Annoying music. It sounded like a weak evil scheme, I’m sure. After all, turn off all radios and televisions and the scheme’s foiled, right? Well, sure. Except that was the other end I worked toward.
Disrupting people’s television schedules annoyed a great many people, provided they had satellite TV. And provided their cable provider received any signals to the city by satellite. And provided they used satellite internet to view videos or audio, too. There were other disruptions, as well. GPS and any institution that used satellites to send and receive data weren’t singing along to the tune, but my toys slowed and corrupted a lot of transfers.
Radios didn’t fare any better. Emergency services were hit the hardest, as I used to my advantage when escaping with the giant magnet. Police, firefighters, paramedics, animal control; I put an end to any services reliant on radio dispatches while they scrambled to find replacement methods. Plus, with the United Nations around, the various diplomats couldn’t communicate as easily with their home countries. Their bodyguards couldn’t coordinate, either. They could do little to advance international peace and harmony, so they may as well have gone home. Which reminds me: aircraft. Not easy to fly into, out of, or near a city without radio and satellite on your side. Boats had problems on approach, too. Not that they wanted to go out with the local weather service also shut down.
The city faced a major crisis, and then the rioting started up. In most cases, people from outside the city showed up because they perceived it to now be a lawless haven. You don’t see people loot their own community, but outsiders have no such qualms. They caused enough ruckus that nobody minded my crew and I heading out to do a little pre-planning.
“Easy now. Keep taking ‘er up.” I waved my arms, directing Larry as he worked the crane holding the electromagnet. As a building mover, I had little use for it. It served me much better hidden inside a sign that depicted the planet Earth.
“Excuse me!” called out the manager of the Grocery World store we were gathered in front of. “Can somebody tell me what you think you’re doing?”
I stepped forward and held out my hand with a smile. “Hey there, my man. Are you the manager?”
“Good, we’re the guys doing the sign work. Just a small renovation to help keep the image fresh in everyone’s minds. You know how it is.” I pointed back to the crane and the sign with my thumb.
The manager looked between the crane and me. “I didn’t hear anything about this.”
I shrugged and closed my mouth where I clenched my teeth, raising the opposite eyebrow, attempting to look apologetic or sheepish. “Things are hectic right now. It wasn’t on the schedule originally, but with everything going on, the main office thought we should get it done while we still could. Besides, if things keep up, people are going to need food to cook more than ever.”
The manager stepped close and lowered his voice. “Do you have the permits for this? I would have pulled them if I’d known you were going to do this, but you caught me offguard.”
I patted him on the shoulder. “That’s the other reason they sent us to do this now. If I don’t have the permits, who’s going to call the cops on me about it, huh?”
We shared a laugh, then I sent him back inside. From there, I turned to watch as Larry lifted the hidden magnet into place. Then Roberta plucked him out of his seat, climbed up the crane with him, and held him close enough to do the welding work with his fire breath. The protective and directive casing had been removed from the magnet, but we left it stable enough that it shouldn’t have any problems. Well, unless grocery stores got blown up. If the city got to that point, it wouldn’t need me and any contraptions I put together.
Once we put that bad boy in place, there was little to do but wait. As much of a problem as I presented to the city, I also made it difficult to get there in a hurry. That’s why it came as a surprise on Saturday when a cell phone that should have still been in California suddenly began playing Empyreal City’s favorite song. And if y’all have been paying attention, I wouldn’t have to tell you whose phone that was.
I knew Venus had been packing for the trip, I just didn’t expect her to pack her cell of all things. I suppose the suddenness of her appearance in the city made it sound less crazy. One minute the GPS put her in Los Angeles. Then, bam! Empyreal City.
Now, obviously a fellow like myself wouldn’t lie when calling out a hero, would I?
Alright, now that you’ve had a moment to stop all that guffawing, let’s continue.
At the time, I stood in my basement workspace. I’d been assembling my rubber chicken grenades and set some of the compounds involved back in my workshop refrigerator, right next to some marinating chicken teriyaki. I liked my marinade like my grenades: exploding with flavor.
I skipped over to my finished pile of grenades, about three feet high, and sat down on them. I reached over to a drying belt of my exploding throwing knives, pulled it into my lap, and stroked it like some sort of pet.
With Venus within the bounds of Empyreal City, I cut the music. Over on Venus’s end of things, I heard lots of murmuring. Then whatever the phone was packed into must have been spread wide open, because a man’s voice came through crystal clear.
“This is city hall, goddammit. This- this is my office! He bugged it? He was here?! He stood right here…don’t drink the whiskey! H-how else could he have known you were teleported in?”
Then Venus spoke up. “I think you can relax. He didn’t bug you.” Then, much closer to the phone, she said, “Hello Gecko.”
When I responded, I spoke through every device affected by my signal interceptors. The entire city answered back, “Hello Venus. How’s my fair Boopsie doing today?” I learned that pet name for when I spied on her in the past. Her boyfriend used to call her that before I killed him. He didn’t take dying well. It really tore him apart. He’s not 1/2048th the man he used to be. Mostly because he ended up in more pieces than that.
He was more liquid than solid by the end of things, so I may have reminded her of bad times.
“You don’t get to call me that, Gecko. Has anyone ever told you it’s creepy to spy on me like this?”
I kept our conversation between us from here on out. “Oh sure, try to tell a goat rapist what’s creepy.”
“What? A goat, wha?”
“Don’t interrupt me, Venus, or I’ll have to whip out my billy club. Yes, I spied on you, but if I hadn’t, that terrible racket would still be going on and emergency services would still be down. It was the only moral thing to do.”
“You don’t have morals.”
I tossed the knives to the side and reached down to stroke the cock between my legs. The rubber, very explosive cock. “You know, you’re right. You talked me into it. Let’s go put the music back on, Boopsie.”
“Wait. You have me here now. What’s this all about?”
“Maybe I just wanted to talk to you and see you again?” I pulled the chicken out of the pile so I could cuddle it close and nuzzle my cheek against it.
“I have no doubt that was your intention, asshole, but I’ve seen this play out before. You have some game you’ll want me to play before we have our big confrontation.”
“Boopsie boop, why mess with a classic? Yes, I do have something to help hold your interest. A weapon of my own making involving the same device I used to tear up the city so far. You’ve seen enough of my technology to know I can put together some terrible contraptions in my sleep. Think about how bad this one must be that I came up with it while awake and thinking of you.” I set my cute little killer chicken to the side, hungry enough to chew on it if I didn’t.
“Just tell me what I’m doing here.”
I stood up and grabbed my laser potato peeler off the table. I walked over to the fridge, pulled out a strip of chicken, and cooked it up with the laser’s lowest setting. Because I didn’t reapply the baste, it tasted a bit dry. “Alright. The first clue is: wear a nice dress. Second clue: get into the limo and-“
“I’m going to stop you right there, Gecko. We are never going on a date. Do you understand me? You won; you made me hate you. I know you have something in your head about me, but I want nothing to do with you, ever.”
“Oh,” I said, speaking softly. “Well…I guess that’s just how it is. In that case, I guess you can go back home. I mean, I don’t need you here either. Maybe there’s some other hero out there who will want to save the city from my nefarious plan to destroy it. I wouldn’t want to force you into this if you don’t feel like giving it a shot. I can always turn myself in to another hero if I lose.”
“Gecko…argh! You..I still hate you. I’m staying, but only because it’s my duty as a hero.”
I threw my hands up, peeler flying up and sticking into the ceiling. “Woohoo! Venus chooses to stay! Let’s get naked and party with balloon animals!”
“Right. Of course. We’ll party naked without balloon animals. That can be just as much a celebration if you don’t like balloon animals.”
“Focus on your scheme!”
“You’re a good evil motivator, Venus. Anyway, I’m going to bomb this city back to the stone age. Interpret that how you want to.
“It sounds brutal. More music?”
Ew, dirty hands. I slipped out a throwing knife to clean my fingernails. “Only the most authentic death metal in town, with a hint of grindcore and horrorcore.”
“What do I have to do to stop it?”
“Why, match wits with me, of course! Though some might feel that’s a difficult task considering they think my wits are scrambled like a bad egg.”
“If that were true, I wouldn’t be able to get inside your head.”
I took out some more of the knives and practiced juggling them. “Unless you’re crazy.”
“Or unless you aren’t.”
“Ow! You wound me. Or maybe it’s this knife I dropped into my thigh. How about we discuss this over dinner?”
“I would have to be crazy to do that.”
I pulled the knife out of my leg and tossed it into the wall next to various assembled components I hung up. “The first clue will be delivered to you on a silver platter. You should keep the phone. Otherwise I’ll have to find some other way to contact you when I have the place and time set up. What do you say, Booper scooper?”
“One condition: nobody tries to capture or kill the other person. If that’s all it is and I can get the clue from you, then yes. I will go out with you to save the city.”
“That’s what I wanted to hear from you, Boopsie. You know, if you try hard enough, you might actually have some fun.”
“Oh, and Gecko? We both know you have no intention of turning yourself in.”
“That may be, Venus, but if you do this right, you have a shot to take me down. See you later, Boopsie woopsie.”
After hanging up it was time, of course…to panic. Then, after I finished running a few laps around the outside of the Big Top and smacking my head into a dumpster, I sat down to focus on the only part of my scheme that left me clueless: how to have a date.
It occurred to me that I’d be more comfortable if she interrupted things to try and beat me up.