Times like these make you wonder how much a city can take. It’s been one asskicking after another for Empyreal City. The military occupation isn’t making the rebuilding effort go any faster, especially the way they’re sent out to investigate any and all superhero activity. I assume crime is up, but that’s because it doesn’t take too much to realize that.
The reason why “in broad daylight” is a statement of boldness for criminals is because most prefer to rob a place when no one will likely see them to report it. With Empyreal City’s resident crop of nighttime rooftop-dwellers grounded at risk of having a .50 caliber rifle shoved in their face, a lot of criminals are back in action. Hell, I even robbed a bakery. It’s part of an evil plot, I swear.
As for what they do when they actually catch heroes, there’s some sort of detainment. They were trying to keep it quiet, but they didn’t have very good cells. The first breakout made it pretty clear where they were squirreling captured supers away to. Officially, they’ve been declared criminals and villains, whether they’d always been heroes or had only recently gained that distinction thanks to the big post-invasion amnesty. That’s the problem with letting the law decide such issues.
And then there’s me, taking it all in while running around and doing my thing. Fixing my gauntlets while scared library regulars watch the TV for the latest round of outrages. Eating a midnight snack in the refectory after knocking over a few costume stores and supermarkets while nocturnal supers sit around with coffee and smartphones to see if any friends got busted. Even sparring against Leah in a mostly-empty gym. “Kinda empty in here, isn’t it?” I asked.
She didn’t say anything, at least in response. Unless the gasping and groaning was meant to be a response, but I figure it had more to do with her discovering the joy of being on the receiving end of a kidney punch. I sat down on a nearby bench while she recovered enough to crawl over and pull herself onto it. She lay there for a few seconds, then said, “Ow.”
“See?” I asked. “Really effective. It’s kinda like it knocks the fight right out of you.”
She nodded her currently-bright red hair. “I thought wrestling with you would be more fun.” I think it was meant to be innuendo, but the pain in her voice messed that up.
“Well, ya know, they warn you your first time’s going to be painful, but at least you finished quickly,” I told her with a smile.
She smiled back with a bit of playfulness in her eyes. “I’m just glad it was with you, Master.”
I rolled my prosthetic eyes at my young former ward. “You and the innuendo. You keep this up, and no one will believe I haven’t messed with you that way. Then, when people see all the bruises, we’ll really get a reputation.”
She sat up and rubbed at her biceps. “I don’t mind. In fact, I’m glad it was you to beat me up this time. The way you do it is like a real fight. I know what to expect when I get hit for real.”
“Why is this place so empty again? I believe I asked that question once already, but you have been avoiding answering it.”
She shrugged. “Kids don’t want to be heroes so much if it’ll get them thrown in jail by that jerkwad. I’m surprised you’re not more opinionated about him.”
I shrugged. “Who wants to hear my political opinions? Or hear me salivate at the schadenfreude of his voters turning against him? Or listen to me rant about how he seems more popular to protest against than vote against? This is the section of my biography where the writer’d be like ‘Did anything happen that didn’t seem to be about the new President?’”
“Come on,” she elbowed me.
I turned away. “No, and I’m frankly appalled by the implication, especially while they’re serving fried chicken in the refectory. I don’t know about you, but I’m showering.”
That night, I set out to put my plan in motion. That had been a large motivator in not letting a sparring match with Leah go on too long. She needs to keep up on her whoop-ass studies, but sometimes a guy’s just got shit to do. Plus, she learned a valuable lesson about kidney punching. It really is very important for someone who wants to mess people up for a living.
I needed my strength, after all, for my target was well guarded. It was the base of the guards, the military shantytown in Central Park. Whatever commanding officer consented to send his people in apparently drew the line at quartering soldiers in people’s homes. Instead of setting up outside the city of commandeering office buildings, they somehow wound up in Central Park. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a matter of even more politics, them trying to hold onto an exposed open position in the middle of a city. Maybe because they’d taken to holding supers in the park’s zoo.
They still had fences and guards up to deter casual entrance to the camp, but I didn’t trust it to be that easy. Mostly because it shouldn’t have even been as easy as it looked to be. Instead of barging in against these guys, I stopped to observe the section of perimeter fence I’d opted to try and penetrate. The whole thing just seemed too easy. Therefore, it had to be. If only it wasn’t the time of year most animals were trying to avoid the cold. I figured I needed a dog that could pass for a stray.
Half an hour later, I returned with something to approximate a vicious feral street dog. According to the collar around the Chihuahua’s neck, his name was Spanky. I stood back and punted him toward the perimeter fence, then ducked close to the grass and activated a hologram. These holodiscs aren’t as awesome as my old system, but their invisibility screen ought to hold under those circumstances.
Thirty seconds after unleashing Spanky’s yapping fury upon the fence, a fifteen-foot walker stomped onto the scene, sighting on the annoying little yapper. Sadly, it didn’t open fire. It just stood there, a bipedal machine with two thick, humanoid legs that stood on three-toed feet. The legs met at a platform that held thick, boxy torso with the pilot inside. It didn’t have a head so much as a set of sensors, none of which resembled a face. Its right arm consisted of a pair of box-like missile launchers . One on the outside was connected by a rotating joint to another. Its left looked like a minigun, so it had that going for it too. I got a very good look at it in the moonlight, especially when it decided to point both arms in my direction. It didn’t advance, though.
I jumped back, looking like some weird blur that tried to blend into the sky and background as my holodiscs struggled to hide me in vain. So on top of the motion sensors, they had something magnetic or something that could detect whatever heat I put out.
Operation Whitewash would have to be heavily modified. First, by unleashing Operation Yapper. I visited more homes and plenty of Pet Stores before heading back. I let everything out. Kittens. Puppies. Parakeets. I had all sorts of animals running all over that perimeter, keeping the guards busy all night long. If it hadn’t been for seeing me earlier, they might have just disabled the alarms or lowered their sensitivity. I had to stick a lot of metal on those animals, even use a hairdryer on a few to make sure they were good and warm.
They kept responding, albeit turning it into less of a full-blown emergency each time. By the time I stopped, they had resorted to sending out a single walker again unless they saw something worse. That time, he very nearly opened up on a bunch of snails all sliming their way around a bush. It stepped forward instead and poked the bush with the minigun, dislodging a few of the slugs. It was when it swiveled back around to head back toward the main area that I stepped out of the bush and followed along underneath it with my cargo.
When the soldiers fell out the next morning, it was discovered that someone had made a joke of them, just in time for someone to have tipped off the news. Soldiers were rushing all over the place, their faces painted bright white, wigs of jarringly bright colors stuck to their heads. Then they had to worry about tripping over their own feet given the giant shoes, many of which were just oversized for the person and painted red.
Needless to say, the new President threw yet another tantrum over it. His Press Secretary tried to cover it up by informing the press that the camp hadn’t been infiltrated, nor had any soldiers been painted up as clowns while they slept. The differences between that statement and the truth almost caused the press to miss his next announcement. He brought out the three militia supers I’d had an altercation with but hadn’t disarmed. “We are now implementing our own special Super Federal Marshal program. These brave patriots have taken a personal oath of loyalty to the President and are ready to be sent into the field alongside our military to ensure the safety of Empyreal City now that the heroes there have proven themselves to be so untrustworthy that events like what happened last night could occur.”
One of the members of the press raised their hand. The spokesman pointed to him, prompting the question, “If nothing happened last night, then how did the events of last night prove heroes were untrustworthy?”
I was just sitting in the common room at the time, looking for a change of scenery while working on my gauntlet. I don’t know why all the adult Master Academy capes in the room were staring at me. When Venus started to say, “Ge-…Puss…” I just shrugged.
“It really is offensive, you know,” I said without looking up. “You know how damn hard I worked on it? I planned and plotted. I had to deal with fucking aliens. I laid groundwork years in advance. Then this motherfucker comes up and gets elected while bragging he could shoot people and grab women’s pussies. This is why folks like me don’t believe in the American Dream anymore. Work hard, take over the world, and everybody wants to take you down as quickly as possible. But if you’re born with money and have everything handed to you on a silver platter, you can go around bragging about all the despicable things you’re going to do and still win an election legally. It’s a damn shame.”
“There there,” Venus said, patting me on the shoulder. “If it’s any consolation, lots of people hate him too.”
“I don’t see people building giant robots to oppose him! Seriously, you want a giant robot? I’m going to need materials, but I have the hookup. Hell, you get me wood and some lasers, I can carve one up for you, what do you say?”
No takers, not even when I mentioned that I could use peach trees and call it “The Im-Peach-inator.” For some reason, they remain committed to nonviolent opposition against this one. I don’t see why. I think I was much more benevolent of a dictator.
I’m beginning to think I just don’t understand this world.