You know, I kinda expected a special Christmas visitor to help sort out things with Matatoa here. The jolly old elf has to realize I’m not fit to take care of this kid for much longer. I’ve been keeping abreast of the news too, and there are still no indications that someone’s lost a superpowered kid. Powers this young, you’d think there was some sort of big accident or maybe his parents were supers too, things that would show up on the news as big deals. Nope. Nada. Nothing.
Sure, the kid’s been of some use. I don’t get security called on me in the toy store as much if I have him with me. It gives me a lot more time to ponder the mystery of these “rangers” of “power”. They resemble my old foes from home too much to be a mere coincidence, but have been around over here since before I ever showed up. I must know what their secret is! Once I find it out, I will destroy the Rangers once and for all!
Woops, old habit there, if a fun one.
Alas, there has been no word from the big man, the Lord of the Yule, the Saturn of Saturnalia. Moai and I waited all Christmas Day for him to show up, to no avail. We had escorted Carl to his place for him to celebrate with his own kiddoes, then parked our wrecked van inside the hideout and waited. And got a shower, at least on my part. Luckily, there wasn’t a lot left of my bed, so I had room to stretch and scrub and get all the oil off me.
Took me so long to get the oil off that it messed with my dreams, too. I dreamt I was in Shawshank Prison, surrounded by big burly raspberries while Morgan Freeman’s voice drifted through talking about them wanting to get me alone to make some vinaigrette.
Eh, I’ve had better dreams. I still hope for a sequel to the time I was a vampire wielding a flaming ritual knife to fight the Ghostbusters who had been revived by a ritual performed by a mass of ghosts in an ancient temple that was in the U.S. for some reason.
As Christmas Eve passed into Christmas Day, I hopped on a loader and brought out Moai’s present. The wrapping was crooked, with patches of paper to cover up ripped spots and holes that the first run had missed. The tape alone was probably half again the weight of the paper, not that it would be noticed. The whole thing was rather heavy.
I had to keep Mat from swallowing a bunch of paper, so I didn’t see Moai open the present, but I think he liked it. He’s been wearing the pukao I got him since then ever since he unwrapped it. It’s like a big red statue hat for moai. Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy a flamethrower, lots of noodles, and a pukao. Feel free to quote me on that.
And, yeah, I had to pick up something for Matatoa too. I don’t know what to get a toddler, which is what he definitely is by now, so I just tried to imagine what I’d want if I was a little tyke. Well, aside from less live fire training on how to outrun robotic guard dogs. And years of psychological trauma, but that’s water and weighted down former military instructors under the bridge.
I got the tyke a little pair of sunglasses and a little trench coat, complete with some protective mesh inside it in case he goes running with scissors. Looked almost like a small version of me like that, which was a little bit creepy. It especially doesn’t help the idea I had of maybe copying what he looked like as an adult from that projection I made. It was just a minor idea I had, before I knew the kid was aging so fast.
Moai got him some toys too, including this giant stuffed gorilla that was bigger than Mat. The big ape stands out the most to me, though Mat ignored it for some of the noisier stuff. I couldn’t even cover my ears with my present from Moai. It was a Rastafari hat with dreads. I don’t believe that this deceased Ethiopian emperor was the second coming of Jesus, nor do I see pot smoking as a religious sacrament, but it’s a cool hat.
Mat didn’t get either of us anything but trouble, and that showed up Christmas night.
I was trying to look up some reggae music in the workshop after checking how the armor was coming. It’s almost done, by the way. About time, too. The damn thing’s smaller, but also more complicated in the way various plates lock together. That’s one consideration I’ve had for a long time. I could have been running around here in a fifty foot giant robot all this time, but do you know how hard it is to put one of those together or repair it if it takes the least bit of damage? Nope. I don’t want to keep sitting around rebuilding suits of armor, so that means simpler designs. Bulkier designs. Designs with fewer intricacies to patch and repair when I take damage.
At least the creation of this prototype will make the production of later copies easier all the way around.
But enough about that. Let’s get back to the part you were all waiting to hear about.
So I was trying to find an internet reggae station in my workshop while fiddling around with what I hoped to make into a marijuana smoke grenade, when I heard a skittering noise and a wet thwack. Then I smelled the blood. Distinct smell and taste, blood. Like a nickel or a penny in your mouth. Easy way to tell if you’re close to a dead animal is because the blood smell will be there too.
I grabbed the trap remote and whatever junk was nearby and jumped through the curtain. I rolled out of it to my knees and threw what I had at the direction of the sound. This junk, which appeared to be a metal sculpture of male genitalia, flew towards a man in a jacket with a shirt so poofy in places that it looked more like a blouse. It was Spider, he of the darkened eye sockets, the wild hair, and the red-stained lips. He was holding a hand that was one finger short. Moai stood in front of him and on top of a large, hairy arthropod leg that had been pinned to the floor and wrenched off in its owner’s struggles. Matatoa stood behind Moai, hiding from Spider.
“Glad you showed up, Spider old boy. I didn’t get a chance to interrogate your partner in crime this year, but you’re moving down in the world. Last year you had an eldritch guy thingy with mouths opening all over his head. This year, you had a goggle-loving geek in a corset.”
Spider hissed at me. It was a much larger sound than he appeared.
He stepped back, angling to face Moai and myself. He didn’t want to be flanked.
“Moai, I think it’s time to take the kid for a walk. I’ve got a bug to squash.”
Moai nodded, but Mat tried to run for it. Spider pounced…and he came away with his hands pinned to the floor by the Moai’s pukao. Moai rolled for the front with Mat laughing and toddling on top of him.
Spider’s hiss grew in volume and fury as he gripped the hat. His glamour slipped as an extra pair of forearms split away from his elbows. He hefted the pukao and tried to throw it like a Frisbee at Moai. He was stopped by a well-placed application of my ass. You’d be surprised how many problems can be solved by an ass in the right place. In this case, I’d jumped in front of Moai and Mat to block the thrown pukao cheek first.
I didn’t stop the pukao, but I did deflect it and kill some of its momentum. M&M made it out the door, though. When Spider tried to ignore me in pursuit of them, he found sawblades and bananas blocking his path. My chuckles prompted him to turn and face me as I pulled myself to my feet, brushing off my rear end.
I held the remote in front of me and settled my thumb on a toggle, “You’re a real pain in my ass, Spider, you know that?” My laughter accompanied the darkness that washed over us as I pressed the button to kill the lights.
That’s not to say I was stupid enough to keep standing there. He pounced on where I was, but I wasn’t there anymore. Put a sweater on me, man, because they’d have to write a whole book about how to find me. “Where’s Gecko?” they can call it.
“One, two, Gecko’s coming for you…” “Welcome to my lair, said the gecko to the spider…” “The itsy bitsy spider crawled up the water spout. Down came urine and washed the spider’s mouth…”
I taunted him, duh. Had to. It was a moral imperative. Not that I have many imperatives. Or morals. Or commemorative plates. What is the deal with commemorative plates? I will uncover their secret. Once I find it out, I will destroy those plates once and for all!
I threw plates as well as taunts at Spider as he stalked through the dark, looking for me. He swatted them away with limbs that grew longer and darker as he searched. He spat lines of webbing, trying to set up a means to find me and deal with me.
Short fights are rather common for those of us with powers who aren’t afraid of killing, but my ultimate goal here isn’t to kill. Sure, I’d like to, but this is about backing him off and getting Matatoa away. Oh, and handling the real interrogation in all this mess.
I slipped around in the dark, avoiding pistons that shot out with boxing gloves on the end, keeping an eye on Spider with some low-light vision. By now, the thing I was watching had lost all semblance of being a man. I think. I pulled up Wikipedia to look up sexual dimorphism in arachnids. Turned out he hadn’t lost all semblance of being a man after all, or at least a male.
“Hey, fatass, what’s with you and kids?”
I had been leaning against a wall, but rolled out of the way. Spider landed on the wall and set off a pressure trap. The wall opened and a giant hand slapped him off the wall.
“Gotta hand it to me, I know how to rig them.”
I fled his wrath again as he landed and set off a gun that fired a spike and a piece of steak into Spider’s flank. He turned toward the attack, a natural response. It put the steak on the opposite side of his body for the delayed follow-up: a flamethrower.
“How’re you enjoying the flank steak?”
It’d be rude not to feed a guest after all.
Spider shrieked, in so much as he was capable, though he took on a human’s voice and most of one’s shape as the light from the flames flickered over him.
“Gargh!” he said, in my best estimation of his grunt. This time, he wasn’t hopping after me. He chased, but had to hobble in his semi-human form. I walked calmly down the hallway to the bathrooms. It was a dead end, more so for him than for me.
I yanked open the door of the women’s restroom and screaming came from within. High pitched screaming. And that song about the Grinch. Spider made a beeline for the hall and the interrogation room, inclined as he was toward the bugs.
I let him get close and I slammed the door quickly, just in time for him to bonk his head on it. He was quick to latch three of those hairy legs onto me, and this time I was not an oily god. I was a wily one instead. I stomped back on another pressure plate. Poles thrust out of the ceiling, the walls, and the floor. The bear traps on the end of the poles bit into whatever they could find, and they just so happened to have found a moderately sized Spider.
I ducked my head as one shot out of the wall behind me and gripped the half-man, half-spider head of my enemy in its teeth.
“I know what you’re thinking,” I told him, “And I can’t bear this bathroom line any longer myself.”
I couldn’t tell if his pained groan was due to the traps or from what I said.
“You know, I was thinking of having these poles all along the ceiling. What do you think, will pole vaults ever catch on?”
A lesser being probably would have diverted an arm from holding me so he could face palm. Credit where credit’s due, Spider didn’t. Damn. He still couldn’t do anything to me, though. Ah well. I had him at the interrogation room. It was time to interrogate.
“Your ally’s henchman in there seems dumb enough. I might let him live. Just being in it for the money, I think. You, though…I don’t know what sick pleasure you get from going after kids so frequently, and especially on a truce day-”
He interrupted me, a rattling noise accompanying his speech. “You’re one to preach. You slaughtered the others on Christmas Eve. Couldn’t stand the competition? So greedy for power you’d kidnap a child.”
“Kidnap nothing. I saved him fair and square from your friends. In this instance, I’m a hero…no, that’s not right. I’m doing something vaguely heroic.”
“Heroic! As a service of my punishment, I was tasked to find and protect that baby by Father Time himself. I’m the hero of this story.”
“Fuck Father Time. What’s he want with a superbaby anyway?”
“None of you are going to exploit that boy.”
I grabbed two of the arms that held me and dug my fingertips into them. I pulled them away from me and slipped out of his grasp, an accomplishment made easier by the work of my tricks and traps. “Yeah, yeah, blah blah. I ain’t exploiting any kids, save for that time I published a fake Harry Potter book in China. I’m holding onto this pintsize superhuman until I get to the bottom of this. And this time I’m not running from a compromised base. You want another opisthosoma-whipping, you come right on back.”
I wound up dumping the injured Spider off on a lonely road near some factory that still smelled of the fire that had gutted it. The other prisoner, the guy who gave up Countess Clockwork? I glued a Santa suit to him and dropped him off in front of the Salvation Army. For the henchman, he got away because of the truce. Spider got away because I hope he’ll try again so I can learn more.
Of course, some of that was unnecessary once I had Moai, Mat, and Carl back at the hideout the next day. Moai and Carl were sweeping up some of the mess while I had Mat play a little game called “Help Moai and Carl sweep up the mess.”
I went over the whole ordeal with Carl when he mentioned something that shed some interesting light on all this.
Just a few little words that might just put this all into context.
“If that guy’s working for Father Time, does that mean Matty is Baby New Year?”
That gave me a lot to ponder. I’m once again in the middle of some supernatural pissing match involving a holiday. And I think someone’s messing with me. The Christmas card, the indirect way of getting the kid, and now all this stuff that I feel like I should have figured out by now. There are things I should have seen before now. Baby New Year. Abney Park.
Not only am I taking care of Baby New Year, but I think someone’s been manipulating me to do so without realizing I was.