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"...Very well. But I have some delicate" I mime an explosion with my hands "work-in-progress going on here right now, I'll just finish up, and then I'll join your Empire. Shouldn't take more than two days or so."

Kaiser narrows his eyes, not exactly appreciating my attitude. "...Very well." he looked to the side, "Rune."

"Yes boss?"

"You're to keep an eye on her." Agh!

I don't allow the displeasure to show on my face, "Oh? I've been meaning to find a lab assistant!" I grin maniacally, and the smile actually becomes a bit genuine when I see the girl take an instinctive step back., "You're telekinetic right?! The possibilities that allows..."

"Kaiser-" Rune begins, before hesitating, "-what about school? And my regular duties?"

He looked between us, "Well, I don't see any issues. You're the same age aren't you?"

"Ah, I don't go to school any more." I said, "I almost electrocuted someone."

"Of... course you did." he said, dryly, "Listen... Robotnik, you've made the right choice here today, and I know better than to let a Tinker's project run its course out of control, but I also know better than to let you go unseen. If you try to run, or you turn on Rune, the Empire will be a phone call away." he said, nodding to her, "And if you are being truly genuine, as I hope you are, and as you'd better be, you two should get to know each other. You'll be working together in the future." he glares down at us, "Is that understood?"

"Yes." Rune says, quietly.

"Robotnik?" Kaiser asks, his tone a bit warning. Yeesh.

"Sure, sure."

"Good. You're meant to be a part of the Empire, Robotnik, and things will go so much smoother because you've realized that." he says with a chilled smile, before turning and leaving. Krieg eyed the two of us, before giving me a small nod of acknowledgement.

"...So..." Rune says, as we watch them leave.

"Well, let's go inside. I'll show you the facilities." I say, with a swish of my hands.

"You shouldn't talk to Kaiser like that, you know."

"Like what?" I ask, looking ahead.

"So flippantly. Like you're not treating him seriously. People get scars that way. Or end up dead." she warns.

"Charming of him." I say dryly, "Well, I'd better give you the tour of the facilities."

"Should... shouldn't you check up on the thing that's going to explode first?"

"Don't worry, the experimental generators are the first things I'll show you!" I say, grinning evilly. Let's see... the average weight for a teenage girl is about 140 pounds, right? Hm. Too big for E-101 Beta. Oh well. I had been hoping to knock two birds with one stone.

But then again... If Beta were larger... 

 


She was quite easy to fool, honestly. She expected a big, rumbling, device. So I just took her to the ship's real generator. An inefficient oil-guzzling monstrosity that I had disconnected to replace with Skidmark and Squealer's Chaos Extractors.

I had salvaged a good few parts from the thing, which left it in a somewhat dismantled appearance. Inside the engine room, one could hear the rumbling of the uselessly spinning propeller rods, which vibrated everything slightly. When I had Rune distracted along the way, I whispered for a Crabmeat to crawl inside the thing, and light up his Chaos Energy Packet launchers, giving the thing an alien green glow from its depths.

It looked like a big, half-finished, glowing engine. Which is exactly what it was.

"Now, I had been gathering and salvaging parts from the ships nearby in order to build one of the stabilizing components I need. I was originally going to just have Zero ferry it in, but I think you could do just as good of a job, eh?" I set her to the task of ferrying the huge piles of salvaged materials I had ripped from the other ships, and lifting it up to the deck of my headquarters, where Zero or I can easily sort out what I need and take it directly to the lab.

While she was busy doing that, I had a few moments to myself to think things through.

I had created a deadline for myself to delay the inevitable. While I was fairly sure if it came down to lethal force, with just the Egg Mobile, Zero, the Crabmeats and Moto Bug, I could carve chunks out of a good number of the E88, there were other members that I just wasn't equipped to handle right now. And that said; I'm not quite at the point where I'll start killing people yet, which means that due to me holding back, a large number of the other E88 suddenly become problems, including Rune.

How do I fix this problem?

My first thought of making Rune into a battery for E-101 Beta to get her out of my hair is probably not the best idea. Rune's a teenage girl, even if she is a Nazi villain. People look for teenage girls when they suddenly disappear, in a way that people don't look for middle-aged supervillains. It was believable, for Skidmark and Squealer to get spooked enough to leave town and not come back. Whatever their secret identities, if they even bothered with that, were, they were probably middle-aged drug addicts too. The only people doing the looking are probably Merchants, and I'm not expecting them to have much in terms of detective skills.

But if I make Rune vanish, suddenly police will be looking for a missing girl- even if she goes to Winslow, it'd happen. And worse, the E88 will be looking for the person they left in charge of me. Even if I get the E88 off my back in the short-term, they'd eventually assume I killed her, and look for real vengeance.

No, no, I need Rune out of the way, but not dead. Not a battery either.

As I consider the possibilities, I begin work on Beta's frame. No matter how things go, it's unlikely that it won't end with a fight. I need all the backup I can get-

OH!


"This is Robotnik." I say, recording a message. "The Empire 88 has approached me for recruitment! As flattered as I am, I have no intention of going along with them, but they likely have no intention of accepting a denial. I've delayed them with a bluff to give myself time to prepare. Within two days, they'll arrive in the Boat Graveyard to take me. I'd like to remind you that them taking me would be a bad thing for everyone involved! Either they're successful, and the Empire has access to the same technology that let me bypass all your defenses, or they aren't, at which point it'll be open war between the Empire and me. Which is something I'd prefer not to deal with thank you very much! I don't know... when, exactly, they'll show up. But they have left Rune with me to make sure I don't skip town. If you can get some Protectorate to play bodyguard tomorrow, I can giftwrap Rune for you, guaranteed, and offer to fix anything I've broken on the Rig."

Hm... anything else?

"Just because I'm asking for help doesn't mean that I've changed my mind about joining the Protectorate or the Wards! I'm just, you know, one hero asking another for backup."

Geko Geko chirps to signify she's made the recording, and hops away to deliver the message directly to a member of the Protectorate. Her hunting program, rather than being set to "Sea Gull" or "Rat" is now set to "Superhero". God speed, you mechanical frog you.


"Don't you have anything good to eat?" Rune complains as she makes increasingly annoying noises in the swivel chair I so generously salvaged for her. Its been about three hours since Rune got here, and my patience is wearing thin.

"Rune I swear I will disintegrate you." I growl, my eye twitching. The Egg Mobile seems to perk up a bit, "I'm not serious, don't point the CEP Launcher at teenagers." I tell the vehicle, who backs off. "If you're unsatisfied with fast-food leftovers, you're free to order out. There should be a good Chinese place nearby- wait, are Nazi's even allowed to order Chinese?" I sneer. E-101 Beta is coming along fine and dandy. Not having to spend time mucking around making wiring or computer components means progress is going pretty good. Still, I'll need a good few more hours on him. Rune still hasn't picked up on anything, I don't think, but it's a bit annoying to have to keep checking on the dismantled engine to re-calibrate things and check for 'building pressure' and 'kinetic doubling down' and 'positron reinforcement becoming unstable'. I'm going to run out of techno-babble pretty soon.

"Look, no one will care if you're a bitch around me. But when you're around Kaiser, don't joke about that shit, okay?" she threatens, "Or any of the lieutenants really. If they think you're going to have discipline issues, they'll come down hard on you."

"Yeah, yeah." I mutter, "But then, it's not like I really have a choice here." I say. "I'll be good, when they've got their eyes on me." I lie.

"Well of course you don't have a choice. But honestly, we are the best around. Beside just being the best people, we're also the best team. The ABB's capes are all psychopaths and wouldn't accept you anyway, the Merchants are all living trash, you're not a freak, so Faultline wouldn't want you,-" ooh! I forgot about her. Mercenary work... might be a good way to pay bills. Possibly. "-and after that stunt you pulled at City Hall, the PRT wouldn't let you out of their sight ever again, no privacy, no power use without permission ever again. You're lucky, that the Empire wants you."

Blah blah blah blah BLAH!

Hmm. Parts of Beta still need to cool before I begin the next set of steps, and some of the weapon modifications I thought up and began don't feel right, when connected to him. "Sure, whatever, Rune. Lucky to have me." I grin, "Well, I'll need to let some of this cool before I can attach it to the Robot Generator." the name for the oh-so menacing rumbling glowing harmless engine. "So if you're so damn hungry, let's go out somewhere."

"The Robot Generator won't explode?" she asks, worried.

"It's stable enough for the next... three or four hours, I think. By then I'll have to have this-" I gesture to Beta's frame, "-complete, or it will go up though. Come on, we can buy parts and food." I slip the ill-fitting weapon prototypes into my purse. I'll work on it along the way.

"Are we going out in costume?"

"Hmm... good point." I say, before heading for where the clothes I had been brought to the Rig in were. She turns her nose up at them, and I sigh. She had a point here, at least. "And some clothes shopping I suppose. What about you?" I ask.

"I'm wearing regular clothes underneath my costume."

Very well then.


"So what do I call you out of costume?" she asks. We were both wearing tinted-lens goggles to hide our identity from each other, but otherwise out of costume. We were also walking, because we didn't want to draw attention by riding my wonderful robots. Luckily, the Market was actually fairly close to the Boat Graveyard.

"Call me Robbie."

"That's not a girl's name."

"Take it or leave it."

We got food, bought myself a few more sets of clothes, and I resolved to build a washing machine for the base at some point. We also stopped by a tech store and I bought a few laptop computers and a cell phone.

Even as we walked, I used one of the phones to begin writing programming in preparation for home. I sent a whispered message to Zero to get the proper supplies for me to build a small Chaos Extractor ready and waiting for me when I head home.

I quickly returned to my work, dismantling the tech I bought, ripping it to shreds and working both on Beta, and also on my other tool, one that will be more immediately useful. Three weapons, a personal computer, a phone, a music player, a radio, and a device with which to write programs and coordinate my machines.

The Wrist Controller's three weapons are as follows: a small-scale precision CEP launcher, a containment ray, and a teleport ray. The containment ray imprisons my target in a force-field bubble that holds them in place. I can then use the beam to switch their location to anywhere I wish, lifting them into the air up to two-hundred feet, or pushing them away the same distance. The weakness of the ray however is that I can only create one containment field at a time, and the farther I get away from it, the more fragile and unstable the bubble becomes.

The teleport ray is a tool of convenience. I have a target position already set, a point in the air inside the cargo bay of my headquarters. I'll eventually build a robot whose main job will be making sure that anything I teleport to that point is immediately pulled away and the area cleared, so as to avoid telefragging. Either way, the point is a bit of ways in the air, so it'll drop nearly six feet to the ground. As long as she doesn't teleport anything taller than that, there shouldn't be anything to worry about.

Actually... I haven't tried to use it on a living subject yet.

Rune was back in the swivel chair, looking at her phone. "Rune." I say, "I think I'm about ready to move things down to the Robot Generator's room."

She perks up at that, putting her phone away. "So we'll be safe?"

"Sure thing." I grin, "Zero, my boy, could you take this to the enclosures? One large lagomorpha in the extractor should have it working fine."

"Of course." he picked up the frame of his younger brother, taking him to the petting zoo to be activated. Rune doesn't seem suspicious.

Rune looks relieved, "Does this mean we can go to the Empire now?"

"Hmmm... about that." Rune narrows her eyes, and reaches out to a pile of scrap, and seemingly idly, lifts a few pieces and has them slowly orbit her.

"What about it? Your Generator thing is going to be fine now, so we should get out of this dump and go join up with Kaiser, right?" she lifts up her cell phone.

"Look, the Empire wants a Tinker, right? They'll get a Tinker. But as I'm sure our... pleasant day together has proven, I'm not a racist, or a misogynist, or antisemitic, and I don't have any deep resentments of foreigners or perceived foreigners! Not to mention my attitude problem with authority figures in general. Kaiser would hate me. And I already hate him!" I say grinning, "But, as you've all made very clear to me, that doesn't matter."

I gesture to the wreck around me, "Look, Rune, me and the Empire are a bad fit. I just want to be- what was the word, a Rogue. But! If I don't go willingly, you'll just come and force me, right? You have the means to force Tinkers to do your bidding?"

"R-right."

"Right!" I continue, "So! What if I told you where you could find Squealer?"

"If we wanted Squealer we could have just taken her."

"Ah. Hm. Oh well then." I shoot Rune with the Containment Ray. "Let's go on a little trip."

The metal shards fly at me, but a quick jerk of my hand has Rune swinging through the air like a pendulum, throwing her aim off. I tap a few numbers on my Wrist Controller, "Hello, PRT? Yes, I have a supervillain to hand in. Rune of the Empire 88. We're at Lord's Port. Tell the Protectorate that I'd be extremely grateful if they could help me in any way in dealing with them."

"Are you a Cape yourself?" asks the woman on the other end of the line.

"Yes, my name is Robotnik."

"We'll arrange a PRT pick-up for Rune. Unfortunately, I can't promise anything in regards to the Protectorate."

"Okay?"

"Considering the entire Protectorate is currently battling Lung and the ABB on the Rig."

"Oh. Well, that's fair."

Hm.