In contrast to my confident kicking of several asses in my escape from the United Nations, I’m driving people nuts at Double Cross Towers. It’s the paranoia. Someone will just be walking along, trying to deliver papers before heading to lunch break, maybe wondering when they put a new trashcan in the hallway. Bam! Out jumps some crazy lady with a rag that smells like sleepytime. And I don’t mean the tea.
Then they wake up with stitches on the back of their neck, confused. If I really wanted to freak someone out, I’d stick them in a bathtub full of ice and stitch up their side like I stole a kidney or something.
That would have been a lot more fun than rocking back and forth on the couch with two screens pulled up in front of me so I could fast forward through everything I’ve done since that day I fought off the alien virus in Romania while checking through every single bit of code in my cybernetics. Because that’s most of what I did after the personnel checks, even ignoring all the alien-related news. Blahdy blah, something about people on both sides desperate to come to an understanding after the confusing and murderous events that took place at the United Nations.
I didn’t have time to worry about that. I had to get my brain back. This was no time to lose my mind, after all. It was taking awhile to check, complicated by the fact that I couldn’t trust my own eyes. Or brain.
I wasn’t about to trust Technolutionary, either. He already got to do things with my DNA. I don’t want him literally picking my brain. Wildflower doesn’t know enough about all this, either. Neither would Venus, or Carl, or Crash, or Beetrice, or Captain Lightning. There’s nobody but me, and I can’t trust myself. Because I realized that I’ve made a lot of mistakes lately. It seems like it’s been more than usual. Things I’ve forgotten or obvious ways of doing things that just didn’t occur to me. The thing where I got spotted bugging the alien shuttle, for instance. Or whatever other missteps I’ve made. Maybe. I don’t know, and that’s the problem.
My dedication to couchsurfing my own brain has worried…everyone. Crash still brings by reports, then takes them away and tries to manage them with the department heads and Carl. Moai occasionally nudges me aside to watch stupid TV shows. No matter where I sit, he always goes out of his way to push me around a little. Wildflower got worried after the first night, until I explained the problem with the alien virus making me some sort of hidden agent.
Hell, forget about just my mistakes. I didn’t kill all the villains, but now I know why Oligarch and I weren’t entirely at cross purposes. I mean, if I want to mistrust my own judgment, I’ll do it because I’m crazy, not because someone’s making me do stuff without me knowing it.
So she left. I was a bit numb to it, but it seemed reasonable. Was more surprisingly when she came back. When she got back, she revealed she’d gone shopping. Then she tried to do a striptease for me. When I didn’t look up, she checked my pulse, then ran off.
Not surprisingly, she managed to get Carl’s attention and convince him to follow her, since she hadn’t bothered to put on any better clothes than the stripper clothes she’d bought to impress me. I could understand it, both that she’d forget she was dressed like that given her usual costume, and that Carl would gladly follow her to a place with a bed upon seeing her.
I just had other, more important things to do. When Carl saw me and heard from Wildflower, with Moai nodding along, he took a deep breath. Then he walked up and knocked over the screens I’d been staring at for two days straight. I jumped up, grabbed him by his collar and waistband, and threw him over the couch. Then I sat back down on the couch and went back to binge-watching myself. In the back of my mind, I head Wildflower padding up quietly. Probably thought she was being quiet.
In my weak and sleep-deprived state, it wasn’t difficult for her to knock me out with the chloroform. See what I mean about making mistakes lately?
I was sorta surprised not to find myself locked up somewhere when I awoke. The Great and Devious Psycho Gecko brought down by a heroic girlfriend. I guess whenever Wildflower and I get tired of each other, I can tease Venus by telling her she has a better chance of catching me with some vigorous humping.
So where was I? Good question. It looked like a doctor’s office. Not a hospital, an office. You know, with the solid, oddly-padded bed and its uncomfortable tilt, along with a small medicine cabinet, sink, rolling stool, and that sort of stuff. I tossed off the blanket covering me to find myself in one of those gowns, but with workout shorts and a tank top underneath. So somebody undressed and redressed me while I was out, but at least they weren’t letting every passerby sneak a peek.
Still didn’t tell me where I am, though the GPS took care of that. I was north of Empyreal City a bit. I’d actually been here before, turns out. According to the playback from that day, I’d been here the day Wildflower showed me around her dorm.
That damn fucking hero…I…couldn’t think up enough special cuss words. Something about giraffes and deepthroating…gah! I knew there was no time for cussing. I had to get the hell out of there, if it wasn’t too late already. No one with half a brain would leave me unguarded, even unconscious. And considering some of my dreams, especially unconscious. Like that time where I was a vampire fighting ghosts who summoned the Ghostbusters to fight me, but I managed to kill one with a magic ritual knife and chased after the others while singing the song “Hellfire” from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame.
A weapon would be a good idea. I grabbed a couple of those wooden sticks. The ones from lollipops that doctors like to test gag reflexes with. Too bad they didn’t have an old Female Hysteria remedy, or I could have really unloaded on someone. Believe it or not, those are also good for testing gag reflexes.
I tore off the gown, then grinned to myself and hid it under the blanket on the bed. They can look for a woman in a gown all they want while I jogged my way right out the door. Or I could have, but no sports bra. Ah, hell, it just means most students of this Master Academy East Branch wouldn’t be able to identify my face in a lineup.
No one guarded the door. The hallway looked empty. Good, maybe they’re still low on students. I slipped the mouth sticks into the back of my shorts for safekeeping until I needed to use them for a lethal tonsil examination. Since I only had two directions to pick from, it was pretty easy to figure on heading left. One corner later and I came to a door, which I pressed my ear to. Couldn’t hear anything through it, so I figured that was a good sign. I figured I’d go ahead and poke my head in.
Speaking of those bad decisions I’ve been making lately, that was one of them. Not the worst decision. Not even as bad as if I just barged on through the doors. But, yeah, it gets to be pretty bad when you stick your head through a door at a superhero academy only to find yourself at a gymnasium with a couple of bleachers worth of students sitting around. And costumed heroes standing in front of the bleachers. And the doctor who presumably new me looking up from where she tended to a downed person in the middle of the room. Why was that person knocked down? Oh, it probably had something to do with Venus standing there, maskless, resting her head on a Bo staff.
Sometimes, the hand life deals you is a Royal Fuck. It’s like a Full House…of pain.
As if taunting me, huge windows let in plenty of sunlight. That’s like, I don’t know, someone on death row finding out they won the lottery just before being marched to the needle room. Or discovering that a woman you met online is incredibly sexy, but is only interested in seeing you get reamed by her ex-Marine husband nicknamed “The Hammer.” And the fists aren’t the Hammer. The Hammer is his penis.
And while we’re at it, plenty of aliens around wanting to conquer the Earth.
See, it’s shit like this that drove me insane in the first place.
Well, the sight of all those heroes gave me a headache from instantly-supplied data from the ID program, so I cut that off. And while I’d been feeling the insistent fullness of my bladder since waking up, it wasn’t until then that it got really obnoxious. “Woops, this isn’t the bathroom,” I said with a fake laugh before pulling my head back and running back around the corner. I thought I heard someone calling for me to wait, but why would that ever be a good idea?
I heard the door slam open behind me as I passed by the doctor’s office. “Don’t come near me,” I hollered back, “or I’ll pee on you!” Wouldn’t you know it? They didn’t listen. I got to the other side of the hall, which would have given me another pair of directions to run, but for the heroes who appeared. A young man in a bright yellow outfit with black and white racing checkmarks up and down the side skidded to a halt, having left behind a man of shadows and some sort of toilet paper dude. Guy looked like a mummy, but with just the wraps.
Between Ricky Bobby, Noob Saibot, and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, I didn’t like my chances. Nor did it look too good when Venus, Wildflower, and a man with a bunch of snakes coming out of various parts of his chest blocked the rear area. Time seemed to slow as I faced folks on both side of me. Which, by the way, did not help my bladder situation.
“Et tu, Tigerlily?” I asked Wildflower, hoping to at least make her feel bad for all this. Might as well get some words in before the sticks and stones land on me.
“You need help,” she said, gritting her teeth.
I rolled my eyes. Bad time to take the off people, but what did it matter if I saw them coming to kick my ass anyway? Then a thought occurred to me and forced me to shake my head. “You’ve been listening too much to Venus, huh? That’s how it happens. Always thinking you can make a relationship work if only you can change someone. Funny thing is, at least the aliens sort of got me figured out. I’m merely a weapon; a loaded gun. Just another machine. I thought you knew it, too.”
Venus put a hand on Wildflower’s shoulder. “You’re just a victim. You told me about it. Something bad happened to you, just like it happened to a lot of people. Except you didn’t get over it. It’s your excuse to do whatever you like, because people made you this way. They made you, so you do what you do to them.”
I pointed at her. “I’m a bit more than a victim by now. I’m the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko!”
Infuriatingly enough, Venus kept her voice calm and level. “You don’t even have a name. Whatever anyone did to you in the past, however much you hate it, it still controls your life. You are doing the same with the future. They’re going to kill you, so the only thing you want to do is kill them first.” I wish she’d at least raised her voice. And make less sense. The connections she was making didn’t sit well with me. But I never told Venus the aliens were going to have killed me.
I swept my gaze from Venus to Wildflower. “Well? You got anything to say? Certainly not helping my trust issues here, ya know.”
“I didn’t want to stand by and let you create a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Wildflower said, refusing to meet my eyes.
“See? It’s the honest ones you can’t trust. They always do the stupid and irrational thing. Like saving my life by getting my beat up and locked up. Well, gentlemen? Who wants to be the first to beat the pinata, eh? Just no punching below the belt. Your hand might get stuck.”
A monotone, computerized voice spoke up. “One of my dearest pupils believes that you need a hero you can trust in your life.” The crowd on Venus and Wildflower’s end made way, reluctantly, for a badly crippled man in a motorized chair, who apparently used a hand and his eyes to control both the chair and his ability to talk. I think I’d seen something about this guy before. Victor Mender, aka IT. Researcher who built an armored suit with lasers and rocket launchers for extreme mining jobs, until someone tried to steal it and make a weapon out of it. I know, make a weapon out of the laser-armed power armor? Who would have thought? Dangerous business, mining. Had several designs stolen by Oligarch back before anyone knew what Ollie was really like. Retired after the battle for Master Academy left him crippled. Really surprised they haven’t given this guy a batch of their knockoff regenerative nanites.
“I see everyone’s been making ample use of the designs stolen from me,” I muttered. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to hear his voice raise unless someone turned up his volume knob. Got several angry murmurs from the crowd, though.
“Relax friends. It is his response to being frightened. If we attack he has no choice but to fight back. We are only talking so he must think.”
He might have been correct on that, though I could have made a big deal out of the incorrect pronouns. I know some people don’t like what they see as extreme sensitivity and PC culture of people who don’t like being called the wrong pronoun. But most of the anti-PC types I’ve seen are exactly the sort of guys to get offended if you start calling them “ma’am,” and “girl”. Hilarity ensues.
“Between getting a beatdown from my biggest fanclub here, then getting tossed in a jail cell to await impending execution by alien invaders who killed me once in a future that hasn’t happened yet…yeah, I may be showing a bit more caution lately.”
“You do not need to be the enemy. You are free to go anytime you want to leave. You may use the bathroom before you go.” He smiled at that one. “However if you stay we have a gifted young metahuman who can help cleanse your virus.”
“Not doing much to hide the offer of a brainwashing.” I snorted, checking behind me to see if anyone had gotten bored and left a hole. The speed freak was tapping away on a phone like crazy, but kept looking up periodically.
“I have been convinced to offer you sanctuary. We hope to make you safe.”
The meanings of those sentences didn’t go over my head. My reflexes were too fast. I caught them.
Really put me in a bad spot there. If I took their offer, I get locked up. Yeah, sanctuary. Right. If I didn’t, I’d just get locked up when they found an excuse to not let me go. Sun Tzu 101 there. Give a cornered enemy an escape route; otherwise, they’ll fight like their life depends on it. If they did let me go, I’d walk around as a potential Trojan Horse for the aliens.
I reached back with both hands to the small of my back and grabbed the popsicle sticks, one in each hand. I brought them around, ready, in both hands. Some of the heroes around Mender stepped up just in case, so obviously my reputation with improvised weaponry preceded me.
I closed my eyes, breathing, trying not to think. Thinking would cloud my judgment, by bringing to mind the fact that I’d rather be surrounded by an army of superhumans than an army of non-super criminals. Or by wondering if some of what Venus and Wildflower said might possibly have a hint of truth to it, maybe. But I also thought of my first instinct: don’t trust them. Don’t trust ’em, don’t like ’em, just try to survive the fight with ’em. Except that could be another version of “Serve, obey, pave the way.” It was my first instinct…but I could no longer trust my instincts. Or my mind.
With a sneer that was just as much about grinding my teeth in frustration, I held out my arms and dropped the sticks.
“Ok,” I told them through gritted teeth. “I don’t trust y’all, but I don’t have a choice. Let’s purge some malware up in this bitch.” Fucking hell, I wish I had my armor at that time. I felt so damn naked in front of all of them. Psycho Gecko, needing help. Psycho Gecko, surrendering. Psycho Gecko, some beaten thing. I tilted my head downward, maybe intentionally getting some hair in front of my face, wondering when the attack would come.
It came in the form of a pouncing animal-plant-woman hybrid who purred way more than she should have as she wrapped me in a hug right there for everyone to see. Hurt and embarrassed, I interrupted her little cuddle puddle purr session by telling her, “You don’t have to pretend anymore. Protect you, my ass. Congratulations on fooling me. You’re an excellent spy.”
She pulled away from the hug, suddenly losing much of her enthusiasm and smile.
“Come on, let’s show our new guest to some quarters. We should have one to spare after all the work the tanks have been doing since they got here.” Venus said, seemingly breaking up the entire meeting there.
There’s been a certain order of priority seen in many of the greats. Tony Montana once said that you get the money, then the power, then the woman. Vegeta, the Prince of all three and a half Saiyans, believed in immortality first, then the bitches. First I conquer my brain, then the aliens, and then maybe I’ll worry about getting laid again.