The day of the attack, I looked at my costumes, glancing between the Missile Patriot tights and my power armor. Max, as in Mix N’Max, walked up behind me. He patted me on the shoulder and asked, “What are you going to wear? That could have a pretty big impact on things. You can’t use illusions outside your armor.”
“It’s all an illusion. That’s the basic trick of every illusion, especially the more mundane kinds. The key is to make someone trust in a false premise. I could do that with the Patriot suit too.”
“Well, whatever you decide, I hope you choose soon. It’s real hard to squeeze by you here while you’re standing around in the nude.”
He had a point. I was in the trailer and Holly couldn’t get to Sam or the door because I was blocking the little bit of available walking room.
I made my choice.
It was the day after I took down Terrorjaw. I decided that anymore delays would be dangerous. I didn’t know who all had signed on to take me out, but I knew Outlaw X had taken to calling the group the Annihilation Eight. Unfortunately, my old line about knowing how many they were going to use didn’t apply here, because they weren’t all likely to be here so soon.
The more time I took, the greater the chance they’d all be after my ass, minus Terrorjaw. If this group had been assembled due to some sort of willing teamwork or friendship, I could have used him as my toothy canary in the coal mine. They’d have broken him out. However, they were in it for money. As in, they didn’t care if a competitor for my head was in jail. So I didn’t know how many of them were here in all the time I took, though at least they lost one. I also knew that I had a way to cause infighting.
I had other assets as well. My car, Black Sunshine, was useful when I had Holly and Sam in it flipping out. Mix N’Max. Max Muscles and Bulletproof Brian, aka Generation Flex. Gastrolord. Me. That was a bit closer to even, though Max and Brian weren’t exactly in the know about being on my side or working with villains inadvertently.
To say this wasn’t a well-organized attack was not only an understatement, but the point. For years, people have said that no plan survives contact with the enemy. I am that enemy.
Noon. Broad daylight. That was when the Super Snail charged the Hephaestus compound on my orders. It didn’t go in unsupported. It churned its way up the road toward the gate with Black Sunshine trailing behind it. Finally, Gastrolord attacked. You wouldn’t expect the guy who picked a gastropod gimmick would be impatient. Maybe he was overly eager to test out the new guns.
The air crackled with energy like lonely man making himself a bubble wrap condom. When it cracked against the shield, the thunder rolled. The shield appeared briefly as the electrical blast overwhelmed it, the white of the electricity seeming to fill in a bubble around the compound. Where it got past, it struck a light pole. The light blew up, but the electricity was diverted to the ground.
I think he should have listened to my last-minute idea on how to shore up his defenses on the Super Snail, but he didn’t see the strategic value in strapping people to the front and sides of the giant mecha snail. Some people don’t have an eye for strategy, I guess. Sure, Hephaestus haven’t seemed all that morally upstanding beforehand, but everybody has a breaking point. Everyone except your friendly, neighborhood Psycho Gecko, of course.
Plus, it’d make any potential allies of Hephaestus a bit squeamish if they’re spotted on the local news shooting up civilians. Even the police might look past their own gooey filling and discover a nougat-y core of morality.
Gastrolord refused, though, which left me to do everything myself.
While Gastrolord, Max, Sam, and Holly made their way up the road, I had wheeled a few barrels into a few back alleys nearby, my coat covering up my costume. While the slight brigade charged, I fiddled with the detonator. And, when the snail passed through the entrance despite the shield trying to resist the upper parts, I pressed the button.
The effects were not as drastic as they could have been had I spent more time preparing for this. Much like the people strapping idea, this one came to me later than I’d have liked. Why be selfish with my attack? I wanted to share it with the whole neighborhood! You know, really get lots of people involved. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any of that stuff I used back in Memphis, the BZ, laying around. No, this was all about blowing shit up, drawing attention, and possibly making sure that nearby tunnel entrances were hit in the crossfire. I was sure they had at least one tunnel.
That’s the kinda thinking I needed: putting the fun in murder. Er, the fun in kill. The fun in devastation? Oooh, that was close. The fun in fundamental threat to human life. Yeah, that got it. Ignore the linguists reading this disapprovingly over your shoulder. Why the fuck are you reading this in front of linguists?!
After all, linguists are only good when you use their noodle. Linguini, it’s called. I know, that cannibalism was a bit of a stretch, just like long pork.
Concluding our commercial interruption, we were back at the attack. A giant mechanized snail tank broke through the forcefield of Hephaestus and was shooting electro-beams from its stalks at anything that moved, aside from my car. I was on the outside, blowing up a buildings in a trench coat that hid my costume.
Gastrolord knocked on the door to the warehouse very gently. With lightning. While he did that, the laser carved out a human-sized hole in the loading bay’s garage doors.
“Part One of Operation Jehovah’s Witness is good. The door is open,” Sam relayed to me over the comms.
“Good,” I replied, “Let’s get in there and share the good news. Somebody’s about to die for my sins. And somebody save Dr. Typhoon for me.”
The mouth of the Super Snail opened and Gastrolord stepped out, aiming his goo gauntlets around at empty air. Max had his syringe gun in hand, and Sam actually joined him with her sprayer gun that looked like something off a hose.
I got a call from Max Muscles and Bulletproof Brian. “Yo, dudes, ‘sup?” I asked.
“Shit is going down. Repeat, it’s hitting the fan.”
“Max, I thought fans were up in the air, and waving like they just don’t care?”
“Something big is happening.”
“I’m aware of that, good super citizen. I’m over here near our Hephaestus friends. Gastrolord just made his move, and he’s got friends. You had better get over here. I don’t think the regular guards are going to do the trick.”
That part was honest, at least. There weren’t many guards outside at all. I zoomed in with my eyes to watch what happened. Even the mundane resistance didn’t last long once Gastrolord gave them the goo. His gunk stuck to the two guards who tried to nab him, and they stuck to one another in turn. Why did I think it made them slip? Except then he doused them with gunk from just his left gauntlet. That made another pair of guards slip all over the ground and fall. He had slime for every occasion!
My villainous allies advanced cautiously. Sam and Max took up positions by one of the garage door holes. Max splashed something on himself, then offered a little spray bottle to Sam. Sam shook her head no. A lightning bolt struck by the hole from the inside, knocking Max down. Sam hadn’t been pressed against it, but she took a moment to cross herself as she checked on Max. He gave her a thumbs-up, then accepted her help getting to his feet.
Meanwhile, Gastrolord charged in the doorway. I kinda wondered if they even needed me. I couldn’t make things worse, that’s for sure. I found a secluded alleyway, threw off my coat, finished pulling my costume on, then jumped out, arms akimbo and chest up thrust toward the sky. Nearby a woman cried out and put her hands over her young daughters’ eyes. I looked down. Forgot the pants.
I jumped back into the alley, then out once more when I was in my full regalia.
The Missile Patriot was ready to have a blast. I launched into the sky and maneuvered for the guard gate. It was from there that I saw Max take another blast of lightning that sent him flying off the docking bay. Sam jumped down and ducked so she was out of sight from anyone on it. The garage door strained outward, then flew off as the spinning Dr. Typhoon floated through it in a vortex arcing with electricity. Out of the regular doorway came Gastrolord again, being forced back by something. Wind maybe? He covered his face with his hands as he stumbled back. A sort of weird fog came out as well. Another super was around.
As I flew in through the gate, I dipped down and a section of the broken guard gate arm. I tried to ease my landing on my feet, but stumbled. When I had a moment to regain my footing, I threw the gate piece like a javelin at Typhoon. The cyclone deflected it and the piece popped Gastrolord in the head. Gastrolord grabbed his head and yelled “Why?”
There was a weird sound, like if you imagined a snake chuckling. That fog thing came together into a vaguely humanoid shape that looked like sand suspended in the air. A quick search via the eye HUD turned up a villain named Quick Sand. Not much known about him…her…it. It was sand, though a mouth formed out of the head region in a big smile. I think it was laughing.
I wanted to join in, but I was in the bright and shiny costume now. I had to act like a hero. Ugh.
“Give yourselves up, foul fiends, and save yourselves some pain.”
Everybody laughed at that one, including Gastrolord.
“Let’s rocket,” I said. I flew at Dr. Typhoon and he pulled his arms together. As soon as I saw them move, I went low. I dodged lightning more thanks to his reflexes than any super speed. His cyclone churned up the air even stronger than before and I got sucked up into it, but I got sucked in the upward direction. I know what you’re thinking. Innuendo. Well I stuck my fist in Typhoon’s endo.
I spun around with him in the opposite direction he did, electricity crackling around us both. He wasn’t much used to hand-to-hand, though. He was the type to keep people at a distance but he couldn’t do that. That cyclone could try and toss me out all he wanted, but I had rockets pushing me right back in and throwing my fist into his stomach with a very satisfying feeling. He lifted us higher, then lower, trying to shake me that way, but that just threw off a punch. I tossed one across his face and broke his nose just for that.
The rest of the battle was hard to make out for obvious reasons. I caught glimpses. At one point, Max was sinking into a puddle of quicksand. Then Max Muscles was trying to hit on Sam. Then Holly was shooting Max with the car’s Gatling. Brian got stuck to the ground by Gastrolord. It was all a whir and it was beginning to make me nauseous.
I grabbed Dr. Typhoon by the face and blew chunks. Corn didn’t go well with his eyes. I laughed as I saw that, but then he puked on me right back. In the end, he dropped the vortex entirely and I flew right past him. When I turned to catch him again, he was heaving in the middle of a new cyclone.
I was running low on fuel and it occurred to me that my heroic costume didn’t have much in the way of weaponry. I cut the rockets and acted surprised. I screamed as I fell and tried to flap my wings. It was hard to concentrate on falling, too. If I forgot for a moment, I might have ended up flying instead, and that would have ruined everything. Instead, I angled for the Super Snail. I knew this was about to hurt, but not any worse than a lightning strike. I cut the rockets on just a little, as if I slowed my speed only with a last gasp. I still landed hard and bounced off the shiny metal between the stalks. It felt like my ass had tried to devour a rhino from the way my tailbone and other lower spinal bones felt. I think something was jiggling freely inside me. Probably my nuts from the feel of things.
As I knelt there, I checked on the others. Gone except for Holly, who was facing away from my fight along with the car, and Quick Sand, who was trapped in a giant pile of sticky slime. From the sound of things, the rest of the fighting had moved inside. Even with the hole in the wall that looked like Brian’s usual entrance, I couldn’t see anything.
But then, there was only so much I paid attention to that. Dr. Typhoon descended near enough to get a good shot at me. He didn’t drop below the level of the stalks, though. Didn’t want to get too close, I suppose. His loss.
I accessed the car with Holly in there and changed the radio. I had an idea how to tease Dr. Typhoon. Hulk Hogan’s old song, Real American.
“I am a real American, fight for the rights of every man. I am a real American. Fight for what’s right. Fight for your life!”
Dr. Typhoon scoffed. “Is that the song they’re going to play at your funeral, you hokey piece of crap?”
It took Holly a moment to get the hint, but then I saw her looking back at us.
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants, Dr. Typhoon.”
“I didn’t think they made heroes as cliché as you anymore. Big talk for someone on his knees.”
I forced myself to stand and look up at him defiantly. I wished I had a bald eagle on my shoulder. “Oh, I can stand alright. So long as I have Uncle Sam watching my back, I can stand up to any evildoer.”
Typhoon choked down a laugh and threw a bolt of lightning at me. Well, he threw it in my direction. It split instead and went for the stalks. The Tesla-based equipment there did the rest and protected me from everything but a little static electricity.
“The fuck?!” Typhoon yelled, then tried again. Once again, I was safe between the stalks.
Behind him came a whistle. When Dr. Typhoon turned, he found Holly and Black Sunshine turned around, facing him, with an array of weapons protruding from the car. He didn’t get to react before she flipped a lot of switches. Bullets roared, lasers seared, a duck quacked, rockets burst, and a hunk of smoking meat fell down in front of the Super Snail. I gave Holly a thumbs-up and slid down the side of the gimmick vehicle. I leaned in over the crispy remnants of Dr. Typhoon and said, “You’re grounded.”
I’m glad she figured that out and felt like helping me. I could have done all that on my own, but it meant something more for her to turn and pull my ass out of the fire. For one thing, it made her feel a bit closer to me emotionally and made her think I wasn’t quite such a bad guy when I acted all thankful and gave her a hug. She pushed me off, though. I couldn’t tell if it was her natural disgust for me or all the barf, but it was the thought that counted. I think.
In the end, the villains, or at least our group, won. Gastrolord got out of there with some weapons schematics and a bunch of launcher-fired sticky grenades. Quick Sand was relaxing in that gunk rather than chasing me down. Hephaestus didn’t lose many personnel this time, having decided they were mostly useless for fighting us. Bulletproof Brian and Max Muscles didn’t save the day. In fact, Brian was found running through the city naked save for his mask, under some odd impression that pants and shirts wanted to control humanity by moving people’s limbs. Sam got a good slap on Max Muscles before Mix N’Max shrunk the other Max’s head down to about one third its regular size. And, last but not least, the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko got away with manifest records.
It was later that night, while Mix N’Max was busy dancing around a barrel fire with the man in the underwear and the trapper hat who lived next door and the women munched on s’mores, that I dragged myself out of a regenerative little nap and inserted a certain pointy body part into the servers we stole to check what they had to say about my good buddy Carl.
“Subject status: Liquidated.”
And so I threw open the door, naked but for a server tower hanging off my dick, yelling at the sky with arms outstretched, “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!”
And I think that server gave me a virus.