Category Archives: 39. Star Gex: Fist Contact

Just because I’m out, doesn’t quite mean I’m out.

Star Gex: Fist Contact 8

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“Busy bees, Gecko. Beijing, Empyreal City, Tokyo, Johannesburg, and almost Washington D.C. Captain Lightning earned his pardon.” Max punctuated each of the cities that suffered the alien chemical control rain by passing around drinks that had purple, blue, and green yellows with floating pineapples on top. I had no clue what they were, like much of what Max throws together, but I was willing to risk these. All things considered, what’s the worst they could do? The aliens are the ones supposed to kill me, so I’ll just worry about accepting fruity colored drinks from them. So Sam, Holly, Max, and I enjoyed our drinks toasting the loss of some fairly big cities, while Moai finished his almost-Washington drink. It wasn’t the same as the others. For one thing, it was on the rocks.

“Anybody else giving a damn and fighting back?” I asked, sipping on my fruity drink. I suppose I tend to focus on my own problems to the exclusion of the rest of the world, but I’m hardly unique there.

Max settled in across the table, between Holly and Sam, then nodded to me. “Yes, my dear.”

I raised an eyebrow, as did Holly and Sam. And Max, too, who said, “You wouldn’t react that way if I said it to a man Gecko.”

“He has a point,” I responded, shrugging. “And it’s good that I’m not the only sane person on earth.”

Max grinned. “The rioters in Russia would disagree with you taking that title for yourself.”

“Everyone would disagree with you calling yourself the only sane person,” muttered Holly.

She had a point. “It’s not my fault they keep handing it to me. But, as I’ve often thought, I’m not insane so much as just reacting to an insane world. Now, bottoms up. We’ve got some more reacting to do.” I took a big sip before setting my glass down on the table, right next to five signal interceptors.

I had a message I wanted heard, and for that I needed a lot of help all over the place. Like Forcelight. She hasn’t been taking her captivity well, though you’d never know it to look at her. It’s very distracting having to control her, too, but at least her company’s access to nanites kept her from breaking away. All I had to do was keep administering them to her while the old ones’ orders superseded the general reparative programming they’d been given to work on anyone. It all comes down to reading the DNA, which is likely going to cause a hell of a lot of trouble with some folks.

I know, I know. Tiny machines that read DNA? How is that even possible? What’s next, tiny machines that can take half a strand of DNA and use chemicals to create the complementary opposite side? Madness! Madness, sorcery, and biology.

Imperfect analogy aside, I’ve had to fly a fine line as Forcelight to keep The Good Doctor from suspecting I had taken over his daughter’s body. Well, ok, it was pretty easy to keep him from thinking that. All I had to do was not suggest that to him. Even if I acted strange, I could blame it on any number of things but that. Like when Forcelight flew back in after visiting a couple of local TV stations, then immediately turned on the TV in her living room. Good Doctor thought it odd, but he had enough to deal with between getting caught up on news, asking old friends for help, and riposting Lone Gunman’s barbs.

That trio in Kingscrow saw the same thing that could have been seen anywhere else in the country, from L.A. to D.C., from Empyreal City to Paradise City, from Kingscrow to Memphis, though those last two aren’t as far away as the others I mentioned.

And what they all saw was, apparently, a cheap motel bathroom as viewed from a small, round camera balanced on a towel rack. At least until I dropped the invisibility. “Hello out there, TV land. It’s time for Uncle Gecko’s Molestation Minute again. Ah, but that’s the sort of attitude that makes y’all try to turn the channels. Go ahead. Aha! See? Still here.”

Yeah, I kinda didn’t want anyone covering anything else.

“Now, right about now there’s a bunch of buildings spontaneously combusting all over the country because those Fluidic aliens up above are trying to take me out. They’re kinda scared of me like that, probably because I’m one of the few people who is actually doing anything about them. Though that probably explains any other mysterious explosions y’all might have noticed that got rid of xenophobic elements. Don’t try too hard, Fluidics.” I showed them why. The bathroom shifted and transformed into a view in front of Mt. Rushmore. Then in front of the White House. Then in front of a bunch of rampaging movie Indians from a Western, a stripping cop, Colin Mochrie of Whos Line Is It Anyway making funny faces, and finally settling on Times Square in Empyreal City.

They could attack wherever they wanted, but they’d destroy an awful lot of places before getting me.

“Listen, everybody knows what the aliens are doing. It’s mind control. Forget the crazy chemtrail stuff some people have been preaching, this is actual mind control. They stimulate the growth of an organ in the neck that gives them control over the human body. And they did that to the entirety of Empyreal City, which I know because I had been there. I got out of there, but I had been there. Saw it happen with my own two eyes.”

A familiar voice interrupted my feed, which I could see since I was both recording and watching at the same time. “Where’d they dig this copy up?” asked another Psycho Gecko, this one standing in front of a black and white atom bomb test. The world may not revolve around me, but I was starting to wish the Fluidics knew that. “I don’t know much about all this alien mess, but I know I wasn’t anywhere near Empyreal City after those jackass Starfleet wannabes almost tossed me in a hole and threw away the hole. Now stop cramping my style, copy.”

With that, my doppelganger pulled a screaming woman close, put one arm around her shoulders, and tore her head off with the other.

I let him keep broadcasting, instead doing a sort of side-by-side editing job that put us both on the air at once. “See? They’ve even been trying to copy me. Just ask the Master Academy about that one. But they used a suit full of one of the slimy black aliens to do so. Hey, fake Psycho Gecko, let’s see you do this!” I pulled off my helmet, revealing the face of Norma Mortenson, my secret identity, to the world.

“…you win this round,” grumbled the copy, before walking offscreen to the side. I cut off his interruption, all while reaching over and grabbing my camera off the towel rack. The view shifted as I set my cybernetic eye back in my socket.

“Here’s the rundown, folks: aliens are bad. I’m bad, too, but at least I don’t want to enslave everyone and destroy the Earth. And since all the heroes, all the alleged ‘good guys,’” and here I used finger quotes, “Aren’t doing shit, that just leaves me. And anyone who will help me. I may be a monster, but I’m a monster pointed in their direction. And someone’s got to do the right thing. Since everyone else on the list has shirked their responsibilities, it falls to me. So I’m announcing now that I’m about to leave the City of Angels and head straight for Empyreal City. When I get there, I’m taking back that city, the ship, everyone they’ve captured, and I’m going to destroy their fleet. I’m going to do it whether you’re on my side or not, but somebody’s got to do it. Now on to the announcement I have to direct at the aliens themselves: I’m coming for you.”

I cut it off there and donned my helmet again, strolling out of the motel where everyone waited. Max and his girls were taking their own car. Ethan Basford had brought along a vintage green Jaguar he would be riding in. Moai and I had a bright yellow convertible, the better for Moai to feel the wind on his face.

It was not exactly an impressive caravan.

It must have impressed someone, though. After a day on the road in which I’d swear we were being followed by human-sized flyers from afar, we stopped at a gas station in the middle of nowhere and saw my little message had gotten a response. The barrier came down. A figure approached suddenly to look into the cameras.

She’d changed quite a bit. Seemed like her cheeks were a bit thinner. Oh, and there was the way her eyes glowed through her visor and a metal implant showed through her cheek. It was Venus in her power armor, but it was her new overlords who spoke. “We will bring you peace, starting with this threat from the supervillain Psycho Gecko. Everyone, you are safe with our friends from the stars. They have done wonderful things here in Empyreal City. No crime, no pollution. It is the beginnings of a paradise.”

They forced her to smile. Those assholes. Made me so mad, even Forcelight frowned where she and her group were packing their things to head out to Empyreal City. The Kingscrow group got the idea from my broadcast and decided it would be better to head there first and see what they could do to take down the barrier. It was better than letting me get there and start deploying weapons of mass destruction. Or so Good Doctor and Lone Gunman thought.

“If Psycho Gecko hates us, it must be for good reason. We welcome his hatred. Let him come,” Venus finished before leaving the startled news team behind and leaping back over to the city.

“Shit’s crazy, right?” asked a man of indeterminate brownness who spent most of our time in the store eyeing the screen instead of us. Too bad for him we robbed the shit out of it. We even sent Basford around to suck the gas out of the clerk’s car with a hose. We could have paid for anything, but…why?

I brushed aside a Slim Jim that slightly obstructed the view on the tiny TV set, glaring at the screen as the station replayed images of Venus and long-distance shots of Empyreal City as it looked now. The people and cars didn’t move right. It was too organized.

I reached out and touched the flat image of Venus as she talked. I thought back to the odd bodies of the extraterrestrials: black goo surrounding a brittle core. I didn’t know much about them, even the basics of how they sense things or eat. “Do they defecate, Venus?”

I narrowed my eyes as she leaped away in replay, then growled, “They will.”

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Star Gex: Fist Contact 7

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“You know, what’s really interesting is that the weakening of the dimensional…uh…fabric? Maybe? I guess the dimension bomb does, in its own way, create a localized weakening in the fabric of the universe. I’d have to wonder what that means about the laws of physics, though I suppose the least information transmitted through in any given place, the better. I mean, this could be pretty damn disastrous if we’re going big enough…hopefully a space fleet isn’t within that threshold, but it also creates the possibility that a weaker spot could let more things through. Hell, I wonder if we could make some sort of wormhole-like network…” I finished my little talk as I readjusted the D-Bomb. I didn’t leave it fully functional, of course. Then all the aliens would need to do is turn it on with me around and problem solved.

Moai interrupted my reverie by dropping the holodisc in front of me on the table. I looked up at him, raising an eyebrow, then over at my armor. Max walked around that table, looking over the armor, especially a hole just under the main chest armor. “Impressively done. It’s hard to tell it almost melted you.”

I grabbed the disc and rolled my chair from the bomb table to the other. “The nanite quilt layer is shot, and a hell of a lot of the hologram system went up in smoke.” I began to install the holodisc in that hole. It didn’t take that long at all as a finishing touch, though an imperfect one. When I finally set down the screwdriver, Moai nudged my shoulder from behind. “Don’t remind me. I can’t believe it’s time. I’d rather it not be time.”

“You need to do it,” Max said.

“Yeah, stop being a pussy,” Sam added. “There are people saying Beijing was just covered by something not made of smog and pollution for once.”

“Aww,” I whined, totally not being a pussy, “but I still have to finish hiring the cropdusters for the thing…”

“Meow,” Holly said. Sam looked at her. Holly looked back and said, “Pussy, alright?”

But I’d much rather have gone back to Hephaestus or fought off another Fluidic assassin
than go to visit the original Master Academy campus with my hands out. Odd how that works out. There’s no reason to be worried about them, even. Could be I’ve got some sort of psychological hangup left over from the events in Empyreal City. Why couldn’t it be something simple to deal with, like wanting to fuck my own mother?

Well, I put on my lightly-refurbished armor and set out for Master Academy with Moai backing me up. Max said he’d be ready to help, but he also stayed at the hotel, so he was more useful in case I got into some sort of extended situation, like if I took hostages, got into a high-speed chase with cops, or had to bake a turkey.

The similarity of baking a turkey to dealing with heroes is all in how you reach in and pull out the giblets, I should note.

They were not happy to see me there, but I wasn’t that happy to see me there either. That is, the copycat armor that looked an awful lot like mine except for these twin plasma cannons held in each hand. I could tell they were plasma cannons from the way they fired bursts of plasma at the building, blowing walls apart as they superheated.

A human tank ran out to greet the copy. That is, a large and rotund fellow with the body shape of a weightlifter grabbed a section of the multi-colored brick wall and carried it in front of him like a shield as he hurried to greet my double with such enthusiasm. The first shot blew the wall apart. The second scorched a hole in the man’s shoulder. The third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth got him in the eyes until his brain popped out with an audible sizzle. At least the copy got some details correct.

But, if there’s any good lesson to take away from Ethan Basford’s double-edged gift of truth, it’s that I hate myself. That, and my distinct desire not to lose to what I surely felt to be a Fluidic plot, propelled me to action. I jumped, invisible to naked and clothed eyes alike. Power flowed from the hidden core inside me to my gloves, that concentrated them in wiring that wrapped around the outside and projected a field of high energy a short distance from my forearms and fists. My first blow struck the imposter in the head, denting the helmet in a way that would be fatal to most at least for what it meant happened to the head inside. Though the neck snapped to the side, I noticed the head seemed to flop in that direction before gliding back into place quite fluidly.

That was, however, merely the first hit by my lovely right hand. Even as my doppelganger whirled to try and cannon-whip me, I brought my left up in an uppercut aimed at the other me’s jaw. His helmet popped off, spewing black fluid like I’d just struck oil for a second. I decided to stop admiring the gusher and jumped up, aiming to bring my arm down on the double’s neck hole.

The alien had other plans. It formed up its body enough to grab me around the waist and instead pull me down toward the suit’s arms. It dropped the cannon in its left arm. From the forearm popped out a nasty surprise of its own: a blade with edges that glowed white hot. Something told me this wasn’t exactly standard-Earth-issue. I also began to hope that it went for the chest instead of my less-armored crotch, despite the fact that I had not yet gone through with giving myself balls again. It’s a very male instinct, for those of my readers who sport a perky pair of X chromosomes on your chest instead of a dangly Y between the legs.

I was saved by the timely intervention of rock n’roll. Moai struck the alien like The Dude picking up a spare, forcing the alien to drop me as it went under my sidewinding sidekick. I landed on my knees next to it in a puddle, conjuring up John Goodman screaming “You went over the line!” Because they had certainly crossed quite a line this time, those Fluidics. The image of a squeezed container of toothpaste came to mind, except the armor was still mostly unbent, so I worked my arm into the neck hole and felt around a bit.

The alien’s core tried to elude me while it regained its senses. “Come on,” I grunted while reaching deep down into the double of my armor while Moai approached me from behind, “I’ve got to grab the ball.”

I ignored some polite coughing from behind Moai and pulled, wrenching a green, clear, multi-faceted stone from within the armor. I tossed black-stained grass next to Moai, where it began to attract the fallen fluid to itself. I jumped up, grabbing hold of my minion’s head. “Come on, big guy, let’s give it the stamp of disapproval.”

As if I dragged Moai down, he fell sideways onto the core and crushed it before it could pull itself together. Moai righted himself immediately, setting me back on my feet and allowing us both to get a look at whoever had settled in behind him to enjoy the fight without joining in.

This turned out to be a small crowd; one adult who ushered a small group of teens and kids back toward the buildings and two other adults who looked over Moai, me, and the situation itself to figure out what threat, if any, we posed.

I grabbed the suit of my doppelganger and raised it above my head. “I know this usually the aliens’ line, but we come in peace. Take me to your leader.”

In a way, the copycat worked out for me. The attempted framing by the Fluidics convinced the remnants of Master Academy that my intentions were good, or at least hostile toward the right people, though they didn’t have many warm bodies to throw into my meat grinder. That got me an audience with a man wide enough to have trouble with some doors, named Broadside who had a knack for creating blasts of varying concussive force from his hands. The problem, as he explained it to me, is that most of the senior staff had already gone to Empyreal City. “I didn’t go because I caught the flu. We have a few more good folks here, but I’m not putting them teens in harms way, unnerstand?”

I nodded enthusiastically, but told him, “Nope. Not one bit. Because I’m pretty sure the Fluidics aren’t going to spare them. In fact, if Empyreal City is anything to go by, they’re going to make a pretty big effort to nab them especially. So they can either go down fighting, or go down doing nothing. No, wait, better turn of phrase: they can go down sucking.” His raised eyebrow made me reconsider the statement, “Hmm, yes, a bit much on the innuendo for teens. Either way, those boys and girls out there are going down. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. Hell, some of them probably have already. But you can’t protect them forever. It’d be better for them to be forewarned, forearmed, and capable of their own protection, than just trying to get them to abstain from the inevitable.”

“We have sex education covered, Psycho Gecko. This is a battle. You don’t understand that we don’t just use powers for fighting. They aren’t all heroes out there. Some of them are businessmen, teachers, bankers, homemakers, chefs, even barbers. They can be anything they want to be, even if they have powers. Would you ask a barber to grab his razor and help you fight the aliens?”

I projected a straight razor into my gloved hand. “Why yes, actually. If the Demon Barber of Fleet Street was around, I’d proudly call on Sweeney Todd myself to march beside me. Because they are after everybody. This is something I understand, ya see. There are no civilians on this planet anymore, because that is precisely their goal. We are all bodies they can mold, arm, and send to die for them. The only way to stop from being mindlessly being slaughtered by aliens is to try and mindlessly slaughter the aliens first. It’s a moral imperative.”

Broadside sighed. “There’s nothing about this moral, and you can check any book you want about that.”

I held my hand up like a ham reciting Shakespeare, “’Happy is he who taketh thy little ones and dasheth them against the rocks.’ That’s right there in the Bible. Now come on, Broadside. I need your little ones. Help me dasheth them against some alien head, Broadside. What do you say?”

That’s how I got turned down for help from Master Academy. The only thing I got from them was some spare armor parts. Instead of offering baby bashing, I should have offered some babes. This shit would have worked if I brought seventy-two virgins to the offering table, I’m sure.

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Star Gex: Fist Contact 6

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Good news everyone! No, don’t assume crash position, this is legitimate good news. I remembered to call Captain Lightning. Well, he called me, wondering what took me so long to remember him, but he’s still around. And he didn’t mind Isla Tropica that much. He said it reminded him of the old days. I didn’t ask which old days. He lived through a lot, including disco. The continued existence of the island suggests he didn’t mean the disco days.

He also informed me that his friends in the Secret Service had reached out to him. “I met some old friends at a neutral location they both trusted. The Bureau has egg on their face and the President is purging it.”

Ooh, a political purge. Good times. “I’m sure that’ll look good on the news. Then again, it’s literally now controlled by inhuman beings who struggle to maintain human form and just want to use people as fodder in their meaningless wars, and will manufacture any news they want to fit their agenda. So I guess nothing’s changed over at Fox News. But at least anybody who ever thought one group controlled the entire media has a basis for comparison so they’ll realize how dumb they sounded.”

“Has anyone ever told you that you become an asshole when you’re nervous? You might be like that commercial. Have a Snickers.” Cap pondered.

“Good to see you’re in such a good mood. And good to see that whole thing worked out for you. I had a bunch of organizations waiting to debrief me, too. Problem is, I know exactly what those coordinates the CIA gave me were for. Maybe if I hadn’t ever been invited to their little Latin American torture school before, I would have gone. They picked the wrong time to understimate me, that’s for sure.

“You aren’t trustworthy,” said Captain Obvious.

“Actually, I am quite trustworthy…when you want someone dead. I’m trying to use that, I think. Yeah, that’s giving me an idea. But I do need your help.”

“Of course.”

“Get me the President. I don’t mean literally. He’s probably useless in a fight. Just get him on my side.”

“He isn’t cruisin’ for a bruisin’. He has to cut the gas while they’re in control. Make a weakpoint and we will be here for you.”

“Gotcha. In the meantime, I hope he’s finding ways to keep people from those clinics of theirs. And watch for assassins. The Fluidics have been gunning for me, when they aren’t blowing up entire buildings to take me out.”

“I don’t fear them in an open fight, but we need to win an open fight to get the world on our side.”

“True, the world does like a winner. I can blood them, though. I know I can.”

“You’re sure, Gecko? You’re punching above your weightclass.”

“Skill can divert clumsy raw power, and precisely applied force can solve many problems. That’s one of my specialties. I have room to maneuver now, room to ambush them, even to hide in plain sight. I can do this.”

“We’re counting on it.”

Of course, after such a badass boast from me, there was some awkward silence while until I was like, “Well, ok then. See ya later.”

“Goodbye, Gecko.”

But it wasn’t just empty words. I could get in, especially with the Dark Triad reassambled, Forcelight doing my bidding, Lone Gunman pointed in the right direction, and a little magical oomph from the Basford wing of The Trust. But that wasn’t the only organization I could get my hands on around here. There’s still Master Academy, which I don’t want to approach for obvious reasons. But while I work up a plan of attack to get them on my side, I have a darker group to recruit.

Hephaestus/Faustus. A dual criminal organization operating out of several fronts around the nation. The Hephaestus side handles scientific and technological enhancements to give people powers; Faustus prefers magical rituals and artifacts. I kinda copycatted them when I agreed to try and give people my powers with Technolutionary. But I had that under control, as opposed to trusting an organization I once fought. Then again, I fought Technolutionary before working with him, so I guess I was fucked any way I went.

Still, Hephaestus/Faustus probably held more of a grudge. Sure, they were being unknowingly led by Gunman to provoke me into a fight with them, but I did wreck a lot of their shit until the big confrontation that exposed him. I haven’t gotten any more work offers from them since that nasty business, but they haven’t attacked me anymore. An unofficial truce, I guess y’all could say.

I made things tough on them and haven’t been back to their Los Angeles front since then. I wore my armor. It seemed prudent, and I figured it would easily get me access given my ability to hide. But I’ve been wrong a bit lately. Like when I walked through the doors like any regular person, doors like any regular doors, and everything stopped for just a moment. It was like running into lag in real life. Then everything got caught up. I watched everyone in the lobby hurry into elevators while red lights flashed and a translucent net of energy stretched across every door, every window, and presumably through any wall.

I looked around at the situation, then walked over to one of the elevators and pressed the up button. I tapped my foot and pretended to glance at a watch, despite having a clock in my HUD that showed the whole lag thing was a result of temporaly shenanigans.

That’s right. I call temporal shenanigans!

A squeak of an intercom preceded a conversation instead of an attempted execution. “Psycho Gecko. You grace us with your presence. You shouldn’t be here. Why are you?”

“I am because I think. Or is it the other way around? Listen, I know we have our differences, bodiless Hephaestus voice.”

“Faustus. There has been a change in leadership.”

I walked around the lobby“Right. Fine. Hey, at least it had some benefit for you guys. I’m not here to start any more fights. Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true. I want to fight the Fluidic aliens and I could use a hand.” I grabbed a metal ashtray off the floor and tossed it at the door. It broke through, then ricocheted off the energy barrier right back at me.

“What do you have to offer Faustus?”

“How about not getting wiped out by Fluidics? They’re here for everyone. They might use your research and equipment, but you’re nothing but a warm body to them.” I held my hands out to indicate the whole building. “Nice place you have here. Lots of people. Be a shame if they took all of you over just to settle some grudge on another planet. Come on, this should be fuckin’ easy to figure out! They want to take you over, I’m fighting them, this shit writes itself!”

I emphasized it with a kick to the elevator door that should have dented it. “Damn, good construction here. My compliments. You know they can destroy entire buildings? You better make sure the ones in your ranks don’t get the word out. I’ve still seen them blast a building apart. Shredded wheat. And for some reason, they’re willing to do that just to get to me.”

“Not just you. The world doesn’t revolve around you. Since Empyreal City was shut off, several buildings have suffered those attacks. We cleaned up the attempts to inflitrate us, but suffered setbacks. We can handle them.”

“Bullshit!” I hopped up next to the elevators to swipe a camera off the wall, then slid down to the floor. Friction slowed me a bit. “They have spaceships that can cut off entire cities! They have an army eight million strong! Damn, if you’re this stupid, why even bother?”

I turned and started heading for the energy barrier. I examined it for a moment, ignoring the “magical anomaly” warning and instead making an estimate based on the color light it threw off and started charging my gauntlets. “Energy. Matter in a non-matter form. You can’t truely trap me with this field. All you can do is waste my time.”

Before I could gather sufficient charge and make a new exit, all the light disappeared except from the barrier and the energy sheaths around my gloves. Then holes appeared in the net, like it was rotting, the strings dying off.

When it tore open, a fireball hurled me back across the lobby. Before I could stand, lightning zapped me. It didn’t affect me the same way, but then most lightning isn’t lime green. No need for a quick reset, but that didn’t stop me from getting hit upside the head with a hunk of ice. Fire, lightning, ice. I rolled to the side, not able to think too well after the blow except to wish I could summon Ifrit and Shiva to this fight.

It gave me enough time to at least see what hit me. It floated through the windows, not breaking it. Just kinda phasing through it. It was another of those saucers, but all black. Arranged long the outer rim equidistantly were twenty U-shaped extensions. It took me a moment to realize that there were forty thin black whips, each from an end of a U. One of the lights above exploded and threw a purple ball at this thing, but a pair of whips did something, formed some sort of runes or something. When the purple ball hit it, it dissolved.

Sweet zombie Jesus, we got magic aliens.

Lest y’all think the distraction gave me a break, think different. While it handled all that and I tried to stand, more of its magical machinations left me mystically manacled, the malicious motherfucker. I was stuck to the ground, then taunted and teased by a blue torrent of flames that threatened to melt my armor and cook me like bacon. And I really wanted to save my bacon.

I totally would have, too, but Faustus beat me to the punch. The elevators opened and were immediately under attack when more of the thin lines threw attacks at him. Some were answered with counterattacks. Some weren’t. Yet more odd-colored lightning heralded the arrival of men in robes, at least one wearing a soft-meat crown. A dark purple glow grew between that one’s hands, in time to a purple whirlpool that appeared underneath the magic saucer.

As it grew, the saucer was drawn down, then struggling to rise. The magic manacles holding me weakened, then broke entirely about the time the dessicated arms rose from the whirlpool. Like beef jerky on bone. Long fingernails on exposed bones reached for the Fluidic assassin. It tried to strike at the arms, but that did nothing except take away from its ability to fight off the others. Up until the arms grabbed hold of it, dragged it into the whirlpool. It turned over on its side, half of it staying up. Then the whirlpool exploded into mist, taking half of the saucer with it.

One of the robed mages walked over and grabbed half of the core. Others gathered around that one, then they all disappeared except for the one who wore a crown of upside-down organs strung around it. That one approached, a shadow hiding its face absolutely, even from my view. It spoke with the same voice of the speakers, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it was just a middleman. “The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy. We will oppose the aliens in our own way and time.” It gestured to the door. “Get the fuck out.”

“Fine, be that way you ignorant fuckers. But you better show up when the big battle happens, because there’s going to be one.” I gave it a middle finger out of thanks, then left, once again wishing I could do to everyone what I did to Forcelight.

But I have no choice but to hope for the generosity of people so devoted to their own petty individual concerns that they would never go after a threat to everyone. Now who is the truly untrustworthy person here?

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Star Gex: Fist Contact 5

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“What puzzles me is that if their dispersal technique is that effective, why is the barrier still up?” asked The Good Doctor. Lone Gunman eyed him suspiciously, but by this point that was pretty much his default assumption around my villainous friend. The fact that Doc turned himself in out of some bizarre desire for penance didn’t seem to matter to him. He still acts like Doc is just a criminal. Couldn’t be further from the truth. Doc is a confused criminal. A very confused criminal.

Then again, he had a point about the barrier thing. It crossed my mind from time to time as well. These…fuck it, I’m just calling them Fluidics from now on…these Fluidics pretty much won in there. Most, if not all, the city were converted. The heroes were going to get their asses stomped in that last battle I ran out on, too. I think the Buzzkills I ordered to hide would also be dead by now if they’d been found and besieged.

As Forcelight, I chowed down on some cereal, looking between the two. The old Good Doctor would be more than capable of stopping Lone Gunman if he tried something. This version…I have my doubts. For one thing, he didn’t like his costume anymore. What kind of a person doesn’t like a black leather coat semi-reminiscent of plague doctors? Though I heard their stuff was more like oilcloth. He even had this nifty helmet that matched. It was nice, a costume any murderer would be proud to stalk people in.

Compare that to the rampant use of tights on women as stacked as Forcelight and her glorious rack. There’s a different sort of pride being shown off there. I very much enjoyed having her assets, though. The contact information for the superheroes, too. Every member of that old super group Shieldwall who wasn’t dead or retired, for example. It saved me a lot of time, because I’d been considering stopping by Memphis to collect Honky Tonk Hero and Gorilla Awesome.

I wanted to gather as many heroes and villains as I could, but the problem was just as bad as when I tried it just in Empyreal City, except this time I didn’t have a pair of social networks making it easier on me. Forcelight’s got some pull, and even Max could walk into a place and get someone on his side, but I’m usually just tolerated until someone needs something from me.

That’s why no one is returning my calls. I don’t have a lot of contacts in the supervillain community these days anyway, and even that fox guy from Empyreal City hasn’t bothered getting back with me. If I could spare the nanites, I’d just grab the whole lot of them. I might have Max come up with something to influence people instead.

Or, better yet, I’m headed to Los Angeles. I figure The Trust still owes me. The Trust is this group, an extended family or bunch of families, who pretty much sold their souls for great magical power under the regime of whatever supernatural overlords they’ll eventually be able to unleash on Earth, except they’re more like the family from Arrested Development than the one from The Godfather. I worked with them some. This guy, Ethan Basford, is one of their patriarchs. As payment for saving his ass, he sent me a magic truth potion. He owes me for that one, too, since Venus turned it around and used it to learn some things from me that I’d rather not have told anyone. Whether he thinks he owes me for that happening doesn’t matter. I’m the one with the mean attitude and the knowledge of exactly how to choke a man with his own testicles.

The secret is tearing them at the base, so they don’t deform.

Much as I hate to say it, I should also stop by the Master Academy. If anyone over there had been let in on me taking refuge with the Eastern Campus, maybe I’ll find allies there. Or at least let them know that their friends are all caught in Empyreal City. I don’t have high hopes for them.

So while I’m heading to L.A., and while Forcelight is calling up her old friends, I’ve found I do have a few people looking to contact me. CIA, FBI, DIA, NGA, MSS, GRU, DIH, MOIS, the other DIA, BND, DGSE, DPSD, MI6, MI5, MI-Done yet?, and Mossad. See what happens? You give one or two spies your card, and soon everybody has your number.

It makes a certain amount of sense, actually. Who wants to spy on a regular person on the street? All you’ll find on their computer is some porn and maybe the occasional web serial. But if you manage to look at a spy’s computer, you’ll get all kinds of juicy information. And the good porn, too. The stuff the Slavic countries keep to themselves instead of exporting to the United States.

At least all those agencies gave me a place to start as far as recommending that the aliens be taken as major threats, but I ignored them in favor of checking on a message from one of the few groups that hasn’t treated me like a child or tried to screw me over. Both of which, I believe, are intrinsically linked. Of course, I mean the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or CDF. They’re not even the Vatican’s intelligence agency, either. Yeah, the Vatican has their own intelligence agency. But as the office originally created as the Inquisition, they have occasionally made use of my talents. Father Poffo, my handler there, was itching to know about the extraterrestrial.

See, that’s really bad news for the Christianity in general. Not because of the idea that life on other worlds could prove their religion wrong. That’s not much of a concern except for some of the crazier sects. But it probably really pisses off any of them that holds to that Original Sin business, since aliens were never in the Garden of Eden and seduced by a serpent into eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Long story short, aliens get to go to heaven without Jesus, because they aren’t born sinners.

Like I said, pisses theologians right the fuck off, so I naturally assumed that Father Poffo wanted some dirt on the Fluidics. He’ll run to the Pope and the Pope can tattle to Yahweh.

So here’s how things broke down: Forcelight made her calls, inviting heroes like Black Raptor and Raggedy Man to either come up and help with Empyreal City, or maybe send some friends who could help out. Moai took a car of his own to go crash The Trust and bring Ethan Basford to me for a chat. Moai’s a really good choice for that considering Ethan’s preference for hanging out with vampires. I sat with Max while Holly and Sam went shopping along Rodeo drive. It was more Holly’s suggestion, but Sam sacrificed her time and energy like many a good friend would. And I waited on hold as I tried to get through the Vatican’s phone lines to contact Father Poffo. Their hold music is some excellent Gregorian chanting, by the way.

“Ya know,” I said to Max while trying to pass the time, him sitting across both backseats and me hanging out in the front. “I kinda miss my dong.” A pair of guys passing by immediately turned away and hurried faster.

“You don’t like being a woman? It seems like a stunt you would enjoy to mess with people.” He laid back, looking into the sky with eyes safely shielded by shades.

I shrugged. “Some parts of it are fun, but it’s not really a stunt. My body…well, that’s not really me, no matter what. I am the armor. This,” and here I gestured to my body, despite him not looking, “Is just what I look like when I don’t want people to realize I’m me. It only stands to reason that if I can be a bunch of different-looking men, I can also be women.”

Max looked over, “You like being a lesbian, don’t you?”

“Actually, that’s the part where I wish I had my boner back. And I like some of the curves, too. The hips, the boobs, the painted nails. That’s the problem, too. I had to make some adjustments to my armor to account for some body shape differences, and I can’t fix that as easily.” Meanwhile, over at the Vatican, I had left the Gregorian chanting behind when I got transferred from International Collections to the Complaints Department. I think I got some of my Latin wrong and they misunderstood, but I got to listen to an organ-only version of O Fortuna, so that was awesome.

“Have you tried keeping your boobs and growing a dick?” asked Max.

I brought my hands together, fingers steepling like Mr. Burns from the Simpsons, “That’s certainly an interesting idea. Yes, maybe…hmm. Ok, maybe I’ll just grow a dick.” I turned to a pair of people who had walked beside us awfully slowly, “Ya hear that?! I’m gonna have my own penis!”

They hurried away, but a man across the street yelled out, “You preach it, sister!” before sauntering off with the guy he was with.

Complaints transferred me to the Heresy Hotline, so I was getting close. Once again, the hold music changed. The Heresy Hotline must not get a lot of callers. That’s the easiest way to explain why their music was AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”. Fitting, I’ll give them that. After a second, it wrung through. “Oooh, yeah, this is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Father Poffo speaking.”

“Hold all thoughts, I have to take this call,” I told Max. To Poffo, I said, “Greetings, padre. Been awhile. It’s God, but you can call me Psycho Gecko for the purposes of this call.”

“I must ask that you do not take the lord’s name in vain, my son.”

“Jesus Christ, will you lighten up? Besides, his name is Yahweh. And this is the Heresy Hotline. It’s your cover to hear this.”

“Uh huh. We don’t normally communicate this way and it’s justifiably putting me in a position I don’t want to be in.”

“Aww, but you wanted to hear from me about the aliens.”

“Oh yeah, my son. Let’s talk.”

I filled him in on the key points of our extraterrestrial visitors: hostile aliens who are using advanced technology to grow mind controlling organs so they can use all of Earth as their own army in some galactic civil war taking place far, far away. Do not accept their medical treatment, and stay away from rain and fog. Most damningly, I informed him, they had some major issues with the concept of transubstantiation, so he better send some missionaries.

“I will keep that in mind, my son. Have you uncovered any physical weaknesses to go along with the spiritual?”

“They’re fluid, but seem to have some sort of solid core that floats around in the fluid. I don’t know if they need some sort of suit to maintain a useful form. In fact, I had one try to choke me out after I tore a hole in its suit. But breaking that core seems to kill them. And I’d really appreciate it if you’re able to send any Catholic supers to help me deal with these guys if I put out the call.”

“Father Church will always remain vigilant against the forces of the Great Adversary, my son. Have faith.”

“Why Father, of course I have faith. She’s tied up in the trunk. I’m thinking about nabbing Grace and Charity while I’m at it. Not sure about Chastity, though. I hear she doesn’t put out.”

“Is there anything else you need, my son?”

“I’m a little hungry. Got a van of candy around?”

And suddenly I’d been hung up on. How rude. The arrival of Holly and Sam was most convenient, though, especially as I got a text from Moai inviting me down to a spot called The Vampire Club. While I’d likely fit in with my fangs, I decided to go in my armor, and without my escort. I didn’t want to stick around just because Max and Sam liked the atmosphere.

Well the sun was high and the color of piss when I chose to visit a spot with a name like this. A lot of them were clearing out under wide brim hats, umbrellas, and so on. I guess fangs had been flying, capes were torn, and a lot of vampires were left scorned. I could see wigs were pulled and top hats were crushed; those pointy boots were in a rush. As I stepped in, a scruffy put-upon bartender slid a beer over to a bald-headed nosferatu who smiled and said, “Thanks for the Bud.”

It wasn’t beer, either. Not that color and thickness. I guess somewhere out there is a bottling plant that hires a lot of people named Bud as blood donors.

In the middle of the room, Moai stood guard over Ethan Basford. An older, thicker, balding man, Ethan managed to look out of place even in the rather diverse crowd I’d spotted around this club so far. Maybe it was the lack of pallor, but you could just tell he wasn’t one of the other undead around. Plus, he had a broken leg. That set him apart.

“Well hello there, Ethan. Nice to meet you. No, no, don’t stand up. I’ll sit.” I helped myself to a chair across from him. He kept wincing and held onto his leg where part of the bone strained against his skin. I pointed to it, “You’ll want to put a bandaid on that, ya know. So, since you don’t even have an option of running away, I suppose I’ll get around to what I want to talk to you about.”

“You know you could have set up a meeting. We parted on good terms, right?” he asked, hissing through the pain.

I shrugged. “Eh, think of it as a little bit of payback for how your little ‘gift’ got used against me.”

He leaned away from me. Maybe he didn’t know for sure, but I figured he had a pretty good guess that sending “three drops of truth” to a supervillain like me would inevitably be used against me.

“Now, Ethan, I don’t want to kill you if I can help it, but I’m in a little bit of trouble right now. I’ve got these guys who don’t like me. Maybe you’ve heard of them; they’re an entire fucking alien fleet parked in Earth orbit. They are obviously quite advanced scientifically in comparison. Now, any sufficiently advanced technology is pretty much just magic to the ignorant, but not everyone realizes how sufficiently advanced magic is a pain in the ass to the scientifically literate. You follow me?”

“You want magic help against the aliens or you’ll kill me,” he reached out and grabbed a glass of some amber liquid, downing it quickly. I’m surprised he held off that long, actually. Alcohol’s use as anesthetic is well known, just like alcohol’s use as a social lubricant, incendiary device, and as the lead writer of numerous reality shows, including Cops.

“Yeah. And you know there are others in your Trust that’d give me what I want for that. The aliens aren’t going to let any of you bring about Hell on their Earth, but I’m sure they’d love to get their hands on your friends from the other side. If you need to know one thing, know this: I am going to annihilate them. This planet ain’t big enough for me and the aliens. So you can help me try and wipe them out…or you can help me go commit suicide. Or I kill you and someone else in your Trust helps me out.”

He held out his hand.

I looked at it, “You’re willing to shake on it?”

“No. I mean, I’ll do it, but could you get me another beer?” he squeezed the air with his hand as if hoping for a glass to fill it.

I smiled under my helmet and raised a hand up. “You heard the man, barkeep! Let’s get some human alcohol over here, and make it strong. The guy’s got a bum leg, so he needs something that could send a bum to bed.”

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Star Gex: Fist Contact 4

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There’s nothing quite like a nice, relaxing ride through the countryside with a couple of people who have no choice but to listen to you. That’s probably why Holly and Sam cranked the music so loud for an hour. It might have been tolerable, but they were rocking out to some pop station. I can understand a nice love song, too, but is it so hard to shred a guitar and yell while doing so?

At least one or two were enjoyable. I know I made some comments about Bruno Mars during the Superbowl one year, but at least you don’t have to claw out your own ear drums to survive his songs. Finally they turned it off, leaving us in silence as we rode along a surprisingly empty highway, even passing some lone gas station. They wouldn’t stop off there, though. “Mind if we stop, fellow females? I need to drain the ol’ mole hole.”

Even with them being rude toward me, this whole trip wouldn’t be much to recount on its own. Not the time we passed the bathroom break by. And now the time we passed the next one by. And the third time, still with no music, when I realized that they really liked that gas station company. Didn’t even have any others within forty-five minutes of each other, and the landscape seemed awfully similar. Hell, I even timed it out for the next one. Forty-five minutes later, on the dot, we passed by the same type of station, even with the same sort of bush out by the road.

“Glitch in the Matrix…” I muttered.

“That’s a bad sign, right?” asked Holly from the passenger seat, finally including me in their conversation. I hadn’t really been listening to them, something about TV shows. Sam glanced at her, probably to tell her that engaging me in conversation was a bad idea, though they really should have been bothered by what I’d been doing instead of talking to either of them, Moai, or just myself. Like I was lost in thought.

“Yeah,” I told her. “In the movie, at least, they said that when someone experienced deja vu, because it was caused by localized changes. In that case, changes made to trap them. With all y’all’s chatting up there, has anyone noticed that everything keeps looking the same?”

“I didn’t want to say anything at first,” said Sam from behind the wheel. “But we should have stopped for gas. The gas gauge isn’t going down.”

“It’s not going down? Crap, it’s become like Holly,” I noted. When Holly raised an eyebrow, I continued with, “Sam’s been going all this time and not once have you offered any road head. Grass, gas, or ass, baby. Which one are you providing?”

Sam eased the car over to the side of the road. “Like you’re any better.”

“Sure, sure, whine about me and Moai not doing our part.” I reached out and patted Moai next to me.”

Sam turned back to me. “What are you talking about with Moai? He’s covered.” She nodded toward him.

I turned to see what she meant and found Moai looking like Bob Ross as imagined by Willie Nelson. That is, he wore an afro and beard made of marijuana. I don’t even know where he got it, or how long he’d been holding. I wasn’t even sure I paid him, actually. And what would he use it for, anyway? If anything, I figured he’d smoke rock, not blunts.

“So, we’re finally ready for a bathroom break?” I asked, indicating the desert scrubland. “Or are we possibly going to go on a little hike? I hear there’s this pleasant little desert community called Night Vale. We could stop by for a slice of their pizza, if you don’t mind that they no longer use wheat or wheat by-products. Whatever those are.”

“Driving forward isn’t doing anything. Let’s try going back.” Sam made a 180 and headed back. “I know that’s what everyone does in this situation, but we have to try.”

When we got to the gas station again, I sat up and got my feet under me. I’d really prefer not to piss where I have to sit for several hours, especially in some sort of weird spacetime distortion. I mean, come on. Then I’d have to sit in it even longer. And one of the disadvantages of no longer having a penis is an inability to pee out of a moving vehicle safely. Though I did consider hanging over the side or back and just letting all my problems disappear along the asphalt.

I was just about to jump, too, when I heard “Fuck it,” from the front seat just before Sam put on the brakes. Luckily, I landed on the dash, and there weren’t any other cars to risk crashing into anyway. Neither of Max’s helpers seemed all that surprised. Sam just told me, “Go on, you first.”

Now, I’ve often heard the cliche that men just want to see women in the bathroom, and I am notably…well…myself, no matter what physical sex I am. So some might be surprised that I didn’t insist on them joining me. Really, that’s because I don’t find anything arousing about watching someone urinate or defecate. I do know there are some people for whom that’s a turn-on. Apparently a lot of people, to hear about the cliche of men wanting to go into women’s bathrooms. However, I am not one of them. It doesn’t mean I hate anyone who does. I mean, I already hate most people anyway, but I don’t hate them for that.

So I made my way over to the building. It didn’t look brand new or anything, but the doors opened and the lights were on. There wasn’t anybody at the register, and considering the strange events I immediately figured this was all a trap. And I was right, too. I made it out of sight of the others when everything went black. Just a wave of darkness surrounding me, except for an extremely bright light from above. I raised my fist to the light and said, “Aha! God, I presume? Well, if you’re here to kill me, you’re gonna have to put up a fight!”

I didn’t actually expect a deity to show up. Instead, I got my arms immediately grabbed by thin cables that pulled me up into the sky to meet what looked like a tiny flying saucer, at least before it tried to close up on my head and eat me. Well, my nails were fairly useless, since they weren’t digging into the metal cables that held onto my arms. And my fangs would have been fairly useless against it, too. I hadn’t reloaded them with nanites. I didn’t have many nanites to spare, ya see, and I had used most of them up on Forcelight. Have to conserve them.

With my head held close to its body, the now-flower-like unidentified flying object sported more cables that that tried to wrap around my neck. Well, shit. Whatever this thing was, I figured it was alien, but they basically sent a really advanced whipping boy at me. And it might have worked. I wasn’t able to bond with this thing. But I didn’t have to.

I’ve made a lot of mistakes. It happens. Heck, I’m pretty sure I can’t blame all of them on the influence of alien malware. After all, it’s not like they used my credit card to buy stuff when they had the chance. But I’ve still made a lot of stupid mistakes, so it was nice this time to remember that I have a fucking laser eye! I cranked that bad boy up and carved through the cables around my throat and arms. The thing dropped me, but I kept my eyes on the prize. And it was my prize. It gave me a nice, warm feeling to see that thing’s metal cover melt partially open.

Suddenly, I was back in the gas station, except it was a rather old and rundown. Clearly not open. The doors were propped open as well. The split second I used to take all that in, the flying saucer used to try and smash into me. It dove and caught my ankle when I tried to dodge at the last second. Split seconds and last seconds aside, that still gave me another second to stare it down, which is a bad thing to let someone with a laser eye do. It responded by flying into my torso to carry me against the wall behind me. It straightened its edge into the saucer-look again as well, but I still pushed off to the side. That’s the problem with round shapes, folks.

Well, it did crash into the wall, and I set to work carving into it even more. It seemed to accommodate me by turning upward, spilling little bits of black fluid along it, but it took the opportunity to fly right through the ceiling. The fluidic alien assassin saucer escaped, slightly damaged, but entirely able to come at me again, bro. Unfortunately, with the bathrooms shut down and my enemy not dead before me, I had to find a new spot to pee.

The rest of our trip out to Lake Tahoe went by slowly, but without anymore such incidents. I explained to the girls about my close encounter of the hostile kind, and they shared with me that something weird happened and they found themselves turned the other direction on the side of the road right about the time they saw the flying saucer smash its way through the roof like a model drone Avrocar. We collectively agreed that it had somehow warped our perceptions until it could get me alone to kill me. We were all pretty sure that killing me was its goal. I had evidence, but I think Holly and Sam were working off wishful thinking.

Finally, we reached our destination: a cowboy-themed lodge called Tahoedown. The place was packed, and it seemed like there were a lot of other cars, camper trailers, and so on about. Lots of prayer circles, too, which made me look back to the cars and see a higher-than-average number of religious bumper stickers. This should be an interesting stop.

We ignored all that and went inside, Moai trailing behind me with my bags while Sam and Holly led us to the suite Max had rented. Max rushed all Sam and Holly with a hug as soon as they walked in, then looked at me. “Who are you?”

“Did I not tell you I had a boob job, Max? It’s me, Gecko.” I struck a pose to show off.

“You will have to give me the name of your surgeon for my brother. It’s great to see you again!” My pale-skinned supervillain colleague hugged me, having always been one of the few to be all that affectionate with me. At least he hadn’t changed much. He had black hair, but with a streak of red in it. Still wore the same maroon coat and one of those old-fashioned white goth shirts underneath. The white ones with the puffy sleeves. I think he once invented some sort of perfect laundry detergent that keeps his clothes fresh no matter how many years he wears them. How is that villainous? Think about all the money it’s costing people in clothes and inferior detergents, for one. Plus, I think he’s extorting the detergent companies.

Evil wears many faces, but at least it doesn’t have to worry about its colors fading.

Max also welcomed Moai with a big hug, then turned toward this big window that showed a prominent stretch of the lake. The water looked amazingly clear closer to us, and almost cartoonishly blue the further it went until reaching the opposite side’s pines and mountains. Yeah, I could see why people liked this place, even if water attractions don’t really appeal to me when the temperature is fifty Fahrenheit. “You took longer than I expected, but you’re still in time!”

“What’s the plan, Max?” I peered out, noticing that a rather lot of the religious tourists were heading toward the shore of the lake.

“These people are making a pilgrimage,” he answered.

Sam spoke up then. “Cole Osmium, you know, the preacher? He has one of those megachurches that meets in a stadium. Someone asked him on a TV interview what he thought of the aliens and he claimed it was a sign of the apocalypse. Then he made this big sermon about the end of days and the need to re-anoint Christ’s flock and show their devotion to the Lord.”

“With a big check and a show of religious faith,” Holly added. “Mass baptism at Lake Tahoe. I bet that’s him.”

She referred to the shiny new helicopter that came into view from the east. “Didn’t we see that thing at the Vegas airport?” I asked Moai. He shrugged. The chopper lowered itself onto a flat part of the shore. A man in a white suit stepped out, his smile improbably wide and shiny. Behind him followed a couple of others who carried a camera and a light; the better to film him.

The sound of beeping distracted me for awhile. Turned out Max had made popcorn. We got a few more snacks together while waiting on the festivities, whatever they were. “So you didn’t answer before. What’s the plan?” I asked, helping myself to a handful of popcorn out of a big bowl.

“They are going to get exactly what they want,” Max said with a smile.

And they did.

Osmium didn’t waste any time once he had things set up. I’ll give him credit, he at least didn’t shy away from walking balls-deep into cold water in a nice suit. His first guest was a perky teenager, whose dip under the water proved that she was quite perky indeed.

“Max,” I commented, “You hound. I didn’t think this was all about studying the effects of cold water on women’s shirts and nipples.”

He didn’t answer, and he didn’t have to. Less than ten seconds after submerging herself in the waters, the girl began to float up into the air, the clothes falling off of her. A collective gasp arose from the crowd. It was followed by murmuring as Pastor Osmium’s legs also floated up, dumping him into the water briefly before he also wound up a nude floating man. The remaining faithful made a rush to get into the water then, to the point where a few fights broke out over people getting in other people’s way. Soon, they turned into a reverse waterfall of men, women, and children, all nude, all drifting up into the atmosphere.

And, I noticed, not a one of them stopped to think about what would happen once they hit the edge of said atmosphere. And while I lamented the loss of potential cannon fodder, I did have to join in on laughing with Max in pure rapture. Besides, with mad chemistry skills like that, I might have found the perfect way to stealthily deliver a bomb to the heart of this Fluidic alien fleet.

Some look to a god for deliverance. I look to superscience.

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Star Gex: Fist Contact 3

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In Kingscrow, Forcelight had been busy. After enlisting the help of The Good Doctor, her father and my old ally, I used her influence and money to arrange a furlough for him to engage in super duties. I had the help of her Board of Directors, too, since I still maintained remote access to their corporate accounts and made sure I was blind carbon copied on the various emails about the nanite projects.

Interesting stuff, there. Their little human trials were a bit more extensive than the news reported on, on prisoners in addition to legal test subjects, then with military trials. A hell of a lot of military trials, too. Oh, and they stockpiled a huge amount this entire time because of expected high demand. That’s actually some awesome news. They wanted to make damn sure they had enough of this crap, even for sale in other countries. They had some in clinics all over the world, from China and India to Germany and the UK. Isla Tropica didn’t have any coming their way, but Argentina and Brazil are looking at getting some better healthcare.

I know some of those countries have universal healthcare, but the wealthy can afford better care wherever they go. That universal stuff is just about the average folk. Let them make their own nanites. With blackjack. And hookers!

That information is all quite awesome for me, since I needed huge numbers of these things, and since they’ve all been working off a copy of programming I corrupted long ago.

It was nice getting all caught up on that, all while directing Forcelight like a slightly clumsier second body. They flying was cool, too. Flying is one of those powers that makes someone feel really superhuman. It’s pretty damn cool to lift a car with your hands as easily as you would a beer can, or take a gunshot like someone threw a pebble at you, but those things are still comparable to natural human abilities. After all, that’s why the analogies work as far as lifting beer cans and making people throw pebbles at you. But flying doesn’t really have an analogy like that. It’s like jumping, except nobody tells you you need to come down at the end and gravity can take a long walk off a short pier. And that’s not really analagous, because everyone else who goes up must come down. Except for the crew of the Challenger space mission.

Also, the wind feels kinda funny on my boobs. Er, her boobs. The problem with looking through two sets of eyes is that sometimes you forget which one is yours. The only other time I did anything like this, I didn’t maintain control for very long. That’s why I gave Moai permission to jostle me from time to time if I seemed a bit lost. But sometimes I had to know when to ignore him, like when I flew around Kingscrow looking for one cape in particular who Forcelight heard was in the city. He seemed exactly the type whose tenacity and armor-piercing weaponry would be ideal for helping to penetrate enemy forcefields.

The fact that I could manipulate him using his hate of me was also pretty cool.

So I flew over Kingscrow, going all “Whee!” in a fashion that I’m sure the stoic Forcelight never let herself do. After all, serious heroes don’t have fun. Serious heroes must feel hardass responsibility for their powers, and all that nonsense. Having fun is not properly heroic, and so every good cape’s tights must be bunched to the letter of the regulations.

Alright, already; like a modest mouse, I floated on through the night and went to stop by the Low Earthy Bar. The hero in question wouldn’t have been permitted in, and neither would I while wearing Forcelight’s face. But I figured I could fly overhead and look for anybody doing surveillance. Like all my ideas, it was awesome to the max and I soon found my target on the roof of a pawn shop, watching comings and goings from the villain bar through binoculars.

I landed next to him, apparently expected from the lack of response. “Hello there, Lone Gunman.”

The murderous vigilante wore all black in the hopes of blending into the urban night of Kingscrow. His outfit this evening consisted of jeans, a loose button-up shirt, a dark bandana-style mask tied around his face, and a sheriff’s start with a bullet hole through it that I glimpsed when he turned away from his vigil to briefly look me over. Unimpressed, or just busy, he then turned back. “Formal as always, Forcelight. Go. You are scaring off the prey.”

I first met him when he was Holdout, the nubile teen sidekick of a Western-themed superhero named Sixgun. The precocious piece of jailbait found my hideout one day and attempted to explore it all on his own. I caught him and, figuring he’d tipped off his hero or otherwise had a tracker on him, proceeded to torture and try to kill him using what was left while the movers transported my stuff to a new location. Said torture session involved me taking my sausage to his face and choking him with lots of white stuff. White stuff called marshmallows, you filthy-minded folks. Thought I killed him, especially after we were caught in what looked like a compromising position. Had to kill the movers, too, when they thought it was something that it looked like. Since I spotted Holdout alive while engineering their deaths, I then tried to kill two birds with one stone. One of the birds survived. In the end, all my efforts to murder the sidekick were stymied by one circumstance or another and I had to settle on killing his hero instead. Holdout vowed revenge, changed his name to Lone Gunman, and has tried to kill me once or twice since.

He has yet to succeed, for the obvious-impaired among my readers.

“They aren’t prey, they’re people,” I told him. And I believe it. They are people. To think otherwise is to dehumanize them in order to avoid the harsh feelings associated with killing a person. Pansy. He kills prey, I kill people.

“Anyone who seeks to prey on his fellow man is my prey,” he answered, raising a small pad and pen to note something. He glanced at his watch, then he set the pad down and moved a black hat over it from where it had sat on a rifle. Wouldn’t be a fake cowboy without his hat, I guess, and I doubt the gunslingers of the old west favored Russian Mosin Nagants rifles. He pulled it up as if a blur, checked to make sure it was still loaded, raised it, and popped a shot off at somebody who had left the Low Earthy Bar and crossed the street.

At times like that, I wish I had eyes that zoomed. Perhaps I can pimp my superhero when I get the time later on? Nah, something tells me she wouldn’t appreciate it. I did walk Forcelight over enough to grab his binoculas and look. Off in the distance, a man in a suit and fox mask was on his knees, pulling his mask off to try and breath and get a better view of the whole in his sternum. Just some old guy with grey hair and wrinkles on his face. A villain who got old.

He waved off another person, a woman in a dress and a bunny mask. Unfortunately for her, Lone Gunman took another shot. She went down with a puff of fluid. The fox raised himself to his feet. Gunman, for whatever stupid reason, took his time getting another shot off. Probably some stupid thing like savoring the moment instead of finishing off a wounded person. I mean, I’m not saying I’m the most moral person around, but it was a good example of why I think Gunman is shit.

It worked against him, too, because Fox ran to the side, for the doorway of a cornerstore. When Gunman took another shot at the wounded man, things happened almost too quick to see. Fox leaned back super quick, in a way that looks like a videogame bug or bad film editing. He was in the same spot the bulled passed through, and then suddenly he wasn’t. But it wasn’t like he’d rewound time, either, because his legs were planted forward and his body was back. He made it into the store while Gunman cussed and reloaded.

Hmm. I’d have to look up the fox later. It didn’t look like super speed, so maybe some sort of time manipulation or reflexes are involved. At the very least, I can get him to Empyreal City by giving him a tip on Gunman’s locatin. Speaking of…

I dropped the binoculars next to him. “You missed one.”

Gunman gathered up his pen and pad and stuck them into his vest. “It’s wounded. I can track it and kill it.”

I crossed my arms. “Not what I meant. Do you know where Psycho Gecko is right now?”

He stiffened up for a moment, and not in the fun way. Turning to look at me, he answered, “He had something to do with what’s going on in Empyreal City, right? Knowing him, he got out before they put the shield up.”

I shook my head. “He didn’t. I was talking to Venus when the barrier went up. They had him in custody at the new Master Academy campus at the time.”

“Custody?” he asked. “Bullshit.”

I smiled. “Nope. He was desperate for help against the aliens and they gave him a place to stay. I hear his girlfriend tricked him into it. I swear to God that Psycho Gecko was with them when the shield went up.”

And if I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’, eh?

Gunman gave the Low Earthy Bar one last glance and turned toward me, then began unloading and breaking down his gun. “What do you want from me?”

“It’s an impenetrable barrier holding the man you want to kill more than anyone else in the world. You, who knows an awful lot about weapons that penetrate much more than they should. I hope you don’t kill him, but I want to get in there. Want to give it a go for me?”

He grunted, maintaining regulation bunched undies, and stepped up to the edge of the roof. He settled his hat on his head, and nodded toward me, then jumped off the side of the roof.

If only it wasn’t a one-story shop.

Ah well, I’m sure that’ll work out fine.

Back at Forcelight’s home, I gave her a little bit of free time after our shower. Confirming my prior statements on how bad her priorities are, she chose to stand in front of her bathroom mirror, crying, and say, “I hate you.”

I took over her mouth to respond. “Save it for after I’ve saved the world from slow alien invasion. You saw that they’re trying to get more of their clinics going?”

“You don’t have to do it this way. Trust in heroes, trust in us.”

“I want to, sweetie, but moment I started to, y’all screwed up stopping the invasion. It’s not a matter of trust; it’s a matter of competence. Y’all didn’t want to do what I could clearly see had to be done.”

“Because you’re a fucking nutjob!”

I raised her eyebrow and smiled back at her with her own face. “You say that, but you’re the one talking to yourself right now.”

“Shut up.”

I balled her hand up in a fist and gentle prodded her cheek with it. “Stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself.”

She shook her head, more tears flowing. “It’s so important to you, huh? You’re playing around, that’s all you’re doing.”

I smiled, despite her tears flowing down our cheeks. “My dear, you can’t live as dark a life as I have without learning to be real damn good at seeing the little silver linings. And I’ll have you know I’m treating this situation with exactly the gravity it warrants.”

Meanwhile, over in Las Vegas, I stepped out of a high-end clothing store clad in the finest tight white leather pants and jacket I could buy, with gold patterns sparkling around the occasional blue and red rhinestone. Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” announced my exit from the clothing store as Freddy Mercury announced that he too felt that girls with big asses, not money, make the world go round. I clapped my hands and started shaking my ass, mindful of the wide-brimmed white hat on my head, wondering if the peacock feather was glued into the brim somehow. I took off my sunglasses momentarily when I got my head rolling around.

“Left alone with big, fat Fanny. She was such a naughty nanny, you big woman, you made a bad boy outta me!” sang what I’d claim to any passerby was an iPod as I stood up and smacked too passing women in their asses.

“What. The hell. Are you doing?” asked Sam Hain, one of Mix N’Max’s loyal helpers, flicking a large wave of purple hair from where it fell on the shaved half of her head back over to the half with hair. It’s a good look on her. Went well with her grey jacket and pants. Her friend Holly Wayne looked away, trying not to be seen with me, what with her nice padded coat and ass-hugging jeans.

“You don’t like?” I asked, maintaining eye contact through my mirrored sunglasses while still rolling my butt in the air. I turned off to the side, where I saw a mustached man in short-shorts dancing along with me. “They just don’t get it, do they?”

He stood up, “No they don’t, do they Jonesy?” He turned to a friend of his, a large black man, who stood with his face in his hands. Without saying a word, Jonesy turned and started walking away. The man in the shorts told me, “Sorry, he’s usually more polite than this, but it’s been a long trip from Reno.” He began to chase after his friend, calling out for him.

“Are you done?” asked Holly, a hint of desperation in her voice.

“I don’t know. Moai, we done here?” I turned to check for Moai, who walked out behind me wearing a jumpsuit originally meant for really fat Elvis impersonators, along with a pair of his own mirrored shades and the obligatory wig. He nodded at me. I looked back to Holly. “The King says yeah. Come on, let’s go meet Max. Lake Tahoe, you said?”

Sam nodded. “Yeah. You’re lucky he sent us to pick you up. The Lords of Vegas don’t like people like you.”

I turned my nose up at her as I helped myself into the yellow convertible she and Holly had shown up in to pick me up from the Las Vegas airport before I insisted on clothes shopping. I lost a lot of outfits in the flight from Empyreal City. Hell, I pretty much just brought my armor, the Dimension Bomb sitting in private storage, and any nanites or explosives I could carry with me. And when I called to let Max know I’d landed in his new favorite town, he insisted I let the girls drive me. Something about them having errands in Vegas anyway and being less likely to draw a lot of heat down on him. Don’t know what he’s talking about.

For their part, Holly and Sam were not happy to see me again. I don’t know why I’d disappoint them. I’m like everyone’s favorite uncle; the one who likes to teach children all sorts of fun things out behind the shed. They didn’t want to even let me shop at first, until I mentioned that I’d have to start picking stuff out of their wardrobes to wear. Suddenly, my clothes became top priority.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I can go see what they’re putting in the water here in Vegas. Knowing Max, something fishy could be afoot. Like turning people into giant fish. Or feet. Could go either way with him.

It’s always nice to have a kindred spirit.

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Star Gex: Fist Contact 2

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Ah, Kingscrow. A place so lovely, makes me want to lick my lips. Or maybe that’s because I finally figured out a nice payload to load into my hidden fangs. And maybe next I’ll put some filters in my lungs. It’d help against the grime of Kingscrow. Wet, dreary, depressing. Gothic architecture. A perfect place for people to brood. Not me so much. I don’t brood, I just murder people. Apparently I’m not the only one who responds that way in Kingscrow, given its known history with crime. For a long time, it had been a special blight on the map, a city of lost dreams and hopes, where the fight to do good faced resistance from apathy, ignorance, and outright malice.

This nice state of affairs has mostly persisted, though the darkness has been pushed back somewhat by a bright light that arose just a few years ago. Bennett Long, scion of the Long Life private healthcare company, somehow found a way to empower his adoptive daughter. Forcelight, the Lady of Light, flew onto the scene. Tragically, some of the same villains she arose to fight managed to murder her father. While she’s faced a number of trials, including the removal of most of her inherited decision-making power, she continues to bring light to darkest Kingscrow.

Or so goes the fairy tale version. Bennett Long hired Good Doctor, Forcelight’s biological father, to kill superhumans and steal their organs. Those were either transplanted or studied to turn Forcelight into the woman she is today, but Long turned on Good Doctor. Doc didn’t have many friends due to his reputation as a super killer, but he had two other such killers on his side: Mix N’Max, the Czar of Chemistry, and Psycho Gecko, the Father of Face-fuckers. These titles don’t make themselves up, folks. I killed Long and Doc turned himself in to try and repent while establishing some sort of relationship with his daughter.

Who later got hold of a copy of my armor and my nanites and figured out how to use them for fun, profit, and the prolonging of superhero life. Yay. But, on the plus side, that involved the mass production of copies of my nanites that pretty much use the same programming and structure. You can copy something without fully understanding it. But that little recap is why Kingscrow, Long Life, and Forcelight matter to me. Actually, scratch that, Forcelight didn’t mean much to me. She doesn’t wear the pants in her own company anymore.

So really all I needed after arriving in the city was to sneak into the Long Life building, all invisible like a spider monkey ninja. Of doom. Incredible, edible doom. I didn’t even stop off at the Low Earthy Bar. I just had to get my hands on some computers while the top dudes in the company were off at lunch. Terrible thing, to just leave one’s computer turned on. I mean, I could have cracked their passwords without too much difficulty, but this made it easier. Even for the one guy who wrote his password on a Post-It note.

Seriously, people, this is part of what makes it so easy to do what I do. This is one of the few organizations that actually know of my natural ability to physically bond with certain forms of technology. I’d say computers, but that really simplifies things. It’s about signals and data, ya see. Despite knowing this, they either fail to have proper precautions against me, or ignore the ones they do have.

I used their accounts to make sure they were manufacturing my nanites as fast as humanly possible, and maybe even as fast as Chinesely possible on top of that. And stockpiling them, mostly in the United States. And with an additional special note to never tell Forcelight.

I stopped by her office, too. I recognized it from the last time I was in their building, wrecking shit. She took her late adoptive father’s office. Considering I wanted to keep my scheme secret from her, it probably sounds like an odd move. I had a reason; people keep all kinds of interesting stuff on their computers. I hoped she kept contact information on other superheroes in there. With my former contacts in Cape.Net and The Order sucking alien cock, I could use another army or two.

I didn’t expect her to float down from an upper story outside and blast the window, her computer, and me against the floor. With a flick of her hand, the hologram that hid me from view distorted and kept me from hiding. Ya know, now that she did that to me again, I recalled the first time she managed to get through my holograms. Something to do with her vague light-based powers that also include flight, super strength, enhanced durability, and bountiful boobage. She’s got more stolen organs than a Catholic black market. The one that doesn’t trade in kids, at least.

“You!” she boomed, narrowing her eyes at me.

“Captain Obvious, my most persistent nemesis! Wait, you’re not Captain Obvious. Stop using his gimmick!” I pointed at her, not bothering to stand up. “You want me to get up, or should I even bother now that you’re here?”

“Stay down. If you don’t fight, I promise to treat you fair. I have a lot of questions for you.” She floated through the broken window, and stayed hovering in the air. After a couple of seconds, when I didn’t try to stand, she cocked her head to the side and turned her gleaming gaze to the rest of the office. The sound of me unsealing my helmet and pulling it off brought her attention back to me. “What are you doing?”

“Taking this off. Saving a bit of time in the process. I assume you’d want me to unmask now?” I shook my hair out and smiled at her. “I don’t remember, did you know I was me?”

She glared at me. “Why are you being cooperative?”

I shrugged and set down my helmet. “If you’d rather I fight, I can do that.”

“Don’t fight. I want to know about Empyreal City and you’re the only one to get out.” She moved closer and knocked my helmet away with a solid beam of white light. In my mouth, I let my fangs poke out and stimulated the sacs in my mouth. I rolled over onto my back and grinned up at Forcelight. “Something funny?” the heroine asked.

I spat a mist of nanites into her face. Then, I rolled back over onto my belly. She blasted me again, knocking me in a huddled ball against the wall. She dropped down to her feet and ran over, mixing up her offense with some punches.

She gave me a last kick while pulling a little flask off her belt, then taking a sip. I coughed a few times, having felt it through the armor.“More nanites?”

Like I even had to ask. I’d given the nanites she inhaled and ingested special orders, and their ability to reinforce my orders. Just like the secret backdoor I’d given the Long Life nanites so long ago that allowed me to commandeer them, and making damn sure the first batch I spat at her would do their job, despite her swallowing them.

A significant portion of these nanomachines first migrated to her spinal column and interrupted the signals leaving the brain, replacing them with some a bit friendlier to me, like a desire to stand there unmoving.

I looked at her, then reached up. “Give me a hand here.”

She picked me up, under my control. I smiled as I looked at her. Her voice trembled when she asked me, “What did you do to me?”

I shrugged, then coughed again. She really got me good a few times there. “Whew, sorry about that. Somebody just tried to cave in one of my lungs. The answer is: I did what I had to. You somehow knew I was here, so good for you, but I’ve got some new tricks that can stop you. Good thing, too. We have to worry about the aliens, and I’m tired of other people fucking up and standing in the way. This whole mess could have been avoided if only people were willing to bow to my inherent superiority. In fact, that gives me an idea.”

“You’re fucking crazy, that’s why nobody trusts you!” Forcelight yelled.

I reached up and patted her on the head, then held her lips closed. “Shh, shh. Let’s just change that mind, shall we? The world will be better once you, and others, learn. Your. Damn.”

“Place!” I said with Forcelight’s mouth. The fear in her eyes disappeared as I finished taking control. As an added joke, I made her say, “Assuming direct control.”

“You’re probably panicking right now, Forcelight,” I said with my own body. “But don’t worry. Your body is in good hands. But I am here to solve the problem. I want the aliens gone, because they want to take over everyone’s bodies and use them as soldiers in some civil war of theirs. And I’ll stop them if that means I have to take over everyone’s body and use them as soldiers in a war against them. Except the heroes and other villains didn’t trust my schemes. Next thing you know, Empyreal City is behind a fucking shield. So you don’t get a choice. Maybe others will, but you don’t. And you better hope you don’t get free somehow to come after me, because these nanites can do all sorts of things to your insides.”

Two things happened then. I stayed behind to worm my way into the Long Life servers and find any possible backups to the information I’d been looking for on Forcelight’s now-trashed computer. It took awhile, but I spiced it up a bit by flying Forcelight over to Marscow Prison, Kingscrow’s number one resort for criminal spandex fanatics. There she made a tearful visit to her father. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I need your help out here. The crisis going on in Empyreal City is too much. I need you. I need the other inmates. I even need Psycho Gecko.”

You know how hard it is to smile with one face but not another? Tricky little bit of business. Perhaps after I’ve saved the world, I’ll take up acting.

My performance made the Good Doctor sigh and run his hands through his hair. He looked older from prison. More grey in his hair, more wrinkles in his face. He pressed his hand to the glass, and I pressed Forcelight’s back. He’ll be absolutely livid if he ever finds out I did this. But he’ll also be out of prison and have the taste of killing back in is mouth, so he might thank me. I don’t care what he said there, he liked it.

As it is, he said, “Yes,” and I was free to use Forcelight’s enormous monetary and local political pull to get him out especially to help deal with superhero business. By the time she flew back to her office with him in her arms, they found a trashed room and no Gecko.

“He stopped by here. I don’t like him, but he’s right.” Forcelight closed her eyes and sighed somberly.

“God in heaven help us all that Psycho Gecko is right about something,” The Good Doctor added.

I left them alone, as much as anyone can leave a body they’re in control of alone, and instead focused on the private jet Moai had procured for my travel uses. I had some business still in Kingscrow I could use Forcelight for, but the miracle of satellite and cellular communications would have to keep her in line while I headed out for the last known location of the third member of Good Doctor and mine’s merry little Dark Triad: Mix N’Max.

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Star Gex: Fist Contact 1

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Let’s discuss the fable of The Scorpion and the Frog. One of those old, simply little fables with talking animals. There’s a frog and a scorpion, which I’m sure is a huge surprise, though you might capitalize them as some sort of archetypes. And there’s this stream or river or something. Really, any body of water can be used; the beach is always wetter on the other side. That was so lame, I should take it out behind the barn and beat it along with my dislike of guns.

So the Scorpion wants to get to the other side, but can’t swim. The Frog considers it, but suggests that the Scorpion might sting it. The Scorpion points out that if it stings the Frog while riding it, they’ll both drown. Sound reasoning, of course. So the Frog agrees and carries the Scorpion on its back as it swims through the water. Halfway through, the Scorpion stings the Frog. Just before they drown, the Frog asks the Scorpion, “Why?” The Scorpion replies, “It was in my nature.”

I mean, there are other versions of the story, true. Like one with a turtle that doesn’t involve either one drowning, or one with a snake freezing to death and a farmer that warms it up against his breast, or even this one old one where the scorpion saves someone from being bitten by a snake, but they all remember that it is in the Scorpion’s nature to sting. Even when it’s in his worst interest.

So much for the great, devious, and overall chaotic Psycho Gecko, huh? I’m a lot easier to control than I realized, a realization brought about my Frogs back there in Empyreal City, if you want to call them that.

Yeah, I know. I know. I KNOW. I sold them all out. Skipped town and let them do all their own stunts. I had set up this big fight, built defenses, put things in place. It all started crashing down around me, until the enemies themselves offered me a way out. I wonder why they even did that?

“Because the one who calls himself ‘Technolutionary’ asked it as part of his deal,” answered a voice from my belt.

I let my head loll down. “You better not be telepathic, you little alien asshole.”

“Telepathy unnecessary. You converse with yourself.”

“The fuck you say?”

The bartender turned away from cleaning a glass. “He’s right, whoever he is, ma’am.”

I flipped him the bird. “Don’t you take sides in this. Bring me your biggest glass full of White Russian.”

He pulled out a large, frosty mug. I picked it up, looked it over, and threw it on the floor. Got lots of looks from the others in the bar, and even more when I walked over to a corner next to a neon sign that had a rubber tree plant in its own planter. It took some work, since I had to concentrate on placing my steps. I had a few drinks. Some big guy, probably a bouncer, decided to sign his death warrant. “Ma’am, I need you to stop breaking things. You have had enough.”

I pointed at him, “I haven’t had enough. You’ve had enough! Your face had enough! You know who hasn’t had enough? Venus! Wildflower! Man-Opener! The other fuckers in Empyreal City. And your momma, if last night is anything to go by.” I tipped over the planter and carried it back to the bar next to my helmet. “Fill ‘er up, asshole.”

“Ma’am, that’s a pot.”

“Yeah. Get pouring, drink boy.”

He looked at the planter and took it down to the other side of the bar. “Anyway, what’s got you drinking enough to kill an elephant?”

I smiled and held my hands out, pushing away the bouncer who had taken up position next to me. Probably waving over someone else. “I’m just finding myself.”

The bartender reached down under the bar, doing something that he didn’t seem to need to look. “Finding yourself?”

“In the Alps!” I slammed my hand on the bar, making my helmet jump a little from the impact. “Find me right in the Alps, all day long.” Through the fuzzy haze in my head, I remembered I had a question. I looked back down to my utility belt in spite of the hair falling in front of my view. “Hey, wait, why did y’all make a deal with me anyway?”

The crystal made a sound as if blowing wind out of itself. “Because the one who calls himself ‘Technolutionary’ asked it as part of his deal.”

I blinked a few times. “Oh, right, you said that. Right. Right. Guess it’s almost about time then…”

“Time to go?” suggested the bouncer next to me.

“Almost, but not what I meant.” I slammed my hand on the bar a bit harder, the blow enhanced by the pseudomuscles. It popped my helmet into the air where I caught it and spun, knocking the bouncer on his ass with it. I turned back to the bartender and threw the helmet at his head. It cracked his nose and knocked him into a bunch of liquor bottles. The helmet, meanwhile, ricocheted into the air, bounced off the light fixture, and landed on my head during a rain of broken fluorescent light bulbs.

And lucky me, a broken fluorescent bulb landed right in my hand as the bouncer pulled himself to his feet. “Hey there, fella. It’s about time your colon had a bright idea.”

So, anyway, now that that’s dealt with, I should talk about what happened now that I’ve abandoned a city of eight and a half million people to the aliens. Yeah, that’s a lot of people. Basically more than the combined militaries of China, the United States, India, and North Korea by a couple million. Not that the news is saying that. The President is claiming that it’s all some sort of joint riot control effort aided by alien technology, either to save face politically or because he’s being controlled. But it’s still up, for whatever reason.

And that’s it for my knowledge of what’s behind the neon curtain. I still don’t know how it’s going in there. There’s still a giant ship floating over the whole thing, and a giant shield keeping anything else from entering or leaving. Including my car, I only realized once I got out. I stole the next vehicle I found and headed out of state, spending my first night out of Empyreal City in some dive pub in Philly, where I drank and talked to myself out loud.. I sent Moai out to try and find the local villain watering hole, since it’s not easy to just pull that info up on the internet, but I couldn’t stand waiting and stopped off at some near-abandoned place to throw liquor into my face. And humming “Trust Me” from Devil’s Carnival to myself an awful lot.

I realized, as I knelt in a motel bathroom puking up enough White Russians to capture Berlin, that I felt really fucking terrible. I seriously needed an Alka Seltzer, or maybe a couple Tums. That’s obviously what I mean. Couldn’t be anything else.

Couldn’t have anything to do with the idea that I might have hit reached a low depth I’m not comfortable at, or that maybe I’m not exactly the same person who wants to destroy the planet I’m sitting on. I’m no hero. A coward, maybe. Definitely maybe. And it’s more than a bit creepy that Technolutionary has this idea of “helping” me by negotiating a deal behind my back. He’s probably nifty for being able to empower humans, and for modifying them into better warriors for the invaders, but not a big enough deal to justify all that. And I’m not feeling like that big of a deal, either. If I had the means to totally curb stomp their shit, I’d have just used it instead of taking the easy way out.

Ugh, speaking of taking the easy way out, I took a big swallow of my nanite solution and then spat it up when I started coughing. No harm, no foul, but the spray itself gave me an idea. “Ha!”

I crawled back into the bedroom and grabbed the crystal off the bed. “Hey, you! Whatever I call you…on a scale of one to ten, just how much would your masters piss their pants at the idea of me combining their rain idea with my nanites?”

It didn’t betray any emotion. Then again, I’m not entirely sure what it is, except that I don’t seem to bond with it like I do computers and stuff. “This would violate the agreement.”

I laughed. “I take it that’s pretty high on the scale.”

“Do not pursue this action or you will become a target. You will become a high priority target.”

With some effort, I propped my head up on the bed. “Sounds like a ten. They’ll send assassins?”

It glowed as it responded. “Yes.”

I hummed a little bit of a song to myself, then asked. “These assassins…they’ll pull out all the stops, won’t they? We’re talking every fucking thing they could do to take me on, right? Big, mean, nasty things with what I’m guessing are goo-filled tentacles, right?”

“Yes. You have been shown a rare mercy. It is inadvisable to violate this truce.”

I smacked it aside and guffawed loudly, causing the neighbors to bang on the wall like they’d interrupted me having sex with a clown or something.

I quickly grabbed my suit and anything else I brought in, then left that motel with the crystal. It didn’t much matter if I was legally capable of driving with Moai and the truck gone, so instead I got the hell out of there before something flashed through the sky and the entire building tore itself apart into tiny splinters. There, watching any last chance at my third option in this whole mess go up in smoke, I wondered just how drunk I was. Then I called up Moai.

“Yo, Mo. Come pick me up. I’m a little pickled right now. I shouldn’t be jumping under the influence right now, and we really need to go to Kingscrow right now.”

Why Kingscrow? Because Kingscrow has the Long Life Corporation, who stole my nanites and has been mass-producing copies for commercial use. Because I could use them. And because the horribly-named Forcelight wasn’t in Empyreal City when it got cut off from everything, and so she’s likely to be a bit pissed at her friends being abducted and anal-probed. I mean, I can’t speak for what anyone’s doing to Venus, but things got a bit interesting with Wildflower in bed a few times.

And it really is quite hilarious, ya know? That I’d throw away my one shot at mercy from people predicted to kill me? I bet some dear readers are asking themselves the same question, to which I would like to remind everyone of a certain fable that’s been on my mind lately.

It’s in my nature.

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