I have relied on these little nanomachines for a long time. I probably owe them more than anything for my success. I’ve taken a lot of punishment I couldn’t fight through otherwise. Right now, it’s looking like a clear advantage for flesh after the loss of my robot armor, but that’s a hasty decision. It had nanites with it, and that’s given me the chance to turn that loss into a victory. That’s the second key to my success, I guess. You keep fighting long enough, losses turn to victory.
The nanites in Top Knot’s system were ordered to collect what they could to multiply and maintain communication with me. That didn’t go anywhere until she slept and they could head outside her body to scavenge for material. Even the weirdest human diet doesn’t provide what nanomachines need to reproduce and build a transdimensional transceiver under orders from a sour transgender outside of Transylvania.
But I was watching. Waiting. The whole shebang rerouted when they found out their base had been cratered. Whatever had been keeping them there, they left. Maybe it was the base itself. Maybe this whole thing was just about that base and that gold they had coming to them. The fact they left told me two things. First, it led me to another base. They didn’t go back to Paradise City. Instead, they rerouted to Whiting Field, and from there to a National Guard base in Virginia.
The second thing this showed me is whoever the person is under the armor, they aren’t me. Not even some version of me from another Earth. Not some offshoot who got quantum jiggled into landing on a different one than I did after that first D-Bomb went off. He never went back and finished it with Gavel. Never even tried.
Anyway, I was watching some breaking news on Friday. Interesting stuff. The Honky Tonk Hero was having a showdown with Elvis, who had taken back his enchanted guitar. Despite Elvis’s age and gut when he reappeared from the space between dimensions, the power of the guitar had rejuvenated him somewhat. He wore a gold jumpsuit with orange fringe and designs while standing on an exposed beam on a skyscraper under construction. “One note, and the music dies. Full cessation, wham, bam, thank you ma’am. Then, there will be only the King.” Elvis strummed on the strings, the winds around them whirling, making it hard to hear anything but the sound of the mystic musical instrument.
Honky Tonk Hero stood nearby. He wore a jumpsuit of his own, blue and yellow, with the famous pompadour of Elvi everywhere. Elvi’s the plural of Elvis, by the way. Octopus, octopi, Elvis, Elvi. Honky Tonk had no such weapon in-hand, only a shiny platinum microphone. But when he spoke into it, the cameras picked it up perfectly. “You’ve let the power and fame get to your heads. You’re high on celebrity and all manner of pills, old man. I- I looked up to you. I loved you. You inspired devotees around the world, but you’re not our hero doing this. You have to recognize when you’ve got to let the power go and make way for the next generation, or else there won’t be a next generation. What King of Rock N’ Roll would destroy music so that nobody who comes after could surpass him? That’s not nobility. That’s craven pursuit of power for its own sake. I want to believe you’re better than that!”
The reporter edged into the camera’s view. “God help me, Mark, if you cut to a commercial about reverse mortgages right now, I’ll gut you with my heels.”
“Son, when you’ve grown as old as I am, and your legacy is bought and sold so often, you learn the one thing in life you can count on is your own power,” Elvis said. Then hit a power cord that buffeted Honky Tonk Hero with hurricane-strength winds, threatening to throw the younger hero off the building. Honky Tonk, in the middle of this gale, hit a high note that cut into the storm and gave him some room to breathe. Then the King got him again and the support under Honky Tonk strained and shook. And in the middle of all this, I had to wonder what the fuck Honky Tonk was using to keep his hair up. That’s industrial strength hair gel right there.
“To be human, is to know you can count on them that come before and after, and your friends who support you now,” another voice said. The winds died down some as more people assembled. A wizened old Black man in suspenders and a button-down shirt dispersed the winds with his banjo. A middle-aged, hefty Black woman rose with her own circular platform surrounding her, catching Honky Tonk as he fell. It looked like a spotlight centered on the singer and creating a thin yellow circle for others to stand on. A wide circle, given the motley crew with her. Perhaps it was the power of that microphone, or the musical abilities at play, that let the camera overhear, “Once again, a Black woman’s got to do the lifting.”
On the platform, a young woman with a ukulele tended to the downed hero while others stepped forward, adding their voices to the harmony opposing Elvis. A punk with a bass, a flautist, a trombone player. Even some 80s throwback with a lounge suit and a keytar. They were a mess. It should have sounded like chaos. Instead, they calmed the storms and, under the leadership of the old man with the banjo, a wave struck Elvis. He raised his guitar to block it, the mystical instrument seeming to suck in the light. Then an explosion of light blinded everyone. When it faded away, only the guitar was left with broken strings. The old man stepped forward and grabbed the diminished and plain-seeming instrument. Honky Tonk Hero stepped forward and the old man held the guitar out for him. Honky Tonk took it, looked it over, then reached up and removed the pompadour wig off his head. Which raises even more questions for me after earlier events. The hero tossed both the wig and the guitar off the side of the building under construction.
The banjo player stepped back and disappeared into the air. Others of the harmonious group went their own way, like the punk running off at super speed or the trumpeter growing a pair of wings and flying off. Honky Tonk put his arm around the ukulele player and raised the microphone in his hand, holding it out in front of him as he flew with her. The others went their own way on the platform moved by the curvy singer.
“Holy shit,” the reporter said as the camera panned back down to her. Behind her sat a pair of non-plussed good ol’ boys sitting on the tailgate of their Chevy, shaking their hands and downing bottles of what looked like whiskey or maybe rye.
Then, the broadcast was interrupted by an announcement by the President. It’s like he got annoyed someone was taking all the attention and he decided to make a speech that would be talked about for a long time. It started with a bunch of normal, unassuming platitudes. He ran down a list of various world-threatening events of the past few years. I was a major part of most of them. There was a bit of a theme in that most of what he talked about centered on supers. Baseline human terrorism was reframed as being people in masks as well. Was a bit annoyed to see he brought up the aliens who invaded and the supers who were brainwashed into helping them without noting the ones who helped stop the invasions. Then, he got to the key part of the address, the real reason behind it all.
“In light of these extraordinary events, these extraordinary threats, and the inability of Congress our and institutions to deal with them through ordinary means, I hereby order all agencies of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government to revoke or treat as revoked the United States citizenship of every masked villain or vigilante and every human who exhibits superpowers. All super technology, including some of the self-declared heroes, is to be seized. We are making a push to remove drugs that are the product of super science as well. To those who have no powers, or those good-hearted men and women with training who sought to do the police’s job for them, I say to you now that you can stop. If you have no powers, take off your mask and put away your cape and walk away. No harm will come to you. But if you continue past today, you will be treated, along with every superhuman within the United States, as a non-citizen with all the rights that classification entails. It will be a hard road to root out these dangerous individuals of mass destruction in our midst, but we have the loyal men and women of ICE and other government agencies to do the job for us. I am also asking Congress to undergo testing for superpowers and subject my successor and his vice president to this testing before they take office.”
And there it is. The naked grab for power. He didn’t even take questions. Instead, the nearest reporters got plasma rifles pointed at them courtesy of Icers while someone in power armor stepped forward declaring that all members of the White House Press Corps would be subject to powers testing starting today.
Which is another shitty level on this. I’m not aware of any particular test for superpowers. I know people can be tricked into showing their powers if you catch them off guard or stress them enough. Some folks can’t hide it, like the ones with weird eyes and skin, or the various animal-people. Which I guess makes this authoritarian move all the more brilliant in its own way. Who says if someone has powers and is subject to whatever the government wants to do to them? A test done by the government with no oversight or clue how it works, if it works. Could just be some guy holds up an unplugged supermarket scanner and declares someone a super to be arrested because the President didn’t like them.
The President didn’t even make it off-stage when my double appeared and put a fist through the gut of the President. He’s not me, but he pulled a spine out of a stomach hole in the way I like to. It looked to all the world like Psycho Gecko had proven the President’s wisdom. The press shouted in fear while ICE opened fire on Fake Gecko. The Fake disappeared and the room descended into pandemonium. People fell and got trampled. I think I saw plasma bolts firing into the crowd.
The announcement was made a short time later that the President had died and been replaced by his milquetoast Vice President, who resolved to carry out on the dead President’s fight as long as it took, even another four years if the incoming administration proved to be supers.
Top Knot hadn’t gone with them to that event, but the base where she was at, I was able to listen in when they brought in part of the Washington National Guard detail. Among them was the dead President, healthy, laughing, and completely unharmed. He tossed an old holodisc of mine to the Fake Gecko who caught it. Then the dead President said, “I hear my retirement package didn’t make it. Let’s go find a new one in all the quote-unquote rioting that’s about to happen. What do you say?”
I say some folks got awfully cocky that I’m not around anymore before they stole my likeness to enact a fascist takeover, but I’m more than happy to help them retire. And with the way my machines are transforming Top Knot’s body, it won’t be long before they find out I never left.
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