The epic continues! And how epic it is when I have trouble making it to the bathroom and shitting all over myself. Yep, don’t I feel like a human being. Those heroes sure raised the quality of my life, didn’t they? Eh, it’s not like this is meant to be a hotel stay. I made sure to use some of that while I worked over the psych person this time around.
I’ve been observing him, you see. Trying to get a sense of who he is and what makes hi tick through his appearance and behavior. Noting how he doesn’t wear a wedding ring anymore, for instance. He’s got this little light bit of skin around his ring finger to show he used to wear one, but he doesn’t anymore in a recent sense. That could mean a few things. Could mean he’s a widower. Could mean there’s been a divorce. Could just mean he didn’t want to wear the ring and give me information to possibly use against him. I hoped it wasn’t the third option.
I hoped for the second one, the divorce thing. Figured I’d play to that first when he stopped by and asked how I was feeling. I let him know I was still upset, but “I get why they’re doing what they’re doing… it makes sense. Maybe not the part with seeing to my physical and mental health to this extent, but that’s a bit of a values clash there. I tend to deal with problems a bit more permanently. And then I have Venus there, taunting me. I’m really getting sick of having her in my life, ya know? Just constantly inserting herself now, with her rubbing my face in how helpless I am. Taking pleasure in my impotence…not, ya know, that way, but just general, non-sexual impotence. I’m sure I’d be perfectly capable, but I doubt she’d bring along a woman for me or anything.”
His response? Stress reduction techniques. Meditation and breathing, that sorta deal. I guess it was too much to hope he’d jump up and be like “That bitch reminds me of my whore of an ex-wife!”
So that’s going to take more time. Time I’ve spent attempting to study my lodgings. With them watching me, I’ve got to be subtle about it. Which, in this case, means I’ve taken to trying to pull open the door again. Not too hard. Everything’s still a bit hard on me and I’ve spent days unable to get out of bed, but I can still go up, give the door a tug, and went all Predator with my eyes. They have alternate vision modes, usually used to help me detect people in conditions where normal human sight doesn’t work so well.
Ugh. Just remembered I’m one of them now. I feel so dirty. I mean, y’all seem to be human, too. And that’s ok. That works for y’all. But I used to be something better, ya know?
So I stared at the lock, swapping vision modes, trying to see what I can see, but it’s not looking good. Mostly it looks like a door, but I know it’s not one that only opens from the outside. Except, near as I can tell, it’s got an electromagnet. If I’d actually stuck one of the more metal pieces of myself right against the door latch, I might have figured that out sooner.
Still, that’s something. Hell, it’s more exciting than saying “I sat around trying to recover.” There’s not much there, you see.
That doesn’t mean I don’t have anything about this, but let’s just say that any escape training I received in the Psychopomp program was limited by the very nature of the program.
A couple years after they first abducted us, they were starting to ease up on us. Maybe not let us see the armed guards as much. Come to find out, there were some conflicting thoughts about the project by people a lot higher up in it. Differences in ethics and philosophy. After a pretty nasty introductory period, they went softer on us. Instead of yelling, it was more like guilt-tripping us, especially since we got that far.
I know, they were all kinda fucked up. You think a guy like me just pops out of a normal life?
One of the first signs that we weren’t all necessarily on board with the Psychopomp Program, even a nicer version, would have to be when they started to teach us basic escape ideas. The usual stuff about escaping from restraints of various sorts. To this day, I’m not convinced those were all just acquired for that exercise. I’m fairly certain somebody saw a bunch of children in a legal black site and realized this was the perfect opportunity for all those smaller handcuffs and ballgags they’d been stockpiling over the years. Some son of a bitch was determined, you might even say bound and determined, to not make a “business or pleasure” choice.
None of us became experts, but we picked up basic escape and lockpicking techniques. That’s because, as would seem inevitable to anyone actually thinking about the situation, it didn’t work out the best for them to treat their kidnapped and disappeared involuntary charges to a lesson about how to escape from a place. And it’s not like we did so en masse. Many of us were downright terrorized by what happened. Others tried to point out the adults would never teach us anything we could use to escape.
Turns out, the second group wasn’t entirely correct. A few of them managed to slip out late at night after someone got lucky and nabbed some keys off a guard. So they get up in the middle of the night and manage to sneak out of the dorm with them. I can’t recall which of them made that move specifically, since it was dark and things got a bit confusing. A few more went after them, though Barracuda changed his mind and slipped back in. At least until the alarms went off.
Once that happened, all hell broke loose. At least, if your definition of hell involves a horde of post-traumatic screaming children running around in the middle of the night, screaming. Which does fit some definitions, I’m sure. It kinda depends where it’s going on, too. Screaming kids in the middle of the night at a sleepover? Irritating. In the woods while camping? Not ideal, better than the sleepover, and a good way to remind other animals why it’s better to let humans live separately. In the middle of a parking garage with no lights on and a foreboding sense that you’ll never find your car? Find something to bash their little fucking brains in. Bonus points for cricket bats.
It was a mess. Kids running everywhere, because we were all worried at that point. I was more worried about survival. Yep, little me wasn’t the crazy asshole y’all all know and love. Back then, Gecko was the sadistic bigger kid who used the opportunity to beat the shit out of Barracuda. I was Lamb, and I headbutted a guard in his cup while sliding between his legs, scampering to freedom once I realized they might just kill us all anyway. They cornered me near the bathrooms, before I could try and squeeze through what I suspected to be the biggest and busiest vents in the place.
They didn’t immediately go into brutal mode again. Things only gradually got worse, up until part of the staff mutinied. When they finally got around to further education about breaking and entering, they waited until I was more easily controlled.
But that’s a story for another day. Hell, as slow as things are moving now, maybe next time. As it stands now, I don’t have the explosives or other chemicals I’d prefer for getting through the door.
Probably the only other thing of significant interest was Venus popping her bubbly head in. Upon seeing the slump of my shoulders and hearing the heavy sigh escape me, she frowned. “It’s not that bad having a visitor.”
“Will you just leave me alone you manic-depressive martial arts she-bitch! First you’re mean, then you compliment me, then you want to kill me, then you shove a cookie into my mouth. There are traffic cops with Parkinsons who give off fewer mixed signals than you. I’m caught. Stop pretending to act friendly at me. You’ve done your job. Just walk away.” I held my hand up over my face and adopted a deeper voice. “Just walk away.”
She cocked her head to the side as she stepped in, carrying my dinner. Macaroni and cheese with ham in it. “Was that from a movie?”
“Mad Max. And motherfucking macaroni and ham. Why? What did I do to you?” She set it down in front of me, where I checked the brownie. “Sweet Liberace on a dildo stick! Nuts in a brownie! You monster.” I shook my head slowly at the disappointing discovery.
She just laughed and I loathed her happiness. I just set my head in my hand. “Stop it. I’m serious. Whoever’s making this can’t cook for shit. Granted, mac and cheese is deceptively difficult if it’s baked, but this is just…ugh. I could do much better than this. And I definitely wouldn’t serve a meal with a cartoon of apple juice and no straw, that’s for sure.”
Venus attached the tray to my bed rail. “Nobody trusts you with a straw yet.” Dammit, there goes that plan of escape. “If you settle down, you could cook for yourself. You have to trust us and we have to trust you.”
“What’s your angle?” I asked.
She looked me in the eye. “First of all, yes, I am happy you are here. You can cry like a little baby all you want and feel sorry for yourself, but it’s your fault you’re here. You made a choice every day to follow the path that you took. You even controlled the world and used it to tell people who to hate rather than lead them. Come on, you have to realize that or you never would have fought the other Gecko. You dropped everything because you knew he was just as bad as you, and you think you deserve death for what you’ve done. Am I happy? Damn straigh I am. I beat you, and not in a fight this time. I beat you with my mind and with my new powers.”
“You don’t deserve them,” I shot back. If only words were bullets, eh? “I went through all kinds of hell because of those. Now you got them and I’m nothing but a human cyborg.” She started to open her mouth, but I cut her off. “Enough of that shit. I know your boss said I’d never taste freedom again, but can I at least find out if Moai made it? And maybe see the real sky again? Hell, even just a window would be better than nothing. I’m weak, I’m sick, I’m at heavy risk of dying from either infection or this food. I want to check on a friend and see a cloud. Would that be too much to ask?”
She crossed her arms. “It’s nice you asked, but you forgot something.”
After a couple awkward seconds of my puzzled expression, she added, “Please.”
“Glad to see you’re so eager. If I’d known that, I’d have asked for a blowjob instead. By the way, has the train left the station on that one?” I pointed down at my crotch.
“Will you please see how many licks it takes to get the center of my Tootsie Roll Pop?”
She slapped me upside the head. “You know what I mean. I can help you. This is your opportunity to grow as a person. Learn not to be a threat to yourself and others. But we won’t hand it to you. You’re our prisoner for good reason and the world doesn’t have to bend over backwards just because you think it’s so unfair we won’t let you kill everyone. Start treating us better and we’ll return the favor.”
I shrugged. “I didn’t say anything about bending over backwards, but that would be entertaining to see.”
She slapped me upside the head again, grabbed my untouched tray of food and started to walk out.
“Wait,” I said. Yeah, yeah, being an irritated asshole might be fun sometimes, but I’ll never get anywhere that way. I needed to at least pretend to acquiesce to her request. I even needed that tray of food. And like a sexually repressed virgin getting dragged out of a whorehouse on Penny Wednesdays, I wasn’t gonna to come easy. My nemesis waited, though, as long as it took for me to finally force out the word she wanted to hear. “Please.”
She smiled. “Good. And…?”
For all my faults, I’m not completely oblivious to social graces. “And I’m sorry. I’m having a bad… rest of my life, I guess.”
Venus walked over and reattached the tray to my bed. “Good. Thank you for apologizing. We’re not monsters; you are. We gave you a chance to be human. You can make this better for yourself. You deserve to be here, but this place doesn’t have to be hell. Master Academy is my favorite place,” she said, sounding like a Scientology recruit forced to make a video telling her family not to come bust her out, “This can become a place of peace for you too. If you’re good, maybe I’ll bring you books to read. For now, I’ll think about letting you see the sky.”
She started to leave again, but I had enough of some of this eyerollingly-goody goody behavior. “Ok, seriously, why the fuck don’t you want to even punish me if I’m as bad as you say?”
She turned and this time her smile didn’t look quite so nice. “I am. You’re trapped here. You’ll never escape. You’ll never hurt anybody ever again, just like I promised my friends. We took your powers. We took your ability to affect the world. If we ever let you see it, you’ll have to live with knowing that you can’t do anything to change it now. You can’t answer any challenge or insult. Soon, you’ll fade away from public memory, but I’ll still be a hero. You’ll just be known as some guy Venus beat. And if you don’t want to be miserable, you’ll play ball. If things go well, Psycho Gecko will die. You’ll admit it’s for the best when he’s gone and the new you is here.”
Great, so happiness hiding vindictiveness and the promise of brainwashing. That makes a hell of a lot more sense to me than her perpetual hopefulness in my reformation seemingly overriding her hate of me. I can work with that. Just like I could work with the tray. Thin, light plastic, sure. Covered in horrible food, absolutely. Also, it blocked the cameras while my blackened zirconium nails scraped off a thin shard of plastic and began to sharpen it.
No phenotype reversals. They turned me human, but they didn’t undue any alterations I’d made to my body other than going in and grabbing my power core and connection parts. Maybe they missed that when interrogating Mecha Gecko. The thought of what I could do with those nails and sharp plastic made me salivate, because the food sure didn’t.
Then I moved my tongue back into my mouth and flicked my fangs down briefly, tracing over them. They were never part of my DNA either. I just had my nanites build them into me. But I couldn’t stop checking them, incredulous at the oversight. I slid them back up and tucked into my meal. And though the “om, nom, nom” of me digging in sounded human enough, they seem to have forgotten my cybernetic voicebox, or that nice little paralytic tone I can emit that I learned from a previous prison stay. Or they’ve come up with a countermeasure to that one they’re confident in and just don’t want to remind me that I can try it.
And when the Frog asks, “Why did you stab me?” the Scorpion replies, “It’s in my nature.”