Fair warning: there’s not a lot of action in this one. Oh, action is on the way, but there wasn’t anything significantly explodey going on since Leah giving someone a real life nightmare.
Leah has been a problem for the past few days. She was moody after getting revenge the other night. Hasn’t talked to me all that much. She’s been mostly staying in her room, which she’s at least been able to do up. Moai had assured me she was alive because he’d been bringing her food. At first, I had no idea how she could possibly stand to stay alone in one room by herself with nothing to do and no one to kill, but then Carl told me about how she had been talking with Sam and Holly and they brought her a laptop and a wifi card.
On a night when I was otherwise just hanging out in my underground lair under The Secret Lair, I put on my helmet to give them a call instead of bothering with the giant screen while checking a fresh batch of explosive throwing knives. I laid them out next to a pair of my remote control rockets.
“Hello there, Samwise Haingee. Say hi to Hollbo Waggins for me.”
“Wow. Was that Lord of the Rings? Those are kind of dated now, Gecko.”
“Do not take me for some conjuror of cheap tricks, Sam. Cheap explosives, maybe, but expensive tricks. And speaking of expenses, I hear y’all have been speaking with my…uh…teen person. She’s not speaking to me though. Have you been saying something behind my back?”
“Nothing any different than what I say in front of your face. Leah’s just working through some stuff right now. I don’t know if you noticed, but she got like this after you two went out that night and she got back at her bully.”
“Why would that make her moody? Oooooh, nevermind, I get it. She thinks she’s reached the top already and it’s depressing her. Yeah, that happens sometimes.”
“No, it could be this one thing she told us about that she doesn’t want to talk about with you, or it could be because she has a conscience.”
“Yeah right. A conscience. And I’ve got a robo-leprechaun up my ass.”
“Most people have one, Gecko.”
“Wow. And here I thought they just had sticks up there. All this time, I have yet to encounter someone’s little anal-dwelling Irish friend.”
“A conscience! Most people have a conscience. You’ve been building her up, teaching her to fight, even teaching her how to screw around with people’s heads. You’ve made her feel better about herself in a strange way, and don’t even say what you’re thinking of saying. But there’s a difference between all that and actually going out and doing something to hurt someone.”
“You think I should have had her hurt people a little around here first? You’re not usually so bloodthirsty, Sam.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t be doing this at all. I’m surprised you didn’t teach her to kill someone first thing, but you’re going to push her into something too far too fast. I tried to tell her that, too, but I doubt she listened. She’s not like you, or even like Good Doctor or Max. She can’t deal with killing people. You need to let her be her own person instead of molding her into another you.”
“Hold on a moment, Sam. I’m leaning over the sink here. Hopefully my phone won’t drop out of my hands.”
“You’re on your helmet, and I know you waterpro-“
I ended the call.
So I relocated to outside Leah’s room and sat by the locked door.
She didn’t want to come out. Fine. I got a one of my usual taps on her phone, so I went ahead and started talking on speakerphone.
“Alright Leah the unnamed, you’ve been hiding in there for a few days now. This has been going on since the night you got your revenge, so you’re having some problems with that, aren’t you? You weren’t quite ready to do something so mean to someone who, from some of the reports out there, deserved every minute of that. Leave it to the internet to sit up and pay attention now that you’ve gone this far. So even though people hacked in and found proof that she was the one sending death threats and insults, you feel bad. You feel bad for messing with the permanent appearance of a girl who teased your mom about you going to prison. She was talking smack about how your mom would never have grandkids because you’d get a taste for other girls. Shave your head, get lip rings up high and down low, start wearing combat boots. Not very creative stuff, but it piles up on a person.”
I checked to see if I could hijack the webcam on the new laptop, but it was disabled. Just my luck I’d finish and find out I was talking to an empty bed. At least I double-checked and made sure the phone’s volume was all the way up.
“Some would say that the fact that you feel bad about what you did to her means that you are better than her. Nice comforting little thought meant to make you feel better about it. But that’s wrong. It’s based on this belief that when two sides get into a conflict, both are wrong. You know, so that when someone does something bad to you, you are supposed to just sit there and take it. That’s what it’s all about. Order is about a lack of conflict. Limits. Barriers. Don’t think about this, don’t touch that, and don’t you ever turn bullying into a fight. Thing is, you can’t even be good like that. Think about it. Someone’s being all nice and orderly just for order’s sake or the law’s sake, without even considering what’s moral? They have no right to the claim that they are a good person. They don’t know what’s wrong and what’s right. Babies in swaddling behaving because mother told them so. They can’t wrap their heads around actual thoughts. Well I’m the person who goes out and kills those babies. Perhaps another analogy would have been useful there.”
I got an idea. Standing up, I headed to fetched a certain something from my workshop in the underground lair. Had to keep talking, though.
“Really, though, people don’t know a lot of things. That takes us into this lesson, which is a continuation of that whole asymmetric conflict and psychology stuff. Possibly the most important lesson. I know you haven’t had enough time here for the most intensive of educations, but I can at least hit on the big stuff for you. The rest you can learn on your own, or don’t learn.”
“So now, an important thing to remember in life: The information gap. What people don’t know is like magic to them. The untrained hunter going ‘Wow, how did you know exactly where that animal was going to run when you set that trap?!’ or ‘How did that clown with a rocket launcher know that helicopter was going to come right toward those guys with the zip lines while it was chasing him past them?’ It’s pretty damn rare to run into someone who has all the answers and who knows everything about a situation they’re in.”
“People hate that, though. They want horror victims that know precisely what’s happening, but you put them in the same situation and they’d think it was just a guy in a mask up. Big difference when they’re in a situation and don’t know what’s going on all around them. They’re nervous, dealing with conflicting emotions about running, hiding, doing whatever they can to survive. They’re willing to believe in magic to turn another person into an omniscient person, and they’re willing to skewer themselves for not knowing something they couldn’t have ever known. Ah, here it is. Let me get back up there and I’ll give you a present I’ve been working on. Just got it ready the other day.”
I packed up the gift I had made in a bag, then continued my lecture on my way back.
“So, yeah, information gap. Useful stuff. That leads us to how you use that. Hiding your location, faking a limp, changing your accent, pretending to be dumber than you really are…all that is a great way to control the information gap and give yourself an advantage. Sometimes that’s all you need, you know. Like how people often see me and wonder why I’m such a joke. I take nothing seriously. I obsess over the ass. I’m not all serious and brooding most of the time. Even when I threaten people, I like to go over the top. I let my vaguely friend-like people get away with making fun of me too. I don’t fit their expectations of a dangerous person. Fuck ‘em. I don’t have to spend my time brooding just to prove that I’m the most dangerous motherfucker to ever fuck somebody’s mother. At the end of the day, their ignorance doesn’t make me any less dangerous. You keep that with you. Other people’s ignorance of how awesome you are doesn’t make you any less awesome. It just makes them less awesome, and gives you a chance to be even more awesome. And while they’re too busy being ignorant, you can go out and look like a fucking miracle. Perhaps even looking like that in my little gift here. Knock, knock, I know you’re in there.”
By the end of all that tiresome talking that most would consider so out of place with me that they’d likely stop reading any sort of blog I was sending to another dimension, I was standing in front of Leah’s door. I pulled the present out of the bag. I saw her door open slightly as she peeked out. Then she pulled it all the way open, staring at the costume in my hands.
She practically jumped for it as she stared at the black material of the thing. “Wow. Wow. Just…wow. Is this body armor?”
“Yeah, I know the torso only doesn’t seem like a lot to protect. The whole thing’s bullet proof, though that doesn’t necessarily stop some injury from the force of the bullet. The stuff on the torso will handle most of that, though. Nothing on your shoulders, though. You are small, so you need to be able to move fast and slip around people. This armor will help you do that. You’re just not strong enough to handle some big bulky suit of armor that’ll force you into fisticuffs with someone.”
“You made it a hoodie, too?” she asked, pulling up the hood from the back of the armor.
“I noticed you liked hoodies, so I added a hood. There’s also a part that gathers up around the neck that you can stretch up to cover the lower half of your face, but that was before you figure out how to tattoo a mask onto your skin. Either way, should be useful for a cold night.”
“The arms and lower body part are all stretchy kinda. Wait, a skirt?” She raised an eyebrow and gave me a look as she noticed the built-in skirt under the torso armor.
“Yeah yeah, a low skirt. It was either that or I let you stay nice and flexible in armor that lets you show off your butt. Not that you need to hide it, but some people are sensitive about that kind of thing.”
She blushed at that. “You couldn’t do like one of those karate outfits?”
“I could, but I was trying not to leave a lot of flappy material for people to grab onto. A skirt was a solution to a couple different problems at once. I can change it and make it more like a karate gi if you’d like. If you’re not running off somewhere, that is.”
“No. I needed to think about some things. You didn’t have time to paint this?”
She was referring to the costume being all black. I shook my head. “I could have, but I kinda had a name for you in mind when I first thought this up, and black fit the theme, little miss moody. That wasn’t the name, by the way. You’ve changed a bit since then, so feel free to color it however you want.”
“I know how I want to color it. Turn away. I want it to be a surprise.”
I turned around, but since I had my helmet on, I just watched through the rear view. Leah, suspicious, put her body between me and the outfit. I saw some red at that point. I saw a lot more than just red when she turned around and held it out for me to see now.
I turned around shaking my head. The torso armor and hood were red. Not blood red either. We’re talking U.S. flag red. The arms and lower body portions were bright blue, except for the red and white skirt.
“Leah, that doesn’t look very villainous.”
“I know. Somebody said they’d support me if I wanted to try out being a hero for a few days, didn’t he?” she asked me with a smile. All the times I tried to make her smile and this is when she gets all happy for me? Bah, humbug.
“I didn’t think you’d actually want to.”
“Then you shouldn’t have said something. This is something I’ve thought of a few times the past couple days. I’ve also been wondering what you’re going to look like dressed as a hero.”
“You said you would put on tights and go help me try out being a hero.”
“Dammit, girl, now is a horrible time to hold me to my word.”
“We had a deal.”
She couldn’t tell I was glaring at her through the helmet, despite the curve of the visor forming its own glare. I glared anyway.
“Fine,” I said, finally. “But this is just something temporary.”
“Good,” she said.
“Wonderful,” I said with much less enthusiasm than her. Maybe I could stall and get her to rethink this. I did say I would do that if she wanted to, but that only applies if she still wanted to after another day or two. “Just give me some time to throw something together for me to wear.”
“Great!” See what I meant about enthusiasm? She grabbed the bag I still held with the gloves and boots in it, then hurried into her room with all her costume stuff and shut the door.
I dialed up Sam again on my helmet. She didn’t answer. I hijacked the phone and turned the speakers way up. “What the fuck have you been telling this girl?!”