The others weren’t on board with my scheme about the heroes.
“We came along to help you rescue Carl and Moai. Remember Carl? The guy who worked for you?” Sam shook a spatula at me. I’d prefer if she just cooked. Not that I think that’s a woman’s place. It’s just that I wanted steaks and the things left on the grill resembled Phoenix turds or something.
“Yeah, the lanky, stocky guy. Blondish-blackish hair. Skin color kinda Caucasian in a sort of dark brown kinda way?” I asked by way of indicating who I was BSing a description of.
Holly shook her head. “Don’t the jokes get old, Gecko? They sound old to us. Then again, they sound old in general.”
“Just talk past him. He’ll listen, even if he’s not responding,” Max called out the window of the trailer. “And don’t forget the code name.”
“Yes, respect the code name. This might be the kind of hole where people are actually named after animals, but for all intents and purposes I am Jacob Rodney Cohen to all of you.” When I’ve needed a civilian name to go by, I tended to pick the name of a comedian or a famous character they have portrayed. Comedians often go by stage names to hide their identity as well. Or because it sounds funnier.
Sam gritted her teeth at my lack of focus. “Whatever, ‘Jake.’ You’re making this more complicated than it needs to be. Just run in there, kill everyone, and see if you can find who you’re looking for. I thought you liked doing things that way?”
A tip I’ve heard given for those entering politics is to answer the question you wish you were asked, not the question you were asked. I was playing with my sock puppets at that point, which I found slightly more interesting than having the women argue with me. Also, they hadn’t yet realized I’d stolen, cut, and drawn on their socks instead of mine. “Hello, I’m the ring-tailed Cooter of the American Southeast. And I’m the three-toed Bubba! I grew an extra one on account of momma drinkin’ the moonshine too much.”
Next was Holly’s turn. It was a classic double team. I’ve had people double team me before. In an argument, I mean. “One, this is Jersey, not Alabama. Two, that would be offensive in Alabama even. Three, Cooter and Bubba aren’t animals. Four, I thought you wanted to beef up your reputation for doing horrible things to people who don’t pay up? Wait, is that my sock?”
Max jumped out of the trailer and cut her off as she was just about to slap me. His entrance surprised the women and he got between them and me. My eyes flickered over him as I grinned and let out a small “Aww.”
He leaned over and looked me in my eyes. That perpetual smile of his looked more forced than usual as he backed up. “Maybe you ought to go ahead and do whatever it is you want to do, Jacob.”
“Things were just about to get fun here, Maxxy waxy.”
“What’s going on?” Sam asked Max in a whisper.
“Give him a goal to focus on, like anger, and he can have a lot of good days. This is not a good day.”
I didn’t see what he meant at the time. Some friendly person he turned out to be. He got in the way when two perfectly unsuspecting people who liked to HIT ME were about to put their hands on me. They’re nice women and I like them. I would have let them keep their other hands. Max was good too, generally, but his unusual perceptiveness toward me had once again indicated that he should stay back. I never got why he would, actually. It was a day like any other, with me being myself.
Only more so.
Fine, fine, I left them alone that day. Went off on my own. It wasn’t fair, though. I mean, all the times I didn’t care about being hit or insulted, that didn’t matter, but the day I cared about my burnt-ass steak, all of a sudden Max is there crying out, “Beef good, pork bad!”
Which is really quite insulting, if you think about it. I’ve haven’t been much of a diet person since the good old days, but the human body is way too fatty for that. I mean, come on. I’m trying to kill other people around here, not myself.
Now, the first thing I did upon striking out on my own was not, in fact, to hunt down and attract the attention of Generation Flex so we could have some sort of team up. The first step was gathering my luggage and my car. They had places nearby for Max and the girls to plug in the trailer for power, so I was more worried about the chunks of metal out of place on the rear of my car.
So I had my car and I had my costume. I slipped into both in little time. More than that, I was also in a particularly vindictive mood. To that end, I reconned the target. The Piñata factory was actually a warehouse compound. It looked fairly normal. Chain link fence around the exterior with a guard outpost at the entrance and people patrolling around the exterior. There were a few too many guards for the place, though. More security than Ass Blaster implied back at the hospital. Also, way too many dead birds around the perimeter of that fence. I watched one try to fly over the warehouse and smash its hollow little skull out on some invisible barrier. It was murder most fowl.
I saw an opening, though. A water company delivery truck there to change out the cooler’s giant bottle. When he went walked out and started the truck, I turned invisible and ran up to the guard post. I hadn’t built yet another laser potato peeler yet. Don’t even remember when I lost the last one, but it would have been useful to have. Instead, I had to quickly charge and hope no one noticed the glow from my hands penetrate my illusion in the sunlight. I gauged the distance as it began to speed up just past the gate and punched his truck in the tire. The tire popped and the wheel deformed, bringing the truck to a stop.
I backed off as the driver got out. I suspected he might have been Zeus, because he swore up a storm.
When the guards came over to investigate, I pumped out some interesting noises for them to hear. First, seductive moaning to get their attention. Then someone speaking Russian and guns being cocked. They erred on the side of paranoia and set the water cooler guy off for a special delivery from the river Styx.
Sticks and stones could break his bones. Amateurs.
My ultimate plan in all this was to give them all diarrhea. Spoiler alert, I guess. I thought I’d kill off their water supply and get some stuff into the replacement. One problem: their communications were secured. It was the kind of thing I should have noticed. They didn’t need their own special satellite or secret server base or anything. All they needed was telephone wire.
I didn’t want to spend all day or all week waiting on the next truck. I had places to go and people to see, so it wound up being a senseless death. A useless, meaningless waste of a person’s life. The guards didn’t even make him wear a funny hat first.
After that, I spent days doing some soul-searching, specifically for a pair of souls called Max Muscles and Bulletproof Brian.
I just had to think about where I would find a couple of manly muscle men doing manly things.
That was the line of thinking that got me kicked out of various gyms I checked in, save for this one where some guy was going to practice soccer and wanted me on his team. He thought I looked like an excellent ball handler.
“I don’t have time to help you handle your balls. I’ve got to find a pair of macho men to get down and dirty with me.”
For some reason, the ball handler guy didn’t take the hint that I wasn’t interested in playing with him after that, but whatever. After shaking him off, I decided that if I couldn’t find them patrolling or working out, I needed to make them come to me without also making everyone come to me. Did I say everyone? I mean EVERYONE. If people spot me too early on, I’ll have so many initialisms up my ass, people will think I ingested alphabet soup rectally.
I needed to fake being a villain they would want to fight.
When I tore through the display window of a jewelry store that afternoon, my holograms showed me in a whole different light. I looked bulkier and dark grey all over. The face that I projected over my helmet was growling, with three small tusks sticking out just past the lips. The body was designed to look more rounded, which incorporated some parts that looked like circular weights on the biceps, triceps, thighs, and calves. There was a barbell with the weight plates on my upper back and hanging out past my shoulders, and a black cape hung from it. The barbell was real, actually. It was a temporary addition made possible by a natural adhesive that I have a huge supply of, ladies. I hear women like a guy who knows where to buy a lot of strong glue. Those kinds of couples really stick together.
Eh, eh? Anybody? Come oooooooon. You know you wanted to laugh at that.
The hologram had a helmet that looked like a samurai’s. That type of helmet is called a kabuto, by the way. Samurai had these crests on the front of the helmet, called maedate. They were clan symbols or holy symbols or just something to intimidate people. They were like the prison tattoos of the medieval Japanese warrior class, but without the teardrop meaning murder. Samurai didn’t cry about that. The one I had topping off this weight-themed appearance was another weight plate.
I had designed this appearance because I figured they were exactly the sorts to go after something like it. I have experience knowing what my audience wants to see, at least when it comes to designing monsters to send after young men and women with attitude and bright spandex. Not as much experience when it comes to attracting an extradimensional readership, but I haven’t heard of anyone who has managed that.
I took my time.
“Cower before me, puny mortals! I am Noman the Barbellian! Your merchandise is hereby confiscated to serve the glory that is the Glorious People’s Constitutional Republican Aristrocratic, Democratic, and Ochlocratic Monarchy and Fried Chicken Emporium of the Barbellians!”
If you knew you had an audience hostage, wouldn’t you have fun with them too? I was in it to take my time anyway. After my announcement and throwing a brave security guard through a glass case, I started looking through them. “Hmm, the diamonds are nice, but I’m really looking for something with more emeralds or Oregon sunstone to make my eyes pop out for people. Ooh, do you have any carbonados?”
They didn’t have anything special for me, unfortunately. Just the boring regular diamonds. Fucking ripoff, that’s all those things are. Sure, people have built hellacious blades out of them, but the price has been artificially inflated. Seriously, people have found more than enough to make diamonds cheaper than they’re sold for. I still pocketed a few decent pieces for later.
I was rewarded for my patience by a man’s butt hitting me in the face. He came flying at the store, hit a column, then spun out. His squooshy buns slapped me right in the part of my body that I typically rank low on the “butt friendly” scale. Still, something was finally going right for me since I ran off from Max, Holly, and Sam.
When I picked myself up, I saw Bulletproof Brian was there to save the day.
“Who dares?” I asked. I wanted to test something. My fist began to glow as energy sheathed it.
“I’m Bulletproof Brian, and I dare!” he said while striking a pose. I drove my fist into his gut. It knocked him up through the ceiling, but he tore the hole wider as he fell through it and landed in front of me, holding his stomach. He was trying to catch his breath, but looked otherwise unhurt. I’ve exploded skulls with that kind of punch in a weaker version of my suit.
“Whoa, we got a big man over here,” I heard from behind me. I whirled to find the blue and gold clad Max Muscles. He punched me in the gut like I hit his buddy, but not hard enough to become an Unhappy Flying Object. It managed to fold up the armor in the stomach region and drove the air out of me. The suit, with its ever-faithful life support functions, forced some air down my breathing hole, but the hit still hurt. Then he grabbed me by the shoulders and threw me into the ceiling. Unlike BB, I made it outside the building and landed on the roof. I had seen Max say something as I did my impression of the Space Shuttle Challenger, but I missed the second part to his combat witticism. Strong fucker, too. Threw me so hard, the barbell fell off my back. I was glad to get outside the building as that was part of my plan. I guess you could say it felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders.
I dropped that hologram and instead opted to become invisible. As they searched for Noman the Barbellian, the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko crawled to his car in the parking lot of the building behind the jewelry store. There I swapped costumes.
It was the Missile Patriot who flew to the scene next to help them fight. I landed on the rooftop in front of Max Muscles. “I got here as quickly as I could, citizens. What appears to be the happy-hap, my good bro?”
I improvised my dialogue for handling these guys based on what words felt like they attracted fists toward my mouth as I spoke them.
“Bro, there was this big metal dude, right? Have. You. Seen. Him?”
“I’m afraid not. The Missile Patriot flies forth swiftly to save my fellow Americans, but not swiftly enough this time. May I render assistance unto you, dude, in your just search for truth and a heinous behind to put boots to?”
“Bro, you read my mind,” MM said.
“Then lets get to it!”
“Sure brah, let me take you to my bro Brian. Hey Brian!”
Just like that, I was formally introduced to Generation Flex as we searched high and low for the nonexistent villain. We bonded over this fruitless endeavor and in the end, we agreed to hang and even patrol together. Gee, wherever would a patrol with them take me?
When I pulled up at the Skid Mark Trailer Park, I was soon greeted by a very cross Sam. I guessed she was cross because that’s how she tried to punch me. I grabbed it and flipped her over onto her back, then pulled her to her feet and brushed her off.
“Feel better?” I asked her.
“No.” Then she tried again. I slipped an arm under her arm and behind her neck, holding her in a half nelson.
“That’s no way to treat me. I come bearing good news. And gifts.” I held out my hand to show off a white gold necklace. It had special rings to hold three small diamonds per side as it approached a large ring with ten similarly-sized diamonds set in it, with an inner ring holding a larger diamond. Told you there were a lot of diamonds out there.
Now, Sam has never fit the traditional gender stereotypes, but I would have most people’s attention if I gave them a necklace like that.
“Holly, Max, get out here! Jacob’s back!”
I think the yellow gold emerald earrings for Holly may have been worth more than Sam’s necklace, but that was not due to favoritism. Still, she liked them. Max got a nice fancy black diamond ring.
“Now you can punch someone with style, you see?”
“Alright, what’s the occasion?” Holly asked.
“The occasion, is that I succeeded. When the Missile Patriot patrols with Generation Flex, I will lead them straight to Hephaestus. Those louts will likely run in, guns blazing.”
“They didn’t have guns,” Max commented.
“Try telling them that. They both asked me over and over if I had tickets to the gun show. Anyway, I’ll have them do my bidding, and soon the Glorious People’s Constitutional Republican Aristrocratic, Democratic, and Ochlocratic Monarchy and Fried Chicken Emporium of the Barbellians will destroy Hephaestus!” I finished by throwing my hands into the air and cackling madly. Max quickly joined in. He always loved a good evil cackle. Holly forced a giggle and Sam just crossed her arms and watched the rest with a raised eyebrow.
When we all stopped, she was the one to ruin the mood by asking, “Who?”