I’m going to be honest, I miss running around in my armor and killing people. This secret identity shit gets old. I don’t see how so many supers do it. How does someone go from soaring through the sky or punching heads off to sitting at a desk, taking shit from someone who only cares about the bottom line?
Think about the most famous superheroes in comics, for example. Bruce Wayne’s a billionaire, and so is Tony Stark. Captain America doesn’t have a secret identity. Clark Kent’s gives him a certain amount of freedom, though Peter Parker takes a lot of shit. Then again, Spider-man always takes a lot of shit. Seriously, they treat him like an ant under a magnifying glass.
In real world terms, Captain Lightning keeps his secret identity to himself, but I don’t think Venus really has one. She has a real name and all, but she’s an orphan who has been raised at the Master Academy for some reason. I don’t know, maybe they got her when they failed to save her parents or something.
I bring all this up, because I strained against my own secret identity. I’d decided to go out to lunch and dragged Crash along too. That’s what I’ve shortened Crash Test Dummy to. She doesn’t seem to mind, but that’s not surprising after everything else she’s put up with from me. On our way back, some guy in a flight-suit looking costume flew this glider through the intersection ahead of us, followed soon after by The Saurus. The T-rex wouldn’t catch him, I’m pretty certain. Not with that many cars in the way and his monocle threatening to fall off.
I wish I had a T-rex.
Sadly, I couldn’t just pop on the armor and chase it down.
I did slip into it to deal with Technolutionary and Fortune Cookie, however. I had to modify it a little bit to account for the new curves on the inside being hidden on the outside. I didn’t really feel like letting Technolutionary know about my makeover either.
I called him up with the place he absolutely needed to meet me at. Lab Sigma, aka the one of the places I bought after everyone, or almost everyone, had jumped ship. Miss Jackson had shut it down rather than use the place. It had originally been part of agricultural research. Genetic modification of plants. Trying to make bigger ears of corn or bananas that are more resistant to viruses and fungal infections. It used to have protesters, but they stopped. Not because they realized they were wrong; because they thought they won when the place closed up.
They then presumably went home and enjoyed a heaping helping of aurochs, Mexican grasses, and small Peruvian tubers, just as they used to exist during the stone age back before cattle, corn, and potatoes were a thing.
It’s not like there weren’t good reasons to protest Sigma Labs. I read the files on this place. It started with good intentions. Who doesn’t want to create plants with all the amino acids necessary to make vegetarianism or veganism viable for most people? That’s a fine and dandy goal for anyone who doesn’t care about taste, but then you start mixing animal DNA with plants and before long people start trying to think up cattle that get all their energy through photosynthesis or nutrient-fixing wiener dogs. Even making it where endangered species can reproduce using spores or flowers. Which are also perfectly noble goals if someone wants to help the world.
I’m sure y’all can imagine where they went next. Of course there’s going to end up being a human affected by it all. The initially theorized ways to improve humanity. Make people hardier, stronger. Able to produce their own food, able to regrow their own limbs. Funny how everyone’s ideas on how to make humans better pretty much means making humans less human and more something else. More robotic, more plant, more animal.
Even when they aren’t as blatant about it as Hephaestus/Faustus organization, everyone’s trying to become superhuman.
Sigma Labs started on the simulations, which showed hypothetical success with embryos. Real life didn’t quite match these best-case models. They turned to improving already-existing people instead, with homeless subjects. Warm housing, three square meals a day, medical treatment, and a litttle spending money at the end of everything? They didn’t need a single involuntary subject. Then Spinetingler did what he did to the city. Staff went into comas, died, or just didn’t feel like coming into work with monsters roaming around the city.
Without anyone around to manage the food or the delicate ecosystem involved with having lots of people on immunosuppressants, things got a bit…nasty. One of the reasons they were so willing to sell out to us was our willingness to clean the place up as quietly as possible.
The one thing we couldn’t clean up was Wildflower. Or is it Wild Flower? I’ll go with the first one. Super names are one of those areas where punctuation is a big deal. From what I hear, the young woman appeared in the city after I helped run off Spinetingler. The catgirl with the tail of vine and thorns. I wonder what kind of secret identity she might have?
“You love the sound of your own voice,” Technolutionary said, leaning against the lobby desk. He patted the coat he’d arrived in, which served the purpose of hiding the armor he now proudly showed off. Fortune Cookie paced as if she heard the story before. With her powers, it’s possible.
“You do too,” I told him. Fortune Cookie cocked her head to the side and nodded. “And I like stories. That one could be important since this is your lab now.”
I led him through the place. “Some things got wrecked or stolen, but most of it should be here and in good order. You can choose whether you want to operate this place in the open or not, but you have no official connection to me at all.”
“This is great! I’ll move my stuff in immediately. Do you care if I work in the area until I have anything else I need?”
I shrugged. “Go ahead. I’m still on the down low here. Don’t drag me into it.”
He nodded, then brought his wrist up. A holographic display appeared and he punched a few buttons. “There’s one more thing I need from you.” He opened his hand on the wrist with the display and a metal needle extended from the tip of his ring finger. “A sample.”
Muttering, I unsealed one gauntlet and showed just enough skin. “Yeah, yeah, you get yours. But I want mine. An army of cyborg warriors to back up any other forces I’ve acquired.” I wondered briefly if the Buzzkills, the bee-humanoid warriors I’d taken from Japan, could be cyberized and improved as well. Then I decided against it. I need Technolutionary, but I don’t trust him. But I did have an idea. “And if I got you some other DNA, do you think you could quickly clone me something a bit nonhuman…like a dinosaur?”
“The Saurus,” he realized, eyes lighting up. Not a good expression in someone who is about to stick a needle into you. He found a vein easily and drove it in. Better a blood sample than a semen sample at this point.
I nodded. “Preferably with the ability to shoot lasers, and a willingness to have me ride around on his back. Think you can do it?”
“Ahahah! Yes, and it will be glorious. It’s not on mission, however. I’m not getting that DNA sample.” He pulled the needle out.
I covered the arm up and told him, “It’s on my mission. I’ll get it.” Then I looked around for Fortune Cookie.
“In here!” she called from back toward the lobby.
“If you have everything you need, I need to go have a chat with our mutual friend out there,” I told Technolutionary, who pulled a small capsule of blood out from a slot on his forearm. He didn’t pay me any attention and went to pull out one of the machines up against the wall.
Fortune Cookie waited against the door, head cocked toward it. I covered myself in a holographic civilian disguise and stepped out with her. She had a taxi waiting by the curb. Both of us stayed silent until we got in there, and I told the driver to drop me off at Double Cross Tower.
She spoke first, “You need something?”
“You hardly need to ask, do you?” I responded. “A telepath.”
She looked down, shaking her head. Below the view from the front, I pulled off my gauntlet enough to show the hole where Technolutionary took his sample. She sighed, then looked up. Her eyes went blank white for a moment, like a cloud flowed over them. When the clouds cleared, she leaned over and whispered a name, a place, and a time to me.
“What can I do for you, o Fortuna?” I asked her.
“Don’t go yourself,” she said. When I just looked at her, she followed up with, “It minimizes the body count.”
“If that’s your price…I am glad you’re helping me. Is there anything else I can do? I can arrange for a better hotel, shopping, fine dining.” The multi-directional view of my helmet showed me the taxi driver raising an eyebrow at that.
Fortune Cookie shook her head. “I don’t need more gifts from you, devil. I know what this is about and I’ll help you. I helped him.” She nodded back toward Sigma Labs with a screwed up look of disgust on her face. “Just do what you always do. Don’t give up. Fight them.”
When we stopped, she stayed behind, wanting no part of what she saw before her.
That was the evening before the first of the mysterious bombings began in Empyreal City. The Saurus once again chased after his latest foe, Free Radical, as the villain graffitied an art show and flew out of there on his glider. He earned his money. Free Radical escaped when a sidewalk tree exploded and knocked The Saurus down. Aside from the hero, several civilians were wounded.
In the middle of all this confusion, an individual stepped up. “Croikey!” she said, planting a khaki short-clad leg on The Saurus’s tail. “Now this is a big’un. I’m gonna have to be real careful stickin’ me hand up its bum, ’cause it’s huuuuuge!”
The Saurus’s tail lifted lazily before settling back down. “I feel you back there! Stay back, mammal. The pain…” He kicked his rear leg out, taking splashing me, the T-rex hunter, with water from a spray of water from a hydrant that had been knocked off. I wiped it over my eyes to relieve the feeling of smokiness over my face caused by a post-bombing haze that stunk of burnt meat and rubber.
I turned a doggy doo bag inside out around my hand and approached the downed dino. “Now, don’t be afraid. Tensing up will just make this mo’ difficult. Relax, and this’ll all be sphincterific!”
He did not find it very sphincterific, nor did Technolutionary enjoy finding a bag full of T-rex crap in front of his door at Sigma Labs. I would have lit it on fire, but that would have burnt up the note I left there explaining that I’d left his DNA sample in the bag. A container of blood. He just has to reach through the pile to get it.
Just because I’m working with Technolutionary doesn’t mean I’m above giving him crap.