It starts one day in Nashville, Tennessee, where I now live. (22 Apr)
- My lady Judy would like some fresh vegetables, and she's working all day, so I ride my bike to the Farmers' Market north of the Tennessee Statehouse. God alone knows where they get fresh veggies in April, but they are fresh.
- I then swing by the Tennessee Bicentennial Park monument to the Battle of King's Mountain, of which I am the last survivor. (It's one of those time-travel things.) The monument mentions the British commander, because we Americans had several commanders and just picked one for the day.
- From the monument, I have to ride past the Statehouse to get home. There's a west loop and an east loop from there. Westbound, I find a nine-story Galactus-shaped robot. That makes him about ninety feet tall. And he's shooting flame from head-mounted smokestacks. My first urge is to see how I can get away the other direction.
- Eastbound, I see a sixty-foot woman dressed in wrestling clothes... Hey, isn't that Karla Melhor? In her famous "Lady Wrestler on the Moon" attire? Admittedly she has sensible trunks now, but she's still spectacular at six-story height.
- As I back off a bit to the north to consider, Giant-Size Karla tackles the giant robot. Then they float away!
- I then recognize two other superhumans: Wendie Robinson and Julie Wolcott, both of the Combine alongside Karla. They're both telekinetics! And they're concentrating awfully hard right now. Hmm, they must be trying to get the robot away. I happen to know Julie's power only works upon flesh, so that must be where Giant-Size Karla comes in.
- They don't get the robot very far - only back to the same park I just left. Then it all collapses.
- Karla thrashes with the robot. She gets on top - then she disappears! But then I see a human-size body floating away. It's Karla!
- Then a bolt comes down from the sky. Then a giant burst. The robot disappears.
- Karla is still floating in air, but she's writhing in pain. She's covered with burns! That steaming robot may have been hot.
- My bicycle helmet then overcomes me. I know this feeling. It's the Method Man! Hey, I've heard he possesses black hats now - and my bike helmet is a black hat! (15 Apr)
- With the Method Man's power, I ride to Karla and lay on hands. She stops writhing, and her burns go away.
- And Judy's here... Hey, she's the one who sent me here for shopping!
Judy works with The Combine. It's one of the leading superhuman collectives. The Combine is almost all here today.
- Ellipsis and the Mighty Tim must have been in on this battle.
- Ingrid Bodil was commanding. Which would explain the attempt to move the robot away from the Statehouse. Ingrid is sensible that way.
- Ted Clark is there in his Emperor Ted armor. This armor looks a lot like the giant robot in miniature, only not spouting flames. He was working crowd control.
I, being in the middle of things, get invited along for debriefing. They've got a conference room in a state compound in North Nashville. Which kind of surprises me.
- The U.S. Gov was trying to build its own superhuman team, but it didn't work out.
- The Gov tried to make the latest "Thor", Dom-Ra the Solarian, Little Bill, and a newcomer with an alphanumeric code name into the new superhuman initiative. The general nickname for this project was "Useless", though. Those certainly aren't the four I'd have chosen. I've heard some good things about the newcomer (the guy who throws the capture cards), but he's still a bit new. (15 Mar)
- They also have a clone project. Currently there's a super-soldier-owl clone. He should at least be predatory and not need night-vision goggles. But he's not here now, because they don't trust him out in public. Apparently someone sabotaged his support system, so he mostly just sits on a crossbar and screeches now. (22 Apr)
- U.S. super-soldier projects date back before the official dawn of superhumans in 1990, but do not have the best history. The most famous super-soldier was FOAD, who's become a gangbanger in the Bahamas. Clone projects are more recent, but have drawn some opposition, especially from Leo the Pirate Vampire King.
- The alien members of the Combine are gone. "Reticent" the Alien Beast wanted to save Wendie Robinson from Emperor Ted mind control, and left Earth when he couldn't do that to his satisfaction. (16 Mar)
- As for Dom-Ra the Solarian, he's gone to Kansas to watch over some alien-Earthling hybrid cities. The Caladrians are colonizing, and some of those depressed Midwestern cities are eager for guests. In fact, they're making plans to open Earth-style drug stores on alien planets. (31 Mar, 17 Apr)
- But Hudson Ramo shows up. He was at the Nashville airport, coordinating with air traffic control.
- Karen Bodil dials in from Boston. She's back at one of the Combine home offices, doing public relations. Hey, why wasn't she on the "wrestler" job?
- It turns out, giant wrestlers need some advantage. The Combine swiped the "giant" tech from one Colossal Girl I met in 2006. But colossal humans are barely strong enough to lift their own mass. Only with Panlucida strength was Karla even functional - and even then it was like double gravity for her.
- They couldn't just teleport the robot straight out from where it was, because it had defenses against teleportation. They had to break the robot first. That was Ellipsis's job.
- For the public safety, they had to move the robot before attacking. Telekinesis was the best way. Karla's role was to give Julie something organic to lift with her telekinesis. Julie was the major force there; Wendie has never lifted that many tons before. And Julie has some advantages in concentrating, due to a mental link with her husband Ellipsis. They'd wanted to get the robot out of town, but they settled for across the street into a park.
- I gather Karen wanted the "wrestler" job. But Karla was better qualified to be a giant woman wrestler, due to more Panulcida strength. Karen must secretly not want to rely upon the collective power of women (or anyone else) for her strength. And she must have hated that.
During the debriefing, I get a phone call from my boss, Symmetria San Giacomo. Munich, Germany has one of these same robots! Our customer Katerina Katzman from HurrierTech has gotten a challenge to remove it! So I tell the boss, it's time for industrial alliance. And I ask the others for help.
We use the same strategy as before. But it doesn't work as well this time.
- For starters, this robot has a force field so as not to be grappled. Ellipsis can't get past that without massive collateral damage, and the others are stuck. So Ingrid asks me to walk around it and get in with Karla!
- But the robot is expecting us - with energy bolts! That's all I remember.
- After that, with me and Karla down, the superhumans let loose their powers. They moved their robot, but they caused quite some damage.
Other places have attracted similar action.
- Indianapolis, Indiana has the Total Conversion superhuman team - but the team takes contracts in India. When a robot showed up in Bangalore, Total Conversion mobilized. They smashed some evacuated office buildings while moving their robot, but they moved it.
- Manchester, England has an occupying robot. Great Britain's squad of superhuman operatives has avoided damaging things around it, but it's still there. They have a teleporter, but not so powerful as to even try to shift this robot.
- Bratsk, Siberia has Russia's superhuman squad. Novosibirsk, Siberia has a robot. Russia has thus far refrained from trying to blow it up, which is about their only option to get rid of it. Their own superhumans are great at carrying large objects to outer space, but the robot knows not to let them lift it.
- It seems these robots are great at counteracting things that their superhuman opponents have tried before. The main reason the Tennessee action worked so well for humanity is, the robots weren't expecting a giant-size wrestler.
This is not quite an international incident on the level of Lunar wars of 2007. Russia is still something of a rogue nation after that incident, so they're keeping their strategy to themselves. But Britain, Germany, and the European Union are consulting with the U.S.
The U.S. effort is being led by Vice-President "Crusher Joe" Corrigan, but he's mostly deferring to the Combine. Being on good terms with them for once, I get invited to follow-up meetings. I am after all one of Earth's three leading citizens with Galactic experience; this dates back to the Tekno-Otelo Incident. The other Galactic humans are Ellipsis and Wendie Robinson, who are here too.
At the meetings I learn:
- The U.S. Gov is involved in a peg game with an alien intelligence that's configured its body into a giant dragon-shaped board. Gov contractors are so secure in those jobs, they respond to credit checks "The Gov says so". I know this game to be Tekno-Otelo. (24 Apr)
- The Tennessee Gov is handing out new ID badges. They've got some of this Tekno-Otelo action, which explains the presence of the Combine plus some of my own programmer friends in Nashville. (24 Apr)
- Tennessee billionaire Malcolm Dunevoy was instrumental in getting this piece of the action to Nashville. He's been tracking the aliens since before the Saucer War. He's also the guy who invented Tennessee Battle Chess, so he's famous for strategy. And he's got great contacts; I recognize him as one of the Secret Masters! He's sort of the home team in this game, and not averse to some help from us his rival factions - especially since he's in charge.
- The opposing intelligence is apparently the ruler of the Galactic races. Which explains why those races seem like tools, in my opinion. They're all pegs. The giant robots are just more pegs to it.
- Some of the Gov's experts say, peg-based games can generate their own intelligence - like the pegs were neurons! The "Game of Life" can theoretically do this - and it's got simple rules any Earthling can understand. This game doesn't.
- There's no grand solution yet. We've removed three alien pegs from Earth today, but two remain - in countries that haven't been invited to play this game. "The" Alien apparently considers the United States to be the home of world government - because we three Earthlings who've intervened in Galactic affairs all come from there. I love reminding Ellipsis of this, because he's not terribly proud to be an American. I think he's gotten himself Bahamas citizenship again.
- But of course, the entire world got the challenge. Britain and Russia are reluctant to contract to have their robots moved, after what happened in Germany. So we're three for five at the moment. But in a real game of strategy, that's no assurance until the game's over. And nobody's even sure what the rules are.
- Ellipsis is a mutant supergenius, so he thinks he can figure the game out. But I love to remind him how some of his earlier efforts blew up. The time-travel fallout of that one was how I became the last survivor of the first battle of Tennesseans.
Insert good ending here. Yours will probably be better than any I can think of. Especially because I notice, the alien Caladrians are fleeing Kansas! Dom-Ra the Solarian took his five colony-cities into space. Hmm, this can't be good. (5 May)