The Bite Mobile streaked through the air, chased by ANOS’s aircraft. The government/corporate agency wasn’t using your stereotypical black helicopters or fixed-wing flyers, they’d deployed a quartet of sleek, evil-looking saucers, comprised of harsh angles and pointed crags, with a distinct point that defined their tips. They could have passed as the fucked-up offspring of a F-117 and the classic, Alien Gray 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 as clear as day.
“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. “Configuring vibrations to cancel 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, banking sharply to the right. 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 as they screamed by and fired their payloads, Dee blasted them with frayed pulses of soupy light that erupted from her stinger. Her booming laugh filled the sky, setting the teens’ teeth on jagged edge. The attack saucers veered into drunken whirls. Some regained their bearings, others spun out and crashed into the hills.
“Her laugh,” Peter hissed. “Somehow, she’s weaponized it.”
Her bone-quaking guffaw rattled their minds. 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 and 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 lifted the goggles onto his forehead, put his hands on his hips, and stuck his potbelly proudly out, grinning widely. He gave them a double thumbs-up, then disappeared.
“Peter…” Eun’s voice lilted with warning. “They’re catching up!”
Peter opened his mouth to reply, but before he could speak, a port opened on the lower left side of the steering wheel and a thick cable made of braided light emerged from its center. The glowing coil snaked up to Peter’s forehead. In between his eyes, where the coil lay against his skin, a translucent iris glimmered into existence. As the coil connected with its wide-open pupil, shining veins spread out from the connection, ensconcing his head in a web of light.
That was all he managed before the light networked into a rough half-sphere around his head. 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. The Bite Mobile clunked and whirred, sprouting switches and buttons all across the dashboard. He flicked a switch to the right of the steering wheel, and ports emerged on the car’s sides. Flaring streams of ultra-hot metal poured from their openings, lighting the sky with glaring showers. ANOS’s in-flight munitions exploded against them, dotting the sky with orange fireballs.
Peter’s pupils flickered and shone. “Their guidance systems are state of the art—under normal circumstances, we’d be completely fucked.” He yanked back on a waist-high, horizontal lever next to the stick shift. As it locked into place, the Bite Mobile shot forward like a haloed comet, leaving sparkling exhaust in its wake.
“But these aren’t normal circumstances.” Peter’s smiled, his face lit by his battle-helmet’s holographics. “And this isn’t a normal car.” As they screamed by a cluster of attack craft, the top and bottom curves on his steering wheel telescoped sideways, disappearing into the left and right sections, turning the wheel into a two-gripped steering device. On top of the grips were prominent red buttons.
“Eat my ass, Luke Skywalker.” Peter clenched 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.
Her earth-shattering roar shook the sky, she swiped wildly at the car with her spiny-haired legs. Peter jerked the grips back and forth, causing their craft to dart between her limbs. ANOS’s attack craft weren’t as lucky; they blew apart into smoke-laden fireballs, marking the night with red-orange flame.
Dissona let out another roar, inducing nosebleeds. “Peter!” Eun shouted. “It feels like razor blades are running across my brain!”
“Sorry.” Peter gritted his teeth. He’d meant to counter Dissona’s sonics, but he’d been too preoccupied with ANOS’s interceptors. He flicked two switches to the right of the steering column, then reached up and pulled down on a ceiling-mounted handgrip. He twisted it clockwise, eliciting a crisp-sounding chank from somewhere inside its mechanistic guts.
An electronic-sounding VMMMMM shook the cabin. 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 the 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 jerked the grips, sending the Bite Mobile into a spiraling, downward twist. The acidic discharge flew past them and splashed against a cluster of homes. As the houses melted and burst into flames, miniature figures poured from their doors, thrashing frantically and screaming their heads off.
Peter pulled up, and the Bite Mobile arched 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 their argument was moot; Dissona’s low-flying pass wasn’t for the purposes of extermination, she intended something far more sinister. As she buzzed by scores of rooftops, gallons of silk shot out from her thorax, ensconcing citizens in a cocoon of webbing. Moments later spiny legs began splitting them open, followed by gross-ass, fully formed bug-people.
Dissona’s spawn looked hella demonic. Unlike the Insectoids Peter had tangled with, Dee’s progeny were layered with edges and oozing spines. Like they’d been designed to go to fucking war.
Eun pressed her face against the passenger-side window. “Jesus Christ!” she exclaimed. “She just gave birth to an army of monsters!”
Dissona’s offspring screeched and gibbered. Purple-black saliva yawed between their mandibles.
Kora pushed her sight Slideways. “Orgoth’s balls,” she muttered. “Their human animas are still inside their monster bodies.” Dissona’s victims—hell-fiend versions of spiders, mantises, and other variations of creepy-crawlies—were sporting psychomagic cages that floated above their heads, to 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 down below. They were tearing apart houses, cars, and lawns. It wouldn’t be long before they encountered unmorphed civilians and ripped them to shreds.
For the first time in a long while (maybe in her entire life) 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. Her eyes simply kept ticking back and forth.
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?” Confusion flickered through Peter’s eyes. “Feed em…zen zaps?” His brow wrinkled in puzzlement.
Bitefighter threw him a big ol’ cheese-grin, pantomiming two pistols and shooting Peter with both index fingers: You got it, partner!
Kora leaned forward. “Give me some zen zaps and let me out.”
Peter looked back at her. “Kora, they’ll outnumber you a hundred to one.”
“Let me out, Peter.”
“Let me out,” she repeated.
Peter turned right, prompting Eun with a doubtful look. “Eun?”
Eun shrugged. “I’m out of ideas.”
Peter stared at Dissona. She’d stopped growing—she was maybe seventy or eighty feet tall at this point—and was swatting ANOS’s craft out of the air with malicious joy. “Fuck,” he spat. “You never wander off by yourself in a horror movie—that’s how people die!”
Kora—who’d 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—understood. “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 he could get ready to eject Kora. Her flexi-sectioned seatbelt telescoped back in its sheath, click-click-clicking as it retracted from her body. Their car was flying at street-light level, skimming above the monster-infested suburbs. He slowed down to a manageable speed so Kora could tuck and roll without being injured.
“This is good.” She held a hand out. “Mushrooms.”
Peter popped the glovebox and withdrew a tactical drop-bag with reinforced carabiners that could hook to her battle-suit. He tossed it to her, and she clipped it to her waist. Kora’s door folded up, giving her an exit. She gripped the sides of the opening with both hands, planting her feet in a hunched crouch. She looked at Peter, shooting him a grin as the incoming wind fluttered her hair.
“We’re not in a horror movie. This is an adventure, motherfucker.”
Then she jumped out from the Bite Mobile’s side, letting loose with her best war cry.
As she hit the ground rolling, her sword and shield flashing into existence, Peter pulled up and gained altitude. The open door folded down, and he couldn’t help but grin like a fucking maniac, just like Kora had a second before.
Hell yeah, he thought. Stranger Things, eat your heart out. \
We got you beat by a country mile.