“Okay, okay, so you can change the color of stuff. I got that point. I liked the thing with the eyes, actually. But you missed one of the targets here.” I hung upside down from the catwalk in my armor, viewing the targets that had been set up against one wall. Two of them were paper targets that had been recolored. One was now all black, the other was a rainbow of colors. The target in the middle, a trussed-up clubgoer with glasses who will NOT make the mistake of thinking I’m not who I say I am, was as yet untouched.
From below us came the sounds of people working. Whereas most days the sound of hammering and sawing would herald almost certain doom for someone, this day it meant that my basement lair was being worked on. No nailing was going on to my knowledge, however, because I warned them about sleeping on the job. My original warning went something like “Oh, and watch where you wave your favorite body parts or you might lose them to the saws.”
Anyway, I pointed toward the target who was mumbling apologetically over and over again through his gag as tears streamed down his face. “I thought you were gonna turn this guy yellow. Not that it would require a lot of changes to his personality.” I lifted myself up to the edge of the catwalk, grabbed a piece of ice out of my drink, hung back down, and threw it at the target. It went wide.
“Nice shot,” said the snarky teenage girl with the color powers. She was wearing jeans and a black sweatshirt, with her hands in the pockets of her shirt. Her hood was down
“Wind must have got it,” I asserted authoritatively, crossing my arms. The side view of my helmet showed her rolling her eyes.
“Must have gotten your shot too, little miss Unnamed.”
She turned to me, “Why should I have a nickname? I don’t want to be a supervillain.”
“No? Well you got a good start at it already. They picked on you and you got back at them. A guy tried to shoot you and you blinded him. If anything, that cop got off easy. Want to go back with some gasoline and matches and finish the job with him?”
“No! I don’t want to kill people. I didn’t want anything like this when I did that in school.”
“Too bad, sweety. That’s how it all rolls now. Zero tolerance and all that shit. Drove innocent little you into my arms.”
We had to pause as a particularly loud grindy, cutty noise invaded from the hole at the base of my bigass throne.
“Why did they stick me here with you? This is bullshit!”
“Hey, watch your language. Try ‘this is motherfuckin’ bullshit!’ instead. Now, if you must know…the villains didn’t want you because you’re not their problem. The heroes didn’t want you because you’re not their problem and you’re in trouble with the law. So it’s either a place with food, showers, and vaguely bedlike surfaces to sleep, or the streets. You got any relatives who might take you in?”
She shook her head, then pulled some hair out of the way. “So why don’t you care that I’m here?”
“Because I don’t. I reserve the right to kick you out anytime I want, but I don’t see any particular reason to deprive you of your little makeshift bedroom or the cash Moai’s been sneaking you. We’re going to have to find something for you to do around here, too. Tell me, how do you feel about shoulder pads, assless chaps, and spikes?”
“Was somebody planning our welcoming party?” came a friendly voice from behind us. There in the dance floor was my pale Goth ally wrapped in burgundy, Mix N’ Max. Holly waved at me from behind Max while Sam was too busy looking over my club.
“Max! I don’t know when you decided to go all topsy turvy, but it’s a good look for you. Was it something you brewed?”
Max gave me a hug like that, with me upside down.
There was an “Ahem” from Sam to interrupt us. I tried to wave her away. She didn’t have any of that. “You know, if you guys like, we can all turn away and Gecko can hang a little lower. I’m just saying.”
“Carl!” I yelled out, “I need someone to build me a piranha tank right under that woman!” I pointed where I remembered Sam standing. It was hard to see with Max’s belly in my face, though.
“Sure thing, boss- whoa. You want some alone time now boss?” I would have thrown him a bird just like I did Dame last time I saw her, but once again…hard to see. Max was blocking my view. I wouldn’t have had that sort of problem if only everyone else was upside down. If only I could look into getting some sort of upside-down device going on the dance floor…no, better be in the whole club or things could get messy. Drinks, you know. And now that I think about it, the bathroom too. You know what, that’s where I need some upside-down thingies. Right there. Somebody’s being a jackass, I could just pull a lever and they get a mouthful of urinal sauce. Or better yet, they’d flush the toilet and…WHOOSH!
Max and I broke the hug. “Dammit, people, is it so hard to believe I’m not blowing someone right now? Alright, now back up, Max. Time for me to act straight. And take down this note…I need a way to reverse gravity in the men’s room.”
I unwrapped my legs from the guard rail and jumped, flipping to my feet and standing upright. It would have been impressive if I didn’t then stumble around while my blood got headed in the right direction again. Max and the color power girl caught me, and Moai unfurled and dropped off a paper bag under my helmet. I waved them off and stood up once the room got properly situation in my vision and headspace.
“How long were you like that?” asked Holly.
“Fifty minutes, something like that.”
“Fifty. I was trying to help Homeless Girl here work on her powers,” I pointed over to the girl with no name.
“You need a better name, honey,” said Sam as she walked over.
“She picked a name?” asked Carl while wiping his hands with a rag.
“I have a name already, I just don’t have one of your stupid codenames. I don’t want one either.”
“Carl, get over here. You too, nameless girl,” I said, gathering them in front of my visitors for the handshakes and greetings. “Alright, Max, this is my thug Carl. Sam, this is the unnamed girl. Holly, I’m Gecko. Mix N’Max, this is Carl, Sam, I’m Gecko, No-name this is Holly. Holly, this is Carl, Sam, this is Max, nomenclaturally challenged, this is Max, I’m Psycho Gecko, nice to meet you, Gecko. Gecko, this is Carl, Carl, this is Sam, Sam this is Max, Max this is Holly, Holly this is Homeless Lass, Homeless Lass I’m me. Moai, you want to get in here?” I asked that after we were all thoroughly confused and forming one big mixed up bunch of hands and arms.
Moai obliged and hopped in the middle of us, using all our arms like a trampoline with a major boost from my armor. Moai bounced up and flipped to land on the catwalk.
“There,” I said, putting my hands on my hips, “wasn’t that both fun and mentally stimulating?”
A groaning sound barely preceded Moai falling through the catwalk and onto me. It hurt a little, but only in that way where you’re crushed and some of your bones are about to snap and there’s a lot of pressure that feels like it’s going to squeeze your bone out like the world’s second worst brand of toothpaste. The first worst brand of toothpaste is Transubstantiation Paste. Doesn’t matter if they sold the original red brand or the later saltier-tasting white, that stuff was crucified at market.
From underneath a broken piece of catwalk and a complete Moai, I clenched one fist and waved it as much as I could, “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal, Moai. You were like family to me. A big dog that likes to sit on you and put its nose in your crotch that you can blame farts on that you feed scraps to off the dinner table.”
I did what I could to ease the pressure on me as well.
“Ugh!” said nameless. “What is that? It smells nasty.”
I pointed up at Moai. “He did it. It was all him.”
“I’m dying down here. This is what happens when you don’t embalm somebody.”
“I think it’s time to let him up, Moai,” said Carl. Moai shifted and I felt a great weight lift from my shoulders. And my chest, my thighs, my stomach, the entire torso, actually. Carl pushed the piece of catwalk to the side and offered me a hand. “You alright boss?”
I twitched, then took his hand and pulled myself to my feet, “Nothing a diet of Pop Rocks and soda can’t fix.”
I brushed myself off then looked around, “Ok, we done playing around here?”
“That depends,” said Max with that constant grin on his face, “do you actually have any room for us here in your place, or do I need to send the girls off to find accommodations?”
“Well, we got the work going on downstairs, and we had a temporary setup in the back and on the catwalk and with my throne, and then she’s got her own room…no, we really don’t have room here right now. Blame Carl for that one. Carl, get over here and prepare yourself for the blameslap!”
Carl walked over, head hung.
“There’s no need for that,” Max assured me.
“Carl, get out of Max’s personal space, and cheer up, or you’ll have to get the cheerslap.”
So Max sent his girls and I sent my boys off to go see about a decent place to stay. Meanwhile, I gave Max the tour, which finished with grabbing drinks, finding a booth, and tossing my helmet on the table while the couch crasher girl played around with her powers using two of the targets. Somehow, in all the hubbub earlier, the middle target hopped to freedom.
“…so then I flipped her the bird and said, ‘Right there, bitch. Suck it hard, suck it long,’ and got the hell out of there.” Max and I both laughed as I finished recounting recent adventures.
“What was she even doing there talking to you?” he asked, then tapped some powder into his drink. It turned purple and sparkled.
“I think the heroes had her there to spy on me and maybe she was getting the wrong idea about me because I didn’t go molest the hell out of everybody when I had the chance,” I shook my head and nursed my Bailey’s.
“It happens. So you’re keeping this one?” he pointed to the color girl with his glass. His drink bubbled up and threatened to spill out.
“I have a name, I told you! I just don’t have one of your stupid superhero names yet,” said the girl, not having messed with any of the targets for awhile. I was hoping she’d get so bored with them that she’d try to do something new and find out she had some tricks she didn’t know about.
“They’re not superhero names!” I yelled at her.
Max waved her over. The girl, having become pretty bored painting a bunch of targets over and over again, walked on over. “So what is your name?”
“Leah,” she said.
“Well, Leah,” I told her and slid her a drink, making absolutely sure it was more from my glass and not from whatever Max had, “did you learn anything new about your powers?”
“There is nothing new about my powers. I can just turn things different colors. It’s not the kind of thing people do in costume,” she said, ignoring the drink and running her hands down hanging strands of hair.
“We’ll see about that, but I think in the meantime, I’ve got an idea,” I said with a grin. “At first, I was thinking I’d force you to do a bank job, but I don’t think you’d care for that at all. Being forced into it. So, here’s my thinking. You really want to go back to living a regular Joe Blow life and see if the courts will have mercy on you, that’s fine, I’m sure there’s some lonely prisoner somewhere waiting for you to walk into her heart. But give me a month at least. We’ll see if those powers can be useful one way or another. A codename, a costume, and either the prevention or commission of crime. Hell, if you really want to see how the so-called ‘good’ people live, then I will squeeze myself into a pair of tights and go around mentoring the ‘Couch Crashing Crusader’ a little. Give it a while and we’ll see if you really want to go back to being picked on at school, ok?”
Leah didn’t say anything for a few long minutes, then she picked up the drink I had pushed toward her, took a big swig, set it back down, nodded, and sat down with us.
Max turned to me, “You keep this up and you’ll have Dame wanting to talk to you some more.” He sniggered.
I shot him a look. One of the ones that wasn’t so serious because, hey, why so serious? “Keep talking. I’ll just have to order roasted puppy for dinner to make up for it. By the way, you’re paying for this table.”
I motioned toward his drink with my head. He turned to find the purple fluid had eaten its way through the bottom of his glass and through the table.
“Tsk, tsk,” I said to Leah, “That’s how it happens. Somebody starts thinking you’re acting all good and next thing you know they have purple liquid eating their table. It’s sad. Tragic even. You get used to it.”
I grabbed my drink from where Leah had set it and threw it back, finishing it off.
“What did I get myself into?” asked Leah.
Max answered her as he shook some crystals onto the table that began to form grey foam, “Nobody knows with Gecko, but I’ll bet you it’s going to be a lot of fun!”