Cue the Pink Panther theme.
Imagine, if you will, dear readers: a robot in my heavy armor sneaking carefully through a neighborhood in Florida. Not Orlando, where King Mickey reigns supreme, or even Miami. Everybody knows all about Miami. Hot as fuck there, especially this time of year, but my target did not hide there. Technically, I don’t think she’s really hiding. But whatever she’s doing it, she’s doing it in the very strangest part of the strangest state in Americastan.
The Florida Keys are odd, even by Florida standards, complete with their own semi-serious secession movement. There’s not much to fear from the Conch Republic, though. I think they’re seceding to get rid of daylight savings time and extend happy hour. They call themselves the Conch Republic; how important could their demands be?
The house in question had its own airstrip behind it, which made it rather easy to locate with the aid of drones. Ubiquitous little spy devices. Give everyone their own civilian drones to play with and nobody pays that much attention anymore to how often they zip around spying on people.
A gunshot rang out.
Ah, that’s right. I hear some people are selling drone shot for shotguns now. Good thing that was a cheap civilian version meant to blend in and help me spy on the area. It’s a little tougher to manage drones and a Dudebot at the same time, but I found what I needed. An airstrip with an older prop plane named “Conch Rage”, a Conch Republic flag hanging from the porch, and the presence of somebody capable of firing a shotgun.
I almost wish I could have felt the humid and windy night air for myself, but my own body was back in Ricca. I couldn’t just go myself. I had to get fitted for a big poofy dress for the party. So the Dudebot stalked the night of Florida’s archipelago.
“If anyone’s out there, fuck yer drone and stop spying on me or I shall unleash a rain of hellfire upon you like a thousand boots to the upside of your ass!” yelled someone from the porch with more cheap beer than wariness of tempting fate. Because fate is a petty bitch at times. Or is that me? Or is that both of us?
I didn’t actually need the guy’s house. It was his plane I was there for. He had a bit of fuel out back in a can, so I fueled up while he got more drunk. The house’s occupant finally came running once I started the darn thing. I started to pull away, but I turned and tossed him a life preserver ring. “Man overboard! Hold on tight!”
Between the alcohol and an unwillingness to let someone steal his plane, he actually did. It was probably mostly the alcohol, truth be told. He grabbed onto that ring as I taxied out and took off, dragging his drunk ass into the air. Once I’d gotten safely into the air, I called back, “Doing ok back there?!”
I couldn’t make out any words, so I figured I’d take it easy on him. “You look tense. Relax a bit!” And with that, I threw him a cool, refreshing beer. It thunked off his forehead and spewed a bit of beer belatedly. “You know what? Relax a lot!” I turned and hefted a cooler, dumping beer and ice at the trailing life preserver. I shook it all clear and, seeing him still holding on for dear life, I tossed the cooler at him too.
At that point, it was time to put in for a landing, and I had just the spot. A local hotel where a Belgian woman was vacationing. A woman with Marie in her name. I could have just snuck inside the place no problem, and in fact I did in order to find out which room she was in. But anybody can break into a hotel room. Being a supervillain means breaking into a hotel room with style. And fucking your nemesis, preferably in the ass. But mostly it’s the style part. Still a bit about the fucking though. I want to make it very clear that fucking is still an option.
It just wasn’t going to be much of an option in the hotel in question when I brought this old, WW2-era thing plowing into the opposite side of the building to the room I was aiming for. Which, come to think of it, meant this was a bad time to look Asian. And I suppose I didn’t have to holographically project the rising sun flag.
The plane caught fire and tore itself apart as it broke through walls and dragged along floor. The wings didn’t make it past the first room. By the fifth room, there wasn’t a whole lot left of the fuselage at all. I actually came skidding to a stop just before the room of my target, Princess Marie-Christine Daphne Astrid Elisabeth Leopoldine. The final Belgian princess.
I got up from my seat and walked around the flaming motor at the front of the stolen aircraft. I politely and quietly knocked on the wall to the last room. “Room service!”
“What the fuck is going on out there?!” cried the room’s occupant, which told me she was indeed in.
“Quiet in there, I’m being subtle!” I yelled back, then smashed a hole through the wall. I found the old bird in bed, hand near a lamp she’d turned on. She threw it at me, but I caught it and threw it right back, knocking her on the shoulder as she rolled to get up. I hopped on the bed, wrapped her in my cold metallic embrace, and set off the D-bomb, hurtling the Dudebot to Ricca.
The Dudebot dragged her over to a waiting Deep One guard. “Book ’em. This is one sick son of a bitch. You wouldn’t believe what I caught her doing in bed with a lamp.” The guard nodded and grabbed the screaming woman for a trip into the waiting castle. Sure, she was the black sheep of the royal family, but I doubt the atmosphere can get much worse there.
What surprised me more was seeing equipment being brought in that resembled enlarged holographic projectors, and seeing the 3D assemblers going at it building another pair of buildings and otherwise crowding out the military base.
Yeah, Venus’s idea to have all this linked to Cape Diem and partially on their grounds was looking better and better. Good thing I have an amicable working relationship with them. They’re fond of kids anyway, and I made sure to let them know anyone housed that site is welcome to the party too. Gonna be harder for the heroes to start shit with all those hostag- guests present. Refugees and Cape Diem capes. Saving the day by doing good deeds in other countries instead of just fighting first world problems.
And as for all that equipment now doing stuff on my military base, I intended to go right up to the guys loading it and find out what their deal was. Then I received an email from Pagan, my new head of Intelligence, informing me he was preemptively implementing additional security measures without my prior knowledge. So, I guess that’s good. That’s what I pay him for. Putting booby traps around without telling me first.
It put me off a bit, that having happened, but I figured it was a good thing. Delegation and all that. Letting other people worry about some stuff for me. It gave me more time to avoid Beetrice, the giant bee woman, queen of the Buzzkills and North Korea, and probably the best diplomat loyal to my Empire. Someone leaked word of Qiang’s upcoming birthday party to her and she arrived bearing presents, a retinue of Buzzkills, and an intense desire to hug me to death.
I didn’t care for the Buzzkills being around either. They don’t seem to be making a big deal about it, but they are my kids too. Only I’ve never shown any affection or fatherly anything toward them. They haven’t been making a big deal about me being their dad either, but it’s just strange to me. Almost all the interchangeable insectoid minions known as Buzzkills are my kids
See, this is why I should have gone after the Toybox. Leave me alone with time for idle ponderings and I end up wondering if bee people are going to call me Daddy. Bee people aside from Queen Beetrice, that is.
Luckily on several counts, I didn’t need to ponder for long. After a couple of days hoping for something to go wrong, something did. That is, I was awoken one night to digital alerts. We had an intruder on the island, at the base, in the conservatory, with a candlestick!
The last two turned out to be false alarms, but I slipped into my armor and jumped right out the door, getting caught by Beetrice in a hug as she flew back to the palace. “There’s a break-in!” she said, slowly turning me into a humanoid accordion with her embrace.
“Take me there, and less squeezing my lungs,” I said. She held me by my sides instead. The side of my boobs, the side of my ass. For a being whose palace has so many hexagons in it, she sure is a fan of curves. I “ahemed” several times as she flew me there, but she just interrupted her humming to ask, “You aren’t getting sick, are you?”
The mother of my children, folks. Take it from your old pal Psycho Gecko: keep the sex out of insects.
Something was wrong at the big pink princess castle, and I don’t just mean the obliterated front drawbridge or downed guards.
“Take me inside, Beetrice,” I directed before interrupting her giggling to clarify, “NOT that way.”
She buzzed on in there, past beat-up guards, broken walls, and Deep Ones who had been smashed with fallen debris. Our interloper burst through walls without regard for all our hard work we put all the machines through to build it. That inconsiderate bastard!
Thing was, the interior was nothing like I knew the inside of the castle to be. I programmed the damn thing. There were way fewer rooms, and no way to the upper stories. I don’t remember putting in a bridge or lava either, which is the room where Beetrice dodged a fireball. She yanked me to the left to avoid a charbroiling and brought us down to hover over the lava, with plenty of heat. “Seriously, where’d they get all the lava from?” I asked myself. “Beetrice, remind me to ask Pagan later if this is from the volcano under the island. I really need to know if we have access to that again.”
“When did we get a dragon?” she asked.
“I dunno,” I said, looking at the dragon and its foe. The man in front of it would have fit in at a bodybuilding competition. He had to be like 6’6”, with vertical teal and black stripes on his tights. Yeah, tights. And they were tight. I could make out butt muscles underneath the round hammer strapped to his back. He took a fireball head on, too, before firing some multi-streamed purple energy blast from his hands. Then, glowing purple, he flew over the dragon, which had advanced down the bridge to face him. Safe on the other landing, he withdrew his hammer and held it aloft, the beams of purple light flowing into the hammer from all directions. When he brought it smashing down on the bridge, the entire thing shook and briefly glowed purple. Then the bottom of the wood began to fall out and the ropes on that end snapped, sending the dragon plummeting to its presumed death in in the lava below.
The man in the costume turned and ran in into the next room. “Beetrice, follow that ass!” I instructed. As we crossed the gap, I looked down at the dragon and saw the hologram fail and paper burning off whatever robotic sentry Pagan had left behind. A frustrated yell came from ahead of us.
The next room was empty save for the hero and a broken holodisc that couldn’t maintain the illusion of a room full of women. Then the walls themselves began to churn and move, with ratcheting noises coming from all ’round. The hero turned to look at me, his face turning from rage to worry as I told him, “Sorry, but your princesses are in another castle.”
The roof collapsed in on him. As I soon found out, the whole of the castle was meant to fall in on itself, a fate I barely avoided thanks to my queen bee. She landed and refused to set me down, carrying me in a hug that didn’t look all that Imperial to all the soldiers and guards who showed up, with flyers hovering in the air. I spotted Silver Shark and VelocityRaptor in attendance as well. The real pink princess castle became visible briefly at the guards’ shift change, but by then they’d dug out the unconscious hero and brought him before me for judgment.
“I’ve agreed to cut back,” I said, trying to look intimidating while aggressively snuggled by an amazonian bee queen. “Take him to Cape Diem. Tell them to shove him through a portal or something. And whoever’s reporting to Pagan, inform him I need a dungeon, preferably with an oubliette or two. Maybe a labyrinth.”
When I dismissed them, I ordered Beetrice to return me to my palace, at which point she confronted me with the burning question of her night. “A labyrinth?”
“Yes, it’d be perfect for the babe.”
“The babe with the power.”
“Oh, let’s not start this again.”