“Uh huh. Yeah, I can’t move on anything in the near future, but I’d say after the holidays I should be able to get down there and see to that,” I said into my headset. I was talking with a potential client via the internet. People keep sending in offers through the website despite my public death. Some of them think they’re joking around by sending the stuff in, and others are sure it can’t really be me, but they send them anyway. They also give me plenty of real offers.
I was assuring this client I’d get to theirs because it was special to me. Near and dear to my heart. There’s only one person around here who gets away scot-free after killing four people, and that’s me!
“No, I don’t have anything worked out yet. I hear that the mass killer has got equine therapy instead of twenty years in jail, so I might do something with a drunk horse. Yes, a mass killer. You’re only a serial killer if you take out three or more in different instances. You kill that many people at the same time and you’re a mass killer. Or if you drop a pew on someone’s head in a church. Anyway, it’s probably better if I don’t give you the specifics in case you let something slip early and they get suspicious about your reactions.”
You know how it is. Most people refuse to really take murder into account as a way to solve their problems, so they need some handholding. Even the ones who deserve their enemies’ deaths. Killing is like fire or a death ray. They can be used for good or evil, though often good people value society’s restrictions about killing someone. Poor sons of bitches.
Finally, I got done talking this guy off the phone. The boys and I were late for another outing with the youngster. We’ve been kinda bored lately, as you probably inferred from last time. So bored that Carl was going to erect a playpen for the youngster he’d sworn was growing like a weed. It’s hard to tell that for sure since none of us know how old the kid is. Still, Carl might have a point there. If you’d have told me when we found the kid that a week and a half later he would be walking, I’d never have believed you.
Carl insisted I do some tests on the baby to see if anything was wrong. Noninvasive tests.
“Come on, Carl. We’re going to have to give the little fellow cybernetics sometime.”
“No! I said no. Just find out if he was littler looking because he didn’t get enough to eat,” he insisted. He was overestimating all the blending he did to feed the kid. See, we’d tried the baby food we picked up for the kid. After we got done cleaning up all the spit, we set it aside for future interrogations and went about making our own baby food.
“He’s already walking. You let me replace just one of his arms and he’ll be a professional baseball player by the time he’s four.”
“We don’t know how old he is. He could be three.”
“Exactly. My work is that damn good.”
“Just a checkup and nothing more,” he spoke firmly and held the baby up for me. I picked up the lad and held him against my chest. He started off toward the van to check that we had all the tools we’d need.
“Fine, but don’t come whining to me when he’s getting picked on by bullies and doesn’t have flamethrower fingers,” I told Carl, then strolled over to the workshop section of my lair with my young patient. Moai waited there for me in nurse’s scrubs and a mask.
I set him down and turned to Moai, “Nurse, entertain the patient. I have to reprogram some nanites.”
Moai approached the task with a clinical thoroughness. I don’t know where he pulled the giant clown nose and hair from, but it did the trick.
While they were occupied with that, I had to isolate a population of nanites in a second container and expose myself to them. This involved sticking my hand into the smaller canister of goop, though it’s possible some of the older nanites were left clutching their pearls and hearts. See, I’m not a very medically-inclined type. No diagnostic tools here in the lair. I have the nanites, but they are locked to only my DNA. This usually makes them fairly dangerous to people.
If someone else gets a hold of them and injects them, they’ll try to remove everything but my approved physiology in order to help rebuild my approved physiology. The approved part is important, since I don’t want them trying to regrow my eyes or dissolve part of my brain for materials. They get even worse if I set them to that grey goo protocol I mentioned, but that’s a last ditch weapon. Had I not kept one last syringe of them for myself that day on the Empyre State Building, I may not be here.
I blanked what little memory they had and changed the program around. Now, they wouldn’t try to heal or remove anything. They’d still move throughout the body and diagnose what they find wrong, but now they’d use that information to build a model of the baby’s anatomy. They had three conditions to meet that would signal their exodus: obtain a consensus model of the subject, run low on energy, or the failure of too many nanites. When one of those occurred, they were to meet on the forehead of the baby, where I could grab them and read what they figured out.
It occurred to me I could probably use something like this very process to make myself look like anyone sufficiently large enough without programming the approved physiology just by looks. I say sufficiently large enough because I’m certainly not going to make myself look like the baby. Babies are weak fighters, unable to protect even a piece of candy, and they shit their pants at the first sign of trouble or tiny dogs. They’re also susceptible to thinking people aren’t around if blocked from view, only to be surprised when a hand is moved out of the way.
I started to gather the diagnostic nanites into their own syringe, but stopped myself and took the whole canister over to where Moai stood blocking my view of the baby. I tapped him on the shoulder, “Alright, time to see what makes this patient tick.”
Moai moved out of the way to reveal the baby sitting there wearing a rainbow-colored afro bigger than his body, with almost half his face covered up by the red clown nose he wore.
It got a snort from me. A chortle even. Then I tossed the nanites on the kid. They disappeared fully in seconds as they entered through safer means than usual.
Moai gave me a look. “It’s ok, it’s just some stuff to diagnose him. He’ll be fine,” I said. Seemed I was reassuring damn near everybody that day. I picked up the kid and carried him over to a platform shaker. “Alright, now let’s get you homogenized.” Just as I went to press the button, Moai jumped over the table and shaker, taking the kid with him.
“Spoilsport!” I called him. I wouldn’t have killed him, you know.
Moai stood up with the kid on his head and unharmed. “Well don’t just stand around there, let’s go see if Carl’s got everything ready yet.”
“How did it go, little buddy?” said Carl as he came out of nowhere to take the kid from Moai and fawn over him.
“We’ll get the results back in awhile. We can go ahead on and do this thing and I’ll get them when they’re ready,” then I addressed the kid himself, “You know, you remind me of the babe.”
Moai just kept shaking his head over and over. Carl didn’t get the warning in time. “What babe?”
“The babe with the power?”
Moai slapped his head against a table with some trash on it, coming away with a cutout of a hand from some magazine.
“The power of voodoo.”
“Remind me of the babe.”
Moai let himself fall on his back at that, the hand gliding off his face as he hit the floor.
“What just happened?” asked Carl.
“Nothing that watching a movie can’t fix later. Now, as long as we’re all ready, let’s head out for a nice wholesome afternoon of burglary.”
“One last thing, here take the kid,” Carl said and handed him over while he walked over to one of the trash piles. He pulled out a big magnetized sign and brought it over to the van. I backed well away from the magnet until he slapped it on the side of the vehicle.
I plopped the baby on Moai’s head as I tried to read it. “I cannot discern this writing. Is it Latin?”
Carl looked at it and realized what he did wrong. He peeled the sign off and put it back on rightside up. It read “Merry Men Moving.”
“Whatcha think, boss?” he asked, looking quite proud.
“Good. It’ll give us an excuse to be in the area. I think we could have gone a bit more obscure about having a thief on there, but people are a dumb and cowardly lot, susceptible to trickery, bribery, and hands in their asses.”
“Not in front of the kid.”
“You’re not fucking stopping me from swearing in front of the damn kid! Now then, let’s get this show on the road. That penthouse isn’t going to burgle itself, is it?”
Actually, it went so smoothly robbing the place that it practically did burgle itself. We were all there in the elevator, with me styling and profiling in a jumpsuit that was supposed to look like I worked for a moving company. My nametag read “Steve”.
“You got the watches?” I asked Carl.
He used the arm holding up the baby to roll up the other sleeve of his mover’s jumpsuit that identified him as “Steve”.
“You want the time in France, Japan, or Switzerland?” he said with a smile. I looked over and, sure enough, the person we robbed had a watch for different time zones in a spare penthouse that he wasn’t even living at.
“Huh. I’ll settle for the time we make some money off this. Investments are good and all, but there’s just something so much more satisfying about taking someone’s stuff with your own hands. Speaking of hands, how you holding up with the TV, Moai?”
I glanced back. It was a big, swanky elevator, built for people to bring up whatever they damn well pleased. In comparison, a Moai holding a 75” flatscreen TV fit in very well. Even the jumpsuit with “Steve” on the nametag didn’t look too far-fetched.
I started to turn back to the front, but noticed the kid gnawing on an expensive silk tie. It didn’t go well with his miniature jumpsuit that had “Steve” on the nametag.
“Carl, that’s a tie we can’t sell now.”
“I thought you said they were just filler?” He rolled his sleeve back down and took the tie out of the kid’s mouth.
“Yes, but they’re still worth enough to justify grabbing them, except that one now. That’s expensive shit, and now it’s an expensive drool towel.”
Our conversation was ended prematurely when the door opened and a woman of middle age stepped in. She glanced at the baby. As she turned around and watched the door. “You brought your child along to move furniture? How are you ever going to get that statue with the TV out with him around?”
“It’s surprisingly easy, ma’am. We let the kid carry the statue, so it all works out.”
“I don’t see how that could work at all. What is the name of this little Hercules?”
Carl and I looked at each other, then at the baby. “Steve,” we said at the same time.
“He doesn’t look like a Steve. He looks more like a Francis.”
And on and on it went, with her lecturing us until the doors opened on the ground floor and we rushed out of there. We got the kid to grab on to Moai before we left, so he hopped along with us, still carrying the TV. At least that left the nosey woman speechless.
We packed what we had into the van and decided to head off for Michelangelo’s, but there was one last issue to address along the way. A crumpled up piece of paper was tossed from Moai in the back. It bounced against the dash and into my lap.
I uncrumpled it and found that it said, “He needs a name.”
Carl looked over from the driver’s seat. “What’s it say?”
“Moai says the kid needs a name.”
“That’s not a bad idea.”
I peeked back at where the kid sat strapped to the seat next to Moai by expensive silk ties. “What do you say, little man?” He smiled and giggled. “I guess we should come up with something better to call you. Everyone want to pitch in?” I queried the others.
A piece of paper hit me in the face. I guess Moai had been thinking on it. “Matatoa,” I read off the paper. “Something with some cultural significance, Moai?”
“That’ll be a cool first name,” commented Carl, “I guess I get the middle name. How ‘bout Bobby, for my dad.”
“Matatoa Bobby. Y’all left me with the last name? No pressure, guys. No pressure.”
“You know one of y’all is expecting me to give him the last name Gecko or Psycho. Or something impressive. You think I have some significant name for a kid? I called a heat ray ‘The Heatflasher’ and you’re expecting Shakespearean poetry here?”
“Just give him a good name, that’s all.”
I looked back at little Matatoa Bobby. “Alright, kid. From now on, as far as we’re concerned, you’re Matatoa Bobby Doomgex. It’s a proud, aristocratic name probably. Or at least it should have been, little Mat Doomgex.”
He giggled a drooly giggle which was soon replaced by traces of silver goop exiting his mouth. Instead of dripping down onto the ties with the rest of the drool, it gathered on his forehead.
“Hey, looks like the results are in. You got a beer bottle or something for the nanites?”
Carl handed over a beer bottle with a frown. “Nanites? I said you couldn’t do anything like that.”
“Invading his body with tiny machines was as non-invasive as I could get,” I informed him as I poured the beer out in the floorboard and gathered up the nanites in the bottle. “I’ll read these later. In the meantime, let’s go complete baby’s first crime.”