I take it back. This town doesn’t know how to treat a bad guy. Know how I know? Because there was a very large guy of Asian ancestry waiting for me and Moai at our room. We walked in, Moai leading the way, when this guy came out of nowhere and hit Moai. His fist, forearm, and bicep all bulged impossibly large on impact and the went back to their normal size as Moai crashed through the wall. After Moai made a swift egress through the drywall, I pulled out the chair of the small folding table I’d brought into our motel room and seated myself. Of course I invited my guest to do so as well. There’s no reason we couldn’t be civilized for two people probably about to get into a fight.
After all, I had breakfast. Do you know how rarely that happens? Not only did I wake up in time to go get breakfast, but there’s another super up at the same time? This is a rare event. I was expecting a rainbow to burst out of my room there at any second. It would fly across the city and some guy who has been down on his luck would follow it to see this miracle occur.
Then he’d probably die a horrible death.
And my guest is superhuman, obviously. Moai is too tough of a sparring partner as I well know, but this is you, the reader, that has to be informed. Not me. At least I don’t think. Maybe?
The guy’s big. Weightlifter big. He’s not in a costume, but he’s cultivated a mean glare that lets you know he’s not here to save the day. Also, he’s got a mullet. Something about superhumans draws out the individuality of people. Costumes are a well-known side effect, but sometimes you get choices that other people don’t agree with. Like the mullet hairstyle. Now, before you go assuming it’s a racial thing that I don’t think he could just be a local redneck, you have to remember that he’s not wearing camo. Instead, he had a tight black shirt on that was tucked into black pants.
Another clear sign he’s not a baseline human. It’s summer outside, we’re in Florida, and this guy’s wearing all black?
So I munched on my biscuit and offered him one of the others I had with me. For those of you reading from the UK or from a world ruled by it, this is not your type of biscuit. This is like bread. It has cheap sausage and a thin, folded up grilled egg on it with something orange that can only legally be referred to as a “cheese product” on top. To add insult to injury, it still tastes better than your breakfast food.
You guys will probably like that he swatted my hand away. The offered biscuit splattered against the hole in the wall, flakes of drywall rendering it unsalvageable. Why, damn you? Why does my food keep getting destroyed by thoughtless meany poopyheads?!
I chewed and swallowed the piece of biscuit I had in my mouth and began to ask him, “To what do I owe this-?”
He was on me quickly for his size. I’m still not sure what happened to the table exactly. One moment was there, the next it was gone. I was more concerned with the man in black pinning me to the wall. I sensed some hostility there. When he spoke, I had trouble placing his accent, but his words were still clear, “Who do you think you are attacking my men?”
“Psycho Gecko,” I told him, “But sometimes I go by The Pitcher and dispense merciless bloody justice with my ability to throw things at people and sometimes hit them while pouring refreshing beverages for people. I have a meeting with Ouroboros later who will help me hunt down my dastardly nemesis, the Belly Itcher.”
Past him, I saw Moai at the hole in the wall, prepared to lend assistance should it become necessary. I saw his eyes twitch a little when I said my name, but he finally set me down when I mentioned the meeting with Ouroboros. I held out my hand, “And you are?”
He looked me in the eye, then took my hand in a firm shake. “You will call me Torrent. I work for Ouroboros. He sent me to bring you to him.” He tried to squeeze my hand in his grip but he was frustrated by what I’d held out with my hand. He squeezed my sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit in that meaty hand of his, getting all slick and greasy and once again ruining my food. He looked down at our hands and let go, finding himself holding the smooshed food as I stepped past him to hunt down some napkins or a papertowel or something.
“Well, Torrent, I was going to suggest we go have that meeting with your boss right after I finish breakfast, but I’m done early. Let’s go ahead now and meet him.” I gave Moai a thumbs up and a smile, then headed to the bathroom to wipe my hands off on a towel.
It wasn’t how I meant to let Ouroboros know I was in town, but I was more glad that talking it out kept this from escalating into more violence. That’s good. I didn’t feel like having two biscuits and my oh-so-expendable face ruined that day.
That doesn’t mean I disapproved when we left through the hole in the wall and Torrent stumbled over Moai, who was waiting for us to pass before following.
He tried to blindfold us as we were getting into his hummer for the drive, but he ran into a problem with Moai. Moai has a little bit larger head than most other magically-animated statues. I don’t try to point it out. It might hurt his feelings. Torrent didn’t have a blindfold big enough for Moai and was getting frustrated. “If he can’t be blindfolded, then we leave him behind,” he said.
“Don’t worry, we can just tie my shirt around that fat noggin of his. It’s like blindfolding a watermelon,” I said. Moai wrote that my ass was fat back when the cops stopped us at Yabloo City.
Shirtless and blindfolded, I sat in the back on the passenger side against Moai as we were driven to meet Ouroboros. Not the first paranoid client I’ve met. Unfortunately, my eyes don’t have an X-ray feature. They can’t swap to thermal imaging either, seeing as they’re positioned in my head, but that would have been useless anyway. Moai, however, is one sneaky devil with balls of stone. I haven’t had them carved on yet, but he’s got them. He can probably draw me a map if I need it.
“So, I thought you didn’t really have heroes to speak of around? That guy I fought didn’t look like one of us.”
“He’s a young hero. High school kid just starting out. That’s why he was dumb enough to be out during the day. He doesn’t matter.”
“So he’s not who I was asked to attend to?”
“So, who was I called in for?”
“I’m not to say. The boss will tell you.”
“Are we there yet?”
“No, we’re not there yet.”
“I have to pee.”
“You should have used the bathroom before we left.”
“Can we stop and get icecream?”
“Don’t make me have to throw this truck at you.”
After that little exchange, I sat back and tried to enjoy the ride without fidgeting too much. That changed when we stopped and I heard someone on a megaphone preaching about hell and turning your life around. I think they were over right beside me, so I mashed my chest against the window and began to play with my nipples.
“They can’t see you. I have the windows tinted”
“Crap. Should I stop then?”
“Yes, you’re getting my window dirty and I don’t want to see that anyway.”
“Like these windows weren’t dirty and perverted before now,” I said, and sat back down.
Finally, after far too long, we stopped and Torrent got out. I got out as well, which prompted Moai to get out too. From the sound of things, he caught Torrent in the face with the door as he did so. I snickered as Torrent said something in another language under his breath.
“You’re going to look suspicious leading around a man and a walking Moai with blindfolds on, you know. Just how far away are we from where we’re going?”
“You can take them off. We’re in the right building,” I heard in response.
Moai and I slipped our blindfolds off. My shirt flew over the top of the hummer to land on my head, obscuring my vision of the rest of the garage we were in. I slipped it back on as I admired the gaudy cars around. They were a shiny bunch. There was a red Ferrari with “Schwing” on the license plate. There was one that was gold-colored, with a spoiler and spinner rims. There was even a plain black Cadillac town car. Clearly, every variety of wealthy person was well-represented here.
Well, not every variety…or so I thought. The sound of a helicopter landing on the roof proved me wrong on that count. “Lots of visitors to meet me?”
“No, this is our casino.”
“Ah, good show, blindfolding someone just to take them to a place lots of people are expected to find. I’m sure that had a purpose. While we’re at it, let’s have a Mexican standoff and I’ll drop my pants about halfway down my ass. Moai, think you can get a gold tooth and a fake scar over one eye?”
Torrent looked at me. He was in the right place, because he had one hell of a poker face. He walked to the door and opened it to reveal a well-dressed bouncer in a suit. They shared a few whispered words before he waved me over. Together, Torrent, Moai, and I walked in through the VIP section, which was a little apart from the rest of the casino thanks to ropes. And it was one hell of a casino. Slot machines, tables, bright lights, even a buffet off to the side. “Wow, nice secret location. Wouldn’t want anyone to find this place easily, would we?”
Torrent shot me a look. A look that said “My eyes are this close to pulling out a gun and shooting more than a look.” Cute. He’s upset because he realized he made a dumb mistake.
Up in the private box, we were led to Ouroboros, who was seated, in-costume, on a leather couch. It was a black bodysuit that hid everything under it. You couldn’t see if he was built, you couldn’t see if he needed a girdle. It looked scaled, with a black sheen. On the chest, that sheen went against the texture and formed an infinity sign. It hid his eyes, with no openings or different-colored spot to indicate that they were behind the two depressions in the mask at that point. On his face, a portion of the costume opened up to look like a mouth with fangs arching down, his real nose and mouth exposed in that opening. The corners of the costume mouth were pulled back and wrinkled like a real mouth. A pair of curved ivory daggers that more closely resembled claws hung on loops at his waist where a belt would be.
A small smile came to his face as he saw Torrent, Moai, and I. He nodded to us, “Ah, good job, you brought our guests. Did you blindfold them as I asked?”
Torrent nodded. I just looked at him, “Seriously, dude, I’ve been giving you a hard time about it and you did it because of orders? You couldn’t say something?”
“Torrent is a quiet guy most of the time, in deference to the people he used to work for. So you are Psycho Gecko? Have a seat,” Ouroboros indicated a seat nearby. I sat and Torrent left to go do whatever it is he does.
“Nice to meet you and all, but why blindfold me to bring me to a casino? It’s illegal, but you don’t seem too concerned about people finding it.”
He shrugged. “It’s intrigue, what can I say. I’ve got other interests trying to move in and take what I’ve got with back alley deals and turning people against me. It’s pretty much required I act like this. So after tonight, as far as anyone knows, I’ve never met you and I have nothing to do with why you’re here. You’ll be in my territory acting a certain way without my approval.”
“Like that’ll fool anyone. What’s the point of pretending to hide something that everyone’s going to find out about anyway?”
“That’s intrigue and politics for you. By the way, I’m going to need you to act angry when you leave this room. Make a big show of it, ok?”
“Now let’s talk business. Have you heard of Black Raptor?”
I ran back through my files, including this archive. There he was, back when I was going over some news. “Yeah, he’s a new hero around here. Problem?”
Ouroboros shook his head, “Not a big one. I want something done that will be symbolic more than anything else. That’s why I brought you in. You’re overkill for the situation. I could easily have someone kidnap his family, beat him to a pulp, or leak his name to every superpowered menace out there, but I’ve seen what you’ve done to that Holdout kid and to Venus. You didn’t kill them, but you did a great job of making their lives hell for awhile.”
“Hell, you say? Me, you say? I guess I didn’t notice that part,” I said. I did, actually. That was the point of that mess with Venus, but I was legitimately trying to kill Holdout.
“I want him humiliated and beaten. I want his personal life in shambles, but he will get to live knowing what his heroism cost him. I want to send a message about what happens when heroes try to get serious in my town. Think you can do it?”
“Yeah, sounds good. What about the boring details? Pay, information on him, account numbers, that stuff?”
Ouroboros motioned behind us to where Torrent stood, now with a folder in his hands, “Torrent will go over that with you on your way out.”
“Why can’t we just talk about it here?”
“I told you. Intrigue. Spy stuff. I have to at least pretend, otherwise the whole game I play with the organizations trying to take me on will fall apart.”
“You just said you were sending a message. Is all that transparent secrecy really that fucking important?”
“Oh, sure, totally. Right now, they’re predictable. They’re playing hide and seek like it matters that they’re trying to keep a secret. As long as I play along, they will keep acting like that. But if I blow the masquerade for them, I don’t know how they’ll react. My house might get stormed by a bunch of Colombians while the Triads or Yakuza sneak in a back window with a shotgun.”
I stood up and stretched my arms and legs a little. “Alright, alright, I’ll play along.
And that’s how I got dragged out of Ouroboros’s casino by security while yelling “I’m really angry now! You hear me?! I’m angry and loud! Next time I see you, I’ll kill you so dead, you’ll need a funeral!”