We have been busy little Asian giant hornets around here. On top of my mixed feelings over the Rejects, I couldn’t just accept that Venus being at the site of that. Now, I may be paranoid. Or am I? I’ll keep them guessing. Who? Oh, you know who… “them.”
Paranoia aside, I didn’t trust the random chance of Venus attending that children’s birthday party where my target just happened to be performing. If she knew I’d be there, she wouldn’t have been so clearly unprepared to defend my target. If she didn’t know I would be there, then that suggests someone put her there.
I never liked this situation. Wait, scratch that. I enjoyed the murdering part.
Anyway, she aroused my suspicions. SUSPICIONS, people. And only my suspicions. I know what you depraved beings think about, with your relationships and sex and bodily fluids flying all over the ceiling.
Suspicions aroused, I broke the group up so they could handle various intelligence-gathering tasks.
Larry, for example, found out that Faustus was so incompetent that they had no clue about some big magical family here.
“These people got voodoo, they got hoodoo, they got things they ain’t even tried. And they got friends on the other side,” I told Larry to tell them. He had a phone in his hand, the receiver covered. “And when you say it, imagine you’re mean. You need the mind of a pro wrestler on cocaine and the tone of an obnoxious person humping their hips while talking. I order you to talk like that on the phone now.”
“Last time I checked, I’m the king of this jungle. If anyone hopes to dethrone me, they’re gonna need to hump like a motherfucker. What makes that more difficult is that, in my case, they gotta be a necrophiliac to be a motherfucker.”
“I’m sorry to hear that-“ started Larry.
“Hump. The. Words.” I poked the air with each word to emphasize the point.
Rolling his eyes, Larry stood up. “I’m, sorry, to hear, that!”
“Meaner! More snarling! I want to see snot drip down your nose.”
“Snarghy, uh, oh, I think I swallowed something.” He shook his head as he tried to clear swallow it down.
I shook my head too, more so at his antics. “Amateurs. You act like it’s difficult, but it’s snot.”
The phone wasn’t on speaker, but I still heard a groan from whoever was on the other end.
“See?” I called out to the device in Larry’s hand. “Next time, tell us what we want to know. Funerals cost less than information.”
The voice on the phone responded quickly. “I’m sorry! We have a deal for two large, one-topping pizzas for twenty dollars. That’s all our specials, I swear.”
I looked at Larry, who shrugged. “Once I got done talking to Faustus, I got hungry.”
“Larry, your incompetence is matched only by your good judgment. You remain neutral in my eyes. You may as well ask them to add extra Swiss cheese on there.”
Later, after a greasy meal of pizza, we enacted my plan to determine how much Venus would be after me now.
It started when I walked into a bank. I took Tom and Mika with me, aka Rattler and Bonedancer. Mika, the handless girl, on a bank job? I know you need hands to carry bags of money. I’m all for being an equal opportunity offender, but that’s like hiring a blind man to be the getaway driver or an Englishman to be a chef.
I tried some bangers and mash once. It made me want to invade some place with better cuisine too. That night’s culinary rampage finally ended when I got bogged down in a Chinese buffet. Never start a land war in an Asian restaurant.
However, my much earlier goal of giving the town an enema necessitated that I pump some liquid assets out digitally. I intended on having my brain do the heavy lifting.
The three of us approached City National Bank in Los Angeles, blending in with our stolen van with the bikini chain mail dragon lady on the side. It was broad daylight on Friday. I had my armor on, though the only special weapons I loaded up were a stick. A regular stick. I considered taking a banana, too, but I’ve been on something of a banana kick lately.
Orange you glad I didn’t take the banana?
I parallel parked us. The Rolls-Royce ahead of us and Jaguar in back didn’t give me much room, but I worked with what I had. I started off by gentle nudging the Rolls Royce until I had just a tiny bit more room. They probably didn’t need that trunk anyway. Then I made careful use of the space in front of the Jaguar by backing into it just enough. Just until the headlights cracked and the hood crumpled. In the end, I had a good four feet of clearance front and back.
Instead of showing my armor, I created a hologram of myself as a homeless man with a dirty beard and grungy clothes. I charged ahead into the bank, holding the stick in the air above me. “Alright, everybody, this is a stick!”
Few people stood in the lobby on the first floor. There were two tellers, two guards in front, and three people in suits talking in a group. Large, shiny tiles made up the floor. The teller windows were built into a wall.
One of the guards, a slightly-overweight man with a buzz cut, rested his hand on his gun. He approached from the corner behind me and to the right. I left the hobo hologram there and approached him. My suit seamlessly showed the environment past me without the distinctive distortion effects of bent light. “Did you mean a stick-up?”
I appeared behind the guard and grabbed him by the back. I lifted him into the air and spoke, the hologram talking simultaneously. “Thank you. I’ll do just that.”
Then he got a stick up. Dear readers, by now you shouldn’t have to ask where. After I was done with him, I tossed that wheezing, crying sack of security out through a window.
Bonedancer and Rattler stepped in through the hole he made. “What happened to him?” Bonedancer asked.
“Bad attitude. He had a real stick up his ass.” I shook my head, then disappeared as the hobo turned into a holographic copy of myself. It faced the other guard, who spoke into his radio while holding a gun on us. Two more guards ran up from a corridor around a bend in the lobby, so I had the hologram split off another two projections.
“You two might want to get somewhere those guns aren’t pointing,” I mentioned quietly to Bonedancer and Rattler. She grabbed him by the forearm and ran to the side. They ducked behind a couple of upholstered chairs. Those things were worth little protection of the guards aimed that way, but they were more concerned with the three of me that they saw.
The holograms huddled up and I provided the voice of whispers as they went over the game plan. One of them poked its head out and I called to the guards, “Hey! Just how loose are your sphincters?”
That’s when the guards opened up on them.
With my battle cry of “Shoot first, ass questions later,” the holograms ran right into the middle of the trio. Right straight in the middle. They all set themselves for a point between two of the guards. The guards fired some nasty guns that punched fist-sized holes in the floor and walls. Unfortunately for them, they were shooting at images that weren’t solid at all. They squeezed their triggers and prayed, then crumpled to the ground as much holier men.
The holograms disappeared as I reappeared. I walked up to the teller window, where they had drawn a metal shutter down. I knocked on the shutter. “Hello in there! Just curious, what are your policies on employee pensions and funeral expenses?”
Bonedancer dragged Rattler over and tapped me on the shoulder. “Um, what do you want us to do right now?”
“Go keep an eye out. You two are obviously the muscle on this one.”
She glanced over at the dead bodies of the guards. “Right.”
“They’re just dead bodies, Bonedancer. They’re probably not going to stand up and come after you. Hey, wait a moment. I need you to punch a hole for me.” I pointed to the teller shutter. I could have gotten into it on my own, but she wanted to know I brought her for more than just backup.
She nodded and stepped over. She gave the shutter an experimental push and scrape. Then she reared her arm back, the bone glinting. That glint disappeared when she thrust forward, spearing a hole through the shutter.
I doubted her normal strength could have handled that. Maybe I should have called her Holepuncher. I patted her on the shoulder. “Good job. Keep an eye out if you want. Maybe keep Rattler from gnawing on the rubber trees.”
Dancer’s face scrunched up quizzically until she looked past me to wear Rattler was gnawing on one of the fake plants. She skated off to get him, her glinting, spiky legs carving fluid lines into the tile floor.
I tore the hole open wider and peeked in. A stapler caught me in the visor as one of the tellers shrieked. “Quiet! Damn, lady, what are you still doing in here?”
I pulled myself through the window. All the while, the woman sat on the floor, throwing stuff at me and continuously pressing on the silent alarm button. Another stapler came my way. A cup of pens. A stack of business cards. A bundle of hundred dollar bills. I kept that last one.
Meanwhile, an open door attested to the escape of the other teller.
I ignored the woman while I used a free hand to get into the bank’s system. They didn’t handle a lot from the teller level, but they had a secure network. Networks are only as strong as their weakest link, but I am not a hacker in the conventional sense. I had to be a part of their system, with their own credentials. I scrambled all sorts of things, transferring money to accounts all over the world, including ones having nothing to do to me. My accounts will then launder them to others.
As the bank of celebrities, City National has become known for expedited money transfers. Just laying that out there.
“Hey, crazy lady. You know, I can’t help but see from here…that silent alarm button isn’t connected.” Sure enough, the wires along the wall were severed somehow.
The woman noticed it too, then lunged for the button underneath. As soon as her finger touched it, the lights and computers turned off. “Huh,” I said, looking around. “Not exactly a formal scientific experiment, but that’s potentially some pretty strong evidence right there.”
I looked down at the panicking teller scrabbling on the floor. She took her finger off the button and the power outage ended immediately. She looked at the lights, then at me.
I shook my finger at her. “I’m not sure you should do that. There’s some magic at work here. On the other hand, maybe you should do it. We’ll be able to see just how powerful of magic we’re talking about.”
She hesitated, then reached for the button again. Before she could connect, the building shook. The didn’t go out this time, but a coffee mug on a shelf vibrated off and broke over my helmet.
“Huh…yeah, that’s some big mojo right there. Well, nice working with you.” I booted her in the face, then dove out the teller window.
Standing up and brushing off, I turned to find Rattler and Bonedancer hiding from the quake behind the chairs again. Oh, and a woman stepped through the window asking if everyone was alright.
She was there in civilian clothes, but I could tell by her eyes and body shape. Venus.
“Gecko,” she said, eyes narrowing. Reaching into her purse, she whipped out thermos-sized device. I didn’t know what it was, but it probably wasn’t good. I ran for her. Not hesitating, she pressed a button that caused it to extend. She slammed the bottom into the ground before it even finished.
The effect was instantaneous. Every biological part of my body seemed to seize up. Cramps, pressure, heaving. On top of that, my armor and all of my cybernetic parts shut down. The near-constant undercurrent of outside connections died, as did my eyes. I fell, couldn’t control it, then dropped all the way. I had trouble understanding what happened at the time as the prosthetic portion of my brain shut down.
I just knew I was angry and possibly, maybe, just a teeny weeny bit afraid for lack of a better word.
The secret, I think, was that it didn’t let up. The field created by the device didn’t let up. It fucked me up.
Then it let up and all my systems restarted. I found myself still laying on the ground, the shattered device right in front of my head. Bonedancer stood there, a forearm spike driven through the middle of Venus’s toy.
Off to the side, Rattler was occupied with Venus. The mouth of his shriveled-looking head was opened unnaturally wide. The biggest millipede I ever saw extended from that mouth. It was wrapped around Venus and held her in the air.
Bonedancer offered an arm. I took her up on that. The technology was willing, but the flesh was weak. Before I could decide Venus’s fate one way or the other, Rattler tossed her through a window, then retreated into the head.
Bonedancer helped me out while Rattler followed along. We saw no sign of Venus outside. “Think I’m good to drive, ‘dancer?” I asked her.
“I don’t know. Do you think you’ll get a ticket?”
I chuckled. “We just robbed a bank and the attempt to call the cops on us made a small earthquake. Something’s watching out for us. I’m not sure I want them billing me for that quake, either.”
I opened the door and climbed into the driver’s seat. Behind me, Bonedancer rubbed gently at her temple with a spike. “But why did the hero show up?”
“Because someone at least as strong is sending her after me. Maybe another Basford. Either way, I’m feeling a bit like a pawn here.” Then, to the third member of our party, who was fumbling with the side door, I said “Come on, Rattler, let’s shake and roll.”
Bonedancer ran around and followed him, then crawled up to the passenger seat. “I thought you accepted that. Um, a little, I mean. Not completely. You hired yourself out to this man.”
“I’m like to let people point my destructive nature in a certain direction, yes, but I’m no pawn. If I’m anything, I’m a queen.”
With that I started the van to get us back to base, the radio playing right at the beginning of the song “It’s Raining Men.”