The Bite Mobile streaked through the air, ANOS’s aircraft in hot pursuit. The government/corporate agency wasn’t using the stereotypical unmarked helicopters or fixed-wing flyers, they’d deployed a fleet of sleek, evil-looking saucers, comprised of harsh angles and pointed crags, with a distinct point that defined their tips. Like the fucked-up offspring of a F-117 and the classic, Gray Alien disc.
“FLYER: YOU ARE IN POSSESSION OF CLASSIFIED TECHNOLOGY—A DIRECT VIOLATION OF THE CHENEY-KOCH ACT. GROUND YOUR AIRCRAFT NOW.” The wing commander’s voice echoed through the Bite Mobile.
“How can we hear them?” Eun glanced at Peter. “It’s like they’re in here with us.”
“Metasonics.” Peter gritted his teeth and held on to his door grip, located on the ceiling to his upper left. “They cancel out extraneous noise. It’s Atlantean tech. WHOA!” The autopilot (it wasn’t really autopilot—Peter’s extradimensional bestie Bitefighter had distributed his consciousness throughout the car) took them into a steep dive. Their black-booted pursuers followed doggedly behind.
“In terms of maneuverability, they’re in our league.” Peter looked back as the car leveled out. “Figures—they’ve all got access to 115. Area 51, go fuck yourself.”
“She’s getting away.” Kora pointed at Dee: a fifty-foot tall, human-wasp hybrid with an octet of spider legs drooping down from her belly. ANOS had deployed dozens of tri-saucers to bring her down, but Dee was blasting them out of the air with pulses of light that shot from her stinger.
Her booming laughter filled the sky, causing nearby attack saucers to veer off into drunken whirls. Some regained their bearings, others spun out and crashed against the hills.
“Her laugh,” Peter hissed. “Somehow, she’s weaponized it.”
Dee let loose with another guffaw. Once again, ANOS’s aircraft zig-zagged randomly, like smoke-addled bees.
“Ugh.” Eun made a face. Can we do something about that? If we get closer, if the effect gets stronger…”
Peter tapped the center console. “Hey—BF. Need some help here.”
Bitefighter’s six-inch hologram appeared on the glassy black holopanel, wearing a World War I-style flying hat and oversized aviator goggles. He put his hands on his hips, and stuck his potbelly out, grinning widely. He gave them a double thumbs-up, then he was gone.
“Peter…” Eun’s voice lilted with warning. “They’re catching up!”
Before Peter could reply, a thick cable made of braided light emerged from the left side of the steering wheel. A glowing coil snaked up to his forehead, connecting to a translucent iris that glimmered into existence between his eyes. As the coil linked with his third-eye pupil, shining veins spread out from the connection, ensconcing his head in a web of light.
“Holy—” Then his expression resolved, going from panicked and shook to steely and resolute. He was now wearing a transparent, techno-astral helmet. Below its brim, his pupils lit with neon green blaze.
“Peter?” Eun whispered. “Are you—”
“Deploying chaff.” His words came out in a badass, robo-toned voice. Glowing streams of ultra-hot metal poured out from the Bite Mobile’s flanks. ANOS’s munitions exploded against them, dotting the sky with orange fireballs.
Peter’s pupils flickered and shone. “They have state-of-the-art guidance—under normal circumstances, we’d be completely fucked.” He yanked back on a waist-high, horizontal lever. As it locked into place, the Bite Mobile shot forward like a haloed comet, painting the sky with a sparkling trail of shining exhaust.
“But these aren’t normal circumstances.” Peter’s smile was lit by his helmet’s holographics. “And this isn’t a normal car.” As they screamed by a cluster of attack craft, the steering wheel’s top and bottom curves telescoped sideways, making the wheel into a two-gripped steering device. On top of the grips were prominent red buttons.
“Eat my ass, Luke Skywalker.” Peter squeezed the grips and pressed the buttons.
Twin bursts of magical ordnance burst from the bottom of the car, filling the air with fantastic chains of glittering equations. They impacted against Dissona’s carapace, blooming into frenzied blasts of purple-blue sparks. Unlike ANOS’s ordnance, the Bite Mobile’s munitions had a tangible effect; Dissona arched back and roared with pain.
As the car flew close, she swiped at it with a spiny-haired leg. Peter jerked the grips back and forth, barely avoiding her murderous limbs. ANOS’s attack craft weren’t as lucky; they blew apart into smoke-laden fire.
Dissona let out another roar, inducing a trio of nosebleeds. “Peter!” Eun shouted. “She’s cutting into my goddamn brain!”
“Sorry.” Peter gritted his teeth. He flicked two switches, then reached up and pulled down on a ceiling-mounted handgrip. A clockwise twist elicited a crisp-sounding chank.
A faint green halo expanded across their hull, tinging the outside world with emerald haze. Dissona roared again. ANOS’s interceptors veered into wild-ass loops, but the three teens remained unaffected.
“Danke,” Eun said, wiping blood from her nose with the back of her hand.
“Don’t thank me yet,” Peter said. “HOLD ON!”
Dissona craned toward them and opened her mouth wide. As black, steaming muck shot from her maw, Peter sent the Bite Mobile into a spiraling, downward twist. The acid flew past them, splashing against a cluster of homes. Houses melted and burst into flames. Miniature figures poured from their doors, thrashing frantically.
Peter pulled up, arching them into a steep climb. Dissona folded her wings behind her back, heading for the nearest collection of San Francisco residences.
“She’s gonna kill bystanders!” Eun screamed.
“She already has!” Peter shouted. But an instant later they realized Dissona intended something far more sinister. As she buzzed by scores of rooftops, gallons of silk shot out from her thorax, ensconcing pedestrians in a cocoon of webbing. Spiny legs began splitting through them, followed shortly by gross-ass, fully formed bug-people.
Eun pressed her face against the passenger-side window. “Jesus Christ!” she exclaimed. “She just gave birth to an army of monsters!” Dissona’s spawn looked hella demonic, layered with nasty edges and oozing spines.
Kora pushed her sight Slideways. “Orgoth’s balls,” she muttered. “Their human animas are still inside their monster bodies.” Dissona’s spawn—hell-fiend versions of spiders, mantises, and other variations of creepy-crawlies—were sporting psychomagic cages that floated above their heads, in which their visibly terrified, visibly human souls had been forcefully confined.
“She’s made them into hostages!” Peter gritted his teeth. “Like goddamn Joker at the end of Dark Knight!”
“How do we stop them?” Kora scanned the legions of bug-creatures. They were tearing apart houses, cars, and lawns. It wouldn’t be long before they killed an unmorphed civilian.
For the first time in a long while, Eun was at a loss for words. “I…I…” Her eyes ticked back and forth, staring at nothing in particular.
Peter’s neuro-linked eyes flashed with panic. “Eun? Tell me you got something. Eun?” In terms of strategy, Eun Yin could hold her own against Sun freakin’ Tzu. If she was out of ideas, they were well and truly fucked.
She didn’t say a thing.
Stomach-twisting dread coiled through Peter. “Uh…uh…I’m sure you’ll think of something.” The words sounded lame, even to him. Eun was always ready with solutions and answers.
Bitefighter’s hologram materialized on the holo-pad, center-dashboard. He caught their attention with a wide wave and a giant smile, then instantiated his whiteboard and began writing on its surface with his cartoon finger.
Mushrooms! it read. Feed em the good stuff!
“Mushrooms? Feed em…zen zaps?” Peter’s brow wrinkled in puzzlement.
Bitefighter threw him a big ol’ cheese-grin, pantomiming two pistols and shooting twice with both index fingers: You got it, partner!
Kora leaned forward. “I’ll do it. Give me some zen zaps and let me out.”
Peter looked back at her. “You’ll be outnumbered. Like a hundred to one.”
“Let me out, Peter.”
Peter turned right, prompting Eun with a doubtful look. “Eun?”
Eun shrugged. “I’m out of ideas.”
Peter stared at Dissona, who was swatting an attack-saucer out of the air. “Fuck,” he spat. “You never split your forces—that’s how people die!”
Kora (who, thanks to Peter, had been introduced to cult classics such as Saw and The Exorcist as well as a shitload of others due to Leona Cooper’s pre-fuck movie-watching) got his point. “Good thing we’re not in a horror movie.”
“Yeah?” Peter looked at her again. “Then what are we in?” He’d cut away from Dissona and brought them lower to the ground so Kora could eject. Her flexi-sectioned seatbelt telescoped back in its sheath, click-click-clicking as it retracted from her body. They’d dumped their altitude, and were now skimming above the monster-infested suburbs, at a speed where Kora could tuck and roll without being injured.
“This is good.” She held a hand out. “Mushrooms.”
Peter popped the glovebox and took out a tactical drop-bag, equipped withreinforced carabiners she could hook it to her battle-suit. He tossed it back to her, and she clipped it to her waist. Kora’s door folded up.
She took a moment to tie a skull-mouth bandanna around her face, then gripped the sides of the door with both hands, planting her feet in a hunched crouch. She looked over at Peter, shooting him a grin as the incoming wind fluttered her hair.
“This ain’t a horror movie. It’s an adventure, motherfucker.”
Then she jumped out from the Bite Mobile, letting loose with her best war cry.
As she hit the ground rolling, Peter pulled up and gained altitude. The open door folded down, and he couldn’t help but laugh and cheer.
Hell yeah, he thought. Stranger Things, eat your heart out.
We got you beat by a country mile.