“What do you want?” I’ve taken to asking people. The question’s been on my mind a lot lately since Max drugged me the other night. I asked it of a person on the street. She said money. Kinda petty, the sort of thing a job can handle. I asked another one, a guy. He said he wanted to have sex with a beautiful woman. I introduced him to the first woman and things sorta worked themselves out from there.
I’ve been asking the villains, too. Hexadecibel got his money and brief amount of fame for stealing a nuclear weapon. He’s already getting job prospects emailed to him, as well as the usual opportunistic offers for him to be in a porn and him to be in somebody’s Youtube music video.
I talked to the passed out villain when he finally woke up. He wanted to forget about his ex. It took a lot to keep me from giving him brain damage to accommodate him, but then I asked further, to see how much Unity I’d have to swing for him. The drug could block long-term memory and take care of that for him, but then he told me quite a tale. It was rather long for a full recounting, beginning with his moving to a new town as a kid, following his noticing all the runaway and missing kids. He and his childhood friends investigated.
The story turned out to be relatively simple. There were no monsters under the bed, just monsters down the hallway. Just your average small town that kidnapped young girls for human sex trafficking. Not a fun scenario to be stuck in as a teen. In the end, the friend who was a girl fled. The friend who was a guy stayed in bed with irreparable brain damage and a nice, restful coma. “And I got the fuck out of that town!” he said. “I got out and I drank and I thought ‘I’ma fucking get some powers and burn that mother down!’ Then I get ’em and try to get some people together, but everyone says I’ll get sent to Butt-Fuck City if start killing the police. Fuck the police! One of ’em already took me to Butt-Fuck City and that was my own dad! I need a drink.”
I agreed. “You know, I like you. I can’t help it, I just see a little bit of myself in you. Don’t worry, not in the butt. And it just so happens that I am the perfect person to fuck the police. In fact, that’s part of the reason I gathered you and all these others here.” I sat down beside him. “I want to help folks like yourself deal with law enforcement. Right the sorts of wrongs that cops ignore because you’re a criminal, or because the so-called do-gooders did ’em. Tell me the name of the town and I’ll slaughter them all mercilessly.”
He looked up at me, blinking. “All the people, or all the cops? It was mainly the cops who did it.”
I waggled my hand. “I can start with the cops and see where it goes from there. Collateral damage really depends on the mood I’m in day to day.”
See, it’s folks like that who need me. Those poor unfortunate souls in pain, in need. I do intend to take care of that guy’s problem with law enforcement, but it had to wait. I was on a stakeout of my own.
I had the nuke moved to one of the office buildings in the financial district. Rather than risk my own guys, I contacted the same mercenary group who lost a team to the Institute of Science. They were quite eager to make up for the loss of personnel and equipment with some quick cash, so they took the gravy guard duty job. I didn’t like that situation either. It occurred to me that I needed to learn how to put my own people in real danger. Shielding my soldiers and security forces wasn’t the same as shielding my old minions like Carl and Moai. I can’t do all this on my own and the forces under my control need to be competent in the field. But I think this case is clearly worthy of exception.
They set up cameras and motion sensors. They maintained drone sentries at various points. They had guards in full gear while others patrolled dressed as a hot dog vendor or landscaper. Ya know, a more innocuous profession that looked like it belonged there and gave someone an opportunity to hide a gun inside a leafblower. I even noticed where they began setting up sandbags and armor plating around a few choke points and the main storage room in question. It wasn’t a bad job. They knew their stuff.
I could still spy on them via their own cameras and my own. I wanted to call it out as a weakness, but them I remembered I’m their boss. Just another of those weird moments where I remembered I’m the authority now. Hell, I’m something of a voice for reason now. Fear for any world where that’s true.
The SEALs were professionals too. More than that, they were the guys who didn’t decide to quit all the tough training and hard missions to take a bigger paycheck pulling easy duty. Plus, while the private contractors can pull some pretty nice deals from some companies, they don’t get access to the kind of freaky dark project shit the military develops. I’m not talking about the cheapos they shove off on the regular military because the people pushing for a bigger budget prefer spending millions on jets that’ll never fly instead of hundreds on gear for the infantry grunts. With the exception of the marines, the best of the best tend to get the best of the best.
I probably sound like some sort of camo-wearing cheerleader right now. I have the legs for it, but this is simple pragmatism. Some enemies aren’t worth underestimating, and I’m one of the few villains who reasonably rates a military response.
It was about four AM Riccan standard time when the first cameras went down. I didn’t have an alert set up; I was just awake when it happened. Doing stuff. I don’t have to explain what stuff to y’all. And no matter what anyone says, none of it involved dressing up as Sailor Moon.
Anyway, it was four AM and cameras at the office building went down. The obvious ones, anyway. The drones didn’t catch anything because the guys meant to send them out were sleepy. That’s why they went in so early in the morning. Any guards active in their way went down, quietly. They were just in the way, then they were dead and gone. It was impressive how well they were disappeared. And, as a dictator now, disappearing people is something I’m supposed to specialize in. It was mere minutes before the SEALs slipped into the room where the nuke was kept. The mercs wouldn’t have seen it. Their stuff was all shut down.
My cameras ran on their own power sources as repurposed holodiscs. That is, disc-shaped hologram projectors, with the cameras being usable for spying as well. The holographic camouflage and self-contained power supplies likely contributed to their survival. I watched as they entered into the room containing the nuclear bomb. Or that’s what I told people, at least. “Does this look like a nuke to anyone?” asked one of the men in a whisper.
Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. But when the boxy thing in front of them began to count down, one of them did lean down to start cutting wires. Was it the red one that deactivated it? Oh wait, I know this cliché, so none of them did anything. They were just wires I put there to look good. They and the whole floor of the building went up in an explosion that absolutely ruined the city’s sleep. Which is good, because I wanted a lot of witnesses for this next part. Sure, it’s nice to have camera footage of the U.S. Navy sneaking into a building, killing guards, and then messing around with an object that then explodes. What’s even better?
Alarms set off and the old Cold War alerts began to play. “Nuclear launch detected.” Is there any other phrase that could cause people to go from zero to 100 on the “losing their shit” scale? As the leader of the nation’s military, I immediately go on the line with the military base and ordered them to fire the missile interception system. That’s how history will record it, at least. You know how fancy this place is, with all the mad scientists. It’s entirely possible someone worked out a way to intercept a nuclear missile that actually worked.
The base prominently launched a barrage of missiles into the air, including a perfect replica of the United States’ own rockets with a nuke attached. Some distance away, a pre-placed explosive detonated and knocked recognizable portions of the rocket loose. The warhead tumbled a little off target. I had hoped, of course, that it would land right on the deck of the destroyer floating around a few miles off the coast of Mu. That’s where the SEALs came from if the tracking device shoved into the traded prisoner is any indication. I love it when a plan comes together. I also love it when a nuclear warhead detonates. Sure, the thing wasn’t on deck, but close still matters with horseshoes, hand grenades, and hydrogen bombs.
The military’s listening operation went up in a mushroom cloud the world would see and register. I suspect the President of the United States was shitting his onesie within minutes. Everyone would know one went off. Meanwhile, I was comforting Qiang and reassuring her that she didn’t have to fear the American nuclear arsenal anymore. She cried and hugged onto me, but I patted her with all my arms and squeezed her close. “Don’t worry, I stopped them. We’re safe.”
Before long, the BBC reported on Ricca’s nuclear warning system going off and the Intercept team’s fast deployment of a missile screen to stop the launched projectile. My guys did absolutely nothing to stop reporters tagging along on the salvage operation to recover the rocket for the sake of confirming the identity of the assailant. I loved the footage, even if the camera work was a bit awkward from the radiation suits. No sooner had divers from the cruiser hauled up a piece of rocket with the star spangled banner on it than a la loud horn blew. An American destroyer cruised up with an officer announcing via bullhorn, “As part of salvage operations on behalf of the United States of America, this site is off limits. Vacate now!”
I could kiss that captain right now. Both captains, actually. The Riccan one refused to acknowledge the American ship’s hails, and then the American one for projecting the hostility just as soon as evidence appeared to confirm they were behind the attack on my nation.
I made damn sure to put as many foreign nationals as I could before the camera. My first instinct was women and children holding puppies, but I remembered I wasn’t in America anymore. Americans don’t give a shit about foreign kids and foreign puppies. Just like with that whole Hawaii business, the only thing that matters to them are their own business interests. This whole operation worked so well, I didn’t even have to threaten them to go on TV about it. They heard the drills. They saw the pre-dawn sky illuminated by a preemptive nuclear strike upon a nation the United States hadn’t declared war on.
Rumors were already circulating that the military was claiming they had nothing to do with it, that someone just happened to steal a warhead and nobody knows where the rocket came from. The general response from all the Riccans I hired to troll on Facebook is, “How stupid do they think we are?”
Hexidecibel can brag all he likes. The President could release footage of his heist. They could put the unedited tapes out there proving that the SEALs didn’t set off a bomb on Riccan soil to try and destroy our early warning system. A dozen little things can happen to poke holes in the theory I crafted that makes me appear to be a victim.
What do you want?
People want to believe the worst in the world, and the scenario I’ve created is worse than the reality. People want to be afraid. No, really, they do. Because once someone has terrorized you, they’re the bad guys, the bullies. You get to be the victim. It’s incredibly difficult to get people to believe the truth after they’ve already accepted a lie like that. And even if people believed the truth, what then? Do they really want to acknowledge that I can arrange for nuclear weapons to be stolen from the most powerful nation on Earth?
What do I want? I want the United States to stop trying to spy on my little meeting of supervillains. I want villains to think I can protect them from anything up to and including a nuclear missile.
Now, what do I want next?
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Gecko is really buckling down on her villainous mastermind thing for the first time in a while, and it’s great.
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