“And then they were looking for an engineering achievement to rival the Eiffel tower, until this guy named Ferris got an idea for a giant moving wheel…but enough about The Devil in the White City. Time for the good stuff.” I looked down at Wildflower and began flashing her. “Well?”
“Beautiful,” she said, looking up at me with rapture on her face. She wiggled around to try and take in as much of the UV light from the portable UV lamp I carried. She’d gotten incredibly pale and lethargic, too. The guards informed me she hadn’t even been finishing her swill. And this is high quality swill, with at least a 50% chance of not containing any spit. “If only you could bring me something to help me sleep.”
Actually, I didn’t agree with the swill policy. Too much spit takes away from proper swill consistency. I mean, we’re basically talking gravy, grease, and food bits. Or maybe grits that have been watered down. There’s a lot of good swill recipes out there. Surprise your family at Thanksgiving this year with a healthy portion of swill.
Besides, you have to feed prisoners at least enough to keep them healthy. That’s part of why I brought some nice stew for her. That, and it made her like me more. I’d been paying visits to her and realized that I had to do better than fast food. Plus, cold weather is excellent for stew.
Turns out, she liked the UV light a lot more. It gave me an idea, too. “You know, if you were to pull off some of your clothes, you might be able to absorb more of the light through your skin. Go ahead, give it a try.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” she asked.
“Well, ya know, caring about you as a friend…”
“And being a lesbian.”
“I had my suspicions about you, Tigerlily.”
“No, you are. You’ve been flirty.” She had a point. “You’re like a guy sometimes.”
I shrugged. “Maybe I like women. Still, this isn’t about that. How are you?”
Wildflower reclined in the light, taking it in. She looked greener already. He stare bore into me in contrast to her luxuriating pose. “I can hear the voices. People screaming. I’m not the only prisoner here anymore.”
I nodded, trying to look sad. “Yes. They’ve captured a lot of heroes. Things are pretty depressing out there.”
“Even if I get out, it won’t be enough,” she said, curling up and wrapping her arms around her legs.
I knelt down and put a hand on her knee. “I’ll get you out. I’ll get you all out. Somehow.” I looked at the ground and bit my lip. I know, it didn’t inspire confidence. That’s probably why Wildflower put her hand on mine and gave it a little squeeze. I made sure to turn my gaze away from her.
“Hey, look at me,” the heroine said. I did. “Thank you for everything. I believe in you.”
I made up an excuse to leave soon after, but left her with a thick blanket. Next to the door, I saw the guard watching a monitor. He tried to avoid looking at me. I put a hand on his shoulder, “Too bad, bucko. No gay porn this week.”
Back in the outside world, Crash had a message to pass on to me. “Hey, I don’t know where you’ve been going, but I don’t like you being out of phoneshot. Anyway, that bug doctor wanted me to tell you that the grub you brought back isn’t a normal queen bee grub.”
“It’s giant and made by bee people. I hope I wasted money on an entomologist capable of recognizing it isn’t a normal grub.”
“It’s started to transform, and he says it’s not developing right. He wanted to see the mother, so we showed him. He thinks that what’s wrong are the queens. They aren’t right. They aren’t all bee. Or all bee people, whatever.”
“They aren’t?” I asked.
“He said the legs were an obvious giveaway.”
I took a moment to wonder at that, then slapped myself in the forehead. Yeah, she had extra legs, and managed to grab hold of me with extra arms. Eight limbs total. “Insects have six. Arachnids have eight.”
For those with amnesia, it’s worth remembering that when I first obtained these Buzzkills, they were in the custody of an anthro-arachnid in Japan. She took over her group of insectoid villains after a coup and seemed to be abandoning the Buzzkills. She must have been doing something else to them. “So what’s all this mean?”
“He thinks they won’t work right unless there’s a full-blooded queen.”
I don’t know how that’ll help anything. Besides how the hell am I supposed to do that? I really don’t want to go all the way back to Tokyo. Then again, that spider lady wouldn’t even have full-blooded ones. What am I supposed to do, make one?
Now there’s an idea. “Thanks for passing all that along, Crash. How’s the business side of things?”
“We’re surviving. Everyone’s making their own decisions pretty well now.”
“Okily dokily. Keep me abreast of any developments. I need to go talk to a man about a bee.”
Fifteen minute later, I stood on a street corner in a dirty coat, fake beard, and tinfoil Napoleon hat. My voice sounded normal on my end, but I scrambled it in the call. “Technolutionary! How’s it going?”
“Terrible, Gecko. We’re mapping your entire genome. I hope you don’t have any harmful mutations, or they’ll be part of the new race we’re going to create.”
I hated to do this, but this was right up his alley. “I’m trying to sabotage someone…a Japanese gang that uses these bee people as minions. They corrupted the queens to make them more amenable to their rule. Made the queens crossbreeds, I think. I want to uncrossbreed a grub that’ll become a queen, or something like that.” People looked at me oddly as I spoke like this, all the while crawling on the ground and addressing a pigeon.
“I’ll look if you have the grub.”
“I’ll rustle that grub up to you. Is there anything else you need?”
“Oh? Interested in my needs suddenly? Come to think of it, I’m set for now. I have all the test subjects I need, and the supplier you gave me has provided everything I’ve asked. It’s been quite refreshing, actually.”
I stood up and brushed myself off, then wandered off to go call up Moai. Suddenly, I realized the flaw in having someone that can’t talk keep track of the advanced scientific research Technolutionary worked on. But… “After you give me a rough outline in writing, I need you to do a drive-by grubbing. Actually, better not throw it at him. It might…burst…or something gooey like that. Just get it to him. Eh, you can actually work on the outline after you get it to him.”
I know Moai got it out to him before the end of the day before giving me an idea of Technolutionary. He had been using the homeless again, and most of the supplies he’d ordered looked like they could have matched what he’d been doing. Except he’d also been getting some of our prosthetics. He might have a few for testing if he’d made further progress in merging humans and technology. Yeah, when I saw he’d been getting a few each time, I told Moai he probably should sneak around Sigma. I think Technolutionary’s stockpiling his robot people.
Robot people, bee people. Whatever happened to people being people? Or, in my case, multiple people. It’s almost like they’re making up for the fact that I’m like three or four people. Myself, Missile Patriot, Banshee, Norma Mortenson…yeah four different people at least.
I woke about noon the next day to a ringing in my ear. It wasn’t because of the Manischewitz wine bottle on the nightstand, either. Good stuff. I like the Concord Grape especially. That shit is my jam.
But, no, the ringing was Technolutionary, who decided to start my day off yelling.
“You ask the world of me twice in a row! I’m not magic, as you well know. These interns…. I swear, you’d think they never ran a centrifuge before.”
I winced. “They’re interns. Geez, don’t you ever sleep? It’s the middle of the day. And, anyway, many of them haven’t run a centrifuge before. Even if it wasn’t so hard that Sigma Labs couldn’t do it.”
“The people behind Sigma aren’t around anymore. Nevermind the scientists. The test subjects alone would be an amazing find. A light shining into the darkness of ignorance.”
And there’s another idea. “What about if I could get you the DNA from one of them?”
“The more the better.”
Back to the sanitarium I went, along with a cooler full of beer. Sewer access makes moving supplies there difficult, but I could at least wheel that much in to help make my visits more tolerable for the guards. Depending on how much of Wildflower I decided to carry out of there, it might be nice to have them friendlier toward me or potentially drunk. Plus, the ice can help flesh fresh. Keep your flesh fresh with new solidified water today!
Solid water, a Double Cross product, all natural, organic, no preservatives, no MSG, and biodegradable. If people complain that we’re rebranding ice, I’ll just say it’s because our ice is fat free. How many other bags of ice actually say they’re fat free? What do they have to hide, huh?
Well, I’ll tell you one thing, Double Cross has lots to hide! Big secrets! Skeletons literally packed into our closets, and that means we don’t want to waste time lying on the little things.
Anyway, the guards that I was pretty swell and wanted me to stay and have a beer with them. In fact, they wanted me to have several beers. I’m sure many women would have been uncomfortable with a bunch of criminals in monster clown masks inviting her to down a twelve pack at night in an abandoned insane asylum, but not me. After all, I was the serial killer who tended to wear a mask.
One of them did interrupt me before I could head right in to see Wildflower, though.
“Since we got used to your weekly visits, we go ahead and disarm the failsafes,” he said, bending down by a set of wires by the bottom hinge of the door.
“Failsafes?” I asked. While the guard was distracted, I messed with his computer and decided to give it monitoring problems.
He stood up and played around with some wires on the top hinge. “C4. Man-Opener delivered a load, set it up. If anyone tries to leave who doesn’t know about it, the ceilings will blow up.”
“Sounds messy for anyone stuck underneath it,” I told him. “Just the two there?”
He dusted his hands off, “Yup. Go on in.”
I walked in, hands behind my back. Wildflower looked up at me from her rusty old caught against the wall, wide awake. “You’re back?”
“I’m…sorry. I don’t really know what I’m doing here. I was thinking of you. I think about you a lot, you know. Especially when I’m trying to go to sleep. So I thought about how you can’t sleep and I had my people make this.” I brought my hands around and showed her the small case I brought. I opened the top and revealed a needle.
Wildflower sat up. “What is it?”
“Just something to help you relax and sleep. It just gets you to sleep, though. I’m not an anesthesiologist.”
Wildflower jumped up and threw her arms around me. “I’m so tired, but being here reminds me too much of Sigma. I keep thinking something might happen. I can handle guards, but I don’t want a supervillain jumping me.”
“I could watch over you…” I trailed off, giving her the option to accept.
She nodded, then held out her arm. I took out the needle and set the case on the floor. I slid it in, finding a vein, and injected her. She stepped closer to her cot and I went with her, easing her down when the drugs began to affect her. It was almost sweet, watching her drift off. She ran her hand through my hair, then it went limp as she conked off.
With her out like a light, I went ahead and started extracting blood. Not too much. Not enough to kill her. Hell, not even enough to weaken her. Yeah, yeah, all that talk about body parts was just for laughs. I know it wasn’t that good of a joke, but how about a hand?
I grabbed hair and skin samples, too. Just in case. Little things she wouldn’t miss.
And maybe I sat with her for a few hours playing Payday 2 offline in my head and eyes. What? Doesn’t mean anything. Maybe I’m just lazy and like to relax inside decrepit old buildings. Besides, no one was around to think I’d come down with a case of Tourette’s every time the drill jammed in the game and I had to fix it. Seriously, I hate that broke-dick, piece-of-shit drill.