Okily dokily, folkily folks, here’s the plan: I draw Captain Lightning to me like some sort of rod that attracts something named Lightning. Then, Venus drops a few buildings on with explosives and moves in to shove some of my body-control nanites in his orifices while he’s occupied.
Technically, I could do that all myself, but she expects me to get my ass whooped. I expect it, too. So she’ll be there to handle putting him down.
I used the time beforehand to cook up some handy-dandy boomstuff for Venus. I also stocked up on my famous remote-control rockets and built a pair of metal gauntlets to work the energy sheath technology into. See, I looked back to a lot of stuff I’ve used in the past to try and find anything to give me an edge against Captain Lightning.
Lightning has the whole package. Superstrength, superspeed, flight, enhanced durability, enhanced endurance, a questionable need to breath, the ability to create magic lightning, and various other abilities that crop up every now and then. It’d be bad enough if he was just some font of powers all rolled into one being, but he’s magical, too. I’m sure he’s got some spells that could have made things a lot worse for everybody…and it’s entirely possible that Spinetingler wouldn’t have been capable of taking over the city without Lightning boosting his abilities in some way.
Fuck, man, I mean Captain Lightning fought in World War II over here.
I’d have built an entirely new suit of armor just to fight him if time was on my side. But time, as we all know, is like toilet paper. No matter how long a roll you got, there’s never enough for all the shit you gotta deal with.
Meanwhile, I still had myself some dreams. Venus pestered me about taking Nyquil or something else to keep me so sleepy that nothing disturbed me, but I turned her down. I didn’t trust her not to manipulate my giblets while I dreamt the dreams of the wicked. That, and I’ve been known to experience drugs a little differently than humans.
So I plowed on through to the big day, today. Moai and Carl piled into the sonic tank while I stood on top. I built the thing to be showy, at least. Yeah, it’s stupid, but there was an exposed portion of the top where I could stand and survey the damage occurring around me while driving by remote. Yeah, that’s just what you need on a class of vehicle specifically designed for heavy armor: a place to stand out in the open for anyone to attack.
I had reasons for not using this thing.
I made a few minor upgrades to its systems, as well. It needed a little fine-tuning and, voila, it was good to go. That part amazed Venus at the time. She was all like, “Is this on the same kind of power source as this place?” She waved her arm to indicate the entirety of my refugee-filled underground storage bunker.
I watched as she crawled up top. “Something like that. Not the same type as I’ve got in my chest. Actually, a hybrid system that uses helium. So if I get into trouble, I can always crack that open and make Lightning’s voice really high-pitched.”
When she got on top, Venus brushed her hands off and held out one of them for me to shake, a little smile playing over her lips. “In case something happens,” she said.
I slapped her hand away. “Put that up. It’s not like it’ll make me feel any better when he pulls out my bladder and shows it to me. Forget the handshake, do your job, and make sure nothing happens.”
She looked at me, smile trying to turn downward, then finally put her hand back down and jumped off the tank. I turned away and stepped onto the foot clamps on the central rotating top platform. Metal groaning beneath me, the tank lumbered forward.
From the ground, I heard people cheer for a moment, until Venus cut them off. “How are you going to get it out?”
Behind her, the screen blinked on and sent a signal of its own that raced along cables under the floor and into the walls, where a special tank tunnel waited to be created. With one hell of a loud boom, an explosion blew open a hole from the bunker floor to the street.
I suppose parking was another reason not to take it out frequently or at all.
Venus followed me out in her armor. She bounded after me and caught up, then raised her arms. Grappling lines fired from the underside. The material hardened as it punched a hole into the side of a building and the hook dug in. Her armored legs gave a jump which boosted her into the air. Those grappling hooks were handy, but mainly in the tight confines of the city since the line system had limited range. Venus went on ahead, to a pair of bombs strapped to her back so she could prepare the agreed-upon intersection in midtown.
I directed my car to follow as well, in case I needed a getaway vehicle.
At least I had a great sound system to listen to on the way. That was the point, in fact. I had enough saved in my computer system to give me a few options. I opened with something that everyone in Empyreal City would know and love. “Boom, boom, boom, boom!” blasted out of the focusing dishes, shattering windows and setting off a few car alarms.
I started early, but I figured Spinetingler needed time to notice me, conclude I was an ass, and then feel strongly enough to send Captain Lightning.
Apparently Spinetingler amended that plan to include throwing a bunch of monsters at me. I saw Skinner watching from an alleyway, but that’s all he did. Mr. Mammon smiled at me from a strip club and raised a glass of some sort of liquor to me as I passed, but offered nothing but a momentary temptation.
A dozen others came after me, though. Most of them had trouble standing the noise, especially the song. They may be superhuman now, but they’d been human once. Humans who had been annoyed by this song when I bombarded the city with it before.
One particularly bondage-looking guy stood in the middle of the road and gritted his teeth as we approached. Staring me down. He looked like he could take a lot of pain from the small beartrap-looking devices clamped all over his head.
Chains appeared around my legs and coiled up my body like snakes, but I popped the Nasty Surprise and cut through them. Then I turned the front three dishes on the chain guy all at once. Looked like he was screaming, poor guy.
He probably would have been able to move out of the way if I hadn’t changed the music to the same tone the Rubik’s Cube introduced me to. That lovely sonic caress of the inner ear that rendered me nauseous and unable to stand in that prison now had such wonderful effects on my enemy that he we just barely caught him under the treads.
At least it was less stupid of a death than it would have been before I had that little trick up my sleeve.
In the end, their assault failed. They ran back with their tails tucked between their legs to hide the missing balls. Still, I called back to the bunker. “Y’all might want to get that rubble closed up. The beasties are on the prowl. Repeat, the monsters are dancin’ the mash.”
“Who is this?” someone asked.
“This is God, and let me just say I’m disappointed in all of you. Do you know how boring it is up here in heaven? I tune to the planet Earth to watch some bonin’ going on or something, and for some reason y’all don’t want to touch yourselves. If I didn’t want you to use those parts every few minutes, I wouldn’t have given you such a quick reload and a mating season lasting fifty years! Hold up, I have another call.”
I hung up on them and reduced the volume on the sonic tank while popping open a side hatch. The boys inside took that as their cue to slip in the earplugs and hop out with the gear in tow before we got into, you guessed it, Times Square. It’s just such an iconic place to make a stand.
I closed up the hatch and did a slightly slower version of a donut in the middle of the place, crushing cars and shattering windows. By this time, the sweet sounds of the Vengaboys had long faded. I decided I needed some mindless self indulgence next, so I played “Shut Me Up”.
“I can’t wait for you to shut me up and make me hip like badass!”
Captain Lightning must have been listening. Dark storm clouds gathered in the sky overhead, rumbling. Something cut through them as it flew from the direction of Spinetingler’s Spinetower.
Yep. Up in the sky, it wasn’t a bird or a plane. It was Captain Lightning, man. In honor of the stormy setting, I switched tunes immediately to Fat Joe’s “Make It Rain” and directed the tank’s weapons into the sky. It crossed my mind that hydraulics would have been awesome on this thing.
The Captain flew overhead, then straight down at me, correcting for every attempt to get out of the way. I left a hologram behind and turned invisible as I jumped off the tank. “Save yourself, tanky!”
Tanky didn’t make it. Lightning flew into it right through the platform, cratering the body of the machine. Then the entire thing seemed to fly apart in pieces as a bolt of black lightning struck in the middle of it. The magical lightning arced from piece to piece, I noticed when a glancing piece knocked me down.
I called up Carl. “Tell me we got rockets?”
CL looked around, eyes glowing red. I don’t know why nobody glows pink. “That was fast, boss. Yeah, first batch is ready. Firing now.”
Lightning’s gaze settled on me and he grinned. “Found you.” Then he looked up at the roaring of rockets. I dropped the stealth act, hopping Venus wouldn’t need a lot of time and wishing I had a bit more. An idea just barely came to mind about that, but I had rockets to direct instead. I started charging my gauntlets, too.
I brought them down on him from all angles. Some had warheads that blew up, but you wouldn’t have known it from Captain Lightning unless you watched his cape. Damn thing didn’t even have the decency to tear. Others just drove into the guy, which would normally be good for an impaling. Here? Nada.
At least they gave me a chance to slip behind him and jump over him, bringing that damn cape with me. I flipped over him, bringing the cape down over his face, then turned, arm swinging out for a punch. In a phenomenal act of timing, a rocket slipped in to catch in my gauntlet from the rear of the energy sheath. At that point, it was a matter of holding on for dear limb while the Super Mega Death Punch made contact with the heroic jaw of villainous Captain Lightning. The rocket wasn’t explosive, but its fuel went up all the same.
That really fucking hurt, but rather than piss and moan over it, I crouched and dialed up the jump enhancers for a follow-up uppercut with the other fist. I expected to go flying, not breaking my left arm. Otherwise, I stood there on the ground as the dust settled and I saw Captain fucking Lightning still standing there, looking sooty and mostly unscathed. He glanced down. I did too. He’d taken a step back with one foot.
“I’m invincible,” he said.
“I’m not constipated,” I said.
I wrapped my broken and burned arms around my midsection. “I don’t suppose I can convince you to throw this fight, could I?” Meanwhile, behind him, one of the focusing dishes fell out of where it embedded in the side of a building. Electricity gathered in his eyes. I called up my car, pretty sure I’d be too slow.
From behind me, I heard, “Duck!” Oh, well that’s good. No one said “Goose,” so I didn’t have to stand. I dropped, just avoiding the rockets launched by Carl from the double-barrel. They didn’t do much except mess up my armor even more, but at least all the damage penetrated the nanite weave layer all over. They started mending my arms even as I rolled to the right and to my feet.
Swinging on a grappling cable, Moai swung by and broke his cricket bat over Cap’s head. His swing carried him safely away, but that left me still a little close to the asshole in tights. At least until the headlights of Black Sunshine started blasting him with lasers. I opened up on him with everything the car had, including the kitchen sink launcher. It ramped up and jumped over him, dropping off the anti-speedster mine from the rear trunk.
Watching all this happen, I opened up a channel to Venus. “Venus, I hope you’ve made your choice and got things ready. Because if those bombs aren’t ready to blow, then my life is about to.
I got a single word in response. “Sorry.” Then she cut the line and an explosion issued from off in the distance. Captain Lightning turned to look, a sneer etched across his face. He unleashed a blast from his eyes that leveled buildings in the way, showing him the sight of the one of the Spinetower’s buildings twisting away from the other and the central skull and dragging the skull down with it.
My little Venus. Destroying skyscrapers already. Unfortunately, she used me as bait for a now-angered immortal hero with a well-deserved power trip. In a flash, he caught me by the throat and tore my helmet off. With one hand, he tore all the rest of my armor off. “You were a distraction. A failed distraction. Spinetingler still lives.”
“Boo-fucking-hoo. You think I’m out of tricks, do you? Well then, let me introduce you to my old friend…Melvin!” I grabbed his tight pants in the front and heaved upward. If the front-wedgie caused any distress, he didn’t show it. After a couple seconds of straining, I stopped and patted him on the shoulder. “Well, it was worth a try. I suppose this is the part where we have a big canned laugh and you let me go to face you next week, same Lightning time, same Lightning channel.”
He shook his head.
“So, you’re just gonna kill me, eh? You know what? Fine. Do it, you bastard!” It should be noted here that my balls had nothing left to lose. I had mixed feelings about the prospect of facing my death, including a warm one where I lost bladder control, but no way would I face it quietly. “No matter what, I win.”
He cocked his head. “No, you lose and my master spreads his control of the Earth.” Hmm, I had an idea on how to maybe accomplish something. I set to work, reprogramming, but I needed a moment. And I had a point.
I burst out laughing. “Yeah, sure, that’s what you think. But you kill me, it just goes to show how you couldn’t beat me. All that power, the power of a god, and you had no way to stop me short of killing me. I think I’ll being going up in people’s estimations if you do that. Everyone will know I was too strong. Plus, not that you’re interested, but it’ll set a poor example. Knock knock, Captain Lapdog. You home? That woman who just blew up your boss’s base has had opportunity after opportunity, but she has refused to kill me. You know why? She’s a better hero. A true hero. A bright, shining example of the world even while she hides away all-too-human insecurities and weakness. I’ve taken quite a bit from her and she still thinks I can be saved. She thinks you can be saved, too.”
I had to stop for air and another chuckle. “Damn funny, too. She used me. Lied to me, then gave your boss one hell of a case of explosive diarrhea. So even though I’ve been the one planning to kill her, she’s the one with the secret plot that put me in a position to die. It’ll eat at her, but the first one’s easiest. So go ahead. You kill me and she’ll falter. What she couldn’t do as a true hero will be accomplished thanks to the actions of measly little Captain Lightning. A joke of a hero.”
He raised me into the air, lightning flashing in his eyes. “I fought Nazis.”
I didn’t care. I’m just glad he let me talk a little longer. This was a classic example of stalling, because my body reacted to its imminent demise as though I was in a bathroom stall. I didn’t want to die; I deserved to die. I really didn’t want to die; I needed to die. Fuck!
“So did millions of other men who didn’t have powers, never knowing if they’d see home again. They faced a hell of a lot more fear than you did and they came out on top. Look at you. You have a run-in with Spinetingler and suddenly you’re pissing in your boots. Look at what you’re up against. I got armor and technology. Carl over there, he’s a thug with great automotive repair skills. Moai’s an inanimate fucking object whose life is tied to a guy who constantly has people gunning for him. Hell, even Optimal Outer Control shows more balls than you every time he works some crappy job instead of crying over his life. We are the insignificant little people. The ones you neglected because Spinetingler scared you so bad, you figured it was easier to hide inside and obey blindly rather than face your fears. I know what that’s like. I’ve been there. Not anymore. If I’m going down, I’m sure as hell not making it easy on anybody. Because a villain never stops.”
I hocked a mist of saliva and nanites at Lightning’s face. Time to try some mind control. Except even the ones that made it into him deactivated almost instantaneously. As an added benefit, they obscured his vision for a moment. Good, at least I got something from them.
Well, one last trick in the bag. I kicked a piece of scrap metal from my tank into the air and grabbed it.
Captain Lightning recovered and glared at me. His expression turned to confusion as I jammed the scrap into my own chest. I’d like to reiterate at this point that improvised open heart surgery with a destroyed tank is inadvisable at best and hurts like a mother. I reached in and cracked my way through the rib cage with a cry of pain.
“All that talking, just to kill yourself like a chicken.” Captain Lightning said with a smirk.
I spat up some blood. “All those heroics, but you’re just a giant cock.” I pulled out a spherical device that pulsed with a dull glow, snapping off the last few nerves that allowed my body to pull energy from it. When Lightning glanced at it, I flashed his orbit with my eye laser, causing a hell of a lot of glare and discomfort. I saw my chance when he opened his mouth. I shoved the power core in, wedging it down into his throat.
I really, really didn’t want to die, I thought as I fell to the ground and unconsciousness.
But then, how would you have been able to read all this if I died?
I awoke an indeterminate time later, my HUD clock flashing “12:00” over and over again. Standing over me were Carl and Moai. Seeing me awaken, Carl jumped up and hugged Moai.
“Damn, what’s up, yo?” I asked, feeling incredibly parched.
They ignored me in favor of yelling, the discomfort of which reminded me of other pains and aches in my body. My chest felt like I’d gotten a blowjob from a unicorn.
Venus came running over excitedly, helmet off. She actually smiled to see me unhurt. Weird times, man, weird times. She started to bend down, but stopped herself. “Welcome back. We thought we lost you when you went into the coma, but it looks like it was a short one.”
“About time.” said another voice from behind me. A man stepped around where I could see hair gone grey, a strong jaw supporting hanging, liver-spotted skin, and a proud chest now significantly smaller, but no less proud. The guy must have been more than eighty, but the resemblance showed through. “This is no time for napping, Psycho Gecko. We’ve got a war to win. Get up and live in fear with the rest of us insignificant people. A villain never stops, right?”
He may have been older for some reason, and not nearly as strong as any other time I saw him, but Captain Lightning offered me a hand up and a grin.