You know, I figured this business with Stang was over, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I’d have liked to ask the idiots from the van how much he had to pay to make them so something so stupid. Then again, I have to assume the price is lowered when I’ve gone out of my way to recruit from ex-criminals. Doesn’t matter anyway. Thanks to Giuseppe’s model of the Enola Gay, I don’t have them to kick around for some answers, nor do I have my van. Oh, and Crash’s new car exploded. I gave her some time off to pick a new one.
I spent awhile thinking through retaliation while servicing some of my equipment. Given my abilities, I’ll clarify that I mean maintenance. It’s a trifling job that I’ve tried to minimize, but it still requires a personal touch from time to time. So I barricaded myself in the art gallery and pulled out the nanite machine. While I fiddled around with the material intake and assembly manipulators, I thought over my problem.
I can’t just go running to The Order. I figure my impressive revenge on Stang last time is what made me look like a good candidate. As much as we’re all supposed to more or less work together, I doubt they’d be sympathetic to that. So that leaves me on my own again.
Let’s deconstruct the target. Strip club catering to superhumans, therefore highly guarded by patrons and bouncers. Organized crime connections. If I go in violently, I’ll have to go in extremely violently.
Cash-based business. Lots of anonymous customers. Extremely good for money laundering.
Entertainment. It’s a social environment where people can pretend that beautiful women are attracted to them and rub their naked bodies against them. Champagne room. There’s no champagne in the champagne room. Well, correction. There is champagne. And a cover charge. But the real appeal is getting one of the aforementioned beauties into a private environment with a lot of cash. The champagne room sells sex.
Business practices. Strippers pay a fee to dance. The rent the stage and the DJ. The club gets a cut. Extra income from drug sales to the strippers AND to customers, preferably in the champagne room. That explains the appeal of the stolen drugs.
It became clear what I needed to do. Perfectly clear. Crystal clear. Then the thought was interrupted by a phone call from Carl, who had gotten a call from security about a superhero on the premises. “Where’s Venus now?” I asked.
“She and Wildflower left the lobby. The men don’t see them around the sidewalk, boss.”
“Get a dozen armed men up to the penthouse and have, I don’t know, Human Resources send out for someone who can repair the hole they’re going to leave in my terrace. I’ll meet them up there. Oh, and grab one of our lawyers from the Legal Department on the way.”
I got there first, though I didn’t take the trapdoor between the penthouse and art gallery. As expected, I found the heroes in my living room. Wildflower lounged on my sofa, vine tail slowly shifting back and forth. Venus turned away from looking at the place to settle her gaze on me. Lots of gaze settling around the penthouse, especially with Wildflower’s plant-feline-human physiology. It’s October. You’d think she’d cover up.
I mean, it wasn’t a bikini, but you could mistake it for tiger-striped workout clothes. Either way, my smile wasn’t entirely faked as I looked at the pair of heroes. “Well hello, heroes. Come on. Make yourselves at home. Care for a seat, tigerlily?”
“That’s good,” Wildflower said, hopping to her feet. “I should have thought of that.”
“You’re under arrest, Banshee,” Venus said, whipping out a pair of cuffs. Rawr. I took a picture of that.
“My name is Norma Mortenson.” I settled my hands on my hips. “And exactly why are you trying to arrest me?”
“Going by the alias Banshee, you engaged in a high speed chase, breaking several traffic laws. You were involved in a gunfight. The incident ended with a small-scale nuclear explosion. Are you going to cooperage?”
I rolled my eyes. “So let me get this straight. You broke into my home…again. You did it because you suspect I was involved in a high speed chase.”
“You were seen standing on the hood of a car,” Wildflower added.
“Thank you. So I clearly wouldn’t have been driving if indeed this is me we’re talking about.”
Venus sized me up and stepped forward. “You were spotted in the same costume you wore to the Mask and Garter.”
I stepped back and held my palm out. Talk to the hand. “So an unidentified person in a costume wasn’t driving a car. And…she had a gun?”
Venus shook her head.
“No gun. So by being involved in a gunfight, someone shot at her. And, what, do you think I carry nuclear bombs on me?”
Venus held up her hand to forestall Wildflower joining in again. “Witnesses report seeing a drone of some sort deliver the weapon to the scene.”
I feigned confusion. “So some woman in a costume wasn’t driving a car, got shot at, and then someone else tried to bomb her. And that justifies you assuming this person is me and breaking into my penthouse? I’m beginning to think this superhero registration thing is a good idea. Did you already rifle through my clothes while you were here, or do I need to let you do that now to demonstrate that I don’t have that costume anymore. I never intended to go out and be some ridiculous costumed meddler. Not everyone with abilities has to be a hero or a villain, you know. Now put those damn handcuffs away.”
Venus looked like she would object, but then I heard the elevator ding and open behind me. “Not another word!” I glanced back and saw a suited thirty-something leading a squad of six guards, who wore bulletproof vests and had submachine guns ready. After much stomping, another six of Double Cross security flowed in from the stairwell with handguns and lacking the vests, Carl bringing up the rear. The lawyer walked right up to Venus and pointed his finger in her face. “Unless you have a warrant, and I’m inclined to believe you don’t since you are not a member of any law enforcement agency at either the state or national level, you have no right to be in here right now. You have no legal authority to be conducting an investigation at all. Leave and maybe we won’t sue you so hard, you’ll have to give us your costume to cover part of the fees.”
Now that’s an image I hadn’t thought of. I wonder if that hints at some subconscious psychological crap going on.
Carl walked up beside me as Venus and Wildflower left in a hurry, by the terrace, courtesy of Venus’s grappling rods. “We’ll bill you for that!” the company lawyer yelled out.
“Wow, pretty damn impressive. Think we can sue them anyway?” I asked as he turned around and walked past me and the spread-out guards.
“Good day, Miss Mortenson. Expect my bill,” he called back as he stepped into the elevator.
I leaned over to Carl and whispered, “I don’t suppose we can have the guards just…” I made finger guns.
Carl shook his head. “I don’t advise it, boss. Bad for morale.”
He had a point. And I had an attack to make on a strip club. Still, it was good to be an asshole corporate executive for once. It’s very satisfying in its own way.
That night, I suited up again in my armor. A bit snug in the chest area, it nonetheless still hid my identity behind armor plates and holographic camouflage technology. I remain a high-tech low-life, even if said high-tech armor only works because it merges with my physiology and my internal power core.
I didn’t show up at the strip club as myself, though. To them, I looked like a cyborg, to explain if any metal detectors went off. It also hid the gas tank and squirming backpack I wore.
As a fan of women with swinging titties, I slipped backstage, my hologram changing to look like just another one of the girls. My first idea was “Hey, if there’s drugs being sold, maybe we should mess with the drugs.” But then I realized that’s not the best way to go about this. So, when it comes to messing with drugs, I had to think about what Mix N’Max, my super chemist ally, would do.
That’s why sprayed a pleasant LSD mist into the air of the dressing room while the women got ready for their sets. As an added bonus, it would stay in the air enough to affect whoever enters in the future. Not all the strippers were back there, after all. I got in, unloaded, and got out, feeling manlier already. I stopped by the bathroom after I got out of there to swap back to my cyborg guise.
After that, I stopped by the bar and pulled out the laser potato peeler. Ah, my trust laser potato peeler. Instead of peeling potatoes, I boiled some spirits, put holes in glasses, and wrecked the ice machine. Dialing it up a bit, I also walked along the bar cutting into the legs of the stools. Just after I did the last one, a man in a bird costume sat down on it and fell to the ground when it collapsed. He shot back to his feet, embarrassed. “What was that?” he asked.
“No clue, stool pigeon,” I said.
Next, the champagne room! I had to grab some skinny young woman with what looked like a bite mark on her ass from the table she was dancing for.
She hit me on the shoulder until I showed her the roll of cash. Then she stopped and waved off the approaching bouncers. “Looking for a lap dance?”
“How about a trip to the champagne room, beautiful?”
“Aww, that’s sweet, but that’s not-…” she sighed. “Ok, but I don’t do anything for less than $300.”
“I have the money, but have not been fully repaired.” I pulled her off my shoulder and held her in front of me, looking at her barely-clothed frame. “I would like to cuddle.”
Crash! Another one bites the dust over at the bar while customers get agitated. “I wonder what’s going on over there,” I casually mentioned.
“Oh god! The spiders! They’re everywhere! I’ll fly away from them!” A loud thud and lots of gasps came from the main stage.
“And over there.” I smirked as I carried my alibi into the champagne room.
Fun fact: don’t drink the champagne in the champagne room. Well, you can, but buckets full of icey water are sometimes used for other things in an area known where people get their hands dirty. If only we knew of some action people might do in those private rooms that got their hands dirty. Ah well, a mystery for another time. I did cuddle my captured pet stripper for a bit, not that I felt anything. “You are malnourished,” I told her.
“Some guys like that. You did,” she murmured.
“You are beautiful in your own way, for there are many forms of beauty. It is in your being so slight, and also in that you look like the woman who could be fucked against a wall so long you reach the roof.”
“That’s almost poetry,” she said, trying to earn more money. I slipped her an extra hundred for the effort.
“Well, gotta go. You might want to leave fairly soon,” I told her as I stood up.
“You could get the crabs. It would be unpleasant.”
“I, um, I still have the shampoo for those at home, and I’m fully shaved down there, babe.”
“Not those sort of crabs,” I told her, then left the room before she noticed all the shellfish I’d been surreptitiously pulling out and dumping on the floor. A lot of people were going to have a crabby night. If Stang takes anything away from this, it might be the nature of claws and effect. As the only person to have a good time from all this, I guess you could say it was shellfish of me.
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