You know, I love train heists. So exciting. Too bad Florida doesn’t have passenger train lines headed toward Central and South Florida. You’d think making it easier for more people to get to the major tourist destinations would be an easy win, but you’d be wrong. Oh so wrong.
It’s the fruit lobby that put an end to that. The orange growers have that racket going on, see. They need people stopping by at the rest stops to try pure orange juice, eat candy made from oranges, buy preserves, and head out with a bag of Florida oranges.The orange racket will do whatever they can to keep the citrus flowing. They’ve given more than their fair share of bodies a pair of alligator-skin shoes. And by that, I mean they let a pair of gators chomp onto them, then toss them in the water. Those aren’t just regular navel oranges, dear readers. Those are blood oranges.
But enough about the Vitamin C pushers. That’s all mere background fluff to attacking a prison transport convoy headed down south from Paradise City. For the sake of at least pretending to cover my tracks, I let it get some distance away from Paradise City. I actually aimed to go after it somewhere in the Big Bend. That’s what they call that corner with the peninsula.
Florida is fairly flat country. Not particularly hilly, and most of the buildings are extremely limited in height due to the hurricanes. There’s still a lot of woodland. The convoy was headed down the highway with trees all over the place. One prisoner transport, two SWAT vans. The one in rear had a machine gun mounted up top, but I wasn’t too interested in learning absolutely everything about it. I didn’t intend for it to be an issue.
But I was in the mood for an old-fashioned train heist, and old fashioned heistery I was going to have!
I jumped the guard rail from the woods on a steel horse. A robotic horse. Not that hard to throw together back in Ricca and launch on a missile over here. Horses are already fairly fast creatures before you start making improvements on evolution’s design, but most horses would not want to hold a Dudebot. It’s not some silly thing like detecting evil or hating robots. Horses are living creatures that don’t necessarily like heavy shit sitting on their back. Sparks flew every time its metal hooves pounded the highway.
I came up on the SWAT van with the roof turret first. The person on it finished calling down to everyone and turned it to aim at me. I pulled out a cable and lasso with one hand. With the other, I unslung a jar of moonshine. I lassoed the gun and stood up as I approached, moving my grip up on the rope. I swung off, pulling the turret around as I landed on the front left side of the van. The gunner pulled his sidearm, but I threw the moonshine jar onto his head. He fell as it shattered, the liquor causing a hell of a thump. Then I pulled a cigar, lit it, and tossed it in. A blue flame accompanied screams of those inside. One machine gun, but only a single shot taken. A flaming shot.
The van stopped suddenly, sending the Dudebot flying forward to land on the ass of the robo-horse that gleamed in the sunshine. Ah, but doing things Western style means the occasional use of dynamite, like what I had in my saddle bag. I tossed it behind as a present for the SWAT van driver. I’m sure he thought it was nice and safe, me apparently forgetting to light it. You know, up until the fuse suddenly lit itself.
By now, the two other vehicles were trying to contact their superiors and inform them of the unconventional attack. Sure would be a shame if someone jammed it. Meanwhile, the GPS map devices in their cabs rerouted them. “In 1,000 feet,” said a helpful electronic voice, “go fuck yourselves.”
I like to think that even if I wasn’t there in person, I was there in spirit. In fact, further up the road, a line of rubber chickens were marching along to get to the other side. The prisoner transport skidded to a stop. The front SWAT van didn’t, and ended up the size of chicken nuggets. I hopped down off my horse and pulled the door off the front of the transport. The driver held his hands up. “Please don’t kill me!”
I pulled him out. “Give me the keys and I’ll think about it.” He reached down and handed me the keys to the truck. I grabbed the keys in one hand and his hair in the other, then snapped his neck straight back at a good 100 degree angle. “I thought about it.”
When I opened the door, I found that some of the six prisoners within were working on their chains. “Howdy, everyone. Someone call for the cavalry?” I looked around and spotted the face matching the picture Aurelio Cuerno gave me. “Hey you, one moment. I got something for you.” I grabbed something off the horse and came back, then slid him the cake box.
“What is this?” asked the well-muscled latino.
“Just a cake. Surely there’s nothing hidden inside to help you get out of jail.”
He started digging through it as I hopped up and began unlocking everyone’s cuffs. Escorpio Encantador found the bag hidden within the cake in no time, and pulled from it a scorpion medallion. He slipped it over his head and then snapped the chains holding him. Ensconced by a golden glow, the other prisoners all ran out.
I hopped out too. “Before y’all all go anywhere, I merely ask for a moment or two of y’all’s time.”
“Screw that,” said one pointed teeth tattooed coming from his eyes. “We need to run, now.”
“I can get you out of here quite quickly,” I said. “And even out of the country, to a nice place that doesn’t extradite.”
“Who are you supposed to be?” asked one of them with smooth metallic eyes.
“He is Psycho Gecko, Emperor of Ricca,” said Escorpio. He stepped out of the back of the van, throwing his shredded prisoner jumpsuit to the side. He now wore gleaming armor, obsidian black and gold. It was segmented along his chest, thighs, and upper arms, but showed a lot of skin almost everywhere else. He had a loincloth just to make sure the dangly bits weren’t exposed, and part of the armor tapered off into a curling scorpion’s tail on his upper chest. His face looked out from what seemed to be an obsidian scorpion’s mouth, the ruby eyes of the scorpion set above his own. “And I am interested in his offer.”
“I have recently reached out to many other villains. I am having a meeting with as many of our powered criminal brethren as I can gather. Try to get a bit of solidarity going on. Work together a bit, or at least not working against each other. Plus, easy to find extra firepower next time a hero comes knocking and wants to put you in these lovely getups.” I motioned to the jumpsuits all but Escorpio wore.
Escorpio nodded. “I will hear you out.” Between the two of us and the lack of other options, the other five agreed. Not really big names, but quantity has a quality all its own. Truth is, I’m beginning to think I should have gone about this country by country. The States would be a poor choice for that one to start with, though. Big place.
The Dudebot nodded and headed to the horse to retrieve a bunch of augmented reality glasses. I started handing them out. “Here, put these on and just follow the yellow brick road to freedom. I have a pilot who will take care of you. Already paid off. See y’all on Ricca.”
With them out of the way, I headed back to the prisoner transport, closed it up, and hopped into the driver’s seat. The distortion to the map device stopped, showing me just where to drive to the place where they were hiding prisoners. I also called in news of an assault, even explosions.
It didn’t take long to reach Grove Penitentiary. For having such an old-fashioned name, they were clearly working off a more modern prison design. Electric fences with barbed wire ringed the place.
I stopped at the gate and handed over the deceased driver’s identification. The guard looked at the transport. “Where’s your escort?”
I shook my head. “No clue. This guy showed up on a robot horse and blew one of them up. I got the hell out of there. The front escort stopped to deal with him and I haven’t heard anything since. Didn’t you hear?”
He nodded. “Yeah. Sounds crazy. No one blames you for not stopping. Now come on through, get them to the helipad.”
Open space for a headcount? Well, I knew I’d have to make things loud again sometime. I guided the transport over to a flat space of tarmac meant for helicopter landings. Might be a good spot to have a pilot come in after I bust the door down and dig up wherever they hide the supers. I’m figuring underground, as usual. From the old files I still have archived on Grove from my brief reign as world emperor, this place isn’t set up to hold supervillains anyway. Must have been some fast digging.
I soon found out it had nothing to do with putting villains six feet under. A chunky flying block with a pair of rotors on top descended out of nowhere, landing on the helipad in front of me. The doors to it opened wide enough to admit the whole damn transport along two pair of rails like you’d see at a car wash. Once I drove in, the rails locked the wheels into position and the doors closed. Then we took off.
The ascent took several minutes like that. It gave me enough time to zoom out on satellite view and figure out what’s going on.
The answer was a giant airship. That’s where this little retrieval can was headed. Forget giant helicopter aircraft carriers or huge planes meant to stay in the air for hours at a time. This thing had a balloon to keep it up. Not a bad idea. Generally speaking, airships can stay up for a long time on minimal fuel. Crashing can still be a problem, but I suspect that’s part of the appeal. If anyone does too good a job breaking out or breaking in, they might wreck the whole thing. The guards might even have a way to scuttle it.
This thing looked to be roughly the size of the Hindenberg, which said good things to me about its possible load of prisoners.
When the big chopper block carrying me docked, the rear opened. That’s when I noticed the doors didn’t open enough for the drive or any passenger to get out.
“Stay in the vehicle while we see to the prisoners!” a voice boomed. A glance in the mirror showed people dressed in bulky gear, maybe even some exoskeletons.
I didn’t like this, so I used the eye lasers on the Dudebot to carve out a hole in the windshield as quietly as I could. See, all through my life I’ve had this strange, unaccountable feeling that something was going on in the world, something big, even sinister. Of course, that’s just perfectly normal paranoia. Everyone in the universe has that. I just listen to mine more. Good thing I did. When those guys threw the doors open, I heard one of them say, “There’s nobody in here.”
I was pulling my surrogate body through the hole when the other one ordered. “Something’s wrong. Drop it.” I felt everything give way in that distinctive feeling you get when all support fails and you’re subject to the whims of gravity. Luckily, the Dudebot could also charge up its gauntlets with energy. It burst out the top of the plummeting box, getting a little nicked by a rotor on its way up, and accelerated back up to the prison with the help of the arm rockets. They wouldn’t last long, so I shot up into the same loading bay that had dropped me before and was still in the process of closing. I still had the lasso with me from my earlier old-fashioned romp on the highway and roped a fixture on the wall to pull myself away from the doors and toward the two unfortunate guards who had dumped me like a crazy ex.
I landed right next to one and grabbed him by his thigh. I turned him upside down and drove him down onto his head. The other raised his rifle and fired at me. The shots bounced off as I stepped closer, grabbed it from him, and flipped it around while ducking. I brought the smoking muzzle up between his legs, tearing through clothing and sphincter alike. He screamed, so I brought my fist overhead and shut him up while pushing him even further along the barrel. Then I picked him up, aimed at nothing in particular, and took a shot. That silenced him, and the shot as well. Not many people realize the human body makes an excellent suppressor. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle. Yo COBRA!
“What’s happening?” Came a voice from an intercom off to the side. It was near a desktop computer hardwired into the ship itself. I couldn’t find anything going to or from the ship, so it must be operating entirely on an internal, wired network. I pushed the intercom to answer while I fiddled around some with the Dudebot, tearing into one of the more easily accessed redundant wireless interfaces.
“Uh, everything’s under control. Situation normal.”
The voice on the other side didn’t let it go. “What happened?”
“We had a slight weapons malfunction, but everything’s perfectly alright now. We’re fine. We’re all fine here now, thank you.” I popped open the case of the computer until I could find just what I needed and started splicing the wires together. “How are you?”
He didn’t reply, but I figured he was alerting the authorities. And, a moment later, I saw just that happen as the systems of the ship began to register on my consciousness. I actually sat back and let the Dudebot idle as I worked my way in. Digital stuff is always so much quicker than working in meatspace. I had plenty of time to snuff out the emergency alert and change the access codes. From there, it was just a matter of locking down the guards’ barracks, the guards’ break room, the guards’ kitchen, the armory, and the cockpit. That left a few of them roaming through the halls, but they were easy enough to deal with. I mean, the windows on the thing could only be so thick.
When the cockpit cabin door opened for the Dudebot, the crew up front were still desperately trying to retake control or get a call out to the outside world. “This is your new captain speaking,” the Dudebot relayed to them at the same time as the the intercom system announces it to every cell. “We are now flying the smooth skies of Gecko Air. Now, who wants to get off this ship alive?”
Between what gravity would do to them and threats of letting the prisoners loose on them, the crew decided to sit quiet and let me do what I liked. In the end, I got a cool 68 of 71 prisoners who agreed to come with me. I figured getting an actual helicopter or plane up there would be an issue, so I fell back on something I’d always intended to be used more by villains. I fired off a missile from Ricca and guided in drones loaded with crates of rideable rockets. Just strap on and let Wernher von Braun do the rest.
Once I’d gotten off all those friendly people who decided to attend my little conference after everything I did for them, I initiated an order to leak helium and had the Dudebot disconnect me from the airship. The crew and remaining villains would probably be ok, unfortunately. It was a slow enough leak to drop the thing without so much of the fun crashing involved in it, but it’ll put the damn blimp out of commission for a little bit.
And so my new team’s rockets blasted off again.