The Bite Mobile streaked through the air, tailed by ANOS’s evil-ass aircraft. The government/corporate agency weren’t using unmarked choppers or fixed-wing flyers, they’d deployed a fleet of sleek, nasty-looking saucers—harsh angles and pointed crags, with a distinct point that defined their tips. Like the fucked-up offspring of a F-117 and the stereotypical Gray Alien disc.
“FLYER: ACCORDING TO YOUR QUANTUM SIGNATURE, YOU ARE IN POSSESSION OF CLASSIFIED TECH—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 squeezed a door grip for balance, located on the ceiling to his upper left. “Cancels out extraneous noise. It’s Atlantean tech. WHOA!” The autopilot (it wasn’t really autopilot; Bitefighter had distributed his consciousness throughout the car) took them into a steep dive. Their black-booted pursuers followed doggedly behind.
“Maneuverability-wise, they’re just as good us.” 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, now a fifty-foot tall, human-wasp hybrid with an octet of spider legs drooping down from her belly. Dozens of tri-saucers were swooping by, blasting away, but Dee was shooting them down with her unholy munitions: pulses of light that shot from her stinger.
Her booming laughter filled the sky, causing nearby craft to veer and whirl. Some managed to regain their bearings, others spun out and crashed in the hills.
“Her laugh,” Peter hissed. “It’s weaponized.”
Dee let loose with another guffaw. Once again, ANOS’s aircraft zig-zagged randomly, like smoke-addled bees.
“Ugh.” Eun made a face. “If we get any 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 dash, wearing a World War I flying hat and oversized aviator goggles. He put his hands on his hips, stuck his potbelly proudly out, and gave them all a double thumbs-up.
“Peter…” Eun’s voice rose with warning. “They’re catching up!”
Before Peter could reply, a thick cable made of braided light emerged from the left side of the car’s steering column. It snaked up to his sweaty forehead, connecting to a translucent iris that materialized between his physical eyes. Shining veins spread out from the contact, ensconcing his head in a web of light.
“Holy—” Then his expression resolved, going from panicked and shook to steely and sure. 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 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 utterly fucked.” He yanked back on a waist-high lever and they shot forward like a haloed comet, painting the sky with sparkling exhaust.
“But these aren’t normal circumstances.” Peter’s smile was lit by his helmet. “And this isn’t a normal car.” As they screamed by a cluster of saucers, the steering wheel’s top and bottom curves telescoped sideways, turning it into a two-gripped steering device. Atop the grips were prominent red buttons.
“Eat my ass, Luke Skywalker.” Peter squeezed the grips and pressed the buttons.
Twin bursts of magical ordnance lanced out from the bottom of the car, filling the air with glittering equations. They impacted against Dissona’s carapace, blooming into frenzies 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 wildly with her spiny-haired legs. Peter jerked the grips back and forth, barely avoiding her murderous limbs. ANOS’s saucers 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 flicked two switches, then reached up and pulled down on a ceiling-mounted grip. A clockwise twist elicited a crisp-sounding chank.
Faint green halo expanded across their hull, tinging the outside world in emerald haze. Dissona roared again. ANOS’s interceptors veered and spun, 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 twist. The acid flew past and fell to the earth, splashing against a cluster of homes. They immediately burst into violent flames. Miniature figures poured from their doors, thrashing frantically.
Peter pulled up, arching them into a steep climb. Dissona folded her wings and arrowed downward, heading for the nearest collection of San Francisco residences.
“She’s gonna kill bystanders!” Eun screamed.
“She already has!” Peter shouted back. 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, coating pedestrians in webby cocoons. Spiny legs began splitting through them, followed shortly by 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 a couple notches 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 human souls had been forcefully confined.
“She’s made them into hostages!” Peter raged. “Like goddamn Joker at the end of Dark Knight!”
“How do we stop them?” Kora scanned the legions of bug-creatures, tearing apart houses, cars, and lawns. It wouldn’t be long before they killed a civilian.
For the first time in a long while, Eun was at a loss for words. “I…I…” Her eyes ticked back and forth.
Peter’s neuro-linked face flashed with panic. “Eun? Tell me you got something. Eun?” Strategy-wise Eun could hold up against Sun freakin’ Tzu. If she was out of ideas, they were well and truly fucked.
She didn’t say a thing.
Peter felt a coil of stomach-twisting dread. “Uh…I’m sure you’ll think of something.” The words sounded lame, even to him.
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.
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: 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 got nothing.”
Peter looked at Dissona, who was swatting an attack-saucer out of the air. “Fuck,” he spat. “You never split up—that’s how people die in fucking horror movies!”
Kora (thanks to Peter, she’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) 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 brought them lower to the ground so Kora could eject. Her flexi-sectioned seatbelt telescoped back into its sheath, click-click-clicking as it retracted from her body. They 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 out her hand. “Shrooms.”
Peter popped the glovebox and grabbed a tactical drop-bag, equipped with reinforced 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 isn’t a horror movie. It’s an adventure, motherfucker.”
Then she leapt from the Bite Mobile, shaking the air with her best war cry.
As she hit the ground rolling, Peter pulled up and gained altitude. The open door folded down. He couldn’t help but smile at her words.
Hell yeah, he thought. Stranger Things, eat my rancid dickskin.
We got you beat by a country mile.