“What puzzles me is that if their dispersal technique is that effective, why is the barrier still up?” asked The Good Doctor. Lone Gunman eyed him suspiciously, but by this point that was pretty much his default assumption around my villainous friend. The fact that Doc turned himself in out of some bizarre desire for penance didn’t seem to matter to him. He still acts like Doc is just a criminal. Couldn’t be further from the truth. Doc is a confused criminal. A very confused criminal.
Then again, he had a point about the barrier thing. It crossed my mind from time to time as well. These…fuck it, I’m just calling them Fluidics from now on…these Fluidics pretty much won in there. Most, if not all, the city were converted. The heroes were going to get their asses stomped in that last battle I ran out on, too. I think the Buzzkills I ordered to hide would also be dead by now if they’d been found and besieged.
As Forcelight, I chowed down on some cereal, looking between the two. The old Good Doctor would be more than capable of stopping Lone Gunman if he tried something. This version…I have my doubts. For one thing, he didn’t like his costume anymore. What kind of a person doesn’t like a black leather coat semi-reminiscent of plague doctors? Though I heard their stuff was more like oilcloth. He even had this nifty helmet that matched. It was nice, a costume any murderer would be proud to stalk people in.
Compare that to the rampant use of tights on women as stacked as Forcelight and her glorious rack. There’s a different sort of pride being shown off there. I very much enjoyed having her assets, though. The contact information for the superheroes, too. Every member of that old super group Shieldwall who wasn’t dead or retired, for example. It saved me a lot of time, because I’d been considering stopping by Memphis to collect Honky Tonk Hero and Gorilla Awesome.
I wanted to gather as many heroes and villains as I could, but the problem was just as bad as when I tried it just in Empyreal City, except this time I didn’t have a pair of social networks making it easier on me. Forcelight’s got some pull, and even Max could walk into a place and get someone on his side, but I’m usually just tolerated until someone needs something from me.
That’s why no one is returning my calls. I don’t have a lot of contacts in the supervillain community these days anyway, and even that fox guy from Empyreal City hasn’t bothered getting back with me. If I could spare the nanites, I’d just grab the whole lot of them. I might have Max come up with something to influence people instead.
Or, better yet, I’m headed to Los Angeles. I figure The Trust still owes me. The Trust is this group, an extended family or bunch of families, who pretty much sold their souls for great magical power under the regime of whatever supernatural overlords they’ll eventually be able to unleash on Earth, except they’re more like the family from Arrested Development than the one from The Godfather. I worked with them some. This guy, Ethan Basford, is one of their patriarchs. As payment for saving his ass, he sent me a magic truth potion. He owes me for that one, too, since Venus turned it around and used it to learn some things from me that I’d rather not have told anyone. Whether he thinks he owes me for that happening doesn’t matter. I’m the one with the mean attitude and the knowledge of exactly how to choke a man with his own testicles.
The secret is tearing them at the base, so they don’t deform.
Much as I hate to say it, I should also stop by the Master Academy. If anyone over there had been let in on me taking refuge with the Eastern Campus, maybe I’ll find allies there. Or at least let them know that their friends are all caught in Empyreal City. I don’t have high hopes for them.
So while I’m heading to L.A., and while Forcelight is calling up her old friends, I’ve found I do have a few people looking to contact me. CIA, FBI, DIA, NGA, MSS, GRU, DIH, MOIS, the other DIA, BND, DGSE, DPSD, MI6, MI5, MI-Done yet?, and Mossad. See what happens? You give one or two spies your card, and soon everybody has your number.
It makes a certain amount of sense, actually. Who wants to spy on a regular person on the street? All you’ll find on their computer is some porn and maybe the occasional web serial. But if you manage to look at a spy’s computer, you’ll get all kinds of juicy information. And the good porn, too. The stuff the Slavic countries keep to themselves instead of exporting to the United States.
At least all those agencies gave me a place to start as far as recommending that the aliens be taken as major threats, but I ignored them in favor of checking on a message from one of the few groups that hasn’t treated me like a child or tried to screw me over. Both of which, I believe, are intrinsically linked. Of course, I mean the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or CDF. They’re not even the Vatican’s intelligence agency, either. Yeah, the Vatican has their own intelligence agency. But as the office originally created as the Inquisition, they have occasionally made use of my talents. Father Poffo, my handler there, was itching to know about the extraterrestrial.
See, that’s really bad news for the Christianity in general. Not because of the idea that life on other worlds could prove their religion wrong. That’s not much of a concern except for some of the crazier sects. But it probably really pisses off any of them that holds to that Original Sin business, since aliens were never in the Garden of Eden and seduced by a serpent into eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Long story short, aliens get to go to heaven without Jesus, because they aren’t born sinners.
Like I said, pisses theologians right the fuck off, so I naturally assumed that Father Poffo wanted some dirt on the Fluidics. He’ll run to the Pope and the Pope can tattle to Yahweh.
So here’s how things broke down: Forcelight made her calls, inviting heroes like Black Raptor and Raggedy Man to either come up and help with Empyreal City, or maybe send some friends who could help out. Moai took a car of his own to go crash The Trust and bring Ethan Basford to me for a chat. Moai’s a really good choice for that considering Ethan’s preference for hanging out with vampires. I sat with Max while Holly and Sam went shopping along Rodeo drive. It was more Holly’s suggestion, but Sam sacrificed her time and energy like many a good friend would. And I waited on hold as I tried to get through the Vatican’s phone lines to contact Father Poffo. Their hold music is some excellent Gregorian chanting, by the way.
“Ya know,” I said to Max while trying to pass the time, him sitting across both backseats and me hanging out in the front. “I kinda miss my dong.” A pair of guys passing by immediately turned away and hurried faster.
“You don’t like being a woman? It seems like a stunt you would enjoy to mess with people.” He laid back, looking into the sky with eyes safely shielded by shades.
I shrugged. “Some parts of it are fun, but it’s not really a stunt. My body…well, that’s not really me, no matter what. I am the armor. This,” and here I gestured to my body, despite him not looking, “Is just what I look like when I don’t want people to realize I’m me. It only stands to reason that if I can be a bunch of different-looking men, I can also be women.”
Max looked over, “You like being a lesbian, don’t you?”
“Actually, that’s the part where I wish I had my boner back. And I like some of the curves, too. The hips, the boobs, the painted nails. That’s the problem, too. I had to make some adjustments to my armor to account for some body shape differences, and I can’t fix that as easily.” Meanwhile, over at the Vatican, I had left the Gregorian chanting behind when I got transferred from International Collections to the Complaints Department. I think I got some of my Latin wrong and they misunderstood, but I got to listen to an organ-only version of O Fortuna, so that was awesome.
“Have you tried keeping your boobs and growing a dick?” asked Max.
I brought my hands together, fingers steepling like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons, “That’s certainly an interesting idea. Yes, maybe…hmm. Ok, maybe I’ll just grow a dick.” I turned to a pair of people who had walked beside us awfully slowly, “Ya hear that?! I’m gonna have my own penis!”
They hurried away, but a man across the street yelled out, “You preach it, sister!” before sauntering off with the guy he was with.
Complaints transferred me to the Heresy Hotline, so I was getting close. Once again, the hold music changed. The Heresy Hotline must not get a lot of callers. That’s the easiest way to explain why their music was AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”. Fitting, I’ll give them that. After a second, it wrung through. “Oooh, yeah, this is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Father Poffo speaking.”
“Hold all thoughts, I have to take this call,” I told Max. To Poffo, I said, “Greetings, padre. Been awhile. It’s God, but you can call me Psycho Gecko for the purposes of this call.”
“I must ask that you do not take the lord’s name in vain, my son.”
“Jesus Christ, will you lighten up? Besides, his name is Yahweh. And this is the Heresy Hotline. It’s your cover to hear this.”
“Uh huh. We don’t normally communicate this way and it’s justifiably putting me in a position I don’t want to be in.”
“Aww, but you wanted to hear from me about the aliens.”
“Oh yeah, my son. Let’s talk.”
I filled him in on the key points of our extraterrestrial visitors: hostile aliens who are using advanced technology to grow mind controlling organs so they can use all of Earth as their own army in some galactic civil war taking place far, far away. Do not accept their medical treatment, and stay away from rain and fog. Most damningly, I informed him, they had some major issues with the concept of transubstantiation, so he better send some missionaries.
“I will keep that in mind, my son. Have you uncovered any physical weaknesses to go along with the spiritual?”
“They’re fluid, but seem to have some sort of solid core that floats around in the fluid. I don’t know if they need some sort of suit to maintain a useful form. In fact, I had one try to choke me out after I tore a hole in its suit. But breaking that core seems to kill them. And I’d really appreciate it if you’re able to send any Catholic supers to help me deal with these guys if I put out the call.”
“Father Church will always remain vigilant against the forces of the Great Adversary, my son. Have faith.”
“Why Father, of course I have faith. She’s tied up in the trunk. I’m thinking about nabbing Grace and Charity while I’m at it. Not sure about Chastity, though. I hear she doesn’t put out.”
“Is there anything else you need, my son?”
“I’m a little hungry. Got a van of candy around?”
And suddenly I’d been hung up on. How rude. The arrival of Holly and Sam was most convenient, though, especially as I got a text from Moai inviting me down to a spot called The Vampire Club. While I’d likely fit in with my fangs, I decided to go in my armor, and without my escort. I didn’t want to stick around just because Max and Sam liked the atmosphere.
Well the sun was high and the color of piss when I chose to visit a spot with a name like this. A lot of them were clearing out under wide brim hats, umbrellas, and so on. I guess fangs had been flying, capes were torn, and a lot of vampires were left scorned. I could see wigs were pulled and top hats were crushed; those pointy boots were in a rush. As I stepped in, a scruffy put-upon bartender slid a beer over to a bald-headed nosferatu who smiled and said, “Thanks for the Bud.”
It wasn’t beer, either. Not that color and thickness. I guess somewhere out there is a bottling plant that hires a lot of people named Bud as blood donors.
In the middle of the room, Moai stood guard over Ethan Basford. An older, thicker, balding man, Ethan managed to look out of place even in the rather diverse crowd I’d spotted around this club so far. Maybe it was the lack of pallor, but you could just tell he wasn’t one of the other undead around. Plus, he had a broken leg. That set him apart.
“Well hello there, Ethan. Nice to meet you. No, no, don’t stand up. I’ll sit.” I helped myself to a chair across from him. He kept wincing and held onto his leg where part of the bone strained against his skin. I pointed to it, “You’ll want to put a bandaid on that, ya know. So, since you don’t even have an option of running away, I suppose I’ll get around to what I want to talk to you about.”
“You know you could have set up a meeting. We parted on good terms, right?” he asked, hissing through the pain.
I shrugged. “Eh, think of it as a little bit of payback for how your little ‘gift’ got used against me.”
He leaned away from me. Maybe he didn’t know for sure, but I figured he had a pretty good guess that sending “three drops of truth” to a supervillain like me would inevitably be used against me.
“Now, Ethan, I don’t want to kill you if I can help it, but I’m in a little bit of trouble right now. I’ve got these guys who don’t like me. Maybe you’ve heard of them; they’re an entire fucking alien fleet parked in Earth orbit. They are obviously quite advanced scientifically in comparison. Now, any sufficiently advanced technology is pretty much just magic to the ignorant, but not everyone realizes how sufficiently advanced magic is a pain in the ass to the scientifically literate. You follow me?”
“You want magic help against the aliens or you’ll kill me,” he reached out and grabbed a glass of some amber liquid, downing it quickly. I’m surprised he held off that long, actually. Alcohol’s use as anesthetic is well known, just like alcohol’s use as a social lubricant, incendiary device, and as the lead writer of numerous reality shows, including Cops.
“Yeah. And you know there are others in your Trust that’d give me what I want for that. The aliens aren’t going to let any of you bring about Hell on their Earth, but I’m sure they’d love to get their hands on your friends from the other side. If you need to know one thing, know this: I am going to annihilate them. This planet ain’t big enough for me and the aliens. So you can help me try and wipe them out…or you can help me go commit suicide. Or I kill you and someone else in your Trust helps me out.”
He held out his hand.
I looked at it, “You’re willing to shake on it?”
“No. I mean, I’ll do it, but could you get me another beer?” he squeezed the air with his hand as if hoping for a glass to fill it.
I smiled under my helmet and raised a hand up. “You heard the man, barkeep! Let’s get some human alcohol over here, and make it strong. The guy’s got a bum leg, so he needs something that could send a bum to bed.”