“I can’t say I like the civilians being involved in this way, but nobody died. I also disagree with your petty theft. It was a surprise that you chose to make this about public relations instead of violence. You did well.”
Did my ears deceive me, or was that actual praise from Victor Mender, the head of a school of superheroes who captured me to do his dirty work? I checked the playback, then stood up and walked over to him. “Victor, if you can hear me and your wheelchair gained self-awareness, blink three times quickly. I just want to know while I make a deal with Skynet to share the world. Skynet, I want Eastern Europe for all the porno babes.”
A cannon rose out of the back of Mender’s chair, highlighted against the window of his office. The bright daylight filtering in framed the weapon, which appeared to be the one he’s shot lightning at me from in the past. I backed out of his face and circled the desk to take my seat again. After a couple of seconds, the gun withdrew back into the chair. “Do you have any other operations in mind?”
I nodded, pleasantly surprised at the friendliness of this encounter, despite the setback. I’d expected him to go full-on Chief on me, yelling about me being some cowboy cop and yada yada. Maybe he’s trying to arrange for a hefty older black man to fill in for him later. “I have some ideas. Once again, try not to kill anyone. I was originally thinking of petty crimes that y’all don’t respond to, but that may not get any response and end up messy. Besides, believe it or not, I’m not big on petty crime all the time. Poor people just don’t have as much expensive stuff. You can make more robbing a diamond store than you’d ever make robbing Seven-Elevens or burglarizing regular folks’ houses. Same reason why it’s more profitable to assassinate rich people than poor people.”
I paused here to keep myself from running off on a tangent. “I intend to put myself in a criminal situation that will draw one of those heroes best suited to respond, and find a way to subtly track him and his compatriots.”
“Do I want to know?” Mender’s computer asked.
I shrugged. “I dunno. You’re surprisingly chill about what I’ve done so far for a hero.”
“I am not a hero,” he responded. “When I took over the Master Academy, I became responsible for the education and lives of my students. They are my highest priority, even when this conflicts with my teachings. I will dirty my hands so they can be heroes.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Huh. You know you can’t protect them forever. That’s what you’re training some of them for.”
“Yes, but I can protect them while they are my students.”
Well that’s quite an interesting understanding of the situation to find myself in. “I know the feeling. The world does need its bad guys. Without bad guys, who else is going to kill all the bad guys?” I smiled. “Anyway, I’m going to draw out the one in the number three jumpsuit and super speed. It’ll be a bumpy ride.”
“As you will,” Mender responded. “I have to check on a camping trip some of my students made. Our new President shut down the Department of the Interior’s social networking because the park service tweeted a photo showing actual inauguration attendance. Someone needs to keep them informed in case of wildfire, tornado, oncoming thunderstorms, bears, big cats, or rampaging supervillains.”
My little plan started with something relatively innocuous in Empyreal City: riding down the street on a motorbike with a giant harpoon in hand with a little pirate hat on top of my helmet. Oh, and I looked like a baboon while riding the bike.
I drove along, checking semi trailers in front of me. A bit of archived information I had from my time as Supreme Most Benevolent Leader of Earth included the names of a few shipping companies that move stuff off the books for intelligence agencies and the military. Non-official cover stuff. I mean, they could just move it normally, but then it’d be on the books and official forms and all that. You know, stuff anyone could find out after one night of rifling through someone’s embassy office.
So to keep all that quiet, certain agencies invent companies that people can be hired by or that can move nice stuff around. I’m not even entirely sure what they had in this truck, but it was going to be a hell of a lot of fun finding out. Hence my baboon harpoon. For reasons of interdimensional national security, and because it’d be too much of a hassle if Optimal Outer Control goes to prison, I won’t say the name of the company shipping stuff for the government. They’d probably toss him in Supermax to rot in isolation, and then who would share the good word of Gecko with your world?
It was easier to track them than it was a superhero. I mean, come on, CB radios. So I found one in Empyreal City. Didn’t know where it was going. Didn’t care. Just wanted it stolen.
In my helmet, I put “I’m Gonna Be A Monkey,” by Ren & Stimpy. “Ok, Stimpy, it’s time for your evolving lessons!” “Oh, rapture!” I drove onto the median so I could pull up to the driver’s side and stood up. The driver noticed something wrong with that whole picture and started fumbling for something. A radio, a gun, something. I jumped, leaving my motorcycle to head off on its own and crash into a hot dog cart on the opposite side of the road. It exploded with a fireball, likely due to the pressure-activated explosive I attached to the front of it for dramatic purposes.
As for me, I had jumped onto the side of the truck and used my power armor’s enhanced strength to drive the pointy end of the harpoon into the window. Basic life tip: stick someone else with the pointy end. Works with swords, bayonets, spears, polearms, pens, and genitals. I drove the harpoon into the window. The enlarged tip opened up a larger hole, which I felt needed additional filling to my satisfaction. I reached for my belt and pulled off a can of beer, shaking it up. One arm around the harpoon, I opened it and held the top of it to the hole, spewing foam all onto the driver and causing the truck to swerve.
I dropped the can and focused on holding on with one hand. With the other, I cranked up the power. I raised my gauntlet as it began to glow as power transferred to an energy projection around what appeared to the entire world to be a monkey paw. The driver’s swerving seemed to become intentional, as if trying to knock me off. I heard crashes, too, but focused instead on the truck. The driver was trying to yell into a phone or radio of some sort. When I gauged enough energy had accumulated in the energy sheath, I punched the window. The energy amplified the kinetic force I imparted on it, allowing me to burst through and probably make physicists cry in the process.
I fell inward through the broken glass, along with my harpoon. “Crazy pirate monkey! I swear! No, I’m not drinking!” I helpfully ended his phone call.
He stared at me for a moment, then tried to pull a gun. Really not the best time for it. I backed out of the window, tossing him out onto the hood of a car we passed going the opposite direction before climbing in myself and buckling up. Safety first.
Besides, he probably lived.
Despite the skepticism of whoever the driver had called, it was no secret by now that something had gone down. Sure, I got the truck under control, but the flashing red and blue lights behind me indicated some general concern by local peace officers. Let them keep the peace all to themselves; I’d rather have some chaos.
Using the driver’s own GPS system, I figured out I was near the interstate. Good. Heedless of pursuing cops, I raced around an easy corner and headed onto the I-87. My pursuers used their car’s bullhorns to say something, probably some boring stuff about pulling over, but I didn’t listen. Instead, I honked at all the people going so slow. When that didn’t help, I just drive through them. Amazing how much more quickly people get out of the way when someone’s about to hit them. I’m sure that’s a valuable life lesson that can easily be used in some sort of heartwarming moral. At least it could, if some bright red compact car didn’t ignore me. The driver got to live life in the fast lane before it swerved to the side and went flying over the guard rail.
I kept speeding up, and so did the heat. They multiplied, too. Soon, it seemed like I was surrounded by cars. Someone tried opening fire from the passenger side, but I swerved over and they backed off. Someone else pulled up next to the driver’s side window. He had a gun in hand, but didn’t shoot because of a double take over the baboon hologram I still had on. Before he could, I reached down to my utility belt for a very special item. He got a faceful of sticky brown gunk for his trouble. Relax, it was just delicious chocolate pudding.
Then I caught site of narrow cloud trail in the rearview mirror. “We’ve already had our pudding, but it’s time to eat my meat.” The door was yanked off by our friend in the jumpsuit, his legs pounding the street like a blur. He raised a handgun big enough to break someone’s wrist if fired.The shot left a ringing in my helmet and cracked the glass of the windshield, but didn’t make a hole.
I swung the harpoon I had brought with me, knocking the gun loose and hooking him on one of the pointy barbs. Yeah, I’d say I made a hole. The blood made a good case for that. He kept running all the while, trying to keep up lest he lose a hand. He finally jumped onto the cab instead and focused on trying to pull his hand loose. I pushed the harpoon and let him fall back, but caught him by one mechanically enhanced calf.
“Nice worksmanship. I’ll have to examine this in more detail. Tell me, is this just something you wear, or actual cybernetic prosthetic?” I asked him.
“Get your hands off me you damn, dirty ape!”
“I are baboon! That’s a monkey, you damn, dirty ape!” I yelled back. I still gave him what he wanted with a tearing sound. Turned out it was cybernetic. Then I tossed him onto the hood of a pursuing car.
He probably survived.
The cops lost me pretty quickly after I abandoned the truck, and I don’t think they were trying too hard to catch up once they saw what I did to a superhero. One down, and some nifty new tech to study.