Courtesy: Part 47

Views from the bots outside showed that the hordes of mushroom creatures had charged City Hall. The Duke smiled, the points of his teeth showing as he raised his sword and began cutting down the attackers even as his horse kicked and crushed them.

His army followed him in, trolls, goblins, elves, and strange faerie monsters killing with ecstatic grins on their faces.

The Duke’s army only fully covered City Hall, though, and the Fungus Collective had more creatures to work with. They entered the far side of the parking garage near City Hall and poured down the ramps as a group.

Near the front were the local National Guard base’s mechs and Rocket suits. Even though the National Guard didn’t get the newest and best designs, they weren’t pushovers. We’d be seeing them downstairs soon enough.

“Control,” I asked over the main League channel, “it looks like the truce is over and the Fungus Collective is under new leadership. You should make sure the groups know.”

“I know. I know,” the sound of Kayla’s typing almost matched her voice.

I wanted to check if Daniel knew, but he had to. If we didn’t have a target, we’d be best off randomly having Alex attack everything in sight—except that he’d be too tired to affect much after a while.

That’s when Arete stopped staring at the floor and looked up at us. I couldn’t find even a little bit of the minor superhero he’d pretended to be in his face. Instead, he eyed us with a flat expression on his face as if he were preparing to spar with someone he knew was better than he was.

What was our plan? For the moment, my plan was stall him until Daniel worked out what Alex had to destroy. I hoped everyone would be willing to follow my lead on that one.

“Hey Arete,” I said, “did you just get promoted?”

He began to laugh, but it didn’t sound right. However his body was now designed, it came out as a series of spastic wheezes.

“We got promoted,” he said. “I’m now part of a collective. The majority recognized that I have better insight in dealing with humans since I used to be one. That means that there will be changes in what you were being offered.

“Do you want to know the first one?” His face erupted into a toothy grin, “You surrender now or you get nothing. We’re not going to help you fight the Nine because we, as a collective have determined that working with the Nine is in our best interest. If you surrender, you get to live. If you don’t surrender, well, I may not know who your families are, but I know there are people in the Nine who do. And do you know what? Since I’m now a collective, I’m calling the Nine right now. Thanks to whatever you did to shut off the city from the outside, they can’t come in here, but everything outside the city is fair game. And do you know what? Everything and everyone inside the city is fair game for me. All they need to do is tell me where to look.”

He stopped, adding, “I already know a few places. I won’t tell you where. I’ll let it be a surprise.”

We were back to, “surrender or I’ll kill or infect your families,” only now with the Nine’s assistance.

Though he couldn’t see it, I blinked, and said, “Well, I guess I liked the previous offer better.”

Haley turned to watch me. Cassie had straight out laughed.

Arete paused before he replied, probably expecting more servility, “I just threatened your family and the families of everyone you know. I thought you’d care more and even if you didn’t, your team would.”

Alex shrugged, “Look, it’s nothing personal, dude. I don’t know exactly why the Rocket didn’t give up, but it’s got to be something like this. He doesn’t like bullies. He knows what they look like because he’s seen them up close and personal. As for myself, it’s not that. I just think you’re a shit negotiator. If you want people to work with you, there’s got to be an upside, something they want. All you’re offering is the chance to avoid being crushed beneath your boot. It’s not enough.”

It was easy for me to underestimate Alex. His tendency to act first and ask questions later was one of the reasons, but sometimes, he showed enough insight that I had to wonder if I was missing something. This was one of those moments.

He wasn’t necessarily wrong about the bullying part of the statement, but he’d gone one better over my idea for handling Arete. I’d been waiting to see if I could stall until Daniel figured out where to attack and hope people would follow my lead. Alex had just attacked the whole reason the Fungus Collective chose to follow Arete.

If anything, I needed to follow his lead.

I took a step toward Arete, “I can’t work with you.”

10 thoughts on “Courtesy: Part 47”

  1. How’d Arete convince the rest of the collective that they’d survive the alien hell storm that’ll come if the fungus was made known to the Xinti? I feel like the original kid’s “if we fuck around we’re gonna find out by immediately getting nuked from orbit” position was pretty much unassailable. Definitely doesn’t seem like it’d lose to “maybe if we’re really mean to this group of super heros then they’ll leave and then we’ll only have to fight the rest of the world”.

    1. I don’t know if you ever follow politics in countries other than your own, but I do. Sometimes I find it bizarre that people in those countries elect or support a leader who seems dangerous or obviously unqualified to me. This may be one of those situations where internal fungus politics make sense internally, but not outside. Also, I really haven’t made an effort to explain what was going on behind the scenes there so far. So there’s no reason it would be obvious.

      If it bugs people enough, I’ll make it obvious in the text.

      1. 😀 😀 😀 Yeah. I’m Canadian, and the country immediately south of us did exactly that! Then they just barely kicked out the dangerously unqualified leader, and now that person is back and looking like they might win again! Crazy!


        1. Yup. And we replaced him with somebody suffering from advanced dementia who is parroting what he’s told to say. Except when he’s going on completely off script rants. Personally, I feel that anyone actually qualified to run our country would have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the oval office and held there at gun point while reciting the oath.

      2. Before this goes further, I’d like to ask people to not comment on US politics–not because I’m uninterested, but because this is an election year when people become… less capable of handling discussions well.

        For what it’s worth, my dad taught political science for a living and I love the subject. I just don’t want watch people get angry at each other over subjects they can’t solve in the comments section of this story.

    2. The Nine are powerful and may have contact with the Human Ascendancy. Arete may have convinced them that the Nine would be able to protect them from the Xiniti, or even that the Xiniti would not actually be willing to destroy Earth on the belief the humans there are arguably their best bet at defeating the Ascendancy. Or even that the heroes here would be willing to lay down arms and join the Collective, and then with their combined might would be able to repel the Xiniti attack.

      Honestly, I really hope Arete gets ousted and the Collective goes back to their previous conclusion. They would make for a great ally, and an interesting character. But we’ll see how things go.

  2. Caught up to the three years worth of content. Now I’m torn between stacking another 3 years or waiting anxiously every other day. Thanks for continuing this wonderful story!

    1. I know what you mean. People do both. Keeping up can be great, but the great thing about the archive binge is that it’s all there and you don’t have to wait (until you do).

  3. The collective should really be asking Arete why his subordinate blew off his head with a shaped charge. There’s real, recent history for why he’s not a good candidate.

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