I was excited to destroy some rangers that I managed to wake up to my alarm after spending the night researching business stuff. Carl found me an opening of sorts when he called me about this coffee shop in a building I now own. The company that owned it wanted to close it down and concentrate on other areas, so the place was going to go under. Carl acted first and thought later when he opened up my corporate coffers to acquire some coffee. Holy alliterative appeal, Batman!
When he told me about it in an email, I realized that was a good way to get in with people. I just needed to find companies around Empyreal City who were now in dour financial straits. It wasn’t that tough once I got used to the lingo. Some people were pulling out of franchise in the cities; others were selling off wrecked infrastructure and businesses. Now I’ll have actual people and businesses, though I need to do some fancy reorganizing to make it all legal. This guy I know who handles licensing in EC is helping me figure some of that out. Let’s just say it looks a lot weirder when my Double Cross Medical Supply Company owns major stakes in a local coffee shop, auto parts, warehouses, personal storage, hardware, etc. I think I’ll just name the whole thing Double Cross Corporation. The DCC. Double Cross: Join the Winning Side.
Much as I don’t like money as much more than a means to an end, I have to give it credit for being the root of some evil. Not all evil, though. There are other roots. Just think of something that can cause good people to do bad things. Money, religion, bigotry, addictive substances, love, vengeance, justice. All are handy forms of control, even for someone like me.
That said, I practically threw myself into bed afterward. I woke to a harsh, screaming alarm. I rolled over and popped the pale Japanese boy on top of his head. He shut his abnormally-large mouth immediately and peered at me with eyes of pure black. Throwing the covers off, they covered the creepy crawler and I hopped out, ready to strike a blow against the earth in the name of lies, injustice, and the Confederate way.
I met Lord Vespanican and his pestilent retinue at their hideout in the old nuclear plant, where Kade was unveiling the latest instrument in Vespanican’s plans for world domination: a monster stink bug. “My lord, I humbly present to you…Sergeant Stink!” The centipede bowed as the stink bug stepped forward.
The stinkbug was mottled brown, with a coat over his shoulders. The coat had bright yellow biohazard patches. Underneath his antenna, he hid his face behind a gas mask. He bowed as well, but his voice came out muffled when he tried to speak. Instead, Kade spoke for him. “I made last minute changes, and Stinky should be able to disperse the chemicals used by our freelancer to disable the rangers’ armor. As you wished, this can also be plugged into him.” The centipede presented a small gas tank in his hands.
Vespanican leaned forward in his throne. “Is that what I asked for?”
“Correct, my lord. This is the best I could do, but it is compatible with Sergeant Stink.”
“Good.” Vespanican looked over at me where I stood next to Moai leaning against the room’s wall. “This will counteract the armor eating effect.”
I pumped more volume into my suit’s external speakers. “Why the hell would you even make that?!”
Kade turned swiftly and held the tank against his body so he could raise a finger to preach at me. “Your thoughtless plan could have aided the rangers against our lord.”
“Yes, by causing the rangers to die. I can see how that would be a great inconvenience for you, what with the cost of flower arrangements for funerals,” I added, a mite perturbed. Not to be confused with the villain being grown now, Perturbed Mite. He’s small, but he’s mitey.
“Fool!” Vespanican pointed at me now. Damn helmets and their limited options for emoting. It’s one of the drawbacks of having a helmet. The drawbacks of not having a helmet include brain damage, concussions, and not being killed by bullets, though. Most people consider it an adequate tradeoff. The ones who don’t tend to die in accidents involving head injuries.
Vespanican continued, “The Nature Force powers were stolen by humans from a source much like my own. Using this chemical may damage my own armor.”
Kade nodded. “But my creation can reverse the adverse effects of the armor.”
“Ok. Then inoculate him now and let’s get on with this.”
Before I could settle back against the wall, the bug-turned-scientist said something else dumb. “It’s not an inoculation. It mixes with the armor and the chemical agent to repair the armor when applied and keep it from the agent’s usage in the future, but it has to be applied to affected armor.”
“Fine, alright! Whoop-de-doo, I didn’t know. You’ll have Stinker there spray him down and then use that stuff now, right?”
“Enough!” Vespanican shot to his feet. “You reveal your insolence every time you open your mouth. I will not submit to attack here so you can take advantage of the situation. No, I will use this only when I need to, and on the field of battle.”
“My lord, is that wise?” asked the sultry-voiced spider woman, Ashidaka, who slunk up behind the throne. I’m not sure I’d give her such a shot at my behind, but then I’m not much for pegging.
“The rangers are weakened. We all shall march on the city and force them to confront us.” He slid his swords out of their sheaths and ran the curved blades over each other, sparks leaping between them. “At last, I will give them the warriors’ death they deserve…or the cowards’ death if they flee.”
Then came the obligatory round of evil laughing. Ashidaka pulled off a masterfully malevolent giggle. I didn’t join in because they insulted me and I was pretty sure Vespanican being out there meant they’d have the tank of anti-anti-armor nearby. You’d almost think someone couldn’t be that stupid, but I think I nailed why. They constantly made a distinction between me and them. I was the enemy to them, just an enemy selling out my own side for my agenda. They didn’t trust me, and they especially didn’t trust that I outright defied Vespanican’s orders. That’s pretty much unheard of for colony bugs.
Understanding where they came from didn’t make it any easier to accept such a stupid decision, however.
We marched on the city regardless, all of us doing our part to sow chaos in a straight line. Kinda messes with the idea of chaos. “No, hon, don’t step over that line. You’ll be in the chaos. Let’s just go around it today.”
Vespanican held his swords, but didn’t bother to attack anyone except police who threatened to open fire on him. He zapped them and their cars, because of course hornets shoot lightning. He could have at least called himself “Lightning Hornet” or something else that would sound cool. “Blitz Hornet” is another one.
It’s like that one weird mutant fish man, Electric Goldfish. He looks like a goldfish, and he’s got electrical powers. It makes perfect sense. But if you leave out the electric part and just call him “Goldfish” then it’d be reasonable for people to be confused. After all, goldfish aren’t usually electrical.
The rest of us just had whatever fun we wanted to. Perri threw cars at people. Kade crawled around like a madman, grabbing people and throwing them straight up into the air. Maude Squito flitted about draining people like a fucking bug vampire. Ash liked to catch people with webbing and fling them around, hitting stuff. Then she found some really plump looking Japanese woman, cocooned her, and threw her over her shoulder for later.
All of a sudden, four young men and women blocked our path. They didn’t look all that remarkable or noteworthy. They weren’t celebrities or criminals or anyone else I could find in a quick search for their faces, so their anonymity remained intact. That doesn’t mean I didn’t know who they were. After all, they each wore a shirt the color of their armor. Not the best way to hide in plain sight. Plus they had these armbands with something shiny. I zoomed in to find they had gem seals like Vespanican did. Huh.
While Perri and Ashidaka whispered back and forth, the woman in green shouted at us. “We can’t let you go any further, Vespanican!”
Vespanican turned to look at me specifically. “None of you advance. They are mine!”
I raised finger gun to my head and pantomimed it blowing my brains out. “Geez, not like he brought all the rest of us here for any reason, huh?” I looked at Moai. “You wanna bet he’s going to spout some BS about honor despite spending all this time sending monsters to die against them?”
Before Moai could answer, Vespanican pointed to the ranges with his blades. “Morph and face your deaths with honor!”
I hoped they’d kill the moron. It wouldn’t be murder. Your honor, this man died of natural causes! If someone does something that stupid, then of course they’ll die!
I should have remembered that as another thing I hated. Almost everybody else I remember fighting rangers seemed to catch a case of terminal stupidity.
Thus the rangers morphed and, still with holes in their armor, began their epic final battle against Lord Vespanican. I kept an eye on it out of the corner of my eye, instead turning toward the approaching Perri. “You think this is as stupid as I do?” I asked him.
He turned to the fight, where Vespanican dueled the flying yellow and blue rangers, then back to me. “Um, I don’t know. But if you want to get in there, I have something that would help.” He held out the crimson gem seal I’d seen before on Vespanican’s gauntlet.
“What the fuck, man?” I asked, looking at it.
“Take it! Use it! You can have the power for yourself.” He shook it.
I pushed it back toward him. “Doesn’t work on my kind. I think there’s magic in them or something, but my species is incompatible with whatever bio field those things access. Now put that shit up. You already screwed up what little chance your boss had. If he wins and you lose that, he’ll cut your head off and let your body run around for a week before it starves to death.”
Perri’s mouth hung open. He turned and looked back at the other members of the Extinction Army. He walked over on his own, leaving me to turn my attention back to the battle as a swipe of Vespanican’s swords knocked all four of his opponents to the ground. “I stand triumphant!” he called out.
Then Perri’s shout of “Hey!” drew everyone’s attention to a pile of debris behind the Extinction Army. There, I saw a young man in a long sleeve shirt and red tie kick Perri away. The blow knocked the gem into the air, where the man caught it. It disappeared out of his hand and reappeared on a device attached to his wrist. As he looked at it in confusion, I recognized him. Fukuda?
There were far too many coincidences here.
In all the shouting from the various villains, I missed what he said to activate the gem, but suddenly he flashed into a ranger costume of his own. The armor resembled the closer fit of the ranger outfit, but the head looked much like Vespanican’s and he had a single stinger sword at his hip. Instead of the black and yellow colors of the villain, he looked red and white.
I glanced at the screaming Lord Vespanican, whose armor had mostly disappeared. In its place, he looked every bit the humanoid insectoid as his compatriots, even seeming far bulkier than he should have been to fit in his armor. He raised his remaining stinger sword as he attempted to fill the sky with dramatic screaming. While he did that, the new Red Hornet flipped over the bunch of villains to land in front of his new teammates, ready to duel Vespanican on equal footing.
I acted on my own initiative and called over to Sergeant Stink. “Quick, Stinkerino! Put on the gas!”
He looked to me, then over to Ashidaka. She nodded, then he nodded, then he stepped forward and sprayed the entire group with yellow and green fluids. Vespanican stumbled out from the cloud to the safety of the Extincters, his exoskeleton smoking. “Give me the cure. Psycho Gecko has revealed his true colors.” He knelt, but held up a sword toward me.
Ashidaka stepped behind him and patted his shoulders with her arms. “Relax now. Let us treat you how you deserve.” She smiled, showing off fangs and mandibles. The mandibles then changed, shifting as large spikes grew out of the end of them. She brought her face down to jab Vespanican from behind with them, the furry skin writhing while venom pumped into the betrayed lord. He barely had time to grunt in pain before slumping to the ground. Ashidaka stood up, looking right at me. “I believe we’re done here. Stink and Gecko can handle them without our help.”
She disappeared first, taking Vespanican with her. Perri and Maude Squito teleported their own way. The last of the group to leave was Kade, who looked down at the gas tank he held. “I guess we don’t need this anymore, do we?” He dropped it and ‘ported as well.
I looked at it there, then looked up as Sergeant Stink fought the five man strong Nature Force. Then I glanced at Moai. “Moai, I don’t think we’re getting paid on this one.”
“You! Villain! Get away from that tank!” Green Mantis came running, mantis scythes in hand.
Not much liking having been used to push such a personal agenda, I made a decision. Spite over principle. I held my hands up and stepped away from the gas tank. “Gecko only pawn in game of life. But that stuff will totally fix your armor. Come on, Moai.”
I might kick myself later over not killing them all with Sergeant Stink, but I really didn’t like that plotting and backstabbing, especially the part where they all left rather than stay and deal with things. Not a damn reason for that, except Ashidaka would rather be captain of a sinking ship than actually fight. I suppose what I did was stupid, but it should tell y’all how sick of their bullshit I had to be to not want to kill some rangers. They screwed me over, so why should I do what they want?
I guess I’d forgotten what it was like to actually involve myself in those fights. It’s much more to either work on your own or enjoy the shenanigans as entertainment than to hope the whole mess will become darker and more serious.
Just in case, though, I slept a couple floors up from my place. I felt a lot safer when I saw the pale Japanese crawling kids just outside my window, keeping an eye on the place. Then I woke up at one point and saw them both standing at the foot of my bed, and that made me feel even more watched out for.
Nice to see at least some things around here welcomed me.