Stories

My Praetorian Self and Me


A dark night. Paragon City. The moon is so large in the sky it looks like some mad scientist used his gravity beam to bring it crashing into the Earth. But then heroes defeated the scientist and his lab exploded! The day was saved, except that now the moon was like a hundred thousand miles closer to the Earth than before, which just wrecked havoc on the tides and had who-knows-what other effects on the planet. Because the mad scientist's lab was destroyed, along with his equipment, and now no one can recreate his gravity ray!

But we digress.

A man sets foot in Paragon for the first time. Indeed, he sets foot on Earth for the first time. But no, that is not accurate. He sets foot on this Earth for the first time, for comes from another Earth, a parallel one where just a tiny nudge in a different direction sent it spinning out of control on the axis of history.

His head is pounding, for the trip was not an easy one. It was sudden and shocking. Sure, he had heard of this alternate Earth before. He'd even fought some of the inhabitants who had been attempting to invade his world. But to actually experience it!

Everything was different.

The air was dirtier; foul with the pollution of cars and garbage and old, decaying buildings. Nothing where he came from was old. All of it was new by necessity, rebuilt in recent years after humanity barely held on. Here, things were crumbling.




But had he wound up in the Rogue Isles, he would have held Paragon City up as a bastion. Yet the woman who touches down in the Rogue Isles is impressed. Half chaos, half order just waiting to be torn down. She can taste the oppression in the air. Or maybe that's the massive pile of burning garbage?

Either way, she knows she's found a second home. She made the right choice, coming to the Isles. Sure, that Sheridan guy wanted to send her to “Paragon City” to be a “hero” and earn the resistance some new “allies.” Allies for what? To help Scott get his girl back? What did she care about that. Making mayhem was more her style. Sure it was more fun to do it among a populace full of docile slugs, but there could be some adventure in this new world.

She hadn't been given much instruction after heading through. That guy Vibranium or whatever his name was blathered on for a while at her, but she pretty much ignored all that. Something about destiny and spiders and a bunch of other bull. She wasn't here to play anyone's lackey; hell, that's pretty much the whole reason she jumped through the portal. To get away from that jackass Scott and all his pushy flunkies.

Now she just needed to find a place to start.




AoD Corp. Why did that name stir up such an odd feeling in the pit of his stomach? It had meaning to him, even though he was sure he'd never heard it before. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe he had heard it before. One of the Syndicate companies, maybe? Some version of them might have existed on this world, after all.

He walked toward the building. The doors were locked, of course. It was late at night, business would be closed for the day. He almost turned away when he noticed something in the dim light filtering through the glass. A giant poster hanging on the wall. “Army of Darkness of Justice” it read. And on it was a picture of him.

“What the...” he muttered to himself. He looked down at the door handle and grabbed it, pulling on it to test its strength. The door rattled but didn't open. Then, to his great surprise, a voice came out of nowhere.

“Welcome back, Mr. Sanders,” it said. It was a female voice, soft and mechanical. There was a small intercom to the left of the doors. “Do you require access to the building?”

It took him a moment to realize the door was talking to him. “Yes,” he said. There was a small click and the door suddenly swung open. He tentatively walked into the dark room.

“Shall I turn on the lights?” the voice asked.

“Yes,” he answered again. The lights flared on. It momentarily dazzled him; he wished he was still wearing his sunglasses.

Once his vision cleared, he got a good look at the poster again. It wasn't him after all. It was someone who looked almost identical to him. His hair was cut in a different style, the pants were of a similar design but not one he ever owned. “Who is that?” he said out loud.

“That is Holy Evil,” the computerized voice answered. “Leader of the Army of Darkness of Justice branch of AoD Corp. Shall I prepare a full dossier for you to peruse?”

“No,” he said. Holy Evil. He liked the sound of it. It was something he could have come up with in a different time. “Is this the me I would have been here?” he asked.

“I do not understand the question,” the voice answered.

“I didn't mean you,” he said. He sighed and ran his hand through his hair. What was he going to do now? He supposed that he could follow Provost Marchand's suggestions and test out the police radio he'd been given. Or...

He had to find out more about his other self. “Are there any offices here?” he asked.

“Yes,” the voice answered. “The second floor contains administration, hiring, and human resources. The third floor contains archives, legal, and IT. The fourth floor contains management and sales. The fifth floor contains executive. The sixth floor contains Mrs. Sanders's office.”

He had been planning on heading to archives, but that last one froze him. Mrs. Sanders? Was his other self married here? Or could it have been a sister-in-law or even his mother? His mother, maybe. Here she wouldn't have been killed by the Devouring Earth...

He took the elevator to the sixth floor.




She jumped back as the doors open. An assault rifle was pointed right at her face. “Who are - ” the man started to say. But then he jerked the gun down and his eyes went wide. “Oh! Kate!” he said before letting out a relieved sigh. “You scared the hell out of me.”

“You were scared?” she asked. “You had me all ratchety with that boomer in my face, you chomper!”

The man turned his back to her. Whoever he was, he was a big shot. Up on the penthouse of this office building, wearing a rich-looking suit. She could nab him, make a big score on her first night in the Isles. Set herself up big time. It always had been a dream of hers to watch the world crumble from a castle.

She fingered the magical chain around her waste. With just a few words and gestures, she could have him caged in electricity. But he sure was a cute looker. And really, she had no one here in the Isles who she could trust and talk to and get the lay of the land from. Even when she'd made it to Praetoria from New London, she'd had to find someone to show her the ropes.

This could be the guy. And now that she thought of it, how in the world did he know her name?




“Whottyah want, 'oly?” the woman said. Mrs. Sanders, he guessed. She was a small woman, black hair, pale skin. She had on a black business suit and pencil skirt, with a purple tie and pink-tinted glasses. “It's late, couldn't it 'ave waited til mornin'?”

He hadn't expected her to be here, of course. Not this late. He just wanted information and now he was face to face with a woman who very probably was his other-self's wife. “Uh, nothing,” he said. “Just coming by to see you.”

She flopped down into an office chair. “See me?” she asked. “See me? Whot tha 'ell does thot mean?” She glowered at him from behind her glasses. “Yah bloody well know thot there ain't no seein' me fer yah.”

He was taken aback by the hostility. “Well, I...” he stammered a bit. He wasn't ready to come up with any lies yet. He hadn't prepared for this. “I mean, I just thought that...”

She sighed and ran a hand through her hair. “Look, sorry,” she said. “I don't mean ta be nowty. It's just thot, yah know, with Yosh back and everythin', I thought we 'ad an undahstandin' 'ere.”

Now he was even more confused. Yosh? Did she mean Yoshito? But he was Yoshito! And he was Holy Evil too! Or they were him. At least here. “I don't understand,” he blurted out.

She furrowed her brow at him. “Whot do yah mean? Yah gotta know it's not cricket fer us now. Yosh's my 'usband. Yah're just... Yah ain't 'im, bloke.”

So this was his other self's wife. But she thought he was someone other than her husband. “Yes, yes. Of course,” he said, hoping to salvage the whole situation. “I know that. I thought it went without saying!” He put on his best smile to try to ease the tension. She didn't seem convinced. “I was just coming by to... check up. You know, you're a busy woman and all.”

“Uh huh,” she mumbled. “Ta be 'onest, its mostly me firtlin' around. Yosh is back in tha Isles, ya know? It's a sod of a time tryin' ta sleep in thot big Uncle Ned alone.”

He nodded and sat down in the chair. “Of course,” he said. “So, tell me all about him.”

She frowned at him. “Whot?”

“Yoshito. Just talk,” he said.

Her frown deepened. “Whot's yer game, 'oly?” she asked with an accusing gaze. “If yah're tryin' ta wangle me fer somethin', yah've got a...” She trailed off.

“What's wrong?” he asked.

“Did yah cut yer 'air?” she asked.




“So?” she asked. “Stop ogglin' at it. If I want long hair, I'll damn well 'ave it.”

“Of course,” he said. “But I saw you just two days ago and it was short, like always. What, did Arsenic invent some hair-growth formula or something and convince you to try it?”

She quickly nodded. “Yep, yah smelled the rosebuds fer sure. Thot's tha vacuum's smile.”

He shook his head and smirked. “You know, I thought I was finally starting to understand half the stuff you say. But I have no idea what you just said.”

Potential crisis averted, she thought. “Well, glimpse this and we'll get you some cogitations,” she told him. “Let's scram this thinkbox and go make a pose and take a picture while we got a cameraman.” She stood on the very ends of her tip-toes and leaned forward across his desk. Her hair spilled down over documents and papers. She glanced down at them, but she doubted she'd know what they were even if she got a good look at them.

She gave her best suggestive smile and reached out one of her hands to stroke the side of his face. “So, glittahbug, yah like it tea and cookies style or polar bear style without tha syrup?”

“Are those new gloves?” he asked, closing his eyes as her fingertips brushed his cheek. “I like them. And the short skirt too? I think I like this new you. Not thrilled about the goggles though.”

She pulled back. He was making fun of her goggles? “Oi! Whot's sideways about my specs?”

He laughed. “Nothing! Nothing! It's just that, if you've gotta use something to cover up the Nictus energy, I'd prefer the glasses. It makes you look like a hot librarian. Not a dumb raver kid like these. Of course, I like it just fine when you don't have them on at all.” He reached over the desk and took the goggles in his hand and before she could stop him, slid them off.

He froze a moment. “Hey, what the hell?”




“Yah ain't 'oly!” she shouted, leaping back from him.

He held up his hands. “Look! Look, this is all a big misunderstanding.”

“Misunderstandin' my arse!” She ripped off her glasses. Black and purple energy flared around her head.

“I don't want to hurt you,” he said, taking a calming breath. He found he couldn't quite concentrate with this woman facing him. Kate, her name was. Kate Sanders. His other self's wife. One of his other selves, at least.

She laughed at him. “Listen up, whotevah yah are. It don't mattah if yah're a Nemesis automaton, a Crey clone, or whotevah. Yah're ain't gonna be tha one 'urtin' me, got it, tossah?”

She flung a bolt of dark energy at him, which he narrowly managed to avoid by diving to the side. It crashed into a chair and sent the chair flying backward into a wall. “Bollocks!” she growled. “Yah're payin' fer thot outta yer skin!”

Obviously, this wasn't going to end without a fight. If he could just subdue her, he could explain himself. He centered himself and took a deep breath. She seemed content to fight him at range. He could accommodate her. He swept his arms before him, gathering up energy. Then, with a fling of his arms, he sent it crashing toward her.

The energy swept over her.




“Interesting,” the man said. “Obviously you're not supposed to be an exact copy of my wife.” He reached out and just touched the edge of the electric barrier surrounding him. He cringed slightly as it sent a jolt through him.

“Whotevah, chompah,” she said. “Yah've got ten taps of tha foot ta give me tha 'oney before I scamp yah.”

“I still have no idea what you're saying,” the man answered. “But it sure sounded like a threat. Who are you?”

“Five taps, chompcham,” she said. “Give up the king's ransom or else.”

“You don't even know what you want, do you?” he asked with a smug grin. “Nemesis must really be slipping if you're the best copy he could churn out.”

“Yah sure jibber a lot!” she growled. “Yah think someone's gonna come swoop yah?”

He shook his head once more. “Still no clue what you're saying. And, to be honest, I'm a little tired of all this.” She touched the magical chain and started to wave her arms and chant. “Oh, this should be good.”

He tapped something on his belt buckle. An expanding bubble of force erupted from him, dispersing the electric fence she'd erected. With a curse, she finished her chant and sent a cage of electricity to him. It flared into existence for only the briefest second before it too was dispersed by the force field.

“Praetor's arse!” she growled. “Well, it was a devourahed night, but its time fer me ta pedal out.” She rushed back toward the elevator.

“Not so fast,” he said. Suddenly, she felt weightless. A new bubble of force appeared around her, lifting her from the ground. She reached out, trying to push through it, to reach the elevator buttons and escape. But the bubble was solid and she couldn't get through it.

The man walked up to the bubble and tapped on the side of it. There was no noise. “Yah chompah! I'm gonna rattleslap thot smug smirk off yah faceplate as soon as I get outta 'ere!” she screamed. She raged and slammed her fists against the walls of the force field.

The man laughed, but none of the sound reached her. He took out a cell phone and dialed a number, but she couldn't hear his words. Soon, the effort of trying to escape the force bubble tired her, so she petulantly sat down.




“Yosh!” Kate shouted in relief, picking up the phone. “Good timin' yah'll nevah believe whot just 'appened.”

The dark energy crushed him in place, keeping him from moving even an inch. He tried to fight against it, but couldn't. All his training should have allowed him to break free from these bonds, but they were too strong for him. What was this world where people had such power? If Emperor Cole had been right and these people were going to invade Praetoria...

“Yeah, tha same thing 'appened ta me!” she shouted back into the phone. “I 'ave no idea. Well, it ain't an automaton, I'll tell yah thot. Sure, I got some with me. Yeah, I guess. Where should I take 'im? Uh huh. Yah think thot's a good idea? Arsenic is naffin' off 'is chump. Alroight, I guess. See yah latah.”

He could feel the bonds beginning to slip. The dark energy weakening. A little bit more and he could break free and get out of here. Kate's back was turned, she was busy digging through the drawers of her overturned desk. A few more seconds...

“Aha, there it is.” She walked back over to him. She carried a syringe, which she jabbed right into his arm. He gritted his teeth in pain; he'd felt worse.

“What did you...” he started to say, but the drugs quickly overwhelmed him.




“You got me up in the middle of the night for this?” Arsenic asked as he stared down at the two people. “Congratulations. You both have clones! You should be used to this sort of thing, Sanders.”

Yoshito bristled at the barb. “But this one isn't AoD Corp work. Neither is she. She attacked me in my office.”

Kate nodded. “And 'e was askin' me all sorts of questions about yah. Whotevah they are, they ain't 'ere ta bring us roses and chocolates.”

Arsenic rubbed the bridge of his nose (gasmask) and went back to the two people. He grabbed the woman's skirt and lifted it up. “Well, I know where this one has her evil goatee.” Kate slapped his hand off. “Geez, you on the rag or something? Let me do my job!”

“Oi tossah, yah'd bettah - ”

“Kate, just let him work,” Yoshito said, laying a hand on her shoulder. “But don't look up the duplicate's skirt again. Ok, Arseface?”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Arsenic grumbled. He went over to the monitors and began fiddling with the controls. “Well, genetically, they are both identical to you. And neither shows any of the cellular degeneration that comes from artificial aging, so it doesn't look like they are actually clones.”

“So, what does that mean?”

Arsenic shrugged. “Well, did either of you use the teleporters during an atmospheric distortion field?” They both stared at him blankly. “Didn't think so. Also, if you'd let me finish talking instead of rudely interrupting, I would have finished telling you that even though they have the same DNA as you two, there are other, deeper differences in their subatomic make up.”

“Such as?”

Arsenic threw up his arms. “Christ, Sanders! Have some patience! I was getting to that! Ok, so all matter in one quantum reality has a specific vibration that is unique to that reality. Before you ask, no, it's not really a 'vibration'. That's just the term physicists use for it. This vibration is fundamental; it can't be changed through any artificial means. It's only through alterations of a universe's world volume that the vibration can alter and because space-time is a bitch, you actually won't know that the constant is different than it used to be.”

“Get to the point.”

“Guh. Laymen! You never want to be educated. Fine! These two are from a different dimension. If you've been listening to me, that much should be obvious, but I sometimes forget that you all aren't up to my level of genius, so I need to explain things slowly to you.”

“Arsenic...”

“GOD! FINE! They're Praetorians, you ass!”

Yoshito clenched his teeth while Kate let out a gasp. “Are yah sure?” she asked.

“Uh, gee, no, duh, I was just guessin',” Arsenic answered in a fake drawl. “Of course I am, you twit. The vibration of their matter synchs up perfectly with the data we recorded from those two copies of the Gothic Warriors we recovered from Praetoria. They're Praetorian all right.”

Yoshito nodded. “Great, so not only do we have to deal with crazies like Tyrant and Marauder, but now we have copies of everyone else spilling into our world,” he said. He stroked his beard in thought. “So what do we do with them. Kill them?”

“We can't do thot!” Kate objected. Seeing Yoshito's expression of doubt, she continued, “Even if they are evil, they're still us. We need ta figure out why they're 'ere.”

Yoshito slowly nodded. “Alright, fine. And we can learn about Praetoria from them too. Who knows what they might be able to tell us? Are they securely restrained?”

Arsenic shrugged, but said, “Sure. I mean, they've got those metal clamps around their wrists. Sure, if this guy turns out to be Evil-Holy Evil... God that's a mouthful - ”

“That's what she said.”

“Ugh, yes. Anyway, if he turns out to be Holy Evil's alternate universe duplicate instead of just yours, he could have super strength and bust through them. And she was shooting lighting you said?”

Yoshito nodded again. “Yes, but it looked like she was using that chain around her waist to do it. Magic, in other words. Since we took it off, we should be safe.”

“Magic! Scoff. Don't blame me if she winds up being a mutant or something who can just fry your brain with a glare.”

“I'll take that risk,” he answered. “Wake them up.”

A few moments later, both of them began to stir. “Oi, whot's with all the ringy-dingys in my brain case?” the Praetorian Rude Girl said. Praetorian Holy Evil just groaned and blinked against the harsh light shining down in his face.

“Good,” Yoshito said. “You two are awake. I do wish you'd called ahead to tell us you were coming, we could have saved all that nasty business from before.”

“What...” Praetorian Holy Evil began, trying to sit up and finding himself restrained to the table. As the sedatives wore off and his head cleared, he began to thrash. “Where am I?” he growled. “Let me out of these!”

Yoshito glanced over at Kate and smirked. “No super strength it looks like.”

“Well, I coulda told yah thot,” she muttered. “But 'e ain't normal, thot's fer sure.”

“Oi, ya chompahs, someone bettah read me tha 'istory books quick, before I start swissin' this cheese.”

Yoshito grinned. “Maybe you should take her, Kate.”

“I don't 'ave tha foggiest whot she's blabbin' about eithah,” Kate said, scratching her head. “Is thot really 'ow I sound ta everyone else?”

“That's not important right now,” Yoshito said, walking up to the tables. With a flick of a switch, both shot up to standing position. His praetorian counterpart looked ready to hurl from the sudden movement, while Kate's giggled.

“Fun ride, would go again,” she hiced.

Yoshito just frowned at her. “Alright. We know you two are from Praetoria. Why are you here? To replace us? Are you the advance wave of an invasion force? Talk! Now!”

“Invasion?” Kate's counterpart started. “Hah! I ain't nothin' loike thot, glitterbug!” She inclined her head so she got a glimpse of Yoshito's counterpart. She immediately noticed the resemblance to the man she had so recently tried to kidnap, but she also could tell the look of one of Cole's loyalists. “'im, maybe. 'e's one a them powah pellets.”

Yoshito rubbed the bridge of his nose. “What is she talking about?” he asked his duplicate.

His copy gritted his teeth. “Don't listen to anything she says! She's Resistance scum! They're trying to incite a war between your world and ours!”

“Hah! Don't make me snort,” Kate's duplicate said. “Yah sheeple need ta tear down tha screens! Cole's tha one plannin' tha invasion. I'm just 'ere ta 'ave some fun before 'e comes and ruins this place too. This division chompstompah yah got's 'ere ta scout out tha place, yah can keen thot.”

“Resistance lies!” Yoshito's copy said. “I'm not here to do any harm. I'm here to help this place out. I'm a hero! I protect the people of Praetoria from harm.”

Arsenic snerked in the background. “Wow, so Sanders's evil twin is a hero. What does that say about you, moneybags?”

Yoshito shot him a brief glare, but ignored the comment. “Alright, enough arguing. Let's start from the beginning and pretend the two of you didn't break into our offices and attack us.”

“I didn't attack anyone!” Yoshito's copy complained. “I was just defending my - ”

“I said enough!” Yoshito growled, slamming his palm down next to his copy's face, drawing a snarky laugh from Kate's duplicate. “I am Yoshito Sanders, owner of AoD Corp.”

“And I'm Kate Murphy-Sandahs, CEO of AoD Corp,” Kate added.

“Yoshito San...” Yoshito's clone began. “I'm Yoshito Sanders!”

“And I'm Kate Murphy,” Kate's copy said. “But no one calls me thot tag sign no more. It's tha Rabble-Rousin' Wench.”

“One at a time,” Yoshito said. “Ok... Rabble-Rousing Wench, was it? Why are you here, on our world?”

Her shoulder muscles flexed, but restrained as she was, she couldn't really shrug. “Pedalin' out thot Concrete 'eaven, thot's whot. Wanted ta raise some 'ell with tha Resistance, found out it was pretty much tha same as topside if yah didn't clap it with Scott. Got tha chance ta get out through here. Tha Rogue Isles sounded pretty honey ta me, so out I came.”

Yoshito tried to decipher all the slang. After a few seconds, he figured he had a general idea. “Ok, so you were trying to bring down Tyrant's government, but decided the Resistance leaders were too much like Cole down deep, so you got kicked into the Rogue Isles. Am I right?”

“Yah pretty much smell tha rosebuds, glitterbug,” she answered.

“And why did you attack me in my office?” he continued.

“Well, I ain't exactly got a place ta stay 'ere and it was so cold outside,” she answered with a devious grin. “I was thinkin' maybe yah moight warm me up.”

“Uh huh,” Yoshito mumbled. “It seemed like you were trying to kidnap me.”

“Alroight, fine, yah beared me. I gotta get set up somehow. Yah looked loike a good target ta get a king's catch.”

“A ransom?” Yoshito wondered. The Rabble-Rousing Wench nodded. “Great.” He turned to his duplicate. “Ok, now you.”

“I told you already,” his copy said. “The name's Yoshito Sanders.”

“Well, we can't call you that,” Yoshito said. “It'll get confusing. And I was here first.”

“My code name in Powers Division was Tired of Sin.”

Yoshito rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Oh God. You named yourself after that. Thank Buddah I convinced those idiots that gimmick wouldn't fly.”

“Wait, you were a wrestler too?” Tired of Sin asked.

“Yes,” Yoshito answered. “I was Tired of Sin for like three months before I convinced the big shots that it was a terrible gimmick. Then I was Holy Evil, which worked out much better for me.”

“Huh,” Tired of Sin muttered. “I always just did what they told me. Then I hurt my neck, and I - ”

“Look, I don't care about your life story,” Yoshito said, more out of reflex than any true disdain. To tell the truth, he actually was curious about his other self's background. But now wasn't the time. “Why are you here?”

Tired of Sin stiffened slightly. “I was sent through to investigate this world. Some on our side think you are planning an invasion of Praetoria. I was to act as an ambassador of sorts and convince your side that Praetoria is not a threat. We're still rebuilding after a deadly war. We can't afford to attack you.”

Yoshito nodded. Paragon City still hadn't finished rebuilding from the Rikti War either, but he wasn't about to share that information with a Praetorian. And he sure wasn't ready to trust his words either. “Well then, there's a lot I need to discuss with my employees. Arsenic, put them back under.”

“Yes sir, bossman sir,” Arsenic said with some glee. Before either of the two could object, he turned back on the drug feed. They were out in seconds.




Hours later, Tired of Sin awoke. He was in a dark room, a single overhead light shining down on him. His arms and legs were manacled to a chair. His head was killing him.

“You're awake?” a voice, his voice, asked him.

“Yeah,” he answered. The lights in the room raised and he could see himself, his other self, the Yoshito Sanders who had become a success in another life standing there. He wore an expensive suit and exuded confidence and malice.

“Good. You're a lucky man. I happen to not be particularly fond of copies of myself. You see, here on Primal Earth, there's a clone of me running around with super powers. We've had our differences in the past, but we've since... come to an agreement. I'm hoping we can come to a similar one.”

“What do you want?” Tired wondered. “I'm not going to betray my home. You'll kill me first.”

Sanders chuckled. “Betray Praetoria? Hardly. Though if you feel like sharing any non-vital facts about your home, we'll gladly listen. And if what you said about a war is correct, the sob story will surely win you some friends on our side. Here's the thing. We can't just let you run around doing whatever you want. Especially since, for all intents and purposes, you are me.

“So instead, I'm offering a compromise. You wanted to prove that Praetoria isn't evil? Well, this city needs heroes. And AoD Corp happens to have a branch dedicated to doing heroes. You'll be part of it. Do good work. Help out our side. Bring good PR to AoD Corp. And do it all under our watchful eye. Understand?”

Tired considered it. “And if I don't?” he asked.

“We lock you up and let my scientists dissect you. You did attack Kate. She's a registered hero with the city too. She demonstrated just how powerful she can be. As far as the law on our world is concerned, you're part of an invasion force. Actually, that's not true. As far as they're concerned, you don't exist. We'll pry all your secrets from your brain by force, then see just what the differences between Primals and Praetorians are.

“Oh, and don't think about escaping. You might be able to tell we've performed a little... elective surgery on you. We've implanted a teensy-tiny bomb in the base of your skull. It's just enough to blow your head off, should you ever do anything stupid.”

Tired nodded. “I understand.”

Yoshito quirked an eyebrow. “That doesn't upset you?”

Tired shook his head. “Not at all. I understand the sacrifices that must be made to keep the peace. I promise that the peace and safety of the Praetorian people is my prime concern. And since helping out Primals will aid that goal, helping out Primals is now my prime concern. I'll do what you want.”

Yoshito grinned. Tired had seen that sort of grin before, on people like Praetor Duncan. “Good. Then I think we'll get along just fine.” The restraints on his arms and legs clicked open.




In another room, the Rabble-Rousing Wench's brain felt like it was going to claw its way out through her nose.

“Yah're awake?” her other self asked.

“I wish I wasn't,” she said. “Wanna jibbah ta me whot's goin' on?”

“Let's take tha short route,” Kate said with a sour look. “Yah're a barmy trollop. But yah're still me, in a way. Yosh would just as soon 'ave yah jailed and taken apart, but I told 'im no way. And it's pretty clear thot yah ain't 'ere ta 'elp people out, roight?”

“Yah smell tha rosebuds, chompette,” she answered.

Kate sighed. “Alroight, then 'ere's tha deal. Yah work fer AoD Corp now. Our Rogue Isles division. It's a... interestin' job. If I'm readin' yah roight, yah wanna blow crap up and cause chaos? Well, yah'll get plenty of opportunities in tha Isles. But there are some rules.”

“I 'ate rules!” she objected.

“Well, I bet yah loike 'avin' an Uncle Ted, don't yah? Cause there's a bomb planted in your skull and if yah step outta line... Boom. Bye-bye alternate Kate.”

“A boomah in my think box?” she muttered. Then she started laugh. “I like it! I got bright eyes, glitterbug. I work for yah, yah let me indulge myself, and we all benefit. Roight?”

“Yah twig it, alroight.” With a click, her restraints opened. “Oh, and put on some knickahs, fer Christ's sake. I don't need tha paparazzi pastin' pics of my map of Tassie all ovah tha place. Got it?”




Later...

“Do you really think this is a good idea?” Arsenic asked.

Sanders shrugged. “I've had bad ideas before and they've worked out. And if either of them step out of line, well... Dr. Snyder would love to take a look at the insides of someone from another dimension. I think it'll all work out.”


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