The Business of War

Introduction ~ Chapter 1

Megapolis Scrapyard

January 5th, 20XX

It had been a few weeks now.

A form, assembled from scraps, pieces, and barely usable parts dragged its uncooperative frame about the yard full of other people’s unwanted trash. It took pains to hide its ruined form with a tattered tarp that had been assaulted by the sun for years. Under that, the completely shredded remains of a white coat clung to this wrecked creature as it combed through the debris.

It chose not to speak to itself, and barely made cohesive thoughts. All it wanted to do was get back in a somewhat decent running order. THEN…It could focus on thinking. Thinking about…


This ruined creature was known as “Cutman”, or as his old subordinates referred to him, with much fear and respect, “General”. Now, he was barely able to stand under his own power. He was the victim of a suicide attack by the Sinister Six’s Bombman, which had completely mangled his body to the point of non-function. His head and spine had been blown clear from his frame during Bombman’s attack.

It took him days of working with only his teeth to resynchronize one of his fingers to his body. He took it from there.

Now, he found himself in this trash heap, looking for more usable parts. He was only able to salvage twenty-two percent of his original body, the rest of it being reduced to burning, twisted garbage. He also incorporated pieces of his “murderer” into his ramshackle body, mostly out of necessity.

Now, something caught his eye amidst the cast aside pieces of robots. Something white, and almost clean.

With his better hand, the one with three fingers and a working thumb, he reached out to it. He felt compelled to as soon as he saw it. He NEEDED to do it…

Ethereal Plane

Time Unknown

Pleased to meet you. I hope you guess my name.

You seem surprised to see me. Well, my words, at least. You seem shocked that I'm communicating to you in this way. That cuts me to the quick, my friend. The heroes of the world are not the only people with stories to share.

I'm sensing something. A rising dread. You're afraid I'm going to start ranting and raving and trying to 'make you see the light.' You don't want to read or hear about any sort of grand conspiracy to make me look like an evil entity. I understand that.

I expected it.

I'm something of a mind reader. If this were a face-to-face conversation, I'd be grinning. Well, I'm always grinning, but I believe that to be beside the point.

So now I can feel your confusion. If I'm not pleading a case to you, what am I doing? Is this simply some nonsensical existential rigmarole I'll lead you through to make you think? Or is this something entirely different?

Allow me to assure you of something: I only wish to make known certain accounts for my own purposes. After all, if I'm the only person who is aware of these things that I am about to tell you, then I am the only one who gets the joke, and where's the fun in that?

The account in question has to do with my recent absence from the scene of the crime. You may have noticed my machinations have been conspicuously missing from recent excursions into the misadventures of our intrepid heroes. I admit, much of that was not by design. Not my own, at least.

No, the story I am about to tell you has to do with the only time I have ever known myself to be not entirely in control of the events around me. And to truly understand the situation, I believe I must tell you some more about myself, as is customary in a literary idiom such as this.

I am not old, nor am I new. I have an uncanny control of the situation and the people I surround myself with, not unlike some teenaged drama queens, but without all the wasted Kleenex and petty plays for boy toys.

I get such a chuckle out of this pathetic excuse for a planet. In all seriousness, who CHOOSES to live in reality? Mind altering chemicals, drugs, alcohol, video games, books, movies... you humans create so many diversions for yourselves, and yet you deal with reality willingly. Why? Why not simply hide forever among the fields of your imagination, unbounded by the laws of physics or the rule of man? Why not simply... escape?

It amuses me that you have created all of these doors, carefully labeled them 'EXIT' and then made it taboo or illegal to go through them.

The people I control feel the freedom of being stripped of their choices. Their rational mind, beaten into submission, seeks solace in the one thing I would never harm but would always take advantage of. As their psyche copes with my intrusion by crafting a world they can willingly handle, they make it all the easier for me to direct them, control them, and ultimately turn them into a puppet that is delighted to serve me, because I never force them to face reality. To suffer the consequences of their actions or the punishments for their various sins.

Of course, all of that tends to come crashing down when I eventually withdraw my control and leave them, as the layman might say, high and dry. But that, in itself, is an expression of my own... freedoms.

Take Senator Bayman, for example. Just last week, under my exemplary influence, he left work early, went out to a bar I know well, had several drinks, had a wonderful time, met a lovely young woman, and then, of his own free will, went home with her for a lovely night that I'm sure I need to know nothing about. You might think of me as some sort of wonderful, benevolent angel, based on such information.

Until you read the papers a week later, when the story broke, and his wife and their two children both discovered that he'd had a drunken affair with a lovely young woman whom I may or may not have also had influence on.

The newspapers today ran the story of his disgraced removal from office, and his replacement by yet another suit-and-tie nitwit that I must get my claws into so he can be removed before business is allowed to boom again.

Not that I mind. It isn't like he'll be a challenge.

Human brains are weak. Humanity as a whole is constantly seeking simple things such as acceptance and companionship. Therefore, breaking them is equally simple: Find what someone doesn't believe they have, and give it to them and a way that can be easily controlled, removed, or taken back. Like lambs to the slaughter, they will return, time after time, doing whatever you ask without any hypnosis whatsoever. Of course, for the more specific things, I sink my teeth into the situation and take a more direct approach to control, but dozens upon dozens of scams, schemes, plots, and general mayhem are predicated on knowing people better than they know themselves.

A psychiatrist I once knew called me... manipulative, among other things, right before I threw her away like the useless rag doll she'd become. I think it suits me well. Wouldn't you agree?

But enough about me for now, as I may be spoiling the end too quickly. Allow me to turn back our respective timepieces.

A realm unlike anything your senses might be able to comprehend is at my beck and call. A complete mastery of all things material and immaterial are the gifts I command, and a complete disregard for the happiness of other sentient beings both living and mechanical has made me a fairly singular personality. Happily alone in a world of one.

So it was rather odd, you can imagine, to discover my intruder.

I was aware of him instantaneously. As I said, there is nothing I cannot see in my world. Controlling this mole, however, proved to be much more difficult, and this demanded further and more focused attention. I made myself manifest before it, purely out of habit. It was doubtful that this new presence even knew how to create an avatar, let alone guide it here.

My assumptions were proven wrong almost instantaneously.

It... HE smiled at me. It was a cold, calculated, mirthless smile that in so many ways reminded me of my own more permanent fixture.

"So, you really DO exist," he chuckled. I decided to humor this interloper, at least for the time being. My day had just gotten exponentially more interesting.

"What exists and what does not is more a matter of choice and perception," I told him quietly. "But for the purposes of the next exchange between us, I shall exist on a level you can understand, yes."

There was something about this intruder that made him different. He had an entirely different feel than most. Something... otherworldly. His choice of avatar was either a skilled piece of work or some default setting, I couldn't tell which. He was simply a metal skeleton. Granted, next to my own somewhat pieced-togetherness, nothing that YOUR mind could process got much more outlandish.

"I have been searching for you," the other being told me. "I've only heard rumors, whispered among the underground..."

"They whisper words of such unimaginable praise, but also words of contempt," I said. "I am not unaware of my... infamous reputation."

"They claim you are immortal," he said bluntly. I laughed. My laugh has a very distinctive quality, and has been described as cold, high, and totally mirthless.

"So long as evil lurks in the hearts of man and robot, I shall remain," I told him in a cryptic fashion.

This time, HE laughed. A short, sharp series of sounds that only warned of impending torture. Like the barks of the hounds of hell mere seconds before they break their chains and are able to tear into your soft exterior with their full fervor. I admit that it was unsettling, and coming from me, well... trust me, that means something.

"Well spoken," he told me at last. He then took me in more seriously, seemingly lost in thought. "Yes... you could be very useful to me."

"Useful? As a tool?" I asked, the world around me shifting in color and flow as I wondered what he meant.

This seemed to bring him out of some sort of deep thought. "Hm? Oh, no... No, someone as... unique as you deserves to be my partner."

I scoffed at the thought. "As if I needed to play the fool to someone who I've never even heard of. What earthly reason would convince me to partner myself with you?"

"Well for one thing, I found you," he told me, giving the ethereal equivalent of a shrug. "And I have a way to help you get everything you'll ever need."

Again, I scoffed. "The energies I require are generated every day, in thousands of ways. It is a simple matter to reap the harvest humanity so readily offers to me."

"Ah," he broke in, cutting me off, "but is it not true that the bulk of such an everyday amount of energy is consumed by your very existence? You have an upkeep that you pay for your body, for this world of yours, like a human who has to pay rent."

The Malus Messis, my weapon of choice, was suddenly pressed close to my visitor's neck, but I had yet to move an inch. "Be careful what and who you compare me to, stranger," I thundered, the world around us spinning out of control into a spiral of black desires.

I never saw his blade appear. I never saw his hands move, but suddenly he was forcing my weapon away with surprisingly little effort. "So you CAN be angered. Wonderful. You're perfect."

My weapon returned to my side, and I took it in my hand absently. After a long silence of taking him and his blades in from every angle, I made a decision.

"So what is this way you seem to believe you have of acquiring enough Evil Energy to satisfy me? I asked.

"All in due time." he laughed. "we’re going to make beautiful music together, so please do not make any long-term plans." And with that, he was gone, a mere shadow of his avatar remaining behind as a reminder that he had forced his way into my world.

After a long while, I decided to do some hunting. Somewhere out there, someone would know something about this 'General Cutman'...

The Scrapyard

Days Later

Finally, Cutman stirred.

For a few moments, he was unable to comprehend the meaning of his dream. After time, however, he grinned with what remained of his orange, burnt face.

He had found him.

For months he had dismissed this…creature’s very existence as hearsay and mindless rumor, but he had to admit- it did interest him. And now…He held this being’s worldly avatar within his hands. This doll-like contraption.

Slowly, he generated a laugh. His first audible sound in weeks. This thing…this weapon would serve him well. Oh yes, things would be interesting from now on. He would play the human game now, because it would make everything so much sweeter and more exciting.

It had rained at some point during his unconsciousness. At his feet was a puddle, which he peered into, still holding the doll-like robot. Slowly, he reached up to his face and pulled off the ruined skin-like texture, revealing his very skull-like frame beneath.

A plan formed.

May 31st, 20XX

10:22 PM, Eastern Standard Time

Darkness had swept over the deserted city about an hour ago, filling the huge void in the center of the city with inky blackness. If one were to peer into it, they may find the remnants of a burning wreck laying near its epicenter.

One man had already done that.

He quietly wandered around the void, inspecting the area. Around half an hour ago, he watched several beams of light escape the ruined city, leaving him the only sentient being in the city. Draped over one shoulder was a black judicial-style robe, stained with blood.

Finally, something snapped up his attention, and with a slight grin, he responded.

“I was wondering when you’d contact me…The action ended quite some time ago.”

Any other observer may make the mistake that this lone man had gone mad, as he was indeed all alone, and not using any device to communicate. He was talking to himself, it seemed. Or maybe, a voice in his head.

“Hey, its your show. I’m just saying I expected you to be more into it.

Suit yourself. In any case, things went almost exactly as you said they would. The Mechs came right to LA, but I can see you already knew that…”

The long-haired man kicked at the corpse of one of the many dead bodies randomly strewn about the city. This one’s head had been decimated, with his helmet placed over the ugly splotch where it should have been. Casually, this man picked up the old gun placed upon the corpse’s chest and listened to the noise it made when he spun the ammo chamber, all while listening to the voice in his mind.

“Yes, I think he did fairly well today. So did the other one. They’re almost there.

Ah…The priest…He apparently held up his part of the bargain, I take it? That worked out very well for you. You must have collected so much once that spell page had been obliterated.

…And your ‘partner’…He seems completely mad. Just what you were looking for…Yes, yes…The two did confront one another, but I wasn’t able to see exactly what happened. I can only assume your effects on the both of them helped to force the situation into something more agreeable…

Do you really think he’ll follow your suggestions? If he doesn’t, that means-

You’re right…Its not my place. In any case, though, he’ll make an outstanding collector, assuming you can control him more regularly.

Of course. You know where to find me. Well, I must tend to my wounds…Call me when the time comes…


The black-booted man was once again alone, or so his “boss” would have him believe. You were never alone if you knew his boss…In fact, this whole report seemed rather useless, now that the observer thought about it. It’d be like reporting to God himself, who was an omnipresent being- he already knew whatever you were about to tell him.

He was being controlled, just like the others. And somehow…This sat fine with him.

After all…Life is so boring when its predictable


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