Well, we made it.
To steal from a famous champion of the people: finally, Psycho Gecko has come back!…to Empyreal City. In stereotypical fashion, one of the first things I did upon entering the city was step out of the car and breathe deep. Coughing followed. Empyreal City needed a stick of deodorant.
We had stopped by Central Park to allow everyone proper space to stretch their legs. The Rejects ran around, drawing little attention. Empyreal City had long cultivated a reputation as the city that never gave a fuck. In this case, people mostly left them alone. No matter how deformed, no matter the claws, no matter the uncanny valley, it didn’t matter. So long as none of them had brown skin, cops wouldn’t stop them.
Roberta drew some looks. The first time a cop approached her, he soon found Tom standing behind him, rattling and skittering echoing forth from his odd head. The bad thing about people not paying attention to dangerous-looking things is that such recognition evolved as a survival trait. That cop survived, for instance. His underwear didn’t, but he did.
We were soon joined by a welcome face poking out the open window of a tan town car. “Hey boss! Glad to see you made it back! Who are your friends?”
I got a running start and jumped through the window. We both tumbled out the door on the opposite side of the car. I dragged my rescued minion to his feet in my embrace. People did stare at that. I quickly let go and brushed him off. “There you go, just helping you up after your unfortunate tumble there.” I glanced around to make sure people weren’t watching us anymore.
If only I had something to kill everyone in sight on the streets…Ah well.
Carl grinned. “It’s good to see you again, boss.”
“You too, but if anyone asks, that hug fell off the back of a truck.”
“The boss is stealing hugs, now, huh?”
I shrugged. “Hugs, panties, kisses…no offense, but I’m not kissing you. If you’re the sort for panties, though, I can get you some nice ones. Maybe Hello Kitty brand.”
“Aren’t those for kids?”
I gave him a light punch on the chest. “Hello Kitty is only for kids until you get to the panties. You pull down a woman’s pants and see ‘Hello Kitty’ staring you in the face, then it’s more like a street sign. ‘Now entering Pussyvania. Population: You.’ Might as well sell men’s boxers that have a picture of a rooster and say ‘Hi Cock’ on them.”
Moai bounced up next to us. “Hey buddy!” Carl said as he gave Moai a hug as well.
See, this is how villains lose street cred. Contrary to what a bunch of uptight religious assholes think, the only thing public displays of affection hurt is the reputation of murderious maniacs like myself.
Like with the Mafia, for instance. They’ve been involved in some shady shit throughout history. The way they hug and kiss all over each other out in public, you know they aren’t destroying the world anytime soon. The inverse, that people who never get any public nookie are going to crush the bones of everyone beneath their boots, hasn’t ever been true on its own. I just think it’s harder to make a credible threat to blow up a continent when the person you’re extorting can go, “Or what? You’re going to hug me until I give in? Smooch me to death?”
If I get like that, I guess I’ll need to kill even more people. Dammit! I hoped to reason myself out of this big group of companions.
Such companions were lined up on the other side of the town car. They knew Carl, but I’d last introduced them to him before they became active in crime. This time, I had new names to put to the faces.
“Carl, old buddy, I’m going to have to re-introduce you to some new partners in crime.”
So I gave Carl the rundown on the new names used by the Rejects out in the field. Zane the pinhead was now Headgame. He stretched. Shy Mika, with her limbs ending in bone spikes, now went by Bonedancer. Larry chose Meltman, probably because of the melted-looking parts of his appearance. We called Tom Rattler because of the rattling noise his shriveled-looking head makes, probably because of the giant millipede thing in there. Steve looked like a walking x-ray, hence why he’s Ray X. Finally, Roberta’s completely inhuman appearance led me to name her Winsect.
“And who is this? A shapeshifter?” Carl lifted up the puppy the Rejects got all on their own.
“No, that’s a dog. He’s their responsibility.” I nodded to the Rejects. “And in order to defuse a small civil war, his name is Spike Smooshyface.”
“What about that thing Moai’s carrying around half the time?” He brought Spike to his own face and cuddled it. Passer-by whipped out their phones for photos. I jumped behind the car to avoid being associated with cuteness.
Undeterred, Carl walked around to ask, “Hey boss, what are you doing?”
I jumped up. “Nothing, nothing at all. Certainly not plotting to murder any animals that are part of a conspiracy to make me seem cute.”
“Oh, right. So, what about Moai’s statue?” He pointed to where Moai bounced around with his little moving Venus statue balanced on his head.
“Dammit! Everyone’s too friendly around here, running around with friends and pets and all that. Carl,” I pointed to him ”I need a bomb.”
“I think that’s a bad idea the way you’re talkin’, boss.”
“See? People always think the worst of me. I complain about companions and all of a sudden no one wants to give me a bomb. It’s this kind of stigma that makes it difficult to connect with people.” I wiped an imaginary tear from my eye.
“Aw, boss, that’s not what I meant. I was just worried what you’d use it for. I can go help you pick up parts for it later on. I know you weren’t going to use it to blow up your new friends.”
“Aha!” I grabbed his head and shook it. Lightly. Not enough to hurt him. “See? The moment I have lots of people and animals around, you automatically assume I’m not going to blow them up. That’s why they’re hurting my rep. Get me away from these people! Say, don’t you have a base to show me?”
“Alright. Hop in and I’ll drive you, boss. I’m not sure how you’re gonna like it.” We both slid into his car and started off. Then I had him pull a u-turn and double back to the park so I could toss Spike Smooshyface out the window.
The new base turned out to be an interesting choice. A place like Empyreal City, all sorts of quirky buildings ended up abandoned over time as people lost profits and walked away. In my case, the building featured a large clown sign hanging over the front façade. People didn’t so much walk away from this place as run screaming, given this world’s unusual dislike of clown paint. The door read, “Big Top’s Restaurant”.
Part of the building near the front appeared to be some sort of display area. “What’s that for?” I asked.
“They used to have trinkets, displays, even a little freakshow. I thought maybe it’d work with the new guys.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Not everyone takes ‘freak’ as a compliment. But, if we open this puppy up as a restaurant, they might like showing off for people.” I crossed my arms as I looked it over.
Carl shuddered. “You really don’t like that dog, do you?”
“I’m not liking all the new people. You were there. It’s hard just to keep up with the names. However, I really meant that if we make this a social place, it’ll be harder for people to go and raid it. Like last time, we can trade in on our status as oddities to cause the heroes no end of trouble. Or, even better, they can do that public stuff up here and I can plot doom from a basement. I won’t even have to deal with all the new people so much.”
I spun around and grabbed Carl, preparing to throw him at whoever called me out. Instead, I found a round face smiling out from the window of a car. Too many people were smiling lately.
“Geez, boss, no need to be so uptight. That’s just my ex.” Carl informed me as I set him down.
I raised an eyebrow. “Your ex-wife is here and you want me to calm down?”
“Carl,” said the ex. ”This must be your friend you were buying for. I brought the keys over for you.” She stepped out of the car, bringing with her keys and a folder. She offered her hand. “I’m Pam.”
I grinned and shook her hand. “So you’re the one I’ve heard about. I wasn’t aware y’all were doing this together.”
She giggled. “Oh honey, I’ve been in realty so long, I know all the ins and outs. Now, why don’t I show you in?”
I lagged behind Carl and put my arm around him as she went ahead of us to unlock the place. I pulled him close and whispered. “Carl, I don’t know if you know this, but I know a guy who likes killing people. Won’t even charge you anything. Special rate.”
“No,” he told me, pushing me away. We stood there, looking at each other a minute. Finally, he added, “That would be wrong.”
“Took you that long to come up with a reason and that’s all you got?”
He put his hand up next to his mouth to keep Pam from hearing anything, then said, “I’m getting on her good side this way. She used to say I would only get the kids over her dead body. Now she’s smiling at me.”
“Carl, you’re not giving enough credit to the ‘over her dead body’ part of that statement. I really think you should look into that more.”
“Boss, you just don’t like memorizing people’s names.”
“Here we are, gentlemen!” Pam said, turning back around to us. She showed us in to the new lair.
I walked in past Pam and looked around at the musty old place. Pam joined me at my side. “So, what do you think? Carl said you’d like it, but I think we can back out if it’s not your style.”
I put my arm around her then. “From here I shall conquer Venus. Laugh with me, Pam. Laugh! Mwahahahahahahaha!”
She gave in to the laugh for a moment, then stopped, confused. “Wait, you’re an astronaut?”