“Carl, what do you suppose she meant by ‘pathetic, emotionally-stunted man-child’?” I asked while blinking through Tricia’s online article. Carl sat at the worktable, reading an actual flesh-and-blood newspaper.
That reminds me of a joke. What’s black, and white, and red all over? A bloodthirsty penguin.
“I don’t think she meant anything good by it, boss,” Carl answered.
“Huh. Moai?” I popped my eye out of my head and raised it over my head to peer at Moai where he lounged on the couch. He shook his head from behind the laptop propped on his chest.
“Well, darn. Was wondering if I was just imagining the negative tone there, or if that’s how other people saw it too. But I think she did a good job with calling me a ‘ne’er do well angry at his inability to fit in with society,’ like that. I think it might make people think of the more positive message of ‘Fight Club.’” I popped my eye back in and read some more.
“I don’t think she was being nice,” Carl said.
“’You expect big-name supervillains to be suave, but Psycho Gecko, with his constant junk food and trashy living conditions, is the exception to the rule.’ I don’t care. I just murdered a teenage girl in the middle of Times Square, so I don’t think she’d put out an article talking about how I’m a nice guy who’s just misunderstood. Hell, even the people who thought she deserved it have walked back that statement. No speaking ill of the dead. That, and there’s a difference between saying people should die, and someone actually killing. Those thoughtless bastards can’t even stand behind their own words, no matter how good the ideas they represent. Cowardice, that’s what it is. Carl, don’t these people know there’s only one thing to fear?”
“Fear itself?” he asked, checking his phone.
“No, death. You can survive everything else, but death tends to be fatal. Except for the times when it isn’t, but Death would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those meddling humans.” I shook my fist in sympathy with the personification of Death. If there is one, and my experience means there might be, our interests have aligned from time to time. Some people just need killin’.
“Shouldn’t we get to the airport, boss?” Carl waved his phone at me. He stood up and reached for his bags. Moai set the laptop aside and rolled off the couch.
I rolled my eye and left my bar stool. “Yeah, yeah…I don’t know why I let y’all talk me into a vacation. You know we’ll have to be careful. I do fund a few international operations. Like North Korea’s little internet problem late last year. Other things, I just fund, like the Great Swiss Bonbon Heist. 260 tons, Carl! Who else would have the bonbons to make that happen?” I pointed up to the sky, taking a bit of pride in my criminal investment.
“Your eye, boss.”
“Thanks Carl. Got it!” I rushed to the bathroom. That’s where I’d left my fake fake eye. My prosthetic one with the HUD was my fake eye. This one was just to make it look like I had another one. I’d put a lot of work into it. I used a marker and everything. I popped it in my empty socket and checked in the mirror.
At least the pupil looked about right. I’d figure something out at the airport. Showing the utmost confidence in my artistic abilities, I stepped out and pointed to marked-up marble. “Ta da!”
Just then, I noticed the TV. We’d left it on but muted while we perused Tricia’s article. Normally, I don’t care about weather reports, but then “All flights grounded” rolled by in the little ticker at the bottom of the screen. I shot the TV with finger guns and the volume jumped up on it. “-ecedented storm coming out of the southwest. It appears to be the front that’s hovered over Ohio, so some are speculating that superhumans are involved. We here want you all to stay safe and batten down the hatches. From Channel 15, I’m Nicole Nguyen bint McConnel, and you stay classy Empyreal City.”
I turned to Carl. “Carl, you call up the airport. I’ll check online.” He nodded and checked his boarding pass for a number.
Long story short, we weren’t taking our vacation after all. They locked down the airport. All because of a little lightning. Ha! See, this is what happens when a civilization doesn’t assert itself over nature. You’ve got to keep that weather in its place. Build towers to manipulate ions and humidity in the atmosphere, that sort of thing. Special hoops in tropical waters that harness energy from waves while taking the piss out of potential depressions.
I think I hid my happiness at the turn of events pretty well, up until I jumped on Carl’s foot. I hefted him up princess-style. “Don’t worry, you just take it easy on those toes. I’ll get us dinner. Feel like Chinese? I like that one place’s pork egg rolls.”
“Fine with me, boss.” Even though we were a few feet short of the couch, I dropped him on the floor.
“Alright, let me make the call.” With that, I dialed out using my brain and voice box. The person who picked up happened to be the closet nanite-infected individual to Main Moon Chinese. Against her own will, the middle-aged woman turned around and walked in to order up a few bags of Chinese food.
I know, I know. It’s hardly befitting a supervillain. To be fair, I did rob her. I made her pay for it out of her own money. But I didn’t do anything too creepy. She got her personal autonomy back an hour and a half later, once she dropped off the food in the same slot the other meat puppets used and got far enough away.
You’d be surprised how much crime increased amongst the population who I exposed to my nanites. Regular, law-abiding people just started organizing into teams to rob jewelry stores, small banks, and places where they worked.
I didn’t have to, but I left them an out, too. Every single one of them wrote a note saying, “HABIT has bit me.”
I enjoy Creepypasta, and that’s a hell of a lot better way of promoting some of it than having kids stab each other in the name of Slender Man.
The nanites are going offline on their own anyway, but the process accelerated after I take control from a person. The really tricky part was being able to see and hear the meat puppets. I had to do a lot of improvisation to work out solutions on that initially, and then I had to find ways to patch the nanites.
See, every single one of the nanites is set up to emit a short-wave signal that can reach others nearby to allow them to coordinate their functions. That way, they know to spread out and work on the bones here while others deal with muscles here. Luckily, cell towers and satellites carried my signal to them, and the affected nanites then corrected their nearby brethren.
It went a bit like this. One nanite turned to the other and said, “Yo, what up my brethren? Have you heard the good news about Psycho Gecko, our lord and savior?”
Machines are great like that. They don’t have minds of their own, so it’s easy for their betters to come along and change them. If only humans were that easy to control. Oh wait. Thanks to my machines, they were.
The bottom fell out of the dark sky right around the time I pulled open the bag and started passing out cartons of noodles and rice. “Let’s not kid ourselves, guys. Some asshole super ruined the vacation. You can’t blame this one on me.”
A familiar female voice spoke up behind me. “Actually…”
“Venus!” I turned and threw a carton of cashew chicken at the armored heroine’s head. She deftly caught it. I tried a bag of egg rolls next. She snatched it out of the air with her other hand. Then I pulled out a pair of wooden chopsticks still stuck together and ran at her, ready to stab. She took the rolls in the same hand as the carton and grabbed at my chopstick hand. At the same time, she raised a leg up and fell back, using my charge to toss me over her. I landed just short of the window, enough so that my legs banged into it while the rest of me made the acquaintance of the floor. Also, she stole the chopsticks.
I took a moment to regain lung control down there while Venus stepped up over my head and looked down on me. She ate a few sticks’ worth of my rice, then helped herself to a bite of my egg roll. “Hey! Don’t eat that. Thief! That’s mine.”
She smirked at me. Ooooh, that bitch. Just let me take put a pair of cat ears on her again and we’ll see who is smirking.
Except I couldn’t feel the nanites in her anymore. They shouldn’t have been completely gone so thoroughly, unless… “Trying to make me do things?”
I shrugged. “Me? No. Why would I ever want to do anything other than lay between your legs and watch you masticate?” After a little bit of work, I found what I was looking for: a few nanites still survived within her. I had to look through a range of frequencies to find them. Long Life nanites. Venus and Forcelight must have flushed out their systems using them, and they either broke down or were passed out of the body quickly enough that too few remained in the system for a takeover.
It would have ruined my plan to use them so soon, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave them so little active time just to prevent that. Alternatively, it also meant people with chronic injuries or a lot of illnesses back to back would need to keep coming in for more treatment.
Venus held out the pork egg roll she hadn’t bitten into. “Say ‘ah!’”
I opened my mouth. She threw it into my face, leaving me covered in roll crust, pork, and a mess of vegetables I probably wouldn’t eat if I knew what they were. I reached with my tongue to pull a piece of pork into my mouth. While chewing, I said, “You throw like a girl.” That’s when she dropped the fried rice on my head.
I sat up. “Unless you showed up just to ruin my dinner, you’ve got some odd timing. I was going on vacation earlier, before this storm showed up.” I looked over to find Carl sitting by the counter with the food on it, forking noodles into his mouth straight from the carton. I held out my hand toward Venus like “What the hell, man? Hero. Get her.”
He shrugged and went back to eating. I’m going to need to hire on a few more guys just to kill so I can make an example of them.
“This visit is about business. Before you ask, I don’t need a stripper.” Damn.
Venus stepped away and leaned on my bar stool. “It’s about this storm. It’s your fault.”
I gestured with my hands toward Venus, scrunching up my face as I concentrated. “What are you doing?” she asked.
“Trying to hit you with lightning. If I’m making this storm happen, you’d think I could zap you.”
Venus held up a chopstick and broke it in half, then pointed at me with the whole one. “Careful, you. You’re not making this happen, but you are responsible. When you broke out of prison, you let someone else out, too.”
I picked rice off me to gobble it down. “You’re just now mentioning this?”
“The government didn’t want anyone knowing about the prison break if they could help it. They were willing to let you stay under the radar if it meant not admitting that.” She cocked her head to the side.
“Ah, so letting me roam around wasn’t just because of your misguided sense of justice and desire to help me. I knew it. No one could be that naive. And stupid. And foolish.”
Odd. Venus’ face turned a shade of crimson at that. She finally yelled, “Hey! That was my plan after all, they just had a good reason to go along with it! Complimenting you was too. You can’t say I didn’t try, Gecko.”
Thunder crackled as the sky began flashing like a strobe light. “Anyway, my dear Venus, why are you here now and not kicking my ass like you no-doubt want to?”
“I thought I should warn you, and I might need your help.”
At that, I held up a finger to stop her. I stood up and called out to Moai, “Yo! Toss me a drink.” Moai grabbed a soft drink out of the mini fridge by the TV and threw it over. I popped it open, took a sip, then turned and spat it out on Venus and her shiny, shiny armor. After wiping my mouth, I told her, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Venus walked over and grabbed my shirt. She tore it off me and used it to wipe off her visor and shoulders. “I’m not kidding you. I don’t know why he’s here now, but Spinetingler’s at the heart of this storm. They had him buried in the Cube until you blew it up. Captain Lightning tried to look into it and went missing, which is when the FBI started quietly briefing a few of us. Now he’s here. Do you understand me?”
I understood her. Spinetingler’s really fucking bad news. What Carl said about there being nothing to fear? Well, Spinetingler’s the closest living thing to fear itself. A part of me was worried. Another part, oddly enough, got tingles. Not spine tingles, just regular, manly tingles. It could hardly be considered a rational feeling, but part of me wanted a shot at the supervillain.
The other part of me wanted new shorts and a quick trip out of state.
“Alright, Venus. I’ve got a plan. Here’s what I’m gonna do…” I started. Then I put an arm around Venus’s shoulder, led her to the door, opened it, and punted her out by the butt.