But, as my wife says, I gotta be me.
I looked over the Boss’s corpse again. She was slumped against the wall, in the classic ‘Orochi agent’ style; the half of her face that was still there looked exasperated. That wasn’t weird, as I defined ‘weird’ now; what was weird was how the usual dissolution process had frozen. About a third of her body was still untouched, a third missing -- and a third had stalled in the middle of transforming into bees. Yes, it looked precisely as disgusting as it sounds. There was a ton of beeswax smeared everywhere, too.
There were three of us. The Boss’s self-proclaimed Illuminati ‘protege’ (I thought of her as the ‘Gofer’) had her gun out and bodyguarding the location competently enough; she might even have enough oomph to take down a demon hyena or two. Doc Wu was prodding the remains, although I don’t think even she knew what she was trying to accomplish. Getting the body to dissolve all the way, maybe. Me? I was wishing I had anything left to throw up. Being dragged to a South African shantytown via dimensional rip was always hard on my stomach. The others say you get used to it.
The Gofer looked over at me. “Any signs of a struggle, Special Agent?”
Contemplating the dingy, defaced, dirty, and generally decrepit collection of hovels that the Morninglight called “the New Dawn,” I shook my head. “Yes. No. Bemused shrug. The Boss is definitely dead, though.”
The Doc shook her head. “And she should have been back to reanimate the body by now. Or else the corpse should have gone full Swarn.“ Can’t say that I was sorry to miss either of those scenarios, honestly. Watching the Boss suddenly materialize a body out of whatever junk was handy at the time is almost as unpleasant as watching her body dissolve into a swarm of bees. Even when she’s using her old body for the raw materials.
“Do you two think that Ms. Morganey fell afoul of a monster?” That question came from the Gofer, and it was a fair one -- but the Doc shook her head.
“Knowing her? Probably. So what?” I’m told I’ll get used to that attitude, too. I work for a woman who treats death as an annoyance, or maybe a tactical gambit. It’s a lot more tolerable when you’re not stuck in the alleys of a demon-haunted town at night without either your passport, or a good reason for being there.
“OK,” I said, as loudly as I dared and as confidently as I could manage. It worked: the other two looked at me. “I don’t come back from the dead, and neither do you two, so let’s get out of the open. Find a vacant shack, wait for the dawn. Maybe we can find a phone that works.”
This clearly appealed to the other two; I got the impression that they really weren’t any more used to this particular situation than I was, more experienced minions or not. The Gofer pointed to the Boss. “What about the body?” I shrugged.
Yeah, that was fun. Not so much picking up bits of the Boss and tossing them in the wheelbarrow; and trundling the barrow through dark streets while cultists inside the occupied shacks kept hissing at us to stop breaking curfew (I’m trying!) felt fairly adventurous. We even managed to avoid the demon hyenas; but nobody mentioned giant bird people swooping down from the sky.
Worst part was, the bird-man didn’t even smell bad. It looked like it should; I know this, because the literally damned thing tried to envelop me with its wings while its beak worried at my throat. The vicious instincts of an animal, coupled with the cunning of a human -- and I could tell the latter, because the bird-person looked shocked when I pushed its head up and back with one hand, and emptied my Glock into its gut with the other. I guess the Morninglight doesn’t let the monsters’ usual prey carry guns? Was it dead? Maybe: we didn’t stick around to check. We just ran, eventually carrying the wheelbarrow because it was marginally faster that way.
I finally found an unoccupied shack, and then it was literally “Skelly bar the door.” When the dawn (heh) broke, so did the Boss, finally; the dissolution to Swarm just suddenly turned on again. According to the others, this means the Boss reconstituted herself, and will be joining us shortly.
It’d be nice if she explained what happened.