In Kingscrow, Forcelight had been busy. After enlisting the help of The Good Doctor, her father and my old ally, I used her influence and money to arrange a furlough for him to engage in super duties. I had the help of her Board of Directors, too, since I still maintained remote access to their corporate accounts and made sure I was blind carbon copied on the various emails about the nanite projects.
Interesting stuff, there. Their little human trials were a bit more extensive than the news reported on, on prisoners in addition to legal test subjects, then with military trials. A hell of a lot of military trials, too. Oh, and they stockpiled a huge amount this entire time because of expected high demand. That’s actually some awesome news. They wanted to make damn sure they had enough of this crap, even for sale in other countries. They had some in clinics all over the world, from China and India to Germany and the UK. Isla Tropica didn’t have any coming their way, but Argentina and Brazil are looking at getting some better healthcare.
I know some of those countries have universal healthcare, but the wealthy can afford better care wherever they go. That universal stuff is just about the average folk. Let them make their own nanites. With blackjack. And hookers!
That information is all quite awesome for me, since I needed huge numbers of these things, and since they’ve all been working off a copy of programming I corrupted long ago.
It was nice getting all caught up on that, all while directing Forcelight like a slightly clumsier second body. They flying was cool, too. Flying is one of those powers that makes someone feel really superhuman. It’s pretty damn cool to lift a car with your hands as easily as you would a beer can, or take a gunshot like someone threw a pebble at you, but those things are still comparable to natural human abilities. After all, that’s why the analogies work as far as lifting beer cans and making people throw pebbles at you. But flying doesn’t really have an analogy like that. It’s like jumping, except nobody tells you you need to come down at the end and gravity can take a long walk off a short pier. And that’s not really analagous, because everyone else who goes up must come down. Except for the crew of the Challenger space mission.
Also, the wind feels kinda funny on my boobs. Er, her boobs. The problem with looking through two sets of eyes is that sometimes you forget which one is yours. The only other time I did anything like this, I didn’t maintain control for very long. That’s why I gave Moai permission to jostle me from time to time if I seemed a bit lost. But sometimes I had to know when to ignore him, like when I flew around Kingscrow looking for one cape in particular who Forcelight heard was in the city. He seemed exactly the type whose tenacity and armor-piercing weaponry would be ideal for helping to penetrate enemy forcefields.
The fact that I could manipulate him using his hate of me was also pretty cool.
So I flew over Kingscrow, going all “Whee!” in a fashion that I’m sure the stoic Forcelight never let herself do. After all, serious heroes don’t have fun. Serious heroes must feel hardass responsibility for their powers, and all that nonsense. Having fun is not properly heroic, and so every good cape’s tights must be bunched to the letter of the regulations.
Alright, already; like a modest mouse, I floated on through the night and went to stop by the Low Earthy Bar. The hero in question wouldn’t have been permitted in, and neither would I while wearing Forcelight’s face. But I figured I could fly overhead and look for anybody doing surveillance. Like all my ideas, it was awesome to the max and I soon found my target on the roof of a pawn shop, watching comings and goings from the villain bar through binoculars.
I landed next to him, apparently expected from the lack of response. “Hello there, Lone Gunman.”
The murderous vigilante wore all black in the hopes of blending into the urban night of Kingscrow. His outfit this evening consisted of jeans, a loose button-up shirt, a dark bandana-style mask tied around his face, and a sheriff’s start with a bullet hole through it that I glimpsed when he turned away from his vigil to briefly look me over. Unimpressed, or just busy, he then turned back. “Formal as always, Forcelight. Go. You are scaring off the prey.”
I first met him when he was Holdout, the nubile teen sidekick of a Western-themed superhero named Sixgun. The precocious piece of jailbait found my hideout one day and attempted to explore it all on his own. I caught him and, figuring he’d tipped off his hero or otherwise had a tracker on him, proceeded to torture and try to kill him using what was left while the movers transported my stuff to a new location. Said torture session involved me taking my sausage to his face and choking him with lots of white stuff. White stuff called marshmallows, you filthy-minded folks. Thought I killed him, especially after we were caught in what looked like a compromising position. Had to kill the movers, too, when they thought it was something that it looked like. Since I spotted Holdout alive while engineering their deaths, I then tried to kill two birds with one stone. One of the birds survived. In the end, all my efforts to murder the sidekick were stymied by one circumstance or another and I had to settle on killing his hero instead. Holdout vowed revenge, changed his name to Lone Gunman, and has tried to kill me once or twice since.
He has yet to succeed, for the obvious-impaired among my readers.
“They aren’t prey, they’re people,” I told him. And I believe it. They are people. To think otherwise is to dehumanize them in order to avoid the harsh feelings associated with killing a person. Pansy. He kills prey, I kill people.
“Anyone who seeks to prey on his fellow man is my prey,” he answered, raising a small pad and pen to note something. He glanced at his watch, then he set the pad down and moved a black hat over it from where it had sat on a rifle. Wouldn’t be a fake cowboy without his hat, I guess, and I doubt the gunslingers of the old west favored Russian Mosin Nagants rifles. He pulled it up as if a blur, checked to make sure it was still loaded, raised it, and popped a shot off at somebody who had left the Low Earthy Bar and crossed the street.
At times like that, I wish I had eyes that zoomed. Perhaps I can pimp my superhero when I get the time later on? Nah, something tells me she wouldn’t appreciate it. I did walk Forcelight over enough to grab his binoculas and look. Off in the distance, a man in a suit and fox mask was on his knees, pulling his mask off to try and breath and get a better view of the whole in his sternum. Just some old guy with grey hair and wrinkles on his face. A villain who got old.
He waved off another person, a woman in a dress and a bunny mask. Unfortunately for her, Lone Gunman took another shot. She went down with a puff of fluid. The fox raised himself to his feet. Gunman, for whatever stupid reason, took his time getting another shot off. Probably some stupid thing like savoring the moment instead of finishing off a wounded person. I mean, I’m not saying I’m the most moral person around, but it was a good example of why I think Gunman is shit.
It worked against him, too, because Fox ran to the side, for the doorway of a cornerstore. When Gunman took another shot at the wounded man, things happened almost too quick to see. Fox leaned back super quick, in a way that looks like a videogame bug or bad film editing. He was in the same spot the bulled passed through, and then suddenly he wasn’t. But it wasn’t like he’d rewound time, either, because his legs were planted forward and his body was back. He made it into the store while Gunman cussed and reloaded.
Hmm. I’d have to look up the fox later. It didn’t look like super speed, so maybe some sort of time manipulation or reflexes are involved. At the very least, I can get him to Empyreal City by giving him a tip on Gunman’s locatin. Speaking of…
I dropped the binoculars next to him. “You missed one.”
Gunman gathered up his pen and pad and stuck them into his vest. “It’s wounded. I can track it and kill it.”
I crossed my arms. “Not what I meant. Do you know where Psycho Gecko is right now?”
He stiffened up for a moment, and not in the fun way. Turning to look at me, he answered, “He had something to do with what’s going on in Empyreal City, right? Knowing him, he got out before they put the shield up.”
I shook my head. “He didn’t. I was talking to Venus when the barrier went up. They had him in custody at the new Master Academy campus at the time.”
“Custody?” he asked. “Bullshit.”
I smiled. “Nope. He was desperate for help against the aliens and they gave him a place to stay. I hear his girlfriend tricked him into it. I swear to God that Psycho Gecko was with them when the shield went up.”
And if I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’, eh?
Gunman gave the Low Earthy Bar one last glance and turned toward me, then began unloading and breaking down his gun. “What do you want from me?”
“It’s an impenetrable barrier holding the man you want to kill more than anyone else in the world. You, who knows an awful lot about weapons that penetrate much more than they should. I hope you don’t kill him, but I want to get in there. Want to give it a go for me?”
He grunted, maintaining regulation bunched undies, and stepped up to the edge of the roof. He settled his hat on his head, and nodded toward me, then jumped off the side of the roof.
If only it wasn’t a one-story shop.
Ah well, I’m sure that’ll work out fine.
Back at Forcelight’s home, I gave her a little bit of free time after our shower. Confirming my prior statements on how bad her priorities are, she chose to stand in front of her bathroom mirror, crying, and say, “I hate you.”
I took over her mouth to respond. “Save it for after I’ve saved the world from slow alien invasion. You saw that they’re trying to get more of their clinics going?”
“You don’t have to do it this way. Trust in heroes, trust in us.”
“I want to, sweetie, but moment I started to, y’all screwed up stopping the invasion. It’s not a matter of trust; it’s a matter of competence. Y’all didn’t want to do what I could clearly see had to be done.”
“Because you’re a fucking nutjob!”
I raised her eyebrow and smiled back at her with her own face. “You say that, but you’re the one talking to yourself right now.”
I balled her hand up in a fist and gentle prodded her cheek with it. “Stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself.”
She shook her head, more tears flowing. “It’s so important to you, huh? You’re playing around, that’s all you’re doing.”
I smiled, despite her tears flowing down our cheeks. “My dear, you can’t live as dark a life as I have without learning to be real damn good at seeing the little silver linings. And I’ll have you know I’m treating this situation with exactly the gravity it warrants.”
Meanwhile, over in Las Vegas, I stepped out of a high-end clothing store clad in the finest tight white leather pants and jacket I could buy, with gold patterns sparkling around the occasional blue and red rhinestone. Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” announced my exit from the clothing store as Freddy Mercury announced that he too felt that girls with big asses, not money, make the world go round. I clapped my hands and started shaking my ass, mindful of the wide-brimmed white hat on my head, wondering if the peacock feather was glued into the brim somehow. I took off my sunglasses momentarily when I got my head rolling around.
“Left alone with big, fat Fanny. She was such a naughty nanny, you big woman, you made a bad boy outta me!” sang what I’d claim to any passerby was an iPod as I stood up and smacked too passing women in their asses.
“What. The hell. Are you doing?” asked Sam Hain, one of Mix N’Max’s loyal helpers, flicking a large wave of purple hair from where it fell on the shaved half of her head back over to the half with hair. It’s a good look on her. Went well with her grey jacket and pants. Her friend Holly Wayne looked away, trying not to be seen with me, what with her nice padded coat and ass-hugging jeans.
“You don’t like?” I asked, maintaining eye contact through my mirrored sunglasses while still rolling my butt in the air. I turned off to the side, where I saw a mustached man in short-shorts dancing along with me. “They just don’t get it, do they?”
He stood up, “No they don’t, do they Jonesy?” He turned to a friend of his, a large black man, who stood with his face in his hands. Without saying a word, Jonesy turned and started walking away. The man in the shorts told me, “Sorry, he’s usually more polite than this, but it’s been a long trip from Reno.” He began to chase after his friend, calling out for him.
“Are you done?” asked Holly, a hint of desperation in her voice.
“I don’t know. Moai, we done here?” I turned to check for Moai, who walked out behind me wearing a jumpsuit originally meant for really fat Elvis impersonators, along with a pair of his own mirrored shades and the obligatory wig. He nodded at me. I looked back to Holly. “The King says yeah. Come on, let’s go meet Max. Lake Tahoe, you said?”
Sam nodded. “Yeah. You’re lucky he sent us to pick you up. The Lords of Vegas don’t like people like you.”
I turned my nose up at her as I helped myself into the yellow convertible she and Holly had shown up in to pick me up from the Las Vegas airport before I insisted on clothes shopping. I lost a lot of outfits in the flight from Empyreal City. Hell, I pretty much just brought my armor, the Dimension Bomb sitting in private storage, and any nanites or explosives I could carry with me. And when I called to let Max know I’d landed in his new favorite town, he insisted I let the girls drive me. Something about them having errands in Vegas anyway and being less likely to draw a lot of heat down on him. Don’t know what he’s talking about.
For their part, Holly and Sam were not happy to see me again. I don’t know why I’d disappoint them. I’m like everyone’s favorite uncle; the one who likes to teach children all sorts of fun things out behind the shed. They didn’t want to even let me shop at first, until I mentioned that I’d have to start picking stuff out of their wardrobes to wear. Suddenly, my clothes became top priority.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I can go see what they’re putting in the water here in Vegas. Knowing Max, something fishy could be afoot. Like turning people into giant fish. Or feet. Could go either way with him.
It’s always nice to have a kindred spirit.