And so Psycho Gecko is almost like a hero to many people. Hurrah. Not all of them, though. Some folks evaded the cloud, or had their own protections in place. Technolutionary still hasn’t turned up, except in the memories of a lot of folks. First there was Psycho Gecko, then Priscilla Powers, and now at least two hundred other folks from Empyreal City are like me, including Venus. I am no longer a species by myself here, and that’s odd in its own way, too.
A lot of folks were real apologetic about their treatment of me, their lack of trust in me. Good Doctor seems like he could be one of them, though maybe we’ll call it even given what I did to Forcelight. Still, he and I are at least tolerating each others’ presences, but it gives me hope in a sort of way. The ability to hold onto that grudge despite all the good I did…it’s comforting to see Doc hasn’t lost that part of his own humanity.
Hasn’t stopped some of the philosophical questions popping up now with some of these other survivors. “What does it mean to be human?” and all that mess. The same kind of stuff people should have realized to ask when the aliens, robots, superhumans, and two World Wars showed up, but that’s just my opinion. At the end of the day, “human” is a species, not some mystical quality that makes one thing better than another.
It’s that focus I could begin to understand, like when Venus kept touching a cellphone to see what would happen while everyone else enjoyed a celebratory party. It wasn’t the only one. With the food situation being what it is in Empyreal City, there’d been a major effort to get relief supplies to the city. Not everyone cared for FEMA’s MREs, but a hell of a lot of other folks ordered or donated food and beer. Especially where my group is concerned. Though I know it’s premature, I let them all enjoy it anyway. Even Girl Robot and Wildflower, since I was ignoring them for the time being.
Instead, Venus. I walked over as she swapped the phone from one hand to another. “Congratulations. You went from an unpowered member of one species to an unpowered member of another species. I think by now it’s a bit redundant for the villain to tell the hero that we’re so much alike, eh?”
Venus looked at me, then closed her eyes and held the phone up. She flipped it front ways and back, taking advantage of the cameras on both sides. “This is so weird. I’m never going to get used to this.”
“You’ll get used to it. Or you’ll go crazy, but that sounds like a bit of a stretch, right?” I smiled. “By the way, you’ll want to-”
She opened bulging eyes as she glanced down. I noticed her eyes flick from side to side, up and down, like looking at something only she could see.
“Yep, there it is. Welcome to the world wide web, Venus. Try not to think of porn.” I chuckled, knowing exactly what happens when you tell someone not to think about something. The look on her face really sold it. I reached over and pressed my hand to the phone. The intrusion of my thoughts on hers interrupted her, as did me switching off the phone’s data feature.
“How do handle all of that at once?” she asked.
I held up a hand, “Just so we’re clear, that’s what she said, eh?”
She rolled her eyes at me. “Constant internet access straight to your head. Anyone would be eccentric with that.” She flashed me a smile that soon disappeared when our wires got crossed on the phone. It made her jump just a little. “Whoa, that’s weird. That must be what happens when two people like us touch something that way?”
I nodded and flashed a smiley face on the screen facing her. She glanced at it, then back up at me. “Hey, no hard feelings about me trying to kill you, right?”
I waved it off. “Normally, it wouldn’t much matter and I’d want to kill you anyway, but I like you, for an enemy. A nemesis, if you will. We’re not so different, you and I. Wait, I just brought that up. Anyway, it’s the aliens who were pushing the buttons, right?”
She nodded. “I have vague memories sometimes. I see our confrontation like it was a dream. I wasn’t there in the fight.” She sighed.
“Could have fooled me. Finally, we go at it to the death and you’re the one who penetrates my body. But if you weren’t there, where were you? You said it was like a dream, so were you sleeping?” I had wondered about this. There had been a certain amount of trauma and drama caused by people after they’d awoken from their controlled state, but no one I’d run across seemed particularly mindfucked from the experience itself. It’s not like they’d perceived themselves to be trapped forever in a lake of fire, the heat so hot it cracked the bones beneath their rapidly numbing and peeling skin. Some people look at that description and go “Jesus H. Christ!” And that’s about accurate.
Venus flinched. “Paradise.”
“Do I need to check your neck now? I thought we got that all cleared up.” I used the phone’s camera to capture a picture of her expression.
She pulled her hand back away from it. “It was paradise, like they said. My body did whatever it did without me noticing, but my mind was locked in some fantasy world where everything was right. I look back on it and think ‘How did I believe this was real?’ but it was controlling my perceptions. It kept me from noticing, and I keep wondering what my body did with them in control.”
“If it’s any consolation, Venus, while I didn’t like how our fight went, at least the pre-battle screw was very satisfactory.” She punched me in the head. Lightly in the head. “They must have read up on some nice positions.” That got me another punch. I continued anyway, “I think that last one was called ‘One Man Bucket,’ but that’s just the short name. The longer name is-” She gave me another punch that was interrupted by someone calling out.
“Hey, boss, why you let her hit you like that?” I turned to find Carl approaching, chewing on an ice cream cone that he must have been working on for a bit. A former thug for hire that I kept after he amused me on a bank job, Carl had served me well, if a bit redundantly. I’m not good with teams, or with close leadership positions, and I also figured he deserved to stay out of harm’s way. As a result, I set him up with a cushy job here in Empyreal City as my puppet Vice President of my fake front company while I traveled the world. It sorta defeated the purpose when I came back and actually built the damn thing up to help fight against some alien invasion I’d heard would happen.
Considering all the things I’d tried to put into place that turned against me, perhaps I should be grateful that I hadn’t yet had to use all of them. Like my new rocket sax, or all the other rockets I’d prepared. Or the Dimension Bomb I’d been working on. Though I will definitely have to use that one. These alien bastards aren’t done yet.
“Gotta let her get some good licks in,” I said, dodging another teasing punch to the head from Venus at the innuendo. “How are you doing? Recovering well enough? Hugged a TV recently?”
He cocked his head, puzzled. “I’m alright. Haven’t hugged no TV yet. Is that a new joke that’s been going around? I heard someone calling someone else ‘dank’ recently, and I think it was a good thing.”
I reached over and patted him on the shoulder. “Word, dawg. I was just checking, trying to keep it fo rizzle up in the hizzy. I didn’t know if you’d been upgraded to be like me. You aren’t noticing anything weird when you try phones, are you?”
He stared at me for a silent couple of seconds, then answered, “No.”
It’s been hard to keep up with people like him. Everything is a mess, the way it often is after big crises like this. A worse problem is that this one isn’t over, something others seem to keep forgetting. I doubt the government really believes it’s over, but it’s also the victory they needed for the President to make a big speech. Kinda like how the Battle of Antietam was a turning point that allowed Lincoln to make the Emancipation Proclamation. In that case, both sides had pretty much fought to a stalemate, but the South retreated, so it was seen as a Northern victory. In this case, we liberated millions of people and gave other folks the idea to start dumping Long Life regenerative nanites all over people, even though the alien fleet’s still around and a ship is still parked right over Empyreal City.
But before that speech, I had a very special thing to do for myself. It involved my armor pod I left behind, which I had repairing and restoring my armor. Knocking a few dents back out of it. Restoring all the microcameras and projectors, the nanite quilt layer, all of that. And while it was busy with that, I dipped my hand into a spare vat of nanites and gave them some special orders.
I still have curves, and a pretty face, because why not check a few more marks on some arbitrary Mary Sue box while I work my ass off to kill the unkillable? But I did drop the boobs after all. Alas, it won’t be the same trying to use knockers to knock someone’s block off, but oh well. And I brought back Richard, “Tricky Dick” Penis as well. Before anyone asks, that’s just a joke. I didn’t actually name it that. Some people may give them names, stuff like Genghis Long, Atilla the Hunk, or John Hungcock, but not me.
In the end, I went from bitch to bishonen. I still greatly resembled my Norma Mortenson identity, enough to be recognized. This only added to the surprise that ran through the room when I stopped by Master Academy East to watch the big speech that’d been announced for that day. First, people who hadn’t been around before probably wondered why I’d hang out there for this. My legal status had been considered somewhat hazy since the nanite rain, with some particularly wrong folks thinking I’ll get a pardon, but I’m still legally arrestable. Another bit of confusion came about because I’d changed sexes again. Even more confusion hit some of the guys because of how pretty I looked.
I sat down on the couch next to Wildflower. The person I sat on wisely decided to squeeze out from under me and let me keep the seat. “You’re early.” She said, crossing her arms.
I glanced down at her claws as they tapped along her arm. “Maybe I wanted to have a talk with an angry superheroine? Also, where did everyone go all of a sudden?” The room had emptied all at once without me noticing. Odd.
“Because we’re having some couple talk and nobody wants to be around that.” She sighed. “I wanted to be with you because you’re strong and you would protect me. You left me behind.”
“To be fair, that’s a pretty messed-up reason to want to date a messed-up person.” I added, not helping my case.
“I know you’re dangerous, but what attracted me to you is the way you could be dangerous to anyone but me.”
“That’s the only reason you liked me?”
“That and the way you looked after me in the asylum.” She’s referencing, of course, the time I beat her up and imprisoned her in an abandoned insane asylum. It made more sense in context.
“As soon as I got back and saw you were still seemingly yourself, I came and got you.”
“You left me in the first place. I’ve talked to your friends and you had Moai with you. You took him, and probably other things, then you deliberately wasted time coming back. I didn’t mean much to you.”
“And I was the big monster you hid behind so no one could ever hurt you, and all it cost was some sex. And a bit of my money, come to think of it.” I smiled. “Though I don’t care about the money that much.”
“I don’t know about us getting back together,” she said.
I nodded. “Yeah. I guess when it comes down to it, this wasn’t a very healthy relationship. I’ll give you awhile before I tie you up and toss you back into my bed again, how about that?”
She snorted. “You better become top monster again, ‘dear,’ or I might have to hitch my wagon to the aliens.”
“This isn’t a good time to joke about that. Also, shh,” said someone nearby. Looking up, I found the room populated once more. Uncanny. This time, they had popcorn. It helped transition Wildflower and I from the awkward possibly-broken up stage to just sitting there watching as the President of the United States appeared behind his podium.
“My fellow Americans, I have come to you today with an momentous announcement. Our planet, the home of humanity, has played host to alien lifeforms in the past. Now, we find ourselves preyed upon by a new set. Yes, there have been attempts by the aliens to negotiate with us, but they have not bargained in good faith. The rumors that the aliens are taking over people are true. They seek the end to human free will. They underestimated human ingenuity, however. The superheroine known as Forcelight answered the call and took charge. Thanks to this young hero, the alien satellite that allows them free rain to warp our minds has been destroyed. Her creations, the Long Life regenerative nanotechnology, are being deployed worldwide to combat the threat. You have seen their effectiveness in liberating Empyreal City. We owe a debt of gratitude to Forcelight and all the heroes who answered the call. Even those who have otherwise shown themselves to be enemies to our way of life, such as The Claw, have stepped up to help us fight. We are grateful for their efforts, but I assure you, they are not the only ones helping us in this fight for our very existence…”
Yada, yada, yada. Some big, long-winded speech making it clear that the aliens are the enemies, the good guys will do something about it, and the person who saved the day totally wasn’t that supervillain guy who has been putting all the work in. They gave The Claw recognition over me! Then again, he has biological weapons and nuclear missiles. I bet if I had nuclear missiles, I’d get more respect. No, wait, that’s the same line of thinking that keeps making North Korea look so stupid. Either way, I did notice a few glances toward me while the speech went on. A couple people noticed the lack of acknowledgement. Politics. Petty politics.
Well, at least until one of the secret service agents pulled his firearm and shot the President. I thought the feed just immediately cut away, until I noticed how weird the lighting got again. Looking back out the window, I saw we had the barrier back.
Oh joy. It occurs to me now that is another way to divide enemy forces in order to conquer them.
I stood up in my seat and shook my fist upward in the general direction of the alien ship. “Of course you realize dis means war.”