Pretty! I feel pretty! I feel pretty, and witty, and gaaaaay!
Y’all tell anyone I’m super happy and I’ll gut you with a shoe. Except for the person who can survive a shoe gutting. They will be the sole survivor.
The first thing to make me happy was the completion of my armor! I felt like Sweeney Todd getting his silver straight razors back. But I was dealing with some heavier metal than silver.
It still pulls on the same way as before, with a separate top, bottom, boots, helmet, and gloves that all seal together. The distinct metal bands are gone. There are the nanite quilt patches, a thicker muscle enhancer layer, and a thinner but more protective layer of armored pads. It fits more closely due to the materials in the plates being smaller in size and better able to fit against and under each other. Like some sort of odd fusion of laminar and scale mail designs in a lazy V pattern. Same for the legs. Instead of having joints at the shoulders and elbows, the layer holding the armor can stretch when I bend. It makes it more flexible, but provides some gaps in those situations. Still gives me the ability to pop someone in the mouth with an armored elbow or knee, though, and it’s still more overall armor than my legs used to have.
The gloves are mostly the same, but with a little more internal padding over the knuckles. They still have the sheathe wiring, and it’s still nice and barbed.
I didn’t change much about the boots, either. The exception to that was that the toes now point up, like I’m an elf. Or, to be more specific, like I’m an elf with boots that curve up into a sharp point capable of cutting through skin. It’s one of the other elements hinting at the jester design I almost went with.
The other was on the helmet, of course. As I previously mentioned, the visor still keeps its little glare, but the rebreather’s hose fits more closely with an oval shape and there are the two parts in the rear above the ears that somewhat resemble a jester’s hat.
Now, don’t worry. This update won’t be me just spamming armor porn, you brigandine libertines.
I was so happy that the first thing I did was run down to one of the many local liquor stores, some place called “The Full Package Liquor” and went to town on it. I don’t think I quite have the hang of setting vodka on fire for a drink, but I stopped the cashier’s screams by making him happy. Because with me that happy, he was damn well going to be happy even if I had to slam his face repeatedly into a keg!
As for me, I seem to have settled on drinking lots of Bailey’s Irish Cream. And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m addicted. Addicted to murder. I’ll have you know I can stop any time I want. But honestly, look around you. You see all those assholes that range from petty jerks to those actively trying to make the world worse? Yeah, you wouldn’t stop either.
I got a call from Carl while I was out, too. I’d gone and left them all behind. Hadn’t even put on my armor. He was just wanting to make sure I hadn’t been caught in any webs or anything. I told him I’d bring dinner back.
I also brought back some of the liquor store’s stock to help us celebrate the New Year, whatever that might entail under current conditions. Carl was even all set to join us. Something about his ex getting the kids for New Years Eve and all that. Works for me. I’d have offered to help him get full custody of the kids, but for the fact that he’d have to bring them here too.
Which brings us back to the main topic at hand. Matatoa Bobby Doomgex.
I’ve been pondering that particular mystery, and, as it’s New Year’s Eve, I feel that my time pondering is just about over, as I explained using the visual medium.
“Alright,” I said, tapping a drawing pad with a potato peeler. “First, we got a Christmas card by someone claiming to be Santa.”
I pantomimed a circle around a drawing of a Christmas card that said “From Santa…or is it?” and “Dun dun dun!” drawn in the air next to a lightning bolt.
Carl raised his hand. “Yeah, uh, what’s Captain Lightning got to do with this?”
“Nothing, that lightning bolt is just there to add atmosphere.”
“You can’t make it look more like a cartoon? That card has too many corners.”
“Yes, well, if I could draw worth a crap, I’d have a webcomic rather than a blog, now wouldn’t I?”
“Moving on!” I flicked on the potato peeler’s laser and burned away the first page. The next showed a giant lizard in a luchador mask bodyslamming a snail. Stick figure cheerleaders with large chests jumped for joy.
“This is a representation of our initial fight against the clunkers of Countess Clockwork. Fine work on being Godzilla, Carl, especially so soon after getting out of the hospital.”
“Don’t mention it.”
I swiped the laser across the top of that page, letting it drift to the floor. Next page had beer bottles and cake with a baby’s blanket holding a cube with a heart on it. “We found Mat and proceeded to take care of him.”
I tore that page off, crumpled it up, threw it into the air, and fired the laser at it. It plopped unharmed onto the floor as I missed. I went ahead and incinerated it on the floor anyway.
“Boss, what’s this one supposed to remind us of?”
Carl was referring, of course, to the page that featured David Bowie in tight pants and floofy hair from the 1980s sitting on a throne holding a TV. A tiny Moai statue sat nearby aback a dog and held a small staff. I had turned to admire it.
“Oh, this just reminds me of the babe.”
Now, if Moai tackles me too many more times like he did at that point, I think we’re going to have some issues. By the time I got to my feet, he’d already yanked that page out and had been repeatedly jumping on it. I brushed myself off and gave it a quick once-over with the laser.
“Spoilsport.” I stuck out my tongue at Moai. He returned to his spot next to Mat and Carl.
“Our next page, as you see, features an unsuspecting clunker in a hairnet washing up in the shower being approached from the first-person perspective by some perfectly reasonable slasher with a pair of razor sharp boxers. I think this symbolizes a lot of things for us. The clash of old fashioned Cold War politics in a digital world. The damage done by Great Britain in exporting opium to China to hook themselves a market. The sound of warm summer’s rain on flower petals in a meadow. Also, it’s damn hard to shove a hand up a clunker’s ass.”
I zig-zagged the laser over that page. It ignited and I pulled it off to reveal an X-ray I’d printed off the internet of a hand with all the fingers broken.
I looked at it thoughtfully for a minute, a small smile on my face, then flung it off the page it had been taped to.
The next one had an equation. “Bomb + Psycho Gecko + Oil + Torture = Something Fucking Awesome!”
“I don’t think I need to say anything about this one.”
“It wasn’t really all that psychological of a torture, was it?”
“I don’t want to admit that was regular torture working after all.”
Nobody said anything. After a couple seconds, Carl spoke up again, “Is there a ‘but’ in there somewhere?”
“Nope. I really don’t want to admit it. Anything else?”
“Wasn’t it like really homophobic torture, too?”
“Caaaaaaaaarl, it wouldn’t have been torture if he was the sort of person who didn’t hate another man’s balls slapping him in the face three-quarters of the day. There are people out there right now who would pay for that experience. I know because they’ve asked. What did you expect me to do, put a cage on his head and force a rat to stick its balls in his face? This isn’t the ‘80s, Carl!”
I slashed a Z into that page with the laser and tore it out the book.
The next page had a giant newspaper swinging down at a spider with dreadlocks and a Rastafari hat. A speech bubble leading to the spider said, “Who am I? I’m Spider, mon.”
“And that catches us up. We suspect Matatoa here is the personification of 2014 known as Baby New Year, which is something I should have realized. Also, Santa didn’t show up. That’s normal for him, actually. After all, I did blow up half of one city, cause a temporal paradox over a city, drop the F-bomb on two other cities, blew up Elvis’s house, attacked another city with hallucinogenic gas, blew up the Statue of Liberty, and started two or three massive gang wars. That doesn’t even involve my conspiracy to commit public nudity, so it’s possible I’m on the naughty list.”
“You’re conspiring about public nudity?”
“Carl, every plan of mine is about public nudity.”
“That doesn’t sound right.”
“Anyway, due to the Santa card, Spider’s intervention on behalf of Father Time, the fact that Baby New Year is personified at all to be kidnapped, and gaps in my comprehension, I think we have at least one other person influencing these events. You know, besides Father Time, too. After all, somebody had to set me up to thwart Spider. Now, if Matatoa is that particular figure, that means we just need to see him safely to midnight. To that end, I propose we head to Times Square and take off all our clothes.”
I ducked under a chair Moai threw at me that knocked over the drawing book.
“Objection noted from the guy not wearing any pants. The secondary plan involves staying in and getting shitfaced.”
There was much less objection to that plan.
Hours later and close to midnight, after we finished off the vodka and the song “Friends in Low Places”, we sat around resting and I realized I had something very important to add about the situation.
“You know why they call him ‘Father Time’ right?” I asked Carl.
He shook his head.
“Because time is relative.”
Moai slammed his head enthusiastically against a table, almost upsetting a radio that, frankly, could have used it. It was playing country music of the less-than-tolerable variety, which meant most of it.
“Hey, that was a good one!” I threw an empty bottle at him.
A hand caught it out of the air. An extraneous hand. A hand that did not belong to our group.
It was a hand attached to an arm that wore a suit. Actually, the whole person it was part of wore a suit. A tophat too. I’d say the sash that read “2013” across his chest was strange, but that’s the part that made him less strange. He was old, but the youngish kind of old, like when you won’t be absolutely grossed out to realize he could be getting laid. He had close cropped black hair with lots of gray, and a soul patch on his chin that was almost all gray save for some black in the middle.
“Good timing,” I told Father Time.
“It is what I am known for,” he said. Or, I think he said it. He didn’t open his mouth. Just had this little smile there.
I checked the clock on my eye HUD.
“Two minutes to midnight? The hands that threaten doom, to quote Iron Maiden. I guess you’re here because it’s time to retire.”
“I am not going away yet. I have many more years left in me.” That voice again. Not telepathy, not exactly. For one thing, all that psychic stuff doesn’t work the way it should with me. An oddity of my physiology. It’s like his words suffused the area around us.
“I thought that was kinda…ya know…not how things worked.”
“I thought psychotic supervillains killed each other and little kids. We all have to deal with little disappointments in life. I’m here to deal with the one you have been taking care of.”
“It was all you?” I asked. I didn’t want to kill him before I had answers, but I thought I’d just found the mastermind.
He didn’t so much punch me as swat me aside. I had a rough landing on a flatscreen TV, so the Japanese judge only gave me a 4, but it was a Toshiba, so I can probably count on the Chinese judge approving.
Moai was first to respond. He charged Father Time, but was lifted into the air easily. Moai was held there easily, then Father Time threw him across the room and through my cordoned-off workshop area.
That left only Carl between him and the baby while I stood up a few wookies away in distance. Six or seven meters; something like that.
Carl pulled his mini-pistol and fired at Father Time, who cocked his head, smile never leaving his face. The bullets slowed, then disintegrated into nothing. Carl looked around and noticed me. He threw Matatoa to me before Father Time could get to him. The smile stayed on FT’s face, but a burst of air threw Carl back toward Fort Beercan, a little project he’d been working on for Mat while he drank.
I caught Mat and set him down to send the TV back at Padre Time. I sat Mat on the table as I donned my new armor, the Version 26. The network of nerves that made the power core deep inside my chest an integral part of my body were part of the same network of tissues that connected to my armor. I know I said at the very beginning that I didn’t want to talk about the power source, but I’d say it’s a bit late for that now.
Speaking of late, I needed to know how to make Papa Time late. Here were the facts as I saw them. He was powerful. I should have realized Time would be superhuman. After all, everyone knows he flies. If he was anything like Mat, that meant he was unusually resilient. Very strong, too, from the look of things, with some time manipulation powers. It didn’t explain why he didn’t speed in and take Mat, or just leave us all in dilated time bubbles, but whatever. I was ready to take any weakness of his I could get. Hell, I didn’t even know why he waited so damn long to show up and kill the kid. Then again, Santa could only show himself at a certain time as well.
“You degenerate mortals fail in so many things.” There was the voice again. Weaker, so at least I could tell his distance by it. Problem was, he was getting closer. “What is one more? First Countess Clockwork planned to keep the baby to herself. What thanks was that for the one who taught her how to bring him to this plane? She wanted to find some way to harness her power and set time back. Spider was a proper foil for her, especially with his proclivities, but I had to hide my intentions to obtain his services. You were to antagonize Spider when it appeared he would honor what he thought were my wishes. One child could easily wind up dead between the three of you.” His voice and shadow were right outside one of the curtains I’d put up.
I had an idea while he was talking and got to work coordinating the holographic systems.
That curtain fell aside and he stood there, his hands clasped together. I couldn’t tell if he was confused, but I figured on it anyway. Anger had aged him even if it didn’t show. His hair was all gray now, and longer. His face seemed more haggard as well.
Mat was hidden from his sight. In front of him stood a fully-armored Psycho Gecko, a pissed off Spider, and Countess Clockwork with copper legs. Lieutenant Clockwork, you got magic legs!
The hologram of me held out his hand, palm out, while I grabbed a metal mallet and stepped behind ole Daddy Time.
“Alright stop!” I projected the sound all around us to try and make it seem like it was the hologram speaking. “Hammer time!”
I brought down the mallet on the head of my foe with quite a bit of added strength due to my improvements. The handle of the mallet shattered, while its head cracked. Father Time grunted and staggered forward.
I tried to kick him in the balls, but that didn’t affect him. Instead, he squeezed his thighs together and held me there. I dropped the holograms of myself and the other two villains, but kept on hiding Mat. That was when Moai jumped back into the battle. With a mighty headbutt, he knocked Father Time to the side and forced him to release me. FT retaliated with a punch that sent Moai skidding, but not nearly as far this time.
“I have gotten fond of this life. I will not cede it and damn the natural order!” He yelled. This time the invective in his voice was easily evident. The smile on his face had disappeared. The gray beard that was growing would have rapidly hid it anyway.
He was beginning to match that image of Father Time as an old man. An image that contrasted with his successor, Baby New Year.
“So that’s it. I bet like Santa, you couldn’t show up until it was appropriate. As far as anyone knows, there is no personification of a middle-aged Father Time. There’s just the baby and the old me. You know, you remind me of the babe.”
“You can not hide him from me. I can feel him. He is close.”
The curtain FT stood by fell down around him. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to feel little kids!” yelled Carl. He was alright and had wrapped it around the being that was becoming weaker and more frail by the second. Father Time released another burst of air, showing he still had plenty of fight. It threw the curtain and Carl off, which left me pretty much curtainless for my work station.
Eh, I’ll get over it.
“You think you can win by distracting me?” Father Time yelled. No, this time he actually yelled it, with his mouth and spittle and a throbbing vein.
“The longer this takes, the weaker you become,” I taunted, unseen by him. “You might say we’re just…killing time.”
Enraged, Father Time sent out another burst that forced everything back away from him and, consequently, knocked Mat out of the holographic invisibility he was protected by. Father Time saw him and stalked forward, ready to finish this.
I jumped on his back, one arm around his neck, and locked the hold in with my other arm. He was a personification. Might as well try and put enough pressure on the arteries and veins that maybe existed in his neck. It may be called a sleeper hold, but if you hold it the right way long enough, it’ll be the last nap your opponent ever takes.
I heard an encouraging sound from the radio though. A countdown. “10!”
He tried to blast me off, but all he succeeded in doing was sending the top hat and the hair atop his head tumbling down.
Then he grabbed at me, got a hold of me by the boot, and tried to throw me. As I swung out in front of him, I whipped around and grabbed his other shoulder, hooked under the armpit, and inverted myself.
This time it was my legs wrapped around his neck from behind. I held onto the shoulder too, and wrenched it up.
He was forced to bend over. He kept moving forward, though, for Mat. Mat was backing away too, but I think the kid wasn’t quite ready to come into his own just yet.
“I will not die! Death is for you mortals. Not for me. I am a being beyond mortality.”
“Hey, buddy, didn’t anyone ever tell you? Anything can be killed. ‘And with strange aeons even death may die,’” I taunted him one last time as I tried to slow him down by upping the pressure.
He crawled for it, grabbing some shattered curtain rod with a jagged edge.
He was slowing, though. He was still super strong, but growing weaker every time he tried to throw me off. The sash around him fell away and a new one appeared on Mat, reading “2014”. He even got a snazzy top hat.
He gave one last great swing to pull his arm out of my grasp. Off I went, swinging the other direction and wrenching with my legs. Oh snap.
The former Father Time and I dropped to the ground
A crowd erupted into cheers over the radio.
I stood up to find Mat…well, Baby New Year now, float into the air.
“Thank you for saving me, Uncle Gecko,” he told me.
“Uh, thanks little kid.”
“I have to go now. I wish I could stay, but it’s time for me to go out in the world now. Maybe I’ll see you in a year under better circumstances than my predecessor. Oh, and while I’m at it, I’ll clear up a little work for you.”
“Aww, they grow up so fast. Now you’re killing people for me.”
With that, he was gone, though I could see the blackboard through the wrecked lair. The same one we’d kept around from the time we were checking for kidnappings. The names disappeared.
Sure, sure, that he takes care of, but I don’t get a T-Rex with cybernetic extending cleaver hands?
Ah well. Here’s hoping 2014 turns out alright after all.
Well, looks like I better get this all over to OOC. Lucky for y’all over in Central Time that Empyreal City is Eastern, eh?
Happy New Year.