“…and that is why pants are stupid and a bourgeoisie plot to control people,” I said as my companion and I drove to our next stop.
“What are you even talking about? What does a woman reincarnated as a man using hypnotherapy to try and find out how she died have to do with pants and communism at all?” Alysha asked. Alysha’s the receptionist. Say hi to Alysha! It’s ok if you didn’t say it. She can’t hear you anyway. Why are you still talking?!
We were on our way to another of the offsite housing the rehab clinic had available. The first one or two we visited, Alysha was still fooled by my disguise. We stopped by, I took a good look around to see if the real Dickcheese was there, then claimed it wasn’t a good spot for me for some reason or another. I think the first time, I complained that it didn’t have a big enough Jacuzzi, for example. Or one of them didn’t have enough beef jerky in stock. Basically, I was thinking ridiculous rock star contract reasons for turning things down.
Just like the rock stars and their contracts, this all had a purpose. For the musicians who don’t want brown M&Ms in their dressing room, it’s a way to make sure that someone actually read their contract and didn’t miss the big details. For me, it was a way to keep the search going until I found Dick Dickity Dickdick. Alysha didn’t seem to mind, actually. All things considered, she’d rather get dragged around by me like that in a futile search for a hidey hole than go back to her normal duties, plagued as they were by ten car drive-bys and costumed assassins.
The negative side to that is that I insisted I sleep over at her place when we didn’t find Scrooge McDick. For her sake, I agreed to finally put on some pants. As our discussion indicates, I wasn’t happy about it.
“Because the death is one of traditional capitalist fashion rules that held that trousers, with their pockets designed for holding wallets and money, and the reincarnation is about entering a new world where no one is afraid to let it all hang out in the name of freedom. And there’s no part of this country I believe in more,” and here I began to choke up and projected tears onto my hologram’s head, “than freedom. Freedom to not wear pants. Freedom to be an American.”
The car’s sound system began to play “God Bless the USA” at that point, courtesy of the link between my armor and my car.
“I think that’s bullshit. Besides, you said the hypnotherapist shot him in the end.”
“Eh, people like stories with downer endings for some reason. I don’t get it. Nobody likes a clown being funny, but a clown who drinks himself to death is art,” I told her. I really don’t get that. It’s contrary to basic thought, but not so much contrary to human nature.
Maybe that fellow from 1984 had human nature correct in one regard. “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” The difference is that guy was a power mad asshole with delusions of grandeur. That happens when you ignore human nature, because human nature, it seems, likes the boot on its face. Hell, get that face stomping on film and you’ve got next year’s Best Picture at the Oscars or whatever movie awards y’all have.
“You can’t give a straight answer to anything, can you?” she asked.
“That’s what I thought. Oh, the next place is up here.”
Ah yes, offsite housing. A way for their clientele to party it up without appearing to be in any programs. At least this one didn’t look all that special from the outside. A pleasant little brick house. In the big city, that kind of room still comes at a premium, though. The ideal parking space right in front of it was taken, though there was a little room ahead of it. I hit a switch on the console and a plow extended out along the front of my car. Parking was as easy as one plow, two seconds of work, and three flat tires on the other car.
Alysha just looked at me disbelieving. I ignored her and nodded to the house. “This doesn’t look like your usual place to board people,” I mentioned to Alysha.
“Believe it or not, some people value restraint and discretion,” she responded as we got out of the car.
“Yes,” I said as I closed the door to Black Sunshine and we made our way up to the house. “Restraint and discretion. Just what I expect from people with drug and alcohol problems.”
“That’s not fair. Some of them have sex addiction.”
“Oh, good job on that discretion stuff.”
She spoke with a hint of laughter in her voice. “Shut up, like it’s any secret.”
She unlocked the door for me, but I made sure I was first inside. Alysha was valuable to me. After all, if she died, I’d have less chance of finding this guy. Instead, I’d have to do something drastic like blow up half the city.
You know, looking back, maybe I should have let her get killed.
Ah well, no use crying over spilt blood. I went in first, finding the place tastefully decorated. “Geez, no wonder AA only has a five percent success rate if some people get a little spot like this while they’re recovering.”
That was some impressive hardwood flooring in the entry, but the living room wasn’t too shabby either with side by side TVs and custom built furniture.
Alysha snorted behind me. “Please. We’re not like those church hacks at Alcoholics Anonymous. Our programs actually work.”
The stairs to the upper floor actually came down just at the end of the entry hall so that you either go left to the upper floor or head on into the living room, with an opening to the kitchen to our right, opposite the TVs. Not a bad setup. I pointed to the TVs that were off to the left from where the hallway entry met the living room. “One big ass screen wasn’t enough, eh? Got to have two to for your programs?”
She crossed her arms. “Actually, that’s for 3D viewing if residents choose. It made more sense than dumb glasses.”
Provided these technological primitives got it to work properly, she had a point. As a big shiny black mirror, though, the screens worked perfectly. I should know. They helped me see the woman in the costume as she came down the stairs behind us. I motioned for Alysha to come forward. “Hey, come tell me what this doohickey does.”
When she walked in front of me, I threw her to the ground and grabbed one of the TVs. I was going to chuck it at the newcomer, but some glowing disc thing chopped right through it as I turned. The pieces nailed me in the face as they fell out of my grasp. TVs may be thin, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t heavy when half of one smacks into where your eye should be.
“You are not him. You are an imposter with superpowers.” She had a smooth voice with a soft accent. It was something Asian, but I simply don’t know enough to narrow it down any more than that. Her costume was dark blue and gold. The top half resembled lamellar armor with its rows of thin armor plates. Not much to it, other than clawed gloves and feathers on the back of the headpiece. I could see the yellow claw symbol on her breast. The location, not the boob, pervs. It wasn’t lit up, though, so it was harder to tell the color. I knew it mainly because I knew the symbol. Below her breast was a round armor plate like you see in Chinese armor. They call it a mirror. It looked gold, with a swan depicted on it.
It was below the belt where things got interesting on this woman. Hey, I said cut the pervy shit. In this case, the armor transitioned to a mechanical bird’s tail that hung above her butt, as well as the boots resembling birds’ feet.
This woman, most likely the Claw minion from that meeting, raised a gloved hand. Another glowing disc materialized an inch from her palm.
“Do not make me hurt you in this hunt,” she said. I don’t think English was her first language. Rather than try to chop off my chimichanga, she glared at me through her mask as if to warn me, then turned and threw the disk down the entry hall to the sound of splintering wood. Then she threw another, and then another. She caught my eyes just before she stepped into the entry hall to leave. I followed and got to the door in time to see her flying away, the tail feathers having extended into wings that were somehow capable of lifting her off.
I did a quick search for any specific type of Claw minions as I turned to see how Alysha was doing. She was gone from sight in the living room.
“Alysha, honey, where are you?”
“I’m calling the cops, whoever you are. She’s right. I’ve had my doubt, but whoever that was, she confirmed them.”
“Alright, alright, so I’m not your idiot friend the drunk driving druggy.” I figured Alysha was hiding behind one of the couches. I still counted on needing her, though.
“What do you want?”
“You may have noticed I’m not exactly in solidarity with these killers. I look like the guy they want to put on ice for a reason. I’m here to help him, courtesy of his parents. I don’t like it, I’m not proud of it, but there it is. Problem is, he’s in hiding and he’s not exactly trusting anyone with powers now.”
“I can’t trust you either, you know.”
“True. When it comes down to it, you can’t really know a whole lot about me and my motivations. You can know I did a number on those guys back at the clinic. You can know that my method of getting information from you doesn’t involve introducing a baseball bat to your body. You can even know that I’m not that bad of a guy and you had no problems from me sleeping on your couch last night. I’m not that much of an ass. That’s more than you can say for this dick whose face I’m wearing. I needed your help to find him, and I still do, but listen. I’m gonna go. Whether you come with me or not, I advise you to leave too, before any more assassins show up looking for him.”
I turned and walked out after giving my speech about why she should trust that I’m not a bad guy. It was flimsy but it seemed to work. Just as I opened the car door, there she was at the doorway, calling out to me. “Wait!”
She jogged over to the other side. “Ok. I know I can’t really trust you completely, but I think maybe I can a little. So…shotgun?”
I projected a smile like this was some buddy buddy movie and told her to get in.
“So who was that weird lady anyway? She was another supervillain, right?” she asked as we got under way.
“Yeah. She’s called Kinnari. She’s a minion of the Claw, that warlord out in the Pacific, but his symbol wasn’t lit up on her costume.”
“Does that mean something?”
“It means she’s not here on the Claw’s official business. This is a side job for her. She’s also not as…” I got caught up looking in the rear view as we left the house behind. I saw water splashing into the air as a man in a light blue and white costume skated closer on the surface of it faster than most cars could get up to. Hydroplane. Not normally the killer type, but money brings out the all kinds of people. He must have been watching for whenever I left. He wanted to catch Dick Dickington out in the open, where his own powers worked better. I reached over for one of the rear weapons and hit a button. Just one of them, randomly. Whatever.
“…not as…not as, oh, right. Not as much of a dick as some of them. All she did was warn us off rather than try to kill us right then and there.” I returned my attention to the road as my trunk popped open.
“Cool. What was that you just did?”
“Hell if I know. I wasn’t really paying attention,” I told her as World War Two-era mines as big as basketballs dropped out of the trunk and into the path of the superfast hydro-powered speedster. I got us out of there faster than the speed limit would have legally allowed, smiling to myself as the mines went off about the time he would have caught up to them.
“No, really, what was that?” Alysha asked as she turned around to look at the wreckage, explosions, and water that splashed all over everything or boiled up in places.
“Can’t say, but it looks to me like a water main blew.”