I found a supply cache to help me out. I may soon have nanite capability again because of it. My time keeping a close eye on the Riccan Intelligence Service paid off. They had a supply cache in the area. Several safehouses, too. I might see to them later. This time, I paid a visit to the supply cache.
They’d hidden it under a burger place called The Grease Trap. You wouldn’t think that’d be a real name. They specialize in big, fat, greasy, unhealthy burgers. A look through the window showed someone chowing down on a burger that looked to be about fifty-percent burnt, crunchy bacon and dripping red grease. I got a pain in my left arms just looking at it, and I’m pretty sure the guy working the register was a Riccan agent.
I went around back, to the dumpsters. A homeless person sat back there, lap covered in a blanket and upper body nestled in a giant sweatshirt. I’ve been around a shitload of dumpsters, and these were something special, with a fragrant bouquet that would scare off most people. But, to the experienced nose, it only added to the suspicion. There was one smell missing that no dumpster is without. I’ve dumpster dived for parts. I’ve hidden from cops in trash. I’ve even scanned in shredded documents. There’s one smell every single dumpster on Earth shares: sour beer. If I ran across a dumpster at the biggest Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, Utah, there would still be beer in there.
The Riccans were sloppy without me in charge. They were practically begging to be broken into. Just look at what the building’s wearing. I checked around the dumpsters and found an outlined section like a panel. It opened up after I pressed on it and lifted up to show a keypad. A fucking keypad. What is this, a cell for 80 year olds?
The key was having a powder of some sort. Luckily, I’d beaten up a drug dealer earlier. It was purely for selfish reasons and had nothing to do with the team being asked to assist the cops and Advocate directing me to work the drug unit specifically. So I beat the crap out of some dealers and confiscated the coke. I didn’t want it to tempt any of the cops. They might snort it or sell it. It would defeat the purpose to let them have it. Plus, I need the money more than they do.
It came in handy here. I opened the Ziploc and tossed a handful at the keypad. There were four numbers the powder stuck to. Ah, human oil. If only we could harness it the same way we do the oil of other critters. It gets everywhere. Disgusting creatures, humans.
I didn’t get the right combination of numbers my first go. As soon as I inputted it, I heard a whirring noise from behind me and threw myself to the side, narrowly dodging a gout of flame. Having stopped codebreaking and dropped, I rolled to avoid more and looked up to see what had come after me. The homeless person’s sweater had burnt away when the automated flamethrower turret inside activated. Disarming that was as easy as cutting the fuel line with my laser eye, which set fire to the machine as well. With no other defenses, I was free to take my time on the scorched keypad until I found the combo. The dumpster clicked and released from the wall. The thing was easy to move, and underneath was the supply cache.
It was a treasure trove of things anyone needs to run a spy operation in a major city: guns, body armor, computers, burner phones, more drugs, and a shitload of reusable gift cards. The cards would have to be enough. The video cameras recording me would be a nice bonus. Unlike the Institute of Science, these were sending data via broadband to the upstairs. I plugged myself in and made an adjustment. Woops, there goes the camera data, except for a few fragments I inserted showing a man matching Douglas Blackstone’s description. He’s the one who broke in, Claw! Feel free to find him and question why all you like. Ha!
Just one of the ways I keep implicating Blackstone while doing my duty as a superhero. It’s kinda growing on me, knowing that I can do whatever I want to him and no one will believe him. Just eternal torment at my hands, no one believing him that I’m evil. The worst hells are those of our own making, or so a demon or two has told me. I don’t know if they were flirting or monologuing before a torture. I’m not sure there’s a big difference, but I enjoyed it either way.
So, after using those gift cards to splurge on some usable materials, I decided to spy on my new nemesis’s wife. A nice easy way to occupy my mind while my body put some things together. See what she’s up to. She’s a tiny little thing. Short and skinny. Can’t imagine her ever being pregnant. Hmm, now there’s an idea for getting back at him. But not without my nanites.
My mind flew from California to Connecticut as fast as the lag would let me. Marivel was typing away at her work computer, messing around with a spreadsheet. She had an instant messenger related to her job, so that was my way in. I showed up as anonymous to her.
“Hello, Marivel Blackstone.”
“Yes? Is this Mr. Drangly?”
“No, this is… someone else. Someone who knows something is wrong.”
“What do you mean? Is it about the Fergson account?”
“Nope. That’s Greek to me.”
“It was in Greek.”
“Hence the cliché phrase. No, I have something more personal to discuss with you. Tell me, haven’t you noticed something off about your husband lately?”
“Management monitors this account.”
Yes, they do, when their computers are on and the messenger’s logs aren’t wiped. “That has been taken care of.”
“?What did u? do? Who are u?”
“I am a super from another dimension, sort of. It’s complicated. I was brought here by Douglas Blackstone. I believe you know the name.”
“What does my husband have to do with superheroes?”
“Nothing, until the Blackstone from my dimension came here and took the place of the Douglas Blackstone of this world.”
There was a long pause before she answered. “that’s crazy.”
“Sure it is. Now that you know it, things make more sense. Gaps in knowledge? Some difference in how he looks? A new interest in the occult?”
“I’m not saying your right but there are other explanations”
“Do any of them account for his extracurricular activities?” An image flashed across her screen. She got a glimpse of copied images I kept of her husband’s new Federal file. Then came the sound file that opened and played on her end: “I missed opportunities for happiness, like with a childhood friend. I didn’t miss her in this reality. I didn’t realize it until we were on the road.”
I thought we were done, but after a few minutes of me building away in the Master Academy workshop, she typed again. “why tell me this?”
“So you’d know the truth. You deserve to know the man sharing your bed isn’t the same one you knew and fell in love with.”
“I need to think about this”
Fair enough. I figured I’d give her even more time by putting their car into the local police’s system over there. Caress a few ones and zeroes, and suddenly it was spotted speeding away from the scene of a bank robbery. Arranging for a bag of unmarked bills to appear at their house will be a little tougher, but I hear people like delivering things by drone in this timeline, too. It’s only a matter of time before drone piracy becomes a thing. I imagine Captain Flamebeard will laugh his ass off from his flying pirate ship.
All in all, not a bad way to set things up for the New Year. But, still, I decided not to wear a mask on this New Year’s Eve. I sat away from the festivities, sipping on wine and Irish cream liqueor. Not together, no. Ew. Just one after the other. It was a side room at the Master Academy, one of the little recreation areas with a TV, sofa, and room for the younger students to play with toys.
I sat there, blinking through channels, when I heard a knock. I looked up to see Advocate there. “There’s plenty of room at the party,” he suggested.
I shook my head. “Nah. I’m ok. Kind of a bad time, considering what’s happened.”
“I didn’t get the whole story on that,” he said.
“An asshole mage didn’t like me, blamed me for all his problems, and went all ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ to stick he and I in a world where I didn’t exist. He hated it too, and we were going to work together to get back to our world, but then he realized the version of him in this world had a wife and he decided to stay.” I mean, I probably did kill Blackstone’s parents. I’ve killed a lot of people. It’s still correct to point out he blames me for killing them. I sighed. “I miss my daughter.”
“Oh. No wonder you hate him,” Advocate said. “If you need more things to get drunk with, you know where to find us all. Just don’t mess up all the school computers or something, alright?”
I waved him off. “Fine, fine.”
I still went out to see the fireworks. Just like on my Earth, the state of California basically spent the entire year on fire somewhere or other, but some of the supers set up a more controlled way of making exploding lights in the sky using their powers. Some would zap things up, or carry stuff with telekinesis. It was quite a show, especially when the entire sky lit up and a glowing orb appeared in the air.
Mobian’s timeship jerked from side to side, then plummeted. It halted its crash about ten feet off the ground and landed slowly. When the door opened, Mobian himself stumbled out. He looked different. Darker skin, longer hair, and burns on some of his clothes. He looked around at some of the supers who surrounded him, including a couple with healing abilities who stepped forward to check him over.
“I need help,” he said. “Something’s gone wrong with the timeline. Things aren’t supposed to be this way.”
“Tell me about it,” I muttered.
He looked right at me in a crowd of supers who liked to beat me up, and said something I didn’t expect to hear, “Gecko?”
I nodded. “We’re in deep shit again, aren’t we, Mobian?”