I think I mentioned to Breakdown, and I’m sure you readers have noticed, I state things in a manner other people are not used to. My metaphorical stories, for instance. Well folks, let’s just say it’s my way of talking about how I feel before I have to go all obvious. “You can’t just have your characters announce how they feel! That makes me feel angry!” to quote the Robot Devil. Problem is, I doubt y’all deal that well with the confusing mess of being in my head. And sometimes plainly getting your point across is more important than trying to be coy and intelligent. Look how many times people died in horror movies because some idiot wanted to play charades with all the pointing and shaking when he could have just said “There’s a man with a machete behind you. Run bitch, run!”
So let me start off saying that I’ve been somewhat contemplative about things.
It’s kinda like a maze.
When people talk about something being difficult to find a way through, it’s not uncommon to hear it being referred to as a maze. So many branches, so many possibilities, that someone is stunned by the possible reactions they can take. Of course, some paths have to be taken for a person to be who they are. A doctor needing to figure out what he wants to do with his career, for instance. There are so many paths to take, but his own past influences him and urges him toward one corridor or another. Sadly, this all too often leads to dead ends.
Is it any wonder that mazes are used as philosophical symbols in some pretentious way? It works about like how I’m doing now, where someone takes it and uses it as a simplistic metaphor of life.
If you want to look at things that way, then I do something special. I change the maze. Usually, it’s something dickish, like tossing a few extra dead ends into the mix, but I mess with lives. You could probably say the walls are relationships and society’s rules or the limits of nature, whatever it is that serves as a restriction on you in life.
I am, in fact, amazing. That is, if you take amazing as what the dictionary says, where it means something is stupefying or stunning. It comes from the word “maze” too, probably because of how people react to mazes that are hard. They freeze up and go “I don’t even…”.
What about mazes for people like myself? Good question. Bet you thought I was wishing someone didn’t ask that. Ha! See, Sun Tzu said all that crap about knowing thyself. Rather than a reference to masturbation, I think a lot of it meant knowing your own nature and living according to it. Even though I don’t know what I’m going to do, what tiny course I’m going to take toward my goal, I know who I am each step of the way. I know what I can do. I know that the walls between paths won’t stand in my way.
Cheaters are just going pull out bombs and blow open walls to get to the ends of the while the more noble people have to follow the maze around or use grappling hooks.
I just need to make sure that whatever makes up the walls for me doesn’t suddenly become solid. Part of the reason you all love me and would probably wear steel underwear if you ever got to meet me is that you know I will do all sorts of things other people wouldn’t. For one thing, I’d carry a welder if I met any of y’all. That’s not what I mean. A great deal of strength comes from people not having a clue what you’re going to say or do.
I like macaroni and cheese.
Now a maze is different form a labyrinth. Most people get them confused, but a labyrinth only has one path to and from its center. It’s made for meditation and art and crap. There’s supposed to be something meaningful about the journey in, where you let go of everything, and the time in the center, and then on the trip back out.
This section on the labyrinth was just a way to segue between the important topics of mac and cheese and having infiltrated the compound where the heroes were keeping Dr. Unity. They couldn’t just drop him in a normal lockup or prison population, after all. They were keeping him nice and separate at Empyreal City’s Special Detention Center. It was built with a modular design so they could quickly swap things out to meet different circumstances with people who couldn’t just be restrained, like Marscow Prison in Kingscrow. Where Marscow grew up out of a prison that had already been built, the SDF was built after the older Metropolitan Correctional Center was leveled during the attack on Empyreal City by a rogue Soviet telepath in 1981 where a modified aircraft carrier was used to fire giant squids into the city. Truly, that man had vision. It only holds superhumans for a short amount of time before they get sent somewhere permanent, like Supermax, but it’s got a good track record amongst law enforcement. The brilliant thing is that it’s an ode to ignorance. Most people would hate the idea of living so close to such a facility, but they’re ignorant of it so it’s fine to them.
Making security a little better in this case is that Forcelight and her crew were waiting around there at the time. Call it a hunch, but I think they were expecting me to visit. Now, I didn’t go in and visit Good Doctor or Mix N’Max at Marscow Prison because it’s pretty easy to detect me with a metal detector and because it was a hell of a lot more fun to bounce a truck up into the yard.
The truck idea wouldn’t work quite as well for what I’m planning this time. Besides, why should I only stick to something I’ve done before?
Nope, this time I came in the way a guard does. I figured they have some sort of scanner set up in there. Metal detector, full body scanner, something. That’s why I waited outside, invisibly, until a guard showed up. One did, a burly fellow with a mustache and curly hair. He had thick eyebrows from a lack of shaving, and the inside corner of one eyebrow turned up for some reason. He also had a scar running diagonally from the middle of his nose to his left cheek. That was important to note when I jumped him in the parking lot. It was necessary to steal his keys. It wasn’t necessary for when I shoved the peanut butter in his ears, but it did help for getting him in the purple bunny suit.
I could have skipped it all entirely if not for the keys. I could handle electronic locks, sneak past visuals, and I had an idea for how to fool the scanner to get in, but dammit if primitive key locks are tougher to fool. Break, sure, but hack? It isn’t happening.
When I rushed in the same door that guard left, I was confronted with a manned booth and a full body scanner. Made me smile under my armor.
“You forget something, Pete?” asked the man in the booth.
I nodded, then pointed to the scanner, “Do I have to?”
My voice must not have given the game away because he just told me, “Naw, man, go on through.”
That’s how I fooled equipment that would have shown I wasn’t who I said I was. Social engineering, the most useful sort of hacking. Every system has a weak point and it’s usually the people. You know, like a bunch of guards who have to go through a full body scanner every singly day. Either they get tired of it, or they resent their comrades getting a look at their junk. What a bunch of dicks. It’s even worse than if they didn’t have the scanner. At least then they’d realize there was a chance someone was getting through with something. This way, the people in charge probably don’t expect it.
First stop after that, the restroom. A quick check confirmed that my experiences in other situations were still applicable in this one. Staff bathrooms are like that. Cameras all over this place, little black half-spheres along the white ceiling. It’s like walking around a casino, but with fewer one-armed bandits.
I dropped the holographic disguise of being “Pete the Security Guard” and did my impression of The Invisible Man.
After that, finding Administration was as easy as sneaking into a guard station and peeking at a map hidden behind plastic. The guard was confused about the door, but not so confused after I snapped his neck and laid him down like he fell asleep.
Sacrifices, sacrifices. Butt slaughter was too conspicuous.
They compartmentalized their networks so a simple guard station computer couldn’t even find everyone. Those computers were better for little more than checking computers and catching up with people’s favorite shows. The dead guard’s favorite show? Survivor.
Administration, on the other hand, had information galore. And superheroes. Forcelight, Mechamoto Musashi, and Troubleshooter were hanging out there getting chewed out by some guy in a suit with a briefcase.
“I don’t care what you did before with the Master Academy kids. The truth will come out at trial and not a second before. You can present your testimony there. Did you think about what happens if you taint my trial? I’ll tell you what I told those “Catch a Predator” morons when that entrapment ruling came down and everyone they caught got off: you catch them the wrong way and it doesn’t matter if you have a pile of evidence.”
“Sir,” said Forcelight, speaking respectfully, but forcefully, “with all due respect, I’ve met individuals before who you do not want to pressure this way. I don’t know if Breakdown is that sort of person, but if he is, he will go out of his way to come after Dr. Unity and set the record straight. He might set the entire facility loose in the process. Besides, there may not be a trial.”
“You really think I’d let him go?”
“I don’t know, how many times have you struck deals? We know you have an election coming up. You need money, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that people will pay to have Dr. Unity released just in time to take a quiet job in a research facility in a country without an extradition treaty.”
They continued bickering on and on like kids. I padded by them silently and knelt down under a desk to slip a glove off and merge with the tower. That got me the information, shut down the cameras on that floor, and caused a loop in the elevator cameras. I also scheduled a special email from the facility to the local and national news companies. Harlon got it first, of course, for a brief time period of exclusivity. Harlon’s this guy I once crossed paths with in the news. I kept him to help me keep my ear to the ground, and occasionally let me shove something in his ear to put on the news for me.
“And what’s this I heard about some supervillain in the UN besides Dr. Unity? Are you protecting someone else who was involved in this?”
Forcelight fixed him with a stare and told him firmly, “No.”
This guy, a District Attorney I think, turned to Troubleshooter. She wilted under his glare until one of her waldos accidentally fired a net all over her and caused her to struggle with it instead of answering. He tried Mechamoto next, who was propped up against the wall next to a water cooler with his arms crossed. The heroe’s voice was distorted as he snored.
The trip up to the floor they held Unity on was mostly uneventful. I did practice my singing though. Schizofrantic, a supervillain more by default than intent, was being hauled up in the same car accompanied by a trio of guards in riot gear when I began to belt out “Grim Grinning Ghosts” from that Disney ride. ‘Frantic ignored it as if he was in on it, but the guards got nervous, especially when I didn’t stop. They checked and rechecked these grey cylinders attached to their helmets. Finally one of them elbowed the dirty-looking telepathic homeless vet. “Hey, are you doing that? Make it stop.”
“Doing what?” he asked.
“That noise. The singing.”
“You mean the muzak? They don’t sing in elevator music. I should know, I used to write songs.”
“Cut it out. We can hear something.”
“I’m not doing anything. Maybe it’s the other person.”
“You don’t see that man?”
“Oooooh. Just remember. It will only hurt for a second.”
The guard grabbed hold of Schizofrantic and shook him by the shoulders. “What are you talking about?! Stop doing this! Stop it!”
Since ‘Frantic was being such a good sport and playing along, I made it fun too.
I projected a molten landscape with islands of obsidian for land. I covered myself in the image of man in a bloodstained straightjacket with long black hair. My eyes were covered in a bandana that had spikes jammed through it at the eyes. My lower face was torn apart in an unnatural grin made up of torn skin, blood, and bones shaped into loose approximations of pointed teeth. A twisted version of a face.
“Don’t worry,” I gurgled, “this will only hurt…for an eternity.”
All three guards shit their pants all at once. I jammed my hand up one guy’s ass all the way so I could punch out of his mouth and grab his friend’s gun. I turned it on that second guard and shot him in the foot. I then dropped the gun, grabbed his head, and pulled it into the first guard’s mouth and down his throat. The third guard huddled up in the fetal position and cried, trying to hide from the horror. When he looked up he found me…in the form of a giant marshmallow peep.
He clutched at his chest then and fell to the side, struggling with his breathing. I think he had a heart attack. Oh well. Everything looked normal except for the dead bodies when it was time for my stop.
“Bye ‘Frantic. Have a nice time.” I told him, giving an invisible wave.
“Bye elevator demon. Say ‘hello’ to my mom for me next time you’re in hell.”
“Sure thing. It’ll make her head spin to hear from you.”
I found another pair of guards at the cell I wanted, right on the end of the hallway. Those were the easiest to isolate in this place.
They were standing at the door, holding a slot at eye level open, and one of them was taking potshots inside with his gun. His buddy tried to give him pointers, before smacking him on the ear and declaring, “That’s useless! It only works if you try to kill him with it. A flesh wound isn’t gong to make him drop anybody. Here, let me show you how.”
They swapped positions and the guard giving the tips fired off a shot. I heard the familiar sound of Unity expelling someone immediately afterward. Got a running start, skidded on my knees, and stood up as I double uppercutting, punching through pants and puckers alike to raise them into the air, squirming like maniacs with barbed wire up their asses. Considering that they were maniacs with barbed wire up their asses, it was a highly appropriate response.
Dr. Unity ended their suffering before I could, however. They disappeared, leaving behind Unity’s hands reaching through the bars on that door opening.
I appeared, dressed as an unarmored Playboy bunny, chomping on a holographic carrot. “Eeeeeeh. What’s up doc?”
He grabbed my chin then and concentrated. Nothing happened. He needed skin contact, not armor contact. With a frustrated yell, he let me go.
“There, there. Not everyone wants to join your little Unity love fest in there.”
“You’re here to taunt me?”
“Ha! I am the world’s preeminent chemist. I am the true peacemaker, not people like you and your violence. Lock me up and I will be freed in no time by people with more vision than you. Kill me, and I become a martyr for future generations to follow the lead of.”
“Right. It would look bad no matter what if either a villain or hero killed you while you’re all locked up.”
He smiled at me. You know, I don’t think that guy was all there. “You can’t stop my escape. I’ll tell everyone about it and they can’t stop it. My knowledge and abilities are too valuable. People will be lining up to set me loose.”
“No, I think not. Not in another few minutes when the videos I sent go public.”
He lost his crazed grin in an awful hurry at that.
“My helmet, my dear moron. Same one that got Breakdown’s very sincere admission that you were calling the shots and you at the UN actually calling the shots and explaining your motivations.”
“They’ll never convict me. You know how the system works for someone like me. I’m one of the greatest heroes the world ever saw. Generations have grown up looking up to me. I can be the smartest man in the world. I’ll be free in no time.
“No, actually it is perfectly allowable. If a cop or a hero had done that, then you’d have your chance to get out of jail free, but I’m neither. I’m the guy who screwed your little ‘system’ in the ass. Isn’t it convenient when someone like you actually has to face some consequences for his actions and has his dirty secrets dragged out for all to see in court? The hero to millions becomes the monster, and your little hero buddies in the know will realize who you are. When it comes to me and you, I’m the hero all your old friends will be thankful to. Why kill you when I can bend your legend over and fuck it in the ear?”
“You can’t do that. I’ll die a martyr. I was trying to save the world. I’m the hero. I’m not like you. This isn’t what people like you do to people like me. This isn’t what people like you do! Get back here and kill me you son of a bitch! I’m the hero. I’m the hero!”
I walked away laughing over his berserker screams.
That little bit taken care of, it was time to repeat my journey back to the outside and figure out the next adventure. I did so, visible for all to see, and encountered no further resistance until the first floor. I caught a figure in black with a shiny mask and bangle slinking after me. When I turned to confront her, Dame crossed her arms and shifted her weight most of the way to her left leg.
“I’m proud of you, Gecko. I don’t understand it, but I think it’s encouraging to see you using society to your benefit for once.”
“Hello Dame, you saucy spy. I’m just neatly undoing everyone’s expectations about what’s meant to happen. Shit’s going down that’s not supposed to happen if you know a damn thing about how your precious society works.”
I paused as the DA’s voice reached me us down the halls. “WHO THE FUCK SENT THAT OUT?!”
I chuckled at that, then continued. “How do you always know where to find me?”
“Skill. Oh, and you aren’t the first invisible person they have had to deal with here. Lucky for you I’m the only one who bothered to check those sensors.”
“Huh. Good point. ” Oops. It made sense and there I went forgetting about it. Yes. Forgetting. Or part of my master plan? Have some chocolate pudding and think that over. “What, do they have you spying on Unity, or just me? Going to alert the guards now, give me a fun time getting out of here?”
“Not at this point, no. The guards have gotten sleepy all of a sudden, so they won’t be responding to you on your way out,” she said, smiling, and stepped around me in a circle.
I didn’t know what the point of her little visit was. I also didn’t care. “Dame, I just gotta know. Who was it, you think, who alerted Forcelight, and told them to bring along those nanites, and who suggested they deliver it similar to how I did at the club? Who called the heroes to ‘help’ me for once?”
She stopped in front of me with a sly little smile on her pink lips. We both already knew the answer. The local thief that Forcelight had keeping tabs on me, that’s who. The one who had a direct line to her and a few other heroes. In other words, Dame. Did she think I’d be happy?
I threw my hand up as I walked out, giving her the finger. “Right there, bitch. Suck it hard, suck it long.”