After the 5th time that I asked Torrent if they were done yet, I could tell he was ready to have me thrown out of the casino. “C’mon, man, if they aren’t going to let me in there, they at least can have the courtesy to talk less. I don’t see what all the negotiating has to be about. Heroes are here, they must be driven out. If not, they get to settle their differences in the prison showers for the rest of their lives.”
Torrent just shook his head.
I don’t feel bad about betraying him or the others. I know perfectly well what they’re doing behind closed doors. Ouroboros called a meeting of the gangs. Together, they’ve got the forces to drive the heroes out, but it will require cooperation. Problem is, they didn’t want to include me.
I’m something of an independent category as a hired killer from outside the city, but for some reason I wasn’t allowed a seat at the table. That’s because they’re going to debate throwing me at the enemy for a deal. With this crowd, if any of them are considering it, one of them is going to try it.
It’s inevitable. They think they’re so clever, but hiding and lying can be so predictable. At least the heroes are honest about things. They want us all beat, and any deal where I get traded is going to end with the villains betrayed and rounded up, I’m sure.
I stepped away to make my own deal. Even though the casino wasn’t doing any business right now, I cut the external comms so none of the gangsters or security guys would hear.
“Hello?” came a tired female voice.
“I always bring out the best in you, don’t I?
She hung up.
How rude. I called her back. “Boopserina! Wait a second, don’t hang up on me. I have something very important to talk to you about.”
“I don’t see what that could possibly be.”
“Paradise City cleared of gangs.”
“That doesn’t sound like your kind of offer,” she paused, “Why?”
“Not asking after the price first?”
“I think the ‘why’ is more important where you’re concerned.”
“Aww, that’s sweet. Trying to get in my head,” I wasn’t going to say a thing about them almost certainly planning to betray me later, “I don’t really like them. All this drama. Villainy in suits. They have built this society of lies hoping to be the victors. The path to victory is easy to see and manipulate but the difficulty is in competing with others in the same shadowy battles. It’s like this story, about a girl and a boy and a medallion. Nevermind, you weren’t there for that. It would probably weird you out too. All these little societies seem to exist to keep those who are being wronged from taking the vengeance they are allowed.”
“They are a joke,” I continued, a part of me realizing I was venting, “and the punch line is when I rip them apart, those fragile little lies. I could tell you that I do it primarily to give everyone a better chance or to free the trod-upon masses, but it’s nothing so virtuous. I hate them. I destroy them. Piece by piece, if need be, with every superhuman killed and every time I get away. Every time I murder someone with a joke, I throw everything just a little more out of whack and give people a glimpse of a world that is, if not better, at least more fun.”
That was awkward. I went a little far there. I don’t get a chance to actually talk to people much, save for y’all, and I can’t exactly turn this into one big rant and expect you to stick around, can I? “You didn’t put this on speakerphone, did you?” I said to prompt a response from Venus.
“No. I don’t suppose you’ve ever had professional help, have you Gecko?”
I rolled my eyes. “Listen, I can help throw mess with these bozos, you guys swoop in, and all I ask is a chance to raid Ouroboros’s vault. If not a vault, then wherever he keeps all his stuff.”
“We’ll…consider it. No one’s going to want to take your word for anything, especially a deal like this.”
“As a show of good faith, I’ll point out that the Yakuza and Cartel leaders are in Ouroboros’s territory, along with some of their supers for bodyguards. Now would be the perfect time to start hitting condos and penthouses.”
“If it checks out, we’ll consider it. Keep in touch, Gecko.”
“Keep in touch? What’s that supposed to mean?” I waited a few seconds. “Hello? Did you hang up? Testing, one, two?”
Venus wants me calling her. Something’s going on. An alien invasion or dimensional doppelgangers. Clones, maybe? Pod people from outer space? What were you trying to tell me, Boopsie? What is going OOOONNNN?!
I was considering joining some of the Ouroboros Security guys for a few hands of poker, but the doors to the poker room opened up. The gangs hadn’t liked the suggestion of meeting in any formal meeting room prepared ahead of time by Ouroboros. Something about this time with a bear trap on a rope and a pet alligator.
I’d tell you the names of the leaders who stepped out, but I’d butcher them at best and at worst I’d arrive at something stereotypically wrong like “Jose Matsumoto” and as far as I know, neither guy is Peruvian. I gave a little wave as Shokushu and Suishou stepped out of the room. The names are apparently Japanese for Tentacle and Crystal, respectively. Because what I really needed was Japanese people finding this blog while looking for things involving tentacles. It was bad enough that “Domination” is in the name and I tie people up.
So the two Yakuza guys ignored me, as did a few other of their suits. One older man quietly said something to one of his guys who stepped over to me and told me that my presence was requested the next day.
Same sort of thing happened when the Cartel passed by, except I had no beaten supers to wave to. That’s just sad. I really ought to change that.
I approached Ouroboros after they had left, “Alright, how much did you get for my head on a platter?”
“You think I’d throw you under the bus?”
“I don’t know how Shieldwall found out I was here, but it’s screwing up everything for y’all. I wasn’t even let into this planning meeting. They don’t want to just throw me under the bus. They want to throw me under an exploding bus full of sharks. Giant sharks with huge balls and they’re going to teabag my corpse. I think Torrent already tried to, actually.”
It was hard to get a read on him with his eyes hidden behind that mask but I imagined an eyebrow was raised as he asked, “Why do you think that?”
“Somebody sent Yakuza after me while I was prepping for all that stuff at the bank. I even complained to Torrent about it. I show up at his house when I found out everything’s going down and I find a bunch of Yakuza in there, including two of the guys at this meeting. Torrent’s a threat, and the MPAA will back me up on that.”
“I’m in no hurry to have you handed to the heroes. You’ve done good work for me. I don’t think I congratulated you on a job well done against Black Raptor, by the way. I’m not in the mood for someone going over my head to superheroes when they don’t like what’s going on in my city, so don’t worry. But, incidentally, the plan we initially came up with was to offer you to them and then attack them at the exchange in one massive showdown.”
My first thoughts were that he was out to get me. He wants to hand me over. I know it. I know it! See why I hate all these conspiracies? See?! They’re out to get me. They’re all out to get me!
“Don’t you have any sorts of super weapons…anything at all you could commit a few war crimes with? I think something like that would be much better. Less risk of me finding a knife in my back,” I steered O away from the idea of giving me up.
“Anything like that, I keep here, in the basement vault.”
“I suppose you could part with one and still be feared. What do you have?”
“There’s the Nausea Transmitter, the Guardian of Gold, the Hunter-Spiders, this plasma cannon the size of a spot light from when those space marines attacked Empyreal City. I would even take the vault itself into battle against them if I could,” he grinned at that. That’s the grin of a proud owner of an AK-BFG right there.
“Always fun to smash someone over the head with an entire room.”
“I didn’t mean it that way. Let’s just say that if they ever break through to the floor here, they’ll be in for a surprise.”
“Yes, like a Rabbi finding out the prostitute he hired is a man who hasn’t been circumcised. It gives me an idea about your rivals, the other gangs. Bring them back here for a nice little celebration after the fight. That way, you can get them all drunk and then whip out some of those things real quick to cut off the heads,” I said. It’s off the cuff, like a lot of my work, but chances are good that this vault is the place he’s storing the Wish Stick. Some people want immortality by becoming legends. Screw that. I want to live forever. All I hear are people complaining about how it would suck, but no one who has said that was an immortal themselves. They’re rare group of people. Some have suggested there can be only one.
“They’ll never go for it.”
“I don’t suppose this could be where you hand me over, then? It was considered safe enough for the other gangs to show up.”
“I’ll take that under advisement. You’d be wise to prepare for everything. We’re all calling in markers and getting prepared. Each of the interests here has enough manpower that we could fight off the heroes together. Everyone’s main concern is to beat the others afterward. All of this hinges on having you as bait, though, so if it’s not too much trouble, try to force their hands. You have a reputation for being uncooperative with schedules, so it won’t be out of character for you. After all, they’re going to go behind my back and meet with you. We might as well use that to our advantage.”
Needless to say, Moai and I didn’t sleep at the casino’s hotel portion. I’d say something about it having a hotel, but at this point I don’t care as much about making fun of a secret casino that has an attached hotel. No, I’m more impressed by the balls it took to build the hotel too. That’s style. This guy really could get away with murder here. Well, yeah, he definitely could. He brought me in.
But seriously, he’s out to get me and I will feast on his traitorous entrails.
Over the next couple of days, I had all these damn meetings to juggle. First was the Yakuzas who actually had some nice things to say about me. We hung out in the VIP section of a bar they owned. Nice guys. Might do a little tech thievery work for them in the future if I don’t have to gut them like pigs. Forgive me for skipping over all that was said and done, but the business part was pretty much about helping them angle for supremacy. Yes, it would be a shame if something happened to Ouroboros during this crisis. I also may have namedropped some exceedingly powerful doohickeys in Ouroboros’s possession.
“We do not know of these, but if it is as you say, then it will be vital to secure this in order to maintain control of the city,” the lieutenant told me. Once again, his name slips my mind, but this guy was coordinating Yakuza activities with other groups in the city, so they had him entertaining me.
“The thrust of it is that you and I working together, we can get in there and we can get in there deep. There are enough toys in there to keep the city on its knees. Working together, we can get our hands on Ouroboros’s junk!”
“Our plan should reflect this change in priorities.”
“Yes, I think the handoff should occur in the casino itself. That’s the most likely place for the vault. Have people in reserve to move on it, that way we don’t have to split up and come at it from two different sides. The anticipation is great, but let’s not go off prematurely. I have some more groundwork I need to lay on my end.”
I had a hell of a time talking it up with them, and with the Cartel at dinner earlier tonight.
“The short and long of it is the stick is the only thing I care about. It may be hard, but I think we can penetrate his vault during all the fighting. If we can lead the whole group there, I think we can even bust in through the front. It’s the most difficult to get to open up for you, but there’s nothing like seeing it spread out, all inviting, right through the entrance. Now, let’s not go off half-cocked. I know y’all want to lay them out for the count, but I still need to ensure I have all the toys I need to bring this to a satisfying conclusion.”
Great. Now I just need to get the heroes on board.
Whole plot gave me a headache too. I asked the waitress to bring by a bottle of Vodka. She started to ask about being carded, but the pony-tailed man with the pock-marked face next to me glared at her and she brought it by without any trouble. Nothing relieves your headache and keeps a bunch of jovial drug dealers on your side quite like smashing a bottle into your own face and falling unconscious at the dinner table.
Sure, I woke up a few minutes later while they were tossing me in a dumpster behind the place wrapped in the tablecloth, but I felt more like myself than I had since the heroes showed up.