As you may have guessed, the heroic adventures of Missile Patriot, Miss L, and Rushmore didn’t end with one evil crumpet theft averted. Unfortunately, Leah had me tone down the cheesiness. I tried to tell her that when someone wears a patriotic outfit, they can’t help themselves. I could feel the righteousness flowing. It made me want to have a rousing discussion of truth, honor, and justice. It embarrassed Leah. She felt it was counter productive to her goal of exploring the other side of mask life. She wanted me to take it seriously.
Along with saving crumpets, we also stopped a cookie caper and some kipper crooks. I wonder why food is so popular right now? It’s juvenile. Not stealing food, I mean, but stealing that food. I’d go hit the agave growers down in Tequila, Mexico. After corn prices went up, a bunch of them decided to stop growing the agave that they use in Tequila, which is named for that region. Takes about a decade to grow, I think. The man who steals all that agave is the man who destroys Spring Break one decade from now.
Mwahahahaha, where is your porcelain god now, puny future coeds?! Bahahahaha!
Anyway, we had an anti-crime spree these past few days. Well, not Thursday. Thursday, I took the day off from beating people up. Walked out of lair wearing a sweater and loafers. Holly started to have a panic attack when I started taking my loafers off and putting on sneakers instead.
“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit. What am I on? Max, what did you give me?! Was it in the shower water? There must have been something in the wine. Or the food.” She started to shove her finger into her throat before Sam grabbed her hand.
“I see it too.” Sam turned to Max, who looked up at me curiously, one eye appearing larger than the others due to the jeweler’s loupe he’d been using to inspect stolen gemstones. That’s what those little magnifier monocle thingies are called, a loupe. You’d think more people would know the term, but I guess they stay out of the loupe.
Even Leah, who was doing something with some lights, stopped and stared at me.
I set my hands on my knees and looked at them. “Hey there neighbors. Are you having a good day today?”
Sam let go of Holly to inch over towards Max, staring at me in a state of shock. She nudged his shoulder. “Is it brainwashing?”
Max stood up, his smile nearly going away completely as he looked at me and increased the magnification of his loupe. “Shouldn’t be. He’s riddled with cybernetics, with some parts of his brain completely replaced, and he’s inherently homicidal. I want to say that if he’s acting like this, it’s because he chooses to?” He ended it as a question.
“Neighbors, if you’d check your calendars, you’d see it’s the twentieth. It’s Mr. Rogers Day.”
“Mr. Rogers…the guy with the kid’s show? I thought you said you didn’t get to this dimension until you were already an adult?” Sam asked.
“I don’t see why that matters,” I told her.
Holly spoke up then, “For one thing, it’s not a real holiday.”
They were merciless though. Mock mock mock, mock mock mock. There I was trying to be nice about it, but then Max was right about my instincts. Behind the fake smile with too many teeth erupted many a thought of stabbing Sam in the face with a fork and shoving Holly’s head in a blender. Moai wasn’t judgmental, and neither was Carl. That’s because Carl wasn’t there. He took the day to be with his kids. It wasn’t a special holiday or anything for him, just a day with his kids.
I pulled on my armor before the club crowd started to drift in and disappeared for awhile. There were some other celebrations in the city that day as well. A few buildings showed rainbow lights to commemorate the passing of that Fred Phelps asshole who made his living off the claim that this omnipotent supernatural being named Yahweh hates homosexuals and kills people in natural disasters in order to show his displeasure. As a man with a crush on David Bowie, I have a message for anyone out there who believes disasters have been sent to destroy me: missed me, missed me, neener, neener, neener! And as a man with a crush on Mary Elizabeth Winstead, I just want to say: Call me.
First thing I did at 12:01 AM on the twenty-first was walk back into my club, grab some bastard in a beanie cap who was unlucky enough to be the first guy I saw, throw him into the kitchen, and beat his head in with a cast iron skillet. I remember looking up at the assembled crowd at the door, which included Max, Holly, Sam, Moai, and some shocked club patrons. Noticing some brain stuck edge and interior of the skillet, I raised it toward them and asked, “Anyone want some eggs?”
“No. They look like they’ve been on some drugs, Gecko,” came the answer from Max.
I tossed the skillet to the side, hearing glass shatter. “I don’t know about y’all, but I feel much better. It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood, neighbors.”
Looking around at all of them, I noticed someone was missing. “Hey, where’s Leah?”
No one had an answer for me. I suppose the appropriate response was to not give a damn. She was dumped on my doorstep and I made a deal to help her out, but she hadn’t bothered to try and call me. I had grown somewhat attached to her, like if someone finds a mangy dog with knotted fur and one eye bigger than the other, but that wasn’t enough to worry about her overly much. And it’s not like I had any sort of parental feelings toward her, before anyone gets accusatory. For one thing, I don’t have a very good idea of what parental feelings were. For another, I have enjoyed the view of her ass a little too much to be a parent. Oh, and something about age being close enough to date if we were to ignore statutory laws.
So what I’m trying to say in all that is my decision to spy on her was not based on me caring. It was based on my intense desire to invade her privacy in a creepy way. So while everyone down below tried to get back in the party groove, I hopped up to the throne and used my backdoor into her cell phone to listen in on her.
“That’s much better than the uber-patriot look. Is that a useful power for you?” asked a feminine voice that wasn’t Leah’s.
“Somewhat. Not really. It’s only good if I wanted to bully someone, I think. I learned how to fight though. I’m not an expert, I mean, but I learned some useful stuff,” responded Leah.
“It’s dangerous to go alone. We can patrol together if you’d like.”
“That sounds awesome. It’d be great to kinda pick your brain if I could. I’m not sure if I should be a superhero, so it’d be great to talk to you and find out what it’s all about.”
A hero. Obviously Leah was infected with some sort of brain-targeted flesh-eating disorder to be out listening to a hero like that.
I walked out of the club while pulling up her GPS. In hindsight, the car may have been faster, but for all I knew some hero had her grubby paws on Leah and was slinging webs around the city or something. Once I got an idea of Leah’s location, I hit the jump enhancers and launched myself into the air.
I used to run like that a lot more back in the old world. I landed on the wall of one building and ran along it for a few steps before jumping across the street to do the same that way. As the buildings got higher and higher, it became easier to keep bounding between them.
Leah and the hero continued to converse all the while.
“There’s a lot of assholes out there. Bullies, you know? They get away with it because it’s wrong to punish them. I’ve talked to a villain about it and they make a good point. Why should they respect a society that goes out of its way to protect bad people from what they deserve, and allow good people to be hurt?”
“That sounds somewhat like the classic Problem of Evil, but with society rather than God. We’re ordinary people. Some of us are more physically capable than others, but we all deserve the same rights. When you decide you have more rights because you’re stronger than other people, then what’s to stop the bullies you fight from claiming the same thing? You don’t have equality after that. You have a hierarchy. There comes a time when the person fighting monsters becomes a monster herself.”
Damn, that wasn’t your usual hero. That one knew some philosophical shit. Definitely not your average teen looking for thrills or talking crap about great power and great responsibility while letting people die so his elderly aunt can live.
“Yeah, but don’t you put on a mask too? You go out and beat up people, sometimes just poor folks without any better options in life. I know someone with powers who did one thing wrong. She’s not a bad person, but one step out of line is all it takes? Heroes can be bullies too.”
“You’ve had a good tutor, but you don’t have all the answers any more than I do. People have been debating superhumans and philosophy for a long time. I trust the good intentions of heroes more than I trust the cynicism of villains, especially because most villains don’t care about philosophy. They lash out because they’re hurt, they want revenge, they’re poor, or they think they need the money more than regular people.”
“Well, yeah, I guess. But if everything’s so great as is, why are there so many people hurt, poor, needy, and vengeful? And why are they on both sides of this?”
Damn. I guess Leah has been looking up a lot more than porn on the computers back at the base.
“You are too smart to spend all your time in costume. If you do, just remember- Wait a minute. There, at the Los Hermanos Ice Cream factory. You should hang back.”
“No. I think I can do this.”
Then came the sounds of a scuffle and gunfire, with some lovely grunting noises from Leah to accompany the rest of the noise. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a bunk around there. I have had stashes all over the place that I sometimes use, including one of a very nice tank that is difficult to conceal, but nowhere I can stop off to handle that business. You know, teach the dwarf hand to hand. Arm wrestle with the one-armed bandit. Grease the kickstand. Clean the concealed weapon. Marinate the porkchop. Stroke the Dachshund. Squeeze the weasel. Master the mystical arts of bation.
Plus, you know, I had to hurry, because a hero might talk Leah into heroism or, more likely given the way their discussion went, neutrality. That would be fiendish. What makes a person turn neutral? Lust for gold? Power? Or are such people just born with a heart full of neutrality?
When I got to Los Hermanos Ice Cream, I found a few heavy types limping to a truck after what looked like a good thrashing. I didn’t have any other building to bound off of, so I tucked up for a landing. I smashed onto their truck’s hood and windshield, cracking the glass and rolling in to land between them both. I put my arms around both of them. They froze and put their hands up.
“Relax, I’m not a hero. I just want to know who you fought in there.”
One of them stammered out an answer quickly enough. “One was a teen girl with a hood. I don’t know who she is. Not a big name. The other was that one from L.A.”
“Yeah,” the other one spoke up, “Venus. The one that fought that guy at the Empyre State Building.”
“Thank you fellows for your answers. Just one last thing then.” I slid out the front windshield again and reached behind me. The pair looked nervous until I pulled out a headless rubber chicken. “This guy needs a ride across the street. Mind taking him?”
They appreciated the laugh, I think. I found it funnier after the explosion. I went invisible as I jogged toward the factory. Leah and Venus ran out a side door. Venus didn’t hesitate to take off toward the truck, but Leah did, mainly because I appeared in front of her. She started at the sight of me, but Venus didn’t seem to notice. She was too far gone trying to help the crispy critters hanging out in their newly-designated fire truck.
I know, that one sucked even for me.
“You ok?” I asked. Venus was right. The blue of her costume was now nearly black, with dark purple in place of the red. There was an eye symbol on her chest in a muted yellow color. Might need to rethink the yellow, but skintight purple was a good color on her. “Skintight purple is a good color on you.”
She looked down at her costume, then back at me. “You should have seen it. I painted all these decoys on the walls. I even made them look enough like me that they hit each other. It was great. That heroine is a good teacher.”
I threw up a hologram for anyone to see behind me. Anyone from that direction would see Leah there, but not me.
“Uh huh. Good. Real good. Yeah, just to be clear, you’re not buying what she’s selling, are you? Maybe thinking of bringing a few new friends in spandex back to the club? I mean, hey, make some friends and all that, but you have to remember that those friends might want to try you as an adult.”
“They may let me off on probation, too.”
“Yeah, but that means taking the risk of putting yourself in their hands. Keep yourself in your own hands, or at least out of theirs. Hell, so far I haven’t minded having my hands on you and you know what I mean,” I said to her face. She pulled up the face cover, possibly to hide a blush.
“You keep your hands to yourself for a little while, alright? You’re in your villain getup, so I can’t be seen running around with you,” she said.
“Ah, yes. Running off without me. Somehow, you even found a famous hero to mentor you.”
“She was in town and stopped to talk while I was out on patrol on my own. You were too busy being Ned Flanders for the night, so I thought I’d see what a real hero was like.”
“How well is that working out for you?”
“She’s not going out of her way to embarrass herself or me, and we actually stopped some muggings. I actually got to help someone other than myself. That’s a lot more of an accomplishment than saving some crumpets.”
I pointed a finger right in her face, “Well…ok. Fine. You have a point. Just, I don’t know, don’t let her seduce you or something.”
“No, I don’t think of you like that, especially late at night when you’re sleeping and I’m standing there watching you and occasionally stroking your hair! I, the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko, would never do anything so creepy. You know, unless I decided to do something that creepy. Then I’d do it. Awwwww, yeah.”
“Classy as ever, Gecko,” said a voice from behind me. “Extorting dates out of impressionable young heroes now?”
The cat was out of the bag. That’s why you should always have your cats spayed, neutered, and beaten to death soon after you put them in a bag. I turned toward Venus. “Ah, Venus. So nice to see you again. You know, I meant to comfort you after the passing of your pet wooly mammoth. Even what you stole from me can’t revive goo.”
“I’ll keep that in mind whenever our agreement is over with,” she said as she walked over to stand next to Leah, keeping her distance from me. “Did you have anything to do with this?”
“Nope. You can tell because these guys didn’t succeed. They tried, but it seems they only got as far as putting the ‘suc’ in ‘succeed’.”
“Oooh, nice joke. They aren’t the only ones, seems like.”
“Wow, you two know each other?” Leah butted in, looking between us.
“You know him?” asked Venus.
“Kind of. I go to his club.”
“He has a club?”
“Yep, that’s what they call it these days.” I slapped my inner thigh.
Venus rolled her eyes, “Ugh, and wielded by a Neanderthal, I see.”
“Can you just go, Gecko?” Leah cut in again, looking at me with pleading eyes. Venus was taken aback watching this exchange.
“Seriously? That’s what you’d prefer?” I asked.
After a beat, I snorted. “Fine, fine. Go around betraying people who have been nice to you. Why should I care? I’ll just go fondle your underwear until whatever time you call it a night.”
“Hey, stop being such a dick because I don’t want to hang out tonight,” Leah said, actually adding some assertiveness. She’d gotten used to me over time, even dictated what I would help her with, and then there was this.
“Yeah, whatever. Just don’t get yourself hurt or captured,” I told her, trying to ignore a certain mirthful sparkle in Venus’s eyes. I turned and got a running start for a long jump.
I stopped listening in pretty soon afterward when Venus started to lecture her about her choice of boyfriends. That must have been pretty embarrassing for Leah, who was quick to deny it in favor of mentioning that I’d been training her.
I had to stop listening because hearing that caused me to screw up a jump and take a building’s edge to the groin. Whoever came up with the phrase “balls to the wall” was most not-excellent, dudes.
Talk about a series of events that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Judging by how much the fall hurt through the armor, I’m guessing that taste was my own balls.