A cowry is a type of mollusk that counts as a gastropod mollusk. Learned that while I was helping overhaul the Super Snail with Gastrolord.
I learned a great many things from him, most of them useless. I will never get back the time I used up listening to him yammer on and on about his stupid RPG game series he wanted to make. Gods that gained power from various actions related to humans. Godswar this, Godswar that, and boy did he hate criticism of it, or even the suggestion that some of his ideas weren’t entirely original. The second game, Lost Vegas, being a post-apocalyptic game set around Las Vegas with regular survivors trying to survive against raiding slavers? The third game involving regular humans getting superpowers in New Orleans? Uh huh. Suuuuure. He may have had pipe dreams about making it rich creating knockoffs of Fallout: New Vegas and Infamous 2, but that’s not what he was doing for a living. He was a supervillain with poor financial planning.
I know, I know, who am I to criticize someone’s dreams after advocating people go out and seize them? I’m the guy he got into an argument with, that’s what! Somehow, we got into a discussion about another game, Bayonetta. Full-on fanservice, complete with the main character shooting angels while pole dancing in a graveyard. It was made with that in mind. Gassy thought it was horribly over-sexualized. This from a guy whose most powerful goddess gained power from sleeping with human men and whose created servants for that goddess take jobs as whores to siphon power for her. This was a game meant to be taken seriously.
He stormed out in a huff when I said that, mumbling something about how that was completely different. Hey, I have been an extremely poor example of feminism here, but at least I never said a woman’s strength increased proportional to the amount of bukkake she wears. Yeah, can you imagine a male character with superpowers that function that way? “Hey Ironman, we worked out a new, strokier way to put your armor on. Oh, hello there Captain America. Ready for your special ‘injection’ to give you strength? Careful, Dr. Banner’s getting buttfucked. You wouldn’t like him when he’s buttfucked.” Actually, that last one would work if anyone ever threw that in.
Some people are hard to work with, and the lack of ability to take criticism well regarding his writing? Yeah, I used the time Gastrolord was out to mess around with the electrical system and the ejection system. I figured he could turn on me over some minor slight in the heat of battle. The tricks I installed ought to keep that from being a problem.
I don’t take betrayal or shoddy writing well.
Gastrolord’s attitude improved when he saw what our collaboration had wrought. I mean, he didn’t like the chrome Mohawk between the stalks on its head. The stalks themselves had been modified. Forget just electrifying the outer shell of armor as a defensive measure. We went full-on Tesla electro-beam on this bitch!
I’ve never met Nikola Tesla, but I doubt he’s happy about people using his work for that sort of thing. He has stopped by the Twenty-First Century a few times along with Teddy Roosevelt and Alfred Nobel, causing a big stir. Adventures followed every time. Tesla did all his energy and electricity stuff, Nobel would stomp around in the mining power armor he invented, and Teddy would inevitably get drunk and shoot something. Team TNT, as the group is called, has traveled the globe and time as well to right wrongs and solve crimes ever since they collaborated in the latter half of the Nineteenth Century.
Cool shit, but they weren’t the important part of this story. We gave the Super Snail electro-beams from its stalk and a new haircut. But wait, there’s more! I added a laser on top of the shell that could rotate to fire on enemies that weren’t too close to its body. Together, we increased the power plant’s efficiency a little and reduced the booster rockets’ rate of recharge by twenty percent.
That alone ought to keep him onboard with the plan at least until he’s at the warehouse blowing shit up. He was happy as a slug in a rug. He could stay that way, too, unless I needed to a-salt him.
While he was sitting tight, it was time to work on the opposite side of the coin. That’s right, coins have two sides. You might say I was a bit two-faced like that.
In my off time, I’d maintained contact with Generation Flex. They weren’t messing with Gastrolord, so they had more time for regular patrols. They even managed to save the mayor when his brakes gave out.
Anyway, I went and met up with them to join in as Missile Patriot. They pulled up to meet me at that most patriotic of institutions, the bus stop.
“Yooooooooo, yo yo yo yo! What’s happening, bro?” asked Brian from the driver’s side window of their truck as he pulled up and skidded to a halt.
“Nothing, my fine compatriot in the fight against Communism. I have need of your truck bed. These buckets are carrying things which are both valuable and extremely stinky. Also a little bit of cable. Can I set them back there?”
“That would be better than riding up front with them.”
I nodded in thanks and set the roll of cable and the buckets of bloody fish guts back there. Then I came around to the passenger side and slid in.
“Out of gas?” he asked, motioning toward my arm rockets with his head.
“Conserving it, as all great Americans should. Remember, carpooling will keep this nation strong. Also, I thought we could hang out and chat. Sorry I was a no-show for that run in with the snail guy.”
“It’s cool. We’ve been handling him by ourselves for awhile now. You got any preference where you wanna patrol?”
“Do you mind doing a drive-by of that Hephaestus place? I heard they had a bit of a fracas there.”
“We can check it out, but we can’t do anything. They paid off the cops after crap blew up all over there. If we went in and didn’t find anything, they might put the cops on us for trespassing.”
Bah, trespassing. Going where a person isn’t wanted is really considered a crime? In that case, pretty much everywhere I’ve ever been would be after me for trespassing.
Anyway, Brian drove us toward the place. He did have a query for me in relation to my goal. “What do you have against Hephaestus anyway? Is it personal?”
“Hephaestus killed my parents,” I said, slipping into my best Batman growl.
“Oh. Oh man, I’m sor-“
“It was the eighties. It was a dark night in Kingscrow, the streets filled with a rancid mixture of fog and hairspray. My mother dragged my dad away from his business wheeling and dealing to go with me to see some movies based on the Beverly Hillbillies. ‘Return of Jed’ or something like that. Hephaestus was pulling a robbery in the area when the three of us stumbled on it. They sent me running away, mom’s poofy shoulderpads obscuring the goons’ view of me. From that day forward, I knew I would become a fighter for great justice!”
Brian just sat there absorbing that for awhile. The only thing he said to all that was, “Wow.”
We sat like that until we got on the street that ran behind the warehouse compound. Everything was fixed. Those had been the only shipments to or from the place, our surveillance showed us. They either halted regular operations or were moving it another way, like the underground tunnel I suspected they had. We never saw Dr. Typhoon or Terrorjaw enter the premises either.
“Doesn’t look like anything happened?”
“You and Max better be ready all the same. I’ve been snooping. Gastrolord wants to hit this place. Say, where is your friend with the muscles anyway?”
“Max is busy right now. Working. Gotta make that money, you what I mean? I guess Gastrolord knows too.”
“I have to know me. What does a guy like Max do for a living?”
“He sells car stereos. Installs ‘em too. He gets that bass pumping.”
“Huh, that makes sense. What about you?”
“College, man. Gotta get my degree and find some work. Won’t be easy and I already got $30,000 worth of debt.”
“Ouch. Not going to try and make money off your persona?”
“Naw, this is just for Max. He’s the one who wants to do all this. I want to move on to bigger and better things. I’m allowed to do that, right? Even if I got powers?”
“I suppose you do. It’s all laid out in the Ninth Amendment, of course: ‘The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.’ Y’all are much different than I expected, you know?”
“It’s that fucking show, isn’t it? They take a bunch of assholes from New York and Empyreal City, give them a house on the shore, let them do stupid shit, and everyone thinks that’s us.”
“Huh. You guys must be…is that a shark?”
Yep, it was. Terrorjaw couldn’t help but respond to the buckets of chum in the back of the truck. He was running up the street, scaring drivers and pedestrians away. He had an eyepatch on since our last run-in. It was a good look for him. He just needed a pirate hat.
“I’ll go show that fish my hook.” I practiced a few punches, then opened the door and gave the Missile Patriot’s newest catchphrase. “For great justice!”
I swung onto the back of the truck. Brian slowed, then stopped. Terrorjaw’s gibbering visage approached as he sprinted past other cars, not even noticing the people inside. I knew some sharks had an ability to sense electricity. I didn’t know if he had that ability. What I had known was that he was a fucking shark. Bloody fish guts? Sharks eat that shit up. I readied to unleash a rocket punch as he approached.
He got close and his undamaged eye rolled into the back of his head. He jumped. I almost threw the punch, but was stopped by the sight of Bulletproof Brian throwing himself between us. Terrorjaw’s teeth dug in impotently. Against Terrorjaw, Bulletproof Brian could have been called Biteproof Brian. That made it easy. I grabbed the metal cable I set in the back with the buckets for just this confrontation and hopped out.
I tried getting his arms, but he resisted. Finally, I just passed it to Brian. “Lend a hand?”
He sighed, or maybe that was from the pressure on his diaphragm, and took the cable. He passed it just inside of himself and I grabbed it out the other end of Terrorjaw’s mouth. Then I straddled his back, grabbed both ends, and pulled.
Terrorjaw reeled back, swiping his hands at the sky. Then he tried to both buck me off and turn Brian around so he could swallow him whole. I don’t think he was thinking too well at the time. Funny how that happens to supervillains.
I yanked on my reins, getting him away from Brian. Instead, he concentrated on throwing me off his back. He jumped, he spun, he rolled, he even knocked me into a car. This was why sharks were never allowed in rodeos. Only cows and horses, which is bullshit.
As he began to tire, I pulled hard on the reins and used his motions to ram his head into other things. Parking meters, mailboxes, a trash can. Then I swapped hands and turned backwards. “Let’s rocket!” From the HUD in my eyes, I put in the code. 3-3-5, EJ. He roared as the backblast from the rockets burnt him. I pulled into the sky and eased up my grip on one hand. Excess cable pulled along the corners of Terrorjaw’s mouth, cutting into it as I flew into the air. When I clamped down on the cable, that was when he couldn’t stay on his feet any more. He was pulled up with me, at which point I turned my rockets downward toward the ground. It was a fairly easy landing for me, but he flipped over, cable still caught in his teeth, and smashed into the road.
In all the time it took me to get things ready, Hephaestus might have managed to bring in another villain. Maybe, maybe not. I couldn’t speak to their overconfidence.
One thing I do know is that one of the ones who took a bite out of my ass just wound up in the shark cage. A police shark cage, true, but all the media attention and public exposure means Hephaestus couldn’t money that situation over so easily as they did at their compound.
And that, dear readers, is how you school a fish.