My nefarious plans to steal information from Aurum using heroes have hit a couple of snags. The first phone I dropped into Master Academy was intercepted by some sort of urchin running along the refugee camp they currently have on campus. Heh. They must really hate that I left them in that situation. And that the notorious killer they patched up escaped their custody, but immediate annoyances first. My second phone drop was much better aimed, using a zeppelin drone. Dr. Creeper would be proud. I actually stopped by his place to leave him the schematics for it in his mailbox.
The second disappointment in this hands-off crusade of evil justice was the answer I got when I spoke to their representative. They decided to have Minotaur handle me on this call, which was odd enough. “Venus and Psychsaur not around, eh?” I asked.
He snorted. “They’re busy. You’re not that important to them.” He did so like to hurt me.
“Yeah, yeah, I get it. They’re frantically scrambling to hunt me down based on where this call is coming from. By the way, you wouldn’t believe how hot Miami is this time of year. The local heat index is ‘Ball Sweat Kiddie Pool.’ The smells here, man. Poop don’t freeze in Florida.” Just because it’s not part of my biology doesn’t mean I lost all my old tricks. According to any trace, I’m calling them from the women’s locker room in a gym down there.
“Anyway,” I went on, getting down to business, “How’d it go? Someone probe his mind yet? Come on, you can tell me. I’m helping.”
That elicited another snort from the son of a bull. “We don’t need your help.”
“Good job hunting down Aurum all on your own,” I said. “I chased him down. He had to something to do with the bombings. He’s had something to do with protests, and armed people kidnapping teens.”
“I’m not going to be fooled like the others into thinking you’re the lesser of two evils. Besides, for some reason our mind-readers can’t read his mind.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Maybe,” he said. “You’ll just have to guess, won’t you?” Then he hung up.
He had a point about me doing so much by being the lesser of two evils a lot of the time, but he still missed the part where I’m currently the lesser of the evils. So that didn’t turn up any good answers. I’ll have to pay them a visit. Before I do, I’m grabbing myself some gold foil and making something to go on my head under my helmet. I don’t know if it’s the gold blocking psychics somehow. Worst case scenario, I just sell the thing to that conspiracy theorist guy who thinks black people are a plot to turn men into gay “cucks” or whatever he’s crying about now. For a guy convinced a shadowy cabal is out to get him, he sure is awfully loud.
Enough social commentary. I was talking about how the heroes weren’t letting me know about their plans to mindrape a guy into giving me knowledge about his terrorist plot involving contemporary political figures.
However, this episode of 24 had to wait for the third thing standing in my way: March twenty. I missed it last year, but Mr. Rogers’ Day will not pass me by this year!
For those who don’t remember, the birthday of Mr. Rogers is one of the few days I take as a holiday that isn’t some widespread super-recognized holiday. It’s not a bank holiday, government holiday, or even one of those fake holidays like Columbus Day. Fuck you, Columbus. He should consider himself lucky the Vikings had hung up their longboats before he started stealing credit.
So I took a day off. It happens. No plotting, no scheming, no scrounging, nothing. It felt weird. I mess around with games and other entertainment in between everything, but to actually take a break from anything and everything related to supervillainy really is weird to me. I’m out of place like that. Plus, it made me think deep thoughts. The ones I don’t like to bring up here, because this is fun, right?
Maybe it’s good I get reminded of the “real world” out there. All its mundane trivial drama. People worried over grades, job reviews, whether the dog crapped on the correct lawn. Let them worry about it, because this isn’t about them. This is about me and the crazy things I do. It’s all about me, even the stuff people don’t know. The stuff they think has absolutely nothing to do with me! This world is my oyster; an aphrodisiac oyster that’ll get me all randy and make me fuck everything I could ever want out of it.
Because I’m not egotistic. I’m ego-tastic!
My brief break from being bad suitably pumped me up for continuing on in my merrily audacious way. Because I, Jack, the Pumpkin King… that’s right, I AM the Pumpkin King! And I just can’t wait until next Halloween!
In the end, I didn’t bring in my armor. At first I snuck in as yet another humble person looking for help. I didn’t stay in those dirty old clothes and baseball cap for long, though. Generally speaking, refugees are pretty quick to point out when someone they don’t know has shown up with suspicious intentions. Something about not liking when someone attacks the people helping them out. That bunch on the front lawn are some of the most loyal folks to Master Academy right now. As soon as I got inside and slipped into a coat room, I swapped out those dirty clothes for the next layer.
When I stepped out, I appeared to be nothing more than a humble pizza delivery worker carrying a small stack of boxes. I even had the cap to prove it.
When I reached the cells, I now appeared to be a doctor in lab coat with one of those little paper hats on they wear during surgery. I went around knocking on the doors.
I got a few answers, but they tended to have a little opening on the door for me to check in on who was there. I finally found him. He was the guy with the mild acid burns stuck in a room with a lot less interior space than mine had. I think they included lead plating on the insides for stronger folks. It was equipped to keep out casual observers as well, a situation I resolved with a careful application of device that mimicked the frequency of the security fobs used to gain access.
I didn’t spend all my time in the school playing nice.
It took a bit of strength to move the door. More lead. I had some help at the end, but soon went from pushing it to being pushed against the wall opposite his room, held by the lapel by Aurum. He’d seen better days. Splotchy skin, thinning hair. Possibly some erectile disfunction, but maybe that has more to do with my response to grabbing another man and slamming him against things.
I did what anyone would do if they were supposedly a member of a vast criminal conspiracy. I looked him in the eye and said, “I have been sent to get you. He was… insistent.”
I didn’t know who the hell “he” was, but it wasn’t a situation to talk about “they.” Let’s be honest, given the track record of most people in positions of criminal, legislative, executive, financial, and military power, I had a greater-than-average chance of it being a “he” at the top of all this.
This man with his pockmarked eyeball looked me in my eyes, searching them out for truth. Instead, he found a soulless killer who didn’t care about him. It must be a common look in his organization, because he nodded and set me down. “Do you have anything for me to wear?” He motioned to the white scrubs he had been left in. I held out a pizza guy uniform. He wasn’t impressed. I didn’t care.
They got us up to the main level, where I swapped into a set of dirty clothes again. He waited for me, looking outside as superpowered teens showed off their powers to entertain some little displaced kids. “They do not know true purpose,” he said.
“They will be enlightened in time, whether they ask for it or not,” I responded. The secret is keeping things vague, like a psychic or a medium. I was pretty close to going, “I’ve been contacted by a crime lord. I’m sensing that the letter T is important to this. It’s like a name, a title, some sort of descriptor that this person goes by regularly. Maybe it sounds similar. B, V, C, D, maybe?”
Instead, all I added was, “His will is our purpose.”
He turned to me and smirked, which looked all the more humorous with how he continued to balance the pizza boxes on one hand. “Soon, all the world will be held within the grasp of The Claw.”
“The Claw?” I asked.
He squinted at me. “Yes?”
I rolled my eyes. “Ooooh. Ok, communication error here. I’m here to break out Mickey. They nailed him with a prostitute the other day.”
I didn’t give him a chance to make good on his transformation, nor did I do anything fance. No knocking a cane against the ground to summon a mystical hammer and the power of Thor. No having a satellite shoot power armor at me. I didn’t even have to get mad and tear up my stretchy pants. I just pressed a button on a keyring next to a fob and a small explosive went off in the bottom pizza box. Things got a bit unclear in all that, but I didn’t make it big enough to take out a whole person. I think he definitely lost his wrist. Gonna be awful hard on him alone in that cell now. Without Righty, real hard, and none too easy to make it limp again.
But as I said, I didn’t get a good look. Instead, I got the hell out of there. It wasn’t that hard in all the confusion. The good thing about explosions is that they often send people running away from them. Anyone else running away tends to blend in as long as they don’t do something stupid like stop to admire their handiwork.
I got well clear of the place to my new lair, a spare room in Funsize’s apartment. A bit cramped, but she needed a renter. I’d taken the liberty of moving my stuff beforehand in anticipation of shit getting real, yo. And then, just for good measure, I called my little drop-off zeppelin phone back.
“The hell did you do?” asked the gruff voice of the Minotaur.
“I used my phenomenal psychic powers to find out that the one we’re looking for is The Claw. You’re welcome for me doing your job better than you. Also, bite me. Bite me hard. Bite me long.”