Category Archives: 25. Under The Radar

Like I’d ever let a talking T-Rex, a superspeed raptor, or my nemesis in power armor intimidate me. It’s not hard for the lowest of the low to fly under the radar, after all.

Under The Radar 10

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Ah, my wonderful Empyreal City. In the days following my capture of the premier heroines around, a wonderful change occurred. In its own way, the city accepted me back. Sure, people publicly condemned me every which way they could. However, a few people on the street expressed a bit of dark humor: according to one guy stopped on the street by a news crew, “Shit, uh, yeah, them heroes better watch who they be wantin’ to kill now. They might get him instead, know what I’m sayin’?”

A few other people on the news made similar comments, as did some letters to the editor of the newspapers.

At the end of the day, it’s not because they liked me for me. It’s just that most people are jerks. And if they have to choose between some goody two shoes breaking your arm over parking in the wrong spot, or an evil motherfucker who doesn’t care, they’ll pick me. Commit any crime in front of a Knight Templar and they’re screwed no matter what.

Plus, I hate everyone equally. No racial profiling!

That’s why I had no problem taking in the sights. Up in the sky, twenty stories high, I stood on a rooftop and peered down at the city that loved me like a battered woman. Somewhere down there was a girl I wanted to kill. But first…

I held my hand out to the side. “Oh girls…umbrella drink time.” I grinned and removed my helmet off, showing off an astounding case of helmet hair. I felt my two escorts grudgingly step forward.

“It’s your turn,” Venus told Forcelight. The taller woman continued on with my multi-colored, fruity-tasting tropical drink and pressed the glass into my fingers.

“Thank you, my dear. Oh, and I keep meaning to ask: how’s your dad doing? About gotten tired of prison food and dodging shanks, I hope.” I turned to look at her as I sipped on the drink.

Forcelight glared down at me with open contempt. And after the way I’ve treated her. Sure, she’s been my prisoner, but I’ve hardly been that mean of a captor. The two heroines ate just as well as the rest of us. I even showed off my own version of chicken under a brick for dinner, and this time I picked a clean brick. I even gave them privacy to change, and only rarely asked them to put on the harem girl outfits or the Princess Leia golden bikini.

Heck, I’d have loved to wear a golden bikini during my most recent captivity. Chicken under a brick is a hell of a lot better than drugged chunks of food. And while the nanites gave me the ability to tell where they were and stop them from acting against me, at least I didn’t take advantage of the situation by drugging them or pulling furniture away just when they were about to use it.

Ah well, I shouldn’t waste so much anger on them. After all, there are starving kids in Africa. They need to be killed too.

Maybe that’s what I’ll do after I’m done with Pixie, I thought. Take a nice vacation over to some sub-saharan region full of ethnic cleansing, drink nothing but lighter fluid for three days straight, and light my piss on fire as I swing it all over starving African children. Preferably while enjoying a greasy McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder with cheese.

Then I can work on crashing an iceberg into Saudi Arabia…

“The Doctor’s fine. He’s staying on his best behavior to atone for what he did,” Forcelight answered me, shaking me from my reverie.

“Good to hear,” I said with a nod. “I never hear back from him when I write him.”

“You send strippers with messages written all over their bodies. If they weren’t guys, if he could read all of it, and if he could get past the glass to write on them, he still wouldn’t like you enough to write. He said you were a human black hole of compassion. You’re where hope goes to die.” She crossed her arms as she finished speaking to me.

I raised an eyebrow. “He said all that, eh? Well whenever we would play cards, he’d cheat, so there.” I stuck out my tongue, then helped myself to more of my drink. Say what you will about my inability to keep straight whether a flush is higher than three of a kind, but at least I took losing like a man. A blubbering, murderous man who threatened to gut the dealer like prostitute in Whitechapel.

“As if you’re playing fair. You’ve always got something up your sleeve,” Venus mentioned.

“Totally unfair,” I told her. “I merely create opportunities that I, as someone who acts outside the status quo, can take advantage of. There’s really less of a plan than you’d think.” I smiled at her, then took another sip.

“Like the nanites,” growled Forcelight. It’s times like that that remind me a lot of women hate me.

“Hey, y’all are doing it to. You stole my nanite design. Come to think of it, you stole my suit’s life support systems, too. Though I guess it makes sense. Crime is in your blood.” I chuckled. When Forcelight tried to hit me, I redirected it into her own face. “Why are you hittin’ yourself, huh?”

What Forcelight didn’t know about her own nanites…it’ll be my own little private joke, up until it isn’t.

“Some good will come of you being here, in spite of yourself,” Venus said. She walked up beside me with a smirk on her face. She wore a pair of cat ears with her civilian clothes, and a motorized tail flicked behind her. I smiled wide and scritched at her ear.

“Nyaaaaan!” I said, batting at her ears and erasing that smirk.Then I grabbed them and stopped, looking her in the eyes. “You know, I’m of two very different minds about so many things, such as the Long Life nanites. What do you suppose I’m like when something gets my complete attention?” I left her there and stepped to the side of the building to check.

Shortly after taking the heroines hostage and reiterating my demands on TV, I stopped by Times Square with the Whambulance and performed some creative redecorating on the side of a row of buildings. “Pink Pixie, Here,” is all it said. For, as Polonius said, I will use no art.

Venus followed, but never stepped up beside me. “She’s scared. She’s still grieving. She doesn’t know where her head is at, and you already made her sick. I know you lost someone, but so did she. Please, Gecko, call this off. Please.”

“No. I get to do what everyone wants in this situation. A loved one is murdered, so the family wants payback.” I turned and smiled at Venus, then slapped her across the face. She didn’t try to dodge it. Instead, she stood there as a red mark spread over her face from the impact. A hint of admiration escaped from within the crushing confines of my hate.

Two minds about most things; unfortunately that group still included Venus.

Down below, I noticed people turning their gaze to the air. I checked for what had captured their attention, then reached back and pulled Venus close to the edge. She whirled her left arm to maintain her balance, as if I’d let her fall.

Like I’d let her fall. I’d prefer to push her. Why didn’t I push her? I think because I was focused on the task at hand.

I pointed so Venus could follow along with the crowd and me. “Look, up in the sky!” There, dodging a flock of birds as a plane soared by high in the air, was Pixie. She still had a breathing mask, and she drifted from side to side as she flew. She didn’t fly a straight line. I noticed a little extra bulk on her backside, and I don’t mean her ass. She carried an oxygen tank.

I tossed my drink over the side of the building and settled my helmet onto my head. Then I walked back to grab my saxophone.

Forcelight didn’t say anything, but Venus spoke to me quietly. “Please, be the bigger man this time.”

I cocked my head to the side. “Ya know, Venus, it occurs to me that I’m going to be pretty focused on our disgraced heroine there. I wouldn’t be able to pay as much attention to you and Forcelight even if I wanted to. Especially not with all these innocent bystanders running around. There might be time yet today for heroes.”

Then came the important part. Setting the mood. I nabbed every passing unsecured cell phone in the area and made them join in playing a little something to put me in the mood. “Home,” by Dream Theater, skipped ahead two minutes and twenty-seven seconds. I rocked my head along to the music

“Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiine, make a fire!” I sang along. I held out the sax by the buttons so that the bell curved roughly in my direction and pressed on the rocket key. Flames roared out of the bell and I rocketed off the building to meet the Pink Pixie in the air. “Liiiiiiiiiiiiiines, take me higher!”

I headed right for her, already feeling Venus rush over to Forcelight and then depart the roof for the streets below. Meanwhile, Pixie halted in midair and put up her dukes. I timed it so that I hit the smoke bomb key just as we met. Smoke obscured the saxophone momentarily and I directed the bell upward. By the time the cloud dissipated enough to show clearly I wasn’t there, the bell clanged into Pixie’s head from above. Then I set my feet down on Pixie’s shoulders.

She grabbed for me and I jumped, landing on her head and trying to balance. The rocket helped. “Psycho Gecko steps up to tee. Will he be able to make the green?” I swung the rocket around and jumped, bonking Pixie hard from behind. The momentum carried her forward. Damage was unlikely, given her abilities.

Unfortunately, I no longer had a leg, or Pixie’s head, to stand on. I latched onto the oxygen tank with my free hand instead. It bought me a couple seconds as she whirled around to try and grab me. I sank lower, but not from losing my grip. The tank slipped off, pulling Pixie’s breathing mask free with it.

I had an idea about the oxygen tank from the moment I saw it, and that seemed the best moment to put it into action. I gripped it in my thighs and activated my Nasty Surprise. I cut off the end of the valve, then withdrew the small chainsaw. It spewed oxygen as I aimed it up at the pink and black-clad heroine who dove down at me now.

“Flame on!” I yelled, then brought my saxophone around and hit the rocket key again. The flames caught the oxygen on fire. It pretty much blew apart in such a way as blast up toward Pixie. The fireball-propelled hunk of metal bounced off her face, but stunned her momentarily.

I didn’t get the best look. I flew off and angled around to get above Pixie. She had trouble finding me; score one for my three-sixty heads-up display. Sax held in my right hand, I diverted a charge to my left. I flew high as the charge built. Then I let off the key and swept the sax down to rocket again toward Pixie.

Marvin the Martian would have been proud. While not as loud as an earth-shattering kaboom, the power concentrated in the energy sheathe around my fist focused outward. It hammered the Pink Pixie with far more force than the blow would have normally had, exciting molecules and burning a hole in her costume as I smashed her toward the street below.

No cars were harmed. Venus and Forcelight cleared the street sometime during my aerial struggle. Funny how that worked out.

Pixie bounced off the street and gasped for breathe. I cut the sax rocket on approach and landed on her windpipe with my knee. Any ordinary person’s throat would have been crushed. Quite a few extraordinary people, too. Pixie wheezed, but survived.

She grabbed me by the torso. I felt her fingers bend the armor plates and dig into my body as she squeezed. I tried the disorientation note from the sax, but it made no difference. All she needed to do was pull away with her hands and she’d have taken flesh off me. I bashed at her face, again and again, until I’d reduced the instrument to twisted bronze.

When she pinched, it wasn’t just a little skin and a little pain. She squeezed organs. I always meant this to get brutal, but I hoped to avoid feeling it. Sadly, feeling it is precisely what I did. In the famous last words of Rasputin, “Ouch, that kinda hurts.”

I tried wrapping my legs around her chest just under her arms in case she decided to try throwing me away. That would be bad, because littering is a crime and she’s supposed to be a role model.

I jammed the mangled saxophone into Pixie’s mouth. It stopped there, but I put as much of my weight as possible on it. I felt Forcelight and Venus on the edge of the battle then. I left the nanites one command on repeat: stop.

I felt the sax slide in far enough to be down Pink Pixie’s throat. Unfortunately, her breathing whistled out through the mouthpiece. I hadn’t thought of that. But, as my own personal history shows, any problem can be solved through the insertion of a fist. Unfortunately, this was no time to apply it rectally. Only oral would save me now; a sentence most guys would love to use in the presence of a woman. I crammed my left fist into her mouth. It didn’t fit well with all the rough metal and superstrong muscles, but I made enough headway into the back of her mouth to cut off the air supply. Laughing at an idea that flitted across my brain, I began charging the energy sheath again. Her mouth began to glow as the energy accumulated in the sheath inside her head.

It wasn’t so funny that I split my sides. Pixie did that for me.With a wet ripping sound, Pixie tore handfuls of armor and gore away. Then she grabbed at my left arm with both hands. She pulled, but I got a handhold on the back of her tongue. Caught between the single strongest muscle in her superpowered body and the combined strength of her arms, I knew my weak flesh stood the best chance of failing first.

And it would have, if the Pink Pixie’s hadn’t exploded in a moist and brainy mess. I looked down at her for a moment, feeling I needed to be sure of her death. Then my eye kindly reminded my brain that checking for a pulse is unnecessary when the head has been removed. Loudly, for as many to hear as possible, I said, “One’s own mortality is a difficult subject to swallow.”

Then I jumped to my feet and pumped my arms in the air, cheering. I quickly doubled over, holding my arms over the holes in my sides. The nanites from the broken edges of the quilted layer spread over the wounds, working to close them up, but the act itself reminded me of the incredible pain in my left arm. I went to take a look at it and discovered it missing about halfway down the forearm.

This time when I jumped, it involved a lot more cussing and holding my arm.

So that’s how the Pink Pixie died. I didn’t stick around for any parades or celebrations. I rescinded my order and left Forcelight and Venus to their own devices while I got the hell out of there. I had a lot of patching up to do. I wish I felt like mourning more. I also sent off a message to the minor supers who first contacted me about the entire job.

They sure got their money’s worth, that’s for sure. It could have been messy if I added on some of my costs to their bill. I suppose I got off easy as well, considering the forces arrayed against me.

It only cost me an arm, not the leg too.

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Under The Radar 9

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Surprisingly, personifications of the year eventually disappear after their death. I thought Matty just felt like cleaning up my place last year when I had to protect him from his murderous predecessor. Too bad, too. I meant to give him a bit of a viking funeral, but now I’ll have to make do without a body.

Moai and Carl had their own service, but I’ve been busy hunting down Pink Pixie since she plugged Matty. Or unplugged him.

I needed a lot more eyes and ears quickly, so I cut in to local phone and internet services using a few hidden towers. The more I had, the less lag as I received signals from further abroad, but I had limited time. I wished I could have used my nanites somehow, but the ones I injected people with were meant for more of a hostage situation. No amount of wishful thinking could give them audio recording devices. They could build antennas on people to transmit a signal back to me, but that would be conspicuous.

There was no way to physically stop her Pixie from fleeing. I could probably keep boats and planes from leaving, but the roads and bridges were another matter. Besides all that, Pixie can just fly out.

No, I quickly realized that racing around to find her while she flew the coop just wouldn’t work. I needed bait. Problem was, if I had hostages, Venus and her big friend would probably respond instead. I could make an announcement that I’d kill them unless Pixie came, but she’d never come along. Venus wouldn’t let her. She’d be disinclined to acquiesce to my request since I bent the rules so readily on our deal with Pixie.

She’ll probably understand why I’m going after her fiery little friend at this point, but that won’t make her any more likely to take me up on another deal. Used to be, I was a man of my word for such an agreement. That’s been less true lately.

A little late to take a football team hostage. Celebrities…celebrities…you know, I really don’t float in the celebrity scene. As much as I can flawlessly blend in with the rich and famous, it’s not because I like eating expensive fish eggs and drinking the highest quality rotten grape juice. I know! Elected officials!

I hear the cops don’t even like this guy. Something about his kids being profiled. Yeah, he’ll do.

The first part of the plan involved getting a good view of City Hall and seeing if any of my enemies were around. I sent Carl out into the bustling local executive branch to test the weight of the limb and see if I risked getting pecked. Trust me, I don’t want my pickle pecked, not even by a pack of pickled pepper peckers led by Peter Piper.

Carl went in, dressed much like any other normal person, and changed into a janitorial jumpsuit in a bathroom. That got him access pretty much anywhere he needed to go. He managed to get close enough to the Mayor’s office to determine that no superpowered guards waited within. “Uh, looks like we’re all clear, boss.”

I tapped Moai on the shoulder and he dropped onto his side. I jumped on and began running backwards as he rolled forward. I didn’t hide this time. No pirates, no pimps, just Psycho Gecko rolling up the stairs chasing a couple cops inside on my own personal rolling Moai conveyance. Once inside, I hopped off Moai and let him continue chasing the security. I had a bigger fish to gut.

I made a beeline for the Mayor’s office. The mayor’s secretary looked shocked to see me. “Hello there, miss personal assistant…and I’m sure you have many lovely assets for the job, too…but I’m here to see the big cheese. Hold all his calls and don’t bother alerting the police, or I may have to cut the cheese, ya hear?”

She nodded, though I still heard the panicked responses as people called out on cell phones. I even noticed the secretary pushing a panic button. I passed by Carl, who stood there with a bucket and mop. “”Scuse me, let me just borrow this here for a second…” I turned and smacked the mop against the secretary’s head, breaking the end off. She slumped over onto her keyboard with the mop’s dirty head draped over her hair. I then handed the broken handle to Carl and gave him a pat on the shoulder. He had another part to play.

When I broke in the door, I found the mayor and another man behind a large wooden desk. It was a warm office, with its own rug and rich wooden flooring, and a fireplace. Old books and memorabilia of past mayors from the city’s history adorned the walls. It looked just as much like a museum as an office. I hummed a jaunty little tune and closed the door behind me even as the other man in the office, a balding man in a blue suit of very thin pinstripes, talked to 911.

I whirled around and walked as if this wasn’t a terrible interruption in anyone’s day, then hopped up on the desk and leaned down, holding out my hand toward the guy. “A word with them, if you’ll please?”

“Do it, Tom,” said the Mayor. He had on a tan shirt with a blue tie, having slipped his jacket off to tend to business. I nodded toward the Mayor to emphasize what the man said. Tom handed me the phone.

“Greetings! It is I, the Great and Devious Psycho Gecko. I know you have heard I died after a brief stint in the loving care of Uncle Sam, but I’m here to tell you now that rumors of my death are premature. That’s a good thing, just so you know. It looks like y’all need me. Without me around to be a murder-hungry destroyer of all that’s good, looks like some of the hero population is trying to take the job. That’s why I want you to let the fine heroes know that I want one of them delivered to me here. The Pink Pixie. I know she may not want to see me again, but just tell her I’ve changed and I think I’m ready to help her look after the baby now. If I don’t get her, your mayor and his friend here will fall down and go boom.”

I ended the call and tossed it back to Tom. “Here ya go, fellow. By the way, you should invest in some deodorant. You’re sweating like an almost-stuck pig.”

That didn’t inspire him to drop his humidity level, not even as I hurried him and the Mayor to where I needed them. I knew I wouldn’t have long, and I was right. Just a short while later, Venus’s old friend Forcelight came flying through the air. Yay, Venus’s stronger, tougher, flight-capable friend with the light manipulation powers and ownership of the Long Life Corporation. If I had to guess, I’d pick her to be the tall one of those slicer sisters from last time. She carried a slumping Pixie bridal-style. I watched her on an exterior camera set up in the Whambulance hidden across the street. She passed over the news crews and assembled emergency response units, ignoring their perimeter.

They made a hell of a ruckus coming through City Hall, but finally Forcelight kicked open the door to the office and saw me there. “Hello ladies,” I said, reclining on the desk with a bottle of champagne and a saxophone. “How about we drop the hero-villain formalities along with our pants and have a pleasant conversation about the best way to scream my name?”

Forcelight’s only reaction was to look around, checking out the room. No explosives or anything, just the mayor off in the corner with the same black suit on that he’d been photographed in a hundred times.

I continued, “He won’t watch. He knows if he peeks, he’s going straight into the gimp mask. But enough about me, why not drop your little girlfriend off over here and make my day? I mean, you may be in better shape, but your friend there is what I’m after. Pale, sweaty forehead, breathing mask, nubile young body. You know what they say at St. Jude’s: if the field’s condemned anyway, you might as well play ball.”

Forcelight’s own pale face frowned as she dropped Pixie’s legs to the ground and used the spare arm to blast away the hologram of me on the desk. “Where are you?” she asked. Another blast made the mayor disappear as well. Experimentally, she blasted the desk away and a few holes in the ceiling. That fiend! What kind of villain would come in and wreck an office like that?

“How rude,” I told Carl, the Mayor, Tom, and Moai in our cramped little space. “She’s wrecking the place. Carl, we’d better stop her.”

He nodded, the kicked open the backdoor of the Whambulance. The airsoft cannon I’d built into the rear extended out and took me with it in gunner’s seat. This time when I fired, explosive cylinders took flight instead of penguins. What they lacked in ability to aim, they made up for in ability to blow the fuck out of people. They weren’t packed as full as the original one I cooked up for Pixie, but Moai and Carl fed enough of them to the gun to make up the difference.

Metal cylinders burst through the walls into the side of the building where Forcelight and her Pixie stood in the Mayor’s office. The seeds I planted in the building blossomed into fireballs as the room blew apart. I whirled the cannon to the side and swept the explosive wave over the assembled police, firemen, and EMTs. The reporters didn’t escape unscathed either. When I finished, I left the gun to Carl. “Here, take care of this. Anything tries to kick you off, give ’em hell.”

“Boss, is it fun?” asked Carl. He dropped into the seat and looked over the controls.

“Pretty damn fun,” I said as I walked toward the wreckage in City Hall.

I managed to pick up a murmur from him, “I’d a thought you’d laugh more.”

Even I haven’t been at my happiest since Matty. Part of the reason was crawling out of the wreckage. Forcelight and Pink Pixie. More likely, someone pretending to be Pixie. I found Forcelight unconscious in the rubble, but still alive. A dose of nanites insured her good behavior when she woke up. As for Pixie, I found her hidden under that thick desk of the mayor’s. She looked like a mess, with her pale makeup running off and her costume torn. I ripped the mask the rest of the way off.

Wow, must have been some blast. It deformed her so much, she looked like Venus in a Pink Pixie costume. She looked up at me, a contact slipping out as she tried to blink dust and grime out of her eyes. I put my boot tread in her face, then took advantage of her stunned and hurt state to gift her with some nice, controlling nanites. “You’ll want to behave now, Venus dear. Wouldn’t want you to strain yourself and get a heart attack and stroke all at once.”

Holding onto the pair of them, I called out to the cameras trained on the scene. “Ladies and gentlemen, thank y’all for playing along. As y’all can no doubt see, someone didn’t give me what I asked for. I ordered some Pixie, and got nothing but a pair of unwelcome bitches.” I dropped the two to the ground. Forcelight began to cough. I moved my hand in a slapping gesture and she slapped herself across the face. “But that’s ok. If people want to give me more hostages, I’ll take them. Just give me Pink Pixie, soon.”

I knelt down next to Forcelight and Venus. Forcelight tried to punch me, but stopped herself. I seemingly ignored her as I looked into a camera that a ballsy operator moved forward. “Send me Pink Pixie, folks. This time, I’m not joking.”

Didn’t I used to be funny at some point? Ah, sorry about that, folks, but I’m fairly confident I’ll get this Pixie now.

In the meantime, I may have a few guests at the lair who know how to work a palm frond fan and feed me grapes.

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Under The Radar 8

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Thanks to happenstance and engineering, a most bizarre scenario had been created: one of my guises was celebrated by the public while heroes are reviled. Or at least mildly detested. Like, maybe old ladies won’t spit on them and call them names, but they’re definitely not offering any hard candy from their purses.

It’s about degrees. According to Carl, the worst insult he ever heard from his grandma was when he had his picture taken in middle school and she said it didn’t do him justice. For a granny, that’s a harsh burn. That’s one step away from an old lady ordering you be taken to Auschwitz.

The Argentineans reading this know what I’m talking about, right?

I guess I need to start a series where I just go around the world insulting various countries. Hey Paraguay, up yours!

Now that Argentina and Paraguay are out of the room, allow me to continue.

I was a local hero. I was the poor, persecuted villain who injected people with a mysterious substance while claiming it would protect them from a spreading chemical disaster they weren’t sure they were affected by. I was like one of those alternative medicine quacks, except my stuff worked. I just didn’t have it do all its work yet.

Sure, it helped them if they had legitimate minor problems, but I had a more dickish reason to give people access to my panacea. It’s not like Venus could warn them otherwise. It didn’t help her any that the news played right into my hands. My newshound buddy, Harlon, helped direct things even without my tipping him off. He did send me an email asking me if the pirate look was my new thing or if that was someone else. He’d been sitting on Tricia’s story until after everyone knew I’d survived my escape.

I wrote him back that he should keep my secret awhile longer, but that it’d say something bad about Venus if she knew all this time and didn’t reveal it to people.

I suppose I should stop being a double-crossing son of a bitch one of these days. Alas, she is the frog and I am but a mere scorpion riding her back across the water. It’s a fable, people. Venus could have learned from it.

Instead, she took an entirely different lesson away from my misadventures of late.

I discovered the first inklings of it when checking the watch she’s been keeping on me. I took a step out the door, then looked around. No reaction. I walked out the door a few feet. Still nobody crashing my party. Finally, I ran out into the street. One car wreck later, my ass hurt worse than breeding day at the donkey emporium, but no heroes had anything to do with it. No heroes responded at all. Fucking heroes. What if I’d been an innocent civilian running into the street? Why won’t anyone protect me from myself?!

Oh yeah, because I keep killing them. Well, if they were better heroes, they’d be able to save each other and me, now wouldn’t they?

So I didn’t see the young heroes again. Technically, I didn’t know for sure that Pink Pixie died off. The last I saw of her, she looked like death warmed over if death was a cheap gas station burrito. While I’d really, really like to think that assured her death, I’ve seen enough improbable things by now to not count her out just yet. Heck, last year I saw my own stolen technology used to revive people I killed. And it’s very possible I gave Venus an idea of how to save Pixie with my little clinic.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that she had her buddy Forcelight fly up some samples of the Long Life nanites. So Venus will keep Pixie secret, maybe switch up her costume, and have her sneak up on me for a chance at revenge. Expose me in public. Something like that. Sounds par for the course considering our confrontations in the past.

After I put my ass bone back into place, I figured it was time to go out and explore the big, wide world. Eh, it could wait. The outside world is overrated. That’s why all the cool people stay inside and read stuff online.

So I worked on my armor to get it into tip-top shape before heading out to Rothstein’s Sports Bar. I liked that place for the joke in its name. That, and the disposable bouncers. I liked to make them live up to their job title if they didn’t let me in. I strapped on my armor, gathered up Matty, Moai, and Carl, and took them on a nice family outing to the city’s wretched hive of scum and villainy.

A muscular little person guarded the door, looking out at the crowd between his bowler hat and redhaired mustache. I hear folks like that consider the term “midget” insulting, and dwarf is probably right out. It might offend the dwarves, and they can be real axeholes when riled, especially if they prefer to be called dwarfs. I stepped up to the door while directing the car around to a parking space by remote. The bouncer’s eyes lit up in recognition. “Yer Psycho Gecko, right?”

“That’d be me. Unless the feds are asking. Then I’m not me. I’m having an out of body experience right now,” I answered. In the back of my mind, my car rammed a car out of a handicapped space and parked there instead.

What? I bet a lot of psychiatrists would declare to me mentally incapable, especially after I threatened to feed them their own lungs.

“Go on in,” the fellow told me.

“Thank you, sir. Dapper hat there, by the by,” I said.

He tipped it toward me as I led my little group into the place. It looked nice and bright, as always. Unlike some of the others, Rothstein’s Sports Bar didn’t choose to look dark or grimy. The place had its bar, its old-fashioned looking checkered tiles, its raised section with laminate wood, even its pool tables. It could have been a nice, normal sports bar if not for the people in costumes and masks sitting around, a number of whom shut up when they saw me.

I took a bow. “Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t have my pyro with me, but suffice it to say you are now in the presence of the most awesome thing you’ll see until the next time I do something. Play me off, jukebox!” I pointed to the jukebox, which just finished its song and gave me a warm welcome with…Tom Jones.

Great. That’s what I needed. “Here’s a guy who’s totally not annoying! And let’s really pound that message in with ‘What’s Up Pussycat?’ as accompaniment.” Thank you, douchebox. Thank you very much.

We put a couple of small tables together and settled in, the waiter stopping by to take drink and appetizer orders. That’s when I noticed that we still had a few eyes on us. Most of the crowd stopped paying attention by then, but not the trio at this other table. They wore sharp, jutting armor that would have made a good shaving razor for someone who didn’t mind being decapitated. Glowing red eyes peered out of helms. The one seated facing us looked like she had feminine lips under that helmet, but then lots of villains like wearing makeup.

Eye shadow, blush, a little bit of lipstick; it’s part of being theatrical. I’ve done it, kinda. I mean, I wore a purple glittery thong with a unicorn on it before under the armor, just in case a superhero tore my pants off and I had to really intimidate him.

Heroes do it in their own way, too. I know for a fact that some of them stuff their tights. I tore an entire summer sausage out of one guy’s pant legs in the middle of a fight once.

I took off my helmet as the others ordered. When it was my turn, I asked the waiter to send some drinks over to the trio. They looked up, surprised, when he brought them the glasses. “These are courtesy of the gentleman over there, who wished me to tell you to go fuck yourselves.”

I raised my own glass and smiled at them before turning around to discuss the Superbowl snack list. Carl and I were just getting into the debate over which hot dogs to get when a large shadow loomed over the table. The armored trio. The tall one lifted me up, giving me a good look at a helmet with a spiked crown that looked like it would make the perfect skewer.

I pointed at the assumed female and told her right then and there, “Listen, lady-like thing! If you’re that stuck on it, I’ll fuck you, but you three need to form a nice, orderly line and have lots of peanut butter handy.”

“Boss, you’re gonna need this,” Carl said as he settled my helmet onto my head.

“Thanks,” I told him, just before the spikey gal threw me toward the wall. Correction, she threw me toward the outside of the building. I know because I didn’t stop at the wall. Those three sauntered their skin-flayingly gorgeous hips out through the hole, at least until Moai bulled into them. The smaller and taller ones didn’t react much, but the one with middling height got knocked around. She sent up sparks as she skidded along the road.

I activated my evasion sequence. I disappeared, while four holographic copies of me split off from where I had been, each one a little different. The short slicer person punched right through the one doing a crane stance. That hologram looked down at where her arm still stuck out of its chest, then back at her, then back down, then raised a hand to the sky and crumpled in a clear delayed reaction to a mortal wound.

The middle-sized one got up and ignored the rest of the holograms, heading right for me. The tall one did something, and all of a sudden the holograms were blasted away, including the one I hid behind. Ricochets began to ring off her armor, accompanied by the roar of Carl’s mini-pistol.

I jumped high to go over the middle one, but that’s when the smaller one grabbed me and tossed me to the ground like a slam dunk. I managed to turn and land flat on my back, which is the age old secret of reducing damage when falling. Increased surface area equals less pressure and damage on any individual spot.

Before I could pick myself up the ground, the middle-sized slicer girl did it for me. She shoved the tip of a blade against my chest, where it began emitting electricity.

Looking back, I’d say that was a definite sign that I knew these people. At the time, I couldn’t quite understand it because she was electrocuting me. It hurt. It even disrupted my bowel movements. The entire day afterward, I kept having electrical discharges.

She stopped for a moment and that’s when I saw Matatoa standing between me and the short one. He held his cane up at her. “For everyone’s sake, do not do this,” he said.

The scene had all our attention, even the tall woman who held Moai in a headlock and Carl in her other hand. In a distorted voice, the small one answered back, “Stay out of the way, old man. You have nothing to do with this.”

Matty shifted and seemed to stand a little straighter. More quietly, he said, “I see why you all disappoint him so. I’m sorry, but it is time everyone found out who you truly are.” With that, a light flashed out of his cane that warped the armor around the small one. Gunmetal grey turned pink and black; metal plate became tights and butterfly wings. The teen girl underneath looked like crap, and now her mask covered over her mouth and nose in a bubble. A breathing mask?

That made a hell of a lot of sense, actually. I’d been pretending to be a hero, now they were villains. They couldn’t humiliate me with the city hating them, but here they were kicking my ass in front of the villains. The one with her hands on me was probably Venus, which explained the electricity. Truly, a shocking turn of events.

In the spirit of foul play, I punched the presumptive Venus in the breastplate as hard as I could with my right hand. Activating the Nasty Surprise, I drove it toward the armpit region where armor plates can’t quite cover. She dropped me and backed off a step. I had room now.

Pixie didn’t want to let me have that room. Ignoring the cry of “Wait!” from the tall heroine, Pink Pixie charged for me. Matatoa got in her way, seemingly sliding along the ground as he slowed her with nothing but his cane. Good old Matatoa. He had quite a bit of magic left after his time as an anthropomorphic personification of a year.

Not enough, it seemed. Pixie grabbed the cane’s midsection, snapped it, then heaved her fist into Matty’s chest. Stuff splashed on me. Matty flew back and I caught him in my arms. The wet “hammer hitting a melon” sound stunned Pixie into stopping. Meanwhile, her friend let Moai and Carl go and ran to grab her. “Shit,” murmured the presumptive Venus as she backed off to help.

I immediately pulled out a syringe of the nanites and did a quick field reprogramming. The giant hole made getting them into him easier than when he was a baby, but I didn’t think it’d do any good. Considering his heart rested in a globby gob on my chest, I doubted he had a pulse. I wiped it off and tried to stick it back in the hole. Looking in his eyes, I couldn’t see any reaction with his pupils.

“Ye’ll want to be leaving now,” I heard from the little bouncer while I waited to see if anything would take. I noticed he had rolled up his sleeves and his eyes glowed the color of emeralds. I saw others who looked ready to start a fight. The diners of Rothstein’s weren’t aiming glowing eyes and high tech weapons at me.

The heroines fled and left us there: the living, the dead, and the Psychopomp.

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Under The Radar 7

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I have pretty much made Pink Pixie’s public life a living hell. The beloved Pixie’s bewildering behavior made her the new favorite public whipping boy, or girl in this case. Originally, that term referred to a child servant utilized by royal families to punish a rambunctious prince. Princes couldn’t be punished like anybody else because they were better than everybody else; they were royalty. So some other boy would be brought in and whipped right in front of the prince.

So rather than worry about anything at all that might have led to the series of events where Pixie supposedly went out of control, the registration crowd make it sound like she alone is to blame for the ills of America.

That said, politics makes for strange bedfellows. The ACLU, NRA, KKK, FFRF, and all sorts of other letters are on the same side. The two major parties are mostly for it. Half the Libertarian party is for it. The other half would rather have state governments infringe on people’s liberty rather than the federal government.

Heck, even the Home School Legal Defense Association is against it, which is one step up from an endorsement from NAMBLA. That’s what happens when someone spend millions to keep the government from checking on homeschooled kids, then turn around and get found out covering up kiddy fucking.

Won’t anyone think of the children?! Wait, considering the subject, that’s counterproductive. We know for a fact some people would rather think of the children.

I’ve had a lot of time to watch the news with all the repairs I’ve had to manually make to my armor lately. That’s one reason why I’ve always favored armors that can be fixed easily. It gives me less downtime in between screwing with people.

When I had it good and ready, I headed out to pay a visit to the Pixie at her home. Ah, a hero’s house. The last bastion of safety where a hero can embrace their humanity again. The place where, if the universe is good to them, no bad guys will find them.

That’s not to say I had an easy time getting there. Venus’s heroes figured out I’ve been getting out through the sewers. At my usual spot, I found a block of C4 and a trip wire waiting for me to pull the manhole off. I doubt Venus set that up.

For all the moral confusion I’ve stoked in Venus, I don’t believe she’s cracked yet. One of these days, that idealistic detente of hers will crack and a cynical, hopefully murderous, response will leak out. But enough about me fantasizing about Venus being wet for murder.

I picked a different manhole to squeeze out. That’s what I do. I squeeze myself in and out of manholes.I found myself some other manhole to open up and slide out of.

I made it to within a mile of Pink Penny’s place in the guise of a middle-aged woman. That’s when I noticed the blur coming up on me from behind. I generally disliked blurred things near my rear, so I left the hologram in my place and stepped to the side. I thought I’d be fine, but then something light touched me and the speedster took an abrupt right turn. Followed by a right hook.

Knocked against a fire hydrant I’d just seen a dog use five minutes prior, I noticed he’d found me using some sort of stiff fishing-line looking thing. I jumped up and yelled “Urine in trouble!” Then I remembered I was still invisible. I threw a punch of my own, and low, but he got around me, picked me up, and slammed me into the rear window of a car. My head and right arm broke through while the rest of my body hung outside.

Then, effortlessly, I felt the car lifted up. I know I’ve said plenty of bad things about modern cars, but one clear advantage in their favor is the protective body. You know never know when some minor, useless trivia like that can save your life, because they flipped the car upside down and smashed it against the street. Then, while it was down, they crushed it down. Fine by me, I crawled out a broken rear window.

Still maintaining my invisibility, I staggered against a nearby wall to try and get a view of the situation. Turns out, it wasn’t a wall. A person made of bricks wrapped his arms around me and lifted me off the ground. I tried kicking him in the balls.I smacked by head back. I even activated my Nasty Surprise.

For those who don’t remember, that’s a miniature chainsaw hidden on my left forearm. I hope I don’t need to explain the name.

All that did was cut away a part of my utility belt, which landed with a metallic “dong!” It’s not because I carry dongs into battle with me, either, but that’s a stupendous idea. The sound prompted me to check the suit’s seals. Arf arf! Still good, for now.

“Well, well, now we got your bomb,” said the speedster, holding it up. “How would you like it shoved up your ass.”

“Your fascination with my ass worries me more than that. Y’all wouldn’t. You’re just going to destroy it and try to bring me in to Venus, if she’s not already on her way.” I chuckled.

“Brickhouse, is he secure?” asked Pink Pixie as she landed.

The brick person spoke with a feminine voice, “He’s not getting away.”

“Yeah,” I added. “She’s mighty, mighty. Just lettin’ it all hang out, cause she’s a brick, da da da, house, da da da.”

Pink Pixie stepped forward, holding up the cylinder in front of me and shaking it from side to side. “You won’t be needing this anymore, will you?” she smiled, then held it between both hands and smashed it.

A mist shot out into her eyes and the metal popped away, hitting someone in the head from the sound of things.

Eager to look after Pixie, Brickhouse held me back away with one extended arm. I jammed the nasty surprise against the back of her hand. The blade snapped off, but she dropped me with a yelp.

I stayed low, then, while hell broke loose.”Hey, if y’all want to unleash a chemical attack on the streets like that, be my guess. I’m sure that’ll help your reputations. I didn’t even have to attack you, either. Face facts, shit for brains, y’all aren’t half the hero Venus is.”

A babble of voices spoke all at once, “We’ve got to contain ourselves.” “No! We have to contain Gecko, too.” “I think it’s too late. Venus needs to know before she gets here.”

“I’ll get her!” said the speedster, pumping his fist. Except he started coughing when he took off, then skidded to one knee on the ground, hacking.

“That’d be the enhanced metabolism, folks. Thus endeth the second part of this lesson to you, Pixie. Everybody burns…and everybody breathes.”

After that, I left them to their fate: the reckless young heroes who unleashed a chemical agent in Empyreal City that began to spread.

Where was kindly uncle Gecko as the city once again fell into a panic? Oh, nowhere. Just helping unfortunate victims and hypochondriacs both. I put in appearances as a pirate, distributing chests full of a cure for free. Making that many nanites wasn’t easy, either. It was worth it when Venus stopped by with a puking Pink Pixie in tow, only to find the people preferred my company to theirs.

If Venus had laser vision, she’d have exploded my head a dozen times over. I just held out my arms, “What? I didn’t attack anyone. I don’t know what your Pixie friend had to eat that day, but goddamn. Lay off the beans, girly.”

Pixie tried a snarl, then winced in pain as Venus turned her around to seek help elsewhere, at one of my many convenient locations!

Holy shit this escalated quickly.

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Under The Radar 6

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You know, folks, I’ve seen a lot of stupid things. Politics tends to top the list. Though, perhaps higher, are those who decide that there’s no difference anyway. Of course, delving into politics in-depth is usually seen as a pretty good way to alienate people. Funny thing is, everything’s politics. The word is made up of two parts. “Poli,” which is Latin for many, and “ticks” which are bloodsucking insects. But as long as there’s more than one person alive, there’s politics.

The other reason I said it’s all politics is because everything gets dragged in. Every major project, like NASA, has major effects and provides hundreds or even thousands of new inventions. Little things also have big effects, like when the Advanced Research Projects Agency starts working on a worldwide network of computers to share information between government scientists and winds up with the internet. Or people studying cuttlefish come up with monitors and screens as thin as, well, cuttlefish skin. Flippin’ glorious little sausages, aren’t they?

The overall reason for me to talk about all this boring crap is because it interfered with all my boring crap. I first heard about it, incidentally, while taking a crap. I often read on the toilet. A guy has to keep up with the world’s news. Heck, Long Life’s accelerated their human trials and might get their own nanites out on the market as early as this year. But what really caught my eye was the announcement that the new U.S. Congress is crafting a bill to hold superheroes accountable through some sort of licensing program. A new bureau or cabinet position might be in the works, also.

I’m sure that’ll work out well. While they’re at it, maybe they can provide a directory of undercover cops and Non-Official Cover Agents for the CIA. Next time an agent hears, “This message will self destruct,” it might be due to an angry man with a RPG-7 pointed at it.

And to all that, some folks choose to say, “Oh well, I’ll ignore the problem until it goes away.”

As Empyreal City’s resident problem, I wasn’t going away. Pink Pixie didn’t either, not yet. In the meantime, Venus wanted to negotiate. The heroine had to have realized her attempt at containment failed. That status quo couldn’t be maintained. As Dr. Horrible once eloquently said, “The status is not quo.” I figured at some point she’d have to try and bargain with me. Welcome to Crazy Psycho Gecko’s Used Corpse Emporium! Every body must go!

The meeting started off on the wrong foot when Venus walked into my lair, flipped over the table I sat at, pinned me under it, sat on it, and kicked me in the face.

I ran my tongue over my bleeding lip and looked up at her. “Venus, how insert adjective here it is to see you. Welcome. Come on in. Have a seat. Make yourself at home. Are those new boots? Why don’t you introduce me to them?”

She gave me another kick. Carl pulled his mini pistol on her, but stayed at a distance. Moai pulled a cricket bat out of nowhere. Venus kept her eyes on Carl’s gun. He tapped the trigger, spinning the barrels. “Now, Venus, you’ve posed me quite the conundrum. You picked a bad time to get sassy. I could talk, but why do that when Carl’s right there with a gun?”

“You still want something from me,” she said. Bow chica honk honk. Nah, she maintained that idealistic optimism of someone who the world hasn’t yet disappointed. “If that’s not enough, my armor is rated to withstand small arms fire. That includes the visor. Handguns are notoriously inaccurate, and so are miniguns.”

“Carl, Moai, put ’em away. But be prepared to whip ’em out and hose her down if things get too hairy.” I smiled up at Venus. I couldn’t see her eyes, but I knew she rolled them under that visor. “So, Venus, are you letting me up anytime soon, or do you prefer a full spread of me on my back?”

“I want you to stop. I didn’t put you in jail or lead an army to your doorstep, but I can’t keep letting you do this. I said I’d kick your ass if you did this.” She stomped on my face.

“Hard to do that here alone and in private, eh? Feels wrong to beat a guy who can’t fight back, doesn’t it? It gets easier, believe me.”

Venus let out a frustrated growl and let the pressure off me. Then she stood up and let me pick myself up from under the table. “Why are you going after Pixie? Is this about pretending you have standards?”

I made myself comfortable on the floor, but checked my lip. Eh, more blood. Blood happens. It’s a good way to make an exclamation point on a statement. If you’re a woman, it also makes a period every month.

Well, y’all know what they say. The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb. It doesn’t apply to this situation in the least, but it’s what they say.

“It’s a job, Venus. Someone offered it, I took it. Someone didn’t appreciate that some guy’s life was ruined by an overzealous hero following him home. Why does that sound familiar to me all of a sudden?” I feigned confusion.

“Well how much to buy you off?” she asked.

I put my hands behind my head. “Why, Venus, you want to hire me to not kill someone? I didn’t think you had the money. Been stealing wallets from muggers?”

She crossed her arms. “I have friends.”

“Yeah, you think they’d appreciate you paying me, of all people?” A character in a movie once outlined a strategy I sometimes use. If they try to appeal to my morals or honor, play the mercenary. If they offer me money, play up the moral reasons. I believe it was Rum Tum Tugger’s song from Cats. For I will do as I do do, and there’s no power in the ‘verse can stop me.

“If it’ll stop you from killing people, yes,” she said.

I kipped up to my feet, then slipped on a paper plate on the floor and tumbled back to my ass. I made it on try number two and brushed myself off. “Well then, if you’ve got the green, I suppose I can leave your pink alone. I won’t start anything, but don’t think I refuse to defend myself if she starts something. I don’t suppose I can interest you in any extras while I’m at it, eh? Happy ending, perhaps?”

She shook her head quickly. “Uh uh. That’s not happening.”

“Awww, poor me. I shall die poor, celibate, and alone,” I threw my forearm against my forehead.

“From what I heard about you and that Tricia woman, I doubt you’re celibate,” Venus said.

I shrugged. “I thought she could fast track me to the top of an acting career, a journalist like that. For something like that, I’m fully prepared to wind up on the bottom. But then she left me. She left me so cold, Venus. I just need someone to hold me…” I reached out as if to hug her.

She pushed me away by my face. “You’ll get paid. We can hash that out another time over the phone. So no attacking Pink Pixie.” When I nodded, she left.

So then I went and found Matatoa where he napped on the couch, watching Westerns. “Hey Matty,” I said, dipping my face down close to his. “Matty, Matty, Matty, Matty, Matty. Are you sleeping, Matty?”

“No,” he answered, keeping his eyes closed. “I’m practicing being dead. You should try it.”

I stood up then and clenched my fists as I strained. After great exertion and reddening of my face, I held my arms out and thrust my tented pants forward. “Behold! Rigor mortis has set in!”

“What’s that smell, Gecko?” Matty asked.

I lowered my hands as I sniffed and looked around. Then, holding them out again in all their dramatic glory, I announced, “Behold, the bowels have been voided!”

Five hours later, I stood at an intersection, waiting. After a quick clean up and pants burning, Matty gave me the low down on when and where I could accidentally run into Pink Pixie. That’s why I stood on a street corner in a purple velvet jacket with tiger stripped trim and interior, with a wide brim purple hat sporting a peacock feather. Pimp Man on patrol!

A few minutes before Matatoa predicted Pixie’s arrival, screeching tires led into the slam of a car getting t-boned by a truck. That explained why Pixie would be there, I realized. This, in turn, gave me a brilliantly malevolent idea.

I leaped into action, transforming before everyone’s very eyes from a pimp to the super pirate disguise I used when I confronted Pixie last week. I ran over to the car. The driver’s side was stuck, so I tore the whole door off.

“What are you doing?” asked a man with his arm around his crying wife. They stood on the other side of the car, by the open passenger door. Man, I sucked at being heroic. Then again, being heroic isn’t my job anyway.

Then the wife gasped and started banging on the rear window. “My baby!”

There in the back, a car seat sat strapped into the rear. Seatbelts were everywhere and the rear door looked like a mess. Pimp Man to the rescue! Or Pirate Pimp Man, as it may be in this case. I came in through the driver’s side, tearing through belts to haul the child out. Except he wasn’t breathing.

The mother and father both scrambled to get around the car. Blinded as they were by fear, tears, and mucus, they didn’t think to crawl through it.

I held my fist up to the sky. “You’re not getting this one, Lord!” Then I lowered the baby to the ground and bent over it. Pulling out a syringe, I popped one end off it and slid my other hand out of its glove. The regenerative nanites inside attempted to go to work on me, but I bonded enough to give them new orders that they passed on to the others. Then I poured the syringe into the baby’s mouth and pretended to give it mouth to mouth and CPR.

After a couple seconds, I stopped and raised my head up, the hologram showing me licking my lips. “Mmm, ma’am, that is some delicious breast milk. Would you mind if I had a-?”

I didn’t get the question out all the way because the baby began wailing. That got applause from the crowd, including the drunk guy finally stumbling out of his truck. The parents hugged me as I stood up, their eyes dripping tears of relief instead of fear and grief. Disgusting, snotty tears of relief.

I held the baby up, then dropped it, but I caught it before it hit the ground. Being extra careful now, I held it up above me. “The circle of liiiiiiiiiiife!” I sang.

That’s when someone punched me from behind. Anyone could be forgiven for not paying a lot of attention to their surroundings in those circumstances, but I would have let this happen regardless. I stumbled forward, careful to keep hold of the baby, as the Pink Pixie glared and pulled back to get another swing in at me. Before she could, the father jumped on her and the mother swung her purse at Pixie’s head.

I reiterate, an unpowered human man and his wife attacked a superhero. Folks, break out the Genesis puppets. We were now in a Land of Confusion.

Confused and seriously ticked off, the Pink Pixie lashed out. The dad went flying onto the front hood of the truck that wrecked his car. The mother backed off and I handed her the baby. She stood behind me, using me as a shield. Before Pink Pixie could start anything more, though, a shoe came flying out of the crowd around us and smacked her in the face.

All around us, regular folks gathered, yelling at the hero for daring to attack me, led by a rather tan fellow who hopped on one foot to avoid getting his shoeless one on the ground. Pissed off and perplexed, the Pixie took to the air and escaped rather than make things worse.

The day saved, I hopped up onto the car and posed with my hands on my hips. “Let this be a lesson to everyone: even heroes have their flaws. They can go bad, like anyone else. But hear me now. Fear not, America, for you will always have allies in the never-ending fight against evil, as you saw here today. And to the children, I’d just like to add: study hard, eat your veggies, and don’t drink and drive.”

Then I looked up and raised my fist to the sky while powering up the jump boosters. “Excelsior!” I yelled as I took off into the sky.

They didn’t see that my “flight” ended when my arc landed me on a building the next street over.

That night, back at the lair, Carl turned from the news broadcast of the events, and from his hot dog, to ask, “Do you really have to talk like that when you’re pretending to be a good guy, boss?”

“Carl, once you’ve decided to put on a mask and a colorful skintight outfit, there’s really no room left for shame. Seriously, where am I supposed to keep the shame? Do you think I have special shame pockets in those tights, where I can keep it?”

Carl rolled his eyes at me, then took another bite of his hot dog. His face scrunched up as he chewed. “Ugh, for some reason these dogs taste pretty bad.”

“You grilled them, right?” I asked, holding in a smile.

“Yeah.”

“The one with the burnt pants in the bottom with the charcoal?”

“Yeah.” Carl nodded.

“Nope, can’t think of what might have caused it, Carl. If anyone needs me, I’m going to go up on the roof and do an evil laugh.”

Like y’all would have kept a straight face. Mwahahaha.

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Under The Radar 5

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Train didn’t work.

I had a hell of a time getting Pink Pixie’s attention, too. For about half a second, that challenge left me puzzled. Luckily, puzzles are why saws were invented. And saws were why puzzles were invented. See, way back in ancient Egypt, where the forests grew out of control, ancient lumberjacks used saws to cut pieces of wood in ways that only allowed certain parts to fit with each other. They did this while singing a merry tune and dancing a jig, so they became known as jigsaws. Later, the Egyptians would be conquered by the Persians, who had invented colors, thereby revolutionizing the world of puzzles, artwork, and racism all in one fell swoop.

I don’t know if any of that was true, but let that be a lesson to y’all.

So, despite Matty warning me that this was a horrible idea sure to tip someone over the edge and upset the delicate balance with Venus, blah blah blah, I went out into the world to take on Pink Pixie again.

The new sewer escape worked. I didn’t have to go too far, but the cramped pipes left me a little scared of Germans while I was down there. Claus-trophobic, I mean. If any alligators actually grew in there, they’d have to get out of my way, though. I’m the king of that jungle. King Gecko of Shit Mountain. Look upon the verdant fields where I grow and harvest fucks, and sniff of the fertilizer.

Once I got out, I decided to ignore Matatoa. Right after texting Carl where he could find some spare cash and head out to an amusement park with him.

Usually when I exit a manhole, it’s just because I shoved my hand up there. I don’t involve the rest of the body as a general rule. Hard to clean up. I didn’t have that choice this time. With that, I stopped by a pharmacy for a hell of a lot of deodorant and perfume. Except I holographically disguised myself as Pink Pixie.

I stood in line to pay, then grabbed the wrist of the woman in front of me as she reached into her purse. “I have you now, evildoer!” I said. I should have eased off the ham, but it’s a habit when pretending to be a hero.

“What’s this all about?” asked the woman, who tried to slap me. Funny thing about slapping someone wearing a metal helmet: it doesn’t end well for the slapper. If you would like more intimate details of that sensation, please have another whiff of the fertilizer.

Disguised as Pink Pixie, I grabbed the woman who assaulted me and tossed her over to the makeup counter. There, I helped her apply some free samples of the makeup. Well, they became free samples right about the time I broke them out of their boxes. When I finished with the accused shoplifter, I showed her a mirror. She was so happy, she screamed. “Yay! You look just like the Ultimate Warrior now.”

She screamed again, so I gave her a hug and told her. “You’re welcome!” Then I threw her out the door and into the side of a car. When I followed after her, I stood over the crumpled car and yelled, “Take that, Captain Shoplift! Your reign of crime ends now, you nefarious bitch.”

You know, I enjoy using nefarious. It’s a nice word.

A few people clapped; they couldn’t see the pulpy corpse embedded in the car. Those who stood closer looked horrified. I held up my hand and waved to the not so adoring crowd. Once again, the day was saved.

After that, I focused on larger crimes.

Like this one bank in the city that acted a bit irresponsibly. Matatoa talked me into this one during a performance of Cats. We didn’t dance or sing in it; we just attended the thing. It’s great. Everyone should see it, especially if y’all like catboys and catgirls. He turned to me while Bombalurina and Demeter gyrated, and told me, “I’m not going to try and stop you, but remember that you try to direct your urges to something constructive. And now, look at this.” Then he gently knocked me on the side of the head and my search browser opened up on a search.

After the consolidation of financial and investment banking, various banks began to pursue some interesting investments. At first, they just bundled together home loans and sold interest in the debt as investments. Those investments made them a shitload of money, so then came the part that shouldn’t have been legal. They ran out of people who could pay the home loans, so instead they started offering them to people who they knew couldn’t pay. They didn’t give a shit about repayment, just all the money that could be made by the mortgage-backed securities.

They also tried to protect themselves and write off their own liability by taking out insurance policies on the securities, but that’s beside the point. Well, except for the insurance companies that went under. Though, if you’re interested in how all this is legal, then you might look to an insurance company. Universal Property and Casualty Insurance Company can’t legally bribe anyone, but they can give away $10,000 door prizes for the people at their holiday party. Just like it’s illegal to bribe them, but not illegal if the CEO invites influential friends to a birthday party and they happen to bring presents for him.

But I’m the criminal.

All this may sound strange coming from someone who would much rather dance around a Mexican grocery store in an inflatable cow costume, but y’all should be expecting the unexpected by now.

So that’s why I attacked one of these banks disguised as Pink Pixie. For clarification, the bank wasn’t disguised as the Pink Pixie. A still make mistakes in English, so it’s best to be clear.

“Alright! Everyone on the-…wait, sorry,” I paused in my announcement on the counter of the bank. I’ve made a habit of ordering people onto the floor of banks. I forgot I didn’t need to this time. “I meant to say that I’m here about a crime. Someone in this bank stole a metric buttload of money. Technically, it’s closer to a fuckton, but I don’t need to get technical. Now, I need access to the manager’s office.” I jumped off the counter and didn’t wait for cooperation.

Admittedly, the manager alone wouldn’t do the trick. A cog in the machine, he just acted on instructions from higher up, if he even had to do anything at all. But, I thought as I shoved my way into his office, he had one kickin’ leather office chair. His access helped, too. I couldn’t delete all the records, but an awful lot of people in Empyreal City lost their mortgage debt.

Pink Pixie left me unmolested despite my actions in her name. A shame. I wanted that teen girl to molest me. Before y’all start, I meant that innocently. I mean to murder her. Perfectly innocent.

The really weird thing is that no one responded. I mean, sure, the cops showed up. But no one that stood a chance tried to stop the Pink Pixie. But if I covered everything I do to cops, we’d never get to the juicy stuff. The juicy stuff about the train, that is. Not the part where I stick cops in a giant juicer.

Matty had other suggestions, though. More evil suggestions. “Here, here, and here,” he said, pointing to where Empyreal City would be on the Fool’s Cap map on my wall. It’s an old map.

“Can you zoom in a bit?” I asked. He nodded and tapped the map, causing the view of the world to shift and close in on Empyreal City, which suddenly appeared on it in its current layout. Then I grabbed the middle of his cane and started tapping the end of it against my crotch.

Matty pulled the cane away from my grip. “It’s not going to look any bigger that way.”

“Aww. Well then, if you’re done playing with your wood, why don’t you tell me what you had in mind, Matty?”

That’s how I wound up dropping in on a bunch of anti-meat protesters hanging around Wall Street, wearing my freshly-aired out armor and the projection of Pink Pixie. I had the explosive cylinder attached to my belt as well. If everything went well, Pixie wouldn’t need to worry about her reputation much longer. Or breathing.

“Alright, evil vegans, in the name of the Pixie, I will punish you!” I yelled at them, taking a pose.

They kept on shouting their phrases about fur being murder and animals being people too. Unfortunately for them, I brought a sack. “Alright, people, I have heard your concerns, and I would like to address them with one simple phrase…release the snakes!”

With that, I reached inside the sack and started tossing snakes of all sort at the protesters. Cobras, constrictors, kings…my goodie bag had fun for all inside. Except for snakes. I had to almost freeze the little bastards to keep them from fighting in there.

The animals didn’t seem to approve of their defenders. One of them ran over to me and waved at her flailing friends. “Why are you doing this? Who are you?!”

I put my hands on my hips and looked off over her head. “I am the Pink Pixie, and I speak for the trees.” Then I looked at her and jumped back. “Ew, you have a snake on you!”

She looked at the moccasin crawling on her shoulder and screamed. I did too. Then, to reassure her, I said “Don’t worry, I’ll get it.” I grabbed a nearby mailbox and went to town on that snake slithering along her arm. Then I helped the rest of her friends out.

When it was all said and done, I think I did a good job. Sure, there were some fatalities. Ok, there were a lot of fatalities. Maybe a couple people got away. That didn’t matter. What mattered was the attention I attracted to my cause. The attention of Pink Pixie, who swooped in and must have seen a snake on me. Except where I used a mailbox, she threw a car.

She didn’t even tell me to stop in the name of the moon or anything like that. All she told me was, “Raaaagaghg!”

I wasn’t familiar with the language, but it sounded beautiful. Rather than allow her to beat some understanding into me, I took off for the nearby subway station that Matty chose the site for.

Pixie flew, grabbing a passing car and tossing it at me with no regard for life, especially my own. It almost got me, but I slid down the stair rails and into the subway station below. There I had to pace myself and worry about timing. Unfortunately, pacing didn’t mean anything to the extremely strong and extremely mad young lady chasing me so I made it look like I ran down the tunnel. I stood there, invisible, as Pink Pixie passed by, only to be rewarded by the sound of an oncoming train. She looked down the way her doppelganger ran, then stopped on the platform. That coward wanted to let a train finish me off! It didn’t slow down on approach, either, which worked out great for me when I reappeared and pushed Pixie in front of it.

Didn’t work out so well when she turned and grabbed me by the arm just before it struck her. Because she kept the arm. And her grip on me. The sides of the train and tunnel played a game of pong with me as the ball.

As y’all can imagine, I was between a rock and a hard place. Bouncing back and forth, breaking my leg and hip bones into smaller and smaller pieces, I first hoped the ride would end quickly. I reversed my position when I realized I lost my little explosive cylinder.

In a way, the one problem solved the other. The explosion behind us nearly blinded me in that darkness. Rumbling consumed everything, and the tunnel began to collapse. The subway car wobbled, then collapsed on its other side. That proved favorable to my health. I can’t remember much about how the pressure from the blast felt on me, mainly due to the cripplingly horrible pain of having bone chunks in my kidney and halfway up my prostate. If I had a boner, it’s because an actual bone stuck out there.

I flew off as we skidded to a halt near the welcoming lights of another station. I think Pixie took a bump on the head and got knocked out. Now I just had to crawl along the tracks, pull myself up to the platform, crawl up the stairs, and somehow escape, all with an intact murderous superheroine chasing me.

No sweat. Good thing I replaced the nanites in the suit’s nanite quilt layer at the risk of death by extreme boredom. All my syringes cracked or fell into darkness during my wild ride. Or maybe one of them stuck halfway up my dick.

So I crawled until I could walk, then walked until I could run. Civilians rushed the platform to see what was happening. Many had cameras. With my suit too torn up to project shit, I took off my helmet. At that point, it was the most recognizable thing about me. With all the bouncing and shearing, the ride scraped off most of the colors on my armor.

They didn’t recognize me like that as long as I kept my helmet held with the face toward my chest. Aside from the people taking photos and videos, they were helpful, too. I got a pair of guys to help me outside while others ran off down the tunnel to try and help.

We were halfway up the stairs when I heard a girl’s voice shout, “You!” behind me. Looking back, I saw Pink Pixie at the bottom of the stairs with her arm around some guy’s neck as he helped her move.

“Guys,” I told my two helpers, “I can’t explain this right now, but we need to get me out of here. She’s trying to kill me.”

That began an incredible high speed chase. We were booking it. I swear, we almost hit one mile an hour there if we’d gone twice as fast. Despite the aid, Pixie closed in on me during my mad hop to freedom.

At that point, it didn’t even surprise me when they helped me out into the sunlight and I saw the Whambulance parked there with Matatoa, Carl, and Moai sitting around looking bored. “…right about now,” Matty said, looking down at his watch. Then he looked up. “Right on time. Carl, I think he needs some help.”

I patted the two random guys who helped me on the back. “Guys, thank you very much for all you’ve done. You touched me today, and I don’t just mean whichever one of you groped my ass. I’ll admit, I haven’t felt all that confident about the strength of human character lately, but y’all still have much to teach me.”

Then I grabbed them and tossed them at Pink Pixie. “You almost got me, Pinky, but know this: you haven’t seen the last of me!” I gave her a pair of middle fingers as I felt something lasso me with a clinking noise. Looking down, I noticed two things: a hook and chain around my waist, and the Whambulance’s engine cranking.

It occurred to me that perhaps my minions weren’t happy with my pursuit of this particular contract right around the time Carl took off and yanked me off my feet.

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Under The Radar 4

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Another exciting few days, ladies and gents. Come one, come all, hear all about it. Or, as Julius Caesar once announced while high on Goldschläger, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen…lend me your rears!”

My little deception with Venus paid dividends. In case y’all didn’t realize it last time, all that focus on me allowed my minions to roam about unchecked. I totally Sun Tzu’ed her ass.

So even though I threw a tantrum, it was nothing compared to the Pink Pixie. In no time flat, videos started circulating online showing her performing some impressive brutality on ordinary criminals. The Reds, Blues, and Yurples, the established gangs of Empyral City, retaliated by blasting every other cop car that passed through their territories to smithereens using conventional firearms.

Then, as if I’d been having nightmares about false ejaculations, my dream came true. The last chronological video of Pink Pixie pummeling poor powerless perpetrators portrayed Venus popping in near the end to take Pixie aside. The younger heroine forced herself to calm down in a hurry with the veteran Venus there. Then, the pink-clad pair departed. Pah!

I was thrilled, as always. Things had gotten a little too dark while I set up the dominoes. Then again, the best part of me was switched off, to put it simplistically. Too much hearty-heart, not enough fisty-fist. Wait, I should pick a different body part. That didn’t sound right. Not enough footy-foot? Suddenly, I feel like a pediphile. Quick, better report me to the North American Men’s Boots Love Association!

There’s not really a body part associated with laughter other than the funny bone, and that’s not funny at all.

Nevertheless, my watchers took the attack personally. Funny how the only proof they needed was the word of another hero. Hero worship’s a terrible thing like that. Don’t trust something purely because someone you admire said it. The same skeptics who love to point out when some church is molesting kids will suddenly reject all their principles and arguments if it protects a hero in their own movement who gets accused by multiple people over a period of years.

The fact that what Venus told the truth when she admitted my culpability to these teen heroes didn’t change the fact that they chose to attack me without verifying I’d done it. But, hey, it gave them a chance to take out their anger for failing. They’re the ones assigned to watch me. And they did. They watched a hologram of me while I snuck out and painstakingly followed Pink Pixie around all night to find out where she lived.

So it didn’t come as that much of a surprise when they chose to retaliate.

I stepped out, seemingly out of my armor, to go grab some nachos and salsa ingredients. Don’t be ridiculous, of course I kept my armor on. No way would I let anyone see me with that bad a case of helmet hair. But I looked normal, and that’s the important thing. That’s what people care about. You could be a psycho murderer who beats people to death with molested deer asses who votes for the Green Party, but no one cares if you look normal. Oh no, get in a car crash and lose someone you love, then cry on the side of the street all bloody; it’s obviously just a cry for attention from some emo camera whore.

Everything seemed normal on my way there, but the speedster showed up on my way back. First he knocked the chips out of my hand, then the blue passed by again and flung away the veggies when I bent to pick them up. The veggies hid the street and the blur passed by again, trampling on them. Then I noticed the chips had been stepped on, too. That’s when he caught me in the side and knocked me into the wall. He didn’t do it too terribly hard, but I’d have had some broken ribs if I hadn’t worn the armor.

So that’s what I showed him. I turned invisible and projected the image I’d been using shuffling along in pain, holding his ribs with his right hand and guiding himself along the wall to his left by the other. I stood about two feet off to the side as the image stopped, bent to spit out some blood, then started dragging along the wall by his shoulder.

The speedster appeared, resplendent in amarillo and azure. The helmet hid any expression of concerned, but he leaned over to check on the fake me. The real me did three things simultaneously. I started charging the energy sheathe over my left hand, I threw a confusing hologram of multi-colored swirling, blinking lights just in front of the speedster’s eyes, and I threw a hard right at his head.

The head is a horrible place to aim, especially when the enemy wears a helmet, but the intended result occurred. Speedy Gonzales had a meeting of the minds with a brick wall. It rung his bell a little, even through the helmet and the requisite toughness needed to survive moving faster than the human eye could track. Unfortunately, I lost a couple knuckles in the endeavor. They will be missed. Please send flowers; maybe stop by the funeral parlor and talk to the hand. Feel free to bring a little finger food for the family, too. Maybe knuckle sandwiches.

If that counted as ringing a bell, the follow-up hit with the left fired off a cannon in the 1812 Overture. I’ll have some Tchaikovsky, barista! What, you’re out? Alright, just a Tchai mocha latte then. Eh, like I’d really drink that crappuccino. The speedster might have needed something to wake him up a little better, too. The second punch dented the wall and cracked his helmet. So I stunned him pretty good, but I didn’t kill him. Not yet. If I kill one of her understudies, Venus would get mad and pounce.

While it’s a lovely image, Venus pouncing, it’s not what I want to happen yet. And, because we’re talking a guy with the capability to recover pretty quickly, I couldn’t even stop long enough to introduce his colon to the grieving extended knuckle family.

So I left him like that, but man did I ever feel right again! I was back! I was myself! I exclaimed things in short, three word sentences! I fucked up my hand, but nanites cleared that up. I even celebrated with a little “It’s Raining Men” by the Weather Girls. It’s hard to find a happier ballad than those fat women enjoying a downpour of manly bodies. After all, men falling from the sky need something to cushion their fall. Something like a large woman with a lot of love to give.

It became clear the next day that Pink Pixie didn’t have a lot of love to give to me. She hovered in Times Square in her long pink boots and gloves, black leggings and sleeves, and pink torso with the pink and black butterfly wings on the front, yelling. “I’m here! You want me? Stop being a coward. I’ll give you a fair fight, you bastard!” Even with the sight of glittery fairy wings stuck on the back of her costume, the face hidden behind a glittery pink domino mask was evident to any onlooker.

Stupid. Why should I stop being a coward? It’s kept me alive this long. And a fair fight? Yeah right. It’s easy to call for a fair fight when you’re flight-capable, superstrong, and harder to hurt than your opponent. Not so fair for the other guy, is it?

However, it seemed as good a time as any. I exploded out the door of the lair and hit the stealth. The speedster had recovered enough to quickly try and head me off, he couldn’t catch what he couldn’t see. My suit hid me, as well as the sax and another little goody strapped to my back.

A series of jumps led me close to Times Squares, where I hitched a ride. I dove through the back window of an SUV, shoved a screaming mom out the door, then gunned the engine and aimed for oncoming traffic. I needed a smaller car, and I found one. I put the pedal to the metal, the rubber to the road, and the SUV into the air as it ramped off a compact car of some sort.

While I was at it, I gave myself a false appearance to help me stay under the radar. A little costume idea I’d had a couple years back. A tight black costume with dark blue gloves and boots. On the chest and back, the blue broke in so that the black formed a shark bite-style design. A mask covered the false face I presented, leaving a wide area around each eye and the mouth, but covering everything else, including the nose. Blonde hair came down to holographic ears, but a bicorn pirate hat sat atop it, adorned with a skull and crossbones. From my back trailed a tattered half cape with a Jolly Roger of its own: a horned skeleton stabbing a heart.

Y’all already knew me for an ass clown. With my booty obsession, y’all must have realized I was also a butt pirate. Anyway, back to hurtling through the air.

I couldn’t do much about my aim in that situation, but Pixie caught the front of the SUV with both hands anyway. Unfortunately for her, I didn’t wear my seat belt. I flew the front windshield, yelling, “HELLO!” and pummelled her in her furious little face. The petite teenager let go and we tumbled. I grabbed her by the ponytail and used the leverage to try and dig into one of her eye sockets with my fingers. Sure, I lost my old prosthetic eye, but what’s to stop me from grabbing an organic replacement?

In this case, gravity. We spun through the air and crashed to the ground, her on the bottom. She rolled with it and threw me over her. She didn’t throw me far, but it gave her time to get her feet under her. I kipped up, fairly sure neither of the weapons I’d brought were damaged in that fall.

Before either of us could do shit, a firm grip settled on my shoulder and pulled me around to face Venus. I saw gritted teeth under a visor, and a fist heading for me. Yeah, someone got the jump on me. As I’ve mentioned before, the weakness of being able to see in all directions is that I still have to notice something coming from from another direction. That gets difficult when you’re facing off against a pissed-off pubescent pink princess.

The armor slowed Venus down and the adrenaline amped me up. I threw my hand up and caught her fist. That’s when we really tested our mettle. And by mettle I mean metal. And by metal, I mean power armor. I smirked under my helmet. “All that build up just to find out yours is weaker. So sad. It’s ok, not everyone’s got the same spark of genius I do.” I kept an eye on the Pixie, too. She took the time to catch her breath before walking over.

I pushed Venus’s fist toward her, then caught the other as she threw it. “When it comes to armor, baby, I got the power,” I said.

“Better make sure your circuits don’t come up a little short, Gecko,” Venus said. Then my muscles strained intensely as my skin went numb. My armor, my eye, everything electronic had crackly hiccups as some sort of electric shock shot through me. I managed to make out an arc of electricity along the knuckles of her armor. It turned out she had an ace up her sleeve the whole time.

Then she released me and let my sore, exhausted body fall. “No! We don’t do that!” she yelled at someone. My helmet display showed her grappling with Pixie now. In fact, she held onto the girl’s fists much the same way I had held hers, but Pixie was stronger. Instead, Venus slipped her grip down to the girl’s elbows, trying to hold her arms well up.

As horrible as I felt after my brief bout with electroshock therapy, I wasn’t finished. I reestablished the projection that failed when Venus gave me a taste of shock-alate. Swallowing the bitten-off tip of my tongue, I gathered my strength to go on the offensive again.

And by offensive, I mean offensive. With her arms held up in Venus’s grasp, Pixie left her chest wide open. So I headbutted her in the tit. Then I rammed my head toward the other, slamming my helmet into the tender fun bag. I bounced between the boobs, slamming into each in turn as part of a malevolent motorboating.

Pixie cried out, and Venus turned her attention to me. She wrapped me in a headlock, leaving me exposed for Pixie’s retaliation. At least she didn’t seem to be able to hit me with another electrical charge in that hold.

When Pixie’s fist crashed into my helmet, I met interesting new colors. They tasted like the smell of pain. When I remembered where I was, I realized I had a several broken parts in my helmet and face. Pixies faced me, ready for more. Venus stood to the side, turned to get at either one of us if something happened. That’s when I whipped out the sax and hoped like hell it hadn’t suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune quite as badly as the rest of me. My helmet’s audio protection canceled out the sound, something else I should have worried about before blasting my enemies with the tone.

They didn’t have as much luck. The FBI designed that sound to bore into the ear, causing nausea and loss of balance. Pixie went down as quickly as anyone else, though Venus must have had some sound dampening in her armor. She stayed on her feet and took a step toward me. That proved to be her undoing. The next step, she lost her balance and fell.

I slung the sax on my back, and took off the other goody I’d brought along. The portion I held resembled a box with a pipe sticking out the front end. The other end of the pipe held a smooth-edged cylinder a little larger than a football. I could have fit my arm through it comfortable if the ends were removed. I’d cooked up the contents of the cylinder just for the Pixie. Consider the recipe a secret, but if someone suggested I included trinitrotoluene as an ingredient, I wouldn’t argue with them.

I pushed the ignition, and nothing happened.

Fuck. I hit up the sax for another blast, then quickly reached in and jury-rigged a bypass. When I tried it a second time, the machine came to life. The pipe drew back into the body and the cylinder on the end rotated. The Explosive 63 lived at last!

“Now then,” I said to the downed heroines, sounding a little funny with part of my tongue gone. “We’ve had ourselves an opening act and a brief musical interlude. Time for the main act.” With that, I approached the prone Pink Pixie and turned her over.

63ing Your Ass is an ancient martial arts technique passed down through the ages. I learned it on Uranus. The attack involves shoving a hand inside an opponent’s rectum, taking a firm hold, and rotating the opponent 63 degrees upon a random axis. Just however you want to rotate them. Go wild. Just don’t do it while shitfaced. That would carry gross connotations.

Unfortunately, Pink Pixie’s strength proved problematic. One of the things people don’t realize about superstrength is that it tends to affect all muscles. I’d hoped Pixie wasn’t quite strong enough to stop me, or that maybe she’d loosened herself up a bit down there, but nope. The sphincter is a muscle too, and the power of the Pink Pixie’s superstrength sphincter held the thrusting pipe at bay.

So I backed up and tried a running start instead. She let out an “Oof!” but I got nowhere fast. Except for falling back on my own ass. So I stood up and charged up the jump enhancers, pseudomuscles in the legs of my armor designed to help me jump much higher and further. I pressed the Explosive 63er against the Pixie’s sphincter and jumped toward it…bending the pipe and crushing the ending portion a little bit. With a grinding, scraping sound, it stopped rotating.

At that point, I noticed Venus on her feet again behind me. She took a swing at the back of my head. I ducked it and turned, chop blocking her right shin out from under her and sending her sprawling. Standing again, I dusted my off my gloves. “It takes a bigger ass than you to donkey punch me, Venus.”

At that point, however, my carefully laid plan had fallen apart. My contraption to blow Pink Pixie apart from the inside out now laid in a broken heap at the feet of the two heroine, who had picked themselves up. I held my hand up to my head with thumb to my ear and pinkie closer to my mouth in the “Call me” symbol. I didn’t aim for either specific heroine with that, letting them both stew on it as I turned away from them and slipped into invisibility.

There’s been no retaliation so far, but she stopped by with a few of her friends to set up more sensors. Looks like she’s got stuff to sense magnetic disturbances and heat signatures up there all pointed at the exits. I’ve noticed the occasional civilian-style drone flying overhead as well. I didn’t see Pink Pixie camped outside my door, so Venus must have refused to let her know where I was for fear of the fight continuing and one of us killing the other.

Not that any of these preparations bothered me any. I had preparations of my own to make. It’s good to have some preparation, especially when you’re working on a hole like I was. Yep, I toiled away in the bathroom with a pickaxe, shovel, and sledgehammer, digging downward. I intended to find the sewer and use it to slip out, like some sort of underground railroad to allow a sociopath to slip away to freedom.

I even sang myself a good, old-fashioned railway worker song: “I get no kick from champagne. Mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all, so tell me why should it be true that I get a belt out of you. Some get a kick from cocaaaaaaiiii-” and that’s when it hit me. A train. Running a train on Pink Pixie. Not that kind of train. A real train, with an engine and tracks and the Explosive 63 attached to the front. Brilliant!

I guess you could say that giving a guy like me insane intent could only lead to a loco-motive.

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Under The Radar 3

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Shit did not hit the fan. That would have been too small. Ladies and gentlemen, shit has hit the stratosphere. Things are worse than when Captain Lightning killed that wizard in Washington D.C. last year. That was high profile because Captain Lightning is a big deal. Or maybe was a big deal. He’s still missing in action. But he was a major hero. That wizard was really powerful, too. We’re talking about a situation where someone could make the case that things got out of control.

The media made that claim, of course. It turned out to be good practice for when all those cops went wild shooting people.

In the same vein, people didn’t take kindly to the idea that a superhero may have fatally injured a villain. They don’t like the idea of villains killing heroes, either, but we’re the bad guys. We’re assholes. They expect us to be low on morals. They expect us to be murderous psychopaths, dirty druggies, and even Nazis. Which accounts for me, Mix N’Max, and that Hitler Clone I met in New Orleans, but you can’t judge everybody based on those examples.

But what really caused the current shitstorm is the death of Urban Croc, apparently by a police officer finishing what Pink Pixie started.

I found myself discussing the recent events with an older gentleman at a charity event. Something about providing eyeglasses, shoes, and food to impoverished children. They invited major donors over to this hotel ballroom as a sort of thanks. It allowed a bit of mingling between the middle and upper classes, which made a good impression on the middle class donors. They also had an area to allow someone to pledge donations for the upcoming year. Very convenient.

“I agree, these violent incidents have gotten out of hand, but what can you do? If you get into a fight with either the police or vigilantes, it’s your own fault for getting hurt, isn’t it?” he asked. We were in a group. Some of them nodded, but one couple looked more like they had sucked on a lemon.

My projection resembled Matatoa as he’d have looked in his twenties. Matty had come with me, though people mistook him for my father like this. We hadn’t shown up with any intention of committing crimes. Not with Venus watching me. “You say that, but the people enforcing the laws shouldn’t be killing unless they absolutely have to. They’re supposed to de-escalate situations. Try for a peaceful solution if possible. Look at all the demonstrations and riots that have happened when they didn’t. Second, murder is a crime. Can’t have people uphold the law by breaking it. Third, it denies the criminal the right to a trial. There’s a reason we say people are ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Otherwise, just rename the city ‘Mega City One’ and call the cops ‘Judges’ and don’t even bother about rights of the accused. Make sense?”

They didn’t get the reference. Instead, a woman in a gleaming golden gown added her two cents. Of course she did. It’s for charity, isn’t it? “I think a hero should do whatever they can to stop a fight quickly. Those villains get dangerous normal people. Remember that man who destroyed the Empyre State Building? They had the chance to kill him just before he did it.”

I shook my head. “It’ll just make things worse, and I got a whole ‘nother reason why. Escalation. Not just a lack of de-escalation. It’s like with burglars. They tend to be non-violent and they don’t carry guns. Get caught breaking and entering with a gun or attacking someone for no reason, you get a harsher sentence. But if it’s ok for cops to shoot burglars just because they’re committing a crime, they won’t stop. Most crime is driven by need. They’ll still rob, but they’ll start carrying guns and shooting first at cops and witnesses. Sun Tzu recognized the value in leaving an enemy an apparent means of escape. If you don’t, they fight harder and they fight to the death. After all, even crooks worry about self defense.”

That last sentence coaxed a guffaw from the older man I’d been talking to first. “I’m afraid you’ll find yourself in an uphill battle convincing anyone here. You’re in the minority on this one.”

“Well then, let me go from Sun Tzu to Marcus Aurelius, who said ‘The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.’ Personally, I prefer to think of it with a comma after ‘escape.’ But perhaps it’s time for me to leave this little discussion and try to convince that heroine over there to dance with me.” I nodded toward Venus.

She started following Matty and I on the way over once her underlings reported we had been on the move. When we entered, my display showed her questioning the man at the door. Joke’s on her. The invitation was legitimate, though it named one of my aliases instead, George Denis Patrick.

It pays to give to charity if you like to steal stuff. It provides great shopping opportunities, and government agencies generally dislike taking back stolen money from hungry orphans with club feet, cleft palettes, and hunger pangs.

I looked across the dance floor to Venus where she stood guard against a wall. No need to panic I couldn’t read her eyes behind that visor of hers. That was power, of a sort. I hadn’t given her any reason to move on me, other than every other thing I’ve done in my life. Just nothing here. I dipped my head and flourished my hand in her direction. Then I stepped out onto the floor. She stepped out as well. People cleared out of her path a lot more quickly than they did mine, but that’s the benefit of looking like you’re wearing power armor.

Yes, I’m immature. Yes, I generally dislike society, and any parts of it formal enough to involve wearing a suit. But I have been drilled to blend in with a variety of different situations until they beat me for it. The good thing about that is, when you’re spitting up blood and your belly is covered with bruises, it’s very easy to blend in as someone who just got beat. I could have won an award for that performance, though I heard the pants-crapping was a bit much. I heard it from their boots as they started up again.

Soldiers make surprisingly good tutors on acting. I bet if the Senators in Julius Caesar had real knives under their togas, no one would be flubbing any more lines.

Venus and I met up for a bit of dancing. The armor affected her gracefulness; my general ineptitude affected mine. It’s good to know my limits. It’s good to know her limits. “That armor seems to have left you a bit stiff, but I’m glad you’re morally flexible enough to allow me to attend. You know how charitable I am.”

“You hand out a lot of stolen money. There’s probably a case to be made for holding up your contributions, but I’m being lenient with you. I don’t know what you’re up to, but at least you haven’t blown up anymore buildings lately.” The visor didn’t extend all the way down her face, so I saw her smile.

“What you don’t know won’t kill you, Venus.” Pink Pixie, maybe, but not Venus. Not yet. “You and I seem drawn together, somehow, for better or worse, even by my impulses. I hate it, you know.”

“I hated it too,” she said.

“Hated?” I asked.

“You’re my project. I want to stop you, permanently, with as little bloodshed as possible.” I laughed at that, though she didn’t. Maybe she didn’t like to laugh at her own jokes.

“You don’t want to kill me and you can’t stand what jailing me means. The only option left for you to hope for is reforming me. Which, by the way, is as good a time as any to have a rimshot. I do have to thank you for taking me in last time, you know. You reminded me how good it feels to end a life.”

We were in our own little world there on the dance floor. That kind of thing happens when an armored hero is twirling around in public. “Hush,” she told me. “You can’t be all bad if you feel you need to die-”

I sighed dramatically, “Ugh, I knew this would come up again,”

“-for what you’ve done. Yes, it’s coming up again,” she continued through my interruption.

“It’s disrespectful, Venus. All the people I’ve killed, and here you are wanting to deny them their due justice. Some hero you are.”

She let out an exasperated sigh. Well, weren’t we all just sighing tonight? “Making someone kill you isn’t any better. But you’re too big a coward to commit suicide? It goes without saying you’re confusing.”

“And an ass.”

“A confusing ass.”

“A nice ass,” I said.

“Thank you.”

“I meant me,” I clarified.

“It’s about time you accepted a compliment from someone. You don’t strike me as a coward. I don’t like what you do when you come after me and my friends, but that takes courage.” I tried to break away, but she had quite a grip in that armor. She kept me close to her by force. “I want an answer, even if it doesn’t make sense.”

“Venus, I am a coward. I killed people because bigger men, with hard boots and guns, threatened to kill me. I traded their lives for mine. Those men, women, and children deserve a little better than me giving up. I intend to leave this world the same way I entered it: pissing myself in the middle of explosion. Which, by the way, is a refreshing thing to survive, thank you. You should try it sometime. I’ll help you with the explosion part. You’ll have to take care of the urination and survival.”

I pulled away. She tried to hold me, so I tipped my hand and pushed her away hard enough to tip my hand. I wanted to leave. I should have gone before telling her all that. I turned to go, sweeping my 360 display for her any surprises.

“Don’t go,” She pleaded. For a half second, I almost believed the lie I felt in her voice. That she might actually care. Not in any romantic sense. Let’s not kid ourselves there. But that’s not what I do. I don’t give up because a pretty face wants to imagine she cares for me. I’ve faced hard decisions before. You either lay there and take a turkey leg up your ass, or you let yourself turn away.

A man had approached me. “Sir, is something wrong? Is the hero bothering you?”

I chuckled and turned around. “Don’t get close to him,” Venus said.

I looked her over, checking out the armor a little better. A line from a song came to mind. Just Another Machine, by The Megas. I started humming it, then a few pertinent lyrics came to mind. “Your light is going out on me. It was you who built this uncertainty. This is your answer, just another machine.” I gestured toward her and her armor, then back to myself. “I’m just another machine.”

I disappeared. I didn’t leave, though. The crowd that had gathered around the scene Venus and I made murmured in confusion. Venus swept the area with her gaze, trying to find any sign of me or perhaps trying out vision modes. I passed by right behind her and whispered, loud enough for her to hear over the hub bub. “Will you tell her that her mother died?”

I pulled a woman from the crowd as I said it, which worked out nicely when turned and punched. The armor slowed her a little, but she nonetheless managed to knock the ugly off a woman in her mid forties and apply an entirely new coat, all in one swift motion. Paint on, paint off, Daniel-San.

Luckily, Matatoa was waiting for me by the car. “This would have been awkward if you had to wait for me to leave before storming off after your tantrum, wouldn’t it?”

“Oh yeah? Well, so much for you not knowing everything like when you were in charge of the year. You’re holding out on me, aren’t you? If I rub your belly, do I get a wish?” I asked as I slid into the driver’s side of my customized ’51 Hudson Hornet.

“Gecko, if you rub any part of me, I’m going to break this cane in half and clear your digestion with it.” He said, eyeing me sternly from the passenger seat.

That made me feel proud, actually. You could tell I raised him.

Then I was out. I had shit to do. I had devices to finish up, like the thing I worked on for Pink Pixie. I didn’t have to worry about her mother, though.

About the same time I had myself a tantrum at the ball, the police received an anonymous phone call reporting gunshots at an apartment building. Dutiful, loyal Carl didn’t enjoy killing, but who doesn’t enjoy speaking on the phone? And anyway, police aren’t that different from phone sex operators. Sure, one is 1-900 and the other is 911, but both of them want you to stay on the line, both of them get excited at the prospect of using handcuffs, and both are more than happy to hear about all the dirty things you’ve done wrong.

I already have the name worked out of the police ever want to go ahead and make it official. I was thinking 1-900-Blue Balls. Crap, too many numbers. 1-900-Catch Me. Wait, no, that sounds like an STD hotline. 1-900-Luv Cuff. I don’t like spelling it that way.

I’m no Grammar Nazi, though. He fights The Saurus, not Venus.

No, Carl didn’t kill anyone. As far as anyone was supposed to know, a burglar entered, found a woman in her apartment, panicked, and opened fire. They even found part of the torn ski mask. I congratulated Moai on his thinking there. My magically-animated minion did a fine job. The victim seemed to be no one special: a widow whose daughter sneaks out in a pink and black costume with fairy wings attached.

But I changed the plan slightly. Now I just need to see how long until Pink Pixie flits around to call me out.

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Under The Radar 2

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Now, when taking vengeance on a teenage girl, one of the most important things to remember is…ah, hell, why bother with that shit? She’s an excuse to get out and murder someone. She doesn’t matter. Venus matters somewhat. Her patrols take her or someone associated with her by a lot more.

She’s gotten something of a team together. I haven’t seen the dinosaurs since that one day, so I suspect they’re back to doing whatever it is they do. You’d think I’d have a better idea about the life of talking dinosaurs in modern times, but I have no clue where a talking speedster raptor goes in his spare time. Though, if I was a talking speedster raptor, I suspect I’d go wherever I wanted. The Saurus went back to his book tour. Didn’t even miss his appearance on Oprah dealing with me.

I can’t hate the guy. He’s one classy son of a bitchasaurus.

To make up for it, the rotation contains at least one other speedster, in a blue and yellow outfit with a visored helmet. He stopped by once and tried to leave a flaming brown bag in front of my door. I grabbed it, tossed it into the air, and shot it out of the sky with my double-barrel bazooka. They all tried little pranks like that of their own until I did that. Blame Ball Boy. He started by leaving a sign in front of my lair that said, “Warning: Convicted Sex Offender Within.”

I bet he got chewed out when I grabbed it, brought it in, and then it wound up in front of EC University’s Fraternity Row without me ever leaving.

Luckily, most of the things I’m sending my two minions on are mostly legal. Matty doesn’t count, because he’s a bystander who refuses to use all that juicy knowledge to help me out.

“I love you, but that’s hardly fair to the rest of the world,” he told me when I asked.

“Fair? So many people say that; I’m curious what their basis for comparison is,” I said, appearing as David Bowie for that response.

“You’re alive, out of prison, and Venus doesn’t want to send you back there. Don’t press your luck, young man.” He lowered his head as he looked at me and tapped his cane lightly against my chest.

“You call it luck, I call it a tendency to put people in horrible situations and give them an out they have to take, then turning on them anyway. Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto, ascending, asscending. And seeing as I changed your diapers as a baby, you don’t get to ‘young man’ me. If you’re not going to help me, what are you going to do?” I asked.

He stared off into the distance for awhile. “I might take a stroll through the park or go see what’s playing on Broadway. I wish they still had Cats.”

“I wish I had Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, the notorious catburglar cats, in my bed, but we all have to live with disappointment. That reminds me, I should check up on Dame. Unlike the others, she’s a real catburgler and she has that nasty tendency to find me. Should I bother to ask, or should I shake a Magic 8 Ball?” I whipped out a police baton and cleaned off the blood and fecal matter I got on it while “purchasing” it.

“That should be obvious. Dame always finds you, but Venus already knows where you are. She doesn’t need her.”

He had a point.

That’s when Carl came in from out back. “Hey boss, I got that gas you wanted.” He held up a small two gallon container to prove it.

“Good, good. Set it wherever. Now, I have something very important for you to do.” I stopped when I caught sight of Moai coming in, too. I waved him over. “You too. I got jobs for y’all. First thing’s first: Carl, I want you looking at that ambulance I got from the auction. I’ve had it sitting back there with the cannon on it. Disconnect the cannon if it won’t injure you to do so, then get that thing in fighting shape. We need another war wagon. I’m thinking this one will be more of a Whambulance.” He nodded.

Next, I turned to Moai, “Alright, Moai, my man, you’re stone cold anyway and you don’t have any balls to freeze off, so I need you to stop by junk yards and get me a few items. These items. It’s a mix of various stuff. Appliances, car parts, industrial scrap. Do as best as you can. And if Carl needs anything for the Whambulance, you might go out again and pick that stuff up for him. Or he can go. However it gets done, that’s how we get it done. I don’t care how many grannies get mugged, how many babies you have to kidnap, and how many burly men Carl has to pleasure with his mouth hole.” I pointed at Carl.

“None!” He looked shocked, so I clapped him on the shoulder all friendly-like.

“Carl, you make a persuasive argument. Try to keep the illegal stuff to a minimum. That goes double for you and whoring your tongue out to random men, Carl. Y’all will likely be in the eye of these heroes. I wouldn’t be surprised at this point if y’all spot Pink Pixie dropping by to watch y’all. Whatever. Y’all do this today. I have to go visit someone to shove things in his body. Team Gecko on three, ready?” I put my hand in to sound off. Perhaps focusing on the line about shoving things into a body, nobody put their hands in. “Y’all know I wash occasionally, right?” I asked after a few awkward seconds.

“It’s not your hands that need washing at this point,” answered Matatoa. “It’s their minds after what you said you did with your hands.”

After that, I was off to the hospital. Moai and Carl left to pick up what they needed, which let me slip out, too. To hide my footprints in the snow, I rode piggyback on Moai until I got to a good spot to ditch him and run along the salted roads.

The same armor that kept me sweaty and stinky during most fights also helped to keep me warm until I reached Our Lady of Perpetual Infection. Obviously, that’s not the real name. But seriously, folks, wash your hands. That goes double for doctors. There are enough people like me out there, y’all don’t need to let some infectious diseases take work from me.

I have to protect my phoney-baloney job here, gentlemen! Harumph!

I went from invisible to looking like a policeman as I turned the corner and headed for the entrance. Once inside, I checked with the duty nurse. “I’m looking for that villain what’s in here, Urban Croc.”

“Your superior should have told you where you were going before he sent you in here,” she snapped at me. The rather large black nurse didn’t even look up at me.

“They did. They didn’t want me to get sidetracked by the siren working the desk, but then I walked in here, saw you, and forgot both the room number and my pants size. I’ll have to pay if these things rip, so maybe you can give me the number now. Maybe later I can meet up with you again when I don’t have to worry about pants.” I winked at her as she stopped and glanced up. I saw a smile tug at her lips.

She gave me the room number and her phone number.

As for the officer already at the door, I handled him delicately, in a way that would be more difficult to link back to me. I beat him upside his head with the baton, dragged him into the room across the hall, and choked him out with the baton until he passed out. Then I stuck a patient gown on him, plopped him on an empty bed, and covered him up. He tried to get back up after a second, so I hit him with the bed pan. From the splashing noises that accompanied his lack of consciousness, he’d have been better off staying down the first time.

A little less death than I prefer, but otherwise a job well done. I gave the baton a congratulatory whirl as I headed across the hall to the room I wanted. Urban Croc, a college student with the ability to turn into an anthropomorphic reptile creature. Increased strength and durability. Scales tougher to get through than skin. Fangs.

All those powers only mattered when he was shifted into that form. That ability to shapeshift gave him a chance at a good life, too. Not everyone with powers can hide what they are. If you aspired to being a politician or a doctor or whatever, you better hope you don’t get glowing eyes and a tail. Supers like that don’t have much choice but to fight each other.

That’s why this guy did his best to avoid it. Jewelry heists and electronics thefts. Low risk, relatively high payout. Does this guy want to be responsible for the death of a superhero? I don’t know.

I unhooked a two gallon container of gas from the back of my belt and unsealed the cap. It’s not about revenge or justice. I didn’t flinch when I splashed the gasoline over the sleeping man on the bed, or when I pulled out a match and tossed it on him. It’s about sending a message.

I smiled to myself beneath armor cloaked now in the appearance of a doctor in scrubs instead of a cop. The message, ladies and gentlemen, is “Everybody burns.”

Of course, looking like a doctor in a hospital has its downsides. The fire alarms went off, the elevator stopped at the maternity ward, and I had to head out past a small crowd of visitors who fled there for safety during a fire emergency. A nurse came up and grabbed hold of my arm with an emergency of her own. “Everyone else is busy, now we’ve got a fire, you’ll be fine!”

Then she shoved me into a room with a screaming woman whose legs were spread wide in stirrups. Another nurse looked at me. The screaming woman looked at me. If the woman’s legs hadn’t been in the way, I bet the kid would have been looking at me. A nurse slipped gloves onto my hands, which she didn’t realize were a lot more taut over my own gloves, armor, and the sheathe barbed wiring.

Seeing all the blood, crap, and extended lady parts made me realize I wouldn’t be having a hard-on for a few months. “It’s real easy, doctor,” whispered one nurse in what she thought was my ear. “Just catch.”

Well, the baby blew that plan. He peeked out, took one look at me, and went right back in.

“Oh, no you didn’t, you little bastard,” I said. I jumped up on the bed and called on my extensive experience shoving my hand into orifices. I reached in after the little asshole. “You think you’re not ready for life? Get in line! No one’s ready. But you’re here now, and you’ve got a front row seat on the crazy express. Get out here! You’re going to be born even if you die trying, you son of a bitch. No offense, ma’am.”

The mother didn’t seem to take offense. “Just get it out of me, motherfucker!”

Screaming, I stood over and pulled. Screaming, the mother pushed. Screaming, that baby was yanked out of its mother and held into the air. Covered with womanly goo, it cried as I held it up. A nurse helpfully handed over some scissors for me to cut the cord. Then I tossed the baby to a nurse, who caught the little asshole. “It’s a boy!” she told the mother, adopting a much happier demeanor than I think she anyone else in the room had.

One knockout, one kill, one birth. Not much more I can say about that night. I was on fire.

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Under The Radar 1

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Alright, update time, folks. First off, I haven’t seen any more of The Saurus around. I always wanted to meet him, too. Unfortunately, that would have been kind of difficult in that last situation. Even I wouldn’t have been able to handle him, Veloic-raptor, and an armored Venus at the same time.

Venus has left me alone, however. I’m pretty sure they’ve got some cameras set up to watch for me leaving the gas station, but they must be wired and very well-disguised. Rather than focus on rooting them out, I trashed the TV in order to build a holographic disc. Have I mentioned those things before? If I have, it’s been awhile. Holo discs take more work to replace than my chickens, knives, or potato peeler.

The payoff came when I turned it on and it bathed me in a hologram of my armor. I programmed it to identify and disguise me unless I left. In that case, it would create the hologram and have it do various pre-programmed actions such as watching TV, eating sandwiches of variable size, dancing on a stripper pole, and frantically running to the bathroom.

The solution had its flaws. It also meant I wouldn’t spend hours searching for cameras and then be unsure if I got them all, only for Venus to replace them an unspecified amount of time later. Just thinking of that, I added a new action for the hologram to perform: all my joints snapping backwards, my body floating in the air, my head spinning around faster and faster. Then, since I wired the disc into the building’s power supply, it would shut the lights off. When they turned back on, my doppelganger would be leaving the bathroom door, hiking his pants back up.

Beware of bad chili, people.

Aside from that, Venus didn’t even go out and gloat publicly about anything. Safe to say our brief team-up ended after all that. I never even got to ask her if she screwed with my Dead Meat and Killbasa rockets aside from the payloads.

Speaking of questions, I realized the base had quieted down quite a bit by the time I finished the disc. I couldn’t find Tricia anywhere. When mentioned forming a search party to follow the toilet pipes and find her, Carl told me she left. Matty even had a note she left me explaining that while Tricia didn’t know what kind of story she could possibly put together out of all this, she didn’t think she needed to stick around any longer.

Which sucked. She didn’t exactly see me at my best. I took December easy there. Then again, she also got a much better perspective on the EMP.

I listened to the stories while working and they gave Venus the benefit of the doubt. I had a superweapon of some sort. The FBI and Venus tried to stop me. The more conspiratorial-minded news sources suspected the pulse may have been caused by Venus as an attempt to stop me. People knew she used gadgets to generate electromagnetic pulses to fight me. Maybe she tried to use a larger version to put me down once and for all?

The revelation that I tricked Venus onto that roof gave weight to that idea.
In unrelated news, Captain Lightning went missing in Ohio, a supervillain using moon dust attacked and robbed Cape Canaveral, and the mayor of Toronto is sleeping off a three-day crack binge/high speed donkey chase. Again. It was fun the first four times, but it’s gotten stale by now. There’s only so long that the same old donkey show will entertain people.

I never attempted to understand Canadian politics, but apparently they couldn’t touch me if I got elected up there. I’ll put that one on the list as a potential way to avoid jail time.

The moon dust story was more interesting because that stuff is really rare. The amounts that were used to incapacitate and kill the staff, they suspect someone has easy access to the moon. That sounds fun, readers. I’ve always liked outer space so long as my presence there didn’t come from a particularly powerful punch. I’ve been before. It involved aliens. Ah, the fun we had with Uranus. We left it a mess, but that doesn’t matter. It’s not like anyone regularly goes poking around there. And no life can survive the atmosphere, or at least no life like us. The gases are all wrong.

But in that instance, I didn’t get to float around in space itself. It’s important to have dreams, after all. Some people want to look down on a planet they control. Others want to blow it up. Me, I just want to float above it, taking it all in, unzip my pants.

And piss on it.

Think about it this way, I’d be trying to put out fires on a global scale.

Speaking of fires, fellow villains brought one to my attention to handle through my dark web site. I meant that literally and metaphorically. One of Empyreal City’s caped crusaders followed a villain back to his lair. And by lair, I mean his room in a tenement. A fire-trap tenement. Hey, as much as heroes say it doesn’t pay to fight crime, the lower level guys can’t necessarily rake in the millions that I can get away with.

Making it worse, a few other villains stayed there so they could all cover the rent. And the same guy who was followed also had a final exam the next day.

That’s probably why the guy ran around stealing. Have y’all seen the rates colleges charge these days? It’s like that webcomic, Evil Inc., says all the time: you can do more evil inside the law than you can outside the law. Or something like that. I need to catch up on that sometime. It wasn’t bad, though the part where a hero and a villain were married in a stable relationship was kinda out there.

Anyways, I had to go meet with the roommates on account of the victim, Urban Croc, getting nabbed when he had to go to the hospital for smoke inhalation. It provided an excellent opportunity to test out my methods of evading Venus.

And if it turns out I failed, I’m also eager to take her on in that armor, as long as she doesn’t have a pair of dinosaurs backing her up. I would like to emphasize not wanting to fight the dinosaurs. Maybe I could handle The Saurus, but the speedster worried me more.

Seeing as I didn’t have many people coming and going, that I needed to find a good way out without getting taken out like the trash by dinosaurs. So I had an idea.

Cantaloupes. No, cantaloupes? This is no time for cantaloupes. This is time for CAN elopes.

I had one idea that worked well enough, though. Carl took me out with the trash. Well, dragged me out. “Carl, you sure you don’t want me to replace those arms with something metal? Or at least the muscles? I can go in, cut out the muscles, and attach something better in their place. Of course, the muscles attach to bone, so they could break them. Carl, how do you feel about prosthetic bones?”

“I don’t know what you heard, boss, but I don’t have any problem with my bones.” the bag bounced over a round depression in the sidewalk. A manhole. Huh. Maybe Tricia had the right imagined idea: the sewers.

“This isn’t about that bone. But while we’re at it, how about ligaments. I could give you ligaments so strong, you could arm wrestle a lumberjack to death.”

“I’m just Carl, leaving trash out by the curb and not talking to it. Talking to garbage would be suspicious.” He had a point. He also could have taken up the workout regimen of the trash collectors. They had no problem tossing me into the back of the truck to be compressed with lots of other gooey gunky globs of garbage.

Which reminded me, I needed to get out of there before they smushed me like a bug.

With my escape accomplished, I figured I’d meet with the villains in need of my services. Have brunch. Maybe kill them; it depended on how I felt.

So we all met at a restaurant. I won’t say which restaurant, but it had a gift store up front, served breakfast all day, and there were more white people than a barrel of crackers. While I got a few looks from people, that occurred because of the smell rather than the my appearance, which looked like a pale kid with greasy black hair.

A hostess asked how many in my party, but I pushed her away by her face because I’m edgy and awesome. That’s edgy and awesome, right? If not, at least I’m also an asshole.

I found a pair of youths seated at one of the tables. One of them practiced pulling small object out as if palming them, though he stared intently at a nearby woman. I saw her put her phone away in there. He then pulled the exact same phone out of thin air. The other couldn’t hide himself so well. He didn’t have a mouth. Looked like a normal blonde guy, and probably would have been attractive, but only smooth skin existed where a slit and lips would normally be.

“Gentlemen,” I said to them as I approached. “I believe you’re waiting for me?”
The mouthless guy looked up at me with eyes lacking any color but the black pupil in the middle. A crackly, disembodied voice in my ear asked, “You?”

“You don’t look like shit,” said the other. He stared at my pants pocket and tried to pull his little trick. He came up empty-handed and frowned.

“As the resident angel of death, I took a form I thought you would be comfortable with. Were you expecting something a little more grim?” I replaced my black hoodie with a hooded robe instead, then sat across from them. “Or maybe something with a bit more fanservice?” I reappeared to them as a very pretty, if somewhat adult, model who I absolutely do not spend an inordinate amount of time looking up naked photos of.

I found myself surrounded by whispering voices speaking over each other so that I couldn’t tell what they said, while both fellows tried to look down my shirt. It could have been creepy. I turned toward the guy with the white eyes. “Are you going to sit here whispering sweet nothings in my ears, or can we order up a course of revenge? Tell me, kiddos…who wronged you?”

“Hey…” the pickpocket started. “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?” Apparently I’m not the only one to look at that stuff. I smiled. Wide. And the edge of the hologram’s mouth began to break apart like a lava flow cracking apart. It turned back to normal quickly enough.

Unnerved, the pickpocket leaned back. “It’s this guy. It wasn’t his fault completely, though, see. The place was messy, and we’d been drinking. Smoking. But nothing woulda happened if she…I mean, it wasn’t a guy, it was a girl. Have you ever heard of the Pink Pixie?” Pickpocket buried his reddening face in his hands as he asked that.

I did a quick search on the name. “One of the high school-age heroes floating around. She’s strong and she can fly.”

The disembodied voice responded, “Our roomie might not make it, and then he’ll be in jail. We argued with him two days before that because he wanted to retire and live a normal life. Do you know how hard it is for a paroled supervillain to get a normal job? I’ve like never heard of it happening. God, what’s that stink?”

“That is the smell of victory, gentlemen. Victory, and half-eaten hot wings. Bring on the hot sauce; it’s time to munch on some pink pixie next.” After a moment of looking between the two, I added, “Let’s just pretend that didn’t sound like what it sounded like, gentlemen. She burnt your friend. Now, I’ll give her a burn that will never cease.”

“You’re going to give her gonorrhea?” asked the pickpocket.

“Gonorrhea? Oh, she’ll be a goner alright.” I nodded. The malevolent laugh I released after that did little but prompt a waitress to come over and take our order.

“Hey there, are you all ready to order?” she asked others. Then she glanced at me. “Haven’t I seen you somewhere before? It’s on the tip of my tongue.”

You bet it is, dirty girl. You bet it is.

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