A fic in the Worldburner shared-world series, by Brother Grimace

"The designer of the gun had clearly not been instructed to beat about the bush. 'Make it evil,' he'd been told. 'Make it totally clear that this gun has a right end and a wrong end. Make it totally clear to anyone standing at the wrong end that things are going badly for them. If that means sticking all sort of spikes and prongs and blackened bits all over it then so be it. This is not a gun for hanging over the fireplace or sticking in the umbrella stand, it is a gun for going out and making people miserable with.'"

- a description of the 'Kill-O-Zap' gun, from The Increasingly Misnamed 'Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy' Trilogy.

It was a motley group of over one hundred men and women that had gathered in the dank, drafty tunnel – a tunnel fully two hundred feet from floor to ceiling, over a quarter-mile wide and fully two miles long, situated over a mile beneath the flat, endless terrain of Southern Illinois.

Military personnel in worn fatigues and fresh uniforms, civilians in various forms of dress, people of all ages, several with missing limbs and visible scarring... they all watched from their various spots in the abandoned underground fallout shelter as the group of five persons in the jet-black combat uniforms of DELPHI paramilitary troopers continued to open the large crates that made up a half-circle around and behind him

To a person, the resistance forces that had gathered for the meeting to plan against the invasion of Judith's forces all seemed worn and weary in spirit - until the man standing before them reached down into one of the crates.

"Ladies and gentlemen - this is the Armalite PFT-JK-11 concussive-force energy weapon - our own personal design," the man said, holding up a rifle-style weapon with a non-reflective, black-matte finish that screamed 'military issue' to those present in uniform. "She's designed for one thing – to kill every unholy bastard that's fool enough to put itself in your sights."

It seemed as if a breath of fresh air blew through the tunnel as the man the Resistance members knew simply as 'the Armorer' stepped forward; every person seemed less animated as their eyes remained locked on the weapon in his hands.

"She can fire single pulses – as fast as the user depresses the trigger mechanism – in three- and ten-pulse bursts, or you can go fully automatic," he said, walking over to a trio of British SAS commandos, who stared at the weapon as if they were being re-acquainted with a long-lost friend. "Each weapon is issued with three insert power cells – one thousand pulses each. You're operating with a conditionally unlimited ammo supply – provided that you don't go crazy with the 'rock-and-roll'."

One of the Englishmen stood and spoke, his voice crisp as he took a step forward. "These modified blasters of yours will stop the flame-figures?" he asked, looking the weapon over. "Are you sure?"

"We're sure," the Armorer spoke up. "Also, they're not modified – it's a new design. I could go into detail, but we don't want you folks to get bored with all the talk about 'how the gun can do this and how it can do that'."

He flashed a smile at them as he flipped a switch, and a distinctive sound, like a low-pitched, synthesized animal growl, cut through the air as the weapon charged. "You can read the Tom Clancy-style tech manual later," he continued. "Right now, we'll go with 'show, not tell'. Much more fun for the kids at home."

The Armorer took a flat, circular disk about the size of a manhole cover from one of the crates. "The JK-11 fires energy pulses capable of causing the equivalent of hydrostatic shock in energy-based life-forms," he said, handing the weapon to the SAS commando. "Do you mind-?"

"Do you mind NOT using technobabble?" an attractive Latina with incredibly long legs hissed from the back of the crowd. "Some of us don't understand it, and the rest just think you're showing off!"

"I could stand to hear a bit more," the commando said, looking the weapon over. "Later. May I?"

The Armorer smiled as he tossed the disk like a Frisbee away from the group; it landed about forty yards away – and as he turned back, held up a small remote. "By all means."

A unified gasp of alarm rose up from the gathered resistance fighters as the Armorer pushed a button on the remote in his hand - and a feminine-shaped figure of flame that they all recognized instantly erupted from the disk!

In one fluid motion, the Englishman turned, sighted in on the flame-Judith that had appeared – and the figure of flame exploded in a brilliant splash that dissolved just as fast as it had appeared, leaving only a few flickers to die out on the floor around the disk.

"Nice shooting, kid," the Armorer said with admiration, noting how the trio of three energy pulses erupted from the weapon and punched through the spot where the 'heart' would be.

"Father Christmas has been making new toys," the commando smiled, as he looked his new weapon over. "After Judith's little holiday special, I guess he decided that the good little boys and girls deserved something very nice this year."

Nodding as he turned away, the Armorer focused his attention back on the slightly stunned group of resistance fighters. As he took a step forward, he noticed how the military personnel within the group had eager, almost feral expressions as they all imagined what they could do with the new weapon...

"In plain English," he said, glancing in the Latina's direction, "It means that we created 'tumbling bullets'... in energy form."

"Very nice," a ferret-faced U.S. Army major with medical insignia observed. "They literally tear the flame-forms apart – and do it so fast that when they go, they can't take anyone with 'em."

The SAS commando cradled the weapon as he would a first-born child. "Very nice, indeed," he repeated. "I'll be keeping this beauty."

"Take her and be welcome," the Armorer responded. "Besides the disruption-effect, we've added another setting when creating this version of the PFT... if I may, just for a moment?"

The commando relinquished the weapon, and the Armorer turned to a spot about five hundred meters from the gathering, where several crate-sized steel ingots were neatly stacked before the meeting. "For your consideration," he said, handing the weapon off to one of his associates, who sighted in on the ingots. "'Slayer mode'."

A sound like a crack of thunder rang out, making everyone wince; seconds later, the smoke cleared from the general area of the steel ingots, and even the SAS commandos winced as they saw how all but three of the ingots had been shattered into rubble...

Two of the remaining three ingots were poking out of the ceiling of the fallout shelter, one hanging precariously, as if ready to fall at any moment... and the third seemed to have simply disappeared, leaving a conspicuously rubble-free area within the rubble.

The Armorer motioned for his associate to return the JK-11 to the commando. "In 'Slayer mode', the JK-11 also discharges a simultaneous one-quarter second release of 'black sunlight' ... a form of anti-energy that will instantly destroy any normal matter it comes into contact with."

The hand of a twenty-something man of obvious Scandinavian ancestry (pale and handsome, even with the long, thin red scar that went down the left side of his face from scalp to chin that missed his eye by barely a quarter of an inch.) retracted from the air as his smile widened. "What about the metahumans Judith's been sending in – can this stop them?"

The Armorer waved the Scandinavian forward; moments later, he was looking over his own JK-11.

"When fired in 'Slayer mode', the JK-11 will kill or critically injure any being it fires upon," the Armorer told him, "up to and including any Class Five metahumans you come across. Even if you can't end the bastard, he's going to remember that you knocked him on his ass and made him bleed."

"Lovely," the SAS commando said, caressing the JK-11 with a single finger as he stood off to the side. "I my actually have to reconsider my relationship with my service rifle, if this lovely lady is going to be a part of my life."

"Before you marry it – be advised," the Armorer informed the assembled gathering, even though his eyes were on the SAS commando. "'Slayer mode' consumes a massive amount of your weapon's power reserve. With the insert power cell, you have three pulses in this setting."

He turned around, and let his eyes move slowly over the men and women in the area. "With the internal reserve – you get one. Use this setting sparingly, people. The stress 'Slayer mode' puts on the cells can degrade their lifespan if used constantly."

There was a slight chorus of sound and heads nodding as the Armorer motioned to the commando. "One thing, though... step this way."

The SAS commando walked in step with the Armorer back to the open crates, and watched as he pulled a device that looked like a palm-print scanner into view. "Judith has a habit of appropriating tech and weapons," the Armorer said, addressing everyone in the area. "I think that you can understand why we'd rather not have her get her hands on a JK-11 – so we've designed a countermeasure for if she tries to do just that, of if some of your garden-variety bad guys or raiders try to grab a weapon. Sergeant – would you mind putting your left hand on this scanner?"

Obliging, the commando did as he was told; moments later, the Armorer looked up. "It's a 'signature weapon?' he asked, watching as his buddies and several others drew close.

"Oh, yes," was the response. "Judith puts off a very specific energy signature, which this weapon can detect. They're designed to explode if Judith or NegaJane tries to fire one of them - same thing with any meta that isn't in the system."

The Armorer gave the commando an evil smile. "With your normal thieving human bastards - it'll just discharge an omnidirectional pulse - one foot, at max power. Someone will need to get a bottle of bleach and a mop."

"What if that crazy woman takes one from somebody, and tries to beat them like some sorry-ass backwoods punk getting his skinny, worthless ass beat for sniffing around your daughter?"

The Armorer couldn't help but smile as a plump, fifty-something woman with the remnants of sunburn on her face and bare forearms stepped up to the crate.

"She's a psycho bitch that loves just hurting folk," the woman said, her West Virginia accent thickening as she spoke. "You saw what she did to that Spanish girl during her crazy Christmas special – what's to say she won't start just smashing heads in with a person's own guns?"

"Tammy, please," a short, slender woman spoke up from her seat. "This is a bit more important than-"

The plump woman's head snapped around – far faster than the Armorer, or anyone else present, would have imagined. "And what happens when that lightning-wench of hers that looks like a photo negative comes fluttering back and forth all around West Virginia, looking for those girls she says are supposed to be around the church? You saw what she did to Deacon Bates!"

The young woman sitting next to the slender woman (another relative and probably a daughter or niece – they look like family, the Armorer thought, as he glanced at the attractive, six-foot plus brunette with the long legs) shook her head. "Aunt Mary, Aunt Tammy – are you going to do this in front of the people we're supposed to be getting help from?"

"Wait," the Armorer said, giving the girl another look – and getting a searing glance from 'Aunt Tammy' in the process for his trouble. "You're from the East Coast resistance group – you come out of Carthage, West Virginia?"

"Yes," the young woman said. "How'd you know that, mister?"

The Armorer shook his head. "What's your name, miss?"

The young woman stood up. "Martina Peters, sir."

The SAS commando and 'Aunt Tammy' gave the Armorer a strange look as he took a long, slow breath that rumbled with disbelief. "Let me guess... just after the nuke war you guys had with North Korea that took out Washington, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, a couple of guys came through? One of them needing medical care for a dog attack - that one was a short guy with red or auburn hair – and the other one was a bit taller and slender... black hair, blue eyes, had a thing for art, really good hand with a gun?"

The fallout shelter was silent. "Now you're just scaring us, mate," the commando said, "even with all of this 'Judith' and 'other dimensions' thing going."

A hungry glint appeared in the eyes of the Armorer. " said that 'NegaJane' keeps coming back around the area?"

"Last time she came through, she fried up Pastor Jones with her lightning after she said he was looking down her shirt..."

The girl shuddered, and the slender woman next to her drew her back to her seat before standing to speak. "She said that if we don't cough up this 'Jane Lane' girl, she'd burn the area down around the rest of us in town," she said. "I'm Mary Peters. I ran the Maryland Resistance - until Judith came to finish up what the North Koreans started."

She put her hand on Martina's shoulder. "That's why I made my baby girl come with us to this meeting... so I could keep watch on her. NegaJane saw her, and said that Judith would be... interested in her."

Lost in thought, the Armorer began to pace slowly as the military and resistance fighters watched him. "This is interesting," he said, almost to himself. "Very... interesting."

He turned about to face the resistance fighters. "All right, then," he spoke up. "Let's get this started. Form up to be issued weapons and receive biometric clearance. Robertson – you're in charge. I need to take care of something. Miss Peters - I'll need to speak to you and your people after the meeting."


Minutes later, as the other DELPHI operatives began to dispense the JK-11 weapons, the Armorer went to a small alcove that his people had set up earlier for privacy.

He looked about the area, and then, pulled at the silver necklace he wore about his neck until the silver ring on the necklace was visible.

"Flash message – secure link to Warhammer Avalon-One," he said, as the Defender Ring on his chain gave off a slight flash of blue light that resolved into a one-foot-tall, full-body hologram of Brittany Taylor as she sat behind a desk. "Hello, Commander."

Brittany didn't waste time. "Report."

"The unified resistance forced are going to be happy with the JK-11's we're supplying them," the Armorer said. "They believe that we're with another AU-variant of DELPHI."

"As long as they keep Judith and her friends busy for a few more moments, I don't care if they think we're the Riverbottom Nightmare Band," the Commander of the Sky Vault Avalon's Warhammer cadre (and at present, the frontline commander of the war against Judith) hissed at the Whisperer Ringbearer. "Supply them with as many weapons as they feel they need."

"I have other news, as well," the Armorer said. "I believe that an opportunity may exist here for us to launch Project Amiga."

The animal glee in her tone came easily through the Ring-link. "Time-sensitive?"

The Armorer nodded in response. "I believe so," he said. "How soon can you be ready to deploy?"

"Report back within twelve hours," Brittany told him. "Do not under any circumstances reveal that your team is composed of Ringbearers. If you are discovered, do memory modification on everyone involved - and if you encounter the Order or any of Judith's forces, use the Mallory Lock you've been issued to slide to an alternate Earth. Portal to a safe location from there."

The Armorer nodded once more. "Yes, Commander."

Brittany sat back, a look of smug satisfaction on her face. "If this works, this could end the war... because if Project Amiga works, we will put an end to Judith – once and for all."




9 January 2011