Perhaps the best way to stay under the radar and build up defenses capable of defeating an alien invasion isn’t to act out and try to ruin a public holiday.
All the other parts work very well. Technolutionary, if he hasn’t killed himself yet, is going to copy my powers into more people so they have a fighting chance. My company’s prosthetics include hidden weapons and superior abilities to human limbs. The Order is a new social network to allow villains to coordinate. The heroes have a similar setup running on our company’s servers. Also, I’m inconspicuously installing remotely controlled cannons around the city. It’s all going so well.
Except for me. Somehow, miraculously, I made all this stuff happen. That’s baffling enough. Except I am straining at the bonds of my charade. I want to go out and hurt some people. I keep hearing about all sorts of delicious assholes in need of being torn up. That sentence sounded better in my head. And, for no good reason, I’ve let the mere mention of potential failure in this sideshow convince me to try what no one has done before: steal all the Christmas presents in a single city.
It’s nothing important, but it’s me. It’s what I would naturally do. It’s as natural to me as going off on random tangents. It’s like the fable of the Scorpion and the Frog. You see, this scorpion asks a frog for a ride across a stream…
So I know this is stupid, but it’s me. And we have a problem.
Allow me to explain. Awhile back, I had to stop a man from using some weird clock tower in the mountains of Romania. As much as I loathe and despise people, I’m not keen on becoming trapped as a statue until time ceases to exist. Not only did I use my literal photographic cybernetic eyes and brain RAM to create a perfect schematic of how the device looked before and after I disabled it, but I got clock tower itself. See, right after that, I tried to steal one of the world’s largest telescopes with the help of an old Cold War super scientists who invented a way to shrink buildings and monuments. The process left them inside of a snow globe for appearance’s sake. He took pity on me losing my giant telescop and offered a consolation prize. I came back to America consoling myself with a time-stopping clock tower.
While here, I made the acquantaince of a man named Giuseppe. While helping him move to a new lair, my feud with a local small-time crime boss named Stang prompted Stang to rob one of the trucks, taking Giuseppe’s favorite set of tools. I set him back and pretty much put him out of business with my usual subtlety, but Giuseppe’s tools were lost when his model Enola Gay created a mushroom cloud in the ensuing attack. It also gave me an idea on his attention to detail.
Naturally, while considering what I could do to mess with the holiday season, I came across the idea of stealing presents. I know Santa Claus wouldn’t approve, but I’m not sure how much power he actually has once he’s made his trip. Yes, I’ve met Santa. Helped him and saved Christmas awhile back. I wouldn’t recommend it, because then I had Baby New Year looking for help the next year. Totally the wrong person for that.
So how could someone possible steal all the Christmas presents? How does Santa deliver all the Christmas presents? Magic, I think, but magic that involves freezing time or moving at superspeed. I don’t move at superspeed, ladies, but I remembered I had a way to freeze time. A broken Romanian clock tower. If only I knew someone with an amazing ability to make and repair small, toy-like objects.
I gave him some time to make all the proper arrangements, but Giuseppe surprised me by shooting me a message over The Order’s network, informing me he’d finished my little project. I didn’t expect it done so quickly, but the toymaker is a fine and shining example of pursuing one’s craft to such perfection it could kill someone.
“Remember, flip the switch on the base to activate it. Here, you will need these,” he told me as I left, holding out his hands. In one, he held a headband with a pair of fabric reindeer antlers on them; in the other a red rubber nose.
I stuffed the clock tower snowglobe in my purse and took the offered items. “I’ll need them?”
He nodded. “To protect you from the effects of the time freeze, as you asked for.”
Like I said, I don’t want to be frozen in time.
Having obtained my latest device to grant godlike power, I decided to test it. Say what you will about the Empire from Star Wars, but at least they checked to make sure the Death Star worked before trying to use it against the Rebel Alliance. While this didn’t set that good of a precedent for my own evil ambitions, it seemed solid advice for pretty much any evil ploy. It might even be in the Evil Overlord’s List.
To that end, I needed a target. I already wrecked a couple of big holiday displays, but perhaps it was time to get back into the original tricky spirit of things? When I began my spree as the Lord of Misrule, I gave to the poor, stole from the rich, and framed the guilty. Even though the natural response of society would be to take back the loot, they found that difficult since everything appeared to have been done out of order.
You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, and you can’t test a time-stopper without breaking a few nuts. Well, you could, but it wouldn’t be as fun as when I decided to go to the ballet performance of The Nutcracker. The seats for the closest section were more than $250 a pop, so I figured anyone there wouldn’t miss whatever money or valuables they had on them. It’s not about the money, though. At least, not for me.
It might be a bit of an issue for this bunch of orphans. I contacted a minimum-security orphanage as a donor who wanted to take them all out for the ballet, and got a short busload of children. Maybe sixteen, with a chaperone named Terry who seemed way too cheerful for someone putting up with that many kids on a daily basis.
To them, I looked rather like a gentleman in a suit with a large bodyguard. That’s because I made use of my armor and even found time to equip Moai with hologram technology. It’s been awhile since I made use of my portable holodiscs, so I threw together a belt and hat with a few preset designs he and I could choose from. Moai can’t wear his pukao with it, but he doesn’t bother taking that out on jobs anyway. It was nice to work on the older equipment like that.
“The theater is packed, but I have arranged for you to watch from backstage. Hopefully, it won’t take away from the magic of what you’re about to see.” I made holographic-me smile reassuringly and moved my satchel out of the way so I could sit down. While they looked at me, they didn’t see the trucks full of Buzzkills following the bus.
We did watch a bit of the ballet. I’d gotten them back with no trouble through my duel habits of handing out cash and handing out ass beatings. Don’t worry, I spared the children the sight. That way, they spent their time backstage admiring the dancers instead of crying. They found it wonderful. I enjoyed how tight some of the costumes were on the dancers. I got so caught up in it, I almost missed my entrance. During this big battle, the rat king stood off to the side while his rats fought with toy soldiers.
I disappeared from the kids and yanked the Rat King off stage, reappearing in his place, though the stage lights played havoc with the hologram. When I went out to fight the titular nutcracker, I stole some of his thunder with a beautiful high kick to the balls. The audience laughed at the show. The other dancers hesitated momentarily before the dancer portraying the daughter went ahead and threw her slipper at me.
I walked up and kicked her betwen the legs as well. That one wasn’t so much a nutcracker as a taco cruncher.
Another soldier dancer ran over, “What are you doing?”
With everyone’s attention on me, they didn’t notice the Buzzkills filing in from the rear. A few guarded the exits; the rest moved forward to the most expensive seats. Moai led the children out behind me, but he knew not to let anyone drive off.
When everything seemed ready, I replaced my disguise yet again. The Lord of Misrule stood before the audience, some of whom gasped at the shocking turn of events. The Buzzkills got a nice reaction, too.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am the Lord of Misrule, and I’m here to spread a little holiday cheer. This is the season for giving, and I am the Lord of Misrule, overseer of these fun little winter solstice days. I and my associates are here to do some overseeing. Cash, jewelry, expensive purses; I want everyone in the expensive seats to hand them over. Remember, it’s far better to give, than to receive.” I finished up my speech by turning and kicking the standing nutcracker in his balls again, emphasizing what reluctant victims may receive.
The audience obeyed with little fuss. A couple tried to start something and found out how little tolerance the Buzzkills have for people after their near-extermination. Then they lost their goods anyway. Most of the rest acted like folks who could afford to replace the stolen possessions. It’s not like anything there was worth a lot to them, or to me. As I said, this was a test. The ballet’s the ploy wherein I’ll catch the quality of the toy, as Shakespeare may have said if he was a supervillain.
“Stop right there, fiend!” shouted someone, standing up. He dropped his jacket…though I don’t know how I missed him before. It was a man in a suit of power armor that completely covered his skin. Collapsible, perhaps? “Or face the wrath of the Invincible Ionman!”
His appearance wasn’t wholy unexpected. See, fighting crime as a superhero isn’t easy with a dayjob. For regular folks, they risk losing their dayjob because they ditched it, or they get to spend their sleeping hours to patrol. Many of the poor saps feel responsible for fighting crime just because they’ve got power, but it’s easier for people who don’t need jobs. Some supers even use their powers to get rich first, then to engage in vigilanteism. This all leads to a portion of the population with more representation from such folks than the average crowd of folks on the street. Such folks who might drop more than $200 to go see a ballet lasting under two hours.
I pulled a satchel out from behind me, “Oh, you’re right! How could I possibly stand agains tthe might of Irritable Bowel Man?!” I hammed it up to keep the attention on my while the Buzzkills escaped.
“Ionman!” he yelled back at me, pushing his way through the crowd.
“Right, the Dogtastic Iam’s Brand.”
“No, stop being childish.”
“I know you are, but what am I, Hunchbacked Igorman?”
Ionman finally got onto the stage. “I take no pleasure in violence, it is for lesser man, but I will enjoy defeating you.”
I threw up my hands. “You got me! Please, allow me to check my makeup bag so I can prepare for my unmasking.”
I turned away from him and the audience, opening the satchel. I unsealed my helmet long enough to slip the red rubber nose over my real one, then replace the helmet on my head. I slipped the reindeer headband onto my head. I whirled around, triumphant in my antlers and holding the miniaturized clock tower in my hand.
“What is that?” asked Ionman in a blue and yellow suit of plate metal with circuitry patterns. He held up a fist toward me. Something spun around his gauntlet, tiny airborne particles. Like pollen.
“I’ll answer that question in one second,” I said, then I flipped the switch on the front of the base. Time didn’t slow. Instead, an electrical current ran through my armor, giving me an unpleasant little zap. I shook, my muscles clenching up all over the place. Even in my sphincter. Especially in my sphincter. It stopped when the antlers blew out, but I got no respite from electricity. Ionman’s pollen dispersed and lightning struck me, originating from his gauntlet. I flew back.
When I stood up, the holographic system warned me of complete image disruption. My true face showed. I tried to cover it up. As soon as my holographic systems were capable, I projected other villains in my place, like Spinetingler, Spider, and The Oligarch.
“Oh shit!” yelled Ionman. Flame spurted out of the back of his armor and the bottom of his boots, carrying him into the rafters and out through a hole in the roof. My victims, those who hadn’t yet tried to run, soon decided the hero’s spontaneous fleeing made such action prudent.
Rather angry at the entire mess, I planned to tear a few entrails out of the audience for souvenirs. Problem was, Ionman found his balls. I stepped close to the edge of the stage and almost got caught when a fence made of bolts of electricity flashed down in front of me. Even just being around that kind of electricity screwed with my suit, and there were no gaps wide enough to slip out that way. A glance showed Ionman hovered on the other side, so I couldn’t reach him. I didn’t have any chickens or anything else on my to get through the gap either.
I was reduced to stomping out the back way, at least having completed my robbery. On the way, I noticed something different about the tower I still, somehow, held onto. A tiny flag flew from its top. It was a note: “This is why you do not ask the impossible from a man whose favorite tools you lost.”
Put down Giuseppe on the list of shit I don’t like, somewhere between your momma and your face. At least the last part of my plan worked out. Moai welcomed me back to the bus, where a seat was taken up with identical holiday present bags, one for each orphan. I feigned happiness again. “Well, that didn’t go as planned, but it’s all over now. There was a hero in the audience. I think he was called Florida Man. Now, as you see, I have some presents for all of you, but I want to keep the surprise until we get back, when you can all get a bag while exiting. Now, did we still have fun today?”
“Yeah!” some of the enthusiastic kids answered. They didn’t mind being involved in a robbery. They had an exciting day. They likely had a pretty exciting night with all the jewelry and cash from the audience victims, too. It almost distracted me from the news spreading via social media, which lit up with claims that various villains were the Lord of Misrule. So it looks like I covered my ass fairly well. Even in that mess, the truth could be mistaken for a lie, as Psycho Gecko was just one of about a dozen names being thrown around the internet.
Too bad, Giuseppe. Not a good stunt to pull. He almost exposed me to a lot of people. Trust me, no one wants to be exposed on a stage in front of a bunch of people.
And one last incident worthy of mention: on the drive to drop the kids off, Fortune Cookie texted me. For those who don’t recall, she’s the seer who called on me to stop the Romanian clock tower in the first place. In hindsight, I should have expected to hear from her. She knew last time it was going to be activated. She knew this time too, it seems. The message simply read, “Its 4 th best it didn’t work. 2 dangerous 2 us all. U look cute in the horns.”
She should be a masseuse, because she really knows how to rub it in.