We have faced our enemy, and it is mush. My guys did the most thorough autopsy they could on the guy who tried to kidnap my daughter, but being smashed by a pair of giant fingers has a way of obscuring a lot of information. Facial reconstruction’s a no-go after the way the skull got pulverized in places, though Dr. Creeper assures me the person wasn’t the sort to blindly follow authority based on pieces of his skull that Creeper saw. I told Creeper to stop reading those phrenology websites.
No facial recognition, the guy’s DNA isn’t on file, and his fingerprints aren’t on in any database. We know he had a wang at least. Aside from that, we know the guy had been altered quite a bit. We found cybernetics, including a damaged bomb that was unable to detonate because of the damage to it. The big revelation they came back to me with was evidence of Hephaestus’s work. One of the lab techs used to work with them before losing their sense of smell and nose after creating a super who was nicknamed Stinkbomb.
So Faustus/Hephaestus is involved. Power sellers, even if their methods can be experimental and risky. Faustus provides magical items and spells to empower people. Hephaestus tries things through more scientific and technological means. Both sides have their fair share of casualties in the name of refining the process, providing a monetary discount for people willing to put their lives on the line in the name of super science.
In days past, when I was more uptight, I’d have broken into their offices to either steal files or gently interrogate someone’s head in a copier until I got the answers I wanted. Maybe something even whackier, who knows? But I’ve chilled out some. I had a kid given to me as a bribe, then altered her DNA so she was related to me. I have a house without a mortgage that I stole after stealing a nation that I also stole. I’m a changed man. Well, a changed woman, since I also got rid of muh dick.
In light of that, I decided this could be solved with a simple phone call. Hephaestus likes to post advertisements and job offers on VillaiNet. Getting in touch with them is easier than ever with how they make offers for villains to send minions over to be upgraded.
For fuck’s sake, they could pirate any music in the world, and the hold tone is The Girl From Ipanema. I’m going to have that song stuck in my head for days, the evil bastards. A woman with a high-pitched voice answered. “Human Resources, Hephaestus desk. I’m Gina. How may I direct your call?”
“Hi, my name is Psychopomp Gecko, Empress of Ricca. I was recently attacked by some people working for the United States government showing signs of having been altered by Hephaestus and I was hoping to get more information about the project.”
After a brief pause, she asked me a new question, “What would you like me to do?”
“Connect me with someone important who talks to supervillains so I can get some questions answered.”
“Alright, I can look into that. May I ask what you are hoping to speak with them about?”
Ok, just because I’m on meds to balance out my homicidal tendencies, in addition to my suicidal ones, that doesn’t mean this flies with me. “If you don’t put me on the phone with somebody whose job position got fished out of a can of alphabet soup, I will find the city your offices are based in and I will shoot a cow laced with growth formula out of a cannon so that its bovine ass takes your building up it like a gay conversion pastor in a gay bar. Then, if you’re lucky, I’ll blow the city and the cow up. And when whoever’s the head of Hephaestus asks me why I personally cut the throats of everybody working for him, her, or them, I will answer… ‘Because Gina’s so incompetent, nothing she touched could be allowed to survive.’”
“Alright, my supervisor has indicated he wants me to send you through to his phone line since you sound like you’re being a bit touchy. Have a good day now, buh-bye!”
I’m gonna kill her. I’m gonna find her and kill her. Screw the meds, screw not destroying the world. They’re damn lucky I got connected to someone helpful before I could tell the labs to cook up the sarin. I got ex-cultists on staff who know how to cook that stuff. Throw in the recovering meth head and they can put it together in a dumpster.
Anyway, this guy got me where I needed to go. They bumped me up to a VP, then a right to the P. “Well, well, Psycho Gecko. How the tide has turned.”
“Person whose name I don’t know. So we speak on the phone again. Maybe? I really don’t know who the fuck you are. Did I almost kill you?”
“I never met you, but I survived your fight with us last time. It must really grind your gears. You failed to kill us and now you’re crawling back,” he said.
I shrugged. “Whatever makes you feel good for the accomplishment of ‘surviving’ a fight you weren’t even involved in. If you’re feeling bad about not seeing action, your HR call person has given me plenty of motivation. Anyway, unless your shit’s still all wrecked from the last time I had anything to do with y’all, you should have some records I need to check on. I’m looking for information on y’all doing work for the United States government.”
And the phone went dead. I blinked, focusing again on where I was and grabbing some sushi off the woman laying naked in front of me. Medusa was scooping some of the sushi into a carryout box between the woman’s legs. “You’re back, fantastic. I was just about to go.”
“You don’t like eating here?” I asked.
She looked down at the woman on the table in front of us, who tried to avoid looking back at either one of us. Medusa cleared her throat. “I don’t like this. Do we have to eat off the front of a naked person?”
I motioned to the woman. “What, would you rather we ate off her backside? That’s unsanitary.” I looked to the woman. “No offense. We just don’t know where your ass has been.”
“It is fine, Empress,” she responded quietly.
“You said this was an artsy restaurant, but we’re eating off strippers,” Medusa said. She stood up and started out with the carryout box.
I scoffed at that. “It’s a culinary and artistic experience to draw attention to the objectification of women while making a statement about how much of the work that goes into growing, preparing, and serving food is on women. You’re going to offend our table if you keep this up.” I stood as well. “Do you take a card?”
Our table flipped over to where the reader rested between her ass cheeks. “Completely unhygienic,” I said as I swiped.
For Hephaestus’s sake, I gave that guy the opportunity to reconsider and call me back. When they didn’t I decided to pay them a completely friendly visit with all my best diplomatic skill. Given my usual level of understatement, this is usually when I reveal I blew a wall open and started kicking skulls out of asses. I assure you, dear reader, I did nothing of the sort this time.
Instead, delivery people at one of Hephaestus’s hidden-in-plain-sight offices wheeled in six gigantic cakes so big, everyone knew a stripper would had to be jumping out of them. A caravan like that going to the floors with all the Ps, VPs, CEOs, CFOs, and COOs isn’t going to be stopped. A bunch of them actually came out of their offices to gather around, wondering who the lucky guy was and what the strippers would look like.
The delivery people tore their uniforms off, except for one whose uniform faded away to reveal my power armor on. “Surprise!” I yelled as my soldiers held them all at gunpoint. A couple of the executives tried to make a break past us when more soldiers popped out of the cakes, these also in power armor. One of them actually grabbed the guy, pulled into the cake, and was beating the crap out of him when his superior stopped him.
“We need them conscious for now,” the officer said. The soldier nodded and tossed the guy he’d been hitting out of the cake to stumble back to the line of suits and ties my guys were spreading out around.
“Ok, listen up. I’m Psycho Gecko. I’m here for a little bit of information, not mass murder. Tell me what I need, we all go home fat, happy, and alive. I might even leave you a cake. First thing’s first… where is Gina from HR?”
Pagan, who was listening in, interrupted me to point out, “Empress, Gina is low priority. You said you talked to a President.”
“ I was just testing you,” I told my Intel Chief, taking it as a face-saving lie without realizing the grain of truth in there. “Ok, nevermind, new question. I spoke with someone here the other day. Who was it? Come on, don’t be shy… the life you save could be your own.” I barely got the words out before every one of them turned to look at one fellow who had a full beard and a professional cut. His eyes went wide and he turned to run, but he took headbutt to the face and collapsed like a drunk possum.
He woke up after a minute, groaning in the chair we had him set in. His buddies were enjoying some cake while soldiers made sure they didn’t make any surreptitious phone calls. “Hey, there, buddy. How’s it going? It’s your old pal, Psycho Gecko. Our call seems to have gotten interrupted the other day. I figured we could have a little heart to heart in person, and I would absolutely hate to make that literal. It’s just a hassle that way, because it takes slightly longer for me to find things out and you have to die. So let’s have a little chat and you can go on your way as someone who survived a personal encounter with Psycho Gecko.”
I took my helmet off, shaking out my long hair and letting him see my beautifully made-up face. Then I reached out and put a hand on his knee. “What do you say?”
He was happy to see me after that. Along with a reasonable bribe, he agreed not to cause a big scene by involving security and he gave us a copy of the files about the United States Freedom Legion, also known as the Rogers Project. The current President didn’t care about survival rates or impact on long-term living standards. A few labs on the East Coast are handling all the work running Legionnaire candidates through the sequence and installing any cybernetics to help manage their new powers and physiologies.
They’d make good targets. If Chu’s tests go well, I might even be able to try out the new teleweaponry taking them out. I just have to give Hephaestus a little bit of notice so they can play along and try to save most of the important stuff. It was a heck of a bribe. But, hey, it’s less suspicious if I also wreck their stuff.