For all my teasing, I didn’t think Venus would show. I know, I know, I’m trying to piss her off. Anyone can see it, and she’s used to it. As much as I insult her intelligence for keeping me alive, she really isn’t so brainless. Medusa didn’t consider it. I think, like me, she’s been too willing to take their honor and principal for idiocy. Medusa’s a disappointment like that. And Venus might have outdone her.
I was playing with Qiang in her new playset that’s totally not an obstacle course and starter lair. She might someday realize she can use it as such, but it’s a fun thing for her to enjoy until then. I should really just let her be a kid and let me be a parent, but I don’t think I know how. I got a call in, which almost caused me to drop the water guns I was shooting at my girl while I crossed the monkey bars. Extra arms means extra awesome, but being Empress means I gotta hang in there sometimes.
“This Empress Gecko,” I said.
“This is the Customs Authority, Empress. We have an unusual arrival we felt we should alert you about?”
“If I tell you I’m spending time with my daughter, does it become any less urgent?” I asked.
“Your new fiance just arrived with a lot of superheroes,” said the voice on the other side of the line.
I instantly tapped into the cameras around the airport. They were all standing around the tarmac, a group of twenty or so teen or adult supers.
“Empress, would you like us to deny entry to the superheroes?” asked the Customs Authoritarian on the other end of the line.
“No… they can come through, but there’ll have to be a thorough inspection before they enter,” I smiled, thinking of some of our protocols.
“Going through every piece of luggage?” asked the Customs agent.
“Full body scans?”
“Tearing up their plane looking for smuggled contraband.”
After a moment, he whispered the final part with his own glee at the thought of enacting this protocol. “Cavity searches?”
I was going to confirm the order, but I heard a scuffle on the other side, then Venus grabbed the phone. “You are not going to stick any gloves inside any of our bodies, Gecko!”
“Relax, Boopsie. I was going to have other people do that for me. I don’t know what you could be bringing to my little island. You know how violent you heroes get, constantly blowing stuff up and fighting people in the streets.”
“We fight crime,” she said.
“You’re on my island now. I decide what’s crime. But I’m still checking the luggage and the plane. If you remember, I’ve already had one group sneak a deadly infection and power dampening collars onto this island. Collars like I know you yourself now have. Unless you seek to have the full force of the Ricca’s law enforcement used against you, you will comply.”
“Fine, but only if you agree not to steal our stuff,” she said.
I scoffed over the phone. “First you show up unannounced, now you demand VIP treatment without even bribing us? So inconsiderate. I can hardly believe I’m going to marry you.”
I hung up on her, but kept an eye out, bringing up some of the Security guys. They already had pretty good armor in their uniforms, but I had them assemble in riot gear. That included grenade launchers and the “thunder tower” spikes. Cool shit. Stand them up on the ground and they form an electrical arc between them to cut people off from going a certain direction. Some of the crowd control grenades do something similar for a second in a smaller area. That’s less about containment and more about stunning folks. My favorite part is the shield. It’s normally attached to the rear of the torso armor, but can be deployed with a release that swings it overhead on the end of an arm. The Security people retain full use of their hands and get a shield rated for small arms fire short of anything that can crack a safe.
My power-armored infantry were on standby in case they were needed. The heroes better hope it doesn’t come down to that.
After making those arrangements, I hugged Qiang and told her I needed to go see to some more business involving her old school. She hopped up and down. “I wanna come! Is it Kayla? I wanna see Kayla again.”
“No, sweetie, Kayla’s not with them. She’s probably back in Empyreal City.”
She calmed down then, her face falling. “Oh.”
“Still want to come with me, or do you want to play on your own?” I asked.
“I think I want to paint,” she said.
I patted her on the head. “Paint away then, dearheart. I’ll tell them you said ‘hi’.” She blew me a kiss as she ran into the palace. I dislike her affinity for the heroes, but at least I know she’s capable of stealing hearts.
I didn’t bother with armor and the outfit I was in was a more functional form of regal dress with some sturdy leggings, so perfectly suited to keep anyone from catching a peek when I jumped on one of the personal use rockets outside the palace. It shot me through the air, hair and sleeves streaming behind me. Minutes later, I stepped into the airport with my Security officers flanking me.
Venus and her bunch didn’t look amused. She tapped her foot, arms akimbo. “You’re late.”
“I took a rocket here, how can I be late?” I asked, shaking my hair out.
“We saw. You took too long after landing it. What do you have planned?” she asked.
I rolled my eyes. “You always assume the worst about me. If you must know what took so long, I was parallel parking.” I paid no mind to the shaking helmets of some of the Security personnel on either side of me as they tried not to laugh.
“A rocket?” asked a guy in a Hawaiian shirt with playing card designs on it and a lei around his neck. My HUD reminded me he was called Wildcard.
Smiling, I dangled a key fob in one hand and raised it while pressing a button. My guys lost it at the beep from the parking lot, and even some of the heroes joined in. The tension was just gone at that point.
“Why are you here?” I asked Venus.
She raised an eyebrow. “You’re getting married to my double. Don’t I get an invitation?”
“As if this involves you?” I asked. “And twenty of your closest friends.”
“What better way to show we’re no threat than to house the wedding party?” she asked. “Come on, I enjoy a good wedding. I missed your first one, and no way am I going to let you marry my evil twin sister without keeping an eye on her.”
Lady boner activated. The image of Venus watching me and her evil twin sister wasn’t the reason why, though it followed closely on the heels.
“Fine,” I said, pointing at her. “I’ll tell you exactly where you can stick these masked crusaders!”
A half hour later, I walked into the middle of the housing division used by the supervillains when we met and established VillainNet. They remained temporary housing for villains passing through or waiting out heat, but most were empty. “Here. Here’s where you can stick them.”
Venus and the others looked around, not really objecting. “You surprise me still,” she said. “I thought you were going to show us to the resident proctologist.”
“As careful as I am, I’d never pull a plan like that out of my ass,” I responded. I turned to her in particular as all her friends spread out. “I could kick y’all out at any time, you know.”
She smiled. “Yeah, but then you’d be publicly expelling your fiance and her friends from the island. I don’t know what you’re trying to pull, but I’m guessing that’s not what you want to get out.” She winked. “I know better than to think your weird stalker harassment doesn’t happen on its own. You’re up to something that you’re using me to cover for. To answer your question back at the airport, that’s why this involves me.”
Clever woman. She’s right that I’m up to something and that it involves her. I wonder if she knows how much it involves her, because that could better explain why she pulled this stunt. “I prefer not to think of myself as your harassing stalker,” I said, feigning that I was wounded.
“You can prefer whatever you want,” Venus said, the tone of her voice making a lie out of the smile on her face. “Mind if I have a word with my doppelganger?”
I patted her on the head. “She’s busy, I’m afraid. Spa day and beauty treatments. Have to get ready for the big day.”
“Right. I’ll be here then, with all my friends who know exactly where I am at all times,” she said, walking off to join the others in picking out a house.
I, on the other three hands, headed over to the Institute of Science and double parked my rocket. I skipped in, humming to myself, finding the turn of events interesting and advantageous. I was still skipping when the doctors showed me to Medusa’s recovery room where she was testing out her new form.
I bounded in the door. “Guess what?!”
Medusa was starring down at her six pack. “Oh my god, my abs!”
“That’s not what,” I said. “I thought you’d be more interested in the powers, anyway.”
“I am, they’re awesome, but have you seen my fucking abs?” she pointed down to them. In addition to treatment to transform her into a homo machina the same as Venus has been made, the doctors used the nanomachines to get rid of revealing scars and to bring Medusa’s fat and musculature to match with Venus. “What’s your good news?” she asked.
“We don’t have to plan an actual wedding for one thing,” I said. Which was great. Citra’s been a bit cold about that lately. I guess that’s how you describe it when your wife finds out you pretended to ask another woman to marry you so she comes back from college to slap you upside the face. On the plus side, she’s enjoying her economics course and is thinking of trying out for the debate team.
“Good,” Medusa said, about the scrapped wedding instead of my wife troubles. She dropped her shirt and picked up a cell phone, letting her newfound abilities merge her nervous system with it. The screen flashed as she tried messing around with it.
“Yeah,” I followed up with. “Because Venus and a shitload of heroes are here to attend it.”
Medusa frowned and tried to set the phone down. She waved her hand a bit to get it free. “That sounds like we have to fake it for them, doesn’t it?”
I took her hand and tugged gently, easing the phone away from Medusa without hurting her. “No. We just have to swap you and Venus while she’s here. We toss her in a Flyer, drop her off with your Taskforce Manticore buddies, and find some excuse for you and the other heroes to leave the island. This way, we don’t have to hunt her down for the switch while tricking people into thinking your here.”
She nodded. “Fine, whatever. Just as long as the one who reads minds isn’t here.”
I thought back to it. “Huh, yeah it is odd Psychsaur wasn’t here, but that doesn’t matter now.” I poked Medusa in the head. She squinted and pushed my finger away. “Your new powers make you tougher to read that way,” I explained.
She walked up to me, wrapping her arms around my neck. “Show me what I can do, sugarmomma. I feel great. Come on, let’s go tear something up together.”
Sploo- aww who am I kidding? She’s still no Venus.