“What do you want with us here on Ricca?” asked one of our friendlier interrogators. I’d honestly expected the people here to be total dicks and rely on torture, but I’d been pleasantly surprised there. A lot of people think torture is interrogation these days. They’re too used to movies playing it up, probably because the truth is boring. People want to see someone get beaten up and have their ear cut off, like Reservoir Dogs or The Dark Knight. Except that got the interrogator murdered in one, while the other one was given bad information that played right into the villains’ hands. Plus, ya know, one of the characters doing it was a psychopath and the other was supposed to be the hero.
I don’t have to worry about being seen as the villain. Them’s the breaks.
So, between a reversal of the island’s brain drain and the good sense of remaining soldiers, it looked like they were making headway on our prisoner. As a plus, the pot made him not just sedate but downright enthusiastic about the cavity search. Hu informed me later that it almost irritated the soldier who does those searches. He takes pride in rough cavity searches. His superior made sure to remind him he was to search the tooth cavities first.
It’s nice having something handled without my constant supervision, though I’m glad the report mentioned the cavity search. I think Hu realized by now what kind of person I am. I need more people like him. Loyal and competent. I mean, there used to be Moai. He was good as a bodyguard, but as a magically-animated Moai statue, that was his main skill. Carl wasn’t even as good with that, though my former minion made a decent face for the company so long as he had the right people working under him. Now Crash was good at lightening my load. My personal assistant from my brief stint in the corporate world wasn’t too bad at that. Good getaway driver, too.
I need more people like that. I’ve done a poor job managing this as-is, but running an entire nation? I’m going to need more people to execute my will in the executive branch. And not just that. I need a branch to overlap with the Directory. That’s why I wasted a little bit of my valuable time figuring out a list of the sort of people I need under me. Despite what the Directory’s Foreign Affairs Committee insists on, none of them are Angelina Jolie. Qiang’s been practicing her sneaking around them when she came running back to me one day talking about how they wanted some American actress to date me and adopt her.
Nobody needs to hear about the minutiae there. They need to hear about other minutia. Like how that scientist I kidnapped, Dr. Quincy, came banging on the door of the residential palace. Which was odd. I’d left him with the food cult on the island. Just dropped him off there after the kidnapping and told Old Man Hoodless to give him as much seed as he needs. That provided some context for when he banged on the door and yelled, “Those crazy cultists are trying to do unspeakable things to me… to death!”
I pulled the door open, letting him fall over onto his face. I nudged his head with a pink-nailed big toe. “Now, you haven’t been making a mess of things and getting your seed everywhere, have you?” Despite the angle, he could only see so much when he looked up, as I’d stuck myself in some shorts. I couldn’t help but laugh at his expression when it came to the bulge between my legs. When I realized who was knocking, I decided to have a little fun using some wadded-up socks. “You hearing me, or are you thinking about you and I doing some unspeakable things together?”
He skittered to his feet, doing his best imitation of that fish. The red one that likes to snap its mouth a lot. Oh, that’s right, the Red Snapper. “I’m terribly sorry, but is Psycho Gecko in? The Emperor?”
“You’re talkin’ to her.” I asked, spreading my upper arms. The lower ones were hidden inside my loose-fitting shirt as much as they could be.
“You’re a woman?” he asked, incredulous.
I raised an eyebrow, spread my legs, and put my upper pair of hands on my hips. “Sugar, when you’re as awesome as me, you can be whatever you wanna be. Hey, who has four thumbs and doesn’t give a damn?” I slipped the lower arms out from under my shirt and together all arms pointed back at me with thumbs. “This gal!”
The extra arms made him jump as well. I ignored it and pulled him in with three arms while the last closed the door off. “So what can I do for you?”
“I need space!” he said. “Space of my own.” I pushed him over toward the sofa, tossing one of Qiang’s toys off of it. I sat him down and took a seat nearby.
“If you’d like, we can launch on the next rocket into space,” I suggested. “Probably be safer than the Institute of Science.”
“You have an institute? What is going on there?” he sat forward, taking intense interest in all I had to say. I couldn’t tell if it was because I mentioned science or because of my legs.
“I fought a few monsters there. Sent in mercenaries the other day. They haven’t returned. I’m afraid after my little coup and the resulting loss of power to the island, some of the experiments created a dangerous work environment there.
“I’ll clear it out! I don’t care, I’ll do whatever is necessary to leave those cultists behind. You know they tried to seduce me into joining with beautiful girls?” He complained for some reason.
I shrugged. “I’m familiar with the technique. I know a thing or two about cults. Truth is, it’s the leader who has the most sex, but it’s a lot easier to hijack the agenda as a follower. You leave a couple of bombs behind and suddenly everyone’s convinced the leader told them to do it. It’s kinda like that COINTELPRO thing.
“Be that as it may, I really must insist on lab space. I will grow you an army and lead it myself if I have to!” He tried to slam his hand down for emphasis, but all it did was make a toy go squeak.
“Do you have to?” I asked. “Lead it yourself, I mean. I’d rather you not be at risk.” I laid a hand on his shoulder, using more my feminine charms. And by that, I mean being a woman touching him. It’s not a high bar. Just hoping to take advantage of a little goodwill and compromised decision-making. It’s not my fault the Americans get like that if you so much as wink in their direction. I’m certainly not helping it, but everybody made it quite clear they don’t want me fixing their politics.
“I have to. The plants won’t listen to anybody else,” he said, looking at me, eyes moving from my face to my arm to where my hand rested. “I must go in there personally.”
Elsewhere, in the villain village, the PA system started up. “Ahem, this is Psycho Gecko speaking. As an added rule, I want to inform everyone that the Institute of Science is off-limits. A power outage left us unable to track whatever happens in there, and I don’t want anyone getting in and stealing any of the valuable equipment or data, especially not the experimental weapons! Gecko out.”
“Well, if you must, allow me to see you to the Institute myself,” I told Dr. Quincy.
He huffed and he puffed as we arrived at the Institute, and not from trying to blow it down. I let him carry his bag of seeds. We arrived just in time to see a small horde of supervillains rush into the Institute. “Well, that settles it,” I said. “Way too dangerous in there for you now.” And, now that I think about it, a pretty good place to do business. Set up some food stalls, beer sellers, maybe people to sell weapons, armor, and gear. I could get a lot of tourist money out of the Institute of Science. I quietly sent off a message to the Directory about getting some merchants out here. This place is a gold mine.
Visions of recovered equipment being bought back cheap by a Directory liaison danced through my head. The supers would find something valuable, drag it back up, and sell it off when they got greedy thinking about other stuff in there. It may not always go that way, but it sounded like an opportunity.
“Well… how about the military base?” I offered to Quincy with a smile. Then I pointed my finger awfully close to his face. “Just watch it with the Triffids. You want to be the next Norman Borlaug, I can make it happen, but you gotta let me set you up to save the world.”
He rolled his eyes. “As if you care…”
“Let’s just say I’m seeing opportunities all around…” I swept my hand out. “About time all my occasional pessimism came in hands. The world as you knew it is changing. The United States is no longer the world’s arbiter of peace. It’s too busy handling its own internal conflicts from groups that were already the most numerous source of domestic terrorism. Its people don’t want international deals anymore. Good.”
I felt a monologue coming on, but this wasn’t a place for any heroes to call home, so I wasn’t worried about interruptions. “The American farmer produces a huge portion of the world’s food supply. Or they did. They skipped out on that deal here in the Pacific, so now it’s countries like Japan and Ricca making the money they could have made. We’re about to that point with Canada and Mexico. I want Ricca and Mu to be the world’s breadbasket. When countries want those exotic foods, they come to us with their wallets open. When people need aid for a famine, I want them buying from us. When someone threatens Ricca, I want a bunch of nations to sit up and say ‘Wait a damn minute, they grow the coffee and beef everyone from our leaders to our commoners eat.’ I’m going to quite literally raise the steaks.”
I projected a hologram in front of Quincy of a grand, growing Ricca, full of gleaming skyscrapers and a new United Nations. “I want to topple the United States of America without firing a shot. All because they let me. All because of your vision for a better world backed by my own selfish motives.” I turned to him, letting the hologram drop. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions, I’ve heard. Can’t the road to heaven be paved with bad ones? Won’t you trust in my desire for revenge?”
He pulled me close, getting a bit hands on my loose shirt. “Cara mia!” he exclaimed, then tried to kiss me.
I pushed him away. All hands on deck, not all hands on dick here. “Ew, no. You are not my type. I’m flattered, but no. Come on, champ, let’s go hit up a titty bar instead. That’s what a gal like me calls a win-win.” Plus, I needed a drink. Being hooked up to the world’s internet can be tiring. The things I see: the useless arguments, victims of all sorts of crime reaching out in vain for help, children with cancer and parasites, starving parents having to decide which children lives. Total buzzkill, so I opted to go for more than a buzz. If I can’t take out my anger on those responsible and share my amazing ability to murder with those in need, I can at least use them. I’ll make them pay and I’ll make them who their emperor truly is.
I’ll also have some vodka.
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