Category Archives: 24. Holiday Black And Blues

When you’re down in the holidays, remember that slaughter is the best medicine.

When the world is full of care, and every headline screams despair when all is rape, starvation, war, and life is vile; there’s a certain thing I do, which I shall pass along to you, that’s always guaranteed to make me smile.

I go looooooooney.

Holiday Black And Blues 9

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I hope y’all had a Happy New Year. I’m still dealing with a tiny bit of old business from the Old Year. And even that got put off once I got a visitor.

I should have expected it. Actually, I did, just not in this specific way. Here, let me stop being vague and just tell y’all.

The whole gang sat at my lair, going over the plan for taking on His Eggcellency. Venus, Ball Boy, Carl, Moai, and I bent over blueprints of the factory that I acquired. That’s one of the things that took more time than needed. I could have just stolen them, but Venus insisted on doing things legally. Yet there she was, about to barge in on him without a warrant or any sort of oversight, all on my word. And I have been known to lie like a dog.

She made lots of friends in City Hall while cleaning up my mess. She pretty much moved here because of me. Then she found herself working with me to face an army of mutated chickens, a situation so deliciously ridiculous that even Tricia wanted to join in on the planning stage. So we feasted on pizza.

Then the doorbell rang. Which is odd, because even though I’d covered over the door glass, I never added a doorbell. Or a doorknocker, like what we heard next. Even if I did, it wouldn’t have sounded like metal on wood.
I immediately narrowed my eyes as those thoughts crashed on my brain in waves upon hearing someone trying to get us to the door. “Moai, have a peek at the door. I’ll start getting the armor on in case the Krampus wants to crash here or something.”

“Shouldn’t you send someone who can talk?” asked Ball Boy, as if being mute ever stopped Moai and I from communicating in the past.

“Fine, you check the door with him. If it’s a tall guy in a suit with no face, let me know somehow. Scream, maybe, if you have time.”

When they came back, I was barely out of my pants. It was still too much out of my pants for Venus’s comfort level, but I threw them back on in a hurry when Moai led someone in.

I didn’t recognize him at first, then I made the connection. “Matatoa Bobby Doomgex! What’s it been, a year?”
He looked much older, and a lot like his predecessor, save for one very important distinction. When he saw me, he smiled wide. “I think it has, Papa Gecko.”

I cringed. “Papa Gecko? That makes me sound old and like a dad. Besides, don’t you have Papa Moai and Papa Carl to embarrass instead?”

“Who is this guy?” asked a befuddled Tricia as Carl and Moai sandwiched Matatoa in a gentle hugs.

“This is 2014’s Baby New Year. I guess he’s a Father Time by now. Or something. I don’t know how it all works out, but I won’t be killing this one like I had to kill the last one.” I walked over last to hug the baby that had grown up over the course of the year.

“You won’t be killing me. No one will. Time’s just about up for me. I won’t be Father Time. He’s busy fixing more problems created by a time traveler.” He let out a tired sigh as he broke the hug with me. “I wish I’d been a better year.”

“This is for real?” asked Venus. “It’s New Year’s Day. Aren’t you supposed to be ‘gone’ already?”

Matatoa favored her with a smile and set both hands on his cane as he looked over. “When does everything that’s part of one year end and everything that’s part of one year begin?

“Good point,” I said.

Trish looked at me. “You snapped at me last night for all the questions I asked. Where’s my ‘good point?’” She smirked.

“You were here last night?” asked Carl and Ball Boy at once.

“So, come to visit us finally, Matatoa? What’s next for you after this? Write some memoirs, maybe? A tell-all about all the relationships you’ve had called ‘Fucking 2014′?” I preferred that line of conversation as opposed to the other one.

He cleared his throat. “If you don’t mind too terribly, I’d like to stay with you for the time I have remaining. Now, I won’t be a burden on you. I know how you realized you didn’t have anything for the Rejects to do and I don’t need to join you on your adventures.”

“That’s why you didn’t care enough to save them,” Venus realized.

“Young lady, you provided an excellent means for my adoptive father send them on to a better, safer life.” Matty put his arm around my shoulders as he revealed that to Venus.

“You really shouldn’t give her that sort of insight,” I told him. “People might start to suspect I’m playing them more often than they realize.”

“I already knew that, Gecko. I didn’t know the Rejects were part of it, but it makes sense now.” Venus looked down, but not straight down, as she remembered. I noticed her eyes widen slightly before she controlled them.

She didn’t appear surprised when I spoke in a flat voice devoid of questioning emphasis. “Gee, I wonder how you knew which chain of stores to check.”

I heard Tricia give an “Oh my god.” I realized then that I never did find out what story the media presented about the EMP. Venus and the FBI probably covered their asses.

Seriously, all this time and she still hasn’t shown me dat ass. I haven’t asked her because she might hit me, but I’ve thought it hard enough that she must have figured it out by now.

Dat ass. Dat ass. Dat ass. Dat ass. Dat ass. Dat ass. Dat ass.

Well, Venus looked ready to hit me, but I doubt it had to do with my feeble attempt at telepathy. “Nice to meet you, Mr. 2014, but we were in the planning stage for an assault. I’m sure someone can make you comfortable while we get back to that. Right?” She looked around at everyone.

Matty looked completely unconcerned. “I can find my way around. I’ve kept my eye on Psycho Gecko well enough to know this place. I was sorry to see the club go. You’ve really lost a lot over the past year.” He settled in on a barstool and helped himself to the vanilla and chocolate marshmallows I hid in an empty can of Cream of Snake soup.
I knew no one would decide to fix themselves a mouthful of cream, after all.

The only major thing left for me to push for in the plan, especially with Venus’s mystery guest showing up, would be more chickens. I refused to be out-roostered by His Eggcellency!

“Let’s not make this a cock measuring contest, Gecko,” Venus said, momentarily staring daggers at me before forcing a smile onto her face. Dat ass?

Cut to later that night, back at the egg packing plant. It started with a bang; a pair of my chicken grenades tried to cross the road and blew a hole in the lobby on the north side. Dozens of chickensaurs flooded the gap within thirty seconds, a ferocious feathered flood of freaks. I slipped in the docking bay again. The giant, fire-breathing chicken stomped around there. It grew since the last time I saw it. Claws grew out of the ends of the wings, like it was turning into a dragon.

It made sense. The chickensaurs resembled velociraptors, and even the Phenomenal Fighting Justice Rangers had been known to shoehorn a dragon mech onto their team when everyone else on it used old animals like dinosaurs or a sabre-tooth tiger.

Though everyone waited around the perimeter, we settled on a swift decapitating strike to minimize destruction. I’m fine with decapitation, but the lack of destruction irked me.

I navigated through the south end of the plant to find the main packing floor that held His Eggcellency’s dais and throne. Hopefully, the throne held His Eggcellency’s ass.

His royal roundness stood on the dais, organizing chickensaurs into rows and columns like some sort of Roman legion of roamin’ yard birds. He didn’t notice me, more because of my invisibility than because of his long-winded speech. “Whoever has attacked us has jumped out of the frying pan and into the fryer! The day may come when the courage of chickens may fail, but it is not this day! This day, we fight! This day, they die! Should our enemies blot out the sun, then we will fight in the shade. Now, peck hearty, my chickensaurs, for tonight we dine in hell! They may be men, but we are chicken!”

And the crowd went mild. Guess he forgot to teach them English. It’s not his fault, though. He must have been busy. A training regimen like he put these birds on must have left him feeling hen-pecked.

I slipped an arm around his neck and tightened up enough to preclude any tricks like fleeing for his life. I dropped my invisibility projection as well. “Hey there, Humpty Dumpty. Now that you’re done doing the Humpty Hump, how about you put your cocks away and let’s talk man to man?”

“Never! If I die, my horde will not rest until they’ve picked your bones clean,” he responded.

“You’d have better luck picking speck of pickled peppers, Peter Piper.” I opened a line to Venus. “Hey there sweet thing, he’s decided he’d rather surrender than die. Mind dropping in?”

She crashed in through the skylight. She’d planned on that, and I figured she’d have a rappel line or grappling hook to ease herself down. Instead, she dropped and landed easily in shiny, sleek armor. It fit close, emphasizing the gold and white that she took as her colors. The armor itself looked thin, but I could tell from the way she swatted away a leaping chickensaur that she had strengths enhancing pseudomuscles.

“Attack, my chickensaurs! Feast on their bones!” proclaimed His Eggcellency. I let him go and stepped back, then activated stealth mode and disappeared.

“I should have known not to trust you, but usually you’ll keep your end of a bargain,” Venus said in between beating the crowd of cocks threatening to overwhelm her. Then, to someone else, she said “I’m going to need your help. He turned on me. Yeah, you won the pool.”

A blur sped in and bounced against chickensaurs like a pinball in a machine. When it stopped, it resembled the altered birds a great deal. There was no mistaking a raptor in a cape for a chickensaur, though. I called up my guys on the perimeter. “Better clear out, guys. They have a speedster.”

“Who is it, boss?” asked Carl.

“Veloci-raptor. Funny, he looks more like a Utahraptor. I wonder if he’s Mormon. I don’t like Mormons.”

“Why’s that? Did they ever betray you and leave you to die?”

“Shut up, Tricia. I don’t know why, though. I’d like to know why. This isn’t like that thing with Jupiter.”

That got Trish in journalist mode. “What happened between you and Jupiter? Is that a hero or a villain?”

“Your lack of knowledge about astronomy astounds me, Tricia. It’s a planet.”

“What did Jupiter the planet ever do to you?” she asked.

“It knows what it did. But when it comes to Mormons, I refuse to allow my mind to be held hostage by irrational neuroses.”

That set off enough laughter that I reduced the volume of my comma. I moved clear of the fighting to enjoy the show a bit and evaluate Venus’s armor. When the giant dragon-chicken approached the field of battle with a mighty squawk, I knew I’d get a treat.

I didn’t think it would involve a Tyrannosaurus Rex crashing through the wall and picking the fire-breather up in its mouth. Then I noticed the monocle over its eye and the book in its tiny claws.

“Boss, what was that? We heard a roar and a big crash and then you sounded like a little girl at the Lisa Frank house.”

I ignored the crossed reference. “I’ve always wanted to see this guy. That backup Venus mentioned? She has more than just Veloci-raptor.”

The T-rex whipped it’s head around, ringing the chicken-dragon’s neck and then spitting its limp body to the floor. Then, with some sort of British accent, he said “Ptew, that fowl tastes quite foul. The bellicose bird left a bad taste in my mouth. The sweet smell of Nike’s ambrosia shall surely cleanse my pallette of such odious bloodshed. To victory, my compatriots!”

“Who is it, boss?” Carl asked.

“It’s…The Saurus! But seriously, get out of here. They aren’t losing this one.”

Carl, Moai, Tricia, and Matatoa left. I stayed. I think Venus realized it, or she’s still got her insight into how I think.

“You’re still here, aren’t you?” she asked, dragging a black-eyed Eggcellency along a floor covered in feathers and chicken blood. “I hope you got a good look at what will happen to you if you try me again, Gecko. You used to have the advantage with your armor. You don’t anymore. I have friends who can build power armor, too. If I have have to redeem you by knocking your teeth down your throat every time you commit a crime, I will. That’s not what I want. I think there’s some decency in you that wants to reconcile, and I won’t put you back in a place like the Rubik’s Cube. I think I frustrate you more since that day on the roof. You’re so cynical, you’re letting compliments get to you. I hate to break it to your cynical self, but even though the bad guys can win, so can the good guys. Maybe you’d like to go and spend time with your friends now and stay away from anything illegal for awhile, alright?”

What a bitch.

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Holiday Black And Blues 8

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The first step toward assaulting a target is knowing where to find the target. This step can be skipped if using a weapon with a wide enough range of destruction.

I’m not that sort of weapon, so I had to hunt down the knockoffs who attacked my wholesome little gathering. So that’s what I did. I patrolled the city, tapping into local camera feeds to spot wannabe-ninjas running around.

And, for reasons relating only to her own irrational paranoia, Venus kept checking in on me. “Earth to Gecko. Have you found anything? Don’t engage if you do.”

“Yeah, yeah. Dvum smertyam ne byvat, odnoy ne minovat.” I rolled my eye and powered into a long jump as if I could escape the radio transmission that way. Unfortunately, I landed atop an office supply company that proved a bit shorter than I first guesstimated. Instead of making a crack about Venus and broken records, I made a different sort of crack. Well, more of a snap than a crack. I suppose it depends on which word better describes the sound of a bone breaking.

Anyway, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few legs.

“What was that?” I heard Venus ask in my ear while I collapsed. I slipped into visibility again since few people would be watching that roof. Patrolling went a lot smoother without people pointing and crying in terror.

I quickly fumbled for a nanite syringe to stick myself with. “A Russian proverb.”

“It sounded like you got hurt. And then whatever language you cussed in, it wasn’t Russian.” She almost sounded concerned.

“Don’t keep pretending you care, Venus.” I stuck myself and let the little guys go to work while I laid there and checked for any unsecured cameras to do my bidding.

“What if I do care?” she asked.

“P’nɐⱱ̟ʝ.” I said, letting more of my native tongue slip.

“What did you just call me?” Venus asked, showing more of that annoying ability to sometimes match wits with me. “That wasn’t Russian that time.”

“Just a bit of the old tongue. Nice to know I can still talk to myself privately.” I closed my eye to take in the images lining up in my head of various cameras, trying to make sense of the order and locations once again.

“I’m sure you’re used to doing a lot to yourself privately,” Venus replied. Oooh. Not bad, even if she dropped her nice act to land it on me. “Even when you’re talking in a language from your world, you still sound Southern.”

“Lots of dimensions have a south,” I said, then focused on a pair of people clad in dark clothing from head to toe in sight of one of the cameras. “And here’s our pitiful play-ninjas now.”

“Where are you?”

“Pipe Place. Looks like they’re headed toward Crepe Circle. Time to follow these chicks back to the nest.” I stretched my leg. Good as new. Then I went into stealth mode again. The holographic system in my armor smoothly projected everything around me in such a way that anyone looking would seemingly see right through me.

More carefully, so as to not waste more time getting my bones knitted together by tiny machines, I walked alongside them on the rooftops. “I should kill them, though. They and everyone like them disgraces the very concept of a ninja.”

“Are you a ninja fanboy?” Venus asked.

“I feel a kinship for the tradition. Pyrotechnics, infiltration, disguises, tactics, espionage, concealment, meterology; it took a hell of a lot of training to be a shinobi. You can’t just throw on a kabuki theaterhand disguise or a bright orange jumpsuit and expect to be a Japanese assassin-spy. Funny, the earliest people to do all that stuff were called ‘non-humans.'”

After a pregnant pause, Venus birthed a question I knew she wanted to address. “It’s just us on the line. Do you want to talk about why you want to-”

“Uh uh uh, would you look at the ass on that guy. No wonder he’s in those clingy workout pants. Normally you only see that on women, but with an ass like that. Hey Carl!” I called Carl, too. “You should see the ass on this guy.”

“I don’t swing that way, boss,” Carl said. “Thanks for the body armor, by the way. What’d you get Moai?”

“Well, I wanted to get him some plastic surgery, so I was thinking of some grinders and sanders, but then he reminded me about that music player I used to have strapped to his back, so I got him something smaller and louder that can fit into one of his many disguises, or even under the pukao I got him last year.” I hopped from rooftop to rooftop, watching the fake ninjas stalk their prey.

Venus butted into the conversation then. “A music player? That’s all?”

“Music is…” I trailed off as the wannabes finally grabbed this woman’s purse and tried to make off with it. She twisted out of the grip of one of them. The other couldn’t get the purse from her. Then, a bystander pulled out a concealed handgun and fired, hitting the woman and allowing the two thiefs to make off with the purse.

While the shooter stood there, confused at the thought that firing at people might hit one of them, I pursued the ninjas. A crew as clueless as this, they would head straight to their hideout.

When I saw them hailing a taxi, that’s when I collapsed in laughter. I called up Venus again, “I’m not even sure we have to hunt these guys down. They’re just as likely to blow themselves up without our interference.”
“That’s not good either. You know I don’t kill people.”

I activated the lo-jack on the taxi. Y’all have heard of hijacking, I presume? That’s when someone takes control of a vehicle. There’s also lo-jack, a device put into some cars that can be remotely activated to track the stolen vehicle. Cops love them. They use them to track a car all the way to the chop shop. Then there’s a lot few car thefts since the thieves can’t sell the car as reliably.

“Nobody’s perfect. Like me. I got that whole ‘addicted to killing’ thing. And then you don’t want me killing. Do you know how many puppies I have to strangle to get the same thrill from killing a human?”
“Gecko!” She cried out.

“So many dead puppies. Chihuahua puppies…poodle puppies…labrador puppies. They make really good bobbleheads, if you’re into that sort of thing. Maybe I should make some slippers out of them. Instead of crocks, I could market them as pups. Market them to kids. ‘Hey there boys and girls, want a pup for Christmas?'”

“I know you’re just doing this to shock me, but cut it out! Stop killing puppies, too. Did you find their hideout?”

“One moment. They stopped, so let me confirm. I don’t see why you’re so against killing puppies, anyway, but alright. I’ll stop.” I leapt closer over the rooftops, then dropped on my ass as one of them turned out to be slick with ice. I skidded, but the hard brick lip of the roof broke my fall and one of my fingers. My tailbone didn’t feel too good either. Figures. Fucking vestigial organs.

Humanity should have stopped monkeying around with tailbones long ago, if you ask me. But no, my world refused to mettle in genetic affairs like that after the Gerbil Uprising. To be fair, the gerbil king was reportedly quite reasonable until they gave him access to the infonet. You’d think they would have realized how dangerous it was to show a gerbil what people sometimes did with them.

Of course, all that predated me on my world, so I guess that’s hindsight for y’all.

After healing up yet again and pulling the local unsecured camera feeds, I confirmed a ninja sighting on an old plant that had long since gone out of business. It could have been a place just to pass through if my prey were clever. But they weren’t . As an added bonus, the spot just screamed “gimmicky supervillain lives here!”.

Not literally, you understand, because that’s a level of stupidity that would warp the fabric of reality. But it’s hard to imagine that they picked an egg-packaging factory for no particular reason.

“You got any chicken-related enemies or anything?” I asked Venus.

“Chicken?”

“Hey, don’t you insult my bravery. I’ll have you know I suffered a broken asshole out here tracking them to the site of the old ‘Eggers Can’t Be Choosers’ factory. If you’re ready, I think we can go ahead and get crackin’.”

I cut off the signal before she could object.

I dropped to the ground and ran into a shipping dock door they’d left open. Without snow to give me away, I stayed in stealth mode. The equipment looked rusty in places, but I noticed plenty of marks in the dust. There weren’t any spiderwebs, either. Following the old sign, I soon found my way to the main egg packing room, with its loop-de-loop of conveyer belts all over the place.

I saw the ninjas joining a group of their friends below a dais. On it sat a very round man in a very round chair. The guy was fat. His shoulders slumped. His legs curved inward the lower they got. He didn’t have any hair on his head, even. I saw that through the gold crown he wore.

As fashion goes, crowns are hit and miss. I didn’t do well with throne, so I doubt I’d wear a crown very well. As ridiculous as this guy looked, though, he pulled it off. Even the inlaid peals shaped into ovals worked with the theme this guy went for.

“You did WHAT?!” He didn’t sound happy with the vile purse snatchers in his employ. “I hired you for an assassination, not petty theft!”

“I-it was j-j-just to pay the b-bills, sir,” stammered one minion. Or maybe he had a stutter. That’s why it’s important to evaluate your minion’ strengths and weaknesses. Never have the guy with the stutter stand up to list your demands, and never grab the skinny guy with no meat on his bones to use as your human shield. Ideally, you should even use a guy in a wheelchair for your errands so the heroes look like a dick in public when they try to shake them down. Which reminds me, I should figure out someway to hire a baby to run errands for me.

I know, that joke was so dark, a cop just shot it in self defense as it ran away.

“You will address me as ‘Your Eggcellency!'”

“Your Excellen-”

“EGGcellency! With a G, you cretin. Why bother? You’ve been nothing but a failure for me, and I have no need of you now. I didn’t keep all my eggs in one basket. Behold the doom of Empyreal City!” His Eggcellency swept his arms open wide, eyes bulging. This guy had plenty of ham and eggs for sure.

The dim area behind him lit up, revealing hundreds of…I don’t even know for sure. They looked like chickens or turkeys or something, but they had curved fangs in their beaks. Beaks which connected to scales, not to feathers. The feathers ran down the spines and along the legs and wins. The legs and talons were scaled, too. The tail was a little long for a chicken but still feathered.

“Chickensaurs, attack!” His Eggcellency pointed at the group of cheap ninjas. With a mass of roaring squawks, a nearby mass of feathery predatory yard birds descended on the poor minions.

It got a bit ugly after that. It was an eggxecution that fed more than His Eggcellency’s eggo.

That took care of the ninjas, though. And even if that hadn’t, the giant chicken would have too. This giant fucking chicken, with legs as tall as me, came plodding out and stared down at the feasting chickensaurs and dead or dying men. Some of the chickensaurs noticed and hopped out of the way. They couldn’t really fly, got away with little jumps and flaps.

The giant chicken then drew in a deep breath and unleashed a beakful of fire on the remaining chickensaurs and knockoffs, frying all of them equally. Then it started pecking at the charred remains of its brethren and their meal.

I left them to their dinner, showing far more courtesy than they extended to me. Outside, I called up Venus again. “Yeah, this guy’s some sort of royalty-themed guy with an egg gimmick and lots of weird critters he made by messing with chickens. And possibly dinosaurs. Good news is, the ninjas aren’t a problem anymore. So that’s handled. But I wouldn’t want to be the guy going into that mess without any powers. Well, good luck.”

Venus wasn’t impressed. “I thought you were going to help.”

“With the ninjas, not that you’ve really been wanting my help. Besides, I don’t like you.” I wanted her dead, actually. While I preferred killing her myself, I could stand giving the credit to the egg man in there. Which gave me an idea… “Though you could always hire me if you can’t handle this place on your own.”

Yeah. It wouldn’t be too hard to make a mistake while teaming with Venus. She took the bait. “What’s your rates? It better not be another date. You wouldn’t want to cheat on Tricia, would you?”

I chuckled. My fake wife/embedded reporter liked me a lot more after I violated that guy who attacked us at the dinner. “It just so happens I’ve got a sale going on. A little something I call ‘Fitty for a Fight.’ Got fifty bucks?”

“I think I can swing that.”

I walked along toward the street and started my car remotely. All the bones I’d been breaking, I preferred driving back. Because I hadn’t counted all His Eggcellency’s chickens, but I know I need to hatch a scheme to handle this situation.

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Holiday Black And Blues 7

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I haven’t been taking this month too seriously. It’s been nice having some time to relax and rebuild a little bit. So I’ve done some dumb and wacky things. But I at least hoped some of my actions would have an effect. You know what I found out? Even that distraction with the meatheads didn’t work out the way I wanted.

I’ve been keeping an eye out on the super section of the news for any word about me. Amidst all the speculation about weird events in Ohio, they had a superhuman interest story. The touching tale of two meat-based villains attacked by a random force, launched into the Arctic circle, and then struggling to survive together. By the time they road into Canada on a grizzly-looking animated polar bear corpse, it became a love story.

That’s just great. I went through all that trouble. I didn’t kill them prematurely. I didn’t even follow up on my plan when it turned out Venus snuck around and disabled the warheads on their rockets. But after all that, did they have enough gratitude to die on me?

Where’s the appreciation? Where’s the decency?

Also, it sounds like I got out of Ohio in time. Something else must have been trapped in the Rubik’s Cube with me, and it appears I let it out. Normally, such vague reports would have been investigated by now, but Ohio is out of the way for most heroes. Forcelight is kinda close, but she might be throwing herself into her company’s new push to release their version of my nanites.

There are holes in coverage like that. Not every threat shows up in a big city. Usually, the kinds of villains who only attack towns are the sorted out by the kinds of heroes who stay around those towns.

Then again, y’all barely ever hear about the bigger-name villains who aren’t me anyway. But what y’all showed up for was to hear about a certain well-trained hero interacting with me. I invited Venus to dinner.

Yep, I sprung for a big dinner gathering at my grand and imposing gas station. I hid just in case Venus brought the cops along. I hoped she wouldn’t. I guess that goes back to people being decent.

Venus lived up to my hopes. She arrived in civilian clothes, as did Ball Boy. Purely to evaluate the threat she may have posed, I kicked open the bathroom door and jumped out. She started and pulled out an EMP rod while staring at the double-barrel bazooka I held on my shoulder.

“Wassup?” I asked with a nod. “How ya been, Venus?”

“I’m alright. You?” she responded, holding her thumb over the button to turn on the portable pain machine.

“I’ve been better. Was looking to enjoy a nice holiday meal. You in?”

“I don’t have anything better to do. I can’t eat with a bazooka trained on me. Two barrels is a bit much.” She eased toward the cover of a set of shelves I left up.

“Really? So is bringing that stick of yours. Hard to work the carving knife when I can’t see?” I winked at her with my empty socket.

“I only have half the work I used to for that.” She smirked. Then, at the same time, we eased up. I started to put down my bazooka and she retracted her rod.

I thought she twitched, so I brought it up again. “Hey!”

She pulled out EMP again. “Hey!”

We went back and forth like that for a few seconds.

“Hey!”

“Hey!”

“Hey!”

“Hey!”

“Hey!”

“Hey!”

Then we both figured out nothing happened, so we put the weapons down. After that, Moai and Tricia came out of hiding as well. Carl had the night off to be with his own family. Ball Boy asked to use the bathroom real quick, though. He’d kinda frozen up there during the standoff, so hopefully he didn’t reach the bathroom too late.

“Who is she?” Venus asked, nodding toward Tricia.

“Oh, just this reporter who wanted to get up close and personal with the real me. I owed her, so officially she’s kidnapped.” I threw my arm around Tricia’s shoulders.

Trish held out her hand and Venus shook it. “Hello. I’m not in trouble, am I?” She cringed as she asked, no doubt sure my lack of tact would be her undoing.

Venus’s response left her hopes quite intact. “I know what Gecko is like. That’s why I almost didn’t show.”

“Well, now that you did, perhaps it’d be a good time to sit down and shove food into our body cavities until we can’t hold anymore?” I offered, holding out chairs for them. They were practically shocked by the show of manners. They both sat, though Venus checked under her chair. As if I’d really hide something under a padded metal chair like that.

I mean, I could have put a mine or other explosive device down there. I even drew up plans for a springy ejector seat. But I didn’t use any of that. Still, perhaps my guests’ paranoia was justified.

So I sat at the head of our little fold-up table with Venus and Tricia to one side of me. Moai and Ball Boy sat across from them. I looked over them all and the modest spread of food in front of us and declared, “I think we can safely say that none of us have anything better to do tonight. It’s not unusual for less uptight heroes and better behaved villains to encounter each other and not get into a fight so…why not us?”

“That was a nice sentiment, Gecko. Should we make it into a toast?” Venus suggested.

They did, which left me feeling awkward and out of place. While I’ve cut a lot of polite chatter and conversations not involving me from this telling for obvious reasons, these despicable dinner guests didn’t stop there. Ball Boy maintained his wariness around me, but Venus actually treated me like I wasn’t her nemesis, or even a person wanted for enough murders to make Charles Manson queasy.

Usually when I say something’s awkward, it’s because I made things awkward for other people or because the situation is physically clumsy. And I’m so good in conflicts that awkwardness never lasts for long. Which, really, it shouldn’t. If you’re ever unsure what to do in a fight, you can always rely on punching someone.

At my polite dinner party, that would have caused problems. While causing problems isn’t a problem for me most of the time, it defeated the purpose of why I did this. See? This is what giving a shit does to a great a person as myself! The moment I erected fetters, even simple ones, someone came along and made things difficult on me.

I knew Venus didn’t like me, but she also started trying to change me again. The “Come to Jesus” kinda thing, that she’s been on since the day she used the magical truth serum on me. I bet she’s been dying to follow up, but why should I accommodate her? My stories amuse. I don’t need to make anyone cry to be taken seriously. Except for Jesus, but a guy has to release the pressure sometime, you know? And he should be sympathetic; the eschatology claims everyone gets a Happy Ending.

I couldn’t do that at the table any more than I could punch someone. No, I had trapped myself as thoroughly as anyone attending a family gathering with relatives. Like the weird uncle who keeps trying to give porn magazines and condoms to twelve-year-olds, or the uncle who insists he’s not doing cocaine even though his nose looks like a ski slope, or the grandma who brought corn mixed with ranch dressing when it wasn’t even potluck. In my case…

“This is great,” Venus said, “You’re not bad at cooking.”

I shrugged. “Well, it’s just like orchestrating a biological and chemical attack on the taste buds.”

“Festive imagery,” said Tricia. “But this isn’t as bad as I expected.”

I rolled my eye, but Venus spoke up before I could, “Gecko has a way with words. I have learned to respect his creativity. He could put it to much better use.”

On and on through the meal, she peppered the conversation with such compliments.

“This was very thoughtful of you,” she said.

“I’m glad you can have a bit of holiday spirit,” she told me. Yeah, sure. I’ve had holiday spirit out the wazoo in prior years.

“This may sound weird, but I’m glad you got out of there.” That one gave me pause. “It was horrible and I never meant to do that to you.”

She smiled at me, and that’s when I knew it. She had turned into an evil genius. Or she’d been replaced with an evil twin. I grabbed the carving knife. “That’s it! Who are you? Evil clone? Other a dimensional version? Is there an alien mind control slug in your head? Or were you brainwashed? Venus, if you’re in there, find a way to let me know. Punch me once for ‘yes’ and twice for ‘no’!”

Venus laughed at that one. Yep, she laughed in the face of danger. She needed a mint. “Calm down, please. You think compliments are that unusual?”

“From you they are.” I sat and set the knife back down. Yep, must have somehow become an evil genius. She discovered a way to hurt me with nice words. To castrate me with compliments. To kill me with kindness. At least Bugs Bunny was man enough to kiss Elmer on the lips when he pulled the same trick on the dopey hunter.
Little did she know it took more than mere words to stop me. She needed sticks and stones at the very least.

Before I could suggest she use the one she’d pulled out of her own ass, a ninja burst in the door. He crashed through it, threw down some smoke pellets, and dove for the back of Venus’s chair with his sword pointed right for her. If he wanted the chair, he got the chair. Venus stood quickly, grabbed it, and swung the back right into his face.

Now, in pro wrestling, people have gotten hit by chairs all the time and lived to fight another day. Of course. wrestlers also know to turn so the side of their head hits the flat of the chair to make it slightly safer. Even then, they’ve suffered a hell of a lot of concussions in the process. Fun Fact: “con” means “with” in Spanish, and it should be obvious what “cuss” means, so a concussion is an injury “with cussing”.

The ninja might have cussed if he hadn’t gotten knocked the fuck out. Instead, he made a thudding sound as he hit the floor. Another dove through a window behind me, bleeding profusely because he’s a jackass that didn’t know glass cuts if you try to jump through it. He didn’t even make it to Venus, not that she worried. I grabbed him, pushed him on to the table, and whispered to him, “If you’re looking for turducken, you’re out of luck. Now, ninjurkey on the other hand…”

He squirmed and whimpered , but everyone else concentrated on the other ninjas that charged in. Moai followed my lead and headbutted any of them in reach. Ball Boy engaged in ball to ball combat, and Venus made them fall in love with peace. I just whispered to the struggling ninja, “Shhh…your reality is pain, desire, and need, because that’s what everyone makes of it. When it gets too bad, remember you can step away from this. Reminds me of a poem. ‘So who cares? I don’t, of late. Let me tell it to you straight; life is candy, cherry brandy, ain’t that dandy, sweetie-pie?’ Make the world what you want it to be. I’d do it soon, too. Who wants a drumstick?”

Sometime in the middle of my cackling, he passed out. Right about then, everyone had mopped up the rest of the assassin assailants and turned to look at me. “That’s not right…” said Ball Boy, cringing.

“It’s a little hot,” I heard Tricia say.

“Is he alive?” asked Venus, ignoring a lot of interesting conversation.

I shrugged. She stepped forward and yanked his black mask off. “Who do you- a Mexican ninja?”

I looked. Everyone looked. Yep. Then we checked the other downed ninjas. All of them were Hispanic.

“I’ve never heard of any gang or cartel acting like this?” Venus said, arms akimbo.

“I think I got it. Hot damn I think I know how we got these guys. And I think you’re right that they’re Mexican, Venus.” I checked over one of the downed ninja’s black pajama costume. “It explains why they’re wearing completely inaccurate garb and wielding swords, too.”

I found what I was looking for and stood up, holding out the tag proudly. It said “Producto de México.”

“You can thank globalization and trade agreements for this mystery. Ladies and gentlemen, these are cheap knockoff Mexican ninjas.”

They quite spoiled the meal for us, however, so I figured I was obligated as the host to make sure my guests could leave safely. To that end, I stepped out of my door in full armor and holding the double barrel bazooka. As I spoke, holographic Spanish subtitles appeared in the air around me.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am legally obligated to begin this public threat by saying I’m a registered sex offender. My name is Psycho Gecko.” A few hidden ninjas ran at that.

“Or, as your government labeled me, Axolotl Xolotl.” That got most of them to run.

“What I have here is a double barrel bazooka.” A frozen over car squealed and pulled out of the area. How many motherfuckers were watching my place, anyway?

“In about five seconds, I’m going perform a little dance I like to call ‘Mating Rituals of the South-Central Extreme Property Damage.’” That prompted some of the homeless guys sleeping under the gas station awning to get up and stumble off to a safer resting place, supporting each other.

“After that, any survivors will be dragged out back and I will be forced to treat them like a certain hairless Eastern European boy that I’m not allowed to get within 1,000 yards of. Now, do you feel me, or do you…feel me?”

At that point, a couple last ninjas ran off, followed by a team in white and grey urban snow camo, a black minivan, a person dressed as a garbage can, and a snowman.

I wound up not making good on my threats after checking the area thoroughly for any body heat through thermals. The dinner broke up soon afterward so they could take the ninjas into custody and get the stuffed one to the hospital, though Venus did say she’d let me tag along if I wanted to get back at the people who broke up my little event.

I shoved food up another man’s ass, threatened a neighborhood, found out lots of people were watching me shower, and ran off a bunch of assholes from my dinner. In the end, isn’t that what anybody hosting a holiday get-together could hope for?

And while we’re on the subject: Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year if y’all don’t hear from me due to a misunderstanding with any Eastern European boys between then and now.

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Holiday Black And Blues 6

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The holidays are a busy time. People are shopping and wrapping. Others are cooking. There are plans afoot, including malicious ones. Oh, sure, there are always other heroes and other villains around pulling jobs. I’d talk about them, but this would be a boring account if I spent all my time discussing other people. If they want their stories on World Domination in Retrospect, they should defeat me in a duel and decapitate me.

There can be only pun!

Everyone has their holiday deals going on right now, and you know what? Me too! I needed some money, you see, so I put a few on my super secret hidden website. Thousandaire drownings. Hundred-dollar hangings. I even instituted a penny pincher promotion so people with less than a dollar could hire me to annoy someone.

Like this job I pulled for $150. Not much to it at all. I didn’t even have to kill the person. I just had to show up at the funeral, make a scene, and tell people what my employer really thought about the dearly departed. In this case, “dearly” applied to the departed as a past-tense verb, rather than as a noun. Or, to put it slightly less subtly, he didn’t like the bitch.

So that’s why I attended the Fifth Street Seventh Day First Church of the Holy Trinity, also known as a church with way too many numbers in its name. If they wanted people to count so much when they named it, they should have built the thing over on Sesame Street.

So there I was, not at Sesame Street and not giving people the Big Bird. Instead, I shuffled up to a coffin in a church, pretending to sniffle and cry. I stood out, a bit, actually. This woman’s death hadn’t affected many people as strongly as I pretended it affected me.

I wore my armor again. Before I left, Tricia actually asked me about that. Anyone who studied supers noted a tendency for those who wear power armor to stay in it a lot. I threw her a bone and said something quotable.

I told her that having powers makes people feel less vulnerable, so they wear less armor or concealment. That’s what the power is for. That’s why so many heroic costumes are skimpy and form-fitting. That little mask is all they need to be great. If someone has on power armor, that is their mask. They know they’re still weak inside, and they need to hide it behind armor that actually makes them worth something for once. And if they aren’t in the armor, someone else could take it and become someone special instead. Because nobody is anything without the mask.

The psychoanalysts will have a fucking hard-on for years if she puts that to print. They’ll barely be able to keep their mouths closed long enough to suck on their cigars.

But enough about phallic objects in mouths. I was talking about the funeral.

Yep, I went up there to view the casket and I just have to say…one of those morticians trained at hooker school. I couldn’t confirm that, but I’ve seen tomatoes paler than that. I even leaned over to the person just ahead of me and asked, “Did she want to be buried looking like Santa Claus, or is that just a seasonal bonus?”

The mourner messed up their face in a scowl and quickly retreated. Like I needed her opinion. If I want an opinion, I’ll go out and make my own! And it’ll have my brains and Venus’s eyes!

Note to self: delete that last sentence before I send this off. Replace it with some line about tiny chocolates. People like tiny chocolates. They get to pretend they are giants eating something delicious. Quake with fear, tiny cocoa mortals!

I stumbled over from the casket to the podium. “Ladies and gentlemen…I can hold it back no longer. I have a few words to say on this solumn occasion. Like everyone else here, I knew and loved Tommy there…”

Amidst the eye-rolling and shocked looks in the line, someone whispered, “Tami,” to me.

“Tami, there. I knew Tami. She didn’t like to be called Tommy except by those who knew her best. So if you didn’t get to call her Tommy, then I guess she didn’t like you.”
The crowd seated in the pews murmured, mostly in disagreement. At least one person near the front turned to the people seated behind him to tell them, “That’s right, she always let me call her Tommy.”

I held up a fist. “Now, little Tami here, she lived a long life. Just look in that box! She had a good run. Seventy years.”

“Fifty-six!” someone yelled out to me.

“That’s right,” I said, pointing off to the back as if I knew who said something. “She lived life so fully, it was like she had seventy good years in a mere fifty-six. And she looked it. I think maybe the one thing she never got around to doing was pursuing her dream of becoming a drag queen. Well, with the help of the funeral home, she finally has.” I pretended to tear up at this point and dabbed at my eyes with a napkin.

“Why did you leave us, Tami?!” I cried out to the heavens, raising my hands to sky. “Oh lord, if the good die young, then why did you wait so long to take her! She had so much to live for. Like the booze. Or that guy Francisco, and all the other mechanics in his car shop. After four measly years of caring for her stroke-ridden father, the man who raised her, she hadn’t even taken him to his first speech therapy appointment! How could you take that from her? Why would you?”

I lowered my head, looking down at the podium. “Well, maybe god needed another angel in heaven. Or the devil needed someone else to poke people with pitchforks. I know it may have upset some of you that Tami there quit her last job because it was too much work…and that she then went six years without any income except that provided by her late husband’s life insurance and her father’s Social Security check…but we should really try to remember her for all the good she did in this world.”

I bowed my head as if for a moment of silence, then immediately looked back up, “Alright, done remembering. Quick, wasn’t it?”

I looked up and projected a smile onto my face, “Remember that time when she called that black guy that name? And that time she said she wanted slavery back? Good times, good times.” I walked over to the woman and spread black paint all over her face, then set her up. Combined with the excess of lipstick, she looked like something out of the 50s.

Indignant murmurs spread through the crowd. “You’re right, everyone, that was wrong of me. Here, let’s cover this up.” I tugged a pillowcase over her face, leaving her covered in white cloth that ended in a point above her head. “There, that’s more acceptable for her, I’m sure.”

By now, some in the crowd understood where this whole thing was going. A few looked amused, most indifferent, and others appeared outraged and almost as red as the woman used to be. I saw one curly-haired fellow in an oil-stained denim jacket pull out a beer and start passing others along to his friends nearby.

“And she was so motivated to keep her son from becoming lazy that she forced him not to look for a job. She went the extra mile and had him work for free maintaining her lawn and house for her instead of finding actual employment. She didn’t let him rest on his laurels, either. Oh no. If he cooked for her dad, she called him lazy. When he had two jobs…well then she doubled down and called him lazy some more. Let me tell you folks, there are people in straitjackets less committed than this woman!”

“Still, when you leave here tonight, don’t think about the woman who ignored her nephew to stay in bed and smoke. Don’t think about the lady who used her husband’s life insurance money to party on the beach with friends. Don’t recall only the times when she left her infirm father, a man with no ability to speak or read, alone in the middle of a bar with only his blood pressure medication and a beer. Tommy wouldn’t like that. You should learn from the lesson of her life. Go out and be more than just a converter of oxygen to carbon dioxide. Be a parent. Care for someone. Let this woman laying here be a lesson to you all: the good die young, but the bad live forever in our memory.”

It got awkward after that. I hoped for cheering. I got something more awkward. Even when you call someone out on their bullshit, people still don’t want to speak ill of the dead. So I did what I’m good at. I improvised. I walked over to the casket, threw open the lower portion, and reached down. That drew gasps, as did me sitting Tami up and using my hand inside her to move her head. “Now, Tami and I would like to thank y’all for coming out, isn’t that right, Tami?”

Instead of having her answer, I whipped out the sax and pressed one of the two buttons with a cloud design on it. This fired a few grenades out that landed in the midst of the unsettled crowd. I just couldn’t remember if it was harmless smoke, laughing gas, or tear gas. Then they started laughing until they cried. Right, forgot I combined those two. Not literally.

That’d be dangerous…wait, why didn’t I combine those two again?

Well, everyone in attendance fled after that, making the whole night an absolute failure for solemn occasions. With them gone, I pulled my hand out of the corpse, brushed my hands off, and grabbed my sax. Hitting the other cloud button, I disappeared in a puff of smoke.

I know what y’all are thinking, but I didn’t start filming my own Cheech and Chong movie then. No, I used the smoke to slip into stealth mode and sneak my way out to the roof. As I’d tried to explain to Tricia over the past couple days, Venus knew that I was out. And I knew that Venus knew that I was out because Tricia had found that EMP rod of Venus that she left behind when defanging my rockets. And Venus knew that I knew that she knew that I was out because she realized the rod was missing. Now, I knew that she knew that I knew that she knew that I was out, but did she know that I knew that she knew that I knew that she knew I was out?

Tricia couldn’t follow that real well. At least Carl had the good sense to nod his head and smile. Smart man, that Carl. He has a good head nodding on his shoulders.

I then had to explain to them that in order to find out how much I knew, Venus needed some way to keep tabs on me. That meant she had me followed somehow.

I found out how on the roof of the church when I saw a teen boy in green and yellow tights with light blue dots on it. He slowly juggled a pair of glowing balls while watching the street below. Then he muttered a curse and turned to jog around the outside of the building, looking down for entrances and exits. Looking for me.

“Found me!” I shouted at the same time I pushed him over the side. He yelled out, expecting to plunge to certain anal pain. He also yelled out because of the certain anal pain that stopped him. “Hope you don’t mind that this glove has been in someone else’s rectum tonight. Did I say rectum? If they weren’t dead, would have darn near killed ‘em!”

I patted my knee and let out a fake laugh at that one. You know, “Ha ha ha!”

The hero, always the sort to be contrary, insisted on doing things in reverse. “Ah, ah, ah!”

Now everyone out there on Reader Earth can go out and tell their loved ones that they learned that screaming is laughter in reverse. Maybe follow it up with a blank stare through the person. Especially if you’re at a holiday gathering you don’t want to be at.

Now this kid, who I recognized as Ball Boy from the Master Academy, hadn’t yet learned to master his panic in dangerous situations. Or his bladder control. Good thing he was hanging with his head below the rest of his body, because gravity taught him a valuable lesson about how water flows.

I pulled him up and gave him a light nudge in the face to shut him up. Just a quick slap with my boot. “Alright, now shut up. I’m going to tell you this once, and I’m going to tell you this hard, bucko. You. Me. Venus. A few people of my choosing. Perhaps a couple more of yours. Anyway, let’s cut some of the suspicion, right? So I’m a murderer, so Venus is an asshole, boohoo. We all have to eat. I know, Venus probably ruined your Christmas. Told you to stake me out, all that. Nothing for you but cold leftovers from the big dinner. That may be fine for you, but I’m hungry. So, we do the reasonable thing and drop the entire conflict for a few days.”

Of course Ball Boy agreed. I didn’t have him by the balls, but I gave him a vested interest in me allowing him to live. I also told him a time and a place. Later, a note appeared taped to the door of my lair. Venus’s RSVP to the Psycho Holiday Gathering in the affirmative.

See? Some people don’t mind having the ham over for dinner after all.

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Holiday Black And Blues 5

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As we approached the holidays, I made sure to add a sign to the outside of the former gas station I holed up in. “Not at home to anthropomorphic personifications related to holidays. Trespassers will be violated, canned, groped, defenestrated, defecated, deafened, and smacked with a tuna.”

Behind me, Carl explained the necessity of the sign before the ardent reporter hanging with us could even ask. “The boss got caught up in the holidays last year, and the year before, but I was only here for last year. We found Baby New Year and fought robots. The year before that, Boss had to beat up a giant spider man.”

I leaned my head against the door. I had a bad day. I felt like something wanted to attack me at any moment. I was anxious, antsy. I watched everything, listened to everything. I’d clenched my jaw so much it wouldn’t stop hurting. “Not a giant spider man,” I interjected. “A giant spider, called Spider, who disguises himself as a man. He and this guy with nothing on his head but a bunch of disappearing-reappearing mouths planned to capture Santa.”

Tricia started to laugh at that. “Santa’s real and you saved him?”

I sighed and kept my eyes shut. “An anthropomorphic personification of the spirit of the season. Probably just appears as the predominant figure of the cultural holiday. If we were Romans, he’d have looked like Saturn.”

“Gecko, I never expected you to be friends with Captain Planet.”

I glanced over at Tricia, analyzing her for weaknesses and strengths to account for when attacking. Then I shook my head, “Tricia, that joke stunk like Uranus.”

She smiled at me. “If we’re talking planets, how about you tell me what things are like between you and Venus? There’s a lot of passion there.”

I rolled my eye. “Not that kind of passion. I’m the Daffy Duck to her Bugs Bunny. We like to hit each other with stuff. It’s all very psychological.”

“Hitting each other is psychological?” she asked, eyebrow rising.

I walked over and put my leg on the table next to her, incidentally giving her a view of Psycho Anaconda. “Hitting each other with stuff. Trust me, it’s important to get into a person’s head when assaulting them with an unconventional weapon.”

“You’re bullshitting me again, aren’t you?” she asked.

Fed up, I grabbed a thawing tuna off the stand by the door and smacked her in the face with it. “You have to think about the demoralizing effects of various objects. Fish, for instance, are unpleasant due to smell. Whereas shellfish,” I grabbed a dead crab and bopped her in the other cheek with it. “are a lot more alien looking, and unpleasant close up with their legs and antennae.” Then I turned off the lights remotely and grabbed a different aquatic animal.

I had to shove some wires in it just right, but I thought the result was worth it. “And let’s not forget our old friend…Mr. Angler Fish!” The fish’s glow bulb illuminated its fangy maw right in front of Tricia’s face, causing her to scream and run for it. Not wanting her to trip and hurt herself, I chased after her with the fish lighting our way. The pursuit ended whens he locked herself in the women’s room, so I grabbed some spare cable around the place and left Mr. Angler Fish hanging outside the door in case she felt like leaving.

Then I turned toward Moai and Carl. “Well, that actually felt pretty good. I think I’m going to go out and hurt some people, right after I cut these hands off and replace them with a pair that don’t have the malicious stink of fish on them.”

Relax, I didn’t cut my hands off. Too difficult to by myself, and I didn’t feel like asking for a hand. That didn’t prevent Moai and Carl from coming along after I threw on my armor and Carl grabbed some earplugs. I had the sax with me.

I made good use of it on my first stop: Central Park. The snowy winter wonderland featured fun for all. I projected myself as another innocent civilian so as not to scare off my prey. Carl bundled up too, and Moai wore a top hat and fur coat to remain inconspicuous. That dude blended in with style.

The ice skaters on the lakes and ponds appealed to me the most, so I stopped by to serenade them. I must have played a B Flat, because that’s what everyone nearby did once the vertigo note hit. Well, everyone but me and my guys.

Everyone should trip up an ice skater at least once, preferably with a slide whistle ready to make it really funny. In my case, I slid out next to this professional looking young girl and sounded off with a “Bwa bwa bwaaaaaa!”

It was then that an officer approached, yelling at me for some reason. The poor, innocent-looking man with the crimson Mohawk, chrome skull nose ring, and a coat that read “I ate babies” on the back.

What? Just because a guy hates babies doesn’t mean he’s the obvious criminals. I-…ooooooh. I forgot the “h” on the back of the jacket. I suppose eating babies does come across as pretty mean. Did anyone think to ask if I meant baby cows or baby chickens instead of baby humans? If people go around shooting at everyone who ate eggs, there’d be dead bodies everywhere, scarring kids for life.

Think of the children! The tender, delicious children. Mmmm.

Well he didn’t shoot at me automatically, because I chose to be white. If at all possible, criminals should be white. There’s a much higher survival rate. Not so much for any black bystanders nearby, but if it came down to me or them, I’d rather not have to repair the tiny scratches on my bullet-proof power armor.

But this time, I wanted some fun, so I whispered over the comms to Moai and Carl that I wanted this guy. Not like that, dirty readers.

I wound up staying in one place as I tried to run, like a cartoon character or a man in regular shoes on ice. At least I got traction before the cop could waddle out onto the ice after me. I headed for a nearby patch of trees and dove behind one.

When the officer came running over, huffing steam into the air, he looked around the trees for me, then checked out to see if I’d run anywhere else. As thin as the tree was, I slipped into invisibility rather than test my mettle with wood. The cop stood right next to the tree I hid behind, so I quickly grabbed a branch reaching out behind his back. I gave it a quick pull and released, knocking him in the back of the head. He turned around and pulled his taser, trying to find what hit him. He saw the branch, but not the cause.

He ducked under it as he moved to view the other side of the tree. But the branch still hung behind his head. Fwap! He fell for it again, just not as literally as the skaters. Again, he turned, but this time he lingered with his taser pointed a the branch. When he checked around, he made sure to head to the opposite side of the tree, where there was no branch to molest him. It surprised him when a pile of snow fell on his head. He turned. The branch had snow on it. Guys, the BRANCH HAD SNOW ON IT! Dun dun duuuuun!

I like to think I had him ready to shoot that tree when he noticed the footprints in the snow. Damn snow! It made an obvious counter to my stealth abilities. Before he could realize I wasn’t your average guy with a sax that somehow makes people fall over, I reappeared and jumped out as if from behind the tree. I threw a snowball in mid dive, knocking the taser from his hands.

I hit the ground, rolled, and scooped up more snow for another ball. The cop was quick, but not quick enough for me and my balls. The second one smacked the pistol from his hand. He pulled his night stick, but kept it too close to his body to snipe. “You’re in trouble now. I’m going to get you for assaulting an officer.”

I think I made him angry.

“Now, that’s not fair, officer. If you’re going to charge me with assaulting you, at least give me a chance to assault you. Come on, you and me, boxing, right here, right now. First guy to punch the crap out of the other guy wins.” I stood up, brushing snow from my gloves.

At first, he raised the baton. He wanted to hit me with it and be done. Then he lowered it and grinned. “Alright, smart guy. I’m going to enjoy this.”

“Ha!” I said. “Then I’ll tell you what I told your momma last night: it’s ok to cry, nobody enjoys this.”

The cop dropped the night stick and charged at me, ready to waste a punch on my face. I held out my hands. “STOP!”

He skidded to a stop. “What for?”

“We need to go over the ground rules. This is a boxing match, so we have to act civilized. It wouldn’t very much do for this to become barbaric, would it? Your superiors may suspect brutality.” I stepped closer.

“So none of this!” I poked him in the eyes. He held his hands over his eyes, leaving himself wide open. “And nothing like this!” I kicked him in the shin. He bent over, using one hand to hold his leg. “Of course, this would be unsportsmanlike.” I said as I reached for his chest and gave him hard pinches in the nipple region. “It goes without saying that you probably shouldn’t hit me here.” I grabbed his arm and punched it just on the back corner. Why is it that it’s never funny to hit your funny bone?

Then I laid my hands on his shoulders, “Last but not least, you should never, ever hit a guy in these.” I rammed my knee into his balls, causing him to squeak in pain.

I stepped back and put my hands up like a boxer. “Alright, let’s begin!” He fell over slowly. I just looked at my fists, blew off my knuckles, and said, “I still got it.”

When I found Carl, he had built an enormous snowman with a top hat on it. “Feeling better, Boss?” he asked.

I nodded. “You know, I do. I should do that again, with a bit more anal penetration. Anyway, let’s grab Moai and get out of here.”

When we tried to go, the snowman stood up and followed. That’s when I recognized the top hat on it, which prompted me to sing. “There must have been some magic in that sky cocaine Carl found, because when he placed it on Moai’s head, he began to shuffle around. Oh, Moai the Snowman…”

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Holiday Black And Blues 4

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I tried to move quickly, though it confused my underlings.

“Why are you keeping her alive if you’re just going to kill her once you have Dead Meat?” asked Tricia. Her questions annoyed me at this point, but it was also part of that job Harlon had her doing. I still didn’t like it, but I figured Harlon might know what he’s doing.

At the very least, he probably remembered how I killed three of his colleagues shortly after we met because they pried into my origins. So he’s probably cool.

I pulled out my eye, steamed it up with my breath, then wiped it off on my shirt. Then I resumed eating my sandwich with my other hand. It was a good sandwich. I assembled the shit out of that sandwich. Salami, chicken with garlic and herbs, and some of the juiciest ham I could find. I hammed it up something fierce, and of course there was plenty of cheese. I like it cheesy.

While eating, I held my eye over the sax, from which my voice issued. “It’s simple. I’m planning to kill her. The plan is ruined if she’s already dead. How can I kill a dead person again? That makes no sense. It’s hard to imagine I know what I’m doing, but you can trust me. After all, I’m Sax-Eye and I know it.” I made my hand bob up and down in a nod.

“Not too much for your shirt,” she answered. Then she left to go write some notes that involved words like “asshole” and “couldn’t plan his way out of a maze on the back of a children’s menu.”

That would be so very, very hurtful…if I cared.

I didn’t even get to finish my sandwich in peace. Carl called me up to tell me it was time. Dead Meat took the bait.

To lure out Dead Meat, Carl, Moai, and Ground Chuck went out in a truck and began distributed food to people. They’d stop in the middle of an intersection and pass out hams, turkeys, prime rib…holiday entrees. Each one came with a note attached. “Dear citizens of Empyreal City. Don’t be fooled by imitators. Killbasa’s going to end this beef with Dead Meat, if he’s man enough to show.”

Carl had called me when Dead Meat interrupted one of their stops. The villain rode in on a bull made of steaks and Carl floored it. If they were smart, Ground Chuck and Moai dumped the remaining food into Dead Meat’s path.

On my end of things, I tossed Tricia in through the passenger side window on my car. I threw myself into the back to wiggle into my armor while remotely cranking it up and driving it out.

Tricia took a moment to complain, yet again. Nag, nag, nag. I didn’t know having a fake wife would fit the cliché. It’s always something. “Why don’t you have any beds in your lair?” or “Why do you eat so much junk food when you need to stay physically fit?” or even “Oh my god, you just slapped that man with a horse dildo until he couldn’t stand!”

I think she meant that last one as a complaint. It can be difficult to tell. But I fear my fake marriage is destined to crash and burn. Whether Tricia’s stuck in there for the crash depends on if Harlon’s faith in her is well-placed.

Still, she sat up and glared at me. “You didn’t have to throw me in. I can work a door.”

I waved off her concerns. “Just be glad I rolled the window down before I tossed you in. What’s really so bad about all this?”

“You’re a murderer, you’re manhandling me, you want to destroy the world, and you’re getting dressed right in front of me! You are not normal.” She turned back around after that and crossed her arms.

Now that made me burst out laughing. “Sorry to have burst your bubble. After all, we met in such a normal way; me in a leftover supervillain’s base repurposed as a supermax prison.”

She stayed huffy for awhile. Once she calmed a little and I slid into the driver’s seat, she told me, “You’re confusing. Sometimes I think you’re just pretending to be crazy, and then there are times like that flashback you had the other day. Carl and that statue are loyal to you for whatever reason, but you’re a jackass toward me. You go from being ridiculously childish and petty to terrifying. I don’t know why I let him talk me into this.”

“Maybe the suits didn’t like you. That’s a possibility, and I am known for killing. You know, it started to bore me. I don’t keep track of everyone’s names or anything, so a lot of people run together when I think of what I’ve done to them. I thought it didn’t do anything for me anymore, ‘til I wound up in the Cube. Then I started suffering withdrawal symptoms. Next thing I knew, killing people gave me a certain rush. Gotta love me some unintended consequences.” I projected a smile with lipstick-drenched lips courtesy of my fond memories of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

To try and evoke some jolly holiday feelings while also getting in the mood to nab another person on my holiday wish list, I put on that old holiday classic “I Am Santa Claus.” It was quite possibly the best holiday parody of a Black Sabbath song in the last thousand years.

That makes it a classic. Just like “Come On Eileen” remains the best bukkake song ever performed. As for “Beat It,” I’m sure you can guess what kind of song that is. Uh huh. You know what I’m saying: eggs.

Speaking of eggs, you can’t make an omelet without ramming into a few with a van. I followed Carl’s phone GPS signal and caught up to them just as they rammed into someone who mistook the road for a parking lot. He kept on going, but Ground Chuck barely hung on in the back.

By that point, Dead Meat pursued them on his steak bull, backed by a bunch of running turkeys. “Wow, look at the legs on them,” I mentioned to Tricia.

She stopped herself ducking under the console as something exploded. “What was that?”

I sped past the intersection perpendicular to the way they’d headed so I could maneuver around in front of the chase. “If I had to guess, that was a ham mine.” Then I called up Carl. “We just passed behind you. We’re going to loop around to Sycamore here, and I’ll get us set up. Watch your corn hole, man. He’s packing some serious meat behind you.”

I swerved to a stop beside a solid-looking brick building and uploaded my location to Carl’s phone. “Tricia, get the car away. Time for me to play Spider-Gecko.”

My name never derived from being gecko-like in attitude, appearance, or abilities. However, I still picked up one or two tricks that would make a gecko proud. Suction cups, grappling hooks, ropes and anchors…I left it all behind. Instead, I charged and created an energy sheathe around my right arm, then jumped and punched into the wall. It made a nice little hole for me to hang from.

I needed the vertical distance to help me with a little project. In the absence of quick-drying paint, I created a hologram that hid me and instead opened up an alleyway. When Carl pulled up, he hightailed it out of the van and ran into the hologram. Moai followed, carrying Ground Chuck. It appeared they continued on, though they really moved to the side.

They kinda had to with Dead Meat following. He skidded his bull around, the beefy golem snorting bloody mist into the air. Instead of stopping, he justed the skid to drift around and continue his chase.

Right into the fucking wall. First the bull hit it, then the villain atop it smacked into it. He bounced off it and into a pile of steaks from his meat puppet falling apart. The flock of turkeys lost their footing and rolled along, getting quite a lot of distance. Figures. Everyone knows that’s how Butterballs roll.

I let go, dropped it all, and walked over to look at the guy. He had on a firefighter’s outfit, but dark red with black. Firefighter boots, too, though his mask looked like patches of leather sewed together. He had an axe strapped to his back, too. I pulled that out of there. He could hurt someone with that. He might even be able to hurt me. I consider it irresponsible to let a person hold on to something that could hurt me. I tossed it to the side, though. Maybe some lucky kid would find it and use it for all sorts of juvenile hijinks.

That’s important for children. Very educational. Depending on where they swing it, they could learn zoology, biology, and neurology. And if they hit themselves, well, that’s EXTRA educational, isn’t it?

“Is he dead?” Tricia yelled from the car.

“Sax me up good and let’s find out!” I told her, holding out my arm for it. I kept my eyes on Dead Meat, even after Tricia threw my saxophone at me and it bounced off my helmet. I could have caught it, but it seemed funnier that way. Plus, not many people are that good at throwing musical instruments. Heck, even Batman never tossed a bassarang.

It’s just classier to hit someone with an instrument. Even the banging and thudding sounds better.
I bent down, grabbed the sax, and poked the guy to see if he lived up to his namesake literally. “Hey there. Wakey wakey. You alive? I need you alive. I can’t kill you if you’re already dead.”

With that, he awoke and kipped up to his feet. Speaking of feat, most people couldn’t manage that in that kind of outfit.

Didn’t stop me from sweeping his leg out from under him with the sax, then bring it down on his face again and again until he lost consciousness. But still, impressive.

Ground Chuck stepped up behind me and to my right, wringing his hands in front of his immaculately clean smock. “What next?”

I spun around with my arms out wide, knock the Chuckster down and out. “Now, we start the New Year’s fireworks a little early. Alright, let’s tie the villain to the roof. He’s got a flight to catch.” Pointing down to Chuck, I said, “And leave this guy. We don’t need Ground ‘Round anymore. So says me, the big guy, the head cheese of this outfit.”

DM woke up on the ride back, but that’s what ropes, chains, handcuffs, and zip ties are for. That, and BDSM.

Yep, we carried him off to the fireworks warehouse I hid the rockets in. While I settled Dead Meat into his rocket, Carl looked over the other one. “Have you been feedin’ this one, boss?”

“Of course! I left lots of food in there for her.” I slammed the door shut on DM’s rocket and locked it tight. “We had so much tofu left over, I thought it’d be a shame to waste it all.”

Carl and I shared a laugh at that. Moai even pantomimed with us, but remained silent as ever. Silent, but deadly.

Meanwhile, Tricia kept looking around. “Guys, does anyone else feel like we’re not alone in here?”

“I didn’t know you wanted to be alone in here, Trish. Let me just take Carl, Moai, Dead Meat, and Killbasa out so you can be alone like you thought.” I stood between the rockets and adjusted a few settings.

She looked at me unimpressed, holding her tongue between the teeth on the right side of her mouth. “Shut up, you sarcastic ass. I thought I heard something. Are you done?”

“I am now,” I told her. “Now, evacuate to the picnic site!”

The picnic site froze mine and Carl’s nuts off, so instead we were driving back to my place in the car when the rocket’s launched. The nearby fireworks catching on fire made it obvious when Killbasa and Dead Meat lit off and flew into the sky, bound for the North Pole. We got to watch them fly out and knock off a bunch of debris and crap.

It scared a lot of people. Jets even scrambled, but then it got well past the U.S. and Canada, so people around here stopped caring. Oh, I’d make them care…except even though I sent the signal, nothing detonated when the rockets hit land. No big kaboom. How can anyone have fun without an earth-shattering kaboom?

Ok, maybe not that big of a kaboom. I still need to live on this spinning water planet.

Then I got another nasty surprise. Tricia held onto something she definitely shouldn’t have. No, not the Psycho Gecko Theme Park Elevator of Fun, which truly is the most fun place on earth.

“Where did you get that?” I asked her, pulling it out of her grip.

“I found it at the warehouse. I looked around before we left and saw it. Is it some sort of firework mortar or…?” She jumped as I turned and smashed it against my worktable.

“It’s a weapon used by my dear nemesis, Venus.” I said, looking at the broken EMP rod. Then I got to work hunting through it for a tracker. It being there at the warehouse…quickly sent a signal to shut down any detonation sequence. I doubt Venus got any better at disarming things since I last tried to blow stuff up around here, so she probably removed the warheads.

Which meant I nearly blew myself up, too.

Just when I had started to distract myself from dismal holiday tidings, a special delivery of misery landed in my lap like Kathy Bates playing a stripper. Can’t a guy kill people in peace around here?

I didn’t even get to turn the Arctic Circle into a candle in my own personal menorah for the start of this year’s Hanukkah. Maybe that’s for the best. It would have been hard to top that for seven more nights.

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Holiday Black And Blues 3

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The day before I put my plan into motion, I brought back some more gear. I’d forgotten all about some of the other stuff I stashed. I got my rocket saxophone back and even my pink scooter, the Minstrel. I wheeled both in there as I saw Carl showing Tricia a blood choke.

“You’re not going to choke me to death, are you?” she asked. Apparently Carl wasn’t bothering to apply pressure except to quickly show her the spot to hit.

“No. It shouldn’t keep you from breathing,” he said. Then he let her go.

“He’s right,” I added. “The point of the sleeper hold is to cut off the blood supply to the brain, and you can do it even if you aren’t that strong.”

“I remember they used to teach it to cops…I know some cops…but they stopped because you have to get the timing right. You can kill someone like that.” Tricia mused while turning around. Carl let her try to find the carotid on him for practice.

I tossed my sax on a worktable and then pulled my helmet out of the fabricator. I held up the helmet. “Alas, I knew him well.”

“That’s the new armor, boss?” asked Carl. I nodded, then set it down and kicked over the fabricator module.

“Is he normally this angry?” Tricia leaned over and asked Carl in a whisper.

“He doesn’t take it out on us,” Carl answered.

The door closed on it again, so I reached in and yanked it out. “Unfortunately, nothing works perfectly. Damn thing worked well enough to get most of my armor done, but it needed maintenance. It’ll take more time to fix that thing than it would to just finish the armor by hand. At least the nanite distiller is kinda automatic. Every once in awhile it makes a few that check the machine. Of course, every once in awhile I need to check the programming.”

I laid out my armor and the sax both. Then I had to get to work. While I was at it, Carl had Tricia put him in a sleeper. He tapped out before she could send him off to dreamland. Then she wandered over and watched me work. Despite what I expected, it didn’t completely bore her. Instead, she quietly asked, “It’s a lot of work, isn’t it?”

“Yup. That’s power armor for you. At least with gadgets you can live without them or have multiple copies. Hard to have multiple armors without much better production capabilities.” I zoomed in with my eye while I worked, making sure I got the pseudomuscles attached where they needed to be.

“I don’t see any weapons in it.” It wasn’t a question, but she still led me to an answer.

“Nah, I don’t add missiles and rockets and miniguns to my armor. Can’t even fly. Some people might say it barely qualifies. But, as is pertinent to what I’m doing right now, at least I’ll be able to fix this by hand by tomorrow rather than stay out of commission for a few months while I ship it off to the sweatshop in Indonesia.”

“Why do you think people send their armor off to those Indonesian sweatshops?” She smiled as she questioned my little joke, fishing for information.

“Because the Chinese sweatshops are too busy making sex toys.”

She watched for awhile, watched some news, even typed something out in a laptop of hers. She had to update her notes, which networked with her phone and her tablet. I checked on them. It could have been a code, but she seemed to be legit. I just had to correct her work a little.

I know what you’re thinking, but I’m not a Grammar Nazi. For starters, I killed Hitler’s Clone. That’s kind of a no-no for Nazis.

I opened up the suit’s speakers while I looked over everything. I programmed in some basic reinforcements to the design of the speakers to help them withstand using that nausea and dizziness blast I picked up from the Rubik’s Cube, but then I realized some of the vibrations would have some deleterious effects.

My little guys would go around in circles. My soldiers wouldn’t storm the beaches. The vibrations would screw with the nanites, and that one wasn’t a euphemism.

Luckily, I had an idea or two as far as recycling went.

So then we came to the day in question. The big event. Dead Meat vs. Kilbasa vs. Psycho Gecko. They didn’t know it yet, but I set the perfect trap for meat-themed supervillains.

“How exactly did you organize a tofu festival in less than a week. There’s no way you got the permits for this?” asked Tricia while I lowered breaded tofu and cheese into a deep fryer.

“Simple. I once threatened and then rewarded a guy who works with that sort of paperwork. Then I bought a lot of tofu, a lot of tables, and hired homeless people to run things.”

She leaned back against the counter, ignoring the register. We didn’t have any customers anyway. “Psycho Gecko, supervillain who wants to destroy the world…and nice to the homeless.”

I adjusted my eyepatch, then hauled up fried mozzarella and tofu. “Any customers?”

She shook her head. I turned and tossed the snacks in the trash can we replaced our storage bin with after no one purchased any of the other batches. Then I told her, “They’re homeless. If anyone cared enough to help them, people like myself wouldn’t be able to hire them. Only thing is, we’re going to have to get them all dinner later.”

Tricia held out her arms to take in the whole tofu festival. “They’re surrounded by food.”

I shook my finger. “No, they’re surrounded by tofu. There’s a difference. Just ‘cause they’re starving and mentally ill doesn’t mean they’d eat this crap.” I then pointed at all the tofu that sat around everywhere, unsold and uneaten. Even the rats, roaches, and birds refused to come anywhere near us, which actually made it one of the cleaner outdoor festivals in Empyreal City.

“At least it’s a nice day. I don’t know why you keep frying up a bunch of stuff no one’s going to eat, anyway. Isn’t the definition of insanity to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results?” She pulled out her tablet and tapped away at it, updating her notes.

Then came the disturbance from the eastern edge of the festival. We’d set up along a portion of a street, upsetting a lot of drivers. But the disturbance in question involved a man and woman instead of cars knocking things around. My homeless minions, a disproportionate number of whom were veterans, got to cover or escape routes.

Tricia ducked low. Meanwhile, I punched in a nearby glass box set on the ground and grabbed a hammer from it. Then I turned and use the hammer to break the glass in another box that said, “In case of emergency, have sax.” As y’all have probably guessed by now, I whipped out my instrument and held it in front of me.

As I left the small tent, I spotted Carl heading toward the east, gun drawn. He liked his new mini pistol mark two when I gave it to him. I didn’t make the first one he got, but I made him a new one based on the LaMott revolver. This one featured a wider ring of barrels around a bigger central barrel that fired a few small shotgun shells. I kinda wanted to make it a pump- or lever-action handgun just for the sake of novelty, but it’s semi. And, feeling things perk up in my pants, it wasn’t the only semi around.

Moai hopped from tent to overturned tables, using them as cover. He even jumped over one and did a roll. He still wore the oversized mustache and glasses that served as his disguise. He didn’t need a weapon. He was a statue. “Statue” is just another word for “stone club in disguise” after all.

Don’t quote me on that in anything academic, though.

We spread out to hunt down our special guests and found them. The petite woman in the bloody butcher’s smoke had to be Kilbasa. She whipped around a morning star made of a frozen rump roast on the end of a length of Conecuh sausage, knocking over tables and piles of tofu. Her minion, Ground Chuck, busted open cash boxes with a length of hard salami. Huh. I didn’t know Killbasa made him wear glasses that looked like bacon. She took one look at a sculpture of Venus carved out of tofu and destroyed it as well.

Aww. I liked that one. I had one of the hobos carve that for me. I meant it to look like the goddess as portrayed in that picture with the seashell, but I changed my mind. Instead, it was a tastefully nude version of my superheroine nemesis. Remember, it’s not porn if it’s art.

I lowered my saxophone and opened my hands wide. I walked out and greeted them with a smile, “Howdy, folks! Having fun on this glorious day?”

They looked at me like I was stupid. By they, I don’t just mean Killbasa and Chuck. My armor’s 360 degree view revealed that Tricia facepalmed and Carl couldn’t figure out whether to aim at the other villains or hide his gun.

“Listen, I get it. You don’t like tofu. Who can blame you? So you’re here to destroy the place. Believe it or not, I’m kinda fine with that, because we could use the publicity.” I nodded, trying to project a look of resignation that looked opportunistic, but not gleefully so.

Kilbasa pointed at me with the hand that held the rump star. Or would it be a morning rump? Either way, her rump dangled there, threateningly. “Is there anything valuable here?”

I shrugged. “Well, I suppose there’s the Bronze Tofu. It’s this trophy we’re hoping to make presitigous by giving it out to the winner of our tofu eating contest.”

She shook her rump at me. “Give it!”

I held my hands up at chest level, palms out to her. “Ok, fine, fine, but we’d really prefer it if you won the contest first. It goes to the person who eats the most tofu here today.”

“I suppose I should try it at least once,” she said. Kilbasa picked up a small cube of tofu and took a bite out of half of it. Her face pulled back like she was going through a centrifuge, but she managed to swallow it.

As soon as she did, I started clapping my hands. “Ladies and gentlemen, here is our winner!” Tricia and Carl joined in, Carl having holstered his mini pistol. “Now then!” I pointed up at the sky, then back to a giant, sickeningly pale turkey standing tall over the rest of the grounds. “It’s time for the presentation and the winner’s picture by Boburky the Tofurkey. Me, my, fofurkey. Boburky.”

Humoring me for at least a second longer, Kilbasa graciously stood there in the circle we laid out to make sure the winner would be in the correct position. The correct position for what? Why, the correct position for the rope circle to tighten around her ankles, yank her along the ground, and drag her into the rocket waiting for her inside Boburky the Tofurkey.

Ground Chuck tried to run after her, but I put an arm around his shoulder and Carl put his pistol to his head, and suddenly Chuck stood as still as a stone club in disguise. “Aaaah, Chuck. Can I call you Chuck? Don’t answer that, Chuck. The question you really need to be concerned about is if you want to go from being Ground Chuck to being hamburger?”

Chuck turned white as Boburky as I dropped the hologram and revealed my armor to him. “What do you need me to do?” he asked.

I clapped him on the shoulder. “Good to hear you’re willing to play ball. Are you good at playing ball? No, that’s another question you don’t have to answer. But answer me this: are you a master at baiting?”

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Holiday Black And Blues 2

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My reign of holiday good cheer has continued. Some of it even started pushing its way up the news stories. This city really went to hell in a handbasket after all I did to it, which severely cut down on my press. It goes to show that it sometimes only takes one bad day to push people over the edge. Well, one bad day, followed by another bad day, followed by yet another bad day; the power’s on now, but it stayed for a good while and killed a number of people.

I’ve heard a rumor online that some Empyreal City funeral directors may have named their yachts after me. I tried to imagine that…

“Hey there, Bob. Is that your yacht?”

“Yes it is, Harry. The Psycho Gecko. You’ll notice that the sail says ‘Kiss my flap ass’ on it.”

“How charming.”

Then again, I should just be glad that someone wrote an exasperated opinion piece celebrating the forced removal of “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom” from the music charts. Ever since I unleashed that on the city, it got stuck in so many people’s heads that it shot to the top. I had plans for that song, but I never did get to where I could collect royalties.

All Hephaestus had to do was pay up, but they wanted a war instead.

Speaking of wars, what has your old pal Psycho Gecko been up to since blasting the local NAMBLA chapter with my pengun?

For starters, I built the gas station a heater so my parts wouldn’t freeze. Especially my jiggly bits. I kept the food stored on the roof for the time being and slept in a pile of blankets. Somehow, I never remember Empyreal City being cold enough that even the snowmen wear jackets. I guess they didn’t want to freeze their snowballs off.

I’d have figured the weather alone would have quelled a great deal of conflict, but then it turned the city into a perfect battleground for some villains who don’t exactly run in the same circles I do. Then again, I don’t run in circles. I run in ovals.

Dead Meat was a minor villain around here. I looked him up when he made the news the other day. He had been a disabled firefighter with a bad back and a drinking problem until he tried to rush out and rescue people from a fire trap tenement near where he lived. From what’s been released about him, he thought he saw someone burning in the fire. Turned out it was a book with a human face on it. Some sort of magic thing. It bit him and screamed and did all sorts of stuff that caused him to freak out and get out of there. Something stuck, though, because ever since then, he gained the ability to control dead pieces of meat.

Dead Meat soon realized that theft supplemented his disability check incredibly well. He’d never gone so far as to march corpses around, but he’s not above assembling rampaging meat beasts that give vegans the night sweats. I’ve chuckled before when I read a little item somewhere about him sending his hot dogs after PETA activists.

The person who picked a fight with him came in from Kingscrow, actually. Killbasa, the Butcher of Kingscrow. A crazed butcher-turned serial killer, Killbasa didn’t like it when various critics and health inspectors besmirched her cuts. So she cut them. She also made use of her butcher’s gimmick to attack them with meat and gadgets designed to look like meat. Even learned how to use flails and nunchaks to make herself especially dangerous with link sausage. On occasion, she’s had an assistant who inevitably gains the nickname “Ground Chuck”.

Killbasa insists that none of her products contain any human meat, but that kind of reputation inevitably attached itself to her. She must have gotten bored, or just in over her head around Forcelight’s city. Either way, she arrived in Empyreal City while I was in jail and challenged Dead Meat, prepared to meat her match.

I hadn’t heard of this kind of gimmick grudge since the Conducter fought the Conducter over their name. There were train cars and orchestra instruments all over the place after that little incident.

If I continued spreading my brand of good cheer about the city, I needed to deal with these meatheads too. Dead Meat is no picnic for regular folks, and that’s not counting how much Killbasa shanks people.

They were sure to realize that they chose the wrong time to cook off this feud. They were about to jump from out of the frying pan and into the fryer.

But first, I needed to make a long overdue appointment.

Carl could barely believe his eyes when he opened the door. Poor guy. He must have missed my exciting life of crime. Between his own capture and then me being too busy, I hardly had time this year to try and give him heart attacks.

“Who are you?” he asked. He seemed slow at times, but other times he was quite inventive. I hired Carl and a few other thug types to help me rob a bank as part of a trap for Venus. I took a shine to him and kept him around afterward. I found him funny, but he proved to be loyal and mechanically inclined. In addition to maintaining a van that proved useful, he once built a set of walker armor out of kegs.

I thought he’d died earlier this year when Hephaestus captured him. I got him back, but I spent so much time doing other things that by the time I had something to do around Empyreal City again, I’d left him out of it. Seeing as y’all know by now that I planned to agitate Venus to the point of killing me, it should make more sense that I left my minions out of it.

You’d think he’d recognize me after all our adventures. Oh, right, I didn’t have any armor on, or even the same sort of coat. I just stood there with a giant grin, arms held wide, so he couldn’t just guess at my intentions. I let my eye camo fade back to the standard white out eye. “It’s the boss, if you’re still looking for work!”

He hugged me then, “Hey, hey! Boss! Good ta see you. I thought they put you away for good.”

“Well, they wanted to leave me in there for life, but I got out early due to bad behavior,” I said.

“Don’t you mean good behavior? Oh,” Carl said after getting the joke.

“It nearly got to me, I’ll admit. They always say that you need to either kick someone’s ass or become someone’s bitch. I kicked the prison’s ass. Tore it a new one. So here I am back in town. Sounds like things have gone to pot around here, too.”

Carl looked around. “Naw, no pot. I tried it, but it’s too much of a hassle for me to find the time. Things got nuts around the EC. The other day, there was this big pile of meat that spun around and wrecked some cars in the next neighborhood over. It chased these things made of turkeys that ran around on four legs.”

I nodded. “Yes…top sirloin and turkey dogs…It’s good that you’ve survive without me. Well done. I don’t mean to grill you, but I’m going to need you and Moai to help me deal with them. Where is that lovable blockhead, anyway?”

Carl pointed off to the side of the house, which didn’t help me see through the brick walls any better than before he pointed. “He’s off in the kids’ room. He stuck around and helped out, then one day he just stood in the corner and stopped doing anything at all. I had to lie, because they thought he died. Can Moai die?”

“I hope not.” I pushed Carl to the side, against the door frame. “Moai! I’m baaaaaack!”

I heard something heavy bounding over the floor, so I tossed Carl to the side and out of the way. It was for his own protection. Moai skidded out of the hallway along the carpet, leaving part of it bald, then shot for me. I realized suddenly that things were about to get painful. I tried to back up, but that only helped so much when Moai threw himself on me. The mobile Moai statue may not qualify as a “he” in the conventional sense, but I preferred that to calling him an “it”.

Nobody likes to be called “it”. It’s insulting. No wonder people who fix computers have such a bad attitude. Their official job title is IT. And if you ever have family, like a cousin, that you just call “it,” then chances are good things are going to get hairy at gatherings.

Anyway, after Moai got done smothering me with his version of a hug and breaking a few of my ribs, he hopped up off me. He and Carl both peered down at me as I laid there on the ground, wheezing. “Not…in my…armor…now guys.”

“What’s going on out here?” asked a far too familiar voice. Tricia, my fake wife, poked her head out the door. “Oh, you came by. Great timing. What happened to you?”

I reached in my pocket for a nanite syringe and found it shattered. “Carl…kill her…and drive me…back to my base.” You try bending around to lick your pocket with your ribs after getting glomped by an Easter Island statue. Not so easy, is it?

For whatever reason, Carl misinterpreted my order and didn’t murder Tricia. Instead, he and Moai helped me into the back seat of my car, where I laid with my head on Tricia’s lap. They took the front and started driving off. I sent the directions to the computer screen for them to follow, rather than talk.

Meanwhile, Tricia explained her presence. “Harlon stuck me on your story and we’ve helped you out with it. He told me not to delve into your past, but you owe him. He said that, too. We made a lot of people uneasy with the story about how they treated you in the Rubik’s Cube. In return, he wants me embedded with you for awhile. You’ll just have to say you kidnapped me and threatened to kill me, like when we took my car. For now, mister, you owe me an adventure.”

I groaned. Not because of that. I meant to groan because of that, but before I could, we went over a pothole and that gave me a different reason to groan. After that groan, I was too groaned out to groan for the other reason.

They got me back to base for me to heal and to go over the plan that I would reluctantly allow Tricia in on. I rolled on out of my recovery area in a motorized wheelchair, head cocked at an angle. A computer’s disinterested voice spoke for me. “Now then. My glorious plan to improve the holidays. I will spread happy holidays through violence. I will destroy the day to kill it. This is the Vietnam War on Christmas, you could say.”

Tricia goggled at me. “You don’t look like you can make war on anything. Are you going to be able to do any of this yourself?”

Carl patted her on the shoulder. In a panic, Tricia whirled on him and grabbed his arm, hip tossing him to the ground. When she tried to back up, she tripped over Moai, who had dropped to the ground behind her. All at once, the four of us all stood up.

“You’re fine!” Tricia blurted, pointing at me.

Carl patted me on the shoulder then. “That’s what I wanted to tell you. The boss here recovers lickity split.”

I took a bow. “That’s right. You can’t keep a bad man down.”

Carl raised an eyebrow. “I thought you can’t keep a good man down?”

Tricia rolled her eyes. “You can’t keep any man down in my experience.”

Carl and I both turned and stared at her. Belatedly, Moai turned as well. She looked back at the three of us, cheeks reddening like a slapped baby. I gave her a thumbs-up. “Now you’re getting the hang of the group dynamic. Anyway, I’m going to do what other people won’t. I’m down in the dumps. The city has the blues. We’ll cheer everyone up by taking out various problems in the way that only I can. The current number one priority is this meat war we’re dealing with. Dead Meat and Killbasa have to go. We need to handle this before Venus does, too. She has this annoying tendency not to kill people.”

Moai and Carl nodded along. Tricia spoke up. “Isn’t that a good thing? Wouldn’t you be dead if she killed people?”

“Yes,” I told her, looking her in the eyes. Then I turned around whipped the cloth off a worktable. “Now then, I was thinking we could make a special delivery of our two meaty friends to the North Pole. Got to keep them refrigerated, you see. Plus, if anything carnivorous is roaming around, you could say this pair would make a rare treat.”

Carl and Tricia both groaned. I just smiled and looked over the two man-sized remote control rockets that sat there, doors open and harnesses not yet closed.

“Are you going to blow them up, boss?” asked Carl.

I walked over and ran a hand over the warhead on the tip of one of the rockets. “Yeah, I was thinking something incendiary. Get a little ice melting. Have a bit of a barbecue up in the great white north. I still might change it out for something that’ll make radioactive long pork out of the main dish.”

“You can’t use a nuke!” yelled Tricia. I rolled my eye.

Surprisingly, Carl agreed. “Boss, isn’t that really bad for the environment? You’re usually a lot better about that’n people think.”

I smiled at the both of them and walked over to a rolled-up poster on the wall. I pulled it down to reveal a map of the earth within a jester’s motley. The Fool’s Cap map of the world. I had to draw in lines for all the various countries from after the time the map was created, and next to them all were approximate population numbers.

“It works well with my new goals. Lady and gentlemen, I’m expanding my horizons. See, I had an epiphany in the big house. Venus was right. I do want to be a better person than I am. Why should I limit myself to merely killing whoever I’m hired to or whatever poor sap crosses my path? Why should I think merely of my own entertainment? I didn’t lie when I made the excuse that I sometimes killed the people who needed killing. Lots of people need killing. Dictators don’t take power on their own. It takes more than a single man to create a system that treated me like the Cube treated me. And I really should treat the world’s villains as kindly as I do the heroes.”

Carl frowned. Tricia had her mouth open, but then closed it. She crossed her arms and shook her head. “I have to see this.”

Carl turned to her. “You’re not worried? You got scared of everything else and bossman just said he wants to kill everyone.”

“Well, chances are good I won’t wipe out everyone, but at some point, roughly around the three billion mark, we’ll reach a collapse of global civilization. Iranian theocracy, Chinese dictatorship, North Korean totalitarianism, and the various corrupt democracies. Everyone wants change, but no one wants to tip over the glass.”

Tricia giggled. “I’m not normally the type to say the glass is half full, but there’s no way you can manage this. Don’t be offended, but you’re going to be caught before you can do anything like this.”

I leaned over the worktable, steadying my hand on the door of one of the rockets. “Are you going to be the one to stop me?”

She shook her head, but stopped giggling and lost some of that mirth. “I’m here to observe. I’ll observe when you’re caught if you let me stay that long. That’s all.”

I think I got what she meant. She didn’t have to try and stop me because someone else almost assuredly would. She might have been right about that. “Anyway, back to the most pressing part of this entire thing. Folks, let’s figure up how to round up some venison denizens.”

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Holiday Black And Blues 1

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There are many things a man could make of himself in a city like Empyreal City. Especially a man like myself. Thanks to all Tricia’s help, she survived. Not only did she survive, but she wanted more. That sounded like some horny business went on. No, I kept things strictly platonic with my wife. I even stopped myself from killing her for wanting to spy on me and release those details to the public.

Like I’d ever make a public account of my actions for people to read. Well, people in this dimension, at least. Y’all are safe. Letting y’all know my plans probably won’t cause a hero and a SWAT team to show up the next time I want to steal some unstable element.

Yessiree, it was a brand new day, and the sun was high. I’d agreed to show Tricia a little bit of insider stuff, then jumped out of the car in the middle of traffic and remote-drove my own car to me.

Black Sunshine, my lovely black 1951 Hudson Hornet with orange trim and enough hidden firepower to make James Bond jealous. From there, I retrieved my stashed gear from where I hid it: a strip club bathroom with a pair of fake legs and a stink generator. I hid my devices that smelt it with a device that dealt it.

First thing I did was take a big gulp of my regenerative nanites. That cleared up my arm. It also brought to my attention a problem with my throat speaker. In all the excitement, I’d forgotten to check up on it. I’d stolen a tone from the Cube’s guards that causes nausea and balance problems and used it against them, but it blew something in my throat. It’s not often my throat blows anything. I set the nanites to repairing it.

They were also handy for uncovering the full extent of my injuries. I thought I just had aches and pains accompanying a broken arm and sprained ankle after a bad fall. Sure, some APCs burst open like melons when they hit the ground, but they also had a lot more mass than I did. Tell that to the bruised muscles, bruised organs, herniated spinal discs, and various minor sprains and fractures. Gravity really kicked my ass on that one. I was just too ignorant to realize it.

At times, some of these jokes even wear on me. Not that I had anything else to wear. I hauled my chicken grenades, exploding knives, and fabricators off to some shutdown gas station. Then I set it up so that they’d assemble a set of my Harlequin armor, with a few modifications to the speaker and sound control systems. Harlequin seemed a convenient name for it. That would make a good new title, too. The Great and Devious, el Gato de la Noche, the Horrible Harlequin, Psycho Gecko.

That had a horrible ring to it.

Maybe it wasn’t the jokes. After everything that’s happened, I realized I felt pretty down about the holidays. I even visited the Central Park Zoo to stare at the penguins and try to think about how to achieve some happiness. I could have gone to Carl and Moai, but perhaps they needed a break. Or I didn’t want to ruin their holidays. Or I’ll just get to it later.

For some reason, I just hadn’t felt that festive lately. Even seeing reports of Venus helping the city recover didn’t ignite much of a fire in me. I saw no news about my breakout, however. The web talked about the unusual earthquake that hit Ohio, but nothing about it destroying a prison. There were so many other things. The usual scandals and disappointing crises that repeat themselves over and over again.

I couldn’t much see how anyone got in the mood to celebrate the winter solstice with all that going on. Even the people in that strip club I visited didn’t seem particularly enthused. The strippers didn’t enjoy things, either, but that had more to do with the club not turning the heat up enough. That’s dangerous. If those girls get cold enough when they lean down to give someone a faceful of human mammary meat, they could put an eye out.

It got me to thinking. I remembered something some astronaut said about how after seeing the earth, he wished he could drag self-serving politicians up there to see it and shake them by the collars. Actually, lots of astronauts expressed similar sentiments. Seeing the bigger picture like that made them realize just how petty it was to oppose helping each other because of political disagreements.

I saw the multiverse. I glimpsed entire universes. I reminded myself of that when I rehashed my arrival back in the Cube. Back then, it made me feel disconnected. Like maybe my entire mind didn’t stick with me when I plopped down on this Earth. But looking back on it, looking at the truth that Venus forced out of me thanks to that magical truth serum, and looking at my entire holiday experience as a whole, it occurred to me what I needed to do.

The universe as a whole, and the Earth specifically, is such a wonderful place full of people who could easily make a utopia. They’re just misguided…and selfish…and more than a little bit ignorant. Who am I to speak? I’ve been the same way. But now that I had time to reflect, and think on things, I realized that some of my crusades to kill public nuisances weren’t all that bad after all. And with me now being the guy with my head on straight, ha ha, then why not be the one to drag this world kicking and screaming to a better place?

I decided then and there, looking at those dapper penguins slide around their exhibit, I’d drag this city into festivity even if it killed ‘em!

And to start, I grabbed this big fish they planned to divvy up for the birds and pulled its mouth down over my face. Then I poked out one eye. Instant mask! As an added bonus, the penguins followed me eagerly once I busted in the door. They shuffled out like someone lit a fire under their asses. Probably because of the trainer who tried to stop me. Penguins may prefer their fish raw, but they don’t care for their keepers being left extra crispy.

It was child’s play to get them piled into my car to be taken somewhere private. Wait a second, that makes it sound like I’m a pedophile. Birdnapping those penguins was like taking a sucker from a baby- nope! Uh uh, that doesn’t work either. I’m just going to throw that whole description out like a baby in the bathwater. Not that I have any babies in my bathwater.

Unlike any children left alone with me, sometimes I can’t help but fuck up the English language.

With the stolen birds in my possession, I spent the next few days preparing to use them. That involved talking to some people in the military surplus business and doing a bit of repair work. Reviewing my funds, I realized I’d need to do something more profitable before long, but I figured I’d burn that bridge when I came to it.

I kept up my feed of the news the entire time. Surprisingly, they’d had a lot of odd thefts after I tricked Venus into cutting the city’s power. They didn’t know it was me, thanks to my handy fish mask. I made sure to change my face, too. And while I stand out thanks to the one eye, I also figured out I could confuse the hell out of people by swapping which side I stuck the eye in.

I also picked up an awesome eyepatch.

I wore it to a special meeting on Saturday. There I sat, surrounded by a variety of men in a hotel ballroom. The guy at the podium finished his introductory remarks, then said, “I see a lot of new faces out here tonight. Welcome. You’ve chosen a great night to come out and declare your support for our cause. Now, for our speaker tonight, we’ve a Rabbi here to speak with us, but please don’t ask for his name.” That got a laugh from the crowd. Most people here didn’t like using their real names. The speaker continued, “Believe it or not, this lucky devil works as a Mohel, and he’s here to tell us all about, and I hope I’m pronouncing this right, metzitzah b’peh.”

Look that up at y’all’s own risk. It’s one of those things you’d be surprised anyone gets away with in the name of a religion.

“Hey,” whispered an attendee to me, “you look familiar. Have I seen you around the grocery store?”

I looked over at the heavyset man with five days of stubble on his thick chin. I answered him with a bad Eastern European accent. “No, I think you have me confused with someone else. I’m new here. Just curious, do people here often already have someone?”

He lowered his chin, eyebrows shooting up, “Have someone? You mean…You’re one lucky guy. That takes a lot of guts. You’re an inspiration to me and the rest of NAMBLA. Tell me about him.”

NAMBLA. The North American Man-Boy Love Association. I first heard of them while immersing myself in this Earth’s popular culture. A cartoon mentioned them. I assumed they were made up as a joke until a brilliant comedian and newscaster also mentioned them. It just goes to show that there are groups out there to defend all manner of abhorrence, and why a guy who goes as far as I do is so needed. I smiled wide. “She’s a dream. The maturity of a nine year old with the ass of a three year old. You know what I’m saying? Molestation five!” I held up my hand for a high five.

The man stood up and pointed a finger at me. “This man is a pedophile!”

The Rabbi and the rest of the crowd focused on him, but the man who had started the meeting just sighed and said, “Frank, calm down. You’ve been warned about the pot calling the kettle black.”

Frank hopped up and down, “You don’t understand. He likes girls!”

That drew boos and condemnation from the crowd surrounding me. The NAMBLA group as a whole hauled me out of the hotel and tossed me to the curb. “Stay out of here, you sick freak!” yelled someone in the crowd, provoking a chorus of agreement from the crowd.

That’s when they realized they tossed me next to a very unusual vehicle parked next to the hotel. An armored red monstrosity on eight wheels, it had fuzzy white cotton trim and green and red headlights. I stood up and brushed myself off. “Alright, you guys are right. I should go. I’ll just get in my car here…”

I hopped up as the back doors of the repurposed ambulance blew open and the cannon slid out. I slid into the seat behind it and took gleeful aim. I had to shorten the barrel a great deal to fit it in, which meant less range. Good thing I lured all my targets out.

“Ahahahaha! Eat Spheniscus demersus!” I yelled through the laughter as I fired the African penguins out the cannon and into the crowd of pedophiles. Fun fact: the African penguin is also known as the jackass penguin. And they jacked those asses up. Sure, it was an airsoft cannon, but that merely kept the birds intact long enough to render the NAMBLA members decidedly…not intact. Plus, the penguins had armor and helmets on.

I didn’t plan on that originally, but then I had this fantasy about penguin guards in skullcaps and chain mail guarding my lair with little spears. It wouldn’t work, but it kept the penguins mostly ok.

As satisfying as it felt to shoot my load, I finished all too soon. Quite happy with my work dropped down to check for survivors. I found a few, but I soon fixed that with the aid of a knife. Then I made a slight alteration to a decorative seasonal sign on the hotel. Just a little something to show my intentions.

“Rest in peace on Earth, and good ill toward men.”

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