I hope everyone had a good 4th of July out there, including the British. I just figured by now they could appreciate the idea of a geographically separate part of a greater political union deciding to rebel and go its own way over financial issues. And I always liked that joke of theirs, “Happy treason day, colonials!”
You know one of the strangest things I’ve had to put up with here? A lack of torture. Don’t get me wrong, it makes my stay more pleasant. Surprisingly so. Representing the forces of law and order doesn’t generally stop people from beating up on a special prisoner like myself. Cameras catch bruises on a face, but they don’t get a good view of body shots and kidney punches. There’s a big difference in perception between spitting up blood and peeing it.
Of course, I once knew a guy who enjoyed it for its own sake. Then again, sometimes I do too, but usually I try to make it amusing. Eh, maybe that’s what he was doing that time. He just played music and danced around before using a straight razor. And thought lighting a guy on fire was a slow death. I suppose it’s slower than some ways, but quick enough that it’s like he didn’t even care. So impersonal, and I say that as someone who has been lit on fire before.
I make the scars fade; in the end, wounding me won’t do the job. I guess I’ve been introspective again lately, though I miss the days when I just ran around doing crazy stuff for fun. Fighting time-traveling space marines. Instead of sitting on a bench in the Netherlands.
Captain Lightning floated down behind me. “You’re out. “
“How did you get out of your cell?” he asked.
“They let me out, of course. I’ve gone five minutes without killing anyone, you know.”
He levitated around the bench, looking down on me. “Prevailing wisdom is that’s a record for a punk like you.”
I looked over at him with an expression like “Are you serious?” but I really said, “I thought you knew me a little better than being just some punk. I saved your life that time, albeit by trying to end it. Spinetingler tried to drag Empyreal City to hell and you were his lackey. I stopped you, stopped him, saved a city, and leave to give y’all a break. Aliens invaded, I saved the city, saved the world, even chilled away from most people to let things recover.”
Hit him where it hurts. When I met him in person, Captain Lightning had been beaten and fucked in the head by Spinetingler, a super who turned regular people into horror-themed supers. The kind of guy who could give a regular clown sharp teeth and a bleeding smile. Which always confused me, because I don’t get the clown fear. Drunk uncle Bob’s in the next room talking about shooting gay people, but let’s be scared of the guy with the balloon animals.
I shook my head. “Maybe I don’t understand this world any more than my own. You’re all nuts.”
That got a laugh out of Captain Lightning. After a moment, he sobered up some, and not in the drinking sense. “I knew guys like you from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. They fought, then they came home and the regular world bamboozled them. Peace is harder than war for some people. In war, you just kill the enemy.”
“In peace time, I wait for them to think up exactly how they’re going to fuck me, for some reason. I don’t understand. You ever had a woman talk you into something that, when she isn’t around, makes no sense to you?” I asked.
“Yeah, I’ve been married before,” Lightning said. That got a laugh out of me.
“Don’t repeat this verbatim back to Venus or she’ll find a way to kick your ass,” I suggested to him.
The next thing out of his mouth surprised the hell out of me, though. “Do you love her?”
That one left me scratching my head. “I don’t think so. I understand all that love business, how to use it to twist the knife, but nothing I’ve run across in my own feelings fits with that whole ‘love’ thing well enough. Last woman I dated, only reason I could let my guard down any is because she wanted to cling to a crazy guy so no one would mess with her. I think what I love is the idea of her: bright, shining, incorruptible hero. But now that I found her, there’s no way she’ll do the one thing I need without changing, and I can’t bring myself to end her. Just a Sisyphean Catch-22 now. “
I frowned, feeling on the edge of some epiphany, like there was something about that I could almost grasp. Some tiny mote of enlightenment just out of sight.
“I think you two are a lot alike,” spoke the hero.
I rolled my eye. “I’ve told her as much, and I think she gets it too.”
Captain Lightning let himself settle onto the ground, then stepped over and sat down beside me. “She doesn’t care about you, either. She’s got a romanticized fixation on beating and stopping you her way. She has to be the hero you like, even when she shouldn’t. You sang that note perfect, she loves the idea of you.”
I turned to look at him, appraising him curiously. “I wonder how it’ll end. Which of us will win?”
“I’ve seen a lot of history pass by and I don’t think things end the way you think they do, dig? The Cold War’s gone, but what we did in South America, the Middle East, and Africa is still there. One war leads to the next. I hope you find peace, but this planet will always need someone like you, someone like me, someone like her.” He put his hand on my shoulder with all the self-assurance of a man who knows that I can’t really hurt him. I mean, I could, but it’d involve ripping my own chest open just to knock him unconscious, and I’m an ocean away from anyone who would want to shove everything back into that body cavity and save my life.
“You must do some interesting Make-A-Wish appearances, Cap’n. You even give the cancer a pep talk!” He laughed, I laughed, we both laughed. All the way down the shaft, though from him dropping me off instead of tossing me down it. He seemed satisfied that I hadn’t damaged it in my escape, but that’s because he didn’t believe me.
In truth, I did just ask the person at the hatch but that’s because I really concentrated when they went to feed me. Post-invasion like this, of course they’d make sure the guards had their nanite shots. Nobody wants to risk alien mind control, but it left him vulnerable to a quick burst of orders to open the hatch. They’ll be lucky if they ever find the guy, too. They don’t have any evidence of foul play, though that hardly matters where I’m concerned. As it is in sports and business, so too is it with Psycho Gecko: if you don’t see anything wrong going on, it’s because you aren’t looking in the right spot. Except if they look into that guard’s bank account, they’ll see his account grew quite suddenly and will infer the worst. They’d be wrong, but that sort of logic has the guard fleeing for his life. Honest men have plenty to fear in a world of dishonest ones.
Speaking of dishonesty, my lawyer stopped by for another visit. This time, her harness looked a bit more comfortable and she had a nice leather briefcase to accommodate all the folders and files she needed to go over. I folded my pillow up to help prop my head up as the guards lowered Mrs. Pretorious down the hole. “Mr. Gecko. I heard you broke out.”
“Well, it’s awful boring sitting alone in a hole all day with nothing to keep me company but whatever entertainment I’ve trapped in this head of mine.”
The entirety of the show “Married with Children,” to name just one such thing I can watch on the inside of my own eyelids. Al Bundy’s a good man, with a good family. Quite the athlete, too. Has he ever told y’all about the time he scored four touchdowns in a single game?
Hell, the Penn and Teller’s Bullshit! Episode on the Vatican can’t be found anywhere else. I stole my version from Father Poffo, my handler at the Vatican. Sometimes the Inquisition needs someone to “accidentally” get hurt or killed in a supervillain accident. I should see if the Pope can put in a good word for me to the United Nations. He owes me for this incident involving his predecessor trying to swap minds. Besides, where would someone like him be without someone like me? Priests, preachers, ministers, all of them need the sinner if they want to keep their jobs. Otherwise, they’d just be preaching to the choir.
Which, come to think of it, gave me a thought. I realized my attorney had been updating me on her ideas, but my mind was aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention.
It’s pretty absurd, to think of it. Venus is a lot like the Pope in that she’s devoted to saving my soul. Of all the purposes to pick in life, she chose that one. I wanted her to kill me, but more because I hate myself and it’s easy to justify that kind of thing. Just like all that bull about chaos and order. As big as the universe is, it all shakes out no matter what.
Order, chaos, balance, redemption, salvation. Doomed to constantly roll a ball of wax up a hill. But as we get too close to the sun, the ball melts. We’re all like Sisyphus and it’s all a bad joke; thinking about it, something clicked. Venus wants to save me because she loves that idea that she can save me far more then truly stopping me. I love the hero she is, no matter how irritating, and it’d just wreck things between us if I forced her to be otherwise. But I have a hell of a time opposing her. And, when faced with oblivion, even Sisyphus can take pride in the boulder.
It’s just so rare, when two people like us meet. She’s so rigidly bound by rules, and I recently ate a guy. Hero and villain, and now we’re even the same species. Two sides to the same coin. If I believed in such a thing, I’d almost think we were soul mates.
“Should I come back later, Mr. Gecko? We don’t have much time left before your hearing.” asked my legal counsel from above. She tugged on the harness cable nonchalantly, clearly ready to go.
“Aww, going so soon?” I asked. When did I start smiling?
“I don’t like that grin. Please calm down and don’t hurt anybody between now and the 7th.”
Huh. Something must have spooked her, but that’s ok. I didn’t care a lot about the trial anyway; I had a way out as surely as my escape plan from Antarctica. Now, though, I have a nice purpose. A method to my madness, which matches and complements Venus’s craziness.
A present to dear Venus.
I laid back on the cot, pulling up one song in particular to listen to as I pictured the events to come.
“Ha ha, ha ha, ha ha. We’re one and the same…deranged!”
I can’t wait for my day in court.