It’s not just Alabama and Florida getting my special attention. Dudebots are going out all over the place, as well as Drone Division teams and some of Ricca’s new Navy Deep Ones. They’re a hell of a lot better than SEALs in the water. Whatever Hu did with the old version of the Intelligence Service, he’s not doing too badly with the new one. He’s keeping me updated regularly on the process, which mostly consists of him having scattered groups link up, meet with a nearby interested supervillain, and bring all of them in at once.
Good coordination there, helped quite a bit by a recovering economy. We’re even taking in refugees from all over the place now that the United States can’t or won’t. Haitians, Puerto Ricans, Middle Easterners. And not crappy people, either. Plenty of doctors and engineers who would have been taxi drivers in the United States are finding I don’t care so much about certificates if they’re capable of doing the work. In some cases, we have some handy people for the military. Anywhere the United States coordinated with locals, Hu is looking over files to see who can be of use to the Intelligence Service and who might be a potential threat.
I don’t know when he sleeps, especially now that I ordered him a fancy coffeemaker that could keep an entire army marching for days. I had it sent to one of the hidden detention areas that used to belong to the New Direction before we rounded them up and dealt with them.
It’s not all bad. They’ve been split up and mixed in with some of our new colonists. Yep, the Directory has decided to offer people a chance to start colonies on Mu. They’re predominantly locals, with more cooperative New Direction thugs mixed in, and even some refugees. My ambassador over in the Bronze City already sent over maps, so surveyors with drone backup are off figuring out where to put people, with emphasis on resource rich areas. Some of the New Direction guys might even be useful as guards there, but I passed a message to the Directory that I want oversight.
Meanwhile, in America, I had a couple interesting opportunities at hand. The biggest involved the Cartel’s branch in Paradise City. They invited me to see one of their lovely happening night spots, full of groovy cats and bangin’ hotties. Word. Adjective. Pronoun. But enough about me and my antiquated sense of how to fit in. I wore armor to a nightclub. The doorman actually commented as he looked me over, “Gonna be hard to dance in that.”
I turned the Dudebot’s head to look at a line of scantily clad women at the front of the line. “What can I say? I’m a firm believer in using protection.” I nodded at them as the doorman let me through on orders from the higher ups. “Ladies.”
This place wasn’t built to completely blackout every signal imaginable. The Cartel were relying on a different method of securing their communications. The place was so full of music and people, you’d have to get a bug in there. That’s harder to do inconspicuously with so many people in there and, as I soon found, plenty of guards keeping important people out of the manager’s office. They let me pass with nods of their own, but kept an eye out to make sure no one got any thoughts. The size of some of the glasses at the bar, I’m pretty sure some people are lucky to still have brain cells, let alone thoughts. You don’t often see martinis big enough to drown a man in.
I entered at what might have seemed a bad time. I walked in on one man in a suit with the jacket off slamming the head of a woman into the desk. She held a gushing and broken nose as she raised her head up again. She turned to me, silently pleading behind the flow of tears down her face. So I gave her some advice, “Crying is not a helpful thing to do with your nose like that at the moment. Buck up, sunshine, it’ll get better.”
The manager looked to me. “It is so good to make your acquaintance at last. First, though, let me clear the air,” He was a thin guy. Little. Wiry. Black slick hair, dark eyes, and a straight nose showing he hadn’t mixed it up enough to get his broken so far. He walked around to his desk and opened a box of cigars. He grabbed one for himself that he used to poke something inside the box. Instantly, I felt a jamming signal cutting off cell phone access. I have other ways of staying in contact with this thing that are stronger than a cell phone jammer, though. My host extended a hand across his desk. “You are Psycho Gecko. When I heard a man of your standing had arrived to meet with Ouroboros and he insulted you so, I thought I would have my people reach out to you.”
I shook it, and looked down at the two chairs in front. One was occupied by the bleeding person.
“Don’t mind her. Merely a waitress who thought I would give my life for her, or at least twenty years if she had succeeded with her deception.” He slammed the palm of his hand flat on the desk, making her jump. “I know how much you enjoy the feeling of taking a life. Please, be my guest,” the manager smiled.
I nodded and held up my pointer finger. “Sure thing.” Then I turned and walked out of the room. Despite making good time on my trip, he was on a landline by the time I walked back into the room. “Nevermind, he is here again,” he said before hanging up.
I sat down the giant martini glass on the edge of his desk in front of the underling he wanted to be rid of. She had stopped crying, but didn’t look any prettier for it. She looked up at me as I sat on the desk. “Care for a drink, my dear?” I asked. I didn’t wait for an answer before I grabbed her head and held it under the surface of the cocktail. She put her hands on the edge of the glass, which was indeed larger around than her face, and pushed. Slick with blood and tears, and facing the unforgiving metal of my robot surrogate, her hands slipped off and she tried with the desk. It didn’t work either.
Only once she weakened did I let her up, pulling her face out of it, then rapidly bringing it down to smash through the glass itself. Sharp glass scattered under her where it didn’t tear into her skin. I kept going, though. Her face and very top of her neck hit the desk. The rest of her I forced to the floor with a loud snap from her vertebra.
I threw her body to the side and sat down in the other chair offered. I saw the manager smiling a grin not often seen on adult outside of a windowless van. He motioned to the corpse. “To think, some of my own people doubted your identity. Who can doubt such art as this?” He kissed the tips of his fingers, then sat down.
“Whew, I don’t know about you, but I feel like a drink after that. I’ll have a White Russian,” I informed him. The Dudebot abides.
He sent off for the drink and made some small talk about the unseasonably cold weather., introducing himself as “Aurelio Cuerno.” It has snowed three times in Paradise City this winter. Prior to the first time, it hadn’t truly snowed here since the 70s. Even now, there were areas with puddles that had been frozen for days. In Florida. “What I find fascinating is that Ouroboros does not use his system to change it,” Cuerno said.
“Perhaps problems with it caused this weather. Maybe it’s part of some plan he has in mind,” I mused.
It wasn’t until we received our drinks that he asked the question of the hour. “I have heard of your conference. I am most interested in hearing your plans and whether they still include Ouroboros.”
I swirled glass and the liquor within “My plans are simple. I want a big family of supervillains. One network where we can all communicate. Coordinate amongst ourselves in groups. Join together if need be.”
“Mmm, that is an ambitious project.” He leaned back in his chair, then nodded his head to where the fellows who brought us our drinks were picking up the body off to the side. “What is your plan for dealing with informants and undercover law enforcement?”
“Who has two thumbs and is absolutely trusted to not be an informant by anyone on Earth?” I asked, pointing back to myself with both thumbs. “There’s a lot to figure out as far as structure. Leadership council, for example. However, I think I am more than qualified to execute any enforcement of penalties, which by necessity would be concerned with limited offenses. Murder of a villain, or betrayal of this organization. We can fill in gaps as needed, though I think a promise to have me curb vigilante murders of villains will be a powerful incentive.”
“Fascinating… and I see a way in which we may help each other in our projects.” He reached down and messed around with a drawer before setting a velvet bag on the desk between us. “I owe my life and my loyalty to the man this belongs to. He is like you, a man of exceptional abilities. Unlike you, he was captured and lost his armor. I have done everything I can to find out where they are holding him, and I have failed in this, but I have many resources. I have people who owe me debts, and those who need what I have to sell them. It was in this way I found out my own boss, Escorpio Encantador, will be transferred from where he is being kept to a facility in central Florida along with other superhumans the police have corralled. I would be honored if you would do me the favor of rescuing him, and I believe he would be amenable to your offer if you did. Indeed, there may be a few such villains on the transport grateful for a rescue.”
I nodded along to the last few words. “I like this offer. No fuss. No making me wait. I have a country to lead, after all.”
“I see no reason to make a powerful enemy when I could have powerful friends,” he said. He raised his own glass, some form of whiskey. “Come, let us drink. To fulfilling our ambitions,” he said, raising his glass for a toast.