Darkship Revenge – Snippet 25

“Maybe he’s just malformed.  How would you know?” Baby Brother was defiant and sneering.  “What would you know what a woman looks like, anyway?  And how many women can there be? On Earth?”

“Uh,” Danegerous said.  “Uh. Many. The hollos,” he said.  “From Earth.”

“Bah,” Baby brother said.  “They could just be differently dressed men. How would you know what they look like naked?  That’s the only way to tell if there are real differences.”

I saw the two older ones trade a look and thought there must be hollos that Baby Brother wasn’t privy to.  But why hadn’t they seen women?  And why did they seem to think women were rare?  Had they been raised in some home for the seriously mentally unstable, kept locked away from all of humanity?  Now I thought about it, it made perfect sense, actually.

“Come on,” the tallest and oldest one, the redhead, said.  “You don’t have to see what they look like naked to see they’re different.  In olden times, they were the people who gave birth.  Their whole body is designed for it.”

Baby Brother’s eyebrows went up.  He looked deeply thoughtful, in that way that my soi disant father had looked before he had someone arrested. He turned to me.  “Strip.  We’ll see if it’s true.”

Right.  And I’d see him in hell.

But I couldn’t say that, and I couldn’t mouth off.  There was that snuffle, snuffle from the toy storage at the back. I had to control my expression.  I had to find a way out of this.

I couldn’t run at him and pound him into dirt, because the other two might object, and if Baby Brother had the enhanced speed as I did, the other two might also.

And I couldn’t intimidate him with words, because I didn’t know where he’d come from or what he’d been through.  As I said, an asylum wasn’t out of the question.  Perhaps father had made him as a back-up body donor.  The thing was I didn’t know what to hold over him.  If someone has already been raised in hell, threatening him with flames is besides the point.  Which I’d proven over and over again when well-meaning ladies had threatened me with expulsion from schools where Daddy dearest had enrolled me.

When sane routes out of trouble are impassible, as my broomer friends had taught me, you take the crazy one.

I let my knees hit the floor, raised both my hands to my head, and bawled in the most sincere way I could manage, “Oh, please, don’t hurt me.”  My noise had the effect of covering any noise Eris might make.

By the corner of my eye, while crying, and cringing, I noted that Redhead and Danegerous had jumped back. Apparently my performance was terrifying.

But Baby Brother also resembled me in not scaring.  Or perhaps in scaring angry.

His lip curled up.  “He’s a coward,” he said, and stepped forward, raising his foot.  I had to struggle not to smile.  The more psychotic they are, the easier they fall.  And by genetics alone, poor Baby Brother was laboring under more issues than some long-running journals.

As he raised his foot to kick me, I bent forward, as though to grovel, and said, “Oh, please, I’m just a poor woman.”  I noted that both Redhead and Danegerous did a little mental shout of Told you so.  Which was good because it took them off guard too.

I grabbed Baby Brother’s foot before his kick landed, and pulled.  Up. Hard.  With Super Speed.

Look, just because they could move very fast, didn’t mean they thought other people could too.  Or perhaps they didn’t think women could.  Or perhaps they just couldn’t think.

As Baby Brother hit the ground with a resounding jar, and before he could roll over and shoot me, which he would have, given half a chance, I had removed his burners.  I slipped one into my pocket.  Then I lifted the insufferable brat by the tuft of ill-dyed hair, and pointed my burner at his head.  My idea was to use him a shield and threaten to shoot him.

But of course, nothing is ever easy or simple.  The horrible brat spun around, somehow, ignoring pain.  His hair tore at the roots.  Leaving me holding a hank of improbably colored hair, he got free.  I realized why he was missing tufts of hair.  Apparently fighting recklessly was one of his amusements.

He aimed for my crotch with a well applied kick, and while it still hurt, it didn’t hurt me like he expected – I guess he really didn’t know any women – which allowed me to bring the burner  butt neatly into the side of his head, rendering him unconscious, just as Redhead dove at me.

I shoved Baby Brother out of the way and kicked Redhead in the crotch just before he hit me.  Of all the fighting I learned, both formal and street, for my money, the best training I ever got for combat was the ballet camp I once attended.  It allows such precision in high kicks. I jumped out of the way as he rolled on the floor clutching his family jewels.  Since I didn’t know his resiliency level, I pulled the burner from my hair – look, I didn’t know Baby Brother’s standards in weapon maintenance.  The one I’d taken from him might or might not work – and pointed a burner at him and one at Danegerous, who was backing up, both hands in full sight, his mouth working.

Weirdly, the Redhead, on the floor didn’t even look at me.  He howled, both mind and voice, staring at his companion, “Thor, don’t.”

Danegerous gave a little start, and looked mulish, while shaking his head.  “If we’re going to fail…  If we fail… You know what Father –”

“Fuck Father,” the redhead yelled. I felt wordless shock from the other two. “This doesn’t mean we’ll fail.  Just because the guy didn’t know anything about Earth, and we let Morgan try his way at making friends and influencing people, it doesn’t mean we failed at the mission.”  He looked at me.  “Look, Ma’am, I know we started badly, but if you give us a chance, we want nothing nefarious.  We’re emissaries on a peace mission.”

“And I’m Winnie the Pooh,” I said.

“No, you’re not,” Danegerous said with an edge of hysteria to his voice, his hand reaching into his pocket.  “We know him. He’s much younger than you.”

At the same time I yelled “Freeze.”

He didn’t, so I leapt across the room, grabbed his hand in mine and pointed the weapon at his head.  Only to point it at the redhead who made a jump at us.  Finding the burner pointed at his head, he lifted both hands, “Ma’am,” he said, the soul of politeness.  “You must let me get the stuff from Thor’s pockets.  He’s an explosives fanatic, and he’s trying to blow us all up.”

“I have to,” the so called Thor yelled.  “You know what Father will do to us if we come back defeated.”

Which is when his voice, wavering and adolescent though it was, found a place in my head.  “Thor… Mason?” I asked.

He froze.  “Wah?”

“From the genetic line of Ajith Mason?” I asked.

The Redhead who’d been inching closer, with all the stealth of a cat, stopped and froze too.  He stared at me.  And I caught a flash in the eyes that made his features click into place.  “And you,” I pointed the burner at him, and waved with it.  “You’re Jarl Ingemar’s clone.”

I should have known better.  Look, perhaps it’s genetic.  Like Little Brother I apparently had a way to make friends and influence people.

I’m not going to give you a blow by blow account.  I don’t remember it.  I remember Thor Mason squirming, trying to go for his stored bombs, presumably.  I mean, what would you expect from Fuse’s little brother?

I hit him hard, on the head, and eased him down quickly, just in time to deal with Jarl’s – and therefore my husband’s — clone who seemed unsure on whether to attack or not and therefore was at a disadvantage when I hit him hard.

I was in the process of tying all of them, individually and securely when Eris started screaming blue murder, and Kit yelled in my head Athena, Athena, answer me.