Now, as I’m so famous for the good of everyone, there’s a limit how much I could do in a non-combat capacity. Especially as far as controlling the media. The internet seemed a good proposition, but one problem with the internet is the widespread use of misinformation. One accurate voice can easily be lost among the multitudes.
It’s just the way the world works. People want to hear what they want to hear. It’d be hard to lie to people if they didn’t. Some people see hope as the last good thing in Pandora’s Box, but did they ever stop to think about why anyone would lock it up with the rest of them? Because the best evils are things you like. Lust, greed, gluttony, wrath, pride, envy, sloth, hope. All that crap. And some of them intersect. Like lust, greed, envy, gluttony, and hope. And all of them are pretty good for conning people, except maybe gluttony. Not that many cons involve intense desire for food, except for the old classic, the Chinese buffet that also serves pizza, macaroni and cheese, and chicken nuggets.
I don’t think the aliens are quite in on the usefulness of hope, though. There are armed rioters surrounding the Master Academy’s earthen wall. Just all over, with no chance of escape. I got a good enough look at it when I slipped out. Officially, they asked me to find Master Academy students who had been stranded outside and get them back. Out of the goodness of my heart, that sort of thing. That’s what they think. Now, I have some gadgets, parts, pieces, and tools in my little prefab that I dragged onto campus, so I put together something in a hurry. But a good something. A capable something.
A signal interceptor. It’s been awhile since I used this, but I’m desperate. My signal interceptor is a device that, when installed in a broadcast center, allows me to take over TV broadcasts over a wide area. Like all of Memphis. On top of that, it can have some destructive side effects on actual TV sets, overheating certain elements until they die.
Not the worst thing to have when you’ve got more truth than the internet will let you spew. Sure, give homeopaths more respectability than me. They’re the ones arguing that lead poisoning should be treated with more lead, and fixing bullet wounds with another shot. At least back during American Civil War times, they made it a shot of whiskey. That actually worked as a painkiller.
I mentally nicknamed this “mission” Operation Flaming Star as I hopped on top of the earthen wall and then over the crowd of people around the place. It didn’t occur to me until I got past them that the only ones shouting and throwing things were the ones right in front. The others past that made a few motions and occasionally added a bit of chorus to the shouts, but were otherwise faces in the crowd.
Well, they didn’t have any sort of super secret psychic sense to see me. My armor hid me easily and allowed me to slip the picket line to head south into the city. Once there, I had a few options. There were a couple of locations where friendly heroes and villains had holed up, though I suspected they were just as likely to be double agents at this point. The other option, fuck off and leave, would have been nice…but somehow I doubt the aliens want to play ball and just let me go. I mean, they want the entire world. This one city, the most populous city in the most powerful single nation on Earth, is just one piece. Not the most important one. Just the one they had to do something about because we spoke up, or so I’m thinking. Lastly, we could go for broke and make damn sure the people here know what’s going on.
I think I’ll go with that one. With that many people believing in all this and running, along with eyewitness testimony, it’ll be damn near impossible for all this to stay under wraps. So maybe we got a shot.
Life seemed surprisingly unchanged through much of the city. Not everyone ran to get medical care. Ironically, their stock of potential victims in their “clinics” had already been depleted by Technolutionary.
I called him up. No answer. I reached out to the general number for Sigma Labs. Nothing else. A check with my head of the science division showed she didn’t have a clue about his whereabouts, whatever her name was. I suppose I should try to remember more underlings’ names, or at least assign them numbers. But I can’t really blame her for not knowing what went on at Sigma. It just means Technolutionary and I were much better at keeping secrets. So that was another thing to take care of in this excursion.
I tackled my problem head-on by waltzing into ABC’s local flagship station. One of the good thing about Empyreal City is its importance in the media, or so says the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. I mean, it’s not like breaking into a prison, Congress, or the United Nations. We’re talking the bare minimum of security. I probably could have done it visible.
I don’t think many of them were controlled, or they were better at passing if they were. Which also provides more evidence for few of them being controlled, come to think of it. If they were in the majority, they wouldn’t bother pretending.
Yep, just walked in, dropped my invisibility, snapped the producer’s neck, and began to attach the signal interceptor while everyone was busy screaming and running for their lives. I suppose it could have done things nonlethally, but…why? I mean, especially with the one that stopped just outside the production booth’s door to keep an eye on me. Didn’t even reach for his phone. That’s why I stood up and closed the door. Then punched my hand through the door and into his gut. Twenty feet later, I finished pulling out the spy’s small intestine and tried to squeeze his head through the door as well.
Then it was back to the interceptor, knowing I was on borrowed time, so I helped myself to their handy studio, which had also swiftly been evacuated. Except, once again, for an enslaved human. “Hey, glad to see you’re here, why don’t you come over here…”
He tried to run, but I grabbed him by the leg and the rest followed. Good rule of thumb to remember when leading people around. “Ok there, folks. I have something to say here. This should be going out to a hell of a lot of televisions right now. Nice to see y’all out there in TV Land. Some of you may know me as Psycho Gecko, notorious serial killer, mass murderer, and chocolate bunny aficionado. And you’ve also heard that I’m behind the resistance to these oh-so-benevolent aliens. You know, the aliens who want to put stuff in your heads that makes you walk around talking about how great they are and how they can build a utopia on Earth. Every last one of them. Including folks like Senator Powers.”
I used my armor to project that same damn language from him, as well as my memory of him on TV pushing for superheroes to be registered, his rampage with that FBI empowering tech, and Captain Lightning delivering his communicator organ. This would be an excellent spot for a clip show if this was a TV show.
“And when I toss out evidence, Youtube cockblocks me. So now I have that in common with Channel Awesome and Team Four Star. Oh, and people go around saying I’m provoking heroes. Yeah, sure, heroes are just jumping to do what I say.“
Cue the clip of a very surprised Venus holding my severed arm while I tried to clap.
I shrugged, smearing my captured slave’s panicky face against my armor.
“But let’s not just take it for granted, folks.” I ruffled the hair of the guy I held onto. “After all, this individual here was nice enough to stick around, trying to spy on me here in this studio. Let’s see what he has to say.”
He sputtered, “I, I, I, don’t know, please let me go. I have family! A kid, my girlfriend’s, but I had parents, too.”
I slammed his face onto the desk and held it down there while slipping off a glove. My exposed blackened zirconium nails gleamed in the studio lights. “Now, when vigorously asking people things, you never start with the head. The victim gets all fuzzy. He can’t feel the next…” I dug in with my fingernails, ignoring the screams and jerky flailing of the victim under me. One quick second later and I was hauling out another communicator organ, one I seriously needed a better name for by now. Then I pulled him up so he could address the camera. “See?”
I slipped my glove back on and sealed it as he kept babbling. “Ah! Oh god, it hurts. Fuck! He’s right! He’s right! They made me stay. At first, it was just talking-”
The building shook and the power flickered.
“What’s going on?” my new sidekick asked.
I looked around. “Well, we’re probably not on the air anymore, for starters. One moment…no, we’re done here. You’ll want to run now.”
A deep rumbling made that suggestion sound just dandy to me as well. Nice guy that I am, I even let my bleeding surgery patient run out ahead of me. When nothing grabbed or zapped or disemboweled him, I figured it was safe to run. I hit the invisibility, though, just in case the would-be conquistadors were simply more discriminate about killing than I am.
Crazy guy ran for the stairs. Me, I took the window. My flying leap carried myself and some glass well away from the building in a moment full of action, drama, and a little bit of romance when I landed on a flagpole sticking out from a building across the street. In a major letdown for special effects artists everywhere, no giant beam of light burst forth from the heavens. The outside windows gleamed for a moment, like something flashed by. Then the whole thing blew apart.
Just, apart. Like everything was sliced down to a fine thin shard and it all started flying away from where it had been in every direction. Including the people, unless they had a lot of red and white shit I didn’t see while passing through.
So at first, I figured it was a successful mission, until the sky went dark out of nowhere. No precipitation in the cards today, but it became a dark and stormy day, with rain pouring out of nowhere.
Sure, fine, let the aliens rain on my parade. But the damage was already done, I figured. They realized it pretty quickly if the length of the rainfall was any indication. It stopped after a few minutes and then everything got all foggy and misty. Eh, so what? I stopped by some old Jewish deli to pick up some of the stragglers I’d been sent out for.
I texted Venus to let them know I was close. She started to say the usual shit. Ya know: “Oh my god, what did you do, you doomed us all, you madman? Have my baby!”
In retrospect, maybe she had a point. See, as I approached the deli, I was stopped in my tracks. And not by some fine Jamaican booty, either. Nope, it was by hands made of asphalt which grabbed onto my legs, knees, thighs, and even ass. Held me tight. I amped up the muscle enhancers in my suit to break free. Didn’t budge, so I set it to the level where it starts breaking bones. Good news is, broke my bones, so the pseudomuscles worked correctly. Bad news, another giant hand reached up to hold me still when I started to budge the others.
A wall blew out on the diner, showing a super kneeling there with his hands on the ground. Looked a lot like the one back at Master Academy who built the wall, so maybe an older brother. Well, I’ll have to head back and let him know he’ll be an only child from now on. It’s not all bad. Now his parents can afford to give him twice the presents at Christmas. He just better hope they better not give him that crappy light brown costume they gave his older brother.
The hand guy wasn’t alone, though. The blowing out was done by another one who who had mechanical flamethrowers for hands. He had a flame-pattern red unitard on, because fire supers don’t have a lot of creativity. The flaming wall was scattered further by another teen in an outflit that used Persian blue, Caroline blue, and Prussian blue in repeating columns to create a costume amazingly blue in appearance. I mean, what else do you call that kind of costume?
Facing off against Earth, Wind, and Fire like this, I seriously wanted to smack a bitch. The feeling was mutual. Little boy blue held his hands in front of his torso, where a bunch of winds blew and swirled, carrying little bits of debris with them. The fabulous flamer grinned and spurted a few flames in the air before a constant stream of fire formed into a pair of hands that wiggled their fingers in anticipation of grabbing me.
Trapped as I was, with a couple chicken grenades on me, I knew this was going to be bad. Dammit… a trapped villain being threatened by color-coded heroes with elemental powersets. Death by Saturday Morning Cartoon.
Aha! Saturday morning cartoons! I just needed the power of cheesiness on my side to prevail. And I knew just the way.
While the Battlin’ Blower busied himself with sucking, I reached over and unsealed my gloves. “Hey there, boys. I know y’all are lookin’ for a nice foursome here, and I appreciate the thought, but it’s a bad time of month for me. So how about a handjob instead?”
I fired the rockets on my gloves that I’d added to give them extra oomph in punching. They flew out, empty but still heavy and rocket-powered, to follow in their master’s wish to smack bitches. The first caught the firey one in the cheek just as he lowered his arms and tried to blast me. In a move that showed my amazing long-term thinking instead of luck, flames reached out to lick the one gathering all that air, who instinctively reacted by trying to push the flames away. He let all of his gathered winds loose at once threw off the glove I’d aimed for the crap-colored-costumed one with his hands in the dirty and his dirt hands on my ass. In the plus column, the winds blasted a bunch of grit into his face and pushed him back, causing him to try and shield his face.
I felt the hands’ grip soften on me at once and jumped again, aiming for a building away.
The trio didn’t try to pursue, which worked out great for me. Probably had something to do with still being invisible. The earth guy must have felt my footsteps and got me that way. Well, I wasn’t stepping too easily aside from that, but I did need to stop and give myself a hot nanite injection to get back up to snuff. I don’t kid about my own suit breaking my bones. That’s why I didn’t use these pseudomuscles as much for awhile there.
A weird buzzing on my way back to the Master Academy alerted me to a slight problem, though. The nanites found something extremely unusual since the last time I’d used them, which I swear was pretty damn recently. Y’all know how I live; I always have to worry about hurting myself. So it was kinda odd that they detected some weird new organ trying to grow and displace a device I had in my neck. My gadget is what allows me to control my limbs if my spine is broken. Theirs was an alien plot to take over my brain. I ordered its breakdown. Then I had to order it again as I skipped over a bunch of people to land on the campus wall and one of them informed me that it had tried to regrow itself. I decided to keep myself swimming in nanites for the near future. First a virus, now weird growths.
Walking in the door of my prefab unit, I dropped my invisibility and grabbed another couple of gloves to replace my lost ones. But, hey, the rocket punch was awesome. Just need to cut my hands off next time to make it more awesome. While contemplating ways to work that into my conversation on why I wasn’t going to escort more stupid heroes, I realized the campus looked a bit more…I don’t know…damaged than when I left. Burn marks, craters, fissures in the dirt.
Oh, and there was the tackling when I walked in the door, too. Venus, in full power armor, held my face to the ground. “Hey, you can’t just throw me on the ground of nowhere! Do I look black to you?”
“Are you one of them?” She asked through a filtered voice. Her full power armor was a lot bulkier than mine, but she’d sealed it up tight too.
I decided to stop struggling. I know what to do when Venus jumps on me in a school while wearing power armor people. I’ve had this wet dream before! “Nope. You mean one of the alien puppets, right? They tried a couple times and…hey, this time it’s not trying to grow back.”
Venus didn’t let me up immediately. “Do you want peace on earth and goodwill toward man?”
I shook my head. “Wouldn’t mind a chocolate shake right now, but if you insist on holding this position any longer, I’m gonna have to ask for some body oil and handcuffs, too.”
“We need to test you, asshole.” She hauled me to my feet.
I almost kicked her and ran out of spite and general disagreeability, but…shit, I did still need her help. I didn’t want it, and didn’t want to need it, but I did need it. She carried me down into the basement, down past my special room, to an area that looked rough and carved out of rock. They must have thrown it together. Heavy door, though. Like mine, but one that didn’t pretend to be normal. She cranked something on it where a lock would be and tugged hard. Air blew past us before she hauled me into a sparse room furnished with only a few surgical instruments and one of those rolling beds like they pack in ambulances.
She threw me on there and swung the door closed behind her. “Strip,” she ordered. I thought this was going somewhere fun, and felt like playing along, so I apologized for my lack of tassels and started showing off as best as I could in a pole-less room. She tolerated it long enough for me to free my head from my helmet, then slapped my face into the bedding and held me there.
When she finished, and confirmed there was no evil alien influence on my biology, I jammed another syringe of nanites into my cheek to take care of the bleeding. I swear, no common courtesy from some people. “Satisfied?”
The way she punched me and knocked those teeth loose, I don’t think she was.
“Get suited back up. We’ve got some rooms sealed, but the whole building isn’t protected yet. Don’t ask about the rest of the campus.”
Up in the common room, we entered through another pressurized door. Venus moved to stand watch through the windows. And this couldn’t be all of the heroes. Wildflower jumped into my arms, though, so they didn’t all share that look like I just set their grannies on fire and used the ashes as a litter box.
Holding my purring pretty pussycat, I nodded to Moai, then asked. “So, what’s up with the campus?”
“We were just watching TV,” said one of that weird little trio of identical siblings of different sexes.
The androgynous one of the three picked up the thought and ran with it. “You came on, then when the guy started screaming, you turned off.”
“It started raining, then everyone started fighting,” added the little boy of the triad.
I facepalmed. Wildflower helped me by adding her palm to the blow. “Biological weapon. Screw it, why go after people little by little when no one wants to volunteer?”
“It’s ok,” Wildflower wrapped her tail around my waist. “Some of us weren’t infected and managed to help the others. The Long Life nanites helped long enough to seal up some of the buildings, but we’re trapped in different areas until the effect stops completely or we find a way to prevent the growth in the first place.”
“Oh, sure, yeah, fine and dandy,” I said, shaking my head. I had some bad ideas about what that rain from earlier meant for the rest of the city.
One of the teens, this goth boy, tossed his two cents in, “Someone had to go and decide to play hero. God, we should have sent you to jail. You don’t do anything good. You can’t.”
I turned and pointed at him, “Hey there little hero-wannabe, not all of us can defeat armies with an intensive letter-writing campaign to their daddies. But I’m sure if we all join forces and learn an important lesson about tolerance and teamwork, these vile aliens will be defeated in no time, just like in the movies,” I suggested.
All the external light went dark, then turned blue. My three-sixty display showed the earth’s sky replaced with some neon techno version like I just got sucked into Tron. It looked like a cage went up around the campus. Nah, scratch that. As I approached the window, I could distant skyscrapers backlit by it. This thing had surrounded the city.
I didn’t get a good look before Venus socked me one in the jaw and laid me out. “Happy now?” she asked.
Oh, yeah, like I wanted the aliens to do this. I’m just the one who actually cares about cutting their balls off. “Yeah, I’m pretty happy right now. Real content. Wish you could join me.”