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R.H.I.N.O by WhiteMantis



After [M.A.N.T.I.S] and [S.C.O.R.P], thanks to Alazahell Alazahell we now have R.H.I.N.O! Following the same cyberpunk AU for the Blade Under Mask characters!

And as always, the one and only, my Amethystine Amethystine was generous enough to write a little story for this one as well! Which you can see just below!

N.O. Way - by Amethystine


On any operation, you have to have a plan B. And a plan C.

The best operations - or the ones with the most experienced tacticians planning them - know you should also have a plan Z. Or a plan R, in this case.

Regardless of how it's designated, classified or named, it's the practise of holding, in reserve, a last resort.

The final fail-safe.

The Nuclear Option.

Such a term is, typically, only a metaphor, and does not involve fission, fusion, or anything else atomic. The concept is simply that of the 'scorched earth' policies of old.

In the most basic terms, if everything goes wrong - absolutely everything - it might be best to knock down the building in which the problem arose. Or flatten the whole block. Figuratively.

Or literally.

No one ever wants to use their Nuclear Option, and that stance is subconsciously reinforced by how it gets abbreviated: N.O. As in, "NO! We shouldn't do that. Anything but that.. try everything else first."


When it came to the ultimate solution employed by Dr Goode and his team, though, two things stood out: It really was nuclear, and it really was an employee.

'R.H.I.N.O,' a.k.a 'Plan R,' was a large rhinoceros beetleman, retained for emergencies by the good Doctor Goode, and powered by a miniature atomic reactor.

[[[Deare: I'm almost back. Is there really no one following, Big Sister?]]]

[[[SCORP: Yes-- it's odd. They scrambled outside and looked around, some ran off looking along the streets surrounding their building. But none checked the way you took, not for a while.]]]

The RHINO was leaning against the side of a black van, in a dark alley. He was utterly without movement, his four arms crossed and his horned head bowed. It was as though he were sleeping, though no sound of rhythmic breathing emanated from his mouth. He produced a complete lack of noise, in fact. Matters of audio and locomotion aside; looking closer, one would notice that the entire van was leaning to one side, thanks to his weight. Luckily, the rig inside was gyroscopically stabilized.

[[[Deare: I guess I'm just that lucky, then!]]]

[[[SCORP: Maybe, but-- SHIT! I'm blind! I've lost my feed.]]]

[[[RHINO: Or someone cut it.]]]

When one took into account the amount of armour and tech concealed within the large vehicle, one would realize the amount of weight needed to displace the clandestine basecamp. If anyone had actually seen him and the degree to which the van was tilted, they would have known he was nearly fully prosthetic - or robotic, whichever term you prefer - and augmented to high heaven, besides.

[[[SCORP: No way, they'd have to be right on top of us. I would have seen them. This area is deserted.]]]

[[[RHINO: Too deserted. Deare's here. You should see her sexy little legs pumping away. Worth every penny of the python's money. Open the door, she's not slowing down.]]]

[[[Deare: I can hear you, you know.]]]

The van's backdoor, which faced the street, opened and closed again, quickly, as a blurry shape darted inside from the alley directly across the street. The entire armoured vehicle shook from front to back as the speedy cyborg mantid came to a stop by grabbing the door's inside handle, slamming it shut behind her.

}?????: Merde. Was that her?{

}XXXXX: Da. Worry not. These girls are trapped in their leetle toy box. It vill be their coffin.{

[[[RHINO: Hate to break it to you two cuties, but we're surrounded.]]]

[[[SCORP: I'm telling you, it's impossible. Maybe one or two managed to sneak up and sever my connection, but--]]]

The supposed coffin suddenly leaned even further to one side. To those who observed it from afar, it appeared as though the black mobile base might tip over for no reason at all, before gravity regained its hold on it. It settled heavily back onto the two tires that had nearly lifted off the ground and rocked from side to side. RHINO had finally moved, arching his back to shove himself away from his resting place.

[[[Deare: Whoa!]]]
[[[SCORP: Hey!]]]
}?????: Qu'était-ce!? What was that?{

}XXXXX: Someone must be there. Your men - YOUR sensors - you should have seen this.{

}?????: I-- their voiture! I thought one side of it was just parked on something..!{

The RHINO stepped out from the shadows and into the dirty orange pool of the streetlight. He wore a truncated combat suit, but it did not cover his arms, which were clearly cybernetic; silvery chrome casings catching what little light there was to be had. His lower legs could be seen, and they too were glossy and synthetic.

[[[RHINO: Stay in there. I'm going to go loud. I assume I have clearance, boss?]]]

[[[Goode: Negative. Show me the pawns first. You know the rules. You don't get to play unless you have a full contingent and some knights or rooks besides.]]]

[[[RHINO: Ugh. Fine.]]]

Anyone who happened to see him, out and about, would have known all six limbs were non-biological. Even a seventh smaller appendage stood out: his left mandible, which would draw the gaze to the similarly inorganic eye nearby. A very real, very mortal scar connected the two, leading one to ponder the exact nature of the incident that led to the loss of both the eye and the short oral limb.

No one but the two females on his team could see him at that moment, though.

)))RHINO: This is why you should always have at least a few team members with at least one natural eye, idiots.(((

}?????: Quoi? Zat iz--{

}XXXXX: --an open channel. This I know. He must have back-hacked our eyes. All of them.{

}?????: Tu es foule! C'est impossible!{

Most would assume that was the extent of the beetle's deformity, though. A poor, unfortunate man who had lost all his limbs in some war or another. His practise of wearing button-up shirts without the majority of the buttons fastened, too, would point to that conclusion, with what he left on almost perverse display. His natural chest bared for all to see, with his proud forest of russet hair and the trail that headed downward, all clear indications of his torso being all-natural.

)))RHINO: Killing someone is an intimate thing. I like to talk to those I'm about to fight. It's only polite. That, and see them. So, allow me to extend that courtesy to all of you. I hope you'll join me. We'll be able to stop these games.(((

In the eyes of the ambushers, the large male appeared out of thin air and a wave of static, arms raised, as if surrendering. He sauntered casually to the middle of the street, keeping his hands up. A few red dots appeared on him instantly, and for each step he took, a few more winked into existence on his dark, nearly skintight suit, gleamed eerily on his arms, or perched upon his head or horns. He grinned, and turned around in place, slowly, marvelling at the little light show on his body.

[[[Goode: You're an ass, you know that, right? Never mind, just tell me how many.]]]

[[[RHINO: One for every compass-point.]]]

[[[Goode: Only four? You revealed yourself for just--]]]

[[[RHINO: I said every point. North, north-by-northwest, northwest, west-by-northwest, west... need I go on?]]]

[[[Goode: Sixteen?! No way!]]]

)))RHINO: Wow, you still don't trust me? I'm hurt. Let me help you out. You all came into contact with the local net, whether you wanted to or not. One of you connected to get his bearings. I assume he disconnected immediately, but I was here first, and that nav-data had a new friend I'd just introduced it to, who quickly became friendly with everyone in your little network-- your eyes in particular.(((

)))XXXXX: Enough. You had the upper hand. Why relinquish it?(((
[[[Goode: RHINO, report! What are you doing?]]]

)))RHINO: I told you, I want to see who's going to kill me. It seems like the honourable thing to do. You might as well turn off whatever active camouflage you're all using. I can already basically tell where you all are, thanks to the laser sights. It's pretty misty out here.(((

)))?????: Vous êtes idiots! Turn those off!(((

The beetle grinned, relaxing his arms as he saw all of the red dots blinking off. He yawned and lazily unzipped his suit a bit, the fluff on his chest poking out almost immediately. He had already marked all of their approximate locations as soon as he did his little turn, sensors in his shoulders able to read the precise directionality and height of the incoming lasers. They were all on the rooftops, all around him - the buildings all two or three storeys tall. If he had wanted to act in that moment, he could have done a pretty good job, but.. he lived to achieve absolute domination.

He had hoped whoever was in charge of the opposition would be cocky enough to reveal his unit (or even himself), to engage in gloating or demoralizing the 'cocky bug.' It seemed the faceless Russian voice in the dark was smarter than that.

)))XXXXX: Certainly, I'll come down and talk to you, in just a moment.(((

{XXXXX: All of you, shoot this mu'dak blowhard in that fat gut of his.}

Sixteen guns opened fire, and all of them were on target, squarely upon the figure in the middle of the street. Bullets sank into his lower back, sides and belly.. and passed straight through. He did not flinch, did not react in any way. Even if he was a full robot with a mortal mind, and he had turned off all pain receptors, the force of so many rounds hitting him should have pushed him around.

After an enthusiastic and thunderous salvo, the shooters desisted, their camouflage shimmering as it worked to make them near to invisible once more - the firing disrupted it greatly. They knew something was wrong. There was a near-perfect circle of bullet holes in the pavement around the beetle. The large, unmoving figure seemed to twitch and began moving again, turning to face down the street. Some of the ring of ambushers actually glanced down where he looked, though they knew nothing was there. Someone would have reported anything approaching.

[[[Goode: Okay, I see them. Green light to engage, RHINO. Good hunting.]]]

The lone opposing combatant lifted his arms theatrically, pointing as best he could in all four directions, aimed up at the low rooftops around him. He curled the fingers of his four hands to imitate pistols.

[[[RHINO: Thanks, chief.]]]

)))RHINO: Bang.(((

A torrent of sound and fury erupted from outside the two lines of hired guns that bordered the edges of the building-tops, a wave of screaming metal cutting through the air, hitting the farthest targets first, then sweeping inward to strike the next-farthest bogeys. The nearest two, who were crouched near to one another, were nearly deafened, and scrambled to turn around and face this new threat that had somehow snuck up behind them, despite their proximity sensors - and the unavoidable crunch of the roof's gravel coating.

They were met with the snarling visage of the beetle firing over their heads; both of his upper arms seemed to hold strange, huge guns. It took them a split-second to see that his upper arms were the large weapons. The shiny surfaces of his forearms had blossomed apart to reveal the raw machine-muscle underneath. His hands had folded off to one side to give way to the cruelly efficient, rapidly firing rifles tucked within, amongst the slick, black, fibrous cybernetics.

The stunned pair could see how their fellows must have shifted aim and had already opened fire as they themselves rushed to bring their own weapons to bear against him. They knew, because they could hear the bullets striking his hardy form and ricocheting off; could see the tiny, ineffectual pock-marks that were left behind; could feel the bullet rush by and careen away. Some of them were deflected into the pair that lay there, under his upright bulk, making them cry out in pain.

They saw him glance down at them.

He took mercy, as he had planned to, and struck with his lower arms, which had been steadying his gun-arms until that moment.

Those unlucky two could see how many bullets had hit him in the gut, which seemed to embed within flesh. Their closeness to him allowed them to see the blood-smeared titanium armour underneath. They realized too late that the most attractive target upon their opponent was a massive, heavy shield, and that their compatriots still aimed for it almost exclusively.

The last thing they saw were lengthy blades extending from the opening wrists of the heavy warrior's lower pair of arms.

They would not have seen him retract the blades and pick up the rifles they had been so eagerly thrusting in his direction. He snatched them up and sprayed them wide to either side of him, catching a pair who had slipped out of cover to attempt to converge on him while his gun-arms were clearly occupied with what remained of the force across the road. Magazines spent, he dropped the scavenged weapons.

The opposing gunfire tapered off, even though the thick-bodied target remained unabashedly exposed near the edge of a building-top, exposed. He surmised that all present knew he couldn't be touched. What was left of them would be slinking away.

The cocky combatant, having a moment to think of something besides sight-lines and the rhythm of battle, glanced downward, over the thick brick lip of the roof. If anyone had been looking down at the street, they would have seen the false image of the RHINO - 'finger-guns' still raised - wavering with static before disappearing completely; anyone with hacked eyes, anyway. He saluted where he had once stood.

He really had been there, when the laser sights were upon him. He couldn't fake that, the way the beams hit him. But as soon as they turned them off, he could leave the false picture of himself in their eyes and slip away, while the fake image tempted them with the 'revelation' that his torso was natural. The expected salvo of indignant fire was the perfect cover for the noise he made getting up the side of the building, and the noise of the roof itself.

An urgent alarm tone sounded in the RHINO's head, and he jerked his gaze upward. Incoming! Instinctively, he rose one arm as it flexed open in a flash, steadying it with all three other hands. Automatically, the horn on his back shot upward, the sides of the smooth carapace unfolding to reveal two thick tubes that faced forward, over the top of his head. The cylinders were primed with conical payloads, as soon as the suddenly-tall horn was locked in place, the double-header missile rack within launched half its payload.

A single plume of smoke poured over his head and shoulders, obscuring his natural eye with the rocket's exhaust. The formerly accelerating beeping became a steady tone as the moment of truth was reached. Either his anti-air counter-measure would work, or it wouldn't. He wouldn't think about it. He took aim, sighting through the fog, his artificial eye flashing through every filter it had; thermal, night-vision, infrared, echolocation..

The rockets collided in mid-air, and the rooftops were once again awash in sound and wind. He was already bracing himself, and he had stuck with echo-vision, counting on the explosion to provide the aural pulse needed. He also knew he could count on more coming his way as soon as the explosion cleared the very light smokescreen around him.

His target was there, in blurry outline, and so was another, both seemingly taking aim with the same type of launcher that just been used. He lay them both down to sleep with a pair of quick shots.

He would have breathed a sigh of relief, if he still had lungs; he could not have stopped two more rockets, and stopping even one is always something that comes down to luck.


The beetle, the mantis and the scorpion stood together, over the Frenchman and the Russian woman. An anole and a skink.

"Who are they?" asked agent Deare.

"No idea," said SCORP. "But they knew what they were doing."

"Hardly," scoffed RHINO.

Dr Goode's voice crackled over the radio: "They ambushed you. They knew enough. Especially since this was supposed to be an easy lift job. We're not as untouchable as we thought.. someone out there either intercepted the client's order, or--"

"--or we've got a mole," finished RHINO, turning and walking away, his heavy chassis thumping across the rooftop.

The two women were left to look at each other, exchanging concerned looks before turning to follow.

Submission Information

Visual / Digital


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    That's soooooooo cool!

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    It's the literal Blue Beetle!

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    now i wanna watch all the seasons of ghost in the shell @.@

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    I think I have a slightly better feel for cyberpunk.

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    Cool effects! I love the way you did the mecha!

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    Don't forget C.R.I.S.S!