In the land that knows no pardon.

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STRIKE and Mickey-Mike

Shogunate Palace, Research Wing

Ivana threw open the door to Arrachtech's lab, guitar in one hand, bottle of wine in the other. "Is party time!"

There was no response. She looked around. A handful of lab techs looked back, shifting awkwardly in the silence.

"Where is 'Tach?"

"He isn't here today Ma'am. Something about scanning a dimensional weak spot in the Bermuda Triangle."

"..Okay. Is fine." Ivana plopped down on a lap stool and pointed at the nearest lap tech. Freckled, red haired; he gulped. "You. Have seat. Drink wine. Make.. small talks."

He set, stiff as a board and fumbled when Ivana tossed him the bottle of wine, almost dropping it. Ivana poked at a pistol-like gizmo with a barrel wrapped in wires that glowed fuschia which laid upon the workbench beside them.

"STO-..I mean please do not touch that Ma'am! Graviton beam technology is still highly unstable!"

A sigh. "Okay. So." She turned her blue eyes on the lap tech. "What is name?"

"Mike. I mean, Michael, but my friends call me Mickey."

"Mickey-Mike." Ivana picked up her guitar and strummed a few cords. Slowly the typical workplace commotion returned as the collection of super-scientists went back to their, but muted, strained. "This good name."

Silence stretched out. Michael tugged at the cork on the wine bottle until he finally yanked it free, splashing wine across his lapcoat.

"...this part where you speak thoughts, Mickey-Mike."

"Umm... alright." He tipped the wine bottle back, taking several gulps. "Umm... the situation with STRIKE seems resolved. I assume that's good, right?"

Ivana brightened. "Da. Is good. STRIKE have much money, much tech. But bad diplomacy. Lose Equalizer and America with much quickness."

"Oh! I heard the Amercians sent an ambassador."

"Is true. Diplomatic relations.. how you say.. re-establish. I talk to President. Talk to Secretary of Explosions."

"..Secretary of.. explosions?"

"Figure of speech. America have too many secretary. Everyone secretary of something."

He took another long swig of the wine, cheeks flushing and stiff posture relaxing.

"If I might ask Ma'am, how was this diplomatic maneuver accomplished?"

"Is simple. STRIKE.. modern. Much tech. Ship that fly. Plasma gun. They.. bureaucracy. Leaders are bureaucrat. Not warrior. They count. Count tech. Count money. Count soldier number. This is bureaucrat job. This how-" She tapped a finger against her head. "-mind think."

"They count their side. They count mine. They weigh one, against other." An upturned palm moved up and down as if holding a heavy weight. "When weight favor them, they think 'attack!'. When it not, they not want fight."

"So I call President. He mutant. We have.. connection. Common cause. Not like human; not natural enemy. We agree to make no war. He not attack, or give money to attacker. This threaten STRIKE purse string. Take money away, no year-end bonus. No vacation. No pay raise. Budget become small. This bureaucrat nightmare. So. They count and weigh. They count Equalizer against them. They weigh lose of America money and damage to ship against benefit of attack. Benefit very small. So they make peace."

Absently playing a few cords on the guitar and staring into the distance, deep in thought. "This good decision short term. Bad long term. They play chicken and blink. Quit at first sign of difficulty. Now, respect gone. Now path to beat them known. Heroes doubt resolve of STRIKE, join Equalizer instead. Recruitment problem."

Michael had a lot more wine at this point and was looking much more relaxed. "Interesting! Its a shame the war never started, you know. I have been working on several prototypes that I think you would have loved."


"Absolutely! In fact just yesterday I had the idea of inverting the tachyon matrix with a Fleischer loop! The Shaller feedback should produce a localized high energy burst that-" Ivana's eyes glazed over.

-Five minutes later-

"-then I thought 'Gosh Mickey, why don't you just harmonize the astral quantum with the spooky conduit!' And when I tried it, gee, you should have seen the, please don't touch that, way the needle jumped on the, don't touch that either, electrum dial! That's when I thought 'Eureka! Now all I have to do is-"

Ivana cut him off. "Okay okay. I get picture." Pressing both palms toward him in a 'stop' gesture as she stood.

"You very good at science. But this not work." Holding her guitar in one hand she patted his curly red hair with the other. "Take day off."

"Umm... okay. I mean, yes Ma'am."

Whistling tonelessly Ivana made her exit. There had to be -someone- who knew where Arrachtach was. "Before I lose mind of boringness." She muttered.