The Rage Regulator, Part 1
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Last time on Nexus:
Saint Chloe, Part 3

Moons, unlike planets, are relatively homogeneous in population and government, probably due to their size. Humans always seemed to split into several states when enough of them gathered in one place. For moons, this was relatively pleasant, because a celestial body whose population worked together had nothing to fear in the interstellar realm of humanity.
Provided that they were led correctly.
There were also a few moons, like for example IP-2907, which orbited an uninhabited gas giant. In itself, the moon was well supplied, the lunar bases were airtight, and IP-2907 was making a lot of money harvesting helium from the surface of its gas giant.
The problem was that most of it ended up in the hands of the top one percent of the population. Accordingly, most of the moon bases were in good shape, but culturally and financially so run down that not even law enforcement officers dared to go there.
Anyone who wanted to run stores here either had to know and pay the right people, or have a sufficient arsenal of weapons.
Bars like the Blue Moon were the exception. Even in a society made up of scoundrels, cutthroats, and criminals, it was agreed upon that there had to be places where people could unwind. Anyone who attacked such businesses or demanded protection money from them risked to incur the wrath of the entire moon base. And usually didn't live long enough to get to know everyone that had been pissed off.
Ferra looked on at the counter of the financially stable Blue Moon, sipping a cocktail that was one part alcohol, one part sugar, and one part motor oil with a dash of strawberry syrup.
With her silver hair tied back in a ponytail and her slim figure, she was one of the better-looking people around. She did wear a gray trench coat to hide her body at least somewhat from eager glances, but unfortunately that didn't always work. A beefy guy with a scar across his face and clothes that seemed three sizes too big for him stomped up to her, grinning a grin that he probably thought was lewd but triggered an urge in Ferra to pour her drink down his throat. Unlike her, he didn't seem to be a cyborg. Would have been interesting to see how he handled the oil….
"Well, anything on your mind today? If you feel like a little distraction, I can send you to the stars, cutie."
Cutie.
Behind Ferra's gray eyes, the database of wanted criminals was called up and a facial match was run. Sure enough. Silus Croquer, wanted for two counts of dangerous assault and robbery. Bounty: 20,000 credits. Would last for a few days…
The innkeeper, who had eyed her suspiciously after this chat-up, calmly turned back to his business when Ferra began to smile.
"Oh, there's definitely a hole you could fill…"
The guy's grin widened a bit. He was missing two teeth, Ferra noted.
An area on bright white dots appeared in front of her hand, parting to make Ferra's arm disappear into nothingness. In fact, it had just disappeared into Ferra's subdimensional pocket, a small pocket dimension of her own in which she carried all her belongings.
Her admirer let out an appreciative whistle.
"You're a cyborg, huh? Can't tell by looking at you. Heard you guys last pretty long."
"Think you can handle me?" she asked.
"Hoho! Sure I can."
"Huh…"
Ferra had to activate her view camera on her wrist to see where she was reaching. It was a simple wrist camera connected to her brain via Bluetooth.
"Hmm, how big do you think you need? Don't even get me started on small."
The man shrugged with a grin.
"Pull out the biggest thing you've got."
"You sure? All right."
Ferra did as instructed.
And pulled out her 25 mm caliber plasma gun from her pocket dimension, a shiny black weapon of the approximate dimensions of two stacked oil drums. Ferra could only carry it on her shoulder because her body was cybernetically reinforced. The gun hummed expectantly as it powered up and the muzzle began to glow.
Silus's face went blank. He slowly walked backwards.
"Hey wait… What are you doing?"
Ferra stopped smiling in relief. It was exhausting.
"Yeah, I think we talked past each other. You wanted a quick score, I wanted quick money."
The other guests turned around with interest. Bounty hunters were not welcome, at least not alive, but this one had a pretty big gun with her. In such cases, it was agreed upon that no one would get between them and their target without a reason, as long as the collateral damage was kept within limits. This had nothing to do with criminal honor, but with the desire not to be turned into a small pile of ash.
The problem here though was, apparently someone had a reason to stand by Silus.
Two men stood up from a table and approached Ferra with pistols drawn.
They were a boring civilian version. Those things only shot a small spike of metal, not grenades or lasers. Anyone who tried to threaten Ferra with something like that was deeply insulting her.
"Hey, hey, hey, what's going on here?"
Ferra performed a facial match. Iota John and Lutz "The Terrible" Luck. Combined bounty: 35,000.
It was starting to look better.
"Iota, help me with this bitch!" Silus asked, startled.
Ferra saw what she wanted to see behind the two henchmen and pulled the trigger. It didn't matter if she brought the target back alive as long as there was enough left to identify it. Silus looked wide-eyed at the smoking hole suddenly emblazoned in his chest before collapsing. His colleagues were unable to pull the trigger as two oversized hands grabbed their heads and smashed them together so hard that their skulls cracked.
"Look, I know you like to show other people your big things, I can relate, don't worry, got caught with my merchandise out several times, great for the ego but shitty for dating, valuable life lessons…. But look, could you maybe have shot him after you guys got a room?" Nero noted.
He was a huge guy with brown skin and bald head, but his hands were even bigger. They were already shrinking to normal proportions, though, so he could drag his victims behind him. He was completely wrapped in brown leather, or at least it looked like it. In fact, everything he wore was part of his body. He was a follower of the sarkic arts, he could shape his body however he wanted.
Ferra stuck his tongue out at him for a moment. The symbol of the Maxwellists was tattooed on it.
"It's exhausting to be friendly to people for so long."
Nero shrugged.
"Well, that's what alcohol was invented for. And stress balls."
Ferra took the hint to heart, pocketed her gun again, finished her drink, and paid. Once for the drinks and once for the cleaners.
The other guests, meanwhile, turned back to their own affairs.
"Fifty-five thousand credits, Nero," Ferra declared as they left the bar with their loot. We just have to turn them in."
Outside the bar, finally free of the smoking ban, Ferra retrieved a fat cigar from her subspace, lit it and began puffing.
"Oh really," Nero commented meanwhile, "I would have just left it there for no reason at all… Quite a sum, but as hard as you dig for gold probably nowhere near enough to make your dreams come true. Seriously, look at me, last week I made it out of that shootout as the winner. Always been my dream to win a gunfight without a gun and lo and behold, dream comes true! Dream more economical dreams! Much faster to achieve and you still have money left over to buy candy bars. Great stuff, those candy bars, especially the Mars ones. Well, not Mars bars, they're from Earth. Dumb choice for a name. Global corporation and doesn't know what planet it's on. Worst management ever. Speaking of management, how's our bank balance looking?"
Ferra held her stogie with her teeth as she answered.
"Once we turn these guys in, I can finally buy that cluster gun I've been wanting. We'd have to go over to a past parallel universe to do it, though. Brym in Terzan 2 does pretty good deals if you know where to look."
Nero looked at her skeptically.
"Ah, nice to see that the woman can go shopping again. Then a little eyelash fluttering for the discount. I think it's unfair, the last time I got to choose where we go was two years ago. I mean, okay, I brought down a house or two but what can I do about it if I don't know that the girl belongs to a reality bender. It's not like they carry around a "'no flirting" sign. Would be very helpful sometimes. Just as helpful as having a plan for what we're going to do when you drain the account again."
Ferra sighed in resignation.
"Nero, it's Brym. We could probably massacre half the population at a venture and still get some money from somebody. I'm telling you, while we're still there, we'll run into something again. It's just a question of who."

"Sounds like a job for me," Elli gloated.
"No, Elli, keep your hands off the sake," Dean said, not taking his eyes off his conversation partner.
Presently, the two of them, along with Chloe, were in 17th century Japan, dining at a local eatery. Dressed in period clothing.
It was a very small but spotlessly clean place with some blackboards and wooden benches. On one wall hung a picture of a scene showing men farming. At this, Chloe wondered why people wanted to see more of their work after they were done, the small village they were in had rice growing as its main source of income.
People they talked to here met them with suspicion, especially Chloe with her white hair was stared at when someone paid attention to her.
Fortunately, money is usually stronger than prejudice, so the innkeeper had willingly served them some food.
However, a small merchant in a fancy green robe and a carefully trimmed moustache sitting next to them was absolutely fascinated by these foreigners and wanted to know as much as possible about the world outside. Mostly so he could assess what was selling well. To that end, he was currently trying to bribe Dean with alcohol before Elli had joined in.
The merchant didn't like that at all.
"How rude to approach me without being asked! You need to discipline your wife," he said angrily.
"If it were that easy…" countered Dean, pushing the proffered pitcher as far away from Elli as possible.
"I find it amazing that you would put up with such a tomboy. I hope your daughter doesn't turn naughty as a result."
Dean shrugged.
"On the other side of the sea, women enjoy more freedom, honored sir," Dean explained to him.
The merchant frowned as he tried to file this, to him, preposterous information away in his brain as fact.
"I cannot comprehend that…"
The door flew open with a crash. The patrons, as well as the host, turned around to become aware of a burly, unkempt man wearing clothes that were definitely above his pay grade. Behind him, three less muscle-bound, but similarly decked-out individuals entered the room. They carried weapons. Clubs, some of them with pointed nails. One had a knife.
Dean sighed.
"I gonna go deal with that real' quick."
The merchant was about to answer something, but Dean just patted him encouragingly on the shoulder and stood up.
"Gentlemen, if you would be so kind as to holster your weapons, you are spoiling the guests' meal here."
He spoke in the calm voice of a psychiatrist trying to treat a choleric elephant with the help of all of his empathy.
The leader of the group, who just barely reached the bottom of Dean's chest, grinned slyly at him.
"We can do that, foreigner. But look, we need blankets and scabbards to hide our clubs and daggers. If you could help us out with their belongings, we'd be very grateful, and we'd even refrain from cutting their stomachs open."
His gaze fell on Chloe and Elli, who had pulled out her flask to drink.
"But I think, nonetheless, we'll take your wenches…"
Dean growled annoyed, while the rest of the robbers lined up in a semicircle to better watch the action. It was probably something like afternoon television for them.
"As sorry as I am, you're not going to get my companions and other people's money in here without resistance," Dean warned him.
"I'll take my chances."
He struck with his club.
Dean took a step to the side and escaped the blow, but the man wasn't going to take it. He tried to ram Dean from behind.
Less than two seconds later, he flew out the door and into the open. On the way, he knocked down another of his henchmen.
Elli gave Dean a light round of applause with her mouth full. The latter, meanwhile, turned to the two men still standing.
"Would either of you like to contribute to this conversation?"
The two looked at each other and then went at it together with knives and clubs. Dean simply grabbed them by the throat and held them at arm's length. Furiously, the knife stabbed at his skin, but the two broke off in fright when they realized that they blades did not penetrate deeply.
"Cut-resistant outer casing," Elli explained to Chloe behind him. "It takes a flamethrower or firearms to even do just cosmetic damage to Dean Mark V."
Dean, meanwhile, dragged his victims outside, repeatedly stepping on the fourth vagrant who had tried to get back up, and threw the robbers out.
He was then pushed back when the robber chief threw himself against him. Meanwhile, the kicked man reached for his weapon and jammed it between Dean's legs, eliciting no reaction. Dean continued with what he had planned, namely to sink his fist in the face of his opponent. However, that one had also mastered the art of evasion and pirouetted to the side. His mace came flying out of the spin and made contact with Dean's right temple.
It made a muffled "Bonk!" and Dean froze in mid-motion.
The robber gang leader tilted his head at the sound, while his henchman finally got up from the ground.
Dean suddenly awoke from his stupor again, grabbed the two by the faces faster than the eye could follow, and shoved them backwards out the door.
And took part of the door frame with him.
Multiple, nausea-inducing cracks followed when Dean was outside, followed by screams of pain.
Elli and Chloe exchanged a startled glance before rushing outside.
Normally, Dean limited himself to incapacitating his opponents, such as by tying them up or knocking them out. Chloe now saw him break bones for the first time, simply by closing his hands around limbs. They both stopped, startled, which gave Dean enough time to grab the gang leader as he tried to crawl away from him and start processing his face with his fist, in a frequency Chloe knew from jackhammers.
"DEAN! STOP IT!" Elli barked, stunned.
Dean actually stopped, turned to her, and used the momentum to sweep one of the minions off his feet with a blow. Then he stomped toward Elli. Chloe saw him for the first time really pissed.
"Yeah yeah," he growled. "Oh, Dean, let's go somewhere where the police aren't so tough yet, and where people don't like foreigners," he mimicked Elli's voice. "WONDERFUL IDEA, ELLI! I'M PROUD OF YOU! Every time we go somewhere we are either attacked, tortured, hunted, given some dangerous task or a combination of these things! Seriously! I could go insane with you around! And I'll tell you what! IT'S ENOUGH!"
He raised both hands above his head to ram Elli into the ground, but Chloe stood protectively in front of her.
"Stay OUT OF THIS, CHLOE!", Dean yelled at her.
Chloe half feared that Dean was putting her in the crosshairs instead of Elli, but still she mustered all her courage.
"No, Dean! You calm down now!" she retorted, waiting to be squished.
Dean changed his aim to the wall of the house next to him and punched a hole in it.
"I CAN'T CALM DOWN!" he yelled. "I just can't hold myself anymore!"
Elli raised an eyebrow.
"To the Nexus!" she ordered in a voice you could have easily attached a transmission jiggle to.
She opened a portal in the hole in the wall and dragged a rather reluctant Dean through. Chloe pushed from behind.
The host looked stunned out of his restaurant at the image of destruction and the felled robbers they left behind.
A sudden clacking in his cash register made him startle. As he ran back to the counter and opened it, a large, polished sapphire flashed joyfully at him.
The merchant leaned forward curiously.
"Is this yours?" he asked.
The innkeeper shrugged helplessly.
"It was in my till, I think so…"
"Could I buy this gem from you at a fair price?"

Dean had just arrived at the Nexus when Elli summoned steel ropes to tie him up and bind him to a chair in her workshop. While Dean screamed bloody murder, she searched for a toolbox for robotic precision work. She finally found it and took out a sonic hammer, which she used to open the fastener on the top of Dean's skull. The top of his head flipped open just above his eyes, revealing a tangle of wires and circuit boards. One of them was smoking.
Depriving Dean of his freedom of movement and using goggles with numerous magnifying lenses, she retrieved the component.
Chloe watched her with interest.
"What's that?" she asked.
Elli groaned in agony.
"That's Dean's rage regulator. I think it was damaged by the blow earlier. But it's supposed to be able to take that… Wait…"
She retrieved some sort of flashlight from the toolbox and illuminated the charred remains. A hologram on cubes and spheres formed on the other side, from which she read some unwelcome information.
"Oh dammit, the merchant screwed me over! And I paid for it with a crystal skull! Just you wait…"
Elli snapped her fingers. A large steel cabinet opened behind her. Steam poured out of it, revealing Dean's other body1.
"Are you KIDDING me, ELLI!!!" Dean roared as he sat in his chair. "If you put me in there-"
"Dean, we need to get to Terzan 2, Brym spaceport, for that I need you in a state where you're not trying to reduce the space station to rubble," Elli interrupted him and started to run some cables. "Chloe, I'm going to have to drop you off at home. Brym is no place for young girls… Or young boys… Poor guys…"
"Aw…", Chloe exclaimed.

Activating…



Checking power supply…



Check complete.
Calibrating sensory equipment…



Calibrating complete…
Dean, ready for deployment.

Dean opened his eyes. He no longer felt earth-shatteringly mad, but he didn't really feel like he had a real body either.
Something was wrong with his center of gravity.
He didn't notice that, however, until he was already tipping forward.
He crashed to the ground with a loud thud.
Elli and Chloe stood next to him and watched him try to get up again. He was only gradually coming to understand what it meant to have a female body, several joints were not sitting in the positions he was used to and Elli had, of course, been Elli in the construction of this body, and had added unnecessary and sometimes quite pronounced secondary sexual characteristics to it. Meaning that even if he put one leg forward, he couldn't see his foot. Well, at least she had been decent enough not to put Dean in any provocative clothes, but in a black ladies' business suit with a white shirt and gold and black striped tie….
"Ough, this blind spot is atrocious…" he grumbled and immediately groaned in annoyance.
Elli had provided him with a voice of the Evil Overlady make-up. Deep, but probably so feminine that male listeners probably wouldn't listen to him because they were completely under his spell. Provided they weren't already distracted by his looks. He could already see it coming that something would get tangled in his hair. It reached to the back of his knees.
"Come to think of it," Chloe said. "Why didn't you just put the rage regulator from this body into Dean's old one?"
"Not compatible," Elli returned. "Because of the head shape and general body control, this model is built differently. I did an experiment with a dummy, it just cried all the time. Besides, I've been wanting to see this one run for a long time. Dean, can you give it a wiggle? I'll get dollar bills too."
Dean put on a wide and warm smile and grabbed Elli by the shoulders, making it even more apparent that he was still more than two heads taller than her.
As expected, Elli involuntarily blushed as he began to flaunt his feminine charms.
He raised his eyebrows insinuatingly, pursed his lips….
He bent down towards her….
…and headbutted Elli so hard that her skull cracked with a loud pop.
Elli toppled over backwards. Blood spurted from her nose. But not for long.
The same crack sounded again, this time backwards, and Elli gasped on the ground.
"Okay, I deserved that…"
Dean, still partially bent over from his attack, directed a halogen laser gaze at Chloe, who decided to press her lips together.
Dean shook his head at his current state, but immediately stopped that action when it caused his hair to oscillate.
"All right, let's get this over with. The sooner I get out of this, the better…"
He took a step and toppled to the side.
"STUMBLING SHOES?!" he snapped.
He only now realized what kind of shoes he was wearing. He couldn't see his feet when he stood upright, as mentioned earlier, so he had thought it was part of the female anatomy.
"I thought it was sexy…" announced Elli meekly as she stood back up.
Dean suddenly felt the need to dole out more head-butts….
"Uh, shouldn't I maybe take care of Dean?" offered Chloe. "I mean, if he's going to keel over all the time, there should be someone there to help him, right? In case you're not there, Elli."
"You really want to go, don't you?" Dean asked dryly as he kicked off his shoes.
He somehow felt that he was getting a very different effect when he used that tone with a woman's voice….
Chloe pressed her lips together again and nodded after a moment's consideration.
Dean sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose to express his disbelief.
When he opened his eyes again, Chloe was looking at him like a puppy dog.
He hated it when she did that. It was hard for him to say no to those eyes. She must have picked up that trick somewhere, because Elli had never been able to pull off that facial expression well enough to soften him.
However, Brym was a death zone for anyone who looked good enough to be sold as a slave and couldn't fight back.
"Don't look at me like that, Chloe, this station is too dangerous for you. And I don't know if I could protect you in my condition," he said therefore.
Chloe pouted.
"Dean's right," Elli agreed with him, to his surprise. "There are creatures there who think you are a snack. I'm going to take you home, and as soon as we're done, we're going to Hollywood."
Chloe was still pouting, but not reluctantly.
Dean began to wonder if they would both even get through this "adventure"…

Next time on Nexus:
The Rage Regulator, Part 2

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