In the aftermath of messing about the campsite, I returned to the library. The armor performed pretty well, overall. I didn’t build it with disposable plates, but they got a little dented. Hey, that kind of weight is why an exoskeleton is a must. I’ve been working on that, too. Been a problem in between dealing with some of the students staying at the school for the holidays. They have all sorts of circumstances, like the Korean girl scared of all the stuff happening in North Korea, or the guy from Georgia who can’t go home due to discrimination. Not because of being a super, in that case, but because he’s gay and his boyfriend here is a Muslim. That domestic situation doesn’t get much worse unless he was dating an illegal Mexican black guy.
I’m not mentoring people, by the way. It’s just that since the library is my unofficial base of operations, I tend to find people wandering around there looking for books, or making out in the study rooms. Making out puts it mildly. I’d write all the specifics, but I’m pretty sure that’s technically illegal for y’all to read.
Anyway, they hang out and read stuff. I build stuff and put the books in place so they’ll stay out of my way. Word’s starting to get around that I hurt people a bit, which is both making them more polite and offending me slightly. I don’t just hurt people. That’s like saying Leonardo da Vinci likes watercolors. I paint a Sistine Chapel of pain, suffering, dead bodies, and a bit of bukkake. I got a little over-excited. I swear, it usually never happens. I’m the Jimi Hendrix of beating people to death with guitars. The Michael Jordan of bouncing my balls on their pained faces. The Charles Manson of… I got nothing. But people are returning their books and make sure to keep things clean.
For my part, I don’t try to intimidate them. I’m even trying to stay out of their way using an improvised system of pulleys and some grappling hooks I appropriated from the gym. The end result is that I’ve taken to hanging from a rope track, pulling myself around a as I stalk the shelves and do what I do. Rumors that I occasionally sing “Nana nana nana nana, Gexman!” are obviously the exaggeration of a bunch of students with too much time on their hands, and who shouldn’t have been eavesdropping on me anyway.
That’s the context behind when Venus walked in and caught me stocking a shelf with discs. She ahemmed, so I grabbed the rope above me and spun around. “What are you doing upside-down?” she asked.
I folded my arms across my chest against the pull of gravity. “That’s quite a question coming from someone walking on the ceiling.” And who has been out of town and not paying attention to me.
She pulled a bit of hair off the pretty brown skin of her face and rolled her eyes. “So that’s just one of your things. But what’s with the CDs?”
I reached behind me and pulled one out to show her. “I found your lack of educational material disturbing. I have amended some of this in order to retain my sanity. This one’s got Lazy Town on it. Pretty good villain in there, and he even has a song teaching people to be bad guys.” I handed it to her and pulled out another. “Here’s Weird Science. Very educational. There’s remotes that rewind and fast forward time, a supercomputer with an AI that wants to take control of people’s lives and make out with a pretty woman, changing people’s gender to teach them a lesson… really, it’s a must-have for the modern mad scientist.” I whipped another one out.
“And what does ‘Cats’ teach?” she asked. I glanced at the disc and saw that I’d pulled that out. Huh. That should not have been that close to the Ws.
“Makeup, flexibility, and that women really want the villain,” I said. Actually, I got that one for myself.
“Sure. Right. Well, as long as you’re not letting people check out any inappropriate material, I suppose that’s nice of you. Here.” She handed me back the discs, which I slipped into my utility belt to be sorted later. I needed something to hold things while I swing around upside down in the place. “You’ve really taken to the place, haven’t you?”
I narrowed my eyes at her.
She raised her hands defensively. “Sorry. I know, you’re the evil bad guy, and buying a kid’s show about sports and fitness doesn’t change that. I haven’t forgotten all you’ve done to me and those I care about. I just mean, it’s nice that you’re doing something with yourself that instead of something destructive. How have you been holding up?”
I pointed up. “Well, the trick is distributing the weight along different points and not just the legs, though that can be handy if you have too many hard landings.”
“You know that-”
I cut her off. “I know you don’t care about me insofar as you think you can reform me. Real frustrating to not know if all my thoughts and ways of behaving are my own. Also, really frelling frustrating not to be able to cuss. Sometimes, I feel like the movie ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ edited for cable. Just so you know, I wouldn’t go on a wild killing spree here even if I was allowed to, so there’s an astounding chance you’re right about the peculiar inconsistency of my ‘addiction’… and besides, I take that debt seriously. I hate taking things seriously. Do you know how hard it’s been, being serious? I’ve had to pull myself together for so long and it’s tiring. I want to go beat up moon Nazis or kill a superhero themed around pie. Or pi. Either works for me.”
Well, that’s a lot of words people probably glossed over. But seriously, I can see myself fighting Pi Man. Pi Man, with the strength of 3.14 men! Or the Pie-azon, who defeats evil with a little help from her blueberries. Sounds like the type to have a jealous boyfriend, though. I’ve heard you’re never supposed to rub another man’s rhubarb. Ah, that’d all be fun.
Instead, Venus folded her arms. “Too bad. You did the crime and now you’re doing the time. Easy time, too. Do you know how many prisoners in maximum security would kill to be in your place? Suck it up and stop whining. Now, if you can, I need to take you down to your cell or some other place out of sight.”
I held up my hands. “Geez, Boopsie, I didn’t know that’d finally set off all that unresolved sexual tension. There’s a study room nearby some of the students use for that. I’ve been waiting on something to make it easier to clean, actually…”
She shook her head. “Yeah, we got that package, and I don’t know how I feel about the condom dispenser, but that’s not what I meant. We’re having a party at the school. We’ve kept a lot of supers away from areas you were likely to be seen at, and they aren’t the important social areas anyway, but this place will be full of superheroes we don’t want to see you.”
I raised an eyebrow. From that angle, it was more like lowering one. “First you want to jump my bones, then you’re embarrassed to let anyone see me. You have a strange way about relationships.”
She grabbed me by the hair. “Do you really want to let Good Doctor find you after what you did to his daughter?”
I raised a finger and started to speak. This time, she didn’t let me speak. “With you being unable to fight back?”
I suppose she had a point. With that in mind, I had to move my armor machine, which was a pain. At least they didn’t give my room away to the captured militia member. I had a small hiccup at one point, though. I tried to move the x-ray I’d stolen from the infirmary down. Venus found out I was moving it when she caught me wheeling it on reinforced library carts.
She didn’t appear happy, especially in light of the infirmary being short their x-ray machine. “Is that what I think it is?”
I patted the machine. “Yep. My own personal microwave. This baby can heat a burrito like it’s nobody’s business. Which is good, because burritos typically end the digestive cycle as nobody’s business.”
“That looks an awful lot like an x-ray machine. I know, because the nurse wanted me to keep an eye out since theirs mysteriously went missing.”
I blinked, then put my hands behind my back and bowed my head a little. “Ok, you got me.You found me out. My secret is shamefully revealed to the world… I got the school a new x-ray machine. I heard about it going missing and figured I’d get y’all one for Christmas. Thanks a lot, Venus. You ruined the surprise. You ruined Christmas.” I forced myself to tear up and tried to blink it back.
“Pull the other one,” she said. When I reached for one of her boobs, she loudly added. “Leg!” Funny she slapped my hand away when I tried to touch her leg.
So they took the x-ray machine and consigned me to the fluorescent-lighted depths of the school for their Christmas Eve party. Lots of folks having a good time who want me dead. Some traumatized kid in the infirmary being nursed back to health during one of the worst holidays of his life. Another guy down under the school being restrained and probably honey-boarded. What, y’all thought water was the worst thing you could use in torture? I mean, I only did it for a second. It’s just that honey makes for really long seconds.
But I took a break like all of them. Sorta. Maaaaaaybe. I can say for certain that what I chose to do on Christmas Eve was definitely of my usual soundness of mind. I stopped by a place on the outskirts of the city where a family lived. Nice place. Got its own lawn and a little money to it. Well, a family doesn’t live there all the time, but from what I’ve been able to stalkingly pry out of the internet, he gets his kids over a lot more these days. The money helped.
They weren’t home when I got there. The guy about to bust in a side window with a rock noticed that, too. He didn’t see me until it was too late, though.
My entrance was more subtle, and the sack I carried was full before going in. As soon as I set foot, something stirred within the house. Something the burglar wouldn’t have liked to find. Not everyone appreciates an authentic magic moai statue. “Hey there, fella.” I dropped the sack and gave him a hug. “You still getting on ok?”
He nodded slowly. From my spying, he doesn’t seem as spry as he used to be. A bit less active. It’s the cracks, including one big one running through the center of his head. It probably works better to keep him with Carl, instead of out fighting more things that could destroy him. “Yeah, that’s right. I’m still here. Just don’t let people know,” I explained. “I don’t believe I ever found out whether you were Jewish, and it’s Hanukkah starting tonight. Kwanzaa’s almost here, too. Always Saturnalia if you’re a fan of the classics. Anyway, big guy, happy holidays from a supervillain bearing presents and epoxy. And just a little quick concrete.