In the days after the mayhem at the motel, Max was unusually distant. He’d healed me up just fine, but this time he’d adjusted the unknown concoction to minimize the side effects. They stayed away from me, but not as much as last time, so I assume there was less risk of an explosion this time. Don’t know where the green stripes came from. That said, he approached me a few days afterward. “Now that we have created distance from the latest attempt by the extraterrestrials to wipe you off the face of this Earth, I would dearly like a word, my friend Gecko.”
He’d chosen a polite enough moment, after I broke up a minor spat between the Claw delegation and the runaways from Master Academy. Moai blocked me when I started to offer my first incentive to work together: a horrible mutilation from me if they didn’t. Moai took the metal pipe out of my hand and held up a bikini for me instead. Smart magically-animated hunk of rock, that Moai. I need all the rocket parts I can get, and it turns out I don’t look half bad in a bikini. Cold as balls, though. Or lack of balls, in this case.
Believe it or not, I don’t try to oggle myself. Saying I’m a sexy beast is one thing; being sexually attracted to myself, on the other hand, is gross.
After all that, Max walked up with a coat in one hand and a mug of hot chocolate in the other, asked to have a talk, and we sat down in his car.
“Okily dokily, Max. What’s that word?” I held the mug close enough to my face to get all steamed up, but didn’t drink. Not with it that hot. And it occurred to me that it may not be chocolate in the cup.
Max smiled that Cheshire grin of his, “The word? The word is ‘No.’”
I raised an eyebrow. “You don’t have to help me.”
Max poked me in the chest, between the boobs. “I will help you because you are right, friend. If they win, we all lose, and we must work together to defeat this otherworldly threat.”
I opened my mouth to ask what this was all about then, but he cut me off.
“However, let me remind you of a little detail from the other night: you don’t kiss Sam.”
As if reading my mind, he went on, “She is not my property, nor is she yours.”
I smiled too. As he’d spoken, an idea flickered through my head. A private joke. Something I’ve been toying with. I pushed it aside to address the fracturing of a friendship with a man who is keeping me alive while everyone and their mother has decided to make my life a little harder. “This is a rights thing? I thought that was my line. Having freedom means the freedom to take the consequences, and all that.”
“Gecko, I don’t care about the lofty language you use to justify and deceive. Sam and Holly are not my property. They are friends and companions. They shan’t be much longer if you are allowed to do whatever you want with them.”
“Allowed?” I grabbed his finger and pushed it away, possibly causing his ass to suck in air. I don’t know, but I wouldn’t put it past him to have figured that one out. “If you were almost anyone but you, we would need to examine that choice of words. But you are you. And they are with you. Ipso facto Humma Kavula, I will acquiesce. I won’t touch them anymore unless they ask for it.”
I paused for a second as another thought ran through my head. Max saw that look in my eye, which is all the more impressive for them being cybernetic, and responded with, “You won’t even play at finding ways to make them ask for it. I need them, thus you find yourself in the position of needing Sam and Holly. Do not be contrary in the face of a countermanding command.”
Well, he had me there, but in a good way. Anyone who does whatever you tell them not to do is too easily controlled. Every once in awhile, the best way to do the unsuspected is to do what they hope and expect, whoever the “they” in question is.
I sighed and raised my mug up to blow on the chocolate. “Fine. Now, can you tell me if this is real hot chocolate, or is it going to make me look like even more of a Gumbie Cat? I’ve tiger stripes and leopard spots.” I shook my belly to emphasize the coloration changes I’d been through lately.
Max accepted my statement and settled back easily into his seat. “Gecko, you would need to sit upon the windowsill, or anywhere that’s smooth and flat. You’d sit, and sit, and sit, and sit. That’s what makes a Gumbie cat.”
“That’s what makes aaa Guuumbie caaat!”
Holly and Sam soon pulled up with Ethan Basford’s car and a new travel trailer for them to find us two murderous supervillains singing our way through a song from Cats. It also gave me the idea to put on a skintight leotard and sing “Macavity the Mystery Cat” next time a fight almost breaks out. The proper singing technique for that number involves constantly rolling your hips while seductive music plays.
Max probably conveyed my apologies to Sam, especially since I didn’t and it would make her feel better to hear such. I don’t know, it was about time I actually saw to the special thing we’d stop for: The Great Lakes Googly Moogly, aka the only joint Canadian-American strip club. By combining Canadian beer with desperate American women, the genius who thought it up created possibly the most potent force in stripping yet seen on the face of the earth, all on one convenient ship parked on Lake Superior.
They loved us, especially after I worked out a deal to claim to my growing group of malcontents that I might give the pole a try. Unlike all the people willing to let me fight an alien invasion on my own, they believed me. I think the difference is hope, and how good the lie looks. And I don’t mean to brag, but these fucking tits, man.
While our main body made its way from west to east, the more heroic group took things in another direction: down to up.
As a corporate bigwig, Forcelight had somewhat friendlier access to another of the large and in charge sort. Very large. Pritchard Ajax. I’d wonder why so many famous people have weird names, but for both the naming conventions of superheroes and the fact that I’m Psycho Gecko. I’ve said plenty of times that it’s not hypocrisy when I do something, but that’s a stretch that beggars belief.
But we were talking about Pritchard Ajax. I used Forcelight’s status and influence to convince him we needed to meet. He was so enthusiastic about it, his directions advised her to meet him at the airport and be prepared for a quick flight.
After the epic battle to keep her bust inside of her clothing, I took Forcelight and just Forcelight to a private airstrip to meet him. Hopefully, Lone Gunman or Good Doctor won’t get into a fight, but I’d rather prefer Doc come out of it alive, and that’s probably the only sentiment I and the trapped Forcelight share. She has a mouth, and she can’t scream. Hell of a lot more impressive of an accomplishment than taking away the mouth in the first place.
I stepped right up to the Vesta Aerospace jet as the door opened. Pritchard stepped out onto the top of the steps, dressed in dark blue pinstriped suit, bright red shirt, and no tie. “Ms. Young, we meet at last!” he exclaimed with all the flair of a supervillain about to launch into monologue. He had the look of one, too. Could have been Lion Man or something with the beard and long hair like that. It was almost ’80s hair, it was so wild. The Rum Tum Tugger is a curious cat is what I’m saying here, folks.
“No, no, no, Mr. Ajax, we meet at first!” I answered. Away from Doc, I could be more like myself.
We greeted each other with an air kiss, because nothing says class and refinement like being too good to kiss someone lest you pick up some of their lower class skin filth. Maybe I’m reading too much into that.
“Come in, come in,” Pritchard ushered me into the jet.
I took a seat and found myself served by a waitress I would have sworn I recognized from dirty pictures online. Here is where most people would deny looking at such, especially after having expressed a dislike of most of you humans on both a personal and physiological level, but a guy has needs. A guy without another of his species in the entire universe especially has needs.
“Where are we going?” Forcelight asked. “If you have a destination in mind, I could have met you in the air.”
Pritchard guffawed and sat across from me. “That’s right. This must be less exciting for you. You fly anyway! But I doubt your flights are this nice, eh?”
“You got me there, Mr. Ajax.”
“I know you mean that to be informal, but there is incredibly important business to discuss.”
“Please, Ms. Forcelight, try to relax. We aren’t going anywhere. I wanted to give you a relaxed meeting in the sky, away from the milieu of boardrooms and offices, not to mention the dreary cliche of the lunch meeting. We will fly around, though with amenities and luxuries you may enjoy. If you’re hungry, we can have a bite. If you feel like a drink, the flight attendant is an excellent bartender, though we have many softer beverages as well.” As if on cue, he held out a hand and beckoned over the flight attendant. She offered him a dark glass of…root beer? The teetotaling, lion-maned businessman gestured expectantly, but I waved the stewardess off.
Pritchard chuckled to himself, took a sip, then continued, “If you can’t take your mind entirely off of business, perhaps a financial report or political news? I hear Congress is still debating about your competitor, Double Cross. They harangue the villain who created it, the lizard man, but they are at a loss on what to do. Most of its assets and corporate officers are in Empyreal City, a place no one wants to go to. Or leave, come to think of it.”
I raised an eyebrow. “While that’s interesting, especially given my own intimate experience with Psycho Gecko, I am here today to talk to you about the next frontier for Earth, business, and really everything. The final frontier, in fact. Space.” I could almost hear the opening chords of the Star Trek theme song in my head. “I want to go into space as soon in the near future as your organization can provide. I know your Aerospace division has had its fair share of setbacks…” Which is about like saying North Korea’s had the occasional whackjob ruler. “…but I’m willing to lend certain expertise, funds, and equipment to make it a reality.”
Pritchard had some really big teeth. I realized it because he kept smiling. I really hate smiling sometimes. With Max, it’s like a quirk. He’s a little touched in the head, ya see. But this guy wore it like a business suit: unnatural and meant to keep you focused more on form than functionality.
“Many fine and talented individuals such as yourself have expressed the same interest, but I find myself particularly glad you decided to interest yourself in a journey to the stars. I’ve said to myself recently, I said, ‘Pritchard, if only you could find a good way to broach the subject with Ms. Long, the both of you could go down in history together.’ Now do you know why I said that? Don’t answer, the anticipation is killing me.”
Really? Talking like that, gravity could also do the trick.
He continued rambling on. “I started researching space because I felt, with the groundwork laid by NASA, enough of the technologies were developed to make spaceflight commercially viable. Despite that, there have been bumps on the road to putting a millionaire on the moon.” Amazingly, his grin grew even wider reminding me of Tim Curry but more molest-y. “There are several problems to take into account in space as well, such as repairs, maintenance, and the well-being of the crew. Indeed, I felt your company’s nanites were singularly well-placed to convey a huge boon to my company. Alas, I never found the time or opportunity to approach you. A thousand pardons, may the gods punish me beneath an ever-turning wheel.”
You’re a couple wheels short of a cuckoo clock, aren’t you?
“Now you come to me, like divine providence, like Pallas Athena herself to share your wisdom and to defend our people in their time of need. I have made do without you, Grey-Eyed one, and have built a ship that can attain space flight. It can, in fact, meet with several capsules already launched into space over the past year in the efforts of constructing a colony ship, which we are in dire need of.” Pritchard swept his hand out the window, taking in an Earth in the sights of alien conquest. “I believe we can come to terms on both of our ambitions.”
I picked him up and hugged him like a little girl snuggling a puppy, except if the little girl was perhaps hoping to break a couple of the puppy’s bones accidentally on purpose. Which, at this point, means I just have to work on the bed-wetting and fire-starting to make this situation even more familiar.
“Great,” I told Pritchard, setting him down to try and catch his breath and make sure all his ribs worked properly. “You get me into space in less than a week and you’ve got yourself a deal.”