I’ve been working hard to get things ready. Make sure the armor’s tip-top shape, getting the eye ready, stealing materials to melt down and turn into nanites. The usual. Haven’t heard from Venus, but I have spoken with the man of the our. Spinetingler. We had ourselves a pleasant chat on Saturday after I got a few things ready.
Oh, and I tried poisoning the tentacles. I took a bunch of Fruit Loops and coated them with some Arsine, then tossed the box in there. Once they tore the box open, those tentacles couldn’t help but try and force themselves through the little holes of the O-shaped cereal. The crumbs and stuff stuck to the writhing, moist mass of ass penetrators, which then dropped them off in the toilet for the consumption of whatever made up the other end of this thing.
It didn’t clear up my little problem.
I found a nice cafe and claimed to be doing a hidden camera reality show. After an appeal to the manager’s greed, I had Carl and Moai hang a large mirror on the wall while I pulled on my armor. Moai and Carl high-tailed it out of there, leaving me, the confused staff, and the mirror.
“Spinetingler, Spinetingler, Spinetingler,” I said, looking into the mirror.
The lights dimmed and flickered. I looked at the seat opposite me. I leaned over to check in case he was really short. Nothing. Somebody tapped on glass, and I noticed movement on my right. The mirror. I turned to look and saw Spinetingler in the mirror sitting in the seat opposite me. My reflection didn’t appear at all.
“Spinetingler, I take it. I’ve never had the pleasure, but I’ve seen some pictures. You lose some weight?” I looked him over, wondering if he projected an intimidating image or a realistic one. He looked…gooey. He had the hood and a skull-like mask on over his head, the hood part of a cloak that hung open. Inside were ribs covered with charred flesh and a thin layer of sheen over the bones and other bits. Somehow, his intestines stayed coiled in his belly.
He coughed. Or maybe laughed. “I see you’ve got guts.”
I pointed at the mirror. “Yeah, I noticed that about you as well.”
He laughed again, then settled into his seat. “I heard of you before they locked me up in the Rubik’s Cube. I’ve seen a lot more since I’ve been out.”
“You know me? I guess I have been in the news lately. I was actually in the Cube with you, as it turns out. I blew it up.” After a moment’s pause, I waved over the waitress. “Would you like anything to drink?”
She didn’t respond.
“Hey! Girl! Whatever your name is, bring some menus.” Still she hesitated. I threw the napkin holder at her and hit the wall by her head. That woke her up. She walked over, keeping an eye on the mirror. I reached up and pulled her chin down so she looked at me. “Ahem!”
“S-sorry. What do you, I mean, do you want- what can we do for you?” she asked.
“Sweet tea for me. Whatever my guest wants,” I told her, then addressed Spinetingler, “Pardon me. The guest usually goes first, but she has an attention problem.”
“I’ll have black coffee. Set it on the table and I’ll take things from there,” Spinetingler said. “You broke me out? I don’t know if I should thank you or…hrrm…worse.”
“Were they nicer to you than they were to me?” I asked. My armor’s analysis of the mirror would normally tell me at least if the other villain’s appearance was a magical anomaly. The image in the mirror appeared “Undetermined”.
“They restrained me at all times in a lead sarcophagus too thick for me to escape. They lined my cell with every material resistant to psionics and magic they could find. I know this because they told me. They announced it to me using a video in a single-use TV screen that informed me about the feeding tube and catheter they installed. They say hell is other people. I disagree. Hell is yourself, alone, for years.” As he spoke, the cafe in the mirror warped and rotted away. The waitress dropped off our drinks and fled from the table as soon as she glimpsed that.
“You want to hurt me for getting you out of there. It makes perfect sense,” I said, raising my tea as if to sip it. It spilled down the front of my armor as the glass clinked against my helmet.
What’s that? You, dear reader, don’t want to read among mad people? Oh, you can’t help that, I say. We’re all mad here.
“You are responsible for my stunning new look. It fits, but I used to be a man.” He pointed down at himself and his previously-described state of looking like last night’s dinner of ribs and haggis. “Now, I am meat.”
“And bone,” I added. “And still alive.”
“Hrrm.” What do you call that, I wonder? A growling sigh?
“Listen,” I started. “It’s not altogether a surprise that I rubbed you the wrong way already. After all, my life in supervillainy began with a tragic porn fluffer accident. By the way, that lady eventually got her cat back. Ya see, I do a lot of damage to this city and its people on a regular basis, so I thought I’d call you up and find out a few things as a professional courtesy. Just so I know if I need to get out of town for a few days, that sort of thing. If you don’t want to talk to me, that’s fine, and at least you’ve gotten a cup of coffee out of it, right?”
I’d have smiled, but what good would that have done? Instead, I projected a Cheshire Cat smile across the front of my helmet.
“Professional…courtesy…” Spinetingler drew out the phrase. Give the guy a staff with a spinal column worked into it and he’d probably go and try to find some elves to fight. Like I said last time, I like the narrative too. But there are a lot of times when the narrative is worth jettisoning. Most times, actually. Stories have their places, but the heroes tend to win in them, which greatly reduces my desire to emulate them.
I scooted my chair around so it faced the mirror and leaned over, watching him through my helmet’s top view. “Yeah, s’right. I’ll defend myself if I have to, but your business isn’t any of my business, so why should I stop you taking care of business? Though, you have kinda interfered with me handling my business. There appears to be some sort of creature in my toilet that violates space, time, and the human anus. It’s making it really hard for me to sit there and poop. It wants to participate.”
Spinetingler laughed again in spite of himself. That, or he’s working on a hairball. After he had a moment to settle, he told me, “Collateral damage. I set many things in motion at once. The urban landscape is rich in ways to grip the plebes with terror.”
Right. After coffee, why not order your orcs to march on Gondor?
I shrugged. “Yeah, I like to shave my plebes. Keep them from getting long and curly. So, my takeaway is that you don’t have a lot of control over your Japanese seafood friend, so I need to take it out myself.” Whether he could or not, I preempted him with cooperation to get on his good side. See? I have people skills! Fuck you! “Empyreal City is sorta my city right now. If you’re after something, I can help or offer advice. I can even just stay away from wherever you’re doing your thing. Makes the whole thing easier on us. No need for some big fight over who gets to terrorize the place, with flexing and seeing who has the shinier cock ring. No need to do the heros’ job for them, right?”
“Psycho Gecko. Hrrm. You would cut to the chase to accommodate both our agendas?” He held out one boney hand toward me, as if offering. Then he raised his glass of coffee and pulled away the skull mask to drink. The face underneath looked much like the mask. The coffee spilled down over his entrails. I guess he didn’t have the stomach for it after all.
A red light glowed out of the empty orbital sockets of Spinetingler’s face as he spoke. “I want you to leave the city.”
“One moment.” I raised a finger, then called over the waitress again. The poor dear shook and refused to face the mirror. “Excuse me, could you taste this for me?” I held up my drink. The waitress took the cup, squeezed her eyes shut, and drank a sip. “More.” She tipped it up further. “Good, now don’t swallow. I don’t say that enough, by the way. Just so you know. File that away. Let it sink into your brain. Now, face away from me.”
The waitress turned back toward the counter. I reached around and popped her in the belly, causing her to spew the tea and start hacking. “Good girl, you can go.” Coughing, she dropped the cup and ran for the safety of the counter.
I caught the cup in midair and took another sip, the drink harmlessly pouring down the outside of my armor. Then, turning towards Spinetingler again, I told him, “So, that’s my reaction to your offer. My counter offer is as follows: I don’t leave.”
I know, I was about to take a vacation before the ‘Tingler here locked down the airport, but now he’s being a dick and wants me out of the city. It’s like running from a cheetah or trying to take a bone from a dog. Even if the dog ignores that bone every day, the moment you challenge him, he’s gonna bare teeth. It applies to people, too, and is regrettably predictable, but sometimes doing the expected is the last thing the enemy will expect.
Within his shiny reflective glass, Spinetingler stood. The view of the cafe behind him faded into darkness. “You will interfere. You can’t help it. You’re a dog without a leash and I won’t have you spoiling things with your unreliable nature.”
Under my helmet, I smiled. “Ya know, you reminded me of a father figure I once had. A General. He worked so hard on me, but he said something incredibly similar just before he tried to kill me. It didn’t end well for him. I’m staying.”
“Then this discussion is at an end.” Spinetingler glared out at me from his mirror. The darkness surrounding him writhed now. I could barely make out faces in the darkness. Faces with large mouths and sharp teeth.
I jumped up and pointed at him. “Oh no it isn’t. I’ve got one more question to ask you and it’s a biggie: why February? I know we had Friday the 13th, but you’re really more of an October kinda guy. Couldn’t you have waited a bit?”
He didn’t answer me. Instead, one of the faces came closer. A long, slathering maw slowly extended out of the mirror. I grabbed my chair and swung it at the mirror itself, shattering it into pieces. The method of transport gone, the head of the snot and saliva-covered beastie fell to the ground without its body on this side of things. Looking at it, I noticed Spinetingler still in the mirror, his image spread across multiple broken shards. I knelt down to look him over. “Well, well, well. Good luck taking me out of the picture now, ‘Tingle Tingle. I’ve got seven years, guaranteed, even if they’re supposed to be full of bad luck.”
Wordlessly, Spinetingler turned and walked into the distance of his mirror land.
Reflective surfaces were the first thing to go when I got back to the lair. Anything big enough to send something threatening through, it got thrown out. After all, I’m not Stupid Gecko.