An attempt at silliness, hopefully make some people laugh. There's probably too much exposition, though.
Lying on his bed of rubble, Derrick felt like an overused trope. Well, he was sure he would have, if it weren’t for the overwhelming pain. Mostly, he just felt pain.
His opponent stared down at him from above. Standing in midair, as though there were some invisible platform there, he folded his arms and smirked. Even with all the pain, Derrick was certain that Joshua had become a different trope.
They’d been colleagues - friends, even - as recently as yesterday. Now, the city was in ruins around them, and Derrick was at the mercy of the man planning the biggest massacre in human history.
Unlike the people Joshua would kill, the infrastructure would recover. Every building, street, and vehicle: every artificial object throughout the world was connected by a single intelligence, and like an enormous worldwide organism, that intelligence would naturally care for each of its cells. Slowly and carefully, particles of concrete and steel were shifting and bending themselves back to the way they were before the battle.
Derrick was jealous. He could do something similar, sure - but only with that intelligence’s help, and only with new resources. Unfortunately, he’d depleted his own reserves of stem cells. Joshua had barely used any, and Derrick was certain he’d share, but only after he agreed to those monstrous terms…
Yes, Derrick envied the city. It was like an organism, a superior kind of organism. He was half-tempted to say that out loud, but he knew Josh would get pissed and punish him for it. That perverted affection knew no bounds.
“Are you ready yet?” Josh asked. “Ready to become my right hand?”
“No thanks,” Derrick coughed. He’d tried to yell, but he didn’t have the strength. Was Josh even able to hear his refusal? “I think you’re better off with the right hand you’ve got. It probably already knows your preferred strokin’ speed.”
Josh chuckled at the vulgar implication. “We’ll have people to do that for us. Women, so many women! We’ll have our pick, and as many as we want! Come on, man; you put up a good fight, and that resistance will stay on the record.”
“Is that all women are good for, to you?” Derrick asked.
“There was a time when everyone thought so,” Josh replied.
“By that logic, we should start wiping our asses with our bare hands.” Derrick tried to laugh, but only coughed. “Anyway, you’re still doing it wrong. Women always tell you they wouldn’t bang you even if you were the last man on Earth. To call their bluff, you’re gonna have to kill me.”
“Did I rattle your brain that hard?” Josh asked. “Don’t worry, they’ll change their minds before I cull even a quarter of the males. And on the off-chance I’m wrong, you’ll be the very last to die.”
“No I won’t.” Derrick shook his head. “Here and now, Josh. One of us isn’t walking away from this.”
“Well, yeah,” Josh scoffed. “Both your legs are broke. I’ll carry ya.”
“And I’ll slit your throat when you try.”
“Come on, Dirk…”
“Geez, what happened to the gym?” The new voice, a woman’s, turned both their heads. “You guys need to be more respectful. When ya don’t use the equipment the way it’s supposed to be used, ya ruin it for everyone else.”
Derrick felt a renewed sense of panic. He’d been ready to die, had made peace about all those who’d died during the battle. At least the majority had fled, and at least they’d recognize Josh for the threat he was. He could even stomach the countless deaths to come, as long as they came after his own…
“She’s right, Dirk.” Josh’s lecherous smile was as creepy as ever, even from Derrick’s distance. “I told ya the treadmill was programmed to retaliate.”
“Is that what did this to you?” The strange woman looked at Derrick. “If you’re gonna bully the machines, stick to the elliptical. They’re much easier on you! Why hasn’t your STEM kicked in, anyway?”
“It did,” Derrick groaned. “Over and over again. You need to run, young lady.”
“I was gonna, but you broke the place where people go to run!”
Josh laughed heartily. “So we did. Sorry ‘bout that. You know you can just use a fitness template to get your body into optimal shape, right?”
“I don’t care about that.” She put her hands on her hips and gave Josh an indignant look. “I like to run sometimes! It’s perfectly natural.”
“Well-said.” Josh smirked, and Derrick’s heart sank further. It was obvious that Josh was taking an interest in the girl, and nothing could be more dangerous.
“Get away,” Derrick coughed. He scrambled to think of a way to explain the danger she was in, but his thoughts were jumbled. Humanity hadn’t seen violence for a thousand years, how could he make her understand before it was too late?
“Hey, what’s your name?” Josh called.
“Well Angela, my name’s Josh. I think I rather like you.”
“Duh.” Angela smiled and rolled her eyes. Derrick had the distinct impression she’d never been disliked before.
“Mate with me,” Josh proposed. “Be the first.”
“Nah.” Angela declined.
Derrick choked on his own breath. He wasn’t surprised that she refused, but the cadence… she didn’t seem surprised by the ‘offer.’ did she have to make these refusals every day? And was she always subjected to such a lack of tact?
“Come on,” Josh prodded. “At least give it some thought!”
“No thanks, I’m good.” Angela looked back to Derrick and frowned. “Hey, you should give him your STEM. He’s in really bad shape.”
“I will.” Josh’s eyes narrowed into that sinister look. “Once he agrees.”
“Oh, didja ask him to mate with you too?” Angela seemed sincere. “Poor guy. You just can’t find love anywhere, can you?”
Josh’s eye twitched, but he kept his composure. Despite himself, Derrick chuckled. He shouldn’t be laughing about this. She couldn’t know it, but she just hit Josh pretty hard. If those hits kept coming, she’d be his next victim.
“Does what I did to him seem like a good way to court mates?” Josh asked. “Should I win your favor the same way way?”
“By waiting ‘til I get hurt and then making me agree to put out if you give me your STEM?” Angela seemed confused. Derrick suspected she didn’t grasp the situation.
“Not quite. I meant winning you through combat! That’s how Derrick got hurt.”
“Ohh…” Angela finally understood. “Don’t people usually do that through games?”
“Lesser people.” Josh asserted. Derrick grimaced; he knew Josh’s megalomania better than anyone, but that didn’t make it any less shocking. “Way back when society was developing, when we weren’t stagnant, combat is what we did to decide who was right and who was wrong. It’s what we’re supposed to do, not resort to these inane compromises everyone’s so keen on. Combat rewards the strong and removes weakness from the gene pool. It’s time for combat to make a comeback!”
“Whatever.” Angela just shrugged. Derrick couldn’t blame her; violence had been gone for so long that the average citizen couldn’t comprehend how horrifying it was. “You can babble about all that stuff later. Would you please just fix your friend already?”
“If you agree to be my mate.” Josh replied. Derrick doubted he was being honest.
“Ugh, no.” Angela seemed discouraged, but Derrick saw an epiphany surfacing. “You say this is what combat is for, right?”
“More or less.” Josh smirked.
“Alright! I’ll fight you, and if I win, that guy gets your STEM. Oh, and ya don’t try to mate with him anymore.”
“That won’t be a problem.” Josh chuckled.
“I’m serious! You leave him alone afterward!” Angela insisted. Derrick was glad she broadened the condition. He would never join Josh in this madness, and the way she phrased it the first time, Josh could still try to make him. At least this way, if she won…
Derrick coughed and groaned. Fighting through the pain, he tried to rise. What was he thinking? Angela needed to run, far and fast! Combat wasn’t a real option, especially not for a civilian. Josh had achieved an unprecedented level of power, he would crush Angela! Perhaps even literally.
His arms gave out, and he sank back into the rubble. All he could do now was hope. Even this deranged, perhaps some part of Josh was still decent enough to see the dishonor in such an asymmetrical fight. This couldn’t be the ideal he sought, could it?
“I must have you,” Josh gushed. “If I win, you are mine, agreed? You’re unlike any woman I’ve ever met!”
“Really?” Angela seemed skeptical. “That’s weird. You seem pretty much the same as every guy I’ve ever met.”
Josh scowled, and his eyebrow twitched with rage. She’d pressed some buttons earlier, but there wasn’t anything she could say that would piss him off more than equating him to the average man.
“Are we agreed on the terms?!” he bellowed.
“Sure.” Angela shrugged.
“Then come at me!” Josh taunted.
All of Derrick’s protests just came out as groaning. How was Angela supposed to attack him when he was still suspended so high in the air? The atmosphere’s artificial gravity intimidated most people, they didn’t dare…
Angela shot into the sky without hesitation. In fact, she seemed to be subjecting herself to the maximum level of outward gravity. Even if he had estimated her properly, Josh couldn’t have prepared himself for the hit. She was on him in a second, leading with her knee into his gut.
He doubled over and exhaled blood as her momentum carried them further upward. Derrick watched with wide eyes. He’d seen people do some crazy things using the gravity generated by the shell that surrounded the Earth’s atmosphere. None of them had seemed as reckless as that maneuver. If she lost control, she’d have a long fall towards the Earth’s invert surface.
It was clear that Josh had learned not to underestimate her. The hit could have killed him if it hit him wrong, but he still had the strength to push her away and level his palm at her. A kinetic blast was coming! Once again, Derrick was outraged over his former friend’s misuse of technology. Those shockwaves were what had leveled the block, how dare he use them against a lone woman?!
The air rippled from the force of self-destructing nanites. The building closest to them shook from the force, and clouds of dusted concrete erupted from all sides. Miraculously, it continued to stand.
“Stop that!” Josh commanded.
Somehow, Angela had avoided the blast and got behind her opponent. With a firm grip on his collar, she was dragging them both higher into the air.
“Come on, let’s go up,” she suggested.
“No! I’m quite comfortable here.”
“But I can take you higher.” Angela’s expression became one of disgust as soon as she said it. “Okay, I hate Creed, nevermind. Jeffersons! We’re movin’ on up…”
“You’re going to regret mocking me!” Josh promised. Despite the threat, it was clear he was struggling to compensate for her pull. Their ascent had slowed, but he clearly wasn’t as talented at controlling the artificial gravities. “
“You’re making it harder for me to like you!” Josh spat.
“Really? Because I think I might be in love with you.” For a sick moment, Derrick thought Angela was sincere
“W-what?” Josh stammered. “Why, all of a sudden?”
“I don’t know. All I DO know is that, when you love someone, you need to be able to let them go. I’ll try that now.”
She released him, and because he’d been ramping up his Earthside gravity, Josh fell faster than normal.
“No no no nO NOOO!” He screamed as he scrambled to adjust. His descent slowed, and it looked like he would manage to stop before slamming into the last building he’d damaged.
“It’s true, Joshua! I’m falling for yoooooou!” Angela was rocketing down even faster. Just as Josh was killing his momentum, Angela collided feet-first into his back. Josh shot downward again, a cloud of concrete dust blooming above the spot where he hit the roof.
Impossibly, Angela managed to stop her own fall. “Er, I meant to say on you. I’m falling on you, not for you.” She adopted a professorial posture and wagged her finger. “A subtle but important distinction.”
Could this be real? Derrick doubted he could dream up this much pain, so it had to be. This stranger had defeated Josh, and it had been so easy that she’d made a joke out of it! Not a great joke, he decided, but still…
The building obscured her landing. The city was quiet for about thirty seconds, and Derrick felt panic returning. Was she okay? He’d assumed that the fall would kill Josh, but could he be certain?
It didn’t feel like victory until she appeared at the roof’s edge. She skipped off of it, floating back down to the street like a leaf.
“Hey there.” She tossed Josh’s STEM onto his chest; even that light impact caused him to grunt in pain. “Brought ya Wolverine’s healing factor.”
“I think Josh has more in common with Wolvy’s son,” Derrick observed as he plugged the STEM bag into the aperture over his heart.
“If that was Daken, then they need to take the pheremone power off his list, ‘cause I had no trouble resisting his charms.”
“You and everyone else,” Derrick chuckled. The STEM stabilized and anesthetized him so quickly that he felt like he’d just passed from Hell into the best part of Heaven. “You have no idea what you’ve done for the world today, Angela. You’ve saved countless lives.”
“I have?” Her head tilted to one side. “I just wanted to get you out of the gym’s rubble so it could repair itself. Besides, I was in pain just looking at you. You got served, son.”
“Whatever your reasons for doing it, it doesn’t change the deed. He was going to kill millions of people if you hadn’t stopped him.”
“Well, it’s not like he can’t anymore. My STEM has probably stabilized him by now.”
“What?!” Derrick shot up. “He’s still alive?!”
“Duh.” Angela rolled her eyes.
“You gave him your STEM?!” Thoughts zipped through his mind. “Why’d you even fight him, then? You could have just given me your STEM!”
“Bitch, don’t tell me what to do!” Angela smiled mischievously. It made Derrick think she had her reasons for sparing Josh, but what reasons could she possibly have?”
“No matter,” Derrick sighed. “I’ll finish the job. You’ve still done a wonderful thing today, Angela. The world has your thanks.”
“You won’t finish crap.” Before he knew it, Josh was on his back again. He couldn’t believe how fast she was. “I dunno what you’re babbling about, but it has nothing to do with why I fought him. The deal was that, if I win, he leaves me alone. Well, I guess he has to leave you alone too. That’s as far as it goes.”
“Nothin’ in that deal says I have to leave him alone.”
That naughty smile reappeared. “He’s not in any condition to be mating.”
“Gross. You know what I meant!”
“I do. But like the dildo said, combat’s there for when people refuse to compromise. Ya wanna hurt him, then ya gotta go through me. I don’t want you getting an advantage because I got involved.”
“Why? Angela, he plans to kill most of the people on this planet. He thinks it’s his right, that it’s his duty. He’s insane, he has to be stopped!”
“I don’t care.”
“You don’t care?” Derrick was incredulous. “How don’t you care?! Your friends, your family: they’re all in danger!”
“If he tries to do something I don’t like, then I’ll beat his ass again. He isn’t doing anything right now, so I’m leaving him be. And you are to! I mean it, until he’s recovered, you’re not allowed to touch him!”
Their eyes locked for several long seconds before Derrick spoke again. “You realize that, if he recovers and continues with agenda, the blood of every victim is in your hands. Mine too!”
“It is too!” Derrick grimaced. He’d sounded like a child just then. “You’re in a position to prevent their deaths and you’re refusing to!”
“...and because you’re not going to fight me, those deaths are your fault too?” Angela asked.
With a clenched jaw, he looked away. “That’s right.”
“You think way too much of yourself.” Angela giggled.
“Even if you’re right about what he’ll do in the future, it isn’t your responsibility to change it, Nostradumbass. Even if you were the guy in charge of punishing peeps, ya can’t punish him for something he hasn’t done yet.”
“What about all the bodies under this rubble?” Derrick motioned at the ruined block. “Can I punish him for those?”
“Maybe after he gets better. I never signed up to punish anyone for anything! So until he’s better, you leave him be! Otherwise, it’s like I helped in the punishment.” Angela turned to leave.
Derrick stood up and watched her for several steps. “You’re just gonna leave? What’s to stop me from finishing him off, then?”
“Your conscience, dummy!” Angela never looked back, and said nothing more.
Derrick looked back towards the spot where Josh had fallen.