There are many things a man could make of himself in a city like Empyreal City. Especially a man like myself. Thanks to all Tricia’s help, she survived. Not only did she survive, but she wanted more. That sounded like some horny business went on. No, I kept things strictly platonic with my wife. I even stopped myself from killing her for wanting to spy on me and release those details to the public.
Like I’d ever make a public account of my actions for people to read. Well, people in this dimension, at least. Y’all are safe. Letting y’all know my plans probably won’t cause a hero and a SWAT team to show up the next time I want to steal some unstable element.
Yessiree, it was a brand new day, and the sun was high. I’d agreed to show Tricia a little bit of insider stuff, then jumped out of the car in the middle of traffic and remote-drove my own car to me.
Black Sunshine, my lovely black 1951 Hudson Hornet with orange trim and enough hidden firepower to make James Bond jealous. From there, I retrieved my stashed gear from where I hid it: a strip club bathroom with a pair of fake legs and a stink generator. I hid my devices that smelt it with a device that dealt it.
First thing I did was take a big gulp of my regenerative nanites. That cleared up my arm. It also brought to my attention a problem with my throat speaker. In all the excitement, I’d forgotten to check up on it. I’d stolen a tone from the Cube’s guards that causes nausea and balance problems and used it against them, but it blew something in my throat. It’s not often my throat blows anything. I set the nanites to repairing it.
They were also handy for uncovering the full extent of my injuries. I thought I just had aches and pains accompanying a broken arm and sprained ankle after a bad fall. Sure, some APCs burst open like melons when they hit the ground, but they also had a lot more mass than I did. Tell that to the bruised muscles, bruised organs, herniated spinal discs, and various minor sprains and fractures. Gravity really kicked my ass on that one. I was just too ignorant to realize it.
At times, some of these jokes even wear on me. Not that I had anything else to wear. I hauled my chicken grenades, exploding knives, and fabricators off to some shutdown gas station. Then I set it up so that they’d assemble a set of my Harlequin armor, with a few modifications to the speaker and sound control systems. Harlequin seemed a convenient name for it. That would make a good new title, too. The Great and Devious, el Gato de la Noche, the Horrible Harlequin, Psycho Gecko.
That had a horrible ring to it.
Maybe it wasn’t the jokes. After everything that’s happened, I realized I felt pretty down about the holidays. I even visited the Central Park Zoo to stare at the penguins and try to think about how to achieve some happiness. I could have gone to Carl and Moai, but perhaps they needed a break. Or I didn’t want to ruin their holidays. Or I’ll just get to it later.
For some reason, I just hadn’t felt that festive lately. Even seeing reports of Venus helping the city recover didn’t ignite much of a fire in me. I saw no news about my breakout, however. The web talked about the unusual earthquake that hit Ohio, but nothing about it destroying a prison. There were so many other things. The usual scandals and disappointing crises that repeat themselves over and over again.
I couldn’t much see how anyone got in the mood to celebrate the winter solstice with all that going on. Even the people in that strip club I visited didn’t seem particularly enthused. The strippers didn’t enjoy things, either, but that had more to do with the club not turning the heat up enough. That’s dangerous. If those girls get cold enough when they lean down to give someone a faceful of human mammary meat, they could put an eye out.
It got me to thinking. I remembered something some astronaut said about how after seeing the earth, he wished he could drag self-serving politicians up there to see it and shake them by the collars. Actually, lots of astronauts expressed similar sentiments. Seeing the bigger picture like that made them realize just how petty it was to oppose helping each other because of political disagreements.
I saw the multiverse. I glimpsed entire universes. I reminded myself of that when I rehashed my arrival back in the Cube. Back then, it made me feel disconnected. Like maybe my entire mind didn’t stick with me when I plopped down on this Earth. But looking back on it, looking at the truth that Venus forced out of me thanks to that magical truth serum, and looking at my entire holiday experience as a whole, it occurred to me what I needed to do.
The universe as a whole, and the Earth specifically, is such a wonderful place full of people who could easily make a utopia. They’re just misguided…and selfish…and more than a little bit ignorant. Who am I to speak? I’ve been the same way. But now that I had time to reflect, and think on things, I realized that some of my crusades to kill public nuisances weren’t all that bad after all. And with me now being the guy with my head on straight, ha ha, then why not be the one to drag this world kicking and screaming to a better place?
I decided then and there, looking at those dapper penguins slide around their exhibit, I’d drag this city into festivity even if it killed ‘em!
And to start, I grabbed this big fish they planned to divvy up for the birds and pulled its mouth down over my face. Then I poked out one eye. Instant mask! As an added bonus, the penguins followed me eagerly once I busted in the door. They shuffled out like someone lit a fire under their asses. Probably because of the trainer who tried to stop me. Penguins may prefer their fish raw, but they don’t care for their keepers being left extra crispy.
It was child’s play to get them piled into my car to be taken somewhere private. Wait a second, that makes it sound like I’m a pedophile. Birdnapping those penguins was like taking a sucker from a baby- nope! Uh uh, that doesn’t work either. I’m just going to throw that whole description out like a baby in the bathwater. Not that I have any babies in my bathwater.
Unlike any children left alone with me, sometimes I can’t help but fuck up the English language.
With the stolen birds in my possession, I spent the next few days preparing to use them. That involved talking to some people in the military surplus business and doing a bit of repair work. Reviewing my funds, I realized I’d need to do something more profitable before long, but I figured I’d burn that bridge when I came to it.
I kept up my feed of the news the entire time. Surprisingly, they’d had a lot of odd thefts after I tricked Venus into cutting the city’s power. They didn’t know it was me, thanks to my handy fish mask. I made sure to change my face, too. And while I stand out thanks to the one eye, I also figured out I could confuse the hell out of people by swapping which side I stuck the eye in.
I also picked up an awesome eyepatch.
I wore it to a special meeting on Saturday. There I sat, surrounded by a variety of men in a hotel ballroom. The guy at the podium finished his introductory remarks, then said, “I see a lot of new faces out here tonight. Welcome. You’ve chosen a great night to come out and declare your support for our cause. Now, for our speaker tonight, we’ve a Rabbi here to speak with us, but please don’t ask for his name.” That got a laugh from the crowd. Most people here didn’t like using their real names. The speaker continued, “Believe it or not, this lucky devil works as a Mohel, and he’s here to tell us all about, and I hope I’m pronouncing this right, metzitzah b’peh.”
Look that up at y’all’s own risk. It’s one of those things you’d be surprised anyone gets away with in the name of a religion.
“Hey,” whispered an attendee to me, “you look familiar. Have I seen you around the grocery store?”
I looked over at the heavyset man with five days of stubble on his thick chin. I answered him with a bad Eastern European accent. “No, I think you have me confused with someone else. I’m new here. Just curious, do people here often already have someone?”
He lowered his chin, eyebrows shooting up, “Have someone? You mean…You’re one lucky guy. That takes a lot of guts. You’re an inspiration to me and the rest of NAMBLA. Tell me about him.”
NAMBLA. The North American Man-Boy Love Association. I first heard of them while immersing myself in this Earth’s popular culture. A cartoon mentioned them. I assumed they were made up as a joke until a brilliant comedian and newscaster also mentioned them. It just goes to show that there are groups out there to defend all manner of abhorrence, and why a guy who goes as far as I do is so needed. I smiled wide. “She’s a dream. The maturity of a nine year old with the ass of a three year old. You know what I’m saying? Molestation five!” I held up my hand for a high five.
The man stood up and pointed a finger at me. “This man is a pedophile!”
The Rabbi and the rest of the crowd focused on him, but the man who had started the meeting just sighed and said, “Frank, calm down. You’ve been warned about the pot calling the kettle black.”
Frank hopped up and down, “You don’t understand. He likes girls!”
That drew boos and condemnation from the crowd surrounding me. The NAMBLA group as a whole hauled me out of the hotel and tossed me to the curb. “Stay out of here, you sick freak!” yelled someone in the crowd, provoking a chorus of agreement from the crowd.
That’s when they realized they tossed me next to a very unusual vehicle parked next to the hotel. An armored red monstrosity on eight wheels, it had fuzzy white cotton trim and green and red headlights. I stood up and brushed myself off. “Alright, you guys are right. I should go. I’ll just get in my car here…”
I hopped up as the back doors of the repurposed ambulance blew open and the cannon slid out. I slid into the seat behind it and took gleeful aim. I had to shorten the barrel a great deal to fit it in, which meant less range. Good thing I lured all my targets out.
“Ahahahaha! Eat Spheniscus demersus!” I yelled through the laughter as I fired the African penguins out the cannon and into the crowd of pedophiles. Fun fact: the African penguin is also known as the jackass penguin. And they jacked those asses up. Sure, it was an airsoft cannon, but that merely kept the birds intact long enough to render the NAMBLA members decidedly…not intact. Plus, the penguins had armor and helmets on.
I didn’t plan on that originally, but then I had this fantasy about penguin guards in skullcaps and chain mail guarding my lair with little spears. It wouldn’t work, but it kept the penguins mostly ok.
As satisfying as it felt to shoot my load, I finished all too soon. Quite happy with my work dropped down to check for survivors. I found a few, but I soon fixed that with the aid of a knife. Then I made a slight alteration to a decorative seasonal sign on the hotel. Just a little something to show my intentions.
“Rest in peace on Earth, and good ill toward men.”