Psycho Gecko returned to his apartment on December 22nd, filled to the brim with chicken teriyaki and fried rice, only to find that flashing blue and red lights barred access to his building. He almost activated his coat’s cloaking contraption when he realized that they couldn’t be there for him. There were no superheroes around, only two cars, and the building hadn’t been blown up by any of his traps. There was an officer writing a report beside one of the cars. He called up his wanted poster on his ocular HUD and confirmed that he had changed his appearance slightly for the downtime of the holidays. Still about 5’10” and the same build, he had had the reconstructive nanites mess with his cheekbones. His hair was now brown and curly. He’d even given the end of his nose a different angle. With the confidence of someone who can proudly say, “It wasn’t me this time, and I’m not the person you’re looking for” Gecko stepped up behind the woman, affected his best attempt at a Pierce Brosnan James Bond accent, and asked the officer what appeared to be the problem?
“None of your business, now move along.”
“Now now, ma’am, I live in that building. I’d like to know that my poor defenseless guinea pig, Vlad Tepes Dracul the Wrath of Romania, is safe and sound in his cage,” Gecko responded, aware that his apartment (and Vlad Tepes Dracul the Wrath of Romania) couldn’t have been broken into since half the building hadn’t been blown up.
The officer looked at him, raising an eyebrow as she most likely contemplated arresting someone for having a bad British accent. She turned the rest of the way toward him then, her eyes narrowed, “Maybe you can help us, then. Do you live on the fourth floor?”
“Yeeeeees,” he answered, drawing it out as he pondered if this was related to him after all. He also tried to remember if he was packing any weapons. At the very least he could suffocate her with a fortune cookie if he had to.
“Where are you coming back from?”
“Hibachi Yum Yum, a little ways down the street, and over on another street, and up another street a bit.“
“Great directions. Were you there long?”
“At least an hour, but it’s twenty minutes each way and I have a receipt to prove I was there. That one chef would remember me too since we were talking about knife throwing.”
Gecko’s reminiscences were interrupted by yet another question by the police. I swear, he thought, they oughta talk him to death next time.
“No, officer, I am a hundred percent sure I didn’t see anyone suspicious around apartment 45 when I left. Photographic memory.” In reality, it’s closer to a recorded video memory, so he can clearly see no one around while he was passing by the apartment in question. “That all I can do for you?” he asked, shifting his weight towards the leg of his nearest the door of the building.
“You can go but here’s a number for you to call if you remember anything,” said the officer as she wrote down some contact info on the back of a card and handed it to him.
He attempted a polite bow, told the cop “Arivaderci, mademoiselle,” and headed inside the building. Up on the fourth floor, the hall was somewhat crowded by a pair of policemen and the couple that lived in number 45. Their doorknob was a mess, hanging off. Their daughter sat by the stairwell, eyes wet and red. While Psycho Gecko pondered getting past cops and regular people like a normal person, without killing or otherwise drawing attention to one’s self (perhaps I should try “Excuse me? No, it’ll never work.”), he felt a bump on his leg. He looked down into the soggy eyes of the girl who had tapped him with a candy cane, then held it up to him and said, “Merry Christmas Mister.”
He blinked a couple of times and just looked at the red and white striped hunk of sugar. “Umm…you don’t have to.” She held it up further, insistently. He hooked it on a finger and leaned down. “Thank you, I guess. What’s going on here?”
The girl looked back down the stairwell, “Momma says someone came in and was naughty and took the presents.”
“That bas-“ Gecko caught himself, “set Hound.” He contemplated the candycane. “You know, I’m generally on the naughty list too, but I think you deserve a good Christmas and you gave me this, so I’ll do something nice for y’all.”
“Whatcha gonna do? Not anything any more naughty. Christmas is when you’re supposed to be nice.”
“If you insist. I’ll very nicely find the presents and return them, and make sure the very naughty person who took them gets their lumps this year.”
“Sure, sure, whatever.”
“Just don’t go and do naughty things too, Mister. Try and be a nice person. Goodwill toward man.”
“Honey! Come here, it’s time to go to back to bed,” called out the girl’s father who, along with the police and his wife, were all turned watching the two. The girl obediently stood and walked over and called back to him,
“Have a Merry Christmas!”
Identifying the stolen items was easy enough. Gecko’s glasses were augmented reality-capable and worked well with the processing power he’d had installed in his skull. They were a paragon of augmented reality that this world had only begun to work toward and they were a good way to photograph the cop’s clipboard when Gecko slipped within arm’s reach of them while passing by. Finding the stolen presents would be a little harder. Gecko knew his way around the super fences that handle things like alien transformation rays and stolen indestructible shields and the mundane fences who preferred TVs and jewelry, but someone who would steal Christmas presents might just be a jerk who kept it for himself. Even if he sold it, there’s no guarantee he’s done so already. Still, Gecko knew he had to try. After all, he had been paid in advance. By candycane.
That’s what brought him to Michelangelo’s House of Negotiable Stuff about 21 hours later. Mike was the kind of guy who would make a deal with supers or mundanes. He got this rather unenviable position by being an unfavorite relative of the Tornelli crime family. Jealous thugs, greedy minions, megalomaniacal masks, and overzealous capes were all easy ways to get rid of the black sheep of the family. It was a harsh way to deal with the family nerd, who was just a wee bit overenthusiastic about being part of the Family.
What the Family didn’t count on is that once in a position working for them, Mike mellowed out a lot. That allowed his enterprising business mind to actually hold up under the job. He was competent enough that even the Tornellis’ chief rival in the city, Johnny Butterfly, was thinking of poaching him. Poaching, not killing. It paid to have contacts with masked strongmen. Of course, you never tell a man in a mask to poach anyone. They might wind up cooked.
This time, those contacts paid off less well. Mike was sitting in a chair in the back basement of his pawn shop, in room full of special merchandise. Standing across the table from him was a man in grey and orange power armor who was asking him about Christmas presents while playing around with a surplus henchman hook used by Crimson Forever’s crew. The hook bowed and straightened like a finger, then extended, the point stabbing into the table in front of Mike. “Wootzors, my dawg,” said Psycho Gecko.
“This would be bad business for you and for me. You can’t sell to a dead man and other people won’t sell to a snitch,” Mike reminded Gecko.
The hook pulled out of the wood and Gecko played around with it, trying to make shapes. “I’m on a time limit. Asked around and I don’t get much. Rumors. I’m hoping you know more. I don’t want to make this uncomfortable on everyone, ooh, poodle…uncomfortable on everyone, but I need to know where the presents go for sure or if someone’s just keeping them. That’s all. That’s it. I’ll keep on this until you tell me. I’m not asking for all your customers. And it’s hardly snitching if it’s a guy like me.” Gecko turned to face Mike, the hook resembling a giant question mark on the end of his hand. The end snaked out to hold itself in front of Mike’s face, moving side to side.
Mike waved it aside in annoyance. Gecko threw it to the side, the hook stabbing into a wall. He then grabbed a round piece of metal a little bigger than his forearm. “Nice, a Trobogorian MicroNerveRaker.”
“That thing’s broken, so don’t bother,” Mike told him, wondering when or, with more savvy, if his security would show up.
Gecko slid his hand to the halfway point of the length of the MNR. He fiddled around with the bulges and bumps on the exterior of the alien device for a minute. Then it lit up, and Gex shot Mike a look via his reflective orange visor. Mike’s eyes focused on the MNR, knowing full well that the Trobogorians were pacifists in the sense that the preferred weapons that didn’t kill. Instead, they fully explored an enemy’s ability to feel pain. Their enemies generally didn’t care for Trobogorian “mercy”. Such mercy was now swinging back and forth as Gecko got a sense of its balance while attempting ballet, muttering something about unicorns to himself. Then he stopped, facing Mike.
“You know, buddy, I bet your family wouldn’t like it if you knew something about some buttholes robbing people at Christmas and just weren’t talking. Or at least I can make them not like it. Pay everyone a visit, drink some eggnog, carve Santa, sit on the turkey’s lap. You know, fun. Now, I don’t want to be mean or nasty during these twelve days of Christmas, no more than you want to be a stool pigeon in a pear tree. So, I reiterate. If you tell me what I want, I’ll just put this little alien gun down right here and walk away, no harm and no fowl. Or foul.”
Mike caught something interesting about the end of that deal once he got past the dumb joke. “You’ll just take off the alien gun and leave me alone?”
That’s how Psycho Gecko found out that this whole deal involved an odd, old-timey man wanting Michelangelo to direct low-level thieves to him for some off the books holiday work. “Not my concern, but here’s the address and that’s all I know.”
And that’s how Mike was left alone in the back basement of his pawn shop with a fully functional alien pain ray.
It didn’t take Psycho Gecko too long to find the place. A warehouse on the waterfront. Just the kind of place you expect to find bad guys. He’d seen some good offers on places too, but he didn’t generally build lairs. He had known a few people who just couldn’t fill the space very well. There’s something sad about seeing a supervillain’s decked-out lair of theme props, death traps, and whatever scheme he’s working…only fill half a dark building that’s either got boxes or a bunch of nothing for the other half. Some can make it work, those who are good at dangerous labyrinths, but it is mainly the mad scientists who use that much space and they prefer better shielding on their buildings. The poorer mad grad students will take whatever they can get. They don’t care, they’ll build a death ray in the back of a Winnebago.
Since this was the base of a colleague of sorts and since he just wanted a certain set of presents back, Gecko walked in the front door without his stealth on. While he almost never walked into someone else’s hideout without his network of cameras, projectors, sound mufflers, and other gadgets, he was willing to show some good faith this time. After all, his mission was the candycane.
The owner went with the dark and foreboding look, along with shelving and boxes that were probably full of nothing more dangerous than packing peanuts. In fact, Gecko stopped, opened one up, and checked. Yep, just a show. Whoever the owner was had a spider problem, though. The rafters were a mess of web and a few strands hung down to the ground. He let his hands drift over a few such strands as he walked deeper into the warehouse.
He turned to his left, sure he’d seen something. It was enough for Gecko to avoid the claw swipe and spin around to get a good look at the attacker his HUD was labeling “Magic Threat”. A man with unkempt dark hair, pale skin, black circles around his mouth and eyes, and very sharp fingernails, dressed like someone from the 1800s. Without seeming to move, the man faded into the shadows of the place. The label “Magic Threat” switched to “Spider,” as his computer identified the attacker. Not many supervillains go for the Victorian goth look. Conformists.
Gecko cycled through vision modes. Nothing special on thermal, and night vision mode was having some difficulty with the shadows and the webs. Magic. Negotiations suspended. Psycho Gecko pulled out a rubber chicken. Time to tempt that condition of not killing anyone. He tore the head off and dropped it to the ground. He kept his back to it as it walked the way he entered. His rubber chicken grenades were wonderful but tricky little inventions. Tear the head off and they’ll walk on their own until exploding. For some reason, though, they attempt to walk toward and cross the nearest road. Gecko had no clue why.
He pulled out a pair of cylinders slightly smaller than his hands then pulled the pins and tossed them to either side. Safe directions to attack from were now a bit limited, and Gecko had a guess which one this Spider would take advantage of. As explosions rocked the warehouse to his rear, left, and right, Gecko launched himself up, one hand raised. His fist smacked into the face of Spider. While the barbed wiring around his fists could normally channel energy to supercharge his punches, this time they merely scratched at the clawed gentleman’s skin. Both men landed, but only one on his feet.
Spider clawed at his Psycho Gecko’s ankles, though, so Gecko resorted to what anybody would do in the situation. He tried to stomp on the Spider. Spider caught his leg and bit him just above the boot. Gecko was surprised to feel it penetrate that armor. Not that it was particularly thick, but most people still can’t bite through it. Maybe a little fluffy bunny rabbit could bite through armor, but this was a grown man.
The piercing sensation was soon followed by burning as he found himself unable to control that leg. Gecko attempted to leap away, counting on the exoskeleton on his legs to deliver him to safety. Instead, it delivered him into a mass of webbing. So his aim was just a tiny bit off. All it meant was being stuck in a giant spider web near a poisonous, clawed man named Spider. Oh look, he even had neighbors. At least he found the thieves that came to be paid. They looked a little thinner and less lively after the venom liquefied their insides. If Spider was as good as his name, bite, and bodily excretions (just where did this web come from, after all?), then Gecko was in a less than ideal situation.
Spider approached, webbing in hand. Darn it, Gecko still couldn’t see where it was coming from. Also, he was having trouble breathing. Despite this, he took advantage of Spider’s proximity and palmed various blades he kept hidden on him. His hands were a blur as he stabbed and sliced at Spider, discarding one knife to try another. Cleaver, carving knife, bowie knife, kabar, he tried everything. It still didn’t stop Spider from grinning smugly at him through his newly-made cocoon, a potato peeler shoved all the way into his shoulder. Then, he stepped away.
Gecko knew he had actually left, instead of disappearing and sticking around to snack on him, because while Spider was busy ignoring the cheetah-like speed of his knives of fury (note to self: Psycho Gecko action figure!), he had used what catlike agility was left in his dissolving body to plant a couple of trackers on him. Magic, meet technology. Rock, meet laser. Kraken, meet shark with fricken’ laser beams attached to its fricken’ head.
He just had to get free first, something which also required him to reverse the damage that Spider’s toxin had rapidly done. Luckily he was suited up. While other suits of power armor provide things like flight, the ability to hack satellites, missiles, miniguns, lasers, sonic weapons, massively increased strength, tank cannons, and rollerblades, his own provided less armor and weaponry in exchange for excellent deceptive and stealth capabilities. That was useless in this case. What wasn’t so useless was that it functioned as both life support and a way to regenerate. His suit kept his respiratory system functional as its somewhat limited supply of nanites flooded his body. You can never have enough nanites. They would be used up as the process went on, but those little machines set to work reversing the damage being done to him while also attempting to clear the venom itself.
Spider’s bite was potent. It would take hours to get that spleen to reticulate, but the most important thing was that Gecko wasn’t finished. The presents weren’t, well, present, but that doesn’t matter as much when you can track the spider-like man who has them. Gecko had to catch up to him again, just as soon as his bones were no longer made of jelly. Which made Gecko wonder if they make brown jello. Ah, but gelatin must wait. The candy cane demands retribution!
…Darn webbing’s tough, too. A miniature chainsaw blade extended from the underside of his forearm. The same system that applied an energy field to his gloves to provide an extra oomph in battle also made the gadget he named the Nasty Surprise even nastier when it cut into the web. It was made for just this purpose, the unexpected need to cut through something. Usually just to give her a nasty surprise, though. It was tough going, but aided by his healing. The same toxin that had melted various organs inside him also ate through nearby webbing as it was ejected from his body by the nanites.
December 24th. Christmas Eve. The city had been darkened by night and by a string of present thefts. Psycho Gecko stopped by the apartment to stock up on a few toys for the upcoming confrontation, then headed for Spider’s bolt hole. Said hole turned out to be an old theatre in a neighborhood that had long since gone to drugs. He considered getting around to the back street to make entry, but Spider would be expecting a rear attack and set up more difficult defenses or alarms there. No one was going in there unless they knew it was being used by a supervillain. And if it was being used by a supervillain, there’d be traps at the front door. So they would try the rear door, which is where the traps will actually be set because villains can follow this logic. So Gecko strolled on in the front door.
Psycho Gecko avoided the tripwires at the doors, stretched at odd angles to avoid the ones in the lobby, and would win a limbo championship for his moves getting to the seats. Spider laid on a mass of webs all coming together, no doubt waiting. The stage itself featured an arcane design drawn in purple with antlers and wooden fetishes along certain peaks and valleys of the outer edges of the curves. A spear and cup of dark red liquid rested in what roughly counted as the middle of the glyphs.
Gecko leapt to a balcony. It was there, where Spider could most easily come at him from above, that he plucked a string of webbing. Shave and a haircut. Two bits.
Spider took notice, then sprung upward into a mass of webbing along the ceiling. Gecko dropped his stealth and looked around as if expecting an attack from any side but up. This time his readout showed Spider descending much more slowly via a line of webbing. Gecko let him get close, then casually pressed a button on a capsule about the thickness of his thumb and tossed it up. It burst into a small fireball that lasted less than a second but it did so right next to the line of web near Spider’s knees and caught it on fire. Spider dropped from the line onto the edge of the balcony’s guard, facing away. He bent at an unnatural angle to face Gecko, even though his legs were pointed toward the stage. Gecko pulled out an egg, crushed it, and threw the contents into Spider’s face. Did Spider ever have egg on his face in this confrontation. At least, if most people fill a couple of their eggs with crushed glass, ground chili pepper, and a little fiberglass insulation.
Spider’s hands went to his face in a futile effort, but then another pair of forearms split from his elbows to reach for Gecko. His mouth opened wider, fangs glistening with venom. This time, Gecko shoved a Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Pepper in there. Spider caught hold of him with one hand, until Gecko gave his enemy a Nasty Surprise that cost the magical predator a couple fingers. Psycho Gecko then noted that Spider’s knees each sported a new lower leg as he tried to keep his balance. It didn’t make it any harder for Gex to shove him off the balcony. He heard a splat and then the shuffling of flailing, so he called down, “Walk it off!”
Being one to kick a man when he’s down, Gecko made sure to land on Spider when he jumped to the main floor. He made his way to the stage, yelling back to Spider, “Hey, what’d you do with the presents?”
He hopped on the old wood stage and a man in a sweater stepped out from backstage. That’s all Gecko noticed because everything was bright and fuzzy, like being in a cloud with heavy lighting. The man seemed taller. And familiar. He himself felt small. Too small. He was too preoccupied with the encounter to notice the years slip out of his mind. “Who are you?”
“Son, you’ve been a bad boy, and now you don’t even recognize me?” He shook his head. He still couldn’t place that face. “I’m your dad, silly. How can you not remember me?”
“I live at the base now. They came into the house they shot you, and now all the instructors call you a piece of trash. They call me that too. Even the General.”
This is probably a test, he told himself. Probably more compromised perception training. I bet I’m supposed to kill him, he thought.
The man cocked his head to the side, “Why don’t you just leave and go play? Or work on your homework. I forgot, you should be hard at work on your math.”
Homework…didn’t we have a lesson on knives recently? As if sensing the hostility in his thoughts, the man’s tone changed. The yellow-white light became red and his seemed to be blurred with medals and a military cap. “Come now, Lamb. It’s lights out.” It was that name that sent a cold chill through Gecko. It was enough to drop the glamour away and reveal the man’s face, or lack thereof. The mouth was wider than normal, and lipless, like a cut in the pale flesh that surrounded it. There was no nose, or eyes, or nose. Instead there were mouths. The flesh would pulse and a new mouth would open with needlelike fangs hanging out of it, then disappear again as others appeared elsewhere. “No peeking, lost little Lamb.” The man’s hands glowed purple for a moment before all the light came crashing down on Gecko, hurling him to the frayed carpeting of the aisle.
Gecko tried to stand, but he was tangled up in his armor. Nothing fit right. It was…agh! Gecko yanked his helmet off. Despite the pain, he realized more was wrong and pulled off a glove. He’d shrunk. The way his head felt, he wouldn’t be surprised if someone just used a magic clothes dryer on him, but he had a suspicion. He tried his best to ignore the pressure in his head, noting similar aches and bumps in other areas of his body, and slipped out of the armor. He felt like a kid again. No, literally, he had to be back to elementary school age. Luckily his boxers could still protect his modesty. Normally he didn’t care, but it paid to make it harder for men with claws and energy beams to see where your junk is.
That’s important. He was a supervillainous interdimensional refugee stuck in his kid body that was too small to use his power armor and standing in front of someone with some odd magical wammy with a magical poisonous spider-like man somewhere behind him. Priorities. Unsure if this magic man was capable of beating up a kid but willing to bank on him trying, Gecko grabbed his utility belt and separate it from his armor. As he turned to do this, he saw Spider crawling for him, stiff hairs grown up on his cheeks. Glamour failure. Maybe he’s mad. Should have used Maybelline.
He tossed another flame capsule at Spider’s face, tied the belt to his waist, then pulled out a pair of knuckle dusters with a small white pad fixed to the knuckles. He clambered on stage and charged at the man with the mouths. He bounced off a barrier just in front of the man, who had made no reactive move. He knew it wouldn’t connect, but he threw a punch anyway. When the barrier in front of where a face should be made contact with the white pad on the knuckles, it set it off. It, in this case, being a small flashbang. Gecko’s ears were ringing from it, but as he turned back to the man, he saw he was stumbling back.
He rushed at the mouthy man and grabbed. The man’s many mouths opened wide as he groaned in pain. Psycho Gecko had got one of his chestnuts while he was too stunned to open fire. Gecko twisted it and the man sung soprano. He then slide under the man, grabbed the man’s shin, and pulled hard. Sir Speaks-a-lot went down to the floor on his face.
That was when he felt something splat against his chest. Webbing. Spider yanked him back off stage, hairy round thorax sprouting from an otherwise human body to facilitate ensnaring him. Spider’s mouth opened wide. Gecko slipped a canister of silly string out of his belt and into Spider’s maw, ejecting the silly substance into the serious struggle. Spider hacked, then spit it back into Gecko’s face. Gecko beat him in the eye with the canister. From the stage, the pale mouthful called out in the midst of their life and death struggle. “Tie him up. In that form, keeping him in danger might prove more useful for the ritual.”
“Stupid,” spat Spider with a hiss. He didn’t argue. He attempted to cocoon Gecko, but Gecko let him have it. The laughing gas pie did nothing, as expected. The razor yo-yo did give Spider a nice gash on his neck, at least enough for Gecko to deliver a shin to the balls, but arachnids are much more resistant to testicular trauma. Do they have eight of those too?
Worse, he’d grabbed Gecko’s leg just after contact. Gecko jumped and twisted so that he face away from Spider, then rolled forward, escaping from the annoyed grasps of his foe. He tried to regain his footing, but the floor seemingly liquefied. He slipped in to his ankles and it solidified again. He pulled a small pair of knives from the belt and bent backwards, slicing at Spider’s reaching hands, but it was inevitable. Four strong adult hands grasped his own and held them to his sides as fresh silk wrapped around them and his torso. With his feet also trapped in carpet and wood, Spider didn’t bother covering him completely.
They just left him like that for an hour, no expositing or anything. When he next saw the mouthful man, he was getting prepared for whatever this ritual was. Interestingly, he noted that when the man turned away, there appeared to be features.
Spider pulled a curtain back to reveal a large stack of stolen presents backstage. Gecko could make out faintly glowing runes. Finally, he fell back to a cliché. “Won’t you at least tell me what your evil plan is before you kill me? Whoa, felt weird to be on that side of this conversation. While we’re at it, can I just say ‘Halt, evil-doer, in the name of justi-‘ hahahahahaha…Ok, I don’t know how they can do that with a straight face, you get me? So seriously, now that you’ve stopped me stopping you, what was I stopping?”
“I didn’t know how much you knew. Your trappings suggest magical affairs are beyond you, but you came after us for a reason. From how you talk you don’t usually try to stop an evil plan. Bad guy to bad guy, you tell me why you came after us and I will tell you what we are doing.”
“Some of those belong to a little girl in my building. Despite her gifts being stolen, she gave me a candycane and wished me a Merry Christmas.”
“She wished you a Merry Christmas?”
“She wished me a Merry Christmas.”
“And a happy New Year?”
“Not yet, but there may be figgy pudding in future negotiations.”
“Don’t count on it.”
“So, whatcha up to?”
“This year, I’m giving little boys and girls around this city the best gift of all. A future.”
“Technically, the laws of physics already guaranteed them one.”
“One in service to someone worthy. Me. It would be impossible to get even an entire city’s worth of presents, true, but there are many kids’ wishes here on stage. My spells would make them more malleable to me. It is all tied in to the joy they get from these gifts. They would never know how I could have so much pull over them if we met in person, but it would be so.”
“How are you going to get them all back? You don’t know where they’re from, and you’re short on time.”
“Yes. The next part solves that problem and more. I want lives I can mold as I see fit and then put into prominent positions. Children who will follow my will without realizing it isn’t their own. Perhaps I’ll have a president.”
“Overrated in this political climate. You’d be better off having a billionaire.”
“I just might. I’m going to summon the very spirit of this season here to me. He will be trapped here by these spells. This will affect time for the immediate vicinity and we will take from him his trappings. We will take his place for this evening, a position that will give us ample time and knowledge to return these presents. The magic in this form of delivery is ancient and will ensure a much more potent meaning to these gifts. Sure, they may the fruits of you people’s commercialism, some toy that will become meaningless to them as they outgrow them, but the impact of such a gift seemingly coming from this spirit on this night will be so much more…magical. And potent.”
Gecko had a sneaking suspicion he’d been transported to a holiday movie. “Your master plan, if I have this right, is to kidnap the Sandy Claws, tie him in a bag, wear his hat, and deliver your tainted presents to the kids so that your low-level mental persuasion spells become full-blown subservient dummy magical wammy where you get to make a lot of kids grow up into whatever you want them to be, like presidents, CEOs, judges, and celebrities that people want to emulate?”
The mouthful man took a moment to process this inanity, then replied, “You should be more succinct.”
“Suc what? You know, if it wasn’t for it being Christmas, it’s not bad.”
“Thank you. Why does Christmas matter?”
“Well, you know several of us on this side of the law don’t particular care for religious observances. And some of us do, you get all types. It’s just that, some of us have loved ones, and even the ones who don’t kinda like the season being a really good one where people, for once, are rather forgiving of a person’s eccentricities and act like they care. Even if it’s only acting. It’s like the real world, for a little bit and only in certain places around the world, stops being the real world and at least aspires to be the place it could be. And for the grumpy supercriminals, it’s also a good time to lay low because the heroes just want to celebrate the holidays too, and they don’t feel like pulling punches so much if they had to leave their place in line at the register to stop you robbing a bank then realize the last one of those perfect gifts that someone’s been whining about was just bought by someone else since they had to leave.”
“Those are very interesting points. I don’t care.”
So ended their discussion as Psycho Gecko checked the time, which solved another mystery. His internal computer. The same useful device that fulfilled a number of memory and information services. Unlike the rest of him, it didn’t shrink or revert. That was the pressure in his head he’d felt ever since he was de-aged. He didn’t want to think about his replacement eyes, especially because he needed to think about disrupting the magical ritual.
30 minutes to go time. He had in stock: a chicken grenade, the laser potato peeler (he needed a new one after stabbing Spider with the old one because nobody should be out stabbing someone without a potato peeler) a blinding mine with the same concoction he’d used against Spider earlier, and two hologram discs. He worked his fingers into their compartment and held them, waiting for the connection. Finally…there! It was slower than using his suit’s connection, but he programmed a new set of images. The first disk he dropped just in front of him. He placed the second below himself. There was only so much he could do to ease them down but they were light and didn’t make much racket on landing. He covered it up by singing Scandal’s 1984 hit “Warrior”. “Shooting at the walls of heartache, bang bang, I am the warrior!” Spider spared an annoyed glance his way, seeing Gecko still tied up.
Behind the illusion of himself tied up and the other illusion that concealed his real self, Gecko cut away the spider silk with his potato peeler’s laser. It ate up the time like some sort of common side order food, but he knew the words to “Hey Mickey,” and “Never Gonna Give You Up” and he wasn’t afraid to repeat them. His singing paid off when Mouthy McMoutherton got annoyed and ordered Spider to “On the other and, he’s not that useful to us. Please eat him while I perform this.”
So it was that the hapless Spider lunged for Gecko and passed through and found himself facing a (mostly) free boy supervillain. Then the mine went off, spraying a cloud of ground glass, insulation, and chili pepper around them both. Then Gex tore the head off his chicken grenade and set it down. It walked towards the back street located behind the stage. A section of the stage blew and flung away carved antler while Speakeasy was in the midst of chanting. The magical energies working their way around the symbols and magical foci lost control. Faceless fought for control but cursed and gave up. An unnatural wind pushed away the blinding cloud. Spider was still incapacitated as he sought his dodging, frustrating prey. Unnaturally quick, Chompers the Faceless was there looking down on Gecko. Gex avoided looking at his face and poked him where his eye should be. With a potato peeling laser.
The Many Mouthed Man held one hand to where his eye should have been and growled, using the other to guide Spider’s to Gecko’s waist. In the corner of his eye’s display, Psycho Gecko noticed the clock hit midnight. Sorry kid, he thought, but I’ll make sure they’re there before you wake up. But then he noticed the seconds on the readout slowed. And stopped. The same was true of his foes.
Psycho Gecko blinked. They were completely still. Such a clatter arose from the stage that Gecko bent to look past them, ignoring the “temporal error” message on his HUD. There on the stage was the man, the myth, the legend. Jelly belly himself, accompanied by sleigh and deer.
“Uh…hiya there…,” Gecko said upon seeing Santa Claus in person.
“Hello there little boy.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be captured? That was their plan.”
“It didn’t work thanks to you. That one was binding me here before you interrupted,” said the jolly old elf as he gestured to the designs on the stage.
“Oh. I didn’t notice you there,” Gecko spoke and realized he had no idea how you were supposed to talk to Santa. Then again, his own Christmas experience was a little on the nonexistent side.
“I’m around in one form or another this season, with many names. Most of the time, no one sees me at all. All I can do is watch, except for some days when I have power to act.”
“Happy Saturnalia then, Lord of Misrule,” Gecko waved to Kris Kringle.
“And a Happy Saturnalia to you, Psychopomp Gecko,” waved Saint Nick back, before he stepped away from his sleigh and dropped to the floor of the theater. As he did so, Gecko noticed two things: the pressure in his head was gone, and the floor no longer clung to his feet. He stepped out of the holes that were left from his imprisonment, then noticed the terrible and richly deserved fury on the face of Father Christmas as he looked at the two who tried to imprison him. “Bogeymen. Always trying to harm the children.”
“Boogeyman? But where are the leisure suits and platform shoes?”
“Not those creatures. Bogeymen are those monsters only children admit to being afraid of. They are so open about this fear and so openly dismissed that these monsters hunt them. They normally do not dare this on my day.” Sinterklaas clasped one hand together and the pair disappeared.
“What’d you do to them?” Gex asked.
“I did what I do, little Psychopomp. I gave them what their actions this year earned. Oh, and are you feeling better?”
Gecko nodded, “I am until you give me all I’ve earned.”
“I won’t say you’ve done anything in the past few days that makes up for everything you’ve done in all your years. You’ve stolen, lied, pranked, conspired, attacked, and killed. That was you trying to walk a better path than you were originally set upon. What they made you. I won’t give you what you’ve earned, but I can offer you something you deserve and perhaps there is justice in this mercy.”
Gecko’s gaze had drifted away as Saint Nicholas talked, outside of his comfort zone talking seriously about his life with the Spirit of Giving. “What would that be?” he wondered aloud.
“A real second chance. Your current bodily age without your current mind or memory.”
“Hey, in a question that in no way changes the subject at all, I was just wondering. You seem to be Santa Claus. You going to bat for Christianity?”
Santa’s belly shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly. “No, there is nothing in that religion about me. I’m something different. Something they missed, because they were too busy looking at the world they wanted to make and not the one that was. I’ve existed for a long time, far longer than those religions that incorporate me. It’s because humans cling to each other all year, but especially in the cold and the dark. Tens of thousands of years but they mostly forget this. During the bright sunny times, they can so often be at their worst. It is in the cold and dark, when all seems worst, that humans show off how good they can be.”
Psycho Gecko burst into laughter at the thought, considering all he’d done over the past few days. “That’s really not saying too much for me, Saturn,” he said while catching his breath.
That jolly old elf watched him with a warm smile spread across his face, “It could be.”
Gecko mulled it over briefly and gave his answer. There was no reason to explain, just a reminder, “Make sure you get all those presents back without the magical mind wammy that guy put on them.”
The next morning, a kid runs past underneath the window of Psycho Gecko’s apartment, brown curls bouncing in the Christmas Morning light and happy laughter breaking the silence. Psycho Gecko lifts his window open and tosses an empty vodka bottle against the wall of the building opposite his. Someone cursed from the alleyway as shards of broken glass fell. Gecko leaned out and called down with a slur, “Hey, whatzat now?”
“Cut that out, it’s Christmas for Pete’s sake!”
“Huwha? Christmas? Christmas morning?”
“What other morning would it be on December 25th?”
“Hey man, you want to make a little money?”
“I won’t have to take my pants off, will I?”
“No, no, I just want something to eat,” Gecko said as he pulled out some cash. “Run on up to the store and get me one of those turkeys they already cooked real cheap. And some macaroni and cheese. And maybe a little dressing. Use as much of the fifty as you can, bring it back, and you’ll get the rest of the hundred. Oh, and I have think I got another full bottle of vodka in here too.” He tossed down $50 and half a hundred.
“Well Merry Christmas to you! I’ll be right back.”
Gecko used that time to step over to apartment 45 in his armor. He cracked the damaged door enough to hear the shrill sounds of a little girl’s happiness. He watched from invisibility as she excitedly woke her parents to come see all the stolen presents had been returned. The little girl was even more astounded when three new ones appeared out of nowhere, though she didn’t notice the door open and then close again as an unseen presence exited. All three were done in a dark grey and bright orange pattern, but one was bigger than her own torso and labeled simply “The Girl.” The other two were significantly smaller since they only held documents about a trust that gave the family the best gift a homicidal maniac could give. A future.