Category Archives: 37. Enlightening Strikes

Justice, like lightning, should ever appear; to few men’s ruin but all men’s fear. Knowledge, like lightning, can blow your fucking mind out your rear.

Enlightening Strikes 8

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As badly as things were left last time, I wondered if anything else would go wrong. It just doesn’t work out to tempt Murphy’s Law too much. While the suggestion that anything that can go wrong will go wrong being some sort of physical law suggests a certain order to the universe, don’t get me wrong. It’s all terribly disordered in a way only possible by sapient life, which is hilarious if you remember that sapience denotes the ability of an organism to use reason.

And yet, for all the chaos in any one part, it’s all part of a system that makes sense with the proper perspective. A perspective that can take into account the entirety of all human decisions made by prior decisions, genetics, environment, and neurophysiology vis a vis the effect of experiences and memories on the people in question. Naturally, all human decisions includes all of them ever, just like the environment includes everything from the tiniest shift in air pressure to the effects of stellar bodies on the planet. I mean other planets and stars, not the bodies you see online of Slavic porn models.

But once you get all that down, you’ve basically got omniscience covered. To get down to anything with any real randomness, you need to go subatomic. And I’m still suspicious of that. I’m also not omniscient. But I do know it’s hard for things to get really chaotic unless something physics-defying happens, like a crazy guy bursts into your universe from another dimension, and that only works if there are no physical laws that cross into other bubbles of the multiverse.

It’s a good argument for explaining to Wildflower why I hog the covers. That, and pointing out that her body stays warm enough without them, though she insists that isn’t the point. It is, unfortunately, poor comfort for the times when things go wrong.

It started well enough. Man-Opener had been informed of the alien infiltration threat, related to my knowledge of the future. Knowledge which, as he pointed out, could no longer be corroborated by a the clairvoyant Fortune Cookie after her untimely murder. Apparently I catch flak for not going to the funeral. Or even arranging for the funeral. Or paying for any of it. Others had politely attended, it seemed. But I’m getting all negative again.

We convinced Man-Opener with the communication pod from the late Senator Powers, especially after I dunked it in some coffee. Much cussing was had, but Man-Opener agreed to work on quietly spreading the word and back up my claim as a separate authority. It always helps, since I piss people off.

Now, surprisingly, that’s not what happened this time around. I awoke to a video chat alert on my laptop. Since I contact most people through my head computer, I wasn’t surprised to find Captain Lightning on the other end of the line. “Hey there, Thundar the Captarian. Another beautiful day in paradise? How’s Isla Tropica treating you?”

He ignored the questions. “How are you going to handle this?”

“Eh, just stay under the radar for a bit. We can bribe the right Feds to call things off. Maybe go blow up a North Korean missile silo and claim you stopped a plot to destroy America. People eat that shit up.”

“I mean what are you going to do about Man-Opener?” To the rear of his furious facade, I could spot a giant beach ball being tossed through the air. Wow, El Presidente must have set him up with one of the nicer new beachfront condos. That’d be near some good restaurants, possibly even one not run by the secret police.

I shrugged. “Venus brought him in. Beat his ass all over the east side. Shame I missed it. Didn’t I shoot you a text about this? He’s on our side.”

“Then why is the news out of Empyreal saying he’s talking to reporters about a secret alien invasion that’s taking over politicians’ bodies?”

“I’ll have to get back to you on that right after I murder him. Stay in touch, Lightning.” I shut down the laptop and threw off the covers. Standing up, I took the first step in rushing off to deal with Man-Opener blowing our cover. The first step, though, caught on something laying on the floor, which brought me down as well. Turns out Wildflower had decided to use the floor next to the new bed as a good spot to sun herself like a plant or reptile or something. It’s the animal hybridization. At least she doesn’t lay down on my computer keyboard, like a cat.

She didn’t even stir. Just laid there like a log. First time for everything, am I right, fellas? Still, the distraction did give me a moment to collect myself. Ya know, like figure out where I was rushing off to when I hadn’t even begun to look things up. With my own personal internet connection in mind, I sat down on Wildflower’s cushiony butt and pulled up whatever news I could get, including a special insider feed from the news company I have an in with. If I hadn’t been asleep during the first half of the day, I suppose I could have jumped out in front of the story. My contacts had sent me early copy, but early copy doesn’t matter if you’re unconscious.

Ignoring the way Wildflower’s thorny tail lazily wrapped around my arm, I took a look to see what Man-Opener was ruining this time…and soon found that he’d been blabbing his mouth to everyone. Henchmen and other villains were exactly who we wanted him to be careful around. Breaking into a TV station to make an announcement during the weather was overkill, just like what I’m going to do to him. Even worse, he namedropped Mary Malady, Senator Powers, and the Oligarch. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he didn’t mention that I killed Oligarch. Well, that part could have been a plus. I’m proud of it, but it would look bad to a lot of the other villains who were part of his Order.

Come to think of it, there did seem to be an unusual number of black helicopters in the skies of the city. Many were disguised as other choppers, like the sort that carry medical patients, news crews, weather men, and rich people. A black helicopter is a black helicopter, regardless of its actual color. After all, what good would they be for covert operations if people knew to keep watching the black ones?

The reason I didn’t go blabbing about aliens to everyone around is that we don’t know who to trust. Sure, it’s not like it’s hard to make a U.S. Senator your own personal bitch. It usually involves a bit of cash, but it’s still relatively easy. The problem is, the infiltration could go right up to the presidency. The President of the United States is no small enemy to have.

Oh, and no way would most people ever believe me, so that factored into my decision as well. It should have factored into Man-Opener’s thinking. Most regular people don’t want to believe someone like him, and they definitely aren’t ready to follow me. While we know Earth isn’t the sole home of intelligent life in the stellar neighborhood, I also know that I’m not the planet’s most trustworthy-seeming person.

But maybe I could use that? After all, wouldn’t it lend credence to Man-Opener if he were suddenly martyred by an assassin nobody likes or trusts? But where could I, an assassin nobody likes or trusts, possibly find an assassin nobody likes or trusts?

And since I’m coming out into the open again, maybe I can finally pick up my old car.

I headed out to find Man-Opener, whose little rampage cost me the element of surprise. The last news reports put him attacking the single most important political landmark of the entire nation. A place where the political future of America is decided. The spot where the true rulers of the country do business. Wall Street.

It was more a matter of marching through the streets and shouting his message while police tried to stop him. No protesting permit, holding up traffic, jaywalking, etc, etc. After they saw what he did to the first few, they didn’t care so much about the law. Not many people would when facing a walker like that. Ten feet tall, sleek, and white; it marched on humanoid legs and swung a pair of arms that would have dragged on the street if fully extended. There were no hands, only triads of axe heads that spun rapidly. Its rectangular torso was protected by armored plates in a V pattern, with some sort of black underlayer that seemed to coalesce against the man held partially inside the torso at its bottom-most. That was Man-Opener, with only his helmet and arms exposed outside of the armor.

As odd as it would be for a supervillain to march down the street, rampaging to raise awareness of an alien invasion, my arrival just made things stranger. I landed hard near the police cordon and stumbled a few steps until nanites could finish repairing some ligaments around my knee. I caught my balance on one of the cops and acted like I was patting him on the shoulder. “That’s enough, officer. I’ll take it from here.”

“The fuck?!” he jumped back upon seeing me.

“Here I come to save the day!” I shouted loud enough for Man-Opener to hear me.

Man-Opener didn’t bother to rotate his body. Instead, the arms rotated around toward me. His voice boomed from a speaker near the top of the walker’s headless body. “We have to expose the truth. That is how you beat a secret invasion. Face it head on, like a man.”

I reached up to adjust the rockets on the rear of my gauntlets. “Silence is golden, so let me come over there and gild your ass!” I jumped, flipped, and pushed off the top of a nearby cop car with a jump that carried me in an arc past Man-Opener. His arms rose to intercept me, but I passed between them. I landed in the street and skidded to a stop, using the last of my momentum to wrench a manhole out of the street. “Hey, watch this!” I shouted, then flipped it into the air. He did track it for just a moment, long enough for my suit to hide me in a hologram of the area around me. I tossed one of my rubber chickens at him Man-Opener, who swatted it to the side while chopping its head off. He then quickly intercepted the manhole cover, which I’d flung his way when it came back down.

My armor went from showing none of me to showing three. One stood in the street with arms crossed. Another grabbed a trash can from the curb, and yet another ran to the opposite side of the street where someone had abandoned a stroller. Unfortunately, it really was abandoned, which I knew since that me was the real one. But then, what is reality anyway, except for a tangible thing that exists whether you’re there to experience it or not? I grabbed it with my left and signaled my armor to concentrate power into a sheath of energy held just around my right fist.

Man-Opener stood still, paralyzed with indecision at the three of me. At least until the headless rubber chicken grenade got tired of trying to cross the road behind him and blew up. The road is such a cocktease like that, as any truck driver will gladly tell you.

The explosion stunned Man-Opener. What it lacked in damage, it made up for in opportunity, though. I rushed him while tossing the stroller ahead of me, regretting only that it did not have a baby in it during this encounter. Man-Opener either didn’t care or didn’t think, because he brought both arms down in time to shred the stroller. It gave me cover enough to run up and deck him in the snoz with enough force to make a brick wall ask for the lube.

What actually happened is that he brought one of his arms fully against his helmet to protect his body from debris, and my punch hit it instead. My fist warped and embedded in the metal as the energy sheath added to the force of the blow and did fun things to the metal. The blades, only a couple short feet away from me, sputtered to a stop. On that arm, at least. Man-Opener brought the other one down. I pulled as hard as I could to free my arm from the damaged limb, and I did throw myself back away from him, but I ended that fall with five fewer fingers.

“Fucking son of a pirate cunt with a chest full of picked dicks!” I screamed, obviously taking the situation well. I was losing a lot of blood, too. At least the little nanite quilt layer under my armor had been damaged enough to open some of the packets in the area. It works better with blunt trauma, but it’s still a way for me to mitigate significant non-thermal damage in the middle of a fight without taking a moment to inject myself properly. I realized as Man-Opener advanced that they’d be out of a job soon if I didn’t move my ass. And move it I did. I rolled back and ordered my armor to charge energy around my left arm.

“It looks like my arms beat yours so far, little Gecko. Will you regrow that like a tail? I’ve always wondered,” Man-Opener taunted me. The last laugh would soon be mine, however.

I bolted at him as if to do the exact same thing all over again. He held the useless arm in front of his body as a shield, no doubt ready to swipe off another arm or even a leg with the working one. Probably caught him off guard when I jumped onto his arm instead and used it as a platform to leap into the air. He swiped at nothing, then tried to get a better view at my ascent, an ascent I arrested with the rocket under my gauntlet. It flared to life and drove me down. This time when I connected, metal shredded like a Slayer song and his one good arm locked up at his side. The blades on the end began to stop and start jerkily. He brought up the first bad arm then to try and knock me off. This time, I remembered to use the same muscle enhancers that allow me to leap small buildings in a single bound and back flip off before he could hit me again. And this time, the rocket fired to bring my good fist crashing against his helmet. It didn’t break his head, just a bone or two in my hand. It also stumbled him as a result of the punch, forcing his walker to take a step back.

I backed up as well so I could fetch a syringe of nanites out of my belt. In spite of my success in battle, the dizziness caused by blood loss threatened to snatch defeat from the jaws of my victory. Also, I’m really fond of my right hand. My helmet showed me Man-Opener reaching for something on the side of his walker with his real arms, but I didn’t think anything of it until he shot something green at me that burned my armor and melted it partially to my body. The inside of my suit suddenly smelled like a steakhouse, or at least a barbecue shack. Holding up my left arm to protect me only succeeded disarming that one as well when the energy sheath wiring sparked. Had it been charged, the sheath could have potentially blocked the plasma being fired at me, or at least taken most of the oomph out of it.

He stopped after a moment. “I hope you can feel the burn, Gecko. You were looking jiggly around the hips the other day.”

I threw my arm and a half up and hollered to the sky. I’d quote me, but it’d be redundant at this point. Just imagine lots of As and lots of exclamation points. At least five of each ought to do it. Man-Opener was more than willing to advance on me as I inexplicably lost my footing in the middle of a nearby intersection. He stalked forward, turning down this new street…and then I stopped to look up at him. “The last burn I felt was a leftover from your mother’s cooter, jackass.”

It’s a shame his back was turned. He missed the epic moment when a sleek black 1951 Hudson Hornet crashed through a blockade of a pair of police sawhorses to ram into Man-Opener’s back. I happily jumped on top as it came right for me as well, up until I noticed how badly it hurt the black paint and orange trim of my remote-piloted car.

We wrestled on my car, and I managed to knock his plasma pistol away with my growing right arm. That was a point in my favor, but then he gained one of his own when he pinned me against the front of his armor with the arm that couldn’t spin its own blade anymore. He actually reached out to try and choke me with his regular arm, before the car suddenly stopped and threw us both into the first corner building it had sped across since Man-Opener got his hand on me. The car’s cameras showed us flying through the front door of Moe and Lester’s Meat Mart together.

Ah, the butcher’s shop! Such a fun place for conflict. Just imagine what the meat slicer could do to someone you don’t like if applied to all sorts of places on the body. The landing took a bit out of me and I had to brace myself against a stand of alligator jerky to stand up, but Man-Opener’s bulky machine took longer. That gave me time to see inventory my assets. The right arm was coming back, but still pretty weak. The left arm couldn’t use its energy sheath, but I think the rocket could still work. If not, I’d be out a left arm.

I ran over to a counter display we shattered in our dramatic entrance and grabbed a big, bloody steak. Like a thick ribeye, I think. I know human anatomy better than I do cows. Man-Opener stood up and started throwing displays out of the way, though his attempt to clear some room made me curious about just what pickled chicken feet tasted like. I turned, swung, and released the steak right at his helmet. It slapped there and clung, possibly disrupting his vision but maybe not. I haven’t yet determined what he can see in his armor. But I did rush in, tried the rocket, and smashed my fist into his steak-covered head hard enough to dislocate some of my fingers. The rocket sputtered and ejected though, a fuel leak having rendered it useless save for that blow.

No matter. I kept wailing on him. “And now you meat your match!” I dodged a blow from the arm without functional blades and grabbed a hanging line of sausages. When worse comes to worst, trust the wurst. I whipped them out and wrapped them around that arm. When he raised it up, I swung in and kicked him in the face. “I’m going to be frank with you here, you’re a bit of a wiener.”

He tried to maneuver me over to the other arm, still locked in one position, but still with some blades that stopped and started. I dropped, and noticed the steak flop to the ground as well. So I jumped close and started headbutting him. I rammed my helmet against his again and again and again until I was rewarded with a crack on its front. It cracked like a bloody egg and showed me an eye inside.

“That eye looks pretty bad. Let’s put something on it!” I grabbed the steak again and swung it at the hole. It smacked him, doing little actual damage but still getting wet meat juices right in his eye.

I didn’t expect that hit to finish him off, but he slumped, then spun to drop to his back. The realization hit me that I was wrong about him being defeated right about the time the barely-functional blades of the locked arm swung up and started to chop a cut of meat off my thigh.

Ever been held in one spot while something like a giant chainsaw chews through your leg? Not fun. When it stopped for a moment, I threw myself to the side and felt something catch. Could have been bone, could have been tendon. Either way, I didn’t get away until the blades started up again and pulled me over him. Whatever it was that caught, it didn’t stay caught, and I landed on the opposite side of Man-Opener, gritting my teeth and sucking in breaths.

At least our car ride and the chopping had released more of the nanites hidden in the quilted layer. That’s about all I could say, because there weren’t a lot of other good things. I had to take a moment there, because that shit hurt like a night of tap water and ex-lax burritos delivered straight from Mexico.

“How do you like those cold cuts?” Man-Opener asked as he, too, took a minute to recover. Then we heard the approach of heavy footsteps. Looking up, I spotted Venus in full, gleaming armor. It was heavier than mine, and bulkier, but still armor instead of a walker. Just thick, with big boots, big legs, big fists, big everything. And a golden visor that covered her face. She came equipped with the whole shebang this time. “Man-Opener, Gecko what are you two doing here?”

I pointed over. “Nothing much. Just beating my meat. Care to watch?”

The speakers on her armor distorted her voice, but not enough to lose the contempt. “You have the right to remain silent, Gecko.”

“Nah, that implies I’m being arrested.”

“Take him in! I got him nice and wrapped up for you!” Man-Opener said.

Venus pointed an a finger at him. “You too, Man-Opener.”

“Come on!” we both yelled.

She shook her head. “You’ve both caused too many problems, too publicly. I can’t just ignore this, not when you two are ignoring everything to carry out some personal grudge. This will be sorted out and dealt with, don’t worry.”

I sat up, pretty pissed. This isn’t just some big formal alien invasion. Oh, hey, how ya doin’, mind if we invade? They were going to kill me. That makes this top priority! I just hadn’t told her that yet. “Don’t deny me this, Venus ex machina. I owe this asshole a death for what he’s doing. He’s only in this to make me look bad, but this is my life we’re talking abo-ack!” She shot me! In the back! It was with a metal stake, too, which pierced my armor and electrocuted me too much to think of any more jokes. That was probably the intention.

Man-Opener started the slow process of climbing his walker up, but Venus shot it, too. Its legs locked for a second, then continued. Meanwhile, I tried to reach around with numb, tense hands, but the straining muscles didn’t have the dexterity to pull that thing out of my back. So I tried to get my feet underneath me instead. It was hard going, and it felt like I was grinding my teeth down to the roots, but I finally stood up. Venus turned to see how I was doing after knocking MO back on his ass.

I didn’t say anything, but instead signaled my car. It roared as it backed up, angled itself, and then fired a harpoon from the hubcap. Even though it knocked the stake out on impact, it was too late to avoid the course I’d taken. I gave Venus the finger as my car accelerated and dragged me after it, leaving her to clean up Opener.

I had to roll to dodge another two while Venus busied herself with putting down Man-Opener. It wouldn’t take long, no doubt, so I ran for the open front and dived into the open door of my car.

…So that’s it. I headed back to my penthouse, full of anger, denied vengeance, and urine. And the trip to the bathroom only solved one of those. The other two I carried with me past Wild Flower, who watched me with the impotent empathy of someone who wants to comfort an angry murderer. The elevator dropped me down to the art gallery, past the few dumb little exhibits that made it look vaguely like its cover. I deposited my armor in its little repair silo for the automated systems to assess the damage and begin rebuilding based on the blueprints. I grabbed an extra syringe of nanites to get me back up to fighting fitness in case Venus chose to pursue her goody-goodiness further.

And then I walked over to a table holding a sheet and a number of bulky things that fit under a sheet. I pulled them off to reveal parts and pieces that, with a little bit of elbow grease, can fit together to form a rather unique sort of device. A device that ruptures the fabric of spacetime in a limited area, doing catastrophic damage. The first one I ever used was built to shunt half a planet into another dimension and utterly destroy any life on it in the process. That didn’t work out, though it turned out such a bomb could be contained and used to transport a whole organism into another dimension.

I was there working on the Dimension Bomb late into the night and early into the next morning, stopping for bathroom breaks and the sandwich Wildflower left for me by the door, when word spread around the world of a flotilla of unidentified objects in space approaching the Earth in a decelerating velocity.

Ready or not, here they come.

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Enlightening Strikes 7

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Manners are a tricky thing in formal events. I’ve been to a few of them, though I don’t always make it to the actual meal. Generally, it’s all about being extremely polite. Like, fixing a fake smile on your face while talking to people you hate, kind of polite. That’s part of how I get through it. The dancing is also strictly uniform, because wild moving is difficult in some of those suits. This also makes them easier targets. At the dinner table, there’s stuff about folding napkins and using the correct fork on the correct food, perhaps so that snooty people could show off all the forks they had compared to those forkless plebians. So using the wrong silverware, or not kissing the right hand, or impugning someone’s pedigree is all rude. It’s like telling someone to go fork themselves.

Back in the land of the forkless plebians, on the other hand, it’s generally considered rude to, I don’t know, drug everyone in the place. It all had to do with me stopping by Rothstein’s again with a pair of large fruit baskets. Since I had my armor on, they didn’t quite get the joke when I slid in the door and yelled, “Who wants to grab my melons?”

“You’ve got some balls coming back in here,” said the stick figure guy I bullied last time.

“And here they are!” I tossed him a thing of grapes. I don’t know what it’s called for real, but most people could guess what a thing of grapes means.

I set one of the baskets down and noticed the barkeep reaching for something under the bar. Figuring it to be the alarm button again, I walked over and tickled his cheek with a banana. “Hey there. Open wide, I have some yummy for your tummy. Just don’t choke on the seed.”

“Nobody touch the fruit!” yelled the bartender, mostly preaching to the choir. A few, unlikely to look a gift horse in the mouth, had helped themselves to my goodies. Good for them. I even noticed Elita the Warrior Woman there, enjoying my fuzzy peach, the juices dripping down her chin. At least they were enjoying themselves while they could, unlike Chicken Little the bartender.

“Nobody touch the fruit? Gettin’ a bit homophobic around here, isn’t it?” I pointed to a man dressed in bright purple and white. “You gonna take that?”

“Actually, I’m straight, and I hate faggots.”

I swiveled to point at the stick man. “You gonna take that?”

“Why would I be offended?” He cocked his head, puzzled.

I pointed at the purple guy with my left arm, which crossed over my right. “He hates bundles of sticks. Probably thinks they’re gay or something.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being gay,” Stick man responded.

“Oh yes there is!” yelled the purple guy. “It’s not natural!”

“So’s arsenic and cyanide. Why don’t you try those!” countered ol’ Sticky.

Behind me, the bartender pulled a large, sleek handgun of unusual make. He pushed a button on the side and sights flipped up in the shape of a crosshair. I held my hands up. “What? I’m not doing anything. I brought fruit, and then these two got into an argument over homosexuality. Throw them out. I’m just here to enjoy alcohol. And maybe music. Can you play Misty for me?”

“Play Misty?” The puzzled bartender squinted, aiming the gun at my head. I didn’t flinch from it, just double checking the seals of my suit. Right on time, a yellowish, oily mist seeped from the ventilation system. Droplets settled on skin and tights, or were inhaled. After all, who goes into a bar with environmentally sealed power armor on? Me, but not many others. That’s why I was in perfect shape to stop the bartender from pulling the fire alarm and setting off some sort of alert. Maybe they have sprinklers for that, but I wonder if they are serviced by the fire department? Is there a secret super villain fire service instead? Usually, we’re more likely to be firestarters than firefighters.

Note to self: look into making villainous firefighters. And not the type of firefighters who goa round tossing cats into trees, either. Lots of damage happens when someone is doing something illegal, like cooking drugs or dissecting classmates. Double Cross: where discreet meets dangerous.

“You played it for her and you can play it for me!” I told the bartender, who held the gun on me. He tried to hold that gun in one hand while slipping what looked like a biohazard hood over his face. Like that’d do him a lot of good. In the hustle to do that, his ability to multitask took a hit and he accidentally squeezed the trigger. I wasn’t worried, since I’d stepped to the side and he hadn’t done a good job following me, but he still got it close enough to ding off the side of my helmet and deflect off to the side, hitting someone else. They probably would have complained, but they were all too busy trying to get out the door.

Plus, I took the gun away from the bartender and pistol-whipped him with it just as soon as he got his hoodie on. I pressed the gun against my helmet in a mock salute. “Here’s looking at you, kid,” then stopped myself from bending the barrel. Might better look at the design and find out if it would penetrate my armor or not.

While I sat at the bar and made sure I wasn’t getting exposed to the chemical, the situation in the bar escalated. The bar’s patrons were attempting to make a break for it, but the door stubbornly refused to open because Moai stayed outside and probably pushed a dumpster against it. Amused, I watched their attempted escape and poured drinks against the front of my helmet. When the fleeing drinkers decided to put some power to it, I had to chuckle to myself. Someone tried to burst the door with a fireball, but hit a couple guys trying to push it open. One of them turned and stretched his arm back in a badly-aimed punch that hit someone who shot thorns all around himself. Panic, anger, bad decisions, and a helping of synthetic THC had an orgy in their brains and produced the sad, abandoned baby of a bar brawl.

I grabbed a last glass and the gun, then headed upstairs. The upstairs locks were probably pretty difficult for just anyone to lockpick, and the doors were thick, but I had the power. The power of Greyskull, or at least the power of my energy sheaths. I didn’t want to screw up my joints by trying to kick through that heavy son of a bitch. I haven’t replaced those with anything better so far. I’m still trying to design better skin, or maybe more efficient muscles. Maybe put lasers in my boobs. Suckle stimulated light, suckers!

Upstairs, I faced my worst enemy yet…disappointment!

Man-Opener did not, in fact, eat there that day. Well, poo. At least a snooty butler-looking guy attempted to take me out with some sort of fancy spinning hurricane kick. I broke my glass over his head, then countered his moves with my favorite martial arts style: Dildo Style. I shoved the pistol up wannabe-Alfred’s ass and held on, then picked him up by the back of his collar with the other hand. “Window, window, window, where’s a window?”

Huh, I guess I never noticed there weren’t windows around. It works as a privacy issue, I guess, but I wasn’t thinking about it too hard since I had to keep hold of a squealing, wiggling butler. “But butler, you’ve got a gun butt up your butt-ler!” His screams showed a clear lack of appreciation for both the wordplay and the buttplay. “Shut up! Where’s a window?”

“Bathroom!”

Wow, it’s amazing how enthusiastic people can be when you use their intestines as a holster. I carried him to the door. “You mind getting this for me?” He couldn’t yank that door open quickly enough. Inside, a bathroom attendant sat by the door and a basket of towels, wearing a gas mask.

I paused, staring at this guy. “Hi, how ya doing?”

He shrugged.

“You going to try and stop me?”

He held up a towel and mumbled something I couldn’t understand through the mask.

“No thanks. Now…window…ah, there.” It was high up on the other wall. I shifted the butler up. “Hey, stay steady. This isn’t easy, and I’m a bad enough shot as is.” The first shot popped the buttler’s skull cap, but missed the window. What I lacked in aim, I made up in ammunition and decreasing distance. The window didn’t shatter, but several holes weakened its integrity enough that tossing the butler’s body through it knocked open the window.

Disappointing, but at least it reasserted my dominance all over their faces, like a brisk teabagging.

Before going straight to the penthouse, I stopped off at the roof and worked on my guns a bit more. No, there’s still no gym up there; adding a guided missile emplacement in case I need it. I don’t have it disguised since the heroes most likely to spy on me are also the ones working with me, though I considered a giant foam gargoyle. It’s the foam part that takes away from the awesome factor of having a gargoyle. Seriously, that’s an architectural thing we need to do more of. We need a lot more menacing stone figures on our buildings.

Eventually, Wildflower found me up there. I spotted her coming around a corner from the roof access in the 360-display and let her pad closer. I’ve been keeping an ear out to better listen to her, and it was easy to see she was taking her time, so I called out to talk to her first. “Hey there, pretty petals. Have a nice patrol?”

She walked over, getting those pretty bare feet all dirty on the rooftop. I’m not necessarily watching foot crushing videos, but that doesn’t mean I like seeing dirty, nasty feet. That’s one of the areas Wildflower could improve. She knows what I think after a discussion we had while shoe shopping. That’s why she reached over and nudged the back of my helmet with the ball of her foot.

“I broke up a scheme by Wilderment to rob a bank. He hypnotized a bank manager into letting him and some minions in.” A quick online search pulled up info on Wilderment that I went ahead and saved into a short dossier. Willis DeMott, amateur stage hypnotist-turned professional criminal after his first professional show went poorly and the venue stiffed him. A good hypnotist, but even a good one can’t force everyone to listen or do things they never would do normally. Convincing someone to rob a bank is easy; persuading them to hand the money to someone else is quite a bit harder. Wilderment is always on the lookout for some magical or technological improvements, but has never quite gotten his hands on anything useful. Seen as having too little potential. On the plus side, he’s served as his own attorney six times and never been convicted. Credit where credit’s due.

I smiled to myself as I next spoke. “Sure, sure, save the greedy banks. Wonder how much money they stole while you were protecting them.”

Wildflower nudged my helmet some with her foot. “Uh huh.” Her tail gave this extra little swish to the side. “I wanted to see you.”

“Aww, that’s sweet.”

“No. I wanted to see you about something. They tried to arrest Captain Lightning.”Ah yes. They. While there isn’t yet an organization, private or public, with a name forming the acronym THEY, the name itself lends itself to easy contextual understanding.

“Aww, fuck me with a cotton candy candlestick.” I set down the tools and turned back to her. “Oh yeah? Oh ho! Oh no! This ale ain’t no cocktail, but life is candy, cherry brandy, ain’t that dandy, sweetie-pie?”

Wildflower jumped, landing expertly on my shoulders without trowing me too far off balance to the rear. She squatted like that, wrapping her arms around my head and nuzzling her cheek against my helmet. “That’s not how I thought you would react. The news said he is wanted for allegations of espionage after blowing a hole in the Pentagon earlier today.”

Venus walked around the corner, too, ruining my nice little moment with my Weird Science girlfriend. “He was asking questions about a medical examiner who worked with the FBI who disappeared. The Feds wanted to know about the alien organ. They said he stole it and tried to bring him in. He’s fled the country now. It would look bad to come running here. Oh, and he said to tell you ‘thanks’ for the coffee trick. It paid off.”

“Looking bad? Looking for me?” Another person joined us on that rooftop in a smooth, expressionless shiny white helmet. He wore a bright white skintight suit with black at the joints and the palms of his hands. “You need my help, don’t you?”

I stood up, Wildflower digging her claws in to hold on despite the shift. “Man-Opener. How’s the armor? Guess you found out it isn’t so easy fighting Venus, huh?” I’ve rarely seen him without his armor, but that suit of his provides easy access. Probably wouldn’t save him if I tossed him off the building. Disappointingly, Venus and Wildflower probably would.

“She’s got balls. More than you.” He crossed his arms. There’s only so much you can emote when you’re in a helmet.

“I got balls enough not to run arou-”

“No, stop it, this isn’t going to turn into an insult fight!” Venus held her hands out to cut off any conversation between myself and Man-Opener. “Gecko, I told Man-Opener what’s going on. He’s here to see the proof, then we can agree on something that helps all of us, correct?”

She looked between myself and the other villain. “Good. I think we can all agree there are worse people to work with to save the world. But first, you owe him proof that we have a problem.”

I sent out a message to my assistant asking her to bring a few things up to the penthouse, including some of the drugs to ease telepathic headache. “Sure thing. Time to show y’all the coffee trick.”

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Enlightening Strikes 6

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It’s important to remember that a guy like me doesn’t try to do good deeds all that often for a very good reason: the world sucks. It’s full of bastard-coated bastards in bastard filling. Case in point, for all I did trying to make sure he wasn’t mind-controlled by aliens, Man-Opener decided to attack Venus.

See, I’d decided to give it a day or two after the bar incident before officially contacting Man-Opener as Banshee. In the meantime, Man-Opener attacked Master Academy East’s Dorms. Well, not much of an attack. More of a raid, really. He and some henchmen showed up, blew open the side of a building, and got into a short battle with the students. Most of the henchmen were captured in the process, so I’ve got Carl posting bail to get them onboard Double Cross.

Man-Opener carved his way through the building for a time, then left behind a bomb of the sort with a really obvious detonator. Asshole didn’t even make the timer tricky in any way. It actually gave them time to work out some shield to carry it and contain most of the blast when they got it further from the city. Since there’s no way he could know about my relationship with Wildflower without the assistance of a suicidal informant, I suspect he did it to throw down a guantlet in front of Venus and try to prove himself my better.

That won’t work out for him. One way or another. The bomb thing was just stupid, though. A timer that actually reflects when something’s going to blow up. Ha!

So that’s what my attempt to help the world has wrought.

And, dammit, I couldn’t think of any other leader types besides he and I. The same reputation that puts me at odds with him is why I hate his ass, and the person it’s attached to. Come to think of it, Oligarch was sort of the same way. He didn’t have power as an inventor or a fighter, but as a leader and strategist. Plus, working for the aliens, but that’s something I didn’t know at the time. But still, that sort of metaphorical magnetism is a bit rare. Maybe people can get a gang going, but it’s harder to herd such a huge group of people. I’m only pulling it off in the corporation by dumping pretty much all my responsibilities on other people.

Nah, Man-Opener and I only have any authority because of being asskickers, and that’s an unstable system. Nobody wins all the time, in every way. Every system can be beat, and any living thing can be killed.

Which is a really long way of saying that I didn’t have a clue what to do. No one necessarily to talk to. Alerting a large group would mean having to check the entire group. Not too many people would willingly let me cut their neck open, even if they don’t happen to have something there they don’t want me to see. And Hephaestus, the organization that hired Man-Opener and others to take me on isn’t exactly taking my calls today. Same problem as telling a bunch of villains there, except they have even more reason to hate me after I took some back pay out of them by force.

I mean, I wanted to get involved, beat up Man-Opener, and maybe blow up the Master Academy dorms myself. The dorm thing isn’t only about showing up Man-Opener, either. The wallpaper was terrible. But, seriously, I do bombs better.

So I didn’t really have any of them to talk to. I’ve gotten to the point where my friendliest interactions are with heroes. They may talk about beating me up, but that’s better than what the bar guys tried. That realization is why I didn’t give Venus the satisfaction of calling her to see if she might want some help. Nope. Not doing that.

I’m also ok with Wildflower, but she’s having to stay at my place now after the dorms were damaged, and I don’t want to spend all my time with her. Even if I could parley a lot of that time into vigorous physical exercise. Like some sort of sport. Softball, maybe?

Instead, I went back to examining the sample of the alien communication pod I moved to my office, trying to figure it out. I doublechecked it, then went and started checking the grey matter. Brain matter can have signals going around it, but then it needs nerves running to some sort of other organ which communicates somehow. Maybe there’s another organ it connects to?

I just didn’t get it, and spent a good long while thinking the problem over. In fact, I spent so long turning this thing over and treating it like my own personal stress ball, that eventually a couple of people came in to try and give me something to do. Prince Pomerania, the heavyweight champion of marketing, was trying to insist that special Easter cups designs I approved would be seen as a bad move for our coffee division. Crash, my oft put-upon assistant, tried to stop him, probably trying to prevent conflict and lessen the chance of injury or death.

It must have been important to Prince Pom, though. He stormed in despite the warnings and slammed the cup on my desk. It was even full! Past-tense, that is. Then the hot coffee splashed all over me. Setting down the organ, I glared up at the frozen Prince Pom and Crash, then turned my gaze to Moai, who stood in a corner of the office watching his soap operas on a tablet. “Moai, I’m going to need a team of shovelers and a flock of trained fightin’ aardvarks. It’s Varking Fight Time!”

I stood up for an epic pose, which spilled more of the coffee down onto the alien pod. In a flash, a jumble of weird shit hit my brain. Not words, but a concept. Something like “Return to sender.”

Gave me a hell of a headache, but it let Crash, Pom, and a few others screaming and clutching their heads. Geez, it wasn’t that bad. But then, that clued me in that we were talkin’ telepathy here. It’s like wifi for the brain, but you have to have a compatible adapter, of sorts. Because of my species’ brains being a bit different from humans, and then the added cybernetic hardware in there, it takes an incredibly strong telepath to even sneak a peek.

Knowing that, I placed a call to Wonder, or whatever our chemist’s name was, to bring some primo pain medication to the main office, along with anything leftover from the tests to make a telepathy-resistance drug. Then I had Moai shove Pom and Crash out of the office so I wouldn’t have to hear their screams when I poured more coffee on the organ.

Gah, fucking headpounder! But, and this is important, it gave me some insight into the mechanism of alien communication. It’s telepathy after all! Or at least it’s telepathy this time, using an implanted or grown organ that activates when the subject has access to a chemical in coffee.

The first thing I jumped to was caffeine. It’s one of the most widely-used drugs on earth, and I hear they pretty much live on the stuff at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Plus, I had both root beer and an ice-cold, refreshing drink by a company that has not yet paid me for sponsorship readily available in my office fridge for testing. Ah, undeclared drink, who would I kill without you? First, I tried the root beer. Too much vanilla, but I liked it for the touch of honey. The alien person pod didn’t care for it. To the great pain of many people in an as-yet undetermined radius around my office, that one worked. And I probably would have been a little concerned about the continued torture of their minds, but I had this stabbing headache for, like, ten seconds, and their drawn-out screaming didn’t help me feel any better.

Now, I love pained screams as much as the next person, but it does eventually get old. They didn’t even work right when I tried to play a tune. They were completely uncoachable, even when I stepped on Pom’s foot. Just when it had gotten mildly inconvenient, the elevator to my office’s floor dinged and a mist seeped through the closed door. It flowed out as soon as the door opened, as if it had been packed in tight. From the mist’s midst stepped Wonder, smoking something out of what used to be a minigun. The barrels spun, pouring the smoke from whatever he had lit inside, though my imagination filled in the blanks it was likely firing.

I guess that made him a big damn hero. At the very least, everyone stopped their screaming and took a late lunch while I sat back in my office and pondered the mysteries of the cosmos over a can of Vienna sausages. Ok, two cans. And a bag of Cheetoes. I still had some Christmas Candy in a drawer, too.

But aside from that, I just tried to think about this clever little thing the aliens used. An organ that used inputs of caffeine, albeit smaller amounts than what I spilled on them, in order to create telepathy. It must have been better-aimed while alive. Really easy to miss-.

I ran back the conversation where Captain Lightning talked about how it was found, and paused at the part where the medical examiner knew it was a communication device. Huh. They just somehow knew before I ever cut into it.

I called up Captain Lightning. “Yo, Captain Hooker, I gotta know something.”

He cussed quietly. “You are the last person I want to talk to right now unless you know how to get rid DMHP.”

Oh yeah, that stuff. I remember looking that stuff up back when I attacked the city of Memphis with BZ. It’s kind of like a version of BZ that makes people sit around and get the munchies. “Can’t help you if you’ve done a bunch of it, but you’ll ride it out just fine. It’s basically THC, so it’s not going to kill you. Before you go off into La La Land, I had a question about our other project.”

“I am not affected, but someone used it to take hostages I am responsible for.”

I shrugged. “Like I said, it’s pretty much THC. Oil-like, so hard to get it into the air, let me tell you. Cleans up easy with alcohol, unless you get some inside you. Not much capable of killing, just makes ’em weak and sleepy for a day or so, something like that. Never personally used it. They probably won’t die, unless they get enough pumped in to freeze to death.”

“Freeze to death? No one can freeze to death in this heat.”

“Don’t know where you are, and you’re not telling, but DMHP can, if you give someone enough, make someone die of hypothermia or of low blood pressure. So, about that favor…”

I paused when I heard a loud snap, then a crackle, then a bunch of little pops. Either Lightning was in the middle of an operation involving a bowl of Rice Krispies cereal, or something went down and a lot of people started shooting. “Ya know, just give me a call back when you’re not busy.”

I left him alone for about fifteen minutes and checked through the science division’s stocks, wondering what nifty chemicals they had in there. With one of our top guys being a former drug cooker, they might have authorized all sorts of stuff. You never know when a bunch of mustard gas can come in handy. It’s great on bratwurst and brats alike.

Ah, good chemicals are wondeful. They might come in handy. Before I could finish deciding between pineapples and pineoranges, Lightning called me back. I answered the phone with, “Morty’s Mortuary, we do burial and barbecue. You stab ’em, we slab ’em. Care for an order of ribs?

“No thank you. You said alcohol?”

“Yeah, makes it a little harder to clean up than regular water, but there you go. Still a handy chemical. I considered it back when I gassed Memphis with a somewhat-similar gas, but that one was much more hallucinogenic.” I spun around in my chair while distracted, since trying to plan would just distract me. “But that’s not why I called you, obviously. I just wanted to know if you checked whoever did the medical examination of the Senator’s body.”

“I didn’t think to at the time, but you think I should?”

“Well, I finally figured out how this thing works, but I cut into it. Which is odd, because someone told you it talked to people without needing to. So maybe you ought to go find that person. I need you to get in there, and open them up. You may have to sweet talk them, or maybe lubricate them with something like alcohol, but I want you to ride their ass however long it takes to bust this wide open. Don’t be afraid to use innuendo, or perhaps bad words.” I stopped my chair spinning and decided to rest my head on the desk, closing my eyes to try and block out the vertigo.

“I am not doing that to another man, but I’ll go have a beer with him and see what he can tell me. Is there anything else I need to know?”

“It’s telepathic. Reacts to caffeine. Oh, and if you get another one, go ahead and give it a try. It takes a lot of coffee or soda poured on it to get a reaction.”

Ok, so maybe there’s a good reason a lot of people don’t like me.

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Enlightening Strikes 5

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I needed a lot of subtlety to handle the supervillain situation. At least a hero can be somewhat cooperative with me cutting their neck open to check for weird alien talk tumors, or whatever those things are. With heroes, I can just knock their asses out and check against their will. But I actually have to talk to villains afterward, and that can be awkward when you’ve penetrated them from behind like that.

Actually, I think it has more to do with villains trusting me even less than heroes. They’re not the trusting sort. Not like heroes. Well, most of the heroes. I guess they haven’t had as much experience with people. In general, at least. I have to admit that Captain Lightning has had plenty of experience. I’d been trying to talk to him at Double Cross Tower’s executive meeting room again about screening some villains for me and I made the same point above, about the difference between most heroes and villains.

“I’m going to have to say I’m a product of my time and many of these heroes are products of theirs. Heroes from my day were the line of defense against fascism that threatened our existence. War forged us, so we became warriors. Later heroes were spies, punishers, crusaders of rights, or guardians concerned with the balance in the world. Times change, I’ve come to understand, and roles change based on the past and its mistakes. Heroes today are protectors. It has pros and cons.” He looked me over, then shook his hand.

“Well, they have a heck of a lot more respect for more people’s rights, but the same damn lack of self-awareness. Plunging into the future, so caught up in thinking it makes them better that they still don’t recognize how tied down they are to the past, how much they carry the exact same prejudices. The moment you step over that line, though, they hate you with such intensity, same as anyone else.”

Lightning squinted at me. “Horsefeathers. They hate you because you’re a jerk, and all the fuddy-duddies always hated that intensely. Every last one. In my book, the events matter. They didn’t grow up having to make the sacrifices we did in World War II, or the people we were in cahoots with to fight the Soviets. I’ll work with you, but you are a creep.”

“Comparing me to Operation Paperclip’s pet Nazi scientists? Not exactly an apt analogy, is it?”

Lightning “ahem”ed and nodded down to my hands, where I sat assembling a rocket.

I shrugged. “I’m criminally understocked on rockets. This little baby’s going to help me with some diplomacy later.” It was a bit shorter than my usual rideable rockets, because it isn’t meant to be ridden. It’s also wide at the base. More of a booster than anything else. I just need a place to keep spares. These things are going to be great!

“Be that as it may, do you have anything to tell me about the alien growth?”

Touching the table’s new holographic display, I informed him I had, actually. A dissection showed a little bit more than just skin and muscle. It looked like some nerve tissue was there, along with several smaller packets of brain tissue. I suppose if someone wanted to build a solid state drive out of brain chunklets, it would work. Just a very small one. But I couldn’t figure out how the hell this thing transmitted. I doubted it could get a signal out of the bunker, but I’d never noticed anything in particular from Senator Powers. I could have missed something, since I wasn’t probing him, but I can normally at least tell there’s all these damn signals flying through the air. Don’t even get me started on cosmic background radiation.

Another issue with this is that, essentially, it limited my options for destroying the stuff. I could test various nerve gases and so on, but any such usage of them would risk permanent harm. Same with applying blunt force, and stabbing is risky. That’s why I broke Wildflower’s neck. That, and I didn’t trust her. I’m still not completely sure, but it does say a lot that she was willing to let me stick that into her, and that she’s not a kinky alien using sex to ingratiate herself with me. If anything, she’s likely just a heroic infiltrator using sexy feelings to betray me. While wrong, it’s also completely human.

The combination of solid state drive and brain matter gave me the idea to turn up the heat. Heat can cause steady damage to an SSD over time, but things don’t start to get bad until the 90s Fahrenheit, and really catastrophic around the 130s. The human body is much the same, actually. Over 105 or so, things get back, but I think 107 is where the brain damage starts. To be fair, unless you stick a thermometer into a brain, it’s difficult to keep track of things in the field. Unfortunately, testing an application of localized heat on the dead one was useless. I needed a live specimen. And making things worse, I need a specimen without any appreciable resistance to heat.

“I will get back to you on that when I know more. That is 107 Fahrenheit, right?”

I nodded. “And while you’re doing that, I’m going to go be diplomatic.”

Lightning put a hand on my shoulder as I turned to go. When I glanced back at him, he put his other hand on my other shoulder. “Please, Gecko…don’t fuck this up.”

I rolled my eyes. “I will be the very model of a diplomat, like Winston Churchill.”

Winston Churchill in power armor, that is.

Later that day, I entered Rothstein’s Sports Bar bouncer-first. It was this giant centipede thing this time. I might have been nice to the guy, but something about him bugged me. I followed after, smoking a cigarette, emptying a Tommy gun of ammo, and tossing a bowler hat on what turned out to be a person standing near where a hat rack would go. “Howdy, folks!”

Hat rack person, a tall, brown, skinny thing, turned and growled at me. His hands grew out into claws, like some sort of evil stick. I threw the Tommy gun into his face, smacking him back momentarily, then pulled the hat down over his face to blind him. While he swiped at the air, I stepped up to the bar. “Hello everybody, it’s me! The best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be! His Excellence of Execution, Psycho Gecko!”

The bartender leaned across toward me and motioned me closer. “Sir, some would consider that disrespectful now that Bret Hart has announced he has prostate cancer.”

“Poor Hitman…on the plus side, I’ll have sole rights to all that soon…yes, very soon, indeed.”

“Sir, please refrain from attacking the bouncer or any other guests. I believe we briefed the latest one on you.” He nodded in the direction of the centipede, who was pulling himself to his feet. For a centipede-thingy, that takes a long time.

I shrugged. “I’ll try. By the way, I’m looking for someone respectable. They have those sorts around here nowadays, right? That whole ‘Order’ thing that rolled through here?”

I knew very well about The Order, but here’s a recap: The Oligarch claimed to be creating an organization of equals in the supervillain community who would imprison or run off all the heroes and then take over the city. Except Oligarch quickly asserted himself over everyone else, tried to kill the heroes, and was an alien-controlled infiltrator probably intending to wipe the rest of us out. Thanks to my quick-thinking, The Order now exists as a social network for villains.

The bartender glanced at someone else at the bar, then grabbed a glass and a bottle of whiskey to fill the order. After finishing up with that one, he returned to me, presumably under orders not to let me get too bored. “If you’d like, I can contact someone for you to meet on a neutral ground, but the only crime bosses are with smaller gangs. The Reds, the Greens, and the Nurples.”

“Nurples? I thought it was Reds, Greens, and Yurples.”

“They settled on the color purple, and a unique method of marking their victims. It is my understanding they are small time players in the city.”

I knew some of this. Other parts, I just didn’t give a crap. There’s a lot going on. I can barely keep up with things relevant to me, let alone those idiots. I nodded along like I cared, though. “So, how about that Man-Opener jackass? He’s hanging out nowadays, right? Probably brags a lot about being part of a group to temporarily beat me.”

The bartender was quiet for a long time then. So were some of the closer tables who overheard. Sometimes, saying nothing can say everything at all.

My heads-up display also gave me a heads-up about the stick figure guy, who had pulled the hat off and approached me from behind. Not wanting a stick to get me from behind, I slipped around in front of a stool. When he got close enough, I lashed out with one foot and kicked his shin out from under him. He fell head-first on the stool. His head bounced off, then he slid down and hit the support between the legs closer to the floor. Without looking down, I lifted up the stool and shifted it, trapping his head under it and sitting down. “So, I was thinking of having a fancy dinner, away from everyone else, and I have cash. How’s the executive dining room looking tonight?” I started to stand, to the relief of the guy with his head trapped under me.

“No!…sir, no sir. Um, it is occupied.” The bartender quickly waved his hands, then leaned against the bar, one hand slipping a little lower. Someone just got warned about me.

“Really? Awww.” I sat back down, forcing down the hopeful stick dude. “I was hoping to talk to him while he was there.”

Meh, I could take Man-Opener.

The bartender withered under my stare. “With all due respect, sir, management wishes me to p-pass on that further hostile behavior is grounds for a contract…um…against you.”

I chuckled at that one. “Oh yeah? What army’s going to take that one?”

Almost as one, every single person stood and faced me except myself, the bartender, and the skinny guy caught under my stool. That’s right, he was so weak, I could keep him down with nothing but my stool.

More than that, I heard chairs scrape above the bar area. Which, to me, implied a lot more people standing up. I casually turned around to address the various rapscallions and rogues who had been enjoying their frosty beverages, and immediately noticed the bartender pull out some sort of glowing gun. I could have grabbed him or the guy whose head I sat on for a hostage, but that only matters if the people threatening you care about harming the hostage.

So, it seemed my tendency to violate the neutrality of various villain bars backfired. I don’t know how many of them it would have taken to whoop my ass, but I knew roughly how many they were going to use.

“Psh. That all you got? Like you’d all want to share the bounty. Ya know what? If anyone wants a word with me, I’ll be right outside.”

Once outside, I went invisible and got out of there, not stopping to see if anyone followed. The plan was a wash. Truly, ’twas a sad day for diplomacy and peaceful negotiation. They didn’t actually take out a contract on my life, though. That, I would have found out about. But it proved quite a setup.

Curses! I hate it when the villain is foiled. Some men just want to shoot parts of the earth with a giant space laser. Others want to kidnap the firstborn sons of an entire city and dump them in toxic runoff. Still others want to trick nations into nuking each other. Say what you will about our morality, but at least we’re more ambitious. But nooooo, me wanting to beat up a man in a giant walker armed with rotating axeheads for hands is just too far!

Think of the action! Think of the fun! Think of the merchandising! Seriously, China’s toy sweatshops would have an econogasm over the action figure deal.

Sadly, I’ll have to handle informing villains another way. Perhaps I can work something out with my Banshee persona, but it won’t be perfect. No epic fights. Sniff.

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Enlightening Strikes 4

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So there I was, Valentine’s Day, walking beside Wildflower down the street after seeing a movie together, my head resting on her shoulder. And I told her, in that romantic way only I can pull off, “Admit it, you just talked all that shit because you didn’t want to be alone on Valentine’s.”

The fact that she laughed? Good sign. She’s got a good laugh and smile, for an alien.

In the days since Wildflower and I came to our understanding, I decided to introduce her to Moai, Carl, and the horde of bee people hidden underneath my tower. Beetrice, the queen bee who wanted my man-gravy so she could have a few thousand kids by me, seemed a bit jealous at first until I revealed my continued lack of dong. She turned her nose up at that, saying that if I wanted to play hard to get, she’d find someone else to see to her needs.

I might send down Festus, my young head of HR. The guy could stand to blow off some steam.

Then, I took her back up to the penthouse for a serious discussion. Admitting that aliens are going to invade and try to kill you isn’t something most people say that early on into a relationship. In fact, it’s usually said just before the end of the relationship, right around the time the men with the snuggly, self-hugging jacket come to take you away, ha ha. I had to trust her. Time was essential. A long time prior to her unfortunate demise, I asked Fortune Cookie about when the aliens would show up, and she said March of this year. It’s currently February of this year. They’re coming to take me away, ha ha!

Wildflower went out on a limb and showed off her little Master Academy dorm. To hear her tell it, Venus is too active to bother teaching any sort of Master Academy branch over here, so it hasn’t been properly set up yet except for a couple of dorm buildings.

Quick recap time: Master Academy is this California-based school for powered youngsters that trains them up to be crimefighters and fully functioning members of society. Venus just happened to get in because he was orphaned or something, I think. She lacks powers, but she’s kinda been their spokeswoman because of her ability to kick serious villain ass. Including my own, a couple of times. She’s still alive, after all. Anyway, after awhile, she decided to stay with a batch of Master Academy trainees and set up a branch over here. Apparently it hasn’t gone too well, but at least there’s a bit of property north of the city that could one day be a school if she stopped, and it gives people a place to stay.

When I stepped into the Girls’ Dorm and saw that most of the students were decidedly on the nubile and statutory side of things, I gave Wildflower a look. She looked at me, then looked at them, then leaned in and whispered, “I’m over eighteen.”

“Are you sure? You might be an early bloomer.”

She took my hand, right in front of a few “Oohing” teens and led me to her room. She shared it with a roommate who appeared to be mentally deficient based on the number of posters featuring untalented singers. I think one of them was a boy band. Do boy bands still exist? I thought they went extinct.

Anyway, Wildflower’s side of the room featured a little different decor. I expected something like the poster from Cats, though. I pointed to it. “Fan of people dressed in really tight cat costumes?”

“I haven’t seen it. The others got that for me. I don’t know if they were trying to be mean. That inspired me to read The Island of Dr. Moreau, then Frankenstein. I’m up to Stoker and Lovecraft now.” She rifled through her nightstand for something.

“Hmm. Never messed with them. I keep meaning to pick up some stuff by Albert Camus. Seems like my kinda guy. You picking up those books? Don’t know how things work for you here.”

She abruptly stood up and handed me a broken piece of plastic. It looked like about half a driver’s license, with a good chunk of the picture and number gone, along with the real name. “Wow, you’re twenty-four. And they have you rooming with teens.”

She shrugged and took the broken license back. “I have a lot to relearn, and a lot to learn about my powers. I want to do this if they open a proper campus.” She almost said something else, which I got the sense was questioning if I was ok with that. In my own way, I was just wondering if an amnesiac, even one who’d been around for a few months, was a little on the dirty side.

Maybe it was all the teenagers.

She led me around, even introduced me to a couple of costumed capes I didn’t recognize. Then again, I can barely keep their names straight enough as it is. I remember once fighting a Master Academy super with some sort of ball powers. Energy balls, maybe? Then I remember someone using various ball-like devices to fight The Oligarch and The Order just before I killed Oligarch. I don’t know how many ballers we got around here. Perhaps I should ask someone in the hood.

Now, if only I could figure out where da hood, where da hood, where da hood at?

Still weird, though. It wasn’t a date. It was just Wildflower showing me a part of her life. Right after I showed her part of mine. Like, I know what I did, but the reciprocity threw me for a small loop. I’m usually more self-centered than all that. Luckily, a call from Captain Lightning precluded further introspection.

“Hey, Lightning just told me he’s going to stop by in a couple hours with the communication pod-thing. Want to stop somewhere beforehand? Maybe grab some hibachi?”

On the way out, we caught a passing glare from Venus on our way out. It was the sort of evil eye that normally includes ominous Latin chanting and ends when a car passes by and the person glaring abruptly disappears. A nudging on my arm interrupted my mental choir.

“You should talk to her,” Wildflower suggested in a whisper.

“She doesn’t like me.”

“Yeah, but she doesn’t want to see you killed by aliens. Hey, Venus!” Obviously, she didn’t direct that last part at me, but instead to the civilian-clothed heroine. “Gecko has something to tell you!”

A pair of girls passing nearby whipped their heads around to stare at me. Well, at least she’s not ashamed to be seen with me, nor is she ashamed to be seen dragging me by the arm over to Venus.

Venus took a long swig of a water bottle, enough that I wondered if she had vodka instead of water in there. She raised a finger to ward off any talk until she finished, then began the conversation her own way. “What are you doing bringing her here? Shut up, Gecko, I’m not talking to you.”

With that in mind, I’m happy to say Wildflower improvised. “We wanted to invite you to dinner to clear the air. We’re going to meet at the Double Cross tower.”

“I’m not sure I want to go. It’s hard to forget what I saw last time.” Venus looked between Wildflower and me, no doubt meaning her inadvertent discovery that we weren’t a chaste couple, and the subsequent incident where we threw the bed at her. When I raised an interested eyebrow, she looked me dead in the eye and told me. “Not in a thousand years to whatever you were about to say.”

“How about if Captain Lightning is there? He’s bringing something by, so you can just meet us in a, where would it be, babe, a meeting room?” Wildflower looked to me. I nodded. She turned back to Venus. “A meeting room. We can compare notes about it and have a meal.”

Venus capped her water bottle before crossing her arms and looking me over. Normally, this is where I’d work the puppy dog eyes, but I had to do without since I haven’t killed any puppies lately. Instead, I laid my head back down on Wildflower’s shoulder and put my arm around her, trying to look all cute and sweet for Venus while subtly hunching over enough to emphasize my awesome boobage. That’s right. It’s my turn to shake some tits at you, Venus. But just to really give her something hot to think about, I mean to really lube up this deal so she’d take it and take it hard, I added. “You can bring along anyone you want as a plus one.”

She looked at me, her eyes flicking down to my milk makers, then quickly back to my face. “I’ll think about it.”

Imagine our surprise when Forcelight landed in front of Double Cross Tower two hours later, meeting Captain Lightning on his way up. I think they got in contact and coordinated their arrival. Well, I did a little of my own coordinating and had a giant screen set up to give Technolutionary a view of the meeting.

Lightning held the door for the ladies, staring at them. Old perv. He must have noticed me noticing, because he quickly explained himself. “They’re clear.”

“What is this about, now?” Forcelight asked. She stood tall in her white and black tights, the adoptive daughter of the former owner of Long Life. The medical corporation’s last owner died at my hands, but not before using a variety of illegal experiments involving organ theft to transform her into a superhero while forcing her biological dad to play the role of said villainous organ thief. I still miss the Good Doctor sometimes. When he got going, he really knew where to stab those scalpels. Unfortunately, he turned himself in to atone and try to heal things with his daughter. Just goes to show that being a surgeon doesn’t make someone smart.

I sat back in my chair, setting my half-eaten pork egg roll aside. “I have invited this delightful bunch here to discuss a matter of grave importance to all of us. If you don’t already know, Forcelight, I’m Psycho Gecko. Yes, I’m aware I have boobs now, thank you for noticing. Y’all are here for one of three reasons: you are already aware of what’s going on, you are a leader in your community who can help prepare them for the upcoming battle, or I’ve had sex with you.”

Forcelight immediately turned to Venus. “What did you do?!”

“He means her!” Venus jabbed her finger toward Wildflower, who smiled around a mouthful of chow mein.

“Enough playing around, Gecko.” Captain Lightning produced a small box, too large to pretend he was proposing to me. Opening it revealed the little fleshy communications device. It looked like a small walnut made out of warped skin and muscle, perhaps because it was so much easier for the body to grow those tissues compared to some others. He set it on the table past three stacks of papers roughly outlining what little I knew of the upcoming catastrophe.

They all took a seat while Technolutionary and I looked it over. Tech spoke first through his monitor. “Did the medical examiner think to perform a DNA test?”

Lightning nodded toward the screen. “Yes. It matches the person we found it in. They are still testing the one found in Mary Malady, but we should extract the one from the other man, Mack.”

“Max,” I corrected. “Max Muscles. I advised him to come to this city when he left, in case I needed to look after him for one thing or another. He’s the one who first clued me in that something spoke to him and made him attack Washington D.C.“

“It stands to reason someone they would make this device compatible with the physiology of individual humans. Remember our recent bout with organ rejection?” Technolutionary asked, inclining his head more toward me out of the rest of the group at the table.

When everyone looked at me, I mentioned, “Last Christmas, he gave me his heart. The very next day, I gave it away. This organ was part of Senator Powers, who worded a situation very similarly to other suspicious individuals. We haven’t had them tested yet. There’s not even enough left of one to test. It appears to be a method of communication we can’t listen in on. I have extremely trustworthy intelligence that points to an alien invasion force getting involved. Now we know they have infiltrated some of us, us meaning Earth in this context, so it stands to reason there are more to check.”

Wildflower didn’t help my suspicions any by asking, “What if they try to come in peace? Maybe you do something.” Her prickly tail stroked my back gently, hoping to let me know she didn’t mean any hard feelings by the question. It’s technically a good point. I am exactly the sort of person who would screw up human-alien first contacts.

“I don’t know their goal, but so far there haven’t been very many good-natured alien contacts with Earth that involve them showing up en masse. What reason would they have for peaceful contact? Needing medical help? They’re advanced enough to fly to Earth from the ass-end of wherever. Same for maintenance.”

“Whatever they use for fuel, Earth cannot or will not hand over,” Technolutionary provided.

I nodded toward the screen. “And then there’s the possibility we get the intergalactic equivalent of the Jehovah’s fucking Wit-”

Captain Lightning cut me off there. “Psycho Gecko has a point. Most first contacts between foreign cultures with such a disproportionate difference in technology are hostile in some form or another. Earth’s experience with aliens provides ample evidence in favor of this viewpoint. We should be be prepared to talk softly, but carry a big stick.”

Technolutionary spoke up, “If you want peace, prepare for war. It makes sense why you would reverse your stance now, Gecko.”

I tried to make sure no one delved into that conversation too far. I doubted any of the heroes, even my Wildflower, had the moral flexibility to see the bigger picture in what we’ve done, especially given mine and Technolutionary’s lack of restraint in terms of collateral damage. “A big, throbbing stick capable of wiping them all out, preferably preemptively.”

“A show of force would work,” said Forcelight, looking over the information I’d provided on the table. “Not everyone treats every conflict as a fight to the death.”

I shrugged. “If worst comes to worst, we need to prepare a very final method of dealing with them.”

Venus scoffed. “A Final Solution?”

“Don’t go knocking genocide just because some racist Germans used it once. That’s slander on the good name of that perfectly viable tactic by associating it solely with the Nazis. Which is falacious, I might add. Call it something nicer or loftier, like Manifest Destiny. Besides, I’d use it against everyone, not just members of one race or another.”

Venus shook her head and looked to Wildflower. “And you’re fine with this? This is who you want?”

I don’t know if I sense legitimate jealousy there, but I’ll even take hot fantasy lesbian threesome jealousy, only this time I wear a skimpy nurse’s outfit with red high heels, and Wildflower’s the one I call Dr. Feelgood.

“Do you want me to tell him not to kill people? Alright.” Wildflower leaned close guided my face around so I was looking right at her. “Baby, please don’t kill people.”

“Aww, how could I ever say ‘no’ to you…” I leaned my head close, our foreheads touching. “Oh yeah, now I remember! No.”

She stepped back, an amused smile on her face. I don’t believe it surprised her. Then she looked to Venus. “I tried.”

“You’re going to let him or her talk to you like that?”

Wildflower crossed her arms. “You should ask him. Everyone knows you two have some special bond.”

Perturbed, Venus leaned in close, squishing her twin milk cannons for best effect. “Hey, Gecko. Please, for me, try not to kill so many people, alright?”

I pretended to think. “Gee, when you put it that way, there’s probably only one thing I can say. That’s that you should back up, stick your tongue out, flap your arms, jump off the roof, and give a flying fuck. Because I don’t. Pussy.”

And she was concerned about how I talked to Wildflower.

“Since you want to pretend you are a woman now, you might watch out for that sort of sexist talk.” Venus flipped me the bird.

I held a hand to my chest. “I like to think of myself as a skeleton trapped in a woman’s body.”

“Gecko, please shut up for five minutes.” Lightning butted in, trying to stop the talk from breaking down.

“A moment, oh Captain my captain. I have just one thing to say.” I let silence fall for a moment as everyone prepared themselves for my incoming remark. To Venus, I finally said, “Suck my coccyx.”

Captain Lightning reached over with one finger and zapped with a small arc of electricity. “I’m afraid we have gone off-task in our discussion. Reign this in, stay on point. Aliens.”

I nodded. “If you’ll all avoid getting too much soy sauce on the papers there, I’ve vaguely described some of the measures I’ve taken to secure the city a little better. I don’t care about the nanites, either, Forcelight. They’ll help. But if I come out of the blue to discuss this with the heroes when E.T. Decides to pwn home, most won’t believe me. We need to get people ready for this, and we don’t have long.”

“Why do you care this much?” Venus glared at me some more. You’d think she’d have a little less anger after flashing me with her headlights the other day and punching me into a ceiling.

“It doesn’t matter why he cares. It just matters that he’s helping.” Lightning answered for me, exasperated with the arguing. “We need to find those we can trust and prepare quietly. Organize.” I noticed Venus’s eye twitch as she watched Lightning. “Anyone with an x-ray vision power can find it where the neck meets the skull.”

“A knife and visual inspection works, too.” I added. Wildflower rubbed at the back of her neck.

Lightning glanced at her neck briefly, then pulled over a carton of fried rice. In the midst of all our arguing, we’d mostly forgotten the food. I returned to chowing down on my egg roll. “Seems it does,” he confirmed.

“Gentlemen, ladies…don’t just stand there looking surprised. Let’s eat some food and plan how to take over…sorry, wrong crowd…save the world!”

Lightning and Wildflower nodded. On the screen, a doorbell got Technolutionary’s attention. Forcelight joined us in our meal, but Venus didn’t lower her guard until Technolutionary returned and lifted up his helmet enough to start chowing down on a box of Chinese delivery.

Of course, convincing some heroes to get to work on this was the easy part, if it works at all. Now I’ve got to find some way to present myself as trustworthy to a bunch of supervillains. Clearly, this will require copious amounts of lying. And more chicken teriyaki.

Next

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Enlightening Strikes 3

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Previous

For the late Fortune Cookie to have been picked up by a killer looking for someone else, she must have been somewhere he’d be. She had that power, but it must not have been enough. I don’t know why she even bothered going herself; she’s tends…tended…to take a hands-off approach. I’ve looked over graffiti and anything else from the crime scene again and again and again, trying to tell if somehow, some way she meant to get a message to me by her death.

But that’s not how her power worked, I think. So I figured going after the killer would be the best use of my time. And maybe she knew I’d do that, too.

Regardless, once I got ready, I went all private eye up in this bitch. Looked over the other victims to see what was meant about the serial killer hunting outside their usual preference. He likes his women like he likes his coffee: tall with a pale head. Likes to go after of blondes that stand head and shoulders above the rest. Someone’s not a fan of Nazi playboy bunnies. A dark-haired Asian woman stands out in that group, but it also meant I knew what to look for while retracing Cookie’s steps.

He got distracted from his usual routine. She knew who he was after, but got in the way, or walked into his trap and made herself irresistible. So I needed to keep an eye out for tall blondes along that last route Cookie ever took. Though I narrowed it down a great deal by figuring out when she went from walking to being driven. Because I doubt the killer carried her on his back to that house.

I walked made it a part of my daily routine to pass by there several times, always in armor that projected a slightly different take on the ideal victim. Then I spotted a van with the back doors open. Someone pushed something in and the van was a rockin’. When I walked around, a woman looked back at me. The short brunette looked nice and all, nothing like a potential victim. Checking her out, I saw where she even had a fake leg. A cheap one, not one of my superior products. She’d been pushing a small couch into the back of the van. “Need a hand there?”

She smiled at me and reached over to adjust a sheet on top of the couch. “No thanks. I got it.”

My projection smiled. “No, I got this.” I pushed her aside to help finish getting that couch in there. In the process, the sheet bucked a little and I saw a few blonde hairs uncovered. Behind me, my armor’s 360-degree HUD showed the woman reaching down to undo her false leg below the knee. She raised it to overhead and smacked it over my head. It thunked off harmlessly.

“Stop,” I said, lifting the couch more to finish getting it in there.

Confused, she tried once more, whapping it horizontally across the back of my head.

“You’re just embarassing yourself at this point,” I told her, then turned around and clocked her. The blow sent her head against the van’s back door window, cracking it and knocking her out cold.

When the van drove off this time, the blonde was left on the ground and our little killer, a woman it turns out, rode in the back. And instead of some cheap little house, we were headed to a bright and shining tower. I ditched the van and carried her up the back private elevator, wondering which of the various heroes would inevitably interrupt the dispersal of justice.

Will it be Venus, with her annoying insistence that even someone as bad as me shouldn’t be killed for reasons? Perhaps World War II veteran Captain Lightning will fly in, angry that a lying killer would lie to him and try to kill someone. I suppose Wildflower could pick this time to show up, bringing naive relationship drama just in time to see the real me. But why stop there? There’s always room for more random people to throw themselves into the middle of my life. More random alien people, that is. I’ve got my eyes on them.

The peg leg killer woke up in my arms on the ride up and got a good view of me in my armor. Then she wet herself. Profusely. This did not get her on my good side, since I was carrying her at the time.

Up in the penthouse, I tossed her out onto the floor like yesterday’s salad and locked down the elevator. She stood up and hopped up and down, absent her leg and weapon, not that it would have done her any good. She hopped over toward the kitchen and grabbed for a pair of knives to hold out in front of me. I calmly approached the elevator. “Oh no. Please. Knives. Perhaps I can find something in here that can disarm you safely without risking any harm to myself.”

I threw the refrigerator at her. She folded up on the ground, avoiding most of the fridge’s impact against the counter, then crawling out from underneath it before it could slide down on her.

She’d dropped a knife in all the hubbub. I stalked toward her while she headed into the living room area. It’s an art, ya know. Good stalking, as it is used in this context, is about projecting unstoppable menace and getting really close while appearing to never move faster than a walk. Good stalking in other contexts usually involves uncomfortable levels of obsession, and I usually reserve that for Venus, but only because we’re meant to be together.

That was a joke, ha ha, fat chance. Anyway, this cake is great, it’s so delicious and moist. So I threw it and the cake dish at Pegleg Patsy! While she cussed, it appears she didn’t concuss. Holding onto the knife, she regained her footing enough to stand. “You’re not going to kill me, fucker! I’ll beat you!”

She jabbed the knife toward her throat, but found it wouldn’t go all the way with my hand on her wrist. Instead, the breaking of her wristbone convinced her that dropping the knife was her most physically possible course of action. A kick sent it skidding along the floor. A punch in the gut doubled her over. Is it singling someone over when they only have one leg?

“Why did you kill the Asian woman?” I asked. “Is this about me? Are you one of them?”

“Fuck them, fuck you, fuck her! She wasn’t even my type!” I grabbed her head and lifted her up to look her in the eyes, squeezing her face in my fingers. She spat on my helmet’s visor. I wiped it off, slapped her with the spitty glove, and then brought her back up to look into her face again.

“Then why did you kill her?”

“She got in my way! I wanted the tall bitch, with her long legs. She’s the only one that matters, whether she likes it or not. Especially if not!” I shut her up with a gentle chop to the throat, just enough to send her into a coughing fit.

“You need some serious help, you know that?” I asked, watching her hold her throat and try to recover. “So you have a grudge against a certain type, and she just got in your way?”

Ole Peggy there nodded despite the coughing. “She started to help me with the sofa before I was ready. Tried to tell me I’d be sorry if I killed her.”

I nodded. “Yes, you will be. By the way, did you know it’s actually possible to skullfuck someone while keeping them alive? The things you learn in this lifetime. And I mean it. The things you will learn.”

It was then that the glass leading to the balcony shattered from Wildflower tearing through it her claws. The green-skinned herione stepped over the broken glass and glared at me with narrow slitted eyes, vine-like green tail swaying behind her barely-clothed body. Her tight shorts, bikini-like top, and scowl full of pointy teeth all left little to the imagination. She didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything. Pegleg yelled out, “Help, this man kidnapped me!”

“Is that true?” Wildflower asked.

I shrugged. “Sure, but only because I was going to torture and kill her.”

“See?! Help me, please. He’s crazy. He threw a refrigerator at me,” my victim whined, clearly trying to lie to garner sympathy.

“Shut up,” I said while stomping on her ankle. Something snapped and she fell to floor, screaming and crying. To Wildflower, I added, “You know, this is a really bad time for you to stop in. Can we do this later?”

“Why?” She asked, nodding her chin toward the downed killer.

“She’s the serial killer, and she killed an ally of mine. I won’t stand for that.” A moan from the floor emphasized that point. “She won’t stand for it, either.”

A metal rod speared into my floor. The cable it trailed stayed taught while a zipping noise grew louder. Venus appeared in her patrol exoskeleton; it lacked the protection of full power armor, but still gave her armor plates and extra equipment to supplement her fighting skills; all in her signature gold, white, and pink. While the metal rod rewound into her armor’s left forearm, I quietly texted Moai to grab a rocket launcher and standby.

“Et tu, Venus?” I asked the plucky heroine who always stood ready to save society from me. “This one’s owed me.”

“Funny, I don’t see you wearing a judge’s robes,” she said from behind a mirrored facemask that protected her upper face.

“Truth doesn’t change just because a jury says something. She’s our serial killer. I’ll deal with. Go ahead, ask the average man on the street if they feel safer leaving it to me.” I shooed her away.

“It’s the principle of the thing. It’s not my place to give up on her.”

“The world would be better if you di-fucking hell!” We now interrupt this message to bring you a flashbang! Both happened too soon for me to stop, as a pair of lights on either side of Venus’s helmet lit up and then a piercing noise rang in my ears. A second later, an uppercut embedded me halfway up into my bedroom’s floor above the living room area. Instinctively, I activated my cybernetic vocal chords’ banshee scream. The note once used by a prison to paralyze me instead came from my own lips while my helmet prevented me from seeing it.

My eyes weren’t blinded for long, though. Sure, the original flash got through, but they weren’t as sensitive as organic eyes, so I recovered more quickly. I’d embedded in the ceiling with my hands caught in one room with my lower body, so I took to pressing them up against the ceiling. When that didn’t give me enough leverage, I broke through the ceiling with my hands enough to push myself down onto the floor. I found Venus holding the killer under one arm and Wildflower under another, seemingly unaffected herself. I shut my yap, trying not to incur any more maintenance time on my voicebox than necessary.

Venus took one look at me and turned to run. As she ran, Wildflower pushed away from her and stopped. Venus tried to turn and reach for her, but my nemesis hit the edge of the roof and fell. I pursued, only to be stopped when the Wildflower’s mutated human/plant/animal form tackled me. As I went down, I heard another zipping go from loud to quiet, followed by the whoosh of a rocket and an explosion coupled with more glass shattering.

“I missed.” Moai’s text appeared in the lower left corner of my HUD while I roll with Wildflower and threw her off me. She landed on kitchen counter with a graceful backflip, her elongated toenails clicking on the countertop.

I looked to the balcony, but saw no chance of pursuit. “So now what. You try to beat me up as some scorned woman, fail, and I kill you? Or is this yet another escape?” I turned back to Wildflower, who slid down to the floor.

“We may as well talk since I don’t intend to arrest you. Like I could, right?.” She lowered har arms by her side and relaxed. Even the hair on her head seemed to relax. Probably some sort of response it had to make her look bigger in a fight.

I held out my arms. “Well then, let’s start with the obvious. This is the real me. Deal with it.”

“You were manipulating me the entire time?”

I nodded.

“Even when you stayed the night with me in the asylum?” Geez, what’s with everyone referencing that? The villain group I had joined captured her and held her in an old asylum. I was bringing her stuff to get on her good side and influence her. I brought stuff for her to sleep, but she insisted I watch over her so the guards didn’t try anything. So what if I didn’t intend to stay?

I nodded again. “Duh.”

“And all the dates?” She asked with a smirk.

Well, I had an image, I guess. Besides, who doesn’t like spending some occasional time with a good-looking person who hangs on your every word? “Don’t tell me you’re an adrenaline junkie or one of those women who thinks she can change someone. I always got the sense you were smarter than that.”

“Smart enough to fool you.” She walked close, looking into my visor. I kept monitoring her arms, her legs, even the surrounding area in case she smuggled plants up here for a sneak attack. “You wanted to use me. I wanted to use you.”

“For what?” I tilted my head to clue her in to my curiosity.

“I was already out of my cell before you showed up that last day, but I couldn’t have escaped without you. You wined and dined me. Bought me things. Gave me money. You have a unique charm, and who doesn’t like spending time with an attractive woman like you?”

Jamie Foxx sang the titular lyric of the song “Gold Digger” from my helmet’s speakers as I looked at her. “So that’s all you are?”

Wildflower slapped me across the helmet, then roiled in disgust at the spittle and plaster she got on herself.

“Ha! The heroine wants a sugar mama to take care of her and her bills.”

She hissed at me. “I wanted a rich, successful, evil little girlfriend who would step on anyone to get what she wanted. If she owned the lab that took everything from me, all the more poetic.” I didn’t own Sigma when their experiments turned her into the life form that stood before me, but I understand the symmetry of that situation. “Look at what you do when a friend dies? Venus wouldn’t do that. No hero would.”

I grabbed her by the neck. “You thought I’d die for you?”

“I knew you’d kill for me.” She didn’t budge one inch.

I looked her over. “Before this goes any further, I need to check something out. A bit of a physical.”

Yep, she’s almost definitely a plant. Well, partly a plant, but almost definitely sent by aliens.

She smiled, showing off those feline canines. “Anything you want.” She showed such trust. Tsk, tsk.

I snapped her neck to the side. Maybe trusting me was a bad idea. I let her body drop, then looked around for that damn knife from earlier. Ah, there it was. Turning Wildflower over, I carved open the back of her neck to check for one of those little alien communication pods. Despite the difficulty getting through her skin and its annoying tendency to refuse to stay open, the check turned up nothing. Shame, I guess. There was something thrilling about her motives. She didn’t want money or things. She wanted a crazy-ass murderer. She got one, too.

I dropped her body and stood up, wondering if I had anything nice to drink at the bar. I stopped when I saw her body move behind me. Her tail glided up her back, wrapped itself around her neck, and wrenched it back into place. The neck itself, I realized, had closed up almost completely by this point. I turned around to watch her stand back to her feet. “I lost everything to Sigma labs. Maybe you didn’t notice. You like to talk, but I didn’t have much to say. I don’t know for sure Rachel is my real name. I don’t know who I was. Everything about me, except these awesome powers.”

“A hero that tough who doesn’t want to bring me in?” She had my interest. Goody goodies often don’t like the idea that their partner is dirty in more than just the fun ways.

“Yes, a hero. I’m not going to give up stopping criminals and bullies. That’s what I have now. I don’t expect you to be anything but what you are. God, I want you to be who you are. No one will ever do to me again what Sigma Labs did.”

I stepped closer, checking her over. Her physiology wasn’t quite human, and she showed some agitation and flushing, but no nervousness, no doubt. She seemed honest about liking that I do what I do how I do it. She didn’t just accept it, she wanted it. “You’ll use me.”

She giggled. “Use me, too, but no one uses us.” She put her arms around my neck.

I grabbed one arm and moved it aside to release the seal on my helmet. She put it back in place and moved the other for me when I undid the other seal and pulled it off. Suddenly, I could smell the blood, the plaster, and her. Her most of all. It was a good smell. Like sex, or at least a close-up with some of the body parts that make it happen. I couldn’t help looking into her eyes. Or moving my face closer to hers. Or the kiss, whichever of us started it.

***

Late that night, technically into the next morning, I awoke from my sleep, disturbed by the lack of covers. I only had on a thin sheet, same as the superhero laying next to me on my upstairs landing. We lost the comforter, pillows, and bed when Venus swung by to see what had befallen her comrade in arms. We missed Venus, but not, as far as Crash’s email indicates, my personal assistant’s parked car on the street below.

I curled up next to Wildflower’s…hope she doesn’t expect me to call her by her real name, Rachel…anyway, Wildflower’s warmer body until I realized that, despite all that had gone on, things smelled very, very different. She had more of a citrus smell now. I rubbed at the little scar on the back of her neck and a still lightly-bruised throat caused by something much more recent than my interrogation of her earlier. “Tigerlily,” I whispered my favored nickname in her twitching ear.

“Mmm?”

“Did you use pheromones on me earlier?”

“Mmm. Mhm. Jus’ a little. Mostly was in heat,” she responded drowsily. I felt her tail coil around my thigh, the thorns lightly pricking my skin.

I tightened my grip on her throat, fingernails biting into her flesh, but not tearing anything open. I held her like that long enough to get my point across, and though she struggled to breathe, she didn’t raise a hand to me. “You don’t use pheromones on me.” I told her.

She started hacking when I let her go, so I took a moment to sit up and search for a blanket that might have fallen off the bed. I found it draped over the railing at the edge of the second floor and pulled it onto both of us. Even though I’d faced away from Wildflower, she soon turned to wrap her arms and legs around my body, nuzzling the back of my head. “Sorry, babe,” she said with a purr before slipping into sleep once more.

The interesting thing about being a psycho: somehow, you’ll never be the craziest one in the relationship. But, provided I believe her, it’s nice to have someone in a romantic sense willing to accept me that way. I mean, not like it’s love. But it’s still nice.

Unless she’s really an alien. Then I’ll kill her anyway. After I’m done cuddling, that is.

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Enlightening Strikes 2

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While Captain Lightning worked through all the red tape to release evidence from some alphabet soup agency’s custody for me to try and destroy, I sought out our girl Fortune Cookie. She really should warn me before bringing someone into all this. For all I know, half her friends are going to drunk dial after a night of heavy drinking.

Which is awesome, but still something I’d like to be warned about. One of them might have some daddy issues and low self esteem I can try to exploit. No, as Yoda would say, there’s no “try” only “do”. And while I can’t make a do-angle, I would DO one of Fortune Cookie’s friends who has daddy issues. At least, if I had floppy parts between my legs. Otherwise, I guess it’s mommy issues, and that sounds a lot less sexy than heterosexual parental incest for some reason.

Messages didn’t work, and she’d moved out of the last place she lived. The cell phone had been dumped in the trash outside a subway station, which I didn’t feel much like diving into without my armor on. I didn’t find her until I’d run around a few places and decided to answer Moai’s supposed “urgent” calls. It’s hard to blame me. He has to communicate through button pushes, like some sort of ghost knocking on things for a medium, or a person texting.

When I did, he pushed so many of them in a row, I couldn’t keep up. It took a moment for me to try and replay everything while applying a translator, but he had something in there about turning on the TV, the serial killer, a new victim. About the time he finished up, I had swapped around to local news where they showed a picture that looked remarkably like Fortune Cookie, only with the caption, “Latest Victim” underneath.

It floored me, I admit. I had to sit down right then and there. There weren’t any convenient seats, so I pushed a mounted officer off his horse and stole his. The horse reared up on its back legs instead of cooperating, so I had to hold on and then try to calm it down when it bolted. Well, that didn’t work too well, no matter how much I pulled on the reins and yelled “Whoa!” so I resorted to hitting it on the head. The damn beast ran right into traffic and got hit by an unfortunate cab. At this point, trying to slow it down was like beating a dead horse.

On the plus side, the cab provided a convenient getaway. The driver was none-to-happy with the prospect of sitting around and explaining a dead police horse, either, so it worked out well for both of us.

Rather than try stopping by whatever police precinct was dealing with the killer and his victims, I had the cab drop me off close by where they found Cookie. The driver didn’t want to get any closer than that. In gratitude, I handed him a card for one of the Double Cross mechanics and some cash. They’d get him fixed up in a hurry, and might have a use for someone who can drive. I don’t know where he was from, but he traveled a long way, braved nationalists who wish they could build a wall across the ocean to keep airplanes out, and now he had a shot at the American Dream: Americans robbing each other blind.

It’s the same dream that motivated Carnegie when he came over from Scotland to monopolize steel, Frederick Trump when he came from Germany with his wife and started opening brothels and hotels, and George Romney when he came from Mexico to build automobiles for the military-industrial complex during World War II. That cabbie’s son or grandson could be president someday, provided he’s white enough. And that’s what makes the United States great: the ability for the sons and grandsons of immigrants to accuse their parents and grandparents of destroying America and getting rich off of other Americans.

Is it any wonder I can hide so well in a country with this widespread delusion?

Yeah, my mind’s been busy trying to distract me. It’s better than getting lost down the logic chain my brain assembled as I saw the crime scene. Who did this? The serial killer. Unless someone was targeting me and trying to make it look like the serial killer. Except, Occam’s Razor suggests it’s likely to be the serial killer. And if he was targeting people connected to me, he knows far more than he should, which is unlikely. Fortune Cookie has kept the links between her and I hidden. But it still could be. It could be that they knew somehow. Maybe through the connection to Captain Lightning. I think he’s clear, but they could have had someone mixed up in confidential U.S. Communications. It’s not like leaks are all that difficult.

An officer stopped me before I could walk through the crime scene tape. “Ma’am, you need to stay back.”

The body wasn’t around anymore. There weren’t even bloodstains left around. The killer wrapped them up tight.

“I knew the victim, sort of.”

“Sort of?” the cop wrinkled his eyes, puzzled. “Ma’am, can I ask you to wait for me while I get a detective for you to speak to?”

I nodded, but took the opportunity to scan the area. My cybernetic eyes showed their true colors, or lack of colors, as they flashed through various vision modes to check for anything. Just a normal street corner where someone dumped a body. Corner of 13th Street.

A man in a heavy coat walked up. I covered my eyes as if crying to hide their shift back to normal. “Ma’am, you knew the victim?” asked an older detective with a surprising amount of brown hair above his thin, wrinkled face. He seemed to squint at everything.

“She was my psychic. I called her for advice.” I looked at him, peering into his eyes, wondering if he was another infiltrator. There wouldn’t be much to gain from nabbing this guy, unless they really had set this all up.

In the end, I don’t entirely know if Fortune Cookie herself was one.

“A phone psychic hotline, right. I don’t suppose you can get your money back?” You know, for all the shit I get over my casual treatment of murder, the alleged “good guys” aren’t much better. I just screw fewer women and drink fewer martinis than James Bond. “She didn’t have any ID on her. Did you know her name?”

I shook my head. “I doubt it. She called herself Miss Fortune.” It was a partial lie. I think she did advertise her services under a name like that as part of her cover, but obviously I knew her from when she started guiding me at the end of my adventure in Japan.

I never did get the hang of her powers, completely, but that could be generally due the nature of clairvoyance. Allegedly, she just couldn’t see anything related to anything she did. Technically, she could be caught by surprise at the wrong time and place. Unless it wasn’t.

I peered up at the buildings and alleys, looking for any graffiti or anything out of the ordinary. “Is there any reason she was dumped here?” I asked the detective.

“The killer’s been keeping score. See, this is 13th, and he goes through two a month, so he’ll leave the next one at 14th. Do you know if she had any enemies, ya know, maybe disgruntled customers?”

Probably every bookie and casino in the world, but I didn’t tell him that. “Not really. It’s not like we had group telephone sessions. You know, unless the spirits from the Great Beyond got mad at her for hitting on a dead woman’s widower, maybe.” Ignoring his rolled eyes and minor shrug, I queried,”There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary or unusual…anything?”

The detective put a hand on my shoulder. “Listen, honey, let me worry about the investigation. When is the last time you heard from her?”

I answered some more questions with some more lies, up until he asked my name. He didn’t recognize me, though. Just reminded me they were on the job and to call the number on his card if I remember anything else that might be pertinent to the case.

I did have something that would be useful to him, if I gave a damn about that. I didn’t even care if that one was an alien, too. Fuck the police. I had a bit more personal version of justice in mind. Fortune Cookie was my asset, and one who didn’t have to help me, at least as much because saving the world was slightly more important than ensuring the death of one individual. And what’s the point of being a murderous supervillain if you can’t use that to avenge people on your side?

So I went back to the cell phone, and found it in the grip of a street person. I couldn’t be sure of their gender at first, but I guess the fellow just really liked wearing that dress. When you need all the layers you can get, beggars literally can’t be choosers. Or maybe the guy wanted to look pretty. I can understand that one.

Either way, I stopped him before he left the alley by holding out a bundle of cash. “Hey there, mind if I buy that phone off you?”

“Whatchu want?” he asked, turning to look up at me. After a second, he looked back down at the phone in his hands. “Got to have a phone, in case Bebe calls me.”

Bebe could be an alien name. Maybe.

I grabbed my phone and blanked it of the few contacts I had on there. It was mostly for sure, anyway. I wrapped it in some cash and held it out for the man. “Maybe you could use this one instead. That one’s battery must be close to dead, don’t you think?”

He looked between the two, and reached out for the bundle in my hands. He held both phones in his hands, one sleek new black thing, one thicker and pink. Hell, Fortune Cookie’s old phone would probably stand up better to the kind of wear he was likely to put it through, so I also took out a Double Cross card and wrote a note on there. “And if that thing breaks, or you need a warm place, or a meal, take this to any place that has that logo on it. You understand?” I held out the card for him.

He looked at it, then back at me, then back at the card, then at the phones, then back at the card. Good thing there wasn’t anything up in the sky, like a bird, plane, or some sort of super man or that prior sentence would still be going on. After deliberating for a moment, the man took the card away. “Thanks. I’m going to go now.” He held out Cookie’s phone for me. “Here.”

I took it and nodded at the man, wondering if he was trying to throw me off the scent. Does that dirty exterior hide the Gecko-hating heart of an alien? Is he a snake? Some sort of slimy goo? Have I pissed off a race of evil space-squirrels due to my policy of violence towards nuts?

Walking away back to my tower over almost the whole of Empyreal City, I began to formulate the trace program. It worked slightly different than finding a phone’s present location, but it’s possible to trace a phone back in time. That’s what I did, looking to find out where that phone had been before someone dumped it there.

I stopped when I realized it spent four hours the next neighborhood over. I sent for backup and a car from Moai, then headed over. I jumped a fence to find a guard dog chained up in back. Some sort of mutt, with shaggy hair all over the place. He ran at me, then jumped for my chest, so I kicked him in the head. Then I punted his balls. He took off for a far corner of the yard, my dominance firmly established without the need to hump him.

Live and let live, at least until the cops show up and shoot the damn thing just for being there. Never found that much reason to shoot a dog. It’s an insult to bipedalism for an adult hominim to be taken down by that small of a four-legged critter. But I suppose that just makes dog punching an ad hominim attack.

Fucking dog better not be an alien infiltrator, I know that much, or I’m coming back to finish the job.

The backdoor didn’t present a problem, even taking a moment to check for tripwires or anything. Our killer wasn’t some sophisticated trap master. The tiny house proved absent of furnishings, dust, and, after much thorough searching, a killer. Which I figured when, in the course of my search, I found a series of letters and numbers written across all four walls of the living room.

Ah, one of those types. The “Match wits with the cops” types. They don’t do so well in the information age. After scanning it with my eyes, the same program that learned English in no time flat displayed the completed, bloodwrit message.

“too slow heroes she is not my type nor who i wanted but she stepped between me and my target i could not say no i will be back on track soon you will see what i mean”

Surprised he didn’t come up with some contrived name like “Murder Death Kill” or “Calendar”, but this might be the first time he taunted anyone.

I downloaded the rest of the locations the phone had been to for the past couple of months, wiped it clean of sensitive contacts and fingerprints, and dropped it off there.

That night, I wrote a message on The Order’s forum, where they’d been talking up this serial killer. Some were jealous of the loss of publicity, some entertained the idea of catching him themselves, while others thought he was a major asshole. Regardless of his enrollment in the body part army, I posted as Psycho Gecko to call dibs. “He killed one of us. This is between me and him.”

That stirred up a flurry of activity from those surprised by my presence. And a betting pool for how long it took.

Probably scared some heroes when the same message appeared on the Hero.Net forum discussion about the killer. Regardless, they all now knew I was in town and intended vengeance, and damn anything Captain Lightning said!

I know it’s going to distract, slightly, from my greater business, but I have to know how deep this goes. Who is this person? Why are they after me? And now that I’m here, which one of these snakes, in the grass and flying the sky, will turn out to be controlled by the aliens. Who can I trust? Who do I kill? Who do I have to sleep with to find out who I get to kill, before then killing the person who fucked me?

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