The day before I put my plan into motion, I brought back some more gear. I’d forgotten all about some of the other stuff I stashed. I got my rocket saxophone back and even my pink scooter, the Minstrel. I wheeled both in there as I saw Carl showing Tricia a blood choke.
“You’re not going to choke me to death, are you?” she asked. Apparently Carl wasn’t bothering to apply pressure except to quickly show her the spot to hit.
“No. It shouldn’t keep you from breathing,” he said. Then he let her go.
“He’s right,” I added. “The point of the sleeper hold is to cut off the blood supply to the brain, and you can do it even if you aren’t that strong.”
“I remember they used to teach it to cops…I know some cops…but they stopped because you have to get the timing right. You can kill someone like that.” Tricia mused while turning around. Carl let her try to find the carotid on him for practice.
I tossed my sax on a worktable and then pulled my helmet out of the fabricator. I held up the helmet. “Alas, I knew him well.”
“That’s the new armor, boss?” asked Carl. I nodded, then set it down and kicked over the fabricator module.
“Is he normally this angry?” Tricia leaned over and asked Carl in a whisper.
“He doesn’t take it out on us,” Carl answered.
The door closed on it again, so I reached in and yanked it out. “Unfortunately, nothing works perfectly. Damn thing worked well enough to get most of my armor done, but it needed maintenance. It’ll take more time to fix that thing than it would to just finish the armor by hand. At least the nanite distiller is kinda automatic. Every once in awhile it makes a few that check the machine. Of course, every once in awhile I need to check the programming.”
I laid out my armor and the sax both. Then I had to get to work. While I was at it, Carl had Tricia put him in a sleeper. He tapped out before she could send him off to dreamland. Then she wandered over and watched me work. Despite what I expected, it didn’t completely bore her. Instead, she quietly asked, “It’s a lot of work, isn’t it?”
“Yup. That’s power armor for you. At least with gadgets you can live without them or have multiple copies. Hard to have multiple armors without much better production capabilities.” I zoomed in with my eye while I worked, making sure I got the pseudomuscles attached where they needed to be.
“I don’t see any weapons in it.” It wasn’t a question, but she still led me to an answer.
“Nah, I don’t add missiles and rockets and miniguns to my armor. Can’t even fly. Some people might say it barely qualifies. But, as is pertinent to what I’m doing right now, at least I’ll be able to fix this by hand by tomorrow rather than stay out of commission for a few months while I ship it off to the sweatshop in Indonesia.”
“Why do you think people send their armor off to those Indonesian sweatshops?” She smiled as she questioned my little joke, fishing for information.
“Because the Chinese sweatshops are too busy making sex toys.”
She watched for awhile, watched some news, even typed something out in a laptop of hers. She had to update her notes, which networked with her phone and her tablet. I checked on them. It could have been a code, but she seemed to be legit. I just had to correct her work a little.
I know what you’re thinking, but I’m not a Grammar Nazi. For starters, I killed Hitler’s Clone. That’s kind of a no-no for Nazis.
I opened up the suit’s speakers while I looked over everything. I programmed in some basic reinforcements to the design of the speakers to help them withstand using that nausea and dizziness blast I picked up from the Rubik’s Cube, but then I realized some of the vibrations would have some deleterious effects.
My little guys would go around in circles. My soldiers wouldn’t storm the beaches. The vibrations would screw with the nanites, and that one wasn’t a euphemism.
Luckily, I had an idea or two as far as recycling went.
So then we came to the day in question. The big event. Dead Meat vs. Kilbasa vs. Psycho Gecko. They didn’t know it yet, but I set the perfect trap for meat-themed supervillains.
“How exactly did you organize a tofu festival in less than a week. There’s no way you got the permits for this?” asked Tricia while I lowered breaded tofu and cheese into a deep fryer.
“Simple. I once threatened and then rewarded a guy who works with that sort of paperwork. Then I bought a lot of tofu, a lot of tables, and hired homeless people to run things.”
She leaned back against the counter, ignoring the register. We didn’t have any customers anyway. “Psycho Gecko, supervillain who wants to destroy the world…and nice to the homeless.”
I adjusted my eyepatch, then hauled up fried mozzarella and tofu. “Any customers?”
She shook her head. I turned and tossed the snacks in the trash can we replaced our storage bin with after no one purchased any of the other batches. Then I told her, “They’re homeless. If anyone cared enough to help them, people like myself wouldn’t be able to hire them. Only thing is, we’re going to have to get them all dinner later.”
Tricia held out her arms to take in the whole tofu festival. “They’re surrounded by food.”
I shook my finger. “No, they’re surrounded by tofu. There’s a difference. Just ‘cause they’re starving and mentally ill doesn’t mean they’d eat this crap.” I then pointed at all the tofu that sat around everywhere, unsold and uneaten. Even the rats, roaches, and birds refused to come anywhere near us, which actually made it one of the cleaner outdoor festivals in Empyreal City.
“At least it’s a nice day. I don’t know why you keep frying up a bunch of stuff no one’s going to eat, anyway. Isn’t the definition of insanity to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results?” She pulled out her tablet and tapped away at it, updating her notes.
Then came the disturbance from the eastern edge of the festival. We’d set up along a portion of a street, upsetting a lot of drivers. But the disturbance in question involved a man and woman instead of cars knocking things around. My homeless minions, a disproportionate number of whom were veterans, got to cover or escape routes.
Tricia ducked low. Meanwhile, I punched in a nearby glass box set on the ground and grabbed a hammer from it. Then I turned and use the hammer to break the glass in another box that said, “In case of emergency, have sax.” As y’all have probably guessed by now, I whipped out my instrument and held it in front of me.
As I left the small tent, I spotted Carl heading toward the east, gun drawn. He liked his new mini pistol mark two when I gave it to him. I didn’t make the first one he got, but I made him a new one based on the LaMott revolver. This one featured a wider ring of barrels around a bigger central barrel that fired a few small shotgun shells. I kinda wanted to make it a pump- or lever-action handgun just for the sake of novelty, but it’s semi. And, feeling things perk up in my pants, it wasn’t the only semi around.
Moai hopped from tent to overturned tables, using them as cover. He even jumped over one and did a roll. He still wore the oversized mustache and glasses that served as his disguise. He didn’t need a weapon. He was a statue. “Statue” is just another word for “stone club in disguise” after all.
Don’t quote me on that in anything academic, though.
We spread out to hunt down our special guests and found them. The petite woman in the bloody butcher’s smoke had to be Kilbasa. She whipped around a morning star made of a frozen rump roast on the end of a length of Conecuh sausage, knocking over tables and piles of tofu. Her minion, Ground Chuck, busted open cash boxes with a length of hard salami. Huh. I didn’t know Killbasa made him wear glasses that looked like bacon. She took one look at a sculpture of Venus carved out of tofu and destroyed it as well.
Aww. I liked that one. I had one of the hobos carve that for me. I meant it to look like the goddess as portrayed in that picture with the seashell, but I changed my mind. Instead, it was a tastefully nude version of my superheroine nemesis. Remember, it’s not porn if it’s art.
I lowered my saxophone and opened my hands wide. I walked out and greeted them with a smile, “Howdy, folks! Having fun on this glorious day?”
They looked at me like I was stupid. By they, I don’t just mean Killbasa and Chuck. My armor’s 360 degree view revealed that Tricia facepalmed and Carl couldn’t figure out whether to aim at the other villains or hide his gun.
“Listen, I get it. You don’t like tofu. Who can blame you? So you’re here to destroy the place. Believe it or not, I’m kinda fine with that, because we could use the publicity.” I nodded, trying to project a look of resignation that looked opportunistic, but not gleefully so.
Kilbasa pointed at me with the hand that held the rump star. Or would it be a morning rump? Either way, her rump dangled there, threateningly. “Is there anything valuable here?”
I shrugged. “Well, I suppose there’s the Bronze Tofu. It’s this trophy we’re hoping to make presitigous by giving it out to the winner of our tofu eating contest.”
She shook her rump at me. “Give it!”
I held my hands up at chest level, palms out to her. “Ok, fine, fine, but we’d really prefer it if you won the contest first. It goes to the person who eats the most tofu here today.”
“I suppose I should try it at least once,” she said. Kilbasa picked up a small cube of tofu and took a bite out of half of it. Her face pulled back like she was going through a centrifuge, but she managed to swallow it.
As soon as she did, I started clapping my hands. “Ladies and gentlemen, here is our winner!” Tricia and Carl joined in, Carl having holstered his mini pistol. “Now then!” I pointed up at the sky, then back to a giant, sickeningly pale turkey standing tall over the rest of the grounds. “It’s time for the presentation and the winner’s picture by Boburky the Tofurkey. Me, my, fofurkey. Boburky.”
Humoring me for at least a second longer, Kilbasa graciously stood there in the circle we laid out to make sure the winner would be in the correct position. The correct position for what? Why, the correct position for the rope circle to tighten around her ankles, yank her along the ground, and drag her into the rocket waiting for her inside Boburky the Tofurkey.
Ground Chuck tried to run after her, but I put an arm around his shoulder and Carl put his pistol to his head, and suddenly Chuck stood as still as a stone club in disguise. “Aaaah, Chuck. Can I call you Chuck? Don’t answer that, Chuck. The question you really need to be concerned about is if you want to go from being Ground Chuck to being hamburger?”
Chuck turned white as Boburky as I dropped the hologram and revealed my armor to him. “What do you need me to do?” he asked.
I clapped him on the shoulder. “Good to hear you’re willing to play ball. Are you good at playing ball? No, that’s another question you don’t have to answer. But answer me this: are you a master at baiting?”