“Come ooooon!” I pleaded.
“No,” said Captain Lightning, arms crossed. He floated above me, higher up in the woods so as to keep an eye out for anyone needing immediate rescue, or anything else more important than talking to me.
I met him back in the U.S., because who doesn’t like a shitload of jet lag? As a hero, albeit one with what appears to be less crime to fight, he used his considerable powers to help the victims of natural disasters in his beloved America. Figuring it wouldn’t hurt to butter him up a little, I came to him instead of calling him away from Louisiana. Seriously, if I’d known he’d be there, I’d have kept the tsunamis rolling so we could meet up somewhere else.
I mean, at least India had people useful to the U.S. Of A. I suppose I should have some sympathy for their plight, if I cared. Don’t know why I’d start with Louisiana of all places. If nobody made them stop, they’d still be forcing everyone to learn about Creationism and geocentrism in schools. Everyone except for the slaves, of course. They’d be back at the farm, plowing their white stepmothers. Then they all get up on Sunday and sit in church together, learning from a white-knuckled preacher about how Jews killed their savior and how God taught racial purity with the Tower of Babel.
As opposed to now, when the slavery part is illegal. Oh, I wish I wasn’t in Dixie.
But I am, and I decided to play honest with folks rather than be the usual politician. I made no secret of my disdain for the state, though I think I got them all excited when I stepped off the plane and started throwing beads at people. This hanger-on who just kinda started traveling with me suggested that if I were to do that, I should at least toss out Moon Pies, except they were all gone by the time we landed. Because I love Moon Pies.
I once killed for a Moon Pie. This guy had an inheritance coming his way of about half a million dollars, but the will said his older sister would get two million. He offered me $100,000 for the kill, but I played hard to get until, exasperated, he asked me what it would take to murder his sibling in cold blood. “A box of Moon Pies,” I told him.
“That’s all? Don’t you want money?” he asked.
I shrugged. “Two boxes of Moon Pies then.”
“What kind of man murders someone over a Moon Pie?”
“Asks the guy who wants a family member’s life taken for money.”
Long story short, he paid me the Moon Pies, then tried to back out on the deal. I grabbed the sister, told her about the deal without telling her he’d decided not to go through with it, and made an honest man of him. I guess I was something of a prick in that whole affair, but no more than the nature of the incident allowed me to be.
Irrelevant past story aside, I made this trip before announcing the big contest between myself and Cercopagis Lysis specifically to recruit someone.
“You’d be on the side against me! You wouldn’t even have to fight, just walk out and surrender. Boom, automatic victory for Earth, which continues to be ruled by its own people.”
Captain Lightning turned his head to the side. I listened in to transmissions and found a truck carrying FEMA MREs had been beset by armed men in camouflage. I could feel my nanites inside just one of them. Before Captain Lightning could set off to stop the ambush, that one turned his gun on the others of his party, then himself.
“See? I’m not such a bad guy,” I grinned up at him. He didn’t return the expression.
Cap shook his head. “I don’t care about helping you at all. You’re as much an invading outsider as Cercopagis. The difference is, he’s never been human.” He took off, leaving me there in the middle of his campsite in the woods.
To think, people subject themselves to camping voluntarily. Somebody slaved over a hot air conditioner so that you could be cold! At least have the decency to freeze inside like a grateful little bitch!
So I left there and caught up with this bus full of an entourage I seem to have acquired, the sight of which made me miss Moai and Carl. But Carl is safer not being associated with me, so perhaps it’s for the best that I now have a bunch of red shirts around to buffer me against bullets. There’s the North Korean twins, the Japanese girl, this guy who only goes by Daniels who insisted he work on my image, and some people in black suits that seem to be my bodyguards. I don’t remember getting them.
It’s not enough to run a country, except a really small one like Molossia. Yet another reason I agreed to this contest with Cercopagis is a chance to focus on important things like building a ruling government.
I had a few other names on my list, too. I stopped by to see Warman. Another American superhero, this one preferred to live at Fort Rogers in Utah. That’s Fort Rogers, not Camp Rogers. One made Warman, the other trains Army Rangers. I’m sure they both like to claim they make super soldiers.
Once again, access to the deepest, darkest secrets of all countries has its benefits. Fort Rogers hosted the post-World War II super soldier experiments, though their resources were sometimes loaned out to MKNAOMI, an old biological warfare research program. They named this new project WSCLARK. It’s a cryptonym, a code name. All the projects have them. People think they give projects names reminiscent of their goals in some way, and that’s true, but they don’t make it obvious. Some of the letters mean something and others don’t. The CIA isn’t the boogeyman, but they aren’t Encyclopedia fuckin’ Brown either.
At first, it wasn’t any better than some of the crazy mind control stuff, except they eventually figured out how to temporarily grant their own agents superpowers, which is where closer collaboration began to occur with some of the MK series of projects, which were about giving the CIA all kinds of tools to use against Russia. Some of those incidents showed up in other ways. A mixture that didn’t work well leading to an incident at a place called Shag Harbor in Canada. Then one of their guys defected and tried to flee the States. They caught up to him over the Berwyn Mountains in Wales, causing a battle and an earthquake. Another time, the Russians pulled something of their own and scared the crap out of Wurtsmith Air Force Base, in Michigan.
The WSCLARK people preferred to work more quietly until they knew they had something. The CIA created an entire phenomena called Earthquake Lights to keep that part hidden. It wasn’t until the 90s, just before the collapse of the Soviet Union, that they went public with Warman. Warman, the Man of War, destined to defeat the Soviet Union. He was so good at his job, the CCCP collapsed about a year later thanks to social justice issues. Or so the public version goes.
When I walked into the Fort Rogers gym, I found him working a punching bag with my face printed on the outside case. I decided to set my expectations low for this meeting.
He turned to look at me, panting. Sweat glistened from the top of his blonde head as he looked at me with that piercing, blue-eyed gaze. No, this is not turning into a gay romance novel. Even though he did invite me to get pounded by him.
“Here to help me work out?” he held a hand out toward the punching bag.
I waved it off. “Nope, though I have someone who needs hitting you might want to work up to.”
He narrowed his eyes at me, an expression that, if he wore it all the time, would have had women stopping him in the street to tell him how he’s such a special young man and isn’t it delightful he can dress himself?
“Look,” I said. “I’m not all bad. You know you can’t always trust the public record to fully reflect what’s gone on. You spend twenty-five years fighting the good fight behind the scenes, but then nobody takes you seriously after you go public until you start playing baseball Iraqi tanks instead of bats and balls. Been there, done that. Well, not exactly that, but I could have easily done worse if that had been my intention.”
“What are you rambling about?” he asked, stepping over to a bench to put a stop to the flood of sweat coming off his head with a towel, like some sort of Dolph Lundgren Hitchhiker of the Galaxy.
I stepped over, mindful of my lack of armor and gave the bag a hard punch. I didn’t need my helmet’s 360 degree display to realize his amusement when I discovered he’d added a bit of lead to the inside of that bag. I don’t know how much, but my knuckles found out it was there and made sure to tell my brain. My bones and skin might be tougher than normal, my muscles surprisingly strong for my size due to nanites, but this is a guy whose idea of a gun involves mashing two miniguns together. I hate to think what his condoms are like.
Sounds like a nice brand, actually. “Folks, come on down to Richard Richard’s Rubber Room for our brand new Double Dick Special!We’re all pumped up and ready to give you all the deals. It’s a long, hard, dirty job, but we help you get it done!”
I took a few more punches now that I knew what I was hitting, then stopped. “You’ve been fighting for your country for a long time. Now I need your help to defend our planet.”
He snorted. “You can’t kill your way out of it?”
I gave the bag a few kicks, then a headbutt. After that, I leaned on it due to the pain and a need to determine if I’d concussed myself. I shook my head. “You’re a soldier. Your entire job is to kill people. It’s a necessity sometimes, you know that. Sometimes war is unavoidable. Sometimes, necessary change must be baptized in blood, like the promise of liberty after the American Civil War. Where would we be if old bigots didn’t die, eh? I think I know where Germany would be.”
I stepped back and gave the bag a hard pump kick that swung it back. Dropping to my belly, the bag passed right over me as it swung back, and I rose to give it a good elbow where a person’s kidney would be if the bag was a person. But then, a hanging person rarely needs a kidney shot to finish the job. It left me leaning on my elbow against the back as I looked over at the unimpressed supersoldier. “I worked out a deal to end this latest damn threat to the planet. A contest between myself and Cercopagis. Each of us picks representatives for a one-on-one, best three out of five fighting tournament, but neither he nor I can be one of them. I mean, hey, when he’s gone, I can work on making things better instead of being such an asshole to people. I can take time. Talk folks around. I’ve taken some wartime measures here, but the point of that is it only lasts while at war. Like Lincoln’s and habeus corpus, or that time FDR concentrated people of a certain race into camps.”
He glared at me for that one. For particularly patriotic folks like him, the Japanese internment camps are a shameful part of the nation’s history. For me, it’s a sore to pick at. Make people emotional, override their reason, control them. Sometimes I push the buttons. But sometimes…
“I’ll have a list of demands. You do what I want, I’ll fight for you,” he said.
I held my hands out and stepped away from the punching bag. “As long as my death isn’t on the list, I’ll take a look and do what I can do. I can be a reasonable man when people want me to be, Warman.” I grinned.
I hoped to get more on my side, preferably once Captain Lightning had joined up, but I didn’t. Instead, it was time to make the announcement. I did so with my usual tact.
All across the world, television and internet-connected computer screens lit up with an explosion. The radio folks just had to use their imagination of the visual. “There’s a bear in the woods. Some people like to pretend the bear isn’t there. They don’t think the bear is a threat. They don’t realize that the bear came from another planet to steal hard-working Earthicans’ jobs. To fuck hard-sleeping Earthicans’ spouses. To talk some completely alien language around you where you can’t understand it. Preferably right during the good part of a movie. It doesn’t matter how many different words for snow the aliens have, Emperor Gecko of Earth knows a thousand different ways to tell them ‘Fuck You.’ And that’s what he’s going to do at the upcoming Dic-Off. That’s right, he knows he’s a dictator with the world firmly held in his small but powerful hands. But he’s done diccing around with that extraterrestrial arthropod called Cercopagis Lysis. At the Dic-Off, Earth’s five greatest warriors will go one on one with whatever sad sacks of shit the enemy convinced to hate you for your freedom. Earth is going to win, and then, by golly, everyone’s gonna get laid. Support your local Emperor, help build the greatest team this side of the Milky Way to kick those aliens off Earth… or else!”
It was really quite tasteful.