imagination and immediately retired from the adventuring life: at least four of them by necessity, due to lost limbs (and in at least one case, blindness). "Do you have a similar need?"

"Ebonflack the Swamp Wyrm," Brisagaereth snarled. "An uppity little thing that thinks to take my place as Tyrant of the Black Dragons. I could take him on, but he's gotten ahold of a Blade of Dragonslaying. Attached it to his damn tail, of all things. It looks ridiculous, but I still don't dare fight him while he has it."

"Ah." I took out my notepad and made a note: In possession of Blade of Dragonslaying. Offer to adventurers as incentive for completing contract. "Is there anything else you can tell me about Ebonflack?"

"He lives in the Brilliant Swamps. Protects his lair with illusion magics. Seems to have allied himself with a swamp hag coven and a pack of lizardmen."

Brilliant Swamps. Illusion Magic. Adds - Swamp Hags, Lizardmen. "What can you tell me about his horde? Any particular magical items or artifacts that might be of interest?"

"Well, there's that Blade of Dragonslaying," Brisagaereth rumbled. "Oh, and I heard he's gotten ahold of an Obsidian Orb. Probably how he's managed to stay out of my attention for long enough to grow this big. The usual magic wands and rings. And of course, there's the gold. . ." The huge black dragon licked his lips hungrily at the thought of the gold.

"Ah. As a reminder, the terms of the contract state that the adventurers who carry it out lay claim to the treasure held within, aside from select magic items or artifacts which we may lay claim to as our finder's fee." I jotted down a note: Obsidian Orb: Scrying Focus. Consult Client List. "I believe that brings us to the final step of our process." I unrolled a huge scroll of parchment and touched my Actuary's Quill to its surface.

Brisagaereth looked on in interest as the magic quill quickly inscribed the terms of the contract onto the parchment: terms of payment, arbitration agreements, penalties for breaking the terms, non-competition agreements. . . "Wait one moment," he snarled. "This last portion here. You can't be serious."

Ah yes. The Geas of Binding. "I am," I said. "In order to maintain our reputation among the adventuring community, I must ask you to submit to a Geas of Binding. Until the contract is completed, you may not in any way confront or interfere with the actions of the target."

Brisagaereth snarled at that. "This is absurd! You mean I need to sit back in my lair and watch that little turd preen around and gather allies? He'll think I'm AFRAID of him!"

"It is necessary. After all," I smiled dangerously, "Otherwise, you could just swoop in at the last moment, kill our adventuring party, and make off with all of Ebonflack's possessions yourself, couldn't you?"

From the dragon's flinch and sheepish expression, that was exactly what he'd had in mind. "I would like to remind you that we are one of the oldest, most respected, and most powerful adventuring guilds in the realm. We didn't get there by having a reputation for screwing over our adventurers. Besides," I said, smiling disarmingly, "there's no way that any adventuring party can completely loot a dragon's lair in one go. There will be plenty of gold left behind for enterprising dragons to claim after they have left."

Brisagaereth nodded begrudgingly at that and placed his claw against the parchment. The scroll glowed brightly, sending motes of magical energy into his body as the Geas bound him to the contract. "Thank you," I said. I touched the Rod of Duplication to the scroll, creating an exact (if non-magical) copy. "Your copy of the contract. A mage will be in touch with you once the contract is confirmed completed."

The dragon snarled at that, but waved his claw towards the entrance of the cave. I made my way back through the dank, damp caverns and back to the surface.

It was raining. "Oh, bloody heavens," I growled, pulling the hood of my cloak over my curling ram-like horns. "This is all I need."

My wagon was where I had left it, my mule placidly cropping the grass near where I'd left him fettered and tied to a tree. I stowed the scroll under the seat and picked up my Sending Stone, tapping the runes for the Whitecastle office:

>!B. has outbid E. and signed contract. Do not let E. sign any contracts or know they have been targeted until E's Negotiator is safely clear. Will transmit terms shortly.!<




>Anonymous Client requires adventurers to slay black dragon in the Brilliant Swamps. Swamp Hags and Lizardfolk may be a factor. Contractors may keep all treasure found within (includes Sword of Dragonslaying), with exception of Obsidian Orb of Scrying (cash bonus for retrieving said item intact). Contact local Whymper, Strunk, and Blackhammer office for further details.


ArgumentativeNerfer t1_je11cmf wrote

The thug pulled the black hood off of Jenny's head, revealing her face to the air. I frowned at the sight of a small bruise high on her cheek, the tear-streaked cheeks, and the duct-tape gag over her mouth. "I thought I told you she was not to be harmed," I growled.

"Forgive me, Doctor Oblivion. The girl struggled, and I had to keep her quiet," Jonas said nervously.

I scrolled through the PainApp on my phone and tapped Jonas's icon. The big lunk screamed as he fell to his knees, every nerve in his body activating at once. "Your orders were to go to her house, knock on her door, and ASK her to come with you to the Lair of Fate!" I bellowed. "NOT to grab her from behind, put a HOOD over her head, and smack her around!"

Jonas fell to the ground screaming and twitching. It was tempting to hold down the icon until he shit himself to death, but I relented. "Take him away. Put him on stable duty for two weeks. Maybe some time mucking out the doombeast stalls will teach him the meaning of following orders to the LETTER. Now leave us."

My squad of mirror-masked death goons bowed respectfully and exited the room. I waited until they were gone to lock the doors and turn off the internal cameras. "Godddamn it. I'm sorry about this, Jennifer," I said, giving my daughter a tender pat on the head. "This wasn't supposed to happen this way. This is going to hurt like hell, by the way."

I ripped the duct tape off her face in one swift movement. "FUCKING HELL!" Jenny screamed. "Goddamn it, Dad, I thought I told you! No more sending death goons to my apartment!"

"It's been a long time since I last saw you! I thought you might like to have lunch! Guido makes a delectable spaghetti with Sunday gravy. Hang on a minute, I'll untie the ropes." Jonas had used a granny knot to tie her hands behind her back. I made a mental note to hold a hogtying seminar with my death goons at a later time: this sort of sloppy behavior did not bode well for them.

"Then send me an email! Or a TEXT! Or CALL! Don't just send a death squad over to my place with orders to bring me to your lair!"

"Emails and texts can be traced. Calls can be tapped. Our connection cannot be made public. For your sake." I gave up on untying the knots and just used my vibro-scalpel to cut the rope in half.

Jenny sat up, rubbing her wrists and giving me an incredulous look. "Calls and emails and texts are no go, but kidnapping me in broad daylight. . . never mind." She sighed and rubbed her forehead. "So, what did you want to talk about?"

"I mean. . . the usual. How's college? How's your mother? Are you seeing anyone yet?"

"College is fine. Mom's all right. And yes."

"Oh? What's his name?"


"Is this one of those gender-neutral names? Like Pat or Lee?"

"No. Tracy's a 'she.' A Black 'she.' "

"Oh." I heard the screaming of my grandfather's ghost in my ear, howling about miscegenation and unnatural relations. I quieted the inner voice with a stern reminder: This is my daughter, whom I love very much. "Does she treat you well?" was what I said.

Jenny breathed a sigh of relief at that, and I saw the tension release from her shoulders. "I mean. . . she's great," she said, curling up on the couch. "She's sweet, she makes me laugh. . ."


"But she keeps disappearing for days on end. . . cancels dates on me at the last minute. I'm worried she's keeping secrets from me. Worried she might be. . . you know. Cheating."

"I could have my death goons trace her movements. Find out what she's up to."

"God, Dad, not all problems in the world can be solved with death goons! I'll just talk to her about it the next time I see her!"

"That would work too. But I want you to know, if she does hurt you, that death goons are on the table."

"Like with Jeremy Clark?"

"Jeremy was a little thug who bullied and tormented you, and he deserved what happened to him."


"And the lesson he learned served him well to this very day. Model citizen, I understand."

Whatever Jenny was about to say next was drowned out by the sound of the Red Alert alarm. "Fuck," I muttered, tapping my earpiece. "Delilah, what's going on?"

"The Lair is under attack by a superhero," Delilah Doom said. "Patching the feed through now."

I threw the image onto the big screen. A dark-skinned young woman with black dreads, dressed in a skin-tight red outfit, was speeding around the outer perimeter of the Lair, punching death goons in the face. "DOCTOR OBLIVION!" she screamed. "I KNOW YOU'VE KIDNAPPED JEN! DOES YOUR TREACHEROUSNESS KNOW NO LIMIT!?"

I slowly turned my head, one degree at a time, to look at Jenny. My daughter's face was a mask of horrified realization. "So. . ." I said. "'Tracy'. I don't suppose that would be a nickname for Trace Margrave? As in. . . the secret identity of the superhero Tracer Fire?"

". . . she told me she had a part-time job," Jen whimpered. "Dad. . ."

I sighed. I'd kept my relationship to Jennifer as secret as I could. Kids of supervillains often end up as targets for the types of antihero vigilantes who think that killing bad guys is the same thing as helping the good. And Tracer Fire was exactly the kind of hero who might blab Jen's real identity out of impulse or some misguided sense of honor. . . or even worse, break up with her. "Don't worry about it," I said. "Dad will take care of it."

I fired a dart from my wrist-launcher. Jen whirled around, clapping a hand to her neck. "Dad, you fucking asshole! I meant you should talk to heeerrrrrrr. . ."

She was passed out before she could finish the sentence. I caught her and lowered her gently to the couch. "Sorry, honey. Not my style."

I took a moment to address my goons over the private channel. "Death Goons. Engage Rapunzel Protocol." Nonlethal weapons only. Don't escalate against the attacker. Secure essential areas, but leave the path to my private chambers open. Try to funnel the attacker into my private chambers for a 1 on 1 confrontation. Do not interfere with their escape. Full medical care for anyone who is wounded, full retirement benefits for anyone who suffers a career-ending injury.

I took a wad of bills from my wallet and tucked them into her jacket pocket. "A little spending money, hon," I said. "And apology money for the kidnapping." I took a moment to arrange her theatrically on the couch, then took up my position standing at the window, looking out over the bubbling magma pools.

Tracer Fire kicked down the door with a mighty CRACK! Then she gave a mighty gasp. "DOCTOR OBLIVION!" she bellowed. "WHAT FOUL DEEDS HAVE YOU VISITED UPON MY BELOVED JEN!"

"WHAT!?" I screamed back. "How DARE you imply that I could. . . I could HARM AN INNOCENT!?"

"Then why did you kidnap my GIRLFRIEND!?" Tracer Fire shouted.

"To lure you out of course!" I cackled. "Too long have we danced around each other in this little game of ours. . . today, it ENDS!" I tapped the badge on my chest, and my powered armor deployed around me with a thousand little clicks and whirrs.

'Tracy' let out a gasp. "Then this. . . was a TRAP!"

Sure, let's go with that. I tapped a control on my wrist and closed the blast shutters: I'd had them installed for those times when the magma pools got a little extra-bubbly. "NOW YOU ARE TRAPPED IN HERE WITH ME!" I bellowed. "AND NOW YOU MEET YOUR DOOM!"

I deployed my defensive turrets, surreptitiously turning down their accuracy so that every shot would barely miss. Knowing Tracer Fire, she'd take out the turrets before going after me, which would give me enough time to deploy the catwalk over the magma pools. A quick fistfight over the magma, a dramatic plunge for me into the molten rock. . . it would test my powered armor's mega-shields, but they should hold long enough for Tracy and Jen to make their daring escape.

The things I do for my daughter. I sighed. "I hope you appreciate this, young lady," I muttered, activating my electro-fists.


ArgumentativeNerfer t1_j6ousyk wrote

". . . so after I got hit by a truck saving a kid, I died, where God told me that I had died before my time. But in exchange, he told me I could reincarnate in a new world with all the memories of my old life. . . and one item from my own world."

"And you chose a gun?" Shadow asked.

"It seemed a good idea at the time," I said ruefully. "I mean. . . guns ended the age of the medieval knight, right? I figured that, with my gun, I would be unstoppable."

"Were you aware that our alchemists had learned the secret of black powder ages ago? And that gonnes were tried, but were deemed a dead-end technology?" the elf girl asked.

"I learned. . . quickly," I said. "The first time I shot at a bunch of bandits attacking a caravan, I thought I was going to be a hero. Then one of them held up their hand and deflected the bullet. Turns out that a simple Shield spell does a pretty good job of protecting from bullets as well as Magic Missiles."

Shadow sighed and rubbed her forehead in exasperation. "Yes," she said. "That would do it."

"They hit me with Hold Person, took me prisoner, and stole my gun," I said. "And that's how I ended up as a slave in the gladiator pits of Tharn."

"A place I know well," Shadow said. "I was a slave there once. It took me fifty years to win one hundred fights and earn my freedom."

"Yeah. . . well, I was lucky. Pitmaster Grimtooth decided I was too scrawny to make a good gladiator, and too dull to make good Manticore food, so he put me into the training course. Three months of high protein diets, constant exercise, and sword training. I figured that by the end of that time, I'd be a warrior true, and I could earn my way through the world by the strength of my arm and the steel of my sword. At least, until the first time I got put into a sparring match against another gladiator. Turns out that swordfighting wasn't my talent either. Grimtooth had given up on making me a gladiator, and I was due to end up as Hydra food, when I overheard him complaining to the Pit Lords about owing money to Senator Vornak. Which seemed strange to me because the Tharn Gladiator Pits were raking in money hand over fist, so why the hell weren't they turning a profit?"

Shadow laughed brightly, a sound like silver bells. "And that was when you made yourself indispensible to Pit Lord Olvan?"

"Yeah. . . turns out that Olvan had never heard of double-entry bookkeeping before. His scribes were skimming money off the top." I laughed ruefully. "It turns out that when God offered to let me take my prior knowledge and one item from my old world, the former was more important than the latter. Figuring out what was going on was child's play for any trained CPA. I managed to turn Olvan's business around, and his old scribes ended up as jobbers during the next gladiatorial games."

Shadow took a long sip of her icewine. "That still doesn't explain how you ended up here," she said.

"Well, it turned out that Olvan was good friends with Ser Ulrich. A lot of retired gladiators end up becoming sellswords, after all, and the Blue Daggers were the foremost adventuring guild in the land. Ulrich's books were better organized than Olvan's, but he was still running into issues with guildmasters stiffing him on their yearly tithes. Olvan figured that if anyone could figure out a solution to the problem, I could. So he set up the meeting, and we came up with a plan." I shook my head and sighed, memories of long nights by witchlight coming back to haunt me. "I thought I was done with middle management after I got hit by a truck, but it turned out that nobody in the Blue Daggers had ever learned project management. The guildmasters were trying their best, but they had never learned how to keep a project running smoothly, how to make sure people stayed on task without wasting time, how to value their employees rather than treating their workers like crap. It took me a year and a day of running the Valendil chapter of the Blue Daggers to convince them that my way would work better. After that, they had the guildmasters send me their best apprentices to train up in my method, and go forth to train up their own people. After some time, people outside the Blue Daggers asked me to help train them up on my method too, and I bought out my contract and went into business for myself. I got a charter from the Emperor. . . and here I am."

"And here you are," Shadow said. "And here I am as well."

"And here we are," I agreed. "Shall we get down to business?"

"Yes, indeed," Shadow said. "You understand, of course, that your tongue shall be cut out of your head and your eyes left for the ravens if you ever speak a single word of what I say to another living soul?"

"Jefferson Consulting Solutions treats client confidentiality as its top priority," I agreed. "Bound and sealed by a Tenth Level Geas."

"Very well," The black-clad elf woman smiled. "The Assassin's Guild wishes to undergo one of your 'restructurings.' Our members fight amongst themselves constantly, and bloodshed is common. What would it take to improve our organization's efficiency and prevent infighting amongst our members?"

"Sounds to me like you need one of our leadership retreats and corporate culture consultancies. If you look at our brochure here. . ."


ArgumentativeNerfer t1_j6jkuqp wrote

"LARPER!" Jim shouted. "Ten O'Clock!"

I dropped to one knee and turned, but Jim was faster. The crack of the .308 scout rifle echoed through the empty streets as he put a bullet through the chest of the chain-mail clad, sword-wielding maniac screaming towards us. It stumbled and fell, but staggered back up to its feet, still clutching the bent sword in its hand.

Jim fired a second round. This one punched through the rusted helmet on its head, and the thing lay still.

"What the hell was that!?" Carlos shouted. He was still struggling to bring his shotgun to bear. I gently put a hand on his shoulder, and he relaxed.

"Well," I said, walking up to the thing and poking it with my sharpened shovel, "when The Bad Times started, there were a bunch of people who figured that they could fight zombies close-in using swords and armor. I think one of those survival guides suggested it too. The idea was that the chainmail could prevent you from getting bitten by the zombos, and you could use a sword to fight them." I carefully placed the point of the sharpened spade against the throat of the still-twitching zombie and pressed down hard, separating the head from the spine. "Didn't work.

"Real chainmail used forged links, each one of which is riveted into place. Often times, the links would be doubled-up as well, for greater reinforcement and protection. And it was usually made of a stronger steel. But all of that costs money, so most costume chainmail is made of galvanized steel wire wrapped in coils and cut into unriveted links," I went on. I reached carefully down with a gloved hand and showed Carlos the broken links in the forearm, where a pus-oozing bite wound could be seen under the thin linen undershirt. "It can turn one bite. . . maybe even a few. But it only takes one bad link to get a tooth in and the virus into the bloodstream."

"Plus, chainmail's fucking heavy," Jim said. "Good suit weighs about. . . what? 20 pounds? That's an extra 20 pounds of weight that you don't want to be lugging around."

"And then there's the sword," I said. "You ever try swinging a sword around? It's not exactly easy. And most swords were designed to penetrate armor, not take off a head in one go. You'd be better off with a hammer or an axe."

"And that's assuming the sword is well made and not a wall-hanger made for display purposes," Jim agreed. "Which this one clearly was." He kicked the bent sword into the gutter.

"Stick to a machete from the Home Depot. Or a sharpened shovel," I said. "You can use those as tools, too."

"Crowbar works fine as well," Jim said.

The three of us continued our patrol through the abandoned streets of downtown Buena Park together.


ArgumentativeNerfer t1_j5zyrgf wrote

"Gentlemen," Reinhardt said. "We are not in Normandy any more."

The other members of the tank crew chuckled. "Tell us something we don't know!" Michael shouted.

Reinhardt raised his hand, quieting the men down. "We are not in Normandy," he said, "But we are still soldiers. We have been summoned to this place by the Shining Prince Arios. It is our duty to fight for the Bright Elves of the Ivory Kingdom, just as we would have fought for our Fatherland. Now, my friends, we will ride together. On our steed of steel, let us crush the degenerate hordes of the Cave-Dwellers and bring the light of reason and civilization to this world!"

The five SS Panzertruppen rose to their feet, shouting. Quickly, they boarded their Tiger tank. Diesel engine roaring to life, they charged into battle, the shining armies of blue-eyed, golden-haired elves riding beside them on white steeds.

Up ahead, Reinhardt could see the fortifications of the Dwarves: tall walls of stone and wood, proof against any catapult or trebuchet. "Hans!" he shouted. "Load high explosive!"

Hans had been Reinhardt's loader throughout the North Africa campaign: he had the heavy shell loaded and ready before Reinhardt had finished giving the order. "Aim for the gates!" he shouted. "FIRE!" He gave Albrecht a hard kick to the shoulder, and the gunner slammed the trigger. The 88mm roared, and the Dwarven gates buckled with the impact of the mighty tank cannon.

Reinhardt ducked back into the turret as Dwarven crossbow bolts pinged against the Tiger's armor. "Load a second round and fire again!" he shouted.

It was then that a loud roaring sound echoed through the hot, sweaty confines of the Tiger tank. Reinhardt saw Hans screaming in pain as flames washed across him. He could see fire. . . FIRE! licking across the ammunition stores. Impossible! The dwarves don't have anything that can penetrate our armor!

Panic and terror gave him strength. He pulled himself out of the hatch just as a second explosion rocked the invincible Tiger tank, cracking through its soft underbelly and causing flames to shoot from every port and vent.

Reinhardt collapsed to the ground and began crawling away from the burning tank. As he did, he was halted by the distinctive sound of a Thompson submachinegun being cocked.

"Hello there, Fritz," said the American. Reinhardt looked up into the face of a grinning American Ranger holding a Thompson submachinegun. Standing behind him were two others: one with an M1 Garand rifle, the other with a bazooka lazily resting across his shoulder.

It was then that Reinhardt realized he wasn't the only one who'd been summoned from the hedgerows of Normandy.