When we last left our heroes, they were nowhere to be found. Instead, the villains had just stolen a hostage from a group of dickweeds who stole him to make them look bad. The Brazilian and the Mad Waxxer escaped successfully, but what of their plot to hold the hostage even more hostage and force the important people in the community to reverse their decision to hire the Pinkertons..
The Mad Waxxer wanted to send a DVD with a video on it to put the screws to Theodore Hunnicutt, but the Brazilian kept ragging him about that being old-fashioned. “You don’t understand,” the Waxxer explained. “We can send the video with Theodora.” Here, he nodded toward his girlfriend and Theodore’s daughter before continuing. “It’s an implied threat toward her.”
“It’s still behind the times. What would we do if she had broken it? She’s supposed to be a ditz, remember? No offense,” the Brazilian said to Theodora, who smiled warmly and gave him the finger.
Theodora spoke up next. “I love this discussion, but how about you two do a video, I send it from my email, and you pretend you got access to it somehow. It’s digital and it’s still threatening. It would even throw them off the scent of how I found where they were keeping the Chief by making it seem like one of you is a hacker.”
“That works,” the Waxxer said, glad he had Theodora.
“Fine by me,” the Brazilian said, glad that at least the Waxxer knew Theodora.
Theodora rolled her eyes at the smoldering intensity of the rivals, wondering how much friendlier the pair would be if they fucked. She concluded it wouldn’t change much, and the pair would probably get into an argument over whether or not Brazilian spanking Waxxer’s ass got her boyfriend off. At least it made an attractive image for her to think about while the pair argued again. “When you two are done showing off your professionalism, we have a video to shoot,” she said.
Theodore Hunnicutt the Third wasn’t having a good day. He had asked to speak to a supervisor, and now that supervisor was in his office, flanked by a pair of guards. “When I hired the Pinkerton Agency, I thought I ws getting the elite of private threat management companies. You have a sterling reputation for dealing with superhuman threats. I fear your reputation is overblown.”
“Mr. Hunnicutt, I appreciate your time and, more importantly, your money. Rest assured, we are the best. And the reason we are the best is because we know to study each unique situation involving the exceptionally-abled and we have the resources to react accordingly. While you did hire a team to deal with the two individuals causing problems for your family, the team hired to obtain the Chief of Police was not chosen in order to deal with them. They were chosen to obtain and hold a trained and experienced police officer. Their failure was due to circumstances outside their control and knowledge they couldn’t have had. Two people with the power to stick to things found the safehouse you provided. There was no leak on our end.”
Theodore leaned forward in his chair. “I didn’t hire you to talk about why you can’t solve the problem. I hired you to solve the problem! Your men were supposed to guard the Chief of Police in a situation where you were hired to deal with supervillains who kidnap people. You said that your job is to figure out what needs to be done to handle the problem. My role is to pay you and tell you what to do. I’ve paid you, so figure it out and get Johanssen back!”
With such an important meeting going on, it’s understandable that Theodore Hunnicutt didn’t interrupt it over an email from his daughter. He figured it was about some silly thing she was doing now. He also thought it would be a good way to take his mind off the failures of the Pinkertons, so he looked at it after they’d left his office. He nearly broke the screen texting his secretary to stop the Pinkerton representative and direct her back to his office when he realized what had been sent to him.
The representative found the whole situation quite amusing when he started up the video. She held her hand out for it as it started up. “May I?” She accepted the phone to watch.
It began with an image of the Chief of Police, handcuffed, sitting in a chair. The man’s head was still red, but the gash had been treated and bandaged. He’d had a bath and a shave as well. “My name is Captain… Chief Phil Johanssen,” the man could have sounded worse while discussing the promotion that had been prompted by the rescue of high profile hostages from the two warring supervillains before they’d joined forces.
The Chief went on, his eyes moving from side to side as he read. “I am saying this of my own free will and am not being forced to read this by my captors, the magnificent Mad Waxxer, whose skill at kidnapping is matched only by his skill at lovemaking and writing. And the Brazilian, who is also present.”
“Fuck you, numbnuts,” the Brazilian said as he stepped into view. “You couldn’t have done it without me. We’re here to say we did not kidnap the Chief.” He looked down at the handcuffed Chief in question, then looked back up at the camera. “…initially. We didn’t kidnap him initially. Someone else took him in order to allow the rich and powerful the excuse they needed to bring in the Pinkertons. A private police force in service only to the rich and powerful? What could go wrong, right?”
“Not only that,” said a voice from off screen as the camera jittered. “But it was one of the area’s rich, favored sons in whose warehouse we found Chief Johanssen here.”
“It’s true,” the Chief said, “These two had nothing to do with attacking me at HQ. They took me from the people who really grabbed me, ex-military people. They’re treating me well, treated my wound, but they have a demand they would like me to pass on. All you have to do to get me back is cancel the plan to bring in the Pinkertons. It saves you money, too.”
“Read the room, dude,” the Brazilian said, leaning on Johanssen’s shoulder.
The Mad Waxxer spoke again, jostling the camera even more. “If a moral argument worked on them, we wouldn’t be in this situation. Sometimes, you have to be pragmatic and appeal to their greed.” The camera turned to look up at the Mad Waxxer’s mask. The man smiled his pearly whites and went on, “Besides, it would be too coarse to resort to obvious threats. Hmm… how to send this to you, though?”
The video cut out there, but Ted Hunnicutt spoke, “That video was sent to me from my daughter’s email account.”
The Pinkerton representative clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth. “That is unfortunate.”
“We have to get him back,” Hunnicutt said.
The rep raised her eyebrow. “It’s admirable that you’re willing to stick with us after we failed you so badly.”
“Can you find them?” Hunnicutt asked. “This isn’t over yet. They won’t beat me.”
“There is an astonishing amount of metadata available in video and images. If you can provide my people a copy of the video, we can find the phone that shot it and trace its location. You said this was sent from your daughter’s account? The one he keeps taking?” She asked.
“Yes, that’s the threat he mentions at the end. He wants me to know she isn’t safe,” he said.
The rep looked up at one of her guards, then back to Mr. Hunnicutt. “Have you ever considered that she might be involved with him?”
Theodore snorted. “That’s ridiculous. She wouldn’t date some thug like that.”
“Uh huh…” the Rep said. Her other guard leaned down and showed her something on his phone. “In light of the full situation, while we can find where the video originated, we will have to save that for a more formal renegotiation of terms.”
“Vultures! What are you doing?” he called after them as the Rep got up, left the phone on his desk, and walked out. Wasting a second on incredulity that they’d walk out on him, he tried to follow.
His assistant met him at the door, her phone in hand, asking, “Sir, you need to see this.”
When his phone alerted him to the breaking news, the Mad Waxxer very nearly spat out his celebratory wine. Theodora handled it much better, finishing her sip before asking after what happened. She took one look and called out to the other room. “Brazilian! What did you do?”
The Brazilian entered, wearing a shirt and flip-flops now. “You know already?”
The Mad Waxxer very nearly tossed his glass at the man, but set it down. “I have been keeping abreast of developments regarding the wealthy and our little dispute this entire time. Did you think I would miss it?”
The Brazilian smiled, wide but close-mouthed. “Glad to hear you say that. I have friends at that paper. Circulation’s never been better than during this fight we had. Now they get the scoop on us nabbing the head cop and making demands of your dad.” He nodded toward Theodora.
She shook her head. “You work at the paper.”
“You said that, not me,” the Brazilian said, not her.
“This is what you were doing the entire time. It’s not about kidnapping. It’s about keeping your job open,” she said.
“It’s so open, it hung us out to dry. These sorts of negotiations with these sorts of people require privacy. The deal’s going to be off now,” said the Waxxer. The article leaked the contents of their video.
The Brazilian shook his head. “Public opinion will force them to comply.”
The Mad Waxxer started to throw up his arms, remembered his glass, and set it down first. “He’s rich. He doesn’t care about the public.”
“Well see about that. Are we done here, or do you want to yell at me more?” asked the Brazilian.
The Mad Waxxer just shook his head. Theodora shooed him off and said, “We can handle Johanssen for now. We wouldn’t want you releasing him to get an exclusive interview.”
The Brazilian rolled his eyes. “That would raise too many questions. Give me some credit here.”
The Waxxer put his arms around Theodora and rested his chin on her head. After the Brazilian left, he asked quietly, “How do you think this is going to go down now?”
“My father’s an asshole,” she answered. “There’s only so much he cares about looking good. I hope that’s not true of whoever else is working with him from among families here. Otherwise, if it’s just him and everyone realizes it? He’ll have nothing to lose.”
The Mad Waxxer tried to maintain his calm. He’d faced police and guards before, right? He got a bad feeling about this one. He, and the Brazilian, were going into some warehouse. Theodora said the ones outside had handguns, but what about inside? He didn’t much care for going into it with his rival at his back, either. It was entirely that he didn’t trust the man.
It wasn’t like he gave a sly smile or told him to wear a red shirt. The Brazilian acted as near to normal as he knew of the man. The problem being, his normal behavior meant invading the Waxxer’s territory, kidnapping his victims, and ratting out his holding sites to the cops. It would be to his benefit if the Waxxer was injured or worse.
The pair rode along in the Waxxer’s van, which the Brazilian had dubbed “The Waxmobile.” He’d laughed at it when the Waxxer picked him up, and said it a couple more times while he drove there. The Waxxer didn’t care for the name, and got his revenge by offering the man some fruit from a bowl sitting up front. The Brazilian tossed a grape in his mouth, bit down, then spat it out. “Wax fruit? You really play up a theme.”
“I really don’t,” he responded.
“How do you make that wax work, anyway? I’ve seen waxxing done. You heat it up, drip it where it goes, and rip it off once it cools and solidifies. What you do shouldn’t be possible,” said the man who can stick to anything he touches and crawl on ceilings and walls.
“It’s a formula developed by the CIA. How I came by it is my own business,” the Waxxer answered.
“The feds made wax?” the other villain queried.
“No, they were making chemical weapons in the Cold War and someone discovered a formula for wax with special properties. I found it later,” he said. There was more to the story, involving the CIA, rumors of the chemicl being based on Dr. Resolute’s old formula, and the need to vibrate it at certain frequencies to detach it prematurely. He felt no need to explain everything to the first person to ask, however.
“They did a lot of crazy stuff. I wonder if we’ll ever find out everything they were up to,” the Brazilian mused.
The Waxxer shrugged, “I’d rather focus on the guys we have to deal with. Are you any good at fighting?”
The Brazilian turned to look at him. “I used to get beat up a lot as a kid.”
“Great,” the Waxxer said. The Brazilian’s powers needed him to put his hands on people, but he was a bad fighter. “Did you bring any sort of weapon?” He eyed the Brazilian, who once again wore nothing put a pair of shorts. The other man’s chest and arms glistened; the Waxxer wasn’t sure if that was due to sweat or oil. He hoped it was the former for the sake of his seats.
The Brazilian shook his head. “No. I thought I would improvise when we got there. Perhaps I can find something heavy, hide on a ceiling, and drop it on someone’s head.”
“Improvise? That sounds like a terrible plan,” the Waxxer said.
“I understand why your girlfriend didn’t go inside, I do. But she couldn’t send us a picture?” the Brazilian asked.
“That wouldn’t look suspicious,” the Waxxer responded.
“Fuck, it would be something,” Brazilian said. They drove past the warehouse on purpose, not turning in or slowing down. They waited until they were down the street, in front of the next one, before the Waxxer stopped and the Brazilian spoke again, a smirk adding to the sarcasm of the statement. “It looked normal. Have you thought of a plan already?”
The Waxxer took his hands off the wheel and steepled his fingers. “Yes, I have. It requires cunning, skill, trust, and my van. It probably won’t work.”
When he finished telling the Brazilian, the bronze Adonis smiled. “It’s missing one thing.” He pulled out his phone and pushed a few buttons. “Get what you need. I need to make a stop, but I will be back with everything you need of me.”
The Waxxer swung over the fence and landed on the inside perimeter of the warehouse, completely unharmed by the barbed wire topping the obstruction. He’d had to break out some spare wax, but it was easy enough to coat the barbs with it and clamber over. He checked again to make sure there were no obvious cameras or patrols he missed, then jogged to the warehouse. Wary of the sound of his soles, he stopped at the wall to make sure nobody was scrambling, then pulled out his whip. He took aim, hit his mark on the edge of the roof, and set about climbing the structure.
Having done everything as stealthily as he could up to that point, the Waxxer made his way past solar panels to the center of the roof. It seemed the best place to start without knowing where to look. He’d prefer a corner to be inconspicuous, but that was where the Brazilian came in. If the Brazilian came in. The Waxxer stopped laying out wax on the roof and glanced around for the distraction.
Squealing tires alerted him to it. He saw his van doing donuts in front of the gate to the warehouse. If he was’t trying to be stealthy while wearing a smoking jacket on the roof of a warehouse at midday, he’d have yelled at the man. He told him to get a car. Steal one, borrow one, call a taxi. His van wasn’t part of the plan!
However, he was a professional. He finished affixing part of the roof to itself. When he saw a gang of men and women heading out to the front gates of the warehouse compound, he used his tools to noisily remove the roof. Just the part that was inconvenient. The wax prevented it from falling inward. Lifting a paper strip off, he set his makeshift trapdoor on the roof.
The Mad Waxxer noticed two things while climbing his strip whip down. The first was that he, van or no van, he owed his life to the Brazilian’s distraction. He was painfully exposed to sight, but nobody was around to see his budget Spider-Man impression. The second thing he noticed was that the only thing big enough to hold a person who hadn’t mastered yoga was a large shipping container. Once he’d made it to the floor, he rushed over, hoping nobody had left it locked. In this, he was lucky as well.
The reason became apparent when he opened the door. Chief Johannsen was tied to a cot in filthy conditions, a gash on his head that was swollen and red with infection. The Waxxer winced and set about undoing the straps. The groan from the first one alerted him that the man was actually conscious. “Easy there. You’re not well.”
“Who… the Mad Waxxer?” asked Johanssen.
The Mad Waxxer shot him a roguish grin. “The very same. I’m here to kidnap you.”
“Don’t you mean rescue me?” asked the captured Chief of Police.
“Whatever helps you feel better. Now, up you go. Easy.” The Mad Waxxer helped the man up and they began to hobble out. He grabbed his phone and texted the Brazilian that they needed a way out. The plan called for setting the stolen car to ram through the gate, driving the van in, and piling into it to try and escape without getting shot. That would never be an option if only his van was involved. At least the Chief could still walk on his own after he got him outside the container.
“Get to the roof,” was the Brazilian’s advice. The Mad Waxxer looked at Chief Johanssen and marveled at it.
The Waxxer pulled out a long wax strip . “I’ll need you to be calm and not choke me for this next part. We’re going to have to climb.” He looked up to find the Chief, who he suddenly realized wasn’t beside him. The swaying of his strip whip alerted him to the other man trying to limb it. “Oh. Good then. This works, too.”
The Waxxer walked over, grabbed the handle, and pressed the button to reel it in. As the other end of it was firmly stuck to the roof of warehouse, it instead reeled him in. He grabbed the Chief as it got to him, Johanssen being fully cooperative in the escape. Once they got to the roof, the Waxxer realized the air was alight with the booming sound of gangster rap. And it was coming from his van. “My speakers!”
Furious, he pulled out his phone and texted to the Brazilian that they were out, they heard the music, and they needed to get out right that instant! The Mad Waxxer looked up with dawning horror as his van stopped racing up and down the street and turned down a road to drive away. His stream of expletives could have alerted the guards standing around at the perimeter of the fence, and went on long enough that he was surprised when the van came hurtling back toward the gate. It crashed through, and kept on going.
“Look to the sky,” the Brazilian responded via text message. The Waxxer looked up quizzically, and so almost missed when the Brazilian landed on the edge of the roof. “Hey, man. I got your escape right here.”
Rather than the crude gesture he expected to accompany that statement, the Brazilian had a couple of bags with him. He opened them up and performed a quick setup on a pair of hang gliders. “See? You can’t spell ‘improvise’ without ‘improve’,” he said with a grin.
The Waxxer rolled his eyes, but listened intently as the Brazilian gave them the basics so they didn’t crash and die. That the alternative was sticking around and probably dying made the risk easier to cope with, though that didn’t help the Waxxer any as he ran off the roof of the warehouse after the Brazilian.
The three men landed near each other, which in this context means the Waxxer almost smacked into a bus, the Brazilian touched down perfectly on a roof, and the Chief hurt his tailbone after after falling out of the tree he smacked into.
He groaned, but laughed as he stood up with the aid of the Waxxer. “I can brush off a few hurt bones. I owe you boys a lot for what you’ve done today. I won’t soon forget it,” he said. He turned to offer a handshake to the Brazilian, who hopped down from the roof.
The two kidnappers looked at each other, then at the Chief. The Brazilian covered the Chief’s mouth with his hand while the Waxxer pulled out wax strips to bind the man’s hands.
“Don’t worry, we’ll have you back to your family and job in no time. You just have to help us rectify this whole horrid situation, first,” said the Mad Waxxer.
The Brazilian whipped out his phone and tapped the screen a few times. “Our Uber will be here in minutes. Don’t worry, those guys will take extra cash for anything as little as they get paid.”
“When’s my new van getting here?” the Waxxer asked.
“I don’t know,” the Brazilian responded. “Have all my hostages drive it back.”
“This is going to be a great partnership, I can tell,” the Waxxer grumbled.
“Stop being so stuck up,” the Brazilian said before nodding and waving to a woman walking by who oggled him.
“I’ll tell you where you can stick something up,” Waxxer responded.
When the Mad Waxxer had been left unemployed after funding cuts to the college lab he worked at, he knew he couldn’t take it. He’d moved across the country for that job with nothing but hopes, and saw himself laid off before he could receive his first paycheck. He had been left with nothing, so he took a formula and basic equipment. His first victims secured his finances. He took revenge on the donor he blamed for his failed career, then he secured a new one. Rather than live as the downtrodden, he wanted to build a life of the finer things that his victims enjoyed.
Falling in love wasn’t part of his plans. He wasn’t entirely sure he was in love, but the Waxxer still found his thoughts turn every day to Theodora Hunnicutt. He never thought the young woman he kidnapped would show herself to be a cunning and intelligent mentor into the world of America’s old money. He owed a great deal of his success to her, and the rise of his savings.
Theodora seemed to value him as well. Perhaps she saw in him a way to take revenge, or perhaps he was another person whose station in life made a mockery of his intelligence. It has not been her story up to this point.
The Mad Waxxer found her staying at her townhouse just as she was leaving on an errand. He waited until she returned to sneak inside and lounge on her sofa in the living room. She jumped when she saw him, her hand reaching for her purse. “Oh, you,” she said playfully, her face alight with a smile.
The Mad Waxxer hopped to his feet and started toward her, arms outstretched. “Like a blinded man whose sight was returned in time for the sunrise, my life is enlightened again.”
“If only every girl had a master flatterer to welcome her home. It’s good to see you again, but I didn’t expect to see you in the middle of the day,” she wrapped her arms around the Waxxer and the pair shared a kiss.
Too shortly for their tastes, their greetings ended and he revealed the purpose of his visit. “I wish I was here to see you for your own sake, but it’s the bad news that brings me.”
“Bad news?” Theodora asked.
“You haven’t heard?” Mad Waxxer asked, then explained. “The Chief of Police was hurt and kidnapped. They say a note was left by myself and the Brazilian, the new villain who steps on my territory.”
Theodora took her phone out to check on the news as he told her the story. “They’re blaming you? Have they paid attention to anything you’ve done?” she asked. She pondered a moment. “No, they’re too busy thinking the worst of anyone who gives offense. The Pinkertons? I see what’s going on here. My father has spoken about them. You humiliate them, but you’re only a threat to their overstuffed bank accounts. Have you ever seen the Brazilian?”
The Waxxer nodded. “I was there when he took the model in the first place. He’s a real person with real powers.”
Theodora’s eyes glazed over as she thought it over. “So he’s real, but they’re taking advantage.”
“To what end?” asked a voice that startled them both. Theodora turned to see a barely-dressed man walk out of a hallway, hairless skin shining in the light.
The Waxxer’s whip was out like a flash and would have caught the Brazilian in the face if he hadn’t rolled beneath the blow and come up with his hands raised. “I mean no harm!” he said, while the Waxxer released the whip from sticking to the hall wall. “I came here to talk about our scapegoating.”
“Did you take the Chief of Police?” Theodora asked.
The Brazilian shook his head. “I was as caught off guard as well.” He looked between them both. “I thought you two would meet, so I waited in hope of a meeting. Mad Waxxer, both our names are being dragged through the mud.”
The Waxxer cocked his head. “We’re criminals who kidnap people. It’s bad if we clear our names solving crimes, too. It’s a win-win for them. We can’t solve the crime for them.”
“That attitude didn’t stop either of you before,” Theodora said. “You turned each other’s hostages over.”
“We did that anonymously,” Brazilian said, Waxxer nodding along. “We didn’t help our reputations, but we hurt each others’.”
The Waxxer thought it over. “They will still have a reason to bring in the Pinkertons anyway, unless we admit we didn’t take him.” He glanced at Theodora, whose smile grew wide across her face. He loved that smile. “Someone has an idea.”
“We still need to find who has him, but once we know that, you two can kidnap him. You expose what the other people did and show you’re better,” she said.
The Mad Waxxer snapped his fingers. “And the ransom is the removal of the Pinkertons, with the knowledge that we can get at anybody if they try to bring them back.”
The Brazilian smiled at Theodora, and the Waxxer noted his brilliant white smile. “As smart as you are beautiful. No wonder the Waxxer basks in your company.”
“Easy there,” the Waxxer said, moving to put himself between the two.
Theodora giggled. “Relax, both of you. I’m perfectly happy already.” She patted Theodora on the shoulder. “Let him waste breath on flattery if he wants to. You two have to learn to get along while I find out what I can from my family connections. You two, behave.”
The Brazilian smiled at her before looking the Waxxer in the eye. “We should check as well. You know more of the underworld than I do in this state. I have my own sources I can speak to.”
“You have sources?” the Waxxer asked.
“I have sources,” the Brazilian reiterated. “They don’t overlap with the people you both know, but I have them. If there was a struggle, there’s evidence that won’t match what they have on file for us.”
“I suppose it beats going to Paradise City in the middle of the Summer,” The Mad Waxxer conceded.
Theodora knew her father had talked about the Pinkertons before. He’d talked about it around her, cautiously at first, then more boldly. She didn’t like the assumption that she was a ditzy party girl. Her family didn’t want her pursuing studies or a career more fitting to her desires and abilities. They underestimated her, and spoke too much around her as a result. She thought it too likely he had some hand in this, or knew who did. She also knew he preferred to keep notes in paper. He claimed to be old-fashioned, but she’d known him to have inconvenient documents burned without a digital copy left to embarrass him.
She thought about what she knew of her father’s schedule. He would be at his office this time of day. It would be wrong to assume he did no work, but it was work in a luxurious office, drink and snack nearby, with hours of his choosing. The family’s fortunes grew and all it required of him was the push of papers and a few words.
She traipsed in like she owned the place. The secretary managed to alert her father before she walked into his office and dramatically dropped her purse on a chair. “Hello daddy!”
“Sweetie!” he stood up and held his arms out. She moved around the desk to give him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to see you. Daddy, I want to go on vacation. Everybody’s getting kidnapped here,” she pouted.
He chuckled. “That’s a splendid idea, dear. It would set me at ease. Where did you want to go?”
It was easy enough to giggle and play the spoiled heiress until her father’s bladder got the best of him. She had only a short amount of time, but she knew where he kept papers he didn’t want casual visitors seeing. She just hoped nothing she needed to see had already been sent to the fire.
The tax evasion and embezzlement were common enough. Withdrawal slips didn’t give anything away, which was the point of paying people in cash. Helping to pay the Pinkertons was hardly comparable to those crimes and he wouldn’t keep it secret, but perhaps the payments had connection to the Chief’s disappearance. Then she stumbled across paperwork about a bonded warehouse. She remembered her father laughing at a young lawyer who suggested the investment upon the election of the nationalist a few years back. The younger man had reasoned that the president-elect would turn to tariffs to try and punish other countries, and that the value of a bonded warehouse would go up as importers would rather wait out the tariffs than pay higher rates. Her father hadn’t taken it seriously at the time.
She snapped a photo of the address and continued looking, finding little else of use, until her father returned. She smiled at him, and adopted a flighty tone to excuse herself.
She adopted a more business-like look when it came time to check on the address. It was an inauspicious warehouse, but then she couldn’t expect a moat and a chained up dog with three heads guarding the gates. When she pulled up to the guardhouse at the gate, she rolled the window down and eyed the guard through sunglasses.
The man looked at her, clipboard in hand. “Can I help you, ma’am?”
“My client asked me to check on something.” She presented a card taken from the large law firm her father employed. She’d caught the eye of an attorney there in college. The romance had come and gone, but she’d kept a number of stolen business cards in case she ever needed them to get out, or into, trouble. They did business in every major city in the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe. A few cards wouldn’t be missed, and no one would know all of their staff by heart.
She didn’t know if gaining admittance should reassure her, or lead her to suspect the law firm as well. Her explorations didn’t get far, though. She went to exit her car and enter the warehouse, but men stepped out of the entrance, eyeing her. They were dressed as if unload the house, but she noticed the way they looked at her, and caught the sight of bulges under their clothes. She had experience dating a soldier, too, and he’d taught her how to recognize a soldier in civvies with guns hidden on them. He didn’t know she’d learned that at the time.
“Can we help you, ma’am?” asked one of the men.
She smiled at him. “My client wanted me to check and make sure you boys were on your guard is all.” She got back into her car, firing off a text message to a number that looked like any other friend in her contact’s list. She didn’t get a good look inside, but now her boyfriend and his rival would learn where they needed to check, and that there was an armed guard.
“Luck be a lady,” was the Mad Waxxer’s response in text. “A lady like no other.”
She smiled as she drove off, imagining taking a vacation with him anyway. Perhaps to Paradise City, where they can see if his luck waxes or wanes with his Lady Luck on his arm.
“Who’s Next?” was crossed out as the headline and replaced by “Who’s Left?” The story underneath told the tale of the escalating territorial conflict of the past few days. More and more of Gordon Hart’s extended family and business associates disappeared. The Mad Waxxer himself skimmed the story again before turning to the man he’d caught. Some lawyer, next in line with power of attorney. He crumpled the newspaper up and stuffed it in the man’s mouth as he squirmed in the spiderweb of wax strips he’d run into while fleeing.
“I must apologize, my good man. It is difficult to maintain decorum as quickly as I must work,” he reassured his latest victim. The man was the second in the same day. He had already taken his next logical victim, but this man was the Brazilian’s next target. This had become a farce, one that the Waxxer intended to stop. It had damaged his mystique and that of his operation. He’d had to arrange more hiding places for his own guests. It was becoming a strain to care for all of them. He had to change diapers, deliver food and water, provide entertainment. He never cared for indeterminate detention, nor pets.
So he’d kidnapped the Brazilian’s next prey. He reached into the inner jacket of his smoking jacket and withdrew a pill. He’d paid to have a small GPS tracker encapsulated. He turned to the man he’d ensnared. “I will require you to swallow this. I assure, it will not harm you. If you do so, I will release you. Another man will come along, my rival, to kidnap you. This pill is your salvation from his grasp.”
The Waxxer withdrew the improvised gag and presented the pill to the man. “You’re a criminal!” shouted the lawyer.
“And were I to steal a man every month for the rest of my life, my crimes might someday equal those you committed and abetted,” the Waxxer answered. “A person’s worth or trust is not decided by the number of speed limits they violate. I have bargained fairly in every transaction. Trust me now and it will end this silly game between myself and the man who would kidnap you. You will be the one to defeat him with this.”
The lawyer looked at his captor, defiant, before saying one word. “Water.” The Mad Waxxer grinned and produced a bottle of spring water to help the tracker go down. Then he set about removing the man from the strips as delicately as possible, leaving as little mark and taking as little hair as he could.
The Mad Waxxer would not be without his own setbacks. He was in his home chemistry lab, creating more of his special wax, when his phone began to beep with alerts. As always, he hated the interruption. It took time to get to a safe stopping point. The law had some give to it; the deadliness of the chemicals he worked with didn’t.
Perimeters were breached. The mobile storage pods he’d rented were scattered around the city so that the discovery of one would not compromise the entire lot. Despite precautions, they were being found. Discreet cameras left to monitor the sites provided a view of SWAT teams breaking into all of them. They dragged out every captive, all the way back to Gordon Hart.
The Waxxer clenched his phone, tempted to throw it, but reluctantly set it down. He tossed his mask instead, and decided to settle in with a bottle of his least favorite wine. Some days, sobriety is a curse. And while he could no longer work in his lab while indulging, he was sure he was in no state to further mix hazardous chemicals. The Waxxer reassured himself, as he looked over a bottle of fermented grape juice, that wonderful things can still come from being crushed underfoot. He somehow managed to keep himself from being soused enough to miss the report that soon came out online about the recovery of his hostages.
The victims were telling everyone the Waxxer kidnapped them. He didn’t like to think how little reputation he’d be left with before the day was over. He wished he knew how they’d discovered him. Perhaps so many abductions in such a short amount of time left a trail of suspicious rentals for detectives to figure out. In that case, he counted himself lucky he’d always thought to maintain fake accounts for those purposes. The criminal accountant he relied on didn’t come cheap, especially in days when the man could be snapped up for a White House cabinet position.
His inebriated sorrow-drowning turned to amusement as the news cut in with reports of another shot fired in the war between the pair of them. He had begun to wonder if his bait had been taken. The release of his own captives increased the value of the Brazilian’s, and meant the other villain didn’t need to take the man he’d fed a GPS pill to earlier. Perhaps it was meant as one last insult to him, but the Waxxer was the one who laughed. The lawyer had been nabbed. The GPS showed him in a location he wouldn’t normally go to, an air-conditioned storage unit in an area none within the orbit of the wealthy would visit.
He had enough sense to wait until he’d sobered up more before sending a friendly anonymous email with the signal’s location to Chief Johanssen. He congratulated the man on his success against the Mad Waxxer, and offered him a chance at further glory. At first, his only regret was not having popcorn. When he sobered up, he reflected on the fact that he could have taken the hostages for himself. But he’d been buzzed and humiliated. He wanted to return that humiliation on the Brazilian. And he had. The news that the Brazilian had also been beaten would help alleviate his own woes, and the more recent disgrace would hopefully chase his own from the news.
And besides, he realized, the Brazilian hadn’t stolen his hostages either. That left the board cleared in this game. It also left the Mad Waxxer no closer to a worthwhile payday to maintain his lifestyle or to save up and treat his dear Theodora. With a jolt, he realized how badly this entire rivalry had destroyed his livelihood. People will actually have confidence in the police to rescue the hostages. What is to be done about that?
Chief Johanssen could breath a sigh of relief, if he thought everything was over with. His office had been bombarded ever since the rash of kidnappings began. The game of one-upsmanship the supervillains had been playing with each other had caused him no end of headaches and lost sleep. He never thought transferring to the wealthy part of Connecticut would entail passing out at his desk. It had happened again this night. A glance at the clock showed it was two in the morning.
The calls for attention from the aristocracy soon turned to calls for commendation when they were rescued, but Johanssen knew better than to think they were out of the woods. He suspected the anonymous tips he’d received were part of the war between the two villains. That war wouldn’t end until one or both of them were behind bars or run out of town.
If only he had the first clue to go on that would allow him to do something proactive. He was in no hurry to hire the Pinkertons or to bring in the Feds. The former abandoned duty for a paycheck. They rubbed him the wrong way the times he’d seen them in action. They had their own secrets.
The latter, the Feds, would step on a lot of toes without regard to secrets his local bosses wanted kept. The local gentry saw his duty as protecting their closets from anyone prying for skeletons. They’d have much rather had the Pinkertons. In fact, a few of them had come forward over the past few days offering to pay to bring them on. He’d made it clear that private detectives wouldn’t be tolerated by him and his men.
Even if he had a superhero he could call, how could he direct them? They had fingerprints from both the Mad Waxxer and the Brazilian, but they didn’t match any in the database. He’d chewed the lab techs out and made threats he didn’t like to issue until they expedited DNA analysis of hairs found by the CSI crew. Just like the fingerprints, there were no hits in the system. Neither of the villains had been arrested before, or otherwise entered into a database that shared fingerprints and DNA with law enforcement.
A knock came to his door. “Who would be here at this hour?” he wondered, then shook his head and chuckled. “Other than me.” Louder, he called out, “A moment!” He checked himself over for anything embarrassing sticking to himself, made sure his clothes weren’t too wrinkled, then said, “Come in!”
The Mad Waxxer arrived at police headquarters bright and early to scope it out, having left his costume at home. He found the press there as well, including the local paper. National news was one thing, but they didn’t have the same familiarity or level of access that the locals had with themselves. The families here paid good money to keep their names off the lips of anyone on twenty-four hours news networks. Sometimes, they did so because, like the Vanderbilts, their relative is the reporter for such a network. The Waxxer doubted Anderson Cooper reports too negatively about Gloria Vanderbilt, his own mother. The kidnapper sipped on his cappuccino and cut away from his thoughts on the lifestyles of the rich and famous to wander over to a man standing by himself among the gathering press.
“Good morning,” he greeted the bean pole of a young man in plastic glasses. “Do you know, by chance, what all of this is?”
The man smiled and adjusted his glasses. “Hi. Yeah, there’s been a development in the Brazilian-Mad Waxxer War. The Chief of Police is going to brief the public.”
The Waxxer cocked an eyebrow curiously. “Well, that sounds interesting indeed. I should love to stay and listen.”
“By all means,” the man said. “I’m here with the Gazette.”
“Ah, the local fishwrapper. This has all been good for your business, I suppose,” the Waxxer commented good-naturedly.
The reporter looked down and nodded, then eyed the Waxxer. “When I joined the paper a few months back, the editor made it sound like we wouldn’t have a year. It’s been incredible to see the jump in sales and views from this supervillain fight. I don’t know how it can keep going, but it saved my job.”
“Greetings,” said a man the Mad Waxxer didn’t recognize, from the podium. Perhaps he was meant to introduce the Chief? “I am Acting Chief of Police Martz. I’m here to announce that early this morning, we discovered that Chief Johanssen has been kidnapped. The office was in a state indicating a struggle. The presence of blood leads us to believe the kidnappers may have seriously wounded Chief Johanssen. He appears to have become a victim of the supervillains who have menaced our community for too long now. The ransom note was signed jointly by both the Mad Waxxer and the Brazilian. In cooperation with prominent members of the community, we have decided to cooperate with the Pinkerton Detectives, who will be arriving shortly, in an all-out manhunt for the kidnappers. We will leave no stone unturned in the hopes of recovering Chief Johanssen alive or dead. Thank you for coming out. I will not be taking any questions at this time.”
The Mad Waxxer shook his head. He’d certainly had nothing to do with this. Perhaps the Brazilian had framed him. He himself had come to scope the place out to kidnap the Chief and assert his dominance and seriousness. Instead, the newbie had messed up and injured the chief. He’d tipped the scales enough to bring down the Pinkertons, who didn’t care about due process or prisoners’ rights. He hated the thought, but perhaps it was time the Waxxer took a vacation. He would be abandoning his territory to the Brazilian, but perhaps the Pinkertons would nab him and simplify the Waxxer’s life.
First thing’s first, however. The Waxxer wasn’t going anywhere without paying a visit to Theodora first, and charm her while waxing poetic.
The Mad Waxxer was, well, mad. That is to say, the threat of territorial usurpation left him angry. Even his scheduled session with the barber for a shave and a haircut couldn’t break the cloud of anger beguiling his mind. But it was the post-haircut shower that finally showed him the way forward, as the bathroom proved again to be the most inspirational and creative of rooms.
He didn’t mind other supervillains. They had been around before he got in the game and they would be around afterward. Other kidnappers would be a problem that could derail his career. But a kidnapper using the same gimmick? This was an affront, a direct and personal challenge even. The Waxxer scoured the newspaper article on the kidnapping for any information about his foe. There wasn’t much there, as the article was primarily the reprinting of a ransom note left at the newspaper and confirmation that Lauren Blanc was indeed kidnapped. The trainer confirmed the kidnapping, and the abilities of this Brazilian fellow, while also providing the scoop that the Mad Waxxer had been beaten to the punch.
If the Mad Waxxer was in the business of revenge, he thought he might go find that trainer and make sure the man’s drapes matched his ripped off carpet. The Waxxer had seen too many people sacrifice good business sense on the altar of revenge. Would it make him money and help his brand in the long run? No, therefore the Waxxer would leave the man be.
And as suspicious as the Waxxer could be, the author of the story didn’t seem a worthwhile target. At first, he wondered why the Brazilian had picked that particular newspaper, or any newspaper. The man could have made a video and uploaded it to Youtube. But then, why not the newspaper? A video is just a video unless the right people see it, but this note is the news. The Waxxer had better things to do than intimidate reporters because he didn’t like a story.
With a kidnapping, time was of the essence. The Mad Waxxer cursed himself for spending too much time wallowing and thinking when action was called for. He needed to get out ahead of the kidnapping. The police had their ways of dealing with these situations, but he could do things they wouldn’t.
The Mad Waxxer grinned to himself as he finished toweling off. It was time to fight fire with fire. Or a kidnapping with a kidnapping.
Lauren Blanc’s boyfriend, Gordon Hart, owns a number of properties all across the country. The apartment Blanc herself had been staying in wasn’t the only such apartment he owned in that building. It was an easy investment, and would make finding someone a nightmare if they were of the mafioso mindset. But the Mad Waxxer’s long and antagonistic association with Connecticut blue bloods and those who associate with them led him to believe Gordon wouldn’t think to go to the mattresses. Why should he? The person meant to pay the ransom isn’t generally in danger of being kidnapped as well.
Gordon was staying in his Danbury condo. The newspaper’s story caused reporters to hunt him down for comment. These types often preferred to handle scandalous problems privately to avoid attention, but now the Waxxer knew where to find him.
It was a beautiful building along Candlewood Lake’s shore and it was being watched by reporters. The influx of unfamiliar people hid the Waxxer’s approach in a van. Most of his kidnappings were not as consensual as Theodora Hunnicutt’s, nor could he simply swing from building to building to escape in every situation.
The Waxxer made his move at dark. Coming around to the side of the condo, he took aim with his whip. It latched onto a stone eave and held firm as the Mad Waxxer hauled himself up the side of the building. He found it helped to walk up the side, though it made him more visible. That’s why he took care to check the windows he passed by. He intended to enter at the top, but the second story window’s curtains weren’t drawn and revealed Gordon Hart in bed with someone other than his kidnapped girlfriend. On the plus side, the Waxxer was now confident he could enter an occupied room without being detected. They were far too busy to look at the window.
He cut the top of the window free, then spread wax and stuck a strip to it. Then, using a diamond-tipped cutter, he carved out a slightly smaller rectangle on the window. With a little effort, the Waxxer lifted it up, pivoting along the top where the strip still held it, and used another wax strip to pin it to the wall. Finally, he swung through, using the sonic oscillators to release his whip’s hold on the building and retracting it upon landing. To his amusement, both the noises and positions of the couple in bed kept them from noticing his grand entrance. He looked around to wear a snifter had been left on a sideboard and helped himself to a quick drink. As expected, it didn’t take Gordon long.
“Was it good for you too, baby?” the wealthy 29 year old retiree asked of the woman straddling him. Before she could lie, a wide paper strip was thrown over her mouth and she was pulled off him, causing Gordon some discomfort as not all of his body parts were soft and outside of her. It took seconds for the Mad Waxxer to affix her to the ground and turn his attention to the naked man in bed.
“Pardon me, Mr. Hart. I’m here to see to the release of your girlfriend. Not this young lady, though I suspect she would enjoy release as well. Come with me now, Mr. Hart. It wouldn’t do for this to become brutish and nasty.”
Gordon turned to the nightstand and pulled the drawer out. He produced a pistol from within, but fumbled and dropped the magazine. He stood to get it and that’s when the wax strip whip smacked against his forehead and pulled, spinning him toward the Mad Waxxer. The Waxxer whirled the whip around Gordon until the man was wrapped in it, taking extra care to wrap up the man’s midsection. That proved useful for when he needed to lift Mr. Hart onto his shoulders to carry him downstairs. He would prefer to drag him, but head injuries are no laughing matter when someone is going to be held against their will. A hostage in need of medical care means the hostage taker must also worry about resolving the crisis in a timely manner, and that is a poor bargaining position to be in.
The Mad Waxxer encountered a small problem when the doorbell rang before he had yet reached the door. He looked around for something to dump Hart on and had to settle for tipping him up against a wall. He got halfway to the door before he heard a thump from the wiggling hostage falling. The Waxxer sighed and continued on, checking the door’s peephole. There stood a man in a suit with a badge, and two regular police officers.
The Waxxer nodded to himself and muttered, “Perfect.” He turned to glance around the entryway, then got to work.
After a few minutes of prep work, he called out, “Come in!” The cops opened the door, then stared at the Waxxer, holding the same tied-up person they came to see. The detective in front pulled his sidearm. “On the ground, now!”
The Waxxer shrugged, tossed Hart on the ground, and laid down. “You got me. Good show.”
The detective nodded to the officers. “Come on.” All three stepped forward into the dwelling, then fell forward onto their faces when their feet didn’t come up again. The detective’s gun and his hands stuck to a set of paper strips on the floor. He tried to pull himself up, but he was stuck fast, as were the other two officers. A glance down at his feet and he saw more wax strips holding their shoes to the floor.
The Mad Waxxer groaned as he hefted the hostage once again upon returning to his feet. “This has been quite a workout, but I’m sure you’ll understand if I leave now. Fortunately, you’ve saved me the trouble of leaving a note. The Mad Waxxer has struck again. I will be in contact with the details of the ransom, but Mr. Hart here will be unable to pay the ransom for Miss Blanc. Tragedy and woe. I suppose there’s nothing left but for the fiend who took her to return her, harmed or unharmed, as the ransom is an utter impossibility now. It’s a shame. Ta ta, gents!”
He smiled as he stepped walked on the detective’s back to freedom right out the front door and into his waiting van. He speed off, a nearby reporter’s car cranking up to follow him. As it turned the corner, it found not a white van, but a large white shell of paper in the street as if the van had shed a coating held on only by some sticky substance.
The Mad Waxxer slipped away while the police were stuck.
The Mad Waxxer felt absolutely tops after his adventure the previous night. It was late news, online only, but the word soon spread that Gordon Hart had been disappeared by the Mad Waxxer. The Brazilian’s victim was worthless to him without someone to pay. It left the Waxxer feeling a joyful sense of having obtained revenge and more than made up for sticking Hart in a diaper and leaving him locked in a soundproofed mobile storage unit.
He felt twice as energetic during his morning swim and could barely lay still during his massage. To put his mind on something and prevent fidgeting, he decided to check his phone while he was on his stomach. When the Mad Waxxer saw the news, he was caught with his pants literally down as a result. He hadn’t yet sent his ransom demands to Gordon Hart’s trust or his father who could authorize the ransom, and now it wouldn’t matter. The Brazilian had kidnapped the man.
Details were sketchy. The elder Hart had been driven to his office in town, stepped out, and was pulled down into the embrace of The Brazilian who had somehow been waiting on a street luge. The Brazilian grabbed the man, held him close, and they disappeared into traffic. From what he’d seen of the man’s powers, the Waxxer was sure he’d latched onto the underside of a car for transport. He realized the younger Hart was now mostly useless to him unless the other villain held onto the model.
He set his jaw and began looking up who would have the power to pay the elder Hart’s ransom, determined to show this wasn’t over. The world would soon learn that the Mad Waxxer cannot be dislodged by just any luger.
Dear readers, allow the Great and Devious one a brief respite. It’s been a crazy time lately. I am to blame for that, but even I occasionally want a short break. To that end, I’ve decided to let a few other stories be told. Yes, this town is big enough for more of us. Outlaw X, the pirate radio station beloved of villains everywhere, has more than a few stories to tell as well. Tales of a new age; others as old as humanity itself.
It was a humid night in Connecticut, why Captain Johanssen guessed Detective Staex wouldn’t have gone outside for a smoke. The detective had put on a few pounds, and like many people gifted with an excess of weight, wasn’t fond of added humidity or heat if they could help it. But the detective was fond of his tobacco. When he didn’t check in, Captain Johanssen’s aide found him and alerted him of it as requested. He’d been given orders to keep a close eye on proceedings at the charity dinner. It was his first since transferring to the Gold Coast of Connecticut, and he didn’t take the threat he’d been warned about as seriously as he did exerting his authority over his new detectives. So he left, and found Staex in a maintenance closet at the country club.
The detective was wrapped in wide, white, flat strips that held his arms against his body. He had begun mumbling through a similar strip wrapped around his bearded face when he saw light from the open door. He paused when he made out it was the new Captain, then started wiggling and murmuring even louder. What was impossible to make out through the strip was equally unlikely to have been heard outside the closet at all. The Captain bent down to the Detective and tore the strip off, taking off the man’s beard and sideburns everywhere the strip had touched them.
“Motherfuck me with a paddleboard!” yelled Staex.
“Later, detective. Who did this? What did they look like?” asked Johanssen.
“He was dressed as a waiter. I thought he was doing something weird. He had on a mask, tied me up in these things. They’re all sticky,” Staex explained.
Johanssen stood up and looked back. “I have to alert the rest of the force. Sit tight. I’ll send someone by when I’ve secured the club.” It was with no small amount of satisfaction at his subordinate’s predicament that Captain Johanssen left the detective at a brisk walk to alert his plainclothes people among the crowd to be on the lookout. It was only when he arrived back at the dining room and heard the gasps of those same wealthy socialites that he realized the threat had been real after all.
He arrived back at the dining room to see an open window on one wall and a pair of his detectives helping free a trio who had been stuck to Corinthian columns lining the room. A large and red-faced man approached, a volcano ready to blow his top. “Johanssen! You have this job because the last screw-up couldn’t stop this madman from his spree of kidnappings. This is the third time, Johanssen. Third! I want my daughter back, and so help me God, he better not have touched a single hair on her head.”
Johanssen gulped. Theodore Hunnicutt the Third had been the one to warn him. His family was old money, having been a smuggler during the Colonial Period. His money was so old, in fact, that the stink of crime had worn off it and the family was now seen as a pillar of the community. Johanssen had taken this job knowing a man like Hunnicutt could make a man’s career. Or break it. How was he, a seasoned officer who had encountered real villains before, to know how serious a threat was from a man calling himself “The Mad Waxxer”.
Room service at the Presario was as prompt as it was discreet. The staff wasn’t paid to gather evidence for the police, something appreciated by clientele ranging from wayward politicians and rambunctious aristocrats to the rare supervillain who could afford a stay in one of their exclusive suites. The concierge rolled in a tray containing chilled champagne, a pair of glasses, and a sampling of delicious desserts from the kitchen. The Mad Waxxer smiled from underneath his mask and shook the man’s hand, imparting a $100 to him as a tip.
The concierge smiled right back at the villain. It wasn’t his job to judge, not even when the client was a man in tights, a smoking jacket, and a mask that looked like the letter M on top of the letter W in a black design that almost looked look like the man had overly large eyebrows, sideburns, and a mustache like a lie detector test. If he looked close, he could make out that the “face” between and around the letters was actually a mask. He was paid well to not look closely, so he took his money and left.
The Mad Waxxer popped the champagne open and poured the bubbling drink into glasses. He sauntered to the bathroom and found his captive nowhere to be found. He smirked as he eyed the open balcony door and walked over. There, he found Theodora Hunnicutt, dressed only in a robe and looking up at the night sky. He barely heard her over the still quiet of the night as she commented, “Beautiful moon tonight.”
“A waxing gibbous, mon coeur,” the Mad Waxxer said, stepping up behind her. He kissed her on the back and side of her neck as his arms slipped around her and handed her a glass of champagne.
“Mmm… such pretty words. How many women have you kidnapped and threatened to wax? And men? Should I be jealous?” she asked, taking a sip of her champagne.
He chuckled. “How many of those who refused to pay were seen without a hair on their rich little heads, hm? No, I am not wining and dining fat bank chairs. I’m an extortionist, not a masochist.”
“Be a sadist for me?” Theodora said, allowing the robe to slip down and expose her shoulders. “Hurt me good.”
“For you, ma puce, it will be a pleasure to bring you pain,” the Mad Waxxer said, taking her arm and leading her to the bed, where his wax and strips were set up. Bikini season for his beloved demanded sacrifices.
The Mad Waxxer hadn’t intended to strike again so soon. One benefit of targeting the wealthy is that they pay so well; he didn’t need to work constantly and the heat died down between each kidnapping. His adventures with Theodora were a matter of love, not money.
The police received an anonymous tip and entered the hotel room at the Presario in time to “save” Theodora from being completely stripped of hair. Her brows and lashes were safe and Captain Johanssen could indeed report to the elder Hunnicutt that not a hair on the beautiful heiress’s head had been harmed. The new captain suspected she was missing fur above the lips that women were not supposed to be seen with, but he wasn’t about to tell someone as rich and powerful as Theodore Hunnicutt the Third that his daughter was supposed to have a mustache.
The Mad Waxxer’s work, his science, his art required preparation and his lifestyle required money. He didn’t like it, but it had to be done. Man was not meant to live without crepes and a beach house. The summer was a good time, however. There were many families who Wintered, Springed, and Falled away from home who enjoyed Summering in Connecticut. He settled on a French model, Lauren Blanc. She wasn’t old money or even new money, but it was a rare rich kid who would reject the company of a model. Her boyfriend of the month, a 29-year old retired from working in software whose sister married into old money, would pay dearly not to be embarrassed. And should he refuse, he’ll find it hard to attract any other girlfriends unless they want to risk being snatched.
Blanc’s boyfriend had set her up with a classy apartment near the beach. The balcony featured a table, jacuzzi, and lounges for the model to relax and enjoy a meal while looking out over the waves at sunset. A long strip of paper splatted against the side of the building and stuck fast. The Mad Waxxer arced over the rail of the balcony on the end of his wax strip whip and pressed a button. A vibration weakened the glue enough for it to come free. Another button rolled it up automatically. He slipped it into a hidden pocket up the back of his smoking jacket.
The Mad Waxxer helped himself through the unlocked balcony. Even in an age where men and women could leap tall buildings in a single bound and fly like a bird or a plane, few people were felt the need to lock every door and window that led to a twenty story drop. He knew Lauren would be home. He’d been watching her as tastefully as a professional kidnapper could stalk a woman. This was the time of day she would be working out in her home gym with her personal trainer.
He found the gym door open, an unusual purple splatter against the door. He frowned to himself. She didn’t seem messy. He reached back under his smoking jacket for the base of his whip as he made his way in. Greeting him was a wiry older man groaning on the floor, hands on his private parts. The Mad Waxxer looked around and saw no one else. He rushed to the downed man. “What happened?”
“He… he ripped it off. He ripped it all off!” cried the trainer, raising a hand to grab the lapel of Mad Waxxer’s smoking jacket. In the process, he exposed enough of the crotch of his pants that the Waxxer made out the missing fabric and complete absence of any body hair underneath it. The crude removal had left the man bleeding.
“What do you mean he ripped it off? Who did?” asked the Waxxer, wondering where his mark had gone. The trainer pointed up at the ceiling. The Waxxer raised his head. A bronze-skinned Adonis in nothing but hot pant clung to the ceiling with bare feet and one hand. The man’s other hand held Lauren Blanc close.
The man crawled along the ceiling toward an open window with the Mad Waxxer’s meal ticket. “Hey! I saw her first,” the Waxxer yelled.
“You’re too slow, oldtimer,” the beautiful brown man said, blowing the Waxxer a kiss. The Waxxer gawked, then remembered his whip. Too late, he hit the window the man was now on the other side of. He tried pulling it inward, hoping to stop the person in his territory, but it was useless.
He wouldn’t learn the name of his claim jumper until the next day, when the story made the news. “Introducing The Brazilian: Model Kidnapped By New Villain In Town.”
The Brazilian… the Mad Waxxer screwed up his face as he read the newspaper. He’d lost his target to someone diluting his entire game. He would have to show this impertinent newcomer who had called him an oldtimer that one does not put the Mad Waxxer in such a sticky situation.
It… it… the, it… flames, flames on the sides of my face, breathing… breathless… heaving breaths…
It’s been difficult to talk and think since the big revelation the other day. My girlfriend ran off with the Pink Justice Ranger because the Pink Ranger was the chief suspect in my attempted murder. And Medusa wanted to find out more about my past from her, because the murder suspect was my ex. The same ex who had once been a devoted follower of mine in our home dimension until she learned I was going to destroy the world. She kicked my ass and left me laying against the Dimension Bomb in the middle of a force field that had its polarity reversed to hold the explosion inside it.
It’s how I got to this dimension, but it’s safe to say it left me with a bit of residual bad feeling. So much so that when I found out about it all, I disappeared and left. I didn’t run. I just couldn’t deal with it then. I know it’s ridiculous. I guess the whole scenario just left me with some unresolved issues. You know, because that’s the first time anything did.
So I got out of there and left a message for Venus before going silent. She and pretty much anyone else would have trouble contacting me, but I still let her know that she should still determine if Alyss did it. If she did, I want some form of justice for the attempt on my life. What I should want as a dictator is her life, actually. It’s what I aspire to as a person, actually. My mind started to go to excuses to let her go, but… why?
I took a bit of time to myself to get sorted out. Just me, a bottle of seashine, and the medication I take for my brain. I awoke the next day feeling like I’d deepthroated Godzilla. And on the island of Martinique. It took me awhile to figure out, because the language of the people around me seemed less familiar than usual before I realized they were speaking French. I was still wearing my power armor, and nobody had filled the pants with chocolate pudding this time. The health and recycling system of the armor would have gotten rid of any of that.
I checked my surroundings and found them mostly covered in sand. Indeed, I was almost completely covered up in sand. Some gifted sand sculptors had decided to use me as the base for a sphinx and pyramid complex. I stole a picture off someone’s phone. As bad as my head felt, I could still appreciate the work to do that. The artistry and skill, all that crap.
It shocked them when music started playing from my armor. Though somewhat muted by the sand, Iron Maiden began to serenade onlookers with their ballad “Powerslave” before I burst out of the sphinx. I gave a polite golf clap before heading out into the water to wash any clinging mud or sand off me.
I found my Psycho Flyer and a couple of soldiers hanging out at the airstrip. They directed me to a nearby bar for the rest of my bodyguards and the pilot. They’d just gotten their drinks when I pushed the door in. They took one look at me and the guard closest to the pilot stole his mug away. “Get it to go, boys,” I ordered.
I didn’t check my messages until I was in the air. I had a few texts from Medusa about calling her and talking and them not being that bad. Then I had checked the voicemail message, which was the latest and came early this morning. It wasn’t Medusa’s voice that greeted me. “Hello Gecko. This is Alyss. Medusa thinks we should talk. She thinks you changed, that you care now. That you have a real love for others in your heart. I remember how tempting you can be, poor, damaged thing. She’s so trusting, she doesn’t realize we can hold her as an accomplice to your continued freedom on our Earth. She thinks it’s a fun trip. Meet me at the portal on your side, alone. If you surrender to me, I will show her leniency.”
So there I was. Medusa, my longtime nemesis, stood up for me. Investigated my attempted murder. She’s had a huge change of heart about me, and thinks I’ve had a similar one. So foolish and naive and trusting. Why?! She should know better. All I really have to do to get rid of one of the few people on this world who can actually stand up to me is nothing. I can just let her go over there and be imprisoned or killed by people who see me as nothing but a genocidal madwoman. All I have to do is stay away. I mean, Medusa’s obviously planning something. She can’t really care about me that way. She’ll turn on me. And the alternative is surrendering.
I didn’t mention that message at all when I gave the pilot his sobriety test and then directions. I thought about what Alyss had to say as we flew. A poor, damaged thing. I’ve used my past as a hell of an excuse. There’s no disputing that I was wronged. And when I was cut loose, betrayed, I turned on them. They killed my humanity to give me a set of skills that I turned on them. I had been a killer for their order, then an agent of chaos who killed to tear it down. Always a monster. Always selfish.
They knew it too. Probably made it pretty damn hard to figure out then when I hopped out of the Flyer and stepped toward the barricaded portal in Canada. The staff went from gawking at the Psycho Flyer and watching it speed off to taking cover at my approach. They knew who I was, and from the way Alyss stepped forward in her costume, they had been warned shit was to go down.
“You’re here,” she said, twirling her Ranger energy blaster around in her hand.
“Wouldn’t be the first time you got me to come,” I said. “Just you out here waiting for me?”
She nodded. “Just you and I.”
“It was you who tried to knife me on that other world,” I said.
“I didn’t know about that fucked thing you did to that other woman, and who could predict you would stop the destruction of a world?” she commented. “Medusa made it sound like the most normal thing. You’re a selfish bitch that’s there when it counts. I thought I knew better, but you’re here. Or are you just here to kill me? The team isn’t here. It’s the perfect time for revenge if you want to sacrifice Medusa.” She held her hands out to either side, daring me to take a shot.
I stopped and looked at her. I’d been the devil in enough deals to see one. I could kill her easily enough. She hurt me. Not just physically, but bad enough I’ve had nightmares about the time someone I cared for turned on me and left me in a situation meant to kill me. And it’d be so easy to use it as an excuse for letting them win. Couldn’t help myself. Had to kill her, but at least I got revenge for Medusa, ha!
I pointed to the portal. “She through there?”
Alyss nodded. “Leave your armor here and go through. Medusa goes free and we bring you to justice.”
I snorted. “You wouldn’t know the first thing about justice, no more than you really know me. You were wrong about me then. You’re wrong about me now.” Big words, but they didn’t make it any easier when the armor snapped open and I stepped out. Ya know, I suspect that traitorous piece of dickcheese played a part in my paranoia about relationships, but I didn’t come here for her. I didn’t even come here for Medusa, not really.
I came here for me. I didn’t want to be a puppet, and I didn’t want to let those fuckers who turned me into a killer have a say in every action for the rest of my damn life. I wasn’t going to let this woman do that to me either.
The armor closed behind me as I walked toward the portal that led, if the past was any indication, to the old memorial in honor of my defeat. They’d left sensors intact there in case I ever showed up again the first time. After that, they left entrenched guards.
This time, they had a group of shocked-looking Justice Rangers in civvies standing around while Medusa ran up and hugged me. “What the fuck?” they asked.
“The fuck?” I asked.
“You’re so getting fucked,” Medusa whispered to me before kissing me and turning back to the Justice Rangers. “Told you.” Turning back to me, she looked down. “Let’s get you covered up, ok?”
She pulled me away from the portal, which glowed as Alyss stepped out of it and asked, “What the fuck?”
Finally, another appropriate reaction. I stopped going with Medusa. “This was a test?”
She beamed at me. “I’m sorry, yes.” She kissed me on the cheek this time. “I knew you were better than they thought.”
I raised an eyebrow. “You didn’t think it was the least bit risky to put me in such a risky position around people who really could have betrayed you and used this to catch me?” I looked over at Alyss as she walked over to join her team. “And you bunch. You’re supposed to be the defenders of your world. Everything’s safe, no problems need solving, so you can spend all your time on my Earth, bothering me, looking for a chance to kill me or play games with people’s lives?”
“Like you care,” said Blue.
“Lose that costume and let me take you into my custody, right now,” I said cocking my head toward the portal. He didn’t, just standing there. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. You’re more than willing to see me as the monster every time, but someone had to fight for our people and show the humans they couldn’t do that to us. I know how many bodies your shining utopia used for a foundation. You were thankful I made them at the time. If you’re going to encourage monsters, don’t be surprised when they turn out to be monsters.”
“You feel better?” Alyss asked, arms crossed and gun holstered once more.
“I’ll feel better if you never set foot on my world again,” I told her. “None of you, or Ricca will consider it an official act of war.”
“Babe, isn’t that a bit much?” asked Medusa, looking up at me. “I wasn’t in any real danger.”
I admit, I was a bit mad at her. Making a game of it like that seemed mean. I knew I had done much worse, and used that to temper my anger toward her. “As much as I’d like to beat some people up, maybe even kill them, I’m taking the high road right now, hon. I’m showing how more evolved I am. As the superior being, it is my right.” Then I grabbed her, threw her over my shoulder, beat my chest while hooting, and ran off naked with my girlfriend through a portal to another dimension.
As highly-evolved beings do.
I’m pretty sure about half the words these Justice Rangers used while fiddling with some of our equipment was made up. The Blue Justice Ranger did most of the actual sciencing, along with the help of some voice talking to him through his helmet. It got through despite the Institute of Science’s hardening to outside signals. I tried to listen in, but it didn’t really work right. I tapped into the feed and there was a freaky power surge that stumbled me. I sniffed around a bit where I was in the lab while one of the assistants nearby reached for me. “Empress?”
I waved him away. “It’s ok. What smells like plants in here?”
He looked around. “Nothing. This is the time travel lab.”
I looked around at the room made of brilliant white tiles with glowing lines running in the cracks between each one. “I don’t remember a time travel lab.”
The assistant bowed. “Allow me to explain. You traveled here from the past, and when you leave, it will be the future.”
Another man stomped up and grabbed the assistant’s elbow. “I told you to stop saying that! I’m sorry, Empress, Brad here thinks it’s funny to pretend the doorway is a time machine.”
“Ah,” I said, eyeing the equipment here. “What do you do here then?”
The second guy pointed to a part where one of the tiles had been pulled out of the wall to reveal a drawer full of dirt someone else was checking through. “This is an ag lab. My project is cultivation of domesticated truffle species that don’t require trees. Brad here is helping with blight-resistant strains. It’s not flashy, but it needs doing.” He gave a little nod at that.
“Huh… fancy room for growing stuff,” I said, pointing to the cracks next to me where lights raced towards intersections.
Brad laughed. “That’s because the group who had this room before us were testing whether or not futuristic room design improved production and creativity in scientists. Doctor Creeper was pissed when he found out. It is pretty cool though. Makes me feel happy to come in and do the drudge work.”
“Yeah, makes my job feel cooler,” his truffle-loving companion said. “Anyway, is there something we can help you with, Empress?”
I shook my head. “No, was just wandering while I worked on something in my head. Got a bit of a headache there. I hope the results are good here. I’ve got plans to create our own centralized food complex to strengthen our food security, and I’m interested in anything we can do. Truffles could be a good revenue stream.” Especially if something were to happen to the world’s truffle supply, leaving me the biggest supplier of mass-produced mycelia around. I’ll save that idea for if the things actually work out, or maybe I’ll farm it out. Some of the schemes I come up with seem a little beneath me now, like I’m supposed to focus on world domination and stuff.
I was met at the door to the Rangers’ work space by an excitable Green Ranger. He seemed to be the awkward and jumpy one of the group. I’ve found certain archetypes appear again and again in Justice Ranger teams, and that sometimes involves a quirky one. “Good, there you are. Ranger Blue says we need a laser, a big one, the biggest you have. Do you have a giant laser?”
I put my head back and let out a dark, bellowing, “Mwahahahahahahaha!” Then I looked back at him. “Yeah, sure, let me show you. What kind of supervillain with my own lab would I be without a giant laser.”
Creeper butted in before we took more than a couple steps. I stopped and answered, catching his video call on my inner eye HUD. “Gecko! We have a hit!”
“Did we sink their patrol boat?” I asked.
He paused a moment, then scrolled on something with a mouse and typed a few characters. “We established a sort of crime-puter to monitor superhero and supervillain activity around the world via social media, law enforcement, and the news. We just received an alert that identified Medusa’s involvement in a crime. She had the Pink Ranger with her.”
“Yes!” I said.
“What?” asked the Green Ranger. “Why’d we stop?”
“My guys spotted Venus. No need to do all the bio force-whatever y’all are playing around with in there,” I informed him, pointing back at the lab he had come from.
He held a fist up in front of him triumphantly, then deflated a moment. “This means I won’t get to see the giant laser, doesn’t it?”
“Maybe another time,” I told him. “First, we hunt down our missing comrades. I’ll save the giant laser for when we have your pink friend in our grasp.” I started to walk away, grinning.
“Yeah!” the Green Ranger excitedly agreed. “…wait, what?”
The Justice Rangers weren’t happy that I had the Psycho Flyer loaded and ready to go without waiting for them. I read it in their body language, as they still haven’t taken their helmets off around me. It was just something about the anger and defiance in Red’s body language. They could probably tell I was smiling despite my helmet, too. “Finally. I thought we were going to have to leave without you.”
“Good thing we caught this flight. We wouldn’t want to be here without you,” Red said. Ya know, I think he meant that last part as a threat.
“Buckle up then, buttercup. We’re on our way to New Mexico.”
“What’s in New Mexico?” he asked me. The Rangers looked around and found some seats alongside my Dragon soldiers.
“New Mexicans,” I said by way of answer. “And a smoking crater that used to be some kind of detention facility nobody knew about. Lotta people swear they didn’t know it was there and that the state and the federal government both had nothing to do with it. It got blown up by a woman in power armor and another in pink spandex.”
“It’s. Not. Spandex,” growled the Blue Ranger. Ooh, testy.
It was a long flight, made worse by the hostile groups. I mean, it got old only playing against the Green Ranger. There’s only so long you can fight the same person in Smash Brothers before it gets boring, no matter how many times you beat them by growing a tree underneath them. What eventually drew the interest of the other Rangers enough to comment was the revelation we were playing Metal Gear Solid co-op.
“No you’re not,” Red said. “You’re taking turns.”
“He’s pretty good at some of the stealth. Lots of patience,” I said of the Green Ranger, while I was busy with the controller.
“Yeah,” Green said, turning and pointing to the screen. “And she’s sniping without using the diazepam.”
“You can’t play videogames with the enemy!” Blue said.
“He sure as shit can’t play them with the rest of y’a,” I said. I handed the controller back to Green. “There, everyone’s dead. I’m hitting up the bathroom before we land, get rid of at least one piece of shit on this aircraft.”
It’s safe to say tensions were high. The Flyer went in cloaked to avoid adding any more. There were federal agents watching over the scene. It took long enough to get there that we all had the official story. It was a militia camp of unusual size. They figure they’d been playing with something they shouldn’t have, like too much Tannerite. Unless they made an entire building out of the binary explosive, that doesn’t explain the size of the crater.
Video didn’t do it justice. Being there ourselves, we got a better sense not only of the size of the blast, but also of something else not being reported on. There was a trail leading away from the place. The explosion obscured its start at the site, but we caught a glimpse of brush and dirt that had been disturbed by a lot of folks walking in a line and decided to follow it.
It got a little harder to follow when we figured they spread out. They left a wider impression on the environment, but less of it showed because of how few had tread over the same spots. The journey they took avoided the closest town, to the east, instead heading further northwest on a journey punctuated by the occasional abandoned plastic jug.
Finally, we came to Six Shooter, New Mexico. We hovered over it, as many of myself and the Rangers packed into the cockpit as possible, looking for any groups of unusual size or if Medusa was just strolling along. Finally, Yellow pointed to a bar and grill. “I saw her. She’s there!”
I didn’t, but I quickly turned and tried to push past the Ranger team. They weren’t standing still either. They all ran, slid, and flipped past my soldiers to reach the drop hole before me. I cussed under my breath and activated my armor’s cloaking before jumping down. I landed in the middle of an intersection just in time to take a minivan to the face. It took me a minute to peel myself out of the engine block and sneak off, which was more time the Rangers had to move in on my Medusa without me there.
I brushed myself off and snuck off, leaving the befuddled driver and passengers to figure out what unseen thing they hit. I didn’t have the suit disguise me as a two-armed version of myself in regular clothes until I reached the sidewalk. That side had this porch area of the bar and grill that people were eating on. I didn’t see them around anywhere, but it was a busy place, full of New Mexicans and Tex-Mex. A gaggle of waiters appeared in front of me as if summoned by a malevolent force to keep me from my goal. Their rendition of Happy Birthday did nothing to dissuade me of this notion.
Before I could sidestep them, my voice picked out my name from off to the side. “Gecko?”
I turned and saw Medusa, out of costume and armor. She was smiling, glasses hanging over her face. “V-Medusa,” I said, rushing over to hug her. “What happened? Did they hurt you? Did you hurt them? Was there blood?”
She giggled. “Calm down. I’m fine. The militia was a bunch of pushovers.” She tried to run her fingers through my hair, then realized why I felt so weird. The armor. “Really, I’m ok. I came to deal with a problem a friend told me about and I brought Ranger Pink along. I figured I would measure her up and see if she was your killer. Even better, I thought I would pick her brain about your past with her.”
“What?” I asked.
The birthday singers parted and Medusa pointed. At the table they’d been singing at sat a group of old ladies, one of them wearing a big novelty sombrero. “Uh, Medusa, I don’t know what she told you, but…”
“No, there,” Medusa said. I followed her finger more closely and saw a booth against the wall past the birthday table. There stood four people who looked mostly normal except for shirts of bright red, blue, green, and yellow. And at the table sat… fuck… my ex. The one who turned on me when I tried to destroy the world. In a pink shirt. Because she was the Pink Justice Ranger.
Geez, it’s hot. Someone ought to turn out that sun for a bit. I took my daughter and the superkids to an amusement park and I actually began to miss being frozen in ice. My suit isn’t quite as good at regulating away heat as it is protecting me from the cold. That’s something I ought to work on and leaves me visible to thermal imaging.
Conventional cameras caught enough of a view of myself and all those kids, though. They didn’t make a huge deal about it in California, but I guess dreary, muggy Kingscrow really doesn’t like to see people enjoying themselves. I spotted vigilantes watching us. It worried the kids, too. In the end, they didn’t find a good time to come after us. Even messing with a ride was too likely to cause serious injury, but it still brought down the childrens’ mood.
Escape was as simple as a pair of Psycho Flyers dropping smoke grenades around us and loading us all up. Almost all of us. I had to stop and give Psychsaur a hug goodbye. “Good luck with whatever you do from now on,” I told her.
“Try to be good,” she told me. I think she actually meant it.
“Aww,” I said, then reached out and snatched a bola out of the air. I tossed it back through the smoke at where it’d been thrown and saw a shape skid on the ground. “Why be good when I can be great? You just let me know if you need a hand.”
She patted me on the helmet. “I wish you were this giving to people who weren’t your friends.”
I shrugged. “I tried, but they didn’t want me as their leader.”
“You’re not mine either,” she noted, then stepped back, just before a boomerang would have smacked into her. She raised a hand and the boomerang reversed course back to where it came from. Someone outside the smoke yelled. “I guess you better go.”
“I’ll be back!” I declared, throwing a fist up. “You haven’t seen the last of me!” I turned and jumped into the back of the waiting Psycho Flyer. The loading bay closed up behind me as we raised up and began to make a break for the Pacific.
The trip could have been an absolute nightmare. A dozen kids on a long road trip, but with the power to freeze stuff or create plants? It’s a good thing they were all tuckered out from the trip to the park. They slept a good chunk of the way there and saved me a huge headache.
I can’t have a huge welcoming party every time I come back from somewhere. I’m away too much for that. So instead, I disembarked with Qiang and called up leftover Directors from Housing and Education to see to the kids. I should create a Child Supers program while I’m at it. I need an agency to help care for and train children with superpowers on my island, as well as being able to identify them among the general populace and help aid families who have trouble caring for them. I sent Director Pagan and Dr. Creeper a message about working together to find someone reliable, educated, and caring to help me manage the situation. It wouldn’t do for children of Ricca to be snatched up and sold off to some underground fighting and sex ring right under my nose.
With all that handled as much as it can be for now, it was time to deal with other problems. That meant doing things like reviewing test results on interdimensional vehicles for the expedition back to Uranus. It seems the data I stole from that other universe included some nifty new designs for increasing efficiency and stability in the dimension-breaching process, including a way to build devices that craft the portals to allow sending people through without also sending through a device.
There have also been some rumblings from the Lost Continent of Mu. The people of the Bronze City have learned to accept my ambassador as if he’s one of their own, but they’d really like to see their own sometime. I technically married Citra to forge bonds with Ricca, though she looked like their princess in order to fool the Bronze City and forge a bond with them. I forwarded her the email to see if she might be willing to fool them in between semesters of college. I suppose I could hunt down the original, who was last spotted saving Pennsylvania from a rampaging extradimensional T-Rex with the help of Veloci-Raptor, but she’s probably still pissed at me.
There was also a court case that was an issue. People had been appealing to a higher power, meaning me. Then a vigilante broke the person out and it became a non-issue. Or, more accurately, it created a new issue. Someone caught selling info to foreign powers broken out by a superpowered person. I don’t know if this means a superhero or a supervillain. The way this island works, it’s not so clear. Security and the Military have both been put on alert, especially at the ports.
Finally, there’s Venus. I had plenty of time to work on those other issues because I was waiting for her to get back to me. Because, causing my paranoia no end of worry, she wasn’t on the island anymore. According to Max, she disappeared with the Pink Justice Ranger. They were last seen getting on some sort of pink hovercycle that probably belonged to the Justice Ranger. They always get cool toys like that out of nowhere. I even tried spying on her phone, but she left it behind at the residence.
So it was that I went to sleep one day, just myself cuddled up with my daughter. And the next, I woke up to four people in Ranger tights and helmets. I sat upright and screamed, throwing the nearest object at the one in red. He caught my daughter, at which point I pointed to her. “Bastard, give me back my kid!”
By now, Qiang awoke. She kicked him right in his crotch. It wasn’t a hard shot or else they’d have sparked, but it doesn’t take much of a hit to the balls to get someone’s attention. He dropped her. It was Blue who held up his hands. “Can we calm down please?”
I held a pillow up. “Not when you’re sneaking into my room to catch me sleeping!”
“We wanted to talk,” said the Red Justice Ranger.
I tore the pillow open and pulled out a meat tenderizer. I pointed it at the green one, “Then why’s he got duct tape?”
Qiang and the Rangers all looked at the duct tape the Green Ranger held, and watched as he dropped it. “Misunderstanding.”
“Misunderstand my foot up your ass,” I said, leaping to my feet.
“Let’s talk about this. We’re trying to find our missing teammate,” Blue said.
The door burst in and a smoke grenade rolled in, spewing pink mist. Mix N’Max came in, syringe gun in hand. Sam stood behind him with a water pistol. Holly held a wooden stool like a bat, ready to wing. Qiang hopped onto the bed with me and whirled on the Rangers, knife in hand.
The Green Ranger turned toward them, pulling a piece of tape taut in his hands. Yellow and Blue pulled guns, but Red raised a sword out of nowhere. Almost as an afterthought, a Dudebot stepped out of my closet.
“Seems we have ourselves a Riccan stand-off,” I said.
Red turned between me and Max. “This doesn’t have to go bad.”
“We’re prepared for bad,” Max said. He’s right. Villains are exactly the sort to jump in and make the first move in a stand-off like this. We usually don’t have as much to lose, or just don’t care about collateral damage.
“Believe me, I’d give a lot to see Psycho Gecko die,” Blue said.
Green stumbled. “I’d rather not if it’s all the same. We were supposed to be a force for defense and de-escalation.”
Red looked to Green, then lowered his sword. “Rangers, stand down.”
Green lowered his duct tape and Yellow her gun. Blue looked to Red, “This is our best chance.”
“Technically, your best chance was in the other universe, on Uranus,” I said. “Nice try, but it didn’t take.”
“If it was me, it would have,” Blue bragged.
Red grabbed Blue’s gun out of his hand. “How many people aren’t going to live if you die here today?”
“Kinda surprised you’re even bothering with talk of defense and saving lives the way you bunch spend all your time over here, dealing with our problems.” With the Rangers all off guard, we could have easily gone ahead and attacked them. Part of me ached to do so.
I lowered my tenderizer. “Get the fuck out of my room. Everyone. You want to talk, Red? Give me a minute to get indecent.”
Minutes later, with Qiang running to go change out of her pajamas, I walked into the living room. Sam was playing bartender for Holly while giving the Rangers some side eye. Max lounged on a chair, syringe gun in one hand, flask of glowing green goo in the other.
My armor on and arms crossed, I stood in front of the waiting Rangers. “Talk.”
“Ranger Pink has gone missing,” Red said. “We thought you knew something.”
“But you didn’t think it was me?” I asked.
Red shook his head. “We thought you might have evaded our surveillance when you went missing, but then you appeared in Kingscrow.”
“The Pink Ranger is no more special to me than the rest of y’all as far as I know,” I said. “I don’t like you, but I’m tolerating you for helping us in the past.”
Blue jumped in. “So you don’t know who she is?”
“I suspect she tried to kill me when we were all off fighting a war in another dimension,” I said.
Blue flinched, but Red sat up straighter and said, “What did you do with her?”
Wow. I think I might be right about Pink. “I didn’t do anything. A superhero was investigating the attempted murder. They were last seen together. I know when they left, but not where to. I would think you have some fancy ways to track each other.”
Yellow lowered her head. “That is at our command center. Nowhere on this whole planet has technology sophisticated enough to track the bio-force signature of a morphed Ranger.”
I smiled under my helmet. “Almost nowhere. I bet we have a few handy tricks around here.”
“What do you want?” Red asked. “You want us to help you find her so you can kill her?”
Hmm. Good point. They’d never go for it if I did that, but I really don’t feel like letting my potential murderer go free. “I want you and any other Rangers to leave my island alone forever. Don’t get close. And as for the Pink Ranger… we have courts here. Good folks, I want what ever victim wants. Justice.”
Yes, I got a kick out of saying that last word to the Justice Rangers. No, I didn’t have to change my underwear afterward. Wasn’t even wearing any.
Row, row, row your boat… oh, hello there. It’s me, Psycho Gecko, better known as the Great Empress Ice Pop. With that name, maybe I could get a cameo on She-Ra. I’d fit right in, except for all the cussing, murder, and torture.
I probably seem fairly calm, considering my situation. Being frozen in one spot wasn’t too fun, I’ll admit. Neither is the hunger, or peeing myself. The armor’s helpful like that. I designed it with some similarities to a biological body, including a circulatory system full of nanites. It’s a pretty handy tool that helps me be sure I can break out whenever I want.
That’s a big part of why I’m so calm. I have a lot of options for getting out of here. Here has changed, by the way. With the aid of their captive cryomancer, they managed to cut out a smaller ice block to keep me in and moved us. I think this whole production moves, but they sent myself and the kid to Kingscrow. Been awhile since I’ve been back there. I only have hijackable cameras to go off, but it’s still somehow as gloomy as ever, even in May. There were plenty of automated cars driving around whose systems were easily exploited if I wanted to use them to escape.
At the same time, I’ve been directing Dudebots to follow us. I put them into position around my new resting place: underneath the Museum of Natural And Unnatural History. I’m currently sharing a freezer with what looks like a Neanderthal and a giant clown head on a worm-like body, all of us in our own block. It makes sense to stick us here, since they already have the freezers for this sort of thing. Plus, I looked it up and found Meecer helped endow the place. There’s much less I can do with the security here, as it’s mostly passive defenses and manual security grates. I don’t know if they realized that was a hindrance for me, or if this is just a location they use for their Dark Bazaar business.
Whoever has to deal with this mess is going to have a lot of work on their hands.
Meecer flew in to join me on Friday evening. About time. Didn’t he know I had places to be? I got people back home complaining about some court case, and my guys are still in the middle of working out a mining deal with the people of that Uranus in another universe. Meecer’s kept me from drilling Uranus.
When he came, he came with guards. I should be flattered. The private detective I’ve been dealing with led the way, wearing his pokerface. His Lady Gaga impression contrasted with Colburn’s shark grin. The big guy pulled the teen who froze me along with him. The boy kept his face down, hair covering acne-ridden skin. They at least put him in more clothes this time. Then came a pair of big men in suits. One had a chrome ray gun, the other had a green hand. Only his hand was jade-colored. The dude must be awesome at growing plants.
Finally, after all that fanfare, Erin Meecer joined us. About time. He seemed like a pretty mediocre-looking white guy. Rounded jaw, but not fat. A strong nose like a triangle, but without being over-sized. Blue eyes like a tropical ocean. Short black hair that looked a little wet from the gel used on it. Unlike all but the captive boy, he had left his jacket behind. “Is she alive?” he asked his people.
Colburn nodded. “Thermal scans show she’s putting off a lot of heat.” He licked his lips afterward. Ugh. At least the guy didn’t use words like “moist” and “succulent” to describe me. Then he spoke again. “Mmm, a succulent breeder.”
Ew. Spoke too soon.
“Jeffrey, shut the hell up,” Meecer said. He turned to one of his guards, who handed him something bundled in white cloth. I could feel that something, actually. It was the bobblehead of me. How nice. The one with the signal jammer inside.
I poke up through is phone. “How nice. You brought me a gift.”
He pulled it off his belt and looked at it. “You’re awake?”
“Alive, awake, and a-waiting to get out. Won’t be long now, will it?”
He raised an eyebrow, looking at the chunk of ice I was stuck in. “I intended to take you out of there. You are a special piece to me. Now, I’ll admire you from afar until you’re… ripe.”
“Necrophilia? I hear ya. That way I can’t complain about what a terrible fuck you are.” I responded, then laughed through his phone.
He gritted his jaw. “I meant you would weaken.”
“Good luck,” I said, laughing again, this time through all the phones any of them had.
His face went red and he raised his voice as he addressed me this time, “Stupid whore. You will stay in there. If you’re lucky, I’ll let you out while you’re still strong enough to open your legs for your betters.”
“You misunderstand me, Mr. Meecer. I meant good luck escaping.” I set the laughter on repeat. My gauntlets began to glow. The energy began to melt the water, and turn some to steam. On the ground level of the museum, Dudebots grabbed a guard standing at the main entrance and tore his head off. Three headed inside. A fourth sat at the door and blocked it, which meant I didn’t have to walk that one around. It’s not easy controlling that many bodies directly.
Colburn grabbed the shoulder of the teen cryomancer, fingers digging into the boy. “Freeze her!”
I stopped laughing long enough to give him some advice. “Hey kid. Guess what it means that I can control the signal in their cell phones from here? Guess why the alarms aren’t going off in this museum now?”
The kid looked between me and Colburn, then reached up to his neck. Then he smiled. He grabbed Colburn’s hand and covered it in ice. He pulled away and ran for the door. The closest bodyguard reached for him with his green hand. The boy raised his arms and created a shield of ice in front of them, smacking through the man’s arms. The man put a hand up to stop the boy from pulling the door completely open.
I activated my helmet’s laser. Everyone out there, including the boy and the guard at the door, turned at the crackling. The detective reacted first, diving to the ground. The guard at the door raised his hand. It began to glow. Whatever he was trying to do didn’t stop the beam of coherent light that burned a hole through the ice and the door. He looked at the whole I left, so close to his chest, and realized the teenager was using the opportunity to slip away.
“Forget him, let’s go!” Meecer called. He ducked and headed for the door. His guard there opened it up and fell back on top of Meecer from a punch by a Dudebot. That one stepped in, firing its eye lasers lower down on the block of ice I was in.
The guard with the chrome ray gun raised it and fired. A glowing dart shot out of the end and shot a hole through the chest of the Dudebot. He fired again and again, the Dudebot advancing slowly. He wasn’t hitting anything serious, though he was penetrating the armor. It forced him to back up, ended up against my ice block. Then the man with the green hand raised it and shot some energy blast at the back of the Dudebot’s hips that sheared it in half. It toppled to the ground.
They might have felt safe for a second, until the other two Dudebots stepped in. One raised its boot and brought it down on the chest of the guard with the hand. He moaned as something cracked. Another stomp cracked even more, but he didn’t moan any longer.
The guard with the ray gun took careful aim, but that’s when I shattered the ice bock enough to pull him back against me. I popped the Nasty Surprise and a mini-chainsaw shot out from under one of my arms and through the man’s chest, throwing hot blood all over the place. I tossed the body aside and hopped out of the ice block. I turned to Colburn, as did the remaining two Dudebots. He raised his hands, going completely black. He disappeared into himself, is the best way I can describe it. It’s like he folded up into himself, leaving me alone with Meecer, who was finishing a yell with “…leave me! You’re finished, Black Hole! I’ll make sure of it!”
I and my robot doppelgangers turned to Meecer, who was still pinned underneath a dead bodyguard. Nearby, the private detective crawled behind the neanderthal for safety. I ignored him for the moment, as he seemed smart enough to leave me to my scheme. “You won’t be doing much of anything from now on, Meecer.”
He laughed and held up his hands. “Go ahead and arrest me. The evil Psycho Gecko is nothing but a law dog, isn’t she? Trying to go hero?”
I retracted the Nasty Surprise and walked over. Reaching down, I pulled him to his feet, then got a better grip on his collar and lifted him off the ground. “I’m no hero.”
I grabbed his arms with my spare ones, his legs with one of my Dudebots, and the last Dudebot wrapped its arms around his belly. “What are you doing? Don’t you know who I am?!” Meecer called, trying to kick and flail his way free.
“Yeah,” I said with no small amount of pleasure. “A dead man.” I pulled his arms off. The Dudebot yanked down and tore his legs off. Then the one hugging him pulled down while I still held him by the throat. His head more or less popped off and rolled away, mouth still moving and eyes rolling back.
As one, myself and the robots turned to the detective. He wet himself. “Please,” he whined. “I tried not to have anything to do with it. I didn’t touch the kids.”
The three of us cocked our heads to the side, staring at him silently. Up at the door, the Dudebot on guard held its arms out at the boy who escaped helping the girl he fought before along, a crowd of other children with them. That drone projected an image of the detective. “This man. Did he hurt you?”
The boy just stared, but the girl shook her head. “You could tell he never liked being there, an’ he never did anything with me.”
“Me neither,” said another kid. There was a general murmur of agreement. The Dudebot stepped aside and held the door open.
“Congratulations,” I told him. “The kids put in a good word for you. You’d better make sure they don’t disappear.”
The detective nodded his head enough I thought he might lose the thing. “Yeah, yes, sure. I won’t let you down.”
“I know. You’d let yourself down. About six feet!” I cackled at that one. He crossed himself and ran out of the room past my Dudebots.
I called out to the nearest cell of my agents. We had a couple of guys in Kingscrow. “Empress?”
“I’m going to need a place to lay low for a few days. Things got hot here. Hot, wet, and sticky.” I stepped over the corpses I left as I followed by Dudebots out, the drones each grabbing a half of the downed Dudebot to drag after. By the time we got to the first level, most of the kids had left, but not the girl or the boy.
“Can we come with you?” asked the girl.
I stopped. “Why?”
The boy looked at her. “Because our parents sold us. Some of the other ones, they got here the same way, but we don’t want to go back.”
“There’s a system for kids whose parents did that…” Yeah, and I bet some of those kids were sold by people in that system, too. Child Protective Services isn’t an area where I bribed any officials. “But if you want to come to Ricca while you figure out what to do next in your life, I will let you.”
We picked up an even smaller boy outside who had been waiting around. He ran up to the kids following me as I was calling my local agents back up. “Make that myself and a few children. We have extraction coming.”
I was antsy up until Psychsaur and Qiang arrived. My daughter rushed into my arms for as tight a hug as her armor could let her give. “Don’t do that!” she admonished me.
“What, get caught?” I asked.
She nodded. “I couldn’t hardly sleep!”
I chuckled and patted her on the helmet. “Don’t worry about it. I try to get caught as little as possible. Let’s go home, pumpkin.”
She looked past me to the superpowered kids lounging around. “Did you get me brothers and sisters?”
Psychsaur snorted. I laughed. “No, dear. I have plenty of my own already. I saved them. They wanted to come with us.”
“Kidnapping children?” Psychsaur asked, but the smile showed she didn’t think much of the illegality. Knowing what was going on, she knew I wouldn’t be as bad as them.
I spread my hands. “Hey, all’s fair in love and villainy.”