At last, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. It was difficult to convince Venus that all I wanted to do was fake killing her. We just had to make a big enough public spectacle out of it.
On Thursday, she swung over to Double Cross HQ like she’d done so many times before. The gleaming hero in a gold, pink, and white padded costume that exposed her belly and neck. She didn’t wear the full suit of armor that Forcelight, her ally, had made for her. Instead, she wore a pink and gold exoskeleton that gave her big metal gauntlets and shoulderpads. It also included light armor plates on the sides of her limbs and along her spine. Oh, and a visor that covered her masked face.
A visor and a mask. When she says secret identity, she means secret identity. Assuming she ever did anything other than hero.
Only, this time, she carried a warrant for my arrest. She showed it off after helping herself in through a window using one of those rods she’s been using to swing around the city. Playing the role of a distressed villain caught off guard, I did what any reasonable person would do. I pulled out the spray nozzle on my kitchen sink and hosed her down.
Instant fanservice. That’s right, I managed to get Venus all wet as a woman. More importantly, it gave me a chance to legitimately get away without having to make it too obvious I was in cahoots with her. Oh yeah, baby, gimme those cahoots. And don’t worry about catching anything. I had my cahootie shot.
After hosing Venus down, I gave her a closeup of my melons. I threw them, and the grapefruits from my fruit bowl, at her head. I only had a single apple in there, but I tried to hit her in the throat with it. Then I grabbed a banana, peeled it halfway, and came at her with it.
She grabbed my wrist, easily overpowering me. I dropped the banana and caught it with my other hand, then mashed it over her visor. She picked me up by my wrist and tossed me toward the living room. It put some distance between us while she cleared the gunk off, so I ran for the terrace. I heard Venus running for me as I slipped into a harness clipped to a cord and jumped off.
Down I fell, wondering if Venus would jump after me. On the one hand, she might want to save me. On the other, she might know it wouldn’t really do her any good if I’d already jumped. When the cord stopped me, tensed, then pulled me back up, I figured I’d get to find out.
As I shot back up, I saw Venus had fired another rod into the side of the building, but hadn’t yet jumped. When she saw my ascent on a bungee cord, she swung off to intercept me. Except it wasn’t exactly a standard bungee cord, and I didn’t slow down. I unclipped myself and tried to enjoy the sensation of being flung several stories into the air with nothing around to catch me but the hard roof. Friction and gravity did some hanky-panky with my inertia, which is a property of matter, and I actually landed fairly softly on my feet.
Oh look. A greenhouse. A simple, unassuming greenhouse. But not just any greenhouse! A greenhouse with a cannon. I ran in there and punched the release button to fold up the walls and ceiling.
This was the tricky part. It required precise aim. Also, a mark to let Venus know what part of the wall she needed to jump up from. It helped that I ran over to the edge and looked down. I still had access to the cannon’s fire control from afar. That’s why, when Venus landed in front of me, I just hugged her, spun her around so her back was to the cannon, and said “Hey, guess what I’ve got up here?”
I ducked and fired. The smoke and huge banging noise obscured my ability to determine if it hit at first, until I realized I felt fatter than normal and pushed Venus off me. When I ducked, she must have gone down on me. Wink wink, nudge, nudge.
Ok, so she didn’t go down that way, but she ducked on top of me. When I realized she was alive, I tried to push her off me. I had to yell at her to remind her of the next part. “The door!” I pointed to a maintenance hatch by the cannon. After shaking her head a bunch of times, she nodded and crawled over there under cover of smoke.
I joined her, picking my way over what blood and gore had landed on the roof with me. Ok, so I had to a gimmick things in case Venus dodged. I used some very special ammunition. Forget armor-piercing, hollow point, incendiary, or high explosive. This November, cannon shells come in new smokey BBQ pork flavor. Yep, a pork shell. Strong enough to kill a human at point-blank range, but weak enough to explode into gore on its own. Between mine and Venus’s contacts, any DNA tests will confirm that meat chunks are all that’s left of her.
Yeah, Venus has friends in forensics labs. Go figure. Now, they can even get away with calling her a pig.
Unfortunately, Venus still survived, but she had to hide in Double Cross HQ’s new bunker. As for me, I got a replica of Venus’s costume. You know, for reasons. Important reasons. Reasons aside from feeling it. We tore it up a bit so I could present it to Oligarch. He was so happy, it appeared to have caused constipation. Or maybe I can’t read his face that well. He didn’t seem all that happy at first.
He cheered up in a hurry when he realized it was time to declare The Order’s ownership of the city. I told him I’d rather not stand out as much, so I’d be bowing out of the press conference. Why? Because Oligarch immediately settled on Friday the 13th as the date for the big announcement.
That’s all well and good for him, but I had a prison to break. Again.
I opted not to do all the work prior to the expected date of explosion. This, I explained to Venus, is because I didn’t want to be the one to set off the explosion. All I told her is I knew one was going to happen to clear up the heroes once and for all. She didn’t know that I knew it all thanks to a clairvoyant, and she didn’t need to know how I knew. Knowing how I knew is on a need-to-know basis.
Though I did check in with Fortune Cookie again to get the exact time. I started moving in only a two hours prior. I didn’t even want to give them that much time. A lot can happen in two hours. That’s also why I had to go in that early. Some of the security measures we put in place were pretty hardcore. We buried Forcelight in a fucking block with a catheter. I’m sure there are others, but I can’t just rely on the heroes being able to solve all my problems.
That’s why, when I stepped out into the abandoned mental asylum, I looked less like a horror movie victim and more like a horror movie survivor. Jackhammer slung across my back. Chainsaw in hand. Dynamite stuck in my belt. I rolled a cutting torch kit with me.
“Hello,” one of the clowns said casually as I walked in. “Doing some work?”
I smiled at him and stepped close, my boobs showing blatant, some might say explicit, disregard for his personal space. “Just beefing up the defenses. Speaking of which, is there a camera up here?”
I turned to follow when he pointed up to one of those dark half-circle camera casings in one of the shadowed corners of the room. I turned back to smile at the guard, then proceeded toward the door. Just before I left, though, I poked my head out and burned through the camera with my eye.
“What was that?” the guard asked, looking at the camera, then back at me. I threw a stick of dynamite at him, causing him to dive behind his crappy Ikea desk for cover. I hadn’t actually lit the dynamite, so it was perfectly safe for me to set down the cutting torch and chainsaw, then walk around to the other side of the desk and snap his neck. Then I took back my stick of dynamite. Never know when you’re going to need more dynamite. Not bad for seasoning a steak, either.
Though you really shouldn’t throw it. It’s a more stable way to use nitroglycerin, but it can still go off from tossing it around. I mean, feel free to play around with it all you want, but I wouldn’t take that sort of risk.
So I walked down the hallway, pulling the kit after me and balancing a stick of dynamite on the flat of my chainsaw blade. I had an idea to turn on some music, too. Emilie Autumn’s “Fight Like A Girl,” a song that a pretty big section of the internet would not care to hear. Then again, I’ve spent plenty of time as a guy fighting a female nemesis, so it’s not an anthem I could get away with most of the time either. Odd, though. I expected more guards.
I turned a corner and saw a pair of clown guards running my way. Well, that’s right on time. “Ooh, better not drop this!” I said as I flicked the dynamite off toward one. He scrambled to catch it, then tried to figure out if he should drop it when he realized what he was trying to hold onto. While he did that, I used the chainsaw to knock his partner’s gun away and started it with a crank.
“Groovy,” I said, raising an eyebrow. I swung the chainsaw, sending blood gushing as it began to chew through the second clown’s throat. The first one was just laying the stick down when I handed him the chainsaw. “Hold this for me?”
He let it drop, the rude asshole, which made something of a Pez dispenser out of his buddy, with blood as the candy. I kicked him in the balls to double him over, then knocked him out with one well-aimed smack of a boob. Yeah, I wore my brass nipples.
It took me a couple minutes to boob him to death. I guess you could say that, as far as damage went, I really nipple and dimed him.
Shutting off the chainsaw, I made my way down the corridors, a spring in my step as I headed for the security office they used to keep a good eye on everything. Yeah, right. Stick someone in a room with a bunch of cameras and they’ll be bored and tired before you know it.
Thing is, I didn’t find anyone when I got in there. The lock was too old and rusty to lock properly, so I could let myself in, but there wasn’t anyone around. Before I could even get a good look at the monitors, I felt some wind from behind me.
The air conditioning didn’t work in the asylum.
I whirled around and got a sting in my arm as I saw a man in a yellow and green costume standing there, holding his hand out at me. I looked down and saw he had a glove with a pair of blades mounted on the wrist. One of those blades currently resided in my right bicep. I looked back up at him, with his grinning yellow mask with solid green eyes, then back down at the blade. Yep, that’s a stab wound alright. Bleeding and everything. Then I looked back up again. “You ass-guzzling skunk chingus!” I yelled as I punched him with my left.
I punched him, then everything kinda blinked and people from behind grabbed me and pulled me to the floor. Which is odd, because the only thing that had been behind me was a desk with security monitors on it. I didn’t have the luxury of thinking time because of all the costumed people clawing and hitting and kicking. Also, I think someone copped a feel and someone else made a hurtful racial remark. Just getting that on the record for any potential later civil suits. I finally got a chance to ponder my predicament once I heard someone call out for them to back off. Which is good, since it gave my mind a moment to realize I hurt like a motherfucker.
“Norma?” asked the familiar voice of Wildflower. My neck was just a bit sore…possibly worse than sore…at the time, so I didn’t bother trying to look at her.
“S’ok, Wildflower,” I gasped out, wondering when my kidneys migrated to my lungs. “I’m here to rescue you.”
“You’re late,” she said, moving into my view. She looked better than she had for awhile. “But better than never. We got out on our own. Here.” She offered me a hand. I took it and she pulled me up. I tried to stand, but then the dizziness set in and I had to lean heavily on her. “Concussion, maybe? Hey, what did you bring?”
I didn’t feel like talking much and just motioned down to the cutting torch. Then I touched the strap on my shoulder. “And a jackhammer.”
The escaped heroes helped themselves to both, causing me to wince when they unstrapped the jackhammer and the touched my arm wound. “Ympe got you clean. We can patch it while we work on Forcelight and the others.”
Wildflower picked me up princess style. “I thought this would be easier than you walking like that.”
“My hero,” I said sarcastically.
She laughed. “I couldn’t have gotten out without you.” She set me down, then had someone else pass her a first aid kit so she could at least stop the bleeding. Ympe, the green and yellow man, let a bunch of heroes crowd around with my tools. Then the entire group disappeared. It was then that I realized we were in something of an infirmary section. Geez, I hope the first aid kit isn’t from when the hospital was open.
“How’d that happen?” I asked. Then I winced as she cleaned my wound. Geez, want to stick a hot poker in there while you’re at it? Yet another way in which nanites are superior to sterilizing a body with alcohol and sewing it back together. It’s basically a matter of sticking the body parts in the right place and hoping they grow together.
“I told you I heard people. We found a way to communicate, and I overheard from the guard that they had C4 tripwires on the doors. He talked about it with you, and I have really good hearing. They didn’t expect me to be strong enough to overpower them, but I have you to thank for that, too. We passed along information and arranged a breakout using morse code and here we are.”
Morse code? Who the fuck uses morse code nowadays?
Well, heroes, I guess. Whew. Glad that wasn’t my fuck-up.
“Tigerlily, we’ve got to go,” I told her.
She nodded as she took out a needle and thread to start sewing me up. See? That’s how it happens. “We’ll go when we get everyone out. It shouldn’t be long with the equipment you brought in. You were really here to break me out, huh?” She looked up at me and smiled, showing sharper teeth than I remember. It looked like she had a little reddish substance on them, too.
At first I winced again as the needle pierced my skin, but I got over that soon enough. “Yeah, that’s why we need to go. Oligarch’s claiming the city as his. Don’t ask how I know, but he’s planning to blow up this place in less than two hours. If you can get everyone together, I have a bunker where y’all can all hide.”
“Hide?” she asked. She bit through the thread easily enough and packed the kit up.
I sat back against the cool wall, trying to let my aches subside with my eyes mostly closed. “If y’all all go out on your own again, they’ll just get you all again. I think we need one big fight between everybody to settle this. Just how did they keep a teleporter here, anyway?” I had wondered about that seeing that Ympe person in action.
“He takes people and things he’s touching with him. He says his power feels him and things touching him out so it won’t take half a person, but it can’t teleport anything too big. He has to know where a place is in relation to his current location to get there, too. Someone asked about that, because even in those chains he could have gotten out to the police.” She walked over and knelt by me, looking me over.
I opened my eyes the rest of the way to look back at her. “What?”
“Thanks. You tried to get me out.”
“Sure, I try to do my good deed and get the shit kicked out of me by a bunch of your friends. Yep, you’re grateful. This is why I don’t do favors for sadomasochists.”
She giggled at that, almost starting me on it until my chest remembered it hurt. “I am grateful. Don’t go taking advantage of my gratitude, now.”
I raised an eyebrow as I looked her in the eyes. “Me? Take advantage of your gratitude?” Moments like this made me glad to have a mental condition characterized by superficial charm.
The heroes had rounded up most of the guards except for the ones I had handled, and the place hadn’t been built with a line going to the outside, so there’d been nothing to slow them down or alert The Order to the breakout. Nonetheless, we all got out of there with plenty of time to spare, with a few windowless black vans meeting us at the other end of the sewer tunnel I took to get there.
I had to pull those vans off elementary school duty, but I figured it was worth the loss in profits from weed. Hey, don’t act like that. It mellows those bastards out. Besides, when we tried to sell them candy instead, they just ran away screaming “Stranger danger!”
In the end, Wildflower, Venus, Forcelight, and all the other rescued heroes save The Saurus gathered around the TV sets in the bunker to watch as Oligarch demonstrated the power of himself and his Order by destroying a random target. Olirgarch hovered over the city in his armor, then raised an arm in the direction of the old asylum. An arm plate shifted to the side and a rocket fired, much bigger than his usual micromunitions. One news chopper managed to zoom in on them enough to show a resemblance to a Minuteman missile.
Ah. Giuseppe. Oligarch must have wanted him around to design that for him. I guess even the former head of the Master Academy can only build bombs so small. Say what you will about Giuseppe, his work is da bomb.
The Miniman intercontinental ballistic missile didn’t have enough range in that form to nuke Russia, but it easily reached the asylum and detonated with an explosion that created a mushroom cloud and absolutely wrecked the sturdy old building and a few other nearby through a combination of raw nuclear fission and the resulting shockwave. The Starbucks across the street will be serving its Chernobyl Mocha Machiatos from now on. Fortune Cookie was right about the chances most of these costumed crimefighters could have survived that. As a side note, I know we had a Mastermind Cafe nearby that’d be getting a lot more coffee business from now on.
“There goes the neighborhood,” I said, ignoring the dirty looks from the heroes around me who realized I was joking. Venus in particular shot me a look. I swear, sometimes I get the feeling she doesn’t like me no matter who I am. I guess I just rub her the wrong way.
On that piece of mental imagery fanservice, Gecko out.