As much as New Jersey has a reputation as some sort of hive of scum and fail, I haven’t visited it all that much. That’s especially odd considering my uncontrollable desire to kill reality TV stars. Maybe I figured it was more evil to leave those people alive.
It didn’t take us long to get there. I could have told Holly, Sam, and Max that they didn’t need a travel trailer for a two hour drive. Unfortunately, as you know, I never got the license plate number of that hospital that hit me. Still, what’s done is done. They didn’t want a cramped motel room, so instead they got us a cramped trailer. At least motel rooms could be wrecked after a couple days. TVs embedded in the wall, bed sheets stuffed in the refrigerator, toilet upside down. Hell, there were times I went out and bought an extra TV just to break it in a hotel room.
Still, there was an interesting development on our way down there.
I was driving and having a conversation with Holly, who wanted to keep an eye on me. Sam and Max were back in the trailer. I think they wanted someone to keep an eye on me after the brain injury. Anyway, there we were, discussing the inevitable changes in the world brought by technology with the radio turned down so we could hear each other.
“I think everything will be the same, but better. There’s no reason to think everything is going to change just because we get smaller computers,” Holly said.
“Computers that fit into clothing, augmented reality, that stuff will have a big enough effect. You could have every building be a server. Every outfit. Everything you see, you get info about it, from it.”
“Yeah, but it all needs to be recharged.”
“Wireless energy transfer technology. This world is already laying the groundwork. Imagine, everywhere you go, nothing runs out of energy. Maybe something in particular has a higher draw that messes with things, but consider that world. You wouldn’t need much of a local power supply for anything. Of course, ahem, you do some reconfiguring and you get a nice way to fry things, but that’s a surprise I want to keep handy for whenever y’all pull it off. Still, it’ll create a body modification revolution to rival the one from gene therapy technologies.”
“Where’s the power going to come from? Solar energy can’t handle all of that, can it?”
“Yeah, solar doesn’t look like much right now, just like originally whale oil lit a few lamps or coals were set on fire in braziers. You have to think long term to the days when power satellites blast it wholesale to the surface level. Don’t even get me started on harnessing sound, waves, lightning, and seismic activity…”
“So why don’t you make all this stuff now and become the richest man in the world?”
“Because you are all simple little apes. In the land of the crap tossers, the man with the shit catapult is king.”
“Ugh, great imagery. Why not sabotage all scientific progress then?”
Just then the DJ started talking about some interesting new press release about Long Life’s nanotechnology. I turned it up. “…just think, in a few years, everything medically wrong with you could be fixed with a snap of your fingers.”
The other DJ butted in, “Yeah, but isn’t that a lot of power in the hands of one company? They can charge whatever they want and have everyone in their pocket. Let’s not forget that if they can put people back together so easily, they can take them apart just as easily.”
I turned it back down. “That’s why. One of the things I like most about science is how disruptive it is to whatever the current order is. That’s the point, after all. As soon as you find a new theory that fits better with the facts, you drop the crap that doesn’t work.”
“That’s a little schizophrenic, Gecko.”
“Shhh, Holly. Just sit back and dream of the day when you bite into a computer hot dog which transfers data on energy production and development to your internal nanites and helps you grow big and strong, like fifty feet tall with an autocannon.”
The radio continued on. “…and it’s rumored to have come from this villain, Psycho Gecko.” That caught my attention, so I turned it back up.
“Then we know it works. He dies and comes back to life like it’s nobody’s business. You heard the announcements. He’s back again and a lot of folks in black suits want a word with him.”
“That’s right, Marv. Just about everyone wants a piece of him. Too bad nobody’s got a picture of him without the mask. I hear he wears the faces of those he killed. For those who don’t know who we’re talking about, we’re talking about this man…”
They then replayed an interesting little announcement that sounded like one of the major news networks. Damn, if I’d known someone would leak my existence, I’d have given Harlon and his folks an exclusive. I wondered if it was too late to get an interview. I really needed to clear up some misconceptions about me. For one thing, that charge of molesting a heifer was total bull.
Yep. I was declared a wanted man again.
Still, they didn’t have my face or anything on my car out yet, so I only had to worry if I wore the armor. Despite the announcement, which I found out had been national news linked to the hospital and the Hephaestus sites we raided, we had only minor trouble finding a place to stay. The trouble came from when I found out about a place called the Krueger Mansion. I wanted to crash there, but then Holly informed me it had nothing to do with Freddy Krueger. I would have been living the dream.
Instead, we set up in what Holly described as, “One step above a nightmare.”
The official name was actually Skid Mark Trailer Park.
I just had to admire that sign. It was beautiful. I realized as soon as I got there and saw it that I might never see as wonderful a sight as that simple, old, dirty sign of the upper body of an obese man sticking out of an RV that had a trail of skid marks behind it, all with the words “Skid Mark Trailer Park” underneath it. It was like whoever named the place had this perfect storm of hate and derision that coalesced into a beautifully insulting name.
“What’s wrong, Gecko?” Sam asked as she stepped up behind me.
I sniffed. “Nothing. It’s like running into a nigh-extinct creature in the wild. I see it, and I love it, but it might be too easy hunting now that I have it right in front of me.”
“Wow, it’s like your black rhinoceros, huh?”
“What? No, fuck that shit.” I turned to where Max and Holly were getting things unloaded. ”Hey Max, any zoos with rhinos in the area? We might need to go shopping.”
The only trouble came up later at dusk when there was a fight. For once, we weren’t involved. Max was away helping one of our temporary neighbors with his meth lab. Holly and Sam were out on down time. I think they were out seeing a movie. I was grilling up burgers and daydreaming about sending a grill-based killer robot against teenagers in bright costumes.
The sound of approaching sirens didn’t phase me. We already had the cops drop in just to break up a few domestic disputes and one attempted murder from when I yelled at an arguing couple to just kill each other already. This time, the earth shook as they got closer and I could see it was due to a robot in the shape of a snail.
First was the head, which was a chassis that looked like its mouth opened as a ramp. Above that were the stalks. The little balls on the end of it looked like those glass orbs with electricity flowing out. A plasma globe, they call them. Occasionally, electrical discharges from those globes crackled out and caressed the chassis. A metal trash can that was too close went flying. The can embedded itself in the side of one trailer, prompting a man to burst out wearing underwear, boots, and a plaid, trapper-style hat. Eyes bulging, he brandished a shotgun at the street, then to either side, then up at the sky. Max pushed him out of the way as he stepped out of the trailer to watch.
The snail’s foot, that slimy base of it that moves it, was made up of a pair of tank treads. Above that was its shell. It was armored, with the occasional marks on its spiral from deflected bullets. It dumped oil onto the road as it passed. Cop cars skidded out.
All of a sudden, someone flew through the air and broke a hole in the spiral of the snail. The snail sped up, but a muscular masked man in a gold and green unitard jumped out of the hole. In his arms was some sort of device. A car was headed right for him, unable to stop in time. Another man landed in front of the first, this one also pretty built. That guy had some muscles, the kind that made his head look too small, and he was wearing a gold and blue singlet. He ran, bent down, and reached around the top and bottom of the car, lifting it. He only held it for a moment, the momentum forcing him back as it groaned, and he set it down upside down on the street behind the first fellow.
“Sweet catch!” green and gold said.
The rear of the shell slid open underneath the hole and a rocket engine extended out. A cluster of smaller engines appeared along the rearmost tread mount. Green and gold saw it getting ready and tossed the device to blue and gold, then got between him and the engines and covered him with his own body. The flames from the rocket snail tank roared and consumed them as it sped out of there. When the smoke cleared, though, the two heroes were both unharmed.
Blue and gold turned around and held the glorified typewriter thingy in one hand while raising the other for a high five. “Nice save, bro. Epic win, and you got that thing he stole.”
“Sweet, right?” said green and gold as he fived his friend up high.
“Here you go, officer broseph,” said blue and gold as he handed over that gadget to one of the uniforms trying to secure the scene.
The officer strained under the weight of it and passed it on to another officer on the scene, then asked the pair, “Thanks, uh, what was it again? Mike and Bill?”
“Check it, brah,” said blue and gold as he struck a pose. “I’m Max Muscles.”
“And I’m Bulletproof Brian,” said green and gold as he also posed.
Together, they both talked as they formed another pose, “And together we’re Generation Flex!”
That’s when a part of me fell in love with New Jersey. You know, in that way that’s like “I’d cut off your ear and keep it as a souvenir to remind me of you always.”
It also gave me an idea for a plan. A way for me to operate around here and a way to divert some attention from me. I figured getting those heroes would be easy to use for my dirty work. Ok, so really, it’s just because I wanted to have some fun with these guys, but who can blame me?
Hephaestus wanted to use the feds against me, I’ll use the heroes against them. They should have known better than to come at me, reader-bros and broettes.