In the days following our jailbreak of Ethan Basford, we spent a good amount of time preparing to escape from L.A. Confusion was key, though my crew of Rejects directed most of it my way. They didn’t understand why I wore an eyepatch. They didn’t bat an eye at long hair, stubble, and leather pants, but for some reason my apparent lack of an eye stood out more to the various mutated humanoids. Steve looks like he has no skin and muscles!
My plans tend to turn out interesting, but I felt the situation necessitated a way out. Ethan, all too happy to be out of that prison uniform, confirmed for me that my seeming invisibility to the police was a standard part of how the Trust operated.
“We use the same ability on ourselves. It has mundane uses: no parking tickets, no speeding tickets, no DUIs. We also made it work for other major organizations like Faustus,” he explained to me while we sat down at a cafe.
I just nodded while munching my Cuban sandwich. It’s not that I found the roast pork, ham, mustard, pickles, and Swiss cheese to be more important, either. Every time I pursued information from Faustus, I felt like stabbing something. Preferably a person. Sure, the enchanted Luger turned out to be merely a knockoff of Hitler’s sidearm, but the whole stash of relics couldn’t be ignored.
I swallowed what I had and asked, “What about Venus showing up? She had friends this last time, so does this not work for heroes?”
He tapped his finger on the table. He’d barely touched his sirloin sandwich.
“You’re not eating. Something wrong?” I inquired.
Ethan ran his hand over his bald head. He didn’t look up at me. Instead, he shifted his gaze over the table before letting out an exasperated breath. “It’s nothing. The friends I’m staying with, the vampires, there are a lot more of them than I thought. I think I might try veganism once I’m safe.”
“Oh, sure, torture the poor, defenseless plants, why don’t you?” I nommed a pickle from my sandwich.
He looked at me that time, but only to my chest. He gesticulated as he spoke, raising a hand as if holding me up. “Just great. You killed my daughter and all those others, but you’re worried about the feelings of plants.”
“Plants are good people,” I said between mouthfuls. “Every species of animal on earth is at least a little bit of a dick. Dolphins are gang rapists, monkeys have mastered fecal warfare, and don’t you even get me started on those little bunny bastards with their maniacal fluffy tails.”
Ethan rolled his eyes. “For crying out loud, what’s so evil about bunnies?”
“A species with powerful hind limbs for kicking that can breed uncontrollably? Clearly those fluffy-butted barbarians want to overwhelm the world, using their amazing hearing to seek out the last human heartbeats and chew through them with their big teeth.”
Ethan tilted his head, rolling his eyes up. “I can’t believe you’re my best chance at getting my life back.”
I shrugged. “True, normally I take lives instead. And I do so, in part, by looking harmless. Like a bunny.”
“Enough with the bunnies! Are you almost ready to do this thing?” he asked, meeting my eyes.
I shook my head. “No. I have to arrange a couple of things. We’ll need to skedaddle as soon as they realize I’m not on their side anymore.”
“Why aren’t you?”
I raised an eyebrow. “What now?”
Ethan leaned back as he asked this time. “Why aren’t you on their side? I beg your pardon, but you don’t seem the sort to care.”
I winked at him. “You got me. I don’t care about doing the right thing. I care about entertaining myself. I haven’t had much entertainment lately. Between the war with Hephaestus and these mind-numbing assassinations of your family, I’ve been terribly bored. I would like very much to leave this ugly little city behind and enjoy myself. But if you guys start the Ragnarok and tear up the whole planet, then it doesn’t matter. Y’all fucked up. I’ll clean up your mess because the world’s not so fun when it’s devoured by other-dimensional abominations. And if you’re lying, I can still kill you.”
That led to awkward silence for a couple of seconds as Ethan realized I might still kill him. I slapped the table, causing him to jump. “Well, time for me to go. I have another appointment. I promised myself I’d leave my mark on this town, and I have one last spot to hit up.”
“Do I want to know?”
I stood and grabbed a long ray barrel out from under the table. “Hehe… I wood if I were you.”
About two hours later, my cackles echoed through over Mt. Lee and through the Hollywood Hills. It was followed by humming and then crackling as I tried out a new arm-sized version of my famous Heatflasher. I sacrificed power, range, and cooling ability to make a version of the heat ray that could slide over my forearm. I also left my gang behind in case their presence would somehow trigger a huge team fight with the heroes when they inevitably showed up. I figured that if it was just me, maybe just Venus would show.
The downside to the new version of the weapon was that it fried the flesh of my left hand. I used my time in transit to slip into my armor, so at least most of the extremity had some protection. While I briefly wondered what sort of meat cuts come off of the hand and arm, I mostly stuck to my task: renovating the Hollywood sign. I’ve heard laughter is the best medicine, but I used it to distract me from the pain and the smell of burning meat.
I found it difficult to spell anything fun up there. If I’d brought along a crane and extra materials, I could have moved pieces of the forty-five foot tall letters. Without that, I carved what I could from the steel letters. It took creative use of the heat ray to knock the sign down to “I WOUlD”.
It made an excellent symbol of my frustrations with the place.
I expected a visitor at any moment even as I took a break to jump around and cuss up a storm. Fourth degree burns tend to make me want to hit stuff, so I was taking my frustration out on every damn molecule of air I could swing at. It didn’t help. I couldn’t even use the nanites with the damaged areas that hot. Objects that small don’t handle heat very well.
I didn’t have to wait long. All of a sudden, some glowing see-through blue ball with people inside came floating in on a collision course. I dove to the side, but it turned in midair and sent me rolling. I dragged myself to my feet and held my arms up. “Hold up a minute, Venus, we need to talk!”
Venus hopped out of the blue ball. Funny. I never realized blue balls traveled with her. She was joined by a teen girl in a skintight white costume. Multi-colored spirals spiced up the costume over the chest, one thigh, a calf, a shoulder, and a wrist. It wasn’t very symmetrical.
The forcefield ball thingy appeared to be the handiwork of the individual standing inside it. Another teen. He wore a light and tight costume as well: green and yellow with light blue dots on the chest and each of the legs. A pair of force balls broke away from the large one they traveled there in and moved out to the sides.
Venus displayed her willingness to talk by pulling out another one of those EMP field rods from behind her back.
“I’m serious, Venus. I know you got a stick up your ass, but we really need to talk. The fate of the world may be at stake!” Anticipating her disbelief, I cloaked my arms and holographically projected ones still in the air. I aimed for the rod in Venus’s hand. My HUD assisted in my aiming, helping me line up the shot on it.
Before I could fire, a small army of blue balls formed a wall in front of her. I superjumped over them since that saved time on turning. The EMP effect hit me less severely last time, especially as I got distance from them. I landed roughly, blinded and without enhanced strength. I felt drunk as well, due to brain cybernetics. I slid down onto one knee, then pushed up and tried to keep going.
I didn’t leave my feet, but I felt the world spin around me. My sense of direction fucked up big time and I spilled over to the side. With the ground firmly beneath me, I tried to crawl for it, but then something hard scooped me up and dropped me closer to the EMP.
Readers, if you’ve ever been shocked by static electricity, you know about what I felt like, only if it shocked you constantly through almost every nerve in your body.
I heard mumbling from a feminine voice and a masculine one. Someone tugged at my helmet. I grabbed at the arms, but the grabber pushed them away easily. I was so weak, a baby could have stolen candy from me.
By the way, that’s the only way that phrase works. If I started talking about kids taking candy from me, that would sound unfortunate. Especially since I got a van.
“That wasn’t so hard,” said the ball guy.
“That’s…what…she said,” I croaked out. I raised the finger, but somebody stepped on my hand. On the other side of me, the spiral girl tried to grab my arm Heatflasher, but cried out in pain.
That’s when something else covered my head and tightened around my neck, choking me. It ended with a loud smack and the person who stood on my hand thudded to the ground beside me.
“Don’t fight…over me. I’m sure y’all can…split my hidden treasure,” I finally got out, hoping someone was greedy.
Air moved over my face. Then I heard giggling. “Something funny up there?” I inquired.
“Nope,” said Venus. “Just making sure. You’re really blind now, aren’t you?”
“Blind as a lonely millipede after Valentine’s Day.”
After a moment of silence, I felt a hand grip my throat. She told me, “I’m not going to kill you. I don’t have to kill to solve my problems. We don’t have to kill. That’s how much better we are. But if you want me to listen to you here and now before we drag you into a little cell, you’re going to say please.”
My first instinct was to call her bluff and say something snippy. My second and third instincts liked that idea as well. They distracted from the part of me that swore I could hear explosions and smell smoke.
I had to get up and get away from the bomb. I had to stop my followers from disabling the shield. I was the only one who was ever there for them, no matter what. Now this? I-
Venus gave my throat a little squeeze, dragging me back to present times. “Well?”
“Really? You want to be that difficult? That’s what destroying a monument was worth to you? That isn’t very clever, by the way.”
I reached for her hand. At first she slapped my hand away “I know. Didn’t have a crane. Ok, I’ll say it…I can please a mare.”
“We should take him back now,” said the spiral girl.
“Yeah, we should.” Venus agreed. That caused the ole heart to beat a faster pace. She let me go. “Alright. BB, carry him with us back to the Academy.”
“Fuuuuuuuuuck.” I drew out the word as much as I could. “Ok, Venus. Please.”
“Please don’t arrest me.”
“Please listen to what I have to say.”
She patted me on the head. “Good boy. I should have recorded that. Is that a blush?”
“No. Wait, yes. I’m wearing blush today. And a thong. I think I’m rubbing off on you, Venus.”
“You two should hook up,” said the boy probably called BB. There was a slapping noise from too far away to have been Venus.
I licked my lips as I considered how to solicit Venus’s aid for the upcoming fight. “You know, I can’t lead you to…the person who has been playing us…if you lock me up.”
“Playing us? Like how I keep running into you?”
I slowly nodded. “Let me tell you about a little group called the Trust…”