“I told her to let it go, that’s how I responded to her, doc,” I told Dr. Madigan.
Venus decided to expand on my answer to the couples therapist.“He sang it, he means. The song ‘Let It Go,’ with lyrics to fit his shortcomings.”
“Do you communicate better by song, Gecko?” asked the doctor. “Perhaps we can work this into your therapy.”
“Uh uh. I’m not doing that. Last time someone wanted a song from me on command, I had to throw together some children’s show BS about Skitter flittering or something. Don’t know why they asked me in the first place, but I’m not writing a damn song again, ya hear?”
Madigan tried a more comforting tone, “That’s not what I meant to suggest, but if music speaks to you so profoundly, we could use it to bridge the gap between you two. Now, despite your misgivings, you chose to come back.”
“Why, Gecko? Want to admit I’m right?” asked Venus.
“This therapy isn’t about who is right and who is wrong. It’s about helping you both with your trust and communication issues because you both want this to work, right?”
“Yeah, yeah,” I answered first. “I’m sure you understand that even the idea that I might be wrong and need help is a blow to my pride. After all, while some of my tendencies are ingrained at this point, others are perfectly reasonable ways for me to act because some people are either morons or assholes that deserve what I do to them.”
“Yes. I heard you had a tendency to get into fights.”
“He goes looking for them, doctor.”
“They find me plenty of times. I’ve got a reputation and occasionally that means people want to start something with me. Just recently, I heard this big gang wanted to kill me, so I went after them first. Things got messy, there went the neighborhood.”
“I had a place for him to stay. We were going to hide with some friends of mine, but they showed up and Gecko ran.”
“You already knew about my self-preservation instincts. I didn’t see a way that fight could be won. You think I liked abandoning my girlfriend to all that?”
“Is that why you came back?”
“I made plans to come back as soon as I figured out a way to beat those fuckers. I just had to stop, grab a few fighters of my own, and lay a little groundwork for my return.”
Dr. Madigan broke in here. “How did that make you feel when you realized he left, Venus?”
“I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it then.”
“How about now?”
“…Disappointed. Disappointed in him and disappointed that circumstances worked out that way. The deal was he’d stay with my friends and we’d get him help for his behavior and his PTSD. Then they showed up, and the one person I thought would be standing up to them to the end ran off. Gecko is good at making people forget how much of a coward he is, but I know I have something inside me besides fighting and living that drives me. Sometimes his way makes him better, sometimes my way makes me better.”
“Very good, Venus. Gecko, I’ve noticed that Venus talks about what she hopes to see from you out of this, and you acknowledge you have a problem, but what do you think about her? What do you hope to gain, if anything?”
“Good question. I know what I think of her. That’s easy, at least. Venus, you’re my hero. You’re like everything I’m not. It’s downright infuriating but somehow you’re one of the few people I genuinely don’t want to hurt, even though a part of me wants to do so all the more because you have this hold over me. I’m not sure what I want from you. You can’t make people smarter. I guess I just want you to see it from my side, really understand it.”
“Now we have that chance, Gecko.”
“Time’s up! I’m so glad we made all this progress, you two. This session has been illuminating and laid a foundation for the rest of our time together. Please contact my assistant if you want to change your schedule. Perhaps more sessions would help?”
It wasn’t until after we said our goodbyes and the doctor hung up that I realized something and immediately called Venus bac. “Hello, Gecko?”
“Madigan is charging for hourly sessions, right?”
“That bitch only had us for 45 minutes!”
Despite my vehement desire to call Dr. Madigan back up, Venus instead distracted me with, “Instead of talking to her, why don’t you and I talk about some things instead?”
“In all seriousness, are you from another dimension?”
“The more pedantic-minded would say I’m from another universe, but yes. I really am. What about you, where are you from?”
“California. The stories are true, I was orphaned in a fight Master Academy was part of and they took me in. I don’t remember much of my parents. I found out once that I had an aunt, but she wouldn’t have been able to take care of me. She had her own problems. What about your parents?”
“I don’t remember much more than it being our version of Christmas when the men burst in. It’s all very blurry, except the guns. They’re sharp. They stand out. After that, I was raised by sadists in my country’s military. Looking back, I think the plan to train up a bunch of killers from youth had to have severely gone off the rails by the time they started having us kill each other. Maybe they were off the books at that point, or maybe someone finally lost it.”
“You didn’t tell people secrets, do you understand? Anything you told someone was used against you. You’d get into an argument, a fight, or even in one of our little trials where someone had to die. If you wanted to survive, you learned that. Um, so I know you can’t possibly be so goody-goody all the time, but somehow it’s hard to imagine you being really rebellious.”
“Tell that to the Academy’s old Public Relations Consultant. Danforth Q. What’s-his-name wanted to give me a boob job so I punched him in the face. I didn’t mean to break his nose.”
“I recently found I enjoyed having boobs. You can even use them as weapons.”
“He wanted them because I was supposed to be a pretty model in tight clothes, like that company treats its women wrestlers. That’s all he wanted to do with me, until I showed him I’d been training and taking this whole thing seriously. I didn’t want to famous as a token minority or a postergirl. I wanted to be a hero, like someone I could have admired when I had a hard time growing up. Giving hope to the hopeless and saving people’s lives if they ever felt alone or like they weren’t special enough.”
Venus actually opened up to me. I felt my heart pounding more from having such a juicy opportunity to hurt her open up to me. “That’s how you felt?”
“I didn’t get teased, but I didn’t have any powers. They used to treat me fair when I messed up, but I knew I was a screw up. Nobody would miss me and I wouldn’t ever be a real hero because I didn’t have superpowers. All their smiles were fake. No, that’s not true. I was the comic relief. You know how, in some movies, someone’s only reason for existing is to mess up so outlandishly they make the main characters laugh? And then they’re the ones who accidentally make things worse by letting out some evil genie or supervillain and things get serious, but nobody even expects any different from them because that’s who they are?”
She paused before continuing. “Sometimes I thought of walking into the forest so none of the younger ones would see, or so I wouldn’t leave a mess if I did anything about it.”
“That explains a few things,” I said. That couldn’t have been the easiest admission in the world, especially to an enemy. “So, speaking of that, I don’t suppose you know what happened to my old assistant, Crash?”
“That’s a complete non sequitur.”
“Not really. I lost track of her when the aliens showed up and never found her again. Not sure if she’s dead or what. The company had to have taken some casualties, but I’m not there to see it and a lot of people aren’t answering their email. I think they’re worried about getting charged as accomplices thanks to the gung-ho world of the criminal justice system.”
“I don’t know. Nobody’s even bothering with your company now. We have bigger fish to fry.”
“That’s it! That’s how I can attract the penguins for a diplomatic meeting: a fish fry! Might get the seals to show up, too. Offhand, Venus, exactly what does a good seal pelt go for up there in the states? It’s the pelt they use, right? Or do they just take the eyes and make the underside of magic eight balls out of them?”
“Please don’t kill the wildlife down there.”
“As always, I will defend myself if I need to.”
“You think seals are going to threaten your life?”
“No, penguins. They’re a much nastier type of bird than most people realize. See, I realized it when I noticed they were all naturally made up to look like little butlers, and we all know that butlers are like the designated murderers of domestic life.”
“Oh, another joke.”
“I’m not kidding. If you come up here and find me dead, avenge me. Light all the little bastards on fire with the biggest, most environmentally-unfriendly flamethrower you got. Oh, and litter while you’re at it, just to rub it in. I want no mercy against the little fuckers.”
Not that I intend to die soon. Heck, I think former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall was being pessimistic when he declared, “I have a lifetime appointment and I intend to serve it. I expect to die at 110, shot by a jealous husband.”
Well, then when I was controlling Electric Eye, aka the Thirteen, I got a chance to test it, and not with that BS excuse that my mind will make it real and kill my body. That’s the kind of nonsense science fiction written by someone who never played a video game. There were no major crises to deal with. That’s part of the difficulty of cleaning things up. That’s why movies, TV, and books don’t want to show it. It’s not something being suddenly done. It’s long and drawn out. It’s getting people on their feet, or trying to, and knowing that you’ll never get the whole job done. It’s a lot of robots getting a lot of food, water, and power to the places that need it. It’s triage and what medical help can be given when hospitals are crammed full or sparsely manned, though I got nanites to as many as I could.
And in the middle of all that hustle and bustle, I felt a sharp pain in my through and a shortness of breath. In fact, my face felt remarkably warm. I had to extract myself from a metal shell halfway across the world and focus on my own body, in its room, with no armor on. There, I looked up into the melted black face of what once looked like a man, but which really held one of the many invaders to our world.
I’d seen him before at the UN. In a way, I had him to thank for making me aware of the hold his people held on me in the form of their virus I’d contracted during a brief foray into the future. It was the Fluidic ambassador, who had once been pale-skinned, blonde, and blue-eyed. But as I said, he looked melted. Black slime clung to each hair like one of those ferrofluids doing a trick. No skin showed through the ooze. The hands at my throat, though, they felt ice cold, albeit muscular and full of bones. “You…you…you…”
He must have blown a fuse, because that’s as far as he got with describing me. Of course, he’d have time to do that when I was dead, which would take awhile. Most people don’t understand the difficulty of choking someone to death that way. It takes a bit of effort and isn’t over quick.
I jammed my fingers into the guy’s eyes. I had a laser eye I could have used for that, but it felt good to give my sharp, knife-like nails a chance to play with those skull jellies I assumed he got visual input from. He wrenched his head away, leaving me with only one of them in hand, though the one still in the socket didn’t look like it could see shit if I called it Shine-ola. He didn’t loosen his grip, though.
I muttered a word through the choking. Wet puckering punctuated his attempt to growl at me. “What was that? Thanks? Thanks for what, you filthy monkey?!”
“I said fangs.” I’d done it that way for dramatic effect, just enough to rub it in before they popped out and I bit down on one of his wrists. The snake-like fangs didn’t have anything in my venom sacs, since my version could expose me to something in my mouth that would be potentially hostile, but the nice thing about biting someone is that it can be quite fun even without pumping something into their body. Just a little something I found out with my ex, Wildflower.
To my surprise, he didn’t gush slime. Nor did any of it pop out when I sliced his through with the eye laser. That finally got him to back off, holding his throat and coughing. I didn’t think the aliens needed to do that. They were all black slime and gemstone-like core. Usually when I punctured their bodies, that slime spewed forth like a fountain due to the pressure. This dripped, but that’s it.
He was coughing and recovering, I was coughing and recovering, but he chose to flee for the kitchen so I had to get my ass up and pursue. And instead of some nifty gadget, like a batarang or a nigh-indestructible shield, the only thing I could throw at him was a can of shaving cream. It thumped him on the head and distracted him enough to slip on some of his own bodily fluids, which still just dripped. That led to him conking his head on the wall.
He didn’t quite finish making it to all fours when I caught up to him. “You know, you’re a lot more physically human than most of your dead people were.”
That didn’t get an answer, but I know I touched a nerve. I made sure I touched it. Hell, I shoved my hand at least a foot up his ass; I touched a lot of things that day. Then I rotated him 63 degrees on the Y access, slammed his head into the wall, and let him drop. It was a minor thing, just establishing my dominance before I grabbed his wrists and stood on his lower back. Pulling, he curved up as if doing a yoga stretch. “Open wide and say ‘Aaaaaahhhhh!’”
With that, I put one foot on the back of his head and pulled to get just a little more tension before letting go. I drove my foot downward, hearing a nice little clatter where his head hit the concrete, though I stomped several more times to be sure he was good and dead. Even got a nice crack in there. Surprisingly, that seemed to do it for him. No core. I suspect he’d changed a lot for his ambassadorial ruse.
I could have taunted him, I suppose. Said something about how he thought he controlled me, or how he thought he could take our tiny little blue speck suspended in a sunbeam. But I think I’ve spent more than enough time fighting aliens to risk letting one get away or turn the tables on me all for a little pre-death taunting. Post death, sure. I’ll see if I can fit a “yo momma” joke on his tombstone, and engrave a few others on his coffin. Hell, I might have to build the aliens a memorial all my own just so I can cover it with insults.
In the end, I sure put him on ice. Locked him in the really big freezer here, so at least that area was good for something. Just in case that thing wasn’t quite dead, ya know. Couldn’t say why the weather research crew felt they needed to lock the food freezer, though. Maybe they were afraid someone was going to sneak in one night and start beating their meat.
Too bad about the alien, some might say. Not me, though. Fuck him. Don’t know where he came from, or how he found me. All I know is, if he expected the therapy to be working, he sure as shit picked the wrong time to think I was playing nice.
And that attitude as much as anything is what left his body cooling.