Category Archives: 35. Together For The Holidays

Everyone has to put up with crazy gatherings at the holidays. Now put everyone in spandex and give them superpowers.

Together For The Holidays 10

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Ah, Giuseppe, Giuseppe, Giuseppe. Y’all didn’t think I just forgot about him, did ya?

I paid him a little visit on the 28th. It was better than waiting around at Double Cross Towers, waiting for Wildflower to swing her pretty green ass by and talk to me. Or calling me again. Crash is getting tired of me finding inventive new ways to disappear, especially when she’s trying to meet with me about the company’s decisions. She really didn’t like the time I buried my head under her skirt and she had to pretend I was an intern trying to get ahead by giving some head.

Finally, I hid where I knew she couldn’t find me: inside my power armor. For good measure, I took it for a spin over to Giuseppe’s workshop. I owed him a pleasant little visit to discuss the shoddy repair job he did on the time-stopping shrunken clock tower.

His toy shop looked like any other abandoned building would, because that’s a good way not to expose yourself to constant attention. However, such buildings also attract youngsters looking to break stuff for a good time, or perhaps gangs looking to hide out. At times like that, traps and guards are a reliable deterrent. Normally, a villain would simply contact him when they wanted to come over. He likely knew I wanted to hurt him, though, so I discounted that option.

I examined the shop from the next roof over. No skylight, but an old roof access trapdoor. I hopped onto the elevated edge and checked for anything to trigger an alert. Some of the roof looked raised up a little more than the others, including the area surrounding the roof door.

I checked the expected landing area and hopped directly on top of the trapdoor. Rusty metal. It made a little noise with my weight added to its edges. I picked up a scuttling noise starting and looked around. The raised sections of flat rolled roofing nearby moved, shifting around and crawling over each other. I balanced on one foot to avoid one of the scuttling thingies. My mad ballet skills have only improved as a woman. They roof shifted around so that they spread out and better covered the roof, but it also gave me a chance to open the door.

I planted my feet on either side of the door and bent forward so my helmet rested on a normal section of the roof. The 360 heads-up showed me some beetle-like critter moving a roof panel behind me, but that’s not why I did it. I eased up the trapdoor, scanning in low light and heat vision to detect any. It’s not unknown for people to rig grenades to that sort of setup. No go on the tripwires, so I stood up and opened it just enough to drop down and grab the top rung of the ladder.

My hands passed through empty space. I threw them to the sides, grabbing for the side bars. Those were still around, but the rough sections of cut rungs tore at my gloves.

Conniving old bastard. Problem is, he’s messing from someone better.

I’m not the leaves. I’m the whirlwind.

After arresting my fall, I checked down for anything else like laser tripwires. Yep, a grid of four farther down the shaft that formed a diamond shape in the center. Higher up, and they’d have screwed me. Luckily, I have good shaft control. What? I’m just talkin’ ’bout shafts.

The problem with using such sophisticated methods of intruder detection is that I am a sophisticated person. I’m a high-tech lowlife. Other people have to think up elaborate countermeasures; I just have to slip off a glove, give them a lovely caress, and ask them to please turn off while sending a false active signal.

Once past those defenses, I found myself in a room the size of a storage closet. After confirming the door was rigged with nothing more than a remote lock likely meant to activate when the lasers went off, I came out of the closet. And I looked FABULOUS!

Or I would have, if I hadn’t gone invisible. I doubted he had anything else at this point. Most security in these sorts focus on preventing entrance, not monitoring movement once inside. Though, just to be sure, I twisted the head off this evil little stuffed bunny sitting on a box outside the closet.

From there, I tried to reorient myself. To my right, storage and parts through an open doorway. To my left, the main work and display area, but with a closed door.

I turned the knob slowly and eased it open with great care. There he sat, hunched over his work table in the darkness. A pair of man-sized toy soldiers stood at attention by the wall. Seemed odd, him working in darkness like that.

I had two options: talk a whole bunch to make it clear what kind of shit Giuseppe got himself in, or kill him quickly and talk to myself afterward.

I crept up behind him and shoved my arm through his back. I missed his spine, my hand squeezing between two harder pieces of metal and smashing through something whirling in further inside him. This was a metal man, not Giuseppe. Should have checked the thermal imaging for traps.

The head of the fake Giuseppe rotated around, jerking three times until it faced me, a pair of red digital vertical slits. Then the right vertical slit opened into a circle. Then the left one became a circle and the one on the right became a nine.

I turned and slammed right through the door, bitchslapping a now-laughing stuffed bunny. The jump enhancers powered me up the shaft to the roof. I popped through the trapdoor and landed with a leg on either side of the entrance, then jumped for safety five buildings down and two stories up.

The building blew like desperate hooker on the Fourth of July.

Sitting there, watching the fire, I got a notification from The Order forums. Giuseppe informed everyone that he was pinged when his hideout went up and wished to let everyone know he was taking a sabbatical due to the existence of a prominent enemy in the community. Some of the folks were sympathetic to him, but others wanted to know if they could have anything he left over. Hey, if that bunny survived, they’re welcome to it.

I had more important things to do, like avoid the attention of my super ex-girlfriend, which went from a shitty Uma Thurman movie to a reason for me to avoid Wildflower.

I tipped her off. She’s going to want to know. It’ll be a big deal. And that means digging, whether I’m there to talk to her or not. She may like me, but she doesn’t “ignore that she’s a super-assassin” like me. In fact, most people get quite pissed when they find out you’ve lied to them about that sort of thing.

I probably shouldn’t have lost my cool at the party. I should have made something up real quick. It was just so incredibly stupid, after having given her a fake backstory, to tell her she didn’t know a thing about me.

It really shouldn’t have mattered to me outside of threatening the anti-alien plan. Might need to test my system for residual Sexahol or something. It’s a drug I encountered awhile back, part of a hero’s plot to turn the world into a hippie lovefest. I killed a few people under the influence of Sexahol.

Hey, I make one hardcore hippie.

Back to the Wildflower thing, I started to write a note when I returned to the office.

“Dear Wildflower,” Generic greeting #52

“I’m sorry for leaving you at the party the other night, but I don’t handle those sorts of large gatherings well.” I’m more comfortable when everyone around is either screaming, trying to kill me, or some combination of the two.

“But I realized I said something potentially earth-shattering.” And, for her, that would also be pants-shattening. My arrival in this dimension was thanks to a bomb meant to destroy a planet.

“There is more to me than I told you, and I’m worried you’ll hate me if I tell you. It matters to me that you don’t hate me.” Nope, nope, nope, nope. I Xed over the note and tried to put the entire thing out of my mind with TV. Seems the news was on, talking about one of those random things that happens to people who aren’t me.

“-moving away from a review of the attack on the Capital Building, we have Senator Powers, head of the Senate Comittee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Senator, what do you make of this attack and the suspect’s repeated claims to be working toward creating a better world?”

The reporter’s image was squished to half the screen. The other half cut to a balding man in a suit without a hint of a smile on his face. “That’s right. These super types genuinely believe that the destruction they cause makes the world better. I tell you what will make things better: mandatory super registration.”

“Pardon me, Senator, but why would supervillains register if they already break the law?”

“I’m glad you asked that. Remember, this man Max Muscles was a superhero until he decided to attack the Capital. This isn’t like guns. Superhumans don’t have an option to put down their powers. It’s something they live with their whole lives. Registration provides law enforcement officers with the tools to determine the extent of the threat they’re facing and it gives them an option to negotiate with individuals who otherwise remain anonymous threats. A superhuman registry means safety and security for parents of normal people and supers. It means people no longer fear the anonymous beings who live among us. It means superhumans can be trained to act responsible and held accountable in a court of law.”

“It doesn’t sound like your idea of registration maintains the secret identities of superhumans, Senator. Do you anticipate a problem with that from the superhero community?” The reporter asked.

“The most secure data encryption in the world, by the grace of God. Already, some of our patriots in tights are lining up to join a secure voluntary database for the good of the nation.” The Senator smiled a smug grin that looked better on a punching bag than an untouched human face.

I sent Crash an email to pull up some background info. Almost as soon as I sent it, she replied with a link to a background check on the company database. “A woman named Fortune Cookie convinced me you would need this,” she wrote.

Senator Powers. Home back in his state, where his wife and son are currently visiting with constituents. Daughter still at the Washington DC home. Daughter a double amputee after a super incident. Probably cheating on his wife. Based on party affiliation, possibly with another man. High internover rate. Recreational pot and cocaine user. Energy drink addict. Jointly owned by Israel and British Petroleum. Not a cat person.

Yeah, I can use this.

Crash texted me then, “I’ve finished booking hotel suites in Washington DC per Fortune Cookie. Do you need help packing?”

I had an evil little idea, ya see, and Fortune Cookie knew I’d have it whether she helped it along or not. So before I answered Crash, I gave Technolutionary, the mad scientist trying to recreate my abilities, a call. “How’s it going, amigo? Still alive, I see. Hey, where are we at on human testing? Just about ready, huh. Well, that should be close enough. Pack your bags, because I got the perfect candidate in the District of Columbia.”

Oh, don’t worry. I have no intention of giving the Senator superpowers. It’s very easy for a person to be a hypocrite when it’s just themselves involved. It’s another thing entirely when it’s their daughter gaining powers and the ability to walk again.

Trust me, it’s a lot more evil than it sounds.

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Together For The Holidays 9

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I considered skipping this one. I didn’t really have anything special going on Christmas Eve or Christmas. After destroying a bunch of toys and beating up a couple heroes, it’s a bit of a letdown to say “Oh, I took a break off from wrecking Christmas to go to a Christmas party.”

Anyway, I took a break off from wrecking Christmas and went to a Christmas party. I got invited to the hero and villain parties, as organized on over the networks run by my company, so I sorta played a trick. Rescheduled a couple things. I wanted to bring people together, and getting the hero and villain parties scheduled at the same time and place accomplished that goal.

See, there’s an informal truce around major holidays for various reasons. I’ve mentioned it before in regards to Halloween, especially. No one wants to fight their nemesis and it turn out to be an enthusiastic trick or treater. People on both sides have kids they have to worry about, too. It’d be about as acceptable to them as stealing candy from a baby.

Well, that happens for Thanksgiving and Christmas, too. Generally a lot of super crime tapers off this time of year. There’s shopping to be done, and even heroes understand that family dinners are one of the worst times to burst in and arrest someone. No matter how much some of the family wishes they could get out of the dinner that way.

So, this reminder concluded, I manufactured a mixup at a hotel convention room. The staff stood ready to provide for the gathering, a fact I knew from tapping the camera feeds. The organizers for either side arrived and immediately got into a standoff. I could give names and costume descriptions, but it all boils down to people in tights with funny names standing around in funny poses with glowing body parts. Both sides accused the other of conspiracy and gatecrashing. Finally, the hotel manager spoke up and yelled at both groups for daring to risk messing up the room at that time of year.

Both sides put their body parts away and began to talk. Then, they decided, in light of this odd coincidence, they’d have a truce and throw the parties together. After all, it’s Christmas. Besides, they never knew when they’d get another decent shot at consensual sex with people on the other side of the law. They didn’t actually say anything about that part, but they’re also human beings. Of course, they soon realized they had to keep a close eye on people joining the party and send messages out to make sure no fights broke out on the way there.

Food was handled by potluck, which mostly worked out. Ash Burner, villain, and Revere, hero, got into an argument over their cookies. Revere insulted Ash Burner by claiming he burnt his cookies, while Ash Burner thought Revere ran off with his before they were even finished. Just two big, muscular dudes, one a pyromaniac with fire powers, the other a strongman with a tricorn hat, arguing over who made the better cookies. Even though the Fire Gang looked ready to join in on the side of Ash Burner, a member of said crew of fire-based supervillains, a mutual enemy ended their confrontation. Helio, a hero with a sun theme, wondered why they were arguing over such a womanly thing.

Helio made a few enemies at the party.

See? That’s why I don’t want to go around naming names and describing everyone. So many damn people in tights. Enough that the place was crowded by the time I arrived on Wildflower’s arm in my Banshee costume.

“That’s hot,” Helio said, standing nearby with a drink. He walked over to us. “Hello Flower. Who’s your friend and how much does she want me?”

“I want you like a punch in the head,” I said.

“Oh yeah?” He stepped closer, holding his cup out toward us. He looked me in the eyes and ran his tongue over his lower lip. “Flower knows I can light up your life.” He nodded toward my date.

I punched him flat in the nose and sent him stumbling back, spilling his drink on his costume. It smelled like fruit juice and alcohol. Spiked punch. People on both sides brought beer and liquor, but someone still went out of their way to spike the punch. That’s people for you.

And it’s not like I meant something by calling Wildflower my date. We’re not dating, clearly. She’s keeping track of a villain that she’s on friendly terms with, and I’ve got a soft spot for bestiality with my homo sapiens cousins. After all, if bestiality wasn’t awesome, why does it have “best” right there in the name? Either way, I was Wildflower’s date to this event, and that’s all I meant by referring to her as such.

My resorting to physical violence caused a small uproar, but mostly from Helio. “Get rid of that bitch! Arrest her! Do something, did you see that?”

I made a show of sniffing the air around him, “Whew, someone’s had too much to drink, don’t you think?” I asked Wildflower.

“Definitely. He just tripped himself. You didn’t spike the punch, did you?”

Helio stood up and tried to wipe the bright red liquid off his costume before it stained. Good luck with that. “Of course not, don’t be ridiculous. She punched me!” He pointed at me.

I held up my hands, “I swear, I didn’t see a thing! I don’t know what he’s talking about. He came over, slurring his words, trying to hit on me. When I told him no, he called me a ‘fuckin’ dyke’.”

A disapproving murmur ran through the crowd like a streaker in a football stadium. A wild-haired man in a cape took Helio aside for a chat, but the didn’t eject him. I don’t think anyone at the party wound up “ejecting” him.

Wildflower and I mingled a bit, catching a few large grins from the men, but mostly just going around saying hello to a bunch of people I didn’t know. I had to shut down the identification program because it went crazy in there, so that’s one reason I’ve given up completely on saying everyone’s codenames.

Funny thing is, about four different people stopped me along the way to thank me for pinning the spiked punch on Helio. Note to self: don’t drink the 200 proof punch. The first one, a villain of some sort, even told me, “You don’t wanna know how drunk some people we all got off it at last year’s party.”

Oh, gee, I wasn’t invited to that one.

That said, I soon found myself facing Venus just before she and Wildflower did a bunch of happy hugging. When they finished, Venus held out her arms for one from me, and Wildflower shoved me into it.

“It’s nice to see you here,” she told me.

I grinned awkwardly, “Wow. Nice? You had any of the punch?”

She let me go, laughing a little too loud. “No, not at all. I’m just happy to see you.”

“Sorry,” I broke into a small grin, “Very few people are enthusiastic to see me.”

“Aw, that’s a shame, but it’s Christmas. Try to have fun.” She let us go then.

Walking toward the food tables, I asked Wildflower, “She’s nothing like I thought she’d be in this situation.”

“She’s been a little interested in you since you control Hero Net, and she knows we’ve been spending time together.”

“How does she know that?” I grabbed a piece of cheese out of a tray and looked over the other offerings.

“She saw us out at that Italian place.” Wildflower helped herself to a pig in a blanket.

Obviously, she’s talking about another time that wasn’t a date. She was hungry, I was hungry, and I suggested we take care of both at once at some Italian place I wanted to try. Just a meal.

I held out one of the pigs for her. “Here, try this. They’re really good.” She ate it out of my fingers, so I figured it was as good a time to ask, “By the way, are we dating?”

Wildflower held a hand over her mouth to keep from spitting anything out when she started laughing. After she finished chewing and swallowing, she smiled at me. “I guess?”

“Like, a relationship. Are we in one?”

“Um, yeah, kinda?” She answered, blushing lightly.

“I don’t even know your real name,” I told her. After a moment’s thought, I added, “And you don’t know me.”

Wildflower scooped up some macaroni and cheese and turned to me. “I’m Rachel, and I didn’t think I was into women, but I accidentally started dating one. I know her name and her life story, but now she says I don’t know her at all, so I’m starting to wonder what’s up.”

“Um…” I looked at her, feeling wrong for some reason. I’d say it’s a crisis of conscience, but I didn’t know I had the conscience, let alone why there’s a crisis. Maybe because I told her she didn’t know anything about me for real. Yeah, that’s a good one. I’ll go with that. I hadn’t said anything, so I used my brain to dial my phone. “Oh, whoops, let me get that.” I pretended to look at the number. “Yeah, this is important. Work-related. I gotta go take this somewhere quieter. One minute.”

I walked away. I really needed to get out of there. Happy people? People who like to see me around? And I’m dating someone now? No one’s running around, playing out a bunch of angles, trying to take advantage of each other. The sick fucks. I didn’t know how I got into this situation, other than following a chain of events that led up to it. No wonder I never get invited to these sorts of parties and actually hang out with most people for long periods of time.

So I ditched Wildflower and got away from the party.

Oh, and on Christmas morning, I woke up to a very lump bed. Even in my sleepiness, I felt dirty. Dirtier than usual. No, I wasn’t waking up next to Wildflower, either. When I opened my eyes, I found my bed full of coal. Pieces of coal, all over the place. Under me, next to me, on top of me. I was covered in black dust, accounting for the extra dirty feeling that morning.

“Dick move, Santa. Real dick move. But I suppose it was your call to make.”

I slipped out of bed and shook myself off. I ran my hands through my hair and found a few more pieces. “By the way, dirty old man, I better not find any coal hidden in me anywhere.”

A bit peeved, I fired off a low-priority email to Crash. “Find me a buyer for some coal. You can tell them it’s magical. It’s more than would fit in a stocking, but I didn’t put one up.” Next stop, the bathroom, where I hoped to take a shower. Except, when I turned on the shower, I got blasted with more coal dust.

Coughing and gasping, I jumped out onto the bathroom floor and tried to clear it all off. “Dirty pool, old man. Dirty pool.” I told Santa again, wherever he was watching from. “I’d ask what that’s for, but that’s a lot longer list than the kids.”

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Together For The Holidays 8

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I can’t steal all the presents meant for Christmas. But, I soon realized I could do the next best thing. I could destroy the toys.

Like the Kelly Kaiju action figure with semi trailer club, or the Little Heros brand Venus mask. It tickled me to find they even had one of me. It has arms that stick up in the air until you press a button on the back, when they swing down. It comes with a toilet, a trash can, and a WW2-looking bomb as throwable objects, but the back says you can throw all sorts of things. Neat.

I tossed that one down on the piled up toys in the aisle and finished pouring gasoline on them. I got a decent distance to avoid the smoke, which tends to screw with the minicameras necessary for my armor’s holographic functions. There, I felt the vibrations from a giant approaching and smiled to myself. I waved to Moai, signalling him to drop a flare and finish burning the toys. I had to go see if Kelly Kaiju was as great as his toy claimed.

I left him a little note at the first of these attacks. I wanted him to respond, and just him. If he met me alone, I’d stop, no matter what happened. From the rumblings outside, he finally caught up to me. I figured I’d need something beyond my hands and feet to take on the sixty-foot tall man, though. I stopped off by the sports aisle and grabbed a baseball bat before I headed out.

The giant foot of Kelly Kaiju faced me, clad in one of those shoes that has the toes. Ew. That’s not right. There are some things even I won’t do, like wear those travesties. I can’t blame him for his parents giving him a name mostly used by women these days, but I can blame him for daring to bring those things out in public.

“I’m here, Misrule. Is that all you want from me?” his voiced boomed.

Yep, I was the Lord of Misrule again, that shadowy figure overturning holiday conventions and wrecking things to everyone’s delight. “Nah, I’d like one more thing.” My armor’s pseudomuscles powered my jump so that landed on Kaiju’s shoulder. His giant hand swiped at me, but I dove against his head. He missed that time, but I doubted his next one would. Instead of a horizontal swing, he raised it up to smack me.

Funny thing about Q-tips. They’re not supposed to be used to clean out a person’s ear. It’s a matter of safety. If someone does shove a Q-tip too far into their ear, well, it goes a bit like what happened to Kaiju when I pushed the baseball bat deep into his ear canal. He yelped and brought his hand down, but I already threw myself down, still clutching the bat. As I passed between his legs, I swung for the fences.

Kaiju’s eyes crossed, and he saw stars. That part wasn’t my amazing homerun shot, but instead from the fireworks. Just because I told Kaiju to come alone doesn’t mean I ordered the minions away. Buzzkills fired off Roman candles and fireworks mortars at Kaiju’s face. While they distracted him, I found myself a car out of the parking lot and went for a little drive into the base of Kelly’s Achilles tendon. The combination of ear damage, fireworks, and getting hit by a car finally threw him off enough that he fell. He threw out his hands to catch his balance, like anyone would, except he’s a bit heavier than most people.

The hero dealt the final blow to the store, wrecking it with his falling body.

That’s one of the three amigos out of the way.

As for Thrill Seeker, he received an invitation stuck in the middle of Times Square by a sharpened boomerang. I next planned an attack on the Salvation Army, ya see. True to my word, though, I no longer hit the major store chains. See? I’m not that bad of a guy, even if I lined up a small army of Buzzkills outside, stomping their feet like orcs preparing to take Helm’s Deep as night began to fall. They dragged along a pair of catapults behind them, showing more sense than those orcs. Then we showed a little less sense by packing snow in, building dense snowballs.

Thanks to Hero Net, Thrill Seeker had plenty of people willing to keep an eye on various Salvation Army buildings. Not that they’re much to look at. This one was a hole in the wall, though the Chinese restaurant across the street helped the army’s logistics. One of Sun Tzu’s major concerns for warfare was the maintaining and feeding of armies, which is one reason why generals should avoid protracted warfare. And the Buzzkills really love sweet and sour chicken.

The other heroes stayed out of it, and I got off a couple volleys that knocked out the windows of the store and caused superficial damage to the exterior. It’d take more pounding to bust it wide open. While they worked on that, I took advantage of the sperm bank tanker and hose to spray down the nearby buildings. I had an idea. Really more of a plan.

When he showed, the Seeker himself ran along the upper sides of the buildings we faced away from. Predictable unpredictability, the obvious oxymoron. Unfortunately, catapults don’t rotate all that easily, so I took matters into my own hands and surprised him with a snowball.

The hero’s reflexes served him well and he skipped past it, throwing a pair of quad-armed boomerangs. They slammed into the ropes of one catapult, releasing it early and assaulting the thrift store with only loosely-packed snow. Another pair of boomerangs disabled the second catapult before we could move it.

Unfortunately for Seeker, he hadn’t accounted for the slick, cold building faces. Sure, he could walk on other building faces, but I figured he still needed his footing to defy gravity. Just because something defies physics doesn’t mean it can’t defy physics consistently. Seeker went for a tumble, and that did involve falling prey to gravity’s swift embrace. Some of the more enthusiastic Buzzkills got a few snowballs off at him. He landed hard in a snowbank on the sidewalk. The man with the power to walk on walls undone by a little water and gravity.

Undone, but not killed. I took a step toward the downed hero, but then the wind kicked up and carried so much snow into the air that I lost site of him. Oddly enough, it carried with it the sound of ringing bells. When it passed, I couldn’t find hide nor hair of Thrill Seeker. I put my hands on my hips and looked over to a little Santa decoration hanging in the window of a barbershop nearby. “Deus ex machina, much?” I asked it. It just grinned back at me with its bright cheeks and nose so red and merry.

At least Santa’s staying out of most of the scheme. It could have been a lot worse. The guy I fought the last time I saw him hasn’t been seen since, and that thing was some sort of humanoid abomination with a face full of mouths. I doubt he put Thrill Seeker on the Naughty List, so it’s probably good I’m only seeing that from the big red guy.

Still, I ain’t arguing with him. From what I know of holiday-based entities, he’s only going to get stronger as Christmas approaches. Plus, there’s the Christmas truce. I didn’t have much time to finish wrecking things. But the first two parts were done for, and the heroes were playing by the rules.

But I didn’t have much more to do anyway. Just handle a bit of a logistics problem. Not for me. Just for the toys that were coming in by cargo ship. A bit of background showed the shipping company is a subsidiary of a corporation that works on electrical systems for the United States Military. Not only making and installing parts, but maintenance on ships and bases. Believe it or not, some systems used by the military are so complicated that the military hires civilian contractors to operate them.

The real icing on the cake is that said corporation’s majority stockholder attended a showing of The Nutcracker recently. He paid for a couple of seats using his personal credit card. During the ballet, the Lord of Misrule showed up and Ionman stood up from his seat. I know that because I saw the seat Ionman was at with my own eyes. And they wouldn’t lie to me, for I am their creator. I am an angry creator, and would smite them like they’ve never been smited before.

The only problem for me was my lack of a boat. Last time I had to do something like this, I just created my own iceberg. I wanted a different way out there, until I talked to Carl about helicopters. It’s been awhile since I mentioned him, so I’ll remind everyone that he’s a henchman I picked up and worked with for a long time. I “fired” him so he’d be less likely to get hurt, but then I arranged to have him be the Vice President of my corporation. It kept the money coming in for him, and I trust him not to betray me. And he asked the imminently reasonable question: “Why don’t you wait until it’s docking?”

We did one better. I cobbled together some mines and set out to booby trap the docks. It helped that we used fake breasts to house some of the explosives. Hell, people once housed mines in wooden barrels. These did well enough to down a couple of the ships that came in thirty minutes apart. It was the third on, an hour later, when a hero intervened. The Idiotic Ionman swooped in to scout the crowd on in the docks, carried on his small jetpacks. Well, rocket packs. There is a difference between jets and rockets, after all.

So he flew in, took one look at me… and bailed. That turned out to be somewhat less satisfying a confrontation than I intended. Still, I got footage of him turning to flee and letting a cargo ship hit mines. I even added music to the package and uploaded it to Youtube for everyone to see. So everyone gets to see a nice replay of the video while “If It Has To Be Christmas” plays. Good song for the holiday season.

I originally intended to go ahead and knock Giuseppe out, but the incident with Thrill Seeker made me back off. He’s probably on the Naughty List anyway, but I don’t think Père Noël would let me get away with it anyway. So that’s one in the loss column.
On the plus side, I’ve been invited to two major parties. Both Hero Net and The Order have featured an effort by the heroes and villains to consolidate their minor parties into a couple of big ones, partially out of fear of attack.

Plus, with so many toys being destroyed, the Salvation Army took the initiative and organized some sort of Play-A-Thon at Rockefeller Center, where the giant tree used to be. They began by holding hands in a big circle around the improvised playground and began to sing the song from How The Grinch Stole Christmas. The one at the end, that makes the Grinch’s heart grow two sizes that day, thus leading to his eventual death from cardiomegaly. “Welcome Christmas,” I believe it’s called.

Don’t get any ideas. My heart didn’t grow. But maybe it was nice to see that I did succeed in bringing people together for the holidays after all.

Now, I hope everyone who celebrates it enjoys the evening and day when a costumed being with superhuman abilities and themed minions breaks into your dwelling late at night, leaves clues, and then vows to return.

And to all a good night!

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Together For The Holidays 7

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Perhaps the best way to stay under the radar and build up defenses capable of defeating an alien invasion isn’t to act out and try to ruin a public holiday.

All the other parts work very well. Technolutionary, if he hasn’t killed himself yet, is going to copy my powers into more people so they have a fighting chance. My company’s prosthetics include hidden weapons and superior abilities to human limbs. The Order is a new social network to allow villains to coordinate. The heroes have a similar setup running on our company’s servers. Also, I’m inconspicuously installing remotely controlled cannons around the city. It’s all going so well.

Except for me. Somehow, miraculously, I made all this stuff happen. That’s baffling enough. Except I am straining at the bonds of my charade. I want to go out and hurt some people. I keep hearing about all sorts of delicious assholes in need of being torn up. That sentence sounded better in my head. And, for no good reason, I’ve let the mere mention of potential failure in this sideshow convince me to try what no one has done before: steal all the Christmas presents in a single city.

It’s nothing important, but it’s me. It’s what I would naturally do. It’s as natural to me as going off on random tangents. It’s like the fable of the Scorpion and the Frog. You see, this scorpion asks a frog for a ride across a stream…

See?!

So I know this is stupid, but it’s me. And we have a problem.

Allow me to explain. Awhile back, I had to stop a man from using some weird clock tower in the mountains of Romania. As much as I loathe and despise people, I’m not keen on becoming trapped as a statue until time ceases to exist. Not only did I use my literal photographic cybernetic eyes and brain RAM to create a perfect schematic of how the device looked before and after I disabled it, but I got clock tower itself. See, right after that, I tried to steal one of the world’s largest telescopes with the help of an old Cold War super scientists who invented a way to shrink buildings and monuments. The process left them inside of a snow globe for appearance’s sake. He took pity on me losing my giant telescop and offered a consolation prize. I came back to America consoling myself with a time-stopping clock tower.

While here, I made the acquantaince of a man named Giuseppe. While helping him move to a new lair, my feud with a local small-time crime boss named Stang prompted Stang to rob one of the trucks, taking Giuseppe’s favorite set of tools. I set him back and pretty much put him out of business with my usual subtlety, but Giuseppe’s tools were lost when his model Enola Gay created a mushroom cloud in the ensuing attack. It also gave me an idea on his attention to detail.

Naturally, while considering what I could do to mess with the holiday season, I came across the idea of stealing presents. I know Santa Claus wouldn’t approve, but I’m not sure how much power he actually has once he’s made his trip. Yes, I’ve met Santa. Helped him and saved Christmas awhile back. I wouldn’t recommend it, because then I had Baby New Year looking for help the next year. Totally the wrong person for that.

So how could someone possible steal all the Christmas presents? How does Santa deliver all the Christmas presents? Magic, I think, but magic that involves freezing time or moving at superspeed. I don’t move at superspeed, ladies, but I remembered I had a way to freeze time. A broken Romanian clock tower. If only I knew someone with an amazing ability to make and repair small, toy-like objects.

I gave him some time to make all the proper arrangements, but Giuseppe surprised me by shooting me a message over The Order’s network, informing me he’d finished my little project. I didn’t expect it done so quickly, but the toymaker is a fine and shining example of pursuing one’s craft to such perfection it could kill someone.

“Remember, flip the switch on the base to activate it. Here, you will need these,” he told me as I left, holding out his hands. In one, he held a headband with a pair of fabric reindeer antlers on them; in the other a red rubber nose.

I stuffed the clock tower snowglobe in my purse and took the offered items. “I’ll need them?”

He nodded. “To protect you from the effects of the time freeze, as you asked for.”

Like I said, I don’t want to be frozen in time.

Having obtained my latest device to grant godlike power, I decided to test it. Say what you will about the Empire from Star Wars, but at least they checked to make sure the Death Star worked before trying to use it against the Rebel Alliance. While this didn’t set that good of a precedent for my own evil ambitions, it seemed solid advice for pretty much any evil ploy. It might even be in the Evil Overlord’s List.

To that end, I needed a target. I already wrecked a couple of big holiday displays, but perhaps it was time to get back into the original tricky spirit of things? When I began my spree as the Lord of Misrule, I gave to the poor, stole from the rich, and framed the guilty. Even though the natural response of society would be to take back the loot, they found that difficult since everything appeared to have been done out of order.

You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, and you can’t test a time-stopper without breaking a few nuts. Well, you could, but it wouldn’t be as fun as when I decided to go to the ballet performance of The Nutcracker. The seats for the closest section were more than $250 a pop, so I figured anyone there wouldn’t miss whatever money or valuables they had on them. It’s not about the money, though. At least, not for me.

It might be a bit of an issue for this bunch of orphans. I contacted a minimum-security orphanage as a donor who wanted to take them all out for the ballet, and got a short busload of children. Maybe sixteen, with a chaperone named Terry who seemed way too cheerful for someone putting up with that many kids on a daily basis.

To them, I looked rather like a gentleman in a suit with a large bodyguard. That’s because I made use of my armor and even found time to equip Moai with hologram technology. It’s been awhile since I made use of my portable holodiscs, so I threw together a belt and hat with a few preset designs he and I could choose from. Moai can’t wear his pukao with it, but he doesn’t bother taking that out on jobs anyway. It was nice to work on the older equipment like that.

“The theater is packed, but I have arranged for you to watch from backstage. Hopefully, it won’t take away from the magic of what you’re about to see.” I made holographic-me smile reassuringly and moved my satchel out of the way so I could sit down. While they looked at me, they didn’t see the trucks full of Buzzkills following the bus.

We did watch a bit of the ballet. I’d gotten them back with no trouble through my duel habits of handing out cash and handing out ass beatings. Don’t worry, I spared the children the sight. That way, they spent their time backstage admiring the dancers instead of crying. They found it wonderful. I enjoyed how tight some of the costumes were on the dancers. I got so caught up in it, I almost missed my entrance. During this big battle, the rat king stood off to the side while his rats fought with toy soldiers.

I disappeared from the kids and yanked the Rat King off stage, reappearing in his place, though the stage lights played havoc with the hologram. When I went out to fight the titular nutcracker, I stole some of his thunder with a beautiful high kick to the balls. The audience laughed at the show. The other dancers hesitated momentarily before the dancer portraying the daughter went ahead and threw her slipper at me.

I walked up and kicked her betwen the legs as well. That one wasn’t so much a nutcracker as a taco cruncher.

Another soldier dancer ran over, “What are you doing?”

Bam, nutcracked!

With everyone’s attention on me, they didn’t notice the Buzzkills filing in from the rear. A few guarded the exits; the rest moved forward to the most expensive seats. Moai led the children out behind me, but he knew not to let anyone drive off.

When everything seemed ready, I replaced my disguise yet again. The Lord of Misrule stood before the audience, some of whom gasped at the shocking turn of events. The Buzzkills got a nice reaction, too.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am the Lord of Misrule, and I’m here to spread a little holiday cheer. This is the season for giving, and I am the Lord of Misrule, overseer of these fun little winter solstice days. I and my associates are here to do some overseeing. Cash, jewelry, expensive purses; I want everyone in the expensive seats to hand them over. Remember, it’s far better to give, than to receive.” I finished up my speech by turning and kicking the standing nutcracker in his balls again, emphasizing what reluctant victims may receive.

The audience obeyed with little fuss. A couple tried to start something and found out how little tolerance the Buzzkills have for people after their near-extermination. Then they lost their goods anyway. Most of the rest acted like folks who could afford to replace the stolen possessions. It’s not like anything there was worth a lot to them, or to me. As I said, this was a test. The ballet’s the ploy wherein I’ll catch the quality of the toy, as Shakespeare may have said if he was a supervillain.

“Stop right there, fiend!” shouted someone, standing up. He dropped his jacket…though I don’t know how I missed him before. It was a man in a suit of power armor that completely covered his skin. Collapsible, perhaps? “Or face the wrath of the Invincible Ionman!”

His appearance wasn’t wholy unexpected. See, fighting crime as a superhero isn’t easy with a dayjob. For regular folks, they risk losing their dayjob because they ditched it, or they get to spend their sleeping hours to patrol. Many of the poor saps feel responsible for fighting crime just because they’ve got power, but it’s easier for people who don’t need jobs. Some supers even use their powers to get rich first, then to engage in vigilanteism. This all leads to a portion of the population with more representation from such folks than the average crowd of folks on the street. Such folks who might drop more than $200 to go see a ballet lasting under two hours.

I pulled a satchel out from behind me, “Oh, you’re right! How could I possibly stand agains tthe might of Irritable Bowel Man?!” I hammed it up to keep the attention on my while the Buzzkills escaped.

“Ionman!” he yelled back at me, pushing his way through the crowd.

“Right, the Dogtastic Iam’s Brand.”

“No, stop being childish.”

“I know you are, but what am I, Hunchbacked Igorman?”

Ionman finally got onto the stage. “I take no pleasure in violence, it is for lesser man, but I will enjoy defeating you.”

I threw up my hands. “You got me! Please, allow me to check my makeup bag so I can prepare for my unmasking.”

I turned away from him and the audience, opening the satchel. I unsealed my helmet long enough to slip the red rubber nose over my real one, then replace the helmet on my head. I slipped the reindeer headband onto my head. I whirled around, triumphant in my antlers and holding the miniaturized clock tower in my hand.

“What is that?” asked Ionman in a blue and yellow suit of plate metal with circuitry patterns. He held up a fist toward me. Something spun around his gauntlet, tiny airborne particles. Like pollen.

“I’ll answer that question in one second,” I said, then I flipped the switch on the front of the base. Time didn’t slow. Instead, an electrical current ran through my armor, giving me an unpleasant little zap. I shook, my muscles clenching up all over the place. Even in my sphincter. Especially in my sphincter. It stopped when the antlers blew out, but I got no respite from electricity. Ionman’s pollen dispersed and lightning struck me, originating from his gauntlet. I flew back.

When I stood up, the holographic system warned me of complete image disruption. My true face showed. I tried to cover it up. As soon as my holographic systems were capable, I projected other villains in my place, like Spinetingler, Spider, and The Oligarch.

“Oh shit!” yelled Ionman. Flame spurted out of the back of his armor and the bottom of his boots, carrying him into the rafters and out through a hole in the roof. My victims, those who hadn’t yet tried to run, soon decided the hero’s spontaneous fleeing made such action prudent.

Rather angry at the entire mess, I planned to tear a few entrails out of the audience for souvenirs. Problem was, Ionman found his balls. I stepped close to the edge of the stage and almost got caught when a fence made of bolts of electricity flashed down in front of me. Even just being around that kind of electricity screwed with my suit, and there were no gaps wide enough to slip out that way. A glance showed Ionman hovered on the other side, so I couldn’t reach him. I didn’t have any chickens or anything else on my to get through the gap either.

I was reduced to stomping out the back way, at least having completed my robbery. On the way, I noticed something different about the tower I still, somehow, held onto. A tiny flag flew from its top. It was a note: “This is why you do not ask the impossible from a man whose favorite tools you lost.”

Put down Giuseppe on the list of shit I don’t like, somewhere between your momma and your face. At least the last part of my plan worked out. Moai welcomed me back to the bus, where a seat was taken up with identical holiday present bags, one for each orphan. I feigned happiness again. “Well, that didn’t go as planned, but it’s all over now. There was a hero in the audience. I think he was called Florida Man. Now, as you see, I have some presents for all of you, but I want to keep the surprise until we get back, when you can all get a bag while exiting. Now, did we still have fun today?”

“Yeah!” some of the enthusiastic kids answered. They didn’t mind being involved in a robbery. They had an exciting day. They likely had a pretty exciting night with all the jewelry and cash from the audience victims, too. It almost distracted me from the news spreading via social media, which lit up with claims that various villains were the Lord of Misrule. So it looks like I covered my ass fairly well. Even in that mess, the truth could be mistaken for a lie, as Psycho Gecko was just one of about a dozen names being thrown around the internet.

Too bad, Giuseppe. Not a good stunt to pull. He almost exposed me to a lot of people. Trust me, no one wants to be exposed on a stage in front of a bunch of people.

And one last incident worthy of mention: on the drive to drop the kids off, Fortune Cookie texted me. For those who don’t recall, she’s the seer who called on me to stop the Romanian clock tower in the first place. In hindsight, I should have expected to hear from her. She knew last time it was going to be activated. She knew this time too, it seems. The message simply read, “Its 4 th best it didn’t work. 2 dangerous 2 us all. U look cute in the horns.”

She should be a masseuse, because she really knows how to rub it in.

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Together For The Holidays 6

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Rockefeller Center is nice this time of year, provided you wear warm clothing. This is in contrast to a place like Paradise City, which has had weather in the mid-seventies Fahrenheit. That could be the naturally temperate climate in Northwest Florida, or it could be residual interference from the weather-altering buoys that the Hephaestus Organization deployed in the Gulf of Mexico.

But that’s a problem for Florida. Here in Empyreal City, still cold enough to emasculate people. Speaking of emasculating people, Rockefeller Center. I spent awhile staring up at it in Lord of Misrule form. “Nice lights, don’t you think?” I asked my crew. The Buzzkills formed a crowd of their own behind me, dressed in green Santa elf costumes. I didn’t make them wear red and white stockings like I first planned, but the hats were non-negotiable. Moai, showing his usual skill in disguise, had a puffy white costume on. I couldn’t figure out if he was supposed to be a snowman or a yeti.

My 360 view showed me that most of the team agreed. And that we had gathered a group of onlookers ourselves. Some of the rearmost Buzzkills even played around with the kiddos. Time to put an end to that. I clapped my hands and whirled around to address my minions and the onlookers.

“Gentlemen! Ladies! Everyone with both and those in between. We are here to enjoy an icon related to the winter holiday season, with all its pretty lights and shiny ornaments.” I glanced back at the tree, then back to the people I addressed. “Be a real dick move if something happened to it, right?”

I know I abuse holographic technology to ridiculous degrees. Anyone would if they wanted to enjoy the look on people’s faces when they see a grenade launcher appear in your hands.

Yep, from advanced holographic technology to a simple grenade launcher with programmable grenades. If it sounds like a let down, just remember that most weapons used on the battlefield are nothing but advanced application of the early technologies: rocks and fire.

I rocked the party by firing a grenade that exploded at the base of the tree. Don’t fret about the plant. It was doomed from the moment they decided to use it to symbolize eternal life. Ironic, that.

In the end, I used all these advances in technology from two dimensions to do the job of an axe and fell the giant tree with much snapping, crackling, and popping. By now, y’all can guess the general reaction: terror, screaming, people fleeing. You’d think they never saw someone lumberjacking in public.

The Buzzkills chased after them, trying to get some purses, wallets, and maybe a few numbers for me. Or at least the phones those numbers belong to. They’re easy enough to make a little money on, and it’s handy to keep spares around in general. Moai began pelting people with snowballs to knock them over and make the robbing go easier. Some of the civilians tossed snowballs back and distracted the Buzzkills, who responded by throwing their own.

A snowball fight broke out in the middle of my crime. So disrespectful. Charles Manson never had to put up with this shit. Someone even hit me in the helmet with one. I wiped the snow away and pointed at the kid who popped me in the head. “You think it’s a game? You think it’s a fucking game?!”

I started to play some battle-worthy rap before remembering to live in the season. So when music started to play, it sounded like Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” up until a voice declared. “I am Santa Claus. Ho ho ho ho ho ho hoo!”

“Flying through the snow, can you hear him ho ho ho?” I dropped the launcher to the side and scooped up a wad of snow. Balling it up, catching the little asshole in his mouth hole. You know, some of these phrases don’t sound the same when applied to kids. The child screamed, but in happiness instead of fear. Come to think of it, the fear from earlier had abated as almost everyone around joined in this wimpy conflict. With so much snow flying around, I half expected Powder to show up and shove her nose in my business.

We had a nice enough time until the boomerangs spun out, ricocheting between Buzzkills. It stopped at Moai . I didn’t think boomerangs ricocheted, but heroes often use unconventional ammunition and weapons. Like how that previous statement would be thrown around by Captain Obvious. If punching glove arrows exist, then Thrill Seeker can toss around ricochet boomerangs.

Despite the bulk of the bad guys going down, I noticed some of the crowd starting to scream or go “Aww”. I didn’t see Thrill Seeker, though. I hadn’t caught where the boomerang originated at. I checked the buildings nearby in case he was up there, but no such luck.

As a word of advice, never forget that space exists in at least three dimensions. Four if you count the one I come from. I’d include yours, but whoever’s reading this might be a bunch of flat squiggles somewhere, which ironically means an awful lot of the story would be going over y’all’s heads. Like that expression, for instance.

I didn’t see Thrill Seeker above, and the ground seemed solid enough, so the dastardly bastard clearly hid on the same plane as us. Tricky! Indeed, I saw him step forward out of the crowd, pointing one end of a chakram at me. Makes as much sense as an American hero exclusively using Australian aboriginal weapons for most of a century. He called out, “Playtime is over! Time to put you on ice!”

If there is an actual Captain Obvious, I expect his secret identity is being Thrill Seeker’s personal dialogue coach. Somebody needs to teach this idiot the power of lame puns and cliches.

I knew just the idiot to educate this idiot. And that idiot is me. The first idiot, that is, not the second idiot. “This is snow time for puns, so you can just go to hail, if you catch my drift,” I said, pointing at him. The statement was met by groans of disapproval from the crowd. Meanwhile, I looked around for my grenade launcher to show Thrill Seeker what a more advanced weapon looked like. About the time I found it, that chakram whizzed through the air and embedded itself in the barrel.

Well, perhaps the other weapon had its strong points.

I turned back to him. “That blows. I may well explode with wrath for what you’ve now done, you piece of crap-nel.”

More groans. Yes, yes. Feed me with your torment, innocent bystanders. Especially that little bitch who kept aiming for my crotch with the snowballs. Balls have no place between my legs.

“Oh yeah?” Thrill Seeker pointed his finger at me, leaning forward. “Oh yeah? Fuck! You!”

“Language!” I yelled at him. By then, our exchange gave the Buzzkills time to recover and spread out. Moai had approached the distracted hero as well. “There are kids here. Do you want those sniveling little assholes to hear you talk like that?” I swept my hand over the onlookers, then spun down and grabbed the grenade launcher. When I spun back toward Thrill Seeker, I threw a whirling launcher at him. “Get him!”

And I stood back and let the Buzzkills and Moai fight the hero, sadly contemplating how little I now resembled myself. Then I felt large footsteps shake the ground and figured I could be myself another day. I turned and left, fading to invisibility within a few steps. I radioed back to Moai that he better get out of there with the Buzzkills as soon as possible.

The next day, Crash rushed into my office. She looked wide-eyed out past me. “Ma’am, are you alright?”

I looked up, one eyebrow raised. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

She pointed behind me. I looked back over my shoulder where a sixty-foot tall man stomped through the city in black, white, and red tights that’d be generic if not for being worn on a sixty-foot man. I turned back to her. “You see him too, huh?”

“I can feel him,” she said. I suddenly remembered what I heard about women playing around on dryers.

“I thought I might have been dreaming him. I’ve heard some people fantasize about that sort of thing.” I turned back to the paperwork, mentally screaming at all the things I still needed to rubber stamp. It’s not that paperwork is difficult. It’s annoying.

“Geez, I’ve never seen anyone that big before,” Crash said. No, seriously, that’s what she said. “That’s gotta be Kelly Kaiju.”

She was right. The Order’s forum said he showed up last night to stop a jewel shop heist. It was pure coincidence that he did so close to wear I tried to create havoc and misery in Rockefeller Center. Kelly Kaiju’s the kind of guy who prevents crime just walking around, though a smart opponent could take him without too much trouble. Maybe I’ll get that shot.

I bailed out on Thrill Seeker because I figured The Saurus was almost on my ass. The snowball fight made people take the entire thing a lot less seriously, and the buzzkills got their asses whipped.

“I thought that was a feminine name,” I asked Crash.

“It used to be a guy’s name.”

“Must be his real one. Why else would he keep using it as a hero?” I stopped to think back, then opened my mouth and screamed.

When I finished, Crash uncovered her ears and asked, “What the hell was that for?”

“I hate paperwork. Was thinking about screaming earlier. Didn’t. Figured I’d finally get around to it. Can’t put things off for too long, Crash. Sometimes you really have to act on your impulses. That’s what made the successful man I am today.” I paused for a moment at my slip of the tongue, then continued on. “That’s why I’m going to go get a head start on the latest request sent to me. The fact that it’s Neo-Nazi villains posting it on the villain forums turned me off a bit, but it’d only be fair to include all religions in my holiday shenanigans. To leave the Jews out of this would be discrimination in favor of a Menorah-ty.”

“Jesus, you’re going to do something related to Hanukkah?” Crash asked.

I shrugged. “Turns out there’s a giant menorah that gets lit in the city. If you can find me something to do for other religions, I’ll hit them too. In the meantime,” I reached under my desk and pulled out a dead pig. “I have a barbecue to attend. You’re welcome to attend, but it’ll probably be a sausage fest.”

The necessities of my plan have forced me to abandon my name, subvert my desires, and save people’s lives. These aliens may take may take my life, they may take my very identity, but they’ll never take my puns.

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Together For The Holidays 5

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“Lord of Misrule’s Latest Plot Foiled!” some damn newspaper read.

I pressed a button on my office desk. “Crash, see if the boys in the Financial Department can buy up enough stock to shut down this pissant rag of a newspaper. And bring me a cigar to chomp like a fat cat.”

“What newspaper are you reading, ma’am?” she asked.

“No one will miss the New York Times.”

“I think plenty of people will, actually,” she said back. “And I don’t think we can afford to buy them. They’re very important.”

“Lots of politicians are, too. You wanna know why my fancy new prosthetics didn’t have to be undergo a lot of rigorous testing? I took bags of McDonald’s burgers and fries to the FDA. Just to give them some lunch. I could sell cyanide as cough medicine if I wanted. You’re not coming down with anything, are you?”

As if I’d coordinated the whole mess, Crash coughed. “That’s nothing! It’s the cold. But lay off the Times. Everyone’s talking about it.”

“Everyone?” I asked.

“Everyone.”

“…Are you talking about it to people, Crash?”

The line went silent.

“Craaaash,” I prompted.

“No, ma’am,” she finally lied.

I smiled to myself. “Good. But as it would be difficult and harmful to my plans to kill off all news sources on earth, I shall ameliorate my vengeance.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

Jokes on her. It’s revenge, not vengeance. Anyone can have vengeance, but revenge is personal.

The reason for my unhealthy attitude toward the news lately is that, yes, one of my plots didn’t quite work. Like the others, this one involved a couple different parts. First, I gather an army of hungry poor people. Easy. It really only took a few flyers to get them all at the hotel hosting some fancy gala to raise money or the poor and hungry of the city. I just cut out the middleman by mentioning on the flyer that it was a free meal. The guards might have stopped them, if they hadn’t died under mysterious circumstances.

Head injuries, motherfucker. How do they work?

Answer: like a charm.

So getting a bunch of poor people to swarm into a rich people’s fundraiser for feeding the poor was easy, but I really expected the next part to be a turkey shoot. That’s because I waited outside with a swarm of Buzzkills. We all perched on the hotel itself, waiting with frozen turkeys. I wore my armor, but donned a disguise once again. I looked like an evil Santa, wearing a black robe lined with green fur. In place of a hat, a pine needle crown sat upon my head. I didn’t bother with a beard. I just hid the Lord’s features in shadow.

Speaking of influencing politicians, I could probably form an entire Congressional district with my various aliases.

After a couple minutes, Moai radioed using Morse code to let me know the targets were on their way out. “Don’t fire ’til you see the whites of their guys!” I called out to the Buzzkills.

The wealthy ran out into a rain of frozen poultry. What majestic flightless birds, those turkeys were. Unfortunately, we were unable to feed them properly thanks to the intervention of Thrill Seeker. His boomerangs spun out, shattering the frozen turkeys well above the heads of those running for safety from the people they intended to help. The Buzzkills and I followed the thrown boomerangs back to the one who sent them.

There, lower down on the front of the hotel. He wore a costume divided down the middle into black and red, with white patches to show the eyes. He had a leather belt with spikes on it that topped a pair of half-yellow, half-black shorts he wore over his tights. I knew from a quick HUD infodump that he carried more boomerangs in pockets on his back. He stood on the side of the building, a feat unique to this member of the line.

The internet had plenty on Thrill Seeker’s lineage. He’s a fourth generation hero, at least. The original first fought crime in 1940 as Daredevil, with similar duds and boomerangs. The second couldn’t keep the name because of a certain Marvel comics character. He tried to go by Risk Devil, then Risk Chaser, but it was awkward and they all became Thrill Seekers from then on. None of them demonstrated overtly superhuman feats until this latest one, who walks on walls and ceilings.

Good for him. I threw a frozen turkey at him. Predictably, he blocked it. “Keep throwing. Dump as many as you can, as fast as you can. Some are bound to get through. I’ll get Thrill Seeker,” I ordered the Buzzkills, taking aim once again.

I saw him freeze for the tiniest of instants when the Buzzkills threw everything they had at the ground. Poultrified by indecision, you could say. It didn’t last long, and he set about flinging his weapons into the night air to slice and shatter. Every lost bird became a bird flipped at my efforts, the ones literally aimed at him becoming metaphorically aimed at me.

He showed amazing skill and reflexes by destroying the hundred we brought with us. When the air cleared and he caught his returning boomerangs, that’s when he looked back up at me and began to walk along the wall toward us. The walk became a jog, became a sprint. I anticipated throwing myself down to meet him, and nearly did. The Buzzkills pulled me back, however, and it flashed through my mind that the Lord of Misrule can’t cross that line.

Gah! It’s like when you have something in front of you that you really like. You see it, it’s in reach, and you get that feeling in the back of your head and hands. All those little voices of doubt and reason yap away like a Chihuahua locked in a car on a hot July day, but the only thoughts worth listening to are repeating, “Too easy. Do it,” over and over again.

And then bee people pull you away from the edge and make you think for a second, like they did with me.

When I threw myself down that time, I did so with my arms around a pair of Buzzkills and a third holding my back. They lowered me, with other Buzzkills screening me with their stinger swords out, knocking away all boomerangs coming my way. We escaped, but not with as much holiday cheer as expected.

And then it made the news.

Yeah, so that’s not so nice. I try to make things nice around this city and everyone has a field day, acting like I’m a menace to be stopped. Well, if they want a menace, they’ll get a menace.

So, ignoring our little flashback episode, I was still on the phone with Crash after discussing the news coverage when I asked that classic question, “Crash, when someone says they’re going to steal Christmas, what comes to mind?”

“This sounds like a bad idea.”

“What does, Crash? Tell me more about these bad ideas you’ve had. So I can avoid them, of course.”

“No. I won’t do it. I won’t give you ideas.”

“That’s ok. Not that I needed any. Does anyone really need Christmas lights? Or a giant tree in Rockefeller Center? Or presents? Actually, maybe they do. Going to be pretty damn difficult for me to steal all the city’s presents at onc-…” I stopped in the middle of “once” there because I had an idea. A wondrous, frabjous idea involving this little snow globe sitting on my desk depicting an old clock tower.

I stopped by Giuseppe’s place with the Romanian clock tower. Turns out, I knew just the guy to fix a tiny time-stopping doomsday device. “I have a treat for you!” I told him as I set down the snowglobe. “This little baby needs a repair job.”

Giuseppe raised a skeptical eyebrow at me, then peered through his loupe at the snowglobe. “I presume you want this done without removing the tower?”

I waved a hand in his direction as I wandered over toward a man-sized nutcracker on the wall. “No, go ahead and take it out. There’s no liquid or anything.” I leaned in to examine the detail on the nutcracker’s mouth when it snapped its jaws in front of my face.

Whew. Good thing I don’t have any nuts. I bet you could make online first-person shooters if you used these guys as enemies. No, go ahead and teabag. Crunch! Yes, kiddo, you have officially made a bad decision. Go cry some more.

“There are broken mechanisms in here. I have repaired watches and assembled small clocks. This is neither,” he noted, grabbing one of those tiny mirrors like dentists use to examine the interior of the tower.

“Right, I got ya.” I stepped back over to him and fumbled through my purse. Seriously, guys, the things are a lifesaver. I really shouldn’t have to convince someone that having a bag is useful for carrying more things, especially weapons, but I am fully behind purses. And cute certain shoes. And, I don’t know, maybe this dress I saw that doesn’t really show any cleavage, with a sort of turtleneck, but exposed arms. I’m thinking black, which is handy all the time, but possibly dark purple or even a good blue.

“Banshee, are you perfectly alright?” asked old man Giuseppe, pulling me out of my thoughts.

I pulled out a set of schematics I’d assembled based on my memories and scans of the full-size time stopping device.

“This is special work.” He examined the schematics, lips moving silently as he talked to himself. “Might I ask what it does?”

“That could be a bit dangerous to know. Could you recreate it without knowing?” I suddenly realized that perhaps giving away the key to stopping time on Earth was a bit too impulsive and suicidal. I fought to keep it from happening the first time around. No need to give Giuseppe a shot.

Giuseppe looked up from the schematics at me, maintaining a laudably deadpan composure. “I can repair it, but I will have no way of knowing if it is functioning correctly.”

I shook my head. “You don’t want to turn it on to test it, unless you can figure out a way to make it function in a much smaller area. Which would be helpful, actually. As would some means of preventing an individual from being under its effects.”

“The effects you don’t want me to know about.” He raised his eyebrow.

I grabbed the schematics out of his hands and pulled out a tampon applicator. I tugged on the string and a blade snapped out of the other end. I cut most of the diagrams away, leaving enough to show the functional form of the damaged portions and how they affix to the rest. Another pull of the string and the blade slid back in, to join the blueprints in my purse, except the tampon blade went in its own compartment. For obvious reasons, that’s not something I care to lose track of. That’s an easy way to cause some bleeding down there.

Actually, it’s the only way for me to bleed down there. There’s only so far the nanites could physically transform me. While I’m pretty much as female as I can get while still being genetically male, my body doesn’t really get fertile or have a period. Still handy for an excuse since pretty much no one in this dimension knows that.

“I can’t risk the whole picture getting out, so I’m going to go burn the rest of this when I get back to the office, but it’s a device to stop time. It can affect the entire planet at full size, which I don’t want to happen. Neither do you, I’m sure.” I smiled at him.

Giuseppe nodded. “What do you intend to use it for?”

I looked around, then leaned over the table, once again using chest diplomacy to distract a target. “Have you ever had a period in tights? Uh uh. I can make a fortune marketing this as a way to control the menstrual cycle. First thing’s first: I need a working prototype. Care to do a gal a favor and make sure I don’t have any pesky issues with my womanly fertility?”

Oh, sure, as if I’m not going to be as shamelessly manipulative as a woman as I am as a man.

While he works on that, I have to plan a way to steal Christmas in my own special way. And that means stopping time on Christmas Eve so I can run around stealing all the presents from the city’s boys and girls. Then, for one year at least, X-Mas will become Ex-Mas.

MwahahahahahahahahaHA!

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Together For The Holidays 4

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Ah, Massage Sundays. That’s one way to mellow out: take a scantily-clad superhero out to get our backs smooshed by people not afraid to really dig those elbows in there. Nothing too crazy. Just maintaining my friendly facade with Wildflower, with a friendly massage where we were both nude under towels. Then a dinner.

It all started innocently enough. I woke up to find her watching me, vine-like tail twitching behind her. And me without a bra on. Unfortunately, nothing happened worth writing to Penthouse about. “Morning, sunshine,” she said, spinning a bra around in her hands. Rifling through underwear is generally a good sign. Otherwise, the person wouldn’t let themselves get caught at it. Crash has yet to find out how much I know about her panty choices, for instance.

“Mornin’ glory.” I yawned and stretched. Ya know, just giving a nice view of the girls. Just in case she needed help making decisions about…anything, really. How to wear her hair. What her favorite food is. Her sexuality. Just making sure she knew her options.

She tossed the bra at my head. “Looks like you need this.”

I winked at her as I put it on. “Still took you awhile to suggest that. What brings you into my bedroom and dresser drawer?”

“I have a free day, so I finally visited. ” she said, hopping off my dresser. “Things are crazy lately. You have to tell me what you think of this Misrule Lord.”

“Lord of Misrule. Kind of a tradition from the Romans for December. They had a king or emperor who presided over this week of feasting, drinking, gift-giving, and social disorder. Slaves were allowed to talk back to masters who had to serve them dinner. One of the traditions pre-Christianity winter celebrations, that happened to end on December 23rd. During the Middle Ages, various European countries celebrated this big Feast of Fools in roughly the same time period, like New Year’s. Feasting, reversal of social order, that sort of thing, with a Lord of Misrule appointed to head it all up. Or an Abbot of Unreason, if you’re Scottish. I thought that was funny.”

“So he’s one of you?” Wildflower pointed at me.

I shrugged. “The villains don’t know who he is either. We didn’t appoint him, but he’s generally been fighting crime.”

She scoffed. “In the worst way.”

“Oh yeah? What guarantee does anyone have that y’all aren’t planting drugs and weapons? Ooh, or how about when you bring in some beaten villain. How do we know you didn’t beat a guy up, shove them into some spandex, and say they did it?”

Wildflower eyed me, then picked up the edge of my covers and threw them over me.

“You’re a poor loser,” I told her, looking in the direction I’d last seen her. Then she hit me in the face with a pillow.

After that was the shower, then the impromptu decision to loosen her up good by taking Wildflower to a masseuse. Then, dinner. Like, with clothes on and everything, instead of her normal, skimpy superhero clothing.

There’s actually a somewhat good reason for that, if I haven’t mentioned it already. If a person doesn’t rely on armor for protection, then it’s useful to wear clothing that provides good range of motion and better aerodynamics for speed. Obviously, those sorts of outfits lend themselves to the imagination, and some people are either victims of that mentality or use it to get one up on the enemy.

Maybe I should be cautious about how it’s impairing my own judgment of the heroine.

We went out for some Japanese food. She had to stop and take a call while we dined on hibachi. I didn’t mind. I had to stuff myself with delicious vegetables. Remember, children, eat right if you want to grow up big and strong enough to tear a man’s heart out through his anus. Vegetables, meat, a glass of cold milk, and even a helping of dietary fiber. Trust me, the fiber helps a lot on the anal decapitation. That’s a really bad time for the victim to get constipated. And it’ll help keep you regular so that you don’t have to walk around in brown tights to save your dignity.

I heard her laugh on her way back. “That was so stupid,” she mentioned when she got back to her seat beside me.

I raised my eyebrows, sucking down some chow mein noodles. When I finished, I asked, “What?”

“The Lord of Misrule struck again,” she stopped and looked at me while easing down.

I cocked my head over toward her. “You can tell me. If I’m involved, I’d already know and there’d be no harm telling me. If I’m not, there’s no reason not to tell me.”

Such is the impeccable logic of Psycho Gecko.

“So,” she began, “he broke into city hall. Tore the door off its hinges. Responders didn’t know what to expect. Every room is decorated. There is Christmas and Kwanzaa stuff. I heard there’s a giant menorah on top of the mayor’s desk.”

I gently slammed my fist onto the counter. “That evil, holiday-loving bastard! When will they ever bring him to justice!”

Wildflower screwed up her face, trying to be serious while holding back a laugh. “This is serious.”

“I thought it was stupid?”

“You know what I mean. He broke in.”

“Did he steal anything or break anything but the door?” I asked her, picking out a delicious mushroom to chew on. “Or are you going to arrest the Lord of Misrule for a flaunting Empyreal City’s interior decorating regulations? What do you think they’ll get him for, illegal use of sprinkles? Tell me, did he have pure Columbian snow in there?”

One of the animals Wildflower had mixed in with her must have been a pig from the way she snorted at that one.

We didn’t spend the entire time discussing supervillainy, though. I got to try out the backstory I’d come up with for Norma Mortenson. Or at least the one I stole in a hurry when Wildflower asked me about my money and how I got to Empyreal City. How I’d married young to a writer who, while researching Jesus, had written a book that proved unpopular with very religious local authorities.

“He and his work were threatened until they forcibly checked him into a psychiatric ward as an alleged paranoid schizophrenic. They burned the manuscript, too.”

“Hearing of my plight, a man named Victor Faland approached me with a deal. I didn’t understand exactly what took place, but his attendants anointed me, injected me, and ultimately dressed me for a ball where I stood at his side as hostess. I met strange men and women, feeling worse all the while from whatever they did to me. I survived the event and found my voice can paralyze. I used my powers to quietly liberate my husband alongside Fiello, one of Faland’s underlings. “

“We succeeded, and Fiello led us in a victory toast with wine. I blacked out and awoke on the ground, next to my husband. Whatever we’d been a part of, Faland had tried to end us. The money from my husband’s insurance aided a lawsuit against the city and hospital that falsely imprisoned him and somehow poisoned him to death.”

“Now I’m in Empyreal City, helping others who have lost a part of themselves, hoping to find out more about the confusing events that empowered me.”

It’s a nice story. Wish I’d come up with it, but then a skillful adaptation can often be just as creative.

After dinner, we took a swing on the wild side, courtesy of her and one of Venus’s complementary grappling hooks. Wildflower swung me through the skyline, working off dinner. I offered to pay for dessert, but she said she felt full enough already. Instead, we sat and talked, staring out over the harbor, giving me all sorts of naughty ideas.

I fulfilled one of them that very evening. I mean, if Wildflower had stuck around, I probably wouldn’t have been able to slip away. The fact that she left after seagazing is why I had time to pull off my next trick.

I met Wildflower out on one of the roof sections of Double Cross HQ the next day, laying out a light picnic while viewing a very specific part of the harbor. When she flipped into view and landed softly beside me, I handed her a sub sandwich and nodded toward the Statue of Liberty. “The new look is hot, don’t you think?”

“You like what Misrule did to it?” she asked.

“Oh yeah. It’s got a Dr. Frank N. Furter look to it now, and I like Rocky Horror Picture Show.” I smiled, noting the ships surrounding it full of tourists, police, forensics, newsies, and architectural crews who aimed to examine the structure. Said statue now lacked its robe. In its place, Lady Liberty donned a corset, panties, garter, and stockings. Depending on your definition, I feel it counts as gay apparel.

Thank you, thank you, I’m very proud of what I’ve pulled off.

That’s what she said.

See, I find that the longer nights give villains like myself more time to pull off our capers. These cold nights especially. Who wants to hang around outside and witness a crime when it’s cozy and warm inside?

Sadly, Wildflower couldn’t stick around. I know, I know. Aside from shoving exciting new things up people’s asses, y’all’s favorite parts are the romance. But I had another lady desperate for my attention. That lady is Lady Luck, though she goes by the name Fortune Cookie. Her text wasn’t very long. “Sum 1 nose who u r.”

I sent back, “How?”

“DNA evidence.”

“Tell me where.”

I had a crime or two for daylight hours, it seemed.

When I stepped in the door of the lab, I wore a ski mask and trenchcoat that covered most of my body.

“Excuse me,” the receptionist said, standing up. She knew something was up, especially with my apparent lack of pants. I wasn’t a complete mannerless barbarian, though. I had shoes on. “Are you here to see someone?”

She stopped reaching for the phone when I spoke, my voice scrambled so as to hide my gender. “Yes, you could say I’m here to see men.”

I whipped open the coat, revealing several things. First, my new tank top that hid my tied-down boobs. Second, a pair of briefs. Third, a fire hose nozzle that stuck out of the briefs, pointed right at the receptionist. I tugged on the assault nozzle’s handle, unleashing a blast of fluid that knocked both me and the receptionist back. She hit the wall behind her desk, screaming. I hit the partially-opened door, laughing. Difference was, I was smart enough to make sure nothing got in my mouth when the creamy white fluid shooting between my legs splashed anywhere near me.

I fought my way to my feet with a little bit of help from one of the obedient buzzkills manning the tanker truck in the street. She helped brace me as I made my way through the place, doing an enormous amount of damage as I hosed down the lab with the stolen contents of one of the most busiest sperm banks in Empyreal City.

On my wanted poster, feel free to find the charge of “bank robbery” and pencil in “sperm bank robbery” after that. And if the receptionist gets pregnant, y’all might get to add a different sort of “assault with intent” in there.

The computer monitors were fun to send flying, but being a supervillain is really about being a people person, and I sprayed those motherfuckers from head to toe on my way to find their evidence samples.

I eased the handle back down when I got into the records section. I needed that computer. I penetrated their security and loosed a nasty load on the entirety of their records, soon replicating with their boxes and filing cabinets what I’d done to their electronic records. Unfortunately, time was too short and my ammo too limited to risk a full blown confrontation with responsive capes. No, I had to push in fast, unload, and slip out in a hurry.

I know it sucks, but I didn’t want to blow this subtle maneuver to hide my real identity. And even though I had to give the hose a tug from time to time and work out some kinks, my performance seemed perfectly adequate. Indeed, I strutted out with the limp hose hanging between my legs, proudly singing to myself in celebration of the job I’d just pulled off. “Oh I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…”

As much as I liked keeping Norma’s record clean, working that closely with bodily fluids left a bad taste in my mouth. It made me feel dirty. Just to be on the safe side, I scrubbed myself down in the shower for two straight hours and requested that Crash get rid of my pearl necklaces.

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Together For The Holidays 3

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Ah, December. If I had balls, I’d probably be freezing them off right about now. I’ve been traveling around to check on people a bit more. I can’t entirely blame them, but I can partially blame them, so it’s all their fault. Stupid Technolutionary and Fortune Cookie.

So, yeah, a word with Technolutionary. He claims he’s had some major breakthroughs with everything. I kinda figured that, given what he did to make Beetrice what she is now. Except the name. That was a horrible choice by her. I suspect he gave her some of my DNA for her to come up with nomenclature that bad, but that’s not really hereditary. Besides, she still has this odd idea about wanting to sex me up. It’d be completely inappropriate for me to know if I’m related to her through retroviral-related DNA hijinks.

So I pulled on my armor and headed over to find Technolutionary all alone, sitting in a spinning desk chair, holding a gun to his own head. I almost kicked my shoe at him, I’d grown so used to my horrible feminine footwear. Instead, I tossed his salad. I’d brought him a salad just because. I actually hoped he wouldn’t eat it. That place makes some great ranch dressing. Technolutionary can testify to that, since it knocked the gun away.

“That’s very smooth,” he said casually, ignoring what I’d walked in on. He shook his head and to get more of the salad off, then stood up. “Allow me to wash up and I’ll be with you.”

After that, he updated me on the project to make a lot of people Homo Machina. I can’t remember if either of us gave it a fancy name. Like Project: Genetic Insertion or Operation Artificial Penetration.

I noted Technolutionary didn’t seem as enthusiastic as normal. And the lab didn’t seem to have anybody else in it but us. Even at the centrifuges, where he never hesitated to test animal fluids for signs that his treatment worked but they just weren’t doing anything, not a soul was stirring. Not even a mouse.

It would have been rude to invade his privacy and check the wired security network. I’m not saying I didn’t do it, I’m just acknowledging it was rude when I did. Humanbots, dogbots, ratbots. Nothing unusual there in those specimen rooms. The humanbots, by which I mean humans whose brains and some body parts he’s effectively cyberneticized to the point that they are no longer autonomous and serve him, looked like he’d branched out to a trailer park, but no sign of his interns. Might have to talk to him about some of the equipment, though. I couldn’t tell exactly what some of it was for, but I doubted all of them were necessary for converting people and trying to give people my abilities.

After all, I’m working on an appropriately-named deadline here. He’s got shit to do instead. But I figured I’d handle things delicately. When he walked back in, I told him, on my best manners, “Hey, mind telling me where everyone is? We can’t keep getting you help if you’re just going to kill them all. And you know it’s serious when I’m the one saying that.”

He sat down at a desk nearby and picked up a Styrofoam cup that sat there. “Ungrateful bastards. I have attempted to impress upon them the importance of our work here. We are changing the world. Remaking it. This has the potential to be the single greatest scientific discovery in the history of mankind. They’re taking exams and getting drunk. That’s their excuse, and I can tell you it is simply an excuse because they are not doing them in order. We are losing invaluable time!” He tried to throw the cup to make a dramatic gesture, but it sorta drifted to the floor.

There wasn’t a whole lot I could of advice I could give him but, “Fuck ’em. You’re Technolutionary, and they are mere college interns. You’ll show them. You’ll show them all!” I raised my fist in the air, trying to inspire him.

Technolutionary jumped up. “They haven’t seen the last of me! Soon, my plan will be complete!”

Ah, revenge. A classic motivation for mad scientists. To think, those fools scoffed at his ideas. I didn’t scoff, I don’t think. I just recognized the potential harm in giving a bunch of people my abilities. Screw society, I don’t want to die here. It just so happens that now means letting people have my abilities.

Technolutionary wasn’t the only one down in the dumps. Moai’s been moping around the office, too. It’s because I haven’t let him go outside a whole lot. I think even Carl’s straining against his current position. Crash is irritable, but that’s so much the norm that it’s barely worth noting. Then again, I’ve been feeling unsatisfied as well. I almost feel like going to another state for the sole purpose of insulting their people and daring them to stop me.
But this isn’t my pity party. It’s not even Puddles Pity Party. I recommend giving that guy a listen, by the way.

Now, if only I knew someone who could provide advice about the future. Who could guide me, and tell me what I needed to know to make things better…

I was thinking that in my office while poking a fire. Surprised the hell out of Crash when she stopped in. She took one look at the fire in the middle of my floor and shut the door again. I immediately shot her a text. “Crash. Get me every copy of World War Z and Wanted on DVD. Hurry before fire goes out. I love you.”

Telling random people I love them is just good manners. It either makes people feel better or creates an interesting moment in their day. Rarely has it ever gotten me into trouble, aside from that time with the Russian mail-order bride.

I just sent off the text when I got a new one, and not from Crash. It was Fortune Cookie, archnemesis of sports bookies everywhere. “i told u not to ask me for help but i will wrap you if something happens. people r super depressed and you could fix that but i won’t say how.”

Tsk, tsk. Ability to see the future clearly doesn’t translate to texting skills.

But she had a point. She had told me before to basically stop going to her for any sort of advice because it made it harder for her to see major threats. Not that she’s perceived any anyway. Unless she means the depression. But if she’s really serious about what she thinks I need to do, then things are about to get lively.

I walked over where Moai stared out the window at the city. I put my right arm on his back and gestured across the skyline with my left. “Assholes, Moai. Assholes as far as the eye can see. I think it’s about time they got loosened. Come on, help me put on my armor. It’s about time we gave this city a quick, fierce injection. An injection of you and me.”

Moai and I were busy that night. The next day brought with it a slew of new crimes to report. Like how a pair of criminals had broken into a Long Life medical clinic and made off with thousands of dollars of supplies. Elsewhere, someone broke into a free clinic and left a big Douglas fir tree with pills and gauze and such under it, with a note claiming they were from a donor called the Lord of Misrule. Normally, the police might look down on that sort of thing and take that stuff in as evidence to be returned to Long Life.

Problem was, the security cameras. They don’t show enough details about the perpetrators for some odd reason, but they clearly show that the free clinic received their donation about forty-five minutes before the Long Life clinic received its illicit visitor.

Then, there was the crime discovered at a hardware store that sold trees. They found a cop with assorted pine tree branches glued to him, hanging upside down in the Douglas fir section. He turned out to be a beat cop who’d been beaten and carjacked while on patrol right by an orphanage that received an anonymous donation. Funny how that keeps happening.

They found the officer’s car parked halfway inside a Greek diner. The restaurant had long been known to them as a front for Frank Frangopoulos Jr., a notorious cigarette smuggler. “But the alleged smuggler’s business has gone up in smoke now that police found thirty kilos of cocaine scattered all over the place.”

Hey, don’t feel bad for Frank. His lawyers will have a field day with the fact that twenty of those kilos still have tags on them from the ECPD evidence lockup. It won’t look as good when cameras at the evidence room show what looked like Frank forcing his way in to steal twenty kilos. And who knows if they’ll ever find out where the extra cocaine came from?

Curious minds want to know, including Powder on The Order Forums, under the topic of “Lord of Misrule?”

The forums were a fairly nice place, all things considered. There were a couple topics thanking other members for helping. Big Bad Wolf and Herne the Hunter were posting back and forth under the topic of “Flea Prevention Methods.” Powder even had an apparently detailed post on the best “’Cake’ Recipes.” Don’t know what the euphemism is for, though. Maybe she’s not yet used to the idea that we’re all criminals.

She was especially busy in the post about my antics. She swears the Lord of Misrule stole the coke from her because she got blackout drunk and woke up on a pallet of cigarettes. She still hasn’t found her bed.

Trust me, she doesn’t want it back. I swear, I tried to give it away to some people sleeping under a bridge.

While my little romp amused them, it didn’t go well for everybody. Herne the Hunter got fed up and posted several angry comments about Frangopoulos, like “FML, FWIW this SOB rekt my protection income from Frango.” Pretty sure that’s not the correct use of “rekt.”

I didn’t know that. Seemed like a good time to break in as Banshee and suggest people start posting those sorts of things so we don’t accidentally step on each others’ toes.

As for me, I enjoyed my outing as well. While I hid my identity a bit with the cameras, it felt good to run around as myself again. After all, the Lord of Misrule is usually just a title. And my misrule of Empyreal City has just begone.

I’d put in a mouthpiece if I were you, Empyreal City, because I’m about to deck some halls.

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Together For The Holidays 2

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In the wake of last month’s shenanigans, the city is once again settling back down. Between Spinetingler and Oligarch, I have had to save this place’s ass quite a bit. Do I make a big deal of it, like the heroes? Nope. Do I get a statue? A plaque? The key to the city? A billboard? Buy one-get one coupons to a frozen yogurt place?

No. But at least I get graffiti. It’s just something I happened to see as I walked late at night through a poor neighborhood on the rough side of town in a leopard-print leather miniskirt, stockings, high heels, and tube top. Not a very warm outfit for walking down the streets of Empyreal City this time of year.

I didn’t expect to stay cooled down for long. In an embarrassing incident that no one’s letting him live down, the goat head guy got the shit kicked out of him. That’s the guy with the goat head, and he is just a guy in a goat mask. He crawled into the hidey hole of one of my cafes in this neighborhood with broken ribs, talking about how the Reds street gang invaded his sanctum and kicked him out.

It was a good opportunity for me to get better acquainted with this guy I knew nothing about, so I stopped by.That’s not a come-on. Didn’t have a clue about this guy, and I’m not a fan of how often that’s been happening. Seemed kind of odd he went with that name if he actually worships the guy. As much as you’d think Oligarch stacked the deck with powerful allies, I think he planned to help himself more than the rest of the group. So we sat down for coffee, him admiring the various explicitly non-Christian images and holidays mentioned on the cups.

Somebody in marketing saw the stupid controversy where some fundamentalist Christians got upset over coffee cups not being devoted entirely to their holiday at Starbucks and decided to really mess with them. Every time someone whines about that stupid “War on Christmas,” I make more money.

Baphomet, as he calls himself, made a pretty good case for why someone needed to go in, find the people responsible, do things to them, and get his stuff back. I took the case because I wanted to get out and get my hands dirty.

I ran across some of the Reds hanging out in front of a liquor store. They wore big, puffy red jackets. The big, tall, chunky one wore a design of a handgun and sickle on the back of his. When they saw me, they started in with the commentary.

“Look what we got here. You gotta be cold like that.”

“Yeah, how bout you come with us and warm up.”

“You keep goin’, you won’t be able to feel your hands. You come with me, I’ll give you a problem feelin’ your legs.”

That last one got a big round of laughter from their group.

I walked right up to the big one, twisted to the side, jumped, and smacked him in the face with a my boob. The brass nipple made him stagger back.

I know someone said “What the fuck?” but I didn’t stop to explain. I quickly unzipped my purse and shoved it over the head of the nearest Red.

His muffled screams sounded a bit like someone asking, “What’s crawling on me?” but he probably didn’t want to know. They had more than four legs and an exoskeleton; any pest control company would tell you the possibilities are endless. And unpleasant, to hear his muffled panic. He must have figured out not to keep his mouth open.

“Crazy bitch!” one of the others said. He pulled a switchblade. On me while one of his buddies checked on the big guy and the other tried to pull the purse off the other man.

“You should know better than to bring a knife to a pun fight,” I told him. He cocked his head to the side, puzzled. I followed up with, “Nice knife, but I’ve got a pair of stilettos.”

I kicked hard at his face. He slashed reflexively, opening a shallow cut on my calf. My shoe’s heel, meanwhile, opened up a vacancy in his eye socket.

The fight mostly went out of them after that. Most people really don’t care to fight to the death, and few want to fight a crazy hooker who takes eyeballs. You can quote me on that. Most people are wimps. That’s why war is mainly about eroding an enemy’s will to fight instead of killing off everyone. And with that guy’s eye impaled on the heel of my shoes, they lost the will to fight.

They tried to run for it, which got harder when I jumped on the big one’s back and asked, “Where are we going?”

Apparently we were headed to the magical destination of “slam the crazy woman into a light pole.” I didn’t care for the place. The weather was terrible, so I put my guest to sleep with a blood choke. Say what you will, about half his friends didn’t want to abandon him. Not eyeball guy. Eyeball guy gunned it out of there.

“The fuck you do?!”

“He better not be dead, we’ll kill your ass!”

I held up an open palm, beckoning them to address it because my visage did not want to. “Shut up. He’s all yours, but I gotta know something.”

“Who are you? What do you want?” asked one of them.

“I’m Banshee, and you all could have been dead if I wanted it. Now, I heard someone in your gang broke into a supervillain’s lair and jacked his shit. Guy had a goat mask, guns, maybe some weird books. I want to know who and I want to know where his stuff is.” I sat back on top of the downed gang member, trying to keep from shivering.

“We don’t know. We don’t squeal.”

I shrugged and grabbed the downed guy’s head. “What I did to him is called a blood choke, or sleeper hold. I could explain this all day, folks. Now, all I have to do is apply it and hold it for longer, and your friend here dies.” I wrapped my arms around the big guy’s neck and kept at it.

“You wouldn’t kill him.” One of them said.

“I wouldn’t’? Why not? If you don’t care enough about his life to answer my questions, then I don’t have any reason to keep him alive. So, like I said, this is a sleeper hold. And THIS,” I grabbed the man’s head and snapped it to the side, rotating it so that it faced the opposite direction. “is a broken neck. Whose next?”

They both adamantly unvolunteered themselves. On top of structuring an organization of villains, I also figured I’d try a new way of interrogating people. So I let them go. And, despite the freezing cold and the leg wound, I kept up with them out of site. I also called up Crash and asked her to bring me a coat and a hot chocolate. I wanted a ride when I was done tracking these people. I suppose I didn’t actually have to kill anyone to do that. It was just a bonus.

When they thought they got away, the lead pair stopped and waited for the guys I questioned. After they got caught up on what I was after, they made a phone call. If only I had someone around who could connect to the phone and trace the call. If only. If. Only.

“We were out getting some beer when we ran into some crazy superho outside. She fucking killed Big Mike. She was asking about the place we robbed with the goat guy. The guns and that freaky book.”

I didn’t stick around for the rest of the warning.

I had to go see a man about a goat.

Luckily I didn’t have to run the whole way there in heels. It’s hard to be faster than a speeding bullet in high heels, and it’s not something I’ve practiced. Crash picked me up along the way, though she did tease me and force me to jog alongside the car until I promised not to try and mess it up. She even brought my Banshee costume.

When we pulled up to the home of the guy holding the goods, I saw he had a bunch of the stuff out by the road. For some reason, for a moment, things looked like this time looking at a bunch of junked armor and robots by the side of a road, wearing rags. I could feel the weird mix of heat from fires and cold from the climate. If I’d looked around, I swore I’d have seen a battle between a giant mech and monster. Except when I went to rifle through the garbage, all I got was a oujia board, pentacles, candles, and other odds and ends more at home in some stupid shop catering to suburban wannabe mystics than anyone serious about the occult.

That damn book everyone’s talking about better be something if Baphomet was worth recruiting.

I had Crash start loading it up. I told her it wouldn’t be a big deal if she didn’t get it all, and that cars are a better shield against bullets than no shield at all if it came down to it. Then I approached the front door. The creaking of the steps and porch gave my presence away. Then I knocked.

“Who the fuck is it?!” called a voice from inside. I expanded my mind…in the completely non-drugged way of looking for networks. There were a good eleven phones inside, with six in the room on the other side of the door. Not all of them were where the cameras gave a good view, but a couple showed it to be a living room with a gangbanger in a beret holding that MAG machinegun I saw Baphomet use against the Buzzkills. I had to assume some of the other guns and such were his. One guy even had a battleaxe.

“Boo,” I answered.

“Boo who?”

I took a deep breath and unleashed my paralysis scream for just a short second. When I shut my cakehole, I heard a couple bodies drop inside. I opened the door and walked in to find they had been the last of the bunch. Looking down on them, I said, “Don’t cry, it’s just me.”

I grabbed the gun, and the axe, and any other hardware that looked out of place. I carried that out to the car where I found Crash napping on the job. I set her inside the car and put on the head while I tossed Baphomet’s weapons inside. By the time I walked in again, people were just standing back up. One of them pulled a regular handgun and tried to hold it up to me. I pushed his arm over so that it aimed at one of the others’ heads. “Go ahead. Shoot me. I dare you. I double dare you, motherfucker.”

He actually shot. Ha! Well, I gave them another dose of paralysis to keep them out while I looked around. “Book, book, book, book, book, book. If I was a book, where would I be?”

Interesting question. Where would a book be if a book had agency? Do they want to be read? Do they want to reproduce? Do they prefer peace, quiet, and nobody spreading them open to peer inside them?

Questions like that had to wait for another day, as something slammed inside the kitchen. It sounded like someone throwing the cabinets closed all at once. In there, I found a couple older women, one fat and one skinny. The skinny one laid in front of the sink. The fat one slumped over the table right in front of, well, a book. Just some old thing with a grey cover, a barely existent spine, and leather cords as binding. Nothing bound in human flesh. I didn’t open it, though. The thing showed up as a magical anomaly when my eyes tried to scan it. As plain as it looked, the thing had some power. It tried to pull that creepy stuff about slamming the cabinet doors, for one thing. And I really wanted to open that thing.

When I stepped out, I slid into the passenger seat of Crash’s car. She had the engine cranked and ready to go. “Feeling ok now?” I asked.

“Yeah. What’s that?” she asked, eyes fixed on the book.

“It’s primitive data storage. Like a prototypical computer or television. Come on, let’s go.”

“Is it going to do something to my car?”

“It’s a book.”

She reached across to try and take it from me, so I smacked her lightly in the face with it. “Drive.”

“That thing’s going to destroy my car somehow. Let me see it!” She lunged for it, so I put it through her passenger side window and acted like I was tossing it away.

“It’s gone. I’m going to destroy your car if you don’t drive. Plus, those pleasant Reds in there will wake up. I didn’t actually kill them, you know. Imagine what they’ll do when they see us making such a pleasant target out here, sitting in your nice, new car.”

“Are you-?” She started.

I punched her in the jaw to shut her up, then stuck my foot over, put it into gear, grabbed the wheel, and took off. With her looking the other direction, I even slipped my right hand back in and hid the book at my side where she couldn’t see it.

Yeah, something’s definitely up with the book. I’m probably fine, though. I deal with odd compulsions all the time. Whale!

I wasn’t sure about returning it to Baphomet, actually. The guy didn’t seem all that qualified to control a magic book that wants people to look inside it for some reason.

I met him back at the Mastermind Cafe the next day, in costume. It provided good publicity, and I think people enjoyed knowing the brand lived up to its name. They stared even before I pulled the book out of a satchel to show it to Baphomet. The rest of his stuff sat in a couple boxes in a backroom, with his gun sitting on top of it. Baphomet looked around, the goat’s face conveying a stupid look like “Oh, I’m a goat. I’d LOVE to shake your hand, Mr. Semi-Truck.”

Baphomet raised his hand, which glowed with green light. When he touched the book, everyone else looked away. “That’s dangerous.” He pulled it away and slid it into a pocket inside his coat.

“I know,” I said. “It keeps tempting me. I’d almost like to open it up just to see what can make it do that, but I get the feeling that’s what it wants me to think.”

He nodded. “That is how it works. You know what’s really ironic? No one can read it. Oligarch said he would find me someone, or something. This book doesn’t look special, right?” He pulled the book out again to show it off. “Books hold ideas. This one holds the worst. It was made long ago. When maps said ‘Here be dragons,’ they weren’t lying. There were monsters in the world, until someone decided to trap them. This is the trap. If I can read it, I can bring them back and control them. I got it for forty bucks at an estate sale.”

He flipped open the front cover to tease me, except an oily black tentacle whipped out of the page and grabbed my throat. It tried to pull me toward him, but at least the horny deity impersonator had the decency and reflexes to close the book. “I’m so sorry,” he said, trying to get it back in his coat. “Let me put it away.”

I grabbed his hand to stop him, pulling him halfway over the table to yank the book away from him. I walked out without a word and immediately went to the bunker under Double Cross tower. I had the Buzzkills clear out while I used a jackhammer to tear up the floor. Then I buried the book. Then I filled in half the hole and buried a box with a lock on it, and I surrounded it with cement and finished filling the whole mess in.

I didn’t hold onto it just in case. I didn’t try to research it. I didn’t think about handing it to Venus or Forcelight or anyone else to cause problems. I buried it twice under a bunker underneath a skyscraper and parked a bunch of bee people over it.

I’m thinking about parking a garbage truck on it, too. Or maybe a water tank with a killer whale. And stick buzzsaws on the ends of its flipper.

No fucking book is gonna suck me in. The closest any book is getting to that is House of Leaves.

And if I can stand not being entirely sure if I know all that book’s dirty secrets, I’m reasonably sure I can handle a book full of monsters that tried to catch me. I am nobody’s Pokemon! I’m Psycho Gecko, and I’m super effective!

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Together For The Holidays 1

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Oh, I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts, dee dee dee dee, there they are all hiding in their holes. With Oligarch gone, you’d think they forgot all about the idea of running things. I get it. Not everyone’s leadership material. There are lots of other materials they can be, instead. And, if they run into the wrong interior decorator, they might even become wallpaper material. Or even dress material, if they put the lotion on their skin.

I held a videoconference for The Order. The camera showed me standing in an empty meeting room in front of a small wall made of donut boxes. “Greetings, fellow alleged criminals and crime enthusiasts. I’m glad to see so many of you stuck around and joined me for this little get-together. We needed a talk, and I figured people were a bit hesitant to come together in person after what the heroes did.”

“They have to pay!” Man-Opener interrupted. His screen showed him still in his eyeless, mouthless helmet. After he said it, other villains formed a little chorus of agreement.

I held up my hands to call for silence and to hint at my objection. “I’m not sure it should be us who does that. After all, we technically tried to do the same to all the heroes. Are we forgetting Oligarch blowing up the asylum where we kept them?”

“How did they get out? Oh yeah, why don’tcha give up the goods on that?” asked Powder. She looked like she’d already gotten into some donuts of her own from the white around her nose. I’m sure she just got really enthusiastic while baking with flour earlier.

I threw up my hands due to feigned ignorance rather than autocannibalism and told them, “I don’t know how they escaped, but we all knew it was a personality. I mean, somehow killing them all in one fell swoop seemed too good to be true, didn’t it? Besides, what happened at the docks may have been for the best. You heard the Seals went after him. It was only a matter of time before they thinned the herd, and they could have done worse. Would you really put it past the government to bomb the city and blame on dead supervillains?” I leaned forward on the table to look intimidating for a second before remembering I was showing off the girls. I stood up and crossed my arms rather than making it apparent through sudden movement that I had forgotten about my chest-mounted dual airbags.

Not that they’re air. Nope. All natural. If you were to take a sample, they’d still show me as having a Y chromosome, but altering my phenotype means I can do a bit better than saline or silicone. I could have made a fortune with my nanites being used for all sorts of medical purposes, and even gotten away with a lot of stuff with all that money on my side. But I wouldn’t have been able to be me. There are only so many people even the wealthy can get away with killing.

In the United States, at least. I could go to Argentina, kidnap a few hundred people, chain them up, drug them, then dump their sedated asses into a river to drown and the States wouldn’t give a damn. Hell, Saudi Arabia’s going to execute a guy for the crime of being an atheist. Personally, I find it pretty bullshit that a bunch of Middle Eartern islamists go around executing infidels.

And before y’all start, since this is the internet, I feel I should point out there’s a difference between Islam and Islamism. It’s like the difference between Christianity and Christian Dominionism. It’s like I’ve always said: don’t hate blindly. Learn to hate people for who they are. Because everyone’s uniquely terrible in their own way. And that, folks, is why prejudice is wrong.

I decided to add that, “If we keep this cycle going, it will give them an excuse to come after us, right? I know I’m new around here, but that’s how it works, right? Otherwise, you’d think it would be a bloodbath out there.”

That got a round of nods from most of the villains. Then Man-Opener spoke up again. “Informal agreement since World War II. The scales are balanced. Technically. We should hire Psycho Gecko if we want Forcelight dead.”

“I’ve never met him, but Oligarch didn’t seem to want him around. He’s strong enough to get away with it, right?”

“That guy’s nuts,” Giuseppe said without looking up from whatever he was tinkering on. He had a loupe over one eye to help him see as he assembled something.

A wolfman with scorched fur added, “We only tolerate him because he’s crazy and he usually goes after superheroes. I got away with gold bars because of him. He distracts superheroes, too.”

Man-Opener joined in so the wolfman couldn’t get another word in. “He is not that strong. I could take him. He draws so much attention because lethal force is his first, last, and only option. When he shows up, someone is going to die. Murder matters more than stolen gold to the police and heroes. He also does crazy shit.”

A goat nodded its head rapidly, then grabbed it when the goat head mask started to slip. “One time, I heard he destroyed a helicopter with a banana.”

Roadkill scoffed. “What’d ‘e do, stick it ina tailpipe?”

The goat person started to answer back that of course helicopters don’t have tailpipes when someone spoke up louder. “I heard he used a walnut. He threw it at the correct angle to ricochet into the pilot’s mouth, thus choking him and making him crash,” Giuseppe said.

As flattering as it was to hear supervillain ghost stories about me, I had to shut them up. “So, does that mean we can’t hire him? I thought we could just pay him to hang around and tell the heroes we don’t want another big war or we’ll send him after them specfically.”

“It’s risky.” Terrorjaw said reaching around for something. He found what he was looking for, a toothpick, and brought it to his mouth to pick at something. Instead of pulling out a chunk of chicken or something, one of his teeth wiggled loose and he pulled it out, freeing the license plate stuck in there between it and the next one over. I hope that wasn’t from Thanksgiving. It’s not good to leave food in your teeth that long. Then again, the guy swims in the waters of the state of New York. There’s probably no disease on earth that can overcome his immune system. He’s probably got a cure for AIDS in there somewhere.

I spoke up again. “Well, this isn’t about being the boss. It’s a suggestion. I’m not the boss of the Order. Y’all are about to abandon the Order, but I don’t think it’s time to fall apart. This can be a social network for villains. Think about it! The heroes are organized enough to pull what they did at the docks. Why not have a way to see if anyone can watch your back on a job? Like, if you need someone who can do one thing, you can ask around. Come on, guys.”

While not the most elegant of arguments, you’d be surprised what you can convince people to do by saying, “Come on, guys.”

The various villains didn’t exactly give me a standing ovation. It’s not like they had a spokesman. They sorta mumbled, but at least no one said no.

“Well, just think about it, everyone. Don’t forget we have forums and an instant messenger service. Everyone who signs up will receive a box of donuts by private courier. Please don’t eat the couriers, Terrorjaw. Also, anyone caught signing up more than once, I will distribute your name to the others so they all know you have lots of extra donuts you can’t eat by yourself. Just think about that.”

I had to rush out of there because I had another meeting to attend by video. I triplechecked that I was disconnected and then connecting to the right one. This was not a time for humor. Besides, as I saw the monitor fill up with the faces of heroes where villains had stared out before, it wouldn’t be all that funny for me. That’s not a punchline I want to be on the receiving end of. Like a conga line of angry knuckles.

Shit, I really am outside my own brain lately if I’m worried about heroes punching me. Still, I forced on a smile as I looked at them, and gave Wildflower a little wink. “So, how is everyone? Glad to be out in time for Thanksgiving?”

“Absolutely!” said one enthusiastic voice while others had more muted affirmation. Clearly, some sick bastard was a morning person. That ain’t right. Morning people should be taken out back and shot, preferably about two o’clock, after the rest of us have had time to wake up, shower, and fix a quick lunch. Hell, you’ve seen how much of this story involves doing stuff at night. Do you really expect me to hold regular hours?

“I’m glad so many of you answered, becuase I want to keep this little social network service going. Y’all like it?”

“Why?” asked someone I couldn’t care less about in a lime green mask.

“It works, right? It’s not like Shieldwall, but you get to team up, share tips, coordinate patrols. I mean, it’s helpful. Plus, it sounds like you’ll need it. You know, the Order is doing the same thing.”

“How do you know? Can you get us in?” asked Forcelight before taking a long chug from her coffee cup. Bah, coffee. Relying on some drug to stimulate herself. Just abusing caffeine like that. Compare that to the villains. Do y’all think any from that group was doing something as unhealthy as drinking gallons of coffee? That shit stunts your growth, I hear. I mean, just look at Powder. She’s so think, she probably works out all the time, and she still has energy to bake up a storm. She’s always got some flour or granulated sugar or baking soda around. That’s a good role model right there.

Anyway, I had to put a stop to any notion of me helping the heroes spy on the villains. “Nope. Can’t do it. They’d know it’s me the moment y’all stop a crime. You’ll get what, only a few villains? And I’ll be outed to people like Terrorjaw and Man-Opener. I know you don’t like me, but that’s vicious. Geez. The crap, Forcelight?”

I threw up my hands, exasperated.

“Calm down. We appreciate your help and nobody wants to get you hurt,” Venus said, trying to calm the situation down. “If you can give us a heads up without getting caught, we would appreciate it. You don’t know where the servers are or who is running it?”

I shook my head, lying my ass off. “Sorry. It’s one of the others.”

“Hey, that’s alright,” Wildflower said softly, “I’ll stay signed up. You’ve done right by me and everyone else from the asylum.”

Ooh, there’s some classic guilt. I wonder if she’s Catholic.

The heroes expressed more enthusiasm than the villains at least, so I grabbed my phone and sent out a text. “Sorry, everyone. It’s great you’re all so enthusiastic, but I have business to deal with, too. Just keep the system going. Share tips. Make friends. Have awesome team-ups.”

To the villains, I sent out a notice on the Order’s network. “I just found out the heroes are coordinating thanks to shared captivity. Everyone, you NEED this service.”

I logged off to let the heroes do their helping people thing, then had to call up Crash, my personal assistant. “Crash, I need a shitload of couriers. We have to move some donuts. Try not to wreck your car doing this somehow.”

“Miss Gecko, you’re the one who wrecks my car,” she said.

I rolled my eyes. “Crash, you’ll never get ahead making excuses like that. Just handle it. I’m going to be in an important meeting seeing to my Buzzkill minions.”

“Enjoy your TV, ma’am.”

She said that because Beetrice, the Queen Bee, had been staying in my penthouse. Her hive had taken up residence in the bunker underneath the building, but she insisted on staying with me. Not for sex or anything. She’s really disappointed that I can’t give her baby Buzzkills, but enjoys cuddling me in front of my huge ass TV.

When I walked in, I found her bouncing on the couch while the credits of some new Marvel super women’s noir show rolled. When she heard me enter, Beetrice spun around and vaulted over the back of the couch. “Psycho Gecko, I am so happy you are here! I’m going to be a superhero!”

Well, there was nothing more to do at that point but toss my TV over the terrace and watch it crash onto the street below. Or maybe onto a car below. I called Crash back. “Addendum: have someone clean up that TV I just threw out. I think it hit-”

“My car!” she screamed into the phone.

“Crash, that is not an appropriate volume level for a business environment.” I got a cluster of cusswords as a response. “You take the rest of the day off and think about how you’re supposed to be acting, you hear?”

“-up your pert, curvy ass!”

“Don’t make me have to file a claim with HR over inappropriate sexual comments either, young lady.”

I hung up and sighed. Beetrice walked over and put her lower set of arms on my shoulders. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s just so hard to find people who appreciate what I do for them. Beetrice, take me to the bunker. We’ll go put on Christmas Vacation and teach the hive about the meaning of Christmas.”

Beetrice lifted me princess-style and carried me over to the elevator. “Peace on earth and goodwill toward man.”

I shook my head. “Amateur mistake. It’s all about presents and pretending you aren’t a dick.”

“But you have a-”

“Christmas Vacation, Beetrice, not The Vagina Monologues. Chop chop.”

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