Of course I didn’t die. Let’s not pretend that was even a cliffhanger. Ok, so maybe it was. I didn’t actually know what beating the final boss would do, or even if the game would glitch out, though I figured I wouldn’t know anyway.
I appeared in a flash of bright light, probably because I hadn’t seen real light in awhile. I fell through the arcade cabinet, wrecking the collectible value of the none-of-a-kind Annihilation Corporation. Darn. Who wouldn’t want a game starring yours truly, besides most of the world?
First thing I did upon realizing I had three full dimensions again was to check my appearance, balls first. I had reemerged Caucasian. Long hair, no feathers stuck in it. Leather jacket that said Behemoth. Aside from my physical wounds, I exited in the same form as I entered. Good. I wasn’t looking forward to getting chucked out in one of the other two character forms and suddenly having human eyes. I like my cybernetic ones. They’re color-changeable, they’re better than 20/20, and one of them shoots a laser that could fry my brain if I turn it up too high and too long.
Having all my organs put back to standard also could have screwed me over as far as contacting y’all or holding onto all the information in my special, partially-computerized brain.
I groaned and stood up, getting used to real gravity again. Wow, the world is really high definition. So glad I didn’t pop into this world back in the early 1900s, when everything was black and white and silent. It was all wobbly and I had to brace myself against a wall. I looked up and found myself staring out a window at the darkness outside.
“Something happened! Come on!” I heard an excited voice say behind me. Thoughts of the psychic block sprang to mind, so I sprang over to grab a piece of the wooden cabinet. Whack!
“Huh, so the bottom floors have stronger glass than the second story does… handy to know now,” I said looking at the undamaged window. Then I spotted the latches on the inside. It felt wrong not to break through the window, but it got me out all the same, and into the night in my leather pants and leather jacket. My boys jingled and jangled along, not having been exposed to weather since Halloween, and they didn’t care for the reminder.
Of course, running off into the night with no plan isn’t generally the best way to play things, but I did have a clue.
Michelangelo, and his House of Negotiable Stuff.
“Do we know you?” asked a secretarial-looking woman in a suit that hid a light kevlar vest and probably a weapon. I’m guessing a knife. She met me at the back door, which now had been remodeled as a secondary entrance, with some nice wood paneling floor and a heavy-looking desk. She looked severe, sharp, with high cheek bones, thin lips and cheeks, and hair pulled back taut. The suit was black, with just a hint of cleavage at the top. She didn’t have an accent, but I would have had her pegged as Russian, which had interesting implications for Michelangelo and his business these days. I don’t know what implications, I just know it has them. Just like when you come across a crater where something exploded, you can guess something bad probably happened without knowing the exact type of bomb.
I spewed out a number with robotic rapidity, and not the same one I tossed out before when sending Venus here. To her credit, the secretary almost kept up. Almost. “Give that to me again?”
I leaned over, gave a flourish of my hand, and said, “That is what she said.”
She didn’t look amused. I repeated the number in full just to be a dick.
“Are you here to buy anything specific or just browse?” she asked.
“Specifics. I need a general-purpose ear communication device, and a cracker to help it break into local channels. Along with that, I need a bit of info on things happening. I understand some heroes paid you a visit and I would like to know where they are now, or at least what they were told.”
The first two items were easy. I got a little earpiece that fit in my ear well enough and replace some of my lost communication abilities. The cracker was an add-on to it that I could keep in a pocket to help me try to butt in on any frequencies being used nearby.
The info about where they went, which I’d passed up back at the school, directed me to a part of town buzzing with police attention. And hero attention. I imagine they didn’t catch this person as quickly as they meant to and things escalated.
Been there, done that. Probably from both sides, but I wasn’t thinking of specifics. If I had a nickel for every time I committed a crime I couldn’t remember, I don’t know how many nickels I’d have.
But I had a general area where something was happening, a cracker, an earpiece, and time. I also had a hit. A familiar voice, because very few people sound like bulls.
I found myself following the police to an apartment building with a bakery on the bottom floor. The area hadn’t yet been cordoned off, but one of the Master Academy capes stood guard at the bottom in uniform. He recognized me by my ears, I guess. “It’s Puss, isn’t it? Glad you’re here. We have a hostage situation and he’s,” He put a hand to his ear. I heard it on my end, too as someone announced he had someone in the corner room.
“Right up there!” finished the guard, pointing to a corner window. “Got any ideas?”
I looked around and spotted a pet store across the street. “Ya know, I just might…”
A couple minutes later, the bell dinged as I stepped out, a parrot on my shoulder. “Twenty, forty, sixty, eighty,” it counted.
“Good boy,” I said, and held up some of the cash I’d stolen from the register. “Here’s you a little something.”
The parrot took the money as the hero yelled across the road at me, “What the hell was that?”
I shrugged. “It was my idea.”
“About getting in there?!” the hero asked.
“Ooooh. Oh, right. Up there. Give me a moment.” I reached out my hand for the parrot. It stepped onto my fingers. I stepped back over to the pet shop, where a wide window displayed all sorts of critters just waiting to be sold to people. I tightened my grip and swung, bashing in the bird’s brains and breaking the window. I threw myself through the broken glass. As I stood up and brushed bloody glass fragments off myself, I ignored the frightened puppy whining from the display in the window and said, “There we go. That’s how I do windows.”
I exited this time with turtles, which caused the guard to cuss up a storm. I ignored it and walked over to the wall next to and below where he’d pointed to. I licked the bottoms of the turtles and pressed them to the wall. Nature’s suction cups, the turtles. Marvelous creatures. Got me up the wall in no time flat, to the astonishment of the expendable hero below.
At the window in question, I saw an older woman. The face and hair made me think woman, because the body fat made it kinda ambiguous. She had the lights dimmed, too, but I saw she held a gun against the temple of someone else. Didn’t get a good look at them in the middle of everything.
Our hostage taker, who didn’t look much like a mad scientist at first glance due to traditional glass ceilings in the insane STEM fields, turned and waved the gun in my direction. “Who are you? Get back or I’ll shoot!”
I shook my head. “No, I’m going after someone a floor up. Bitch owes me taco money!” I kept on climbing. When I got past the window, I maneuvered so I was above it and swung with my boots heading first for the glass. I broke through, getting even more bloody and stuck with glass as I rolled onto the floor toward our ambiguous hostage-taker who supposedly had a connection to my recent arcade adventures. S/he whirled around to hold the gun on me, keeping the hostage, a teenage girl, in a headlock against her.. I held a pair of turtles on her. We were in a stand-off.
“I thought you were going up a floor,” s/he said.
I narrowed my eyes. “I thought you knew better than to go never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line.”
“You don’t look Sicilian,” s/he responded.
I pointed to the door. “I meant him.”
They turned toward the door, pointing the gun. When they turned back, I was gone. “Where?” s/he asked before looking down at the hostage and seeing me there.
“Magic!” I said, and slammed the turtles by their shells into both sides of his/her face at once.
I didn’t kill her, though. It was a her, turns out. Found that out when I decided to see where I could shove a turtle and found I had another option that indicated sex. No, I didn’t kill her. I just hurt her, really, really badly. With turtles.
The heroes stormed in at some point, too, probably because the hostage ran out. They found me standing over the beaten woman, asking, “Why me, huh? Why’d you decide to send me in to get my balls gobbled by Ms. Pacman?”
“Who are you?” she asked. “I just wanted to test them. I have to get them right. The machines have to be right. They are my life’s work.”
“It’s your life’s work to turn people into arcade games?” I asked.
She nodded and spat a tooth out onto the ground. The tooth shall set her free. “I made a wonderful machine, but it’s supposed to let people turn back. They never turn back. Instead they go crazy after the first few days.”
“I don’t see how,” I said, remembering the lack of sleep and repetitive nature of the demo screen. “So did you target me specifically?”
“Who are you?”
“This was all just bad luck?”
“Well, I wouldn’t call it bad. You contributed greatly to my scientific pursuit. You’re the first to escape! I have so many questions when you aren’t trying to kill me,” she pleaded excitedly.
“Luck,” I said. “Blind, stupid, simple, doo-dah, clueless luck!” I readied my turtle for insertion. Now there’s a phrase begging on all fours for innuendo.
“Enough!” I felt all woozy in the head as someone’s voice reverberated as both sound and a headache. I dropped the woman and stumbled back toward the window, pressing my remaining turtle to my head.
Psychsaur stood there, glaring at me. I raised a hand to throw the turtle at her, then stopped. “Oh for duck’s sake,” I muttered. She didn’t even ask permission this time before slapping those mental restrictions on me. No cussing, no physical violence, no poisoning, no escaping.
The Mad Developer stood up and looked to the heroes. “Why are you after me? I didn’t do anything wrong! There’s no law against what I did!”
“I find,” I started, “That heroes only like the law when it agrees with them. These types here aren’t that different from you. They’ll lock you up in a secret underground prison with solitary confinement and never let you see the light of day again. Constitution be darned.”
The Dev looked at me, then at them. She backed away from them, more toward me. I dropped the lone remaining (probably traumatized) turtle. “You’re no hero, are you?”
I reached out and put my hand on her shoulder. She jumped. “No, I’m not. Come to me, child. Let us flee.” I took my hand away and stepped back against the window.
She turned and started for me, then slipped on the turtle and went out the window headfirst. Funny thing; humans can survive falling from an airplane at terminal velocity, and die tripping over their own two feet. This one, she did NOT stick the landing. Made too big of a splash at the end. The judges aren’t going to like that one. I know the heroes didn’t. They hauled me right back to campus with faces that said, “We are not happy with you!”
But I don’t care. I have lots of packages shipping my way, just waiting to be turned into glorious armor and help me get away from this PG-13 Brady Bunch school. They’ll know about that, and I’m sure Mender will allow me to keep it so he can have me as his pet assassin before long. But they don’t know what I’ll do with it. Nor do they know about this wonderful communications gizmo in my ear. Psychsaur was much too angry and much too distracted by where my thoughts were going. To the funny farm, where life is beautiful all the time, and I’ll be happy to see those nice young mean in their clean white coats, and they’re coming to take me away, ha ha!