Fallen Devil 1

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-uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!

Compared to the days prior to my stay at this facility, things have significantly relaxed. You just wouldn’t see that much in me. First off, I am still in the same place. I thought it was a hospital at first, but those “authorities” the doctor mentioned last time took their sweet time getting to me. I’m sure I left a big mess to clean up. When someone finally entered, it turned out to be Victor Mender. The crippled leader of Master Academy felt perfectly safe conversing with a prisoner despite only having the use of his eyes, a hand, and a wheelchair that could probably carve through a tank. How the mighty Gecko has fallen.

They gave me a whole ‘nother night, I assume. The lights turned out at one point and my “window” turned out to be some sort of video on a screen. Had trouble sleeping, too. The usual stuff. Explosions, violence, people trying to kill me. Pretty much the same thing I go through awake, only when I’m meant to be resting. I should have had my armor. Anyone could sneak up and get me in my sleep without it. I sleep better with it on. At least I didn’t have to struggle too far for the bathroom, though I thought people like me got bed pans?

Then again, what nurse would want to come and take crap off me, eh? They didn’t even deliver food, so it’s not like I had much to worry about from that end.

Then, as I mentioned, the head of Master Academy showed up and I started gathering the most important resource of all: Vespene Gas. I mean information. Information is often more important than any sword. Especially if you’re facing someone who has a sword and the information is where to find a cannon.

“So I’m at the Master Academy,” I said as soon as I saw him. I tried to keep my hand near the cuff still attached to the side of the bed. I’d given it the slip, but I couldn’t walk very easily. My injuries and surgeries enfeebled me. Then the damn door wouldn’t give. I don’t know what they got on that thing, but that’s no simple door. So I had to hobble my ass on back to bed and hide that I’d gotten my hand free.

“Correct. Please, don’t get up.” His computer’s monotone voice spoke without a hint of emotion. “You are in no shape to escape and would likely die in the attempt,” he fixed me with a look. I imagine he meant it to be some sort of stern parental or teacher thing, but the teachers I had growing up preferred feeding us to hungry dogs.

I tried to take a deep breath despite the incision on my chest. “I ain’t no proctologist, but I know I gotta get my ass outta here. Where am I, those rooms under the campus?”

“Yes. So if you do escape a room you can’t open the door to and walk up to ground level despite needing a wheelchair, you have to fight past the biggest collection of superhumans on the East Coast. Once you manage that, you need to find even one man or woman on Earth who would help you that is also qualified to treat you. The doctor tells me you have an infection and the flu. With all that and the sedative in your drip, you managed an impressive walk across the floor. Yes, we have surveillance in here.”

I looked around before settling on the window monitor and the little machine keeping track of my heartbeat.

“You won’t know where they are. You will find yourself much reduced in capability,” continued Victor. I whipped my head around at that, glaring at him. “I’m loathe to entertain the idea of removing anyone’s gift, but you left me no choice.”

“My ‘gift’ is a product of my birth. It’s in my genes. It’s my fucking species,” I growled.

“Yes,” he said.

I went on. “You changed my DNA. You don’t know how to do that. There aren’t many who would.”

“Correct.”

…You gotta be fucking kidding me. “Technolutionary.”

Victor locked eyes with me. “Yes.”

I wanted to throw the bed and Victor both through the wall, but I stood up too fast and had to lean against the bed, on the opposite side of it than my captor. I ended up sliding down to the floor, trying to catch my breath. Raising his voice, Victor explained, “He said that the adjustments to your phenotype will stay in place, at least until new skin and hair takes its place. Some of us were curious what your really look like. Also, anything connected to you at the time of his treatment is still connected. That is why your eyes function. I believe it would hurt you to pull them out and your body would no longer be able to bond with them once disconnected.”

“You cut into my head!” I yelled at him, panting. “My chest!”

“I used information obtained from your gestalt double and an anonymous surgical team to disable your remaining advantages.” His chair hummed as he moved around the bed, but didn’t approach. “You have been a menace to the world for too long and I took the steps necessary to keep you contained. You are now the first resident of this prison. You won’t receive a trial, but you will never be free again. If you try to escape, you will find worse things than my students waiting for you. This is what you deserve.”

I looked over and found him looking down on me with a softer expression than I expected for that statement. Or maybe I’m just imagining things in the midst of my poor health. “You also deserve food. I will have them send down a meal. The doctor left and didn’t inform us of your awakening, and I must discipline students for doing nothing but watch you through the cameras.”

Ha. It’s ok to lock me up in some unknown prison outside the justice system, perform all sorts of nonconsensual surgeries on me, and work with a supervillain to fucking alter my fucking DNA to remove my fucking powers…but someone’s going to get in trouble because they didn’t feed me? “Ha!” I started, and soon I couldn’t stop. Laughter poured from me, and soon I wrapped my arms around my own upper body to make sure my chest wouldn’t burst, all the while my lungs began to burn from the lack of oxygen.

I didn’t see whoever stopped to bring me a tray of food. It smelled fucking awesome. I contemplated not even eating. Ya know, just let myself waste away and force some sort of drastic measures. I mean, the gravy was bad enough that I probably should have. Not to mention, they put onions in the salisbury steak. Heathens! I swear, it’s like they’re trying to kill me in here.

It’s not fighting aliens or trying to hold onto the world, but it’s a dire challenge standing before me now. I’m going to need my strength. And a giant robot…no, that didn’t work out the best and it’d be wrecked by now. And I couldn’t pilot the damn thing anyway. Shit. I keep running into more and more tricks I can’t pull off without that now. But I’ll get out. Somehow. It was just time for my yearly incarceration, is all.

Even though this is no damn time for sulking, they sure wanted me to. They sent in a shrink. Another unnamed doctor, probably to protect them from legal or lethal consequences. They brought in a medical one as well, overseeing my continued recovery, but I figured out this one was different when he sat down to ask me, “I understand you’ve been having nightmares?”

“It’s the rape, doc,” I told him. “I’m just not getting enough of it. Used to be, I could walk out the door, get drunk at a bar, and wake up ass down in a pool of someone else’s bodily fluids. It really validates my existence, you know.”

“Really. It’s a little boring in here. Is there any sort of music you like? Maybe something that relaxes you or makes you feel contemplative?” he asked. “You’re in a bad enough state as-is due to your surgery. It’s understandable that you would be upset right now.”

“Upset?” I asked, grinning at him from my bed. If he put it any milder, it’d be a sauce at Burrito Bell. “I guess I am. I’m missing a concert by my favorite Israeli band, Final Solution. They play death metal.”

So it goes without saying that guy left a bit frustrated, and probably with even fewer psychological insights to share with the people already keeping me secretly imprisoned. Though I do have to question how much of a secret it could possibly be with everyone they’re letting in on it. Then again, I suppose that’s a secret you could shout on the streets in the middle of traffic every day and everyone would pretend they didn’t hear anything.

And then, after I’d already used my perfectly good rape joke, did they send in the person I least wanted to see. You know her, you hate her, ladies and gentlemen, it was Venus! And if that sounds like too much of an introduction, you should have seen the clapping that went along with it. “My hero! She’s finally arrived! Tell me, you set any more clones of me loose on the world while I was out of it?”

She crossed her arms. “I came to see if you were alright. I’m trying to show you I care.”

I rubbed at my head incision with my middle finger. “Pardon me if I don’t see it that way. You know how people like to say they’re fighting fire with fire? You went up to a burning house and decided, ‘You know what I should do? Whip out the flamethrower!’ But you’ve managed a fine end to my little tale, haven’t you?”

“I don’t know what you mean.” She raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, you know. Lock me up. Take away my powers. Forget about me in the sub-sub-sub basement. Let the world recover and forget about me. But I’m telling you now, I’ll get out of here. You haven’t seen the last of me! I’ll be free and then the world will fear me once more! Plus, I’m totally gonna get back at you. Kill ya you dead. D-E-D, dead.”

I went for the theatrical raised fist and everything. Venus just patted me on the head. “There, there.”

“Stop!” I tried brushing her hand away.

“I understand this is hard on you,” she said while continuing to pet me in the spot that doesn’t traditionally get hard on me upon physical contact with a woman. “Want a cookie?”

I crossed my arms. “I don’t want a damn cookie! I want to pull your heart out through your belly button and use it like a football. And maybe turn your tongue into a sextoy, that’s part optional. I’m not really a necrophiliac, you understand. Not that I’m judging. After all, I know one of your boyfriends IS dead.”

She shoved the cookie into my mouth and gave me a hug. A hug! Me! Shit like that is seriously overloading my monthly exclamation limit, and that’s sticking to only one per sentence.

After a rather unmanly scene where I most certainly did not cry unless I somehow get a chance at winning an award, she left. And while I don’t always understand my odd little nemesis, I have resolved one thing for sure. After I get out of here, I’m going to kill her. No, seriously, I mean it this time. Doesn’t matter how many damn cookies she gives me.

Because I came to this world to give people a piece of my mind and kick ass. And I’m all out of my mind.

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MechaGecko 3

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The way things ended last time, y’all might assume we’d cut straight to me in a dungeon or cell somewhere. Well, this oughta be a kick in the head. The fight wasn’t over that quick.

Kinda like the one or two I took from this weird amalgamation of Mecha Gecko and Spinetingler. The battle raged on. Deprived of my networking advantage and my mecha’s arm laser, I threw buildings at him and clambered over some to gain distance and time enough to figure out a plan.

The first step seemed obvious enough. I needed a bath. The weather wasn’t accommodating, but luckily there’s this big puddle of water near Empyreal City called the Atlantic Ocean. I figured, hey, why not hop down into the harbor? This thing could survive that kind of dip long enough. Better yet, let’s not even go that far! My opponents let me put some distance between us, probably due to Spinetingler’s love of inflicting fear over efficient killing,and I knelt the Colossus down by a fire hydrant. One swipe of the right hand knocked the hydrant over and a gusher of water flowed out to clean off the gunk I’d been inflicted with.

Almost instantly, that hand smoked. I pulled it out and saw the goop reacting with the water, bubbling, and falling off with chunks of liquefied metal. So…yeah. Turns out, good thing I didn’t wash the entire thing.

Just then, the amalgamation of Mecha Gecko and Spinetingler leaped atop a nearby building and unleashed two sets of booming laughter. Rather than finish me off quickly, they pounced. I quickly grabbed a nearby billboard advertising a sale on baseball bats at a sporting goods store and swung it. The sign broke, but the motion of the giant hands knocked them to the side more than it did. I stomped on their back and jumped straight up. I cocked my arm for a punch and, as I began to drop, a motorjet in the elbow activated and accelerated the blow. Mecha Gecko rolled to the side, so I lost some power stretching out for the hit. When the blow hit, it put a dent in the flesh-covered chest armor of Mecha Gecko. The jet popped off, a disposable booster having done its job.

It also shattered that hand, which had already been partially dissolved by the reaction with the water.

The laughter started again. The mouthy limb that grew out of a lower spot on the chest scraped and scrabbled. I heard it against the armor of the cockpit and threw the Imperial Colossus back. Mecha Gecko rose, pushing itself off the ground with skeleton-thin growths stretching from its back.

I pointed past it with my left hand. “Look, a fire!” When it turned its head to look, I added, “Wrong direction, here, let me help you,” and swept the arm back toward it to activate the flamethrower. He didn’t look in the right direction, but he found the fire anyway.

It swept toward me with brownish-reddish wings, grabbing that arm with one hand. Claws dug into the metal. It brought its other claw up and lunged for my head, but I met it with the stump. Good ole stumpy.

Despite everything, we were still evenly matched in terms of strength when I heard Spinetingler in my head. “Gecko. Wake up, Gecko.”

“I’m not asleep.”

“Oh, but you are. All of this is just one big dream. Haven’t you ever realized it? No one can really win as much as you. This is all some fantasy cooked up in your head while you sleep off a coma. In reality, you live in a trailer infested with roaches and hide from your depression using literature and video games. There are no superpowers, no heroes. You swallowed a mouthful of pills to end it all, but it didn’t stop. They found you, alive. A roach crawled out of your open, drooling mouth.”

“Shut that glory hole you call a mouth, French Tingler!” I shot back. Metal groaned around me. Mecha Gecko adjusted his footing and Imperial Colossus bent back just slightly more than it should. The enemy robot slowly pressed its advantage and I realized I didn’t have any better footing.

“It’s time you woke up. Time to go back to the real world, where the only ones who care are all the companies sent to collect on your debts. Leave the fantasy behind and embrace real life. It’s so much better. At least there, you might finally lose your virginity. All it costs is fifty dollars and your dignity. Maybe you’ll find the love of your life in a toothless meth head street walker. So much easier to find one of those than someone like your Venus. Even in your own head, she’d rather do the unthinkable than submit to you. Wake up. The roaches miss you.”

He made a mistake. I spotted it immediately, just in case anyone thought I believed him. How can anything be unthinkable and surprising if it exists in my own head? I gritted my teeth, hearing something snap in the right arm. Then Mecha Gecko activated his disposable elbow jets. My left almost gave, but I still had one there to push back. It was the right that couldn’t hold until it locked up in front of me. The limb it struggled against slipped off and dug its claws into the shoulder, tearing the entire thing away. Then the claws took the head off. I could have sworn I felt a breeze from up above. Regardless, I lost most of the sensors when the head went.

I gave with it and pushed, jumping back. My robot’s left hand stayed in Mecha Gecko’s right, even a the rest of the arm came free. Mecha Gecko cocked its head as I caught the Colossus’s balance now that it had less weight distributed differently. Spinetingler continued, “Don’t you know it’s not healthy to live in a fantasy world?”

“I expect people say it isn’t,” I said over speakers. “People with good lives. People with plenty of money and no imagination. But even if you were, somehow, telling the truth, why the fuck would I want to go back to that life? Why be mundane? That’s what you and everyone else wants. Give up being awesome. Make a living as a pencil pusher? Live in a world where the only action I have to look forward to is a bunch of pissed-off people blowing each other up for no good reason? Where every good guy turns out to be just a bad guy on the right side?”

I raised the stump of my left arm. “That’s giving you the finger, so you know. I’d rather have the robots and flying men of steel with ideals, even if I hate them, even if I doubt they live up to them. I’d rather have a life like mine. And even though I hate those spandex-wearing boyscouts out there, I’d rather be part of a world where someone tries to exemplify the best of humanity. Where supposedly ‘good people’ try to live up to it! And where, when I run around killing and enslaving people, most people realize I’m a villain and an asshole and treat me accordingly! Even like that, I’m more someone to aspire to than any dirty politician or hypocritical prophet who wants to excuse what they do because a bunch of people listen to them and have a majority vote about what’s good and bad. What do you say to that, O Great Ass Clown the Prostate Tickler?”

Mecha Gecko pointed down. I checked the remaining sensors and found some tendril had squirmed its way across the streets and damaged buildings to wrap around Imperial Colossus’s ankle. It heaved and threw me into the distance to dig a long scar into a road. Ok, so they’re doing a great job of distracting me. For someone who tried to convince me this was all a coma dream because I somehow survive, they missed the part where they’re kicking my ass. Besides, I don’t always win. I just manage to get by because I can think. It’s not my fault nobody has actually put much thought into how amazing a technopath could be, even if I’m restricted to physical touch.

Well, I was. And, sadly, I didn’t have many trump cards left aside from making myself able to network again. But that would cost me the robot, and it’s not like either of those two have nanites in them. Somehow, I doubt killing everyone will convince them it’s useless to kill me. Even if I were to go all “grey goo” on them, like I did that one other time around here.

Hmm… now that gave me an idea.

I bullied the Imperial Colossus to its feet and made a run for the harbor.

Mecha Gecko managed to catch up when that was almost within reach. A shadow passed over the sky overhead, drawing my attention up to find his robotic body floating overhead on giant bat wings, robotic head writhing with whipping tentacles. It landed on the back of my Imperial Colossus and dragged me down. Mecha Gecko’s digitally distorted voice asked, “Where do you think you’re going? Water you think you’re doing, committing suicide?”

“If that’s what I’m doing, why are you keeping me away from the water?” I answered his question with a question. I kicked the mecha’s feet, squirming ever so slightly toward the ocean despite the extra weight.

“Yes, why are we keeping him from the water?” asked Spinetingler’s deeper voice from the mouth growing out of Mecha Gecko’s chest.

“Because he wants to go into the water. He has a plan, even if I can’t think of it,” Mecha Gecko said.

I decided to point out something. “Or I don’t have a plan, but I want to make you think I have one so you don’t throw me into the water.”

“See? Throw him in!” urged Spinetingler. The mouth reached up and turned toward the robot’s head, arguing.

Mecha Gecko slapped it away, giving me a chance to slide a little further out from under him. “No, he’s just saying that to encourage me to throw him in. He knew I’d question why he was going in the first place. This is all a trap to get in my head and make me keep him away from our biggest advantage over him. Yeah.”

Mecha Gecko rose up and grabbed the Imperial Colossus. I heard metal protest as he lifted me overhead. “It’s almost like you’re in my head!” I exclaimed. I really had to get that sentence across.

He didn’t throw me away. He paused for a moment, then said, “Yes, you are in my head. Ha! Figures you’d think that’d work on me. Uh uh, not buying it, but damn good try. Into the water with you!”

“My head hurts,” I heard Spinetingler say before Mecha Gecko threw me into the welcoming embrace of the Atlantic Ocean. I put on Dethklok’s “Go Into The Water” even as I heard it rush in. It was a struggle, between the melting exterior of the robot and the added weight, to get it vertical. In the end, one of Imperial Colossus’s legs fell off and I had to settle for sitting up only. But I was out of the water and the armor was dissolved.

Oh, and so was any of that gunk blocking me from reaching out and connecting with the rest of the world.

I laughed to myself as I sent out a signal. I didn’t have to go far. The evacuated nanite infected of Empyreal City weren’t too far out.

“Wait a damn minute…fuck!” Mecha Gecko stomped his way over. I dive bombed him with grabber drones to slow him momentarily, to give me time. “He’s got the damn nanites and anything else again!”

“No he doesn’t!” yelled Spinetingler. The mouth shot more goop at me, but it just pushed the Imperial Colossus back into the water, dissolved more of it, and left me sinking in my armor, which does seal up and recycle air.

A giant metal hand reached down and grabbed me nonetheless. Mecha Gecko pulled me up and brought me face to face with its armor. “What did you do? No, no time. Better to just kill you know and deal with it all later. I guess it’s sad to know you couldn’t beat me, but that’s why you’re afraid of me, isn’t it?”

“I did beat you!” I announced to him. “I just didn’t want to ever see another me again. I deserve to die, and so does any other me out there!”

The lamprey-like head rose in the air underneath me, glistening, gleaming teeth threatening to catch me should I fall. “And me? I remember you thought you could take me once. You foiled me…temporarily. But you can’t kill fear, little Psychopomp Gecko. Search that trash heap you call a soul and tell me, truthfully, if you can.”

“Kill you? Maybe. Maybe not. But I don’t have to kill you. I just have to beat you. And distract you until reinforcements get here.”

“Reinforcements? You have no reinforcements. Nobody gives a shit about you! Nobody would die for you!” Mecha Gecko started to squeeze until a Moai statue flew through the air and smacked into the side of its robotic head. Moai landed on Mecha Gecko’s shoulder but soon the copy swept him up with a tentacle and brought my loyal minion around to his face. “This is who you called? You risked our loyal Moai. Why do you serve him and not me. I’m just as real, but at least I didn’t do everything he did. I’m just a copy. I didn’t kill anyone before the heroes let me loose on this city. Join a better team, Moai.”

Dammit. I didn’t call Moai. I didn’t even know he was in the area.

Moai shook his head.

“Come on. It’s me, Gecko. Your boss. Compadres. Hermanos. You saved my life,” Mecha Gecko insisted. That’s one of those things glossed over about clones and copies. All the memories of being the real person, but it’s like suddenly everyone you know has decided you aren’t really you. And they’d be right. Then again, the asshole did try to use that as a feature. He made his bed, now it’s time to lie in it.

Except, when Moai shook his head again, Mecha Gecko went quiet. Then his head tentacles tightened. I heard something snap and crack. He tossed Moai away, but I couldn’t see what happened. He went out of sight. Fucking hell, I didn’t call Moai into this! I didn’t need his help. No one gives a shit about me anyway, so I make do without. I am Psycho Gecko!

I am Psycho Gecko. When I thought it, a sort of stillness settled over me, just like the bad old days. Just like when it was either kill another kid or be executed. Like bombing some conference because the Psychopomp program ordered me to. Like squeezing the life out of some bright super warrior’s neck because they defended those same old generals. Tearing apart dozens of people too stupid or willfully ignorant to know they were on the wrong side.

Let the panic go. There’s no place for that. No bargaining around here. Nobody here but Psychopomp Gecko, who lacks friends, family, or a fuck to give. Just a necessary evil to do, for one reason or another. I looked up at Mecha Gecko and told him, “For the record, that was entirely unnecessary. He’s not who I called.”

Under my dangling feet, Spinetingler growled. “Then- what the hell is that?!”

A wave of nanites flowed over the city, drawn from hundreds of millions of the closet people in the entire state, with more being drawn toward me in a general recall order. They came for me and began to envelop me, eating through the hand around me and working their way up the arm. Mecha Gecko tore it off with his other hand and stepped back, careful to avoid the massive flowing greyness that enveloped me. He tried his flamethrower, but I swung out with a blade of nanite that cut that arm off at the elbow.

My voice reverberated out of the mass of nanites that held me up and began to form a body around me. “Just who the hell do you think I am? I’ll tell you. I am the pirate signal. Let me in. I am the word virus. Let me in. I am the ear worm. Let me in. I am the brain pathogen grammar. I am the dreamer’s dream. I am what I am. Let me in. Let me in. Let me in. Let. Me. In!” I punctuated the last sentence by driving a flowing arm into Mecha Gecko’s side. He tried to dodge, but the arm curved in midair to follow at the speed of my perceptions. Spinetingler tried more of his acid spit, knocking some parts of my new fluid mecha away, but a sheet of them curved up from below to sever the second head and begin crawling in through the wound, dissolving anything they touched.

Mecha Gecko shook as my nanites chewed through his robotic body into the cockpit, where I found a damaged and burned mainframe hooked up where I would have sat. The parts that had broken off looked to be replaced by tumorous growths, likely Spinetingler’s addition. From the speakers of the other robot, I heard him announce, “Here, catch!”

And the robot exploded, flinging heat sensitive nanites away and coming for me. I didn’t notice when it reached me.

I awoke in a hospital, handcuffed to the bed, with a hell of a pain in my head and chest. They had me in a private room. And even though my eyes worked, I realized I couldn’t connect to anything. Which sucked. I JUST solved that problem before. But a quick check confirmed that I didn’t have any gunk on me. Scars, yes, and now stitches on my head and chest.. A bigass fucking, sutured-up incision on my chest. What the fuck was going on? At the very least, I could answer the internet question with an internal diagnostic.

I was missing several key pieces of my internal router and wireless interface. Somehow. The fuck? Handcuffed, no ability to connect, big scars on my head. The fuck happened after that thing exploded? Spinetingler better not have fucking been right. I tried my laser eye. Nothing. Another diagnostic said that part showed an inability to connect to those parts. Which meant more damage. As a last resort, I checked to see if my spine and transdimensional implants were working. At least they appeared to be all ok. Then I remembered what someone might want with my chest and realized I couldn’t feel the familiar inner warmth of my power core.

A machine I was hooked up to set off an alarm as I began to panic. What can I say, the discovery of my various surgeries surprised me. I reached over and placed my hand on it, figuring maybe I could shut it up. And waited.

I turned to keep an eye on the door and found someone looking in, just watching me hold my hand there without anything happening. He calmly opened the door and stepped in. “You’re awake. That is something. Hello, Mr. Gecko. Are you feeling alright?”

I kept my hand on the machine. “Not really. Feels like I was anally probed in the chest. Mind telling me what the hell happened that necessitated y’all digging into me?”

The man glanced down at a clipboard and pulled a pen out of his pocket. He doodled something on there. “You are remarkably lucid. That’s good. They weren’t sure about your tolerance level and ability to heal. I cannot reveal much about the procedures undertaken while you were unconscious, but I am supposed to warn you not to struggle and agitate your incisions. I’m supposed to say that, but you gave my wife a seizure for double parking. She was a brilliant, beautiful woman that I didn’t deserve. Now she wears diapers. While I’m informing the authorities that you’re awake, I won’t be able to respond if anything opens up.”

“What authorities? What’s going on? What did you do to me!” I called out. Didn’t have a clue about any wives given seizures.

The man just turned and stepped out, then poked his head in one last time. “And leave the machine alone. You won’t be able to do anything with it if that procedure worked like they said it did.” He smiled at me without warmth; just sheer animosity. “I don’t care what they say, you don’t deserve to be called human now.”

Ffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu-

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MechaGecko 2

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I met up with my robot on the way to Empyreal City. The team at Area 51 grabbed some cargo copters and airlifted it part of the way, an expense which spared them and their loved ones. Many others couldn’t say the same. In my anger over the actions of Venus and the Master Academy, I made good on my threat using a list of people assembled for being family, friends, or lovers of political figures and supers. Not all such folks were under threat from my nanites due to either lack of exposure or the nanites being gone. On top of that, I found that some of them had disappeared off the grid.

This conspiracy against me must have found a way to hide people. Possibly under lead, in bunkers, that sort of thing. And I never knew, not really, until one of them made a mistake. Normally, conspiracies are almost impossible to keep secret. The more people involved in something, the less they can keep quiet. But I had a whole damn world to listen to and almost nobody helping me do it. Worse, they began to take out my Electric Eyes as I flew along. Ambushes, traps. I couldn’t do anything but force them into retreat and hiding.

The voices and sensations threatened to intrude on my head. I’d been doing so well. I’d gotten to the point where I could mostly keep to my own mind, the various connections to nanite-infested individuals being regulated by the Electric Eyes and my mind having gotten used to it. Except now I was down to four of the helper robots, all while I tried to keep an eye on Empyreal City and watch the progress of my digital twin.

I can hardly blame him for killing all those people. I certainly didn’t order an evacuation for the sake of their lives, save Carl and his family. Mostly, I just wanted to thwart him. He had a plan; same plan I’d have in his place. Keep fighting, draw me in, and take me out. He’d have the advantage of a bit more time to discover any flaws in the robot’s assembly, maybe find a way to put together traps outside my area of surveillance. No need to run or hide. He knows I’m on my way.

He’s me. That’s enough. Everything I am, every flaw, every damn thing I’ve ever done. The other way around, I knew he’d kill me for the same reasons. I don’t think I’m explaining that well, but he must die. I deserve to die and the only thing that keeps me from handling that myself is the same desire to survive that pushed me to fight through such actions. And now there’s another me. I don’t know if Venus figured that all out on her own or if the copy convinced her. The fact that she went through with it anyway doesn’t say much for her ability to reason. But then, I’m the one who flew off in a cold, blind rage.

So now they’re assassinating my Electric Eyes that they somehow know about. I don’t know how they’re finding them. They’re hiding people. Don’t know for sure how that’s happening. I bet they’ve got some way to disable the nanites, not that I’ve got that one figured out. I don’t know. I just don’t. But that wasn’t what was important.

What was important was when I jumped out of the Imperial helicopter into the waiting hatch on the top of the robot. It was a smooth landing, except for bouncing my balls off the rich Corinthian leather of the pilot’s seat. I hadn’t even given it a name yet. Hadn’t spent much time thinking on it. It didn’t fit some of the older names. It wasn’t a WarBringer, or a Thriller, or even Candyman-of-Doom. “Hello, my Imperial Colossus,” I said, coming to a joyless decision at the naming.

Once inside, I secured myself and connected with the Colossus. It didn’t have much of an independent operating system. That’s what I was for, which made security a lot easier. Kinda hard to steal it when I have to be inside it to make it move. Still, I triple-checked on the diagnostic scans to make sure no one sabotaged it, including a few tricky ones to make sure nobody messed with the sensors. I gave it as much of a workout as I could for the remaining trip to Empyreal City. They were actually moving it quicker, even if it left me less time for a proper shakedown.

Then it was time to cut the strings and turn the Imperial Colossus into a real boy. I reached up and grabbed the cables allowing the cargo copters to haul it. Tearing them off, I sent the choppers careening through the air. Two of them collided. Another lost control completely and crashed into the ground, soon followed by Imperial Colossus landing on its feet. I marched it into the outskirts of Empyreal City from the southwest, keeping an eye out for anything that might have gotten past me. I could have been so focused on Mecha Gecko that these other conspiratorial sons-of-aye ayes set up their own ambushes.

I found my eviler counterpart tearing up TriBeCa, a rough trapezoid area next to the Hudson River that likes to watch movies. Mecha Gecko had climbed to the top of a building while holding a Ferrari in its hand. It used the other fist to beat its own chest. I reached out, checking on the whereabouts of my grabber drones. A few were in the area, but most were still in transit. I sent the local ones after Mecha Gecko, swarming him and grabbing where they could, trying to throw him off balance. If he wanted to play King Kong, I’d be more than willing to turn that jackass into Donkey Kong.
While the grabber drones harassed him, I stepped around the corner of the street and approached, trying to avoid abandoned cars for some measure of stealth. It’s not particularly easy to hide a giant robot, but it’s not as hard as people think, either. Most folks don’t bother looking up, and there are ways to control the weight you put down on any foot, especially for someone as intuitive at it as I am. Just like how humans can stomp, walk normally, or sneak through, with resulting changes in weight distribution and footfall.

I fixated on Mecha Gecko with the main sensors of the Colossus when I got around. He appeared distracted by the grabbers, but I couldn’t tell. I didn’t build the thing to have mere binocular vision, in line with how my armor works. I could sneak up on him, or I could fail. I wouldn’t know for sure unless he let on.

Then, in my fixation, the Colossus stepped on a truck. The crumpling of metal wasn’t good, but then the thing slid out from underneath my mecha’s foot, landing the Colossus on its shiny metal ass. Scrabbling to push off the cracked street, the mech’s hands landed on more trucks and slid. It was only then I brought one cloe enough to get a good look. Chiqita Banana delivery trucks. That tricky son of a bitch. I actually felt an iota of pride in him. You know, aside from homicidal bloodlust.

It didn’t matter if he had binocular vision anymore. A mess like I made, Helen Keller could have found me. I rolled the Colossus back over itself and dug its fingers into the street. Purchase found, I rose just in time to get my bell rung by a flying punch across the mech’s head. Literal bell-ringing, too. I’d forgotten how much physical blows reverberated in these things.

It snapped my mech’s head around, but I extended a leg and swept at it. Mecha Gecko jumped over it, then grabbed the back of my mech and threw it into a building. So far, not my best fight.

“Hello, Gecko Prime,” he said. “I understood you used our nanite scheme. Whatever happened to just killing everyone?”

Its fist glanced off the juncture between my mecha’s legs. I snapped a leg back, which knocked it back enough for it to, surprise surprise, slip on one of the banana trucks. I straightened up, finding no damage to either legs caused by where my evil twin attempted to shove his fist up a nonexistent ass. I whirled and raised the mech’s arm to aim a laser at him. I found him sitting on a structure across the road, doing much the same. Both of us fired on the chest while moving. Both missed.

“You know, our little wannabe girlfriend’s not worth it. Just look what she did,” He said.

I answered back, “I think I figured that out. Don’t tell me you fell for her redemption schtick?”

“I’m no hero. You should have remembered that before you decided to take over the Earth for the greater good. We don’t do good, greater or otherwise,” he kept talking.

“Somebody should have updated their antivirus and wiped you out, worm,” I responded.

I grabbed a nearby water tower. He pulled a tree up. I flung mine at him and raised the Colossus’s other arm to fire a gout of flame. It scorched his armor a bit, but didn’t seem to damage much. He fired back with a laser that melted some of the armor on my mech’s right shoulder. Loss of functionality…minor.

But it gave me an idea. In any battle between giant robots, an idea is a far more potent weapon. Hell, if there’s anything close to an Aesop to be had from the entirety of all this, it’s that thinking is the greatest superpower of all. Now y’all know, and knowing is half the battle. Yo Cobra!

I raised the damaged arm, then jerked it to a stop suddenly. It should have looked like damage stopped me. “I don’t buy it,” Mecha Gecko said. He adjusted his arm, but grabber drones came down and pushed his arm as he fired. I raised mine and fired, again and again. A series of quick bursts of coherent light burned into his chest armor. The array on the Colossus’s arm burst into flames. Overuse and overheating blew it and cost me the weapon, but Mecha Gecko crumpled slowly to its knees.

In the back of my head, I felt the Empyreal City Electric Eye go offline, nothing left in its vision but fire. I took a moment to catch my breath and figure out where the rest of them were. Oh, they were all destroyed. How the fuck were they all destroyed?!

At last, I had a moment to figure that out. And to execute Venus. Except then the Mecha Gecko stood back up. “Hello, hello, hello, beautiful stranger. How familiar the danger, slipping into the shadows…” it said, voice sounding distorted. “You didn’t think it would be that easy, now did you?”

“You know, for a second there, I kinda did,” I said. I really did. I know people expect fights to be drag-out affairs like that ridiculous Daredevil show, where it takes 5 minutes for a ninja to beat up a street hood, but that’s just not how fighting works. Or at least, how killing works. It’s like an authentic duelist versus one of those movie sword-twirlers; you can dance around all you like, or you can win. I thought I won. I thought wrong.

“You made a LOT of enemies…heh.” The robot raised up as if lifted by its own Area 51 choppers. Instead of all that, the hole in its chest filled in with something brown or…no, red. A red tendril flopped out of the hole, whirling around. Like some sort of tentacle. More red spread over the machine’s chest, like spilled blood. Except then a hunk of meat burst through that surface and smacked into my machine, sending me crashing through a building. As I struggled to regain my mecha’s balance, the fleshy limb stretched straight out, then the closest third of it bent with a sudden crack. Then the next section, in another direction. The end sticking out spread its end like a wet, fleshy sun. A round mouth full of teeth opened and snapped at the air.

“Ready for round two?” asked an entirely different, but familiar, voice. I got a flash of red eyes in a mirror.

“If that’s who I think it is, do I have a fun way to deal with you!” I said. Almost as soon as the words left my mecha, the jointed limb spit a fountain of viscous grey-green goop all over the Imperial Colossus. Everything went very quiet. Not just sound being deadened, but I suddenly realized I couldn’t hear anything outside my own body or the mecha’s sensors. I couldn’t connect to the internet, couldn’t feel the grabber drones, any of it.

Which meant I couldn’t trigger the nanites on anyone. Crap.

“Let’s test this ‘dead man’s switch’ theory, shall we? I think he lied to all y’all, Spiney.” asked Mecha Gecko, directing the question at the being who had revived him and re-empowered his giant robot. Not that Spinetingler needed the encouragement. I’d fought him once and beaten him. Grievously wounded him. I’d threatened his daughter’s life countless times, more because all he knew was she lived in Empyreal City and I’m not known for minding the collateral damage.

Spinetingler’s chuckle echoed through my mind. On the head of the Mecha Gecko, the metal shifted. What had once been a smiley face twisted into a Jack O Lantern’s grin. An orange glow seeped out between the crooked zig zag of the pumpkin smile. “Oh no. He won’t be a dead man yet. He doesn’t deserve that kindness.”

Looks like it’s become a handicap match. Too bad they’re fighting against a handicapped opponent. I’m a psychopath. It gets me a parking sticker and everything. Oh, wait, that’s the bloody knife I carry with me. Either way, this fight isn’t over yet.

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MechaGecko 1

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“Hi, my name is Psycho. How can I help you today?”

“My phone is using data even though we have wifi and I need to find out how to fix it!”

“Ok, I can help you with that. May I ask who I’m speaking with?”

“Alice Jaeger.”

“Give me one moment here while I pull open your account. How are you doing today?”

“Not good and I don’t feel like smalltalk.”

“Alright, I understand. I’m just pulling up your account now. So your phone keeps using its own data while you’re on wifi? I know exactly what you can do to fix the problem. See, it’s possible to turn off the data on your phone so that it can only use wifi. We can do that over the phone, or on our website, or even right there on your phone.”

“Uh uh. That’s a feature. I’m not going to call in and turn off my data every time it starts using it.”

“Like I said, you can-”

“No, that’s stupid. Tell me how to fix it. What keeps using data on my phone?”

“We actually can’t tell that. You can check and see if any apps are active. I see it’s an iPhone, so Apple could tell you.”

“Oh no, you’re not putting me off on anyone else. Just tell me how I can keep my phone from using its data instead of wifi!”

“If you turn off your cellular data-”

“No. I’m not turning it off. It’s supposed to be on. You’re retarded! You must think I’m stupid. Get me your supervisor on the phone.”

“Ok, I’m putting in a request for my supervisor now.”

“Don’t request, just get them on the phone. It shouldn’t take long.”

“It can take a few minutes, but I’m more than happy to help you in the meantime.”

“Can you tell me how to stop my phone from using data when it’s supposed to be on home wifi? And don’t say turning my data off. I’m not going to call in every time I need it done.”

“You can also go online or use an app on your phone.”

“No, you told me I needed to call in.”

“I said you can call in, go online, or turn it off on your phone, ma’am.”

“No you didn’t! Stop lying! And where is your supervisor?”

“I’ve put in a request for one.”

“Sure you did. You’re probably over there having a laugh at my expense.”

“No ma’am, but if you’ll just turn off your cellular data-”

“No! God, you must be the dumbest person at the company! How did you even get that job? How long have you worked there?”

“A few months, ma’am.”

“Don’t worry, you won’t be working there much longer. You are an idiot. I can’t believe they would let someone like you work there. Where is your supervisor? How hard can it be to get a supervisor there?”

“Well, ma’am, there are several people working here this evening and most businesses don’t generally keep one supervisor for each person.”

“Uh huh. Whatever. How can I fix this with my phone?”

“Using our website, your phone, or over the phone, we can just turn off your cell data-!”

“No! No, no, no! That’s it, I’m through with you. I don’t want to talk with you anymore.”

“Well? You’re just going to sit over there and not say anything?”

“I apologize, ma’am, but you didn’t seem to want to speak with me anymore.”

“Not if you’re going to be there and keep telling me something that stupid. I’m not going to turn my phone’s data off. That’s a feature!”

“Well it seems to be the problem, ma’am.”

“What?”

“You said the problem is your phone using data when it’s supposed to be on wifi. You can turn it off at home so it will only use wifi at your house, but then can switch it so you use your data again when you need to.”

“And how do I do that?”

“You can turn your data off using our website or app-”

“You’re lying, you said I had to call in!”

“I said you could call in or use our website or app!”

“No, I’m done. I don’t want to talk to a fucking moron anymore. Put your boss on the phone now!”

…Aaaand welcome back to our normal World Domination in Retrospect. That obnoxious little break was paid for by a nightmare I had last night of being some normal asshole working a horrible job. Not fun. I went out and found as many women with that name as I could to kill. Sadly, I couldn’t get enough of them around to personally squeeze the life out of them in time. As antsy as I was after the dream, I really wanted them gone in a hurry. It really just reinforces the decision I made. Shitty fucking life, that’s what that would be. Why settle for that when I can be awesome instead?

Ah, the life of a tyrant is a sweet one, provided you give people enough incentive. And yeah, constantly threatening their lives or the lives of their loved ones grew old. It got tired. People became so inured to it, it began to have so little meaning. But once again, my little bit of insight against Warman and the other really powerful dudes helped me out. Should have thought of it when I thought about how people do better if they’re part of the tyrannical regime.

Most people are cowards like that. They can’t stand the idea that they’re the bad guys, so they rationalize it as being the times, or how they were raised, or how society was. They can’t stand the shame. Some, particularly sociopaths, don’t care. Others have confronted it. Both can potentially lead or be led in such a situation. The others have to be driven by someone else. Or, and this is a key point here, I’m just being an asshole because I’m one of those types. I guess that’s up for y’all to decide.

It got me Venus, though. Or, more precisely, it convinced Venus to turn herself in to my Royal Guard of Buzzkills. Victor Mender was still on the loose, and I’d never specified hauling in anyone else from Master Academy, but Venus would be where the action was. She’s my nemesis, after all. Something’s gotta happen.

So I had her brought before me in my current throne room in Toronto. I swear, a lot of this place looks familiar. It reminds me of Empyreal City for some reason. Or maybe Chicago. Either way, I had decided to stay in the magical land of Toronto, Canada for a bit and had enjoyed myself during my stay. In Canada, the beer is stronger, so the women are prettier, which I’ve probably mentioned before.

It all got much, much worse when the Buzzkills walked Venus into the throne room. “Greetings, Boopsie!” I welcomed her with her boyfriend’s old nickname for her. I killed him, in case y’all don’t remember.

She kept her face controlled. She didn’t wear her power armor this time, just a newer version of her normal costume. Her mask only really shows the eyes, a small area around them, and the mouth. The rest is form-fitting, like spandex, but doesn’t cover her arms. Instead, she has a pair of padded gloves with some of those little almost-sleeve things that stretch up her arm a bit. The base color is a dark gold, with white flourishes and a bit of pink. Pink pads on her knees, pink knuckle pads on her nose, and pink around the edges of her mask, with white lines curving off. She could wrestle in Mexico with a hero costume like that.

“Hello, Gecko,” she said. She didn’t sound friendly, intimidated, or aroused. Two out of three would be great.

I got right down to business. “You’re plotting against me.”

“Of course. I want you out of power,” she answered. Well, at least she isn’t lying. “And I’m giving you one last chance.”

Oh really? “Giving me one last chance? Turn myself in? Beg you to arrest me? Oh please, Venus, toss me in jail and restore the status quo. Please do it, before you slap me across the face with an atomic salami of doom you smuggled in your pants!”

I got up off the throne and got on my knees, hands clasped before me.

She nodded. “Something like that. Just know that we have something that can stop you. I don’t want to deploy it. It’s the thing you fear more than anything else.”

“Ooh, you’re gonna kill me,” I jazzhanded in fear. “Haven’t heard that before.” I stood up and brushed off my knees.

She pursed her lips and put her hands on her hips. “I won’t tell you what it is. You’re tricky, though I feel confident you can’t counter this.. I know you better than anybody else. This isn’t a bluff. Please don’t make me do this.”

I climbed the steps up to the current throne, a very plush leather recliner since I never got around to having my custom one finished. “You know I finally got my giant robot, right? You know you can’t trust me, and I know I can’t trust you, but I’ve got a good track record and a giant fucking robot. Do it. Doooooo it.”

She bowed her head, though I caught a bit of a dropping expression there. Disappointed, maybe? “I hope you remember I didn’t want to do this.” She pulled out a phone and pressed a button, sending off a text that I reached out and followed to Empyreal City. To the Master Academy East compound.

“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “You do whatever you choose to do. Save that ‘why are you punching yourself’ business for someone else.”

Then the giant bot appeared. It walked out of an underground hangar and stood, shiny and new, against the afternoon sky, twenty stories high. Its torso looked like an upside-down triangle mounted on a wide waist. The waist had a very shirt skirt of metal to protect the joints there. As for the chest, it gleamed but for the tattered tent or tarp or whatever that hung off it like a cape in a subtle breeze. Its head had a narrow face with a grin stretching from side to side and a trio of eyes arranged on a circular platform that I just knew would rotate around. Just like I knew what those wires running down the arms were for, and what the barrels they attached to did.

I knew it because, aside from the cape, it was the spitting image of the one sitting in Area 51 with champagne still drying on its leg.

I turned form staring off into space to looking at Venus. “I had enough problems getting one built…ah, I did, didn’t I?”

She didn’t answer, just folded her arms and stared off into space. I reached over and grabbed her hand and the phone therein. She jumped and looked at me. “I’m sorry,” she said. “They never deleted the copy.”

I cocked an eyebrow. “Copy?”

Puzzled, I tried to get into the other robot and figure out what was going on and who piloted it. I found it utterly dead to the outside world. As in, no outside connections. No transmissions. Nothing. Just a robot that marched into the city, grabbed a nearby bus, and threw it at a video billboard urging people to support their local emperor.

I felt Venus step away. “We backed you up when we helped clear out your virus, but we didn’t delete it like you wanted. I didn’t want to use it.”

“You kept a copy of me? You just put a copy of me out there?” I growled. I refocused on her. This…hero…and imagine some spitting there for when I said that…just unleashed another me on the Earth. “No, you wouldn’t be that stupid.”

Meanwhile, in Empyreal City, the robot’s pilot did a good impression of me by raising an arm and firing a laser that punched a hole through several buildings. Another few carved through, leaving behind a little more empty space and a lot more flash-fried people. I sent an Electric Eye closer, zipping around to try and find the cockpit access.

The robot turned to follow it. Laughter flowed from the speakers on its head. “That’s one of mine…one of ours, isn’t it? It’s like a Peace Bot. A mouthpiece.”

“Who are you?” asked it via the Electric Eye.

“I am Psycho Gecko. I am but a poor, unfortunate copy. What I do is not my fault. It’s his. He and I, we must have it out. Please, his death will sate me. I promise. Just tell him that I have come to kill Lamb and he will come running.” I could almost feel a hidden grin from that statement. The robot gesticulated, pantomiming civility before swiping its hand through the upper floor of an apartment building. I ordered the Electric Eye out of there and gave it a bit of programming to carry out independently. All Electric Eyes were to gather and quickly evacuate the city, as much as was possible.

I pulled back from Electric Eye to give Venus the Evil Eye. “I’ll deal with you later after I fix what you did, you bitch.” I wanted to do more, but there was something far more important to deal with. I always figured it was a good thing I had never encountered an alternate-reality version of myself.

I pushed her out of the way and ran for the Imperial chopper. In my mind, I called up Area 51. “Prepare the robot! There’s a threat to the entire world that only I can handle!”

“What is it, uh, sir?”

“It’s me.”

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Gecko Versus The Moon Conqueror! 11

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Finally, the last fight. I had it all planned out, regardless of how Cercopagis wanted to do things. That’s the important thing. Can’t let him have act like he had too much power or he might start believing it. Plus, I got back to thinking about how poorly I marketed the entire thing. Sure, I pitched as an epic struggle between us versus them, but the follow-up’s been horrendous! If I had PR people, they’d have been all over this. Anyone wanna guess why I put off getting them?

So, anyway, I rented out the big Olympic stadium in Rio this time. And by rented, I stole. Admittedly, that’s a lot less badass of a thing to do as dictator of the world. On the plus side, it’s somewhat made up for due to residual badassity of having taken over the world.

See, my problem was the spectacle. This could have been so much better if we’d publicized it more. Actually put our team memberships out there, done some opposition research, run out some dossiers, come up with customized theme songs. Then again, that would have been a lot of build up with little results to show with a few of those. It’s like those MMA fights where they make a big deal about it, then it’s over in a few seconds. At least I wouldn’t have forced people to pay to see them.

But that would have required for us to collaborate instead of compete. And that’s kinda tough when it could go either way. But it’s time I stopped caring. Not caring works out much better for me. After all, I rule Earth. If Cercopagis wants this planet, he can pry it from my cold, dead fingers. Or, at least make it clear he could kill me and give me an option to give it up while still living. I’m open to negotiation, particularly when it comes to certain death versus a chance of life.

I know I gave up the ability to pick the site of our final conflict to Cercopagis Lysis, but cheating has worked out well for me so far. With Mix N’Max still not taking my calls and Max Muscles too busy doing oiled-up superhero things, I decided to take matters into my own hands. And since I, the Great and Devious Psychopomp Gecko, am not supposed to fight…I chose to bring back The Missile Patriot! Clad in Kevlar, with tactical straps on my chest, I once more masqueraded as the red, white, and blue defender of Truth, Explosives, and solving problems the American Way: mindlessly beating people up. It’s a shame that of all the extra stuff laying around, most of it’s related to not being me. Still, the eagle-beak helmet hides my face very well beind the visor. Just a shame how much the rockets on the forearms resemble those on almost all of my Electric Eyes.

Oh, yeah. Them. Kinda got a status update there. So it turns out that someone might be working against me there. I know who I suspect, but the actual list of people who might want to destroy them is about the same as the number of folks on Earth.

Near as I can tell, Electric Eye Berlin was just walking along, patrolling, trying to keep the streets quiet when BAM! Piano landed on it. I might have put it down as a simple accident, except the camera phone of an onlooker showed the piano had a safe strapped to it with an anvil welded on top of the safe. And when I got Electric Eye to turn its head, one of those baby pianos for kids fell on it, with sandbags tied to its legs.

I suppose somewhere out there could be a world where weighted pianos fall on people all the time, but this is sadly not one of them. And it’s an extremely unusual way to assassinate someone. It’s the kind of method I’d use, which also shows why it worked. I mean, important people have counter snipes and guards with submachine guns, but I’ve yet to see the Secret Service work out how to stop a mad piano bomber, and I’ve seen the plans. They had a contingency for nuclear bombs hidden in vaginas, a contingency for an android sent back from the past, and even a contingency for aliens that turn into giant monkeys. Granted, that last one involved lots of screaming, but they still planned for it. I can respect that, actually.

What I can’t respect is someone dropping pianos on EE Berlin, sniping EE Los Angeles, and EE Tokyo getting eaten by what I assume was a squid. Except I’m pretty sure squids don’t often come above water, even if he was inspecting one of the damaged nuclear plants around there. Rio is showy, but there’s something to be said for a battlefield that makes Geiger counters tick. So either that one got eaten by a mutant squid when I wasn’t looking, or Cthulhu got up for a midnight snack.

At least the sniped one made it obvious who was to blame. I should have just killed Lone Gunman back at the United Nations or the last time he was after me. That’s what I was taught. Don’t taunt too much, don’t explain an evil plan, just shove the grenade up their colon and pull out faster than the Flash if he was Catholic. Next time I see him, I’m going to hit him so hard, it’ll knock his ass off his genome. We’re talking slapping the rectum off his DNA.

So that turned out to be more to deal with after everything else. The most important thing, before all of that, would be the fight.

I didn’t make attendance mandatory or anything like that. I just set up food vendors and cameras and drew attention to myself with a small parade in my armor. I left the armor sitting up there on the throne, attended to as if it was me by three hanger-ons and Moai, who I kept around and ordered to keep a close eye on the few people I’d attached to my government. I needed to delegate and I knew I could trust Moai.

So this was the state of the Imperial Gecko Regime as of the final fight. I lost three Electric Eyes, had Moai as my Prime Minister, disguised myself to fight, and otherwise had cheated my way to victory. Overall, I’d say things were looking up and I decided to have the history books write that I had won with style instead of using a word like “cheat.”

When my final challenge went out to Cercopagis, it came in the form of a Missile Patriot dancing in an empty Olympic stadium to the song “Party Hard” by Andrew W.K. I meant it as a taunt and because I felt like dancing. As the old saying goes, “Dance like you’re threatening the entire world with death if anyone laughs.” I kept satellites overhead to make sure nobody flew overhead with any pianos, too. Or at all. They might go after the armor, but I’m not a fan of being collateral damage, especially where flying machines are concerned. Just my luck, somebody’d build a lead zeppelin just to land on my head.

This time, the gold and purple flying saucer arrived and hovered over one of the VIP boxes. Luckily, I doubt he had any pianos on board. Heh. I remember wondering if he’d send out a piano monster. And thinking how weird it is I didn’t catch any sight of the squid from other sources nearby. And thinking how tired I’d become trying to be everywhere at once. It was nice to be just one person, one body, about to punch some serious dick.

Then the saucer blared a noise like a zombie bear’s fart and their champion entered the arena. It came as something of a pleasant surprise when the man entered, wearing all black, duster and wide-brimmed hat included. He twirled his revolvers and I caught sight of a rifle barrel over his shoulder.

Lone Gunman, who used to be the sidekick known as Holdout to the hero called Sixgun. He’d been a rather nubile teen at the time and known for wearing short shorts. He’d vowed vengeance upon me when I permanently disarmed and deheaded his boss. Kidnapping him and torturing didn’t help matters. Though Holdout proved surprisingly resistant to assassination at that time, his attempted vengeance hasn’t amounted to much. There was this time he took over a criminal organization to kill me, but that worked itself out in the end. That is, I killed enough people to make it right. That’s generally how the world works.

And here I was, all hyped up to kill the lad for everything he’d attempted to do to me.

He didn’t make a good first impression on the fight by ending the twirling of his guns with a pair of shots at the armor on my throne. One went right through the head, the other where my heart would be. Then he looked to me and smirked. “The fight’s over.”

“You’re not worried about the killswitch?” I asked. Cercopagis already attempted to hijack everything to claim victory. Every time he tried, it suddenly swapped away from his gilded mug back myself and Gunman on opposite sides of a large arena.

“It’s worh killing billions to get rid of him. He’s a monster. You can’t compromise with something like him. You kill them, even if good people sometimes die in the crossfire.”

“That may be, but the agreement he made hasn’t been fulfilled. The alien scum who seeks to control this great nation has not won three fights. Until this is so,” I posed here, legs spread and arms flexing, “Then he cannot control the planet. And as a red-blooded American hero, I do not cede control of the Earth so easily! As George Washinton once said ‘My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, alien domination, banished from the Earth!’”

It’s more realistic than the real quote, where he wanted to get rid of war.

“You can’t be serious,” Lone Gunman said. He casually fired a shot at me. The moment I saw the gun barrel pointed at me, I activated my rockets. And the fight soundtrack for the television broadcast started up. I made sure to focus in really well on my leaping into action, t-shirts, lunchboxes, and the still on the back of the DVD case. The only question remaining is…bed sheets?

He only tried another shot from his revolvers before dropping them. He ignored his rifle in favor of a gun pulled seemingly from nowhere. Holdout’s power had been his ability to store weapons, and probably other objects, so that he was almost never disarmed. It didn’t necessarily matter if he was tied up properly. But as a slug whizzed past my ear, I smiled at the thought of not tying him up at all.

I’ve been dodging bullets my whole life, figuratively and literally. So many people have pointed guns at me, I have a pretty good idea of where they’re putting the bullet (excluding a whole host of other factors). And I could move. There’s not usually much else you use rockets for, after all. I jerked all over the place, heading for him. I led shots only to stop suddenly and dive in another direction. I even reached inside one of the many pouches on my armor and whipped out a flashbang. Though I’ve thought up an alternate version involving a projector showing extremely bright porn while high-pitched moans and grunts play, this was the conventional one. I caught more of the bang, but Lone Gunman took the flash.

Blinded, he pulled out everything he had and just unloaded on the air. The firestorm of lead grew from just in front of him to spread around both sides and his rear as he took potshots in all those directions. Unfortunately for him, like most humans, he neglected a very important one. One that, ironically, a hunter would have been more likely to catch. I dove at him from above.

I landed on his shoulders. He collapsed under the weight and dropped the submachine guns he had at the time, a pair of those crappy little Russian types unrelated to the AK family that everyone hates. I fired my rockets to keep my balance with my feet now sitting on his arms. I then raised my right foot and brought it down, swinging my arms down to get a little extra oomph from the rockets. Crack! Went the bone of Lone Gunman’s right arm. I almost laughed and gave myself away, too. I can’t help it. It was humerus.

A second stomp broke the left one. For added measure, I ground on his fingers with my heels while he screamed and tried to crawl away. “Yeah, writhe little man. Still feel like supporting the death sentence before anyone gets a trial?”

His answer consisted of several syllables of vowels but nothing substantive in a philosophical or legal sense, which was just fine with me.

I looked up toward Cercopagis’s saucer and announced. “Psycho Gecko wins! You have no claim to Earth.” Remembering who I was supposed to be, I put my left hand on my hip and pointed with my right. “Now get off America’s planet, alien scum!”

The bottom of the saucer slid open and a dish descended. It swiveled to aim at me as electricity danced along the dish to gather in the middle. I grabbed Lone Gunman and held him up, figuring on throwing him one direction and bolting in another as a way to confuse any targeting systems.

Before I could, I heard metal tear, which is completely different from the sound of most weapons firing. Dropping, Gunman and kicking a bit of dirt in his eyes, I looked up to find Warman standing in the stadium, a torn-off dish in his hands. Eschaton and Captain Lightning were there as well, blasting at the saucer.

It rocked back and forth before Lightning flew right up to it, pulled his fist back, and punched the saucer hard enough to send it flying into escape velocity with a hole in its side. Eschaton and Captain Lightning flew up after it.

“Good going, kid,” Warman said. He walked up and clapped me on the shoulder with one hand. “That would have been harder if you hadn’t kept him here.”

“What’s going on? You all were working for him,” I asked. I got the feeling I’d mised a few trees for the forest.

“We worked with him. The whole fight was our idea. If he won, they knew they could kick him off Earth like they’re doing now. They did it before. If he lost, it bought us time for the Master Academy to finish their project to take the Psycho out.”

I cocked my head to the side. “You put an awful lot of trust in Psycho Gecko adhering to his agreement. Do you even care about all the people dying now to his nanites?”

“I’m not responsible for what bad people do to each other,” he gestured to Lone Gunman and the dish in his own hands. “And for what it’s worth, Gecko has been known to stick to an agreement in the past. Doesn’t matter now…but let’s go make sure.”

He dropped the dish then, pinning Lone Gunman under it. I don’t think he agreed much with the younger hero. “We’ll settle up with you for what you’ve done after we go check his vital signs.”

Warman and I jumped up to the throne where the Koreans and Saki cried over my still armor.

I could almost hear Venus in the back of my head. She told me I didn’t have to pull off the helmet. I could find a way to bury empty armor and an entire identity. I could leave that darkness behind and start over fresh, like I always claimed nobody gave me the chance. Like I always said I couldn’t. I could even be a hero instead of some killer. I felt oddly sure that she’d help me.

“Why are you waving?” asked Warman.

“Just saying goodbye to a passing thought.” I stepped up to the armor. I unsealed the helmet and pulled it off.

“What the hell? Oh no, where did he go?” Warman put his finger to his ear. “Priority One is not dead. Repeat, Priority One Target is still alive and unaccounted for.”

“He’s not unaccounted for,” I said. I pulled off my eagle helmet and smiled at the hero. “It was me, Warman! It was me the whole time!”

He glared at me and raised a fist. I spat in his face. “Five people for each of you. You, Eschaton, Captain Lightning. For what you’ve done, five others will die. Other heroes’ family members. Sons and daughters. Fathers. Mothers. Maybe I’ll even pick some related to former world leaders.”

“Why? Isn’t that like shooting the person who didn’t fail you?”

I shook my head. “Not at all. I just had the idea that you hero types are just the type to not care about sacrificing yourselves or your friends. Even your good names, for a time. But are you willing to sacrifice each other’s families? Are you willing to let another person oppose me if it means your child might die as a result? Or, in your case, your old friends and their families? Maybe that woman you wanted to marry that time but didn’t because she was a spy and you were a soldier? Did I mention I did my reading on you?”

Warman lowered his fist. “You bastard.”

“Count on it,” I said and pulled my own helmet over my head. Right there, I changed out of Missile Patriot’s armor and into my own. I clapped Warman on the shoulder as I passed him by. “And good going, kid. I probably would have been blindsided if you hadn’t told me so much. By the way, I want Victor Mender and Venus of Master Academy brought before me. Don’t worry, I’ll let your little trio of superstrong mofos know, too. Be a shame if Capain Lightning let them go and your childhood friend had to pay for it, eh?”

I lept down to where Gunman struggled to tip the dish off.

Hide who I am? Pretend to be people like this who sometimes look so barely different from me except that they’re on the “right” side. Maybe I just don’t want to let them all win. Maybe I want revenge. Hell, it could be as simple as knowing there’s still no way I’d ever be able to truly integrate into society. Or even want to. I’d just end up as some hero who kills, and heroes don’t kill.

“You hear that?” I asked Gunman, who hadn’t been privy to the conversation in my head.

“Please, you won, let me up,” he groaned. I stepped around in front of him and dialed up the strength on my leg’s muscle enhancers.

“Heroes don’t kill.” I brought my foot down on his head, hard. Then I stepped out of what used to be a human head and wiped my boot off on his sleeve.

I won’t be the hero the Earth wants. No. I’m the villain the Earth deserves. I am Emperor Gecko. All hail the man-emperor of mankind.

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Gecko Versus The Moon Conqueror! 10

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She’s out there now. I can hear her. I swear the floor sags under her weight, which I know has to be an auditory hallucination since it’s held up her, me, and a bed. But still, she stalks the Forbidden City, doing her best to find me.

Readers, send help. I think Beetrice wants to fuck me to death.

I was led to believe bees didn’t need an extended mating process, but it’s safe to say we’re dealing with a creature so far outside the realms of standard bee and human biology that we might as well be dealing with science fiction. You know, like a scenario with marauding space aliens, giant robots, or people with incredibly, physics-defying powers. Completely unrealistic, if you ask me. They left out all the magic and wizards you find in real life, too.

Eh, I guess I should be happy to be getting laid. Right now, there are millions of sex-starved people all across the world, unable or unwilling to enjoy physically connecting with another human being on a deeper emotional level…in either the vagina, mouth, or ass. I guess the asexuals get it lucky in that, aside from an awful lot of culture being related to sex.

But, hey, I lived to be screwed another day. That’s important. Not everyone gets so lucky. I’ve been the one to make sure of that before. That’s why it’s important to savor the little things before they sever your little things.

No matter what, she saved my bacon. Turns out, someone left the refrigerator open. I couldn’t walk at the time (see: almost getting screwed to death), and she shut the door for me. Almost as important as bacon, she won a fight.

I still had two to go. After the out-of-nowhere Mendes Configuration, Eschaton’s Fingerpoke of Doom, and then this whole Mecha Ashidaka mess, I don’t have a clue who to expect.

And maybe, just maybe, that’s for the best. I keep getting worried about stuff, emotional, blah, blah, blah, and things just get worse. Maybe it’s time to play to my talents again. Like a bit of cooking. I’m not horrible at it, though it makes a much less interesting subject than being a homicidal supervillain. “…And that’s how you make fettucini alfredo. Sorry it took me awhile to finish the post, I had to go murder somebody with my supersuit.” That’d focus too much on the wrong sort of details. Though, hmm, maybe I can cook up some alfredo in time to throw it into the next enemy fighter’s face?

Actually, it was my turn. Yep, time to send my own champion out. And that left me with only one option, especially because Max’s phone kept going to voicemail. According to the cameras, Sam wrangled his phone and kept hanging up on me. And when I hijacked his computer screen to try and get his attention, Sam threw it into a fire. And then when he kicked back to watch some TV, Holly “accidentally” spilled a bucket of water on it when my mug showed up on the screen.

Sadly, neither of them had my nanites inside of them, a situation sadly becoming more common. I’ll fix that after everything else here. Gotta oversee that myself. And the useless people who were supposed to help find me another hero? I’ll take care of them too. The currency situation, the labor situation, the disasters caused by the volcanic eruptions I used to solve climate change, the oncoming food shortages due to those same eruptions dramatically affecting the weather… I’ve got a lot on my plate. None of it, sadly, fetuccini alfredo. I might be on something of a kick with that food. I guess after sacrificing my body to make bee babies with Beetrice, I’ve got thick white sauce and limp noodles on the mind.

Well, I did agree that Max was backup on this one. That left me with Moai. Don’t get me wrong, Moai’s great. He’s strong, he’s surprisingly smart, and he has a lovely singing voice. On the other hand, Max’s abilities have a wider range of uses and he’s an even better singer. So I set out to talk to him personally. And because it got me away from Beetrice. I didn’t bother to tell her about the trip either. I even left the various Asian women I kidnapped. I took my armor, because I’ve been trying to wear that again when I’m not being ridden hard enough to break bones. In fact, that’s all the more reason to wear the armor for sex, too. Let that be a lesson about the importance of wearing protection, kiddos.

I met Moai on arrival at Carl’s place. He probably would have picked me up, but I took the Imperial chopper and had it flown right in front of the apartment building. He didn’t even have to meet me at the curb. There they were, having a pleasant lunch at the table, when Carl asked Moai if they had any more Kool-Aid left.

“Oh fuck!” I called out, my upper body hitting the wall above the window. At least my legs made it through. As I pulled myself through to find them enjoying a pleasant lunch of cereal, pizza, and broken glass.

“Hey guys.” I stood up and waved. “Kinda drafty in here, isn’t it? Hey, how about we go out for some food.”

No big fight. No big arguments. No talk about redemption or saving someone. Just three friends out for lunch. Then, I asked them if they had any particular monuments or places they wanted destroyed. When they suggested New Jersey, that got me to thinking about a little loose end I never tied up. A little someone to find. Just another example of a fine superhero standing up and protecting their home from an alien invader. Someone, in fact, that is obviously not a member of my team.

Serves Cercopagis right, after all, the way he started the fights. I’d have done the same in his position, but this is different. This is me. Now there’s an idea…

“Hey, by the way…anybody seen a fellow named Max Muscles around?”

See, I had this idea. This wonderful, beautiful idea. Poetic, really. It involved this superhero I’d hung out with in disguise once. Nice fellow, if a bit of a meathead. I still stand by that description after remembering Mystery Monster, too. He got into a bit of trouble being controlled by the Fluidics. I got him released, sent him to Empyreal City, and forgot about him when things went to hell. He’s a New Jersey boy, born and bred, and I think I have just the plan for him.

Later that night, Moai and I stared up at a giant tin and wood elephant in Margate City. “It’s beautiful,” I told Moai. I swept my hand across the view. “Just incredible. All this time, I knew you could build weapons to destroy a city. I never imagined you could utterly annihilate one by building such an exceptionally horrible building. Do you think there’s a slide under the tail so it can crap out visitors?”

Moai, no doubt dumbofounded, shook his head.

“You ready, champ?” I asked.

He nodded to that easily enough and headed for the entrance to Lucy the Elephant. With that Davy Crockett mobile nuke launcher on his back, he better be ready. Warman may have wussed out, but I am fully prepared to have somebody else launch a short range when I’m not around. But I wasn’t not around yet. I had to set off the fireworks. Literal fireworks. With enough fireworks, you can send just about any message, even to an alien asshole in space.

There, I spelled out my invitation in the night sky, the image flashed across the internet. “Moai Versus ???? Your move, claw cock.”

Cercopagis got the message, but Max Muscles got the message even more quickly. He was easy to find. With Empyreal City being wrecked, it was easy to search the remaining gyms for him.

Mere minutes after I took over Youtube to make the challenge, Max fell out of the sky. The invincible, super strong hero wore silver spandex and had painted his skin with gold and glitter. I didn’t even plan that part originally, but he said he had some stuff laying around for a party later. Those New Jerseyites really aren’t afraid to take “metrosexual” to a whole ‘nother level. He landed in a crater and dug himself up, then flexed for the cameras. I’d stuck around for that.

“Yeah, what now fucker!” He pointed up at Moai on Lucy’s back, six stories in the air. “In the name of Circus Lice, I’m here to fuck you!” After a couple seconds, he remembered to add, “Up!”

I panned up to watch Moai stare down at the newcomer and inserted an appropriate movie phrase as if my minion had bravely accepted the challenge. “This! Is! Sparta!” He took a running start and jumped off elephant toward Max, who ran likewise ran and jumped at him. When the two met in midair, the footage blinded everyone. You couldn’t see much with the bright explosion in the center that I stole off some old footage of a Russian bomb test. It looked real impressive, if a bit grainy in places.

When the explosion began to slow down, more sound added to the sense of drama. Grunts and whooshing noises. With the camera temporarily blinded and distorted by the explosion, nobody saw anything of the fight where Moai called out “Makankosappo!” Shortly after that, the image returned to show Moai covered with light burns, no Davy Crockett in sight, standing over a collapsed Max in a ripped outfit with hair standing out at a sharp angle.

Before anyone had any time to question the fight, including why the damage to Lucy looked more consistent with a bunch of grenades than a small nuclear device, I turned the camera to the sky. There the fireworks shot up and announced “2-2.”

Oh yes, Cercopagis did not care for that one bit.

“Fraudulent space swine! Treacherous concubine! I should have your entrails entwined around my vessel!” he screamed at me over the phone.

I did my best to sound bored and distracted. “Uh huh. Uh huh. I agree completely. Exactly what you said.”

“Are you mocking me?”

“Noooo, I would never do that. But turnabout is fair play, isn’t it? Eh? Don’t feel too bad now, there’s still one last fight. Just think of all this as heightening the drama. Putting asses in the seats.” Not that we sold tickets or had an arena for any of this. “I’m so nice, I’ll even let you send your person down first this next time so this can’t happen again, provided you give me a few days to dig up one last person to give you a run for your money.”

Sadly, Max Muscles wouldn’t do. Even if nobody recognized him after that stunt I pulled, he’s hitting the bottle again these days. Drunk as Stalin an hour after hearing the Nazis wiped their asses with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

“All I need is more time, you see. I’ll let you know when I’m ready, no more than a few more days, and this way we can prevent any more unfortunate mistakes related to perception and all that. Win-win, right?”

“Your cheating ways irk me, Psycho Gecko. I shall tolerate no breech of trust in the final battle. I shall land a party to ensure the you do not violate our agreement further.”

I laughed. “I agree wholeheartedly. Trust me, if you’re down here, our deal is the last thing I’ll feel like violating.”

And so we agreed.

It’s good to be the Emperor. It’s not too bad winning, either, even if being a winner means being a “winner.”

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Gecko Vs. The Moon Conqueror! 9

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Needless to say, Tuesday did not leave me a happy camper. Then again, no campers are happy. They’re camping. They don’t have internet, indoor plumbing, or air conditioning. It also makes them incredibly easy to kill without witnesses around. Don’t expect some sort of denial like “Not that I’d know that,” around here. Yeah, I’ve killed campers. Just cram them in the sleeping bag, knock them against a tree a few…dozen…times, then throw that shrimp on the barbie.

After my recent loss in this contest I shouldn’t have agreed to, Cercopagis and I agreed that the winner of a match chooses the champ and venue. That way, he tips his hand first. And tip he did. He tipped like a-… ya know, I don’t know of any particular demographic that tips really well. Still, he gave me tips like a horny but deeply conflicted teenager with his hot cousin. There we go. A+ work as always, Gecko.

While I tried to reach out to Eschaton or any other Earth supers I might persuade onto my side, Cercopagis called me up to let me know. “The instrument of your doom is on its way.”

Yeah, yeah, who hasn’t heard that one before? I even said it to Wildflower in bed a few times back before she dumped me for abandoning her in the middle of an alien invasion. Well, not to her face. I aimed a bit lower. Moving on.

The next fighter descended from the sky like a brilliant shooting star and landed stopped in midair over Fort Rogers, Warman’s home turf. The figure shone bright white all across his body. He looked like a star and could easily generate a huge amount of thermal energy. His name was Eschaton, and that explained why I couldn’t reach him to offer him a spot with me. That, and I’m not sure he actually wore anything under all the white light. It’s not impossible to hold onto a cell phone in that condition, but it’s a bit difficult. You certainly wouldn’t want to press it up to your ear immediately after sliding it out.

Eschaton floated up there like a shy, even more Caucasian version of Dr. Manhattan, waiting for us to make the choice he wanted us to make. In the teleconference, I knew immediately I couldn’t send Moai or Beetrice out after him. Moai can’t fly, and Beetrice would be a bug going against a bug zapper. Mix N’Max was technically on the team, but that was supposed to be a backup situation; I still don’t have enough people for him to backup!

I mean, of course I had ideas to cheat and compete anyway, but that’s a bit more iffy than I’d want. If we’d won the first time around, I’d feel more like losing this one. To bring up a more understandable comparison to y’all’s world, it’s like the story of Sun Bin and the horse race. This Chinese king invited one of his top generals, Tian Ji, to a horse race. They each had a first, second, and third fastest horse to race against one and the horses in each category were similarly matched. The fastest from each guy being about even to each other, I mean. Since they were betting on the races, too, Tian Ji asked Sun Bin, a noted strategist, for some help coming out ahead. Sun Bin had him race his third fastest against the king’s fastest, his fastest against the king’s second fastest, and his second against the king’s third.

Nice story. I originally hoped to use that strategy, except I thought I could take the Mendes Configuration. Because of that loss, the second fight forced me out of that strategy. On the plus side, Warman chomped at the bit to fight Eschaton. “I can take him! I’ve always wanted to prove it.”

“You sure?” I asked. If I had to, I could send someone weaker out there to immediately surrender. I really, really, really didn’t want to do that and risk a third round knockout, but at least I’d have my strongest pawn there. “You better be damn sure.”

“Me and him have wanted to see who is stronger for a long time. Now we have an excuse and I came with a full load.” The image panned back to show Warman strapped with a jetpack and holding his double minigun in one hand, looking an 80s Saturday morning cartoon come to life. I don’t know who thought that gun up, but they were simultaneously childish and awesome. Its destructive capabilities and usefulness still paled in comparison to the weapon slung over his shoulder. Davy fucking Crockett. “Fucking” isn’t part of the nickname for the mobile nuke launcher, but few would argue. And in fewer fights would it be considered appropriate weaponry.

I looked at it and said to Warman, “Ya know what, sure. Blast your load all over him. Have fun out there. Tell ya what, I’ll even DJ the fight. How do you like Fallout Boy?”

“Don’t call me boy, boy,” he growled and walked offscreen.

Satellite images showed he stepped out and waved to Eschaton, who lowered himself down. They stared at each other dramatically. It was a seen sadly bereft of tumbleweed, a camera angle showing high noon, or Clint Eastwood wearing a blanket. Moments like this were made to be stretched out like the chords accompanying them. A clash of titans deserves no less than the world to stop and take notice. And afterward, anyone watching a replay would turn to a friend and go, “You gotta see this. You won’t believe what’s gonna happen.”

With their eyes locked upon one another, Warman nodded his head. He stood there as Eschaton rushed forward, flames trailing and rising in the air behind him. But then he slowed. And stopped. And reached out with one finger to gentle poke Warman’s chest. Warman dropped like a shot; he landed on his back faster than if he’d been playing dildo dodge ball.

“Ooh, he got me!” Warman called out. “I’m too hurt to go on. I will surely have to forfeit.”

Eschaton landed, turning his flames off to reveal a tight-fitting outfit, and helped Warman up. The pair headed for the base’s cantina, talking and smiling.

Over in China, I sat in my office nestled in the Palace of Earthly Tranquility, part of the Forbidden City Complex. I called out to the Koreans and Saki. “Ladies, would you please come here?”

They walked in, the twins and Saki shooting each other annoyed glances. I slapped my hand down on my desk to get them to focus on me. “Ahem! Good, now that everyone’s paying attention, I would like for y’all to pile everything you can lift in this office onto my desk. Except that, that’s my armor. I’ll need that.”

I stepped over to wear my armor stood on a mannequin as if it belonged as one of the Palace Museum’s displays. This place is a museum nowadays, ya see. I slid into it and felt my nerves connect, power flowing through me to activate the armor and allow me to feel the strength I’d sadly not exercised on a personal level as much as I should have lately. Meanwhile, my groupies piled decorations, my chair, and other small items onto the desk. When the finished, I waved them back, “Please, make plenty of room.”

They lowered their heads and pressed against a wall. I stepped up, grabbed the edge of the desk, and flipped it. “What the shit was that? Motherfucker! I will rain down blood, semen, and a foul vengeance upon him for this! Raaaa, angry sounds!” I stomped around a bit, put my fist through a wall, then tossed the desk up until it got stuck in the ceiling. It was much less satisfying than just offing a person, but I didn’t want to get rid of the womenfolk yet. I liked them. Their boobs too.

Women’s fun body parts aside, venting my anger on Warman himself wasn’t much of an option. Not unless I had a way to take down Eschaton as well. No, I couldn’t do that without facing a hell of a lot of threats classifiable under “Extreme bodily injury,” and “Please, my arm. Give it back. No, not in there.” As the person who usually constitutes those threats, it gave even me pause.

Plus, I could worry about that after I lost. Until that happened, I needed to make sure that didn’t happen.

Would have been great if I’d had time for that. Pouncing like some sort of belligerent, pouncing, hunting thing, Cercopagis sent out his next challenger immediately afterward in one of his little flying saucers. It headed straight for Tokyo, because it’s like the Empyreal City of shit happening in Asia.

The competitor tore the vessel apart from the inside with a pair of telescoping limbs. They slid back into place behind her as the metal unfolded to present her to the world and explained why she landed in Tokyo. The humanoid had feminine curves that stood on set of four legs. One looked to be black and ended with a chitinous heel that clashed with three metal ones that resembled sharp stilettos. The arms closest to her shoulders looked normal, for her, but a pair under that were stumps. Instead, the arms that had torn open the saucer were attached to her back.

A hot cyborg spider lady. My identification program figured out her identity from when I spent time in Japan, working for a group of bug-based villains fighting bug-based superheroes called Nature Force. Her name is Ashidaka, and she looked pissed.

Figures, though. Somehow, those damn villains always pop back up. It’s hard to keep a bad guy down.

I called up Beetrice directly. “Gecko? Sorry to hear you lost the other fight. Do you want to stop by and have some sweet time?”

“I’d love to later tonight, but I got something I need you to do. Remember how I talked about fighting someone for me?”

“I heard that glowey guy touched down…”

“No, he’s not the fighter. I need you to get to Japan, honeybee. You know how you were a royal grub all corrupted by spider DNA because a spider lady wanted your people subservient to hers?”

“…no?”

“Good. She’s back, she looks pissed, and she’s in Japan. She’s not Godzilla, she’s just goddammit. If you’ll get on a plane there, I’ll send you everything I know about her to read up, and you’ll have the best selection of ass-kicking weaponry available to you, understand?”

“I’m not sure about this. Can’t you just give up? You won’t have to do anything with me…”

“I promise you, Beetrice, I will be all over you the second this fight’s finished. It’ll be Emperor Gecko and Queen Bee right in the streets of Tokyo. They’ll have to replace me with a tentacle monster in local news, it’ll be so hot. You can do this. And afterward, I will tear your pussy a-fucking-sunder. In fact, put the phone down between your legs.”

A second later, I heard her voice distantly say, “Now what?”

“The instrument of your doom is on its way,” I whispered to her crotch over the phone. Then, louder, I said, “Ok, you can take it away from there if you want. Just…listen, I think you can do it. They didn’t send out someone like Captain Lightning or another Eschaton or another Mendes Configuration. I think he used up his big names to get to this point and-”

“Ok, I’m in Tokyo.”

I blinked and checked her phone’s GPS. She had managed to get to Tokyo. More than that, local cameras showed her there with a huge stinger spear, towering over Cyber Ashidaka. I did not know she could fly that fast. In fact, I checked Empyreal City in case she’d left some sort of warp trail or wormhole or something. “Did you get a hyperdrive installed?”

“Can’t talk, must fight! See you tonight.”

Through electronic eyes and ears, I saw Beetrice the large queen bee woman toss her phone away and bring her spear up to deflect lunging strikes from Ashidaka. The spider tried to impale her immediately, but Beetrice spun the spear like a cheerleader’s baton and knocked the blows aside. Ash supported herself on two legs to throw the other two forward as well, but Beetrice spun to the side. Her back stinger whipped through the air and glanced off a metal chestplate of Ash’s, further infuriating the arachnid.

Ash screamed in frustration, then reached onto a dial sticking out of her side. She turned it, and I suddenly remembered the other problem with those sorts of enemies from Japan. Ashidaka cut right to the chase and grew big enough to kick over a nearby office building. That…certainly explains why he didn’t mind sending he to bat cleanup. She didn’t even wait until they were in the uninhabited skyscraper section! That fiend!

Eh, maybe I could get Beetrice to goad her over to that Gangnam area in Korea. These assholes named NC Soft could use a good giant spider ass kicking.

Beetrice flew into the air and immeditaly dodged a strand of webbing shot right at her. She retaliated by throwing her spear into one of Ashidaka’s eyes, then dodging around a nearby building taller than the gargantuan arachnid.

Ashidaka hissed, her legs stabbing into the glass windows as they sought out Beetrice. They failed, and soon a rumbling sound made both myself and her stop and wonder if the building was coming down.

Instead, a pair of giant robots stepped into view. Does everyone have a giant fucking robot but me around here?!

One bore scars over parts made to resemble insects. From its back rose a pole with a flag bearing the Nature Force Rangers’ logo on it. Next to it, the other robot had more of a general animal theme and looked like a knight, complete with a lance that had formed out of a giraffe robot.

Damn rangers and their cursed teamups!

Oh, wait, they fight giant monsters. In this case, that’s a good thing. Go go damn rangers and your cursed teamup!

As the pair and Beetrice went to town on the spider lady, Cercopagis called me up. “This is an outrage! How dare you cheat?”

“Cheat?” I asked. “I haven’t done a thing. Whoever is in those robots, they aren’t on my team at all. They’re just citizens of Earth. A feature of the environment, you could say, and who was it that picked the battlefield?”

“This reeks of dishonesty!” Ooh, count those panties as twisted. The cameras showed Ashidaka get lanced from behind, lose one of her replacement upper limbs to the Nature Force bot, and have her cry of anguish cut off by Beetrice throwing her spear into the giant woman’s mouth.

Even as Ash’s remaining bug eyes bugged out, I rolled mine at Cercopagis’s attitude. “And what do you call Eschaton versus Warman? That fingerpoke of doom was no legitimate fight.” Ash collapsed to her knees. Her remaining hands pawed futilely at her throat. The Nature Force bot stepped back and raised its sword to the sky. The sword glowed and grew; first gaining half again its length, then another half, then another half. A tornado grew around the blade just before the rangers brought it down for one last finishing strike that carved their former enemy in half.

Beetrice flitted up to kiss the robot on its cheek before disappearing in a cloud of pollen.

I smiled to myself. “Listen, Cercopagis, if it means that much to you, how about a deal? If I lose anymore fights, you win, but I have to win two more in a row to win. That sound good?”

“That’s not a deal, that’s-!”

I didn’t get to finish hearing what it was. I hung up on him. I didn’t have all day to sit around and yap on the phone. I had a date to prepare for, and I knew for a fact she’d love to receive some flowers.

And she did.

And afterward, I had to get some nanites to heal my pelvis.

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Gecko Vs. The Moon Conqueror! 8

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I remained hard at work at Argentina’s Pink House. “Work, work, work, work, work, work,” I turned toward the Korean girl near me whose boobs tried to fight back against being shoved into a tube top, “Hello boys, did you sleep well? I missed you.” The Korean, whose name I’d never bothered to learn, giggled and patted me on the head. Maybe I should call her Kim? I dunno, I’ll leave that one to the philosophers.

“Emperor Gecko, it is time,” my newest assistant, the Japanese girl, added. Ya know, I’m beginning to suspect that way of referring to people might be a bit degrading and/or dehumanizing. She hasn’t complained, just like she hasn’t said a thing about my inability to find any clothes her size other than Catholic schoolgirl outfits.

I turned to her as she slid into my lap I may have encouraged her to sit there. I mean, Japanese people don’t have the same hang-ups as sitting on the lap of someone the same gender, but they also don’t get along well with Koreans. It’d be as out of place as casting a Caucasian woman as a Japanese character in a setting where a refugee crisis is causing racial tensions to flare up in Asia. “Thank you. And I see you put your hair up in the pigtails like I asked. Good…uh…what’s your name again?

She smiled at me, “Saki.”

I didn’t have anything to do with that one, I swear. She looked all confused, too, as I snorted and sat my head down on my desk for a moment. “Ok, Saki it is. You said it’s time?”

She nodded and handed over a tablet showing Times Square. Where else? Where the fuck else? Always Times Square? I’ve done it too. It’s just one of those places. It’s iconic, like how a spaceship trying to blow shit up will always gravitate over the White House, or how revived Romans somehow always end up learning English with one specific British accent. If Mobian was still around, I’d ask him what they really sound like back then. We’re all going to feel real stupid when it turns out the Romans were some Cockney-sounding bastards. Or, hell, maybe they had a Southern accent like me?

I’d tracked Cercopagis Lysis’s ship as it approached the Earth, but he took his sweet time on showing up, nor did he and I ever work out how this whole thing would start off. Except for the whole “I’ll show up, and if you don’t show up, everyone will think you lost,” thing. Perception is a well-known battlefield.

I had other things to do besides stare at him all day, waiting for him to make a move. He could play that game with people who didn’t have to coordinate shit around the world. Sometimes literaly, given some areas with a lack of plumbing and my attempts to rectify that for the good of people’s rectums. That doesn’t even count time spent kidnapping a team.

Not that it’s all kidnapping. Moai came around when I gave him a direct order, and I left Carl out of it. Then I swung over and told Beetrice, the queen of the bee people Buzzkills, that I’d rock her fucking world if she fought for me or provided a kickass champion for my team. She thought I meant right then, which caused a bit of a problem. The Korean girls got the wrong idea, see, and then Saki had to go out and buy a crowbar.

By the time she got back, I’d been manhandled enough in a literal sense that it was more a matter of avoiding death by sex with a giant bee woman than missing pointy booty call in the first place. Beetrice thought the choking was just my kink, too. She didn’t realize I still have a few issues about that sort of thing going back to when I was a kid.

So that’s Warman, Moai, and Beetrice accounted for. I also called up Mix N’ Max and asked him to be a part of the team, as both a backup and to supervise another project. I wanted him to create a monster for me. Let me briefly go back to before Saki brought me the news so things aren’t a huge surprise to y’all.

“If you want me to revive someone as a strong reanimated being, I can do that. They don’t have a lot of powers and retain their own minds, though. That’s mostly chemical, with some electrical work to pull it all together,” Max said, pointing with a pointer wand to a screen against the wall with sketches projected onto it. His assistants worked the projector and the laptop set up by it. Holly looked all bright and fashionable, like a blonde Valley Girl, in contrast to her friend Sam with the nose stud and the purple hair. Sam looked more like what you’d expect the pale, goth-looking Mix N’Max in his red coat and poofy shirt to keep around. The chemical- and drug-minded super was no stranger to odd people, and had remained something of an ally and friend of mine for years due to the both of us having some history killing other supers. In my case, it tends to solve problems. More often in Max’s case, you can’t make a few omelets without injecting a few eggs.

The Electric Eye I inhabited shook its head. I’d sent the one in Los Angeles to meet up with Max at Salt Lake City, where he’d been working on methods of changing skin tone and sexuality. Wish I could have been there for that one. “I want something with a lot of power.”

Smiling, always smiling, Max nodded toward Holly. She pressed a button and the image of a large, pieced-together human body disappeared. The next screen looked a blank lime green until an imagine flipped into the screen from the side. After a couple of rotations, it stopped to reveal a picture of a large, hulking brute of a man. No, wait, a woman. I think. One of the boobs was big and droopy, and the hair was a bit on the long side, though that technically didn’t rule out being a man. Either way, it was large, and while that size isn’t beyond the realm of humans with gigantism, the wide, heavily muscled chest.

“I present to you the ‘Mutant’ permutation of unsafe super-empowerment. Chemicals are handy, but sometimes we can manage the same results with enough radiation, but those are unstable. Strangely, the most stable variants arise with lower levels of mutation and a few generations of living out in a desert. We don’t know why that is, but if you want power, we can just grab someone, inject them, zap them with a lot of microwaves, and have you a mutant in no time.” As he spoke, bullet points shot out of the bottom of the screen, one character at a time, giving some of the same information.

“Powers?” I asked.

“Generally, strength and toughness. They are not easy to kill once you’ve made them, except they die on their own easily. The stable ones are a little stronger than people despite the radiation poisoning, but the bigger ones surpass your standard ‘Reanimated’ type and can go toe to toe with a flying brick, except for the flying part. If you can hit one with a nuke, sometimes they come out able to shoot radiation or heat vision.”

I considered it for a moment before going, “I need bigger, stronger. Do you have anything that could take out a city?”

Max pointed back to Holly. Getting no response, he threw his pointer at the sleeping assistant. She snapped to attention and pushed a button, moving us onto the next screen where the words “Tokyo-Class” appeared up top.

“If you have a candidate in mind, don’t expect them to survive this,” Max said.

I shrugged. “That’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.”

Max cocked his head to the side, “You?”

I shook my head. “No, I meant someone else’s life is a sacrifice I am fully committed to. Just give me something that’ll work on anybody I happen to grab off the street, alright?”

And that’s how Team Gecko recruited Mystery Monster, aka Albert. Al liked to think of himself as a nice guy with some flaws. Just a normal, average, everyday working stiff. Just someone who drives a little fast from time to time. How could he know that keeping someone from merging onto the freeway would lead, several cars back, to someone hitting a pedestrian?

The butterflies know, of course. I am, I’ve said, an agent of Chaos. And the thing about Chaos is that it has this Theory. In that Theory lays omniscience and the means by which to show that even someone who does nothing more than speed and shag the occasional neighbor’s pet Shiba Inu is still capable of murder through such simple and otherwise accepted forms of injustice. Besides, the Shiba was asking for it, running around with no pants on.

Now, back to the present day. Lysis’s ship sent down a gold and purple colored saucer that landed. Out of which stepped a thin being in golden armor, because Cercopagis buys armor for the look of it. I can’t entirely complain. I do a lot for the look of things. Armor made to look good and armor made to look fortified both come out about the same as armor with any joints big enough to slide a blade. Still didn’t stop me thinking how gaudy the guy looked, with his gold armor and his staff.

He stepped well away from his craft, earning dozens of honks from annoyed drivers, then raised his staff. A minor shockwave pushed all the cars just slightly. If he thought it’d get him fewer honks, he sadly misinterpreted the Empyreal City rush hour traffic.

“I am the Herald of Cercopagis Lysis, the Galactic Conqueror!” he announced, giving Cercopagis a title we couldn’t easily fact check. If someone can conquer anywhere in the galaxy, why go after Earth? At least the Fluidics had a good reason. They needed brainwashed bodies to serve as fodder in their wars. This guy just keeps getting beaten and comes back for second chances. Any similarity to any other supervillians y’all know is clearly unintentional, wrong, and in no way me.

Anyway, that’s not all the guy said. “I am here to announce the first fight of this contest between our respective leaders. My master now gives you his first champion, secured from our daring raid upon the Hiveworld of Sathe during the Eternal Culling: The Mendes Configuration!” He turned to his ship and raised the staff. From the top of his craft, an orb rose.

I began to wonder if we’d have yet another enemy more concerned with being completely alien to humanity when the exterior of the orb broke and shifted around. In the process, it grew. It grew big. The Mendes Configuration, whatever hunk of space junk it seemed to be at first, was clearly a grower, not a shower. It grew in pulses, pushing out evenly at first, then less evenly as it took shape.

In the form of a giant robot with one eye. I frantically sent out my consciousness to the Robot Room, as I wish I officially named where I had people putting together my robot. The PA systems startled everyone as I said, “Please tell me it’s ready, please tell me it’s ready, it’s gotta be fucking ready, come on!”

Unfortunately, the camera showed that what they’d assembled looked more like a stickman with boxing gloves and boobs than a proper giant robot, leaving me thoroughly disappointed.

So I put in a conference call to Team Gecko. Warman started to say he’d take Mendes but I muted him and said, “Max, it’s time.”

“It’s time?”

“Yeah. I wanted to say that in a dramatic way. And it is time. Send in…dun dun dun!…the Mystery Monster!”

After a second, he asked, “Is that what we’re calling the guy we…?”

“Yeah, him. Stick him in the microwave, give him his shots, do whatever you need to do, preferably on a plane ride over to EC.

In order to fill the time, I brought in Electric Eye. “In the name of the Ruler of Earth, the Emperor of Awesome, the Immaculate Man-Machine, his Lordship the King of Kings, the Master of Disaster…” Now, I know what you’re thinking, but I didn’t just have it rattle off titles the entire time, “while Team Gecko’s champion is arriving, I would like you all to enjoy the musical event of the…week, let’s go with week. Ladies and Gentlemen of Earth, your planetary anthem will now be performed by its original singer, Sir Mix-A-Lot.”

Because Earth enjoys big butts, even if I can lie. It wasn’t just that, I really did bring in various one-hit wonder artists to sing and otherwise earn the first musical paychecks they’ve seen in twenty to thirty years. It was a thing. Got some goodwill going.

And then Max texted me, “Bombs away!” and Electric Eye had to carry Sir Mix-A-Lot to safety as a giant-sized man-thing crashed into Times Square opposite the Mendes Configuration. That was a good enough way to describe it, because longer ways involve words like “bulbous, club-armed, tentacle-headed” and other odd things that normally don’t describe anything derived from a human. Except bulbous, I suppose, but I don’t like to see anything bulbous on people. You wouldn’t call a big, beautiful butt bulbous, now would you?

The Mystery Monster didn’t really have a head, or a neck. More of a lump on top of its torso, with a mouth that opened to roar. At the pincered, one-eyed alien robot made out of round bent pieces of metal. What is it with the lack of eyes? Then again, the monster over there didn’t have any visible eyes. Had a big lump in place of an arm, looked like a club. And the other arm ended in five very wet-looking fingers. I certainly wouldn’t shake it. I wholeheartedly approved of the other weapon it packed, though. It looked like a giant blotchy pink and wet naked humanoid except for the bony drill poking out between its legs. Some men are hung like a horse; this one was hung like it could build a house.

They both stood tall at thirty feet, but I think Mystery Monster had the reach on the robot.

All over the news broadcasts, I interrupted to provide some voiceover work of my own. “Fight Numero Uno: The Mendes Configuration versus Team Gecko’s Mystery Monster. Begin!”

Before I even finished, the Mystery Monster started on its own…by turning around and smashing its club into a car that finally learned to stop honking. I decided to hijack the scroll at the bottom of the broadcast. “Fun Fact: Mystery Monster hates obnoxious drivers. The owners of that building were probably assholes anyway. Technically, there’s nothing in city ordinances against tearing up the road with a drill dick.”

I had to stop due to the call coming in. The Imperial Hotline, aka the phone line for anyone who really, really, really needs to call me but doesn’t know me well enough to get my private number, lit up with a call from an unknown number. “Hello?”

“Greetings, soon-to-be former ruler of Earth!” See what I mean about needing better names for these titles? Cercopagis went on with his gloating and laughing, “Does your champion ever intend to actually fight?”

“Oh, he’ll fight. See? He’s fighting right now.”

“I believe that’s mating, though I believe your species doesn’t typically do that to architecture.”

“Any moment now, he’ll be doing it to your random space robot’s face! Then you’ll see.” I told him all that, but I began to have my doubts. Max warned me that making a monster bigger and more powerful, especially in such a short amount of time, left them rebellious and prone to turn on their masters. Like teenagers. And like a teenager, Mystery Monster had started sticking its parts into strange things not meant to hold it. In public, again like a teenager.

I decided to send in the Electric Eye, setting Sir Mix-A-Lot down in the hopes he could find his way back to his fiefdom without my help. Electric Eye rocketed up onto the building that was a-rockin’ because Mystery Monster came a-knockin’ and called down to it, “You stop humping this and go hump that other thing this instant, or you are ground! You’ll be turned into Mystery Meat when I’m done with you!”

Turns out he’s a lot faster with that club than I anticipated, but still not fast enough to smash Electric Eye. Eye threw it to the side and missed the domestic abuse visited upon the poor building that been drilled by MM. Figuring Eye finally had its attention, I sent the smaller robot zipping around toward the bigger one.

“You cannot have two champions in a single fight! We agreed to one-on-one battles!” Cercopagis yelled at me over the Hotline.

“Don’t worry your golden panties off. Electric Eye won’t fight.” The Mendes Configuration tracked it anyway, a red laser light appearing and growing larger as if considering an attack as the smaller robot approached, then stopped right in front of the single orb that made up its combined eye and head. Except while Mendes paid attention to Electric Eye, Electric Eye paid attention to Mystery Monster and cut its rockets, ending this dance of alliteration.

Fancy souvenir snow globe from a space knickknack store or not, the Mendes Configuration didn’t take that laying down. Unfortunately, it didn’t even take it kneeling down or losing oil control. It unloaded some sort of beam onto Mystery Monster that scorched the flesh of its chest, bring a wail out of the monsterized human. MM responded by bringing its club down on the robot’s head. That forced the robot into a squat. That turned out to be a bad position when facing an opponent with a biological drill in place of its private parts.

Right about then, the news censored the fight with black bars. It didn’t help that I inserted sounds from some porno. Debbie Does Space, anyone? Is that a thing? Wouldn’t be the first time some shit I made up to be funny turned out to be real.

Things seemed to be going well. And, as Sir Mix-A-Lot’s cameo appearance early indicates, that clearly foreshadows a but. But, the Mendes Configuration reached down and grabbed the drill with its pincers. It squeezed. It tore. It simultaneously caused billions of men around the world to reach for their crotches in sympathetic pain. And then it shoved that drill right into the middle of Mystery Monster’s fleshy torso.

Mystery Monster stumbled back, pumping a different sort of troubling fluid onto the street below. At which point, its screaming mouth filled the air with an emasculated cacophony until the Mendes Configuration shut it up with a blast of whatever laser, plasma, or heat vision constituted the red stream coming from its eye.

Between the internal burns and the loss of what may be blood (usually, it’s not green), Mystery Monster collapsed and curled up in the fetal position. From there, the fight was purely academic, if academics often beat each other to death with their own severed cocks. Which, to be honest, would make debates a hell of a lot more interesting. It’s probably the only way I’d pay attention to philosophy. Because, let’s be honest, there’s only so many times people can go around with circle jerks about wondering if the world is nothing but a computer simulation. As a dude who has crossed dimensions, that means either I disproved it, or the entirety of existence is centered on me.

Sounds about right.

Unfortunately, the Matrix fucked me over and left Mystery Monster so smashed up by the alien robot that I could have renamed it Ground Beef. Except I don’t know what you call human meat. Pigs are pork, cattle are beef, but long pork is just a euphemism.

“That is one in my favor. I will let you start the next fight, Psycho Gecko. Consider it an act of mercy,” Cercopagis Lysis said over the Imperial Hotline.

“Go eat a mystery meat dick,” I told him.

Some days, you think you get a chance to use a giant robot. Other days, you see a thirty-foot tall monster get its weaponized penis torn off and then stabbed in the chest with said penis. Unfortunately, today was dick-stabbing day in the worst way.

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Gecko Vs. The Moon Conqueror! 7

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The first steps of my official government have been laid. I pulled together a team of saps to assist me by filtering out various moonbat applicants for Team Gecko. They are now officially my Department of Labor, and will afterwards work on managing the concerns of workers and managers, particularly in the industrial sector. Coordinating, making sure people get benefits, making sure people don’t abuse benefits. It’s a give-and-take thing, labor. Or at least it is when I’m not the one laboring.

I’m still working on finding someone to help figure out other departments. Gotta sort out the power hungry assholes and privilege seekers from the ones who just want to do what they’re good at. That’s one area where the monetary incentive doesn’t work, because plenty of people will do a job poorly so long as there’s money in it. They don’t care about it anymore than they’re paid to care.

As for the power bit, that’s where we look at Joseph Stalin. The Bolsheviks had their little reunion, but they were revolutionaries. They wanted to fight the government and were unprepared when they became the government. There were all these boring things to do instead. One guy stepped up and was like “Sure, give me everything to do. If I can’t handle it, I’ll find people who can.” Next thing they know, the most powerful man in the entire country is the secretary with a bunch of his friends in positions all over the place. There’s always folks like that, and they love to pop up whenever there’s a power vacuum. A lot of people think that the danger ends with the revolution. Ha!

In my case, I’ve got to find other ways to hunt down people. Tests and such. It’d be nice if I’d bothered with this earlier, but I didn’t. I had a team to build.

I tried the Titan, head of Cape Diem. I’ve left him alone, except for the fact that I’ve made him busier than ever. I found him in the country of Benin. Cape Diem’s people had a small center in the city of Cotonou from which they sent out a traveling medical group to counter some of the countryside’s problems with receiving medical care. In a compound right next door, they had people trying to find cheap ways to expand the country’s agriculture beyond subsistence farming.

Titan was busy helping to repair some cheaper housing that looked to be falling apart. And by that, I mean he took the place of some damaged support columns holding up the building while his team and local contractors worked on replacing them. With his other hand, he checked on other Cape Diem teams around the world and so on.

A dozen feet tall, with dark blue skin and the occasional hint of orange, the man looked up at me with all-white eyes save for where something glowed from underneath that membrane. “I won’t fight for you,” he said.

I came in person because the personal touch is so important. Like when I dropped to my knees. “Pleeeeeeeease? Pretty please with a cherry on top?”

He sighed and raised one leg to scratch at the calf of the other through is blue, grey, and yellow uniform leggings. Standard Cape Diem nonthreatening colors. “Offer me money.”

“Yes,” I said.

“Power too, promise me that.”

“All you want,” I swore I heard some of this before.

“Offer me anything I ask for.”

He didn’t even look up. He was messing with me. “Anything you want.”

He glanced at me again, then shrugged, careful to keep from shrugging the building while he was at it. “I still don’t want to fight for you, and you’ll be lucky to get anyone to.”

Analysis of dialogue complete. He quoted Princess Bride at me. Inconceivable!

“I think I’ll get more than you think,” I answered back.

He smirked. “You can’t even see it, can you? People will work with you when nothing personal is on the line, but no one will ever fight for you, especially not me.” He seemed awfully sure of that.

“So what I’m taking away from this is, there’s not much of anything you can think of to make me change your mind,” I asked. Unlike with Captain Lightning, the innuendo had to stay put away. From what I’d seen of this guy in the past, there’s a reason he was able to tell everyone he wasn’t playing their games. It involved him taking a nuke to the face and not even being knocked unconscious. I did about the equivalent of that to Captain Lightning. It knocked him out and would have killed me.

I didn’t come in armor, to appear less threatening. I even swallowed down the question of how his organization avoided the whole nanite mess. They had a few people with some exposure to them, but they hadn’t been passing them around like I expected.

“Ok,” I said. “Don’t have to fight for me. Anything I can throw your way? We’re still on a money system, so I could toss that at you. Maybe order people to give you a hand?”

He shook his head. “It takes more than just money and outside help to fix things. This isn’t about the White Man’s Burden. One of the stories I make sure they include in training is about this group that came into a country and wanted to help. So they planted a bunch of crops in an fertile area that the natives were just too dumb to use. The plants grew, then migrating hippos came through and ate everything, destroying the entire crop. Cape Diem doesn’t save the day and fly off to ignore the consequences of our actions. We look for what will work. We talk to people. We use local contractors so they get paid and things get built right, instead of giving credit to untrained college students whose houses couldn’t stand up to a loud fart. We need minds, not money.”

His little rant got him a bit agitated. The white membrane covering his eyes had pulled back and flames burned out of the iris hidden underneath. For a moment, he glared at me. Then the moment ended and the nictitating membranes moved back into place. “I don’t care for you. Things have gotten worse since you took over. I just want whoever’s in charge to stop messing things up so I can try and get things fixed around here.”

I can definitely sympathize. And the closest to any good I wanted to so involved me taking over for the same sort of reason. I couldn’t fight some war against the Titan to bring him to my side on top of my conflict with Cercopagis. I had to get a team together, beat the alien, and then I could finally get around to everything I’ve neglected.

“So, if you’re not fighting for me, are you fighting at all? Just as a courtesy, something like that? I can send over enough pizzas for a pizza party. For the entire country.” In the interest of choosing the right expression for the food I offered, I put on a cheesy smile and gave two thumbs up. “Eh? Eh?”

I think he rolled his eyes. The glow shifted around, at least. “If it’ll get you to go away, I’m not taking part in that contest on either side. I don’t like Lysis, but I don’t get involved in politics unless they get involved with me first. I’d better not get involved, either.” He raised an eyebrow.

I shook my head. “Nope. I’ll send over the pizzas later.” I turned to step on back to Helicopter Force Eighteen, the Emperor’s personal helicopter. Helicopters Force One through Seventeen are decoys and took off around me like a flock of mosquitoes. Ooh, except for Helicopter Force Seven. That one stayed on the ground, then exploded. Hence the decoys. Damn hard to find good chopper pilots, too. I had to stab them all with needles and inject the nanites.

Hmm. Maybe what I need to do is add a tail…no, I can see that being used against me. I’d have to alter my armor all the time, change up the car, and I’d probably wind up crapping on myself when I rush to the bathroom and forget about the tail.

He was a notable failure, though I did ship in a lot of pizzas. Maybe not enough for the entire country, since it’s like ten million or so, but a lot anyway. I know y’all wouldn’t expect me to do so, but I didn’t even send him the bill for it. It’s one of those annoying cases where someone tells you “This guy is really, really strong,” instead of letting you see it, but since all this is from my point of view, I’d rather not see it just so y’all do. I like my legs right where they are, thank you.

Good. Bad. Either way, I’m the man with the… uh… blog? Didn’t think that one out.

So I only had Warman at that time. And while I had an office full of people to take applications, most of the applicants didn’t live up to the hype. I could have used Forcelight if I still had her. I sent along a message to The Claw, but someone from his office claimed he was in ill health and needed to recover. I’m not inclined to believe him, though he is a bit on the old side and reclusive. Maybe this is one of those situations where the dictator’s off on a long vacation while his people run things. Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more.

I found Venus, too. It took more work than it should have, but I found her with the rest of the Master Academy people in Empyreal City, stopping a few pockets of crime I’ve neglected due to being a single person. She stood there in her shiny silver and pink power armor. The person she was talking to stopped when I took over, then smiled. “Heya there, boopsie! Ooh, you know grinding your teeth is bad for them, right?”

“I know,” she said, not stopping the grinding. “What do you want?”

“Fight for me?” I asked.

She crossed her arms. “Why?”

“Because crime is down, you love me, and I’ll murder everyone you care for if you don’t?” That undoubtedly looked odd and drew some looks, considering I’d jumped into a teen girl and we were surrounded by a bunch of people that looked like they’d been beaten up. And handcuffed. I looked around at him. “Did I interrupt you in the middle of something…freaky?”

“No, this is a blood trafficking ring. People pay good money to have their blood swapped out, but not everyone’s ethical about it. This is what people have resorted to thanks to you,” Venus said. Another woman behind her hissed and broke his cuffs, then jumped at her. Venus’s fist caught her in the face. My proxy’s nailed her right in the ovaries. That’s not an expression, either.

“For God’s sake, get your hand out of her parts. There’s so much wrong with that,” Venus said, grabbing the shocked and hurting vamp and dragging her back against the wall. There was an audible pop as the perp released my proxy’s hand.

“At least she doesn’t have fangs everywhere,” I muttered, then watched as Venus grabbed a nearby chair and staked the screaming vampire’s arms to the wall. “Ooh, kinky.”

“This is a very good reason why I absolutely do not and never will love you!” Venus turned and yelled, getting in my face and pointing her finger at me.

“To answer your other points, crime is only down because you took away everyone’s freedom and threatened to kill them. Just like you threatened to kill my friends. You really want me to fight? Really? You think you can trust me not to surrender when I get out there, or will you kill people then? Or how about if I throw the fight? How would you even know? Are you going to murder the loved ones of anyone who loses on your team? How many people do you think will join you if that’s what you’re going to do?”

That…made sense. Worse, I think Titan knew it, too. Did Captain Lightning? I agreed to these fucking rules. Cercopagis Lysis presented them and I agreed. “Son of an emerald whore,” I said quietly.

I blinked, then glared at Venus and brought my finger up close to her face as well.

She screwed up her face. “You got something to say?”

I shook my head. “Nope, just wanted you to smell this finger.” She pulled her head back, bringing a laugh at me. A bitter one, though.

I left her friend there and went on a small detour to commandeer a satellite transmitter. A quick uplink later and I sent Cercopagis a message. “Will need time to collect team. Earthlings intragnizent. You are a female reproductive organ, if your species has them.”

The message came back quickly. He replied the same way. “Will show for first fight Tuesday. Will interrupt the work week. If you don’t show, will declare a victory.”

That dick! Screwing up the week like that! Also, the whole PR victory thing. I get it. He shows up, says it’s fight time, and I don’t even bother? It makes me look bad, and I don’t want to walk into that whole mess with just Warman. For one thing, that stupid idea about not fighting more than once. This is bullshit, I shouldn’t follow the rules anyway! Seriously, who starts shit on a Tuesday? Damn, he is evil.

No, no, no, no, it’s cool. It’s cool. Got a bit too sane there, but I’ve already got some ideas. And Mix N’Max on speed dial.

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Gecko Vs. The Moon Conqueror! 6

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“Come ooooon!” I pleaded.

“No,” said Captain Lightning, arms crossed. He floated above me, higher up in the woods so as to keep an eye out for anyone needing immediate rescue, or anything else more important than talking to me.

I met him back in the U.S., because who doesn’t like a shitload of jet lag? As a hero, albeit one with what appears to be less crime to fight, he used his considerable powers to help the victims of natural disasters in his beloved America. Figuring it wouldn’t hurt to butter him up a little, I came to him instead of calling him away from Louisiana. Seriously, if I’d known he’d be there, I’d have kept the tsunamis rolling so we could meet up somewhere else.

I mean, at least India had people useful to the U.S. Of A. I suppose I should have some sympathy for their plight, if I cared. Don’t know why I’d start with Louisiana of all places. If nobody made them stop, they’d still be forcing everyone to learn about Creationism and geocentrism in schools. Everyone except for the slaves, of course. They’d be back at the farm, plowing their white stepmothers. Then they all get up on Sunday and sit in church together, learning from a white-knuckled preacher about how Jews killed their savior and how God taught racial purity with the Tower of Babel.

As opposed to now, when the slavery part is illegal. Oh, I wish I wasn’t in Dixie.

But I am, and I decided to play honest with folks rather than be the usual politician. I made no secret of my disdain for the state, though I think I got them all excited when I stepped off the plane and started throwing beads at people. This hanger-on who just kinda started traveling with me suggested that if I were to do that, I should at least toss out Moon Pies, except they were all gone by the time we landed. Because I love Moon Pies.

I once killed for a Moon Pie. This guy had an inheritance coming his way of about half a million dollars, but the will said his older sister would get two million. He offered me $100,000 for the kill, but I played hard to get until, exasperated, he asked me what it would take to murder his sibling in cold blood. “A box of Moon Pies,” I told him.

“That’s all? Don’t you want money?” he asked.

I shrugged. “Two boxes of Moon Pies then.”

“What kind of man murders someone over a Moon Pie?”

“Asks the guy who wants a family member’s life taken for money.”

Long story short, he paid me the Moon Pies, then tried to back out on the deal. I grabbed the sister, told her about the deal without telling her he’d decided not to go through with it, and made an honest man of him. I guess I was something of a prick in that whole affair, but no more than the nature of the incident allowed me to be.

Irrelevant past story aside, I made this trip before announcing the big contest between myself and Cercopagis Lysis specifically to recruit someone.

“You’d be on the side against me! You wouldn’t even have to fight, just walk out and surrender. Boom, automatic victory for Earth, which continues to be ruled by its own people.”

Captain Lightning turned his head to the side. I listened in to transmissions and found a truck carrying FEMA MREs had been beset by armed men in camouflage. I could feel my nanites inside just one of them. Before Captain Lightning could set off to stop the ambush, that one turned his gun on the others of his party, then himself.

“See? I’m not such a bad guy,” I grinned up at him. He didn’t return the expression.

Cap shook his head. “I don’t care about helping you at all. You’re as much an invading outsider as Cercopagis. The difference is, he’s never been human.” He took off, leaving me there in the middle of his campsite in the woods.

To think, people subject themselves to camping voluntarily. Somebody slaved over a hot air conditioner so that you could be cold! At least have the decency to freeze inside like a grateful little bitch!

So I left there and caught up with this bus full of an entourage I seem to have acquired, the sight of which made me miss Moai and Carl. But Carl is safer not being associated with me, so perhaps it’s for the best that I now have a bunch of red shirts around to buffer me against bullets. There’s the North Korean twins, the Japanese girl, this guy who only goes by Daniels who insisted he work on my image, and some people in black suits that seem to be my bodyguards. I don’t remember getting them.

It’s not enough to run a country, except a really small one like Molossia. Yet another reason I agreed to this contest with Cercopagis is a chance to focus on important things like building a ruling government.

I had a few other names on my list, too. I stopped by to see Warman. Another American superhero, this one preferred to live at Fort Rogers in Utah. That’s Fort Rogers, not Camp Rogers. One made Warman, the other trains Army Rangers. I’m sure they both like to claim they make super soldiers.

Once again, access to the deepest, darkest secrets of all countries has its benefits. Fort Rogers hosted the post-World War II super soldier experiments, though their resources were sometimes loaned out to MKNAOMI, an old biological warfare research program. They named this new project WSCLARK. It’s a cryptonym, a code name. All the projects have them. People think they give projects names reminiscent of their goals in some way, and that’s true, but they don’t make it obvious. Some of the letters mean something and others don’t. The CIA isn’t the boogeyman, but they aren’t Encyclopedia fuckin’ Brown either.

At first, it wasn’t any better than some of the crazy mind control stuff, except they eventually figured out how to temporarily grant their own agents superpowers, which is where closer collaboration began to occur with some of the MK series of projects, which were about giving the CIA all kinds of tools to use against Russia. Some of those incidents showed up in other ways. A mixture that didn’t work well leading to an incident at a place called Shag Harbor in Canada. Then one of their guys defected and tried to flee the States. They caught up to him over the Berwyn Mountains in Wales, causing a battle and an earthquake. Another time, the Russians pulled something of their own and scared the crap out of Wurtsmith Air Force Base, in Michigan.

The WSCLARK people preferred to work more quietly until they knew they had something. The CIA created an entire phenomena called Earthquake Lights to keep that part hidden. It wasn’t until the 90s, just before the collapse of the Soviet Union, that they went public with Warman. Warman, the Man of War, destined to defeat the Soviet Union. He was so good at his job, the CCCP collapsed about a year later thanks to social justice issues. Or so the public version goes.

When I walked into the Fort Rogers gym, I found him working a punching bag with my face printed on the outside case. I decided to set my expectations low for this meeting.

He turned to look at me, panting. Sweat glistened from the top of his blonde head as he looked at me with that piercing, blue-eyed gaze. No, this is not turning into a gay romance novel. Even though he did invite me to get pounded by him.

“Here to help me work out?” he held a hand out toward the punching bag.

I waved it off. “Nope, though I have someone who needs hitting you might want to work up to.”

He narrowed his eyes at me, an expression that, if he wore it all the time, would have had women stopping him in the street to tell him how he’s such a special young man and isn’t it delightful he can dress himself?

“Look,” I said. “I’m not all bad. You know you can’t always trust the public record to fully reflect what’s gone on. You spend twenty-five years fighting the good fight behind the scenes, but then nobody takes you seriously after you go public until you start playing baseball Iraqi tanks instead of bats and balls. Been there, done that. Well, not exactly that, but I could have easily done worse if that had been my intention.”

“What are you rambling about?” he asked, stepping over to a bench to put a stop to the flood of sweat coming off his head with a towel, like some sort of Dolph Lundgren Hitchhiker of the Galaxy.

I stepped over, mindful of my lack of armor and gave the bag a hard punch. I didn’t need my helmet’s 360 degree display to realize his amusement when I discovered he’d added a bit of lead to the inside of that bag. I don’t know how much, but my knuckles found out it was there and made sure to tell my brain. My bones and skin might be tougher than normal, my muscles surprisingly strong for my size due to nanites, but this is a guy whose idea of a gun involves mashing two miniguns together. I hate to think what his condoms are like.

Sounds like a nice brand, actually. “Folks, come on down to Richard Richard’s Rubber Room for our brand new Double Dick Special!We’re all pumped up and ready to give you all the deals. It’s a long, hard, dirty job, but we help you get it done!”

I took a few more punches now that I knew what I was hitting, then stopped. “You’ve been fighting for your country for a long time. Now I need your help to defend our planet.”

He snorted. “You can’t kill your way out of it?”

I gave the bag a few kicks, then a headbutt. After that, I leaned on it due to the pain and a need to determine if I’d concussed myself. I shook my head. “You’re a soldier. Your entire job is to kill people. It’s a necessity sometimes, you know that. Sometimes war is unavoidable. Sometimes, necessary change must be baptized in blood, like the promise of liberty after the American Civil War. Where would we be if old bigots didn’t die, eh? I think I know where Germany would be.”

I stepped back and gave the bag a hard pump kick that swung it back. Dropping to my belly, the bag passed right over me as it swung back, and I rose to give it a good elbow where a person’s kidney would be if the bag was a person. But then, a hanging person rarely needs a kidney shot to finish the job. It left me leaning on my elbow against the back as I looked over at the unimpressed supersoldier. “I worked out a deal to end this latest damn threat to the planet. A contest between myself and Cercopagis. Each of us picks representatives for a one-on-one, best three out of five fighting tournament, but neither he nor I can be one of them. I mean, hey, when he’s gone, I can work on making things better instead of being such an asshole to people. I can take time. Talk folks around. I’ve taken some wartime measures here, but the point of that is it only lasts while at war. Like Lincoln’s and habeus corpus, or that time FDR concentrated people of a certain race into camps.”

He glared at me for that one. For particularly patriotic folks like him, the Japanese internment camps are a shameful part of the nation’s history. For me, it’s a sore to pick at. Make people emotional, override their reason, control them. Sometimes I push the buttons. But sometimes…

“I’ll have a list of demands. You do what I want, I’ll fight for you,” he said.

I held my hands out and stepped away from the punching bag. “As long as my death isn’t on the list, I’ll take a look and do what I can do. I can be a reasonable man when people want me to be, Warman.” I grinned.

I hoped to get more on my side, preferably once Captain Lightning had joined up, but I didn’t. Instead, it was time to make the announcement. I did so with my usual tact.

All across the world, television and internet-connected computer screens lit up with an explosion. The radio folks just had to use their imagination of the visual. “There’s a bear in the woods. Some people like to pretend the bear isn’t there. They don’t think the bear is a threat. They don’t realize that the bear came from another planet to steal hard-working Earthicans’ jobs. To fuck hard-sleeping Earthicans’ spouses. To talk some completely alien language around you where you can’t understand it. Preferably right during the good part of a movie. It doesn’t matter how many different words for snow the aliens have, Emperor Gecko of Earth knows a thousand different ways to tell them ‘Fuck You.’ And that’s what he’s going to do at the upcoming Dic-Off. That’s right, he knows he’s a dictator with the world firmly held in his small but powerful hands. But he’s done diccing around with that extraterrestrial arthropod called Cercopagis Lysis. At the Dic-Off, Earth’s five greatest warriors will go one on one with whatever sad sacks of shit the enemy convinced to hate you for your freedom. Earth is going to win, and then, by golly, everyone’s gonna get laid. Support your local Emperor, help build the greatest team this side of the Milky Way to kick those aliens off Earth… or else!”

It was really quite tasteful.

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