We interrupt your regularly-scheduled broadcast to bring you more of your regularly-scheduled broadcast, only slightly different.
I had an urgent message on VillainNet. With recent events being what they are, I was all too happy to have something suddenly require my complete attention. Shit’s just been too weird, even for me.
It was a rush from Ouroboros. The villain who’d managed to take over and run a city in the United States before the country started shooting itself still maintained his position as one of the villains who adjudicates disputes that require intervention. I am considered the ultimate intervention. If I’m getting called in, they expect someone to die. I have shown leniency before, but I know what they call on me for.
On Valentine’s Day, the civilian wife of a villain had been kidnapped. Cordial fancies himself a gentleman thief in a costume, but he’s yet to pull a heist outside of Kansas City. He’s not big time by any means. The guy can shrink anything he can hold up between his hands, which would be great for a thief. It’s just not the best power for violent confrontations. That’s part of why he came to us.
His wife is a consultant for the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Energy in regards to nuclear weapons, specializing in studying the effects of nuclear weapons on disabling countries and as existential threats to civilization. I suspect she looks at more than just “What happens if you hit all the cities with one?” I imagine you could engineer quite the crisis just by setting a couple off in the right states and allow the nuclear fallout to ruin prime farmland. It’s come up as a possible way to deal with enemies.
Speaking of enemies, the wife called her husband in the middle of being abducted and was able to tell him who had done the deed. Asset Protection International, a private security company with ridiculous yellow uniforms. It was obviously their guys she mentioned. When Cordial got home, he even found her discarded phone, left behind with photos of the yellow bellies, but also images going back two weeks of them in various locations around Kansas City. Cordial took the info to VillainNet, who uncovered even more things.
API had steadily been closing out its contracts. The yellowbellies were being seen less and less guarding celebrities, looking after valuables and compounds of the rich and famous, or working with U.S. Soldiers around the world. Then, they lost a major contract with the Department of Energy and got fined by the government. Something big went missing and nobody talked about what it was. After that, API built a plant in North Dakota and announced they were going into the ammunition business. The owner, Chris King, had himself a friggin’ castle built outside the same town and has had a small army of yellow bellies guarding it.
Ouroboros and the others are betting on nukes. Me too. This guy’s got a scheme of some sort going on and that got the judges involved. The lines between super and civilian can get blurred at times. Give a martial artist a mask and let him fight crime, you could consider him a superhero. Have your own mercenary company, build a castle in the middle of nowhere, and stock up on weapons of mass destruction? Yeah, you might just be a supervillain. And VillainNet would have been more than happy to go to town on a civilian, but it’s a different story if the conflict’s between villains. Complicating matters is that Chris King has nothing to do with VillainNet to help settle the dispute. They sent an envoy to meet with him and invite Mr. King into the fold. They lost contact with the envoy six hours before they sent me the message. At the four hour mark, he was officially overdue. Two hours prior to my involvement, they sat down to deliberate and settled on me. Fifteen minutes after I got the message, I left a note putting Qiang in charge until I get back and threw my armor on.
It was the wee hours of the morning when the Psycho Flyer flew in high over North Dakota. It was just me, the pilot, and a small squad of my guys in power armor in case I needed backup. I had a little info on what the outside of the castle looked like, but nobody had gone inside. It got turned into a villain vs. villain matter too quickly for that. It’s possible Cordial’s wife, April, isn’t even in there. But she almost certainly is. If not, someone important is, likely King himself. If I can’t find her, I can find him and convince him to turn her over to us.
The target was the castle in the middle of North Dakota. Once you slap down a castle in the middle of nowhere, subtlety is an afterthought. I opened the deployment trapdoor in the bottom of the Psycho Flyer and hopped out, parachute on my back. As heavy as my armor is these days, I had to pack one hell of a chute. When I pulled the cord, it started deploying, and it just kept on going, slowly revealing ever more of Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights”. I don’t know if it ever really stopped before I landed and it draped over the entirety of the castle’s courtyard. Guards on the walls and down on ground level were yelling, trying to figure out what was going on. I lost the element of surprise, but I gained fond memories of guards crawling under parachute, trying to find their way to freedom.
I followed one of them into the castle proper. The thick wooden door unlocked using a blue-colored keycard. He opened it and I stepped in behind him. He realized something was up and turned on my, but I shoved his head in the door and slammed the wood against his neck until the door closed. I grabbed his keycard before I left his body jammed there in the door way, telling the corpse, “Don’t mind me cutting ahead here.”
The side rooms had a blue stripe on the card readers. One swipe opened them, and let me check. There was a reading room with paperback novels and magazines stacked up. There was a game room, with bean bag chairs, TVs, and video game consoles set up. There was a bunk room with a lot of corpses in it after I tossed in a handful of chicken grenades, which set off an alarm to inform the corpses there was danger about. And there was the dining hall, where a bunch of other corpses had overturned tables to use as barricades. The .50 cal rifle was a surprise. When he took a shot at me, I ducked beside the door and hid the cloak. I also dropped the drone hidden under my cape and strafed it just under the roof of the doorway. The .50 cal rang out again, followed by a lot of smaller bangs. The drone made it to the other side safely. I pulled out an explosive throwing knife, primed it, and tossed it into the chaos caused by the anti-tank rifle’s magazine being overheated by the drone’s laser.
The drone folded up under my cloak again and we continued on, but the bottom level looked to be low-level stuff. I didn’t find April or King in the bathrooms, though it would have made my job easier if that was the case. Even the stairs required a keycard; the entrance to the second floor had a card reader with a blue stripe on it. Instead, the doors up there had purple stripes and the blue card couldn’t open them. They didn’t even have the decency to label the rooms, possibly for security purposes. There were five rooms on the second level. I peeled off a glove and set to work. The first room I opened was a coed bathroom. The second turned out to be the maintenance closet.
The next one was an arboretum, which I thought was about as useless to me as the maintenance closet until I heard someone call out. “Who’s there?” It was a man’s voice, but I figured not a guard.
“I’m looking for April,” I called out.
“I knew it!” said a woman, who ran out of the bushes. She matched her picture, with her distinctive auburn curls hanging over the standard face humans have. Dimples, eyelashes, eyeballs. Everyone seems to like having a face. She wore a set of coveralls, though, and nobody could have liked being stuck in those ugly things. “I knew my husband would arrange a rescue.”
“Score one for the supervillain,” said a middle-aged man with a slight paunch as he followed her out.
A third person came out rolling his eyes. Taller, older, and with a prominent hook nose. “Shut up, Greg. You didn’t believe her.” They were dressed the same as April.
Oh, this is gonna be neat. “He said you didn’t know.”
She let out a quick laugh. “Of course I know. I didn’t know he had connections though. I thought he’d come for me.”
“Well, dance around naked for him, he’ll come for you all you want, but we’ll settle that after the rescue,” I told her.
“No!” said the guy with the really noticeable hook nose. I think he’s been in a few fist fights. If not fights, then one-sided beatdowns. “We have to stop King’s evil plan!”
I looked to April, “I’m only here for you, ya know.”
She shook her head. “He’s right. He has to be stopped. He’s going to kill millions.”
“I don’t care, as long as they’re not my millions,” I paused. “What kind of millions?”
Greg, the one who had been told to shut up, disobeyed orders and cleared his throat. “He’s going to activate three EMP devices in the upper atmosphere.”
April nodded, “Decades ago, the DOD tested the effect of nuclear devices in the upper atmosphere and found out they widen the area of the electromagnetic effect. He’s going to cause chaos and death. He wants people to die off from the collapse of the digital age to try and halt the spread of climate change.”
“Ok, I’m in,” I said. Something like this was going to mess things up for my people. More importantly, it would hurt me, too. “Where do we need to go?”
“The third floor,” the taller fellow said. “That’s where they’re being calibrated. I know where the stairs are, but we’ll need a keycard.”
“I got a better idea. Where’s an exterior wall?”
They pointed to the rear of the arboretum. I sent a message. The Psycho Flyer blasted a hole in that wall, and a hole in the wall higher up. I headed for the rubble. They followed, coughing their way through smoke. One of my soldiers hopped down onto our level with the cable in hand. Another slid down after him. One stood guard while the other helped the captives onto the cable.Outside, a few shots rang off the outside of the Psycho Flyer. Side guns turned to fire down on the culprit without jeopardizing the rescue.
I jumped to the next floor. It took a little angling, but I landed on a ledge outside the hole we’d made. A yellow-clad guard looked out at me. I grabbed him and tossed him off to the side, where he wouldn’t disturb the people climbing the cable.
It looked like pretty much the entire third floor was taken up by a large lab. Yellow-clad guards stood around while people in coveralls worked, either on a section of what I recognized as a missile, or on the EMPs sitting on wheeled carts off by themselves.
Two of the guards stepped forward while the others gave them space. One pulled out a sword with an edge that glowed bright yellow. The other undid his yellow top, revealing a pair of turbines through his chest. This guy had turbines instead of lungs and they spun up, blowing a computer monitor at me. I swatted it away as the guy with the sword jumped with his foot landing between turbine guy’s chest turbines. He kicked off, the turbines ramping up to blow him at me. I thought for a moment, then ducked.
Sword guy dropped his sword right in front of me, the blade dimming to look like normal metal. Sword guy himself tried to grab the wall I’d come through, but instead was blow off into the night sky, headed for the ground.
“That blows,” I said, pointing back to him with a thumb.
Turbine guy tried sucking again. I pulled out a rubber chicken, tore the head off, and let it get sucked up into the guy’s chest. It actually jammed one of the turbines briefly, before it exploded and sent everyone else running for the door. I didn’t care about them so much. I had to go ahead and completely wreck the EMPs. Since I was out of rubber chickens and the exploding knives weren’t quite going to do it, I picked one up and beat the other two into scrap metal using it.
“You aren’t going to ruin my plans!” yelled a voice over the intercom.
“Get fucked,” I told him. “You can have all the plans you want, just not ones where you hit me with EMPs.”
This guy clearly misjudged me and my intentions. “You think you’re saving the world? Humanity must be culled. And by humanity, I mean everyone not in North America or Europe. All the other parts of the world have to drastically reduce their development and population or we will suffer.”
“Imagine if you spent as much time and money on improving things in ways that don’t involve murder. I mean, I get it. The shortest distance between two points involves shoving your hand through someone’s chest. But you’re targeting my people,” I said.
“You’ll regret this, whoever you are. The whole world will regret this!” he said.
I gave the room the finger as I walked out to where the Flyer’s line dangled for me. By then, even the slowest of the captives had made it inside the aircraft, quickly followed by my soldiers. I gave one last pithy remark to the room before swinging out into the night, my part to save the planet done. “I’m Captain Planet, and the only one around here who gets to fuck Gaia is me.” I jumped out and caught the cable, holding myself there long enough to get a look at the wrecked castle and all the people struggling to find themselves out from under my parachute in the courtyard. Off in the distance, I saw a sports car, some old Aston Martin, come racing up the lone road to the castle. Someone else to investigate or mess with whatever’s going on. None of my business.
I was only here for a love story, after all. Like all good love stories, it involved a shitload of murder. Nothing warms the heart more than tearing out someone else’s.