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I was considering my options. One thought had me pumping myself up to go and fight Hookwolf and break up his dogfighting ring. That idea was shot down because, well, I got beat up by Sophia Hess. And she didn't even have superpowers! It didn't matter that my Badniks would be doing the majority of the fighting, because against Hookwolf? There would be casualties. That and, I wasn't actually sure of what to do with that many dogs. How many dogs were even at a dog fight? Were there just two, or did they have just... like a big, evil pile-

I'm stopping before I make myself sad. The Empire will have what's coming to them eventually.

The point is, not the smart thing to do, and I was a genius. Going to the pound was a better option, but thinking about that, an even simpler approach was made clear to me. The pound was simply a re-seller of dogs! Why would I go to them, and pay money and or steal from them, (either of which would gather attention) when I could just go to the source of stray dogs itself? The streets!

I still went to the area near the train yards where the E88 hang out, but rather than go looking for Empire dog fights, I looked for the survivors of such, or their descendants, or just random street dogs that come to hang out around here because of the garbage that the gangers leave behind.

The Crabmeats are sent off as a group. After my trip to the corner store, I had some electronics I could take apart to figure out how radios worked, and keyed all four of my Badniks to the same unused channel. It wasn't secure, but I... didn't know how one goes about securing a radio channel anyway? And I don't have a computer on me to research how, so this would have to do. I didn't have a radio myself, but the Crabmeats can communicate with Moto Bug, and I can communicate with Moto Bug, so as soon as they find a potential candidate, the two of us know.

Once Moto Bug gets the signal, we pull the wagon, now reconfigured for dog-containing purposes with its new door and lock, towards where the Crabmeats have apparently found the Egg Mobile's power source.

The furious barking should be the first thing that alerts me to something being wrong, but it's not until I hear the sounds of Chaos energy packets exploding was the first thing to make me actually worried. I unhook the wagon, and the two of us speed towards the sounds of destruction.

The sight of three massive monstrous things swatting at my three cornered- just three? Where's-

"NOOOOO!" I scream, and the chaos in front of me comes to a startled stop as the Crabmeats- the remaining ones, rush to my side. Poor babies! Crabmeat number Two! You were not long for this world, yet I will never forget you! 

Somehow it's even worse than if Number One or Four died! You can't just go One, Three, Four! 

The three Crabmeats had been cornered nearby two large shipping containers by the monsters. One of the monsters had stepped on, or fallen on, or something, Crabmeat Two, and crushed it before I arrived. But it must have happened only a few moments ago, because it hadn't yet-

The monsters backed up in surprise as Crabmeat Two erupted in a blaze of final glory. Never would one of my inventions be destroyed, and then studied by the enemy! For this reason, thorough self-destructs were a key factor of every Badnik. Be free, my glorious machine, the first of my number to die in the pursuit of their duties. May the fires of your self-destruct mechanism explosively launch your soul directly to robot Valhalla! Mechalla? Valhallectric? 

The sudden fireball doesn't expand very far. The self-destruct isn't a weapon. I don't design suicide bombers. Or rather, I didn't design the Crabmeats, or Moto Bug for that matter, to be suicide bombers. It's simply to prevent reverse engineering. And to that end... once the light dims down, the Crabmeat is only so much mechanical sludge, a contained lump of melted metal with no remnants of my circuitry, their mechanical brains, the CEP launchers, or my Chaos Extractor. Well, a lump of metal, and a glowing orb of Chaos energy holding a rat, still in stasis. It rolled away, before fading. The rat sniffed the air, took notice of the monsters, and fled. 

It seems that both I and my enemies were captivated by the last moments of Crabmeat Two, but now that the theatrics had ended, the monsters were turning their attention to me. There's a whistle, and a detail I understandably initially overlooked made itself known. The monsters were directed, by a bulky person wearing a dog mask. One of the massive creatures hurtled itself towards me, a horrible growl coming from its throat, and Moto Bug didn't need my directions to know that it was time to flee.

"Crabmeats! I want you to hide! Your top priority is returning to headquarters undamaged!" the three scatter, heading off in various directions, and I direct Moto Bug out of the corner and towards the labyrinth of alleyways, shipping containers, unloaded train cars, and the like. We are, of course, faster than it by orders of magnitude, not to mention far more maneuverable! The precise movements of my finest Badnik far outclassing any organic attempts at locomotion! Well, except for people like Velocity, but they didn't really count.


Inside me, two desires raged. The first was the desire for safety. That dog-mask person had directed what amounted to a dinosaur to chase me! I didn't even have my damn Egg Mobile yet! Nothing I had could stand up to that! It had killed one of my Badniks! 

But it was precisely for those reasons that my second desire, the desire for revenge, burned so hot!

I narrowed my eyes, ground my teeth, cursed at the sky, and forced my pride back. Later. Later I would find that person... and do something. I'm not sure yet, but something! Crabmeat Two deserved vengeance!


All three of the Crabmeats made it back in one piece, and I gave them all a look-over and a diagnostic before heading back out to pick up the wagon. I had asked the Crabmeats where the most wild dogs had been spotted, and they had given their radio replies to Moto Bug, who was carrying me there. All three of the Crabmeats would be riding on top of it, and were instructed to fire from a distance should the giant monsters and their master show up again. 

We slow to a stop as I look at the area the Crabmeats had apparently tried sheparding a dog away from. It, like my own base, was in a part of town where only the more desperate homeless, gangers, and drug addicts hung out. The area was in a building that looked like it had stopped half-way through construction. The groundfloor was more-or-less complete, but it was otherwise just a frame, and a good part of the walls-enclosed area was open to the sky. 

There was also the constant sound of barking rising from it. More than that, wild dogs seemed to visit the area often. There's food around, it smells like other dogs, and there's not many people who shoo them away. 

I watch, interested, for a while, and eventually I see the dog-mask person again. I rescind my shoot-on-sight orders, and have them remain where they are as I inch forward. The monsters aren't anywhere in sight, and more than that, Dog-Mask walks like they're exhausted. 

"Greetings!" I shout, making a wide threatening smile. 

Dog-Mask whips around, surprised, and I swear they growl. The dogs closest to them begin to growl as well, closing ranks in front of them like a well-oiled machine. "Get out of here." they- she? -orders. 

"No, 'who are you?' No, 'how did you find me?' No, 'I'm sorry for killing one of your beautiful robotic minions?' How rude."

"Get. Out." and like that, the three dogs closest to her begin to grow and twist, subtly, slowly, eerily. Flesh bubbled, spikes rose, muscles tore and grew and calcified. It was... utterly fascinating, really, but I'm not that big a fan of biology. 

"Hey now, just wait. Why did you kill my robot?" I ask, and the smile vanishes, "What gave you the right to murder my creation, hm?"

"What gives you the right to have them menace dogs?"

"Was it your dog in particular?"

"No." and no more explanation after that. Hm. A general defender of canine rights, then? 

...

I can work with that.

"I needed one."

That seems to confuse her, so I keep going, "The dog wouldn't have been harmed. I'm not going to experiment on it, poke or prod it. I would put it in stasis. My machines are powered by living things- you saw, didn't you?"

"See what?"

"The rat, inside dear, sweet, dead Crabmeat number Two. Even after it was crushed by your beast, and bathed in the flames of the remains' self-destruct, the field wasn't damaged. And after the field evaporated, it ran away, utterly unharmed in body and mind! That was what I was going to do to the dog."

"Look for more rats." she ordered, "And leave me alone."

"...That's a lot of barking going on in there-"

"You aren't getting one of my dogs." Never once in our conversation did the three stop growing. Already they were far bigger than ordinary dogs, bigger than even tigers, I think. Not quite rhinos yet though. 

"I would never ask!" I say, "No, all that I'm saying is, you already have so many mouths to feed. Are all the wild dogs in the area yours as well? Do you feed and brush them all? No, no you don't. But you don't like seeing them get hurt, that I understand well enough. And what I do, does not hurt them! If anything, they'll be better off! When inside the stasis, they are far safer than on the street! I'm extending its lifespan!"

She stares at me, the dog mask hiding every semblance of emotion from me, but from body language alone, I can tell she's uncomfortable, and doesn't like or trust me. I sigh, expecting it'll come to a fight anyway- but to my surprise, the monsters are no longer growing. "...I watch."

"You... watch?"

"I want to see what you do with it." she growls, "And if you're lying, I'll kill you."

I flash a brilliant grin, and she tenses, "And if I'm not lying?"

"Then you don't come near me again."


Bitch, as she named herself, follows me back to my headquarters, all three of her monster-dogs at her side. Rather than getting a stray dog from the street, she went into her own base, and came out carrying a shivering, snarling, crazy-eyed dog in a cage. It pulled at my heartstrings, and I accepted it as the act of mercy that she meant it to be for the dog. 

She's not impressed with the Egg Mobile, but she's obviously not a technologically-minded sort, so I don't judge her for it. 

I show her the medium-sized Chaos extractor built into the floor of the Egg Mobile. As the Chaos extractor is the engine of my hover-throne, it lies at the core. I'll had to wait to activate the extractor before putting in the pedals and chair. I haven't found one comfortable enough to be worthy of my throne yet anyway.

She hesitates for a few seconds, before opening the cage door and letting it out. Her own monster-dogs quickly make it back into submission, and Bitch grabs it while its distracted, keeping the snapping jaws away from her face. She lowered it into the extractor, and the electric green field activated. The dog snarled, and then stilled. Entering stasis, it remained floating inside the chamber. 

The extractor whirred to life, and the Egg Mobile began to hum as the lights on the dashboard lit up. If I had the pedals installed, I could make it fly right now.

"Do you want me to pull it-"

"Her."

"-her back out, to show you she's fine?"

"...Yes." 

I have the Crabmeats loop a rope around the circumference of the Chaos field's sphere, and pull it out of the extractor. The lights on the machine die, and I'm glad that I keyed off the Egg Mobile's self-destruct while I was still working on it. 

A few seconds pass, the field fades, and suddenly the dog is moving again, snarling and growling like nothing happened. Bitch tenses, and gives me a small nod, before abruptly turning to leave. 

"Wait." I bark. 

"What?"

"You killed one of my minions." I say. 

"And?" she growled out. 

"The next time I need a dog to power one of my machines, I'll be coming back to you." I say, "And you'll give me another dog like this one, if you have one. Okay? And the time after that." 

"...Like that one?"

"Like that one."

"...Fine. Don't come until you need to." and then, she's gone. 

Whew! That girl isn't good for my stress. I'm sorry, Crabmeat Two, but after all that, I wouldn't feel right... punishing her, or whatever. And in the end, you're already dead. I will instead honor your sacrifice as one that has allowed me to secure a dog for the Egg Mobile's Chaos extractor anyway! Good job Crabmeat Two!

Now... to secure a proper chair! 

After that...

Do some cleaning up around the city! As a visionary, of course- time to get my name out there by showing my brilliant inventions and wonderful plans! I do need money, after all. I'll start by talking to the mayor about constructing my Marvelous Mechanical Amusement Park! This drab city needs an infusion of real color!