Work work work, work work work. I’ve been avoiding it, but doing so has been nearly exhausting.
I tried watching the news on my giant screen on the throne, but it was so loud out there that I could barely hear the story. Aside from all this mess about people being overly friendly around the city for some reason, it mostly focused on that wizard who tried to kill Congress. There’s going to be some fallout now. He died and there’s been a petition online to give him one of those fancy state funerals with the white horse and the carriage.
A bit of an exaggerated reaction, I guess, but his death has already caused some more serious problems. For all I’ve disliked how heroes don’t end the real problems out there, there are costs to them killing off a regular ole villain. Just ask that bank in D.C. where some guy made of sewage flooded the place and killed everyone, then took the money.
Or this one teenage girl around Empyreal City that panicked when using her powers to scare some people at her school. Oh, the ability to change the color of something seems innocent enough when the cheerleader who, let’s be honest about what probably happened, picked on her finds her brunette locks suddenly turned eye-blindingly pink and yellow. All her hair, to the roots. From what I hear, the carpet matches the drapes.
Sounds kinda hot, actually. Pink is a good color for hair.
School resource officer saw it and approached the scene. Girl overreacted and turned his eyes an impenetrable shade of black. The cop overreacted too and pulled out his sidearm. She tried to grab it from him. It went off, killed a couple bystanders, and now the girl is missing. The mom was all distraught it sounds like, but cops are now watching the house.
One’s a purposeful escalation, the other not so much. It tends to make some people nervous when a hero kills a villain. Though occasionally some of us are such total dicks that people don’t mind so much.
You know…that reminds me. For all the press making a big damn deal, there hasn’t been one bit of retaliation for my supposed death.
For their sakes, I’ve chosen to interpret that as them thinking I didn’t really die.
I was distracted from catching up on the news by some jackass throwing a beer at me. It shattered against the throne and somebody cheered.
Odd. Normally the crowd is surprisingly mellow most nights. Ah well. I looked for whoever looked like a smug dick without a bottle. There. I launched myself to my feet and ran to the end of the catwalk. The coat I wear when I’m not in armor flared out as I dropped to the floor right in front of the little ass and his friends.
The dipshit was in all black. Really tight pants with combat boots. A black sleeveless leather hoodie thing. Detached fishnet sleeves and black nailpolish.
“Oh shit!” he said tried to get away. I grabbed his forearm as he turned away to flee and twisted it around into a wrist lock. “Ow, ow, ow, let go, let go!”
I laughed at his pain. All that screaming for something so minor. The parting of the crowd around me and the sound of motors and heavy footsteps preceded Carl as he approached from behind. “There a problem here, boss?”
“Ah, yeah there’s a problem. Let me go. You can’t treat me this way,” pleaded my insolent guest. He twisted around and I could see the little horizontal lines on the underside of his forearms. I tore the fishnet sleeve to get a better view. Scabs, except for a couple that were still bleeding.
“Uh, boss?” asked Carl.
“Carl, our friend here is completely right. This is the wrong way to treat him.”
Twenty minutes later, I sat on a pier with a strong fishing pole in my hands. It was a big thick one with a huge reel. That’s the sort you use for shark fishing. Carl stood behind me, outside the armor, and laughed his ass off as I dunked the little cutter into the water.
The water had rendered that goth fellow a soprano.
“Now cut that out!” I chuckled and dunked him under the water briefly before raising him back up. “You wanted attention. You welcomed pain. Enjoy!” I dipped him back under the surface. Something tugged.
I stuck the line rod in a holder and tugged on it at a higher up position to lift the goth guy out of the water. “Hey, what was that tugging?”
“Stop it, something’s down there. Let me go, alright?”
“You’re sure there’s something down there?”
He nodded. “Yes! Yes, now can I go?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, you crazy fuck!”
“Double check,” I told him and dropped him back into the water and sat down to hold the rod again.
I turned to check on Carl as that brought a fresh bout of laughter to him. “You alright back there?”
“Yeah. Jesus, yeah. That’s..hahaha…fucking hilarious, boss.”
I felt a tug that didn’t stop, bringing my attention back to the water. The water churned as the line jerked all over the place. I stood up in a flash to get a better view. “Carl, hey Carl. Quick! Did you bring any popcorn?”
“No, boss,” came the reply. He was getting over his gigglefit now.
“Aww. Oh well, we still get a show.”
Most of the action happened underwater where we couldn’t see, though. All the splashing didn’t help matters. When it calmed down, a head poked out of the water. It was pointy like a shark’s, but seemed to be attached to a neck. He opened a mouth full of rows of pointy teeth and yanked the hook and part of the goth’s shirt out of his mouth. “Thanks for the meal. Anyone else care to go for a swim?”
I did a search for shark-like supervillains real quick. “Nope, no thanks. Cold enough up here. And you should really wait thirty minutes now.”
The shark man snorted water out of the sides of his neck. “Good one. Next time you throw someone out here, make it someone with more meat on their bones.”
Names and images flashed up on the HUD in one eye. I picked the one that best matched our friend there, as my facial recognition software isn’t set up for sharks. “Right-o, Terrorjaw.”
With a wave, Carl and I left the shark man behind.
Back at the club, our bouncer was glaring at the ID of some girl. She was obviously new. We at The Secret Lair don’t give a fuck about the drinking age.
“What’s this guy’s name, Carl?”
“You still don’t know?”
“I don’t generally use the front door.”
“How do you get in?”
“I like to come in from the back.”
Carl slapped his palm to his face.
“His name’s Terrance. He’s got powers, but he’s not a criminal or anything.”
I walked up to wear Terrance was still scrutinizing the ID that was probably fake. His eyes glowed blue through the shades he wore even though it was night. “Hey there, Terrance. Why don’t we go ahead and let this one on through, huh?”
He looked back at Carl, then at me, then handed over the flimsy little driver’s license to the girl. “Sure thing.”
“Thanks mister,” said the teen as she shuffled in ahead of Carl and me. She kept her hair over her eyes and her head lowered slightly.
“Have fun. Feel free to grab a drink.”
“Nh hun.” Not much of an answer. She needed to watch her ass. I tried to, but she was in some baggy clothing. She looked around a bit and headed off for one of the side rooms. She could have been in for a bad time if she interrupted the Russians having a poker game.
Sandra waved me over to the bar. “Hey, there, bossman. Your big…uh…stone dude, he left me a note for you. Something about some villain calling you? Oh, and the people are getting a little more…intimate…than normal.”
Like I cared. I headed for the stairs up to the catwalk so I could take the call from the throne. I did see people getting more handsy along the way, though. One of the nerdy guys who didn’t believe me was even getting some action. Some girl with a black dress and dreadlocks with little metal skulls on the ends took his glasses off and told him, “You look better without these.”
She started to lead him toward a private little corner, but he got completely lost as soon as she let go of his hand. Turns out those glasses fucking do something. As turned around as he got, they might be the only thing about him that fucking did anything that night.
I turned to Carl, though. He was still following behind me through all this. I told him, “See what we can do to keep the dance floor from turning into an orgy, alright? I mean, that guy who did the permits might be here, and now that I keep thinking about him, I just don’t want any sex to happen anywhere that he might join in.”
“Uh, I’ll see what I can do. I can set off the fire alarms if they go too far.”
“Dammit, man, that’s exactly the wrong thing to do. The last thing I want is to make a whole bunch of women wet.”
“That explains a lot.”
At that, I shooed him away and ascended up the catwalk, turned a corner at another part of the walkway, took a right, then another right, and kept going straight to get to my seat in the chained-open entrails of a superhero. Seeing my throne in the middle of the dance floor, I had my suspicions that perhaps all the Sexahol sales were going too far.
I sold it to all these people in spite of my own experiences with it, but there’s a limit to how much I can tolerate everyone getting some in my club while I sit around watching.
I could see the lower half of Moai under the big giant screen. He was standing in front of my throne. I grabbed the railing and swung around to the other side of the screen.
“Hey Gecko,” said a familiar voice from the screen. It was Mix N’Max, the perpetually grinning supervillain. As always, he had the stuff on his face to look paler. He too had what I think is a goth look, but I’ve been talking about that stuff a lot lately. Long brown hair, burgundy coat, ruffled white shirt. I guess that’s what you’d call that, but fuck if I’m completely clear on the distinction or care overly much. Oh, and he smiles almost constantly. Real perky guy.
He’s an ally. A buddy, some might say. We’ve worked together in the past as part of a small team. I sent him some Sexahol to examine because he’s good with chemicals and poisons. Where I know some conventional chemical weapons, he can somehow throw together pollen, spit, and crushed rose petals to make napalm. Near as I can tell, that’s his power. Somehow, he can combine all sorts of things to unusual effect, like shrinking someone or turning them into a fish.
“Heya Max. Hey Moai, good job keeping Max entertained. What were y’all doing?”
Max answered me. “We were playing Rock Paper Scissors. I’m close to figuring out Moai’s tells. It has something to do with his hat, I think.” Ah yes, Moai’s pukao. This big rock hat that Moai statues used to wear. It was my Christmas present to him and it’s nice to see he still wears it.
I pointed a thumb at Moai. “Good luck. He’s got a hell of a poker face. I’ve never seen him flinch, and this guy’s fought a talking gorilla with a jetpack. You calling about the Sexahol stuff?”
“Yeah, but it’s good just to talk. I haven’t seen you in awhile. Sam owes Holly some money now.” He was referring to his helpers. I don’t think it’s a sexual or romantic relationship at all. Sam Hain, or just Sam, is a goth type too. She tends to have purple hair and wears a lot of black. Holly is a brunette, and goes for the middle class look. Your American Eagle and Aeropostale kinda stuff. The pair are friends who took up working for Max. They’re ok.
“Holly really thought I was dead this time?”
“You give people too many chances to bet on if you’re dead, you know. Anywho, I took a look at your Sexahol. Nice job to whoever did this. It’s just a little slow for my taste.”
“Tell that to the people getting it on over here.”
“Sure, maybe whenever I get to visit.” He smiled wide, but with his mouth and eyes closed.
“Ok, stop trying to look cute. Of course you can come visit, provided I haven’t burned the place down for insurance money.”
Moai nudged my shoulder.
“Hey, relax,” I said to him, “So far, no one will insure me. I ask too many questions about their arson procedures. Anyway, back to the Sexahol. You said it worked slow?”
“Yeah. There’s an aphrodisiac ingredient in there. It’s a synthesized chemical that attaches to receptors in the brain to mimic feelings of joy and euphoria people experience when in love, with some lust in there too. The effect is minor, but cumulative like certain toxins and heavy metals. The body can’t metabolize the artificial aphrodisiac, so it builds up in the system. The effect persists over time and intensifies the more people drink. It doesn’t abate.”
“No, I suppose abating is a natural consequence of being constantly horny from it. Is it going to kill my customers?”
“Thaaaaaaat’s iffy. If they have weak hearts or forget to eat, then they could die. Or if they don’t stay hydrated. Chafing and bleeding, I suppose. Did you try this stuff?”
“Yeah, that’s why I sent it to you. The nanites must have cleared it up when I got drunk on it.”
“Ooooh, I have to wonder what that looked like.”
Next to me, Moai shook his head rapidly.
“Not good, Moai? I’ll take your word for it. I wondered if that would change some parts of your shining personality. You’ll have an easy time around the city if this keeps up. This explains the mystery of Empyreal City. People are acting like this all over the city.”
“Hmm, much as I’d like to take credit for getting the entire city drunk, that’s not just me. Other bars, other people buying this stuff.”
Max looked contemplative for a moment. “Yeah…are you ok with that?”
“No skin off my back if everyone else is too hippiefied to do a damn thing to me.”
“Oh. Surprise, surprise.”
“What’s all this ‘surprise’ shit about?”
“Oh, just with all the date raping this is enabling. Every single one of those people. I can see you not getting laid on this stuff, but it’s going to turn that place into free love central.”
I thought about it. About the nerdy guy, and about the girl walking him back. About every single person down there and out in the city under its effects. About people finding out how people act under it and making sure someone they want drinks up. I thought about…certain times I don’t like to think about, with people who are dead now and better off for it.
“Aha…there’s the Gecko I know who doesn’t like to admit he’s there,” he said in a sing-song voice. He was teasing me over the appearance of certain preferences that some may, if they don’t know better and don’t care about living, call morals.
“Shut up, Max.”
He quieted quickly at the tone of my voice, but still grinned like a Cheshire cat.
On the one hand, I now have to be the jerk that saves the day. On the other hand, at least it’s ultimately going to make a lot of people upset that they’re no longer screwing everyone around. So maybe I can squeak by and claim it was all done in the name of fucking over the fuck fest.
I turned to my stony minion. “Moai, we’re going to need a lot of cold water. It’s time to blue some balls.”