For the late Fortune Cookie to have been picked up by a killer looking for someone else, she must have been somewhere he’d be. She had that power, but it must not have been enough. I don’t know why she even bothered going herself; she’s tends…tended…to take a hands-off approach. I’ve looked over graffiti and anything else from the crime scene again and again and again, trying to tell if somehow, some way she meant to get a message to me by her death.
But that’s not how her power worked, I think. So I figured going after the killer would be the best use of my time. And maybe she knew I’d do that, too.
Regardless, once I got ready, I went all private eye up in this bitch. Looked over the other victims to see what was meant about the serial killer hunting outside their usual preference. He likes his women like he likes his coffee: tall with a pale head. Likes to go after of blondes that stand head and shoulders above the rest. Someone’s not a fan of Nazi playboy bunnies. A dark-haired Asian woman stands out in that group, but it also meant I knew what to look for while retracing Cookie’s steps.
He got distracted from his usual routine. She knew who he was after, but got in the way, or walked into his trap and made herself irresistible. So I needed to keep an eye out for tall blondes along that last route Cookie ever took. Though I narrowed it down a great deal by figuring out when she went from walking to being driven. Because I doubt the killer carried her on his back to that house.
I walked made it a part of my daily routine to pass by there several times, always in armor that projected a slightly different take on the ideal victim. Then I spotted a van with the back doors open. Someone pushed something in and the van was a rockin’. When I walked around, a woman looked back at me. The short brunette looked nice and all, nothing like a potential victim. Checking her out, I saw where she even had a fake leg. A cheap one, not one of my superior products. She’d been pushing a small couch into the back of the van. “Need a hand there?”
She smiled at me and reached over to adjust a sheet on top of the couch. “No thanks. I got it.”
My projection smiled. “No, I got this.” I pushed her aside to help finish getting that couch in there. In the process, the sheet bucked a little and I saw a few blonde hairs uncovered. Behind me, my armor’s 360-degree HUD showed the woman reaching down to undo her false leg below the knee. She raised it to overhead and smacked it over my head. It thunked off harmlessly.
“Stop,” I said, lifting the couch more to finish getting it in there.
Confused, she tried once more, whapping it horizontally across the back of my head.
“You’re just embarassing yourself at this point,” I told her, then turned around and clocked her. The blow sent her head against the van’s back door window, cracking it and knocking her out cold.
When the van drove off this time, the blonde was left on the ground and our little killer, a woman it turns out, rode in the back. And instead of some cheap little house, we were headed to a bright and shining tower. I ditched the van and carried her up the back private elevator, wondering which of the various heroes would inevitably interrupt the dispersal of justice.
Will it be Venus, with her annoying insistence that even someone as bad as me shouldn’t be killed for reasons? Perhaps World War II veteran Captain Lightning will fly in, angry that a lying killer would lie to him and try to kill someone. I suppose Wildflower could pick this time to show up, bringing naive relationship drama just in time to see the real me. But why stop there? There’s always room for more random people to throw themselves into the middle of my life. More random alien people, that is. I’ve got my eyes on them.
The peg leg killer woke up in my arms on the ride up and got a good view of me in my armor. Then she wet herself. Profusely. This did not get her on my good side, since I was carrying her at the time.
Up in the penthouse, I tossed her out onto the floor like yesterday’s salad and locked down the elevator. She stood up and hopped up and down, absent her leg and weapon, not that it would have done her any good. She hopped over toward the kitchen and grabbed for a pair of knives to hold out in front of me. I calmly approached the elevator. “Oh no. Please. Knives. Perhaps I can find something in here that can disarm you safely without risking any harm to myself.”
I threw the refrigerator at her. She folded up on the ground, avoiding most of the fridge’s impact against the counter, then crawling out from underneath it before it could slide down on her.
She’d dropped a knife in all the hubbub. I stalked toward her while she headed into the living room area. It’s an art, ya know. Good stalking, as it is used in this context, is about projecting unstoppable menace and getting really close while appearing to never move faster than a walk. Good stalking in other contexts usually involves uncomfortable levels of obsession, and I usually reserve that for Venus, but only because we’re meant to be together.
That was a joke, ha ha, fat chance. Anyway, this cake is great, it’s so delicious and moist. So I threw it and the cake dish at Pegleg Patsy! While she cussed, it appears she didn’t concuss. Holding onto the knife, she regained her footing enough to stand. “You’re not going to kill me, fucker! I’ll beat you!”
She jabbed the knife toward her throat, but found it wouldn’t go all the way with my hand on her wrist. Instead, the breaking of her wristbone convinced her that dropping the knife was her most physically possible course of action. A kick sent it skidding along the floor. A punch in the gut doubled her over. Is it singling someone over when they only have one leg?
“Why did you kill the Asian woman?” I asked. “Is this about me? Are you one of them?”
“Fuck them, fuck you, fuck her! She wasn’t even my type!” I grabbed her head and lifted her up to look her in the eyes, squeezing her face in my fingers. She spat on my helmet’s visor. I wiped it off, slapped her with the spitty glove, and then brought her back up to look into her face again.
“Then why did you kill her?”
“She got in my way! I wanted the tall bitch, with her long legs. She’s the only one that matters, whether she likes it or not. Especially if not!” I shut her up with a gentle chop to the throat, just enough to send her into a coughing fit.
“You need some serious help, you know that?” I asked, watching her hold her throat and try to recover. “So you have a grudge against a certain type, and she just got in your way?”
Ole Peggy there nodded despite the coughing. “She started to help me with the sofa before I was ready. Tried to tell me I’d be sorry if I killed her.”
I nodded. “Yes, you will be. By the way, did you know it’s actually possible to skullfuck someone while keeping them alive? The things you learn in this lifetime. And I mean it. The things you will learn.”
It was then that the glass leading to the balcony shattered from Wildflower tearing through it her claws. The green-skinned herione stepped over the broken glass and glared at me with narrow slitted eyes, vine-like green tail swaying behind her barely-clothed body. Her tight shorts, bikini-like top, and scowl full of pointy teeth all left little to the imagination. She didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything. Pegleg yelled out, “Help, this man kidnapped me!”
“Is that true?” Wildflower asked.
I shrugged. “Sure, but only because I was going to torture and kill her.”
“See?! Help me, please. He’s crazy. He threw a refrigerator at me,” my victim whined, clearly trying to lie to garner sympathy.
“Shut up,” I said while stomping on her ankle. Something snapped and she fell to floor, screaming and crying. To Wildflower, I added, “You know, this is a really bad time for you to stop in. Can we do this later?”
“Why?” She asked, nodding her chin toward the downed killer.
“She’s the serial killer, and she killed an ally of mine. I won’t stand for that.” A moan from the floor emphasized that point. “She won’t stand for it, either.”
A metal rod speared into my floor. The cable it trailed stayed taught while a zipping noise grew louder. Venus appeared in her patrol exoskeleton; it lacked the protection of full power armor, but still gave her armor plates and extra equipment to supplement her fighting skills; all in her signature gold, white, and pink. While the metal rod rewound into her armor’s left forearm, I quietly texted Moai to grab a rocket launcher and standby.
“Et tu, Venus?” I asked the plucky heroine who always stood ready to save society from me. “This one’s owed me.”
“Funny, I don’t see you wearing a judge’s robes,” she said from behind a mirrored facemask that protected her upper face.
“Truth doesn’t change just because a jury says something. She’s our serial killer. I’ll deal with. Go ahead, ask the average man on the street if they feel safer leaving it to me.” I shooed her away.
“It’s the principle of the thing. It’s not my place to give up on her.”
“The world would be better if you di-fucking hell!” We now interrupt this message to bring you a flashbang! Both happened too soon for me to stop, as a pair of lights on either side of Venus’s helmet lit up and then a piercing noise rang in my ears. A second later, an uppercut embedded me halfway up into my bedroom’s floor above the living room area. Instinctively, I activated my cybernetic vocal chords’ banshee scream. The note once used by a prison to paralyze me instead came from my own lips while my helmet prevented me from seeing it.
My eyes weren’t blinded for long, though. Sure, the original flash got through, but they weren’t as sensitive as organic eyes, so I recovered more quickly. I’d embedded in the ceiling with my hands caught in one room with my lower body, so I took to pressing them up against the ceiling. When that didn’t give me enough leverage, I broke through the ceiling with my hands enough to push myself down onto the floor. I found Venus holding the killer under one arm and Wildflower under another, seemingly unaffected herself. I shut my yap, trying not to incur any more maintenance time on my voicebox than necessary.
Venus took one look at me and turned to run. As she ran, Wildflower pushed away from her and stopped. Venus tried to turn and reach for her, but my nemesis hit the edge of the roof and fell. I pursued, only to be stopped when the Wildflower’s mutated human/plant/animal form tackled me. As I went down, I heard another zipping go from loud to quiet, followed by the whoosh of a rocket and an explosion coupled with more glass shattering.
“I missed.” Moai’s text appeared in the lower left corner of my HUD while I roll with Wildflower and threw her off me. She landed on kitchen counter with a graceful backflip, her elongated toenails clicking on the countertop.
I looked to the balcony, but saw no chance of pursuit. “So now what. You try to beat me up as some scorned woman, fail, and I kill you? Or is this yet another escape?” I turned back to Wildflower, who slid down to the floor.
“We may as well talk since I don’t intend to arrest you. Like I could, right?.” She lowered har arms by her side and relaxed. Even the hair on her head seemed to relax. Probably some sort of response it had to make her look bigger in a fight.
I held out my arms. “Well then, let’s start with the obvious. This is the real me. Deal with it.”
“You were manipulating me the entire time?”
“Even when you stayed the night with me in the asylum?” Geez, what’s with everyone referencing that? The villain group I had joined captured her and held her in an old asylum. I was bringing her stuff to get on her good side and influence her. I brought stuff for her to sleep, but she insisted I watch over her so the guards didn’t try anything. So what if I didn’t intend to stay?
I nodded again. “Duh.”
“And all the dates?” She asked with a smirk.
Well, I had an image, I guess. Besides, who doesn’t like spending some occasional time with a good-looking person who hangs on your every word? “Don’t tell me you’re an adrenaline junkie or one of those women who thinks she can change someone. I always got the sense you were smarter than that.”
“Smart enough to fool you.” She walked close, looking into my visor. I kept monitoring her arms, her legs, even the surrounding area in case she smuggled plants up here for a sneak attack. “You wanted to use me. I wanted to use you.”
“For what?” I tilted my head to clue her in to my curiosity.
“I was already out of my cell before you showed up that last day, but I couldn’t have escaped without you. You wined and dined me. Bought me things. Gave me money. You have a unique charm, and who doesn’t like spending time with an attractive woman like you?”
Jamie Foxx sang the titular lyric of the song “Gold Digger” from my helmet’s speakers as I looked at her. “So that’s all you are?”
Wildflower slapped me across the helmet, then roiled in disgust at the spittle and plaster she got on herself.
“Ha! The heroine wants a sugar mama to take care of her and her bills.”
She hissed at me. “I wanted a rich, successful, evil little girlfriend who would step on anyone to get what she wanted. If she owned the lab that took everything from me, all the more poetic.” I didn’t own Sigma when their experiments turned her into the life form that stood before me, but I understand the symmetry of that situation. “Look at what you do when a friend dies? Venus wouldn’t do that. No hero would.”
I grabbed her by the neck. “You thought I’d die for you?”
“I knew you’d kill for me.” She didn’t budge one inch.
I looked her over. “Before this goes any further, I need to check something out. A bit of a physical.”
Yep, she’s almost definitely a plant. Well, partly a plant, but almost definitely sent by aliens.
She smiled, showing off those feline canines. “Anything you want.” She showed such trust. Tsk, tsk.
I snapped her neck to the side. Maybe trusting me was a bad idea. I let her body drop, then looked around for that damn knife from earlier. Ah, there it was. Turning Wildflower over, I carved open the back of her neck to check for one of those little alien communication pods. Despite the difficulty getting through her skin and its annoying tendency to refuse to stay open, the check turned up nothing. Shame, I guess. There was something thrilling about her motives. She didn’t want money or things. She wanted a crazy-ass murderer. She got one, too.
I dropped her body and stood up, wondering if I had anything nice to drink at the bar. I stopped when I saw her body move behind me. Her tail glided up her back, wrapped itself around her neck, and wrenched it back into place. The neck itself, I realized, had closed up almost completely by this point. I turned around to watch her stand back to her feet. “I lost everything to Sigma labs. Maybe you didn’t notice. You like to talk, but I didn’t have much to say. I don’t know for sure Rachel is my real name. I don’t know who I was. Everything about me, except these awesome powers.”
“A hero that tough who doesn’t want to bring me in?” She had my interest. Goody goodies often don’t like the idea that their partner is dirty in more than just the fun ways.
“Yes, a hero. I’m not going to give up stopping criminals and bullies. That’s what I have now. I don’t expect you to be anything but what you are. God, I want you to be who you are. No one will ever do to me again what Sigma Labs did.”
I stepped closer, checking her over. Her physiology wasn’t quite human, and she showed some agitation and flushing, but no nervousness, no doubt. She seemed honest about liking that I do what I do how I do it. She didn’t just accept it, she wanted it. “You’ll use me.”
She giggled. “Use me, too, but no one uses us.” She put her arms around my neck.
I grabbed one arm and moved it aside to release the seal on my helmet. She put it back in place and moved the other for me when I undid the other seal and pulled it off. Suddenly, I could smell the blood, the plaster, and her. Her most of all. It was a good smell. Like sex, or at least a close-up with some of the body parts that make it happen. I couldn’t help looking into her eyes. Or moving my face closer to hers. Or the kiss, whichever of us started it.
Late that night, technically into the next morning, I awoke from my sleep, disturbed by the lack of covers. I only had on a thin sheet, same as the superhero laying next to me on my upstairs landing. We lost the comforter, pillows, and bed when Venus swung by to see what had befallen her comrade in arms. We missed Venus, but not, as far as Crash’s email indicates, my personal assistant’s parked car on the street below.
I curled up next to Wildflower’s…hope she doesn’t expect me to call her by her real name, Rachel…anyway, Wildflower’s warmer body until I realized that, despite all that had gone on, things smelled very, very different. She had more of a citrus smell now. I rubbed at the little scar on the back of her neck and a still lightly-bruised throat caused by something much more recent than my interrogation of her earlier. “Tigerlily,” I whispered my favored nickname in her twitching ear.
“Did you use pheromones on me earlier?”
“Mmm. Mhm. Jus’ a little. Mostly was in heat,” she responded drowsily. I felt her tail coil around my thigh, the thorns lightly pricking my skin.
I tightened my grip on her throat, fingernails biting into her flesh, but not tearing anything open. I held her like that long enough to get my point across, and though she struggled to breathe, she didn’t raise a hand to me. “You don’t use pheromones on me.” I told her.
She started hacking when I let her go, so I took a moment to sit up and search for a blanket that might have fallen off the bed. I found it draped over the railing at the edge of the second floor and pulled it onto both of us. Even though I’d faced away from Wildflower, she soon turned to wrap her arms and legs around my body, nuzzling the back of my head. “Sorry, babe,” she said with a purr before slipping into sleep once more.
The interesting thing about being a psycho: somehow, you’ll never be the craziest one in the relationship. But, provided I believe her, it’s nice to have someone in a romantic sense willing to accept me that way. I mean, not like it’s love. But it’s still nice.
Unless she’s really an alien. Then I’ll kill her anyway. After I’m done cuddling, that is.