Sometimes, I wonder if allies…or, to be more honest, friends are a weakness. Somehow they’ve accumulated around me. Moai was meant to be a temporary ally. Carl got on my good side that time. Max has been one of the best at understanding me, but it’s been at a distance. Even while he’s been here, we haven’t gone and done a whole lot together. No two-man crime sprees aside from that job with Hephaestus. Sam and Holly like me in a sort of vitriolic way. I let them get away with a lot in how they treat me. A little too much, perhaps. Good Doctor was good to hang with, too, though he didn’t like me much. That probably made it easier for him to go to jail. It was better that he supposedly redeem himself by sitting in jail and giving up info to his hero daughter than be out there killing bad people.
I haven’t been able to understand them all that well, but there was a connection. A connection I haven’t liked. Like that whole business with the Sexahol. Holding friends of mine hostage, using them against me. Hesitating to take on Forcelight now, for some reason, because I was thinking of my friends. Venus, the unpowered vigilante whose boyfriend I killed, handicapped me more by taking Leah under her wing than she ever did when I lost that arm fighting her.
It’s because friends expect something of me. They expect, despite everything they should know, that I have some sort of redeemable qualities in me. Contrary to my nature, I sometimes try to humor them. As you may have noticed, dear readers, it doesn’t work very well.
So let me tell you what got me all contemplative about my friends here, at the end of Leah’s little month.
There I was in my office, outside of my armor, checking on a few things. It turns out Hephaestus didn’t follow through. I hadn’t bothered following up because they sent over the pizzas that one day, but that was all they sent. I was following up on the whole thing and found that my contact numbers for them didn’t work anymore. Good thing I had Max around. He could get them for me, I figured.
I actually called him in, but there was something else I wanted to discuss first.
“Max, I want to run something by you here. I think I’ve figured out who is the culprit at the heart of all these snack crimes recently.”
“Snack crimes?” he asked as he sat down.
I readied my pointer and pulled down a chart showing drawings of a cookie, a Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Elmo wearing a Punisher shirt, Kermit the Frog, a flag with a skeleton stabbing a heart with a spear, and a pair of handcuffs.
“Yes. Cookies, cream, crumpets, kipper, and just yesterday somebody stole an entire truck of caramel. The actor who plays the Cookie Monster has come back clean…a little too clean. I think he knows something, and I think Big Bird and Kermit the Frog are in on it. It all has to do with Black Beard, of course, whose treasure the Muppets once found, I think. I didn’t finish that movie. But they probably did, and I suspect they used that money to set up various snack companies as investments, because the American fat market is expanding. As we all know, it has expanded rapidly, with stocks in ass fat futures growing out of control. Sesame Street pushes for good diets and exercise, but they keep a Cookie Monster on payroll, so we wind up with a Cold War situation that’s actually to the mutual benefit of Muppets and the Sesame Street gang. Sesame Street gets paid money to fight against fatty stuff, while the Muppet liaison Cookie Monster helps to coordinate with the Muppets so that the Muppets snack food ventures can benefit from seemingly being targeted by “the man,” which here refers to actual men as opposed to puppets. No word yet whose pulling those puppets’ strings, but I believe this recent escalation can be traced back to one man and one man only…Elmo.”
“Recently, he was replaced for suspicion of molesting children. A suspicion he beat in court like an overly-talkative child. You can tell by his ever so slight change in voice. That’s not the real Elmo, and he’s not in on the game like the old Elmo was. This Elmo is a one-man army, an anti-snack vigilante. This time, he’s out to kick the Muppets right in the cream puffs.”
“Actually, I think I did it.”
I looked up from where I pointed at the Punisher Elmo. “Huh?”
“Yeah, since I’ve been in town, I’ve been selling this strain of mutant super marijuana. I think this is all just a case of the super munchies.”
I looked from him to the chart.
“It could make sense…how much is Elmo paying you to protect him?”
“Nothing, man. I’ve made good enough money selling off what I call ‘Booster Gold’.”
So even though I forgot all about calling in Hephaestus at that time, I did solve the mystery of the snack crimes.
It may not have gotten me anywhere to talk to them, as the night’s events would show. I got called away talking about Max’s Super Pot by Carl, who also congratulated me on the car lift from the back of the club to the underground lair. He liked having a proper garage down there.
That wasn’t why he called me away, though. He called me away because Leah wanted to talk to me. Not in her room, not in the club, nothing like that. She wanted me to talk to her across the street.
It smelled to me like her new friend was rubbing off on her. That sounded hot. Ow! Stop that, Leah!
I didn’t pull my armor on before I left to meet her, placing some measure of faith in the inherent goodness of humanity and my own ability to kill just about anything I get my hands on. One of those factored in more than the other. I was partially correct in my paranoid suspicion. I found Leah there in her costume, still colored purple and blue, but a familiar woman in a tight white, gold, and pink costume stepped out of the shadows behind her.
“Aha! So, Venus, using mere airheaded teenage girls to set up your ambushes, are you?”
“Shush, Leah, I didn’t mean you.”
“Cute, Gecko. Once again, your tongue proves to be more trouble than its worth.”
“Not like that, Leah. He and I are NOT like that.”
I waved my hands, “Ok, we’ve gotten sidetracked already. Why have I been called out here? Is this about your decision, Leah?”
I looked to her. She had her chin lowered somewhat and held her arms more by her sides. She hadn’t looked so nervous since the beginning of this month. Finally, she spoke. “You said you would give me a month. You were great. You gave me a place to stay when I didn’t have anything. Money. You taught me a lot about how to hurt people, and you made a good case for why it’s necessary sometimes.” She motioned to Venus, beginning to speak louder over some helicopter flew closer over the area, “And you let me learn about being a hero, too. That took guts. Especially with your…um…friend here. You two have a history. She taught me a lot about what it means to help people. It’s kind of like you taught me how to fight against something and she taught me how to fight for something. There was something you both suggested that I think I’ll do. I don’t have to decide right now. I’ve got a little money now, and she’s got friends who can fix things with the law. Things have died down since Captain Thunder killed that guy. I-“
She didn’t finish her obvious attempt to embrace neutrality because a guy in a red and purple costume with a big letter “A” on the chest jumped from a helicopter, grew 100 feet tall in midair, and landed on the building behind my club. It resisted gravity for a couple of seconds before giving up the futile battle. In that time, Venus pulled Leah back toward the alley and stepped up beside me.
“Friend of yours?” I asked.
She shook her head. “No. I’ve seen him before, though. He’s been stealing things in Silicon Valley.”
“Do you guys need help?” asked Leah from behind us.
I turned and shooed her away. “Get out of here. You don’t want any part of this. Besides, guy this big, it should be easy to get my hand up his ass.” I turned back around, ignoring Venus’s angry glare directed at me, then added, “Rotating him sixty-three degrees, now that’ll be a bitch to pull off.” My next words were directed toward the big man. “Hey, asshole, we’re trying to have a dramatic moment here! Come back next week.”
“Are you nuts? Think for one second!” yelled Venus.
“This is the wrong time entirely for this sort of shit. I have readers to think about. You really think it’s realistic for some new big thing to come in and interrupt another important thing like this?”
Venus didn’t answer before the man addressed me, though he was looking at the club.
“Psycho Gecko!” shouted the man, his voice causing a rumble through the area. “Hephaestus would like you to know that no one is afraid of your threats anymore.”
A beam of light shot from his eyes, rolling over the club. The club disappeared beneath his gaze.
“We’ve got to go!” Venus said. She grabbed my wrist and pulled. I stood my ground.
“Uh uh, bitch isn’t gonna get away with killing my club. I just got that thing put together.”
“He hasn’t killed anyone yet. Fine, why do I bother?”
She let go, but Venus’s costume must have drawn this big fellow’s attention, because the next thing I knew, both of us were engulfed in the multi-colored eye beams I’d seen hit the club.
To my surprise, I didn’t wake up dead. I didn’t wake up. I was still awake, that’s why. Also to my surprise, I found that I was in what looked like a whole new world. A world where Venus had stopped trying to pull me and was instead cussing up a storm. We were now the same height for some reason.
It was when Leah’s giant face leaned in close that I figured out what happened.
“We’ve been shrunk,” I said.
“Woah, you two, are you alright?” Leah asked, making things a little windier.
Venus gave her a thumbs up. “If we’re not dead after taking a breath, then we’ll be fine like this for now.”
“He fucking shrunk us?”
“He shrinks things, Gecko. That’s ‘A’ on his chest stands for his name. Amplitude. It’s related to size.”
“I thought it was for ‘asshole’ as in ‘Giant Asshole.’”
“Worry about nomenclature later, Gecko. This is all your fault. Every bit of niceness towards you makes things worse. Leah, be a dear? I need to get out of here, so I have to drag you back into this a little longer.”
Leah nodded her assent and lowered her hands down. We each fit in a hand. “You guys are like little toys.” She set us on her shoulders. I checked out the scene to see if Amplitude had spotted us. So did Venus and Leah. We all got a good look at Amplitude picking up the shrunken club and handing it to someone in the helicopter, which then lowered. A squad of armed men filed out and began checking the area with magnifying glasses.
Venus and I both clambered over to get inside her hood. “I have friends who can restore me to normal. You didn’t have to bring Gecko, by the way. I think we can find gerbil cage to hold him once we get out of here.”
“No. I am not getting handed over to a bunch of heroes while I’m a damn G.I. Gecko action figure. Leah, see that manhole down there?” I grabbed the edge of the hood and hung out a ways to point at one in the sidewalk.
“What about it?” she asked in a whisper.
“It’s not as heavy as it looks. Take it down and then back toward the club. It leads into the lair. We need to grab a few things before going. Destroy some files.”
“You got it,” she said. She went to lift the manhole and found it weighed much less than a normal one. She shimmied down the ladder and coughed as she got used to the smell.
“We shouldn’t do this. We should leave before Gecko gets us all caught. That’s probably his plan. He’s arrogant enough to think he can break out of captivity and kill everyone.”
“Shut up, Super Barbie.”
“Why you tiny son of a-!”
“Shut up both of you. Whatever we do, I’m not turning Gecko over easily. He helped me out in a bad time.”
After a short, bouncy jog through a tunnel, she pushed up against a door that was hidden behind a picture frame holding a painting of a door.
“Ok, the car should be in the back, either on the car lift or right by it. Get me close and I can pop the trunk.”
It was hectic. We were all nervous, especially as large footsteps pounded overhead. First we had to get to the car. I unlocked it and got the trunk open, then directed Leah to grab my costume, my nanite thing, and the laptop I currently have the extradimensional blogger tech in. While she was busy grabbing all that, I had her drop me off at the computer.
My abilities present some interesting problems when dealing with computerized systems larger than myself. A member of my race can get absorbed into something like that if they aren’t careful. I was pissed off, but I couldn’t kick ass if my feet were stuck in a computer tower. I merged with it just enough to purge the data, just in case these Hephaestus fuckers felt like searching through it for schematics.
While I was doing that, I found I had a new email waiting for me.
“Dear Psycho Gecko,
Due to lack of cooperation, we at Hephaestus are forced to terminate our account with you. Due to your hostility and threats of retaliation, we hope this message finds you in a much reduced capacity. We at Hephaestus will not tolerate being bullied by the reputation of a self-important supervillain who spends half his time pretending to be dead. Now you can spend your days at a size which we think best matches your importance to our organization.”
It ended with their symbol, an anvil, hammer, and tongs.
“That’s everything. Ready to go?”
I blinked and looked up at Leah, then finished the last of the deletions while arming the local self destruct. “Sure thing, biggy.”
Gunshots rang out as Leah ran for the car, deflecting off the car’s armor. She punched the button that started the lift and slid into the seat, slamming the door closed. I wasn’t in a position to worry about the car door.
“How do you turn this thing on?” she asked, losing her cool.
“Calm down, I got this,” I said and tapped myself on the head. At that instant, thanks to a signal, the car started.
When we reached the top, it was between the legs of Amplitude. He was ready to grab us, but what he didn’t count on was Leah having the nerves of a caffeinated rabbit. He didn’t get us, even if I was thrown back against the back of Leah’s hood.
As I crawled back out and onto Leah’s shoulder, Venus called out to me. “Woops, you should have worn your seatbelt!” she taunted from where she sat in the passenger seat, mostly covered up by the seat belt she’d managed snap in. I gave her the finger, then turned my attention back to the escape.
“How are we doing?”
Leah’s response was a little too loud, “They have that chopper following us. Amplitude gave up after shrinking half the neighborhood.”
“Right. Hey, you’re going to have to drive like no one can see you, ok?”
I hit the active camouflage. The view on the windshield went from that of a window to that of a live camera view as the car disappeared similar to my suit’s invisibility.
“Ta da! I have made the car disappear!”
The night wouldn’t be complete without another rumble. This one was accompanied by an explosion from the direction of the lair.
“What was that?” Leah and Venus asked at once.
“Just one of my parting gifts,” I told them. I grinned as murderous thoughts of revenge passed through my head.
The other parting gift was a little email I sent back to Hephaestus. Not too much to it.
Missed me. See you soon.
Hugs and kisses,
The Great and Devious Psycho Gecko”