The boat ride from Europe back to the States is giving me plenty of time to think. Here I am, still in the travel crate, tossing this little trinket up and down. It’s a snow globe, but a pretty resilient one, which is good. I keep dropping it.
As I realized last time, my normal course of interaction has to change…unfortunately. It’s a simple matter of logic. Prior to this whole invasion thing, human lives were cheap and expendable. I tossed them away for pleasure or money. Now, they’re still cheap and expendable. It comes with being stupid. Or, if not stupid, short-sighted, ignorant, and irrational. Trust me, I know all about rationality.
The problem is that I have to expend them to save myself from a fate equal to death. People always talk about fates worse than death being bad, but at least those involve the person being alive. Death is quite a bit more permanent than torture and humiliation.
Point is, lots of people I’d normally kill for R&R and S&G (respectively: rest and recreation, and shits and giggles) would be more useful to me as pawns to throw at my future enemies. Finally, a good excuse for why I never get around to trying to kill Venus! I mean, if I were to psychoanalyze myself, of course. She’s far too useful fighting evil by moonlight and finding love by daylight, all that jazz.
One example is that I called up that turkey shop in Paris to let them know Anatole had been wounded, but I could issue some orders on his behalf. They then put me through to Anatole who thanked me for his concern, but revealed he was in perfect health. The voiceprint matched exactly. I guess we know who had the terminator wannabe hanging out at Effelsberg.
Anatole informed me that he wasn’t the only survivor and directed me to a news story out of Germany. A private collection of World War I memorabilia had been stolen right from under the care of Manfred Mächte, of the famed Mächte family of supers. They traced their lineage back to Hauptmann Mächte, who fought the French and the British on the Western Front during World War I. The Hauptmann didn’t get a go at World War II. The Night of Long Knives got him first, as one of the few Reichswehr casualties from Hitler’s purging of the Stormtroopers. His death shook his son; those lingering doubts assisted him in his decision to keep his eyes open during the war when a lot of other people preferred to keep their heads down.
As I myself know, killing a lot of people tends to create a certain amount of fearful subservience in others. Supposedly, the Mächte family still kept the papers the Nazis meant to “discover” showing they had strong Jewish heritage if Hauptmann Mächte II didn’t cooperate.
I tell y’all all that to give you a sense of the value involved in all this and because I sometimes enjoy a bit of history. It is, after all, the closest thing we have to unbiased experimental results for human behavior.
Further, Anatole directed me to this because a Wild West wanted poster and a drawing of a cat were left behind. Buttero and Chat des Combes. They somehow survived and found a payday, too. Not only that, but I bet Chat loved sticking it to a German hero. There’s a longstanding rivalry between Germany and France. I think it goes back to Bismarck making the snail-eaters his bitch in the name of unifying Germany. No doubt that’ll turn into a fun little conflict for the thrill-seeking Chat and his new Buttero buddy.
That reminds me, I’ll have to get that tattoo of his name removed.
That settled the fate of most of the participants of the Effelsberg Incident. A quick search turned my attention toward a boat exposition in Denmark aimed at the wealthy and featuring a charity auction. An assassin attempted to murder an unknown target, only to be stopped and chased out by John Hall, a businessman representing United Exports.
Until I see photos, I can’t prove that’s the same one. While looking him up after all this, I’ve found rumors that the name is just a code name assigned to certain British secret agents after the previous one retires or dies. That explains why he’s been active since 1953 and why his accent changes over time. He’s sounded Scottish, Welsh, and even Australian in the past.
After that, I called up Carl to see how he was doing. He found some assistants to help out. The New Empyreal City has been shaken up enough that he could get a Mafia accountant and several personal assistants on the cheap. He told me got a lot easier when he started asking old prison buddies about what they used to do before getting thrown in jail. When word got around that my weird little corporation would actually hire convicted felons, that brought even more of them to my doorstep.
It was damn good initiative on his part. I told him I’d wished I thought of it. I suppose I should amend my prior statement on the idiocy of humans to note that they get some flashes of brilliance from time to time. The universe is a big place, with lots of space and time, and there are something like 7 billion humans; one of them is bound to get something right every now and then.
I had a pretty good little idea of my own, though. While he’s gathering up ex-cons, he could see if any of them can get things going in some of the places we bought up. Maybe start up a car mechanic that doubles as a chop shop, or see about repurposing some of businesses as convenient hiding spots. Preferably, he’d pick the ones who don’t want to reform, or at least the ones who are looking for a little safer sort of crime.
Then he told me about what the heroes have been up to. Long Life had moved into the city, setting up clinics in formerly impoverished areas and gentrifying those neighborhoods. So now the poor sections are getting all changed up. Not eliminated; just moved. See, renovating properties in bad areas of town doesn’t give poor people a nicer place to live. It just forces poor people out when property taxes and rents go up.
Forcelight has visited, but she’s still mostly sticking to Kingscrow, where Mix ‘N Max has her running around like a loon thanks to some fear formula he’s whipped up. Good job, Max.
Venus is still hanging around the big city, helping to keep it under control, only now there’s a branch of the Master Academy established in town that she’s been training. One of them even got into trouble at Rothstein’s Sports Bar when he got drunk and played a bunch of songs on the jukebox to get on people’s nerves. The villains put up with Tom Jones, Hanson, and Lynyrd Skynyrd, but Vengaboys was a step too far. He survived, which is the good news for him. Bad news is, Venus was really not happy to have to pick his drunk ass up from the local villain bar.
Another thing I did was check in on Fortune Cookie finally. She meant to get back with me about when the aliens would get in town. I wanted to give her space so she would answer that for me, and then I forgot. Everyone does it.
To my complete lack of surprise, she picked up as soon as it started to ring. “Hello, Gecko.”
“You know, if you can’t see the future related to your actions, how could you tell when I was going to call the number you gave me?” I asked. Either I was being a smartass, or I just didn’t understand some nuance of her power.
“It’s good to hear from you, even if you don’t understand the nuances of my power. Smartass.”
“Since you know so much about me, princess, how about you give me the million-dollar answer. Tell me when the aliens are going to show up and doom my ass. Or are you going to hide that information from me to torture me?” I tossed my little souvenir up, caught it, and tossed it up again, bouncing my toe. Moai glanced at me, then returned his attention to our in-trip movie. Keanu Reeves grabbed a big Mafiya thug by the beard and smashed his head into a table, then fired a couple shots into his brain at point blank range.
“I hate to disappoint you, but I can’t give you the exact date. They arrive in March. I can’t yet see when they decide to attack. They may have been going to send an advance force before then. Nobody gives me headaches like you do.”
An alien fleet appearing at some time within a month, and a possible advance force. Sure wish I had a giant radio telescope to help me keep an eye on outer space.
“Makes sense your body would dislike me so much it would give you a headache rather than risk the least sexual thought about me.”
“If you keep that up, I won’t want to help you.”
That’s new. Fortune Cookie didn’t like working with me last time, and that was saving the whole world. This time, we’re saving my life; a far more important task. I have to be sure she’s willing to go the distance. “You know that won’t be easy.”
“I am most certainly not going to see you day to day, and this is more important than your life.”
Now she’s just trying to insult me. She went on. With talking, that is, not insulting, “You need more help than I can provide. I have someone here you want to speak to.”
A surprise mystery guest. There’s very few people I wanted to talk to about this alien thing, and the out-of-breath voice of a man made it clear she hadn’t gotten a hold of Venus for me. “Hello again, Psycho Gecko. So good to meet you again. So very good. I knew you’d come around. Your friend said you would need my help. She’s right! You don’t have a lot of time.”
The voice sounded familiar, and he certainly sounded like the kind of coked-up manic-depressive I might have hung out with from time to time. “Hold up, howdy doody. Just to make sure I’m on the same page as everyone here, who the fuck are you?”
He giggled. “Oh you. You and I will work wonderfully together. It’s me! The Technolutionary! My armor is mostly repaired and I’m ready to take humanity into the future, kicking and screaming.”
Well, I did say I’d have to reevaluate how I deal with some of these nincompoops.
“Technolutionary. Interesting. It looks like you get what you wanted after all. Tell Fortune Cookie she did a good job. I’ll be back to the States soon, so try to meet me in Empyreal City before long.” I stopped tossing my little souvenir snow globe and looked at it.
“It’s about time you realized we needed each other. Trust me with your future, Psycho Gecko.”
I glanced down at the snow globe, which contained the shrunken clock tower from the mountains of Romania. It’s amazing how quickly you can make the trip when nothing wrecks your vehicles and leaves your armor mysteriously functional. Suffice it to say there are some things related to time I’m never going to understand. I think I’ll share that with the aliens. “Yes, it is about time, Technolutionary.”